By Matthew Reichbach
The state legislature has the potential to look completely different in 2013 following the 2012 elections because of multiple retirements, challenges to incumbents in the primaries and redistricting — and the deadline for candidates to jump into a race has not hit yet.
The retirements began with that of powerful Speaker of the House Ben Lujan (D-Nambe) who announced on the first day of the legislative session that he would be retiring and not run for reelection in November because he is battling cancer and has been since 2009. Lujan finished up the legislative session on an oxygen tank, showing up every day to the session despite many thinking he would need to take days off because of his health problems.
That retirement was the first of many, mostly in the state Senate.
Incumbent Senators Dede Feldman (D-Albuquerque), Mark Boitano (R-Albuquerque), Clinton Harden (R-Clovis) and Vernon Asbill (R-Carlsbad) and Eric Griego (D-Albuquerque) are all not running for reelection. Boitano said he left because he believes in term limits. He has served for four terms. Griego is leaving to run for Congress in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District.
Several Republicans reportedly are leaving because they are getting primary challengers as a direct result of not toeing the line for Republican Governor Susana Martinez on her key issues.
In the House, retirements are coming mostly to allow lawmakers to run for other political positions.
Thus Rep. Danice Picraux (D-Albuquerque), who is calling it quits after eleven terms is retiring, is an exception.
Rep. Al Park (D-Albuquerque) is giving up his SE Heights seat and chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee to run for a seat on the Public Regulations Commission.
Rep. Bill O’Neill (D-Albuquerque) is taking a shot at the Senate in the seat left open by the retirement of Feldman.
One-term Rep. David Doyle (R-Albuquerque) hopes to take the senate seat currently held by Sen. John Sapien (D-Corrales).
And Rep. Joni Gutierrez (D-Mesilla) is running for a position on the Democratic National Committee.
This doesn’t even count primary challenges in the legislature. Just today, former Rep. Ben Rodefer (D-Corrales) announced he would challenge Sapien in the Democratic primary. Rodefer lost to Doyle in the 2010 general election for the House seat — setting up a potential rematch between the two, this time for a Senate seat.
And redistricting may cause more changes. The latest map by Judge James Hall pairs Reps. Nick Salazar (D-Ohkay Owingeh) and Thomas Garcia (D-Ocate) in the same district, perhaps prompting a race between two incumbents. Either way, at least one of the long-serving representatives will not be returning to the legislature in 2009.
With all the changes set to happen, political observers will have to consult their seating charts a little more frequently in the 2013 session — but they will have a 60-day session to learn the names of the new Senators and Representatives.