UNITED STATES NEWS

Former New Mexico governor remembered as Hispanic role model

Apr 27, 2023, 9:52 AM | Updated: 11:00 am

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Jerry Apodaca, a Democrat who became New Mexico’s first Hispanic governor in 54 years when he took office in 1975, has died. He was 88.

He died at his home in Santa Fe on Wednesday after what may have been a stroke, his son Jeff Apodaca said.

His son talked about the legacy his father left behind, one that fellow Democratic politicians say paved the way for more minorities to enter public office and take on leadership roles in corporate boardrooms across the country.

He took his role seriously, said the younger Apodaca, an Albuquerque businessman and former media executive.

“I used to meet with people in Fortune 500 companies, and there was not a meeting that went by where I wouldn’t run into a Latino executive who’d ask me, ‘Are you Jerry’s son?’ They would tell me so many stories about what he’d done,” Jeff Apodaca told the Santa Fe New Mexican. “General Motors, McDonald’s … he opened doors for Latinos in the ’70s and ’80s.”

Apodaca ran an insurance business in Las Cruces before being elected to the state Senate in 1966. He was 40 when he was inaugurated as governor on Jan. 1, 1975, making him the first Hispanic governor in New Mexico since Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo left office in 1921.

During his four-year term, Apodaca’s administration reorganized state government to its current form by creating a cabinet system with 12 departments. Delivering on a campaign pledge, his administration consolidated agencies and eliminated some boards and commissions.

In an interview shortly before his gubernatorial term ended, Apodaca cited the government reorganization and establishment of a statewide kindergarten system as major accomplishments. He claimed his administration made government more open and responsive to citizens.

Apodaca regularly held open office hours where residents could meet with him. His administration implemented tax relief programs, including tax credits, tax rebates and tax rate reductions, but Apodaca was criticized for appointing close friends to public positions.

“I didn’t find any logical reason to exclude anyone from the administration just because he helped in the campaign or because he was a friend,” he said in December 1978. “I think the record speaks for itself. The success of this administration does not rest entirely on my shoulders.”

Apodaca also battled allegations linking him to organized crime figures.

While campaigning in 1982 for U.S. Senate, Apodaca disputed claims by a convicted felon that he had accepted a $10,000 bribe as governor in return for granting a pardon or parole for a New Mexico inmate. Apodaca called the accusation “a total fabrication.”

A grand jury requested by Apodaca ultimately found no evidence of perjury.

He lost the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate to Jeff Bingaman, who went on to serve for 30 years.

Apodaca, who played halfback at the University of New Mexico in the mid-1950s, was appointed in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter as chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. While governor, he ran and completed the 1978 Boston Marathon.

After leaving office, he resigned from the fitness panel after being elected to the board of directors for tobacco giant Phillip Morris.

Carter also interviewed Apodaca for Secretary of Education when the U.S. Department of Education was created. The job went instead to Shirley Hufstedler, a federal appellate judge in California.

After leaving office, Apodaca endured a series of troubled business ventures, including failed real estate deals that led to a bankruptcy filing. In later years, he sought to return to politics but lost the Democratic primaries for U.S. Senate in 1982 and for governor in 1998.

Apodaca also ventured into publishing, taking over Hispanic magazine and Vista magazine, both English-language periodicals aimed at Hispanic readers. He also served on the University of New Mexico’s board of regents from 1985 to 1991.

Apodaca started in politics as a state senator from Las Cruces, serving four terms from 1966-76. In the 1974 gubernatorial race, he defeated Republican Joe Skeen by just 3,752 votes. Campaigning during the post-Watergate era, Apodaca portrayed himself as “The Man Nobody Owns.”

Born Raymond S. Apodaca in Las Cruces on Oct. 3, 1934, Apodaca graduated from UNM in 1957 and began teaching history and coaching high school football in Albuquerque. He later moved back to Las Cruces, opened an insurance business and branched out into retail and real estate.

He is survived by his ex-wife, Clara, three daughters, Cindy, Carolyn, Judy, and two sons, Jerry Jr. and Jeff.

___

The story includes biographical material compiled by former AP reporter Tim Korte.

United States News

Anne D'Innocenzio shows a portrait of herself, right, with her sister, Donna Burke, left, and mothe...

Associated Press

A blender from the 1960s, a restored 1936 piano. What I learned from clearing out my childhood home

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s been eight months since I closed the door for the last time to my childhood home in suburban New Jersey and said goodbye to more than a half century of memories. I sometimes still struggle to let it go. Mom passed away in February 2023 after a brief battle with […]

14 minutes ago

Associated Press

NYC officials clear another storefront illegally housing dozens of migrants in unsafe conditions

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City officials have cleared out a Bronx storefront illegally converted to house dozens of tenants that was run by the same person who operated one hosting as many as 70 migrants in a Queens furniture store. The city Department of Buildings responded Wednesday to reports of an illegal conversion […]

41 minutes ago

Associated Press

Electronic Arts cutting about 5% of workforce with layoffs ongoing in gaming and tech sector

Electronic Arts is cutting about 5% of its workforce, or approximately 670 employees, as layoffs in the technology and gaming sector continue after a surge of hiring in recent years. The video game maker said in a regulatory filing that its board approved a restructuring plan that includes the layoffs, as well as closing some […]

45 minutes ago

Associated Press

A California county ditched its vote counting machines. Now a supporter faces a recall election

REDDING, Calif. (AP) — Voters in Northern California’s rural Shasta County have twice voted for Donald Trump by wide margins while electing staunch conservatives to the local county board. They’ve even booted out some who weren’t deemed conservative enough. But that string of victories at the ballot box has not been enough to instill confidence […]

46 minutes ago

A calendar shows the month of February, including leap day, Feb. 29....

Associated Press

What would happen without a Leap Day? More than you might think

Leap year. It's a delight for the calendar and math nerds among us. So how did it all begin and why do we need an extra day?

47 minutes ago

A woman pauses while shopping at a Kohl's store in Clifton, N.J., Jan. 26, 2024. On Thursday, Feb. ...

Associated Press

Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge picked up last month in sign of still-elevated prices

WASHINGTON (AP) — An inflation gauge favored by the Federal Reserve increased in January, the latest sign that the slowdown in U.S. consumer price increases is occurring unevenly from month to month. The government reported Thursday that prices rose 0.3% from December to January, up from 0.1% in the previous month. But in a more […]

1 hour ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

...

Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Former New Mexico governor remembered as Hispanic role model