August 2 Bernco Democratic Party Forum To  Fill NM House District 25 Vacancy; Results Of Rank Choice, Non Binding Vote;  Leading Candidate Recruited To Run And As State Employee Cannot Hold Political Office; Two Ethically Challenge County Commissioners Barboa And Olivas

On June 7, New Mexico State Representative Christine Trujillo announced her  resignation from the New Mexico House of Representatives District 25 effective July 1.  It is the responsibility of the Bernalillo County Commission to appoint her replacement to complete the remainder of her term.  The Bernalillo County Commission will appoint a replacement from the  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.

Seven candidates have applied to fill the vacancy.  The 7 seven applicants are:

You can review each applicants letter of application and resume by clicking on each of the candidate names above.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the interest of full disclosure, Pete Dinelli intended to apply for the vacancy but decided against it preferring to continue with retirement and publication of as a Democrat activist and having other priorities in life without political drama.


On August 2, the House District 25 Democrat Ward and Precinct leadership of Wards 25A, 25B, 25C, and 25D  held  a moderated, in-person candidate forum where  the  Democratic candidates were  allowed to participate in a candidate forum. Many Democratic party officials’ believe there was a need for the party to be involved with the selection process and to at least voice their opinions by conducting a vote to make a recommendation to the County Commission as to who they should appoint.

It’s no secret  that the reason why there was  a candidate forum on August 2  is because of just how messy and divisive the last appointment was when 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. The November 16 County Commission meeting making the Maestas appointment degenerated into a verbal slug fest of false accusations, innuendos and slurs with one commissioner even calling another commissioner a “bitch”.


On August 8, the Democratic Party of Bernalillo County published in its on line weekly news letter THE BLUE REVIEW the following report on the August 2 forum:

“There were no vacancies in the room at the Albuquerque Teachers’ Federation (ATF) meeting room on August 2, when Democrats got together for a party-sponsored applicant forum for those who had applied to fill the vacancy left by much-lauded State Representative Christine Trujillo in House District 25. 80 attendees filled the space, despite the lack of working air conditioning, including the U.S. House Representative for NM-01, Melanie Stansbury.

It was the first time that the Democratic Party of Bernalillo County had sponsored such a forum. Multiple county party officers were there, making sure all went smoothly. John Dyrcz, ATF’s state affiliate political organizer, led off the meeting, welcoming all the attendees to the union’s space. Rayellen Smith, chair of Albuquerque Indivisible, was the unflappable emcee, reading and repeating questions for the six Democrats applying to hold the HD25 position through the 2024 election. The sole Republican applicant did not attend. Two county commissioners, Eric Olivas and Adriann Barboa, were attentive observers.

Every seat in the room was filled as the candidates in turn gave opening remarks; some latecomers were standing in the back of the room. Four candidates had earlier submitted biographical sketches to the Blue Review: Robert Padilla, Cristina Parajón, and Sofia Sanchez in the July 25 issue and Brian Thomas in the August 1 issue

 The other two Democrats, Andres Valdez and Derek Villanueva, were able to state their credentials succinctly. Brevity was necessary because the applicants had to adhere to a strict timetable, smilingly administered by Ms. Smith, to allow all six to give two-minute opening and closing statements and one-minute responses to the nine questions she posed. And, remarkably, they did comply; there were no time-constraint confrontations among the applicants.

Candidates varied in their approach: one, Cristina Parajón, emphasized her youth and the need for Generation Z representation in the Legislature, determining their own presence and future. At the opposite extreme, another, Andres Valdez, emphasized his 38-year experience affecting legislation. All spoke fondly of their community (District 25 is roughly bounded by Lomas to the south, Carlisle to the west, Louisiana to the east, and Montgomery to the north) and their commitment to the district’s needs. One of the questions dealt with how the $2.86 million federal infrastructure allotment to New Mexico can help serve the community.

 Most spoke strongly in favor of unions, gun control (and the enforcement of gun control laws already in place!), and doing something about crime and homelessness. Candidate Valdes emphasized that he felt “we are in a state of crisis,” and not just the climate crisis that all of them addressed. All felt the legislature should do more to stem the outflow and increase the supply of teachers and medical care providers, although they differed somewhat on the needed strategies. Each had suggestions as to how to deal with the dangers of right-wing extremists, and all opposed book banning. Each supported means of dealing with homelessness, some with support for building more affordable housing, some with making housing vouchers widely available. All would act to protect New Mexico’s environment and would work for clean energy to help move the state away from its current reliance on fossil fuel revenue.

