Local pols react to Martinez recordings

Posted at: 04/16/2014 6:10 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The world of New Mexico politics is buzzing after a left-wing publication’s release of audio recordings of private conversations between Gov. Susana Martinez and some of her top assistants.

Mother Jones magazine features an article suggesting that Martinez is the next Sarah Palin – a volatile and divisive political figure. The governor says the tapes are stolen, and that they come from a debate preparation session four years ago, when she was running against Democrat Diane Denish.

Here's the juicy stuff: The recording catches Martinez reviewing a videotaped debate with Denish. First you hear Denish saying "my opponent – she's not being straight with you." Then you hear Martinez say, "I'm so tired of that little bitch calling me a liar."

Martinez does admit she used the "B" word, and says she has had to "fund the cuss jar a few times" in her life. The recording also catches a political aide talking with Martinez about the late Speaker of the House Ben Lujan.

"Very interesting to sit there on the floor and listen to the Speaker," the aide says, laughing. "Somebody told me he's absolutely eloquent in Spanish but his English? He sounds like a retard."

"Oh," is the only response on the tape from Gov. Martinez, whose older sister Lettie is developmentally disabled. Martinez has spent much of her life caring for her sister.

"It is troubling that Gov. Martinez has allowed a culture in which these comments and other offensive remarks by her staff are deemed acceptable," said Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, son of the late Speaker Lujan. "My mother and family are genuinely hurt and offended by what was said.”

"It's deplorable and absolutely outrageous," said Lawrence Rael, one of five Democrats seeking their party's nomination to run against Martinez in this year's general election. "I demand that the Governor apologize to the Lujan family. Number two, the insult to Lt. Gov. Denish by the Governor herself is inexcusable."

Elsewhere in the recording, Martinez reveals some doubts about pay raises for teachers.

"During the campaign we can't say it I guess, because it's education," Martinez said. "But I keep going back to that, keeping the teachers from feeling the pain when they already don't work two and a half months out of the year, or three months out of the year, but earn salaries at the same rate as people who do work 12 months a year."

"I think this idea that degreed professional teachers are somehow getting paid for work they don't do is just a way to continue to bash teachers," Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein said. "They do not respect the work that we do, and the incredible number of volunteer hours that we give to our students."

Bernstein explained that teachers are paid for the days that school is in session, and some of that pay is withheld and paid out to them during the weeks when school is not in session.

Martinez supported a 10 percent pay raise for beginning teachers in this year's legislative session, but settled with the legislature on a 6.7 percent raise.

Democrats are slamming Martinez hard for her remarks. She is already using the Mother Jones article to raise contributions for her re-election campaign, calling it a "desperate attack" and a "smear."

Right now Martinez, the nation's first Hispanic female governor, is riding high in the national Republican Party, with some serious discussion about her as a possible vice presidential candidate in 2016.