The Scandals and Failures of Governor Susana Martinez

On January 1, 2019, after 8 years in office, Susana Martinez will no longer be Governor of New Mexico.

On Sunday, December 30, 2018, the Albuquerque Journal ran on its front page the anticipated exit “interview story” of outgoing Republican Governor Susana Martinez summarizing her 8 years in office.

You can read the full article here:

The Sunday edition of the Albuquerque Journal is the highest circulation of the week.

The newspaper headlines read:

“HISTORY, HOPE & HEADWINDS”, “Governor Susana Martinez stressed education reform and a tight fiscal ship. She leaves a complicated legacy”

The front-page article was accompanied by a very flattering color photo of Governor Martinez totally appropriate for the dignity of the office she is leaving.

The problem with the Albuquerque Journal article is it downplayed her failures and totally ignored her scandals.

The Albuquerque Journal did not report nor point out that their own poll showed that Martinez is leaving office with a 46% disapproval rating and a 35% approval rating.

The Albuquerque Journal has proclaimed for decades that it is the “newspaper of record”.


The Albuquerque Journal exit article of Republican Governor Susana Martinez clearly establishes that it has become nothing more than the Republican Party newspaper of record.

The last elected Republican official to receive such front page, color photo treatment was last year when former Republican Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry left office.

Eight years ago, the media basically ignored outgoing Democrat Governor Bill Richardson without exit interviews.

The Albuquerque Journal article glossed over the true legacy that many people believe Governor Martinez is leaving as she returns home to Las Cruces.

Following are the 10 major scandals and failures that the Albuquerque Journal article did not report on or just glossed over that occurred during Governor Susana Martinez’s 8-years in office:


The Journal article did not even mention this controversy for the scandal it was and how it was reported when it happened.

During her first year in office, Martinez herself was alleged to have been involved with a “play to play” controversy involving the award of a $1 Billion-dollar, 25-year, Albuquerque Downs Racetrack contract, dubbed by politicos as “the Dirty Downs deal”.

The FBI investigated the contract, which was awarded to the Downs at Albuquerque in December 2011.

FBI agents interviewed people involved with the Martinez campaign and others about the race track lease and about campaign donations and inaugural donations.

Martinez herself also answered FBI questions about the Downs lease deal but she never went public with what she said.

Allegations were made that the Downs at Albuquerque contract was a “pay-to-play deal”.

Allegations of nefarious conduct around the Downs lease involved political insiders, significant campaign contributions to Martinez and attempts to hide political donations and contributions to Governor Martinez or her political action committee from donors connected to the Downs.

Republican operatives former Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, who appeared in Martinez election commercials, and former Republican National Committeeman and private attorney Pat Rogers were hired by the successful Downs Race track applicant.

Both White and Rogers are known to have close ties with Jay McClesky, the Governor’s paid political consultant, and no doubt played a role in influencing the award of the contract by the Martinez Administration.

Two of the Downs owners are Louisianans Bill Windham and John Turner are Republican boosters and were substantial contributors to Martinez’s campaign for Governor where Martinez received $70,000 in contributions during her campaign from Windham and Turner.

Governor Susana Martinez’s political adviser, Jay McCleskey, who has never been a state employee but had an office next to Martinez, thrust himself right in the middle of the Dirty Downs Deal controversy and the award of the contract by the State Fair Commission.

McCleskey became upset over a two-week delay on the contract award by the State Fair Commission.

McCleskey became angry when the State Fair Commission did not approve the 25-year racino lease with the Downs at Albuquerque.

For several months, a federal grand jury investigated Jay McCleskey regarding expenditures from Republican Martinez’s campaign, as well as money from her 2011 inauguration committee that went directly to McCleskey.

On March 4, 2016, Mc Clesky’s attorney announced that the federal grand jury would not indict McCleskey by saying “I’ve been informed the investigation has been terminated” and the attorney declined to answer any questions.


The Journal article did not even mention this controversy for the scandal it was and how it was reported when it happened and how it was the beginning of her downfall.

