Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – A Republican state lawmaker who recently caused waves by voting in favor of a Democratic-backed abortion bill has changed his party affiliation to independent, the Secretary of State's Office confirmed Friday.
Rep. Phelps Anderson of Roswell had been tight-lipped about his recent vote in the House Health and Human Services Committee in favor of a bill that would repeal a long-dormant 1969 state abortion ban.
He was the only GOP lawmaker to vote in favor of the measure, House Bill 7, which has cleared two House committees and is awaiting a full chamber vote by as soon as next week.
A similar Senate bill has also advanced, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has suggested she would sign such legislation into law if it reaches her desk.
Anderson did not immediately respond late Friday to questions about his decision to change his party affiliation from Republican to independent, which is also known in New Mexico as decline to state, and whether it was related to his vote on the abortion bill.
Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth of Consequences, the House GOP caucus chairwoman, said Anderson's decision was a “personal choice that his constituents will have to address.”
The son of former oil magnate Robert Orville Anderson, Phelps Anderson was elected to the House of Representatives in 2018 and easily won reelection to a new two-year term in 2020.
He also served a previous stint in the House – from 1977 through 1980.
His decision to change his party affiliation to independent means Democrats now hold a 45-24 advantage over Republicans in the 70-member House.
Interestingly, Rep. Brittany Barreras, D-Albuquerque, last year became the first independent candidate to win election to the New Mexico Legislature.
But she ran in a race where the Democratic candidate – former Rep. Patricio Ruiloba – had been disqualified from the ballot and no Republican candidate had filed to run.
Barreras changed her party affiliation to Democrat after winning election to the South Valley-based House District 12 seat.