Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has hired a couple of government veterans for positions in the office she just took over.
She named John Blair as deputy secretary of state and Theresa Chavez-Romero as her executive assistant.
Those jobs have been vacant and Toulouse Oliver said the hires would complement “the already strong team” in the office.
A key member of that team, Elections Director Kari Fresquez, will remain in her job, according to Blair.
Blair, a lawyer, has been in Washington, D.C., where he was director of intergovernmental and external affairs in the office of the secretary of the interior.
He also was legislative director and communications director for Martin Heinrich – now a U.S. senator – when Heinrich was in the U.S. House. Blair was the New Mexico political director for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and was chief of staff when Hector Balderas, now attorney general, was state auditor.
Chavez-Romero most recently worked for four years as assistant to Toulouse Oliver, who was the Bernalillo County clerk. She also was executive assistant to the deputy county manager for public safety, and has worked for Albuquerque businesses and for Sandia National Laboratories.
GOP Status quo: New Mexico Senate Republicans have decided to stick with their current leadership heading into a tough legislative session.
At a caucus on Monday, Minority Leader Stuart Ingle of Portales was re-elected to the GOP’s top post in the Senate, which he has held since 2001. No one ran against him for the floor leader’s job.
Sen. Bill Payne of Albuquerque was re-elected minority whip, turning back a challenge from Sen. William Sharer of Farmington. Payne has held the post since 2009. He is a retired rear admiral in the Navy and a lawyer, and has been in the Senate since 1997.
And Sen. Steve Neville of Aztec was elected again as caucus chairman, defeating Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho.
Neville, a real estate appraiser and consultant, has been in the Senate since 2005 and has been caucus chairman for six years.
Ingle is a farmer who has been in the Senate 32 years and held every minority leadership position.
New Mexico’s revenue problems have lawmakers facing a $69 million deficit for the current year and a grim outlook as they write next year’s budget.
“There’s no money to do much of anything. … It’s going to be an awful hard session,” Ingle said after the caucus.
The Senate GOP lost one seat in the recent election, and Democrats will have a 26-16 edge in the upcoming session.
The big change for Democrats is the departure of Majority Leader Michael Sanchez of Belen, who was defeated in the Nov. 8 election. The new majority leader will be Sen. Peter Wirth of Santa Fe.
Deborah Baker: firstname.lastname@example.org