The Race To Replace Debra Haaland In 1st Congressional District; 15 Announced Candidates Identified

On December 18, 2020, President Joe Biden announced the appointment of Congresswoman Debra Haaland as United State Secretary of Interior. The appointment is historic because once confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Haaland will become the first Native American woman to be part of any presidential cabinet. Haaland has yet to be confirmed by the United States Senate and has not resign from congress. She did vote for the 2nd Impeach of President Trump over his inciting of the January 6, 2021 storming of the capitol. It is speculated that Haaland will be confirmed in late March by the Senate at which time she will resign her congressional seat.


The timing of Haaland’s resignation from congress will have a major impact on when a special election is held to replace her. Haaland will remain in her U.S. House seat through the Senate confirmation process. If she is not confirmed first, she would remain in congress. If and when of Haaland’s resignation from congress will determine when the New Mexico Secretary of State must call for a special election. The word “if” is used only because over the years more than one cabinet nominee has had to withdraw after US Senate hearings and vetting. Some Republicans are already voicing opposition to her nomination over he opposition the oil and gas drilling and support of environmental efforts.

Under New Mexico law, a special election must be held between 77 to 91 days after the seat is vacated. In 2019, the New Mexico legislature changed its law on the process used to fill vacancies in the United States House and Senate. Under the new law, there are no primary elections. Instead, New Mexico’s 3 recognized political parties central committees (Democrat, Republican and Libertarian Party) will meet and nominate their own candidates at least 56 days before the special election.

In the Democratic Party, only members of the State Central Committee residing in Congressional District 1 will vote to fill the vacancy. There are about 170 members from the Albuquerque district on the Democrat Central Committee and sources have confirmed more that a number of candidates have already begun calling State Central Committee members in the Democratic and Republican parties.


Since the December 18 cabinet appointment announcement, the race to replace Haaland has become very crowded. One virtual debate amongst the Democratic candidates was held on February 4 by the mid heights Indivisible Nob Hill organization.

Following is a listing of the identified announced candidates:


1. State Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, who ran for the position in 2018 and came in 3rd in the primary. She is a fomer UNM Law School professor and the wife of State District Court Judge Victor Lopez.

2. NM State Rep. Melanie Stansbury who has been twice elected to the New Mexico House and has served as an environmental adviser in the Obama White House.

3. NM State Representative Patricia Roybal Caballero, serving as a member of the House of Representatives from the Bernalillo County 13th district. She was elected in 2012, and assumed office on January 15, 2013. In the New Mexico State Legislature, Rep. Roybal Caballero has served as House Democratic Caucus Chair (2014-2016), Vice Chair of the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee (2013-2018), Vice Chair of the House Labor, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee.

4. New Mexico State Representative Georgene Louis, Bernalillo County District 13. She is an attorney and has served in the legislature since 2013. She is the chair of the House State Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee, a a member of House Judiciary Committee and the House Rules and Order Committees.

5. Highly respected trial attorney Randi Mc Ginn, a former Assistant Bernalillo County District Attorney and Special Prosecutor of the two police officers charged in the murder of homeless camper James Boyd. She is also the widow of the late Supreme Court Justice Charles Daniels.

6. Karie Converse, trial attorney and formerly with the New Mexico Office of the Federal Public defender.

7. Victor Reyes, Legislative director for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. He is a community organizer, environmental advocate and a strong progressive. Mr. Reyes served as the chair of New Mexico’s Community Development Council where he oversaw the investment of tens of millions of dollars of federal funds in infrastructure and economic development projects in New Mexico. As the political and legislative director of Conservation Voters New Mexico, he led the successful opposition to anti-conservation legislation in the 2015 state legislative session. As the Campaigns Director for ProgressNow New Mexico, he championed progressive candidates and issues.

