SANTA FE — Gov. Susana Martinez has appointed Gregg Schmedes of Tijeras, the winner of a contested primary election contest last week, to fill a state House seat that had been vacant for more than two months.
With the appointment, Schmedes, a surgeon at the University of New Mexico, will have a leg up on his general election opponent, Democrat Jessica Velasquez of Sandia Park.
The House District 22 seat had been held since 2011 by Jim Smith, a Tijeras Republican, but Smith officially stepped down in late March after being appointed by the governor to the five-member Bernalillo County Commission.
Per the state Constitution, Martinez was limited in filling the vacant seat to selecting a name from among those recommended by the three counties —Bernalillo, Santa Fe and Sandoval — that are fully or partially included in the district.
The two-term GOP governor ended up with options, as the three county commissions all recommended different names — Sandoval county commissioners recommended Schmedes, Santa Fe county commissioners recommended Velasquez and Bernalillo County commissioners nominated Merritt Allen, a Republican who Schmedes defeated in the June 5 primary election.
Meanwhile, the appointment of Schmedes to the vacant state House seat also keeps the political composition of the chamber at 38-32, with Democrats holding a majority. Schmedes, a Republican, is expected to be appointed to legislative interim committees in the coming weeks.
But the winner of the November general election race will determine who holds the seat for the next two years, starting in January 2019.
House District 22 encompasses the East Mountains area, Placitas and Algodones, while also stretching into parts of rural Santa Fe County.