New Mexico’s “conservative” Democrats?

Recently, a letter-writer wrote in to the Santa Fe New Mexican in response to an RGF commentary to make the following statement: (Gessing’s) charge that

“New Mexico Democrats have controlled the Legislature for years” has no merit until the recent contests that turned out five conservative senators who were Democrats In Name Only. If Gessing has been disappointed in what Democrats could do while former Sen. John Arthur Smith barred the way to real reform, hold your breath, Paul. Change for the better is coming through.”

Here is a chart RGF put together illustrating that fact which is also below.

Was Sen. John Arthur Smith really a “conservative?” On the issues RGF cares about there has been little in the way of “conservative” Democrat influence in Santa Fe from John Arthur Smith or anyone else on the Democratic side of the aisle.

Back in 2015 then-Gov. Susana Martinez needed a mere three Senate votes to get a “Right to Work” law in New Mexico. Did John Arthur Smith vote for it? No. No Senate Democrats stepped up to vote for Right to Work. 

In 2019 with a $1 billion surplus and as Chair of the powerful Sen. Finance Committee Smith supported a massive tax hike (HB 6).  That same year Smith supported an 11% single-year budget increase. We could go on.

True, Smith opposed tapping the Land Grant Permanent Fund, was (perhaps) a moderate on abortion/life issues, and opposed marijuana legalization, but those hardly make him a “conservative” or a closet Republican.

And, while Smith and others have had some sway in New Mexico’s Legislature over the 91 years of Democrat dominance, the fact remains that New Mexico has been dominated by Democrat policymakers for nearly 100 years now. Our rankings as having the worst performing education system and being the most federally-dependent state in the nation must be considered part of that legacy of single-party rule.