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Politics Notebook: Martinez strategist to lead Jeb Bush’s campaign; Land Office official quits

A Republican strategist with ties to Gov. Susana Martinez has been selected as Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign manager.

Danny Diaz, who has worked on and off for Martinez’s political operation for the past five-plus years, was tapped for the new job this week in a surprise move, according to The Washington Post.

The Washington, D.C.-based Diaz has worked as a press consultant and adviser for Martinez.

He played an active role in the governor’s 2014 re-election campaign and spent time in New Mexico helping with her inaugural events.

Bush, who’s expected to formally launch his GOP presidential campaign in the coming days, was governor of Florida from 1999 until 2007 and is the younger brother of former President George W. Bush.

Despite Martinez’s insistence she is not interested in national office, might the hiring of Diaz suggest a deepening link between Bush and Martinez, whose Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera held a top policy post under Bush in Florida?

Jay McCleskey, the governor’s political adviser, told the Journal that Martinez is staying on the sidelines for now.

“While the governor is not making an endorsement at this time, she enjoys a strong relationship with Gov. Bush, as well as other Republicans running for president,” McCleskey said Tuesday.

— Dan Boyd, dboyd@abqjournal.com

RESIGNATION: Deputy Commissioner of Public Lands Robert Ortega has left the job after just four months.

Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn confirmed last week that Ortega left as of May 22.

“He’s resigned. … That’s all there is,” said Dunn, who wouldn’t provide any other information about Ortega’s departure from the $90,000-a-year job.

Ortega didn’t return calls from the Journal.

Dunn, a Republican rancher from southeastern New Mexico, announced Ortega’s hiring Jan. 14, a couple of weeks after he was sworn in to succeed Democrat Ray Powell, whom he defeated in November.

Ortega, known as Bobby, is a native of Questa – and its former mayor – and has long been involved in business and community affairs in northern New Mexico. He’s on the board of the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative.

Dunn said when he hired him as his deputy that Ortega’s 37 years in banking would be a “tremendous asset” to the Land Office.

There has been other turnover in Dunn’s new staff: Jill McLaughlin, assistant commissioner for communications, left around the end of April.

Dunn says he needs a deputy and will be hiring another one. In the meantime, Laura Riley, assistant commissioner for commercial resources, is acting deputy.

Deborah Baker, dbaker@abqjournal.com

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