Replacing Senate Pro-Tem Mary Kay Papen: a Key Piece in Fixing Our Senate
With Tracy Perry withdrawn from the race, there now is only one progressive candidate challenging Senator Mary Kay Papen. The remaining Democrat candidate is the widely respected and well-known Executive Director of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, Carrie Hamblen, who was one of the leaders advocating for making the Organ Mountain Range a national monument. In short, she has name recognition, a track record, and is now in a head-to-head race with Papen. Retake Our Democracy is proud to be supporting Carrie Hamblen. At the end of this analysis you will find contact information for her campaign and a link to her positions on the issues.
Due to Covid-19, challengers can not canvass; they can’t hold town halls; and challengers’ budgets can’t compare with the budgets of incumbent DINOs whose coffers are flooded with money from out of start corporations.
Senator Papen can be charming, as we have learned in several one-on-one conversations with her in the 2020 Session. She is a fierce advocate for children’s mental health, and she even voted for the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act, twice voted for tax credits for electric vehicles, and also voted in favor of a bill calling for the use of pet food fees to pay for pet neutering and sheltering, three of Retake’s priority bills.
But by no means were all of Papen’s votes in 2020 good votes.
- She voted against HJR 1 the Permanent Funds for Early Childhood Act (again).
- She voted for SB 274, a tax giveaway that benefited the top 3% of New Mexicans and would have deprived our state of over $200M in tax revenue between 2021 and 2026. Fortunately, Senator Wirth never called it for a vote on the Senate floor and the bill died.
- She also voted no on SB 95, which would have created a Radioactive Waste Tax Force. With plans to expand radioactive storage in southern NM, this issue is a vital concern to southern NM voters, yet she turned her back on those concerns. She was joined by the GOP and five fellow Senate DINOs — Senators Munoz, Smith, Ramos, Sanchez, and Martinez — to defeat a bill that with solid Democratic support would have easily passed.
And in 2019 Papen’s impact was even more pronounced, when she voted “NO” on each of the following bills, again all Retake priority bills:
- HB 51 Decriminalize Abortion
- SB 76 Prohibit Coyote Killing Contests
- HB 85 Union Security Agreements.
- SB 8 Firearm Sale Background Check
- She also voted with Sen. Clemente Sanchez to table SM 5 Study State-Owned Bank in Senate Rules, killing the bill.
While Senator Papen’s bad votes are reason enough to support Carrie Hamblen, Sen. Papen’s power does not rest with her votes. Her district is more progressive than the one Senator Smith represents, and so she must make some good votes, as she did in 2020 (above), to get re-elected.
But once ensconced in the Senate, Papen joins a coalition of the entire GOP Senate and five or six Democrats In Name Only who vote for her to serve as Senate Pro-Tem. As Pro-Tem, Sen. Papen is chair of the obscure Committees’ Committee. While few understand the workings of the Committees’ Committee, the chair has tremendous impact on what can and can not be accomplished in the legislature.
Papen appoints Committees’ Committee members, and the resulting composition is a Dream Team of corporate shills — conservative GOP and conservative Democratic Senators, with the required inclusion of Sen. Wirth, Dem. Floor Leader, and Sen. Mimi Stewart, Dem. Whip. Last year, Papen also appointed Sen. Liz Stefanics. Normally, a committee of 8 Dems and 3 GOP should have little trouble advancing Democratic priorities, but five of the eight Democrats frequently align with the GOP: Senators Smith, Muñoz, Sanchez, Campos, and Papen. These DINOs are found in most every effort to derail legislation that is found in the Democratic Party Platform and supported by all other Democratic legislators.
This committee appoints the chairs and makes committee assignments for all the Senate Committees, and the result is astonishing. Fully ten of the fourteen standing Senate committees are either chaired by conservative, corporate Democrats or stacked full of corporate DINO members. And folks, that makes all the difference in what can get through the NM State Senate. In effect, if a bill does not enjoy the support of Senators Papen, Smith, Sanchez and Muñoz, now joined by Senator Ramos, it is dead on arrival, having no chance of getting to the Governor’s desk. How does this work?
First, committee chairs decide which bills are heard and which are not. Any bill involving tax and revenue must go through Senate Finance, chaired by Senator Smith, and any bill having to do with regulation of corporations or business taxes must pass through Senator Clemente Sanchez (Corporations and Transportation). Most every important bill must pass through one of these committees. And, for example, Senator Smith has made a habit of killing increases in Permanent Fund allocations to early childhood for almost ten years, he routinely tables the Health Security Act, and he demands reductions in proposed increases to the minimum wage. Nobody has to take a bad vote or leave fingerprints. They simply wait for Senator Smith to not assign the bill for a Finance Committee hearing, and another good bill is dead.
Second, everyone in the legislature and all the progressive lobbyists who are trying to craft bills understands that to have any hope of passing, the bill must get the approval of Senators Smith, Sanchez, Papen, Muñoz, and Ramos. As a result, bills are tailored to get their approval. For example, the Energy Transition Act was essentially written by PNM attorneys, ensuring that it would be approved by Corporate Democrats. Efforts to reform our horribly regressive tax codes are not even introduced, as there is an understanding that these bills are Dead On Arrival. Bills like the minimum wage increase may pass through the House only to be butchered by Senator Sanchez in Senate Corporations and Transportation. Ditto on regulation of the gas and oil industry. And we all remember what happened to HB 51 as the Senate DINOs joined with Republicans to prevent NM from decriminalizing abortion.
So, make no mistake about it, without ever casting a bad vote, Senator Papen allows the Corporate Democrat coalition to almost totally control the legislative process. Eric Shimamoto did a brilliant job of laying this out in his video Fix the NM State Senate. We will be including this important video in every post on Senate races over the next week.
Follow the money and you have a clue to Sen. Papen’s priorities and her true constituency. Her top eight campaign contributors in 2016 were El Paso Electric, Pfizer, Sen. Peter Wirth’s Campaign Committee, Devon Energy, PNM Resources, NM Health Care Assoc., ConocoPhillips, and Western Refining. Only 9% of her donations came from individuals, and she received a 100% rating from the Association of Commerce and Industry.
Papen’s challenger has a different constituency. She has been endorsed by Conservation Voters New Mexico, Planned Parenthood, Forward Together, Sierra Club, Olé, Working Families Party, Progress Now, and, of course, Retake Our Democracy, with more endorsements likely coming now that she is the sole progressive challenger. To read about Hamblen’s positions on the issues, click here. At this page you can also find out how you can support her campaign.
And so, we ask you to get active in support of Carrie Hamblen. If we can elect her to the NM State Senate and combine that with two or three other progressive wins, we can completely change the composition of the Senate and a flood of new progressive legislation will be transformed to the law of the land. Click here to find contact information on her campaign and how you can help.