Governor Susana Martinez will probably be remembered most for what happened on December 13, 2015, at 1:30 am in the morning after at her Governor’s Staff Christmas Party at the El Dorado Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Audio recordings obtained by local media outlets revealed hotel staff calling Santa Fe Police to ask them to kick noisy people off the hotel premises after complaints from other hotel guests.

An upset Governor Martinez went to the hotel front desk at 1:30 am in the morning.

Martinez took the phone from the front desk clerk to talk on the phone with the Santa Fe police dispatcher.

In one recording, Martinez is heard telling a police dispatcher to “call off” any officers who had been dispatched.

A slurring and drunk sounding Martinez can be heard in one recording repeatedly insisting that the police dispatcher tell her who made the noise complaint with the hotel’s front desk.

At one point, the dispatcher tells the governor: “I can’t give you that information, ma’am.”

Martinez responds “Why can you not? … It is public record. Give it to me.”

Another police recording has Martinez speaking to an officer on the phone, incredulous that cops had been sent to the hotel and she says:

“So we’re sitting in there, I’m the Governor of the State of New Mexico, and we’re in there with my sister, who’s disabled, along with about six other people who are having ‘peeezzaaa’.”

Told by the Santa Fe Police that there were reports of partying guests throwing bottles off the balcony, Martinez denied it and then admitted it by saying:

“I’m sorry. There’s no one on the balcony and there’s no one throwing bottles off the balcony … and whoever was throwing bottles is not there, hasn’t been there for like six hours … ”

Governor Martinez days later apologized for what happened but only after she realized she had to do damage control when the audio recording surfaced of her admonishing Santa Fe Police officers who went to break up her hotel party.

Martinez was revealed as the mean and vindictive person she was known for in private by many people and legislators when she demanded to know who complained and to chastise police for doing their jobs.

The Martinez carefully crafted positive image of caring for and reading to children vanished within days as she made the rounds of the TV stations to apologize for her conduct.


One of the cruelest things that Governor Martinez did as Governor was order an “audit” of mental health services by nonprofits in New Mexico which devastated New Mexico’s behavioral health system.

More than 160,000 New Mexicans received behavioral health services in 2014, with most of those services funded by Medicaid, according to the Human Services Department.

In June 2013, under the direction of Governor Martinez, the Human Services Department cut off Medicaid funding to 15 behavioral health nonprofits operating in New Mexico.

The Martinez Administration said that the outside audit showed more than $36 million in overbilling, as well as mismanagement and possible fraud.

The Martinez Human Services Department agency brought in the 5 Arizona providers to take over.

In early 2016, at least 13 of the 15 nonprofits that were shut down were exonerated of fraud by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.

Even though AG Balderas found no fraud and cleared the nonprofits of fraud the damage had been done to the nonprofits and many just went out of business

Three of the five Arizona providers brought in by Governor Susana Martinez’s administration in 2013 to replace the New Mexico nonprofits pulled up stakes in the state and the mental health system as yet to fully recover.


On December 28, 2018, it was reported that the 2018 high school class graduation rate is 73%, a 10%-point jump since 2011 when Martinez took office, something she can legitimately take credit for under her leadership.

However, after 8 years of her leadership and despite her efforts, the state lags behind the national average of 84% for graduations rates reported by The National Center for Education Statistics.

Despite the all-time-best rates, New Mexico still lags behind all the other states in the United Stated, except the District of Columbia that had a lower high school graduation rate last year, at 69.2 percent.

The Journal published a favorite repeated staged photo opportunity of Governor Susana Martinez reading children’s books to kids ages 6 to 10, with the children wearing “Cat In The Hat” colorful hats that would make anyone go “awe, how cute the children” while Martinez read to them Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham”.

We all now know the real reason why she was doing the reading herself: the kids were not proficient enough to read the children’s books out loud themselves to Republican Governor Martinez.

Throughout her 8 years as Governor, Martinez was at odds with teachers over the controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, tests.

Republican Governor Susana Martinez, with her policies and her Secretary of Public Education appointments, especially the appointment of Secretary Hanna Skandera, contributed and resulted in a failing education system.

On Friday, July 20, 2018, Santa Fe District Court Judge Sarah Singleton, after a weeklong trial, ruled that the state of New Mexico is violating the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education.

