“At the end of the day, it didn’t make much of a difference to folks” — first openly gay man heading to the Roundhouse
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Jacob Candelaria is heading to the Roundhouse as the first openly gay legislator in Roundhouse history. Correction 6/21: A reader e-mails us that Candelaria is the first openly gay man to serve in the New Mexico legislature, pointing out that Liz Stefanics of Santa Fe served a single term in the state senate from 1993-1996.
The 25-year-old won the Democratic Party primary on June 5 by a comfortable margin and since he has no Republican opponent in the general election in November, he has a clear path to be sworn in as the new state senator representing Albuquerque’s West Side, replacing the retiring Sen. Bernadette Sanchez.
Capitol Report New Mexico talked to Candelaria, who acknowledged that his election is significant but at the same time said that while campaigning, his sexual orientation was not that big a deal to voters in Senate District 26:
A graduate of St. Pius High School. Candelaria graduated from Princeton and has worked in the Roundhouse as an analyst for the Legislative Finance Committee and was the lead analyst to Speaker of the House Ben Lujan and is currently the executive director of Equality New Mexico, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights. He describes himself as “a working class Democrat.”
We asked him his positions on a couple hot-button issues:
Driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants: “I think the Senate in the past year has proposed a common sense public safety approach to the bill and I’m inclined to support that way forward.”
The bill calling for the end of “social promotion” for students in the third grade who cannot read at a minimal level: “I don’t really know if holding them back is the best way forward. I’m open to hearing evidence and debate on the issue but I’m really concerned about what investments and guidance and supports we’re offering in the early years.”