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NM Senate Republicans elect Baca to top post

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Sen. Gregory Baca, R-Belen, right, speaks on the Senate floor during a June special session. Baca is now the top-ranking Republican in the chamber, after being elected this week as Senate GOP floor leader. Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, shown at left, was elected as Senate Republican whip. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Longtime New Mexico Senate GOP floor leader Stuart Ingle has been ousted from his leadership position in the latest shake-up for a chamber that will have new faces in several key posts come January.

Senate Republicans voted during a closed caucus meeting this week to elect Sen. Greg Baca, R-Belen, Senate minority leader.

He replaces Ingle, a Portales farmer who is the longest-serving New Mexico legislator and has worked closely with moderate Democrats on high-profile legislation dealing with pension solvency and driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.

Baca, an attorney who won reelection this month to a second term in the Senate, said Wednesday he would bring a change of direction to Senate Republicans.

Democrats have held a majority in the 42-member chamber since 1988. They will go into the 60-day legislative session in January with a 27-15 advantage after wining one net seat – they actually won three GOP-held seats but lost in two districts currently held by Democrats – in the general election.

“I felt like my skill set was well-suited for the position,” Baca told the Journal.

He said he will work with majority Democrats when possible, but also clearly articulate Republican values in areas of disagreement.

Senate Republicans also elected two other members to leadership posts, with Sen. Craig Brandt of Rio Rancho elected minority whip – he had previously held the position on an interim basis – and Sen. Mark Moores of Albuquerque elected as caucus chairman.

Brandt, a retired pastor who has served in the Senate since 2013, said the new leadership team would “take things in a different direction.”

Specifically, he said the GOP caucus will seek bipartisan solutions while opposing some Democratic-backed measures.

“I think we will do what we can to slow down the really bad bills,” Brandt said.

Senate Democrats are expected to vote on leadership positions during a caucus meeting Saturday.

One key post being vacated is that of Senate president pro tem, as Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, who currently holds the position, was defeated in the June primary election.

The full Senate will ultimately vote in January on who will be elevated to that post, which determines committee chairmanships, among other duties.


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