Meet the New Mexico State Senate President Pro Tempore, Mary Kay Papen (D-Dona Ana, 38)


Mary Kay Papen

Senator Mary Kay Papen

Senator Mary Kay Papen (D-38-Dona Ana) has served in the New Mexico Legislature since 2001, representing parts of Dona Ana County. According to Senator Papen, her drive to become a public official comes from her parents instilling in her the need to give back to her community. Beyond her elected position, her community involvement includes volunteering as a board member for La Casa Domestic Violence Shelter, St. Luke’s Health Clinic, the First Step Clinic for Prenatal and Pediatric Care, and the Border Book Festival.

In 2010, Senator Papen became the Senate President Pro Tempore for the State Senate. During the legislative session, she chairs the Senate Committee’s Committee and serves as a member of the Corporations and Indian Affairs Committees. During the interim she co-chairs the Legislative Jobs Council and the Legislative Council; she is also a member of 14 other interim committees. As a state senator, she has championed many important pieces of legislation including mental health insurance benefits, Katie’s Law, affordable housing reform, as well as legislation dealing with water, economic development, horse- racing regulation, public health and education.

Senator Papen was awarded the APA Practice Organization’s Legislator of the Year award in 2012 in recognition of her legislative accomplishments to support behavioral health access and awareness, and promote greater public well-being. Other awards she has received include the New Mexico Senate Milagro Award, America’s Outstanding Women in 1967, the Las Cruces Hispano Chamber of Commerce “Citizen of the Year” in 1995, the New Mexico Community Foundation Luminaria Award in 1997, the Governor’s Award for Outstanding New Mexico Women in 2000, the New Mexico Alliance for the Mentally Ill “Outstanding Legislator” in 2003, and the 2010 NAMI – Domenici Family Award.

Now a retired car-dealership owner and racecar driver in Europe, Senator Papen enjoys spending time with her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren when she’s not busy tending to state business.




Senator Peter Wirth, Senator Tim Keller and Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino


Senator Peter Wirth (D-25-Santa Fe) has served in the New Mexico State Senate since 2008, representing a district that runs from Tesuque Pueblo to Glorieta and includes a large portion of The City of Santa Fe. He previously represented District 47 in the House of Representatives from 2004 through 2008. Senator Wirth said the reason he decided to run for office in the first place is because he had a passion for public service.

When he isn’t working at the Legislature, Wirth is a lawyer and mediator at Sawtell, Wirth & Biedscheid. In 1982, he graduated from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Spanish and then went to law school at the University of New Mexico where he received a Juris Doctorate in 1990. Wirth then became a law clerk for the Honorable Oliver Seth, a Federal Judge with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Currently, his civil law practice concentrates on mediation and alternative dispute resolution.

In this current legislative session, Wirth is concentrating on water conservation for the state, gun control and is working on bills that tighten up law against texting while driving, amongst other issues. During his nine years in the Legislature, 48 of the bills he sponsored are now law.

Senator Wirth is the Chair of the Senate Conservation Committee and serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee. During the interim, he is Chair of Radioactive and Hazardous Waste Committee and is a member of the Water and Tax Committees and the Drought Sub-Committee. Within his community he has also been active in a number of organizations and boards including: the St. Vincent Hospital Foundation from 1991 to 2000, the Santa Fe Children’s Museum from 2000 to 2004 where he was board chair for two years, the Historic Santa Fe Foundation from 1991 to 1995, where he returned to serve as board president from 1997 to 2003, and Rotary International.

Common Cause named him as the 2011 recipient of the “Jack Taylor Best in Government” award. Conservation Voters New Mexico also named him one of its topfive favorites in 2014.

He is married to Carol Romero-Wirth and they have two children.




Senator Tim Keller

Senate Majority Whip, Timothy Keller, who became a recent member of the Senate Leadership in 2012, was first elected as a state senator in 2008 at the age of 29. His term began the next year and he hit the ground running, proving that he was efficient, hardworking, innovative and eager to serve his constituents. He ran for a second term once again in 2012 to represent District 17 of Albuquerque and was re-elected. District 17 includes East Central Albuquerque and the International District areas around Expo NM and Kirtland Air Force Base.  Sen. Keller has been an ardent champion of the diversity of his district and its’ the revitalization efforts.  District 17 is the state’s most diverse district where 27 languagues are spoken and is the only area in New Mexico with a vibrant Asian and African refugee communities.

