Posted: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 8:00 pm | Updated: 10:44 pm, Tue Mar 11, 2014.
By Milan Simonich
The New Mexican |
State Rep. Nick Salazar of Ohkay Owingeh, at 42 years in office the longest-serving member of the
House of Representatives, defied doubters and filed for re-election on Tuesday.
House Speaker Kenny Martinez has a primary challenger.
And Algin Mendez of Española, who this year was a member of the state Capitol security force until a
legislator obtained a restraining order against him, is trying to make a comeback. Mendez himself is
running for a seat in the House.
Those were among myriad developments Tuesday, the deadline for candidates to file for this year’s state
All 70 seats in the state House of Representatives are up for election this year. Democrats now control the
House 37-33. Races for about 10 seats this fall will be hard-fought, and they will decide which party will
be in charge of that chamber. None of the 42 seats in the state Senate, where Democrats also have a
majority, are up for election this year.
Speaker Martinez, D-Grants, is among a number of longtime legislators who will face a challenger in the
June primary election. His opponent is Nicole Shult, 29, of Bluewater in Cibola County.
Salazar, 84, first elected to the House in 1972 and one of the longest-serving state legislators in the
country, also has a challenger in the Democratic primary. He will face former state Rep. Bengie
Regensberg, who served from 2001 to 2005 before losing his seat.
Regensberg, of Cleveland in Mora County, also ran against Salazar in the primary two years ago.
Regensberg said he believed the northern portion of Salazar’s district, which includes parts of Colfax,
Mora, Rio Arriba and San Miguel counties, has been ignored by the incumbent.
“I feel we need a change. He’s been a member of the House almost as long as I’ve been alive,”
Regensberg, 46, said in a phone interview.
Salazar could not be reached for comment. Several legislators had predicted he would retire, and
Regensberg said he was surprised Salazar was running again.
Republican James R. Gallegos, a retired school superintendent from Cimarron, will face the winner of the
primary contest between Salazar and Regensberg.
Mendez, 33, a former Marine and a combat veteran, worked briefly this year as a member of the security
team at the Capitol. Then Rep. Debbie Rodella filed for a restraining order against him. Rodella, DEspañola,
said Mendez tried to intimidate her during a committee meeting.
Her husband, the Rio Arriba County sheriff, had fired Mendez from his job as a deputy.
In an interview Tuesday, Mendez said he had lost his certification as a police officer. He said he was
working construction jobs. “I’m also going back to school and I’m a full-time father,” he said in an
Mendez said losing a temporary job during the legislative session because of Rodella’s complaint did not
motivate him to run for the House. A Democrat, Mendez is challenging Rep. Carl Trujillo of Santa Fe in
the primary. Rather, Mendez said, he is running to be an agent for change and to root out corruption in
One veteran lawmaker, Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, D-Santa Fe, drew no opponent, but he said
Tuesday that the coming term will be his last in the Legislature. Varela has served in the House for 28
He said he decided to stay for another term because of an exodus of lawmakers this year. Ten of the 70
members announced their retirements before filing day.
Republicans have not held the majority in the House since 1953, when they led 28-27.
Republicans hope to pick up a seat held by first-term Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos
Two Republicans from Los Alamos are running for the right to face her in the November general election.
They are County Council member Geoff Rodgers and former council member Vincent Chiravalle.