ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A lot of fresh faces will appear at the New Mexico Legislature next year as nearly a third of the state's legislative seats will be turned over to someone new.
The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/VcGLOT) that 35 of the Legislature's 112 lawmakers are new to the Legislature, have changed chambers or returned after having served in the past.
That's the biggest turnover since 1985, when there were also 35 fresh faces, according to the Legislative Council Service.
Both 2012 and 1984 were election years for the House and Senate after redistricting. That can be a time for high turnover, because the once-a-decade redrawing of legislative district lines to even out the population can prompt lawmakers to retire, or jeopardize their re-elections if their districts are significantly changed.
Combined, the 35 lawmakers spent more than $2 million this year to become members of the Legislature.
A few barely eked out their wins, with margins only in the double digits.
Sen.-elect Cliff Pirtle, a Republican farmer from Roswell, edged out his primary competitor by just 10 votes. He had a more comfortable cushion in the general election, unseating President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, a Democrat from Roswell and a 34-year Senate veteran, by 512 votes in the highest-profile upset of the season.
Not all of the class of 35 could be considered freshmen in the strictest sense.
Democratic State Reps. Bill O'Neill of Albuquerque and Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces are moving from the House to the Senate. Two Las Cruces Democrats — Nate Cote and Jeff Steinborn — are returning to the House after losing their seats two years ago.
Some newcomers have lobbied the Legislature, paid or not, and others have worked during legislative sessions analyzing bills. Some have experience as local government officials.
Democrats will still control both chambers, outnumbering Republicans 38-32 in the House and 25-17 in the Senate.
But the GOP total of 49 seats is an all-time high, and the gain of three Senate seats could improve the governor's prospects for prevailing on her top agenda items, such as repealing the law that allows illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses.