Monday, September 12, 2011

Gov's Illegal Grandparents Story Goes Viral; What's The Impact? Plus: Susana Cracks ABQ Chamber On Key Bill, And: Mixing It Up At Maravilla 

Has there been any news story in the eight months of Governor Martinez's term that landed with more national impact than the confirmation that her grandparents on her father's side came into the USA illegally? Not a chance. The report went viral making papers, blogs and social media sites coast-to-coast. Martinez's tough anti-immigration stance made the story a noteworthy struggle for her spin doctors, as they tried to quiet the catcalls of "hypocrisy."

Was it a defining national moment for the Guv, who has been frequently mentioned as a rising start in the GOP? We'll have to wait and see. But out here in the peanut gallery, before she became Governor, we urged Susana to come clean on her family roots, including the fact that she was born in El Paso. Her campaign used the euphemism "Lower Rio Grande Valley" to describe her birthplace, apparently trying to conceal the fact that she was a native Texan from El Paso.

The Governor was ill-served when the political decision was made to ignore her heritage and to avoid answering questions about it. If she had put her cards on the table early--when she was a candidate--not a sitting Governor--there would have been some controversy, but the deluge of national press she endured when it went public last week would have been minimized--and so would have any still to be determined political damage.


The intensity meter remains high on this as the Guv continues to push the Legislature to repeal the law allowing illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses.

That wily political rascal, House Speaker Ben Lujan, has come with a "compromise" bill on the licenses. We talked about this tactic earlier--get a bill tightening up on the licenses up to the Governor, let her veto it and then light into her for being too rigid. It would then give the Dems added political protection when the R's come after them over the license repeal in the 2012 election.

Can the Speaker pull a rabbit out of his hat and get a compromise bill through the House, even though the 70 member body voted strongly in favor of the Martinez repeal in its last regular session? It sounds unlikely, but we're not going to underestimate him. If he pulls it out, the Senate will join in faster than a tornado sweeping through a trailer park.

No matter what, an outright repeal of the driver's license law looks like dead money for this special. Susana can throw polls down at the solons from Sandia Peak and the state GOP can howl like a lonesome coyote at Midnight on Otero Mesa and it's isn't going to change a thing.


Well, we suppose we should leave the political advice for Susana to Jay McCleskey, the Guv's powerful senior consultant who has earned the nickname "The Fifth Floor." (Susana occupies the Fourth). For example, according to our insiders, Jay, armed with a PowerPoint presentation, was front and center before the House Republican caucus when they met at the Governor's Mansion as the special session was beginning. His main point? That the House R's need to back all of Susana's agenda because she is so popular in the polls. But what if you have a question or two? Well, you want to be a "team player," don't you?

Of course, polls also show that the American people want prayer in school, a balanced federal budget, and the death penalty. But when you live in a Democratic Republic, the polls are a guide, not a commandment. As one Santa Fe wag put it, "this is not a mobocracy."

If there is to be a fatal political flaw of this governorship it might very well be the insistence that polls should determine public policy, rather than emphasizing competence and an ability to effectively govern and promulgate a coherent agenda. The pursuit of a finger-in-the-wind strategy like polling offers brief emotional satisfaction but no tangible improvement in our way of life. It's like eating Chinese food and needing to head to the fridge an hour later.

It's all about the difference between governing and campaigning, but you've heard us play that CD over and over.....


Add another married couple who have both landed jobs with Governor Susana. An Alligator reports:

The husband of Secretary of Tourism Monique Jacobson has the title of "Special Projects" at the Department of Finance and Administration and makes $30 an hour.

The Jacobsons join the Keith Gardners (Susana chief of staff whose wife has a new gig at the public education department) and the Scott Darnells (Guv communications chief whose wife is also a Fourth Floor aide) on the state payroll. Now that's what we call a real honeymoon....


And look who is headed to the Fourth Floor at the Roundhouse from ABQ's City Hall. It's longtime Darren White aide Erin Kinnard Thompson. Insiders report she is leaving Mayor Berry's office and has landed a job with the Guv.

Thompson was doing spin for Darren when he was the city's public safety director, but he was forced out this summer over the controversy involving his wife's auto accident. Leaving City Hall before Erin was Sara Lister, another longtime Darren associate. She landed the plum deputy director position at the Workforce Solutions Department.

The purge of the White influence from City Hall--intentional or otherwise--can' be said to be total. Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry and Police Chief Schultz were also closely allied with the hyper-controversial White and both are still on the job.


It looks like the punishment the Guv handed out to longtime ABQ Chamber of Commerce executive director Terri Cole has had the desired effect. Cole (and the Chamber) have cracked over the Guv's plans to shore up the state unemployment fund. She was scored for going against the Guv in a Martinez political action committee piece recently mailed out statewide. We blogged about it August 10. Now Cole says the Chamber supports the Guv's plan. It would avoid a hike in the rate the state's businesses pay into the fund and instead supports a raid on the state's reserves for $130 million to pay the bill. Earlier, Cole and the Chamber said a rate increase was the best path.

Cole also took major heat when Dem Big Bill was Governor, siding with him on tax proposals that drew the ire of Republicans. But Cole doesn't seem to be doing herself any favors with conservatives by backing Martinez. A number of GOP legislators and conservative Dem Senator John Arthur Smith are against Susana's reserve raid. The measure is given little chance of approval.

In the game of La Politica, you are either leading or following. The ABQ Chamber has put itself firmly in the follower camp.


Thanks to Clara Apodaca for having us over to the National Hispanic Cultural Center Saturday night for Maravilla--the center's annual gala fund-raiser and celebration. The former first lady ('75-'78) heads up the Center's Foundation Board of Trustees. (Did we hear someone at the live auction bid over $1500.00 for a pair of Denver Bronco tickets?)

The place was teeming with politicos. Dem US Senate candidates Hector Balderas and Martin Heinrich were making the rounds as were ABQ Mayor RJ Berry and first lady Maria (Medina)....Dem congressional hopefuls Marty Chavez and Eric Griego were also working the crowd. The Guv was represented by Deputy Chief of Staff Ryan Cangiolosi. Legendary GOP power player Edward Lujan greeted well-wishers. He noted that the Center, which he helped get off the ground, was glad to have recently resolved a state funding issue and things are back on track...KRQE-TV news anchor Jessica Garate was among the media contingent. Our Gators say they expect major news about her career in the days ahead....

ABQ State Senator John Ryan and wife, Veronica Gonzales, who is secretary of the cultural affairs department which oversees the center, were among other prominent R's at the gathering. ABQ GOP State Rep. Nate Gentry and wife Erin were also on hand for the celebration and shared a table with Dem State Sen. John Sapien. Nearby was Attorney General Gary King with spouse/scientist Yolanda.

We had dinner with Dem State Rep. Mary Helen Garcia, and that was pretty timely as she co-chairs the powerful redistricting committee. Garcia is sharp as a tack on the complicated redistricting. She came down from the Santa Fe session for the event, hitching a ride with nephew and fellow Dona Ana County State Rep. Joe Cervantes. He's now the go-to guy in the Jerome Block impeachment case.

We nailed down a bit of news for you as well. ABQ GOP State Senator Kent Cravens and wife Melanie confirmed our blog report from a couple of weeks ago that said Kent will soon resign the Senate to begin a new job as legislative affairs director for the NM Oil & Gas Association. We took "soon" to be right after the current special session...

And one other note. Former NM Lt. Governor Diane Denish, who ran for Governor in 2010, says that talk you hear about her considering running for mayor of ABQ in 2013 should not be dismissed out of hand. "I am going to take a look at it...." she said as she practiced her Saturday night table hopping....

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