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After the governor went to New Jersey to campaign with her counterpart, we saw a lot of media gushing over the possible Republican dream team of two moderates — Chris Christie and Susana Martinez.
Here in New Mexico, we wondered about this newly minted moderate and bipartisan governor. Is this the same Susana who ran blistering, below-the-belt attack ads against Democrats in 2012? The same Susana who has spent far more time with her dukes up than her hand outstretched toward legislative Dems? The same Susana who… You get the drift.
When I’ve asked Democratic lawmakers during the session if they’ve seen the governor, most haven’t. One said she had: “She basically told us what she wants us to do.”
Apparently the omniscient national pundits don’t know that, but now they know about New Mexico’s Karl Rove.
A Nov. 23 National Journal story about Martinez and her ever present political consultant, Jay McCleskey, exploded into the political heavens, bringing hope and campaign fodder to the five Democratic candidates for governor and slowing the trajectory of Martinez’s national star.
The story was pretty much old news here, but it dangled a few revelations.
Like these: McCleskey has received more than $10,000 a month from Susana PAC, plus $13,000 a month from the governor’s re-election campaign and more than $850,000 from both since the election. When Martinez-McCleskey injected themselves into the Clovis Senate primary between Pat Woods and Angie Spears, McCleskey pocketed $47,000 of the $56,000 Angie Spears raised, and she lost.
We already know that McCleskey has been involved in the governor’s office far beyond his role as political advisor.
I had wondered why the governor would go out of her way to pick a fight with the Legislature during her first two sessions and why she would pepper the State of the State speech with combative language. Maybe it was the act of a political newbie with a district-attorney persona, I thought. Then I began hearing legislators joke about “the fifth floor,” meaning McCleskey. Whose idea was it to poke a stick at the caged bear — the governor or her Rasputin?
Then we’ve had the extreme responses to issues of some cabinet secretaries, followed by the question, where did we get these people?
“A number of members chosen for the governor’s Cabinet came as total surprises to the transition committees tasked with their selections,” the article states. Some of Martinez’s cabinet appointments are admirably qualified. And then there’s Sidonie “Hunger? What hunger?” Squier, of the Human Services Department, and Hanna Skandera, of the Public Education Department.
I’m not saying all the warring parties are innocent, but we still should ask how it is that issues with many solutions and opportunities to compromise are at such an impasse.
My Way or the Highway shouldn’t be confused with leadership.
Even the governor’s friends wonder why she keeps McCleskey so close, and her enemies wonder who’s running the show. Her male spokesmen have called the questioning sexist. As a card-carrying feminist, I can assure you it’s not sexist. Former Gov. Bill Richardson, the man Martinez loves to hate, had no such person around. Neither did Gary Johnson or Bruce King.
Martinez has angrily responded that, of course, she’s in the driver’s seat. That’s the heart of the matter. The very fact that she has to reassure the public that she’s in charge tells us there are doubts. It’s not a problem a female leader wants to have.
A question I’ve had all along is, who is Susana Martinez? What we see is the Eliza Doolittle created by McCleskey, who takes credit for discovering her. Can we meet the real Susana Martinez?