Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
The New Mexico Legislature is about to have some De La Cruz deja vu.
For the second time in 18 months, Art De La Cruz will join the House of Representatives via appointment.
The Bernalillo County Commission on Wednesday picked the Democrat from a three-applicant field to represent South Valley-based District 12. He will replace Brittney Barreras, a fellow Democrat, who resigned last week.
De La Cruz, a onetime Bernalillo County commissioner and former county parks director, will take the position with the 2022 legislative session already halfway over. But De La Cruz is familiar with the role, having briefly held the same position before. He pitched himself to the commission as the experienced option with years of public work on his résumé.
“I hope that you take that into consideration when you make this selection and you understand who can really hit the ground running in Santa Fe,” he told the commission. “There will be no on-the-job training; I know who is who there; I know how legislation works.”
The County Commission had similarly appointed De La Cruz to the District 12 seat in 2020 following then-Rep. Patricio Ruiloba’s resignation. He served for about four months, failing to win the seat during the November 2020 election. De La Cruz ran as a write-in candidate, ultimately losing to Barreras.
But Barreras resigned Friday, saying the pressure had negatively impacted her mental health.
County commissioners during Wednesday’s meeting declared their gratitude to Barreras, with some even noting the strain of elected office.
“I just want to join the chorus and recognize Rep. Barreras and thank her for her service and also just acknowledge the challenge that it is to serve – and serve in such a public capacity,” Commissioner Walt Benson said. “It’s not easy.”
In addition to De La Cruz, two other candidates applied to take Barreras’ place: Melissa Armijo, executive administrator for the National Hispanic Cultural Center, and Nicole Olonovich, CEO of CSolPower LLC.
Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada said they were all worthy before tendering the meeting’s first nomination for De La Cruz. The commission voted 4-1 to appoint him, with only Charlene Pyskoty – who supported Armijo – voting in opposition.
Commissioner Debbie O’Malley said it is customary to let the commissioner whose district is directly involved – in this case, Quezada – guide such decisions, but that she supported De La Cruz nonetheless despite their differing views on growth and development.
“He has been a strong, loyal Democrat and has many years’ experience as a legislator,” she said.