Before Keller became a legislator, he studied out of state and received his degrees from Notre Dame and Harvard. He later returned home to New Mexico, where he worked as an investment banker with Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette focusing on energy technology corporate finance. As an entrepreneur, he moved to Cambodia and spent three years co-founding Data Digital Divide (DDD), a social enterprise which extends help to land mine victims and other disadvantaged people.

It was only a matter of time before this natural leader decided to run for public office. “I grew up here and was fortunate enough to receive a good education and professional experience background but ever since my time at St. Pius X high school, I have felt a vocational calling to give back to our state.  I used to use my vacation time to volunteer up in the Senate and dreamed of one day being a part of the chamber,” said Keller.

For this year’s legislative session, Keller will be sponsoring several bills focusing on education, healthcare, water and land issues, and government reform.

Sen. Keller is a member of several committees, including: Legislative Council, Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy, the Science, Technology and Telecommunications, Economic and Rural Development, Investments and Pensions Oversight, Land Grant, Military and Veterans Affairs, NM Finance Authority Oversight, Legislative Finance, Corporations and Transportation, and Public Affairs.

He’s also sat on several boards including: the Open Hands Foundation, Road Runner Food Bank Capital Campaign, the Asian American Association and Albuquerque Southeast Team for Entrepreneur Development.

Sen. Keller says he’s really enjoyed being a part of the Senate Leadership and said he was thankful to have Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez teach him about the process in learning to manage the floor.

When Sen. Keller isn’t working as a business economist or making important decisions at the legislature, he’s busy raising his 5 month old daughter Maya with his wife, Elizabeth Kistin from Corrales. The two say they both enjoy being new parents.




Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino

Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino has proudly represented the 12th District of Bernalillo County since 2005. Even before he became a senator he was no stranger to the state legislature, since his career as a social worker allowed him to work closely with elected officials in the past on a variety of human services, and child welfare and behavioral health issues. After over 40 years Senator Ortiz y Pino retired in 2008, but his work is far from over as he continues to fight for the issues he’s passionate about.

“I decided to run when Richard Romero, my predecessor in this district, opted to run for Congress in 2004 rather than seeking re-election. I thought I might be able to be more effective in human service issues by working within the system rather than as a citizen lobbyist,” Ortiz y Pino said.

For the upcoming 2014 session Ortiz y Pino plans to focus on the current behavioral health issue in the state. Considering the Medicaid funding freeze for the majority of behavioral health providers in New Mexico, by executive order of the Administration, he says legislators need to exercise their power.  “I think the Legislature needs to reassert its role in policy making and stop ceding authority over this system to the Executive,” he noted.  The Senator has also confirmed that he will be proposing a constitutional amendment modeled on Colorado’s and Washington’s, to legalize marijuana in New Mexico.  He will also be carrying several appropriation bills for our interim Health and Human Services Committee.

Ortiz y Pino currently serves as the Chair of the Legislative Public Affairs Committee, and the Vice Chair of the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee. He is also an active member of the Behavioral Health Subcommittee, the Rules Committee, and the Land Grant Committee

When Senator Ortiz y Pino isn’t busy at the legislature, he enjoys the company of his wife of 25 years, Donna Bruzzese, a marriage and family therapist in private practice in Albuquerque. He has three from a previous marriage and she has four from her first marriage. They now have 12 grandchildren, ranging in age from 16 to 9 months. Ortiz y Pino says he enjoys spending time being a grandpa and gets to interact with some of his grandchildren quite often.

When Ortiz y Pino and his wife aren’t working or enjoying family time, they spend time in El Salvador, working with a non-profit organization for impoverished children. “Donna and I are members of the Peace and Justice Commission at our parish church, the Newman Center at UNM.  Each year we send a delegation from our commission to El Salvador working with the Association for the Protection of the Human Rights of Children (APRODEHNI ),” he said.
Ortiz y Pino says his primary mentor in the Senate was now-retired Senator Dede Feldman. “But I have learned a great deal about how our little micro-universe works from numerous other colleagues, particularly Michael Sanchez, Pete Campos, Cisco McSorley and Stuart Ingle, each of whom have taken the time to correct some of my misconceptions as well as offering sound advice about how to recover from knockout blows.  It is a fascinating place and I learn something new about it and its byzantine processes and culture every single day…as often as not from my mistakes and defeats as from my successes,” he noted.

