House speaker Lujan dies (UPDATED with statement from Gov. Susana Martinez)

Posted at: 12/19/2012 7:32 AM
Updated at: 12/19/2012 10:51 AM
By: The Associated Press and Staff

Photo: Ben Lujan

Ben Lujan, the speaker of New Mexico's House of Representative and the father of U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, has died.

A spokesman for the congressman, Andrew Stoddard, confirmed in a statement early Wednesday that the elder Lujan had succumbed to lung cancer late Tuesday night.

The Santa Fe Democrat spent nearly 40 years in the chamber before he announced on the first day of the session this year that he would not seek re-election.

He shocked fellow lawmakers and others then as he disclosed his lung cancer diagnosis.

He first won election in 1975. He was one of the longest serving lawmakers in the Legislature. He also was one of the most influential.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Governor Susana Martinez issued the following statement:

“Speaker Ben Lujan's service to New Mexico spanned four decades and his legacy will live for years to come.

He fought for causes near and dear to New Mexicans from all walks of life and guided the House of Representatives through some of the most important debates in our state’s history.

Speaker Lujan’s story was one that embodied the New Mexican dream and the American dream.

The son of a sheepherder, he made his living as an ironworker at Los Alamos before running for office and rising to one of the most prominent and powerful positions in the state.

Chuck and I join all New Mexicans in offering our thoughts and prayers to Speaker Lujan's wife, Carmen, his children, and his entire family during this trying time.”

Former Gov. Bill Richardson issued this statement:

"Ben Lujan was a giant in New Mexico politics and government. He will go down in history as New Mexico's greatest speaker. His legislative contributions were far reaching as he authored major legislation on health care education roads and taxes.

He singlehandedly ushered the end of the onerous food tax and lowered taxes for every New Mexican.

I spoke to the Speaker on Thursday and Barbara and I were planning to visit him and Carmen at his home in Pojoaque today.

Like a true gladiator he was fighting this disease with courage and conviction He made lives better for every New Mexican and we will miss him."

Stay with KOB for more coverage of this story throughout the day.