Thursday, June 23, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: Susana: Ya Run, Ya Resign

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
June 23, 2011

I think it's safe to say that Gov. Susana Martinez isn't wild about the idea of people in her administration seeking higher office. In fact, if you work for Martinez, don't even think about sticking around if you decide to run for political office.

Last month when Lt. Gov. John Sanchez announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate, the governor issued a less-than-friendly statement expressing the concern that a Senate race could become a "distraction," and saying she wouldn't give Sanchez any extra responsibilities in her administration.

But that message doesn't apply to Sanchez alone.

Jon Barela
Martinez's Economic Development Secretary-designate Jon Barela, a Republican who lost a tight race for Congress against Democratic U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich last year, reportedly is thinking of running again in next year's 1st Congressional District race.

When asked what Martinez thought about Barela's possible candidacy, her spokesman, Scott Darnell, replied, "Cabinet secretaries understand that they must be focused on assisting the governor in doing the job New Mexicans elected her to do and know they would need to resign if they choose to run for office."

I asked Barela about that. "I'm not a candidate for Congress," Barela said at the outset of the conversation.

"So you're not going to run?" I asked.

"I didn't say that," he clarified.

Asked about Martinez's statement, Barela said he agreed. "If I do run, I'd resign," he said, adding that he would feel the same way if the governor hadn't issued the statement.

Barela said he's in no hurry to leave the Economic Development Department. "I really love this job," he said.

Barela pointed out that unlike the lieutenant governor, Cabinet secretaries (and Cabinet secretary-designates) serve at the pleasure of the governor who appoints them. Martinez can't force Sanchez out because he was elected to the post — albeit on a ticket with the governor.

It's also worth noting that the duties of Cabinet secretaries are far more extensive than that of the lieutenant governor, whose main job is standing by to take over if the governor dies or leaves office.

So here's a scenario to ponder: If Martinez actually does get tapped to run for vice president on the Republican ticket — as some pundits have been speculating since before she even took office — and she accepts, according to her own rules, she'd have to resign.

Which would make Sanchez — who may or may not be the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate by then — governor.

A long-shot scenario, I realize. But stranger things have happened in New Mexico politics.

Bold new rule: I used to make fun of Bill Richardson all the time for his overuse of the word "bold" when he was governor. Nearly every week Richardson was launching a "bold initiative" taking a "bold position" on something or other.

Then last year, Martinez came along and adopted "Bold Change" as her campaign slogan. "Bringing Bold Change and a Brighter Future" is on the official website of the governor. Martinez even had a "Bold Inaugural Ball" in January.

But New Mexico governors aren't the only politicians out there who use that word to describe themselves. It seems like every other news release or political blog post I read is touting some bold leader whose boldness boldly goes where lesser mortals fear to tread.

Brave, courageous and bold
Just this week, GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, in announcing his candidacy this week, called for "bold changes" in our tax code, and Al Gore criticized President Barack Obama for not using "the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action on climate change."

So here's my bold proposal: Nobody is allowed to use the B-word anymore unless you're singing about Wyatt Earp.