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County Commission appoints Stewart to NM Senate

Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, wants to raise taxes on cigars and smokeless tobacco products, saying increased cost would discourage use. (Marla Brose/journal)

Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, as seen at the Roundhouse in this file photo.

SANTA FE, N.M. — Bernalillo County commissioners filled one vacancy Thursday and created another.

On a party-line vote, they appointed state Rep. Mimi Stewart, a Democrat, to replace Tim Keller in the New Mexico Senate.

Keller, also a Democrat, expects to resign from the Senate at the end of the year to begin his term as state auditor. He won election last month, though the results haven’t been certified yet.

Keller’s District 17 covers a chunk of the Southeast Heights in Albuquerque.

Stewart said she’s thought often about moving over to the Senate, a smaller legislative body, with four-year terms. She will stand for election as a senator in 2016.

“It’s a bigger responsibility,” Stewart said of switching chambers. “It’s more constituents.”

She said she is eager to serve a more important role and find “practical ways to solve” problems.

District 17, she said, is “a working-class neighborhood. There’s lots of work to be done.”

Her appointment narrowly won approval. Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins nominated her, and fellow Democrats Debbie O’Malley and Art De La Cruz supported the motion.

Voting “no” were Republicans Wayne Johnson and Lonnie Talbert.

Johnson wanted to postpone the vote because a flood of candidates applied for the vacancy just this week, he said. There was no reason but “political expediency” to appoint someone immediately, he said, given that Keller has not yet resigned from the Senate.

The county announced on Monday this week that it would accept applications through Wednesday at noon.

“I do have a problem with the way this process went forward,” Johnson said “We made an appointment that doesn’t need to be made.”

Stewart is a retired special-education teacher who specialized in reading.

In 1999, she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of drunken driving.

Her appointment will create another vacancy for the County Commission to fill: her state House seat, District 21. Commissioners expected to take up that decision next week.

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