The Bernalillo County Commission appointed social justice advocate and lawyer Pamelya Herndon to the state House to replace U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, on Tuesday.
The Bernalillo County Commissioners voted 4 to 0 in favor of Herndon with one, Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, absent. Herndon vied for the job against seven other candidates but one, William Boughan-Trammell, ended his campaign for the seat before the commission meeting began.
Herndon, who is a lawyer trained in tax law and has experience in both government and the nonprofit sector, touted her professional background and years of service for various social justice causes. She said she has worked for gender pay equity, helped individuals enroll in the New Mexico Health Exchange and to take the U.S. Census. She also spoke about sacrifices her grandmother had to make to provide a home to her children and how her mother, who received a Master’s degree, wanted to help people.
“My mother wanted her epitaph to read that she wanted to help somebody else along the way,” Herndon said.
After a couple of hours of questions from the commissioners and public comment from supporters for each of the candidates, Commission Chair Charlene Pyskoty started the nomination process by nominating Herndon and said the vast majority of the nearly 300 emails her office received came from constituents in HD 28 who supported Herndon.
“I want to say this is my district. HD 28 is completely in my district and I’d like to talk about that. I’ve met a lot of you (candidates). I’ve knocked on doors myself and I know how diverse a district it is.I want to honor that. I know this has been a very gut wrenching decision for a lot of us on the commission because there are a lot of great people here,” Pyskoty said.
Pyskoty muted and stopped video on one of candidates, Marcie May, after she held up a print out of what appeared to be a social media comment that involved candidate Bunnie Cruse. Prior to that, May used her four-minute time allotment to inform the commissioners about herself as a candidate to bring up some social media posting that she said made her uncomfortable, then named Cruse before Pyskoty cut her off.
A few candidates and commissioners voiced support for Cruse after the incident. Candidate Michelle Peacock said “I love you, Bunnie” before answering a question from Commissioner Adriann Barboa about what a veteran and healthcare professional could bring to the Legislature. Barboa expressed support for Pyskoty’s actions and also showed support to Cruse.
“I’m sorry somebody used their time to spread hate,” Barboa said.
Pyskoty allowed May to return to the online meeting to answer a question Commissioner Walter Benson asked all of the candidates about how, if appointed, the candidates would represent all of their constituents in HD 28. May talked instead about how a transgender person had stayed at her house and how she was open to all people.
The other candidates nominated out of the seven were Cruse, Idalia Lechuga-Tena, Michelle Peacock and Thomas Stull.
But Pyskoty said the commissioners would go in order of who was nominated first and the first candidate to receive a majority vote from commissioners would win, so the voting process took only a few minutes.
Bernalillo County Clerk Linda Stover immediately swore Herndon in with Herndon’s husband holding the Bible for her hand to rest on.
Herndon got emotional when she tried to say a few remarks.
“I will serve this district very well. I will represent every single person. I want to thank the commissioners for their faith in me and it starts immediately,” she said.