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Governor sees another key staff member step down

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A top staffer in Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office is stepping down, but could still play a role in the governor’s 2022 reelection campaign.

The Governor’s Office said Tuesday that Dominic Gabello’s last day as the governor’s senior policy adviser would be April 30.

Gabello, who also worked for Lujan Grisham while she was in Congress, plans to start a new consulting business and will continue to serve as a political adviser to the governor’s campaign, a spokeswoman said.

“The governor is grateful for his 9-plus years of service with her in the administration and during her time in Congress, and looks forward to working with him to secure her reelection next year,” Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said.

Dominic Gabello

Gabello, who makes an annual salary of $143,770 in his current position, said Tuesday that a combination of personal and professional factors led to his decision to step down.

He said his new business would include work for both businesses and politicians.

“I’ve learned so much being in the Governor’s Office … and I just feel I can bring a fresh perspective,” Gabello told the Journal.

Gabello was campaign manager for Lujan Grisham’s 2018 gubernatorial bid in which she won a three-way Democratic primary race before soundly defeating Republican Steve Pearce in the general election.

In that position, Gabello was drawn into a dispute involving a former campaign staffer who accused Lujan Grisham of sexual mistreatment during a staff meeting.

The governor’s campaign has paid at least $62,500 as part of a settlement with the former staffer, James Hallinan, while continuing to “strenuously deny” the allegations.

Before working for the governor’s campaign, Gabello was Lujan Grisham’s chief of staff for much of her tenure representing the Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District from 2013 through 2018.

He said Tuesday that he still staunchly supports Lujan Grisham, saying, “I really believe she’s the right person to be governor.”

Meanwhile, Gabello’s departure will continue a recent turnover trend in the Governor’s Office.

The governor’s former chief of staff John Bingaman left in November to return to his previous job at a Santa Fe-based private investment firm, while Lujan Grisham’s legislative liaison Victor Reyes stepped down earlier this year to run for a vacant congressional seat.

The turnover comes after a year in which Lujan Grisham received both criticism and praise for her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The governor has said she plans to run for reelection in 2022. Just one Republican – Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block – has formally announced a campaign so far, though others are expected to join the race in the coming months.

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