Friday, November 26, 2010

Navarrette: Martinez story "just beginning"

Columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. has this look at Gov.-elect Susana Martinez today. He says her story -- and presumably her path to something bigger -- is "just beginning."

Navarrette says Martinez is scaring many Democrats with her popularity.

Martinez already is stirring anxiety among Democrats. The fact that she appeals to different groups of voters -- earning 38 percent of the Latino vote in the governor's race, according to exit polls -- makes her a threat to the opposition. Just like one-time federal appellate court nominee Miguel Estrada and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, she'll be a target for the left because hers is an inspirational success story that might convince Latino voters to take a fresh look at the GOP.

It remains to be seen what the Democrats in charge of the Legislature think, but I've spoken to several in the past days who are looking forward to someone new, even if they face major disagreements over policy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gardner to be Martinez chief of staff

Rep. Keith Gardner will serve as Gov.-elect Susana Martinez chief of staff, her team announced today.

Here's the list of other people she has named today, straight from the e-mail:


Keith Gardner serves in leadership in the New Mexico Legislature as minority whip in the House of Representatives, in addition to representing District 66 and the people of Chaves, Eddy, Lea and Roosevelt Counties. Gardner is the managing partner of Sprint Sports Rehabilitation Clinic in Roswell where he has resided for the last 17 years.


Ryan Cangiolosi most recently served as director of personnel for the Governor-Elect Martinez Transition Committee. Cangiolosi also served as campaign manager for Susana Martinez for Governor. He has extensive business experience and is an officer in the United States Naval Reserve. Cangiolosi has a BA and an MBA from the University of New Mexico.


Brian Moore most recently served as director of policy planning for the Governor-Elect Martinez Transition Committee. Moore is a business owner from Clayton and was a candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010. He was a member of the New Mexico House of Representatives from 2000-2008 serving on numerous committees including legislative finance and was a strong advocate for New Mexico’s rural communities.


Jessica Hernandez is a director in the litigation department in the Albuquerque office of Rodey, Dickason, Sloan Akin, & Robb, PA. Hernandez specializes in cases involving product, premises and general liability matters. She has served as a law clerk for the Honorable James O. Browning, United States District Judge for the District of New Mexico and received recognition as the youngest member of the New Mexico State Bar in 2003, 2004 and 2005.


Matthew Stackpole most recently served as director of support and coordination for the Governor-Elect Martinez Transition Committee. Stackpole served as deputy director of campaign operations for Susana Martinez for Governor. Previously, he assisted Richard J. Berry’s campaign for Albuquerque mayor, as well as field operations for the Republican Party of New Mexico. Stackpole graduated from the University of New Mexico Law School in May 2010.


Scott Darnell, a Farmington native, served as the communications director for the Republican Party of New Mexico and worked as a weekly commentator on the KNME-TV political discussion program, “New Mexico in Focus.” Darnell is a graduate of the University of New Mexico and received a Master in Public Policy degree from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is currently completing his work as a teaching fellow in the Department of Government at Harvard University.


Matt Kennicott most recently served as director of legislative and constituent affairs for the Governor-Elect Martinez Transition Committee. Kennicott was previously director of campaign operations for Susana Martinez for Governor. He has served as the chief of staff for the House Republican Caucus in the New Mexico House of Representatives.

Solano resigns

Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano has resigned.

According to our story online, Solano admitted he used his office to sell old protective body vests and other supplies no longer utilized by deputies.

Here's more:

Solano submitted his resignation Wednesday and the investigation of his actions is now in the hands of state police. Undersheriff Robert Garcia was elected to serve as sheriff starting Jan. 1 and it is likely he will be named by county commissioners to assume the post immediately.

"I have done some things that I should not have done and am ready to come clean and face the consequences," Solano wrote to staff and supporters.

Solano then went on to explain how the transactions occurred.

"Several years ago, I read articles about families of soldiers buying protective body vests and sending them to their loved ones overseas, to wear for additional protection. I also saw that they were buying them online. I began selling old vests from the Sheriff's Department in this fashion," he said.

