Democratic incumbents prevail in state’s top judicial races

The scales of justice outside the Bernalillo County Courthouse. (Journal file)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Their hilarious ads featured one lawyer who couldn’t play basketball, another who’s really, really rough on the saxophone, and yet another who dabbles in baking – err, make that burning – food.

On Tuesday night, those Republican candidates for the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals found themselves losing to the incumbents they were trying to unseat, despite the catchy ads – chock full of self-deprecating humor.

Results are unofficial.

In the Supreme Court races, Democrat Shannon Bacon took 55% of the vote to defeat Republican Ned Fuller. Bacon has served on the Supreme Court since January 2019. Prior to that, she was a judge in the 2nd Judicial District in Albuquerque for 10 years.

Democrat David K. Thomson won 54% of the vote, beating Republican Kerry Morris. Thomson, the incumbent, was previously a judge in the 1st Judicial District Court in Santa Fe.

Bacon and Thomson were appointed to the high court last year by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The Court of Appeals races played out the same way.

Democrat Zach Ives got 52% of the vote, besting Republican challenger Barbara Johnson. Ives ran his own law firm before his appointment to the Court of Appeals last year.

Shammara Henderson, a Democrat, defeated her two opponents, with 51% of the vote. Challengers Gertrude Lee, a Republican, and Libertarian Stephen Curtis had 42% and 7% of the vote, respectively. Henderson is the first African American to serve on the Court of Appeals. She is a former prosecutor in the 2nd Judicial District, who also ran her own law firm.

In the closest race of the night, Democrat Jane Yohalem beat Republican challenger Thomas Montoya by just 2 percentage points. Yolalem had 51% of the vote. Yohalem was appointed to the Court of Appeals in June and is the newest member of the court.

Ives, Henderson and Yohalem were appointed to the Court of Appeals by Lujan Grisham.

New Mexico’s Supreme Court and Court of Appeals are heavily Democratic. Four of five current Supreme Court justices are Democrats, as are nine of the 10 current Court of Appeals judges.

In the only contested race in the 2nd Judicial District, Judge Daniel Gallegos, a Republican, lost to his Democratic challenger, Courtney Bryn Weaks. Gallegos, who was appointed to the position by former Gov. Susana Martinez, had 44% of the vote, while Weaks had 56%.

Gallegos was appointed to the position in late 2018 and had to run in the election to keep his seat. He also briefly served on the Court of Appeals, but lost his seat in the 2018 general election.

Weaks has been a judge at Metropolitan Court since 2014. Before that, she was a prosecutor for the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office and worked as a defense lawyer.

There were 17 judges up for retention in the 2nd Judicial District Court. All but two were retained.

Judges Christina P. Argyres and Jacqueline Flores lost their bids to remain on the bench. Argyres had support from 54% of voters while Flores had 56%. Judges need 57% of voter approval to be retained.

The Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission recommended that voters not retain Argyres or Flores.

The 2nd Judicial District judges retained are: Denise Barela-Shepherd, Beatrice Brickhouse, Clay Campbell, Benjamin Chavez, Nancy Franchini, Alisa Hart, Gerald Lavelle, Cindy Leos, Jane Levy, Victor Lopez, Brett Loveless, William Parnall, Debra Ramirez, Marie Ward and Stan Whitaker.

On the Court of Appeals Judge Jacqueline Medina was also retained, with support from 73% of voters.

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