Bernalillo County commissioners unanimously voted to appoint Antoinette Sedillo Lopez Monday morning to fill the vacancy left by former state Senator Cisco McSorley. A long-time professor at the University of New Mexico Law School, Sedillo Lopez ended a year-long campaign for Congress last summer. She was up against a long list of opponents in the 2018 Democratic primary election, but ultimately lost to U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland. Sedillo Lopez will have about 24 hours to prepare for the legislative session, which
starts at noon on Tuesday. She said she is ready to serve and will drive to Santa Fe early Wednesday morning.
All eyes are on Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham. With about two months until the legislative session starts and just weeks until she takes office, speculation and rumors about how she’ll run the state are growing. Lujan Grisham will appoint new department heads for the state agencies, but she has another list of important appointments to make shortly after taking office. Lujan Grisham will also have to fill state judicial vacancies and a New Mexico Senate seat in southern New Mexico as she takes office in January. During her campaign, Lujan Grisham also said she would like to see all new members of the University of New Mexico Board of Regents.
The New Mexico Senate, moving to meet a tight deadline, on Wednesday approved a new nurse licensing compact to avoid what one lawmaker described as a health care crisis. But several senators raised concerns as the bill sped through the Legislature that the compact might diminish nurses’ rights by ceding too much power to an out-of-state board about licensing in the profession. The measure would allow nurses licensed in certain other states to practice in New Mexico without getting a separate certificate. It cleared the Senate 39-0 and then received approval from a committee of the House of Representatives. That sets up a vote Thursday by the full, 70-member House of Representatives.
State Sen. Mimi Stewart will replace fellow Albuquerque Democrat Michael Padilla as Senate majority whip, elevating her to a leadership position for the first time after 23 years in the New Mexico Legislature. Senate Democrats, meeting behind closed doors Monday, chose Stewart to replace Padilla, who Senate Democrats voted to remove from the post because of an old sexual harassment case that took place before he was elected to the Senate. Stewart, a retired educator, said she believes she was chosen because of hard work. “You know I’m a teacher by trade,” she said. “I told my students, `I have eyes in the back of my head.’
Gov. Susana Martinez is getting attention, to say the least, for her onslaught of vetoes as the legislative session nears a potentially messy end. But the tension between Martinez and state lawmakers started with her early veto of the bill to fund the operations of the Legislature during the session and the interim. It continued towards the end of January, when she vetoed a much-publicized bill to allow for industrial research of hemp. February came and went with no bills headed to Martinez’s desk. But at the end of the first week of March, she rejected a measure to allow teachers to use all of their allotted sick days without absences making a negative impact on their statewide evaluation.
During a Senate floor session, a Democratic lawmaker read a statement by former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, criticizing a proposed three strikes bill. Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, took a moment to read the statement on the Senate floor. Johnson, who is seeking a presidential nomination as a Libertarian, told NM Political Report the piece was intended as an editorial for the Albuquerque Journal.Wirth said Johnson sent it to the Senate to be read on aloud on the floor. Johnson wrote specifically about a House bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, that would expand the scope of the already-existing three strikes law. While Johnson specifically addressed Pacheco’s bill, he also wrote about the national trend of leaning toward more judicial discretion.
A New Mexico lawyer with long familial ties to state politics said he has received enough petitions signatures to officially run for State Senate. A. Blair Dunn, son of current New Mexico Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, told NM Political Report that he has collected the 34 required signatures to get on the ballot this year. Dunn said he has only raised $20 in the form of a donation from a close friend. He also said that he has no intention of creating a campaign website, but instead opted to use a Facebook page. Dunn said the incumbent, Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque, has not been focused enough on his district which includes Albuquerque’s North Valley.
Conrad James, an Albuquerque Republican in his second term in the state House of Representatives, announced Wednesday on Facebook that he would not seek reelection next year. “Friends – I want to thank each and every one of you for the support you have provided me during my two terms as the New Mexico State Representative for District 24, and I am deeply honored to have served in this role,” James wrote. “But it is time for me to move on, so I will not be running for re-election next year.”
James did not elaborate on what “moving on” may entail. NM Political Report left a voicemail with James Wednesday morning and will update this post if he responds. James has been mentioned as a possible candidate for higher office.
One former state senator—who resigned this year after violating ethics laws—continued to spend money raised by his campaign committee according to his most recent campaign finance report. October 13 marked the latest deadline for political candidates to report any expenditures made from or donations made to their campaigns from April 7 to Oct. 5. According to the report filed with the New Mexico Secretary of State by former State Senator Phil Griego, his campaign spent $6,000 on constituent meetings, car repairs and rent for office space since Griego resigned amid controversy in March of this year during the legislative session. One watchdog who has pushed for stronger ethics laws in New Mexico says the spending is not allowed.
The special committee tasked with looking into a possible impeachment of Secretary of State Dianna Duran will meet for the first time next week. Whether anything substantial will happen at this meeting is a good question—one we are still trying to find an answer to. State Reps. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, and Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque are the co-chairs of the bipartisan special investigatory committee. Neither returned our calls and emails left for them Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.