April 3, 2015

Martinez names Republican to fill Senate vacancy


Senator Phil Griego's desk on March 14, 2015 after his resignation. Photo credit: Andy Lyman

Gov. Susana Martinez named a Republican to fill a vacancy in the state Senate.

Senator Phil Griego's desk on March 14, 2015 after his resignation. Photo credit: Andy Lyman

Senator Phil Griego’s desk on March 14, 2015 after his resignation.
Photo credit: Andy Lyman

Martinez named former Estancia mayor Ted Barela to replace former State Senator Phil Griego. The Torrance County Commission named Barela as their choice to fill the vacancy.

“I have great confidence that Ted will work hard to represent the residents of District 39 well and believe he’s committed to working with legislators from both parties to diversify our economy and improve our schools,” Martinez said in a statement.

Griego resigned with just days left in the legislative session. He admitted to improperly profiting from a real estate deal; by profiting from the deal made possible by legislation passed by the Legislature while he was in office, he violated the state constitution.

Martinez had called for a quick replacement for Griego. An effort by allies of Martinez was denied by the state Supreme Court.

Critics said that the vacancy was not an emergency that would allow an exemption to the requirement of 72-hours notice for meetings. Martinez herself signed that new portion of the Open Meetings Act into law.

Barela resigned as mayor of Estancia in 2013 in relation to his pension from working for the state Department of Transportation.

Democrats now hold a 24-18 advantage in the Senate.

The replacement of the conservative Democrat by a Republican was not a surprise. When former State Rep. Stephen Easley died, Martinez replaced him with Vickie Perea. Easley was a Democrat, Perea a Republican.

UNM Board of Regents appointees

Jamie Koch’s resignation from the University of New Mexico Board of Regents appears short-lived.

Martinez reappointed Koch to the Board of Regents. Koch had resigned after the Senate voted to reject the confirmation of former District Attorney Matt Chandler to the same Board of Regents.

“I understand and respect just how frustrated Regent Koch was with the despicable, partisan games that were played by leaders in the Senate during the session, and he should be commended for his courage and forthrightness,” Martinez said.

Martinez appointed former Assistant United States Attorney Marron Lee to the UNM Board of Regents. Martinez had previously named Lee to the Crime Victims Repartition Commission in 2013.

“I know Marron well, and I believe she will bring a reform-minded approach to the university; she’s tough but fair, and will work tirelessly to ensure the education our students receive at UNM is exactly what they need to succeed in the workforce and in life,” Martinez said.