Susana Martinez: A Governor with a Heart of Oil

Susana Martinez: A Governor with a Heart of Oil

 

As we approach another gubernatorial election here in New Mexico, it’s time to carefully analyze and expose Susana Martinez’s record. She’s outspending her opponent Gary King 4-1 in ads. The money that flows to her campaign is endless and it allows her to bombard the airwaves with attack ads, misinformation and emotional pandering. Is this freedom of speech or freedom of corporate speech? The negative campaign may work on some levels as the constant repetition may get her some votes, get people to tune it out, or decide that their vote is worthless in the state of New Mexico.

Here is the first Hispanic female elected governor in the U.S, a former prosecutor who said she would not break the law and would rule with “transparency.” But she’s proving that ethnicity and gender do not necessarily translate good governor, one that cares about the well being of its constituents. In order to find out about Martinez, one has to dig deep and ask the following questions: who are her donors? Where does she stand on important issues? What have been her accomplishments or lack thereof in the executive office?; and what kind of human being is she? Some examples are her cuts on education, the constant testing of students, changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP). The fact that she illegally prevented a rule that reduced carbon pollution from being published as codified state law and sought to suppress this rule in an attempt to appease major carbon polluters, many of whom made huge financial contributions to her gubernatorial campaign. Her ties to the gas, oil, dairy and other major polluters in New Mexico and in other states are legion.

Lets look at some of the contributions during her last election, mainly from outside of New Mexico: Oil and gas producers and individuals in the industry contributed at least $220,000 to Martinez, according to an analysis report by The Associated Press. Devon Energy, an Oklahoma City-based company, gave her $50,000. Myco Industries, an Artesia oil company, contributed $30,000, while Yates Petroleum of Artesia gave $15,000. Martinez’s largest individual donor was Foster Friess of Wyoming, who donated $200,000.

She also received $100,000 from B. Wayne Hughes Jr., a major contributor to the new organization headed by former George W. Bush political director Karl Rove. She has become a darling of the GOP, illustrating their right wing, conservative agenda when it comes to education, the economy, environment, welfare, etc. For a state that was on its way to acquire alternative sources of energy (solar and wind), she has nominated avid climate change denier Harrison “Jack” Schmitt to head New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

It is well known by now that the New Mexico Attorney General’s office is opening a criminal investigation into missing and/or destroyed emails covering part of Republican Governor Susana Martinez’s tenure as a district attorney and also the tenure of Martinez’s successor, Amy Orlando, a close friend of the governor. The investigation was triggered by an internal report released by the district attorney in New Mexico’s Third Judicial District. It found that many emails sent and received by staff members inside the Third Judicial District office were apparently “deleted and/or removed” during the period when Martinez and later Orlando headed the office. Those missing emails, which are state property, include messages to and from Martinez herself, who served as District Attorney until she became governor in 2011. Martinez handpicked Orlando as her successor, but in 2012, Orlando lost her District Attorney election to a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor named Mark D’Antonio, who is a Democrat. It was D’Antonio who forwarded his office’s findings to the Attorney General for further investigation.

Democrat Gary King said that the disappearance of the emails in question “appears not to be the result of an inadvertent clerical error or policy but rather the planned intentional destruction of vital government records.” Dave Pederson, the general counsel in the Attorney General’s office, downplayed the potential conflict of interest posed by King’s gubernatorial run and said this case “goes way beyond simply pressing the delete button on certain emails or electronic files.” Yet Pederson declined to tell reporters which statutes may have been violated to avoid alerting potential targets.

Orlando is currently the general counsel at the state’s Department of Public Safety (DPS). Her boss, DPS Secretary Greg Fouratt, dismissed the Attorney General’s investigation as “nothing more than a clumsy and amateur political stunt coordinated between a District Attorney with what appears to be a personal vendetta and a gubernatorial candidate who’s just a few weeks away from an election.” Orlando slammed the report on the missing emails as an “amateurish political stunt on the eve of an election.” Here is a governor who claimed she would rule with “transparency,” yet uses her staff to attack her opponent, instead of explaining what they call “baseless innuendos.”

Some believe that Martinez is likely to win thanks to Hispanic conservative Democrats. It is a group that votes on name recognition, not on her policies, especially the economic ones. She’s anti-abortion and in lots of ads she has a kid on her lap or is hugging one. She loves life, fetuses, but once they’re born, she doesn’t much care about their welfare. Even though not every Hispanic is pro-life; most may agree with some of her conservative policies or may just vote on name recognition.

New Mexico’s population of roughly 2 million is nearly 50 percent Latino, the highest Latino share in the nation. But the nation’s first Hispanic governor is not taking anything for granted. She has a huge war chest that crushes that of her opponent, Democrat Gary King.

