Valencia County commissioners pick school administrator for vacant House seat - Albuquerque Journal

Valencia County commissioners pick school administrator for vacant House seat

The state House gallery is shown in this June 2020 file photo. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

SANTA FE — Los Lunas schools administrator Brian Baca was picked Wednesday by Valencia County commissioners to fill a vacant seat in the state House of Representatives.

Baca, the deputy superintendent of the Los Lunas school district, was one of three applicants for the House District 8 seat previously held by Alonzo Baldonado, a Republican who retired at the end of last year.

He was ultimately chosen to serve out the year left on the two-year term Baldonado was elected to in 2020. Baca could then run for election to the seat in November.

The House district stretches from Los Lunas to Belen, primarily along the west side of the Rio Grande. Its boundaries will shift farther east into Peralta under a new House map approved during a special session on redistricting last month.

Several Republican lawmakers lauded the appointment of Baca, with Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Los Lunas, saying his educational background would make him a positive addition to the Legislature.

While the state Constitution bars state, county and federal government employees from serving in the Legislature, court rulings have established that teachers and school administrators can be legislators since school districts are not “arms” of the state.

“I am happy with the choice the Valencia County Commission made this evening, and am thankful that they were proactive in handling this search in order to ensure that our county has representation in the upcoming legislative session,” Fajardo said.

For his part, Baca told county commissioners he would lean on his education experience but acknowledged he would face a “steep learning curve” in the Legislature.

Meanwhile, the appointment of Baca, a Republican, means Democrats will hold a 45-24 advantage over Republicans in the House during the 30-day legislative session that begins next week. There is also one independent House member, Rep. Phelps Anderson of Roswell.

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