Governor Susana Martinez is pressing county commissioners to replace State Senator Phil Griego within 24 hours, something many say would force county commissions to violate the 72-hour public notice requirement in the state’s Open Meetings Act, while others note that Republicans and the Albuquerque Journal strongly opposed quickly considered appointments just a mere month ago.
The New Mexico Political Report‘s Margaret Wright explains how the process works:
District 39, which Griego represented until Saturday morning, contains parts of Bernalillo, Lincoln, San Miguel, Santa Fe, Torrance and Valencia counties.
Each of the county commissions will choose a candidate, at which point Martinez will decide which candidate will replace Griego for the remainder of the term.
The governor will likely prefer to see someone from her own party take Griego’s seat. Currently, 17 Republicans serve in the Senate.
More on that process from NM Political Report: What’s next for the state Senate now that Griego is out?
Governor Martinez has asked commissioners in those six counties to send her names by the end of today so that she can make an appointment tomorrow (Monday). Santa Fe and Torrance County’s commission have both announced plans for a meeting today. Bernalillo County is giving 72-hours notice and will meet on Tuesday, two days after the governor’s arbitrary 24 hour deadline.
But is 24 hours long enough for all of those potential candidates have the chance to apply in such a short amount of time? And can anyone, on the commissions, in the press or in the public, properly vet any of those candidates?
Remember, this appointment is not just for the final six days of the session. It if for the remainder of Griego’s term, which extends all the way through 2016.
We are reminded that Republicans and the Albuquerque Journal were adamantly opposed to moving quickly when Bernalillo County’s commission was charged with naming a successor to Sen. Tim Keller’s district after he won election to State Auditor (because Keller’s district is wholly within one county, the commission’s selection did not need the governor’s approval).
Just 90 days ago, from the Albuquerque Journal’s editorial page:
Even if on that Monday qualified applicants had their résumés updated and at the ready, in stamped envelopes ready to address, it stretches credulity to believe commissioners seriously looked at applications in this whirlwind three-day process…
Republicans Wayne Johnson and Lonnie Talbert voted against the appointment, saying they did so not because it involved Stewart, a progressive Democrat who is well to the left of the moderate and compromise-seeking Keller, but because it was a transparent rush job that circumvented the process for the sake of political expediency…
And this from the Journal’s report on the meeting:
Her appointment narrowly won approval. Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins nominated her, and fellow Democrats Debbie O’Malley and Art De La Cruz supported the motion.
Voting “no” were Republicans Wayne Johnson and Lonnie Talbert.
Johnson wanted to postpone the vote because a flood of candidates applied for the vacancy just this week, he said. There was no reason but “political expediency” to appoint someone immediately, he said.
And that was for a seat in a firmly Democratic area, to replace a solidly progressive senator with another solidly progressive vote. No chance of changing the balance there.
Suddenly, Republicans are singing a different tune when they see an expedient way to gain another seat in the hotly contested state senate.
Other political watchers say counties who hold meetings today may violate the state’s Open Meetings Act which requires counties to post agendas for 72-hours before any meeting unless there is an emergency. Most people we’ve heard from suggest that filling Griego’s seat is more of a political emergency for the governor than a legal one for counties. Some have suggested that counties who move forward under the ’emergency’ provision may be challenged in court both by those who did not have the chance to apply and by those opposing this political expedited process pushed by the 4th (and 5th) Floor in the Roundhouse.