Who will governor choose?

For District 6 Senate seat Taos picks Gonzales; Santa Fe, Los Alamos go for Ortez

By Staci Matlock and Jesse Moya
Posted 11/13/19

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham asked four counties for their pick to finish out the District 6 term of the late Sen. Carlos Cisneros, a longtime powerful lawmaker from northern Taos County. The governor has two names now and could end up with a third.

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Who will governor choose?

For District 6 Senate seat Taos picks Gonzales; Santa Fe, Los Alamos go for Ortez

Posted

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham asked four counties for their pick to finish out the District 6 term of the late Sen. Carlos Cisneros, a longtime powerful lawmaker from northern Taos County. The governor has two names now and could end up with a third.

Taos County Commissioners, on a 3-2 vote Nov. 7, nominated another longtime state lawmaker, retired educator Rep. Roberto "Bobby" Gonzales, for the governor's consideration.

Santa Fe and Los Alamos counties are both submitting the name of Kristina Ortez, an environmentalist and executive director of the Taos Land Trust.

That leaves Río Arriba County commissioners, who are scheduled to vote today (Nov. 14) on their pick to fill the Senate seat until the end of next year.

Cisneros, a Democrat from Questa, died Sept. 17 after serving more than three decades in the Senate. Whoever the governor chooses to finish his term will serve until Dec. 31, 2020. Voters will choose a senator for a full term in November 2020. Although it encompasses four counties, approximately 60 percent of the population in Senate District 6 is in Taos County.

Taos County's pick

"I was very privileged to work with Carlos," Gonzales said of the late senator in his presentation to the Taos County Commission before they voted to send his name to the governor. "We always worked very well and we respected each other's opinion."

Gonzales currently serves as the representative in the New Mexico House for District 42. If selected by the governor, he will have to resign from his seat in the House.

"I've completed 25 years, and I have very vast experience and institutional knowledge and that's one thing no one can take away from you," Gonzales said to the commission.

Many constituents and colleagues had called Gonzales, he said, expressing their hopes that he would apply for the position. If Gonzales is selected to fill the District 6 Senate seat, the county commission will appoint someone to finish out his term in the House of Representatives.

Gonzales was challenged in the appointment process by Ortez and Taos Mayor Dan Barrone. All three also submitted their names for consideration to the Santa Fe and Río Arriba county commissions and Los Alamos County council.

Commissioners Jim Fambro and Gabriel Romero voted against Gonzales' nomination.

Barrone, who is serving his second term as Taos mayor and previously served eight years on the Taos County Commission, was born and raised in Pojoaque. He helps manage the family business Olguin Sawmill and Firewood and is chairman of the North Central Regional Transit District. His letter to the commission noted his background in running businesses, creating jobs, handling million dollar budgets and other practical, on-the-ground experience.

Choice for Santa Fe and Los Alamos counties

Santa Fe County commissioners voted 4-0 for Ortez, a Harvard graduate who has headed the Taos Land Trust for five years. In a letter to commissioners, Ortez said while she wasn't a "career politician," she had worked with lawmakers to craft legislation and lobbied for clean water and public lands. Commissioner Henry P. Roybal abstained from the vote.

Along with Ortez, Barrone and Gonzales, Gabriel Montoya, special projects coordinator with the Pueblo of Pojoaque, had submitted his name for consideration. In Santa Fe, two other candidates, Gabriel Herrera of Questa and Bina Thompkins of Santa Fe, submitted their names after the deadline for applications.

Los Alamos County councilors also voted for Ortez on Tuesday (Nov. 12).

In Santa Fe, County Commissioner Anna C. Hansen made the motion to submit Ortez's name to the governor. Hansen, herself a small business owner, said she chose Ortez for two reasons - she wants to see more women, qualified ones, in the state Senate and she supports actions to protect the environment. "I think we need new energy, a new approach and fresh ideas," Hansen said.

"Every single environmental group in New Mexico supported [Ortez] for the seat," Hansen said.

Still, "It was a hard decision," Hansen said.

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