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New Mexico governor reshuffles office as she advises Biden

November 12, 2020 GMT
FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2020, file photo, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham gives her State of the State address during the opening of the New Mexico legislative session in the House chambers at the state Capitol in Santa Fe, N.M. Michelle Lujan Grisham has not received the attention of many higher profile candidates under consideration to be Joe Biden's running mate. But she has a resume that few of them can match. (AP Photo/Craig Fritz, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2020, file photo, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham gives her State of the State address during the opening of the New Mexico legislative session in the House chambers at the state Capitol in Santa Fe, N.M. Michelle Lujan Grisham has not received the attention of many higher profile candidates under consideration to be Joe Biden's running mate. But she has a resume that few of them can match. (AP Photo/Craig Fritz, File)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — An attorney who successfully defended the governor’s emergency health orders from legal challenges has been promoted to chief of staff by Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the governor’s office announced Thursday.

Matthew Garcia is moving from the general counsel job to chief of staff to succeed John Bingaman as he departs state government for the private sector.

Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Sackett said Bingaman continues to advise the governor on a volunteer basis in her role as co-chair to the transition team for President-elect Joe Biden.

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As general counsel, Garcia made a series of appearances before the state Supreme Court regarding the state’s pandemic response, emergency health orders and voting procedures.

Recent court rulings have upheld the Lujan Grisham administration’s emergency health orders and rebuffed Democratic-backed proposals to distribute absentee ballots to more registered voters without a request.

New Mexico quickly imposed broad restrictions at the outset of the pandemic and maintains a mask requirement, travel restrictions and a ban on public gathers of more than five people — though authorities have largely waived enforcement at political events and protests.

The governor’s office named Holly Agajanian, formerly of the Hinkle Shanor law firm, as general counsel, citing extensive trial and courtroom experience.

Bingaman, the son of former U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, is returning to his investment business, Iron Creek Partners. He could not be reached for immediate comment.