Nearing the pits

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By Hal Rhodes

The Wall Street Journal published a survey the other day, which led it to conclude that New Mexico is the second-worst run state in these United States.
It’s probably safe to assume that New Mexico’s Republican governor, Susana Martinez, received the WSJ’s findings with something less than enthusiasm.
After all, Martinez is running for reelection, and, to all appearances, everyone who claims to know everything there is to know about New Mexico politics today insists that she’s a shoo-in for a second term.
Still the steady drumbeat of recent studies and surveys negatively comparing this enchanted land to its 49 counterparts throughout the nation can hardly be a cause for celebration to a governor at the dawn of an election year and with a 30-day legislative session underway.
Face it: If there is a bottom of the barrel among states in this country, New Mexico has just about reached it. Or so the “rankings” would have us believe.
It can’t help either that the mastermind of the governor’s big win four years ago, Martinez’s seemingly infallible political guru Jay McCleskey, shows signs of having become a potential albatross around her neck just as Campaign ’14 is getting underway.
Thing have gotten so tough for McCleskey that even the Martinez-friendly Albuquerque Journal, the state’s most widely circulated daily newspaper, has piled on with a lengthy article investigating his dubious contributions to Susana Martinez’s tenure as governor, including that controversial contract involving The Downs in Albuquerque.
There was little new or original in the Journal investigation, but simply publishing a piece on the machinations interior to her administration gives heightened and unflattering visibility to her difficulties. Whether McCleskey can regain his political footing sufficient to head the governor’s 2014 campaign is anybody’s guess.
Meanwhile, fissures in the façade of comity that until recently seemed to adorn state Democrats were evident even before the Legislature convened last week.
Democratic state Chairman Sam Bregman is a charming and witty fellow who, during his years on the Albuquerque City Council, developed a reputation for grabbing headlines by shooting from the hip with an occasionally loose lip.
So, Sam being Sam, commotion was to be expected after he blasted Deming’s Democratic Sen. John Arthur Smith, the powerful chairman of the state Senate Finance Committee, for nixing a proposed state constitutional amendment that would permit voters to decide whether money from the state’s permanent fund should be used for early childhood programs.
Worse, Bregman went on to suggest that, short of changing his ways, Sen. Smith might change his party affiliation to Republican.
It was too much for Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, who flew into a rage on the Senate floor, simultaneously defending Smith and attacking Bregman.
A schism here, a rift there, such is politics everywhere.
But if, as the Wall Street Journal would have it, New Mexico is just one ranking above the worst managed state in the Union, you might think the folks currently congregated at the Roundhouse for 30 days of deliberation and decision-making could put their immediate political ambitions and their differences aside long enough to up that ranking by several notches?
The WSJ survey is actually quite a depressing set of findings: New Mexico was worst in violent crime, high school graduation, economic growth, health insurance coverage; New Mexico was sixth-lowest in average household income, second highest in the percent of its population below the poverty line.
Ad nauseam, ad nauseam.
Madam Governor, ladies and gentlemen of the Legislature, you must do better if New Mexico and New Mexicans are to do better.