Editorial: The other side isn’t so bad

By Rob Nikolewski on January 13, 2013
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For all the talk of political polarization, I think a couple recent stories show that New Mexico Republicans aren’t nearly as extreme as liberals fear and Democrats aren’t as left-wing as conservatives suspect.

We’ll start with the decision by Gov. Susana Martinez to accept the federal government’s offer for states to .

At least – largely headed by Republican governors – have passed on the offer, fearing they’ll get left holding the bag if the feds eventually break their promise to foot nearly all of the bill. But Gov. Martinez took the leap, which really wasn’t all that shocking when you think about it.

Rob Nikolewski

First of all, given the state’s uninsured rate, it would be hard to turn down an offer from the federal government to pay 100 percent for the first three years and 90 percent from 2020 and beyond.

But second, Martinez is not the right-wing extremist her opponents paint her to be.

After all, before giving the OK to Medicaid expansion, she also .

She as a commissioner at the PRC, saying the only thing that mattered was his credentials.

And despite the rhetoric from teachers unions, Martinez has called for increased funding for public schools every year she’s been in office.

Yes, Martinez is hard-line, but it’s often on law and order issues – not surprising, considering she used to be a prosecutor. For her, repealing the law granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants is a public safety issue. Another batch of in an alleged scam to obtain New Mexico driver’s licenses – this time involving Brazilians – reinforces that position.

Critics accuse her of using the driver’s license controversy as a wedge issue. Fair enough, but what high-profile politicians don’t use wedge issues to their advantage?

We didn’t see President Obama step in to stop the class warfare ads blasting Mitt Romney as Gordon Gecko, heartlessly firing people.

And those who blame Martinez for perceived gridlock in Santa Fe conveniently forget it’s been Senate Democratic leadership that has strangled Martinez-backed bills that had good chances of becoming law.

On the other side, it looks like conservative Democrat in her bid to become the new Senate Pro Tem with the support of at least four and as many as 10 fellow Democrats. That’s hardly an indication the Senate is packed with wild-eyed liberals.

Another sign of centrism?

Last Wednesday, the Legislative Finance Committee, which is chaired by two Democrats (including state Rep. of Santa Fe), came out with that included a healthy 12 percent cushion in reserves – even though the New Mexico economy is lagging behind neighboring states.

“It’s a prudent budget,” Rep. Varela said at a news conference. Sen. (D-Las Vegas) agreed saying, “It is imperative we proceed with caution.”

Not exactly the words of spendthrifts.

Then there were the Democratic primaries last June.

Now the conventional wisdom is that Republicans had their hats handed to them in November and while the GOP did lose two seats in the House (three if you count Independent Andy Nuñez who often voted with Republicans), they did pick up three seats in the Senate.

But what’s overlooked is that in the primaries, liberals challenged a host of conservative Democrats in the House and Senate – and they .

John Arthur Smith was attacked on his left down in Deming. He won.

Liberal firebrand Eleanor Chavez in Albuquerque ran for the Senate nomination in Albuquerque. She lost.

Here in Northern New Mexico, Phil Griego was challenged by liberal Jack Sullivan. Griego won easily.

Santa Fe Mayor David Coss lost to moderate Carl Trujillo.

Over in Grants, conservative Democrat Clemente Sanchez won a four-way race featuring a liberal challenger who .

I’m not denying that New Mexico may be trending blue; it just isn’t crazy blue.

(This column originally on Jan. 13, 2013.)

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