Javier Martínez picked as House floor leader - Albuquerque Journal

Javier Martínez picked as House floor leader

Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, won election Tuesday as House Democrats’ floor leader in a caucus vote. Martinez is shown in this January 2020 file photo presenting a proposed constitutional amendment to earmark more money from New Mexico’s largest permanent fund for early childhood programs. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico House Democrats on Tuesday selected Rep. Javier Martínez of Albuquerque as their new floor leader, filling a vacancy caused by the fallout of a public corruption investigation.

As House majority leader, Martínez will replace Sheryl Williams Stapleton, a fellow Albuquerque Democrat who resigned from the Legislature last month amid a criminal investigation into possible kickbacks and violations of the state Governmental Conduct Act.

The vote to fill the No. 2 spot in the House occurred during a closed-door caucus meeting at the Roundhouse that lasted a little more than an hour.

Martínez beat out at least two other candidates who were seeking the high-profile leadership post – Reps. Liz Thomson and Miguel P. Garcia, both also of Albuquerque.

A lawyer and nonprofit director, Martínez spent part of his childhood in Ciudad Juárez and said during a recent legislative committee hearing that his family struggled to make ends meet.

“I know the unique strengths of our communities and the challenges they face,” he said in a statement released by the House Democratic caucus after Tuesday’s vote. “I look forward to the increased responsibility and opportunity of this role to move our caucus, Legislature, and state forward in a way that’s truly representative of New Mexico’s diverse communities.”

Martínez was elected in 2014 to represent the solidly Democratic House District 19 seat that encompasses Downtown Albuquerque and part of the city’s North Valley and has won reelection three times, most recently in 2020.

Martínez was at the forefront of several high-profile legislative measures that won approval this year, including a bill legalizing recreational cannabis for adult users and a proposed constitutional amendment to withdraw more money from New Mexico’s largest permanent fund for early childhood programs.

In addition, Martínez is chairman of the House Taxation and Revenue Committee, a post he will have to relinquish, because House rules bar elected legislative leaders from also holding committee chairmanships.

Democrats hold a decisive 44-24 majority over Republicans in the 70-member House, which has one independent member – Rep. Phelps Anderson of Roswell.

There is also one vacant seat in the House that will be filled this month by the Bernalillo County Commission.

That House seat had been held for years by Stapleton, who has not been charged with any crimes but said in her resignation letter that it was best for the state for her to step down so she could focus the needed “time and energy to fully defend against these allegations.”

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