Thursday, November 08, 2012

Susana Mulls It Over: Some Signals Of A Softening In Aftermath Of Her Election Setbacks? Plus: The Changing Faces Of Santa Fe  

On The Radio Election Night
When it doesn't go your way, change the subject. The day after the election, this is announced:

Governor Susana Martinez, Children, Youth, and Families Department Secretary Yolanda Deines, and University of New Mexico Vice President for Athletics Paul Krebs will host a press conference to announce a permanent display of CYFD's Heart Gallery at the Pit at UNM.  The Heart Gallery of New Mexico is a photographic art show featuring foster children who are waiting to be adopted,...

Why, it's like nothing ever happened. But something did. The Guv's expensively funded effort to change the basic character of the Legislature was thwarted.

Instead of the talk in Santa Fe being centered on new conservative power in the Roundhouse, it's about how the Dems have strengthened their hand and whether they can now start sending an agenda to Martinez that she can either veto or sign.


He's got the whole world in his hands. Really, that's the deal now with Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. He looked the beast in the eye and beat it. His power is enhanced enormously after the Guv's political adviser Jay McCleskey unloaded some of the most negative tactics possible and fell a whopping ten points short of victory.

If you're going to kill the king, kill him. Now the fate of this governorship is largely in Sanchez's hands. He will probably decide who will be the next Senate president Pro Tem now that Tim Jennings is gone. Also, the Democratic Party is going to unify behind him. Why? Because in this game, there's nothing like a winner.

Warning flag: Sanchez has to keep in check what his fellow Senators call the bristly and quirky side of his nature. Susana just overreached. Now Sanchez has to be careful he doesn't fall in the same trap.


Gridlock doesn't have to continue. The Governor could offer an olive branch and put Sanchez and the Dems on the spot. She probably won't, choosing instead to run a campaign for re-election in 2014 against the lawmakers, but she always has the compromise option. Consultant McCleskey said the bruising of the Guv means she is indeed ready to bend:

Governor Martinez has already begun reaching out to legislators on both sides of the aisle, and she is committed to working in a bipartisan manner to continue moving New Mexico forward...

We'll see. Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez told KNME-TV Election Night he doesn't know what Martinez's agenda is, that it seems to be McCleskey's agenda of wedge issues to use in whatever election is around the corner.

Martinez retorted in a KRQE-TV interview:

“He hasn't read it, that’s the problem.”

That Sanchez mentioned the consultant by name may be an indication that he is signaling to the Guv that he wants new players on the field before he agrees to any dealing or peace making. We don't think Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle would argue with him over it.


It's not as if Martinez can't act in a bipartisan manner. She hit pay dirt when she showed up in Rio Rancho Election Night expressing deep concern about long lines of voters there because Sandoval County had not allocated enough machines. The presence of the Guv had to be comforting to the dozens of people who were worried that their right to vote was going to be lost because of ineptness. And it sent a positive signal to the public at large.

Martinez refused to criticize the Democratic County Clerk. She noted that the area with problems was a Republican stronghold, but she said she would do the same if the problem had been in a Dem area like Taos.

That struck just the right note and reminded us of her handing of the natural gas heating crisis shortly after she took office--another time when she seemed to put politics aside and tackled the problem at hand.

She knows how. And now--after a GOP rout at the polls--she may see the wisdom in showing more of that side of her political personality.


As for McCleskey, he is now a hyper-controversial figure in the Governor's own Republican Party. He knocked off Jennings (who was supported by many R's) but lost mostly everything else.

We don't know exactly what that means for his status as the most influential figure in state government apart from Martinez, we just know losing is not good.

And what's with McCleskey hammering the New Mexico media and trying to determine who they use to provide commentary and analysis on the Governor's administration? That's not helping his boss on the Fourth Floor.

 Bashing the press and media is fair game, but trying to have the government run them (or a shadow government) isn't.


President Pro Tem? Senators Pete Campos and Carlos Cisneros jump to mind. The pro tem controls committee assignments. But Leader Sanchez will want to have a pro tem who listens to him. Certainly the coalition of R's and conservative Dems that kept Jennings in the position is gone. The position is decided by the entire Senate. The Dems lost three seats Tuesday but they still control it.


The Election Night results may alter the position of conservative Democratic Senator John "Dr. No" Arthur Smith. He has run the powerful Senate Finance Committee as his personal fiefdom. Smith is now going to have to share power with more centrist and liberal elements of his Democratic Party. That's the message from voters. Look for him to be more accommodating. If not, that could be a developing story.

There are 15 brand new faces in the Senate. Again, we're not sure what it means, but something is going to be different.


Because Romney could not attract Hispanic voters, Governor Martinez's name surfaces again in the national media as a Republican who could help the GOP.  But after she lost most of her campaign goals here, she has her hands full just hanging on to power here. The national spotlight may have to wait. Obama's win certainly kills talk that she could leave New Mexico to take a job in DC.


So what's the 70 member state House looking like now? Well, at least two new Dem members make it comfortable for State Rep. Kenny Martinez to get elected speaker. There will be no coalition with the R's.

And ABQ Dem State Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas comes with this on the new House:

There are 21 new members. 6 new Republicans. 15 new Democrats. 2 new Natives; R-Clahchischilliage and D- Georgene Louis (26-Acoma);  Hispanic Republicans: 23-Paul Pacheco (although he self identifies as European- Portuguese) 61-David Gallegos 68-Monica Youngblood..

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