Governor Lujan Grisham Appoints “Bombastic Sam” Bregman To Replace Raúl Torrez; Bregman To Serve 2 Years And Not Run In 2024; A Run For Mayor In 2025 Likely Scenario

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the appointment of former Democratic State Party Chair and defense attorney Sam  Bregman as the new 2nd Judicial District Attorney replacing Raúl Torrez.  Torrez was elected Attorney General on November 8 and was  is sworn in  on January 1 replacing Attorney General Hector Balderas.  According to a press release, Bregman will begin serving in the position immediately.   Bregman will serve the remaining 2 years of Raúl Torrez’s 4 year term he was elected to in 2020.  It was reported that Bregman will not run for reelection in 2024.

Governor Lujan Grisham  had this to say in a press release:

“A former prosecutor with extensive experience in litigation and case oversight, Sam Bregman will bring a fresh perspective to the Second Judicial District Attorney’s office.  … I am confident that he will serve as a dedicated and effective district attorney focused on improving public safety and supporting the people of Bernalillo County. …  Bregman will leave the office after serving the remaining two years of Torrez’s term. … He will not run for reelection to the office, focusing on the office’s work to combat crime and build stronger, safer communities.”

Sam Bregman had this to say about his appointment:

“I am honored to be appointed as Second Judicial District attorney. I realize the great responsibility of the role and am committed to relentlessly pursuing justice for the residents of Bernalillo County. …  I look forward to joining the hardworking staff of the DA’s office and will prioritize fully staffing the office to support their ongoing critical work. Together we will serve the people of central New Mexico and deliver real results and improve public safety.”


Sam Bregman is a 1989 graduate of the University of New Mexico Law School.  He  is a former Democratic Party State Chairman. Bregman  served as an Assistant Bernalillo County District Attorney from 1994 through 1997. Bregman was an elected Albuquerque City Council from 1995 until 1999 and has a served as Deputy State Auditor for the State of New Mexico.  Bregman unsuccessfully ran for Commissioner of Public Lands and Mayor of Albuquerque Bregman currently serves on the New Mexico Racing  Commission and is Chairman of the Commission.

Bregman has trial experience in both civil and criminal defense’ with 3 decades of trial experience. He  has  represented defendants in several high-profile cases over the years including representing Keith Sandy, one of the two APD Officers who faced charges for the shooting killing of homeless camper James Boyd in 2014. He represented Keith Brandon and Jonathan Sandoval, the two Metropolitan Detention Center officers charged in the 2019 death of inmate Vincente Villela. He also represented the family of Amelia Baca, who was shot and killed by a Las Cruces Police Officer in April of 2022.

Links to quoted news sources are here:


Bregman was one of 14 applicants who applied for the appointment. The 13 other applicants were:

  1. Damon Martinez, a former United States Attorney for New Mexico. 
  2. Private Attorney Ed Perea, a retired APD  Police Commander.  
  3. Joseph Gandert, a private Albuquerque attorney, and a fomer Federal Public defender. office for 20 plus years.
  4. Joseph Gribble,an Albuquerque attorney, a 1977 graduate of University of New Mexico law with extensive experience in criminal and civil litigation
  5. Evan Cochnar a fomer prosecutor who currently works for the New Mexico Risk Management Division.
  6. Assistant Attorney General Ashley Schweizer.
  7. Bernalillo County Deputy District Attorney Josh Boone who  oversees the Metropolitan Division.
  8. Bernalillo CountyDeputy District Attorney John Duran, who oversees the District Attorneys’ Major Crimes Division.
  9. Bernalillo CountyDeputy District Attorney Diana Garcia who oversees the DA’s Juvenile Division.
  10. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Flores.
  11. Brianne Bigej, general counsel for the New Mexico Department of Corrections
  12. Matthias Swonger, supervising attorney for the New Mexico Public Defenders Offices.
  13. Private Attorney and former prosecutor Steven S. Suttle.


