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Divided county panel appoints De La Cruz

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

A temporary appointment to the New Mexico Legislature sparked a tense discussion among Bernalillo County commissioners Tuesday night, dividing the board and reigniting a months-old clash.

The commission voted 3-2 to appoint Art De La Cruz to the state House District 12 seat, choosing him over the only other applicant, Brittney Barreras. The seat is temporarily vacant following Patricio Ruiloba’s August resignation, but voters will pick the long-term occupant in the Nov. 3 election.

Barreras, a longtime retail worker, and De La Cruz, a former county commissioner and onetime county parks director, are each actively running for the seat. Barreras is running as an independent; De La Cruz, a Democrat, is running as a write-in candidate.

On Tuesday, two commissioners – Jim Collie and Debbie O’Malley – sought to delay the appointment until after the election. Collie had previously argued that the commission should wait for voters to decide in less than two months. But that effort failed.

Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada – whose district overlaps with House District 12 – contended that the area should not have to go even a few months without representation.

Commissioners Charlene Pyskoty and Lonnie Talbert supported his motion to appoint De La Cruz.

“I think this is just part of our job; we have to do our job,” Pyskoty said, adding that she did not believe the commission’s action would tip the scales in the appointee’s favor going into the general election.

But Quezada followed the vote by revisiting the commission’s January debate over who should be its chair. The board had voted 3-2 to elevate Talbert, the board’s lone Republican, over O’Malley. Quezada, who had voted for Talbert, didn’t name O’Malley but read her statement from that night in which she explained her devotion to Democrats.

“If you’re going to make statements like that and then change how you feel later, I think you should be called out on it,” Quezada said.

O’Malley said the situations were “apples and oranges” and that she was disappointed Quezada compared them.

“It sounds to me like you’re acting like a sore winner. I don’t know what your deal is. I don’t understand why you decided to attack me for this one decision I made,” she said.

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