Twelve candidates met the filing deadline for either a Santa Fe City Council or the municipal judge seat in the Nov. 7 local election.
Santa Fe voters will fill half the seats on the City Council, elect a new municipal judge and answer several ballot questions. Hopefuls for the city races had until 5 pm Aug. 29 to formally declare candidacy and deliver a preset number of signatures to the county clerk’s for review, and their names were posted on the secretary of state’s website throughout the day.
District 1 drew the largest field, with four candidates seeking an open seat: Café Castro owner Alma Castro; former city attorney Geno Zamora; former Planning Commissioner Brian Gutierrez and former operations specialist Katherine Rivera. Incumbent Councilor Renee Villarreal is not seeking reelection.
In District 2, incumbent Councilor Mike Garcia will face off against Planning Commissioner Phil Lucero, who works on climate change education for a local nonprofit.
Three candidates are seeking the District 3 spot: former police officer Louis Carlos; Planning Commissioner Pilar Faulkner and Eric Morelli, who has not returned SFR’s requests for an interview.
Earth Care co-director and District 3 candidate Miguel Acosta announced his campaign in mid June, but failed to file. He tells SFR a heavy work schedule and several new grants would take too much of his attention to properly run a campaign. Still, Acosta plans to be involved in the election through “candidate accountability work” in the fall. Sitting Councilor Chris Rivera will not seek reelection.
“We’ll do some candidate forums probably with a questionnaire around issues and agenda items that affect the populations we work with on the Southside, but also citywide,” he says.
In District 4, incumbent Councilor Jamie Cassutt aims for a second term while facing a challenge from Joel Nava.
Nava, a married father of three who also coaches girls’ basketball, tells SFR he’s a Santa Fe native and is running to give back to his community, one he feels has been neglected. He’s concerned, he says, about growing crime that is “being minimalized.” He also says he hopes to provide more services to the city’s youth.
“Santa Fe is not changing for the best. The youth are starting to turn to crime instead of other activities like a reading program that gives a better education,” Nava says. “I see how good District 4 can be, and I see how far from that it is. I want to be the voice of the people and let everyone have a seat at the table.”
As of press time, Municipal Judge Virginia Vigil, who has served in that role since 2016, appeared to not have filed a declaration of candidacy, leaving an uncontested race for challenger Chad Chittum.
County Clerk Katharine Clark tells SFR she will not publish the official list of candidates who have been certified until Sept. 1, per state statute. Candidates then have the opportunity to challenge their opponents’ ballot spot during a seven-day window, meaning a finalized number may not come until next week, according to Clark.