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Governor: Diplomacy will win over lawmakers

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham

SANTA FE – When it comes to winning over recalcitrant senators, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Friday that she plans to use diplomacy, not hardball.

In a briefing with reporters, the first-term Democratic governor suggested she does not intend to employ heavy-handed tactics to get moderate Senate Democrats in particular to support some of her top initiatives, including legalizing marijuana and a proposed red flag gun law.

“I don’t think that strategy works well,” Lujan Grisham said.

Rather, she said an open-door policy and consistent dialogue could win over some skeptical lawmakers.

A former state Cabinet secretary under three governors, Lujan Grisham and her top staffers have been meeting frequently with legislators in the opening days of the 30-day session.

She said she had met Friday morning with House committee chairs about session strategy, as the session’s pace will pick up in the coming days.

“We don’t have to have a stick,” Lujan Grisham said. “We can ask them to spend more time with me, and that seems to be winning the day.”

In the past, some New Mexico governors have used hardball tactics in dealing with the Legislature.

In 2006, then-Gov. Bill Richardson vetoed hundreds of proposed projects from a state capital outlay bill, with some of his critics in the Legislature seeing the highest share of their projects vetoed.

He insisted at the time that the vetoes were done on a systematic basis, but critics claimed they were punished.

And Lujan Grisham’s predecessor, former Gov. Susana Martinez, repeatedly criticized leading Senate Democrats during her eight years in office.

It’s too early to tell whether Lujan Grisham’s strategy for dealing with the Legislature will pay off.

Some parts of the governor’s agenda, including a proposed expanded college scholarship program, have already generated pusbhack from lawmakers.

And the proposal to make New Mexico the 12th state to legalize recreational marijuana use and tax its sales could face long odds in the Senate in this year’s budget-focused session.

“There will be some challenging legislation this year,” Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, told reporters this week.

But top Governor’s Office officials said Friday that it’s too early in the session to count anything out.

“We’re going to press right until the end of the session to get things done,” said Dominic Gabello, a senior adviser in the Governor’s Office.

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