Jacob Candelaria resigns from New Mexico Senate; Maestas wants his seat
Sen. Jacob Candelaria addresses the Senate during a redistricting debate in December. (Screenshot via nmlegis.gov livestream)
State Sen. Jacob Candelaria announced Wednesday he would be resigning from the New Mexico State Senate, leaving two years before his term was slated to end.
Candelaria, who recently left the Senate Democratic caucus amid fights with leadership, had previously announced he would not seek re-election in 2024. He previously told Source New Mexico he was leaving so that he could start a family with his husband.
“After 10 years in the legislature, I’m content,” he said in December. “I feel proud of the work I’ve done and what I’ve achieved and tried to contribute to the state. So for me, it’s really closing a beautiful chapter of my life so that another one can open.”
In the last year, Candelaria clashed frequently with Senate leadership, including over redistricting. In Senate floor debates late last year he accused “elites” of diluting the voting strength of Hispanic residents in his Westside Albuquerque district. Candelaria, first elected in 2013, changed his party affiliation late last year from Democrat to independent.
“I cannot follow down a road which asks me to betray the people that elected me, that asks me to betray my integrity, just to vote for a map that partisan elites think is the best,” Candelaria said at the time. “I won’t do it.”
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Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, a Democrat, is hoping to take Candelaria’s seat. His district is also in the Westside. He is running unopposed for re-election in District 16.
Because Candelaria’s and Maestas’ districts are both fully contained in Bernalillo County, the County Commission has authority to appoint replacements. Maestas will submit an application to the commission shortly, he said in a brief interview Wednesday, and, if he’s chosen, the commission could appoint Maestas’ replacement soon after.
It could all happen in the next few weeks, he said. The Commission meets Tuesday.
Maestas said he has the experience required to pick up the Westside’s interests in the Senate.
“We represent the same neighborhoods. … In terms of community leaders, capital outlay, and responding to constituents, we really don’t make distinctions between the district lines here on the Westside,” he said.
He credited Candelaria for his effective use of capital outlay money for big infrastructure projects in the district, like the Interstate 40 and 98th Street interchange.
“He got us to do these million-dollar projects, which I think will be – in addition to fantastic lawmaking – his local legacy.”
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