Senator Tim Jennings was reelected President Pro Tempore of the Senate early this afternoon by a vote of 23-19. Jennings won all 15 Republican votes and 8 Democratic votes to retain his presidency. Senator Carlos Cisneros, the challenger, met with Jennings yesterday, asked him to withdraw from the race, and when Jennings refused, perhaps miscalculating his own support, decided he would fight it out on the floor of the Senate today in the opening moments of the session. Jennings, who has claimed all along he had enough votes to remain President, prevailed.
This means power in the Senate will remain independent of Governor Richardson, and assure equal treatment for the South: Jennings is from Roswell, Sen. John Arthur Smith, Chair of Senate Finance, is from Deming, and Sen. Mary Kay Papen is from Dona Ana County. Whether Sen. Cynthia Nava, from our own Valle del Sur, will retain her Chair of Education is unclear, since she voted to support a faction of Northern liberals closely associated with Governor Richardson.
In reality it would have been difficult for the Senate as a body, and for Democrats in particular, to explain a victory for Cisneros, inasmuch as Cisneros and many of his closest supporters have been part of what might be dubbed the "Rubber Stamp for Richardson" faction, in contrast to the independent posture associated with Jennings and his supporters. Given the lame duck status of the Governor, now beginning his seventh year as governor, and the humiliation he faced in having to withdraw from Obama's cabinet in the face of an FBI investigation over serious ethical questions, it just didn't make sense for the Senate to take power away from the very senators who correctly predicted that the governor's spending spree would get the state into financial trouble, and hand it over to a faction that appeared to be completely uncritical of the governor's agenda.
One irony in this is that the Republicans in the Senate, in supporting Jennings unanimously, may have prevented the Democrats from shooting themselves in the foot.