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There are five state senators representing San Juan County. Hannah Grover, hgrover@daily-times.com

A dozen San Juan and McKinley county residents applied to serve in the state senate

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AZTEC — The San Juan County Commission has asked Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to appoint former County Commissioner Wallace Charley to serve the remainder of Sen. John Pinto’s term.

The Democratic state senator from Gallup died May 24. The term will expire in 2020.

Charley was one of a dozen eligible people who applied to the San Juan County Commission to serve as state senator.

Pinto’s district represents portions of San Juan and McKinley counties. Both county commissions met June 17 to nominate people for the seat.

The McKinley County Commission nominated Carol Bowman-Muskett, a former McKinley County Commissioner. Bowman-Muskett also submitted her name for San Juan County’s consideration, however she did not attend either commissions’ meeting on June 17.

Ultimately, Lujan Grisham will choose who will fill the vacant seat.

McKinley County: Carol Bowman-Muskett nominated to complete Sen. Pinto's remaining term

“I’m happy,” Charley said after the San Juan County Commission chose him. “But it’s up to the governor who she chooses.”

Charley served as a County Commissioner from 1999 until 2006, and again from 2015 to 2018. He has also served as a Navajo Nation Council Delegate and a New Mexico State Representative.

“In working with Wallace Charley, I was able to see that he could see both sides of different arguments and I really respected that,” said Commissioner John Beckstead. “And I respect him for the time he spent on the commission and the efforts I saw him make on the commission.”

Commission votes 4-1 to nominate Charley

Commissioner GloJean Todacheene was the sole commissioner who did not back Charley’s nomination. Todacheene and Charley ran against each other for the county commission seat during the Democratic Primary election last year. Todacheene supported former state Rep. Ray Begaye, a Democratic politician from Shiprock.

Each applicant for the position who attended the June 17 meeting in Aztec was given four minutes to speak prior to the commission’s vote.

Charley said he worked closely with Pinto, including during the last legislative session, because he was requesting capital outlay money.

MORE: County Commissions name nominees to fill New Mexico Senate vacancy

“I know the list of Sen. Pinto, what he wanted to accomplish,” Charley said. He said that should he be selected, he wants to make sure every project that Pinto introduced will get done. "That’s my goal.”

Other applicants included Pinto's granddaughter

While 12 people applied for the nomination, only about half of them attended the County Commission meeting. Franklin Freeland, Zachariah George, Lincoln Mark and Shannon Pinto, as well as Charley, attended the meeting.

Dineh Benally, Matthew Merrill, Russell Begaye, Cheryl George and Tommy Sandman did not attend, but submitted their names for consideration.

Shannon Pinto of Tohatchi emphasized her relationship with her grandfather, the late Sen. Pinto.

“I’ve been on the road with him for the last two years and it’s been eye opening,” she said.

Shannon Pinto says she plans to run for state senate in 2020

Commissioner Mike Sullivan asked Pinto if she plans on running for her grandfather’s seat in the 2020 election.

Pinto said her grandfather had planned to walk her through a campaign and then retire. She said she does plan on running for the seat.

Sullivan said he supported Pinto, however he agreed with other members of the commission that it was important to nominate a San Juan County resident. Because Pinto lives in McKinley County, Sullivan backed Charley’s bid for the nomination.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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