ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — Eight years of conservative coalition leadership in the state Senate may end Sunday as Democratic senators meet to pick their nominee for president pro tem of the body.
And that decision could limit significantly what the Gov. Susana Martinez can accomplish during the 60-day legislative session that begins on Jan. 15.
Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings of Roswell, considered a moderate-to-conservative Democrat, lost his re-election bid last month. Jennings was one of two Democratic Senate leaders targeted in attack ads from a political action committee run by Martinez's political consultant.
The other, Sen. Michael Sanchez of Belen, survived and remains Senate majority leader.
When Democrats caucused four years ago Jennings lost his party's nomination for Senate president but won the position when the full Senate voted backed by a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats.
Unified Democrats can make the choice themselves given their 25-17 majority over Republicans as long as no more than three members defect to a new coalition.
Five Democratic senators have come forward as possible replacements: Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces, Howie Morales of Silver City, Carlos Cisneros of Questa, Linda Lopez of Albuquerque and Pete Campos of Las Vegas.
"All of them are not exactly champions of the governor's agenda," said Gabe Sanchez, a professor of political science at the University of New Mexico.
Sanchez said the frontrunner is Pete Campos who's not on board with the governor's version of a bill that repeals the law allowing illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses. Last session Democrats failed to sell a compromise that kept the license law but tightened up its requirements.
Sanchez says Papen has the greatest potential to support the governor's agenda.
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New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.