November 21, 2020

NM Senate Dems pick leadership, make choice for pro tem nominee


New Mexico State Senate.

New Mexico Senate Democrats picked their leadership Saturday and made their nomination of who they want in the Senate president pro tem spot. 

The majority party in the Senate picked Sen. Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque as their choice for pro tem, but the full Senate will still vote when they meet for the 2021 legislative session in January. 

In a statement through the Senate Democrats, Stewart said she hopes Democrats and Republicans can work together next year. 

“I am honored to have the support of the Democratic Caucus for President Pro Tempore as we enter what will undoubtedly be a difficult session that will require us to solve New Mexico’s many problems under unprecedented circumstances,” Stewart said.

There’s still no guarantee that Stewart will be elected by the body as a whole. In 2013, for example, Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, was the Demcratic nominee for the pro tem spot, but a coalition of conservative Democrats and Republicans had enough votes to put Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, into the spot. Papen lost in this year’s Democratic primary to Democrat Carrie Hamblen of Las Cruces. Hamblen went on to win in the general election. 

Earlier this week, there seemed to be some tension among some Senate Democrats leading up to Saturday’s caucus meeting. Sen. Joseph Ceravntes, D-Las Cruces, reportedly expressed concern after he said he was approached by an outside group and offered some sort of compensation for his vote for pro tem. Cervantes declined to speak with NM Political Report about which group reportedly approached him. 

The Senate president pro tem is instrumental in picking committee chairs.

Senate Democrats re-elected Sen. Peter Wirth of Santa Fe as their floor leader and incoming freshman Brenda McKenna as the Senate Caucus Chair. McKenna was elected to replace Sen. John Sapien, who decided not to run for re-election this year. 

“I am humbled to be chosen by my fellow Democrats in the Senate to serve as their Caucus Chair,” McKenna said in a statement. “We have a lot to do, and I will do my work using quality processes and with a spirit of collegiality to move New Mexico forward.”