Serious issues desperately need our attention

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Former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish (Photo by Heath Haussamen)

What I have learned in these months after the election is that my lifelong love affair with New Mexico, her people, her needs, and her politics won’t end. I promised to stick around and fight for our families and I intend to do so.

It’s not been a particular stellar period of my life. In a span of just eight months I lost both an election for governor of New Mexico and my prized bicycle.

Replacing the bike was easy. The new one is better, faster, and features an improved lock to foil the thieves who stole the first one. And when I pedal hard I can sometimes forget the need to decide what to do with the next four or more of my life when I had expected to be governing New Mexico.

Susana Martinez has a huge challenge on her hands. It is a time of soaring costs, declining revenue, stifling unemployment. Add impending redistricting and its opportunistic politics to the mixture and you have enough to spoil a girl’s day.

Do I think I could have done a better job handling these challenges? Of course I do. That’s why I ran for governor. It’s a moot point, however. Susana won the race, and it behooves me and every New Mexican to hope she does well.

The job of the lieutenant governor

It is stating the obvious to say I disagree sharply with most of the governor’s positions. More recently, I had to chuckle when I saw her narrow definition of the lieutenant governor’s job. She imposed strict limitations on Lt. Gov. John Sanchez in her apparent peeve over his announcing candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat in opposition to Heather Wilson, the Martinez favorite.

After eight years of sitting in the lieutenant governor chair, I can attest to the fact there is a lot more to the job than chairing the Senate and casting tie-breaking votes. If one cares to use the prestige and power of the position to make a difference in the lives of New Mexicans, the field is wide open – and you don’t need anyone’s permission to do it.

At least that’s how I saw it. I didn’t need or ask permission to focus on issues I deemed crucial to New Mexico, collaborating with advocates and legislators, building bipartisan support and getting things done. It was about getting into communities and listening – not talking – to find out what is important to New Mexicans.

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That’s how we were able to pass and implement voluntary pre-K for 4-year-old children, get capital to thousands of small businesses, pass the Home Loan Protection Act, and pass the Sunshine Portal law to increase transparency.

Issues that need our attention

Early into her term, Governor Martinez has continued her tough talk and law enforcement focus and released a variety of executive orders to grab power as governors are prone to do. And we can all rest easy now that we have the notary publics under a watchful eye, dogs on restaurant patios legally, and a lieutenant governor with no responsibility.

But let’s face it: The issues that will make it possible for New Mexico and her families to succeed desperately need our attention. Among them:

  • New jobs for New Mexicans. Incentivize and reward job creation and use our existing assets and strengths (technology, arts, culture, film, Labs, and human capitol to name a few) to target job creation. Support rural, location-neutral employment efforts and micro-lending for entrepreneurs.
  • Workforce training to make our workers more competitive today and tomorrow. Focus on a three-pronged cooperative education strategy to produce a strong qualified workforce for the future and to advance and retrain the current workforce.
  • Thoughtful education improvement that works for everyone, especially students. Find proven experts (not political consultants), and recommend investments that work. Stop finger-pointing and name-calling, which only delays the real work.
  • Shoring up our fiscal health by looking for solutions including smarter tax policy, government reorganization, proposals that protect and revise retirement funds, reigning in health care costs, and emphasizing the need for fiscal expertise in government sector.
  • Dealing with our environmental challenges for air, land and water. The most glaring example: water protection and supply for now and into the future.

Sure, there are more, but I’m willing to wager almost everything falls in one of those categories. How to do it? For starters, move away from the “us-vs.-them” approach that pervades our politics. Find long-term solutions, not just regulatory changes to be set aside by the next administration.

What I’ve learned

What I have learned in these months after the election is that my lifelong love affair with New Mexico, her people, her needs, and her politics won’t end. I promised to stick around and fight for our families and I intend to do so. Just how that will play out, perhaps in seeking another office or just participating in the public debate, is to be determined.

Maybe it will become clear during my next bike ride. Many miles to go, much to accomplish.

Diane D. Denish was lieutenant governor of New Mexico from 2003 to 2010.

14 thoughts on “Serious issues desperately need our attention

  1. And when I pedal hard I can sometimes forget the need to decide what to do with the next four or more of my life when I had expected to be governing New Mexico.

    Excuse me, Diane….when you expected to be governing New Mexico?

    Maybe you meant “hoped”? I’d give you the benefit of the doubt that you meant to use a different word if it wasn’t for the fact that you come from the political class and you probably did expect New Mexicans to roll over and just vote for you, if for no other reason than you think you deserved it.

    Fortunately voters didn’t reward you with the governorship given the complete lack of leadership you displayed during the 8 years you were Lt. Governor.

  2. Excellent comment ched, but she would say that nothing was going on that was corrupt, illegal, or even questionable. After all, our crack AG has been on the case for years and tells us “nothing to see here, move along”.

  3. After eight years of sitting in the lieutenant governor chair, I can attest to the fact there is a lot more to the job than chairing the Senate and casting tie-breaking votes. If one cares to use the prestige and power of the position to make a difference in the lives of New Mexicans, the field is wide open – and you don’t need anyone’s permission to do it.

    It would appear then, that you could have done something about exposing/ending the culture of corruption in state government. What a shame it is, you did not – for eight years.

