For the next three days, The New Mexican will be endorsing candidates in contested primary races, a lengthy process involving research, interviews and attention to questionnaires and forums. If you don’t see a race, it’s likely there is no matchup until the general election. We begin our endorsements with area candidates for state legislative seats. As always, the important decisions are those the voters make.

An open seat for District 45 is a big deal — after all, retiring state Rep. Jim Trujillo has served since being appointed in 2003. His decision to step aside left the door open for new talent, including a former city councilor, the current county treasurer and several political neophytes. We can say this after doing our homework: Whoever wins this race will make the district proud. These are smart people ready to work for policies that improve the lot of working New Mexicans.

Lisa Martinez, a Chimayó native making her first run for public office, impressed us with her combination of construction and government experience. Among other jobs, she served as director of the State Construction Industries Division and director of the city of Santa Fe Planning and Land Use Office before opening her design and contracting business.

With a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of New Mexico and a master’s degree in architecture and urban planning from UCLA, she also is a licensed general contractor, not the typical attorney often found in the Legislature.

Her life in construction and urban planning means Martinez understands green building standards — she helped write them in the Richardson administration — the importance of renewable energy and the necessity of fighting climate change. Importantly, she understands how public policy can be used to further these important goals.

Her priorities if elected include helping building a budget that doesn’t leave state services decimated, a wise position even as the economy crashes. Her ability to analyze a problem, search for solutions and solve challenges collectively will serve her constituents well in the state House. Martinez. who has lobbied for legislation, made hard budget choices as a boss during the 2008 recession and became fascinated with building adobe houses by her family’s acequia in Chimayó. It’s a dynamic, unusual background to take to the Legislature.

However, we can’t leave without mentioning another impressive candidate. Linda Serrato has a whip-smart understanding of policy and politics and the ability to make connections wherever she goes. Whoever wins — including candidates we haven’t mentioned — has the potential to represent District 45 with distinction. Those who do not prevail, we trust, will find other offices to seek and other ways to serve. These are intelligent, committed individuals.

In the Democratic primary for House District 45, The New Mexican endorses Lisa Martinez.

u State Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo is an outstanding representative for the people of District 50. He has built a substantive legislative record, including successfully sponsoring legislation to stop the practice of cruel coyote killing contests and to reinstate solar tax credits. As chairman of the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee, McQueen has worked diligently to help move New Mexico from dependence on fossil fuels to developing renewable energy resources, all while continuing to protect New Mexico’s open lands. He is particularly strong on transparency and ethics. Returning McQueen to the Legislature will ensure work continues on making individual lawmaker’s capital outlay allocations public as a matter of law. That’s necessary reform for New Mexico.

In the Democratic primary for House District 50, The New Mexican endorses Matthew McQueen.

u Up north, the House District 40 seat became vacant when state Rep. Joseph Sanchez decided to run for Congress. Roger Montoya is the best choice in this race. He’s the man who brought international recognition — of the best kind — to the Española Valley last year as a CNN Hero. His work with children at his arts nonprofit, long years of dedication to battling poverty, alleviating addiction and championing education will inform his legislative work with compassion and insight.

For District 40, The New Mexican endorses Roger Montoya.

u Senate District 5: Rio Arriba County Commission Chairman Leo Jaramillo is trying to unseat longtime Sen. Richard Martinez and bring new energy to representing Rio Arriba County. Jaramillo understands the power of education as both a path to realizing dreams and as a way to return home to give back to his community. A mentor at Los Alamos National Laboratory encouraged Jaramillo to apply to college — he ended up at the University of New Mexico for his bachelor’s degree in mass communications and went on to obtain a master’s degree in education/curriculum design and instructional leadership from the College of Santa Fe.

After stints in journalism and teaching, Jaramillo returned to the valley to work at the lab. He ran for County Commission — upsetting a Naranjo, no less — and now has his sights on the Senate, not as a vehicle for power but to represent people who need a voice. Jaramillo’s energy, optimism and work ethic will benefit the people of his district — resulting in policies that expand housing opportunities, improve educational outcomes, support economic recovery and preserve agricultural and cultural traditions. Jaramillo shows promise, grit and ability.

In the Democratic primary for Senate District 5, The New Mexican endorses Leo Jaramillo.

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