The new Republican majority in the state House on Saturday nominated Rep. Don Tripp of Socorro to serve as speaker when the party takes control of the chamber from Democrats in January.
Tripp, a well-liked and loyal member of the GOP caucus who has served in the House since 1999, said he was honored by the unanimous nomination by the 37-member Republican caucus.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Tripp said. “This is a historic time for us, and we’re still riding the wave of the idea that we’re in the majority after 62 years.”
The House Republican caucus elected Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, to serve as the majority floor leader.
Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas, was elected majority whip. Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Belen, was named caucus chair.
While the caucus elects its own floor leaders, speaker nominations will be voted on by all 70 House members when the Legislature convenes for its 60-day 2015 session on Jan. 20.
Gentry said he was confident that Tripp will go on to be speaker because he has unanimous support from the 37 Republicans elected on Tuesday, wresting control of the chamber from Democrats for the first time since the early 1950s. Democrats will have 33 members on their side of the aisle in January.
Tripp would take over the speaker’s chair from Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants.
“I think our caucus is very united,” Gentry said. “I nominated Don Tripp as speaker by acclamation. There was not one person that objected. … Everyone is very much unified.”
Tripp said he expected a steep learning curve as Republicans learn how to control the chamber for the first time in decades.
“I think we have a monumental task before us, trying to just make the transition, because there’s nobody alive that had to go through this before,” Tripp said.
The nominee for House speaker said the Republican caucus will focus its agenda on job creation efforts. “We want to be moving jobs forward because that’s the No. 1 thing in New Mexico that we need,” Tripp said.
Gentry said the majority Republican caucus will make an effort to work with House Democrats, although some in the caucus feel they were previously excluded from legislative negotiations as the House minority party.
“We’re going to take a different tack,” Gentry said. “And that is to involve the minority party in the process. There’s certainly not a monopoly on good ideas, and we’re going to look at each piece of legislation not based upon who’s carrying it but on its individual merit.”
Baldonado, the newly elected majority whip, said he’s confident the new Republican majority will be able to keep a united front to ensure the party’s legislative priorities have the votes to pass.
“Whenever you have 37 people, everyone’s got different perspectives, different life experiences, different work experiences. But as a caucus, we’ve traditionally been very united,” Baldonado said. “I anticipate this caucus holding together, being a group that wants to work together.”
Republicans will select committee chairs in January, Gentry said.