  4. I don’t see anything new here from Ms. Denish that hasn’t been politically touted before. The bottom line in any economy is jobs – pure and simple: how to create them, keep them and prepare a workforce to do the work.

  5. Ahhh, yes, still running for office–eight months later or 17 months before? It doesn’t matter–if there’s an elected position opening up then it’s a campaign!!!

    Didn’t Diane learn a trade or skill that would employ her in the style to which she has become accustomed? Or Stevie Pearce for that matter? Or the whole host of clown car passengers we will be introduced to over the next year and a half before the 2012 elections who’s life’s work is literally nailing down a cushy elected seat somewhere?

    I would just love it if all these politicians with their worn out ideas and little substance who keep running for office time after time after time because it’s the only job they know how to do would just GO AWAY.

    Or get sucked up into the sky by aliens where they are carried to another planet to be used for medical research. Either one will do.

  6. Diane, I’m sorry to see such vitriol posted in response to your column. It doesn’t deserve it. Most of those commenting do so hiding behind aliases, and I find it difficult to give much credence to people who won’t tell me who they are.

    I think the five areas you selected are appropriate. This week I might put water first. In fact, the lack of it is really our greatest challenge. We’ll be fighting about how to allocate the little that we have for many decades, if not forever.

    We’ll fight about the others, too. I agree with your approaches to them, but every point you mentioned has its detractors. I’m glad you plan to continue to be involved.

    As for the Martinez-Sanchez administration, I don’t see much action towards jobs, education, financial security, tax reform, or the environment. I don’t see much in Congress, either.

    I agree with you about the role the lieutenant governor can play in this state, but I think you’ve downplayed the importance of presiding over the Senate. You did a great job of it, but it has been done poorly in the past, and it created a major hurdle to effective government. I haven’t watched the current incumbent, so I won’t make a judgment there.

    I do agree with those who decry personal attacks in political campaigns. Voters are sick to death of it.

  7. This statement of issues is nothing but obvious truths. Who is going to disagree with them? What I continue to find astonishing is that, after eight years near the pinnacle of power and and with a state-wide perspective on state issue, Diane speaks nothing reflecting any lessons learned. In short, Diane is not a value-adding politician.

    May I repeat a comment which I posted elsewhere?

    Diane,

    When you ran for governor, you believed that you could represent the interests of New Mexicans. You lost, so presumably New Mexicans did not think that you could represent their interests.

    If you run for the Senate, you believe that you can represent the interests of the state of New Mexico. You have little basis for this belief.

    You are a very nice woman, but you lack the temperament of a leader, the energy of an advocate, or the independence of a thinker.

    I suggest that, if you have grandchildren, you spend more time with them.

  8. Quite sad that Di took the time out of her “busy” schedule to author such an article. Is this an “I told you so” letter? Sorry Di, too soon for you to do so, this makes you look petty. Stick to the high road and don’t be bitter.

  9. Thanks for your expert and experienced insights IP. I am but a disinterested novice in political campaigns, but her mistakes in the last campaign were so painfully obvious, even I noticed. I guess many citizens did too, but good to hear your views here.

  10. Dr. J:

    I don’t think that the Sandel massacre was her biggest error in campaign methodology. The reason that within the Party she has lost all respect really was her gubernatorial campaign; indeed, your final suggestion that she get rid of whoever advised her previously cuts to the heart of the matter. She’s in something of a self-created paradox; fully one-fourth of her campaign expenditures in the last election were on out-of-state (and out-of-touch) advisers and strategists (which in state donors and major players in the party were offended by), and we all saw what a bang-up job they did for her. However, very few of us in state are willing to work for her anymore, because as lovely as she may be personally, Diane is notoriously difficult to work for. It’s something of standing joke that you’re a true professional when you’ve quit your first Denish campaign. So this begs the question: whose left for her?

  11. It is a truly sad story about Di. A promising and possibly very effective political and public service career cut very short due to extremely poor judgement and choices when in campaign mode. Her baseless and very personal attacks on Jerry Sandel during the Lt. Guv primary yielded a win, so she then assumed that is the way to campaign, forget everything else. So, now she is out of a job, obviously a bit clueless about what happened. I wish her luck in getting herself back in gear. Maybe a second act is possible should she mend her ways and adjust her approach, and get rid of whoever advised her previously, I think she has much to offer.

  12. Diane,

    We were “lucky” enough to have you as a part of the Richardson administration for eight years, and all the great things you managed to accomplish is truly underwhelming. Your lack of commitment to open government, the scandals, and the ethical issues led to many voters losing faith in your commitment to government for everyone. Enough with the empty platitudes and slogans such as “I promised to stick around and fight for our families and I intend to do so”, it is not helpful. You had your chance ( I mean jeesch…eight years) and let us down. I believe that now you have become a politician that only cares about one thing, yourself holding onto whatever power you can, and you will do or say whatever it takes to remain in the “club”. Diane, please take whatever dignity you have left and fade away into the sunset.

    Love,

    Dickey

  13. I think a large obstacle for you to overcome is the strong assumption of guilt by association.

  14. Sorry about your bike. I think Bill was seen riding it around Santa Fe. You should call Gary and see if he will investigate it for you. You might get a conviction in the year 2017, if it’s not covered up.