As of November 21,2022, according to the New Mexico State Government Sunshine Portal, the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office has a $30,350,800 million operating budget with an adjusted operating budget of $36,680,800 which includes all sources of financing including federal grants.  The office is budgeted for 337 full time positions.  The office employs 102 attorneys (81 filled, 21 vacant) who are “at will” and 255 other “classified” employees consisting of paralegals, administrative assistants, victim advocates, investigators, IT managers and personnel and finance division personnel who can only be terminated for cause under the state personnel rules and regulations.  276 of the positions are “active” meaning filled. The office has an alarming 61 vacancies. The number of vacancies in the office is larger than most other District Attorney’s offices in the state.


The appointment of Sam Bregman did come with some politcal  drama  when on December 2, the Governor’s office released the names of 10 attorneys who applied for the appointment and Bregman’s name was one of the 10. On December 12, the deadline for attorneys to file applications was extended  December 23.  No explanation was given for the extension of time for applications. On December  28,  the names of 4 additional attorneys who applied were released  bringing the total number of applicants to 14. Speculation was rampant that the Governor was not at all satisfied with the 10 original applicants which was the reason for extending the deadline to allow others to apply.

Notwithstanding the politcal drama, the appointment of Sam Bregman did  not come  as a surprise to politcal insiders. Since announcing  the names of  all 14 applicants, insiders said the appoint was Bregman’s  for the asking and that he had the “inside track” on the appointment because of his politcal connections, association and fundraising for  the Governor.  There are no term limitations of the office of Bernalillo County District Attorney.  What did come as a surprise to many is that  Bregman will serve the remaining 2  years of  Raúl Torrez’s  4 year term and he will not run for a full 4 year term in 2024.  Essentially Bregman is a lame duck or caretaker and will not be able to  do much with the office over the next 24 months.

Bregman has a reputation for being very bombastic with an extreme affinity to TV news cameras. When he served as an Albuquerque City Councilor, he was labeled “Showboat Sam” and it was said the most dangerous place to be was between  Bregman and TV news cameras. His reputation for showboating carried over the years but  he became more bombastic as Democrat Party Chair and  even as a criminal defense attorney as he played to the news cameras. Each time Bregman  handled a high profile case, whether it be criminal or civil, you could always expect a news conference as he gave his spin on the case.

There is little to no doubt that Bregman still harbors future political ambitions.  More than a few sources, including a few prominent defense attorneys, are saying he has told them he intends to run for Mayor again in 2025 knowing full well that Mayor Tim  Keller is failing with a 33% approval rating  and that the city’s spiking violent crime rates will again be a major issue. His  timing of serving 2 years as DA would be perfect as his appointed term time will end on December 31, 2024 and the 2025 Mayor’s race will begin in earnest in March, 2025 with nominating petitions being  available.

Bregman would be wise to curb his “publicity seeking” ways as District Attorney, something that his predecessor Raúl Torrez was known for and that got him in trouble with the courts and the legislature.  He would also be wise to try and learn the office first and keep his big mouth shut  before he tries to set any priorities and deal with the legislature in that he has never managed anything bigger than his own solo practice  law firm.

The Bernalillo County District Attorneys office currently has a 65% combined voluntary dismissal, acquittal and mistrial rate.  The city continues to break all time homicide records.  In 2021 there were 117 homicides and in 2022  there were 120  homicides. There  is a “revolving door” for experienced prosecutors with no less than 21 attorney vacancies and a total 61 vacancies out of 276 full time positions.  The DA’s office is now Bregman’s and he must perform.  If he fails, he can probably kiss his future political ambitions good bye.

The big  question is if  Governor Lujan Grisham  appointed Bregman in exchange for his commitment not to run for a full 4 year term in 2 years.  Such a concession and agreement has happened before when Governor MLG appointed Jim Collie Bernalillo County Commission for 2 years in exchange for his commitment not to seek a full 4 year term.

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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.