The lone Republican on the Bernalillo County Commission is now its leader and depending on whom you ask, that represents either the dawn of a new era or a blatant affront to county voters.
In a move that sparked a series of minisermons from the dais, the five-member commission narrowly elected Lonnie Talbert its chairman last week.
Democratic Commissioners Charlene Pyskoty and Steven Michael Quezada supported Talbert in the 3-2 vote.
Pyskoty explained their reasoning by reading a prepared joint statement touting Talbert’s independent voice and his past support of immigrants, “common-sense gun laws” and recognition of the climate crisis. Making him chair, she said, demonstrates the county’s bipartisanship.
It will “show every New Mexican – and the entire world – that here in Bernalillo County our leaders work together despite the negative political climate that has shrouded our nation,” she said. “This is a new beginning for Bernalillo County. The start of a new chapter in our County’s future where civility prevails.”
But Democrats Debbie O’Malley and Jim Collie cast the votes against Talbert, instead voting for O’Malley to be chair.
O’Malley called Talbert “a nice guy” but said she does not like all of his votes, noting that he opposed a minimum wage increase ordinance, among others. She said Democrats should stick together in the era of President Donald Trump, who she called “the most divisive president” in U.S. history, and said that it was county voters who decided to put a Democratic majority on the commission.
“I respect the people I represent, and I respect the county and I believe the county has spoken in terms of the elections. Elections matter,” she said.
Talbert then spoke up, explaining his journey to this point and his political philosophy.
He described being an unemployed banker who ran for the seat in 2012 out of concern about the “values” of then-incumbent Michael Weiner. He defeated Weiner in the Republican primary but said his political party does not define him, noting that his stance on gun safety does not go over well with fellow Republicans, and “I don’t care.”
“What matters to me is that people feel safe. What matters to me is that people have an opportunity and voice, what matters to me is that we bring people together in order to show others that we don’t need to be divided,” Talbert said. “That’s why (being elected chair) is one of the largest honors for me in my career.”
FIND A SEAT: Mayor Tim Keller has begun accepting applications to fill an existing vacancy on the Albuquerque City Council. Longtime District 1 representative Ken Sanchez died earlier this month, and the city charter requires the mayor to select a replacement. Keller’s pick will serve until the next municipal election, which is scheduled for fall 2021.
District 1 includes most of the city west of the Rio Grande between Central and Montaño.
Keller’s office said interested candidates must apply at www.cabq.gov/councilor-nomination by Feb. 1.
Jessica Dyer: email@example.com