Corrales already has two influential representatives in the N.M. Legislature —Republican Jane Powdrell-Culbert and Democrat Daymon Ely— and five more are running for a seat up there in the June 2 party primaries.
Three of the five are facing off to fill the N.M. Senate District 9 vacancy left when Corrales Democrat John Sapien declined to seek re-election. They are Brenda McKenna, Ben Rodefer and Kevin Lucero.
Another Corraleño, former State Representative Bob Perls, is running for Sandoval County Clerk this time, and he faces three opponents in the Democratic primary. Candidate profiles for these and other races are published below. Due to restrictions wrought by the need to avoid exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic, Corrales Comment was not able to conduct the in-depth, revealing interviews with each candidate as have been presented prior to local elections since 1982. At the editor’s request, no candidates sat for a recorded interview.
Instead, the profiles presented here, in alphabetical order, are based on materials available through the candidates and other sources.
N.M. Senate District 9
Three Democrats and three Republicans are on the June 2 ballot. Seeking the Republican nomination are Bridget Condon of Rio Rancho, John Clark of Placitas and Tania Dennis of Corrales.
Democrats running for the Senate District 9 seat are all Corrales residents: Brenda McKenna, Ben Rodefer and Kevin Lucero.
Democratic Candidates for Senate
Now a Corrales Village Councillor, Kevin Lucero is a deputy sheriff with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department where he has specialized in enforcing laws against drunk driving.
He has more than 20 years in law enforcement; criminal justice reform is one of his top priorities. “I’m running for the State Senate because I’m going to fight for court diversion programs and reform our criminal justic system so we can fight this fight from the inside out and stop the revolving door our prison and jail systems have become.”
The candidate said his experience “puts me in a position to advocate for criminal justice reform that focuses on reversing the dismantling of New Mexico’s mental health and addiction assistance programs.”
Lucero is a fourth generation rancher and farmer in northern Sandoval County. Before getting into law enforcement, he was a cattle inspector for the N.M. Livestock Board, helping protect the industry from theft, abuse and disease.
Among other priorities, he ranks transition to a clean energy future and improving public education.
“I believe the science of climate change, and also believe we are seeing the effects in our life time. I will work with utility companies and co-ops to implement energy programs that create jobs, stimulate the economy and lead New Mexico into a clean energy future.
“I support the Energy Transmission Act because it will protect consumers and reduce electricity costs as New Mexico moves away from coal.” Lucero said the state’s “reliance on fossil fuels has limited our economic potential and put dangerous pollutants into our air and water.”
Regarding public education, the candidate would emphasize early childhood learning and boosting teacher pay. “We need to provide enough spaces and funding to ensure that all New Mexican children from birth to five years old have access to early childhood education programs. Year-over-year investment in and improvement of these services will result in increased educational outcomes across the state including reading and math scores, which will grow exponentially.”
A field representative for Congresswoman Deb Haaland, Brenda McKenna is a member of Nambe Pueblo and has lived in Corrales with her husband and rescue cats since 2018.
She has been resoundingly endorsed by the Rio Grande Sierra Club’s Healthy Communities committee which paid for several flyers reaching Corrales mailboxes in recent weeks.
After graduating from Pojoaque High School, McKenna earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Syracuse University and then a master’s in organizational development from Central Washington University.
Her campaign platform includes ending the state’s boom-bust cycle of oil and gas extraction. “We can take steps now to diversity our economy by focusing on New Mexico’s strengths. That means welcoming wind, solar and battery storage facilities, cannabis legalization, outdoor recreation and local food production and agriculture.”
McKenna describes herself as a “progressive Democrat who will work with the governor to restart the economy, invest in our kids’ future and ensure we don’t neglect our responsibilities to seniors and veterans.”
She said she “will bring passion and a tireless work ethic to moving our state forward from the pandemic. I know how to work well with others, even those without I disagree, and will serve our neighborhoods with integrity, energy and strength.”
Elected to the N.M. House of Representatives in 2008, Ben Rodefer is now seeking to fill the vacancy left by retiring State Senator John Sapien.
