October 27, 2022

Bernalillo County Commission fight over when to fill state senate vacancy

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse Wikicommons.

Jacob Candelaria left an open seat when he resigned his position in the State Senate on Oct. 19.

The district, 26, is completely within Bernalillo County, which means that the task of replacing Candelaria falls to the Bernalillo County Commission.

During a discussion of upcoming meetings at its regular meeting on Tuesday, the Bernalillo County Commission fell into heated discussion about the timing of naming a replacement for Candelaria. 

No decisions were made at the meeting.

Initially, Bernalillo County Commission Chairwoman Adriann Barboa suggested Nov. 18 to allow the public the opportunity to apply for the appointment.

That date is a few days after the regular Nov. 15 Bernalillo County Commission meeting.

Unfortunately, some commissioners would not be available on Nov. 18.

However, District 5 Bernalillo County Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty suggested the meeting be held on Oct. 31.

“I don’t see a reason to delay,” Pyskoty said.

Pyskoty said that since media outlets reported Candelaria’s intention to resign for about a year, that people already reached out to Bernalillo County Commissioners wanting to apply for the position.

District 1 County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley objected to such an early date since the New Mexico Legislature does not begin voting until the 2023 Legislative Session which begins Jan. 17.

Her issue was not just the rushed feeling the Oct. 31 appointment meeting seemed to project but that most of New Mexico Senate District 26 is in her district.

“This is inconsiderate,” O’Malley said. “I don’t know what the outcome’s going to be, but I think it’s disrespectful… Because the person who has said he wants this seat has said that that’s what he wants.”

New Mexico State Rep. Anthony “Moe” Maestas has said he wants to take Candelaria’s place.

Maestas is a Democrat and Candelaria was originally registered Democrat but changed to Decline To State in 2021.

New Mexico Senate District 56 falls in both O’Malley’s district and that of District 2 Bernalillo County Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada.

Quezada supports holding the meeting for an appointment on Oct. 31.

As of Oct. 26, no announcements for special or emergency Bernalillo County Commission meetings are scheduled.

There is no specific timeline for a county to fill a legislative vacancy, Deputy New Mexico Secretary State Sharon Pino said.

“If a vacancy occurs in the office of senator or member of the house of representatives, for any reason, the county commissioners of the county wherein the vacancy occurs shall fill such vacancy by appointment, the New Mexico Constitution states. “Such legislative appointments as provided in this section shall be for a term ending on December 31, subsequent to the next succeeding general election.”