January 13, 2015

Meet the 2015 legislative leaders

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DSC_0044The 2015 legislative session starts in less than one week and some lawmakers are settling into new leadership roles. Republicans hold a majority in the House for the first time in more than 60 years and that means new minority and majority leadership. In addition to the shakeup in the House, former Senate Minority Whip Tim Keller won the election for State Auditor and left his leadership role open. New Mexico Political Report reached out to leadership in both chambers over the last month to find out what they expected this session.

*New Mexico Political Report was unable to reach some leaders for comment. We will add their answers as soon as we can reach them.

House Leaders


Rep. Don Tripp, R – Socorro

Leadership Role: Speaker of the House

Rep. Nate Gentry, R – Albuquerque

Leadership Role: House Majority Floor Leader

Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R – Los Lunas

Leadership Role: House Majority Whip

Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R – Belen

Leadership Role: House Majority Caucus Chair

Rep. Brian Egolf, D – Santa Fe

Leadership Role: House Minority Floor Leader

 What’s your day job?

I am a lawyer. I do water law, some civil rights practice

What are your goal(s) for this session?

To cooperate with the the majority when possible on issues that are important, but  also to make it very clear, when necessary, the differences between the parties and to make it very clear what it means to be a Democrat.

To make sure the Democrats in the House are standing up for New Mexico’s working families and calling attention to a lot of the things that the Republicans are doing to advance what amounts to an out state agenda that is being brought into NM.

How would you describe your duties?

Coordinate with the caucus on strategies that we’ll pursue during the floor session. To work with the new Speaker [of the House] on procedural issues and work with the new Speaker to find areas , if there are areas, where we can cooperate and work together and get good legislation passed.

How do you plan to execute them?

There will be lots of robust floor debate and there will be lots of communication with the other side of the chamber. I think there will be a lot of communication out to the people of New Mexico; letting them know what the Democratic caucus is doing to stand up for working families. Letting the folks in New Mexico know when we think our colleagues in the Republican party are not standing up for them.

What challenges, if any, do you foresee this session?

It was a very rough campaign and I know a number of members on the other side of the aisle have lingering hard feelings and some lingering anger. I think one of the challenges will be to see if the Republicans can put the campaign behind us and move forward in the best interest of New Mexico. It seems that there’s some early indication that the Republicans are getting ready to make, what appear to be, some radical changes to the way the House operates. That could certainly prove a challenge, not just to the Democrats but also to the Republicans, if it sets up the session with an immediate feeling of antagonism and political payback.

What will you do differently than your predecessor?

I don’t really know. I’m not entirely clear what he did, but that’s not a negative comment. I’m the first Democrat to be minority leader in over 60 years. It’s definitely new territory that we’re looking at and the plan will certainly be to work hard, pay close attention to what’s going on and find opportunities to advance issues that we think are important to New Mexico’s working families.

Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D – Albuquerque

Leadership Role: House Minority Whip

 What’s your day job?

I work for APS. I’m an Educator.

 What are your goal(s) for this session?

To work with our Democratic members and to work in the House of Representatives to meet the need of New Mexico citizens.

 How would you describe your duties?

To work with our members in terms of the Democratic agenda in the House of Representatives

How do you plan to execute them?

No plans at this time.

What challenges, if any, do you foresee this session?

I hope none. I don’t foresee what the problems will be.

Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, D – Albuquerque

Leadership Role: House Minority Caucus Chair

 What’s your day job?

I’m retired as a community economic developer and administrator.

What are your goal(s) for this session?

We all are going to experience something different. We’ve spent the last 50 years or more making a lot of advancements as Democrats in the state for our constituents. Advances in education and advances in job creation. So, one of the goals is to make sure that we don’t lose any of those gains that we’ve worked so hard to maintain. Some people may look at that and say, ‘there hasn’t been a lot gained,’  but there has. We need to make sure we keep adequate funding for education and adequate funding for health. We need to be sure that we keep the membership as informed and organized as possible. That’s the goal of every person that’s in a coordinating or leadership position that has a membership. We really need to protect those key areas that are critical  for the advancement of our citizenry. We need to keep progress and moving forward in all of our decisions and all of our policies. There’s no way to allow ourselves to go back. There’s a lot of talk about undoing a lot of things, so I think the goal of our caucus is to not lose any of  the gains.

How would you describe your duties?