Ortiz y Pino received his social work degree (MSW) from Tulane University in New Orleans in 1968.
His professional background includes working as the City of Albuquerque’s Director of the Department of Family and Community Services and also as the director of the Child and Family Services division of HELP-NM, a statewide non-profit which works in rural communities.

Senator Bill B. O’Neill and Senator Joseph Cervantes


Senator Bill B. O’Neill is proud to be the senator representing District 13, or Albuquerque’s North Valley. When he’s not involved with the Legislature, Senator O’Neill is the development director for a program that helps high risk juveniles ensure a positive future for themselves in a positive and law abiding way.


Senator Bill B. O’Neill

Before serving in the state Senate, he had already served two terms in the state House of Representatives. Since his shift over to the other side of the Roundhouse, Senator O’Neill feels that he can be more effective as a legislator because of a longer term of two years as well as a smaller group of legislators to work with.

He is sponsoring Senate Joint Resolution 4, House Bill 124, and Senate Bill 313. SJR 4 seeks to remove gerrymandering from politics and help protect independent voters. House Bill 124 will make assault crimes on homeless individuals a hate crime, hopefully deterring crimes against this vulnerable group.

Senate Bill 313 would allow biomedical research and clinical interventions using stem cells. SB313 would not only help people facing health issues, but would also boost economic opportunities for New Mexicans. Senator O’Neill feels that all of these bills are important for the state, and as evidenced by his choice of profession he also has concern for building a brighter future for New Mexico.

Senator O’Neill is currently on the Senate Education Committee and also vice chair of the Senate Public Affairs Committee. He enjoys both committees, but feels that members of the Senate Public Affairs Committee are building an effective bipartisan ccooperation that will allow for effective work to be done.

So far he has found mentors in Senator Peter Wirth (Santa Fe, District 25) and Senator Pete Campos (Colfax, Guadalupe, Harding, Mora, Quay, San Miguel, Santa Fe, Taos, District 8) who both just happen to sit on each side of him on the Senate floor. Senator O’Neill particularly relates with Senator Wirth, who shares the same experience of serving in the House and then serving in the Senate.

Senator O’Neill, who beams with pride as he often talks of his Irish heritage on the Senate Floor, jokingly recalled an incident during the 2013 Session when he went back to the House and he was introduced to the chamber: “They booed me!”

During his free time, the freshman senator visits record stores in search of vintage vinyl albums, and he writes poetry, some of which has been published. During his mid-20s, Senator O’Neill traveled around the country on freight trains. He described the experience as being similar to the popular movie, “Into the Wild”.





Senator Joseph Cervantes

Senator Joseph Cervantes, who arrives in the Senate after serving in the state House of Representatives, lives in Dona Aña County and represents District 31. When he’s not immersing himself in the Legislature, he is a practicing attorney and businessman who enjoys farming his land. Senator Cervantes is also a loving husband and father of three daughters, ages 14,16 and 18. On top of being a father, politician and businessman he entertains himself by fly-fishing, camping, playing the guitar and landscaping.Since his transition from the House to the Senate, Senator Cervantes feels the experience so far in 2013 has been positive. He recognizes that working with a smaller number of lawmakers allows him to emphasize and create deeper interpersonal relationships with the other legislators. The shift from a two-year term to four years also allows for more time for things to be accomplished and gives him a new perspective of how the legislative process works. The freshman senator feels there’s a less of a sense of urgency to get things through and, instead, more time to foster and incubate more effective legislation.

In his time so far on the Senate side, Senator Cervantes has been helped by different veteran senators such as President Tempore Mary K. Papen (Dona Ana, District 38), who he shares close family relationships with and whose district is close; Majority Floor Leader Michael S. Sanchez (Bernalillo, Valencia, District 29), who masters the art of Senate procedure; and Senator John Arthur Smith (Dona Ana, Hidalgo, Luna, Sierra, District 35) on budget issues.

During the 2013 Session, Senator Cervantes is sponsoring several bills that address drought conditions, preservation of the Rio Grande and all other water resources, and responses to climate change.