Solano said that protective body vests are turned in by officers when they get new ones or when they leave the Sheriff's Office and they are normally these are destroyed and discarded.

"They are warranted for five years and it's not recommended for law enforcement use after that. During the last few years I have taken these vests and sold them online - mostly to military personnel who wanted them for extra protection overseas. I sold vests and several other items such as old cell phones left over from when we replaced department issued phones, flashlights, police belts, and holsters.

"This was wrong, illegal, unethical and dishonest," he wrote.

Solano wrote that he his family has been stressed financially, "Unfortunately, I am just a normal man trying to keep my family afloat during these tough financial times. This is not an excuse. What I did was wrong and cannot be justified."

More later, no doubt.

UPDATE, 12:15 p.m.
This, straight from State Police:

Over the course of the past several months, the New Mexico State Police have been looking into an allegation of embezzlement by Greg Solano.
Through the four month investigation agents with the New Mexico State Police Investigations Bureau have learned that Greg Solano was selling Santa Fe County property. The amount of property has not come to a final tally; the scheme was facilitated through e-bay where Solano would sell items illegally.
Through the course of the investigation we have been working with the 1st Judicial District Attorney’s Office. The case is ongoing and once complete an update will be provided.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Exempt to classified employees

The State Personnel Office this afternoon released this list, amid the uproar over recent reports about exempt employees transferring to classified posts. It doesn't include anyone hired after the election -- employees Gov.-elect Martinez has said she would fire unless approved by her. The list does include jobs that were converted from one classification to another.

Exempt to Classified Employees-1

More info on exempts who transfered to classified spots

Channel 4 is out with this story on a popular topic these days: exempt employees transferring to classified jobs.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Candidate announces against Ben Ray Lujan

So it's a little early to be thinking about the 2012 elections, (or at least that's what I thought) but Republican Victor Marquez says he plans to run against U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan.

Marquez is a 36-year old Santa Fean who graduated from St. Mike's High School in 1991. He has an active secret clearance, works at the New Mexico Joint Operations Center at the Army National Guard and is a contract private investigator and director of operations with the Worldwide Investigations and Intelligence Group.

He seems excited about his candidacy and plans to make a formal announcement and publish a website later. I will of course write more about Marquez as I learn more, and as we get a little closer to the election. (We political reporters do deserve a break from the campaign trail every once and a while, right?)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wanted: your ideas on cutting budget waste

Ok, so a reporter can only find out so much about waste in state government. That's where you come in, especially if you are a state employee. What's being wasted at your department, or a department you do business with or otherwise know about? If you were advising Gov.-elect Martinez, where would you tell her to cut?
Be specific, and I could use your ideas in an upcoming story.

Write your ideas for trimming the budget in the comment section below or email me.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Richard May is DFA pick

Gov.-elect Susana Martinez has nominated Richard E. May to serve as her secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration.

Here's the rundown on his experience, from the Martinez camp:

"May has led a respected and accomplished career that includes working for Sandia National Laboratories as a manager, serving as chief appropriations and tax analyst for the Republican caucus in the New Mexico House of Representatives, and operating as a policy director for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP, as well as a principal at Davidson & Company, Inc. Prior to that, May served as majority staff director and Republican staff director in the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Budget, a federal affairs counsel at the National Conference of State Legislatures, and legislative director for Congressman John R. Kasich."

May's work is cut out for him, no doubt, given the now $450 million budget shortfall. Martinez said in a statement that May will help make "the tough decisions."

"The failure of state government to live within its means is inexcusable and it’s time we make the tough decisions necessary to finally put our fiscal house in order," she said. "In doing so, we must be mindful that the long-term solution to our budget crisis is economic growth and that is why we must balance the budget by cutting spending, rather than raising taxes, so we can create an environment where small businesses can grow and create jobs. I am committed to working with members of both parties in the legislature to accomplish this goal – the people of New Mexico deserve no less.”

