Few New Mexico legislators have left a more significant legacy of service than the late New Mexico House Speaker Ben Lujan, who died last week after a three-year battle with lung cancer. He was 77.
Lujan was elected to the Santa Fe County Commission in 1970 and to the state House of Representatives in 1974. He was the chamber's second-longest serving member. The House Democratic caucus elected him majority whip in 1983 and majority floor leader for the 1999 session. He became speaker in 2001.
As speaker he kept a firm grip on the agenda and kept his party's members in line. As a member of the Taxation and Revenue Committee, Lujan played a large role in setting state tax policy. This year, House members recognized his work on issues including job training programs and tax incentives to attract businesses.
Lujan's name was known throughout the state. And whether you agreed with his politics or his strong — but civil — leadership of the House, he was a driving force for those less fortunate, seniors and children.
One of the legislative accomplishments of which he was most proud was eliminating the tax on food.
Lujan was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009 but did not publicly announce his condition until the opening of this year's legislative session in January.
At the news of his passing, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall recalled, "Ben once said, 'Let us make our time on Earth worthwhile, and do what's right, and make a difference for the children, our working families, and our elderly.' He lived up to that challenge throughout his life, and he leaves behind a remarkable legacy of service to New Mexico."
Rest in Peace, Speaker Ben Lujan, and thank you for your four decades of hard work for New Mexico.
— Albuquerque Journal