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State Senator Ben Altamirano Dies

The Associated Press
    SILVER CITY— State Senate President Pro-Tem Ben Altamirano, the longest-serving member of the Senate, has died at his home in Silver City. He was 77.
    Gov. Bill Richardson made the announcement late Thursday, saying Altamirano was a true statesman whose soft-spoken demeanor and love for New Mexico helped him earn the respect of everyone who crossed his path.
    "I am deeply saddened by the passing of a great New Mexican and my dear friend, Benny Altamirano. ... Benny will be dearly missed," Richardson said in a statement released by his office.
    Details about Altamirano's death were not immediately available. In recent years, he had suffered a heart attack, for which he under went surgery.
    A native of Silver City, Altamirano, a Democrat, had represented Senate District 28— which encompasses most of Catron, Grant and Socorro counties— since 1971. He had served over the years as a member of numerous legislative committees, including committees on public school appropriations, capital outlay funding and conservation.
    He held the top Senate job for three years and before that, he was chairman of the Finance Committee for 17 years.
    He was being remembered late Thursday as an even-keeled businessman who worked hard to represent his constituents and do what was right for New Mexicans.
    "It's a sad day," said Sen. Tim Jennings, a Roswell Democrat who served on the Legislative Council with Altamirano and had worked with him nearly 30 years. Jennings said he spent a lot of time with the late senator during the legislative sessions and he described him as always being "above board."
    "There are givers and takers in this world. He was definitely a giver," Jennings said. "He served the people. He busted his tail and he always served the people. What he did was always in the best interest of the people."
    Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, a Portales Republican, described Altamirano as an easy man to work with.
    "He always tried to see both sides of the issue and he tried to listen to everybody," said Ingle.
    As legislators prepare to return to Santa Fe next month for the next session, Ingle said the Senate will have to get used to not having Altamirano there.
    "He served darn near 40 years. When you have someone that's been there that long, it's going to be a different place," Ingle said.