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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Polls And Public Catch Up To Martinez; Senate Strikes With Rare Veto Override; Effort Led By GOP Senator; Dem Victory Dampened As Leader Slips On Lease Scandal, Plus: Pearce To Town Hall With Liberals In Las Cruces 

Sen. Brandt (Moore, Journal)
Where the public goes, the politicians follow. And so it was in Santa Fe Tuesday as the state Senate pushed back against unpopular Gov. Susan Martinez and for the first time overrode one of her vetoes.

It wasn't even close as eight Republicans joined the Dems to deliver the body blow to the second term Governor. And she received an extra sting as Republican Senator Craig Brandt of Rio Rancho, whose wife is an educator, led the override. (Brandt video here.)

Martinez's approval rating has plunged to 42 percent and she officially became a lame duck last November when all Senators were elected to four year terms and her once vaunted political machine was taken out of the picture. Senators, who for years suffered  mostly in silence, finally had their chance to strike.

The override came on a sick leave bill for teachers--a group Martinez has long tangled with--and was easy pickings. It had passed the Senate and House by huge margins. As one wall-leaner wryly commented:

It's good to see that the Legislature agrees that torturing teachers is a bad idea.

The reaction from the Fourth Floor dripped with irony, as Martinez's office dismissed the override as the “petty action of a bitter Senate," upset with her because she won't sign tax increases to balance the budget.

But it is Martinez's own bitterness and vindictiveness--sometimes directed at her own Republican senators-- that has attained near legendary status and may well be the legacy that she leaves.

(In a rare Facebook posting Martinez toned it down some as she wrote in her own name, calling the Senate override and other Senate actions "political stunts.")

And she didn't stop there. Throwing caution to the wind and risking yet another political spanking from the Senate, Martinez vetoed legislation that would have allowed "a computer science class to count as one of a high school student's math or science requirements to earn a diploma."

That measure passed both the House and Senate by nearly unanimous votes but still she vetoed it and without explanation. Now who's bitter?

Regardless of whether the House joins the Senate in the override of the sick leave bill--and it looks doubtful it will--the point has been made. Martinez has 21 months left on her final term but the power is ebbing fast. Judging by her actions and reaction Tuesday, the question is whether she can endure the duress without an outbreak of temperament that furthers the damage. We certainly don't need any more pizza parties.

NOT A CLEAN WIN

Of course, leave it to the Dems not to be able to pull off a clean win against Martinez. The waters on their side of the aisle were getting very muddy indeed, even as the Senate delivered the veto override that the chamber's PR office called an "historic" rebuke.

It turns out that Gov. Martinez personally called new Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth  on that state lease deal legislation that exploded in scandal when it turned out the beneficiaries of the deal were major campaign contributors to the Governor. Martinez called Wirth after he voted against the bill in committee. After the call he reversed himself and carried the Guv's water by getting the bill back on track. It then blew up in his face when both R and D Senators disowned the bill saying it appeared to be a pay-to-play scheme. The bill was dead.

The new majority leader assumed his post with a bend over backwards attitude toward the chief executive, vowing "bipartisanship" and lots of handshakes and pleasantries. Wirth may have figured that Martinez was ready to play ball now that the man she reviled--Majority Leader Michael Sanchez--was successfully ousted by her Machine and paved the way for his promotion.

Didn't Wirth know there was a skunk in the building when that smelly lease deal was personally pushed to him by Susana? Wirth desperately wants to be a peace maker and a deal maker. But he forgot the lesson Michael Sanchez leaned early on--this is a governor who will hang you out to dry--and if you don't believe us, Peter, look at the blood stains on your back.

TOWN HALL MANIA 

No sooner had we pointed out that while conservative GOP southern Congressman Steve Pearce has held two town hall meetings but both of them in conservative areas of his district, he pops up with the news that he will have a town hall in the heart of the liberal center of the district in Las Cruces. And get this, co-hosting the meeting with him will be the Indivisibles Group, arch-foes of the Trump-Pearce agenda. Pearce says:

I consider myself lucky to represent such a passionate and engaged district. 

Well, he will certainly have passion at the noon Saturday town hall.

This is the new Steve Pearce, ready to listen to the libs and look across party aisles. And that is a Pearce who looks more and more like an '18 GOP gubernatorial candidate. His potential foe--Lt. Gov. John Sanchez--must be wishing fervently that the rumors about Gov. Martinez sniffing around the US Justice Department for some kind of position are true and that he eventually gets appointed Governor. But with Pearce furiously pacing time is growing short.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Longtime Reader Mick is tilting at the rumor mill:

Joe, (former ABQ Chief administrative officer and attorney) David Campbell is leaving the federal service and has applied for the presidency of UNM. Shout it out in 72 point type.

We'll stick with your shout out, Mick, and keep you neck on the line as well.

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