Santa Fe, NM –The conduct of Governor Susana Martinez and her staff revealed in a recent Mother Jones article can only be described as shameful, embarrassing and unprofessional. These are the thoughts of Democratic lawmakers in the New Mexico State Senate as they try to understand how a governor who is charged with taking care of New Mexico can act with such disregard for those who rely on her and her policies.
The article includes audio recordings, text messages and emails between the governor and her staff that reveal callousness and disrespect towards the developmentally disabled, teachers, and political opponents. In particular, a voice recording reveals Health and Human Services Department Communications Director, Matt Kennicott, referring to late Speaker of the House Ben Lujan as a “retard” after he and the governor share a chuckle regarding Lujan speaking in English.
“I’m stunned that our governor would allow such a term to be used in her presence with no repercussion. That is inexcusable,” said Senator Bill O’Neill (D-13-Bernalillo). “What’s even more disturbing is that she not only didn’t call him (Kennicott) on his use of the word but that she later appointed him as the spokesperson of an agency that provides services to the developmentally disabled population. ‘Retard’ is such an offensive term to any family affected by disability…and to use it in reference to the deceased speaker Ben Lujan? That is so outrageous!”
Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez (D-29-Bernalillo & Valencia) is disappointed not only by the vulgar and derogatory terms that were used, but by the messages conveyed in the recordings. “Allowing her staff to mock those who sound different than they do is an insult to the late Speaker and those who grew up speaking Spanish as their first language. Being bilingual is a source of pride and should not be denigrated by others, especially by a governor who touts the diversity of New Mexico,” he said.
Sen. Sanchez also said he is not surprised by the governor’s lack of understanding of how teachers are paid. “Publicly calling herself ‘pro-teacher’ while privately saying flat out that teachers get paid too much and don’t have to work for two and a half months shows her total lack of awareness of and respect for the educators. Does she even know how the pay schedule of an educator works? Reading to children in the classroom for photo ops doesn’t give her the right to belittle the hard work that teachers must perform year round. This is unacceptable,” said Sen. Sanchez.
The Mother Jones article is further proof and should be a wake-up call to all New Mexicans that Governor Martinez’s public persona is a contradiction to the policies and beliefs of her administration.