Valencia County commissioners choose school trustee for vacant House seat

The State House Gallery is shown in this June 2020 file photo. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

SANTA FE — Los Lunas Schools Administrator Brian Baca was selected Wednesday by Valencia County Commissioners to fill a vacant seat in the state House of Representatives.

Baca, the assistant superintendent of the Los Lunas School District, was one of three candidates for the House District 8 seat previously held by Alonzo Baldonado, a Republican who retired late last year.

He was eventually chosen to serve the remaining year of the two-year term to which Baldonado was elected in 2020. Baca could then stand for re-election for the seat in November.

The House neighborhood stretches from Los Lunas to Belen, mostly along the west side of the Rio Grande. Its boundaries will move further east toward Peralta under a new House map approved during a special session on redistricting last month.

Several Republican lawmakers hailed Baca’s nomination, with Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Los Lunas, saying his training would make him a positive addition to the Legislative Assembly.

While the state Constitution prohibits state, county, and federal government employees from serving in the Legislative Assembly, court rulings have established that teachers and school administrators can be legislators since school districts do not are not “arms” of the state.

“I am pleased with the choice the Valencia County Commission made tonight, and I am grateful that they have been proactive in managing this search to ensure our county is represented in the upcoming legislative session,” Fajardo said.

For his part, Baca told county commissioners he would draw on his experience in education, but acknowledged he would face a “steep learning curve” in the legislature.

Meanwhile, the nomination of Baca, a Republican, means Democrats will have a 45-24 advantage over Republicans in the House during the 30-day legislative session that begins next week. There is also an independent member of the House, Rep. Phelps Anderson of Roswell.

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