State Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto said his passion for working New Mexicans drove him into a fiery debate on the Senate floor late Thursday night.

Other lawmakers in both chambers decried his line of questioning toward Sen. Mimi Stewart, one of the sponsors of the bill being debated, as a personal attack that violated the chamber’s rigid rules of decorum.

Some used harsher terms: “bullying,” “abuse” and “misogyny.”

Ivey-Soto did not return a message Friday seeking comment on the criticisms.

In an interview Friday afternoon, Stewart called the incident a “turning point” for most of the women in the Senate.

“They came to my defense. They backed me up. They even are calling for a censure on Sen. Ivey-Soto,” she said.

The state Legislature has more female lawmakers than ever. In the state House of Representatives, they hold a 37-33 majority.

Of the 42 state senators, 12 are women — two Republicans and 10 Democrats.

Still, Stewart and other women in the Legislature have suggested during this year’s session that women are sometimes treated differently by their male peers.

“You know, it’s very hard to talk about the underlying misogyny in the Senate,” Stewart said. “It’s just the privilege factor that the men think it’s their purview. It’s been a good old boys club for a long time. They can tolerate a few of us but not many.”

Her debate with Ivey-Soto centered on House Bill 20, which initially required only private-sector employers to provide paid sick leave to all workers, no matter the size of their workforce.

Earlier this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee added an amendment extending the benefit to public workers.

Stewart, who insisted the measure was designed only for the private sector, introduced a measure on the Senate floor at the start of Thursday night’s debate to strip the amendment including government workers. Ivey-Soto, who said he felt passionately that the legislation should cover all New Mexico workers, argued there was no reason to exclude them.

Both senators are Albuquerque Democrats who are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, who chairs the committee, also opposed Stewart’s move to undo the amendment.

“Why wouldn’t we be willing to give [government workers] that benefit?” he asked the Senate on Thursday night. “The argument you’ve been told is they already get it or they get something better. … That’s not the reason. The real reason is we don’t want to pay for it.”

Cervantes had conditioned his tiebreaking vote in the committee earlier this week on including government employees in the legislation.

Later, amid a series of questions from Ivey-Soto, Stewart called the inclusion of public-sector employees a “poison pill” that was intended to lead to the bill’s failure.

An animated Ivey-Soto fired back with more questioning, in which he demanded Stewart read provisions in her own bill and asked her to stand up while presenting it, as required under chamber rules.

At one point, Stewart said, “I’ll continue to answer your questions if you’ll stop being quite so abusive in your questioning of me.”

As the debate became increasingly tense, Sen. Liz Stefanics, D-Cerrillos, stood up and objected.

“I believe we are in a bullying state at this point in time, and it’s disgraceful to the public,” Stefanics told Ivey-Soto.

After the debate had gone on more than 30 minutes, Stewart said she would no longer answer any more of Ivey-Soto’s questions.

Senators took a nearly 30-minute recess for tempers to cool off.

“I am disgusted by the way she was treated a few moments ago — the bullying, the attacks, the accusations,” said Sen. Michael Padilla, also an Albuquerque Democrat.

After the recess, Ivey-Soto apologized to the chamber. “If my passion came off as anger, I apologize,” he said. “That was not the intent.”

In the end, the Senate approved Stewart’s effort to remove public workers from the bill. Ivey-Soto was not in the chamber when it began voting on the bill just before 2:30 a.m. Friday. He did not cast a vote.

In the interview later Friday, Stewart acknowledged that standing while presenting a bill is part of the chamber’s rules. But, she said, she had been exhausted after presenting the previous bill and going on an average of four or five hours of sleep over the past two weeks.

“It was so disrespectful,” she said about Ivey-Soto’s request that she stand up. “It was like slapping me. ‘Follow the rules. Stand up.’ ”

The confrontation between Stewart and Ivey-Soto even drew the attention of the other chamber.

“What we are seeing over there is a shame on this Legislature. It is a shame on the notion and ideas of decorum. It is intolerable … to have one member of that body attack another member viciously for doing nothing more than presenting a bill from this chamber, from offering amendments,” said House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe.

“To see a member of that body attack a fellow senator in a cruel and vicious way reeks of the worst type of misogyny and male arrogance that I’ve ever seen in this body or this legislative chamber, that I’ve ever seen anywhere,” he said. “I am outraged.”

A handful of freshman senators also called out Ivey-Soto’s behavior. Sen. Harold Pope Jr., D-Albuquerque, called it “unacceptable and demeaning, in this chamber or outside of it.”

One female senator said the way men behave toward women at the Roundhouse isn’t limited to one individual.

“What happened tonight, that might have been one individual acting, but let’s not pretend that there’s not an issue with how women are treated in this Legislature,” said Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque.

“I have been shocked,” added Duhigg, who is serving her first term in the Senate. “I don’t want to pretend that this is some partisan thing. I don’t want to pretend that this is just about one person because the fact is women are treated terribly here. … It is an issue, and if you’re not feeling it, it’s probably because you’re not a woman.”

Stewart, a longtime lawmaker who serves as president pro tem, the Senate’s top leadership post, said she sees an opportunity for change.

“Now that we have more women — and the new women we have are just rock stars, they want changes,” Stewart said. “They’re younger. They are more progressive. But they notice. They have noticed, and they are talking about a culture that they’re experiencing and that they see us older women going through also, so I believe it gives us a chance as a caucus to work together to address these issues.

