Departing state lawmakers in New Mexico

Departing state lawmakers in New Mexico

It's no secret all of our state lawmakers have to fight to keep their seats in the Roundhouse at some point. That's how our Democratic process works.

SANTA FE, N.M. – It’s no secret all of our state lawmakers have to fight to keep their seats in the Roundhouse at some point. That’s how our Democratic process works.

But, this November, we know at least 15 seats will definitely be up for grabs on Election Day.

Nine state senators are on their way out. That’s about one-fifth of Senate seats – a pretty sizeable turnover.

Democrats Nancy Rodriguez, Bill Tallman, Brenda Mckenna, and Jerry Ortiz y Pino are all leaving. Along with Republicans, Mark Moores, Steven Neville, Ron Griggs, Gregg Schmedes, and Cliff Pirtle.

As for the House, only six out of the 70 seats are opening up.

Democrats Gail Chasey and Anthony Allison are retiring. While Natalie Figueroa and Republicans Larry Scott, Candy Ezzell, and Jim Townsend are all planning to run for those open Senate seats.

So, they may not be done with the Roundhouse, but their House seats are still up for grabs.

While 15 open seats may sound like a lot, it’s pretty average for recent years. There were 22 lawmaker turnovers in both 2018 and 2020, but we’ll add this group of departing lawmakers is taking a lot of experience with them.

Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, who co-chaired the Senate Finance Committee, and House Majority Floor Leader Gail Chasey have been state lawmakers since 1996 –  28 years ago.

Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Steven Neville also racked up nearly 20 years of experience, something Speaker of the House Javier Martinez says is hard to lose.

Martinez says there’s definitely an opening this year for new, potentially younger voices to come in for next year’s session. But political experts say the current, more experienced lawmakers will still be calling the shots.

Even if voters flipped every open seat we’ve talked about, Democrats would still keep control of the House and Senate. Every state representative is up for re-election this year, so there’s potential for upsets.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says she’ll be more focused on the presidential race this year, but had a message for New Mexico voters at the end of the session.

“If you’re not happy about public safety, you’re not happy about education, go to the ballot box. And that’s something people should expect me to engage in,” said Lujan Grisham.

The deadline for New Mexicans to enter their names into these legislative races is two weeks from Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024 so there’s still time to get your name on the ballot.

Martinez announced Tuesday he’s assembling a group of lawmakers, law enforcement leaders, and community advocates to start discussing some key public safety proposals well ahead of next year’s session. It appears the focus is on criminal competency and establishing court-mandated behavioral health treatments.

This is the proposal Lujan Grisham says she would bring back for a special session. On Tuesday, she suggested she still hasn’t decided if that will happen.

Either way, current lawmakers will have their work cut out for them in the interim.