The Observer asked primary elections candidates running for county offices or legislative seats representing some part of Sandoval County to fill out questionnaires sharing their views.

Responses were not edited for anything except word count.

County commission, state representative, sheriff and magistrate judge candidates were limited to 800 words, while probate judge and assessor candidates were limited to 500 words due to having fewer questions to answer.

If candidates went over the limit, their responses were cut from the bottom until they exactly met the word limit.

F. Kenneth Eichwald. Courtesy photo.

Democrat: F. Kenneth Eichwald

Community of residence: Cuba, NM

What are your qualifications for this position?

UNM Graduate, Graduate from the National Judicial College in Reno, NV, Magistrate Judge for 24 years, Judge Pro-Temp – 2 years, and County Commissioner for 5.5 years

Have you ever been convicted of or do you have any pending charges of a felony, DWI or domestic violence?


If elected, what would your short- and long-term goals be?

The court needs to be accessible to the public. COVID has changed the way the courts operate. Magistrate Court is the “People’s Court” and it needs to be open. I live within 7 minutes of the court so it will always be open to serve the citizens of the State of NM. The magistrate court needs to utilize the resources that are available to them. I would set up a DWI court which would deal with the defendants and hold them accountable for compliance with state statues. I would use the behavioral health programs that the citizens of this county voted for to keep defendants out of custody, if possible.

How can people reach you if they have more questions?

I can be reached during the campaign through my email at fkeic[email protected] or on Facebook – search F Kenneth Eichwald.

Do you believe Sandoval County Magistrate Court is fair to defendants and  prosecutors/plaintiffs?


Why or why not, and how would you address this?

I believe that the magistrate courts in Sandoval County are fair and impartial to both defendants and prosecutors/plaintiffs. A judge should be fair, impartial and be an attentive listener. As a judge that served Sandoval County for 24 years, I never had a complaint filed against me with Judicial Standards Commissions or Supreme Court. I was always at work and on time for my caseload. I would express respect for all who come before me. I will be fair, respectful, honest, and work hard for the citizens of the county.

What changes, if any, would you make at the magistrate court if elected?

The magistrate courts in the county need to access the resources available to them. Utilize the DWI program to monitor and assure compliance to the offenders. The county has a pretrial release program, that is currently short staffed. This program deals with magistrate and district court. I would expand this program to be effective and beneficial to the courts.

What would you do to decrease crime rates in the county?

To reduce crime, cooperation is needed between multiple agencies.  Law enforcement officers need to be supported by the communities they serve and need to be given resources to do their job effectively.  The court can help by imposing effective sentencing for crimes that are committed by defendants that are found guilty.

What is your philosophy about deciding which defendants should be released on bail while awaiting trial and which shouldn’t be?

In 2016, the voters passed a constitutional amendment reforming the bail system. A judge must follow the criteria that the Supreme Court and Legislature set on how a defendant is released or held to await trial. It is important in setting bail or release, that a judge is provided with all the information in a case at arraignment to be able to make a judicial decision.

High profile cases have fueled outrage that involves repeat offenders. A judge can only make decisions with the information that is provided to them at arraignment, the agencies must work together to ensure that all information is presented at arraignment.

My philosophy does not come into play when deciding how a defendant is released or held without bond. As an elected Judge, it is my sworn duty to follow the criteria set forth by the Supreme Court. If I do have any judicial discretion, I do so on a case-by-case basis.

Other candidates

Other candidates for Sandoval County magistrate judge are:

  • Ann Marie Maxwell-Chavez, Division 1; unopposed.
  • Benito J. Aragon, Division 2.
  • Delilah M. Montano-Baca, Division 3, unopposed.

All are Democrats. No Republicans are running for Sandoval County magistrate judge in any division.

Aragon could not be reached to provide a questionnaire. The other candidates above did not submit responses.