Erminio Martinez seeks change at the Roundhouse

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By Carol A. Clark

Retired judge Erminio Martinez joins a slate of three Democrats seeking the District 6 Senate seat representing Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Santa Fe and Taos.

Martinez was born in Taos and has lived there all of his 65 years of life. He stopped by the Monitor Thursday to discuss his candidacy. "If the people of District 6 extend me the honor, the privilege, the faith and the trust – I will work my heart out to have an inclusive and transparent government," he said.

Martinez can't emphasize enough the importance of term limits, he said in reference to the fact that opponent Sen. Carlos Cisneros of Questa has served in the post for 23 years.

"With term limits, you don't serve lobbyists and special interest groups, you serve the people," Martinez said. "A lack of term limits breeds corruption, people stagnate and become masters instead of servants."

The third candidate in the District 6 race is Archie Velarde from Ojo Sarco, who has run before but not held public office.

Martinez decided to seek the state Senate seat because he says the government is broken. "Public officials don't address things that need to be addressed in New Mexico," he said, expressing outrage as he described homeless and hungry veterans. "They fought for our freedom and if we can't protect them - then we're almost acting like a third world country."

Martinez is a veteran who served from 1961-1964 in active duty overseas at the beginning of the Vietnam War and entered the National Guard upon his return to New Mexico, he said.

"When we are discharged, we receive an eligibility card for housing but it's without honor – the lending institutions don't honor it," he said.

Health care is another of the issues Martinez said hasn't been addressed simply because the Legislature doesn't have a blueprint. "When there's no plan, the government becomes gridlocked and that breeds a special session," he said, and special sessions as we know them never become productive."

Martinez describes special sessions as political maneuvering for positions of power. "That is the reason we need term limits: to be able to avoid gridlock because what happens when you get into gridlock is the taxpayer ends up paying the tab."

Los Alamos National Laboratory is an important issue, Martinez said. "The state has to work hand-in-hand with the federal government to promote clean energy," he said. "There's a lot of concern in Northern New Mexico about the pits at the laboratory. We have to clean up the pits and promote clean energy."

Education has been put on the back burner, he said, and teacher's salaries have suffered. He advocates rewarding students who participate in community service with educational credits and institutions of higher learning with additional funding when they refrain from raising tuition.

Martinez received the endorsement of American Federation of Teachers - New Mexico May 17. In an e-mail Martinez presented to the Monitor, AFT-NM President Christine Trujillo stated that the organization has endorsed Martinez because, "Mr. Martinez has an impressive depth of experience and commitment to strengthening New Mexico through its workforce and supporting workers through collective bargaining."

Martinez retired in 2006 from two terms as Probate Court judge in Taos County from 1986-1990, four terms as the county's Magistrate Court judge from 1990-2005 and service as needed, he said, as pro tem judge for the Taos Pueblo Tribal Court and the Poaque Pueblo Tribal Court.

Martinez still ranches the land settled by his ancestors in the late 1500s. "Livestock is in my heart and soul," he said. "We have not only a moral responsibility but also a legal responsibility to protect Mother Nature."

Martinez is the single parent of three children and three grandchildren. He is third from the youngest of three brothers and sisters who were born in two-year intervals. He explained that his father was a sheep herder in Colorado and Wyoming who came home to visit his homemaker wife about once a year. "That's why we're all two years apart."