It’s official: Mary Kay Papen is the new Pro Tem of the NM Senate

By Rob Nikolewski on January 15, 2013
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Sen. Mary Kay Papen (D-Las Cruces) sworn in as Senate pro tem, 1/15/13

Last week, Sen. (D-Las Cruces) first told New Mexico Watchdog that she had the votes to become the new Senate Pro Tem in New Mexico and the senators who voiced their support for her “were not rolling.”

Turns out she was absolutely right.

On Tuesday (Jan. 15) on the opening day of the 51st New Mexico Legislature, the conservative Democrat was unanimously elected Pro Tem by acclamation, reversing the selection of Sen. (D-Las Vegas) by the Democratic Party caucus last month.

“Thank you so much for having faith in me,” Sen. Papen said after getting sworn in.

Right after the Senate was called into session, Sen. Campos stepped aside and formally nominated Papen.

“As I looked at the entire situation, it’s not about an individual, it’s about the entire body,” Campos told New Mexico Watchdog after the vote.

Papen finished second in the balloting in the party caucus but in the succeeding weeks had built a groundswell, with the entire 17-member delegation of Senate Republicans backing her as well as a collection of moderate to conservative Democrats combining with the GOP to reportedly give Papen more than enough of the 22 votes needed to assume the leadership role.

Knowing he didn’t have the votes, Campos stepped aside Tuesday.

“The focus isn’t on one person but the people of New Mexico,” Campos told us.

Why did Republicans back Papen?

“We’ve got nothing really bad to say about Pete,” one GOP senator told New Mexico Watchdog, “but we think with Mary Kay in there, that will keep in (as chairman of) the . He’s done a great job for the taxpayers of New Mexico and that’s what we’re concerned about.”

Sen. Smith (D-Deming) and other chairmen and committee-member assignments will be announced this week and the Senate Pro Tem has great influence on such decisions.

Papen, who has served in the Senate since 2001 and is known for her even temperment, emphasized unity after getting sworn in Tuesday.

“We’re a family and we need to stick together,” she said.

W Ken Martinez sworn in as New Mexico Speaker of the House, 1/15/13

Over in the House of Representatives, (D-Grants) was elected as the new Speaker of the House, succeeding the late Ben Luján.

Republicans nominated Rep. (R-Farmington) and in a 38-32 vote strictly along party lines, Martinez was elected. The outcome was no surprise and upon taking the gavel, Martinez said, “This body would be equally well served with Tom Taylor … he’s my friend.”

The ascension to Speaker is a lifelong dream of Martinez, who follows in the footsteps of his father, .

“Ninety percent of the time we agree,” Martinez said. “If we disagree, it should never be disagreeable.”

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