It’s actually making sure that our Democratic principles and values  are maintained through our demeanor, with a very strong legislative agenda. The way to do that is to make sure that all of our membership are as cohesive and organized and that we stay informed. The last thing any caucus wants to do is not keep the membership informed to the processes that are happening on a regular basis that impact our decision making. Our decision making has to really represent the Democratic values and principles that we were all elected to represent. That means that we have to translate that into our legislative agenda, but it also dictates our demeanor as Democratic elected representatives.

How do you plan to execute them?

I think one of my strongest traits is I’ve been a public administrator all my life. All I’ve ever known was being the head of a helm in terms of organizations. My expertise is in organizational development . I’m very well organized as an individual. I’m a detail person. Also, I have been a very strong believer in working as a team. I think the inclusive nature of the decisions we make will actually translate to everyone feeling and acting as a whole unit as opposed to not feeling they don’t have the strengths as a unit behind them.

What challenges, if any, do you foresee this session?

Because of the way that our sessions are set up, the biggest challenge is always time. Time working against us. You just barely get sworn in and arrive on your first day and you’re quickly having to move through the maze of building relationships in order to be able to gain support for legislation. Then, before you know it, your legislation is being heard in committee. Then, before you know it you’re presenting it on the floor. Things just move very quickly and so the biggest challenge is being as well organized as possible to meet the challenge of time limitation. The other challenge is making sure the new legislators are in as much of the mainstream from day one. So, no one is forced to play catch up to anybody or anything. It takes a very good execution of an information flow as well as being very well organized and timely. We’re going to be doing a lot of meeting, but meeting with a purpose.

What will you do differently than your predecessor?

Staying organized and keeping our membership informed in a timely manner. I’m going to strengthen that. The information and the decisions that we make are very critical, but the information that we receive in order to be able to make those decisions is also very critical. So, I’d like to add a little bit more research and information and resources to our members.

Senate Leaders

Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D – Las Cruces

Leadership Role – President Pro Tempore

What’s your day job?

I spend time with my family, with great-grandchildren, my grandchildren. I garden, I see my friends. I spend time in Cloudcroft and in Ruidoso. I spend a heck of a lot of time when I’m not in session, in Santa Fe. I work with my constituents, I go to meetings with constituents, I listen to my constituents concerns. I drive my district, looking to see things that are needed to be done. I’m retired, so I don’t have to go to a day job.

What are your goal(s) for this session?

I have several mental health bills. I hoping to do some things to finally, and the word is finally, improve mental health in the state. I think we need to be looking at the havoc that has been created with mental health in the state and try to right it and make it better. My goals are to try to work well across the houses, from her to the House and to try to make the session move smooth. I know we’re going to have disagreements on certain policies, but try to make it work smooth so we can get our work done.

How would you describe your duties?

You do everything from apples to nuts. If the Lieutenant Governor is not there, it’s up to me to run  the floor and I also share that responsibility with a lot of the other senators, giving them also the opportunity to chair the floor. I chair the Committee’s Committee. Unlike the House, where the Speaker [of the House] picks people to be on committees and chair committees, I have the Committee’s Committee and they’re the ones that do the picking. I like that a lot because you bring everyone’s point of view in. I have to meet with all kinds of people who come to town. We’ve had people from China, from Taiwan, from Azerbaijan, from Mexico, from Turkey. Just people who come in who want to visit or see about trying to work out business. Of course I meet with a lot of lobbyists who have ideas for things they want to get passed. The labor unions want to meet with me now to see what kind of compromises can be worked out. So there’s a lot of times when I’m not in interim committees and I’m just in the office working with people. I serve on a lot of interim committees and I do that on purpose so that I stay up with what is happening , what the committees are talking about, what they’re looking at, what they’re looking at to move forward. I work with them when there’s budget meetings, like up with the Governor.  I go upstairs to see how we’re going to divide the money, how the money’s going to be spent, how the money needs to be spent. I try to work as a PR person for the Senate.  It’s a job that has a thousand obligations in many different ways.

How do you plan to execute them?

In the Committee’s Committee, I call a Committee’s Committee meeting. We meet and we put the issues on the table, we discuss them and then we vote on them. It’s a very important thing that we do because it lines up who will serve on what committee. We’ve been meeting with the subcommittee on horse racing, trying to clean that up, [Sen.] George Munoz [D-Gallup] called that sub-committee, and trying to figure out what we can do rather than status quo. We keep going back, even on mental health, to status quo.  Every time we get a new executive, everything gets turned upside down. We start over again. So, trying to figure out if there’s any way we can put some stability out there.  My office is open to both Democrats and Republicans. I have a lot of Republicans that come in my house and sit down and visit with me and Democrats as well.  My job is, in many ways, to advise but also to  be a leveling influence.

