Thursday, November 04, 2010
GOP Narrows Dems' State House Majority
By Dan Boyd
Journal Capitol Bureau
SANTA FE — Election Day brought big change to the New Mexico House of Representatives, where Democrats will begin the 2011 session of the Legislature with a greatly narrowed, 37-33 majority.
Republicans seized eight Democratic-held seats on Tuesday, adding them to 25 already in Republican hands.
The new margin is the narrowest since the House went to 70 seats in 1967.
Top-ranking House Republicans say they expect to have equal representation on some committees — where bills are debated and amended — and say Democrats won't be able to control the legislative agenda.
"They won't have the luxury of just being able to do what they want," said House Minority Whip Keith Gardner, R-Roswell.
The House will feature 12 new legislators — 11 Republicans and one Democrat.
Before the election, Democrats outnumbered Republicans 45-25 in the House.
Rep. Al Park, D-Albuquerque, who won re-election in House District 26, said voters were frustrated with the state's stagnant economy and sent a message at the ballot box.
"They want people to put aside their differences and address the challenges that are facing the state," Park said.
The swing of eight Democrat-held seats being won by Republicans is unrivaled in modern New Mexico history. House Republicans picked up seven seats in the 1978 and 1994 elections.
The seats changing hands are:
• In the Albuquerque area, Republican Nate Gentry ousted Democrat Karen Giannini in Albuquerque's House District 30; Republican David Doyle of Corrales defeated Democrat Benjamin Rodefer in House District 23; and the GOP's Tim Lewis beat Jack Thomas in Rio Rancho-based House District 60.
• In Doña Ana County, Democratic incumbents Jeff Steinborn and Nate Cote were defeated by Republicans Terry McMillan and Rick Little.
• In the southeast, Republican Cathrynn Brown ousted seven-term incumbent Demcrat John Heaton in the Carlsbad-area House District 55.
• In Valencia County, political newcomer Alonzo Baldonado and late entry David Chavez scored GOP victories over Democrats Andrew Barreras and Julian Luna.
The narrow margin in the House will make it more difficult for Democrats to override any vetoes by Gov.-elect Susana Martinez. It takes a two-thirds vote in each house of the Legislature to override a veto.
House members from both parties are expected to meet behind closed doors in the coming weeks to vote on leadership positions.