ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (KRQE) – Some late returning primary election results have made for major shake-ups to New Mexico’s moderate Democratic wing, including in northern New Mexico. Long-time State Senator Richard Martinez lost his primary bid Tuesday night to a relative political newcomer.
A Los Alamos National Labs employee and Rio Arriba County Commissioner, Leo Jaramillo defeated Martinez in the state senate district 5 Democrat primary Tuesday. Jaramillo has only been a county commissioner since 2019. Meanwhile, Martinez has served the Española-area as a state senator since 2001.
“I think that a large piece of it was about accountability and I think another large piece about it was people are ready for change after 20 years, they’re ready for a new voice to come into senate and represent them in the Roundhouse,” Jaramillo said in an interview Wednesday.
Jaramillo’s primary win breaks Martinez’s 20-year streak in the state senate. Martinez once chaired the powerful New Mexico Senate Judiciary Committee and sometimes sided with Republicans on key votes.
Martinez was also arrested for DWI in June 2019. He pleaded not guilty in the case but was later convicted after a bench trial in December 2019. Following his conviction, Martinez stepped down from his chairman position on the Senate Judiciary Committee, however, he still retained a key moderate vote. Martinez even helped table legislation to legalize marijuana during the 2020 legislation session. Jaramillo announced his candidacy shortly after Martinez’s conviction.
KRQE Political Analyst and University of New Mexico Political Science Professor Gabe Sanchez say Jaramillo’s win is likely tied in some respects to Martinez’s DWI conviction. But Sanchez also says the overall pulse of the 2020 primary likely played a role. “I think it’s an indication of a change election, I think a lot of voters are looking at the landscape and saying we need to try something new,” Sanchez said.
Jaramillo believes his win was indicative of an overall feeling of voters wanting a change in state leadership. He says he wants to focus on diversifying his district’s economy, clean water protection and affordable housing advancement.
“Voters know that I can bring people together and work with different leaders to find solutions to the issues that we face,” Jaramillo said.
During the primary, Jaramillo admitted he too has a DWI on his record from when he was 18 years old. Jaramillo said that conviction was different from Senator Richard Martinez’s because of his young age. Jaramillo also said he took responsibility for the incident by pleading guilty. Jaramillo will face Republican challenger Diamantina Prado Storment and Libertarian Lee Weinland in November.
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