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New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez in the national spotlight

Susana Martinez examined by Mother Jones
Susana Martinez examined by Mother Jones
Creative Commons

In case you were too busy with the recent Easter holiday or Spring Break activities, MSNBC hosted a lively discussion concerning Governor Susana Martinez following Mother Jones’ in-depth article by Andy Kroll.

Mother Jones used Governor Martinez's own words to portray her as a foul-mouthed, vindictive, self-absorbed airhead who avoids interviews on difficult subjects. Most of these characterizations were due to leaks of confidential emails and audio conversations by parties unknown or even under federal indictment.

It was interesting watching MSNBC commentator Eugene Robinson resort to recordings of these four-year old private conversations by Susana Martinez. In leaked communications she lampoons teacher’s high salaries relative to months worked, and she questioned the reason for the existence of the New Mexico Women’s Commission, spiced with some colorful language.

But if this is all the negative information they could find on her then MSNBC risks sounding as hollow as Republican Daryl Issa and his fruitless investigation of a possible White House association with the so-called IRS scandal.

To be clear I’m not an ardent Martinez supporter, but I respect that she is performing reasonably well in her first term. According to U.S. News:

Conservatives credit her with trimming the state budget, lowering taxes, and implementing school-reform measures; liberals like that she expanded Medicaid and allowed a state-based health insurance exchange.

Additionally, the recent Santa Theresa inland port expansion in southern New Mexico could be a real game changer for the state. And New Mexico is in the running for a proposed 6,500-employee Tesla battery factory with Arizona, Nevada, and Texas.

Unfortunately any progress on Hispanic education has been negated by New Mexico’s bottom place finish (yes that’s 50th nationally) in overall child welfare which takes into account education. But the reason progressives may vote for her in the coming election could be because she just hasn't made any major mistakes (unlike New Jersey Governor Chris Christie). Nor has she fought too hard for her signature anti-immigrant proposal to revoke drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants which failed to pass the state legislature. And she has carefully avoided the national spotlight except during the 2012 national election to deliver a speech supporting Mitt Romney.

Avoiding difficult interviews and hard questions is said to be a key strategy by her top aide, Jay McCleskey. McCleskey has been characterized as a lavishly paid shadow governor even by Republicans in New Mexico.

But the real issue is this: if she’s an up and coming GOP star (the phrase “future presidential candidate” was used), then what is next for her after the election? What if she came out in favor of real immigration reform? What if she took a firm stance against states that are passing legislation making it harder to vote? What if she publicly supported aspects of Obama Care, especially for people in poor states like New Mexico where it is needed the most?

Susana Martinez would come across as a pragmatic, sensible, bipartisan leader that appeals to everyone (except maybe the Tea Party and their neolithic supporters). But if Republicans encourage her to enter the national arena prematurely, they may indeed end up with another Sarah Palin.

Lest you think this is mere fantasy, consider this: Martinez met with Republican leaders on a Koch Brothers-sponsored gathering in early August 2014 in New Mexico.

Is the GOP planning a Chris Christie, Paul Rand, or Jeb Bush run with Martinez as a possible running mate in 2016? Earth to Republicans: No matter how badly you need women’s and Hispanic votes in 2016, let Martinez season a bit before you think about anointing her as a vice-presidential candidate. You see, New Mexicans would actually like to see her succeed.

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