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SANTA FE. (AP) — Nearly a third of the 112 members of Legislature will be new to the House and Senate when lawmakers convene in January, and that could end up helping Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and her push to end driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.
There will be at least 15 new senators and 20 or 21 new House members — depending on a recount in one race — when lawmakers meet for next year’s 60-day session.
In the Senate, the election appears to have added more supporters of the license proposal that has been a centerpiece of the governor’s legislative agenda.
Democratic leaders and the governor say they can put aside their election year differences, but others aren’t so certain. Some of the harshest campaign attacks against Democrats came from a political committee run by the governor’s political adviser. One of the new lawmakers will be Democrat Stephanie Garcia Richard, who beat Jim Hall in House District 43.
“The legislative races were hard fought and nasty, and as a result of that there are inevitably some hard feelings on both sides,” said Albuquerque pollster Brian Sanderoff. “That’s one thing right off the top that both the Legislature and executive branch are going to have to deal with ... as to whether they want to come together to get some things done or whether we’re just going to continue to see the polarization between the two branches of government.”
Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, a Belen Democrat, said, “What I have always believed is that you do what’s best for the people of New Mexico regardless of other people and the way they try to affect outcomes of elections. We’re going to try to move forward.”
Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell said the governor “will work diligently with legislators on both sides of the aisle to seize this opportunity to find common ground” on issues.
One of the looming legislative battles next year is over the governor’s proposal to stop driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. Her measure has passed the House but stalled in the Senate in the past.
Martinez hoped voters would elect more Republicans to improve chances for her initiatives.
Although the GOP lost seats in the House, the governor likely will find enough support for her license proposal in the legislative chamber that earlier this year approved it 45-25 with the backing of 11 Democrats.
At least two newly elected Democrats might be allied with the governor on the license issue. Emily Kane, of Albuquerque, and Stephanie Garcia Richard, of White Rock, told the Albuquerque Journal in candidate questionnaires that they favor repealing the law allowing driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.
The Senate rejected the governor’s measure in 2011 on a 24-17 vote.