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Luna cliffhanger - Dist. 7 race tied; Dist. 3 too close

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By Martin Salazar

Luna Community College’s Board of Trustees Chairman Thomas Jerry Maestas was defeated Tuesday while incumbent Abelino Monotya Jr. won in his race.

But those results were overshadowed by what happened in the other two races.

In District 7, candidates Richard Rivera and Daniel Romero tied, each walking away with 211 votes.

“I’m biting my nails over here,” Rivera said, adding that he’s just waiting to see what happens with the provisional ballots. Candidate JoAnn Alcon-Ortiz came in a distant third in the race with 62 votes.

In District 3, Ernie Chavez was beating incumbent Levi Alcon Jr. by just one vote, 212 to 211. The third candidate in that race, Peter Martinez had 182 votes.

With 12 provisional ballots still outstanding, it’s anybody’s guess how the District 7 and District 3 races will play out. All results are unofficial until the canvassing board meets on Thursday morning. At that point, the provisional ballots will be opened and a determination will be made on whether they are valid, County Clerk Melanie Rivera said Tuesday night.

If the District 7 race remains a tie, she said, the winner will likely be determined by a game of chance, like a coin toss or a card draw.

In the District 1 race, Maestas, the chairman of the board and a strong supporter of President Pete Campos, was  defeated by Kenneth C. Medina, a former San Miguel County Commissioner. Medina, 51, won by a more than two-to-one margin.

The candidates elected will serve six-year terms beginning on April 1.

“The people made their choice, and they chose to have Mr. Medina replace me,” Maestas said.

“I thought we were taking the college in a good direction, but I guess with all the stuff that I was being bashed with as far as the $95 checks, I feel that’s what hurt me.”

The final weeks of the campaign turned ugly as Montoya went public accusing Maestas of padding his pockets at the expense of taxpayers by collecting thousands of dollars in per diem for what Montoya described as excessive and short committee meetings. Maestas fired back, accusing Montoya of missing an excessive number of his meetings.

Draft documents prepared by the college reveal that Maestas collected a total of $17,000 over the three previous fiscal years for per diem, mileage and phone expenses — more than any other board member. Luna documents also showed that Alcon missed 60 percent of regular and work session board meetings over the three previous fiscal years. During that same period, Montoya missed 30 percent of the meetings while Maestas missed just 4.3 percent of the meetings.  

“Mr. Medina wasn’t out there slinging mud,” Maestas said of his opponent. “He ran a good, clean race.” Maestas added that he has served of the Luna board for nine years, and he feels he did his job to the fullest.

“I had a lot of wonderful supporters who went out for me,” said Medina, who held a victory celebration at the El Rialto Rye Lounge.

“They know I’ll respect the people out there and the taxpayers,” Medina said of the voters who supported him. “They know I’ll be accountable to them in every way. I’m willing to go in as a team player for the betterment of LCC.”

Medina said he believes he was elected because people weren’t happy with what was going on at Luna, and he, too, thinks the college needs to change directions. As for what his election means for Campos, Medina said he has nothing against the president, so long as he follows the board’s lead and changes direction, if that’s what the newly constituted Board of Trustees decides.

Montoya, 65, defeated Paul D. Henry Elementary School principal Anthony Marquez, garnering 277 votes to Marquez’s 167.

“I want to thank my family who supported me, all the people in Las Vegas who gave me advice and listened to me and allowed me into their homes,” Montoya said.

“It was a tough race. I think my actions of making the statements I did on per diem was very hard to make, but I felt the pubic needed to know before the election, and I feel the people respected that.”

Montoya said his opponent ran a good race, and he thanked him for keeping it clean.

“He’s a good man,” Montoya said.

DISTRICT 1

Thomas Jerry Maestas
116  30.7%

√ Kenneth C. Medina
262  69.3%

All precincts

DISTRICT 3

Levi Alcon Jr.
211  34.9%

Ernie Chavez
212  35%

Peter A. Martinez
182  30.1%

All precincts

DISTRICT 5

Anthony Marquez
167  37.6%

√Abelino
Montoya Jr.
277  62.4%

All precincts

DISTRICT 7

JoAnn Alcon-Ortiz
62  12.8%

Richard N. Rivera
211  43.6%

Daniel J. Romero
211  43.6%

All precincts