Two more Dems want Cervantes to be speaker
Two more Democratic House members said Tuesday that they want Rep. Joseph Cervantes to become speaker, even if he has to form a coalition with Republicans to make it happen.
Reps. Dona Irwin of Deming and Mary Helen Garcia of Las Cruces – Cervantes’ aunt – said in interviews with NMPolitics.net that they hope the Democratic caucus will agree to replace current Speaker Ben Luján with Cervantes, D-Las Cruces. Both said they are willing to back a coalition with Republicans if the Democratic caucus refuses to act.
“I’m certainly not changing parties, but I want to change my party leadership to fit my district, because that’s what I was elected to represent,” Irwin said. “I just feel that there’s not as much transparency, and I’m very, very supportive of Joseph.”
Irwin and Garcia join Rep. Andy Nuñez, who said Monday that it’s time for a new speaker. While he said he would prefer that his caucus replace Luján with Cervantes or someone else, Nuñez also said he’s willing to support a coalition if it comes to that.
The support of the three Democrats for a potential coalition means, should the Democratic caucus refuse to act, that Cervantes and the GOP caucus have the Democratic votes to overthrow Luján – if they want it to happen. Come January, there will be 37 Democrats and 33 Republicans in the House.
Republicans meet Saturday to discuss the situation, and Democrats meet Nov. 20. Cervantes has declined to comment to the media and hasn’t announced to members that he is running for speaker, but he has met with some members of both parties to discuss the possibility.
Garcia said she believes Cervantes will run.
“Through some informal conversations, I feel as his aunt that he will commit himself to submitting his name as speaker,” she said.
Luján has said he has no intention of stepping aside. The willingness of House Democrats to challenge that isn’t known, but many think it’s unlikely that the caucus will act.
One top Democrat was unwilling to discuss the situation on Tuesday.
“I don’t get into that. I don’t even know what’s going on,” said Rep. Kiki Saavedra, chairman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. “The speaker’s been our leader for so many years that I don’t even want to get into a debate like that.”
Garcia: Members ‘fear retribution’
Majority Leader Ken Martinez challenged Luján for the speakership in 2006 and lost. Luján responded by taking influential committee positions away from Cervantes and Garcia, who supported Martinez. Nuñez supported Luján in that battle, and the speaker made him chairman of the Agriculture and Water Resources Committee.
But Nuñez has remained independent, challenging the speaker on some key issues.
Most in the caucus remember that leadership battle. Garcia said some House Democrats have shared with her a willingness to change leadership, “but they’re very hesitant to say anything at this time.”
“They fear retribution because he’s done it to me,” Garcia said.
Perhaps sensing that, Nuñez, Irwin and Garcia said they hope Luján steps aside.
“It seems to me that would be the proper thing to do,” Garcia said.
Irwin and Nuñez both said they prefer that the caucus replace Luján with Cervantes but are willing to consider other members as well.
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