Governor questions GOP pick

Gov. Susana Martinez testifies on oil and gas leasing during a hearing of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday. (Michael Coleman/Albuquerque Journal)

WASHINGTON – Don’t expect Republican Gov. Susana Martinez to go all out campaigning for two of the GOP’s premier candidates on New Mexico’s general election ballot in November.

The governor, in Washington to testify on oil and gas leasing in a U.S. House committee Wednesday, afterward threw serious – if somewhat cryptic – shade at state Rep. Yvette Herrell, a Republican who won the GOP nomination in the 2nd Congressional District that includes Las Cruces, where Martinez is from.

Asked by the Journal whether she would campaign for Republican Rep. Steve Pearce as he runs to replace her as governor in the November election, she laughed and then offered support but not a pledge to campaign for him. Pearce, running unopposed, secured the GOP nomination Tuesday night.

Martinez did say she would “support” both candidates but stopped short of ringing endorsements of either.

“I’m certainly going to support our Republican,” Martinez said when asked about Herrell’s victory. “But I think there are some questions with reference to her ability to … represent New Mexico in a fair and reasonable way.”

Moving toward the door after the Capitol Hill hearing, the governor did not elaborate on Herrell. Martinez’s former press secretary, Joseph Cueto, handled campaign communications duties for Monty Newman, one of Herrell’s four opponents in the Republican primary. Meanwhile, Jay McCleskey – a polarizing figure in the New Mexico Republican Party and a longtime ally of Martinez’s – did media consulting work for Newman’s campaign.

Herrell, a hard-right-leaning conservative, said in February that she had been “on the Trump train since Day One.” It’s no secret that Martinez is not a fan of President Donald Trump’s political style. She refused to endorse him for president.

Martinez declined to endorse Pearce’s campaign when reporters asked her about it in February.

“Of course, I’m going to support the best candidate, and I think the best candidate is Congressman Pearce,” Martinez said Wednesday. “Some of the ideas of the Democrat candidates are going to take us backwards by decades.”

Then Martinez steered the brief interview to her own legacy.

“The state will be turned over to the next governor in a very good condition with surpluses and people keeping more of their own money,” Martinez said. “We have grown jobs and diversified. It’s theirs to grow upon or theirs to destroy.”

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