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Come Saturday Morning: Martinez, Christie, and the Hispanic Vote

Republican advocates of immigration reform (and attracting Latino voters) know any hope of reform would die with a Republican Senate. Republicans hope that a conservative stance on social issues will attract Latinos, but they can only go a short distance towards wooing Latinos before bumping up against their own Prime Directive, the racist-as-all-get-out Southern Strategy.

Now, the Republicans have managed to field a Hispanic politician, Susana Martinez, who up until now was considered the GOP’s best shot at winning over the Latino bloc. Her charisma even won her comparisons with another up-and-coming Republican governor, Chris Christie.

Well, she’s still drawing the Christie comparisons now, but not for the best of reasons:

I thought the Nixon story made it clear that if you’re going to be a vindictive, grandiose psychopath, it’s wiser not to have a record of your private comments on tape. It remains to be seen whether her presidential aspirations have been dented as badly as Chris Christie’s, that other corrupt vindictive, juvenile ex-prosecutor.

So what’s all this about? Andy Kroll of Mother Jones has the deets:

… previously 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.

Well, hey, that could also describe George W. Bush, and he got to hang out in the White House for eight years. But Martinez’ paranoid and vindictive style is more Nixonian than Bushian. By the way, note the constant Rovian (Svengalian?) presence of longtime New Mexico GOP bigwig Jay McCleskey, who seems to be Wayland Flowers to Martinez’ Madam:

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.” After Denish noted that the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce had given her an award, McCleskey snapped, “That’s why we’re not meeting with those fuckers.”

In a September 2009 email mentioning one of Martinez’s 2010 primary opponents, a former state representative named Janice Arnold-Jones, McCleskey wrote: “I FUCKING HATE THAT BITCH!” And in yet another debate prep meeting, Kennicott mocked the language skills of Ben Luján, a former state House speaker and a political icon to New Mexico Latinos: “Somebody told me he’s absolutely eloquent in Spanish, but his English? He sounds like a retard.”

Martinez’s crew saw enemies everywhere. A former staffer recalls the campaign on multiple occasions sending the license plate numbers of cars believed to be used by opposition trackers to an investigator in Martinez’s DA office who had access to law enforcement databases. In one instance, a campaign aide took a photo of a license plate on a car with an anti-Martinez bumper sticker and emailed it to the investigator. “Cool I will see who it belongs to!!” the investigator replied.

McCloskey’s apparently linked to every sleazy thing Team Martinez does:

On the eve of the 2012 elections, Harvey Yates, a former state GOP chair and éminence grise of local Republican politics, gave Martinez a 10-page letter critiquing her tenure and advising her to cut ties with McCleskey. The letter described Martinez’s administration, in the words of a National Journal reporter who talked to Yates, as “tone-deaf, exclusionary, and unnecessarily ruthless.” Yates blamed Martinez for relying too much on her top aide: “Not many voters remember voting for Jay McCleskey for governor,” he wrote.

What had Yates especially concerned was the growing evidence of business as usual from a governor who’d campaigned as a good-government reformer. In late 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, the Downs at Albuquerque, to operate a racetrack and casino at the state fairgrounds. To hear critics tell it, the bidding was rigged: Martinez met with the donors privately during the campaign and again during the selection process. The governor-appointed bid committee was stacked with McCleskey allies, and leaked files show the Downs’ attorney emailing with administration staffers to secure votes on the fairgrounds commission. Andrea Goff, a former Martinez fundraiser, has said McCleskey pressured her to get her father-in-law, who served on the commission, to switch his vote. “Everything about the whole process was controlled by the governor’s office,” Charlotte Rode, a Martinez appointee to the commission, told me.

IF that wasn’t enough, Martinez — the person the GOP leaders hope will be their ticket to the hearts and votes of Latinos — is not exactly au courant on the big issues in the Hispanic and other Latino communities:

Democrats and Republicans alike wonder if she has what it takes to succeed at the national level. A major postelection interview with Latina magazine became a punch line after Martinez asked her interviewer to “remind me” what the DREAM Act was.

To enhance her resemblance to Chris Christie, there’s even the sight of old scandals coming around to haunt her:

Like Richardson, she could end up with a bit of legal baggage: The FBI has interviewed witnesses about the Downs deal, and a case involving a former aide intercepting emails between members of the governor’s inner circle could go on trial this summer, with the embarrassing prospect of Martinez having to take the stand.

Oh, my, as George Takei might say.

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