House Speaker Ben Luján survived a challenge to his leadership today and will keep his position as the second most powerful official in state government.
In the end, Rep. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, wasn’t even nominated for the position after it became clear that pressure from the tea party had led a number of Republicans to refuse to join a potential bipartisan coalition to make Cervantes the speaker.
“I am deeply humbled and honored to continue to serve as your speaker,” Luján said in a speech he gave after the vote.
Cervantes and two of three Democrats who had publicly supported his attempt to overthrow Luján all voted for Luján. The only other member nominated to be speaker was Minority Leader Tom Taylor.
It was a largely party-line vote, but Rep. Andy Nuñez, D-Hatch and a Cervantes supporter, refused to cast a vote, instead saying “present” when his name was called. The totals were 36 votes for Luján and 33 for Taylor, plus Nuñez’s “present” vote.
Late last week, just before tea parties from around the state started passing resolutions opposing a potential coalition, many believed Cervantes’ chances of overthrowing Luján were good. But, in the end, sources said some Republicans were not willing to join a bipartisan coalition and risk being challenged in a primary by tea party-backed candidates in 2012.
Luján has served as speaker since 2001. This is the second time he has survived a challenge from within his own party. Majority Leader Ken Martinez unsuccessfully challenged him in 2006.