Voters doubled the number of women on the Court of Appeals in Tuesday’s midterm, creating the court’s first female majority.
Democrats Briana Zamora, Kristina Bogardus, Jacqueline Medina and Megan Duffy unseated four Republican incumbent judges appointed in recent years by Gov. Susana Martinez, according to unofficial election results.
“Not only are we having the first female majority on the court, but it’s, I think, one of the strongest, if not the strongest, female majorities on any court in the country right now,” Duffy said. “We are now a court of eight out of ten women, and I don’t know that there’s any other court that looks like that.”
Unofficial results show each woman leading by between 8 and 15 percentage points.
Tim Krebs, a political science professor at the University of New Mexico, called the gender shift symbolically important.
“This is very interesting because it is now so over representative of women, where all of our other institutions, despite last night’s female surge … we’re still not going to be at parity,” Krebs said.
But it’s unclear what, if any, effect a predominately female Court of Appeals may have on the state.
“In terms of decisions and court rulings, my guess is that there’s not going to be much that’s going to reflect the gender shift,” Krebs said.
“To think otherwise would suggest that female judges are going to look at the law, and the facts and the process in ways that are fundamentally different than male judges.”
In an interview Wednesday, Bogardus also said she’s not sure what a woman majority means for policy or the culture of the court.
“I see my fellow colleagues as attorneys and peers, and so, I’m not sure what to say in terms of what it means for the court policy wise,” she said. “Everybody has a diverse set of experiences. I think everyone is committed to just doing their absolute best.”
Duffy said she thinks more women on the court sends a message to the community that anyone is welcome in these positions.
“Throughout history we have had courts and governments that are primarily composed of men,” she said. “And this is the first year in my lifetime that I’m seeing large numbers of women running for office.”
And that national climate may have had an impact on the group’s election.
Krebs said the Court of Appeals victories are likely attributable to New Mexico’s left-leaning voter base heading to the polls in a year when record numbers of women ran and won across the country.
“I hate to use this expression, but sort of that ‘year of the woman’ effect probably played a role here as well,” Krebs said.
It’s unlikely results would have been much different had male Democrats sought the positions, he said. Party label matters in the down ballot races where voters receive less information about individual candidates ahead of the election.
Democrat Michael Vigil, a longtime Court of Appeals judge, won a seat on the state Supreme Court, beating out the Republican incumbent, which means the new governor will have the chance to appoint his replacement.