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Gandaras’ Influence, Family Coined ‘Kennedys Of Lower Valley’

The arrest of Willie Gandara Jr. on drug trafficking charges now makes two former Socorro mayors and the patriarch and his son of perhaps the most politically active family in the Lower valley facing serious federal charges in separate cases.

Gandara Jr. was Socorro’s mayor from 2004 to 2006. His father was also mayor there for about a year starting in 2010.

“It’s very sad the image that we’re sending out of Socorro. It’s so ugly for us,” said Trini Lopez, Socorro’s current mayor. Lopez on Thursday said residents he’s spoken with are dismayed by the arrest.

Lopez is familiar with the Gandaras’ connection to that area. He lost a mayoral election to Gandara Sr. by 18 votes in May 2010 before the elder Gandara was recalled after being indicted on federal corruption charges. Lopez , who had been Socorro?s mayor several years ago, has since been re-elected.

ABC-7 asked and Lopez said he is familiar with the Gandaras’ influence in Socorro.

“They do have a lot of friends in Socorro. They do know how to make friends,” Lopez said.

Local political blogger and analyst Jaime Abeytia said the Gandaras will likely still hold on to some support in the Lower Valley.

“Accessibility is at a different level. They go to the same churches as everyone else. They go to the same grocery stores as everyone else. They’ve known these folks for many years and in the case of the Gandaras they’ve known the family for many years, generations and so it’s almost a brand like the Kennedys,” he said Thursday.

The Kennedy nickname was coined after a local commentator made the comparison before the scandals and when members of the family had sat on school boards, municipal and county seats.

“They are a politically powerful family. Economically as well. They run businesses as well. They are synonymous with Valley politics,” Abeytia said.

The family may be spending plenty of money on attorneys. Gandara Sr.?s brother Jesus, who’s Gandara Jr.?s uncle has been indicted in California for alleged corruption while he was the superintendent of a San Diego area school district.

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