Retired Air Force Colonel and former NMGOP State Treasurer Jim White is heading to Santa Fe as the interim representative for state House District 20, which was vacated on Monday by Albuquerque Mayor-elect Richard Berry.
Bernalillo County Commissioners selected White, on a 4 to 1 vote, after voting against a motion by Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins to defer the selection for 48 hours, so that the group could consider other qualified people living in the district. The motion died on a similar 4 to 1 vote.
While no other names were placed into nomination, there had been speculation earlier in the day that several other people living in the district had expressed interest in the position, including Democrat Josh Anderson, a representative with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union.
Democrat Commissioner Alan Armijo said he believes if there are multiple people under consideration, and little time to make the selection, the fairest thing to do is to put all the names in a hat and draw a name.
Commissioners will get their chance to make another appointment soon. Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, the former NM Secretary for Public Safety, and Republican nominee for congress in 2008's District 1 contest, was selected on Tuesday to replace Pete Dinelli as Albuqeurque Publis Safety Director in Berry's new administration on Dec. 1st.
White says he's inclined to run for the seat in 2010
White, 67, who ran for the house seat in 2006, and lost to Berry, said he’s looking forward to serving his new constituents and preparing for this weekend’s special session.
He also said that he’s inclined to run for the seat in next June’s primary election.
“We’ll see how the process goes, and what happens in the next six months, and we’ll take it from there, but right now I’m inclined to do that.”
Getting up to Speed
After his selection, White said he’ll focus on getting his credentials together before the start of Saturday’s special session in Santa Fe to balance the state’s soaring budget deficit.
White said he’ll be talking to legislators to catch up what the committees have done so far and what they’ve resolved. A lot of that has already taken place, and I don’t know about how long they have come.
Col. White said he’s prepared to make cuts across the board to balance the state budget.
“Given that all programs are of equal importance. The logical thing is to cut all of them equally. But we’re going to find out that some programs are may be more important than others. So we’ll have to find some way to cut some budget and not cut others, or cut them partially,” said White. “We’ll see how it goes. Certainly there will have to be some cuts.”
White told NMPolitics.net that he’s spent his military career and education have prepared him for his new temporary post.
“I was in the military for 27 years, and it was rewarding for me. I want to carry that type of service forward. When I left the military I thought I was a better person for it, I feel the same way about getting into the legislature,” said White. “I’ve got some skills and some education, I’ve got some background, and I’ve got some ethics and standards that I’ve lived by and I want to take those up to Santa Fe and contribute up there too.”
Earlier in the day House Republican Leader Rep. Tom Taylor (R-San Juan) told NMPolitics.Net that he’d meet with White all day on Friday.
“Basically we’ll spend the entire day with Col. White in a crash course, and utilize all the resources we have to bring them up to speed in 24 hours,” said Taylor. “Jim brings in excellent leadership skills that will continue to provide strong representation for the citizens of District 20.”
Taylor said he and his leadership are in discussions with Speaker Ben Lujan (D-Nambe) and how best to deal with situation.
“RJ’s (Berry) spot comes from appropriations. We’re working with the most efficient way to deal with that. It will still be a Republican that fills his spot,” said Taylor. “It will just be a re-arrangement. We’re discussing that right now and how best to accommodate this situation.”
House Republican Whip Keith Gardner (R-Chaves, Eddy, Lea & Roosevelt) welcomed White to the legislature in a statement released after his selection.
“The learning curve will be steep, but Jim is an Air Force retiree, a man with leadership skills, and we have no doubt that he’ll be able to step in and serve the citizens of District 20 very well,” said Gardner We look forward to working with him this week as he begins to take on this very important task.”