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During the last legislative session, a female scribe in the press gallery asked me, “Have you ever noticed that the women say what they need to say and sit down, and the men go on and on?”
I had noticed.
Now, this isn’t true of all legislators. There are a few long-winded women and some men who measure their words. Both chambers have too many lawyers (male) who never tire of exercising their vocal chords, even though everybody else tires of exercising their ear drums.
When the session convenes this week, the Senate will have just six women, the smallest number in a decade, because some bowed out and others lost their races.
The House gained six women, for a total of 25. So if the initial observation holds, House speeches should be shorter and more to the point.
The usual argument about having more women is that many of the issues affect us more, but I argue that women do things differently. We’re inclined to be more collaborative and less competitive.
A businessman once told me that he preferred to hire women. “They’re more loyal,” he said. “Guys are always working deals on the side.”
Other men told me they’d become avid fans of UNM’s Lady Lobo basketball players “because they really play as a team.”
Now comes Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, who aspires to follow Roswell’s Tim Jennings, a fellow moderate, as Senate President Pro Tem. You’re expecting me to plug Papen because she’s female. Nope. I’m plugging Papen because she’s best suited to the job.
At this writing, the contest is still on, and Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, was still a contender. One senator in the Papen camp told me, “Google both of them and see who you’d choose.”
So I did. Papen looks like a Girl Scout: 2012 State Legislator of the Year Award from the American Psychological Association Practice Organization for supporting mental and behavioral services.
Katie’s Hero Award for leadership in solving and preventing crime through forensic DNA technology.
And the E for Effort award from the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce for pushing the Space Flight Informed Consent Act.
This was only in 2012.
Campos, on the other hand, is the somewhat controversial president of Luna Community College, where rumors waft about poor morale and political hires.
With his contract about to expire this year, the he reportedly arranged for the LCC board, which is evaluating his performance, to meet for two days, courtesy of taxpayers, at Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino.
Here’s another measure. The Association of Commerce and Industry, a statewide business group, used to issue a report card. A lawmaker’s votes with or against the association was a measure of who was on the right side of business issues.
For years, Papen, a retired car dealer, scored higher than Campos, but more recently Campos improved his score.
This is important in a year when we’re trying to climb out of a deep hole. It’s not a perfect measure, but it indicates some understanding of what makes the economy tick and what might create jobs.
We should also be asking who could best weld diverse interests and work with the governor. Well, Papen hails from Las Cruces, and knows the governor well.
Now consider a dynamic not often heard north of Socorro: There’s a sense out yonder that the North takes care of the North, and Albuquerque takes care of Albuquerque, and everyone else is left to tread water. Look for a vote not just along ideological lines but along geographical lines.
Mary Kay Papen is the woman for the job.