He was a small child when he moved with his mother to Corrales in 1967 when he attended Corrales Elementary, Taylor Middle School and Cibola. He took a full scholarship to Cornell University where he studied physics, government and pre-law and then launched a career in music. He is now owner of a small business in solar energy.
He was twice elected president of the N.M. Renewable Energy Industries Association.
“To me, there are two major considerations in this race: experience and viability. Viability, because John Sapien won all three of h is elections by tiny recount margins, and there is this a very real chance now that the Republican will win in November if we do not put forth the strongest candidate.”
He said a nationwide study after the 2018 elections revealed that the biggest any candidate could have was having prior elected experience. “Now more than ever, I think experience matters. My time in the N.M. House, as well as being president of the N.M. Renewable Energy Industries, puts me in a unique position to be able to hit the ground running in January and really get some good things done for our community and our state.”
Rodefer lost his bid for re-election in 2010, saying he was especially targeted to Republican strategists as a first-term representative in a swing district. When Rodefer returned to Corrales in 2002, he started a firm which sells large-scale photovoltaic systems, Rio Grande Solar.
Republican Candidates for Senate
Placitas Republican John Clark describes himself as a “common sense conservative and life-long Republican with a tenacity to take on complex issues in pursuit of creating effective and practical solutions that are fair and good for New Mexicans.”
He moved to New Mexico in 1994 to start JC Blinds which continues in business. “I am running for public office to thwart partisan politics in government, get our budget balanced and our economy ticking again, and to prevent government over-reach and control of our businesses, schools, liberties and our inalienable rights.”
Clark said he will work to “remove the stigma of ‘worst’ on a national average list for violent crime, education, poverty, places to raise children, places to live and retire, and instead impart a safer, stronger New Mexico.”
The candidate earned a bachelor’s degree i political science at the University of Northern Colorado where he also served as a legislative intern for Colorado State Senator Al Meiklejohn.
Clark said he would work tirelessly with legislators to “develop a realistic budget, cut taxes, stimulate the economy, improve education and health care, decrease crime and halt repeat offenders, restore our collapsing infrastructure while protecting, defending and preserving our U.S. Constitutional rights and the safety and security of New Mexicans.”
Posted to his campaign website in early May was an endorsement by the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action. It read, in part, “On behalf of the NRA’s Political Victory Fund and our members in New Mexico Senate District 9, I am pleased to announce your AQ rating for the 2020 primary election.” The May 7 letter said the endorsement was based on the candidate’s responses to a questionnaire.
Clark said his 26 years as owner of a small business and his prior ten years in the corporate world has given him “the knowledge and integrity to create jobs and opportunities that will keep New Mexicans and their families here, both employed and successful, so that they, too, can embrace and appreciate the heartbeat of economic growth, which is small business.”
Now director of business development for Sandoval Economic Alliance, which promotes economic development, Bridget Condon of Rio Rancho said she is “running for the N.M. Senate because I am frustrated with the silos that lawmakers operate in, and because I know that we are almost out of time to ensure New Mexico has a change for economic prosperity and stability.
“I am the only candidate who has experience not only promoting common sense policies, but more importantly, pushing against and defeating the agenda that take away the rights and freedoms of New Mexicans.
“I am tired of companies ruling out New Mexico as a place to do business I am tired or our citizens ruling out New Mexico as a place to start their career and families because of the lack of opportunity; and I am tired of common sense being ruled out at the decision-making happening in the Roundhouse.”
Condon was born and raised in New Mexico. She graduated with a degree in political science from the University of New Mexico. In her final year, she was a Capitol Hill intern for Congressman Steve Pearce; she continued on as paid staff for more than two years after graduation. Returning to New Mexico, she worked as a field representative for the congressman who is now Republican State Party chairman.
That 18-month stint was followed by a job as director of public policy for the N.M. Association of Commerce and Industry. “While working on behalf of businesses at the Roundhouse, and now interacting with legislators on behalf of economic developers and Sandoval County, I have seen far too many examples of lawmakers choosing the ego and political affiliation over the communities they are supposed to represent. In addition to losing sight of the purpose of public service, there is a glaring spending problem in Santa Fe that is sure to risk our financial stability in the future, which ultimately leaves our most vulnerable citizens directly in harm’s way.”
