Former Rep. Andy Nunez of Hatch made shockwaves back in 2011 when he changed parties at the outset of a legislative session after a public dispute with then Speaker Ben Lujan. Nunez at that time changed from a Democrat to an Independent. He said at the time that the Democrats had become more liberal, but that he wasn't right-wing enough to be a Republican.
About an hour ago, Nunez switched parties again. Now he's a Republican. And he says he'll run again for his old House seat.
State Republican Party Chairman John Billingsly through a spokeswoman said, "We welcome Andy Nunez as a member of the Republican Party, and we appreciate that he has been a longtime conservative leader in New Mexico."
Last year, as a man without a party, Nunez tried to win re-election but came in a distant third, losing to Democrat Phillip Archuleta. In that race, Nunez was attacked by a PAC associated with Gov. Susana Martinez. The issue was his vote for a bill in 2009 to abolish the death penalty.
“Andy Nuñez puts the welfare of convicted murders above keeping our families safe and supports Bill Richardson’s ban on the death penalty,” said one mailer from Reform New Mexico Now.
The vehemence of the attack surprised many Legislature regulars because Nunez in the two previous sessions had sponsored Martinez's bill to repeal the law that allows the state to issue driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.
Nunez said today that he voted for the death penalty bill because he was "mislead" by Democrats.
Asked today about Nunez's registration, Martinez's political director Jay McCleskey said, "I think it's great, as Andy Nunez has always been his own man and will make the Republican party stronger."
|Nunez changing parties in 2011|
Reached by telephone, Archuleta denied he was "anti-ag"
"We're trying to find ways to fix the water problem," he said. "The farmers are one of my biggest concerns."
He also denied that he was involved with Chavez's United Farm Workers."
"I have a lot of respect for Cesar Chavez, but I never was in United Farm Workers and I never even met him," Archuleta said.
As for being untrustworthy, Archuleta said, "I think changing parties every election isn't very trustworthy."
Since leaving the Legislature, Nunez has worked for a lobbyist for the Elephant Butte and the Carlsbad irrigation districts. He's also served as the mayor of Hatch.
Nunez said his wife Carolyn doesn't want him to run again, but she doesn't mind him changing parties. She's been a Republican all along, he said.