The alleged involvement of a progressive political group in the race for state Senate president pro tem seems to be causing some consternation among some New Mexico Senate Democrats.
According to sources familiar with the Senate Democratic Caucus, state Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, announced during a recent caucus meeting that he was approached by an unnamed political group that offered something in exchange if Cervantes voted for the groups choice for pro tem.
Sources NM Political Report spoke with, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, said Cervantes did not specify what was offered or which political group offered it.
Cervantes declined to discuss the matter, but did not deny that it happened.
“I think it’s important that I work through the channels and the process we have for ethics issues,” Cervantes said. “So I’d tell you that I wouldn’t talk with you about that publicly until the appropriate time to do so.”
When asked which authority he reported the possible incident to, Cervantes didn’t give any more details.
“I have spoken with individuals in a confidential way and in the appropriate way that we have for reporting things of concern,” he said.
The pro tem position is voted on by the full Senate, but Democrats will have a 27-15 majority when the next legislative session begins in January.
One source said several caucus members have been approached by representatives from the New Mexico Working Families Party to discuss potential legislation, with the conversation quickly turning to the pro tem race.
Working Families state director and former state senator Eric Griego called the notion that his group would try to drum up votes with a bribe “absurd.”
“First of all, we’ve not talked to Senator Cervantes at all,” Griego said.
Griego said his group has been meeting with members of the Senate Democratic Caucus to discuss legislation and that occasionally the pro tem race comes up in conversation. But, he said, his group has only offered up their list of preferred Senators in those conversations and that the implication of quid pro quo is “super libelous.”
“It’s patently false, we just don’t work that way,” Griego said.
The Working Families Party is a national organization that operates as both a political party in some states and also as a political advocacy group.
Griego said the local chapter worked hard this year to oust what the group calls “corporate champions.” The group endorsed a list of candidates this year and helped get moderate Democrats out of office during the primary. Griego said his group wanted to follow through with that effort.
“We worked our butts off to elect good people, both in the primary and the general,” Griego said. “And we’re not just going to hope that it turns out ok, in terms of leadership.