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State senator files discrimination complaint against NM Senate leader

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico state senator is filing a discrimination complaint against the senate’s leader — a member of his own party. He says he’s been retaliated against for speaking his mind.

State Sen. Jacob Candelaria says New Mexico’s Senate President Pro Tem, Mimi Stewart, has allowed discrimination in the workplace. He says she’s covered for an employee accused of making racist and homophobic remarks.

“Over the last several months, myself and several community leaders including the All Pueblo Council of Governors have been very clear, I think, that the continued employment of the top-ranking education policy advisor to the legislature is no longer acceptable,” said Candelaria. “How much evidence is necessary before a government agency head will accept that discrimination against indigenous folks and against queer folks is just unacceptable.”

It stems from the continued employment of Rachel Gudgel, a state education official who is accused of making racist comments about Native Americans and an offensive slur to a gay coworker. Candelaria says he and other coworkers confronted Stewart about why Gudgel was allowed to continue work but says they were ignored.

In turn, the longtime state senator says his office and seat on the Senate floor were moved by Stewart, in an act, he calls retaliation for his criticism of her response. Candelaria — who is Hispanic and openly gay — clarified that Sen. Stewart was not discriminatory towards him, based on those factors. However, he says her inaction against those accusations in the legislature shows it’s time for new leadership.

“Just demonstrates that she’s no longer morally or ethically fit to continue leading the senate in a state that is majority minority,” said Candelaria. “I’ve always judged people for their actions, and I think, for me, the verdict is in.”

According to the complaint, Candelaria is opting not to resolve the dispute through mediation with attorneys. He says he already made multiple attempts to settle this with Stewart before filing the complaint and they went unnoticed. As for who will pay for Stewart’s defense, in this case, Candelaria says that could fall on the taxpayer’s dime, but will ultimately be up to Stewart to answer.

KRQE News 13 reached out to Stewart for a response to the complaint but did not hear back.

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