Who wants a two-week appointment in the Legislature?

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

You’ve probably heard about going home for the holidays.

But what if you go indoors for the holidays?

The Bernalillo County Commission is looking for someone to represent West Side Albuquerque in the New Mexico House of Representatives for the last two and a half weeks of December. On Friday, the district opened applications for short-term assignments to fill an existing vacancy. Whoever the commission appoints during its December 14 meeting will only serve until December 31.

The Commission will then likely have to repeat the whole process in early 2023 to fill the same seat in House 16 for another two years.

The unconventional arrangement is the result of an unusually timed resignation and new district politics.

Agent Antonio "moe" maestas
MP Antonio “Moe” Maestas

Antonio “Moe” Maestas was the last representative of District 16. He resigned in a letter dated November 16 to the New Mexico Secretary of State. He left home to swap chambers after accepting a State Senate appointment.

But Maestas had won re-election to another two-year term in the House of Representatives just the week before. It begins on January 1, 2023.

When Maestas tried to vacate his House seat by the end of 2024, the state election commissioner told him that the term he was vacating actually ended on December 31, 2022. He must resign his new term separately when it is due to begin.

So why should the commission take the time to accept applications and hold a special session to appoint someone to serve a little over two weeks of the maestas’ dwindling tenure when they will have to do the same again so soon? The next legislative period will not take place until January 17th.

A district spokeswoman cited a resolution the commission passed last month. It requires that the district fill vacancies in the Legislature within three weeks of receiving official notification from the Secretary of State of an empty seat. That proposal came after a highly controversial commission fight over the timeline for nominating someone to the Senate seat, which the commission later gave to the maestas.

County Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada sponsored the timeline bill, which passed by a narrow 3-2 vote. Quezada did not return any news on Friday about the current situation, but said in support of his legislation last month: “We cannot have a district without representation – not even for a day.”

Additionally, new home district boundaries go into effect Jan. 1, meaning the pool of potential applicants could change, a county spokesman noted.

Applicants interested in the December appointment must submit an expression of interest and a resume by noon on December 9th. They are accepted by email to [email protected] or by mail to the Bernalillo County Manager’s Office, Attn: Julie Morgas Baca, County Manager. 415 Silver SW, 8th Floor, Albuquerque, NM, 87102.