Governor appoints Rael; Democrats nominate Mercer
Days after the governor appointed a Democrat to serve the remaining term of a retired district judge, the party’s central committee decided over the weekend that it would rather nominate someone else.
Gov. Susanna Martinez announced the appointment last week of Pedro Rael, a Los Lunas attorney, to serve as a 13th Judicial District Court judge after Judge Violet Otero retired last month. Rael, who is a former Valencia County commissioner, was one of three candidates the Democratic Party’s central committee considered placing on the ballot in November.
Ultimately, the committee, made up of delegates from Valencia, Sandoval and Cibola counties (all within the 13th Judicial District), chose Cindy Mercer, also a Los Lunas attorney, to be the party’s nominee.
“I was very excited about it,” Mercer said of the party’s vote. “I was humbled by the fact that they selected me. I was hopeful and I’m excited that my interest and qualifications in this position paid off.”
According to Lissa Knudsen, the former executive director of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, who is now the outreach director for the party, said Saturday’s vote was very close.
The delegates from all three counties chose between Rael, Mercer and Michael Doyle, another Los Lunas attorney. Mercer garnered 13 votes to Rael’s 12 votes, while Doyle received 10 votes.
With Mercer and Rael together getting more than 50 percent of the delegate’s votes, a run-off between the top two was held.
The results of the second vote ended with Mercer receiving 17 votes, or 52 percent, while Rael took 16 votes, 48 percent of the votes.
“It was very nerve-wracking,” Mercer said. “It was very difficult to go through the process and then go through two different votes.”
Mercer, who has never run for political office before, said she plans to knock on as many doors as she can to let as many people as possible know who she is.
Mercer, 45, of Peralta, earned her juris doctorate from the University of Nebraska Lincoln. She was admitted into the New Mexico Bar in 1997.
Mercer has been an attorney with the law offices of Michael S. Sanchez since 1997, where she is a general practitioner with an emphasis in criminal defense and domestic relations law.
According to her application, she has handled more than 10,000 cases.
Rael, along with Mercer, Geoffery Nims and R. Lar Thomas, the only Republican, was recommended to the governor by the Judicial Nominating Commission last month.
Rael, who will take the bench on Aug. 1, said while he’s honored by the governor’s appointment, he’s disappointed by not being selected to be the party’s candidate.
“It was a squeaker,” Rael said of the vote. “I lost by one vote. I’m very flattered to be picked from a field of four, and I accepted the job before going to the central committee, so I’m going to do it.”
Because the timing of Otero’s retirement didn’t give candidates enough time to file petitions to be on the primary election ballot, the central committees of both the Democrat and Republican parties select their nominees to run in the General Election in November.
Rael said on Monday that he’s concerned that the public didn’t have a chance to vote on either party’s candidates and is considering filing a petition in court regarding the public’s right to vote.
“This wouldn’t be a lawsuit for damages,” Rael said. “It’s about whether the public, regardless of party, has the right to vote for the candidates.”
Before filing a petition, Rael said he would need to think about the issue further as well as consult with another attorney who knows more about constitutional law.
“I haven’t made a decision to challenge the constitutionality of the process, not only for the Democratic Party but for the Republican Party as well,” he said. “It’s convenient, quick and easy, but we have a problem here. What happened to one man, one vote?”
The state central committee of the New Mexico GOP will meet on July 21 and select a Republican, who will appear on the ballot next to Mercer.
The Democratic Party also nominated Chris Perez, a Sandoval County attorney, with a overwhelming majority of 80 percent of the votes, to run for the 13th Judicial District Division 8 judgeship, a position created this year by the Legislature.
While Perez will be on the November’s ballot, the governor last week appointed Gina Manfredi, another Democrat and an assistant city attorney with the city of Rio Rancho, to serve until the general election.
The new judge will preside over the domestic relations docket in Sandoval County, while Judge John F. Davis will shift to hearing civil cases.
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