With the fate of two Luna Community College Board of Trustees races hanging in the balance, Thursday’s canvassing meeting took on a tense mood as County Clerk Melanie Rivera explained the process and rebutted claims of irregularities and alleged bias.
And in the end, the two races up in the air — the District 7 race, which was tied and the District 3 race, which had the top two candidates separated by a single vote — were decided.
Daniel Romero prevailed in District 7 while Ernie Chavez held on to the narrowest of leads in the District 3 race. They Kenny Medina in District 1 and Abelino Montoya in District 5 as the winners in Tuesday’s election.
No coin toss or card game was needed to determine the winner in District 7, which as of Tuesday night had Richard Rivera and Romero tied with 211 votes.
Eleven provisional ballots were cast in that race, Judge Chris Najar, a member of the canvassing board rejected two of those ballots because, he said, there were too many questions about where those voters actually live.
The canvassing board, which consisted of Najar and Luna employee Ron Gonzales, agreed that the nine other provisional ballots should be counted after Melanie Rivera determined that the individuals casting them were eligible voters and that they simply voted at the wrong poling site.
Romero ended up with six votes from the provisional ballots, elevating his total to 217.
Richard Rivera picked up three votes from the provisional ballots, meaning that he lost the election by a three-vote margin. JoAnn Alcon-Ortiz came in a distant third in that race, garnering 64 votes.
Provisional ballots didn’t affect the results of the District race at all, leaving Ernie Chavez the winner. Chavez received 212 votes to Incumbent Levi Alcon Jr.’s 211 votes.
With Thursday’s canvassing completed, it became clear that two of three candidates seeking re-election were defeated. Luna board chairman Jerry Maestas lost his seat to Medina.
No incumbent was running in District 7.
Romero, 52, said he wasn’t expecting the District 7 seat to be as tight as it was. He had been among the people raising concerns about the election process prior to the canvassing, though at the end he said he was satisfied with the explanations given.
Romero said he previously worked as the head of Luna’s vocation programs for about five years, and he said he will champion vocational programs at Luna. He said the college needs to focus on updating its equipment at the main campus before the satellite campuses.
“To me, vocational programs are important,” Romero said. “That’s my heart.”
As for President Pete Campos, he said he hasn’t worked with him before but added that he has concerns that Luna pays Campos even when the state Senate is in session.
Chavez, 63, has previously said that he feels change is needed at Luna.
“LCC is pretty much an unknown resource available to students or potential students in Mora,” he has previously told the Optic. “I believe this is a direct reflection of the president and LCC as a whole.”
Both Chavez and Romero are retired.
Chavez unseated Alcon, who has served on the board for about 10 years. Alcon has been a vocal critic of Campos and his administration.
The candidates elected will serve six-year terms beginning on April 1.
During Thursday’s canvassing meeting, Melanie Rivera addressed allegations made by a local blogger about what he described as voting irregularities.
Melanie Rivera said the system in place doesn’t allow for results to be printed out before a poll site is closed.
“There’s nothing we can do to make changes to cartridges, to results,” she said. “I’ve been accused of this so many times, and it’s ridiculous.” She acknowledged that Richard Rivera was related to her through marriage.
Representatives from the Secretary of State’s Office were on hand to observe the canvassing.