In the aftermath of the pandemic, she said, the choices our lawmakers in Santa Fe make in the next months and years will decide whether we give our citizens and small businesses the tools to stand back up or turn our backs on the people who have dedicated their lives to their communities and accept their downfall. “I want to be a leader that relies on the voice of my constituents and not the political whims of the Roundhouse.”
The Corrales Republican running in the primary for the N.M.Senate District 9 seat, Tania Dennis, is a former intelligence analyst who is now owner of a small business, a franchise that markets skincare products.
She is also on the board of directors for Family Promise ABQ which helps homeless families. She has lived in the metro area since 2009. “I am not a politician, and I feel that’s one of my biggest strengths. I’m running because I want to be a change-maker in my community and make New Mexico stronger. I want this state to be a place full of opportunity so that our children want to stay here and grow.”
Dennis said her priorities are family and children, education, homelessness, small business and veterans. “We are a proud military family as my husband is a retired Marine, disabled veteran and Purple Heart recipient.”
She was raised in rural Michigan and lived in the Washington DC area while working for the federal government in intelligence matters. The candidate feels it is time for the state and national economy to move beyond the state of lock-down due to the pandemic; she thinks the threat posed by COVID-19 may be overblown. “If the mainstream media reported what is actually happening, the public would be able to let go of the fear and move forward.”
She feels preparations are adequate to re-open the economy. “I believe that we need to have a stockpile of PPE reserved for our emergency and medical response teams here within our state. We cannot depend on the national government for handouts.
Dennis is convinced the State budget must be restrained. “Our budget needs a complete overhaul. I’m looking forward to jumping in and working together to fix our current situation. I feel that we are heavy on taxes for small businesses and have made it extremely hard for New Mexicans to catch up and get ahead. We are spiraling out of control.”
N.M. House District 23
Incumbent Representative Daymon Ely of Corrales has no challenger in the primary.
Seeking a seat in the N.M. House of Representatives, Albuquerque native Ellis McMath was an air traffic controller here from 1985 to 2002. He flew as a commercial pilot for N.M. State University, and served as an Albuquerque reserve police officer. Having retired from that, he is now a certified instructor for concealed carry firearms and is a team leader for Sagebrush Church.
He has also served as a counselor for jailed or imprisoned inmates. In 2004, he founded a non-profit, Better Together Missions, which partners with an Intel club to provide food for the needy.
McMath said he is running for office now because he saw what happened when his daughter, Brenda Boatman, lost to Democrat Daymon Ely for the District 23 seat in 2018. “In helping her campaign, I met some amazing people in Santa Fe, Corrales, Rio Rancho and Albuquerque. I met legislators that give up much of their time; people who volunteer long hours to better the lives of New Mexico citizens. In was inspired, not only by my own daughter’s devotion and hard work, but other public servants that give so much.
“I want to be like them when I grow up!”
“I am dedicated to common sense, compassionate, conservative causes. I support right to life, Second Amendment rights, small government, less taxes and more personal freedom for law-abiding citizens.”
Among his strengths, McMath listed his ability “to set aside things that normally divide people. I have learned to be friendly, listen, and understand before speaking and persuading.”
His top priorities are allowing rebates, vouchers or tax credits for school choice; eliminating a state tax on Social Security payments; and repeal of the “red flag law” allowing removal of firearms from persons considered likely to harm others or themselves.
The Corrales resident who describes herself as a life-long constitutionalist believes her background in business, parent-teacher associations and criminal justice are what is needed for House District 23.
“After watching the current representative for District 23 disrespect local sheriffs and deceive constituents about his unconstitutional ‘red flag’ bill, I decided to run for the N.M. House of Representatives and return power back to the people of District 23,” she said in campaign literature.
Born and raised in New Mexico, she earned a dual degree in criminology and Spanish and Portuguese languages from the University of New Mexico. That was followed by a master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis in justice administration.
“I am a firm believer in small government, and I will vote against any legislation that abuses or infringes out rights as citizens. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we should be supportive of our mon-and-pop shops. We should not allow cookie-cutter businesses to destroy hard working family-owned stores or services.
