SANTA FE — A Democratic state senator on Tuesday called on Republican Gov. Susana Martinez to fire her chief of staff, saying it is the right thing to do.

Sen. Linda Lopez of Albuquerque said her criticisms of Chief of Staff Keith Gardner were not partisan.

Rather, Gardner's lack of civility had wrecked his credibility and damaged all of state government, Lopez said.

Gardner, when recorded secretly by a former friend, called Senate President Tim Jennings vile names. The 73-minute tape is now being used in Democrat Jennings' re-election campaign in the Roswell area.

Lopez also criticized Gardner for allegedly trying to intimidate a female employee of the Albuquerque Public Schools.

"His erratic and frightening behavior leaves me no option but to advise Governor Susana Martinez to release Mr. Gardner from his position," Lopez said in a statement.

In a later interview at the Capitol, she said this was not a case of Democrats piling on a Republican leader.

"For me, the issue is that no one has stood up and said, "It's time to go.' That is what I am doing," Lopez said.

"I would do the same thing with (Democratic Governor Bill) Richardson, and, believe me, I did."

The governor's press secretary, Scott Darnell, said when the profanity-filled tape surfaced that the Martinez administration would not dwell on Gardner's language or comments.

Darnell cited instances in which Democrats in the Legislature had belittled Martinez, yet kept their positions.


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He also said Gardner's foul language, though nothing to be proud of, occurred a year before the tape became public.

"... We are moving on and won't allow that to distract us from doing the work the people of New Mexico expect and deserve," Darnell said.

Gardner has apologized to Jennings in a phone call, but Jennings doubted his sincerity.

"What was it, eight or nine days after the comments became public that he finally called?" Jennings said.