Three area legislative seats in play

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Incumbents all Democrats

By Martin Salazar

Each of the three contested legislative races in San Miguel and Mora counties involves a longtime democratic lawmaker trying to stave off a Republican challenger.

Election Day is Nov. 6, although early voting is already under way.
In Senate District 39, Republican banker and rancher Aubrey Dunn, who resides in Mayhill, is challenging Phil Griego, D-San Jose.

Griego, the CEO of American Surety Title Company, has served in the Legislature for 16 years.

The House District 40 race pits incumbent Nick Salazar, D-Ohkay Owingeh, against Mora County Republican Gary Martinez. Salazar is the longest-serving state lawmaker. Martinez is an educator who currently serves as the director of the vocational/trades department at Luna Community College.

In House District 63, incumbent George Dodge Jr., D-Santa Rosa, will need to fend off a challenge from Republican Steve Hanson of Curry County, in order to remain in the Legislature. Both Dodge and Hanson are business owners. Dodge, a retired educator, owns the Dairy Queen and Comfort Inn in Santa Rosa. Hanson owns and operates a dairy that employs more than 45 people.

Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, is unopposed in the general election. He defeated challenger Thomas Garcia in the June primary to keep his Senate District 8 seat.

Tomás Salazar is also unopposed for the District 70 House seat in the general election. A Democrat, Salazar beat incumbent Richard Vigil in the primary to claim the seat.

Griego v. Dunn

Senate District 39 is a sprawling district, encompassing parts of San Miguel, Santa Fe, Torrance, Lincoln, Valencia and Bernalillo counties.

Sen. Griego has proven himself a resilient candidate on the campaign trail. In the run up to the June primary, Griego was hit with an ethics complaint over his campaign spending, with one of his democratic challengers raising questions about his spending campaign funds on things like NFL tickets, new office furniture and truck tires. Griego defended the spending, and despite the negative attention, he easily defeated his democratic opponents, garnering more than 40 percent of the vote — nearly twice the number of votes brought in by each of his two opponents.

Dunn has launched an attack on Griego, sending out mailers criticizing his stance on the state law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses in New Mexico.

“Career Politician Phil Griego refuses to repeal a bad law that threatens the safety of New Mexicans,” the mailer states.

Dunn pledges to fight to repeal the controversial driver’s license law.

He states that public schools in New Mexico are failing and supports giving control back to local school boards and parents. He says he supports common-sense approaches to the state’s water policy, including finding ways to conserve the state’s water supply. And he says he supports making New Mexico a business-friendly state.

“Unlike past representation of District 39, Aubrey will bring honesty and be an ethical leader in the New Mexico Senate,” his campaign website states. “He knows that it is not about bending the rules in order to benefit personally from elected office.”

Griego, meanwhile, is running on the slogan that “now, more than ever, experience matters.”

Griego states that he has proven he can and will work across party lines in order to do what is best for New Mexico residents.

“Sixteen years of hard work and leadership with integrity, has given him the experience and ability to accomplish the objectives of his constituents and garner the support and respect of both parties,” his website states.

He states that he ranked second out of 112 legislators in the total number of bills sponsored that were signed into law. And he adds that he has an exemplary attendance record, stating that he voted on 166 out of 186 bills that were signed into law.

Griego states that his legislative goals have always focused on rural issues.

“My aim is to improve the quality of life in smaller communities and make rural living productive and sustainable,” he states.

Salazar v. Martinez
House District 40 encompasses all of Mora County and parts of San Miguel, Colfax and Rio Arriba.

Nick Salazar has served in the state House for more than four decades.

He retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory after more than six decades.

According to his responses to an Albuquerque Journal questionnaire, Salazar is in favor of repealing the law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, he would be in favor of raising the retirement age for future state employees to address solvency problems within the state’s two public retirement systems and he opposes ending social promotion, the practice of allowing students to move to the next grade level despite reading deficiencies.

Martinez is the chairman of the Western Mora Soil and Water Conservation district and has served as the president of the Mora/San Miguel Farm Bureau. He also runs a small calf and cattle operation.

Martinez is running as a Republican despite living in an overwhelmingly democratic county. He says he works well with both Republicans and Democrats.

“The reason I decided to run was because I see the problems internally in the public schools, higher ed, agriculture and in the industry as a builder-welder,” Martinez told the Optic. “I have first-hand seen the internal problems and felt rather than complaining about the problems I would like to be in the House as an individual who would like to find solutions to problems.”

Among the priorities Martinez says he would focus on if elected are dealing with water issues and improving the state’s education system. He is running as a pro-life candidate.

Martinez has spent 19 years as an educator, both at the high school and higher education levels.

His campaign states that limited tax dollars and legislative sessions are squandered on needless legislation and overburdening regulations that he contends drive businesses away from New Mexico.

Dodge v. Hanson

House District 63 includes a single precinct from San Miguel County, Precinct 17. The district also encompasses Guadalupe, Curry, Roosevelt and De Baca counties.

Dodge pledges to fight to make sure the voices of his district are heard in the Legislature.

“I will continue to fight for our district’s needs in Santa Fe by standing up for new job growth, quality public education, an expanded renewable energy sector and new laws to end public corruption,” Dodge states.

Hanson is running on a platform of less government control on homes and businesses, limited government spending and lower taxes, improving water availability and repealing the law giving undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses. He does, however, favor issuing a special driving permit to those who live and work in New Mexico but are not citizens.