House Speaker battle to be decided today

No Comments

Heath Haussamen looks into the race between Ben Lujan and Ken Martinez:

The weekend before House Democrats choose one of the most powerful people in state government will be colored by private phone calls, closed-door meetings, deals and other political wrangling.

Lots could happen before Monday’s vote. House members are anxiously awaiting articles about Speaker of the House Ben Lujan that may run in newspapers this weekend.

The Santa Fe New Mexican will profile Lujan and take a look at his career. Many sources have also told me the Albuquerque Journal plans to run an article looking at ties between Lujan and former Region III Housing Authority Director Vincent “Smiley” Gallegos, but I’ve been unable to confirm that.

If there’s any doubt that that the stakes are high, lawmakers tell me a multitude of lobbyists, the governor and even the president of the Navajo Nation may be involved in pushing House Democrats to vote for either Lujan or Ken Martinez at Monday’s caucus meeting.

He also discusses why the race is so important:

In the House, the speaker controls everything. He or she decides who sits on what committee, which committees get to hear bills and how many committees will hear a bill before the full House votes on it. He or she assigns office space, staff and parking spaces to House members.

All that colors the fact that that House drafts the annual budget before it goes to the Senate for approval.

Though the Senate president is fourth in the line of succession to the governorship and the speaker is fifth, in practice, the speaker is more powerful. That makes him or her arguably the second most powerful person in state government.

The speaker is certainly the most powerful person in state government who isn’t elected to that position by the voters.