Peter Wirth is new Senate majority leader

Sen. Peter Wirth

Wirth succeeds Michael Sanchez, a Belen Democrat who had been in the Senate for 24 years. He lost his re-election bid to Republican Greg Baca.

Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, was nominated by her Democratic colleagues to continue as president pro tem. She has held the position – the body’s top job – since 2013. The full Senate will vote on president pro tem in January.

House Republicans, meanwhile, chose Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, as House minority leader during their caucus held the same day in Albuquerque.

At the Democratic caucus, which took place in Belen, state senators also chose Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, as the majority whip and Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, as caucus chair.

Republican Gentry has been majority leader for the past couple of years – since the GOP took over the House in the 2014 election – but Republicans will be in the minority next year because Democrats regained control in the Nov. 8 election.

Gentry, a lawyer, has been in the House since 2011.

The House Republican minority whip post went to Rep. Rod Montoya of Farmington, who was just elected to a second term, while 12-year veteran Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell was chosen as caucus chair.

The majority Democrats in the House are slated to choose their leaders – including their nominee for speaker – at a caucus today in Santa Fe.

The outcome of the recent election isn’t official yet but, if the current results hold when three close legislative races are recounted, Democrats would outnumber Republicans 38-32 in the House and 26-16 in the Senate.

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