Regional polling we’ve seen from Valencia, Cibola, McKinley and Sandoval counties shows her losing traction, especially among independent voters who have been among her most sturdy supporters
BY JOE MONAHAN
You would have thought that Gov. Martinez’s ill-fated and nationally embarrassing holiday pizza pie party would have resulted in her eating a hefty slice of humble pie, but no such luck.
The governor and her minions remain in kill-the-messenger mode. Their assault on the “New Mexico Truth” parody TV ads demonstrates that the intransigence and vindictiveness that have been the hallmark of Martinez’s tenure remain its guiding principles.
The ads, produced by Albuquerque nonprofit CHI St. Joseph’s Children, spoof the state’s well-known tourism ad campaign “New Mexico True.” Using similar magnificent natural backdrops as New Mexico True does to attract tourists, New Mexico Truth points out that amid this spectacular setting the childhood poverty rate is the highest in the nation and the child hunger rate is third highest.
You might expect state officials to either ignore the campaign or say something to the effect that they have a plan to tackle these stubborn matters. Instead, the administration rattles its saber, threatening legal action and condemning the ads as unpatriotic. The Martinez administration’s response to the New Mexico Truth ads brings to mind the scene in “A Few Good Men” when Jack Nicholson angrily snaps: “You can’t handle the truth.”
In her State of the State speech to the 2016 Legislature, the governor did not mention that New Mexico has the nation’s worst childhood poverty rate, the highest unemployment rate (as of November) or that it ranks 49th in overall child well-being, according to a respected national study.
Instead, she trudged through a rambling list of anti-crime bills as she worked feverishly to divert attention from the state’s true condition. In that way, she hopes to excite an electorate into giving her and her party more power by taking control of the state Senate at the November election.
While the deep-seated cynicism of Martinez and company appears to have been unaltered by the exposure of the dark side of her personality as a result of the pizza party gone wrong, there are growing signs that even those who have been supportive of her are tiring of the charade.
Republican Sen. Gay Kernan of Hobbs announced she is no longer sponsoring third-grade retention legislation, one of the administration’s key education goals that each year gets rejected. Kernan says the facts now show it does not work in states where it has been adopted. And conservative Democratic Sen. John Arthur Smith of Deming, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, who is often supportive of Martinez initiatives, has toughened his rhetoric toward her perennial wedge issue of driver’s licenses for undocumented New Mexicans.
He says the House Republican bill for driving privilege cards backed by the governor is unacceptable because it contains a “Scarlet Letter.” The card would identify undocumented immigrants to law enforcement. “That’s the component where you have concerns about racial profiling,” Smith said.
It seems that the $50,000 TV ad campaign that a pro-Martinez PAC aired prior to the session urging viewers to hammer lawmakers to repeal the licenses may have been for naught.
Martinez continues to weaken in the aftermath of the pizza party and the New Mexico Truth ad campaign. Regional polling we’ve seen from Valencia, Cibola, McKinley and Sandoval counties shows her losing traction, especially among independent voters who have been among her most sturdy supporters. Martinez appears headed toward a statewide public approval rating of below 50 percent for the first time, if she isn’t already there.
Martinez may continue to push away the humble pie but it’s going to keep being placed in front of her by fellow politicians and a public grown increasingly weary of the nonstop drumbeat of bad news. Killing the messenger doesn’t work very well when you have no message of your own.
Joe Monahan is a veteran of New Mexico politics. His daily blog can be found at joemonahan.com