On June 7, New Mexico State Representative Christine Trujillo announced her resignation from the New Mexico House of Representatives effective July 1. She said she decided to resign because of health issues, citing accelerating problems with Type-2 diabetes. Trujillo was first elected in 2012 to serve District 25 which covers the mid heights and some of Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights area. Her term expires on December 31, 2024. It is now the responsibility of the Bernalillo County Commission to appoint her replacement to complete the 1 year and 6 months remainder of her term. Whoever is appointed will have to stand for election to a full 2 year term in 2024.
COUNTY COMMISSION ANNOUNCEMENT AND MEETING
On June 30, 2023 the Bernalillo County Commission announced it is accepting applications from individuals interested in filling the vacant New Mexico House of Representatives District 25 seat. According to the announcement applications will be accepted until Friday, July 28, 2023, at noon.
Applicants must submit a letter of interest and résumé to the Bernalillo County Manager’s Office, Attention: Julie Morgas Baca, County Manager, 415 Silver Ave, SW, 8th Floor, Albuquerque, NM, 87102 via in-person, mail-in, or email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Interested persons must be at least 21 years old and live within the boundaries of House District 25. The district straddles central I-40, mainly in the Northeast Heights, including neighborhoods between Carlisle and Louisiana in Bernalillo County.
The Bernalillo County Commission will appoint a replacement from a list of applied candidates at their Friday, August 11 meeting at 10 am. The meeting will take place in the Ken Sanchez Commission Chambers at BernCo @ Alvarado Square, 415 Silver Ave SW. The replacement will serve the rest of the term ending on December 31, 2024. The winner of the November 2024 election will then serve a full term starting January 1, 2024.
THREE APPLICANTS SHOW INTEREST
Sources have confirmed that there are 3 applicants for the vacancy and they are:
- Cristina Parajón
- Robert Padilla
- Sofia Sanchez
EDITORS’ NOTE: The postscript to this blog article provides the biographies of all 3 identified candidates.
DEMOCRATIC PARTY WARD AND PRECINCT CANDIDATE FORUM
On July 25 it was reported that the House District 25 Ward and Precinct leadership of Wards 25A, 25B, 25C, and 25D will hold a moderated, in-person candidate forum on August 2 where all 3 of the Democratic candidates will be allowed to participate in a candidate forum. Only Democrats in House District 25 can register for the event and to vote in a non-binding election that establishes a preferred candidate. Democrat voters will rank the candidates according to their preferences. The Democratic Party of Bernalillo County (DPBC) will then deliver the full voting results to the Bernalillo County Commissioners. The final results are strictly a recommendation and in no way is binding upon the Bernalillo County Commission.
The Candidate Forum will be held at AFT New Mexico (530 Jefferson St. NE) on Wednesday, August 2, 2023, at 6:00 pm. Only Democrats in House District 25 can register to attend and vote. While attendance is not required to vote, it is highly encouraged. DPBC will tally the votes on Monday, August 2, and deliver the results to the Board of Commissioners the next day.
A MESSY APPOINTMENT RECALLED
Sources have confirmed that the reason why there will be a candidate forum on August 2 held by the Bernalillo County Democratic Party is because of just how messy and divisive the last appointment was. As a result of that conflict, many Democratic party officials’ believe there is a need for the party to be involved with the selection process and to at least voice their opinions and not give exclusive authority to appoint to 3 elected officials who hold the majority on the County Commission.
It was on November 16 that longtime Westside Albuquerque Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas was appointed by the County Commission to serve the remaining 2 years in the New Mexico Senate caused by the resignation of Senator Jacob Candelaria on October 19. Maestas, who represented a Westside seat for 16 years, immediately announced his interest in Candelaria’s seat, and Candelaria threw his support behind him. Two commissioners immediately raised concerns about Maestas and whether Candelaria’s seat should be filled before others had a chance to apply for the seat.
