EXCLUSIVE: Mary Kay Papen says she “definitely has the votes” to become the new Senate Pro Tem

By Rob Nikolewski on January 8, 2013
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State Sen. (D-Las Cruces) told Capitol Report New Mexico on Tuesday night (Jan. 8) that she “definitely has the votes” and and will become the next Senate Pro Tem.

“I know I’ve got the votes,” Sen. Papen said, adding, “I’m extremely confident … I think I have a minimum of 7 and as many as 10 votes.”

One of the most influential members of the New Mexico Legislature also told Capitol Report New Mexico the same thing.

Sen. Mary Kay Papen (D-Dona Ana County)

“I was informed in Albuquerque today at a meeting that she has the votes that will get her over the hurdle,” state Sen. (D-Deming) said. “We believe it will be a bi-partisan vote … I was assured today that she definitely has the votes.”

Last month, Senate Democrats met in their party caucus and selected Sen. of Las Vegas over Papen to replace the former Pro Tem, , who was ousted after 33 years in office in the November elections.

But the vote was not unanimous and since then, Campos and Papen have been jockeying for the leadership position, which is crucial in determining which senators as assigned to committees and — more important — who chairs Senate committees.

To get elected Pro Tem, all the Senate members take a vote on the floor on the first day of the legislative session, which begins on Jan. 15 this year.

Democrats hold a 25-17 edge but if all the Republicans vote as a bloc then it would take just four Democrats to force a 21-21 tie. In that case, it’s generally accepted that the lieutenant governor would come in to cast the tie-breaking vote.

It’s considered a slam-dunk that Republican Lt. Governor John Sanchez would cast his vote for Papen rather than Campos.

Sen. Smith said “from what I heard today” Papen has more than four votes, which would not require Lt. Governor Sanchez to intervene. Smith nominated Papen for Pro Tem at last month’s caucus.

Papen said she spoke to a number of senators today “and they said they will stand by me. They are not rolling.”

We called Sen. Campos at his home Tuesday night and he said, “I’m just going to continue to work and talk to members all the way to the end … I’ll do the best I can. I will say I will serve as a fair Pro Tem and I’m dedicated to the whole Senate.”

“I have not been promising people anything,” Papen said. “I’ve not been promising chairmanships. I’ve told people, ‘I promise I will use your talents wherever we can use them.’ ” However, Papen did say “It’s important we have people in (New Mexico’s) north and south in leadership.”

“The issues at hand — without getting into either personality — is the tool set that needs to be present in the Pro Tem,” Smith said, listing “the ability to communicate with the executive (Gov. ), the ability to communicate with the minority party and the ability to get along with the majority party.”

“I will work across the aisle and work with the governor,” Papen said. “When we work together, it’s good for all of New Mexico … It’s about time to not talk partisanship but let’s talk about New Mexico.”

Update 1/9: While attending morning concerning the Legislative Finance Committee’s budget recommendations, Sen. Papen confirmed to other reporters what she told Capitol Report New Mexico.

“I know I have the votes,” Papen said.

Asked if her successful challenge of Sen. Campos might cause a split or dissension among Senate Democats, Papen said, “I hope not. I would hope that we would come together because it’s got to be about New Mexico. It’s got to not to be about this party or that party or the executive or the legislature, its got to be about New Mexico.”

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