Senator Cervantes is currently sitting on the Senate Conservation Committee and also the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he has a front row seat to witness most of the bills that deal with the issues in his own proposed legislation. Senator Cervantes is interested in seeing public education adapt to the evolving learning patterns of students and to work closely with teachers and administrators who work the front lines to ensure the success of New Mexico’s youth. Senator Cervantes also wants to work for more quality job opportunities for New Mexicans and foster a healthy economy in the state for years to come.

Senator Michael Padilla and Senator William Soules


Coming from a business background and being an entrepreneur, freshman Senator Michael Padilla (Bernalillo, District 14) not only brings a solid business background to the New Mexico State Senate but a good attitude as well.

Senator Padilla owns Altivus CRM Solutions. The company builds and repairs call centers. Currently, all 23 ACS call centers run by the company are located in the United States.

Senator Michael Padilla

Senator Michael Padilla

Padilla was born and raised in Las Padillas, a historic neighborhood on Albuquerque’s southwest side. He was raised primarily by his grandparents, one a teacher and the other a homemaker. He has two sons, Aaron and Zackary, and his partner of 12 years, Cristina, also has two boys, Dave and Tomas.Senator Padilla says that transitioning to the Senate from running a business and being a parent feels like “trying to take a sip from a fire hydrant.”

“There are a myriad of people visiting me,” Senator Padilla says. “It is really helping me learn; they are informed about things and their effort is very important.”

Although his first legislative session will last only 60 days, Senator Padilla says he will focus on job creation, early childhood education, and social justice.  Padilla’s first bill, Senate Bill 92, “No Differential Pricing Based on Gender,” was heard before the Senate Public Affairs Committee.

“I would liken my first committee hearing to being a lawyer and arguing your very first case,” Senator Padilla reflects. “The nerves were there, but it was a good feeling, especially since the bill passed on to the next committee.”

In the Senate, Padilla looks to fellow senators Mary Kay Papen, Michael S. Sanchez, and Cisco McSorley as mentors because they “cover the spectrum of democratic values and ideals.”

Watch a video of Senator Padilla talking about being in the New Mexico State Senate.



Las Cruces area Senator William Soules, a lifelong New Mexican with teaching and learning oozing through his veins, says he has never learned so much in such a short period of time than during his first three weeks as a freshman state senator.

“The land grant, water issues and lawsuits,” Senator Soules says, “the depth and breadth of what I am learning — as a teacher who is always trying to learn more — it has been such a great experience.”

Senator Soules grew up in Las Cruces, attended Mesilla Park Elementary, Zia Middle School and Las Cruces High School.  His father was a physics professor and his mother a teacher and social worker. His personally expanded pedigree as a university professor, middle-school principal and math teacher at Onate High School isn’t surprising.

Senator William Soules

Senator William Soules

But the State Senate is not Soules first experience at elected office. He served on the Las Cruces School Board from 1992 to 2000. Soules was elected to the Senate last year by almost five percentage points.“It wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t spent so much time going door to door, talking to the people of Las Cruces,” he points out. “They elected me and I am very grateful.”

Essentially unknown to his constituents during the campaign, Senator Soules walked door to door with a torn ACL, which he injured playing volleyball. “I had surgery two days after the election,” he remembers. “I have always been a volleyball player and a coach.”

The message of his campaign revolved around education and conservation. That resonated message serves him well in terms of committee assignments: He is vice chair of Senate Education and a member of Senate Conservation.

“Fixing education means having the political will to make tough decisions,” Senator Soules said. “If we don’t tap the Land Grant Fund for early education, then we have to find additional money elsewhere.

“In terms of conservation it is simple — we have to keep New Mexico the Land of Enchantment.”

Senator Soules received wide-ranging publicity early on during the 2013 Session after announcing that he would sponsor a bill to raise the statewide minimum wage to $8.50 an hour. If passed this would make New Mexico the third-highest minimum wage state in the Nation.

“It is the right thing to do for the people of New Mexico. Not only does it have the affect of helping people rise up out of poverty, that it turn affects our education system and our economy. All of the research shows that raising the minimum wage has either a positive or neutral effect. In New Mexico I foresee it being positive.”

As mentors in the Senate, Soules names fellow senators Peter Wirth, Linda Lopez, Howie Morales, Tim Keller and Gerald Ortiz y Pino.

