I recently left state government in Santa Fe after serving for over 30 years. I am also a Democrat who has worked for governors of both political parties, serving in positions that include cabinet secretary and state budget director.
And I must say that I am appalled by the attacks against Gov. Susana Martinez and the cheap shots that have been taken at her political consultant, Jay McCleskey.
I have worked for multiple governors over the years and no governor is more involved in the nitty-gritty details of policy and budget than Susana Martinez. And I have never seen a governor engaged in more direct negotiations with legislators and staff over policy and fiscal details than Susana Martinez.
Regardless of one’s politics, Martinez has achieved remarkable successes, including highly technical reforms such as major tax reform and a complete overhaul of our unemployment insurance system.
I agree with Democratic Senate Finance Chairman John Arthur Smith who said of the historic and complicated tax bill that it was ” … the closest thing we’ve had since I have been here to true, total tax reform.”
None of that would be possible if Martinez was not a strong and decisive woman and leader with complete command of the policy details.
I also know Jay McCleskey very well, having first worked with him when he was a policy analyst for the Department of Finance and Administration in 2000.
I spent considerable time with him then and when I was budget director for Martinez.
Jay is smart, honest, and provides invaluable insight when it comes to negotiating the political pitfalls and countering the political attacks against the governor’s policies that are inherent in this business. But I must say that the claim that he tells the governor what to think or how to run state government is as insulting as it is false.
And unlike the disgruntled sources who made this claim, I can tell you that I have actually been in the room for many of these policy discussions.
Every governor and major elected official in this country has a political adviser who does what Jay does for the governor, including President Obama.
No one questions whether or not President Obama is a puppet of his political adviser, just like I don’t recall anyone questioning the relationship of any of the other governors – all males – I worked for and their political consultants. Nor do I recall them being called a puppet.
I find it deeply disturbing that Susana Martinez is singled out for this attack.
Martinez is the first Hispanic female governor in the history of the United States. Her record of achievement should not be sullied by sexist attacks launched by disgruntled sources.
Again, regardless of your politics, Martinez has made New Mexico proud, and this woman and Democrat is personally proud to have worked for her administration.