Since Phil Griego, D-San Jose, stepped down from his position as a member of the state Senate, it will be up to county commissioners throughout his sprawling former district to send recommendations for his replacement to Gov. Susana Martinez.District 39, which Griego represented until Saturday morning, contains parts of Bernalillo, Lincoln, San Miguel, Santa Fe, Torrance and Valencia counties.
Each of the county commissions will choose a candidate, at which point Martinez will decide which candidate will replace Griego for the remainder of the term.
The governor will likely prefer to see someone from her own party take Griego’s seat. Currently, 17 Republicans serve in the Senate.
Martinez has appointed members of both political parties to fill vacancies in the House and Senate.
When Republican Sen. Kent Cravens stepped down from his seat in 2011 to accept a lobbyist position with the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, the governor was forced to appoint Albuquerque trial attorney Lisa Curtis. Both the Sandoval and Bernalillo county commissioners had voted for Curtis to replace Cravens.
One reason to believe Martinez will select a Republican to replace Griego stems from her selection for a vacancy in the state House of Representatives in 2013.
Martinez chose former Albuquerque city councilor Vickie Perea, a Republican, to replace Democratic Rep. Steven Easley in House District 50 after he died from complications related to a surgery.
Both Curtis and Perea were defeated in subsequent elections.
Griego’s resignation one week before the end of the session has shaken the Legislature and upset the balance of committees he served on. Griego chaired the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee and was a member of the Senate Conservation Committee.