“The Village of Corrales thrives on small businesses and farming. I will do whatever is in my power to protect them. People first always.” Mendonca-Trujillo said she has been a small business owner, a community activist and volunteer for many years. She served as a PTA president and treasurer while her children were in elementary and middle school. Her PTA fundraising efforts brought in more than $60,000, she reported.
“Let’s make sure our high school graduates have choices to succeed and stay in New Mexico. We must have competitive training in our community colleges, including vocational training programs, internships and on-the-job training programs.”
The candidate said individual responsibility is a key “We need to reset the thinking that the government should take care of us, and realize we hold that responsibility.”
N.M. House District 44
The incumbent, Jane Powdrell-Culbert of Corrales, has no challenger in the primary.
Gary Tripp of Rio Rancho has no opponent in the June 2 Democratic primary.
Jeremy Myers of Rio Rancho, has no opponent in the Libertarian party primary June 2.
Sandoval County Commission
Jay Block of Rio Rancho has no challenger in the primary.
Leah Michelle Ahkee-Baczkiewicz has no opponent in the primary.
Sandoval County Clerk
Lawrence Griego of Rio Rancho has no opponent in the June 2 primary.
Anne Brady Romero
Algodones Democrat Anne Brady Romero is now Sandoval County Chief Deputy Clerk and wants the top job. She has worked in the Clerk’s Office since 2009; she was appointed by the current County Clerk to be chief deputy in 2013.
If elected, Brady Romero said she will ensure that all voting locations comply with provisions of the federal Americans With Disabilities Act; add more voting locations, including a mobile voting unit; implement an election awareness outreach program; establish a Native American voting advisory committee; tighten cyber security for voter rolls and voting systems including an annual risk assessment; start processing U.S. passports at the Clerk’s Office; and complete the implementation of on line records with Tyler Eagle Recorder.
At an early age, Brady Romero was involved in the family business, Abuelita’s New Mexican Kitchen in Bernalillo. Her campaign literature points out that she was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in February 2019 and continued to work at the Clerk’s Office while undergoing chemo, radiation and other treatments. She reported she is now a cancer survivor.
Previously elected to the N.M. House of Representatives, Bob Perls is a Corrales resident who says his experience managing voting as a U.S. State Department consular official abroad will be crucial to protecting election integrity in Sandoval County and statewide.
As a Foreign Service Officer, Perls led the federal voting assistance program for the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt. He resigned from the State Department in 2015 and returned to Corrales. He founded and led a medical technology firm, Monitech, in Albuquerque for 25 years. After selling the business, Perls was increasingly interested public service. He served one term in the N.M. House, and made an unsuccessful run for Congress.
In recent years, Perls co-founded and led the non-profit group N.M. Open Primaries and co-founded the Public Academy for Performing Arts. He has also worked for a corrales-based start-up firm specializing in cyber security. His candidacy has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, Corrales Indivisible and N.M. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and State Auditor Brian Colón, among other high profile elected officials.
Perls said he intends to make his cyber security expertise available statewide. Other top issues for him are starting passport service at the Clerks Office, online access to property records and opening mobile voting vans around the county.
A former two-term Sandoval County Commissioner, Pete Salazar has switched parties to run for County Clerk in the June 2 Democratic primary. He is shown on the ballot as Ignacio Pedro Salazar. “I switched from being a Republican to a Democrat because of ongoing blatant voter suppression issues promulgated by the Republican Party,” Salazar said.
A life-long resident of Bernalillo and Placitas, he served as president and CEO of New Mexico SER for more than 30 years. In that capacity he administered severn different programs for at-risk youth and seniors, supervising more than 350 employees.
“If elected, my priorities as County Clerk will be to enhance access to voting by taking a proactive stance against voter suppression, especially now with mail-in ballots in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We need a program of ongoing voter education. People need to be comfortable with voting processes so they can take a more active interest in the election process.”
Salazar said he would work with the N.M. Association of County Clerks to lobby the N.M.Legislature for legislation to further enhance voter participation in all elections, including mail-in ballot systems.”
