This year marks the inauguration of SFR’s Patrón Awards (named, of course, for New Mexico’s loved and hated patron system—the good ol’ boy network that has shaped state politics for a century). The awards, first announced on Dec. 17 in the Weekly Word podcast (listen at SFReporter.com), range from seriously honorable to utterly facetious. Read on.
Best Government Flack: Ken Ortiz, Secretary of State
Ortiz has been transparent and more than helpful explaining the ins and outs of the Dianna Duran’s approach to her job, especially when it comes to campaign finance. We are duly impressed that Ortiz is Duran’s chief of staff and not a full-time spokesman.
Best Hero: Aubrey Dunn
When Aubrey Dunn, the unsuccessful Republican candidate for state representative, found out that PACs tied to Gov. Susana Martinez sent mailings supporting his opponent Phil Griego in the Democratic primary, he publicly asked for Martinez to give him the $5,000 he donated to her 2010 campaign back. The last we’ve heard, he hasn’t gotten it back.
Best Villain: The People Who Hate Roswell
In desperation mode, outgoing state Sen. Tim Jennings, D-Chaves, exploited a leaked conversation between the governor’s chief of staff and a Roswell firefighter by stretching it into an entire negative ad blitz called “They Hate Roswell.” Who are these boogeyman that casting a shadow on a quiet, quaint Southwestern community? Mainly people who didn’t like Tim Jennings.
Best Quote: Ben Hall
In June, SFR reported why several Public Regulation Commissioners missing their meetings. One of them was Commissioner Ben Hall, who took some time off to mingle with Wall Street bankers in Manhattan: “I want to try to learn something. I’m not trying to get cozy with the Wall Street bankers. I don’t even like ’em in the first place.”
Biggest Scandal: The US Department of Justice’s probe into the Albuquerque Police Department
Emailgate, New Mexico Finance Authority and former Bernalillo County Commissioner Michael Weiner’s visit to the red-light district in the Philippines all deserve a mention, but APD’s consistent “excessive force” problems have cost people their lives, making it the most high-profile scandal of the year.
Dirtiest Political Advertisement: Tim Jennings’ toilet ad
Jennings lost to newcomer Cliff Pirtle in one of the nastiest races of the year. One ad explains it all: a mailing that had the words: “They Hate Roswell and Think it is a…” above the picture of what has to be one of the dirtiest outhouses in New Mexico.
Best Entrance By A Political Newcomer: Phillip Archuleta
Archuleta, who’s replacing state Rep. Andy Nuñez, D-Doña Ana, has apologized since a video of him flicking off an obnoxious cameraman affiliated with Nuñez’ campaign surfaced, but we appreciated his candor in giving the middle finger in public.
Open Government Award: N/A
New Mexico has several trailblazers in transparency to celebrate, but as this week’s cover story explains, 2012 was not the year for open government. The Baseball Hall of Fame has the option of inducting nobody into its ranks on a down year. So do we.
Whistleblower of the Year: Bob Ortiz
Ever since first coming to SFR in early 2010 with his allegations of fraud in the federal Women, Children and Infants program, former state Department of Health deputy director Bob Ortiz lost his job responsibilities, was put on administrative leave for six months and was finally fired in June. Now, he’s suing the state for breaching the Whistleblower Protection Act. A court date is set for 2014.
Best Conflict of Interest: Attorney General Gary King
King has come under fire for opening an investigation involving private emails from the governor’s office after announcing his intention to run for governor against Martinez in 2014. “I have not accused or inferred that we believe the Governor has violated any law,” King wrote in August responding to the criticism. “We applied the same standard to each public official of the state throughout my term as AG.” Still, King could very well face the person he’s investigating in this case as an opponent two years from now.
The Closed Government Award: The Governor’s Office
When SFR has questions for the governor’s office, its staffers tend to ignore them. When SFR requests public records from the governor’s office, its staffers have a tendency to wait the maximum 15 days to respond. When an SFR staff writer seeks Chief of Staff Keith Gardner for comment and he runs into an elevator to avoid the questions, the amount of secrecy at the governor’s office rises to comical levels.
Best Political Campaign: Pat Woods
State Sen. Pat Woods, R-Colfax, fended off a rough, mudslinging primary challenge from Martinez-backed candidate Angie Spears, who had ample support from GOP guru Jay McCleskey. How did he do it? With some old-fashioned rural populism (and, of course, mudslinging of his own).
Worst Political Campaign: David Coss
In his campaign to succeed House Speaker Ben Luján, D-Santa Fe, in the Roudhouse, Coss could never get past the criticism of his intention to serve simultaneously as state representative and mayor of Santa Fe. Maybe planning to be a dual officeholder was the wrong strategy.
Biggest Mudslinger: Jay McCleskey and Sam Bregman
What’s bigger mudslinging than accusing politicians of going soft on baby-killers and murderers? A lawyer using his client’s secret recording for his own political gain? We can’t decide. It’s a tie.
By Joey Peters, Justin Horwath and Matthew Reichbach