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State senator criticized for stalling Hispanic appointee

Asserting that Hispanics are routinely kept from key positions, the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce wants to know why its outgoing CEO has not been named to the board of New Mexico’s largest university.

State Sen. Linda Lopez

State Sen. Linda Lopez

In a letter sent last week to Sen. Linda Lopez, an Albuquerque Democrat, the business group asked why she failed to conduct a confirmation hearing for Alex Romero.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez nominated Romero in February to the University of New Mexico Board of Regents. But the nomination has been held up by the Senate Rules Committee, which is chaired by Lopez.

It was one of many Martinez appointments that did not get a hearing during the previous legislative session.

Lopez has decried the lack of diversity on state college boards.

“Senator, it is extremely difficult for us to understand how our own Hispanic leaders are held back from serving in important positions such as the UNM Board of Regents,” Hispano Chamber Chairman Rudy Beserra wrote in the letter to Lopez.

Beserra invited Lopez to a chamber forum to explain why Romero didn’t get a confirmation hearing – an invitation Lopez declined.

UNM Board of Regents nominee Alex Romero

UNM Board of Regents nominee Alex Romero

Lopez did not return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Lopez, who sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014, has been in a long public battle with Martinez over the governor’s nominees, including eventual Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera.

Martinez has complained about the delays, but Lopez said the process has been delayed because of funding problems and time constraints involving background checks.

Martinez countered that the same committee had wasted time on proposals such as naming a state holiday song.

In a March debate on the Senate floor over a bill to fight “institutional racism” in state agencies, Lopez said New Mexico lacked diversity on the boards of regents of colleges.

“I believe … what we have to do is to emulate, to let others know that we care, that we truly do want the diversity and that there are many qualified people that can be sitting in positions of management and making decisions for our community and such, and we’re not doing that,” Lopez said.

Chris Sanchez, a spokesman for Martinez, said Romero deserved a hearing.

“You can’t use a bullhorn to shout that you stand for diversity when you don’t practice what you preach,” Sanchez said.

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