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Nordquist throws in hat for 46th District against Romero

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By Tris DeRoma

Heather Nordquist, Democratic write-in candidate for the state House of Representative’s 46th District, says New Mexicans deserve a better candidate than the one it has now in Andrea Romero.

“I thought the people of the 46th District deserved a better choice, given the ethical challenges of the presumed winner,” Nordquist said.

Nordquist was referring to Romero, who won the June 5 primary election against three-term incumbent Carl Trujillo.

Romero is the former executive director of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, a lobbying group that represents the interests of nine communities and pueblos in the region, including Los Alamos County.

A complaint from a citizens group called Northern New Mexico Protects triggered audits of the Coalition by Los Alamos County, the coalition’s fiscal agent. The complaint centered on Romero submitting reimbursement requests for baseball tickets and alcohol that totaled roughly $2,000 during a September lobbying trip to Washington, D.C. The state auditor’s office is also conducting an audit of the coalition. 

When Romero’s $140,000-a-year contract to run the coalition expired in February, she decided not to submit a bid, preferring instead to concentrate on her race against Trujillo.

Nordquist resigned as the executive vice president of Northern New Mexico Protects when she filed for candidacy for Dist. 43. She criticized Romero’s actions shortly after the allegations against her surfaced.

“Instead of admitting a mistake and moving forward, she wrote a letter (to the coalition) asking for legal representation against my organization, and then she asked that myself and another person that was employed at Los Alamos National Laboratory to be investigated by the ethics office… for releasing public information.”

Nordquist believes that ethics is the most important part of any role one plays in the public or private sector.

“I don’t care what party you’re in. If you do not have an accountable and transparent government, then nothing is going to get done that’s worthy of getting done,” Nordquist said.

Nordquist plans to officially kick off her campaign on July 27. She is getting her staff in place and putting the finishing touches on her campaign, the Pojoaque Valley resident said.

Part of her campaign will be to focus on water rights and how the Aamodt Water Rights Settlement Agreement will impact the 46th  District. The agreement calls for the U.S. to acquire 2,500 acre-feet of imported water to be used by the pueblos. The agreement also calls for the design of a regional water system to distribute treated water to pueblos and communities in the region.

“I think that New Mexico needs a comprehensive water plan, instead of doing things piecemeal,” Nordquist said. “I think there’s going to be many fights over resources when it comes to water in the future. I think we need to be smart about that.”

As a representative of the 46th District, she also wants to make sure her district is financially protected, once the system starts taking shape.

“Will this system ever be a good investment? In the end, the county is on the hook for all the maintenance and operations fees. One of the biggest concerns is what is the water going to cost?” Nordquist said. “You need an economy of scale here in order for it to make sense. I’d like to be that voice of reason to see if we can come up with a system that will work. There are a lot of state dollars that have been promised, I would like to make sure they are not misspent.”

Nordquist will also use her campaign to speak about providing living wages, better healthcare and getting more funding for public education. She is taking a close look at plans in the Legislature and plans being put forward by other candidates to use the state’s permanent fund to early childhood education.

“I’m a big supporter of early childhood education, but I don’t think New Mexico should be downgraded in its credit rating,” Nordquist said. “I would like to look really carefully at how much was coming out and what that does to the overall financial health of the state.”

In addition to early childhood education, another plank in Nordquist’s platform, will be support for science, technology, engineering and math program in grades kindergarten through 12.

Nordquist is involved in Expanding Your Horizons, a program that supports girls 10-14 years old that are interested in careers that require a STEM education. Nordquist works in nuclear safeguards as an R&D scientist 3 at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said it’s important to get more young people, especially girls, involved in STEM-based careers.

As a state representative, she said she plans to work toward extending what her employers and other companies do with master’s and Ph.D. students. 

“Let’s extend that pipeline further down into our K-12. The same thing applies to early childhood education. The kids are not passing these tests, they are not leaving school with basic reading and writing skills or math skills. There’s a holistic approach to doing this.  I think we can approach business leaders to do some things, especially on the mentoring side. I think mentoring is one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids,” Nordquist said.

Nordquist is a lifelong resident of New Mexico, is married and lives in El Rancho. She was born in Los Alamos, and is a graduate of Los Alamos High School.

Editor's Note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Heather Nordquist lives in El Rancho. The printed version incorrectly stated her residence was in Rio Rancho. This version also was corrected to state that she has resigned her position as executive vice president of Northern New Mexico Protects.