SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - House Speaker Ben Lujan has lung cancer and will not seek re-election this year, the 76-year-old announced Tuesday in a dramatic opening of a 30-day legislative session.
The Santa Fe Democrat, who has been speaker since 2001, made his announcement as shocked lawmakers wept and his wife, Carmen, and son, Democratic Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, looked on.
Lujan said he was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and has undergone radiation and chemotherapy treatment. He said his cancer is now at stage 4, the most advanced stage of cancer.
"I was hoping to tell you the cancer is gone, but as you can see, it is not," said Lujan, who has served in the House since 1975.
After Lujan made the announcement, lawmakers gave the speaker a standing ovation. Carmen Lujan wept as a long line of lawmaker and well-known political figures gathered to offer their thoughts and prayers to the family.
Ben Lujan was the House's majority whip and majority floor leader before being elected speaker. He succeeded longtime Speaker Raymond Sanchez, who lost his seat in the Legislature in 2000.
"While this has taken a toll on me physically, it has not broken my spirit, my will, my faith and my commitment to New Mexico," said Ben Lujan.
The speaker survived a challenge to his speakership last year when Rep. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, sought his seat.
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