UPDATE: 8:45 Wednesday 1-16-13 Check my story in today's New Mexican about Sen. Papen not being as conservative as you might think.
In a surprise move Tuesday, state Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, nominated his rival Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, for the position of Senate president pro-tem then moved to elect her by acclamation.
The Senate elected her unanimously.
Campos had been nominated for the position by the Senate’s Democratic caucus last month. However, Papen organized a coalition of conservative Democrats and Republicans to back her for the position. By last week, Papen was saying publicly that she’d gotten enough Democrats to win.
Campos told senators said he nominated Papen so the Senate can “act in unison.” He choked up when he said, “I love this institution and every one of you.”
Papen thanked Campos, saying, “We will be a unified body. … We are a family. We need to stick together. We’re going to disagree at times, but let’s agree more than we disagree.”
The major duty of the Senate president pro-tem is to preside over the panel that selects committee chairs and members.
This is the second time in recent history that the Democratic Caucus nominated a northern New Mexico senator for the pro-tem position, only to see a conservative southern Democrat form a coalition with Republicans to win.
That’s what happened in 2008 when Sen. Tim Jennings of Roswell defeated Sen. Carlos Cisneros of Questa to become Senate president pro-tem.
Jennings was defeated for re-election last year.
On the House side, as expected Rep. Kenny Martinez was elected House Speaker.