We've passed the mid-point of this 60-day legislative session. Time to "evaluate" the new leaders. Weighing in were Joe Monahan, one of the state's most popular political bloggers, and El Paso Times reporter Milan Simonovich.
Monahan (www.joemonahansnewmexico.blogspot.com) has consistently painted Senate President Mary Kay Papen as a conservative who will sell out the Dems to appease the governor, but Papen describes herself as a fiscal conservative who is liberal on many other issues.
For some reason the political hounds gave House Speaker Ken Martinez, D-Grants, a little honeymoon before finding him wanting.
Martinez's offense? His willingness to compromise, a sign of weakness in the minds of some. Monahan pronounced Martinez wimpy, and Simonovich jumped in with this: "Martinez is either the biggest underachiever at the capitol or New Mexico's version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He vacillates between coddling fat cats and protecting the most irresponsible people ever to lace up a pair of work boots."
Martinez has made it clear from day one that he intended to listen and to work with his political adversaries. "Compromise is not a bad word," he said recently.
Oh, but it is, to certain players. There's a phenomenon in reporting called "let's you and him fight." Conflict and controversy make good copy. Compromise doesn't. Political junkies aren't happy unless they smell blood. Don't underestimate this primitive desire. We've outlawed cockfighting and dog fights, but there's always Santa Fe.
The governor's willingness to compromise, in the minds of Monahan and the far left, is a political ploy that shouldn't be trusted. Some of us have been wishing aloud that the governor would unclench her fists and give compromise a chance. Now that she has, the tea-leaf readers find dark motives: a cynical makeover as she begins her re-election campaign, with the spineless Dem leadership in fawning cooperation.
Isn't it possible that the governor is listening less to the political handler who instigated some of the ugliest campaigns in memory? Isn't it possible that the governor, the speaker, and the Senate president are actually listening to the voting public who made it abundantly clear that they were appalled by the last election and sick to death of the destructive standoff in Washington?
Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, a Gallup Democrat who's known Martinez since high school, says: "Ken is a consensus builder, and he's done an excellent job. I'm glad we've been able to learn from the mistakes of Congress."
I think Ken Martinez has the makings of a great statesman and a great House Speaker. He's gracious, expansive in this thinking, and willing to listen, a refreshing change. My one criticism is his choice of committee chairs.
When reporters bore you with committee proceedings, it's because the committees, which hash out bills before they reach the floor, are the guts of the legislative system. It really is democracy at its most basic, and it works pretty well. The committee chair has a lot of influence.
Ironically, Monahan likes the feisty House Education Chair, Mimi Stewart, "an example of the backbone that party observers here say has been sorely missing." Guess who put her there?
It's a little disconcerting that Martinez's lieutenants, the committee chairs, are far to the left of most New Mexicans, while Papen's chairs represent more of the political spectrum.
Martinez left in place Rep. Brian Egolf, one of the more self-righteous liberals, as chairman of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has beaten up conventional energy and passed lots of alternative energy bills. He also left in place Rep. Debbie Rodella, whose Business and Industry Committee shot down the spaceport bill last year and refused to reconsider.
Don't despair, political junkies, there's plenty of fight left in the Legislature. We just don't need any more.
Sherry Robinson is a New Mexico journalist who began her career in 1976 and has served as assistant business editor and columnist with the Albuquerque Journal, editor of New Mexico Business Weekly and business editor of the Albuquerque Tribune. She is also the author of two books: "El Malpais, Mt. Taylor and the Zuni Mountains" and "Apache Voices."