SANTA FE – New Mexico House Republicans shook up their leadership Monday evening, voting to install Donald Bratton of Hobbs as their new floor leader and to place several members of the party’s younger guard into top-ranking positions.
Bratton, a retired engineer who has served in the chamber since 2001, challenged and defeated Tom Taylor of Farmington for the title of House GOP floor leader in Monday’s caucus meeting, which was held behind closed doors in Albuquerque.
Taylor had held the position since 2006, with Bratton serving as minority whip for the last two years. Neither Bratton nor Taylor could be reached immediately for comment.
With Bratton moving to challenge Taylor, Rep. Nate Gentry of Albuquerque was elected as the House Republicans’ new whip.
Gentry, a 37-year old attorney, won a tough re-election fight in the general election to earn his second term in the Legislature.
“I look forward to working with the new leadership and helping to move the state in the right direction,” he said Monday.
The other candidates for the position were Reps. Dennis Roch of Texico and Candy Spence Ezzell of Roswell. The whip’s duties typically include helping the floor leader and rounding up votes for key legislation.
Meanwhile, Rep. Alonzo Baldonado was elected by fellow House Republicans as the new caucus chairman, replacing Rep. Anna Crook of Clovis.
Baldonado, 38, is a Los Lunas real estate broker who was also just elected to his second two-year House term.
Rep. Jimmie Hall, R-Albuquerque, said the House Republicans’ new-look leadership reflects a more urban New Mexico Legislature.
“What we talked about was needing to position ourselves for the midterm election (in 2014) and getting ready for the upcoming session,” Hall said of the Monday caucus meeting.
Republicans had hoped to seize control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1954 with the results of this month’s election.
However, Democrats not only held their narrow majority in the 70-member chamber, but actually built on their advantage. They will go into the 2013 session with 38 to 40 members, depending on the results of a pair of automatic recounts.
House Democrats are expected to hold their own caucus meeting in the coming weeks.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal