New House minority leader is plainspoken engineer, oilman
Republicans lost ground in the state House of Representatives in this month's election.
On Monday night, those who survived voted out Rep. Tom Taylor of Farmington as the Republican floor leader.
Rep. Don Bratton, 65, of Hobbs defeated Taylor for the right to lead House Republicans.
Republican House members also elected Reps. Nate Gentry of Albuquerque as their whip and Alonzo Baldonado of Los Lunas as their caucus chair.
Gentry replaces Bratton. Baldonado defeated Rep. Anna Crook of Clovis. Crook, a nine-term representative, crossed swords with Gov. Susana Martinez's political committee last spring by writing a column condemning dirty tactics in a Republican primary for the state Senate.
Gentry and Baldonado are relative newcomers. Each will begin his second term in the House in January. Bratton is about to start his seventh term.
Will any of the changes matter to New Mexico residents or loyal Republicans? Probably not.
Democrats will control the state House of Representatives for the 60th consecutive year. Unless Bratton is a magician, he will have a tougher go than Taylor did.
That is because the Democrats' lead in the House will grow from 36-33-1 to either 39-31 or 38-32. One House race in Dona Ana County goes to a recount next week.
As for Taylor, the Republican floor leader for six years and a true gentleman of the House, losing to Bratton had to hurt.But in a statement, Taylor said he was moving forward with the intent of spending more time on legislation.
“The best thing about these elections is that they are all in the family," Taylor said. "Regardless of the outcome, we are family and will continue to act as such for the betterment of the state.”
Bratton is a native of Hobbs and a former city commissioner. He spent his working life in engineering and the oil business.
Bratton's drawl is thicker than most in the Legislature, but he is as plainspoken as they come. He never ducks a question.
Many Republicans, including Martinez, thought their party would take control of the House in the November election. Had they succeeded, Bratton would have been in line for speaker of the House. As minority leader, he will be in a position to fight a lot of battles, but the numbers say he probably will not win many.