She wants job held by Sen. Tim Jennings, who lost his seat
State Sen. Linda Lopez said today she will run for president pro tem of the Senate.
Lopez, D-Albuquerque, hopes to succeed Sen. Tim Jennings, who was defeated in his bid for re-election. A Democrat from Roswell, Jennings will be leaving the Senate after 33 years of service.
Lopez, 48, has been a senator since she was 32.
"I believe I have the ability to work with both sides of the aisle," she said in an interview at the Capitol.
The president pro tem chooses members of a Senate committee. That panel then decides who serves on other committees, such as finance and education.
Senators with bills that they hope will become laws have to navigate their proposals through the committee maze.
Lopez herself has chaired the Senate Rules Committee for 10 years. It does background investigations on cabinet nominees.
Lopez said she was proud of the Rules Committee becoming more thorough and detailed in evaluating nominees. She would leave the committee if she becomes president pro tem.
Another potential candidate to succeed Jennings is Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa. Cisneros, right, sought the job in 2008, losing to Jennings 30-19.
Jennings, 62, is one of three Senate Democrats who lost their bids for re-election. The Senate next year will have 25 Democrats and 17 Republicans.
Republican Cliff Pirtle, 27, defeated Jennings.
Throughout the fall campaign against Pirtle, Jennings was locked in a nasty battle with a political group affiliated with Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.
In ads, the Martinez camp linked Jennings to Manny Aragon, a former state senator now in prison for public corruption. Jennings said his attackers doctored photographs to make it appear that he was consorting with Aragon. Jennings said he was an honest senator, and he resented implications to the contrary.
Martinez's chief of staff, Keith Gardner, also attacked Jennings. Not knowing he was being recorded, Gardner told a friend that he hated Jennings. Gardner also called Jennings vile names.
The tape became public, an embarrassment to Gardner. He belatedly apologized to Jennings.
Lopez jumped into the fray, calling on the governor to fire Gardner. Lopez said Gardner was unfit to hold a taxpayer-funded job.
But Gardner remain's on Martinez's executive team. He would have to try to work with Lopez if she ascends to a leadership position.
A big question for 2013 is whether Democrats throughout the Legislature will see Gardner as a voice for the executive branch, or a man who has lost all credibility.