SANTA FE, N.M. — Former University of New Mexico law school associate dean and congressional candidate Antoinette Sedillo Lopez said she would push to expand health care access and protect victims of domestic violence after being appointed Monday to a vacant Senate seat.
The Bernalillo County Commission voted unanimously to appoint Sedillo Lopez to the Albuquerque-based Senate District 16 seat that was vacated when Cisco McSorley resigned last week to work as probation and parole director in Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration.
Sedillo Lopez, a Democrat who was sworn in shortly after being appointed, told commissioners during a special meeting to fill the vacancy she could hit the ground running as a state senator.
“I have the mind for this, I have the passion for this, and I can meaningfully contribute to the senate for my district and for our state,” Sedillo Lopez said.
She told the Journal later in the day she planned to take part in Senate Democrats’ meeting with Lujan Grisham on Monday evening and had already been working on proposed legislation for the 60-day session due to her involvement with the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
“It’s a wonderful time to join the state Senate because we have a governor who wants to get things done and we have resources,” Sedillo Lopez said.
During Monday’s meeting, Bernalillo County Commission Chairwoman Maggie Hart Stebbins noted that the commission was moving quickly on the appointment to ensure that the Senate district had a representative when the legislative session begins at noon today.
In all, 19 candidates applied for the Senate seat, which McSorley had held since 1997.
Sedillo Lopez also ran last year for the open Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District seat, coming in third in a six-way Democratic primary race that was won by Deb Haaland. Haaland went on to defeat two general election opponents and was sworn into office earlier this month.
During her bid for Congress, Sedillo Lopez’s platform included extending legal protections for so-called “Dreamers” whose parents brought them to the U.S. illegally, enacting Medicare health care coverage for all, expanding renewable energy and raising the federal minimum wage.
She was raised in the Los Chavez farming community south of Albuquerque and spent 27 years as a professor at UNM, including eight as director of clinical law programs and associate dean for clinical affairs with a focus on social justice and civil rights issues.
Sedillo Lopez becomes the eighth woman in the 42-member state Senate, which still has one other vacancy.
City Editor Martin Salazar contributed to this report