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Longtime legislator Saavedra won’t run again

SANTA FE – Longtime state Rep. Henry “Kiki” Saavedra, an Albuquerque Democrat who is chairman of a powerful House budget committee, will not seek re-election next year to the South Valley seat he has held since 1977.

Saavedra, 77, the second-longest serving member of the New Mexico House of Representatives, said Monday that he plans to wrap up his legislative career after finishing the two-year term he was elected to last fall.

“I will not run again. I’ve made up my mind,” Saavedra said. “It’s been something I’ve been thinking about, and it’s time for someone else.”

As chairman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, Saavedra has been a key figure in the annual crafting of a balanced budget during recent years. The budget bill typically originates in the House, before moving on to the Senate for consideration.

The committee’s ranking Republican, Rep. Larry Larrañaga of Albuquerque, lauded Saavedra for his nonpartisan and evenhanded approach to dealing with the budget and other high-profile spending measures.

“He’s as fair as any committee chairman I’ve ever served with,” Larrañaga told the Journal.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Ken Martinez, D-Grants, praised Saavedra for his ability to gain broad support for contentious spending measures. For instance, the $5.9 billion budget for the coming fiscal year passed during this year’s legislative session on a 53-16 vote, with all House Republicans voting in favor of the measure.

“He is a wonderful friend, a mentor of mine and someone I always point to as what a model legislator should be,” Martinez said.

Saavedra has not faced election opposition – in either a general or primary election – in the strongly Democratic-leaning House District 10 since 2000, when he soundly defeated Republican David Ware.

He said Monday he wants his successor to be highly qualified to represent the district. He said he has encouraged a potential candidate to run for the seat, but declined to divulge her name.

A retired city of Albuquerque employee, Saavedra will have served in the Legislature for 38 years by the end of 2014. Fellow Democratic Rep. Nick Salazar of Ohkay Owingeh, who has been a member of the House since 1973, is the only current lawmaker who has served for longer than Saavedra.