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Dems Elect New Leaders

State Senate Democrats on Sunday moved to fill voids in their leadership ranks following the defeats of the Democratic president pro tem and majority whip in general election contests last month.

Democratic senators, in a closed-door caucus meeting in Belen, nominated Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, to be the next president pro tem, replacing Sen. Tim Jennings, D-Roswell.

Senate Democrats elected Sen. Tim Keller, D-Albuquerque, to be the party’s whip, replacing Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, D-Doña Ana.

Sen. Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, retained his post as Senate majority leader.

While Democrats gave the nod to Campos for pro tem, that position will ultimately be decided in January by a vote of the full Senate, where Democrats will have a 25-17 majority.

The president pro tem presides over the Senate in the lieutenant governor’s absence and has a strong hand in the assignment of Senate committee members.

“I do want to be the pro tem of the entire Senate, so I’m reaching out right now to talk to all members of the Senate,” said Campos, a state senator since 1991. “… The things that I’m looking at of course are to operate with the highest level of decorum as I go forward.”

In past years, the Senate’s minority Republicans have helped install coalition-elected presidents pro tem, including the sometimes conservative-leaning Jennings.

Republicans would need five Democratic senators to join them in January to elect a pro tem other than Campos.

“I did get the sense that we (Senate Democrats) were very unified as we came out of caucus, and I will continue to reach out to members and see what their concerns are,” Campos said.

Jennings and Garcia, in their November re-election efforts, faced opposition from allies of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

Keller, the new whip, said hard-fought election victories in November played a role in bringing Senate Democrats together as a more unified Senate majority.

“Coming off an election cycle, you have clear directions from your constituents,” said Keller, who won re-election for a second term. “For Democrats, a lot of us were attacked hard and went through difficult (elections). For us, we see a real coming together in terms of what we have to do to help New Mexico.”
— This article appeared on page A4 of the Albuquerque Journal