What challenges, if any, do you foresee this session?

I see a lot of challenges and I hope they can all be worked out. It’s the first time in I don’t know how many years that the Republicans have taken over the House. So I think in coming in, it’s like any new job that you go into that has been running for all these years. Then all of a sudden, you come in and are going to run that same job. It makes it difficult and there’s a lot of unknowns for them to be able to try and figure out, ‘How do you do this?’ ‘How do you do that?’ ‘How do you do the other?’ I have tried to do some things to offer help if I can help them. We want the two houses to work across very smoothly. We don’t want it to be in turmoil. I think there’s going to be a lot of issues. I think that in the past, the Democrats didn’t get a lot because the numbers were so close. They didn’t always get passed what they wanted. I think it’s going to be a very delicate balancing act. I think we all have to keep our eye on the ball, which is New Mexico.

Is there anything you’ll do differently than you have in the past couple of years?

I don’t know that I’ll operate differently, but I know my job better. I probably will be more confident in my role.  I’ll feel more comfortable if I have to make some hard decisions, realizing I do have support and realizing that that’s my job. I feel more confident.

Sen. Michael Sanchez, D – Belen

Leadership Role – Senate Majority Floor Leader

What’s your day job?

I’m an attorney.

What are your goal(s) for this session?

To have a successful session for all of the people of New Mexico.

How would you describe your duties?

I run the floor. I am in charge of the decorum in terms of how we act on the floor of the Senate and in term of the bills that come before us.

How do you plan to execute them?

As I have in the past. I’m very careful and efficient in terms of how I have carried myself over the years. I intend to do it the way I have in the past

What  challenges, if any, do you foresee this session?

Every year there are different challenges. I’m not sure yet, until we see what bills are introduced and what type of bills they are. One of my duties is to direct bills to the different committees. I don’t know what challenges there are right now. It’s a completely different world. We now have a Republican House of Representatives and a Democratic Senate. So, I think it’s the first time for all of us in terms of that dynamic and we’ll see how it plays out.

What will you differently this session?

We’re going to proceed as we always have in the Senate. I think I get along very well with the other side of the aisle and the Minority Leader Stuart Ingle. We do the business we need to do and get it done the best we can.

Sen. Michael Padilla, D – Albuquerque

Leadership Role – Senate Majority Whip

 What’s your day job?

I am a business owner (Altivus CRM Solutions). I have worked in the call center industry for about 24 years now, but I’ve owned my own business going on 15 years now. We do three things, we build call centers, we do allot of consulting work in the contact center space. So, organizational type consulting work. The third thing we do is a ton of implementation. So, if you need a new telecom system or IT system or new customer management system, we design, develop and implement those systems.

What are your goal(s) for this session?

In the leadership role, I’m going to take the Senate Majority Whip office and make it a full year support mechanism for the Democratic caucus to the state Senate. I’ll look at it two ways. In the session, I’ll work with the majority leader in the Senate, Michael Sanchez, and the rest of my colleagues to develop our legislative package. Second, work with the individual members on the legislative packages important to their district. Once we have that defined then as the whip I will help them accomplish that. For the overall caucus and the individual member, give them a ton of information and data, so they know exactly where their legislation stands, who they need to work on in order to get it passed and what sort of retooling they need to work on.

The second thing is maximum media exposure for the Democratic caucus members on their legislation so that they can tell their story to their districts and to the state in terms of what they are working on and the progress of that legislation. During the non-legislative period, I can see us taking a three or four step approach. One, [is] media exposure for our members in terms of what they’re working on in the interim period. Second, [is] helping them to raise money for their reelection campaign. Third, is community engagement. I’ve been very successful in holding very large events. I hold a large job fair every summer. The first year we had 2,000 people and 34 employers attend that job fair. We had 367 new jobs as a result of that job fair. This year I had 4,100 people attend the job fair with 61 employers. We were able to help 526 people get new jobs. I also hold quarterly town hall meetings. We hold something called a matanza. We just concluded our third annual and it was 1300 people.

The reason I describe all that is, for my various caucus members, there’s going to be something very important to their area; some sort of community engagement event or a way to bring the politician to interact with the people they represent. During the non-session, or interim period, I’m going to do everything I can to maximize their exposure in their districts for community engagement.

 How would you describe your duties?

