Her ouster as Democrats' whip was just deserts, a year late
So it was with state Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque. For a time, she considered herself untouchable.
Then she flashed her famous temper in a room occupied by fellow legislators and reporters.
Stapleton, 55, right, may never live down the worst quote of her career. Facing Republican Rep. Nora Espinoza, Stapleton yelled: "You're carrying the Mexican's water on the fourth floor."
Stapleton's jab was a reference to Gov. Susana Martinez, though she never admitted it, even when apologizing. "There are a lot of people on the fourth floor (of the Capitol)," Stapleton said.
Then Stapleton silenced herself, saying almost nothing to the press. She won re-election to her House seat this year, but fellow Democrats last week ousted her as their party whip, a job she had held for eight years.
In a just world, Stapleton would have been relieved of her party leadership role immediately after her outburst. Democrats should have punished Stapleton for her incivility. Instead, she held on for another 12 months.
Competition finally came into play for the good of the party.
Maestas was a better candidate for whip than Stapleton, and he probably would have defeated her even if she had not made headlines for all the wrong reasons.
No lawmaker should feel entitled to a leadership position. House Democrats and Republicans, just like the voters at large, should try to elect the best talent.
Maestas, 44, is one of the Democrats' top lawmakers and thinkers. Smart and hard-working, he has a bright future in state or national politics if he wants it.
It was Maestas, working mostly alone and against long odds, who this year got through important legislation to remove the state public defenders office from the governor's control. New Mexico voters then ratified his proposal in the form of a constitutional amendment.
Losing the whip's chair had to hurt Stapleton. But as Vince Lombardi said, the greatest challenge is in rising again after you fall.
We shall see if Stapleton embraces hard work and civility. Only then would she do the job that voters elected her to do.
She is passionate and knowledgeable about education issues. Stapleton can still contribute to the state by turning her attention to legislation on important matters such as reading programs and student retentions.
And she should know that losing the whip position to a quality candidate such as Maestas was no disgrace.