Carmichael Dominguez, a former Santa Fe city councilor and school board member, said Thursday he’s running for the legislative seat held by longtime state Rep. Jim Trujillo, a Democrat who recently announced he’s not seeking another term.
Also Thursday, City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler told the New Mexican she is considering running for the House District 45 seat, which Trujillo has held for more than 16 years.
Dominguez said in an interview that he’s been retired for a while and wants to get back into public service.
“I miss serving the public,” he said. “I miss being in the thick of things with the public and working to empower them and working to learn with the public about things that are happening in the community.”
Dominguez, 49, served three terms on the City Council between 2006 and 2018, representing the southwest-side District 3. He was a member of the Santa Fe school board for four years, starting in 2002.
Prior to his time on the council, Dominguez was a member of the city Planning Commission. He portrayed Don Diego de Vargas in the 2000 Fiesta de Santa Fe. He worked for the state Department of Transportation for 25 years, retiring last year.
In his candidacy announcement, Dominguez said he has “always supported and identified with the Democratic Party platform.” Among other issue positions, he said, he favors abortion rights and declared “we must pledge to a renewed sense of urgency for environmental protections — now.”
Dominguez got caught up in a controversy in his final year as a city councilor. He was among the majority of councilors who voted to spend about $85,000 to hold a special election on whether the city should impose a gross receipts tax on sugary drinks to fund early childhood education programs. However, The New Mexican learned from voting records that Dominguez didn’t vote in that May 2018 election.
In an interview late that month, Dominguez indicated the records were wrong and that he did, in fact, vote. But on Thursday, he admitted he didn’t vote in that election, in which nearly 20,000 city residents took part, including 8,500 who cast early or absentee ballots.
Asked why he didn’t participate, Dominguez said, “A lot of things were going on at the time. Life got in the way.”
Meanwhile, Vigil Coppler, a first-term councilor representing the south-side District 4, told The New Mexican on Thursday, “I’ve been getting a lot of phone calls from friends and others. In contemplating the run. I’m reaching out to people and getting thoughts about that.”
She said she was considering how a run for the legislative seat would “interact” with her city councilor position. “It would be a grueling schedule,” she said.
Vigil Coppler also considered a bid for the 3rd Congressional District seat, which U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., is leaving to run for U.S. Senate. However, she ultimately decided against running for Congress.
“I was born and raised in Santa Fe and I used to spend my weekends there [at the Roundhouse],” she said. “It fascinated me to see all the things that were going on — how new laws or rescinding old laws has an impact on everyone in New Mexico. I’ve been around it for a long long time.”
Vigil Coppler has been a real estate broker for more than 13 years, working in her own firm since 2015. She’s a registered lobbyist for state Realtors Association.
Before her real estate career, she worked as clerk at the First Judicial District for five years and as deputy director of the state Supreme Court for three years. In the 1980s and early 1990s, she worked as an administrator for the city government, including a stint as human resources director during former Mayor Sam Pick’s administration.
City Councilor Chris Rivera, who lives in Trujillo’s New Mexico House district and is on next month’s municipal election ballot, didn’t rule out a run for the seat in the Legislature. But he told The New Mexican, “Right now, I’m just focusing on the council seat even though I’m running unopposed. I’m still trying to do all the forums and answer all the questionnaires that have come out. That’s what I’m focused on right now.”
Rivera represents City Council District 3. The municipal election is Nov. 5.
House District 45 is a working-class district that is part of an area known for low voter turnout and where candidates frequently run unopposed. Trujillo had not had an election opponent since the 2004 primary.
Staff writers Daniel J. Chacón and Jens Erik Gould contributed to this report.