The court ruling was a confirmation of what went on for the last 8 years with the state’s at-risk children under the Republican Martinez Administration.

The Judge found that it was clear that many New Mexico students are not receiving the basic education in reading, writing and math they should be receiving in our public-school system.

In her blistering written opinion, Judge Singleton wrote:

“[The evidence presented at trial] proves that the vast majority of New Mexico’s at-risk children finish each school year without the basic literacy and math skills needed to pursue post-secondary education or a career. … Indeed, overall New Mexico children rank at the very bottom in the country for educational achievement. … The at-risk students are still not attaining proficiency at the rate of non-at-risk students … and the programs being lauded by [the Public Education Department] are not changing this picture.”

In New Mexico, 71.6% of the state’s public-school students come from low-income families, and 14.4% are English-language learners.

Further, 14.8 percent of students have disabilities, and 10.6 percent are Native American.

Judge Singleton addressing proficiency rates for Native American students said that in the past 3 years, those students’ reading proficiency was at 17.6% and their math proficiency was at 10.4%.

The Court found that New Mexico does not have enough teachers and that New Mexico teachers are among the lowest paid in the country and stated:

“The evidence shows that school districts do not have the funds to pay for all the teachers they need. … [An example is] Gadsden, one of the better performing school districts in the state, has had to eliminate over 53 classroom positions and 15 essential teachers since 2008.”

The Court also faulted the Martinez Administration’s failure to provide access to technology in rural districts.

Judge Singleton ruling addressed the state teacher evaluation system implemented by the Martinez Administration by saying:

“[The teacher evaluation system] may be contributing to the lower quality of teachers in high-need schools. … In general, punitive teacher evaluation systems that penalize teachers for working in high-need schools contribute to problems in this category of schools.”

The Court rejected the Martinez Administration’s arguments that no new funding is needed because at-risk student performances are improving.

During the last 8 years at-risk children finish each school year without the basic literacy and math skills needed to pursue post-secondary education or a career.


During a Channel 7 interview, Governor Martinez, with her usual and phony emotional, teary eyed flair, said “I never lost focus on keeping our children first … . “

The truth is, things for New Mexico’s children have only gotten worse during the last 8 years under Governor Martinez’s leadership.

For the first time in five years, New Mexico has fallen to last among states when it comes to the economic, educational and medical well-being of its children, according to a nonprofit that tracks the status of U.S. kids.

The most troubling in the 2018 Kids Count Data Book is New Mexico’s steep drop in ranking for health care measures which previously was a bright spot for the state.

According to the 2018 Kids Count Data Book, 30% of New Mexico’s children were living in poverty in 2016, compared to 19% nationwide that year, the earliest figures available.

In educational measures, the report says 75% of the state’s fourth-graders were not proficient in reading in 2017, compared to 65% nationally, and 80% of eighth-graders were not performing up to par in math in 2017, compared to 67% across the U.S.


In 2016 and again in 2017, New Mexico had the country’s highest per capita rate of property crime and the second-highest per capita rate of violent crime.

Legislative session after legislative session, Governor Susana Martinez requested the New Mexico Legislature for changes in New Mexico’s criminal laws, including to reinstate the death penalty.

Martinez repeatedly sought to toughen criminal sentences for a host of offenses without even attempting to address the root causes of crime: poverty, drug abuse intervention, poor education, unemployment and social intervention.

The Governor’s proposals included a bill to toughen penalties for people who commit crimes while on probation or parole and restoring the death penalty for people convicted of murdering children and law enforcement.

Martinez called for a “three-strikes” proposal that would require life sentences for repeat offenders convicted of a third violent felony.

It was the murder of children by their parents or custodians, killings of law enforcement officers in the line of duty and rising crime in Albuquerque and the state that had Republican Governor Martinez and conservative Republican state lawmakers calling for New Mexico to reinstate the death penalty.

Martinez falsely argued that the death penalty is the solution to stopping heinous crimes and repeat offenders, contrary to decades of well documented studies.

Governor Martinez embraced what New Mexico State Representative Monica Youngblood had to say about the death penalty when Youngblood said:

“I think [the death penalty] would be a deterrent. I mean, look what’s going on in Albuquerque. … This would be a narrow reinstatement focusing on those who kill law enforcement and children.”

