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Friday, January 21, 2011

It's Hers Now: Three Weeks In And Martinez Era Comes Into Focus, And: South Sinks In Wake Of Lujan Win, Plus: Egolf Tapped To Take On Oil Boys 

It's hers now. After three weeks of fairly frenetic activity, the Martinez era is coming into focus and taking on a personality. She has made no major stumbles in her initial outing, has put her stamp on state government in ways that relate to the everyday citizen and has been generally embraced by the public after her first major statewide address. The "Governor" in front of her name now fits.

If there were any lingering doubts among the chauvinists that a woman wasn't up to the job, Martinez erased them. Her determination and ambition have overcome her inexperience in the early going.

She has revealed a steely character that could make her formidable if and when it is matched with policy acumen. And she has avoided loading her plate too full with ultra-contentious issues as she wades deeper into the Alligator infested waters of La Politica. That shows some humility as well as political maturity that you might not expect her to have.

This new Governor's no-nonsense, pragmatism matches the current mood of the public. It will be interesting to see if she fully transcends her political personality as a district attorney and becomes something more in the months to follow.

MANSION TOUR

Martinez showed a more personable side as she gave TV news a tour of her new home--The Guv's Mansion which is still largely empty.

THE SOUTH SINKS

There will no sympathy for Dona Ana Dem State Rep. Andy Nunez. Speaker Ben Lujan punished Nunez for working to oust him by stripping him of his chairmanship of the House agriculture committee. Nunez portrayed himself as Lujan's political executioner, but it is he who will now hang. The 75 year old will end his political career haplessly.

In one of the more botched political movidas in recent memory, Nunez continually bellowed that Lujan would be dethroned by Dona Ana Dem Rep. Joe Cervantes who would form a coalition with Republicans to rule the House. "The south shall rise," he exclaimed. He also berated the speaker personally.

Nunez is now making rumblings about becoming a Republican, but his vote is probably already being counted on by the R's. Does no one in Santa Fe know when it is time to go peacefully into the night?

Nunez now joins Cervantes in getting punished and losing power for his southern constituency because of an ill-fated power play. All that seniority gone in a snap of the speaker's fingers. And it's the folks back home who get hurt the most.

Cervantes, an attorney, was removed by Lujan as judiciary committee chairman four years ago when he backed another coup against Lujan. (Nunez got his chairmanship back then for supporting Lujan). Both agriculture and judiciary are now chaired by ABQ or northern representatives. Rep. Roger Madalena of Jemez Pueblo gets agriculture. Rep. Al Park keeps judiciary. Rep. Mary Helen Garcia, as our Gators predicted, was named chair of Voters and Elections. That's a consolation for the south as she is also from Dona Ana County.

EGOLF AND OIL

The state's oil and gas industry was put on notice By Speaker Lujan when he named Santa Fe State Rep. Brian Egolf as the new chair of the House energy committee to replace Rep. Madalena there. Egolf has been an outspoken critic of some industry practices. He will be a counterbalance to Gov. Martinez who received major league campaign money from the industry and is already being accused of being in their pocket.

Egolf, 34, was only elected to the House in 2008. Already getting a chairmanship is a real credibility boost for him. He'll have to work to be as fair as he is informed, but expect a bulldog not a poodle. He has been an ardent supporter of the industry despised "Pit rule" which Martinez wants off the books, along with other environmental regs. Rep. Egolf, an attorney and Santa Fe native, is a newer face for the Dems amid a crowd of old bulls. That could help the party to again start connecting with voters after their November election setbacks.

CISCO OUT

Our legal beagles told us Cisco McSorley would lose his chairmanship of Senate judiciary and they were right. Sen. Richard Martinez of Rio Arriba takes the helm. The AP wraps it.

THE COUP ATTEMPT

Our sources inform that the state House GOP leadership wanted a commitment from Rep. Joe Cervantes in support of voter ID legislation to win over Tea party activists as they plotted to dethrone Dem Speaker Ben Lujan and replace him with Dem Cervantes. Having a law that requires voters to show identification before casting a ballot is a big wedge issue and could play a part in the R's strategy to secure a majority in the House in the 2012 elections. Cervantes never did make the voter ID commitment, the Tea Party remained opposed to making him speaker and the rest is history...

Another wedge issue playing out this session is the Guv's call for reinstating the death penalty which was repealed here in 2009. Like voter id, it has little, if any, chance of passing, but R's can use the opposition on the campaign trail.

A reader writes of the instrumental role the Tea Party played in blocking House R's from voting for a Democratic for speaker and forming a coalition:

The Tea Party is now the Fourth Branch of Government in New Mexico!

And here's a reader comment criticizing the House R's for not going forward and removing Dem Ben Lujan as speaker and replacing him with Cervantes:

Republicans because they are Republicans never think about positive outcomes only negative and act accordingly. The last Republican to express hope for the future was Ronald Regan.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Rep. Mary Helen Garcia is an aunt, not a cousin of fellow Dem Cervantes. We blogged otherwise Thursday....

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