Bill advances to hold special primary congressional election


FILE – In this Dec. 20, 2020, file photo the Biden administration’s nominee for Secretary of Interior, Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., speaks at The Queen Theater in Wilmington Del. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — State legislators gave a warm welcome Monday to a bill that would change the candidate nomination process to replace U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland as she seeks confirmation as secretary of the Interior Department under President Joe Biden.

Haaland’s confirmation would trigger a seldom-used party nomination process that some people regard as undemocratic. Under current state law, candidates for a special general election would be nominated by a small circle of political activists who sit on central committees for the state Republican and Democratic parties.

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A bill from Republican state Sen. Mark Moores of Albuquerque and Democratic state Rep. Daymon Ely of Corrales would change the selection process to a district-wide special primary election, followed by the special general election.

On Monday, a Senate panel on election policy advanced the bill after its first public hearing. Further vetting lies ahead before a possible Senate floor vote. Moores and Ely say that current primary selection process would effectively disenfranchises voters. “This bill gives power to the electorate to choose their candidates and requires candidates to demonstrate voter support versus mere party support,” Moores said in a statement.

The current nomination process also is being challenged in court by a Republican contender for the 1st District seat encompassing Albuquerque. State legislative analysts estimate that the special primary election would double the $3 million cost of the special general election.

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