I’m going to miss it, but I don’t regret the decision… Six years was enough — Daymon Ely
ALBUQUERQUE – Sometimes, when a legislator says goodbye to his time in Santa Fe, it’s with a sigh of relief or maybe a longing to continue those days and long nights in the Roundhouse.
For three-term District 23 state Rep. Daymon Ely, the writing was on the proverbial wall in 2016, when he first won his District 23 seat after defeating two-term Republican incumbent Paul Pacheco.
“I knew that going in six years ago. I promised my wife (Cynthia), that I’d leave after six years, and what I tell her now: ‘I’m going to miss it, but I don’t regret the decision,’” he said. “… Six years was enough.”
A native of Pennsylvania who’s also lived in Arizona – he’s licensed to practice law there and in New Mexico – Ely has lived in Corrales for a quarter of a century, and he served a term (2000-04) on the Sandoval County Commission.
That provided “good training for my personality,” and made him realize, he says, “you can get to good policy if you slow down.”
When asked for his proudest accomplishments in the Roundhouse (2017-22), Ely, a Democrat, said, “On the front end, passing a couple pieces of major legislation, conservative-guardianship reform, criminal justice reform, ethics legislation, but on the back end, of which I only had a minor role in, was eliminating predatory lending, which I thought really was a tax on the poor, and I was happy to do that, to be a part of that.”
Common sense often comes in handy for legislators, he said, and it’s important when “taking a more analytical approach to policy in areas other than just criminal justice.
“What I mean is, the idea of not just doing this as a ‘feel right’; you do things that are based on studies and data and real time. If I would have had more time, I would have expanded that into not just criminal justice but also education, health care — that kind of thing – and I think it’ll eventually get there, without or without my involvement,” he said.
Ely said he enjoyed his time at the Roundhouse, which didn’t have “a lot of horrific surprises.” When he saw what he quipped was his “bald spot” in a video, “that was probably the most-horrifying.”
The state legislature, Ely said, “is a lot more sophisticated than people think,” but those lawmakers serving their constituencies should be compensated for the long hours they spend there.
“I do think having a paid legislature (is needed). I think we’re becoming a more-sophisticated state and we need to act like it … and people should have (paid) staff,” he said.
Legislators are paid mileage and per diem for their work, but don’t have salaries.
How will he be remembered?
“It was a real honor and fun to serve,” Ely said during an interview at his office. “I hope people would say I tried to mentor people who were coming in … and that I tried to work across the party divide, when it was appropriate – and I hope I did both.
“I do think it’s critical, whatever party you’re in, to have a process people can believe in while at the same time making sure people (can get) to the polls and have the ability to vote.”
He anticipates using his expertise in the Grand Canyon State — but won’t move there — and staying busy in New Mexico.
“I hope to keep practicing law – as long as my life will allow me,” he said.
Who’s next in District 23
District 23’s area has changed, and now encompasses some of eastern Rio Rancho. Former Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education member Ramon Montaño, a Democrat, and Alan T. Martinez, a Republican, will square off for the seat in the November election, with neither opposed in June’s primary.
Ely’s advice, to them and anyone else contemplating a run for office:
“My advice to everybody is you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. Slow down. It’s a collegial body,” he said. “Try to do good policy – focus on that – and if you do that and have a good sense of humor with it, your time in the legislature is going to be much more rewarding.”