Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – State Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, who emerged as a political renegade of sorts after clashes with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration and other Democrats, will not seek election to a fourth four-year term in 2024.
Candelaria, 34, said he had been thinking about the decision for a long time but decided to announce his plans before legislators meet in December for the once-a-decade task of redistricting.
That could allow legislators to redraw the boundary lines of Candelaria’s West Side Albuquerque district without incumbency concerns.
“I feel like I’ve given it my all for almost a decade,” Candelaria said, adding that he was planning to focus on his private law firm and possibly starting a family with his husband.
He also expressed frustration with a culture of party loyalty at the Roundhouse, which he said has at times made both Democrats and Republicans alike more concerned about political standing than productive policymaking.
“I judge people by the results and I think that’s what put me at odds with my caucus,” he told the Journal.
This summer, Candelaria resigned as a voting member from legislative interim committees and accused Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, a fellow Albuquerque Democrat, of retaliating against him by changing his seating assignment and moving his Capitol office. Stewart denied making any threats but acknowledged the changes.
Previously, Candelaria stepped down from as Senate Democrats’ caucus chairman in 2018 due to friction with Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth of Santa Fe.
More recently, he teamed with the Senate’s top Republican – GOP floor leader Greg Baca of Belen – on a lawsuit pending in the state Supreme Court that challenges the governor’s authority to spend more than $1.7 billion in federal relief funds without legislative approval.
Candelaria was elected to the Senate in 2012 at age 25, becoming one of the youngest senators and the first openly gay man elected to the chamber. He was reelected to his Senate District 26 seat in 2016 and again last year.
During his legislative tenure, some of the high-profile bills sponsored by Candelaria and ultimately signed into law include the 2019 Energy Transition Act, a 2017 bill that banned gay conversion therapy and a pandemic relief measure that made up to $500 million available for small-business loans.
Candelaria said Monday that it’s unlikely he’ll run again for elected office again, but he did not shut the door.
He also vowed to continue being outspoken in the three years remaining in his term, saying, “I can guarantee that those who’ve been annoyed by my independence can expect not just more of the same, but for me to ratchet it up.”