Veronica García, superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools and a former Cabinet secretary of the state Public Education Department, is running as a Democrat for the state Senate seat in Albuquerque’s District 21, where she has a home, she told The New Mexican on Thursday.
She is challenging Republican Sen. Mark Moores, who has held the seat since 2013.
García, whose current contract with the school district ends in June 2021, said if she wins both the June 2020 primary and November 2020 general election, she would serve simultaneously as both superintendent and state senator.
“If I could not do a good job of being superintendent, I won’t need the board to tell me. I’ll be the first to say I should step down as superintendent,” García said. “I’ll be here in Santa Fe checking emails, taking phone calls and waiting for people to bring me things to sign. I don’t think the district will miss a beat.”
García cited retired lawmaker Cynthia Nava, who served as both a senator and superintendent of the Gadsden Independent School District from 2006-11, and state Rep. Andrés Romero, the House Education Committee chairman and an American history teacher at Atrisco Heritage Academy High School in Albuquerque, who has been in the Legislature since 2015, as examples of full-time educators who double as politicians.
García, who is in her fourth consecutive school year as Santa Fe Public Schools’ superintendent and also served in the position from 1999 to 2002, was the state’s first public education secretary from 2003-10 under then-Gov. Bill Richardson.
“I think it’s important on the Senate side to have legislators who are on the ground and feel the impact of legislation,” García said. “I’ve been involved in public policy for the last 25 years. I feel like I can help my district and the state as a whole.
“The last session, some legislation didn’t roll out the way the Legislature intended, so the more people talked to me about running, the more I thought I could make a positive difference.”
García, who filed for candidacy Tuesday with the Secretary of State’s Office, said she spends three or four nights a week in a condominium in Santa Fe and the rest of the week at her home in Albuquerque.
In Albuquerque’s north-side District 21, which has around 49,000 residents, Moores defeated Democratic incumbent Lisa Curtis with 56 percent of the vote in 2012 and Democratic challenger Gregory Frazier with 56 percent of the vote in 2016. About 25,000 voters cast ballots in each race.
Moores said he will be running for reelection.
“I look forward to taking on a liberal Santa Fe Democrat,” Moores said Thursday, speaking of García. “She runs one of the worst-performing school districts in the state, 60 miles from District 21.”