The Bernalillo County Commission voted to appoint Idalia Lechuga-Tena to the House of Representatives to fill a vacant seat in the New Mexico House of Representatives on Tuesday night.
Lechuga-Tena, one of three nominees, won by a vote of 3-2. NM Political Report spoke with Lechuga-Tena before the meeting about accusations that she does not live in House District 21 and that she voted when she was not a U.S. citizen in 2003.
The vote was swift and there was no discussion from the Commission regarding her qualifications or that she voted in an election before she was a U.S. citizen. Both Republican commissioners, Wayne Johnson and Lonnie Talbert, along with Democrat Art De La Cruz voted in favor of Lechuga-Tena.
De La Cruz nominated Lechuga-Tena. She was one of six applicants for the position.
Lechuga-Tena addressed the panel earlier in the meeting during the public comment portion of the meeting. She told commissioners that spending 12 years in the International District, which makes up a portion of the House District 21, has given her perspective on what its constituents want and need.
After the vote, Lechuga-Tena thanked the commission and said she was “excited to get started and get to work.”
She told NM Political Report after the meeting that she already had meetings scheduled for Wednesday and was “Very excited and very happy.”
“I’m looking forward to getting work right away,” Lechuga-Tena said.
While Lechuga-Tena has worked with municipal officials and candidates, this will be her first time serving in the Roundhouse.
Lechuga-Tena was an aide to former mayor Martin Chavez. She was also the campaign manager for Pete Dinelli, a Democrat who ran for mayor in Albuquerque in 2013.
Commissioners Debbie O’Malley and Maggie Hart Stebbins, both Democrats, did not vote for Lechuga-Tena. They supported math teacher and veteran Debra Sariñana.
The District 21 seat was vacated when Stephanie Maez stepped done to focus on her family after her son Donovan was charged with murder in the killing of a teen earlier this year.
Maez herself was an appointee to the position. The Bernalillo County Commission appointed her to the seat when Rep. Mimi Stewart was appointed to the Senate. Stewart herself replaced Tim Keller after he was elected State Auditor.
Lechuga-Tena told NM Political Report before the meeting that she moved into the district to run for the seat, but still owns a home in another district.
The seat will be up for re-election next November, along with all seats in the House and Senate.