ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Is New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez the Next Sarah Palin?
A scathing profile of Gov. Susana Martinez published in the politically liberal magazine Mother Jones – featuring 4-year-old recordings of Martinez and her campaign staff cursing about her 2010 election opponent and criticizing public school teachers as overpaid because they have summers off – touched off more political skirmishing in New Mexico on Wednesday.
Martinez attacked the 5,000-word article as a “desperate” liberal media assault and asked campaign supporters in an email for financial help to fend off political attacks in her re-election bid.
Several Democrats seeking their party’s nomination to oppose her in November used the article to blast Martinez, while progressive groups and the state Democratic Party joined in.
“In the absolute height of desperation, one of the most radically liberal publications in the country is now peddling false, personal attacks against me, using stolen audiotapes from our debate prep sessions four years ago,” Martinez wrote in a campaign email. “… Will you help me combat these desperate attacks?”
The Mother Jones article recapped Martinez’s rise to governor in New Mexico, noted her high approval ratings, and highlighted Republican interest in her ability to appeal to Hispanics and women on a national level. The article online linked to several previously undisclosed recordings of remarks Martinez made as a candidate for governor in 2010, including:
• Martinez, while re-watching a debate between the candidates, said of her 2010 Democratic opponent Diane Denish: “I’m so tired of that little bitch.”
• Martinez, referring to public school teachers, said, “They already don’t work 2½ months out of the year, three months out of the year, but earn salaries at the same rate of people who do work 12 months a year.” But she also suggested her campaign should avoid the issue.
• Martinez questioned the role of the governor’s Commission on the Status of Women, saying, “What the hell is that? … What the hell does a commission on women’s cabinet do all day long?” She also botched the name of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, saying, “… the Hispano chamber of culture, I don’t know what the hell it was.”
• Campaign staffer Matt Kennicott attacked then-Democratic state House Speaker Ben Lujan, telling Martinez, “Somebody told me he’s absolutely eloquent in Spanish, but his English, he sounds like a retard.” Kennicott now works as spokesman for the state Human Services Department.
Mother Jones also reported that Martinez, in an email to campaign staff in August 2009 – 15 months before being elected governor – asked “What is podash? Or ashpod? WIPP?” The comments apparently refer to New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad and the state’s multimillion-dollar potash mining industry.
Martinez, in her Wednesday email to supporters, addressed only her remark toward Denish during the 2010 campaign.
“Their ‘smoking gun’? I referred to Diane Denish using the B-word four years ago in a private conversation with close advisers,” Martinez said in the email. “I admit it – I’ve had to fund the cuss jar a few times in my life.”
Denish responded to Martinez’s comments about her and Martinez’s “cuss jar,” saying Wednesday on Twitter: “How about the I don’t care about NM jar?”
Martinez campaign spokesman Chris Sanchez, in an emailed statement Wednesday, called the Mother Jones article part of a “national Left” smear campaign.
“That the national Left is trying to smear the first Hispanic woman governor in American history because they view her as a threat is about as surprising as the National Enquirer reporting that Elvis is still alive,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said the private recordings published by Mother Jones are “undoubtedly” connected with an alleged theft of the governor’s campaign emails in 2012, leading to a federal indictment against former Martinez campaign aide Jamie Estrada.
Three of the five Democratic gubernatorial candidates vying for their party’s nomination to challenge Martinez in November – Alan Webber, Howie Morales and Lawrence Rael – seized on the Mother Jones article on Wednesday to criticize Martinez as out of touch with average New Mexicans.
Rep. Ben Ray Luján, son of the late House speaker disparaged by Kennicott, said Wednesday: “It is sad that a Martinez official believes that New Mexicans who speak with a Spanish accent have a disability or that they use such disparaging terms. It is troubling that Gov. Martinez has allowed a culture in which these comments and other offensive remarks by her staff are deemed acceptable.”
Kennicott, in a response to the Journal on Wednesday, said, “I was repeating a direct quote of what someone else had said, and I apologize if that offended or hurt anyone. I was relaying this to someone in private and obviously would not have used this language otherwise, as I knew full-well that the governor’s sister is developmentally disabled.”
New Mexico political analyst Brian Sanderoff said that the article in Mother Jones probably would not on its own politically damage Martinez, but that the article and newly released recordings may give her Democratic opponents new ammunition against her.
“The political damage, if any, will be dependent on how her political opponents are able to package some of the more controversial elements contained in the article and communicate them to the electorate,” Sanderoff said.
Mother Jones, during the 2012 presidential election, published a secret recording of Republican nominee Mitt Romney saying his campaign would write off “47 percent” of voters who relied on government handouts.
The publication wrote favorably of her record as a longtime district attorney and noted she had approved Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.
— Read the Mother Jones article: Is New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez the Next Sarah Palin?