Look up any list of “Republican rising stars” and you’re likely to find first-term New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. And on paper, it’s easy to see why: she’s the nation’s first Latina governor and an effective former prosecutor with a high approval rating in a relatively blue state.
But Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll this week published a detailed, closer look at the New Mexico Republican and the portrait that emerges is deeply unflattering.
[P]reviously unreleased audio recordings, text messages, and emails obtained by Mother Jones reveal a side of Martinez the public has rarely, if ever, seen. In private, Martinez can be nasty, juvenile, and vindictive. She appears ignorant about basic policy issues and has surrounded herself with a clique of advisers who are prone to a foxhole mentality. […][I]nterviews with former Martinez aides, state lawmakers, Democratic and Republican officials, fundraisers, and donors show a governor whose prosecutorial style and vindictiveness have estranged her from leaders in her own party and from the Democratic lawmakers she must work with to get anything done. Martinez and her staff, they say, have isolated themselves in her fourth-floor office inside the modest state capitol known as the Roundhouse. As one major Republican donor in New Mexico puts it, “They’ve got this Sherman’s march to the sea mentality, burning everything in sight until they get to the finish.”
It’s a lengthy, tough-to-excerpt piece, but Kroll’s piece raises some highly relevant concerns that will matter quite a bit if Martinez pursues national office. Her political operation, for example, appears petty and paranoid, alienating friend and foe alike. On public policy, Martinez comes across as disinterested in governing details – soon after getting elected, she asked an interviewer to “remind me” what the DREAM Act was.
There are even questions about possible corruption: in 2011, the state “awarded a 25-year lease worth an estimated $1 billion to a company largely owned by a pair of major Martinez backers … to operate a racetrack and casino at the state fairgrounds.” Critics have accused the Martinez administration of rigging the bidding process and the FBI has interviewed witnesses about the deal.
Stepping back, there are a couple of broader issues to also keep in mind.
First, Kroll’s report was based in part on leaked recordings, which suggests someone close to the governor really doesn’t like her.
Listening to recordings of Martinez talking with her aides is like watching an episode of HBO’s Veep, with over-the-top backroom banter full of pique, self-regard, and vindictiveness. As Martinez and her campaign staff rewatched a recent televised debate, Martinez referred to Denish, her opponent, as “that little bitch.”
We don’t yet know who leaked the recordings, but the fact that they exist and were shared should raise red flags for Team Martinez.
Second, the governor’s response to the piece wasn’t exactly persuasive.
One of the GOP’s rising stars is responding to a critical piece in Mother Jones by doing what Republicans do best: attacking the “liberal media.” […]Hours after [the Mother Jones piece] was published, Martinez circulated a fundraising email decrying the “D.C. Liberal media.”
At this point, neither the governor nor her allies have pointed to anything in the article that’s incorrect.