Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Battle In The South Valley: Domestic Violence Charge Surfaces In APS School Board Race As Progressives Face Off With Moderate 

Robert Trujillo
Foes of District 1 ABQ Board of Education candidate Robert Trujillo are trying to gain traction by bringing up a 2006 domestic violence charge leveled against him by his then-wife as progressives and moderates wage a heated battle for this South Valley seat. 

NM Moms Against Violence in Schools is a group that appears to have been formed to specifically oppose Trujillo who is vying for one of three seats up for election on the November 7 ballot. 

No names of the "moms" are listed on their website detailing the charge where there is a posting of the Bernalillo County Sheriff's report on the incident. The group says this in their "Trujillo Report":

Robert Trujillo pleaded guilty to two violent charges over a September 2006 incident with his then-wife and friend. Trujillo hit her and pulled a handgun on the friend, shoving it into his chest, then his temple, and threatened to shoot him. All while his 8-year-old son was inside the home. A week after this incident, his wife filed for divorce. Now he’s running for school board overseeing Albuquerque’s public schools. . . (He has) a violent past and is unfit to lead our future. On November 7, keep violence out of our schools and off the school board. 

Trujillo, owner of a construction company and making his first run for elective office, rebuts the charges in an open letter to South Valley voters: 

Almost 20 years ago, I walked in on my then-wife and my then best friend engaging in inappropriate conduct. I was 24 years old. I reacted in a way I'm not proud of—and assault charges were brought against me. These charges were later dismissed entirely, and I was never convicted. This is the only interaction I’ve ever had with our justice system. I do not condone violence in any form, regardless of the situation, and I have worked many years to be a man that I can be proud of. . .

I was born and raised in the South Valley, and I know it believes in restorative practices and second-chances. This situation has not impacted my service towards the community, and for the past 20 years I’ve served in a number of volunteer roles to improve the community I call home .

The domestic violence charge isn't keeping a who's who of South Valley politicos from endorsing Trujillo, including APS Board President Yolanda Montoya-Cordova who is giving up the seat Trujillo is running for. Also, Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla, State Rep. Andres Romero, chairman of the House Education Committee, and State Rep and former BernCo Commissioner Art De La Cruz have endorsed Trujillo.


Janelle Astorga
Trujillo is opposed by community activist and educator Janelle Astorga, a progressive, and Verland Coker, a substitute teacher. 

Astorga is the major threat to Trujillo and has also lined up an impressive roster of endorsements  including from BernCo Commission Chairwoman Adriann Barboa and the local union chapters of the Ironworkers, Plumbers and Pipefitters and the Communications Workers (CWA). 

The plot thickens because the powerful union for APS teachers--ATF--is at odds with those unions and has endorsed Trujillo. 

Astorga, a community activist who has worked as an education assistant, substitute teacher and family liaison, is described this way on her website:

She is a bilingual seal recipient, and went on to graduate with a bachelor's degree in Chicano/a Studies and Political Science so that she can continue to expand her knowledge and bring it back to the community. She is also currently enrolled at Cornell University studying Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and hopes to bring an anti-racist narrative when elected as APS board member for District 1.

She says she wants APS to focus on bilingual education, mental health, safe schools, college and career readiness and investing in technology for digital literacy. 

Trujillo describes his platform: 

. . to work collaboratively with parents, guardians, educators, students, and community members to ensure that diverse communities and voices are recognized and uplifted. He is committed to providing safe and equitable learning opportunities for all students. Robert is a staunch supporter of labor and understands the importance of collective bargaining.

Campaign finance reports are to be filed today.


A reader critical of ATF's Trujillo endorsement came with this:

ATF dropped the ball on serious vetting of their chosen candidate and now they are paying the price.  ATF has not figured out how to operate in the new environment that puts school board elections on the ballot with local council races and mayoral races. They are still stinging from losing the race for District 3 two years ago. A Democrat won--just not their Democrat. In fact, they publicly acknowledge that they prefer the old way when less than 10% of the voters turned out giving them the opportunity to control races.

ATF says:

Robert has been giving back to the community that has given him so much. His advocacy brought a YDI daycare to the South Valley. He has served on the Pajarito Elementary School Instructional Council as the parent volunteer. In 2008, he was awarded the South Valley Outstanding Citizen Award.

This is in interesting race. Will it be the moderate or progressive who carries the day in the South Valley? The race also serves as a test for the ATF as it tries to further influence education policy.

More on the APS election can be found here and here.  

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