Some families have politics in gene pool

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By Sherry Robinson

Political dynasties are a hot topic lately because of potential runs by a Bush or a Clinton. We have our share in New Mexico.
In this election cycle, we heard most often about the King family, but other candidates (at this writing we don’t know who prevailed) grew up with politics in their Cheerios.
Take the two men competing for state land officer.
Incumbent Ray Powell Jr.’s father, a mechanical engineer, came to New Mexico in 1943 to work on the Manhattan Project and helped found Sandia National Laboratories. He retired in 1985, ran for governor and lost to Garrey Carruthers.
In 1963, when all state employees were political appointees, Gov. Jack Campbell assigned Powell to develop and implement a state personnel system, which he did, with integrity and fairness. In 1988, Powell became state chairman of a Democratic Party fractured along geographical and ideological fault lines, which spawned coalition control of the Legislature. Under Powell’s leadership, Democrats won majorities, and the coalitions ended.
When he died in 2010 at 90, columnist Jay Miller wrote, “New Mexico has lost one of its greatest public servants.”
Powell’s opponent, Republican Aubrey L. Dunn, another junior, is the son of a legislative powerhouse.
Aubrey L. Dunn Sr., whose own father was a state senator in the 1940s, entered the Senate in 1964. As chairman of the Senate Education Committee, he pushed through the first public school equalization formula. For that, he was considered “a wide-eyed liberal,” he once said. He became chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in 1973. He resigned from the Senate in 1979 and ran for governor but lost the Democratic primary to Toney Anaya. He died in 2012.
Dunn, a political reporter once wrote, “has the respect of most of those who get to know him or have to work with him — whether they like him or not.”
The Washington Post recently named the leading political dynasties in each state: in New Mexico, the Lujáns, and in Arizona, the Udalls.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján is son of the late state Speaker of the House Ben Luján. U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s grandfather Eugene Lujan was the New Mexico Supreme Court’s first Hispanic chief justice. Her uncle, Manuel Luján, was a long-serving Republican congressman and U.S. Interior Secretary; Manuel’s brother Ed was state Republican Party chairman; and their father was mayor of Santa Fe. Michelle and Ben Ray, both Democrats, are distantly related.
This year, the Udalls were much discussed nationally, as Democrats Tom and his cousin Mark fought to hold their Senate seats in New Mexico and Colorado. Tom is the son of former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall; Mark is the son of former congressman Mo Udall. In Arizona, the Udalls also count two mayors, four state legislators and two state Supreme Court justices.
And we have Walter K. Martinez, senior and junior, both state Speakers of the House.
The senior Martinez, born in Tierra Amarilla, moved to the uranium boomtown of Grants in the 1950s. He was elected to the state House in 1966 and served as speaker from 1971 to 1978. He also led the Mama Lucy Gang, a group of liberal Democrats who met in a Las Vegas eatery of that name. In 1981, he was the primary mover in creating Cibola County out of western Valencia County. He died in 1986.
Because Walter used to move his entire family to Santa Fe for the legislative session, young Ken Martinez spent a lot of time in the Roundhouse. He was elected to the House in 1998 and became speaker in 2013.
Walter Martinez was “very likable, soft spoken, and mild mannered,” said former University of New Mexico professor Noel Pugach. “He was not an ideologue. He operated by consensus and didn’t dictate.” That’s also a good description of Ken.