The Bernalillo County Commission voted to appoint kindergarten teacher Marsella Duarte to fill the vacancy in state House District 16 at a special meeting Wednesday. The appointment lasts until the end of the term, which is Dec. 31 of this year.
Duarte was one of seven applicants in attendance at the meeting.
Duarte is a lifelong resident of the district, which covers portions of Albuquerque’s Westside along Coors Boulevard from Central Avenue to Montaño Road.
“I am here today asking for your consideration because I believe that I can make significant contributions to my community as a Housemember,” Duarte said at the meeting. “I teach kindergarten at Susie Rayos Marmon Elementary, the same school that I attended. Many of my students are lacking in the basic essentials to be successful in school… I’m working with my community to improve outcomes for all of us.”
Duarte is an active member of the Westside Dems and the Bernalillo County Democratic Party. She also serves as vice-chairwoman of the Northwest Community Police Council.
She has worked as a committee assistant in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee and House Labor Veterans’ and Military Affairs Committee.
“I am grateful to the Bernalillo county commissioners for their vote of confidence,” Duarte said in an interview with New Mexico Political Report. “I will represent them and my Westside community with integrity and honesty. My legislative agenda will be developed with the input of my constituents.”
As to her responsibilities as an educator, Duarte said that she plans to work with her principal and the Albuquerque Public School District to determine what the spring semester will look like.
“My students, their education, wellbeing and safety will always be at the forefront of my work in Santa Fe,” Duarte said. “This is a huge responsibility that I do not take lightly.”
Duarte was approved on a 4-to-1 vote with outgoing Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley as the sole vote against.
The special meeting was called to appoint a replacement for Anthony “Moe” Maestas who was appointed to Jacob Candelaria’s state senate seat in November. Candelaria resigned from the state Senate District 26 in October.
Maestas’ appointment came with some controversy. The discussion between two outgoing Bernalillo County Commissioners became heated. O’Malley and commission Chairwoman Adriann Barboa wanted more time for the public to apply for the appointment, while the other three commissioners wanted to make the appointment as soon as possible.
In the end, the decision was made to hold a special meeting in mid-November instead of late October.
Candelaria was initially registered a Democrat before changing his affiliation to Decline To State following redistricting measures he said would weaken Latino voters’ prominence on the predominantly working class westside of Albuquerque.