Unless a New Mexico legislator is charged with a felony or convicted of a crime, there’s always an outpouring of accolades when he or she calls it quits.

Fellow lawmakers write memorials praising the most unremarkable back-benchers. Partisans send handouts to the media extolling allies who showed up, toed the party line and collected their daily expense allowance.

Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas, was the latest recipient of compliments galore after he resigned from the Legislature over the weekend. Baldonado quit in the middle of a two-year term, an unpleasant point none of his gushing Republican colleagues dwelled on.

Testimonials from legislators also neglected to mention the time Baldonado made national news, much to his dismay.

It began innocently on a warm October day in 2013. Baldonado arrived at the state Capitol for a meeting of an interim legislative committee focused on education policies.

The agenda seemed tame enough. Teachers and a physician outlined ways public schools were combating childhood obesity.

A physical education teacher from an elementary school in Albuquerque mentioned she used yoga as part of a program to keep kids active and fit.

Baldonado said he didn’t like yoga being part of the curriculum. He was worried it might be a gateway to Eastern religions.

An evangelical Christian, Baldonado said yoga’s roots are in Hinduism and Buddhism. He wanted to know if parents could pull their kids from yoga classes before indoctrination could occur.

The teacher said one child, a Jehovah’s Witness, asked to be excused from the class. That request was granted.

But the teacher also said she avoided the word yoga. She called her program mat work or stretching exercises. Bland language was intended to dispel any notion that an exercise routine was connected to any religion.

Baldonado remained skeptical. His objections about kids sweating through yoga class were overblown but troublesome.

I buttonholed him for an interview after the meeting. Always personable, Baldonado provided a detailed account of his own parenting decisions.

He and his wife were home-schooling their three daughters, so he hadn’t been aware of yoga practitioners infiltrating gym classes in the name of good health. But his girls, members of a swim team, hadn’t escaped what Baldonado saw as a threat.



“When the coach uses yoga, we opt out. I think it tends to open a door to a practice tied to a religious belief,” he said.

I wrote about his stand. Other reporters had skipped the legislative meeting. They soon followed with their own stories about Baldonado. He became the state’s most publicized legislator for a few weeks.

I wasn’t working for The New Mexican at the time, but the newspaper editorialized about Baldonado’s aversion to yoga.

“The story, naturally, has gone far and wide on the internet, with people from all parts of the country laughing at one earnest New Mexico lawmaker. We’re not laughing,” the editorial stated. “This fear of the other, a deliberate disdain for different worldviews and diverse ways of thinking, is one of the chief weaknesses in American public life today.”

Harsh criticisms of Baldonado appeared in other publications. In a letter to the Albuquerque Journal, one man wrote: “The smartest thing Baldonado can do is sign up for a couple of yoga classes. As a member of the House Education Committee, he might learn something.”

Baldonado engendered more criticism on another issue soon after getting in a twist about yoga.

He exited his seat in the House chamber to avoid voting on a proposed constitutional amendment to raise the statewide minimum wage. “Taking a walk” is what legislators call it when they duck an issue.

House members voted 33-29 for the proposal to increase the minimum wage, but that wasn’t enough to advance it to a vote of the people. A constitutional amendment requires at least 36 votes in the House to make the ballot.

Baldonado and five other representatives managed to kill the measure without having to vote on it. None of this hurt Baldonado’s legislative career.

Republicans in the 2014 election took control of the state House of Representatives for the first time in 62 years. Baldonado was elected majority whip by his Republican colleagues.

His stay in the majority ended after the 2016 election. Democrats took back the House. They now dominate the chamber 45-23. There also is one independent and one vacancy because of Baldonado’s resignation after 11 years in the House.

He will be succeeded by a Republican. The Valencia County Board of Commissioners is a GOP panel, and it makes the selection.

Republican lawmakers will continue gushing about what a fine legislator Baldonado was. That’s politics.

Fans of yoga and common sense have a different view: Baldonado’s replacement won’t have a tough act to follow.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at msimonich@sfnewmexican.com or 505-986-3080.

(24) comments

Floyd Cable

Baldonado's resignation from state government is a good example of addition via subtraction. At least one positive thing to happen early in this new year!

Skye Goodrich

I think Yoga would be a wonderful thing to teach our kids. And a life long skill.

Carolyn DM

LMAO!! And evangelical Christian Republican!! But of course!!

Barb Murphy

Good riddance!!!!!

Dottie Butler

Are eastern religions really that much of a threat? A threat to what?

Is Christianity so insecure that they can't even tolerate Yoga as part of the curriculum in schools for religious reasons?

The Taliban is intolerant of other religions.

I guess Christianity and the Taliban have that in common.

Emily Hartigan

Please, Dottie -- this guy doesn't speak for most of us Christians, as Putin doesn't speak for all atheists.

Charlotte Rowe

WTF does Putin have to do with anything?

Emily Hartigan

Charlotte, just picking an atheist who's a certified jerk, without stepping on toes.

No single belief system has The Truth (says Socrates) and pretty much all have thoughtful, caring adherents seeking the Good (to my mind, including atheists and agnostics and Zoroastrinas - and Christians) . So reducing any tradition to one bad actor is destructive.

Daniel Mathews

Putin is an orthodox Christian. His father was an atheist

Emily Hartigan

Not. KGB under the hardcore. Marxist-Leninist, avowed atheists. Not a Christian. Posing? Maybe. Just take a Bible and show up in front of the church across from the White House?

Emily Hartigan

Thanks - I'd forgotten this particular piece of determined ignorance by a guy (however personable) who really needs more education.

I do admit that using too much Sanskrit in yoga class annoys me.

Gretchen Baltuff

This relates to your newer comment "Putin regularly attends the most important services of the Russian Orthodox Church on the main holy days". And he also supposedly believes in religious freedom.

Emily Hartigan

Gretchen, Soviet Communism is foundationally atheist (thus the phrase "godless communists"). The services you note, now that they are once again allowed, are political events like lighting the White House Christmas tree.

Gretchen Baltuff

Emily, I'm well aware of the "godless communists". But Putin is in charge of a totalitarian oligarchy, not a Marxist utopia.

Emily Hartigan

Gretchen, Putin is remarkably close to all evil. But let's just move to Stalin, OK? The point was, Christians aren't inferior. Nazism was avowedly atheist, as was Marxist-Leninism and Maoism. Not saying atheists are inferior (already said, not) but saying neither are Christians. Want to defend Lenin now?

Moses Townsend

Not really sure how there is an entire article about this. It’s an interesting piece of information, I suppose. Slightly comical that someone is that afraid of differing cultures and religions, but that’s evangelicalism for you. Regardless, it’s equally strange how SFNM doesn’t even try to report neutrally without a blatant left bias. Most of their content is just puffed up versions of “republicans bad…democrats good!”

John Cook

Well, Moses, your last phrase sums up the truth about the modern Republican party. However, you are very confused about 'evangelicalism'. That is a religious movement that seeks the spread of Christ's message. You mean 'fundamentalism' which is a political movement based on White supremacy that calls itself Christian while promoting not a single teaching of Christ.

Charlotte Rowe

You started out okay but your misguided definition of fundamentalism needs correcting. There are plenty of non-white, non-Christian fundamentalists in the world. But then most of America's evangelicals aren't really Christians either.

Jerry Appel

Thanks for the clarification of the differences of evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Still, it does seem that the two are often joined or conflated leading to social, emotional, and political damage. In my professional career unless I asserted my differences from the prevailing Christian/Evangelical mentality, I was put in the position of having to walk away from or protest what was accepted by most. Interestingly, most of my colleagues developed a deep respect and trust of me for asserting those differences. The knew I would not only stand up for myself, but for the betterment of the community I worked in. Therein lies the problem with this legislator and others of his ilk, intolerance and division. His community violates the premise of this country e pluribus unum.

Charlotte Rowe

When facts are unflattering to Republicans, then Republicans just squeal "bias." Just like when they don't like the outcome of the election they squeal "fraud" despite being the only ones ever proven to undertake fraud. Funny how this works.

Ann Maes

Why is it called the 'United' States??

Stefanie Beninato

LOL about it being a gateway...It just shows the incredible provincialism of this legislator who probably is offended by anyone who isn't an Evangelical Christian. And BTW legislators should have the cojones to vote against a bill--even a raise in minimum wages--rather than not be present. Have the courage of your convictions, former Rep Baldonando and the other four spineless legislators!

Charlotte Rowe

Indeed, whereas most sane and moral people are more offended by those who ARE evangelical christians.

Emily Hartigan

Please read John Cook's comment.

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