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Successor to District 25 Rep becomes the youngest female state legislator

By Alaina Mencinger

Aug 11, 2023

A state official with a background in public health and social services will fill the District 25 seat in the New Mexico House of Representatives.

Cristina Parajón, the director of strategy for the New Mexico Human Services Department, succeeds longtime Rep. Christine Trujillo, after the Bernalillo County Commission voted 4-1 on Friday to appoint her to the vacant legislative seat.

Parajón, at 27, is now the youngest female state legislator. Although the appointment expires at the end of 2024, Parajón announced on Friday her candidacy for the general election to keep the seat.

Parajón, one of seven applicants, was nominated by Commissioner Eric Olivas at Friday’s meeting. Commissioners Walt Benson, Barbara Baca and Adriann Barboa voted for Parajón’s appointment alongside Olivas. Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada voted against.

Trujillo, a retired teacher, announced that she would retire in early June, citing her age and health. She had served in the New Mexico Legislature for 11 years. House District 25 is located in Albuquerque and covers much of the area between Lomas and Montgomery and Carlisle and Louisiana.

Parajón has a background in public health and social services, having worked as a deputy incident commander for one of the state’s COVID-19 isolation hotels and as the project lead for the Gateway Center.

Her top legislative priorities, Parajón told the Journal, include infrastructure in District 25, addressing homelessness and the housing crisis by funding behavioral health and improving health care by boosting the number of primary care doctors in the state.

“My dad is a primary care doc,” Parajón said. “I drop him off at 7:30 in the morning, and I pick him up at 9 p.m., because there are not enough docs to cover at his clinic. So I really want to ensure that New Mexicans have the best health care here … and that we are raising up the amount of doctors.”

In the 30-day legislative session, which will start in January 2024, Parajón said her priority would be to evaluate the success of state programs using metrics. Parajón, who referred to the budget as a “moral document,” said she would like to see more funding for the state Economic Development Department as well as additional investments in green energy and education.

Born in Albuquerque, Parajón moved away from New Mexico to attend Harvard University. She returned to the Duke City in 2020.

“Hearing from my community … how difficult the pandemic was, it just felt a little weird to me to be working at my corporate job,” Parajón said. “I really wanted to make an impact back home. So I moved back — and it was the best decision that I ever made.”

At the Friday meeting, a public commentor and fellow applicant raised concerns after a recent report alleged that Parajón had moved to the district on June 8, just days after Trujillo announced her resignation. According to Bernalillo County’s legal department, although applicants need to live in the district, there is no minimum length of residency to qualify.

Parajón said she has lived and voted at her current address on Chinlee for the past three years, and only recently found an “administrative error” when she was organizing her documents to prepare to run.

This isn’t the first time an appointment has sparked debate.

After the highly contested appointment of state Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas to a vacant District 16 seat last year, the commission voted earlier this year to change some of the rules regarding filling empty seats.

The rule change extended the amount of time the commission would accept applications and required that the names of applicants be published at least five days before the appointment meeting. In the past, there was no requirement for the release of applicant names before the meetings.

The County Commission is responsible for filling local New Mexico Legislature vacancies. This is the commission’s 14th appointment since 2015.

© Copyright 2023 Albuquerque Journal

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