The 25 Democrats in the state Senate will gather in Belen on Sunday to nominate a replacement for Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, who was defeated for re-election last month, and other Senate leaders.
Sen. Pete Campos of Las Vegas, N.M., confirmed Friday that he is running for the job, joining Linda Lopez of Albuquerque, Carlos Cisneros of Questa, Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces and Howie Morales of Silver City.
“I have the experience,” Campos said. “I’m a good consensus builder.”
Campos has been in the Senate for 22 years. Currently, he’s a member of the Senate Finance Committee. An educator, Campos is the president of Luna Community College in Las Vegas.
On Friday, Campos wouldn’t rule out trying to form a coalition with Republicans to win the pro-tem position if he doesn’t receive the support of 22 Democrats. Twenty-two is the number of votes it would take on the Senate floor to win the position.
This is the route Jennings took to win the position four years ago. In late 2008, Jennings lost the Democratic Caucus nomination to Cisneros for the pro-tem job. But because that position is elected by the full Senate, Jennings was able to form an alliance of conservative Democrats and all Republicans to win the post when the Legislature convened in January 2009.
“I will do anything possible to get support of 22 members of the [Democratic] caucus,” Campos said. But if he falls short of that, he said, “Anything can happen.”
Papen also has spoken of the possibility of forming a coalition with Republicans, saying that both Democrats and Republicans have asked her to run for the position. There will be 17 members of the GOP in next year’s Senate.
The president pro tem is considered the top position for a senator. But the job isn’t considered to be as powerful as that of the speaker of the House. The president pro tem gets to preside over the Senate when the lieutenant governor —the official president of the Senate — is away.
But the main power of the president pro tem is getting to name and preside over the Committees’ Committee, which selects committee members and chairpersons.
Jennings, who represented a Roswell district for more than 30 years, lost to Republican newcomer Cliff Pirtle.
Two other Democratic leaders in the Senate also lost at the ballot box. Senate Majority Whip Mary Jane Garcia of Doña Ana lost in the general election to Republican Lee Cotter. In the June primary, the Senate Democrats’ caucus chairman, David Ulibarri of Grants, lost to fellow Democrat Clemente Sanchez.
Michael Sanchez of Belen, who survived a bitter general election battle in which he was a target of a political action committee associated with Gov. Susana Martinez, is expected to keep his position of Senate majority leader. No other senators have said publicly they will run for the position.
Democrats in the House of Representatives are expected to choose their leaders late next week. House Majority Leader Kenny Martinez of Grants is expected to get the nod for speaker of the House, replacing current Speaker Ben Luján, D-Nambé.
Two House Democrats, Debbie Rodella of Española and Rick Miera of Albuquerque, have said they are running for the majority leader job.
Contact Steve Terrell at email@example.com. Read his political blog at roundhouseroundup.com.