Democrat Candelaria, 25, Republican Pirtle, 27, have little in common
Of the 15 freshmen state senators, two stand out because they will bring a new generation of politicians to the Capitol.
But, aside from their proximity in age, New Mexico's two youngest senators have little in common.
Republican Cliff Pirtle, 27, describes himself this way: "I am a pro-life, life member of the NRA, conservative farmer from the Pecos Valley."
Democrat Jacob Candelaria, 25, is director of Equality New Mexico, a group whose mission is to protect the civil rights of gays and lesbians.
Pirtle, top photo, graduated with honors from Roswell High School, then went to work on the family farm. He said he finds reward in the hard work of growing corn and barley, some of it for his own dairy cows.
Candelaria said he was a kid from a working-class neighborhood on Albuquerque's West Side who made it to the Ivy League. He received a bachelor's degree in public policy from Princeton.
Pirtle ran an unsuccessful race for Congress in 2010. He said he was not satisfied that Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce was conservative enough for southern New Mexico.
Candelaria, right, has experience at the state Capitol. He worked as a policy analyst for House Speaker Ben Lujan, a Democrat from Santa Fe.
Pirtle received enormous publicity during his campaign. He won his primary by a scant 10 votes, the race settled only after a recount.
Then Pirtle defeated 33-year Democratic Sen. Tim Jennings in the general election. Gov. Susana Martinez and her affiliated political organizations targeted Jennings, who was president pro tem of the Senate.
Candelaria began his campaign as one of four Democrats seeking a Senate seat in Albuquerque. He said the West Side district, which had a 12-year senator in Democrat Bernadette Sanchez, had been "underrepresented for far too long."
Sanchez and another candidate dropped out of the race. Candelaria easily won his two-way primary and had no opposition in the general election.
It meant Candelaria's autumn was calm and settled. Across the state, Pirtle's was frenetic and uncertain.
Now, with the election over and each heading to the Senate, one point seems indisputable: Pirtle and Candelaria are young men from the same state but two different worlds.
They will walk into a Senate chamber where many members will be old enough to be their grandparents or even great-grandparents.
The oldest senator is Democrat John Pinto of Gallup. He served in World War II as a Navajo codetalker.
Pinto will turn 88 next month. He has been a senator since 1977, taking office before either Pirtle or Candelaria was born.
In age and in outlook, the Senate will be a place of extremes next year.
What often is missing in the Senate -- and more so in the state House of Representatives -- is civility. Too often the Legislature is filled with discourtesy, one member sniping behind another's back.
The youngest senators will be under a spotlight in that regard.
Pirtle and Candelaria are unlikely to agree on much of anything. If they had not been elected to public office, they probably would never have ever crossed paths or exchanged so much as a hello.
Now they are colleagues. We shall see if they can fight hard for their causes but still remain gentlemen in the give and take of public life.