Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Longtime New Mexico House Speaker Dies

New Mexico Speaker of the House Ben Lujan.
New Mexico Speaker of the House Ben Lujan.

Longtime New Mexico Speaker of the House Ben Lujan died Tuesday, following an announcement last January that he was battling Stage 4 lung cancer.

From the Santa Fe Reporter:

Luján was first elected to the state House to represent part of Santa Fe County more than 35 years ago, rising to the rank of speaker in the early 2000s. Luján is perhaps best known for working closely with Bill Richardson on several of the former governor's initiatives.

The Associated Press story on his death explained the influence Lujan had in New Mexico politics:

He was one of the longest serving lawmakers in the Legislature and also one of the most influential. He had been House speaker since 2001.<br><br>He maintained tight control in presiding over the House and was known to punish some dissenters within his own party. Republicans have complained in past sessions that he treated them unfairly at times and used the rules to squelch GOP dissent during floor debates.<br><br>Lujan said he always tried to follow rules and be fair.<br><br>When Lujan brought down the gavel to close his final regular session this year, House members cheered “Que viva, que viva.” The cheer roughly translates to “long live” Ben Lujan.
The Santa Fe New Mexican recounted his early life:
Lujan was born in Nambe, where he lived with his family until his death. He was the son of a sheepherder and the youngest of nine children.<br><br>In a 2000 interview with the New Mexican, Lujan recalled having to hitch a ride to Santa Fe for high school when his dad needed the family truck. He later switched to Pojoaque High School and made the varsity basketball team — a sport Lujan continued to support, even playing in recent years at the annual House-Senate charity basketball game.
Lujan is survived by family which includes his son, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan.