Sen. Michael Padilla represents District 14, which includes a wide swath of the South Valley from Isleta north, west across Coors, and east just across I-25.
Padilla’s legislative priorities include early childhood education, technology and infrastructure, and CYFD reform. Since the Hispanic population constituted almost 90% of his district in 2010, his priorities are likely to affect the lives of many Hispanic constituents.
His vision for the district’s future includes a new generation of healthy, well-informed, and prepared voters able to participate fully in a flourishing economy and in a technological environment providing broadband and other infrastructure every bit as good as elsewhere in the country. Now the Senate Majority Whip for the second time in a decade, Padilla is chair of the interim Science, Technology and Telecommunications Committee. He is also a member of the Economic Development and Policy, Land Grant, Mortgage Finance Authority Act Oversight, and NM Finance Authority Oversight Committees, and the rural economic opportunities task force.
Padilla sponsored the legislation that created the Early Childhood Education and Care Department in 2019, with an eye to support for healthy development of children, and helping parents understand human development so they can nurture their children’s growth. His priorities are far from pipe dreams or theories of how to be successful. Instead, they originate in his own rough childhood experiences, what he has seen in others as he has matured, and how he has raised his twin sons.
“I grew up in foster care,” the Senator stated. “That’s part of why I focus on reform of the Children Youth and Families Department,” ensuring that the department entrusted to monitor the well-being of children in the state’s care does its difficult job. He is especially focused on youth aging out of the system of state care at 18 to age 21, emphasizing that they need housing, employment, higher education, health care, and transportation. They also need to understand financial credit before using it, and to understand legal and judicial systems before or instead of getting caught up in them. Even though youth may be seen as adult at ages 18-21, Sen. Padilla said, few 18-year-olds have the knowledge and experience to handle all adult tasks competently. Like any beginners, they may need help.
“I had a lot of help at that age,” Padilla said, crediting his sisters and a number of mentors who helped him gain life skills and build contacts and a social network that sustained him as he matured. “But some are not so lucky.”
The senator’s other major push is for economic development in his district and for the state—primarily job creation and technology support. Legislation he sponsored created the Office of Broadband Access and Expansion to serve not only the 28% of New Mexicans who have no broadband access but also the 72% with slow or unreliable broadband connections.
Sen. Padilla notes the effects of Hispanic culture in the state’s Democratic Party and mentions that 75% of Senate Democrats in New Mexico are Hispanic. “That speaks to our power,” he said. “We connect very well with people.”
And that is important: “It is critical that we do everything we can now to turn out voters,” he said. “It’s the most critical time.”
“We Democrats are the people who campaign door to door. We’re the ones who speak the language of the people—literally. We are the ones who make a strong connection with people. We care,” he said, contrasting the links between Democrats and the Hispanic community with the GOP, which lately issued press on its so-called community center in the South Valley.
The South Valley Hispanic Democrat seems not especially worried about whether GOP organizing is a threat to Democratic recruiting or Democratic voting, concluding of his Democratic legislative colleagues, “We know the community, because we are the community.”