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Communications chief leaves Martinez administration

SANTA FE, N.M. — A key figure in crafting Gov. Susana Martinez’s communications strategy is leaving her administration.

Chris Sanchez – who worked for the governor for about 3½ years – stepped down this week as communications director.

His departure is the third announced by the Martinez administration this week among top staffers. Education Secretary Hanna Skandera and Myles Copeland, secretary of Aging and Long-Term Services, are also leaving.

Martinez, a Republican, is well into her second term as governor, and she can’t run again next year because of term limits. The next governor will be elected in November 2018 and take office Jan. 1, 2019.

Sanchez worked on the governor’s 2014 re-election campaign and also served as a spokesman for the Higher Education Department.

Martinez said she is grateful for his help.

“Chris is a gifted communicator who helped me lay out my vision to the people of New Mexico,” the governor said in a written statement. “We’re going to miss his good sense of humor and invaluable insight.”

Larry Behrens, a former spokesman for the Public Education Department, succeeds Sanchez as communications director.

Hiring freeze lifted

The Martinez administration has lifted a hiring freeze aimed at helping the state survive a budget crisis.

Joseph Cueto, a spokesman for the governor, said “prudent fiscal management” by the administration allowed the freeze to be lifted.

The governor froze hiring for most state jobs in late March, when her state personnel director cited “unprecedented budgetary challenges.”

It takes about a month for new hires to actually make it onto the payroll.

Lawsuit over vetoes

Gov. Martinez shook up this year’s legislative session with a spate of unexplained vetoes, and lawmakers are now taking her to court, arguing the vetoes should be invalidated for failing to meet legal requirements.

The fate of the lawsuit should become more clear next week.

State District Judge Sarah Singleton has scheduled an hour-long hearing for Friday in Santa Fe.

Dan McKay: dmckay@abqjournal.com

 

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