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Nonretiring Democrats look ahead to 2014

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Lawmaker targets pensions; Richardson billed at fundraiser

The youngest member of the New Mexico Senate says he’s forgoing a lucrative legislative retirement package until the system is overhauled to prohibit early payouts.

Sen. Jacob Candelaria, a 26-year-old Albuquerque Democrat, said it isn’t justifiable to accept a taxpayer-supported retirement plan that would pay him at least $10,000 per year for life, starting at age 36, if he leaves office after 10 years on the job.

Candelaria, who was first elected to the Senate in 2012, said former lawmakers should qualify for retirement benefits only at a “appropriate” retirement age.

Teachers and other public employees currently face such restrictions. But lawmakers have remained an exemption, potentially qualifying for retirement benefits immediately upon departure from the Legislature regardless of age.

“At the end of the day, it erodes public trust when someone who’s 36 or 37 can collect money for the rest of their life. It’s too sweet a deal,” Candelaria said. “… I think we need to tighten up the system so retirement does mean retirement.”

Candelaria said he would push for legislation during next year’s legislative session to create new restrictions on benefit payouts.

Campaign rumblings : State Sen. Linda Lopez of Albuquerque is making the first noise in her bid for the Democratic governor nomination in 2014, firing off a news release late Wednesday attacking Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

Lopez, who probably does not enjoy household-name status, continued to overlook her competition so far in the June 2014 primary election, Democratic Attorney General Gary King.

Lopez instead used the opening of the renovated Downs at Albuquerque to take aim at the Republican governor and controversy over her administration’s handling of the Downs’ renewed lease.

Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell on Thursday criticized Lopez’s tactics and defended the lease awarded by the State Fair Commission as fair and aboveboard.

At the head table: Former Gov. Bill Richardson appears to be the headliner for a state Democratic Party fundraiser scheduled for this weekend, but it was unclear Thursday whether he’ll be in attendance.

Richardson is featured as the top of the ticket on invitations to Sunday’s $250-per-person Santa Fe fundraiser in honor of Bastille Day, but party Chairman Sam Bregman said it’s not confirmed whether Richardson will be at the event or send prepared remarks.

“Gov. Richardson is a great Democrat. He has been a great fundraiser, and the party truly appreciates his help,” Bregman said.

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