The droppings of Election 2012

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By Hal Rhodes

 At first glance, last week’s election might seem to have been pretty much a “status quo” affair.
President Obama remains in the White House for another four years. Republicans will continue to control the U.S. House of Representatives for at least two more years, whereas a strengthened Democratic majority will prevail in the U.S. Senate.
In New Mexico, the election left Democrats in control of the Legislature and Republican Gov. Susana Martinez with just two years left on the 4th floor at the Roundhouse unless she seeks a second term.
The state’s three-member U.S. House delegation still features one Republican and two Democrats, including newly elected lst Dist. Democratic Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham, and in the nation’s upper house, New Mexicans will continue to be represented by two Democratic senators.
Nonetheless, Election 2012 left behind a decidedly changed political landscape in this enchanted land.
When 1st Dist. Congressman Martin Heinrich becomes Sen. Heinrich with the New Year, he will fill the Senate seat occupied for the past three decades by Democrat Jeff Bingaman. Thirty years accrues a lot of seniority in an institution where seniority matters a great deal.
Only four years ago, Heinrich’s soon-to-be Senate colleague, Democrat Tom Udall, was himself a freshman senator after winning the seat long held by Republican Pete Domenici.
Not since the earliest years of statehood have New Mexico’s two U.S. senators been first-termers with scant seniority.
It in no way calls into question the dedication and the legislative skills of Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich to note that they have large shoes to fill.
During his two terms in the House, Heinrich was well regarded as a hard working, serious-minded legislator. Udall, for his part, has made himself a leading force for reform of antiquated Senate rules, including the filibuster, a cause behind which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has put his considerable weight.
 Simply put, New Mexico’s interests should be secure under the new Senate regime.
 That said, things could be a bit dicier at the Roundhouse when the dust of Election 2012 settles.
 For reasons of her own, Martinez decided to throw her weight around during the recent election by backing a string of candidates she hoped to get elected. Most weren’t.
 The governor, along with her political consultant Jay McCleskey who heads up the PAC, Reform New Mexico Now, also set her sights on defeating the state Senate’s two top Democrats, Senate President Tim Jennings and Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez.
To that end, Martinez and McCleskey spent lots of money, and they succeeded in ending Jennings’ 34 years in the state Senate. Sanchez, on the other hand, was handily reelected and will be back at his post when the Legislature convenes after the first of the year.
 Speaking on condition of anonymity during a recent conversation with this reporter, a former Republican legislator said, “I don’t know what she (Martinez) was thinking. She sure enough made a mess for herself.”
 And so it would seem.
 As matters stand, Martinez now faces the daunting task of trying to get whatever measures she submits to the Legislature for its consideration past a powerful Senate majority leader who bears her no goodwill after she did her level best to defeat him.
 On top of all that, she also faces the prospect of having to do business with a new Senate President who, in all likelihood, will be considerably less conservative than the Democrat from Roswell she succeeded in bringing down, Tim Jennings.
 Yep. This governor “sure enough made a mess for herself.”
Hal Rhodes
NM Progress