No matter how one feels about his politics, it should be said that Democratic House Speaker Ben Lujan has been an effective leader whose grasp of the issues and gentlemanly approach will be missed after he steps down from office because of declining health.
Lujan, 76, announced Tuesday that he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2009 and has quietly been undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment at University of New Mexico Hospital. “Even though I will not be running for re-election, as we approached this session I was hoping to tell you the cancer was gone, but as you can see it is not,” Lujan said during an emotional speech on the House floor.
Lujan, as a member of the Taxation and Revenue Committee, has played a large role in state tax law and tax reform over the years. First elected to the House in 1975, he narrowly won re-election in the primary for his Santa Fe district in 2010 but said he will not seek office again this year.
Political leaders at all levels and from both parties expressed sorrow at the news. Albuquerque Republican Rep. Larry Larrañaga said, “Even though we may all have differences of opinion here, or different philosophies, he is like family.”
Lujan is an intense partisan willing to fight for what he believes in, but that is the nature of politics and he happens to be a member of the ruling party in New Mexico. How the public battles are waged, though, says a lot about the leadership, and Lujan’s long tenure as House speaker has generally been regarded as civil.
As the state offers its good hopes for his health, it also owes Lujan a debt of gratitude for the work he has done on behalf of New Mexicans the last four decades.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.