SANTA FE, N.M.
As political stories go, it’s a steaming slice of heaven that appears to have many people outside New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez’s inner circle laughing.
On the evening of Dec. 12 at the posh Eldorado Hotel in downtown Santa Fe, a holiday party got so loud it drew complaints and a call to the front desk. That led to a call to local police, who quickly learned Martinez was the party’s hostess-in-chief. A report of rowdy revelers tossing bottles from the fourth-floor balcony generated a retort from the slurring governor, who contended, “We’re all in a room eating pizza.”
Although she initially disavowed knowledge of the bottles overboard issue, she eventually admitted, “If there were, it was about six hours ago.”
For the sake of discussion, isn’t this what political minions and appointed lackeys are for? Why keep a sycophant on the payroll if you can’t sic them on a problem as docile as a noise complaint and keep the boozy boss in a backroom?
Displaying a decidedly thin skin to go with her thin crust, in recorded conversations with a beleaguered desk clerk and members of local law enforcement Martinez appeared more interested in finding the source of the complaint than simply admitting the party had gotten a bit out of hand. It’s no scandal, but the display of petulance and pettiness came at a time the chief executive has been touted as possible vice presidential material.
Martinez sought to move beyond the self-inflicted wound and appeared to have been saved by a snowstorm this week that enabled her to call for a “state of emergency.”
“Regardless, the governor apologizes for the conduct of her staff the night of the party,” a Martinez aide told The New Mexican. “She finds it absolutely unacceptable and plans to address this with her staff — which could include disciplinary action.”
Another weak and predictable response. But at least she wasn’t awarding her party animals with pizza.
Predictably, her political opponents have seized the opportunity to take gassy umbrage.
“To be clear, this is not about the governor enjoying a few too many drinks at her holiday party,” the state’s Democratic House Minority Leader chided. “This is about her breathtaking lack of honesty and her appalling treatment of our law enforcement officers and the workers of the Eldorado Hotel. Instead of taking responsibility for her action, she fabricated stories.”
A politician who “fabricates stories.” Talk about a tepid retort.
What Democrats here so far appear to fail to appreciate is the potential to turn the matter into a gubernatorial laugh track.
And laughter is rarely a good thing for a sitting politician who dreams of marching onto a national stage not hosted by Jimmy Kimmel or Stephen Colbert. Martinez has been the butt of jokes in the state’s newspapers, television stations, and on social media, where the satirical send-ups have been especially wicked.
In one audio recording, a police sergeant on the scene was overheard acknowledging that Martinez was “inebriated.” Slurring Susana later said she’d swallowed fewer than two drinks over several hours during the party.
She compounded her own troubles when she admitted that bottles were thrown from the hotel room’s fourth-floor balcony after first contending the objects had been snowballs.
Remind me never to get in a snowball fight with the governor of New Mexico.
Now it seems her prospects for courtship on the national political stage lack a snowball’s chance to survive in 2016. Just a few weeks ago her name was mentioned prominently as a possible running mate for rising Republican Party presidential candidate Marco Rubio, the Florida senator.
It’s no secret that Republicans have challenges with women voters and a much larger struggle winning Latinos. Martinez, a Republican governor in a blue state, seemed to fit an important demographic. She shined in a national spotlight during the Republican National Convention in August 2012 in Tampa, Fla., and her future as the nation’s first female Hispanic governor appeared unlimited.
Could that potentially be good news for Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, whose name has occasionally surfaced in the GOP’s hot stove league?
Anything is possible.
Except, perhaps, to refrain from smiling about the great Santa Fe pizza caper of 2015.
— John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. He can be reached at 702-383-0295 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith