House Whip Doreen Gallegos will serve as the acting House majority leader until fellow Democrats hold an election in the coming weeks to fill the legislative leadership position, the New Mexico House Democratic Caucus announced Saturday.
The move was prompted by the resignation of Sheryl Williams Stapleton on Friday amid a criminal investigation.
Whoever is elected House majority leader will serve as the chamber’s second-ranking Democrat after the House speaker.
“We are fortunate to have a number of highly-qualified and capable members who would serve as excellent additions to leadership,” House Speaker Brian Egolf said in a statement. “Given the serious responsibilities of this position, we want to ensure that potential candidates and caucus members have the time needed before a careful selection is made.”
Gallegos has served in the House since 2013 and has been the majority whip, the caucus’ third ranking member, since 2016. She lives in Las Cruces, where she directs a program for foster children.
“I am honored and ready to step into the role of Acting Majority Floor Leader and ensure that the Majority Office continues to serve all of our constituents seamlessly,” Gallegos said.
For years, Williams Stapleton was one of the Legislature’s most powerful members. Her resignation sent shock waves through the party.
The state Attorney General’s Office has launched a criminal probe into whether Williams Stapleton was involved in an elaborate scheme involving money laundering, illegal kickbacks and other alleged crimes. Earlier in the week, investigators searched her Albuquerque office and home.
“Given the very difficult circumstances in which we have found ourselves, I am proud of my Democratic colleagues in the House, and I am confident in the clear path we have laid out for the future of the House Majority Leader position,” said D. Wonda Johnson, a Church Rock Democrat who serves as chairwoman of the House Majority Caucus.