So, you want to be a State Senator? Everything you need to know about the last time multiple counties selected State Senate nominees

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So, you want to be a State Senator?  If you live in San Miguel, Santa Fe, Bernalillo, Torrance, Lincoln or Valencia County, you may get your chance.

With Democratic State Senator Phil Griego vacating his seat on Saturday, county commissions in those counties represented by Senate District 39 are considering candidates to replace him.

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?

But even though Governor Martinez has asked the commissions to nominate a replacement in 24 hours (by late Sunday afternoon), most commissions are saying doing so would require them to violate the state’s 72-hour notice required for public meetings and does not give them time to properly consider public input or vet candidates.  More on that dust up between the governor and commissioners here.

There is an exception to that 72-hour rule. In case of an emergency, defined as “unforeseen circumstances that, if not addressed immediately by the public body, will likely result in injury or damage to persons or property or substantial financial loss to the public body.” No word from the governor what calamity she believes will result if that state seal-embossed leather chair in the senate sits vacant for a couple of days.

So, in case you are interested, or know someone who is, let’s take a look at the last time this process played out to get a sense of what you are about to get into.

In 2011, Republican State Senator Kent Cravens vacated his seat representing parts of Sandoval and Bernalillo Counties to become a highly-paid lobbyist for the oil and gas industry.

Kravens resigned at the end of September 2011.  After considering several candidates, Sandoval County commissioners picked Lisa Curtis almost exactly 30 days later, in late October.  Bernalillo County commissioners debated the appointment until their next regularly scheduled meeting, on Nov. 8th, before selecting Curtis as well.

Partly because of the complication of naming candidates from cross-county districts, the process took more than 45 days.

The governor took another two months to ‘select’ Curtis, even though the commissions had only given her one candidate. She clearly didn’t seem to be in a hurry to fill that post

And those commissioners took a lot of heat from Republicans for naming a Democrat to a district vacated by an elected Republican:

  • The governor told me Tuesday that the Bernalillo and Sandoval boards of commissioners “went against the will of the people” by naming a Democrat to represent a district that had elected a Republican and wanted to Republican to replace him.”  Thom Cole, Albuquerque Journal, Jan 4. 2012
  • The state Republican Party said the commissions had “thumbed their noses at voters” by replacing a Republican with a Democrat,” Deborah Baker, Albuquerque Journal (republished in the Sandoval Signpost), Jan. 19, 2012

Even though at least half of the county commissions in counties covered by the currently vacant Senate Dist. 39 are controlled by Republicans, voters throughout the entire district selected a Democrat to represent them. And they did it time and time again, for more than a decade.

Let’s hope those commissions and Governor Martinez are as true to the will of the voters in 2015 as they claimed to be in exactly the same circumstances in 2012.

Senate District 39 winds through no less than seven New Mexico counties (here is a map showing all of those districts – scroll down for county and city-level data).

State Senators in New Mexico must be at least 25 years old and be registered to vote in the district.  OH! And be sure you actually live there. Republican State Senate candidate David Doyle ran into that problem a few years back, as did Republican State House candidate Johnny Luevano.


We made these easy webforms to contact the governor and county commissioners in each county. Ask them how you can apply.

Bernalillo County

Santa Fe County

San Miguel County

Valencia County

Torrance County

Lincoln County