Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The End Of A Very Brief Era; Speaker Martinez Will Not Seek Minority Leader Post, Plus: The Wake-Up Call Is Coming For House Dems And So Is The Pain; First Casualty Is Legendary Roundhouse Clerk 

Speaker Martinez
Now that outgoing House Speaker Ken Martinez has thrown in the towel and announced he won't seek to become House minority leader when the R's take control in January, the question is whether the House Dems will seek a leader who will be calling out the GOP or accommodating it? (Martinez's letter of withdrawal below).

Accommodation and compromise were the hallmark of Speaker Martinez's brief two year tenure and, as the saying goes, look where it got him.

Confrontation is not without risk, but the Dems have painted themselves in a corner by ceding so much ground to the GOP. Those that argue they will automatically take back the House in the higher turnout year of 2016 might want to take a closer look at the math. The Dems return is anything but guaranteed. They will need at least three seats and maybe more, depending on retirements. If that means they will have to fight hard to win it back, it means sending a firmer message to women, working class voters and minority New Mexicans who make up the bulk of the Democratic Party. . .

Does that also mean the new leadership should be female and center-left? The two public candidates so far for minority leader are Santa Fe Rep. Brian Egolf and Grants area Rep. Eliseo Alcon, but there is room for more if someone has the yearning. ABQ State Reps Moe Maestas and Sheryl Williams Stapleton will seek to become minority whip and there's room for more competition there, too.

We've confirmed that the House Democratic caucus will meet Nov. 22 to select its leaders.

ABQ State Rep. Mimi Stewart, frequently mentioned as a possible minority leader, won't be in the House much longer and won't run. She is poised to be appointed to fill the ABQ state senate seat left vacant by Tim Keller who was elected state auditor. Insiders say Stewart has the three Bernalillo County Commisison votes needed to win the appointment in January.


Clerk Arias (by Bralley)
If state House Democrats have yet to absorb the shock here's a wake-up call for them on what they are about to endure when the R's take control of the 70 member chamber for the first time in 60 years. From the Roundhouse:

All of the Democrat chairmen and chairwomen will be moving out of their nice big offices, and saying goodbye to the staffers they were allowed to employ. Those chairmen and chairwomen will be replaced by the incoming Republicans, and the Dems moved into small shared offices, probably many out of the Capitol and in the annex building, and out of sight and out of mind. 

Since all those Dem chairs are accustomed to power, and now will have absolutely none, many will begin thinking that the three leadership posts are the only way to remain remotely relevant. The competition for minority leadership positions, including the Whip and Caucus Chair, may be the only thing House Dems get to decide in the next two years. House members will be called to caucus quickly to try and contain the public bloodletting, finger-pointing and handwringing. There is just enough of the old Raymond Sanchez and Ben Lujan caucus to hang onto Kenny Martinez as minority leader for nostalgic reasons.  Kenny has got to hold to those memories and similar hopes of a rebound someday. 

One of the first casualties of the GOP takeover is longtime Chief House Clerk Steve Arias. He has held the position since 1983 and his tenure in the House dates to 1966. What a run of great service to the people of New Mexico. Write a book, Steve.

The GOP leadership, we've confirmed, will be giving Arias his walking papers. And then there's the over 250 "seasonal staff" Arias is in charge of hiring to service the House during legislative sessions. Get your resumes in GOP loyalists, looks like there's going to be some openings when a new clerk is named. . .


The real pain for the Dems will come about halfway through the 60 day legislative session that begins January 21, says our Roundhouse Gator:

Sometime around the middle of the coming 60 day session the House Dems will begin to get angry about the bills they can’t stop and their inconsequential role other than to wait on capital outlay with everyone else. Their Dem bills will quickly go down to defeat in committees on party line votes. Only then will the magnitude of this loss, and the failure of the past leadership, begin to sink in.

Oh, my. Get the painkillers out Dems. You're going to need them. . .


Sen. Sanchez
In blogging about the possibility of the state Senate going along with the soon-to-be Republican controlled House on a number of key issues, we noted that if four Martinez Dems joined with the 17 R's they could pass the measures. The Senate has 42 members so if everyone voted and the four Dems voted yea and joined the R's there would be a 21-21 tie. However, that tie would be broken in the R's favor by Lt. Governor John Sanchez who presides over the Senate and has the right to break tie votes.

To get measures such as voter ID approved, the Senate might have to "blast" the measures to the floor and away from committees where they would likely be killed. The question, as one lawmaker put it to us, is whether "the stodgy Senate" would resort to that tactic and jeopardize the "integrity" of the committee process.  Well, it would be very unusual but so is the first GOP controlled House in 60 years. We'll have to see how it plays out come January. Maybe there will be surprise vote switches by spooked and/or deal making senators in the committees and the blast option won't be relevant. Or maybe the Dems will actually stick together and kill the House GOP agenda.

Pressure will be enormous on Majority Leader Michael Sanchez to hold the line in the Senate. That pressure grew when Valencia County state Representatives Alonzo Baldonado and Kelly Fajardo were named to leadership positions by the House GOP caucus.

Baldonado was named majority whip and Fajardo caucus chair. Senator Sanchez is also from Valencia County and up for re-election in 2016. You could easily see Fajardo and Baldonado telling Valencia County that the House passed politically popular measures like voter ID and right to work but it was Senator Sanchez who blocked them and therefore must go. Let's say it together: Elections have consequences. . .


The speakership of Ken Martinez will soon be part of the history of La Politica. Here's what he wrote to his fellow House Democrats as he withdrew his name from consideration as minority leader:

Dear Representative -

I write to thank you for all your support over the years.  It has been an honor to serve as your Speaker and before that as your Floor Leader.  This past Tuesday, New Mexico House Democrats endured very difficult losses in the general election.  I am proud of the effort made by our members and candidates.  We didn’t have the outcome that we wanted but I believe as much as ever in the future of this caucus.

It’s time to rebuild, learn from this campaign and move forward. After much prayer and quiet contemplation, I believe that the time has come for me to pass the baton to the next generation of leadership.  I will not be running for any leadership position in the next caucus election. We have a deep and talented bench and I am confident that new and inspiring leadership will emerge from this process and together we will continue to fight for working New Mexicans.

A caucus date will be set in the next few days and staff will follow up with details.  I look forward to working with you in the days and months ahead.  There is a lot of work to be done and I will be with you every step of the way. Sincerely, Speaker Ken Martinez

The historical irony of Speaker Martinez's loss of power is lost on noone. In 1979, his father, Walter Martinez, was another Democratic speaker to be toppled. Back then a coalition of Republicans and conservative Dems took control of the chamber and ousted Martinez. They named a conservative Dem as speaker. Walter Martinez died in 1986 at the age of 55.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.      

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
website design by limwebdesign