Socorro farmer and County commissioner Glen Duggins will represent Socorro County on the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District Board for the next four years. The swearing in of the new board members has been postponed so that one candidate’s concerns about how the election was run can be investigated.
The conservancy district is responsible for irrigation and river flood control, as well as water conservation services for the middle Rio Grande basin. The Board sets policies that regulate the water distribution throughout the valley and works with river partners like Colorado, Texas and the other conservancy districts in the state. There are seven seats on the Board and four of them were up for election.
Duggins received 238 votes, while his opponent Steven Sichler received 208 votes. The Socorro County seat was previously held by Valerie Moore.
So far only unofficial election results have been released. The election canvas and declaration of official election results was set for Friday and new Board members were supposed to be sworn in Monday. However, one Bernalillo candidate, Simon “Scooter” Haynes, came to the Board with concerns about how the election for position No. 4 was run. The Board moved the canvassing date to June 25, and the seating of new directors to June 28, depending on the outcome of the canvasing meeting, to allow for time to investigate his concerns. With 571 votes, Haynes lost to incumbent Vice-Chair Joaquin Baca, who received 1,583 votes.
Haynes raised three concerns. He said he was told the nickname he campaigned under, Scooter, would be included on the ballot, but when he went to vote on June 4, Haynes said he was listed as Simon T. Haynes on the ballot. Haynes alerted the election manager and was told the error was corrected by June 5.
Haynes also claimed that he knew of at least one qualified elector who was turned away from the polls. He also said he was told he could get election results via email, but not informed that he could be present at the district office while the results were counted. His opponent was present while results were counted. Haynes felt that was improper.
The Board’s attorney recommended they take time to fully and transparently investigate the allegations before canvasing results to ensure the election results are not in question when the new Board members are sworn in.
Bernalillo County representative and Board Chair Karen Dunning was reelected with 1,558 votes, against opponent Julia Maccini, who received 598 votes. Running unopposed, Michael T. Sandoval, of Sandoval County was reelected with 181 votes.
According to the MRGCD website, Dunning is a former community planner, Baca is a professional hydrologist, and Sandoval is a former governor of San Felipe Pueblo and the pueblo’s water resources specialist.
Socorro’s new representative Duggins has previously served on the Board and ran for election because he believes an active farmer should be on the Board.
“I can see the distance growing between the farmers and the current administration that we have at the MRGCD,” said Duggins. “The distance between us has only gotten wider.”
Duggins said he would like to see the Board prioritize paying the water debt owed to Texas. The Rio Grande Compact is an agreement between Colorado, New Mexico and Texas about how the water from the river will be divided. Under the compact, New Mexico owes Texas a significant amount of water.
Duggins also wants to see farmers’ needs prioritized by the Board.
“The work’s ahead of me and I look forward to it and I look forward to representing the farmers and at least bringing a farmer voice to the board of the MRGCD and represent farmers all up and down the valley,” he said.
The three Board members who were not up for reelection are Bernalillo County’s Barbara Baca, Bernalillo County’s John P. Kelly and Valencia County’s Stephanie Russo Baca.