Martinez said May will "help restore fiscal discipline by instituting zero growth budgets, identifying waste, fraud and abuse, and creating greater efficiencies by doing more with less." He is to set to work immediately, reviewing the budget, Martinez said.

Martinez to name DFA nominee today

Gov.-elect Susana Martinez today will name her choice to head the Department of Finance and Administration. She will do this at the Capitol this afternoon.

It goes without saying that whoever the nominee is, he or she has some serious work ahead, given the latest news on how big the state's budget really is. He or she also has a workload and a half sorting through any recent hires, exempts who have moved to classified posts and people who recently have gotten raises. That's just one area, of course, that the Martinez team will be looking at come Jan. 1.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Some state employees got raises while others faced furloughs

Channel 4 has a fascinating piece on state employees getting raises while others faced unpaid days off. Some of the employees didn't even ask for the raises while one employee got a raise for helping Department of Public Safety Secretary John Denko renew newspaper subscriptions and update his Blackberry, according to the report. See it below.

I will update later with reaction from Gov.-elect Susana Martinez. It will be interesting to see if there's anything she can do to undo the raises. She said yesterday she'd fire any exempt employees who have accepted classified positions since the election without prior discussion with her.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Martinez to fire any exempt who moves to a classified post without prior discussion

Gov.-elect Susana Martinez will immediately fire any exempt employees of Gov. Bill Richardson who move to classified jobs after the November election without speaking with her transition team, according to a letter from former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, who is chairing her transition team.

The move is meant to stem the usual tide of exempt employees who seek work in "safe" classified spots. I've written some about those moves in past week, as has Thom Cole of the Albuquerque Journal. I get phone calls almost daily with new tips on Richardson appointees who are trying for classified jobs.

Martinez at a press conference earlier today mentioned that she had asked Richardson to stop allowing this, but she didn't mention the letter. Already, Richardson has ordered an end to any more hires in state government, but hasn't said anything publicly about transfers.

I wish Martinez luck in digging into which exempts have indeed moved to classified spots. I know from experience that it is time consuming to follow the paper trail.

Below is the letter to Richardson chief of staff Brian Condit.

"Dear Brian,

In my first communication to you on November 4, 2010, I asked you suspend any transfers of personnel from exempt positions to classified positions effective immediately. I suggested if there are particularly compelling circumstances, we should discuss them on a case-by-case basis.

Today’s Albuquerque Journal reports that, “More of Gov. Bill Richardson’s political appointees have slid into career civil service jobs with state government in recent months … Appointees, or so-called exempt employees, serve at the pleasure of the governor.”

These kinds of personnel actions in the waning days of an administration certainly seem to circumvent the will of the people of New Mexico who voted in a new administration into office just a week ago. The fact that some of these employees are apparently moving into jobs with very high salaries when there is a freeze in place for hiring and a $250 million-plus state budget deficit is inappropriate.

The Governor-elect has made clear that current employees are welcome to apply for jobs in her administration. She is looking for highly-qualified people of character who share her vision for the state of New Mexico.

I am reiterating my request that you immediately suspend any transfers of political appointees to classified posts.

Furthermore, I wish to inform you that any employee who moves from an exempt to classified position after November 3, 2010 without prior discussion with the Transition Committee on a case-by-case basis will immediately be terminated upon the swearing in of Governor-elect Susana Martinez on January 1, 2011.


Heather Wilson
Chairman, Governor-Elect Martinez Transition Committee

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Richardson: no more hiring

After I wrote this story for Saturday's paper about the ongoing hiring at state government, Gov. Bill Richardson today said he's putting it to an end. (At least for the agencies under his control.)

"We took decisive action two years ago to severely restrict hiring, which has shrunk state government by more than 2,000 employees and saved tens of millions of dollars," he said in a statement. "However, in an effort to work with governor-elect, I am suspending all hiring during the transition."

