Governor Susana Martinez may present a polished front, but she is quite different when her guard is down.
April 17, 2014

[Disclaimer: This post contains language not safe for work]
If there's one characteristic common to Republican women, it is their unlimited capacity to behave like an iconic "Mean Girl" while serving the men who control them. Susana Martinez is no exception. While Sarah Palin is mean and dumb, Governor Martinez is mean and smart. But that is about the only distinction between them.

Mother Jones reporter Andy Kroll obtained recordings and emails of various Martinez discussions and strategizing sessions with her aides, who wield almost as much power as she does. It isn't pretty.

"He sounds like a retard."

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."

"During the campaign, we can't say it..."

Martinez pretended she was on the side of teachers during her campaign, but in fact she really wanted them to "feel the pain" of budget cuts. Her advisors also had brilliant ideas for how she could cover herself if they questioned her official actions as compared to her campaign promises.

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.

The campaign emails and audio recordings also show how Martinez and her team strategized to maintain her straight-shooting image while avoiding actually being up-front with the public. Throughout the campaign, Martinez praised teachers and insisted she'd "hold harmless" funding for public education. In private, Martinez implied teachers earned too much: "During the campaign, we can't say it, I guess, because it's education, but…they already don't work, you know, two and a half months out of the year." She and McCleskey acknowledged that cuts to education could well be necessary, so her aides plotted about how to respond if they were ever called out for it once elected: "Put up a YouTube video that no one will ever see where you talk about making everyone feel the pain," McCleskey suggested. "And when you win, we say, 'See, we said this shit the whole time. What are you guys talking about?'"

"It's on YouTube," Kennicott said. "C'mon, bitches."

There's more. Much, much more. And as Ari Melber and Andy Kroll observe on The Last Word, it isn't just political hardball. There were policy and transparency issues that came into play, particularly with regard to their attitude toward teachers.

Martinez may want to present herself as a moderate Republican with ambitions to higher office, but she's as down-and-dirty as Chris Christie. The recordings are eerily reminiscent of Richard Nixon's paranoia and nastiness.

Update: Governor Martinez was not at all happy about this report, accusing Kroll of obtaining the recordings and emails via illegal means (untrue). Ari Fleischer played her knight in shining armor, only to be immediately tarnished and dented by David Corn, who ripped him up one side and down the other. Here's just one example:

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