Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Political Power Players Of 2011: Those Who Will Most Influence The New Martinez Adminstration Revealed, Plus: State PIO's Scurry For New Jobs 

Gardner, Adair & Barbour
Who are the new Santa Fe political power players for 2011? That's one of the burning questions surrounding Governor-elect Susana Martinez, and with the help of our Insiders, Alligators, Wall-Leaners and Hangers-on, we have some answers.

First, Martinez is described around the Capitol as an empty vessel waiting to be filled. She has little knowledge of the workings of state government. Her policy acumen is limited and is centered on the judiciary since she is a 14 year Dona Ana County district attorney.

This means at least for her first year or so in office, the people around her are going to be powerful, maybe in some cases very powerful.

We start with the obvious. Roswell State Rep. Keith Gardner, tapped to be Martinez's chief of staff, will be the keeper of the gate. He will have major league power because he will determine who gets face time with the new governor.

But who is close to Gardner? Hold on to your chile ristras, kids. It's none other than GOP State Senator "Lightning" Rod Adair who also hails from Roswell. Rod, a political demographer, was instrumental in getting Keith to the state House when he helped him oust Earlene Roberts in a GOP primary in 2004.

Adair is known for his volatile temperament but he also possesses a keen political mind and is no slouch when it comes to knowing the operations of state government. He managed the successful campaign of GOP Secretary of State candidate Dianna Duran. Ever since, there has been speculation that he could be in line to become director of the state bureau of elections under Duran. His close relationship with Gardner makes him a key power player for 2011.

When Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour calls Susana, she will answer right away. In his role as chairman of the Republican Governor's Association Barbour directed $1.3 million in campaign cash to Susana. That amounts to 19 percent of all of her donations which totaled $6.9 million. Immediately after her election, the RGA singled her out for inclusion on their "leadership team."

National R's are obsessed with broadening their party's base by reaching out to the fast growing Hispanic population. Susana is being groomed by them as an example and also to possibly position her for national GOP politics.

Barbour will be one of the few out-of-state politicos to be able to insert himself at will into the politics and practices of Martinez. She won't mind because it's all about making her look and perform well. Meanwhile, Barbour may find some New Mexicans tapping at his door as they try to get through Susana's portal.

Put former GOP New Mexico Governor Garrey Carruthers ('87-'90) high on your list--very high--of 2011 political power players. Carruthers knows Martinez well. He shares her hometown of Las Cruces where he is a powerhouse at New Mexico State University. She likes him. He has been named to one of her transition committees. But most important, Martinez will be able to lean on Carruthers who has already been there and done that. His interest will be in making her look good and influencing public policy. Maybe also getting a friend or two some government work. But Carruthers, 71, will have the Guv's ear and confidence because like Barbour he is not seeking personal political advancement.

Harvey Yates may be leaving the chairmanship of the NM Republican Party, but he was instrumental in advancing Martinez to the governorship. He will be gone, but not forgotten and a full-fledged 2011 political power player. His main concern will be protecting the oil and gas industry. No one will have better access to Martinez to make that case than Yates.

Heather Wilson has stepped on some toes in the Martinez camp during this transition which she was chosen to head up. But the former ABQ congresswoman is populating state government with her operatives and they will be running the government. Through them, Wilson will easily be placed on the 2011 political power list.

You don't hear much about Martinez's husband, Chuck Franco, but he will be a 2011 political power player. The quiet and unassuming soon to retire undersheriff of Dona Ana County is a constant and supportive presence for Martinez. One can easily speculate that his role will be in helping Martinez who she can and can not trust. If Chuck says you don't pass the smell test, your chances of getting through to the new Guv will be about as good as finding a donut shop not filled with cops.

We'll have a new Governor who will be using training wheels during her first year but make no mistake about it, Susana Martinez will be the ultimate political power player of 2011. The state Constitution and the people of New Mexico have made sure of that.


Gordon Eden, a longtime fixture in various high-level government posts and a Republican of moderate reputation, takes over the Department of Public Safety under Susana. He just finished a nine year stint as US Marshall for NM and was motor vehicle secretary under GOP Guv Gary Johnson.

The appointment should put an end to the speculation about ABQ Public Safety Director Darren White joining the Martinez administration. The former sheriff had been mentioned as a possible chief of staff for Susana as well as secretary for the public safety department--a job he held under Governor Johnson.

Eden's appointment may alleviate concerns among Hispanics that DPS would take a hard turn to the right when it came to immigration issues.


So much for playing it dark. Gov-elect Martinez and Congressman-elect Steve Pearce, ABQ Mayor Berry and other top R's have written a letter to state GOP central Committee members endorsing former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman as the next GOP party chair. Attorney Nina Martinez, the state GOP first vice-chair, is the other candidate for chair. The letter says Newman would be effective in raising funds for the 2010 cycle.

We came with the story Tuesday that Newman had the backing of the Martinez camp, but it was not out in the open. We wondered why the Governor-elect could not have cleared the field for her favorite candidate. This letter effectively ends the Nina Martinez candidacy which was backed by Susana Martinez Republican Gvv primary rivals Allen Weh and Doug Turner. It would not be surprising to see Nina throw in the towel and give it to Monty by acclamation at Saturday's ABQ convention. And that's what Governors do.


Could Big Bill communications honcho Gilbert Gallegos, a former ABQ Tribune reporter, find work as the Bernalillo County public information officer when the clock runs out on Bill come December 31. One of our downtown ABQ Alligators says it is indeed a possibility and gives us the inside story:

The opening for a Public Information Director for Bernalillo County comes after the recent removal of Liz Hamm from that position, and her placement in a “new” job as PIO for County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver. Insiders know that Hamm’s removal was fallout from the summer’s continuing bad news stories in the local media. Liz was encouraging taking the high road, yet the County Manager and Commissioners wanted to curtail the flow of information to the media and public. This position, which is at-will, is really all about supporting the Commissioners and Manager.

Insiders also note that Governor Richardson has personally spoken to County Manager Thaddeus Lucero about hiring the Gov’s communications director Gilbert Gallegos for the County position. Gallegos did get a recent interview, as did other current state PR flacks Tia Bland and Dan Ware.

Here is the job posting.

Many PIO's for the state are "exempt," meaning a lot of them can and will be canned when new GOP Governor Martinez takes over the first of the year. Gallegos has been one of Bill's most loyal lieutenants, staying through the good times and bad. Richardson's reticence to talk to some of the media in his final months has made it tougher for Gallegos, but he has earned his stripes in one of the toughest PR jobs in the state.

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