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Shannon Pinto to succeed grandfather

The Roundhouse towers over nearby buildings in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Democrat Shannon Pinto won appointment Thursday to succeed her grandfather – the late John Pinto, one of the longest-serving Native American legislators in history – as a member of the New Mexico Senate.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the selection, praising the younger Pinto as uniquely positioned to carry on her grandfather’s “people-first values.”

“John could not have asked for a finer or more qualified successor,” Lujan Grisham said in a written statement. “Shannon Pinto will, I am certain, represent her constituents with unfailing integrity and heart.”

The appointment won’t alter the partisan composition of the Senate, where Democrats hold a 26-16 edge.

Shannon Pinto, an educator who’s worked as a middle and high school math teacher in Tohatchi, will fill the rest of her grandfather’s term, which expires at the end of 2020. She is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation.

The Farmington Daily Times reported last month that Pinto intends to run for election to the seat next year. Every seat in both of New Mexico’s legislative chambers is on the ballot in 2020.

Senate District 3 stretches from the Gallup area to Shiprock. John Pinto had represented the area since 1977, making him the longest-serving member of the state Senate.

“I’m honored and humbled beyond words,” Shannon Pinto said in a written statement Thursday. “I spent countless days with my grandfather as he conducted his constituents’ business across the district, the state and beyond. I miss him very much, but my heart is full with his memory, and I am glad I was able to learn from him firsthand.”

Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, was empowered to make the appointment because the district includes parts of two counties, San Juan and McKinley. But she had to pick from nominees chosen by the counties – Pinto, who was nominated by San Juan County, and Carol Bowman-Muskett, from McKinley County.

Lujan Grisham said that Bowman-Mustkett, a former county commissioner, “is a dedicated public servant” and that she looks forward to “working with her in the future as she continues to serve her community in McKinley County and the Navajo Nation.”

The elder Pinto was a beloved member of the Senate. He served in the Marines and was trained as a Navajo Code Talker during World War II.

In a statement released by Lujan Grisham’s office, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said the appointment “is in line with the wishes of the late Sen. John Pinto, who served our people with great dignity for many years.”