Lujan Grisham, Martinez meet, tout cooperation
Democrat, Republican vow to seek smooth transition
SANTA FE — In a meeting tinged with historical import, the only two women ever elected governor in New Mexico said Friday that they are setting aside political disagreements to work toward a smooth transfer of power.
Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham, who was elected governor this week, and Republican Susana Martinez, who will leave office at the end of the year, met for two hours in the Governor’s Office to discuss transition-related issues — keeping reporters waiting for more than an hour for a scheduled news conference.
Both Lujan Grisham and Martinez described the meeting as productive and referred to its historical significance.
New Mexico had never elected a female governor until Martinez won office in 2010. Now, state voters have elected back-to-back female governors.
“It is a momentous day when two Latina women are able to stand together, having been elected to the highest office of this wonderful state,” Martinez told reporters, describing the occasion as long overdue.
“We’re incredibly proud of that and incredibly proud of New Mexicans who put their faith in two women,” added Lujan Grisham, who also appeared on a national cable news program earlier Friday to discuss her election.
Martinez also said she was proud to be relinquishing the Governor’s Office at a time when New Mexico is projected to have unprecedented incoming state revenue levels — primarily from skyrocketing oil production levels in the state’s southeastern corner.
“Our state’s fiscal health is the best it’s ever been,” the two-term governor said.
Lujan Grisham will be sworn
into office on New Year’s Day, giving her less than two months to assemble a Cabinet and prepare a budget blueprint for the 60-day legislative session that starts on Jan. 15.
To facilitate a smooth handoff, she said, she and Martinez on Friday discussed giving her transition team access to top-level Martinez administration staffers and state government records during the coming weeks.
“We are clear, both of us, that we want good governance and a productive transition,” Lujan Grisham said.
Although the two come from different political parties and have espoused divergent views about how state government should function, Lujan Grisham and Martinez brushed aside questions Friday about political and policy differences.
“I really don’t think it’s a time today to talk about politics,” Martinez said at one point.
On the campaign trail, Lujan Grisham criticized some of Martinez’s policies, including the teacher evaluation system implemented by her administration in 2013, but she largely refrained from direct attacks.
In contrast, Martinez, during her 2010 election bid — and her 2014 re-election campaign — frequently criticized her predecessor, former Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat.
Lujan Grisham, who got more than 57 percent of the votes cast in this year’s race for governor against Republican Steve Pearce, pointed out that she already had a working relationship with Martinez, due to the three terms she has spent in Congress representing the Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District.
Meanwhile, Martinez said she could still fill critical state government positions before she leaves office at the end of December, but said her administration was not planning to shift appointees to protected civil service positions.
“We’re not going to run around and start filling (positions) with individuals, because she needs to surround herself with the people to succeed,” Martinez said.
Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham, left, and Gov. Susana Martinez look at memorabilia in the Governor’s Office during a meeting at the state Capitol in Santa Fe to discuss Lujan Grisham’s transition into the office.
Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham, left, and Gov. Susana Martinez hold a news conference in the state Capitol after meeting in the Governor’s Office on Friday. The two declined to answer questions about political differences.