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  • By Nicholas Gilmore

Villarreal won't run for reelection;

District 1 City Councilor Renee Villarreal made it official Monday: She’s not running for reelection.

Santa Fe New Mexican

Villarreal announced in an email she would not seek a third term and plugged one of the six candidates who have indicated they will run for the seat, which encompasses northern and parts of eastern Santa Fe.

“When I first started on this path as an elected official, I indicated that I would commit to two terms and then step down to create space for the next leader as part of my values of building community leadership and ensuring diverse voices have access to positions of power,” Villarreal wrote. “It has been my highest honor and privilege to serve as City Councilwoman for District 1. I have served with integrity, consistency, and, unapologetically, with heart.”

One councilor from each of Santa Fe’s four council districts is up for reelection Nov. 7, when voters also will select a municipal judge.

Monday was the first day candidates could pick up the required paperwork to qualify for public financing. Those who announced their intentions to do so included four District 1 candidates — Alma Castro, Katherine Rivera, Joe Hoback and Doug Nava. Former city planning commissioner Brian Gutierrez also will run, though it’s not certain whether he will use public financing. A well-known local attorney, Geno Zamora, also is expected to run.

Villarreal said Castro, a local restaurant owner and organizer who recently announced she wants the seat, is someone who is “running for the right reasons” and “deeply rooted in our community and also brings national perspectives.”

In District 3, two candidates, Miguel Acosta and Luis Carlos, have announced they will run for the seat being vacated by Chris Rivera. Both will use public financing.

For now, incumbents Michael Garcia (District 2) and Jamie Cassutt (District 4) are unopposed.

Each candidate seeking public financing must gather enough signatures and $5 contributions to qualify by the July 24 deadline.

“They still have plenty of time,” City Clerk Kristine Bustos-Mihelcic said Monday. “We’ve seen candidates come in well into June and still qualify by the deadline in July.”

The crowded race for Villarreal’s seat may be highly competitive, particularly under the city’s ranked choice voting system.

Rivera’s LinkedIn page lists her as a business operations engineer at Arrow Electronics, a Colorado-based Fortune 500 company. Nava, a local santero, portrayed Don Diego De Vargas in the city’s Fiestas in 2021. Hoback is a longtime businessman who unsuccessfully challenged councilor Signe Lindell in District 1 in 2021.

In District 3, Acosta is a co-director of Earth Care, a local youth leadership and advocacy organization. Carlos is a former city police officer turned private investigator.

District 4 incumbent Cassutt will privately finance her campaign, as will two candidates for municipal judge, incumbent Virginia Vigil and Municipal Court attorney Chad Chittum.


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