New Mexico Republican House speaker will leave Legislature

New Mexico Legislature. The Roundhouse.
New Mexico Legislature. The Roundhouse.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – Republican House speaker Don Tripp says he will leave the Legislature in January as he passes his leadership post to a Democrat.

Tripp said Wednesday from his jewelry store in Socorro that he will hand over the ceremonial gavel to the next House speaker on the first day of the legislative session in January and retire from his seat at the same time.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and local county commissioners are responsible for choosing a successor until the next election.

The 70-year-old lawmaker has served in the Legislature since 1999. Tripp stepped into the top House leadership slot in 2015 after Republicans won control of the chamber for the first time in 60 years.

In November, Democrats reclaimed control of the House and extended their majority in the Senate.