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Democrats poised to sweep five top statewide judicial spots

Late partial election results showed Democrats poised to sweep New Mexico’s statewide judicial elections, potentially creating the first-ever woman majority on the Court of Appeals and unseating an incumbent Supreme Court justice.

And voters in Bernalillo County ousted two Metropolitan Court judges, while two more barely surpassed the 57 percent mark required for retention, according to unofficial results.

Four Democratic women challenged male Republican incumbents for spots on the 10-judge Court of Appeals. A win by all four would double the number of women on the court. A win by just one would bring the court its first-ever even gender split.

Democratic candidates included Albuquerque private practice lawyer Kristina Bogardus; Jacqueline Medina, who was tasked with reviewing officer-involved shootings in Bernalillo County; state District Court Judge Briana Zamora; and Megan Duffy, former president of the Women’s Bar Association. Their Republican opponents were, respectively, Stephen French, Hank Bohnhoff, Emil J. Kiehne and Daniel Gallegos.

Meanwhile, early results showed longtime Court of Appeals Judge Michael Vigil well ahead of recently appointed Supreme Court Justice Gary Clingman in a race for a spot on the state’s highest court.

Vigil was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 2003 and is now its longest-serving judge. This was Vigil’s second bid for the Supreme Court after an unsuccessful race against Judith Nakamura in 2016.

Gary Clingman, left, and Michael Vigil

Clingman spent more than 20 years as a District Court judge in the 5th Judicial District before he was appointed to the Supreme Court by Gov. Susana Martinez in April.

And in Bernalillo County, voters opted against retaining Metropolitan Court Chief Judge Edward Benavidez and Judge Kenny Montoya, according to unofficial results which showed around 55 percent of voters favored their retention.

Voters apparently took to heart findings by the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, which recommended kicking out Benavidez, Montoya, Michelle Castillo Dowler and Linda Rogers. Rogers and Castillo Dowler appear to have achieved the required votes, but by less than a half a percentage point each.

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