Friday, September 09, 2011

New Mexico's Dangerous Dance Over Immigration, Plus: Long Ago Blog Inquiries On Martinez Heritage Finally Answered, And: Susana's Two Paycheck Couples 

New Mexico continues to dance dangerously close to the racial precipice into which our Arizona brethren fell head first when that state was torn apart over immigration politics. This week was a humdinger, with large protests at the capitol and the Governor digging her heels even deeper into the concrete over the repeal of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. There's no question that Martinez has the polls on her side, but the opposition is working overtime to frame her zealousness for the repeal as anti-Hispanic, a great irony since Martinez is the nation's first female Hispanic Governor.

Will she emerge from this nonstop battle perceived as a protector of the public safety or a wedge issue player who loses important Hispanic support? The stakes here seem to be getting higher along with the emotional intensity.


During the campaign last year and continuing into this year, the Guv's political operatives have cited what they call "Monahan’s Bizarre Fascination With Martinez’s Lineage." That's because we were the first news outlet in the USA to report that Martinez's grandparents on her father's side were immigrants from Mexico--it turns out illegal immigrants--and we wondered aloud how her heritage would impact the political debate over immigration should she be elected.

Well, it took a while but on Friday there it was splashed across the state's front pages:

"Catholic Leader Cites Gov's Family in License Fight"

And there you have the public policy linkage to our original blog inquiry about Martinez's heritage.

The young operatives determined to throw us off the trail will have to do a lot better than labeling us bizarre. We earned these gray hairs--and we know how to use them.

So finally, after all those months from our initial reports, is the AP wrap confirming the illegal roots of Governor Martinez's family.

Speaking of headlines, the best one we came across this week was in the Rio Rancho Observer:

"Social Promotion Up For Demotion," blared the suburban fishwrapper.


How about all those happy couples working for Susana? First, there was Scott Darnell hired as the Guv's communications director followed by the hiring of Darnell's wife, Alexis Valdez Darnell, to a plum job next to her hubby on the Fourth Floor. Then there's the smiling McCleskeys. They're smiling because Jay is the Guv's chief operative and making his pay as head of Susana's PAC while wife Nicole is a pollster who has been doing work for the state GOP.

And now joining those in wedded bliss under the watchful eye of Susana is none other than her chief of staff--Keith Gardner. His wife, Stephanie, just landed a $67,000 year job at the public education department. The critics will call all this borderline nepotism and not the "bold change" that the administration would like to be known for. But look at it this way. The family that gets state paychecks together stays together. That's a new Republican value in Santa Fe, no?


The latest Gallup numbers that are critical to Obama's re-election chances in NM continue to languish in the cellar:

More than any other racial group. Latinos have soured on President Obama. Gallup polling shows Obama’s approval among Hispanics dropping to 48 percent for the month of August. That’s down from a high of 82 percent early in his presidency.

That 34-point drop is bigger than his decline among whites (25 percent) and African-Americans (8 percent) and could have a big effect on the 2012 elections, given that Latinos have shown a willingness to vote for the right kind of Republican.


Can we move the needle on Native American graduation rates?

Senator Udall today introduced a bill to improve tribal education...Graduation rates for American Indians and Alaska Natives are less than 50 percent, which is lower than the graduation rates for all other ethnic groups in the United States. "...Too many tribal school systems are struggling. Native schools are in desperate need of renovations, they’re unable to recruit and retain qualified Native teachers and with extremely tight budgets, they don’t have enough resources to do their jobs,” said Udall, member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs."

The Building Upon Unique Indian Learning and Development (BUILD) Act would remove barriers that tribal leaders often encounter in teaching Native languages at schools. It would also create a tribal “Teacher Preparation Initiative” to help increase the number of Native teachers and principals in the school system.

It is the exceptionally low high school graduation rate among Native American and Hispanic students that is just killing us in the rankings--not to mention hope for the future.


The bear market continues around here (just in case you were wondering):

The developer of The Village at Rio Rancho, Robert Geringer of Geringer Capital, says the planned groundbreaking for a movie theater has been delayed a year but he still plans to go ahead with the uptown style retail project. Geringer Capital plans to develop the project in phases on a 75-acre site just north of the Presbyterian Rust Medical Center hospital at Unser and Black Arroyo, which is scheduled to open Oct. 22.


We linked to an news article this week that said GOP Gov. Gary Johnson vetoed "all five redistricting plans in 2001." ABQ Dem State Rep. Al Park says not so. Johnson, Park says, did sign a measure redistricting the Public Regulation Commission which Park is running for in ABQ in 2012.....

Thanks to Jim Spence and Dr. Michael Swickard for some fun times on the radio. We chatted up state politics with the morning show duo on KSNM AM 570 in Las Cruces. We also got some news for you from the appearance. They told us that State Rep. Andy Nunez, who announced this year that he has switched from Democrat to independent, will run in Dona Ana County in 2012 as an independent. Despite the traditional difficulty that entails, Spence and Swickard said Andy will be the prohibitive favorite for re-election. "He's a folk hero around here" for standing up to House Speaker Lujan, they said. Spence and Swickard also run a southern NM news site--News New Mexico.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

Thanks for your company this week.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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