A senator from a Democratic state known for criticizing members of his party said his caucus leader wanted to kick him from the Senate finance committee after opposing Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s way appropriated federal funds without legislative approval.
But Pro Senate Speaker Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, says that’s not true. She said if she removes Jacob Candelaria, who also represents Albuquerque, from this position, it will be because he has withdrawn from his party and no longer discusses with the other members.
The back-and-forth exchange on Sunday, initiated after Candelaria tweeted on Saturday that he had to be fired because of his objection to the governor’s use of those funds, came days after the Supreme Court of the New Mexico ruled against Lujan Grisham and with Candelaria and Sen. Greg Baca, R-Belen, which branch of government has the power to spend the money on.
This high court unanimously sided with the two senators, who questioned the governor’s decisions on how to spend an estimated $ 1.6 billion in federal pandemic aid without the contribution of the legislature.
Candelaria said on Sunday he believed the most recent measure to limit his influence was retaliation from Stewart, whom Candelaria has criticized in the past and who may be unhappy with his recent legal victory.
“It’s no big surprise to me that this comes right after the Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday,” he said. “It has by no means dampened my spirits. If the leaders want to act in this way in retaliation, it is their decision, just as it will be the decision of the Senate whether it will accept this childish behavior.”
Stewart replied: “He’s completely wrong. What he did this week [before the Supreme Court] has nothing to do with what I might have to do. “Although she said it” may “be possible that she could remove him from this committee,” it will have nothing to do with her great performance before the Supreme Court. “
She said she watched the Supreme Court hearing on Wednesday and thought Candelaria “was amazing, calm, he was deferential without being obsequious.” But, she said, Candelaria “doesn’t seem to want to work with us.”
Stewart said she asked Senator George Muñoz, D-Gallup and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, to call Candelaria on Saturday and ask her to join caucus. Muñoz said on Sunday that he had done exactly that, adding that he had told Candelaria: “I don’t want to lose you on [Senate] finance.”
“I never mentioned that we were taking it out of Senate finances,” Muñoz said. “He did. He made assumptions.”
Candelaria, in response to Muñoz’s explanation, said: “I didn’t assume anything.”
The 11-member Senate Finance Committee is one of New Mexico’s most powerful legislative bodies, as it plays a major role in shaping the state’s annual operating budget. The committee can break or pass just about any bill that comes with a price.
The conflict between Candelaria and the Senate Democrats had been brewing for months. In May, Candelaria split from her Democratic caucus. Two months later, he said Stewart and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, lacked the moral and ethical integrity to lead the 42-member body. Around this time, he used Twitter to allege that a bill he sponsored during this year’s 60-day legislative session to end the use of the “gay panic” defense in business. Criminal Matters died in the House as a result of the “petty political actions of the Democratic leadership.” “
In mid-July, he sent Stewart an email in which he resigned as a voting member of all interim legislative committees. In this email, provided to The New Mexican by Stewart on Sunday, he wrote: “I have no objection if you wish to remove me from the Senate Finance Committee. He also wrote: “I regret that you felt the need to utter this threat during our last discussion.
Candelaria said he engaged in a series of emails with Stewart on the issue due to his criticism of his leadership work on a number of issues.
But if there was an effort to remove Candelaria from the Senate finance committee, another committee – the committee committee – would have to meet first and approve the action during the regular legislative session scheduled for January or during a special session scheduled for December focused on redistributing efforts. Then, said Candelaria, the entire Senate of 42 members must vote to approve the action.
He said he plans to pressure his colleagues to “disagree” with the plan if it passes.
“I expected there to be a political price to pay for doing the right thing, but it’s a small price to pay for my own integrity,” Candelaria said.
He said he would be “tickled” if Stewart didn’t pursue his withdrawal.
“I think I did a good job on it [finance] committee, and I would like to stay, ”he said.
Earlier this year, Candelaria said Stewart changed his Senate seat assignment and moved his Roundhouse office from the second to the third floor in retaliation for his criticism of what he called “his discriminatory actions in matters of employment and management “involving the former director of the Legislative Education Study Committee, Rachel Gudgel. Gudgel, who was accused of making racist comments about Native Americans and criticized by her subordinates about her management practices, resigned her post in early September.
Last month Candelaria, who has served in the Senate since 2013, said he would not stand for re-election next year.