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UPDATED: Gov.-Elect Martinez Talks With Gov. Richardson

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Martinez described Richardson as being “gracious” during their meeting; Richardson described Martinez as “relaxed, friendly and genuine” 

SANTA FE — Republican Gov.-elect Susana Martinez huddled privately on Tuesday with the man she will replace, Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, who she described as “gracious” during their first postelection meeting.

Martinez said it was “sobering” to be in the Capitol for the first time since voters selected her to run the state. She takes office on Jan. 1, and will immediately face serious challenges such as a projected $260 million budget shortfall.

“The first thing we have to do is balance the budget,” Martinez said at a news conference after the meeting.

Her transition team has received documents from the Richardson administration on the state’s work force and Martinez said they plan to review the material to determine salaries of people currently in jobs, what positions are vacant and to identify political appointees by Richardson that have moved into civil service protected classified jobs.

She said no decision has been made on whether she will make a blanket request for the resignations of appointed state workers under the governor’s control — something Richardson and former Republican Gov. Gary Johnson did when they prepared to enter office.

Martinez and Richardson talked about the budget and state personnel, according to Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for Richardson. The governor also raised other issues, including the film industry, efforts to reduce drunken driving, pre-kindergarten, commuter rail and a commercial spaceport in southern New Mexico — initiatives that Richardson pushed during his two terms.

Richardson described Martinez as “relaxed, friendly and genuine,” according to Gallegos. He said they agreed to meet again to discuss the transition although no date has been set.

The meeting between Martinez and Richardson offered a stark contrast to the heated rhetoric of the campaign. Martinez criticized the Richardson administration in television attacks ads and during debates for double-digit spending increases, poor performance by public schools and for alleged pay-to-play deals benefiting his political allies and friends.

Asked about the mood of their meeting considering her campaign criticisms, Martinez said, “I told him that from now we will be discussing what my plans are for the future of New Mexico and he … agreed that is a good plan.”

Martinez toured the governor’s office and met Richardson’s staff. Martinez also was invited to visit the governor’s mansion after their next meeting, Gallegos said.

Rooms on the third floor of the Capitol have been set aside for use by the Martinez transition team.

Martinez, who is district attorney in Dona Ana County, said Richardson promised to leave her a note on his last day in office offering advice on the governorship.

During the meeting, Richardson suggested that she not rush into making decisions and take her time during the transition, Martinez said. She’s formed search committees to screen candidates and make recommendations on who should be considered for appointed positions running agencies.

Martinez will take office with more Republicans in the Legislature. The GOP picked up eight seats in the House. Democrats will hold a narrow 37-33 majority if unofficial election returns stand.

House Democrats plan to meet later this month to pick their leadership and it’s possible that House Speaker Ben Lujan of Santa Fe could face a challenge from with the Democratic caucus. Another possibility is that Republicans and some Democrats could join forces when the Legislature convenes to form a coalition to elect a speaker other than the person nominated by Democrats.

Martinez said she would “reach out” to whoever is elected speaker of the House but said it will be a “different Legislature” because of the greater GOP numbers. However, she said the state’s difficult budget problems should cause Democrats and Republicans to work together.

“It’s important that the Legislature starts to pull together to start solving some of the major issues facing New Mexicans,” she said.

In last week’s election, Martinez defeated Democrat Diane Denish, the lieutenant governor since 2003.


Tuesday, 09 November 2010 15:19


Republican Gov.-elect Susana Martinez says Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson was very gracious during their first meeting since she won election as governor.

Martinez visited the Capitol on Tuesday and met privately with Richardson for nearly an hour. The governor told her he was committed to a smooth transition between now and when she takes office on Jan. 1.

Martinez said the governor promised to leave her a note on his last day in office offering some advice on the governorship.

A Richardson spokesman said the governor raised several issues during the meeting, including the film industry, initiatives to fight drunken driving, pre-kindergarten, commuter rail and a commercial spaceport.

In last week’s election, Martinez defeated Democrat Diane Denish, the lieutenant governor since 2003.