Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Light Guv: The Thorn In Susana's Side--Every Guv Gets One, Plus: Susana Damage Control On Mexican Heritage, Also: GOP Campaign Shake-Ups 

New Mexico Governors have a problem with their lieutenant governors--they think they breathe too much. And so it is with Governor Susana Martinez who after nearly a year in office is mad as hell and doesn't want to take it anymore. She wants to dump the constitutional provision that makes Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez the acting governor anytime Susana leaves the state. And that is considerable time as she frequently visits her ailing father and other relatives in El Paso, only a few miles from the border.

Susana calls the provision "silly" because modern technology makes it possible for her to carry out her official duties from anywhere on the globe. But Mr. & Mrs. New Mexico know that. They just like keeping a thorn in the side of their top politician--and they are not about to remove it for this Governor or any in the future.

A deep distrust of executive power is in this state's DNA. Look at the Constitution. All the statewide offices like treasurer and attorney general are elected--not appointed by the Governor. And when we started out in 1912 Governors were allowed only a two year term and one re-election bid for a total of only four years in office.

Susana may think she has it rough with John Sanchez perched on her shoulder, but before 1964 lieutenant governors did not run as part of a team with the Governor. Sometimes we had a Republican Governor and a Democratic lieutenant governor. Talk about tension.

Complicating matters for the current administration is the falling out between Martinez and Sanchez. He is seeking the GOP nomination for the open US Senate seat, but Martinez poked him in the eye by endorsing rival Heather Wilson. (Not that Guv and Light Guv sparring matches are unusual. They are par for the course).

Scholars and political junkies can debate why we like to hamstring our Guvs. It probably stems in part from the "patron system" in the 18th and 19th centuries under which wealthy landowners held sway over labor or the "peones" who worked under the threat of debt and whose politics were controlled by the patron.

No, the handcuffs the Constitution puts on our Governor are not about to be removed. When Susana leaves the state, she is going to have to continue to look over her shoulder to make sure John Sanchez doesn't try any funny business. That may make her wriggle and wiggle, but it makes New Mexicans sleep better at night.


Monday was another day Susana was technically out of power because she was out of state. And how about that trip? It was to Chichuahua to attend a meeting of that state's Congress to honor those who fought during the Mexican Revolution in 1910, including Susana's great-grandfather Toribio Ortega.

Martinez seemed to run away from her Mexican heritage during her Guv campaign, but her incessant campaign against the state law that allows illegal immigrants to get state driver's licenses led to the surfacing of her background. Reacting to the reports, she said it appeared her grandparents had entered the USA illegally.

Now, in what will not be news to regular blog readers, the Guv says her paternal grandparents may not have entered here illegally:

(Martinez) made headlines earlier this year by acknowledging that her grandparents came to the U.S. without immigration documents. But she said her comments were based on what she has since learned were mischaracterizations of census information by the news media. A 1930 U.S. census has been cited in published reports as indicating the governor's grandparents were illegal immigrants. The census used a code, "AL" to designate they were "aliens," meaning they were not U.S. citizens. It doesn't indicate their immigration status, according to historians.

We've covered this angle, including reports from the blog genealogists that one of Martinez's grandparents appears to have crossed the border several times earlier in the century. Were all those crossings legal?

Whatever the case, Martinez's embrace of her great-grandfather is a start in repairing the damage she did to herself in not coming completely clean about her complete heritage at the beginning of her statewide campaign. The revelations did not go over well with her GOP base. And remember, it is still "watch what they do" not "what they say" when it comes to Martinez looking at that 2012 GOP VP nomination. She took the time to orchestrate on the same day the news of her perhaps not so illegal grandparents and the celebration of her great-grandfather in Mexico.


Having a lieutenant governor getting real power when she travels away isn't the only thing that must be cramping the Guv's style. She made such a big issue of the use of state airplanes during the campaign that she mainly drives around in a SUV. And she is on the road a lot, taking frequent trips to El Paso and Cruces to visit family. That's about a five hour trip from Santa Fe.
Does she now wish those planes were not such a centerpiece of her effort? Maybe. But it does give her plenty of time to think about how to keep John Sanchez under control.

Zamora & Lopez
You wouldn't know it by looking at them, but ABQ District Court Judge Monica Zamora and Victor Lopez, a judge for the Workers Compensation Administration, are running against one another for the Democratic nomination for the state Court of Appeals seat.

The smiling political pair was partying up at a recent fundraiser for Taos attorney Helen Laura Lopez, a Dem running for district court there. Either Zamora or Lopez will face off next November with Republican Court of Appeals Judge Miles Hanisee. Governor Martinez appointed him to the seat in July. It had held by Judge Robert Robles who resigned after a DWI arrest. Both Zamora and Lopez spoke highly of Hanisee, but the Dem nominee will be favored to take the prize. Dems have the edge in statewide judicial races.


The state tourism department has been pleading poverty when it comes to those of us pushing for an increase promotional budget for the state so we can start recovering from the bear market that has led to a collapse in the number of visitors here and the subsequent economic activity. Blog reader Carol Nordengren picks up on that theme and writes:

Joe, an article in the ABQ Journal business section says that UNM Anderson School of Management students developed a marketing campaign for the Public Health Service. Hmm, maybe our esteemed state director of tourism should reach out to the school to develop a marketing campaign for New Mexico tourism. If money is such an issue, maybe the students would have great ideas on the cheap.

Not a bad idea, Carol. Maybe have a student competition and make the prize a couple of plane tickets to fly in out-of-state friends for a weekend. (Hey, who do we bill for that idea?).


The GOP congressional campaigns of City Councilor Dan Lewis and former State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones continue to hit bumps in the road. Doug Antoon, a political consultant with long ties to Lewis, is out of the councilor's campaign, according to insiders. Antoon was handling communications for Lewis but was in effect his campaign manager.

Arnold-Jones has lost campaign manager Steve Kush. He has taken over as executive director of the Bernalillo County GOP. Kush moved here from New Jersey where he consulted Chris Christie's Guv campaign.

Both Lewis and Arnold-Jones have been roadblocked by 2012 GOP ABQ US House nominee Jon Barela. He says he is still considering entering the race. That has hampered the fund-raising efforts of Lewis and Arnold-Jones.

There is one candidate without money worries. He's retired army veteran Gary Smith who says he will self-finance much of his campaign. He has said he will give himself as much as $200,000. He has hired GOP political operative Rhead Story as his campaign manager (How's that for a headliner name?).


A reader writes:

Do any of your readers--anonymously or otherwise-have any idea on what happened here?

"The head of the New Mexico's medical marijuana program has quietly resigned and nobody is saying why. A state health department spokeswoman confirmed Thursday that Dominick Zurlo gave the state his notice about two weeks ago."

Email us if you have any info.


ABQ Journal political reporter Sean Olson won't be around to cover the 2012 state campaign trail. He is headed to Idaho and a job at the Idaho Business Review in Boise. It will be a return home to his native state for the 30 year old. Olson made his announcement via Facebook, not the newspaper which says something about how things have changed in the last 10 years. The Journal has not announced a replacement for Olson.

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