Defining the legislative package is one. Two, [is] supporting the majority leader to accomplish that legislative package, and the individual members. Managing the relationship of our caucus members with the media and helping to coordinate special things that might be happening during the session to maximize the exposure of our caucus members with their constituents when they’re in the capital and interact with them that way.

 How do you plan to execute them?

For media management, that’s going to be as it happens. The best way to manage the legislative packages is going to be utilizing technology to bring information and data to the forefront for each one of our members so they know exactly where their legislation is [and] so they know exactly who they need to work on in order to get the number of votes that they need. I think that’s why I’m going to add so much to this role, because that’s what I’ve done for a living for my entire career; managing information and data and providing that to our members.

 What challenges, if any, do you foresee this session?

I believe that we need to take a deep breath and go into the session with an open mind. None of us were in the legislature 60 years ago. Many of us weren’t even born at that point. We’re going to need to listen to each other, we’re going to need to discuss and debate issues to make sure we’re finding common ground. That could also present a challenge because [Democrats] haven’t had to operate or think that way for 60 or so years.

 What will you do differently than your predecessor?

Additional data and information provided to our members in a much more concise fashion. I would envision a daily legislation report for each one of our members. So that they know where their top pieces of legislation are and what they need to do to actually get them accomplished. Having that data available to the members is going to be critical in real time and different intervals during the day.

Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D – Albuquerque

Leadership Role – Senate Majority Caucus Chair

What’s your day job?

Right now, I am a full time law student at the University of New Mexico, but I also have another job. I work as a law clerk with French and Associates, which is a law firm in Albuquerque.

What are your goal(s) for this session?

I think it is very important that the Senate come to the table this year with a well-defined, workable and compelling case on jobs in the economy and education. We’re seeing the price of oil decline rapidly and what that’s unveiling is truly the weakness of our economy in general and showing that while oil revenues have masked the pain, the reality is that our economic position in New Mexico is incredibly weak, and that’s unfortunately a reality that many families have been living through. For me a top priority is passing legislation that is aimed at strengthening the middle class in New Mexico. One, that includes new opportunities for tech education and clear pathways in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field both for students but also folks who need  to return to work who have been displaced. It also means making our tax code work for working people. For instance I’ll be doing a bill to increase the earned income tax credit in New Mexico to try and put money back into the pockets of people who live here and work here and spend in New Mexico.

Those are some priorities that I think the legislature needs to take leadership on, because we’re not seeing those priorities pushed by other people in government.

 How would you describe your duties?

As caucus chairman, my main responsibility as a member of leadership is to try and bring our caucus together to try and find common ground among our membership and to assist our majority leader in pushing forward important legislation that matters to New Mexicans. Of course, my major priority is my district, so we’ll be doing a lot of legislation aimed at improving the quality of live in the west side of Albuquerque, which I’m proud to represent. I see my role as a member of leadership as really trying to bring the Democratic caucus together, support our members and get our message out, which I believe is the right message and the right priorities and the right issues for this state.

How do you plan to execute them?

As were going into session I’m having a lot of conversation with members about bills and legislation and ideas. I’m helping members put legislation together and trying to create opportunities for members to collaborate. We’ll be caucusing again before we go into session to review packages of legislation. It is my plan that we go into session with some core principles that are defined and that we can talk with people about and get out there for New Mexicans to consider.

What challenges, if any, do you foresee this session?

I think the partisan divide between House and Senate presents challenges. We want to avoid at all costs, the kind of gridlock that you see in Washington DC and I think if the House, the new Republican majority, is willing to come to the table, is willing to engage with the Senate in talking about ideas and legislation that matter for New Mexicans in terms of jobs and education, then we can find common ground and move this state forward. I think the real challenge is if the House decides to entrench itself in partisan ideology, and if the House decides to be obstructionists in blocking important legislation that matters to New Mexico, then we could really see the wheels come off  of this session. I really have faith though, in both the leadership in both parties and in both chambers, that we can avoid that. But again it’s going to take the House coming to the table with the Democratic Senate and engaging with us and really giving us full fair hearings on our legislation, because I can guarantee you, they’ll receive full fair hearings on their ideas. We may disagree on certain values, but if they’re willing to come to the table, we can get stuff done.

What will you do differently than your predecessor?

Over the last couple of years we’ve really begun redefining and strengthening the role of caucus chairman in the Senate. For the first time, we’re really trying to provide members with assistance throughout the year, both in the work the work they do year-round in their districts, but also in developing and thinking through pieces of legislation. I also see that my role as chairman and what I’ve tried to do over the last couple of years and will continue to do for the next two years is to find common ground among our membership. We have a very diverse setup. We have folks who have different views on different issue, so being proactive in trying to find common ground and trying to move people along together is something that I think we’re doing a much better job of now than in the past perhaps.