Another commissioner countered that delaying the vote would deprive the area of a representative for too long. Candelaria, in posts on Twitter, also said extending the timeline was a “Mitch McConnell-style tactic” aimed at stalling the appointment until a new commission is seated in early January, one that might be less favorable to Maestas.
Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, who pushed for postponing the Maestas appointment raised concerns about Maestas’ wife, lobbyist Vanessa Alarid, and a $5,000 donation she gave to a commissioner who ultimately voted for Maestas, Charlene Pyskoty. O’Malley said the donation was a way to buy Pyskoty’s vote, and O’Malley unsuccessfully tried to get Pyskoty to recuse herself and also to pause the appointment vote until after an ethics complaint regarding the matter was heard on Dec. 3.
Pyskoty denied any wrongdoing and said she wasn’t giving Maestas any special treatment. She also said that his spouse’s position as a lobbyist should have no bearing on the appointment before them.
Pyskoty and O’Malley disagreed sharply on the matter before. The last time the topic came up at the commission’s Oct. 25 meeting, O’Malley called Pyskoty a slur. O’Malley apologized to Pyskoty for use of the slur, but she also proceeded to make the unsavory accusation that there was a “scheme” a year in the making to get Maestas a Senate seat.
O’Malley said during the commission meeting that Maestas had tried to use redistricting at the county and state level to ensure he had an easy path to Candelaria’s seat, and she accused him of depriving constituents the chance to weigh in on their next senator.
Maestas for his part denied that he’d “schemed” to get the appointment. He said he learned along with the rest of the public that Candelaria was going to resign. Maestas said O’Malley was accusing him of the same tactics she’s employed in her political career as a commissioner and Albuquerque city councilor.
Maestas and 7 other applicants sought to be appointed senator. They included Julie Radoslovich, director of the South Valley Academy, along with retired county commissioner and former Albuquerque City Councilor Steve Gallegos, and Em Ward, a doctor.
Radoslovich got two votes in favor of her appointment, the most of any other applicant. O’Malley and Chairperson Adriann Barboa voted for her. About a dozen supporters stood up to speak in her favor, including former students and colleagues.
County Commissioner Quezada, who attended the meeting remotely, nominated Maestas for the seat. Before Quezada voted, he accused O’Malley of throwing out a “half-baked” theory about Maestas without evidence. Quezada said this:
“To put conspiracy theories forward sounds a lot like MAGA [Make America Great Again] to me. But at the end of the day – yeah, you can roll your eyes, (apparently seeing O’Malley’s reaction on the video stream). That’s okay. The whole world saw that. But that’s the truth. You have no facts to base your conspiracy theories. I think this wasn’t a place to have that conversation.”
Minutes earlier, Quezada suggested that Barboa, herself a registered lobbyist, might be conspiring to appoint a state lawmaker that she could lobby when the legislative session begins in January. Quezada said this:
“If there’s a commissioner that’s a registered lobbyist that is herself or himself, appointing legislators or appointed officials, perhaps maybe that also could be looked at as a conflict of interest. … And I’m hoping that the news media will also look into that.”
Barboa for her part defended her lobbying as being on behalf of reproductive rights and affordable health care. She has lobbied for Forward Together since 2013, according to the Openness Project.
Ultimately, 3 commissioners voted for Maestas. They were Democrats Charlene Pyskoty, and Steven Michael Quezada and Republican Walt Benson.
County Commissioners Debbie O’Malley and Charlene Pyskoty are no longer on the Bernalillo County Commission and were replaced by County Commissioners Barbara Baca and Eric Olivas.
