Stephen Easley
Stephen Easley (Courtesy of New Mexico Legislature)

SANTA FE — Republican Gov. Susana Martinez on Friday chose a member of her own party to succeed Stephen Easley, the late Democratic state representative.

Martinez selected Vickie Perea of Belen for the House District 50 seat. Perea will serve out Easley's term, which ends on Dec. 31, 2014.

Easley, of El Dorado, died in August at age 60.

Perea, 67, ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate in 2012. Democrat Clemente Sanchez defeated her in the general election.

In appointing Perea, Martinez has narrowed the gap between Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives. Democrats will have a 37-33 advantage, compared to 38-32 before Easley's death.

Vickie Perea
Vickie Perea (AP Photo/Courtesy of the Perea campaign)

The closer margin could be significant on two of the governor's signature initiatives. She wants to repeal a 2003 law that enables immigrants who are in the country unlawfully to obtain a New Mexico driver's license, and she wants to mandate retention of third-graders who do not read at grade level.

Martinez has not been able to get either measure through the Democrat-controlled Legislature during her first three years in office.

Martinez said Perea once was a Democrat.

Perea worked for the city of Albuquerque for 25 years, and she served on the Albuquerque City Council when she retired.

"In Vickie, the citizens of House District 50 have a passionate public servant who will bring a fresh voice to the Legislature," Martinez said in a statement.

Milan Simonich, Santa Fe Bureau chief of Texas-New Mexico Newspapers, can be reached at 505-820-6898 and msimonich@tnmnp.com. His blog is at nmcapitolreport.com. Follow him @MilansNMreport on Twitter.