Over 100 Democrats in the district register to vote and rank these candidates in a non-binding election. DPBC will present the full tally of the rankings to the county commission before the commission’s August 11 decision to appoint one of the seven applicants for Christine Trujillo’s seat. 

If a proof of concept was needed for such a democratic process, it was provided resoundingly by this ground-breaking, highly-successful event. May the best person win, and may DPBC consider setting up similar forums when other vacancies in our all-important representation in Santa Fe come up again.”


After the forum, the Democratic Party of Bernalillo County (DPBC) facilitated an online election for registered Democrats living in HD25. The election was ranked-choice, with voters able to rank all the candidates according to their preferences from 1 through 6. Only registered Democrats  residing in HD25  were sent a ballot.

On Monday, August 7, DPBC officers and representatives from HD25 Ward and Precinct leadership gathered and tallied  the results of the non-binding, ranked-choice vote to fill the HD25 vacancy. This final results of the vote was presented to the Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners. There were a total of 105  ballots cast from HD25 Democrats with 1 duplicate ballot not counted.

Four ballots were spoiled and not counted due to giving more than one candidate the same ranking.

The following results were tabulated for the votes 1 through 6

1st Place Votes

Cristina S. Parajón received the most 1st place votes for a total of 52, followed by Sofia M. Sanchez with 28 votes, followed by Derek James Villa-nueva with 10 votes, followed by Brian Thomas with 7 votes, followed by Robert Padilla and Andres Valdez tied with 1 vote each.

 2nd Place Votes

Sofia M. Sanchez received the most 2nd place votes for a total of 23 votes, followed by  Cristina S. Parajón with  16 votes, followed by Derek James Villa-nueva with  13 votes followed by Brian A. Thomas with 10 votes  followed by Robert L. Padilla with  8 votes  followed by Andres P. Valdez with  1 vote.

3rd Place Votes

Sofia M. Sanchez and  Derek James Villa-nueva  recieved the most 3rd place votes tied each with 20 votes followed by Brian A. Thomas with  9 votes, followed Robert L. Padilla with  8 votes followed by Cristina S. Parajón and  Andres P. Valdez  tied  with 5 votes each.

4th Place Votes

Brian A. Thomas received the most 4th place votes with 17 votes, followed by  Robert L. Padilla with 9 votes, followed by  Derek James Villa-nueva with 8 votes, followed by Andres P. Valdez with 7 votes, followed by Cristina S. Parajón and  Sofia M. Sanchez tied each with 3 votes.

5th Place Votes

Robert L. Padilla received the most 5th place votes with  18 votes, followed by  Andres P. Valdez with 8 votes, followed by  Brian A. Thomas with  7 votes followed by Derek James Villa-nueva with  6 votes followed by Cristina S. Parajón  and Sofia M. Sanchez tied with 1vote each.

 6th Place Votes

Andres P. Valdez recieved the most 6th place votes with 19 votes, followed by  Robert L. Padilla with 7 votes, followed by  Brian A. Thomas with 5 votes followed by Sofia M. Sanchez and Derek James Villa-nueva tied with  3 votes, followed by  Cristina S. Parajón with 2 votes.

The summary of the forgoing rank based voting is  as follows

  1. Cristina S. Parajón came in first with 52 votes and the clear majority
  2. Sofia M. Sanchez came in second with 23 votes
  3. Sofia M. Sanchez and Derek James Villa-nueva tied  for 3rd with 20 votes each
  4. Brian A. Thomas came in 4th place with 17 votes
  5. Robert L. Padilla came in 5th placewith  18 votes
  6. Andres P. Valdez came in 6th with 19 votes


It is highly commendable that House District 25 Democrat Ward and Precinct leadership of Wards 25A, 25B, 25C, and 25D held and  moderated an in-person candidate forum for the applicants.  It is clearly necessary to allow the Democrat Party to have input on the process and to voice their preference. What was  also commendable is that the meeting was  open to the public and the Bernalillo County Democratic Party  thereby made  accommodations for neighborhood association participation and other private citizens to attend who wanted  to merely listen to the candidates and become informed.


To be perfectly blunt, the commendable and good faith efforts of the Bernalillo County Democratic party to become involved with the selection process by making  a recommendation as to who the county commission should appoint was essentially high jacked by the backroom antics of progressive Democrats Adriann Barboa and Eric Olivas with both revealing themselves to be ethically challenged.

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 the early 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.

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.

