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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Thicket Of Racial Politics Snags Susana; Dems Pounce; State GOP Missteps With Ill-Timed Release; Whose Ready For Prime Time Here? 

GOP Guv candidate and Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez was snagged in the thicket of racial politics this week, raising the question of whether her campaign is ready for general election prime time.

She and her consultants ran an excellent primary campaign, but they have to make the turn and start appealing to the broader electorate. This email incident reveals that they may not be quite ready. She needs to stop thinking like a DA and start thinking like a governor," analyzed one of our Alligators monitoring the action...

The email he spoke of is the now infamous hate joke that was forwarded around by an assistant district attorney in Martinez's office. It ended with a Mexican and Arab being shot in a bar in the name of immigration control. Not exactly what you would call a rib-tickler, and raising questions on how Martinez would handle the incident with her staff.

After she left initial reaction chores to her DA's office which said the attorney forwarding the email would be reprimanded, the Dems on Wednesday forced the Martinez camp to go further. They trotted out prominent Hispanic politicos like ABQ Dem State Rep. Moe Maestas and ABQ City Council President Ken Sanchez to condemn the email action and asking that Martinez fire the employee in question.

Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish, getting her first real break in the free media since the June 1 primary, also threw some kerosene on the fire and said she would have immediately fired the employee with their finger on the forward button.

There is absolutely nothing funny about the email that was circulated by Susana Martinez’s staff. It is offensive, inexcusable and runs against the fabric of what we stand for as New Mexicans. As far as I’m concerned, there should be zero tolerance for racism and Susana Martinez’s silence on the matter has been disappointing. Needless to say, if this happened in my office, the employees responsible would no longer have their jobs.

That sounds like something Susana should have said as she works to round up the all-important Hispanic vote that is thought to be more in play this cycle because of Martinez's status as the first Hispanic female Guv contender, but her camp came with what was termed a tepid response by campaign pros we spoke with. Her statement:

Susana Martinez found the forwarded email ‘joke’ to be unacceptable, and immediately addressed the issue when it was brought to her attention by reprimanding the individual and issuing a statement from her official office to make clear that the email forwarded by one employee did not represent her views, nor the views of the office...

Only "unacceptable?" How about outrageous, or reprehensible?

Well, that's the turn to the general election our Gator was talking about. Martinez left a lot on the table with that come back.

The state GOP tried to go offensive on Di with this:

If only the Democrat Party and Diane Denish had expressed this same sense of outrage when it was determined in 2006 that 150 state employees in the state’s Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) had been abusing state email accounts and accessing pornographic internet sites.

Duly noted, but it was Susana's take on that hate joke that the people in the bleachers really wanted to hear and they didn't hear much.

STRANGER THAN FICTION

And then there was the unintended joke from the state GOP. As the Martinez camp battled back over the forwarded email which described shooting a Mexican illegal and Arab with a .45, the state party--on the very same day--forwarded a news report to newsrooms that boasted of how Martinez provides her own personal protection, by--get this--carrying a .45. To the videotape:

Martinez provides her own personal protection in the form of a .45 semi-automatic handgun. It is with her at all times. She is not a large person. Indeed, she is diminutive. It’s hard to discern where she has concealed this potent weapon. Maybe it’s in her purse, maybe not. You simply can’t tell when you are in her presence.

Well, that's interesting, but we don't know how reassuring it is to the Mexicans and Arabs still freaked out by their fictional brethren being gunned down in a bar with a .45 just like the one Susana favors. Memo to GOP Chairman Harvey Yates: there's this thing called the news cycle, Harvey, and you're part of it.

These events--the forwarded sensational email and the ill-timed forwarded news story were events out of the hands of Susana. But being a good Governor is knowing how to clean up after the elephant just did an impolite body function in your Fourth Floor office. Never mind that you never invited the damn beast into the place.

This is a close race for governor, one that could be decided in the end by reactions to breaking news such as the forwarded hate email. In their first foray into this foreign world Martinez and her team may have gotten stuck in a "us vs. them" paradigm and wanted to cede no ground to Denish. But in doing so they lost a chance to turn the joke into a leadership opportunity and establish her street cred with Hispanics who admire her from a distance but are uncertain whether they should.

BYRD AND BILL

Alligators with long memories are recalling this week how Senator Robert Byrd, who passed this week memorably chastised our own Big Bill at a Senate hearing back in 2000. Commenting on Richardson's performance as Secretary of Energy in the Clinton administration and the case of some lost computer disks at Los Alamos Labs, Byrd lambasted Bill:

You would never again receive the support of the Senate of the United States for any office to which you might be appointed. It's gone. You've squandered your treasure.

In 2002, Byrd downplayed the statement when the R's tried to use it to their advantage when Big Bill was running for Governor. Richardson never did appear before the Senate for confirmation. His appointment as Obama's commerce secretary was pulled early because of pay-to-pay scandals in New Mexico. You can see the short clip of Byrd taking on Bill here.

THE GREAT RECESSION

From all corners of the state comes news of the life-changing Great Recession. For example, in little Aztec, in the Four Corners, the government now goes to a four day week.

And there's now an air of melancholy surrounding ABQ as the unceasing downturn keeps thousands on the jobless lines. A job fair at the state fairgrounds attracts thousands, but there are no jobs for them. Unemployment in the city is at historic levels, just below 9 percent.

Those who speculate that the unemployed collecting benefits have no incentive to look for work need only look at that turnout for that job fair.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Insiders say the new communications director for Susana Martinez camp will be Raj Shaw. He's relocating here from Connecticut...Matt Kennicott from the state House GOP Caucus will take a leave of absence to be the director of operations for Susana Martinez's Guv campaign...Christina P. Argyres was appointed as the newest Metropolitan Court Judge By Gov. Richardson. She replaces Judge Anna Martinez who retires at the end of June.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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