Sen. Stuart Ingle, R – Portales

Leadership Role – Senate Minority Floor Leader

Sen. William Payne, R – Albuquerque

Leadership Role – Senate Minority Whip

 What’s your day job?

I’m retired military and I’m also a lawyer but I’m not practicing.

What are your goal(s) for this session?

I think we’re optimistic that we might get some economic development type bills through this year that we haven’t had luck with in previous years. I’m hopeful we can look at a variety of options for increasing the economic activity in the state. We also have to be careful about our revenues with oil and gas. With the decline in prices and what that does to our budget and how we’ll handle our obligations. I’m going to be more focused on watching where the finances are this session.

How would you describe your duties?

It’s my job to sort of keep track of our staff and our senators and their positions on certain issues so we sort of know where we’re at when different proposals come forward. I’m sort of the utility infielder. I try to keep everybody’s interest in the forefront and try and figure out where the common ground is.

How do you plan to execute them?

To work with my caucus. They all work through my office to a certain degree. I sit on on committees with them and  caucus with them. There’s a variety of mechanisms where we communicate daily.

What  challenges, if any, do you foresee this session?

I think the Senate will be pretty much the same way that it’s run in the past. The difference will be with the new Republican majority in the House. If they’re able to get more legislation through at least what they had when they were the minority and how we will try to work with the majority in the Senate to try and get those bills passed and up to the governor. That’s going to be a bigger challenge this year than it has in the past, but certainly nothing we haven’t dealt with before.

Do you plan to do anything different than you have in the past?

No, other than I will probably interact more with the House Republicans than we’ve had to in the past. They’re going to be driving the train over there, so we’ll need a lot more knowledge of what’s going on over there on a day to day basis so we can plan how we’re going to react when that get’s through to the Senate.

Sen. Steven Neville, R – Aztec

Leadership Role – Senate Minority Caucus Chair

 What’s your day job?

I’m a real Estate appraiser, investor, developer. I’ve done a little bit of all of it.

What are your goal(s) for this session?

I’m mostly tied up in the financial stuff so trying to come up with a budget is my main goal. We’re going to have a whole new scenario with the House, but we’ve got to be able to try to work between the two houses as well as party lines to try and come up with a good budget. We’ve always managed to do that in the past. I don’t think we’ll have any trouble doing that, but that’s going to be my primary goal.

How would you describe your duties?

I organize the caucus meetings whenever we have issues we need to discuss. That’s everything from the caterer all the way up to running the meeting, so it’s kind of a broad sort of thing. Mostly it’s trying to keep our caucus informed. I see that as my job. To coordinate what’s going on so that they understand what the issues are and what’s coming up;n particular the budget and big items. We don’t go through every little bill. We try to go through all the big concept stuff that’s going to be coming down the pike as we hear about it.

 How do you plan to execute them?

I’ve been doing this several years. This year we’re not quite sure how exactly we’re going to function with the House because it’s a different scenario, so we’re going to try to work out a new system to coordinate better with the House leadership to make sure we know what’s coming over; that we can realistically look at trying to get a vote on. That’s going to be the real problem for us in the minority in the Senate side; getting things through committee and getting votes on some of the stuff that comes out of the House that’s more partisan towards the Republican side. We hope that there’s an air of cooperation that we can do some quid pro quo between the two. We can work with the House to try and get some things debated and passed on their side.

What challenges, if any, do you foresee this session?

We’re in a whole new ball game here. We don’t know exactly how this is going to play out, or what’s going to transpire. We know the issue that the Governor and the House Republicans are probably going to be concerned about. Some of those things are not palatable to some of the progressives and Democrats on our side of the building.

What will you do differently this session?

When Dianna Duran was first elected I became caucus chair. This will be my fifth year. I want to try and coordinate a little more with the House. We didn’t really do that in the past. I think because they in the leadership position over there, they’re going to be able to move some things that are key interests to our party. So we’re going to try and take a lot stronger interest in those details because they’ll be able to get them out of the House this time. In the past that wasn’t always the case. We’re hoping we can get some of those key issues over. We’re not talking about radical right wing stuff or extreme stuff, we’re just talking about the key things that we really think will make New Mexico a better place and try to get those before the full body in the Senate. That’s our goal. If they fail, they fail, but we want to get full floor votes on a lot of issue that in the past have stalled in committee somewhere.

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