Women have claimed a supermajority on one of New Mexico's most important courts, according to early, unofficial election results from the Secretary of State's Office.
In each of four contested races for seats on the state Court of Appeals, female challengers appear to have ousted their male incumbent opponents, the results show. And in each of those races, the woman was a Democrat and the man a Republican appointed to the bench by outgoing Gov. Susana Martinez.
Judges and judicial candidates will tell you the political party with which they're registered matters less than the law itself. But Tuesday night's election appears to have placed New Mexico's second-highest court not only in a small national minority of appeals courts with female majorities, but also swings the political balance of the court even further toward the Democrats.
Republican Appeals Court Judge Stephen French, the best known of the incumbents, appears to have fallen to Democrat Kristina Bogardus, the results show.
In the other three races, Megan Duffy appears to have unseated Judge Daniel Gallegos; Jacqueline Medina had a comfortable lead over Judge Hank Bohnhoff; and Briana Zamora, a sitting state District Court judge, appeared headed for a promotion to the Appeals Court with a win over Judge Emil Kiehne.
Meanwhile, Appeals Court Judge Michael Vigil appears to have won election to the state Supreme Court in his second try. Vigil, a Democrat, was beaten in 2016 by now-Chief Justice Judith Nakamura. But on Tuesday night, according to the secretary of state's preliminary figures, Vigil had a double-digit lead over Republican Gary Clingman, who was appointed to the state's high court by Martinez earlier this year. The election does not change the gender split on the Supreme Court, which remains three women and two men. Newly elected Gov. Lujan Grisham will appoint a replacement to the appeals court for Vigil's seat.
The Court of Appeals handles nearly 900 cases a year and, in most instances, is the final stop for questions of law in New Mexico that aren't resolved in the court of their first stop in the justice system.