A year after Republicans took control of the N.M. House of Representatives and wrestled the position of speaker away from him, Rep. Ken Martinez announced Friday that he plans to retire from the Legislature.
Martinez, D-Grants, says he will finish out his current term, which ends on Dec. 31, 2016.
Assuming negotiations are successful, Martinez will become Bernalillo County’s lead attorney. The county commission voted Friday to negotiate with Martinez to head its legal department — a job he can take on the condition that he not seek re-election to the House next year.
Martinez made no mention of that job in a news release announcing his retirement from the Legislature.
“After much prayer, consideration, and family consultation — especially with my granddaughter — I have decided not to run for re-election,” Martinez said in the release.
The last 12 months or so represent quite a shift for a man who long aspired to be speaker of the House and finally got his chance in 2013.
His father, Walter K. Martinez, was elected House speaker when Ken Martinez was 11 years old. Ken Martinez won a seat in the New Mexico House in 1998, representing District 69, which spans six counties — McKinley, Cibola, San Juan, Socorro, Bernalillo, and Valencia.
Martinez was already the majority leader when he decided to challenge then-Speaker Ben Luján for the chamber’s top position in 2006. That attempt was unsuccessful. Luján survived a second challenge from then-Rep. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, in 2011.
It was after Luján lost his battle with cancer and died in 2012 that Martinez became speaker. But the next year, Republicans took control of the House for the first time in decades and made Don Tripp, a Republican from Socorro, the speaker. Martinez decided after the loss to not seek a leadership position within the Democratic caucus.
On Friday, Martinez said he “couldn’t be prouder of the opportunity I’ve had to serve the people of New Mexico alongside my dear friends in the House Democratic Caucus.”
“There is still much more work to do, and the people of New Mexico are counting on our lawmakers to ensure that New Mexico has a more secure future,” Martinez said. “I know that our Legislature will continue to work for the people of New Mexico with the dedication that I have seen over the years.”