Richardson leaves office at the end of the year, making way for Gov.-elect Susana Martinez. Richardson, who implemented a hiring freeze in November 2008, has been heavily criticized for adding so many jobs to the state payroll after he was first elected, and for allowing so many exemptions to the freeze.

Maybe this is the true hiring freeze the fiscal conservatives in the Legislature -- and elsewhere in the state, for that matter -- have been seeking.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Martinez names transition team members

Gov.-elect Susana Martinez has named key members of her transition team.

Here's information straight from her press release:

Nicole McCleskey is a partner at Public Opinion Strategies (POS), a political and public affairs research firm and was part of the senior strategy team for the Susana Martinez for Governor Campaign. McCleskey is also active in local community organizations and currently serves as President-elect of the Junior League of Albuquerque. McCleskey has a B.A. from Claremont McKenna College and M.A. degrees from George Washington University and the University of Southern California.

Paul Kennedy is a former New Mexico Supreme Court Justice. Justice Kennedy is currently a partner in the firm Kennedy & Han. Kennedy is a graduate of Georgetown Law School.

Danny Diaz is founder of Diaz Communications LLC and former communications director of the Republican National Committee (RNC). Prior to that, he served as deputy communications director for John McCain 2008 and southwest regional press secretary for Bush-Cheney ’04.

Ryan Cangiolosi most recently served as Susana Martinez for Governor Campaign Manager. He has extensive business experience and is an officer in the United States Naval Reserve. Cangiolosi has a BA and an MBA from the University of New Mexico.

Brian Moore is a business owner from Clayton and was a candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010. He was a member of the New Mexico House of Representatives from 2000-2008 serving on numerous committees including legislative finance and was a strong advocate for New Mexico’s rural communities.

Matt Stackpole most recently served as Susana Martinez for Governor Deputy Manager of Campaign Operations. Previously, Stackpole assisted the Richard J. Berry’s campaign for Albuquerque mayor and in field operations for the Republican Party. Stackpole graduated from UNM Law School in May 2010.

Matt Kennicott was previously Susana Martinez for Governor Director of Campaign Operations. He has served as the Chief of Staff for the House Republican Caucus in the New Mexico House of Representatives.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Heather Wilson to head Martinez transition team

Martinez is calling on long time friend Heather Wilson to take charge of the team, she said at a press conference in Albuquerque today.

People looking for information about the transition, including potential jobs, can check out this site.

Martinez to make "official announcement"

Gov.-elect Susana Martinez this afternoon will make an "official announcement" at her campaign headquarters in Albuquerque. The announcement could be about anything, of course, but likely will have some transition news. I couldn't get anything else out of her staffers, but will update when I know something.

Chatting with Chuck

I had a fun conversation last week with the man who is now the state's first first gentleman-elect, Chuck Franco. He will no doubt bring some country-style fun to the governor's mansion. Check out my story here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's Martinez

About the only question last night at the Susana Martinez victory party was what took so long for her to give the acceptance speech? It was pretty clear from early on she had the race wrapped up, so the night was less dramatic than other elections around the state. But historic nonetheless.

Anyway, here's what I wrote from her home town:

LAS CRUCES — A year ago, Susana Martinez was just a few months into her nascent gubernatorial campaign, a district attorney largely unknown outside her hometown here.

Just six months later, it was unclear whether she could elbow through the primary, facing well-known Republicans who had more money, and some said, more muscle. To say the least, things have changed dramatically.

Her ascent as a rising Republican star was marked at the Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces, where Tuesday night she gave an acceptance speech as New Mexico's governor-elect.

Martinez and lieutenant governor candidate John Sanchez bested Democrats Diane Denish and Brian Colón by 54 to 46 percent, with 21 of 33 counties reporting, according to the Secretary of State's website.

"At the end of the day, New Mexicans chose a different direction and I thank them for their trust and their courage," Martinez told a crowd of about 1,000 supporters, as many wearing cowboy boots as dress shoes.

"This victory tonight says something that someone who grew up in a working family just a few miles from the border can achieve anything," she said.

