New Mexico state representative Phelps Anderson split with his own party in a vote last week on the repeal of a 1969 law that criminalized abortion.
The Republican sided with seven Democrats on the legislature’s House Health and Human Services Committee in casting his vote to repeal the long-dormant abortion ban. Following the move Anderson changed his voter registration to “declined to state,” effectively becoming an independent.
“I received a letter from him, and I have had a conversation with him, and he has left the Republican Party,” House Minority Leader Jim Townsend confirmed to the media on Friday.
Some conservative members of the GOP are now calling on Anderson to resign.
“When the dust settles over this, he’ll still be a friend of mine, whether he continues or resigns or whatever he does,” Townsend said. “Phelps was a friend of mine before this all started, and Phelps will be a friend of mine when this is all over with.”
The New Mexico state house is made up of 70 representatives. Democrats currently hold a 45-24 advantage, while Anderson sits as the body’s lone independent.
The Albuquerque Journal notes that an independent did win a seat in the house last year under unusual circumstances, but quickly affiliated with with Democrats:
Rep. Brittany Barreras, D-Albuquerque, last year became the first independent candidate to win election to the New Mexico Legislature. But she ran in a race where the Democratic candidate – former Rep. Patricio Ruiloba – had been disqualified from the ballot and no Republican candidate had filed to run. Barreras changed her party affiliation to Democrat after winning election to the South Valley-based House District 12 seat.
(Thanks to Trent Hill for sharing this news with IPR!)