There currently exists a politcal rift  between the 3 Progressive Democrats of Barbara Baca, Adriane Barboa and Eric Olivas who have the majority over Moderate Democrat Stephen Michael Quesada and Conservative Republican Walt Benson.  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 Barboa and Olivas, will be given much greater consideration and relied upon.  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. Sadly, such is the reality of politics. gg


Three or more of the 5 county commissioners were strictly prohibited by law from attending the August 2 Democrat forum together all at once because it would constitute a quorum of the commission and be a violation of New Mexico’s Open meetings act.  Notwithstanding, County Commissioners Adriane Barboa and Eric Olivas attended the forum and were introduced at the beginning of the event.

The BCDP did not announce if all 5 commissioners were invited nor did Barboa nor Olivas disclose to what extent they had conferred with the other 3 commissioners to avoid a quorum and to what extent they would report back to the other commissioners on what was said by the applicants.  For the record, both progressive Democrat Barbara Baca, District 2 and moderate Democrat Steven Michael Quezada confirmed by phone to this author they would not attend the forum meeting raising concerns about propriety.

Simply put, Barboa and Olivas should not have attended the meeting because it created an appearance of impropriety and undue influence.  Both placed themselves in a compromising position for the public to demand if they were there  to support a candidate of their choice before the candidates were interviewed by the County Commission as a whole on August 11.  County Commissioner’s deliberations should be a matter of public record with them conducting interviews and asking questions of the applicants during a public meeting of the 5 member Bernalillo County  Commission.


Based on the Democratic Party straw vote taken, there are two very clear front runners that have commanding leads over the other 5 applicants and both candidacies are problematic. Those individuals are:


Cristine S. Parajón, age 27, is a Harvard graduate with a Masters in Business and Economics. From July 23 to the present, she has been the Director of Strategy for the New Mexico Human Services Department. From September 2021 to May 2023, she was with the City of Albuquerque Gateway Homeless Shelter as the Gateway Administrator. From Sep 2020 to Sept 2021, she was a consultant in New York City.  From August, 2019 to April, 2020, she was a special projects coordinator for the UNM Office of Community Health and from April 2020, to September 2020 a Deputy Incident Commander with the City of Albuquerque Emergency Operations Center.

It is clear that Cristine S. Parajón  is the front runner for the County Commission Appointment. Three confidential sources within the Democratic Party, including one Ward chair, have confirmed Progressive Democrat Adriann Barboa recruited Progressive Democrat Cristina S. Paragon to apply for the House District 25 vacancy. One confidential source also said Barboa initially wanted Parajón to run for City Council District 6.  County Commissioner Eric Olivas, despite assurances to the contrary that he has not made up his mind, has also disclosed to confidential sources he intends to vote for whoever Commissioner Barboa wants which at this point is Cristine S. Parajón who Barboa recruited to run.

New Mexico statutory law is clear that no state employee can  hold political elective office except for a non-partisan county or municipal office. The statute is Section 10-9-1 NMSA, 1978.  (  Parajon needs to answer the question if she will voluntarily resign her employment with the State of New Mexico Human Services Department if she is appointed to fill the vacancy, a disclosure she was not asked about at the August 2 forum.


Sofia Sanchez is the Deputy Chief of Staff for United States Representative Melanie Stansbury since June 2022. From November 2018 to June 2022, she was the Deputy District Director for then United State Representative Debra Haaland who is now the Secretary of the Department of Interior.  Sanchez has received the endorsements of US Representative Melanie Stansbury  and the endorsement from Representative Christine Tujillo who she is seeking to replace.

Two issues that Sanchez needs to address is if she becomes a New Mexico State Representative does she intend to resign from employment with US Representative Melanie Stansbury or take a leave of absence during the legislative session and how she will resolve conflicts of policy with US Representative Stansbury. In otherwards, how much influence will Congresswoman Stansbury have over Sanchez’s votes in the New Mexico House of Representatives should she be appointed?


On August 11 the Bernalillo County Commission will make the final decision as to who they will select to replace State Repetitive Christine Trujillo. The problem is that the fix appears to be in despite all the applications and efforts made by others. This is the type of politcal movida that destroys the credibility of politicians and discourages qualified applicants from even applying.

Until then, the Bernalillo County Commission staff need to do their due diligence and determine who is actually qualified to be appointed and if the applicants meet the minimum requirements.

In the interest of full disclosure and transparency, both Commissioners Adriann Barboa and Eric Olivas should  make full disclosure on August 11 to all other County Commissioners of any and all involvement with recruiting the engaged in for candidates they wanted to fill the position. Such disclosure is the only decent thing to do out of respect to the other applicants.

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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.