State Sen. Mimi Stewart continues to complain that she was abused by a misogynistic senator during a legislative debate last month.
One question sticks with me because of Stewart’s insistence that she was a victim.
Was the drawn-out questioning of Stewart by Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, worse than the false and hypocritical advertisement Stewart used to attack a woman who’s now her colleague?
It’s not even close.
Stewart, also a Democrat from Albuquerque, was the point person last year for the political action committee that misrepresented a criminal case involving Republican Crystal Diamond.
Democrats feared Diamond would win the election for an open Senate seat in Southern New Mexico. If fighting dirty by using character assassination could defeat Diamond, Stewart and the PAC called New Mexico Senate Democrats were happy to do it.
I single out Stewart because she deserves it.
As the Senate Democratic whip, she was directly responsible for the nasty direct-mail ad attacking Diamond. The mailer identified Stewart as the source of the ad, listing her phone number and address.
Stewart and her PAC wanted to make Diamond look bad, regardless of the truth. They selectively omitted details in their ad in hopes of creating the illusion that Diamond was a drunken driver who skirted other laws.
“Here’s a sobering thought: Crystal Diamond wants to be your senator,” the mailer from Stewart’s PAC began. “Crystal Diamond was arrested and charged with the following: Driving under the influence; driving with suspended license; failure to carry proper insurance.”
Stewart’s PAC omitted that the state never prosecuted Diamond. The drunken-driving charge against Diamond was dismissed in 2006.
Stewart’s ad also tried to make it appear that Diamond did not have a valid driver’s license or proof of auto insurance the night Diamond was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.
Those citations were part of a separate traffic case against Diamond. They also were dismissed.
Stewart was unwise to attack a candidate who was suspected but never convicted of drunken driving.
That’s because Stewart herself is a convicted drunken driver.
As a member of the state House of Representatives, Stewart in 1999 was arrested in Santa Fe on that charge. She pleaded guilty the same day.
Stewart remained a House member for another 15 years. The Bernalillo County commissioners appointed her to a Senate seat in December 2014. Stewart has since been elected and reelected to the Senate.
Her colleagues were — and are — overwhelmingly men. But gender was no obstacle to Stewart rising in the Senate.
Fellow Democrats elected her as their majority whip in 2018.
The following year, prosecutors charged then-Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Ojo Caliente, with aggravated drunken driving and reckless driving. Stewart claimed Martinez’s legal problems led to an insurgence against her.
“Some of my colleagues want to kick me out of whip position cuz of my DWI,” Stewart wrote to me in a text message.
She told me two male senators were ringleaders in the move to oust her. Ivey-Soto was not one of the men Stewart named.
I began calling Democratic senators to see if I could verify Stewart’s story. She sent me another text message, this one angry. Stewart told me to stop interviewing other senators to check the veracity of her claim.
I kept at it. A few senators spoke to me. They knew nothing about any attempt to take away the whip’s job from Stewart.
Then Stewart changed her story. She claimed the effort to unseat her actually had occurred eight months earlier, when she’d run for reelection as whip.
“It was a very reckless thing for me to tell you because it’s not current,” Stewart said.
Her new story clashed with her earlier claim. Stewart had said Martinez’s arrest caused other senators to question whether she should hold a leadership position. And Martinez was not arrested until seven months after Stewart’s reelection as whip.
Stewart remained as majority whip. She was elected to a loftier position this year — president pro tem of the Senate.
Ivey-Soto and a handful of other senators also ran for the job.
Democrats control the Senate 27-15. Within the Democratic majority, 17 senators are men and 10 are women.
Gender bias played no part in the election. Democrats chose Stewart as their candidate for president pro tem. Then they closed ranks around her to prevent Republican senators from forming a coalition to elect a more conservative Democrat.
Now, back to Stewart’s complaint that Ivey-Soto was abusive to her. He did not attack her personally. He challenged the fairness of an amendment Stewart proposed on a bill.
At one point in the debate, Stewart took her seat. Ivey-Soto notified the lieutenant governor, presiding officer of the Senate, that chamber rules call for debaters to stand.
Did Ivey-Soto go too far? He talked too long, and his harangue was redundant. But Ivey-Soto does the same when he’s debating a male senator.
Already I can hear Stewart saying I don’t understand the abuse she endured because I saw Ivey-Soto’s conduct through a man’s eyes.
I also saw the ad Stewart used to attack another woman. It was uglier than any words spoken by Ivey-Soto.