State Rep. Salazar hospitalized; ex-Rep. Varela has heart attack

New Mexico’s longest-serving legislator, Rep. Nick Salazar, and former Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, who retired in 2016 after 30 years in the House, have been hospitalized, House Speaker Brian Egolf told lawmakers Wednesday.

Nick Salazar

Courtesy photo

Nick Salazar

Salazar, 87 and a Democrat from Ohkay Owingeh, who just began his 23rd term in the House, was driven to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center on Wednesday afternoon, said Egolf’s chief of staff, Reena Szczepanski. “He’s being monitored. That’s all I know,” she said.

Meanwhile, Varela, 81 and a Santa Fe Democrat, was taken by ambulance to Christus St. Vincent following a heart attack Tuesday night, said his son Jeff Varela. He was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit, where doctors placed a stent in his heart, the younger Varela said.

The retired lawmaker was still in the intensive care unit Wednesday evening, his son said. But he was conscious for at least part of the day.

“Earlier today, he was writing me notes about what’s going on at the Roundhouse,” Jeff Varela said.

Both legislators have had health problems in recent years.

Luciano "Lucky" Varela

Jason Stilgebouer / The New Mexican

Luciano “Lucky” Varela

During the 2015 session, Salazar was hospitalized for heart problems. But asked about that last year during his re-election campaign, Salazar downplayed any his health condition, saying he had experienced no cardiac troubles since then and that he still runs two miles a day to stay in shape.

Varela missed much of the 2015 session due to health problems. He had all five toes on one foot amputated after the middle toe was found to have an infection.

Two years earlier, he was briefly hospitalized during a legislative session after he collapsed and was unconscious for about 20 seconds in his office. He later said doctors thought he might have had a reaction to blood pressure and allergy medications.

Contact Steve Terrell at (505) 986-3037 or [email protected]. Read his political blog at

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