King, New Mexico’s two-term Attorney General, had a balance in his campaign account of $157,730 at the beginning of this month, compared to Martinez’s nearly $3.8 million. The Republican Governor’s Association has taken out ads to the tune of about $350,000 supporting Martinez. She leads King in most regions of the state. The only area where King leads the governor is in north-central New Mexico. That area includes Democratic-leaning Santa Fe, Española and Taos and counties with large Latino populations. In those areas King leads Martinez 59 percent to 30 percent. Overall, Martinez trails among Hispanic voters with 36 percent supporting her and 56 percent supporting King.

More than half a million Latinos in the state are eligible to vote, according to Pew Hispanic Research. Martinez has backing from 20 percent of Democrats polled while 12 percent said they were still undecided. Hispanic Democrats who opted to throw support behind Martinez contributed a key role to her 2010 victory.

King has name recognition in New Mexico, where his father was governor. His strength is that he has been a tried and true political figure in the state for a long time. What no one mentions is that the Democratic Party hasn’t spent much money on his campaign. Due to limited resources, they pick and choose which campaigns to focus and help and his wasn’t one of them.

Just a few more facts: In a June 2013 analysis by The Business Journals looking at 45 of the country’s 50 governors by their job creation record, Martinez was ranked number 43. The ranking was based on a comparison of the annual private sector growth rate in all 50 states using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. An analysis of Republican governors by Nate Silver of the New York Times in April 2013 ranked Martinez as the 24th most conservative governor in the country. This is reflected on her political stands. Among issues she opposes are: Abortion, Obamacare, same-sex marriage, higher taxes on the wealthy, pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens, stricter limits on political campaign funds, and legalization of marijuana. Some of the issues she favors are: stricter punishment (since she believes it reduces crime), expansion of free trade, and privatization of Social Security. Martinez was a Democrat until 1995, when she switched to the Republican Party.

When her political ads are not attacking they are misleading like the one about the “Breakfast After the Bell” program she claims she started. This program was advocated by a nonprofit organization called Appleseed and supported by Democratic legislators. The Albuquerque Journal similarly reported on the non-profit origins of the program, saying that it was clearly not something Martinez “started.” The message is seen by some as an attempt to play defense against the negative press her administration received when her own secretary of human services, (the state’s administrator of food and poverty support programs), said that New Mexico does not have a hunger problem.

The Martinez administration acted unilaterally earlier this year to cut off tens-of-thousands of poor and hungry New Mexicans from the SNAP program who can’t find work in a state still losing jobs and failing to attract new industry. Changes would affect 20 percent of recipients, about 80,000 adults, said Human Service Deptartment Spokesman, Matt Kennicott.

A new report from New Mexico’s Voices for Children and the Center for Law and Poverty found that removing assistance from those in need would also remove $47 million from New Mexico’s economy, all federal dollars provided at no cost to state.

Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless (AHCH) has joined efforts to fight the mandatory work requirement changes of SNAP proposed by Governor Martinez. She wants to cut SNAP benefits for New Mexican adults who cannot comply with mandatory job search and work requirements. This means that participants who fail to complete job search requirements, including parents of children over six years old, could lose SNAP for up to a year. Childless adults who fail to complete 20 hours of work a week could lose SNAP for up to 3 years.

AHCH believes hunger and poverty are joined problems in New Mexico, because 18.6%, (1 in 5) New Mexican’s experience food insecurity (United States Census Bureau). Additionally, New Mexico has had one of the slowest economic recoveries of any state since 2009. The unemployment rate is above the national average, with many counties still suffering from double digit unemployment levels. New Mexico is 48th in the nation for job growth and lost 4,700 jobs between May and June, 2014 alone. (New Mexico Economy: Recent Developments and Outlook.)

Cuts on the SNAP program will cause the New Mexico economy to lose up to $4.5M/month in federally paid benefits under Martinez’s rules. A major benefit of SNAP is that it sustains our economy, feeds New Mexican families, and supports local business. Every $1 of SNAP benefits is 100% paid for by the federal government and goes directly to local food and grocery stores, creating $1.70 to $1.80 in economic activity. If SNAP participants cannot find work, New Mexico could lose millions of SNAP dollars utilized in impoverished counties. SNAP also supplements low wages as 47% of its participants are in working families. If Martinez doesn’t govern for the benefit of her constituents, then it’s time to vote her out of office. New Mexico does not need a conservative who gives money to corporations while cutting badly needed state programs.

 

* For more funders see: http://www.followthemoney.org/show-me?c-t-eid=12996913#[{1|gro=d-eid

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Leticia Cortez. Born in México and grew up in Chicago. She worked as a teacher at Truman College. She is a writer, educator and activist who currently lives and teaches in Santa Fe, Nuevo Mexico.

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