Two up-and-comers on Democrats' roster are under 40
State Sen. Mary Kay Papen is 80. Sen. John Arthur Smith is 71.
They have emerged as perhaps the top two of many Democrats in contention to be president pro tem of the state Senate.
Other potential candidates for the Senate presidency are Democrats Carlos Cisneros, 64, Pete Campos, 59, and Linda Lopez, 48.
Republican senators, who are in the minority, 25-17, see Papen and Smith as conservative Democrats who would be fair in structuring committee assignments.
But could there be other, younger senators who could emerge for the leadership job? The answer is resounding yes.
Democrats have youthful talent to draw from, notably Sens. Timothy Keller, 34, and Howie Morales, 39.
Keller, of Albuquerque, above, specializes in finances and best practices in government.
His legislation helped revamp the State Investment Council to put more financial professionals on a body that manages $15 billion in public endowments.
And it was Keller who sponsored the bill requiring an analysis to determine whether the state's rebate program to Hollywood moviemakers was helping New Mexico's economy. To date, 19 months after the bill became law, the Martinez administration has not authorized the movie review.
This prompted Keller to assert himself, saying the governor and her staff were violating the very law she signed.
Morales, of Silver City, often focuses on education issues.
He has challenged the fairness and effectiveness of Martinez's A-F grading system for public schools. Morales says the initiative is flawed and legislators need to fix it before it demoralizes school staffs and students.
Morales also has been vigorous in reviewing government policies for practicality and effectiveness.
For instance, he said the system of legislative candidates filing nominating petitions was an unnecessary requirement that should be scrapped. Eight challenges to petitions filed by incumbent legislators went to the state Supreme Court last spring.
After all the lawyering and court time, everybody remained on the ballot.
Morales and Keller are calm and thoughtful during Senate debates. Both work hard. Each is friendly to and respectful of Republican senators, but will fight for important causes such as the film review and improvement of school-grading practices.
Morales or Keller could give Senate Democrats an option of youthful leadership to go with the experience of 62-year-old Majority Leader Michael Sanchez.