She defends attacks on legislator who was her ally on high-profile issue
The double standard of politics was on display this morning. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez said she turned against state Rep. Andy Nunez because he did not support her initiatives on certain tax and education reforms.
Nunez, of Hatch, is the only independent in the 112-member Legislature. He aligned himself with Martinez in 2011 after she backed his bill to repeal a law that enables illegal immigrants to obtain New Mexico driver licenses.
That is right. Nunez drafted a bill to repeal the licensing law even before Martinez was ever elected.
He worked with Martinez -- sometimes less than harmoniously -- on legislation they both believed in. It did not pass, but Nunez, at age 76, was a tireless advocate for the repeal.
Then this fall, a political group affiliated with Martinez attacked Nunez, hammering him with negative ads during his re-election campaign.
Martinez said today that Nunez had been helpful to her on one issue but not on others. And the political reality is that it will be difficult for an independent to win a legislative seat, she said.
Nunez, right, was elected as a Democrat, then switched to independent after clashing with House Speaker Ben Lujan in 2011.
In contrast to Nunez, Republican state Rep. David Chavez of Los Lunas once challenged Martinez's wisdom on the licensing issue.
Chavez in 2011 sponsored a bill to allow illegal immigrants to drive legally in New Mexico.
He said the staggering violence in Juarez, Mexico -- 3,100 murders in 2010 -- had caused an exodus. Those who found safe haven in New Mexico should have in-state driving privileges, Chavez said.
Martinez hated Chavez's compromise licensing bill and others like it. Nonetheless, she is supporting Chavez in his run for the state Senate.
That is because Chavez is opposing Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, the legislator Martinez most wants to defeat.
Just this morning Martinez said Sanchez had used his powers to stop bills from receiving votes on the Senate floor -- bills that she wanted heard.
Both Chavez, right, and Nunez have shown streaks of independence in the Legislature. One is in Martinez's good graces. The other is disposable.
But there is no doubt who is more sincere between Chavez and Nunez.
Chavez in his campaign this fall has been calling the driver license law "dangerous." But, of course, he never said it was anything but benign when he sponsored his bill to grant illegal immigrants driving privileges.
That was then and this is now -- the mean campaign season.
Chavez today says he is in lockstep with the governor against licensing illegal immigrants. He he hopes his new position will help him upset Sanchez.
The fact that Chavez may not believe in what he says about the licensing law is secondary to winning, at least to some.As for Nunez, Martinez said he had declined her urgings to become a Republican. She said Nunez's wife had embraced the GOP, and he could have too.
As an independent, Nunez voted with the Democrats sometimes. He probably voted with the Republicans a bit more often.
But he was always straightforward in his stands and civil to his critics.
If Nunez loses Tuesday, chances increase that Republicans will take control of the state House of Representatives for the first time since 1953. That was six years before the governor was born.
But if Nunez retains his seat, he could be among the two or three most powerful legislators.
Imagine the House of Representatives with 35 Republicans, 34 Democrats and Andy Nunez, who is independent in every sense of the word.