As It Is: A surprising election

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By David Giuliani

Am I surprised that San Miguel County Treasurer Alfonso Ortiz handily beat two write-in opponents in last week’s mayoral election?

No. It’s rare that a write-in candidate wins. Many mention how Republican Joe Skeen won as a write-in the 1980 congressional race in southern New Mexico. But he was only the third person in U.S. history to be elected as a write-in to Congress. And there were unusual circumstances — a divided Democratic opposition and no GOP candidate on the ballot.

Other than the snoozer of a mayoral contest, the election proved interesting. Many, including me, expected Macario Gonzalez to cruise to victory in Ward 1. After all, he held that position for 21 years until 2008.

In 1992 and 2004, he ran unopposed. In 2000, he obliterated his rival, and in 1996, he prevailed with a comfortable margin.

This time around, he had stiffer competition than he was used to.

Gonzalez is seen as a decent guy, even by political cynics. The worst I’ve heard about Gonzalez is that he’s a fence sitter.

In this year’s election, he had three opponents, Tonita Gurule-Giron, Roland Medrano and Bruce McAllister. This was Gurule-Giron’s third run for office, and she has become a better candidate each time.

And she worked hard in her campaign. I live on New Mexico Avenue in Ward 1, and I found literature on my door twice from Gurule-Giron’s campaign as well as a letter in the mail. That means she and others in her campaign were aggressively going door to door. Voters appreciate that.

Gonzalez didn’t have that kind of ground operation, a fact that some of his supporters lamented in the final days of his campaign.

By election day, it was becoming apparent that the conventional wisdom was wrong about Gonzalez’s assured victory. Gurule-Giron got 34 percent to Gonzalez’s 29 percent.

In Ward 1, David Romero beat the sons of a former councilman and a current councilman. Mike Roybal was the son of Cruz Roybal, a four-term councilman who decided not to run again, and Joseph P. Baca Jr.’s father served on the council years ago.

Back in 2005, Romero was a part of the small band of activists known as the Committee of the People, which pushed the passage of the charter amendment to reduce the council from eight members to four.

The council didn’t like this idea one bit, and three council members unsuccessfully tried to block the referendum in court. But nearly 90 percent of voters (with similar results on both sides of town) backed the proposal.

So Romero came onto the political scene as a rebel, not as as a sympathizer of the powers that be.

With Gurule-Giron and Romero, the City Council will likely be a much different animal. The longest-serving member will be Diane Moore, and she’s only been there since 2006. Ortiz, however, served on the council in the 1970s and 1980s.

For any organization, fresh blood can often be a good thing.

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One thing that has become confusing in local politics is the proliferation of David Romeros.

Last year, a David Romero became a member of the West Las Vegas school board. His father, David Romero, was elected to the City Council last week. And the interim city attorney is another David Romero.

And it’s become confusing around here at the Optic. Our pressman is David Romero, and he was asked during the campaign whether he was the one running for City Council. For the record, he wasn’t.

It reminds me of the 2008 municipal election — a Henry Sanchez was running for mayor and another for City Council.

David Giuliani is managing editor of the Las Vegas Optic. He may be reached at 425-6796 or by e-mail to dgiuliani@lasvegasoptic.com.