By Steve Terrell, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, who was elected state Senate president pro tem Tuesday, was backed by Republicans and conservative Democrats. But Papen’s record shows she can’t exactly be called a hard-core right-winger.

Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, last month was nominated for the leadership position by the Senate Democratic Caucus. But he stepped aside Tuesday when it became obvious Papen had enough votes to win.

Though the result was seen by some as a defeat for the Democrats’ progressive wing, Papen shouldn’t be considered a pushover for Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

For instance, in the past two years, Papen supported compromise versions of bills concerning issuance of New Mexico driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. Those bills passed the Senate despite opposition from Republicans, who backed Martinez’s proposal to completely repeal the current law.

Papen also voted in 2009 for a bill to allow same-sex couples to enter into legally recognized domestic partnerships. On that issue, she’s more liberal than Campos, who voted against the bill, which was defeated on the Senate floor.

The environmental group Conservation Voters New Mexico gave Papen a “lifetime” rating of 47 percent. That’s lower than most Democratic senators, but higher that most Republican senators, who tend to be in the 20 percent to 30 percent range for “lifetime” scores by the Conservation Voters.

Sandy Buffett, executive director for the conservation group, said Papen has been “a key ally” in helping to restore funding for conservation efforts by the state.