New Mexico Republicans name Tripp new Speaker of the House

A FAST TRIPP: Less than four days after taking the New Mexico House of Representatives, Republicans chose Don Tripp to become Speaker of the House.

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

Republicans in the New Mexico House of Representatives completed head-spinning week on Saturday by selecting a new Speaker of the House once the Legislature convenes in January.

“It’s pretty fast, kind of a whirlwind,” said Rep. Don Tripp, R-Socorro in a telephone interview from his home. “I’m riding a wave here. I’m honored to do it. It’s a once in a lifetime experience. It’s been 62 years since we had a Republican speaker so it feels pretty incredible to me.”

On Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning it became clear that the House GOP would completely flip the makeup of the chamber — having it go from a 37-33 advantage for Democrats to a 37-33 advantage for Republicans. The turnaround marks the first time since the election of 1952 that House Republicans will have a majority.

Tripp extended a hand to Democrats on Saturday, saying he wants to work with them when the session convenes Jan. 20.

“Absolutely,” Tripp said. “I’ve enjoyed working with many people on the other side of the aisle. There’s a lot of fine people up there and I think we’re all interested in doing some good … I like to treat people the way I liked to be treated.”

The spirit of bi-partisanship will be tested when the 60-session gets into the nitty-gritty of politics but Tripp said he was happy to receive a congratulatory phone call from departing Speaker of the House, W. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, upon hearing that Tripp will replace him.

“He’s a real gentleman,” Tripp said. “We’ve always been friends and came up (to the Roundhouse) the same year (1999). Our districts are right next to each other.”

The Republicans caucused together Saturday in Albuquerque and the meeting didn’t take long — Tripp said no more than a hour and a half — with the incoming and remaining GOP members selecting Tripp by acclamation.

Tripp said he talked to every member prior to Saturday’s meeting and it was generally agreed how the House leadership positions would be distributed.

Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albquerque, will be the majority floor leader; Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas, will go from being the minority whip to the majority whip; and Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Belen, will serve as caucus chair.

The official vote will be held by Republicans on the first day of the 60-day session.

Tripp said his No. 1 goal is to help New Mexico’s economy, which has been struggling to keep up with neighboring states.

A member of the legislature’s Job Council, Tripp said he plans on working with Democrats on the council — such as Martinez and Senate Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen – to implement some of the council’s recommendations.

“To raise New Mexico from all the bad measurements, you have to raise the economy,” Tripp said.

Tripp also said he will support legislation making New Mexico a “right to work” state – giving employees the right to decide for themselves whether to join or financially support a labor union.

“I think we definitely need to look at that,” Tripp said. “I don’t think it’s a tremendous roadblock but it is a roadblock and it’s an issue we need to remove that negative when we’re trying to get jobs to New Mexico.”

House Democrats have their own leadership decisions to make in the wake of Tuesday’s defeat and will now have to look to the Senate — where Democrats hold a 25-17 advantage — to thwart the GOP.

“We’re going to have to rely on the Senate to block those bills.” said Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, D-Santa Fe, on Election Night.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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