On January 25, New Mexico Representative Andy Nunez changed his registration from “Democratic” to “independent.” He did so because he had been removed as chair of the Water and Natural Resources Committee. Nunez lost his chairmanship because he opposed Speaker Ben Lujan for another term as speaker. But Lujan was re-elected speaker anyway, and then Lujan used his authority to choose another legislator to head the Water and Natural Resources Committee. Both Lujan and Nunez are 75 years old.
Nunez is the first independent in the New Mexico legislature. No one has been elected to the New Mexico legislature, other than Democratic and Republican nominees, since 1914, when the Socialist Party and the Progressive Party each elected a legislator. New Mexico did not even permit independent candidates to get on the ballot until 1977. The state was forced to provide procedures for independent candidates, because in 1976 independent presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy sued New Mexico over that aspect of its election law, and won the lawsuit. Thanks to Gene Armistead for the news about Nunez.