New Mexico senator sues fellow senator over retaliatory acts

April 11, 2022 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico state Sen. Jacob Candelaria is suing fellow Sen. Mimi Stewart, accusing her of retaliation over his criticism of her leadership.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Candelaria, an independent, believes Stewart, a Democrat, used her authority as president pro tem of the Senate to move his Capitol office and change his seat on the Senate floor.

Candelaria, 35, says he is suing out of principle because “any form of reprisal is unlawful.”

A spokesman for Senate Democrats said Stewart, 75, would not comment on the lawsuit.

The relationship between the two senators was already known to be icy. But things escalated after Stewart allowed an investigation of a state administrator accused of making racist remarks but didn’t alert all state legislators.

Several staffers under Rachel Gudgel, director of the Legislative Education Study Committee, alleged she made racist comments about Native Americans, belittled a gay man and had a harsh management style.

Only a few other legislative leaders knew an attorney was conducting an investigation into her conduct. But this did not include eight of the 10 lawmakers with direct supervisory authority over her.

Candelaria and others called for her dismissal but Stewart remained a steadfast defender of Gudgel.

Gudgel eventually resigned.

Candelaria wants his lawsuit to go to trial even though he’s resigning from the Senate in December in the middle of a third term.