The governor was nervous.
It was evident when she stumbled over "New Mexico" the first time she said it in the State of the State address.
It was Jan. 18, 2011 and you could hardly blame Susana Martinez. She'd just taken the mantle from the state's highest-profile governor. She'd beaten lieutenant governor Diane Denish, the heir apparent to Bill Richardson, by relentlessly tying her to the increasingly unpopular incumbent.
Martinez was also the first chief executive other than Richardson to read off of the fancy new teleprompters he bought … and, the early stumble aside, she was at least as skillful as he was at doing it. She knew where the camera was, too, and looked into it when she wanted to emphasize a point to anyone watching her on TV.
"Today, we begin to write a new chapter in New Mexico's history," Martinez told the crowd in the House of Representatives chamber. "By working together, we will take our state in a new direction: embracing bold change over the status quo, choosing progress over complacency and putting aside partisan differences to achieve lasting results for New Mexico families."
Seven years later, as she walked into the House chamber for her final State of the State address, Martinez looked plenty comfortable. She stopped to shake hands with children, say hello to a few lawmakers and to hug her sister, Leti, as she headed to the podium.
Martinez was then greeted by protesters as she stepped to the podium Tuesday morning. They were urging US Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich to support the Dream Act (they do) and perhaps just generally trying to make their voices heard. The governor looked to the gallery and listened, then watched as state police officers shuffled the group out. Whether it was the protesters or something else, her sometimes halting delivery this year wasn't as smooth as her first go-around with the teleprompters.
The speech that followed may have given lip service to the bipartisan effort to solve New Mexico's problems that she called for in 2011, but a last-minute joke she added to the top of the address belied her cantankerous relationship with the Legislature.
"I was actually going to forgo this speech this year and let you guys get right to work," she said, a grin working its way to her lips, "but since you all sued me and demanded that I explain myself more, sit back and relax, because I got things to say."
Indeed, after Martinez sent back a stream of late and unexplained vetoes near the end of the last regular session, lawmakers sued and the case awaits a decision by the Supreme Court.
Martinez and lawmakers partnered to create a fund for businesses looking to come to the state, and boosted the film incentives she once vehemently opposed.
She created the Office of Business Advocacy, which she promised she would do that first year—though it has a single employee, an executive assistant at the Economic Development Department who is the lowest-paid person in the agency.
Even when she had a Republican majority in the House, the governor failed to reform the tax code in the wholesale fashion she called for in both her first speech and in her last.
On crime, Martinez lambasted the judiciary for its interpretation of a constitutional amendment that she endorsed last year. It reinforced the constitutional provision requiring bail for all people accused of a crime, but it also gave judges authority to keep dangerous suspects in jail before they were convicted. Martinez said judges weren't keeping enough offenders behind bars.
"Sounds good, right? But the people's definition of a serious offender is apparently very different from the one judges have been using," she proclaimed, adding that it amounted to a bait-and-switch by the courts.
Martinez has made her mark most noticeably in public education. In her first speech, she pledged to cut bureaucracy, boost classroom spending and to end social promotion. While she's not had banner successes there—classroom spending is actually down from the 61 cents per dollar she bemoaned in 2011 to just above 57 cents—Martinez has made good on her other two promises, to implement a grading system for schools and reward the best teachers. Not everyone agrees with the systems used to do those things (perhaps especially her 2011 promise to make the school grades an "easy-to-understand, easy-to-implement system"), but she's done what she intended and education department staff are currently working to make sure those changes are difficult to roll back. Her budget this year includes bonuses for highly effective teachers.
Martinez has had the helm of New Mexico's government through some extraordinarily difficult economic times. She told lawmakers Tuesday, "Hard times produce heroes. We see courage and strength that is compelling and inspiring. It has a way of lifting us and giving us resolve."
There are many in the Roundhouse who have seen plenty of hard times and are still waiting for them to produce a hero.