As a direct result of the extreme hostility and very public outburst involving the appointment of Senator Moe Maestas, the new County Commission voted to clean up the appointment process to avoid the acrimony. Now, the commission chair is required to set a special meeting to name an appointment within 3 weeks of receiving a resignation letter from a lawmaker leaving a seat.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The current makeup of the current Bernalillo County Commission is as follows:
District 1: Progressive Democrat Barbara Baca, Commission Chair
District 2: Moderate Democrat Steven Michael Quezada
District 3: Progressive Democrat Adriann Barboa
Disrtrict 4: Conservative Republican Walt Benson
District 5: Progressive Democrat Eric Olivas
The legal and constitutional process of filling vacancies in the New Mexico legislature caused by early the departure of a legislator has always rested with the county commission where the legislators district is located. On paper, it is pretty straight forward process. There are 5 county commissioners and the applicant who secures a 3 vote majority wins, period, end of discussion.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In the interest of full disclosure, Pete Dinelli considered applying for the vacancy but decided against it preferring to continue with retirement and publication of www.PeteDinelli.com as a Democrat activist and having other priorities in life without political drama.
In practice, the process of filling a legislative vacancy is always a very messy process, especially when there are philosophical rifts within the same party that has the majority of the votes on the commission. Such is the current makeup of the Bernalillo County Commission which is comprised of 4 Democrats and 1 Republican.
The current politcal conflict an rift is that the 3 Progressive Democrats of Barbara Baca, Adriane Barboa and Eric Olivas have the majority over Moderate Democrat Stephen Michael Quesada and Conservative Republican Walt Benson. It will be the progressive majority of Commissioners Baca, Barboa and Olivas who will decide to fill the vacancy giving very little or no consideration to what is said by the other two commissioners. Such is the reality of politics.
It has been confirmed by sources that the desires of the county commissioners whose district the vacancy falls within, which in this case is both Baroboa and Olivas, will be given greater consideration and relied upon. It’s called politics with a touch of retaliation thrown in for good measure sending the message as to who is in charge now that Commissioners Debbie O’malley and Charlene Pyskoty are gone and that the 3 like minded progressives have majority control of the commission.
The blunt truth is that the August 2 forum to be held by the Bernalillo County Democratic Party is strictly advisory. The individual County Commissioners can and will vote for whoever they want regardless of recommendation made by the party.
All 5 county commissioners are strictly prohibited by law from attending the August 2 Democrat forum all at once because it would constitute a quorum. Notwithstanding, sources are confirming that at least 2 County Commissioners are planning on attending the meeting which will allow only Democrats to attend. There is the appearance of impropriety if they do attend and their presence means that they will be lobbied by the candidates themselves or the Democrat attending who will want to know how they intend to vote. How they say they will vote should be a matter of public record of conducting business at a commission meeting, It’s more likely than not all 5 commissioners will have already made up their minds who they intend to vote for before their August 11 meeting.
The August 2 meeting is closed to the public and only Democrats will be allowed to vote which is totally appropriate for a Democratic Party function. However what is disappointing is that the Bernalillo County Democratic Party is making no accommodations for neighborhood association participation nor other private citizens to attend who may want to merely listen to the candidates and not vote.
The bottom line is that not one Bernalillo County Commissioner should attend the August 2 Democratic Party forum. The Bernalillo County Commission should hold a special meeting of the county commission, all day if needed, where all applicants are given an equal opportunity to speak and be interviewed and questioned in public by all 5 county commissioners during a public meeting with a record of the proceedings and what is said. The county commission should also allow testimony from the public, including from Democrats, Republicans and Independents and make public all communications and lobbying efforts on behalf of individual candidates. It’s called transparency in the public interest to avoid back room politics of pre selection of appointments.
On July 25, the Bernalillo County Democratic Party published and distributed on its “BLUE REVIEW” news letter the following candidate biographies in their own words:
¡Buenos días! My name is Cristina Parajón and I am applying to serve as representative of House District 25. I am Gen-Z, Latina and Asian, and a member of the LGBTQ community.Born in Albuquerque, I attended Harvard University on full scholarship to study Sociology and I completed my Masters in Business and Economics as a fellowship recipient. Afterwards, I worked at one of the top financial management consulting firms in the world advising CEOs of fortune 500 companies. My deep-rooted commitment to my family and my community led me back to Albuquerque.