All the proposed changes to New Mexico’s criminal laws by Governor Martinez were never accompanied by any increase in funding for our courts, the District Attorney’s Offices, the Public Defenders offices nor the Corrections Department which are the essential elements of the criminal justice system.

“Lock em up and throw away the key” is the ignorant approach to solving high crime rates.

Reinstating the death penalty has been a “no starter” for years and discredited with many states repealing the death penalty as a penalty that fails to stop violent crime and crimes against law enforcement.


For the full 8 years she has been in office, Martinez has been vindictive and mean spirited to legislators.

Governor Susana Martinez will be remembered for her inability to work with the New Mexico legislature and her vindictiveness towards those she disagreed with, even with those in her own party.

Martinez’s reelection victory in 2014 helped Republicans seized control of the New Mexico House of Representatives for the first time in 60 years.

Republicans ended up with a 37-33 advantage in the House but that did not last long.

Martinez and the Republican house overplayed their hand and proceeded to preside over the House in a vindictive manner against Democrats.

The Republican House approved only Republican legislation and voted down all Democrat sponsored legislation.

In 2016, after losing the House of Representative chamber in 2014, Democrats regained control of the house putting Democrats in control of both the New Mexico House and Senate.

Political consultant Jay McCleskey for her full 8 years in office was Martinez’s number one political advisor and campaign manager who is given credit for grooming her and getting her elected twice.

McClusky is well known in political circles for his “slash and burn” political campaign tactics and negative advertising.

McClusky was referred to as the “shadow governor” by many political observers.

McClusky was so vital to Martinez that he was given an office on the 4th floor of the State Capitol even though he was not a state employee.

The peak of Governor Martinez’s vindictiveness and pettiness was when she made sure that her Political Action Committee headed up by Jay McClusky spent $1 million dollars to defeat long time and respected Democrat Floor Leader of the State Senate Michael Sanchez who she considered a major impediment to her policies.

Martinez refused to help many in her own party with her PAC donations which many Republicans feel contributed to their loss of the Republican controlled House of Representatives in 2016.


Martinez has not gotten along any better with the New Mexico Judiciary.

Many Governor Martinez vetoes were found unconstitutional by the Court’s.

It was a state District Court that ruled the Martinez Administration violated the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education.

On April 25, 2018, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Governor Martinez did not follow proper constitutional procedures in vetoing 10 different bills that, for the most part, had passed the Legislature with broad bipartisan support.

The Supreme Court ruling put end to a yearlong court battle and resulted in the bills in essentially taking effect immediately.

In court, state lawmakers argued the 10 vetoes were not properly carried out because the governor either took too long to act on them or did not provide an explanation with each vetoed bill.

The common consensus amongst many members of the legislature is that Governor Martinez vetoed the legislation in retaliation for them not supporting her policies.

In August, 2018, Martinez got into the Trump act of criticizing a District Judge’s rulings based on the law when a Taos Judge released 5 defendants on bond pending trial for child abuse.

It was not surprising to the legal community that the court released the 5 defendants pending trial in that that there was no “clear and convincing evidence” as required by the law to deny them bail.

Martinez had this to say about the judge’s ruling:

“I strongly disagree with this decision. … Unfortunately, it highlights for the entire nation how extreme the New Mexico Supreme Court has been in dictating pretrial release for all kinds of dangerous criminals.”

What made the Governor Susana Martinez remarks so egregious is that she is a former 16 year elected Las Cruces District Attorney and a license New Mexico Attorney and she knows better.

Vilifying Judges is a popular tactic perfected by President Trump to gin up their conservative base.

What is not appropriate and downright dangerous conduct is for anyone to threaten any judge with physical harm over a ruling they make as was done with the Taos District Court Judge.

Martinez as a New Mexico attorney is an officer of the court, and her total failure to condemn people threatening the courts is a low as you can get even for the likes of a Republican Governor who claims to be “law and order”.


On January 1, 2011, Governor Susana Martinez was sworn in as New Mexico Governor.

