When voters went to the polls in November they not only changed Washington, D.C.—here in the Land of Enchantment they changed the New Mexico State Senate leadership as well. On the other side of the legislature, the State House of Representatives decided to keep what was working and retain its leadership.
Bye and Hello
Democrats won a 27-15 majority in the Senate but that’s not the big story. Inside the Democratic caucus, a cabal of conservative-leaning Dems kept progressive agendas at bay for years. 2021 brings a younger, more female and more progressive caucus and they have new leadership to recommend. On the opening day, Democrats will nominate International District Senator Mimi Stewart, (D-Bernalillo) as president pro tempore. If elected by a majority of the Senate, Stewart will take over from Mary Kay Papen (D-Las Cruces), who lost her November primary bid for her Senate seat after 20 years. As madam president, Stewart will choose chairpersons for each of the committees and those folks decide which bills get heard and when. Republicans made a change, too. Senator Stuart Ingle (R-Lea, DeBaca, Curry, Chaves and Roosevelt) has led Republicans since 2001. But in 2021, Republicans will have a younger face at the helm in Sen. Gregory Baca (R-Bernalillo and Valencia).
Over on the House side, things will stay the same with Democrat control. Rep. Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) will stay on as speaker Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D-Bernalillo) remains as majority leader. Rep. James G. Townsend (R-Chaves, Eddy and Otero) will serve again as minority floor leader. Twitter fights between the speaker and Republican leaders have made front-page news before the session even begins, so don’t look for any bi-partisan cooperation here.
New Mexico is one of 22 Democrat state government trifectas. This means there is a Democrat governor, a Democrat-controlled Senate and House. Incoming members of the Democratic majority are more progressive than those who have left.
It is also one of 28 states where neither party has a veto-proof supermajority in both chambers. With the Capitol building and the rest of Washington, D.C. following the Democrat trifecta trend, it would seem that many progressive measures could be passed to help revert the damage done by the previous administration.
Republicans will hold 15 of the chamber’s 42 seats after this year’s elections, when Democrats shored up their majority.