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Politics Notebook: New faces on panel in Duran inquiry

A special legislative committee appointed Wednesday to investigate the charges against New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran and weigh a possible impeachment push will feature plenty of new blood.

Four of the 10 lawmakers named to the panel are first-term legislators – Reps. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque, Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, and Patrico Ruiloba, D-Albuquerque.



The committee features an equal number of Democratic and Republican members – five from each party. It will be co-chaired by Reps. Zach Cook, a Ruidoso Republican, and Gail Chasey, an Albuquerque Democrat.

In announcing the makeup of the panel, House Speaker Don Tripp, R-Socorro, described the committee’s task as a weighty one.

“As we begin to conduct an independent analysis of the evidence against Secretary of State Duran, it is critical that the special committee I have appointed approaches this difficult task with the solemnity it deserves,” Tripp said in a statement.



Committee co-chairwoman Chasey told the Journal it is legislators’ constitutional duty to investigate possible impeachment, adding, “We can’t shirk it.”

The special committee could begin its work by next week, provided that funding is approved by top-ranking lawmakers at a Sept. 15 meeting.

New Mexico lawmakers have never impeached a public official, though impeachment proceedings have been launched twice in the past decade. In both instances, the focus of the impeachment proceedings resigned.

The other four members of the special committee are Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, Rep. Tomás Salazar, D-Las Vegas, and Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Belen.

EARLY CHALLENGERS: The 2016 election is still roughly 14 months away, but two challengers in key state Senate districts announced campaigns this week.

On Wednesday, Diego Espinoza said he would seek to knock off incumbent Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales, in Senate District 9. Sapien has held the seat since 2009.

Espinoza, a Republican from Rio Rancho, is the programs director for CSI Aviation, an Albuquerque-based international air charter company. He was Allen Weh’s campaign manager last year when Weh ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate.

Meanwhile, Santa Fe County Commissioner Liz Stefanics, a Democrat who previously served in the Senate in the 1990s, announced this week that she will run for Senate in the sprawling Senate District 39, which encompasses parts of six counties.

That seat is currently held by Sen. Ted Barela, R-Estancia. He was appointed to it by Gov. Susana Martinez in April, after former Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose, resigned due to alleged ethics violations.

Dan Boyd: