November 16, 2022

BernCo commission votes State Rep. Maestas to fill state senate vacancy

State Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas, D-Albuquerque.

The Bernalillo County Commission voted to appoint New Mexico State Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas to the state Senate seat recently vacated by Jacob Candelaria Tuesday night.

Maestas was one of seven applicants for the seat.

Other applicants included Julie Radoslovich, Steve Gallegos and Em Ward.

“I want to thank every member of the public that came both in-person and on Zoom to participate in both tonight’s regular meeting and the appointment for Senate District 26,” Bernalillo County Commission Chairwoman Adriann Barboa said. “We received hundreds of emails about this and public participation is a crucial part of a healthy democracy.”

Barboa said that the County received 66 emails supporting Radoslovich, who was principal at South Valley Academy, 46 emails supporting Maestas and 14 supporting Ward with a few other emails supporting the other contenders. 

The commission approved Maestas on a 3-to-2 vote with Barboa and Debbie O’Malley as the votes against.

Debate over timing

The decision came after a discussion about when the appointment should take place following Candelaria’s Oct. 19 resignation.

At the regular Bernalillo County Commission meeting on Oct. 25, some county commissioners wanted to make the appointment as soon as Oct. 31 which would not leave much time for interested parties to apply for the appointment.

Maestas had shown an interest in Candelaria’s state Senate District 26 seat shortly after Candelaria’s resignation.

There were other county commissioners  who wanted the appointment to be done later into November.

One of the commissioners for an earlier appointment date was outgoing District 5 Bernalillo County Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty who had a letter prepared stating that she and other commissioners wanted an early appointment meeting date.

Objections and resolutions

A verbal objection to the earlier appointment meeting date came from outgoing commissioner O’Malley who called the recommendation for the earlier appointment meeting date “inconsiderate” and “disrespectful.”

Other words were said and O’Malley issued a statement from her campaign email on Oct. 27.

The statement acknowledges that O’Malley should have been more tactful. The Albuquerque Journal reported O’Malley cursed at Pyskoty after that meeting.

“And while I regret confronting Commissioner Pyskoty when angry, I do not regret standing up for the constituents in my District while certain members of the Commission do everything they can to railroad a two-year political appointment to appease a Senator, a Representative, and a corporate Lobbyist who have been plotting this for a year,” the O’Malley email stated.

Pskoty called O’Malley’s email “disingenuous at best, and flagrant hypocrisy and political gamesmanship at its worst.”

“There is no question that Commissioner O’Malley’s unprovoked verbal attack on me, using a

gender-based slur, was deplorable and wrong,” Pyskoty said. “O’Malley compounded the problem by engaging in threatening and disorderly behavior toward my assistant, making things even worse, and sending the message that politically motivated violence is acceptable. One just needs to turn on the news to see that inflammatory rhetoric from an elected official is never ok. Appointments are typically made within a few weeks of a vacancy.”

The O’Malley statement included allegations of the appointment being an “insider deal.”

“It is possible—even likely—that the Commission will sanction this insider deal at the meeting to appoint, and I have no choice but to accept the majority vote, but appointing a State Senator is a very big deal. Vacancies in the Senate are a rare occurrence,” the O’Malley email stated.

If Maestas is appointed to Candelaria’s seat, a state house seat will then be open and another appointment will have to be made.

Pyskoty said that despite the allegations of a back-room deal, there was none on her part.

“Senate District 26 is on the opposite end of the county from my district,” Pyskoty said. “I have no special relationship with Rep. Moe Maestas.”

To help prevent such issues from recurring, the Bernalillo County Commission first approved on a 3-to-2 margin a Legislative Office Appointment Policy stating that the Bernalillo County Commission will appoint a replacement legislator within three weeks of receiving a notice that a legislator has resigned.

Barboa and O’Malley voted against the resolution.

The next resolution discussed was a resolution affirming public officers’ responsibilities and ethical conduct of public officers.

The resolution was put forth by Pyskoty following the heated interaction between herself and O’Malley that ended with O’Malley calling Pyskoty a bad name as the Bernalillo County Commission chambers were clearing following the meeting’s adjournment.

O’Malley abstained, she said, because she was mentioned in the resolution.

“Whereas, following the conclusion of the Bernalillo County Commission Administrative Meeting on October 25, 2022, and within the County Commission Chambers, Commissioner Debbie O’Malley spoke to Commissioner Charlene E. Pyskoty in a manner inconsistent with the standards of the Code of Conduct,” the resolution states. “Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Board of County Commissioners, the governing body of the County of Bernalillo, that the Bernalillo County Commissioners censure such communications and affirm the standards of public service set out by the Code of Conduct.”

The resolution passed 3-to-1-to-1 with Barboa being the sole vote against and O’Malley abstaining.