Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica García, who announced she was running for a state Senate seat in Albuquerque, still seems tone-deaf after getting an angry earful during the last several days.
García, 69, withdrew from the Senate race Thursday with a statement that continued to show an astonishing lack of self-awareness.
“I have been so moved by those who have encouraged and supported my decision to run. It is evident that there is a definite need for more voices in the Legislature with on-the-ground experience in educational leadership and who can expertly advocate for the needs of our teachers and students. So now, it is with sadness that I’m withdrawing my candidacy for public office,” García said.
She said she came to realize she did not have time to simultaneously run the business side of a campaign and a school district with some 13,000 students.
I wrote a column earlier this week criticizing García, a Democrat, for pursuing a Senate seat 60 miles away while still collecting her $195,000-a-year salary as Santa Fe’s school superintendent.
Fourteen of 15 readers who called or wrote in response said García has enough to do without focusing on a political campaign.
“My daughter teaches in the district and two of my grandkids are students. It’s an insult to them as well as all the teachers, staff and students for García to treat her important and highly paid job so cavalierly,” Morgan Smith wrote to me in an email.
Smith had another observation.
“I served in the Colorado House of Representatives for three terms and can attest to the fact that it is physically and mentally exhausting work that consumes you to the extent that holding a second job would be impossible.”
Michael Campbell had a scathing critique of García’s performance as superintendent.
“She heads one of the worst performing school districts in the state, which has evidenced little if any improvement during her long tenure as [state] Secretary of Education and Superintendent,” he wrote. “That Ms. Garcia thinks she has time to be a state senator demonstrates conclusively either that she doesn’t know what her duties as SFPS superintendent are or doesn’t care about performing them. Either conclusion confirms that Ms. Garcia shouldn’t be our school superintendent, let alone an Albuquerque state senator.”
Nancy Gaffner expressed her worries about a troubled school system.
“It seems incredulous that Veronica García, Santa Fe’s school superintendent, plans to run for the state senate,” Gaffner wrote. “As one who has tutored in the poorest and lowest performing schools in the city, I have witnessed the abject poverty and achievement scores that are among the lowest in the nation. How can we possibly improve with a part-time superintendent who is also a part-time senator?”
More readers had similar observations. One called García’s candidacy “an affront” to the students, parents and patrons of Santa Fe’s schools.
Ellen Mellon, a retired public school teacher, stood alone. She said García could have handled both jobs at once.
“Message to Milan Simonich: Most people can walk and chew gum. I am sure Veronica García is one of them,” Mellon wrote.
I doubt García could have beaten Republican Sen. Mark Moores, who has represented District 21 in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights since 2013.
But any campaign, whether successful for not, would have been disastrous for García.
Had she received the Democratic nomination, she would have spent next August, September and October campaigning in Albuquerque. That stretch marks the beginning of the school year, a time critical to her students in Santa Fe.
García would have taken more heat than ever by slipping away from her job to campaign in another city.
Moores won the Senate seat from an incumbent by appointment, Democrat Lisa Curtis, who spent more than $270,000 on the race. Much of it was Curtis’ own money.
The district leans Republican. Moores wanted a matchup against García, who owns a home in the Albuquerque Senate district but spends her workdays in Santa Fe.
By quitting the race when she was behind, García saved herself further embarrassment.
Had she persisted in running for the Senate while keeping tabs on her school district from afar, she could have lost on two fronts.
Voters probably would have rejected her candidacy in Albuquerque. And residents of Santa Fe would have demanded her ouster as school superintendent.
Instead of holding two important government jobs at once, García might have found herself in another position. It’s called forced retirement.
Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-986-3080.