8. Francisco Fernández According to his campaign web page, Mr. Fernandez is a “5th generation Burqueño” whose family history predates statehood. He grew up in multiple Albuquerque communities. He is the first in his family to graduate college and attended the Jesuit Catholic College of Loyola University, New Orleans. He is involved in the entertainment industry and has pursued a career in television and film production. You can review more on his candidacy at

9. Selinda Guerro is a community activist. According to her web page, she is a working class BIPOC feminist community organizer. She is a single mother of six and a lifelong resident of Albuquerque. The link to her campaign web page is here to read more about her candidacy and background :


As of Wednesday, January 3, the Republicans who have so far announced their candidacies are:

1. Eddy Aragon, CEO of the Rock of Talk radio station and conservative radio talk show host for “Rock the Talk”. Aragon also ran for Mayor four years ago Just recently, Aragon ran against State Republican Party Chairman Steve Pierce for Republican Party chairman proclaiming the party needed a new generation of leader. Aragon is an extreme, right wing conservative and staunch supporter of President Trump. Aragon is known for his sharp tongue approach on his radio programs that alienates both friends and foes alike.

2. Peggy Muller-Aragon, an Albuquerque Public Schools board member and wife of private attorney Robert Aragon who was a New Mexico State Representative and who himself ran for congress many years ago. His father was longtime New Mexico State Democratic Representative Bennie Aragon. Both Peggy and Robert Aragon were Democrats and one time but become Republicans many years ago.

3. Michaela Chavez, an Albuquerque bookkeeper who recently ran for state Senate and lost to Democrat State Senator Bill O’Neill.

4. Ronnie Lucero, who is involved with the Lexit Strike Force, a group that rallies for conservative Latino voters.

5. Jared Vander Dussen, a candidate who lost in the Republican primary last year to Michelle Garcia Holmes.


Former state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn is running as an independent candidate. Dunn was a registered Republican and changed his party affiliation after leaving the Land Commissioners Office.


Even with a remarkable number of 14 candidates running to replace Debra Haaland in 1st Congressional District, voters can take comfort that they will not be inundated with TV commercials, at least until the major parties select their party’s nominees. For now, the scrambling and the campaigning is confined to the members of the State Central Committees. No doubt the lion’s share of the campaigning consists of candidates making phone calls to all members of the state central committees which are the hard-core party activists.

The hard-core activists on the Democratic Party State Central committee are most assuredly progressives with many Bernie Sanders supporters. For the Republican State Central Committee, the hard-core party activists are Trump supporters who have bought into all of his lies over the past 4 years and that the election was stolen. Republican Party State Party Chairman and former Congressman Steve Pierce will no doubt make every effort to nominate a strong Trump supporter the likes of Yvette Harrel as he eyes another race for Governor.

New Mexico, and in turn, the 1st Congressional District, is facing any number of problems that are bringing it to its knees. Those problems include the corona virus pandemic, business closures, high unemployment rates, exceptionally high violent crime and murders rates, poverty, children at risk, a lack luster education system and very little economic development.

On the federal level, issues the country is facing include a threat to our democracy and the election process, COVID relief aide to the state, systemic racism, preserving a woman’s right to choose, responsible gun control, equal rights, civil rights and LGBTQ Rights, immigration reform, health care for all, increasing the minimum wage and paid sick leave, legalization of marijuana, campaign finance reform addressing “citizen united”, fair taxation for all, just to mention a few.

The State can go no longer afford to elect people to congress based upon promises and nothing but eternal hope for better times and for a better future and with no results. What is needed is a congressional representative that actually knows what they are doing, and are informed and will make the hard decisions without their eye on the next election or higher office nor some one who just wants to placate their base and tell them what they want to hear. A person who is willing to serve in the United State House for a number of years with an emphasis on constituent services and not use the office as nothing more than a stepping stone for higher office down the road. Let’s hope the candidates who are running for Congress will concentrate on what’s important to the 1st Congressional District and not strictly to their party dogma or personal gain but one truly committed to public service.

Good luck to all the candidates and thank you for making the commitment to run for office during these difficult days for our country and our state.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.