Meet the Candidates

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Andrews Barreras

Andrew Barreras

Age: 54

Occupation: Small business owner; real estate investor

Education: Associate degree; business, human services, criminal justice

Previous elected political offices: New Mexico House of Representatives

Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a DWI or a felony in New Mexico or in another state? “No.”

1. Why are you running to become the next magistrate?

“As a lifelong resident of Valencia County, I believe that my broad and diverse professional, community and public service lends perfectly to serve our community in this position. As a father, small business owner, real estate investor creating jobs and opportunities and as a former legislator I understand the challenges we all face.”

2. What in your education and/or experience makes you the most qualified to adjudicate both criminal and civil cases?

“I have three associate degrees; small business development, human resources and management and criminal justice. All of these educational experiences and training are the result of my interest in working with people, creating opportunities as part of my intentional and conscious desire to support and contribute to the community that raised me.”

3. What can a magistrate do to reduce the criminal recidivism rate?

“Strong coordination and collaboration between all law and justice partners, education and human services partners for intervention and prevention is paramount. Looking at best practices and identifying evidence based practices that assess the factors that contribute to behaviors in the life of repeat offenders is important to be effective.”

4. In criminal cases, what criteria would you consider while determining a sentence?

“Where we grow up dictates attitudes and behaviors through no fault of the individual. Therefore, looking at the circumstances of the crime committed, whether drugs and alcohol may have been a factor are important. Considering the criminal history of the individual and whether the individual is remorseful, understanding how any violation has impacted the family and community is important.”

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Heather Benavidez

Heather Benavidez (I)

Age: 41

Occupation: Magistrate Judge, Division I, Valencia County

Education: B.A., Political Science, UNM; Master of Public Administration, UNM

Previous elected political offices: Municipal Judge, city of Rio Communities, 2013-2020

Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a DWI or a felony in New Mexico or in another state? “No.”

1. Why are you running to become the next magistrate?

“It was the natural progression in my career as a civil servant to the residents of Valencia County. After an extensive vetting process, I was appointed by Gov. Lujan Grisham to the magistrate bench based on my education, judicial experience, and years of community engagement.

2. What in your education and/or experience makes you the most qualified to adjudicate both criminal and civil cases?

“My seven years serving as Rio Communities municipal judge is the primary experience that makes me the most qualified person to adjudicate criminal and civil cases. The learning curve was minimal because I already understood the processes and procedures associated with a court of limited jurisdiction.”

3. What can a magistrate do to reduce the criminal recidivism rate?

“Reducing recidivism rates protects our community. Specialty courts, such as DWI/Drug Court, have statistically proven to reduce DWI/drug offense recidivism. I would advocate for creating additional specialty courts such as domestic violence court, veteran’s court, or mental health court to help reduce recidivism rates in those areas.”

4. In criminal cases, what criteria would you consider while determining a sentence?

“When I am sentencing an individual, I consider a person’s history, the facts of the crime, input from the victim or police officers, statements from family or friends, the statement of the defendant and impose a sentence within the statutory limitations, which includes imposition of any mandatory minimum penalties.”

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Miles Tafoya

Miles Tafoya

Age: 33

Occupation: Surveillance officer for Valencia County DWI Drug Court

Education: Bachelors in business administration

Previous elected political offices: None

Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a DWI or a felony in New Mexico or in another state? “Yes. DWI 2005. This led me in a positive direction, the Army. I am proof that the court system works.”

1. Why are you running to become the next magistrate?

“I want to continue my service to the people of Valencia County. I want to hold people accountable for their actions, protect citizens rights, and help those in need. I desire to help shape a better future for our community.”

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2. What in your education and/or experience makes you the most qualified to adjudicate both criminal and civil cases?

“I have learned deductive reasoning skills, which play a part in civil cases, through my education and time in the military. My current position has given me the opportunity to work on a criminal issue we have in our community, DWI/DUI. It has given me insight into criminological thinking and what drives most crimes which includes drugs, alcohol and poverty.”

3. What can a magistrate do to reduce the criminal recidivism rate?

“A magistrate can look at alternative sentencing, such as Drug Court. If I can consider and work on the root cause of the criminal action, there is a better chance of changing the behavior, which will reduce the likelihood that someone will re-offend.”

4. In criminal cases, what criteria would you consider while determining a sentence?

“I would consider if the person is a danger to the community, their family or themselves. I would examine their criminal history. In addition, I would also look at the severity of the crimes and what can be done to reduce the chances of them continuing their criminal behavior.”

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