“And I am not going to be afraid of that as we move forward,” Stewart added.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

(18) comments

R. Phalange

I am a progressive female Democrat and I did not witness the debate on this bill so I can only base my opinon on the SFNM article. I am getting increasing tired of progressive throwing up these false flags of ‘bullying’ and ‘misogyny’ when they don’t like how the debate is going or when the rules are applied to them. Sen.Ivey-Soto raised an extremely valid point about application of the bill to the thousands of public employees in NM. If true that most public employers provide equivalent or greater sick leave, what’s the problem with covering public ees? Sen. Ivey-Soto correctly pinpointed the problem as funding and the Legis. once again leaving public workers out in the cold (as they did with the NM Civil Rights Act). Sen. Stewart does a disservice to female legislators everywhere who are willing to defend their positions through debate which is how I thought laws were supposed to be created.

Mike Johnson


Barry Rabkin

Why is demanding that a legislator stand up to read the bill s/he proposes or wants to alter 'bullying' if it is the rules of the chamber? It is irrelevant if the legislator has only gotten 4 or 5 hours of sleep during the legislative session? It is irrelevant if the legislator had recently stood up to read / discuss a prior piece of legislation.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup] Well said, dire and ridiculous woke definitions of many common things are being created. This is unacceptable.


What's unacceptable is the immediate and casual way that people like you discount what happened and pretend like Ms. Stewart is the problem. We all read and have researched all the angles of Ivey-Soto's behavior and the mere fact that people had to stand against his bullying, that people were in tears, that several lawmakers of all genders have spoken out about this elephant in the room, where people like you would excuse his behavior but attack her character is all we need to see. These are not "common things" that we have to continue to coddle and ignore. Maybe he was just "having a bad day", huh?

Barry Rabkin

I have no idea if she was, is, or is not the problem. I do believe that a ‘problem’ is not following the rules of the chamber even if in so doing the legislator is put under pressure of some sort or is operating on few hours of sleep. The rules should apply to each legislator regardless of their political position and regardless of their gender.

Lee Vigil

From a policy standpoint, I have to wonder why including government employees in the legislation would have been a 'poison pill', if government employees already have sick leave. If anything, it's redundant. Not having seen the legislation, I must be missing something. Ivey-Soto's behavior on the other hand, is ridiculous, demeaning, entitled. He knew he wasn't going to get his way, so he resorted to belittling behavior. Mimi Stewart has been a member of the State legislative body for decades. She's always been thoughtful, capable, professional, and respectful.

Laura Stokes

Paid sick leave can be a life or death issue for those who are not part of the privileged elite who never have to be concerned about going to work sick (with COVID, for example) or leaving a sick child at home alone. For them, gun legislation is not one of their daily concerns.

Khal Spencer

So what is the quote from Ivey-Soto?

Jim Klukkert

Excellent question, Khal.

Khal Spencer

I developed a pretty thick skin for the rhetorical excesses at public meetings when I was a board chair in Los Alamos. Once shot back to a county councilor at a council meeting "no, you have no right to call my board a bunch of liars". Still, decorum has a purpose in these discussions. But I would like to see an actual transcript rather than all the sturm und drang. And over a sick leave bill? One would think it were an abortion or gun bill to get that heated!

Mike Johnson

I have little to no respect for Mimi, she is the kind that carries a proud chip of oppression on her shoulder constantly, I wouldn't believe anything she says.

Jim Klukkert

Khal & Mike- I think this episode points at least in part to the State's need for a 60 day sessi0n yearly, or at least something longer than 30 days alternating with 60.

And perhaps, perish the thought, paid legislators, or at least some uptick in professionalism in our Legislature.

Note the time of day, after midnight, and at the end of a long 60 days, knowing some issues will be dead for almost two years while we wait for the next 'long' session that is not dependent on the Governor for an agenda.

Someone should post that transcript!

Kim Griego-Kiel

Mike, misogynistic much? Your comment would suggest it. Ms. Stewart was clearly attacked in an open chamber in front of dozens of senators yet you want to disclaim her statement. You, as a man, can now step down and shut up if you have nothing helpful to say. The time for men who bully women in public or private has got to come to an end.

Mike Johnson

Dear Kim, I feel the same way about Jacob C., Egolf, and Wirth, in fact more so. Sorry, just because I do not respect someone it is not because of their gender, ethnicity, race, or anything except their policies, character, and attitudes. Do you enjoy playing all those cards you have to silence anyone's criticism? I suggest you stick to poker or maybe solitaire.

Khal Spencer

I'm still waiting to see an actual transcript rather than all these second hand allusions to how awful Ivey-Soto was. As Jim said, it was after midnight, people were on a short fuse, and everyone exhausted. Sure, sometimes things will flare up. If a legislator can't take the heat, he or she should get out of the kitchen or just hand it back to the offender. The legislature is not a place for snowflakes. If Ivey-Soto was that bad, Sen. Stewart should have thrown it back at him. She's a Senator, too, not an aide. Enough with the "Help, I'm being oppressed!" out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Jim, I would agree on all of your suggestions with one concern: giving the legislature more time to meet gives them more time for mischief. I read some of the bills introduced this year and just shook my head in disbelief. The pot bill for example. It really takes two hundred pages to legalize pot? That just suggests an amazing effort at micromanagement.

As far as Griego-Kiel's comment? Mike is a voter, too, and he has every right to criticize any legislator he so desires.

Mike Johnson

Indeed Khal, a tempest in a teapot if there ever was one, Mimi is about as far as anyone gets from being "oppressed", she should come talk to real oppressed people. And the real bottom line here was obfuscated and deflected by her behavior and whining/crying about her "treatment"...she refused to allow public employees the same benefits as private workers in this bill. Excluding them for no good reason, except whatever she has been told or rewarded to do by the special interests, in being an obvious hypocrite about paid sick leave, and discriminatory, she got away with it by focusing people on a bright shiny object......

Lee Vigil

It must've been bad because they had to break for a recess. Even he recognized that his behavior wasn't appropriate and apologized upon returning to the room. So glad the women spoke up and called him out on it. It's about time.

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