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Political roundup, Dec. 5, 2018

December 5, 2018

Trujillo claims victory: State Rep. Carl Trujillo was reserved last week when a legislative subcommittee dismissed allegations he had harassed a lobbyist.

But when the subcommittee issued its final order in the matter Tuesday, Trujillo claimed victory and asked supporters to help with what he said amounted to nearly $106,000 in attorneys fees.

“My name has been cleared,” Trujillo wrote to supporters.

Laura Bonar, a lobbyist at the time for Animal Protection Voters, circulated an open letter in May accusing the Democrat from the northern end of Santa Fe County of sexually harassing her in 2013 and 2014.

Trujillo denied any wrongdoing. He went on to lose the Democratic primary to Andrea Romero in a race that may well have been the nastiest legislative contest in the state and lawmakers launched an investigation into Bonar’s claims.

In July, a subcommittee said there was cause to proceed to with a case against Trujillo for allegedly violating the Legislature’s anti-harassment policy.

But Bonar refused to testify or be deposed by Trujillo’s lawyers, citing concerns that they would force her to disclose conversations with other women who have faced harassment or allow attorneys to pry into her mental health records.

With the proceedings effectively at a standstill, the committee handling the case said last week it would dismiss the allegations and cancel a hearing scheduled for this week.

Calling Bonar’s claims frivolous, Trujillo wrote: “I am extremely confident that the same result would have been reached if Ms. Bonar’s false allegations had been tested under oath, at a full hearing.”

Meanwhile, Trujillo has set up a fundraiser to help with his legal bills. Within three days, a fundraiser on the website GoFundMe had accumulated nearly $3,000.

Exit, stage right: Sen. Carroll Leavell, R-Jal, has resigned from office after 22 years of representing the southeastern corner of the state.

Leavell, 82, cited his health in leaving the Legislature ahead of what is expected to be a whirlwind 60-day session. He survived a bout with cancer just a few years ago.

On top of that, Leavell had to make longer trips back and forth from the state Capitol than any other member. Jal is about 350 miles each way.

“It’s just getting tougher and tougher,” said the usually low-key and genial Leavell.

Describing his two decades in office as an honor and a pleasure, Leavell sent his resignation to the Secretary of State’s Office on Tuesday.

It will be up to the Eddy and Lea county commissioners to nominate potential successors.

The governor will then get to pick one of the nominees to finish out the last two years of Leavell’s term representing his solidly Republican constituency, which stretches from Carlsbad to Hobbs and Lovington.

Don’t let the door hit you: A new governor means new staff in the upper ranks of departments across New Mexico government.

With the second term of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez coming to an end, Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham’s transition team has asked political appointees from the Martinez administration to resign by the end of the year.

It is a standard practice in transitioning from one administration to another.

Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, will take office on Jan. 1.

The governor-elect’s transition team said letters requesting resignations went to 174 employees in what are known as “exempt” positions in the executive branch of state government. Aides say many such positions are already empty, such as seven of 10 exempt posts at the Department of Public Safety.

So far in the transition process, there has not been the sort of sniping over exempt employees moving into civil service positions that marred the shift to Martinez from Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson. That, too, can be something of a tradition, with exempt staff seeking more secure jobs that will be tougher for a new governor to eliminate.

But as The New Mexican reported earlier this year, several high-ranking staff from the Martinez administration have already made such a move, including at the state parks division, in the Corrections Department and in the Children, Youth and Families Department.

Running mates no more: A month ago, Steve Pearce and Michelle Garcia Holmes were on the ballot together.

But now, as former gubernatorial nominee Pearce runs for chairman of the state Republican Party, one-time lieutenant governor candidate Garcia Holmes is backing his rival.

Garcia Holmes sent an email to Republicans on Tuesday endorsing John Rockwell for chairman of the state GOP.

Pearce announced last month he would seek the leadership post as Republicans felt the fresh sting of a walloping in the Nov. 6 election that saw them lose every statewide office. And while the congressman would bring a known brand and fundraising prowess to the beleaguered party, plenty have also questioned whether it is wise for the GOP to let a candidate who just lost the race for governor by 14 points set the course for its future.

“It is time to honor our volunteers and party members with leadership that will guide us to success in 2020,” wrote Garcia Holmes, who ran for mayor of Albuquerque last year and was registered at the time as an independent.

Republicans will gather Saturday in Albuquerque to pick a new chairman. Of course, winning that race may be the easiest part of the job. There will be some deeply entrenched factions to contend with and a presidential as well as U.S. Senate election just around the corner in two years.

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