Thursday, January 20, 2005


As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
January 20, 2005

Nobody doubted that Democrat Ben Lujan would be officially re-elected as House Speaker when the Legislature convened this week. After all, the Ds outnumber the Rs 42-28 in the House.

What was surprising was that he received four votes from House Republicans, who on Tuesday chose him instead of House Republican Leader Ted Hobbs of Albuquerque.

The dissenting four were Reps. Jeanette Wallace of Los Alamos, Sandra Townsend of Aztec, Janice Arnold-Jones of Albuquerque and Dan Foley of Roswell.

It’s obvious the nomination of Hobbs was symbolic, just like the nomination of Sen. Joe Carraro, R-Albuquerque for Senate president pro-tem. (Carraro lost to Democrat Ben Altamirano of Silver City Tuesday on a straight party vote.) Minority parties in both chambers do such things to show solidarity.

So why would four Republicans buck their leader?

Both Wallace said Townsend said they did it partly because Lujan was assured of victory.

“Ben is my neighbor,” Wallace said, referring to the fact that Lujan’s Santa Fe County district is next to hers. “I enjoy working together with my neighbors. Sometimes we put up (challengers) just to be antagonistic.” Republicans should save confrontations for more important issues, she said.

“It was nothing to do with Rep. Hobbs,” Townsend said.

But the two others who voted for Lujan said it was because of Hobbs.

“I vote for the one who could do the best job,” Arnold-Jones said. “I have no big political agenda. I have no desire to hurt Ted. But I have serious questions about his leadership style and the lack of communication.”

Foley, who made an unsuccessful bid for Republican whip several weeks ago, said, “The leadership team is trying to get me moved off my committees. It was hard for me to vote for someone who was trying to cut me off at the knees.”

Hobbs on Wednesday denied he had tried to get Foley removed from the Judiciary and Business and Industry Committees.

“When I submitted my recommendations to the speaker, I basically asked for 99 percent of what my members had asked for,” he said. The speaker of the House has the authority to appoint all House committee members.

When Lujan announced the appointments Wednesday, Foley was off both his old committees.

Hobbs said he doesn’t think the four votes against him indicates any serious divisions among House Republicans.

“I don’t think there are insurmountable problems,” he said. “I don’t twist arms and I never have questioned a member’s vote.”

What was the governor reading? Tuesday’s State of the State address represented a technological milestone of sorts. It’s the first time a governor used an electronic teleprompter to read his speech.

Richardson spokesman Billy Sparks said such machines frees up a speaker from having to look down on the podium to read a text. Instead, the speaker can look directly at the crowd — and directly into a television camera.

“Most major speeches these days are done with teleprompters,” Sparks said.
The machine itself belongs to the state Film Office, Sparks said. “The speech was a training event for them,” he said.

I blog, therefore I am: Don't forget, for the next two months, in addition to my regular legislative coverage, I’ll be keeping a web log concerning the festivities at the session. For anecdotes, observations and wisecracks concerning the Legislature, check it out.

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