The GOP Civil War has apparently begun in New Mexico. The 2010 gubernatorial primary between former GOP chair Allen Weh and Camp McCleskey's Dona Ana Darling exposed a rift in the state GOP that has yet to heal in a party quickly headed for an "all hands on deck" state convention to select a new state chairman, and possibly new direction.
Martinez won in 2010 and by 2012 McCleskey had set sights on buying a new legislature 2010 voters wouldn't give him. $3 million later the results are in and most pundits agree the return on investment was pretty low. And that's given more traditional Republicans the opening they need to refight the 2010 primary.
Add that to the growing list of Martinez administration resignations (to be fair, this happens after a lot of elections), and Martinez and McCleskey have a lot of soul searching to do about the future of the party they are still trying to unite and lead.
Taken a post-election hiatus and missed some of the action? Here are the top lines:
- McCleskey and his tactics of picking "winners and losers" in a Clovis-area GOP primary set the stage for the general election attacks. McCleskey's hand-picked candidate Angie Spears lost decidedly after her opponent Pat Woods made McCleskey's meddling the narrative.
- Over the weekend, former State Party Chair Harvey Yates, Jr. penned an op-ed in the conservative beacon Albuquerque Journal in which Yates attacks the governor's Reform New Mexico Now PAC, run by McCleskey, for distorting the record in attacks against Republican and Democratic targets.
- This week, an email began circulating to Republican opinion leaders saying boldly "It's time to stop Jay McCleskey." It bluntly blames the McCleskey strategy for GOP losses up and down the ballot saying: Jay McCleskey has hijacked the Republican Party to personally enrich himself, leaving our county offices with nothing but crumbs. The result? A weakened party infrastructure without the means to get out-the-vote. Ironically, the email was sent from pseudonym "John Freemont," the 1850's-era founder of the modern Republican Party.
· Insiders note that a contingent of GOP leaders embedded themselves with Democrat Mark D'Antonio to oust Martinez protégé Amy Orlando from her Martinez-appointed District Attorney position. They were successful and this "enemy of my enemy is my friend" approach is likely to continue in the insider game against Martinez.
Throughout the 2012 election cycle, Republican candidates and party officials quietly complained that McCleskey's PAC operations were sucking up all the money they would need for their own races, leaving them at a disadvantage in the home stretch. McCleskey surprised them all by exceeding even the wildest estimates of fundraising. Now Yates, "John Freemont" and others are now reminding Republicans of the consequence.
Interestingly, media-savvy McCleskey has not taken the chance to find surrogates to respond to these attacks in the papers or by emails. Without an adequate response, the drum beat against him is growing louder.
At the same time, blogger Joe Monahan reports today on the departure of a number of key Martinez staffers and advisors, all McCleskey minions. Spokesman Scott Darnell and his wife Alexis, operations manager for the Governor's Office, are both rumored to be out by the end of the year. Adam Feldman, former GOP state Executive Director and current McCleskey operative is also rumored on his way out of state, though he could still be involved in campaigns in this age of internet and email. Deputy Chief of Staff Ryan Cangliosi is also departing for a new $125,000 job at UNMH in Albuquerque. Cangliosi has long been a target of anti-Martinez Republicans. Some Insiders were quick enough were able to pick up "I Hate Ryan Cangliosi" T-shirts and coffee mugs from an online store just after the 2010 elections. Cangliosi has since been singled out as the governor's point-of-contact on the Downs deal.
Add that to wide speculation that Chief of Staff Keith Gardner may also be departing. Gardner became a centerpiece in the Jennings/Pirtle race after a secret recording showed Gardner trash talking his hometown of Roswell and offering political appointments to a friend. Gardner has also been accused of being heavy handed in his management. An APS lobbyist recently accused Gardner of grabbing her arm in a Roundhouse hallway during a heated discussion.
Bottom line: New Mexico's GOP is attacking itself and the loser may ultimately be Martinez. She put all her eggs in the McCleskey basket. If the anti-McCleskey faction continues this narrative and wins in December, Martinez may be facing a tough two years of attacks from the left and the right.