Dems pick Vigil as nominee for Supreme Court race

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — State Democrats on Saturday chose Chief District Judge Barbara Vigil of Santa Fe as their party's general election candidate for the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The Democratic state central committee picked Vigil over four others who sought the nomination at a meeting in Albuquerque.

The nomination was needed because Justice Patricio Serna retires at the end of the month. Normally voters would choose their party's nominee to replace him, but because the vacancy comes after the June primary election each party's central committee is nominating a candidate.

Republicans will pick a nominee Sept. 8.

GOP Gov. Susana Martinez will appoint a justice to serve until the winner of November's general election takes office later this year.

Vigil is chief judge of the First Judicial District, which hears cases in Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties. She was appointed to the post in May 2000 by former Republican Gov. Gary Johnson and later won election to the position.

Vigil ran against former U.S. Attorney John Kelly; Workers' Compensation Administration Judge Victor Lopez; Cate Stetson, a Democratic activist from Albuquerque with a background in Indian law; and Michelle Hernandez, a specialist in health care law with an Albuquerque law firm.

She and Kelly made it through the first round of voting Saturday before Vigil came out on top with 197 of 375 ballots in the second round.

State Democratic Chairman Javier Gonzales says the party is united behind Vigil.

In New Mexico, a bipartisan or independent nominating commission screens candidates for judicial vacancies and recommends people to the governor for possible appointment. Two lawyers have been recommended for the interim appointment. The governor's spokesman, Scott Darnell, says the governor will interview the candidates in early September and then make an appointment.

One of those candidates before the governor also is seeking the GOP nomination.

Vigil has been a district court judge for more than 12 years and has been a lawyer for more than 27 years. She earned her law degree in 1985 from the University of New Mexico School of Law.