He holds a degree in guidance and counseling from the University of New Mexico as well as a bachelor’s degree from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas and an associates degree from Indian Hills Community College in Centerville, Iowa.
The candidate said he is “proud of my extensive volunteerism,” including as chairman of the LULAC Scholarship Committee for 22 years during which more than $1.5 million in scholarships were awarded. He has served as a member of the board for N.M. Senior Olympics over the past 26 years.
In addition to serving on the Sandoval County Commission, Salazar was on the Bernalillo School Board for six years.
Sandoval County Treasurer
With experience in the Sandoval County Treasurer’s Office and the County Assessor’s Office, Ronnie Sisneros now seeks election as County Treasurer, adding to the 22 years he has already served as an elected official. He worked in the Assessor’s Office for more than 26 years, including two terms as its head from 1983 to 1986.
“My many years of political experience and working with the County Commission, the public, legislators and community” will serve the public well if he is elected, he assured. Employees in the Assessor’s Office and the Treasurer’s Office work closely, “hand in hand on a day to day basis on many taxpayer issues,” he explained.
“Through my working career, I have developed strong supervisory, administrative and management skills,” the candidate said. “I have experience working with large budget amounts in the Assessor’s Office and with the Town of Bernalillo.
“Working with the public and elected officials for those years has allowed me to gain valuable communication and interpersonal skills.” He said Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham recently asked him to serve on a committee to recommend names for appointment as district judge.
Rio Rancho Democrat Jennifer Taylor is currently the Sandoval County Deputy Treasurer. Her work in the office since 2017, has included preparation of the monthly Treasurer’s Report that provides transparency for the collection, allocations and investments of County money.
“We need to ensure the County elects a qualified and knowledgeable individual to oversee and manage our public funds for the next four years,” she pointed out. “I have the certifications through the N.M. State University Edge program and I have real-world experience serving as chief deputy.
“Integrity, transparency and accountability are essential qualifies that every County Treasurer should have. I have demonstrated these qualities throughout my tenure in the Sandoval County Treasurer’s Office.”
Among other duties, Taylor helps prepare for the County’s Investment Committee sessions and the Board of Finance’s quarterly meetings. “I have been trained in the distribution process, and I have been responsible for initiating the County’s bond payments.
“As Treasurer, I will be fair, consistent and equitable when it comes to dealing with our taxpayers and constituents. I will also encourage a positive and united work environment for the Treasurer’s office staff.”
With a political science degree from the University of New Mexico and an associates degree in business administration, Carlos Sanchez seeks election as Sandoval County Treasurer. The Rio Rancho Republican said he has been an advanced tax examiner for both the public and private sector.
Sanchez has served three years on the City of Rio Rancho’s Planning and Zoning Commission. Among his credentials, he points to four years on the board of directors for the Northern Meadows homeowners association for which he was vice-president and treasurer.
“I feel it is crucial that on June 2, the candidate with the best community performance record in Sandoval County wins. This is the time to perform, the time to be knowledgeable of Sandoval County, not the time for great speeches. A time for renewed leadership with a solid track record in Sandoval, not another county.”
Formerly quality control supervisor for the San Juan County Assessor’s Office, Rio Rancho Republican Benay Ward promises to enhance Sandoval County’s investments by investing idle funds to a greater benefit for our future.” That will be necessary, she said, because Sandoval County “is slated to continue to be the fastest-growing county in New Mexico. With this growth is a need to project and plan for the needs of our community.”
Ward has more than 15 years experience in county government, mostly in San Juan County. She was Deputy Chief Assessor which involved all aspects of managing the office. “This on-the-job experience has given me a well-rounded perspective of assisting members of the public but also working with commissioners and County leadership.”
She hold a master’s degree in business administration from N.M Highlands University. While there, she co-authored a scholarly article in the Journal of Finance and Accountancy about taxpayers’ expectations.
“The laws which affect the Treasurer’s Office must be applied reasonably and accurately to everyone, and not ignored or waived for special interest groups.” Voting on Election Day June 2 will be at the Corrales Recreation Center from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters are asked to wear face masks or coverings to protect poll workers.