New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Judith Nakamura has retained the seat she was appointed to last year by Gov. Susana Martinez.
As of 11:10 p.m., Nakamura, a Republican, was about 31,000 votes ahead of Democratic challenger Michael Vigil, who’s currently the chief judge on the New Mexico Court of Appeals. NMPolitics.net has decided to call the race.
Nakamura’s campaign did not immediately respond to NMPolitics.net’s request for comment, but Vigil’s campaign appeared ready to concede.
“Those numbers are going to be hard to make up for,” said Vigil spokesman Brian Morris. “The judge has gone home to watch the election on TV.”
Nakamura is the first Republican to win an election for the state Supreme Court since 1980, when William Riordan, an Albuquerque attorney, defeated Justice Edwin Felter, a Democrat who had been appointed to a vacancy in 1979 by then-Gov. Bruce King.
Until 1988, judges ran in partisan elections as other candidates for public office do, but governors filled vacant positions on the court and they retained their seats indefinitely.
Voters adopted a constitutional amendment in 1988 to create the current system of merit selection for judges. That means a governor’s appointee must run in a partisan race in the next general election. If if successful, that judge will appear on the ballot without an opponent — to be retained or not — thereafter.
Martinez’s last appointee to the state Supreme Court, Republican Paul Kennedy of Albuquerque, lost in the 2012 general election to Democrat Barbara Vigil (no relation to Michael).
Nakamura is the only Republican on the N.M. Supreme Court.