Three plaintiffs who live in Senate District 39 are asking the state Supreme Court to compel county commissions to name nominees to replace Phil Griego in the state Senate ahead of the end of the legislative session on Saturday. If this is not done, the filing asks that Martinez be allowed to choose from the two names that have already been submitted.
The three plaintiffs, TJ Trujillo, Jennifer Trujillo and Rick Lopez, filed the request on Monday. TJ Trujillo is a registered Republican and Jennifer Trujillo is a registered Democrat, according to the filing. Lopez is a former Republican candidate for State Treasurer.
The filing argues that without a Senator representing their district, those in the district are disenfranchised.
To fix this, they ask the state Supreme Court to compel the county commissions that have not yet made a selection to hold an emergency meeting and send the selection to Gov. Susana Martinez. If not, the filing asks that Martinez be allowed to choose between the selections of Torrance and Lincoln counties.
Torrance and Lincoln counties each complied with Martinez’s request for an emergency meeting, waiving the requirement for 72-hour notice ahead of public meetings. This bill was signed into law in 2013 by Martinez.
From the filing:
Critical legislation remains pending before the New Mexico Legislature, including financial legislation dealing with the state budget and capital outlay. For example, when dealing with capital outlay, each Senator will need to prioritize and advocate for projects within their districts based on the total money assigned to each Senator, and the residents of Senate District 39 will miss out on this opportunity. Arguably, capital outlay has the most direct impact on local communities within a particular Senate district. Unless Respondents swiftly act to fill the vacancy in Senate District 39, Petitioners will not have a voice to represent them when the final decisions are made on such critical legislation.
The legislation also argues that since TJ and Jennifer Trujillo have children in the public school system, they “have no advocate in the New Mexico Senate to assist them with how their children’s school is funded.”
The full filing is available below.
On Monday, the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government issued a release that said the vacancy didn’t rise to the level to use the law’s emergency exception.
The residents of Senate District 39 deserve to have their senator appointed in a manner that allows for thoughtful, reasoned consideration, and are entitled to meaningfully participate in the process. Whoever is appointed to fill this position will serve not just for this week but for the remainder of Sen. Griego’s term. As a result, the process must be done with due care and in compliance with the Act.
Once the names are selected, Martinez will choose a replacement from the list of nominees. It is widely expected that Martinez will pick a Republican to replace Griego, a Democrat. The two counties with Republican-controlled county commissions already named nominees, both Republicans.
The other four county commissions have yet to name a replacement. These are the commissions in Bernalillo, San Miguel, Santa Fe and Valencia counties.
The lawyer who filed the complaint was Paul M. Kienzle III, a lawyer who represented Gov. Susana Martinez’s campaign. Kienzle is also a member of the State Game Commission, a position to which he was appointed by Martinez and confirmed by the state Senate in 2013.