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Reason for Estrada departure in dispute

Smiles at a campaign fundraiser in Washington D.C. hid the antagonism Susana Martinez felt for her one-time campaign manager, Jamie Estrada. (courtesy of Jamie Estrada)
Smiles at a campaign fundraiser in Washington D.C. hid the antagonism Susana Martinez felt for her one-time campaign manager, Jamie Estrada. (courtesy of Jamie Estrada)
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After Jamie Estrada was indicted earlier this month for allegedly hijacking her emails, Gov. Susana Martinez said she had fired her former campaign manager in 2009 because he had “suspect character.”

While there is no question Estrada left the campaign, his attorney says it was Estrada’s decision.

Hijacked emails fueled political battle

Email scorecard

Once considered a rising Republican star, Estrada sought the GOP nomination for the Public Regulation Commission District Five seat in southern New Mexico after leaving the Martinez campaign.

He lost his bid, while Martinez won a hard-fought primary election and went on to become the nation’s first elected Latina governor.

Both the Estrada and Martinez camps have released emails in support of their view of the way the relationship ended.

Emails released by Estrada show Martinez subsequently invited him to campaign events during the primary season, shared the stage with him, introduced him to crowds and invited him to her victory celebration, giving him a friends and family pass.

There is a photograph of Estrada standing next to Martinez. And one of Martinez hugging him on the victory stage.

But how good was the relationship?

Emails released by the Martinez camp show Estrada being asked to turn over all passwords and codes in his possession, including bank accounts and telephone accounts.

A major sticking point, based on emails released by both sides, was that Estrada, a former Deputy Secretary of Commerce in the Bush administration, wanted to be paid for working as acting campaign manager for Martinez for four months in 2009.

On December 21, 2009, just before he left the campaign, Estrada wrote to Martinez: “While we did not agree on a specific amount, I have made it clear I an (sic) expecting a payment after this quarter. It would be extremely unfair if I was not compensated for all I have done for you since August.”

Martinez wrote back: “What salary are u referring to? We have never agreed to a salary that would cover the future, much less up to this point.”

Estrada’s relationship with the campaign ended later in December.

He was paid $10,000 in July 2010.

After Martinez won the governorship, Estrada sent in his resumé hoping for the job of Secretary of Economic Development.

He wasn’t interviewed.

— Mike Gallagher

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