January 8, 2020

Shifting, filling legislative spots before session starts

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse Wikicommons.

A legislative appointment from the Bernalillo County Commission Tuesday marked the last vacancy to be filled before the upcoming legislative session. County commissioners voted unanimously to appoint Democrat Marian Matthews to fill a vacant spot left by Democrat Rep. William Pratt after he died last month. 

Matthews, a former prosecutor and college educator, announced late last year that she planned to run for Pratt’s seat since Pratt announced he would not run for election. Pratt himself was appointed to the seat after former Rep. Larry Larrañaga died in 2018. Pratt then won the general election that November.

Matthews told commissioners she would like to address Albuquerque’s crime rate. 

The special meeting was the first for newly appointed commissioner James Collie, a Democrat who was sworn in just before the meeting started. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed Collie to fill the spot left vacant by former commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins. Hart Stebbins left the commission after she was picked by Lujan Grisham to be the state’s natural resources trustee. 

Bernalillo County was just the latest to fill a vacant legislative seat since last year’s legislative session. After Sen. Carlos Cisneros died last year, Lujan Grisham appointed former Rep. Bobby Gonzales, D-Taos. Taos County, in turn, picked Taos Mayor Dan Barrone to fill Gonzales’ spot. Barrone is not the first mayor to serve in the Legislature in recent history. Former Rep. Andy Nuñez was the mayor of Hatch while he served in the legislature and former Democratic Rep. Joe Campos was the mayor of Santa Rosa while a member of the Legislature. 

After Sen. John Pinto from McKinley County died last year, the county appointed his granddaughter Shannon Pinto as his replacement. 

Cisneros’ spot was filled by Lujan Grisham because the district contains more than one county. Lujan Grisham chose from nominees from each of the counties’ commissions. But because Gonzales’ and Pinto’s districts are made up of only one county, the local governing boards were tasked with appointing replacements. 

House District 27, which Matthews was appointed to, was a Republican stronghold until Larrañaga died in office and Lujan Grisham picked Pratt to fill the seat. It will likely be a high priority for both Republicans and Democrats during this year’s election.