The rise will take Martinez, an El Pasoan by birth, from a neighborhood not too far from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, to the Governor's Mansion in Santa Fe. From high school student-body president to the fourth floor of the state Capitol. From a prosecutor known in legal circles to the biggest name in the state — and to one now mentioned by syndicated columnist George Will as a potential vice presidential candidate.

It means the 51-year-old lawyer will rule more than a Doña Ana County prosecutor's office. It means she will be the chief executive of a state where she pledged during her speech to "create jobs, get our books in order, eliminate the corruption and turn our schools around.

"We're going to get our books in order and end the shell games that have taken place in the Roundhouse for the last eight years," she told a crowd of supporters, many of whom wore "I 'heart' Governor Martinez" T-shirts, or buttons, or both, and waved the campaign's black and yellow signs for TV live shots.

So how did the once teenage security guard who patrolled the parking lots outside bingo games become New Mexico's first female governor and the country's first Hispanic female governor?

Observers say it was a grueling campaign schedule, a no-holds-barred debate style and a play-to-win-no-matter-what mentality.

The slumping economy, and an anti-incumbent sentiment also helped, local political scientists said.

"I'm absolutely sure a number of voters picked Martinez as an anti-(Gov. Bill) Richardson vote," University of New Mexico political science professor Christine Sierra said. "And Diane Denish got caught in the crosshairs."

Denish for a good part of the campaign worked to distance herself from Richardson, but Martinez constantly tried to tie Denish to him and what Martinez said were his failures as governor.

Lonna Atkeson, another a UNM professor, said Martinez also had a nationwide movement behind her. "She had the wind behind her of the national Republicans," Atkeson said.

The movement was large. Across the country, the GOP picked up 11 governor's offices, including the one in Santa Fe that Democrats have held for the past eight years and where many thought a year ago Denish would be a shoo-in.

While Martinez was nothing but smiles at the swanky hotel, where mariachis greeted guests on plush carpets, the job she starts Jan. 1 will be tough. She and her husband, Doña Ana County Undersheriff Chuck Franco, move to the City Different at a time of sagging revenues, angry voters and general dislike of what's happened in Santa Fe.

"They really are going to have to make some hard choices," Atkeson said. "If she (Martinez) isn't going to raise taxes, she's going to have to make cuts, and that's not popular."

As she campaigned, Martinez rolled out various ideas for dealing with the budget, education, crime — albeit short on details.

Martinez will face another complicating factor: the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

"It will be a very tough job, both in the challenge of cutting down the deficit and balancing a budget with money we don't have," Sierra said. "But before that even, she still has to work with a Democratic majority in the Legislature."

Part of the rub, no doubt, will come as the state delves into the task of political redistricting based on new census numbers, something Sierra predicted would end up in court, as it did a decade ago after former Republican Gov. Gary Johnson become locked in his own battle with a Democratic Legislature.

And, part of her new work may mean persuading some who didn't vote for her that she can do the job, and persuading everyone else that she can get up to speed on the intricacies of the Capitol's fourth floor, and pronto.

"We don't know a lot about executive women because there haven't been too many of them," Atkeson said. "But I'm assuming she's going to run the state like she did her district attorney's office."

Whatever her work entails starting in 2011, for now, her goal no doubt is to rest. And to get ready. Between now and then, she will leave the job to which she was first elected in 1996, and Franco will retire from his.

At the end of her 14-minute speech, Martinez asked for supporters to continue their prayers for her and her campaign.

She then shook hands in the crowd, and was off, likely to more sleep than she's had in months.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vote today

. . . it's your last chance. If you need help with polling places, or remembering what all you are supposed to be voting for, see our election day resource list here.

Catch our recap of the election here.

When you are done voting, (or before, if you really wait) check out our live blog on the New Mexican's homepage. I will be updating from Las Cruces once I get there. Also, tune into KUNM, 89.9 FM for on air updates.

While we we do our best to keep you up to date on local elections, check out the New York Times' election tracker for a look at what is happening around the country.