In 2009, New Mexico’s unemployment rate was above 7% and then went to 8% and beyond at the start of 2010.

For the full 8 years of her two terms as Governor, Martinez watched and did nothing when comes to economic development as New Mexico’s population declined dramatically with a mass exodus of educated young people looking for jobs seeking a future elsewhere.

Since 2010, 62,000 more U.S. citizens moved out of New Mexico than arrived here.

In 2018, New Mexico had 3,509 more people move out than move in which was the lowest net-migration loss since 2012, according to United States census statistics.

The state population has hovered around below 2.1 million since crossing the 2 million mark in 2008, according to The Santa Fe New Mexican.

For a full 8 years, Governor Susana Martinez failed to offer any viable economic development plan other than promoting corporate tax cuts.

Martinez promoted “no new taxes”, reduced taxes and fees wherever she could as her economic development plan to attract new industry to New Mexico, and it was miserable failure.

In February, 2018 New Mexico’s unemployment rate was 5.8%, down, but not by much.

Since 2013, New Mexico has seen more people moving out of the state each year than moving into the state, known as negative net migration.

New Mexico competes with metropolitan areas like Denver, Salt Lake City and Phoenix, which are booming with higher-paying jobs.

The figures show Nevada and Idaho grew the fastest during a 12-month period that ended in July, 2018 while New Mexico had a population growth rate of 0.1%.

Robert Rhatigan, associate director of Geospatial and Population Studies at the University of New Mexico had this to say about outgoing migration:

“The migration piece is what separates us from our neighbors. Our neighbors recovered from the recession, and we didn’t. People left for better economic opportunities. As long as neighboring states are offering better-paying jobs, it will be difficult for the numbers to turn around.”

New Mexico has been chipping away at its low-wage reputation with commitments from FACEBOOK, Netflix, Safelite and Union Pacific, but they are making those commitments despite any real efforts by the Martinez Administration.


The one industry that represents the future of New Mexico and a major hope for expanding New Mexico’s economy is the film industry but Martinez made sure she got in the way.

In 2002, the state film tax incentives were put in place.

In 2011, Governor Susana Martinez placed a $50 million annual cap on the incentives when many advocated a much higher cap or no cap at all.

The state has hit the cap every year since it was put in place by Martinez in 2011 but she refused to increase the cap for 6 years.

In 2017, 74 different projects claimed every cent of the $50 million in incentives.

The film industry expands each year in large part because of tax credits.

According to a 2017 report from the New Mexico Film Office, the state spent the entire $50 million allotted for film tax credits annually in 2014, and the film industry spent an estimated $513.9 million purchasing goods and services from local businesses between 2010 and 2014.

Between 2014 and 2017, the amount of direct, in-state production spending increased from $162 million to $506 million.

New Mexico has received more than $234 million in direct spending into the economy from film projects in this 2017-2018 fiscal year.

In the fiscal year 2017, there was nearly $506 million in direct spending into the New Mexico economy.

In 2017, Martinez vetoed a bill that would have extended tax credits to smaller film productions in the state.


When first elected, Governor Susana Martinez went into office with high hopes, great potential and possibilities and she was a national political rising star.

After 8 years in office, Martinez has very little to show for and will be known for lost opportunities and a star that totally burned out.

Governor Martinez will be remembered most for her Governor Office pizza and beer holiday Christmas party at a Santa Fe, Hotel at taxpayer expense and the “Dirty Downs Deal”.

Martinez will also be remembered for her vindictive and mean-spirited ways and her “my way or the highway” attitude.

Governor Susana Martinez’ true legacy will be that of illiterate New Mexico children, a punitive teacher evaluation system, destruction of a nonprofit mental health care system, absolutely no legislative accomplishments and a state in decline in population.

Governor Susana Martinez’s only claim to fame will be having been elected twice as the first Republican Hispanic female Governor in New Mexico history.

The Martinez legacy is already becoming a mere footnote in New Mexico history with the election of the first Democrat Hispanic female Governor in New Mexico History with Michelle Lujan Grisham succeeding her on January 1, 2019.

For further background and analysis see:

The Rise And Fall Of Governor Susana Martinez And Her 8 Year Legacy Of Failure

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.