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BernCo commissioners name their pick for House Dist. 22

Merritt Hamilton Allen

Bernalillo County commissioners on Tuesday selected Merritt Hamilton Allen as their nominee to fill an unexpired term as state representative for House District 22.

Allen, a Republican, is owner and executive director of Vox Optima, an Albuquerque-based communications, consulting and media relations company.

The previous representative for the district, James Smith, was appointed to the post of county commissioner representing District 5 by Gov. Susana Martinez. He was sworn in last month.

The vote was 2-1, with Republican Commissioners Smith and Lonnie Talbert supporting Allen, and Commissioner Steven Quezada voting for fellow Democrat Jessica Velasquez, who served as an educator in New Mexico at the secondary and college levels.

Commissioners allowed both candidates to address the board during the meeting.

Commissioners Debbie O’Malley and Maggie Hart Stebbins did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

House District 22 includes parts of Bernalillo, Sandoval and Santa Fe counties.

“It’s kind of a bittersweet moment to see my successors show up to a commissioners meeting,” Smith said. “I knew this day was coming. I just wanted to say how proud I am and how excited I am to have two strong women who are willing to step up and run for the House of Representatives.”

State statute provides that if a vacancy occurs in the office of representative for any reason for a district situated within two or more counties, the board of county commissioners for each county in the district will submit one name to the governor. The governor will then appoint the representative to fill the vacancy from the list of names submitted.

The Bernalillo County Commission’s process for choosing a candidate required that individuals who were interested in seeking the board’s nomination submit letters of interest and résumés to the county manager.

Candidates were also required to be residents of House District 22.

Résumés were accepted through April 17.

After Tuesday’s vote, County Manager Julie Morgas Baca is expected to submit a letter to Martinez providing the name of the nominee.

As 2018 is an election year, the term of the appointment is through Dec. 31.

Velasquez is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination for a full-term in post in the June primary.

For the Republican nomination, Allen is facing Dr. Gregg Schmedes, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.