Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Symbolic Protest Shook Pro Tem From Power.(New Mexico & The West)

Byline: Loie Fecteau Journal Politics Writer

Legislature 2001

* Unexpected support turned up the volume on Richard Romero's 'statement'

SANTA FE It started out as a symbolic protest. A day and a half later, it was a coup.

Sen. Richard Romero, D-Albuquerque, thought he'd get three votes when he decided to challenge longtime President Pro Tem Manny Aragon for the Senate's top post Tuesday, the opening day of the Legislature's 60-day session.

Like Romero, Sens. Leonard Tsosie of Crownpoint and Cisco McSorley of Albuquerque were fed up with the fiery Aragon's sometimes heavy-handed ways. They agreed to back Romero.

"We just decided we were going to make a statement," Romero said.

But the quiet rebellion erupted into warfare the next day when the Senate's 18 Republicans joined them and voted out Aragon, who had been pro tem since 1988.

"I don't think anyone saw this coming, not until the 11th hour anyway," said lobbyist J.D. Bullington, vice president of the Association of Commerce and Industry. "Everybody is just waiting for the dust to settle. …

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