Watch a video of Senator Soules talking about being in the New Mexico State Senate.

Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto and Senator Jacob Candelaria


Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto


Daniel A. Ivey-Soto has been busy making a name for himself in the Land of Enchantment for the last two decades that he’s lived here.

Daniel won a tough election bid in State Senate District 15, which was previously held by Senator Tim Eichenberg who decided not to run for re-election. Ivey Soto defeated Republican H. Diane Snyder in the General Election.

“This fall, I met so many wonderful people in the 15th District,” Senator Ivey-Soto said. “It is an awesome responsibility to speak their concerns and represent their voices.”

The freshman senator is a former executive director of NM Clerks, LLC. When working there, he frequented the Capitol as a legislative and regulatory representative for New Mexico’s 33 county clerks. He also worked on policy development issues related to elections, property and land recordation, marriage licensing, and management of probate records. Senator Ivey-Soto also is a former state elections director, prosecutor, and school teacher. Considering this background, it should not be difficult for Ivey-Soto to transition to his new seat, smack dab in the middle of the third row on the floor of the New Mexico State Senate.

“I am used to being around the Capitol,” Senator Ivey-Soto said. “Now, it is a matter of getting used to the formalities, everyone calling me ‘Senator.’ It will take some time to adjust. As a former elections director I hope that the public will take advantage of the resources available to follow what we do here, the webcasting and reading bills online.”

“It’s important to me that they know what we do here is transparent.”

Daniel now serves as Vice Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and touts the importance of this position as being the first stop in the review process for all of Governor Susana Martinez’s appointees.

He’ll also serve on the Senate Public Affairs Committee. Ivey-Soto said that he considers Senator Howie Morales,(Catron, Grant, Socorro, District 28) as his mentor in the State Senate. The two Senators have something in common – Ivey-Soto as representative for county clerks in the state, and Senator Morales as a former county clerk.

If you are visiting the Roundhouse this 2013 Session and are a resident of Senate District 15, your senator is easy to find – you can just follow his hearty laugh right to his third-floor office.

Daniel resides in Albuquerque with his wife, Sheri Jett, an educator.

Watch a video of Senator Ivey-Soto here:




Senator Jacob Candelaria

Senator Jacob Candelaria

Senate Majority Caucus Chair Jacob Candelaria

(Bernalillo, District 26)

Public service comes naturally to freshman Senator Jacob Candealria, who grew up in a working class neighborhood on Albuquerque’s westside.

Raised by a single mother and his grandparents, Jacob learned at an early age the value of hard work and commitment to family and community. Both his grandfather, who was honored as a national leader in the fight against gangs and drugs in our nation’s cities, and his grandmother, who ran a clinic that provided dental care to poor children, provided the senator tremendous inspiration.

A proud graduate of St. Pius X High School, Jacob went on to attend Princeton University where he earned a degree in public policy in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Jacob then turned down the opportunity of employment on Wall Street, and instead chose to return to the Land of Enchantment to work for the state he loves.

Since coming home, Jacob has worked as a leadership fellow with Think New Mexico, working on groundbreaking, education-reform legislation to address our state’s high-school dropout issues; as a program evaluator for the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee, the state agency charged with crafting the state budget; and as a policy analyst to the late Speaker of the House of Representatives Ben Lujan (D) Santa Fe, District 46.

Jacob recently stepped down from his position as Director of Equality New Mexico, a statewide equal-rights initiative. After handedly winning his Democratic primary, Jacob went unopposed in the 2012 General Election. Upon being sworn in to the New Mexico State Senate, Jacob became the first openly gay male state senator.

In the Senate, Jacob is staying true to his campaign pledge of trying to make life easier for working families. So far in 2013, he has introduced legislation that would increase the working-families’ tax credit to 15 percent of the federal tax credit, a 5 percent increase from where the credit stands currently. Senator Candelaria is also sponsoring several health care initiatives, and one bill that would expand animal abuse penalties to include negligent starvation or dehydration.

While he enjoys the fast-paced atmosphere of Santa Fe during the Legislative Session, Jacob is proud to call District 26 his home. He lives in an apartment with his dog, Fuzer.

For more information on Senator Candelaria, visit his website

Watch a video of Senator Candelaria here: