County Commissions name nominees to fill New Mexico Senate vacancy
GALLUP — Both San Juan and McKinley counties have nominated former county commissioners to serve as the next state senator.
The San Juan County Commission nominated former San Juan County Commissioner Wallace Charley on a 4 to 1 vote. The McKinley County Board of Commissioners has nominated former McKinley County commissioner Carol Bowman-Muskett to complete the remaining term of John Pinto in the state Senate.
Pinto represented District 3, which includes portions of McKinley and San Juan counties, from January 1977 until his death on May 24. District 3 in McKinley County includes the communities of Tohatchi and Twin Lakes and a portion of Gallup.
The three-member commission voted unanimously at a June 17 special meeting in Gallup to submit Bowman-Muskett's name to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
As part of the process to fill the open seat, commissions in McKinley and San Juan counties will submit nominees to Lujan Grisham for consideration. Lujan Grisham may appoint a nominee or someone else from the district. If the governor appoints Bowman-Muskett, she would serve until Dec. 31, 2020.
Bowman-Muskett, who did not attend the meeting, worked for McKinley County for 28 years before retiring in September 2010. Her service on the county commission was from January 2011 to December 2018.
McKinley County Manager Anthony Dimas Jr. said a letter containing Bowman-Muskett's nomination will be sent to the governor's office by the end of the week.
The San Juan County Commission discussed nominating a person to fill the vacancy during a special meeting at 4 p.m. on June 17.
McKinley County Commission chairman Bill Lee recognized during the meeting Pinto's legacy in state politics and service to constituents in the two counties and on the Navajo Nation.
"The work he did unselfishly for our area and for the state of New Mexico is something that we will long remember," Lee said.
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"It is with great sadness that we saw the late Sen. Pinto leave this seat, but we are hopeful that between this commission and the board of commissioners in San Juan County that we will see somebody take those reins and fill that seat," Lee said.
Commissioner Billy Moore said in remarks before the selection was made that the process has been taxing but commissioners want to name a candidate who will work for the county, Gallup and the Navajo Nation.
"It'll be somebody with some political experience. Somebody with an understanding to work with all the communities involved. Somebody to help us get through this," Moore said.
He added some people will be disappointed about the commission's choice, but they need to select someone who will best serve the district.
Other candidates were former state representative Ray Begaye, former Navajo Nation presidential candidate Dineh Benally, former San Juan County clerk candidate Zachariah George, former San Juan County commissioner Wallace Charley, retired hospital CEO Franklin Freeland and Pinto's granddaughter, Shannon Pinto.
Former Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye was among the applicants in San Juan County.
Frank Dayish Jr., a former Navajo Nation vice president, submitted a letter of interest but was disqualified because his voter registration fell in District 4.
Charley, Freeland and Shannon Pinto were at the special meeting and were given five minutes to address the commission. Each one shared their reasons for seeking the nomination.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporter Hannah Grover contributed to this report.
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