Vigil handily defeats two rivals

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By The Staff

State Rep. Richard Vigil of Ribera handily defeated two opponents in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

Vigil, who has served for a decade in the state House, grabbed 2,064 votes, or 44 percent, in District 70, which includes Las Vegas, the Valley, other rural areas in San Miguel County and eastern Torrance County.

Luna Community College employee Naomi Montoya came in second with 1,574 votes, or 33 percent, and building contractor Travis Regensberg finished last with 1,103 votes, or 23 percent.

Vigil beat his opponents just about everywhere in his district. However, Montoya prevailed in a few eastside precincts as well as Torrance County.

“I want to thank the people of San Miguel County for their support,” Vigil said, “and I look forward to serving you for another two years. My family and I and all the people who have supported my campaign thank you.”

Vigil will face Republican Mel Root, a retired educator, in the November general election. The district is heavily Democratic.

In the District 68 race between state Rep. Thomas Garcia, D-Ocat, and former state Rep. Bengie Regensberg, Garcia won with 2,744 votes, or 64 percent, while Regensberg received 1,573 votes, or 36 percent. The Regensbergs are brothers.

Garcia will run against Republican Sylvia Olson in November. District 68 covers parts of San Miguel, Mora, Colfax, Taos and Guadalupe counties.

Around a quarter of San Miguel County’s 20,720 registered voters participated in the Democratic and Republican primaries, officials said. County Clerk Paul Maez said voter turnout was lower than usual, perhaps because many people assumed that the Democratic competition was over after the party’s presidential caucus earlier this year.

The District 70 race attracted probably the most attention locally in the weeks leading up the primaries. Vigil had the monetary backing of Gov. Bill Richardson and many of the state’s high-end contributors, while Regensberg poured at least $10,000 of his own money into his campaign. Montoya, meanwhile, only received a few small donations and lagged far behind her rivals in money.

In 2006, Vigil beat Montoya with 59 percent of the vote. That was shortly before the Optic published a story reporting on a $10,000 invitation-only, adults-only party organized by the West Las Vegas school district’s bilingual program, headed by Vigil’s wife, Roberta Vigil.

A month after the story, the school district’s then-attorney, Jesus Lopez, alleged publicly that Rep. Vigil quietly funneled more than $100,000 to the bilingual program for the party and other wasteful spending.

Just two weeks ago, two witnesses alleged in a state Public Education Department hearing that Rep. Vigil used his power to pressure school administrators to let his wife run the bilingual program as she pleased.

In recent days, a number of radio ads promoting Regensberg attacked Vigil over the bilingual party and blamed him for the closure of the early grades of an alternative school in the West Las Vegas district, although there is no evidence that Vigil had any role in that decision.

The ads also alleged that Vigil had a cozy relationship with Value Options, a state contractor with close ties to the governor. Many employees at the state hospital fear that Value Options is part of a plan to privatize the hospital, which they believe would mean layoffs and reduced pay. State officials, including Richardson, have vehemently denied that is the case.

On Tuesday, Regensberg rode around on a horse through Las Vegas to promote his candidacy.

Vigil aired ads, but didn’t respond to the attacks. His spots promoted his record as a state lawmaker. One of his ads played Spanish music and at the end, simply stated that he was running for state representative.

With her shoestring budget, Montoya hardly advertised but posted homemade signs around town.

“I was a little disappointed that I didn’t win, but I think it was a good race and I’m glad that I had all the support that I had. I wish Rep. (Richard) Vigil all the best,” she said. “I wish it would have turned in my favor, but that’s the way it goes.”

Neither Regensberg could be reached for comment.

In an interview, Vigil talked about projects he would like to get money for in the next legislative session. Noting that ground has just been broken to begin the first phase of the Frank Herrera Sports Complex at West Las Vegas High School, Vigil said he would like to see money allocated for the football field, which is the project’s next phase. He said he would work hard in the Legislature to make that happen.

Vigil said another project that has been partially funded and needs to be completed is the long-term facility at the state hospital.

On the education front, Vigil said he would work with Highlands University to build a new student center. He said there are a number of projects in the works at Luna Community College and the local high schools that he supports.

Vigil said hopefully all Democrats would join together after this election.

“I will have opposition in the general election from the Republicans and need Democratic support to send me back to Santa Fe.”

In District 68, Garcia said he had a little bit more confidence going into the general election with what appeared to be a significant number of votes. The governor appointed him to the seat after then-state Rep. Hector Balderas was elected state auditor in 2006.

“We now need to rally the Democratic Party into a unified party for November to make sure we retain these seats and maybe pick up a few others,” Garcia said.

Garcia said two of his priorities are the completion of the Mora County courthouse and the Frank Herrera Sports Complex at West Las Vegas.