As the oldest daughter of public health doctors, I was raised with a strong sense of civic duty –to build policy not “for” or “on” but WITH community. I lead with the values of my family, listening first and acting with conviction. I have been entrusted with our City’s biggest projects and have direct experience working on our toughest issues.
I was Deputy Incident Commander of the largest COVID Isolation Hotel in the state, became project lead for the Gateway Center (the City’s multi-million dollar investment in new pathways out of homelessness), and was recognized by Albuquerque Business First 40 under 40 for my work. Today, I am the Director of Strategy for the New Mexico Human Services Department.
Having grown up in the area, I know the challenges we face in our neighborhoods. However, I also have seen the power of our community in creating solutions. We can make sure every family can be strong and healthy; we can ensure hard-working New Mexicans have a place to call home; and we can make smart infrastructure investments that improve community safety and support economic opportunities for our young people.
Si se puede and it is the role of the legislature to provide the resources and policies for our dedicated community leaders on the ground. I know this first-hand and I am committed to listening with humility and acting with conviction. Let me bring my boots on the ground experience to the legislature and work WITH you in the House!
I am writing to express my sincere gratitude for the opportunity to submit my application for the open position in the New Mexico State Legislature representing District 25. As a lifelong resident of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, and the State of New Mexico, I am deeply committed to the betterment of our community that I raised my family in.
Enclosed with this letter, you will find my resume, showcasing my extensive experience as an executive-level manager in the New Mexico State Court System and my educational background from the University of New Mexico. This combination of professional expertise and educational qualifications has allowed me to work closely with educational institutions throughout the state, providing me with a unique and valuable skill set.
I hold a profound appreciation for the rich historical nature of our state and firmly believe that our best days are still ahead of us. I have an unwavering belief in the potential of our community, and if appointed to the open state representative position, I will be dedicated to advocating policies that strengthen New Mexico, a state we can all be proud of.
One of my key priorities will be ensuring the effective use of the citizens’ tax dollars, fostering a robust local and regional economy that benefits all New Mexicans. I will strongly advocate for investments in education, public safety, and healthcare, laying the foundation for a successful and sustainable future. Additionally, I believe in nurturing and enhancing the values of character, respect, and commitment, as they are essential in creating the kind of thriving community we desire.
I firmly believe that by working together in a mutually respectful business, political, and social environment, we can provide the greatest gift of leadership to the citizens of our state. It would be an immense honor for me to be given the opportunity to serve as one of those leaders. Thank you once again for considering my application. I am available at your convenience for any further discussions or to provide any additional information you may require. I look forward to the possibility of serving our community as a state representative.
Sofia Sanchez is a 13th-generation New Mexican and seasoned public servant, born and raised in HD 25 by a family of labor workers and public servants. She currently resides in the district in the house she bought from her grandparents with her family and 4 dogs.
With a rich background in public service and a deep commitment to her community, Sofia has dedicated her career to working on behalf of the people of New Mexico. From her early years in the City of Albuquerque Mayor’s Office, Sofia gained invaluable experience in coordinating volunteer efforts and supporting community engagement.
Sofia then transitioned to the legislative branch to have a greater impact on policy making as Deputy District Director in Rep. Deb Haaland’s office. Currently, Sofia serves as the Deputy Chief of Staff & District Director for Rep. Melanie Stansbury, working tirelessly to craft legislation that addresses the pressing issues of our time.
Her platform centers around supporting working people, investing in our educational system, environmental stewardship, and social justice. She plans to incorporate her professional experiences to build on the existing work to strengthen our behavioral health infrastructure and create stronger gun safety laws. She remains a steadfast advocate for women and their right to make their own healthcare decisions, and will stand with the LGBTQIA community and their priorities. Sofia seeks to amplify the voices of her community and champion policies that uplift every resident of District 25.
She has the endorsement of outgoing State Representative for House District 25 Christine Trujillo.