After eight years, a Democrat is taking over New Mexico’s highest office. Michelle Lujan Grisham makes history as the second female governor in a row for any state.
On Wednesday, less than 24 hours after her victory, the outgoing congresswoman spoke about her priorities in office, her transition team ahead and January 1, and how she plans to work with the state legislature.
Her first announcement was that former Sen. Jeff Bingaman is her transition team chair, and that her long-time staffer Dominic Gabello is the team director.
Lujan Grisham said she has not selected anyone for her cabinet yet, and has made no promises to any individuals. She said Gov. Martinez called her Tuesday night offering whatever help Lujan Grisham may need during the transition period.
Lujan Grisham said she is starting fresh with her staff and wants dedicated people to apply to work for her, and is even willing to look at those who worked under Martinez and have interest.
“You want people who are clear about a new vision, clear about good governance, clear that I want to build a system that represents and reflects New Mexico’s new set of priorities,” she said.
As for those priorities, Lujan Grisham said that includes a clean energy economy and investment in public education, particularly universal pre-K.
Along those lines of education, she stuck by her campaign promise that getting rid of PARCC testing is high on the list.
Meanwhile, Lujan Grisham is taking over as d\Democrats control both chambers in the state house.
“I’d like to this be a much more cooperative environment than certainly some legislators have certainly signaled to us that it has been,” she said.
This also means that the Democrats may finally have a shot at their big ticket items that Martinez shot down over the last eight years.
“Michelle Lujan Grisham campaigned heavily on expansion of pre-K. I would expect her to move on that very quickly. That’s an issue most Democrats have been really wanting to push. And the real question is, will they tap into the permanent fund to be able do that?” Gabriel Sanchez, KRQE’s political expert, said.
Several Albuquerque house districts turned from red to blue Tuesday night, giving Democrats a bigger edge to push their agenda.
As Sanchez mentioned, and despite controlling the legislature over the last two sessions, they’ve tried unsuccessfully to fund pre-K using the permanent fund. They also haven’t been able to legalize marijuana.
But Sanchez says the biggest hurdle was the powerful, fiscally conservative Deming Democrat John Arthur Smith.
“And so the question becomes, if [John Arthur Smith] sees this massive blue wave, he sees the governor who is willing to make that her priority, will he back track on that issue? Because he’s really been, to be honest, the obstacle. Not so much Republicans,” Sanchez said.
Lujan Grisham says she’s looking forward to a “robust” 60-day legislative session come January.
“I’m going to invite the leadership of both parties to a meeting because I want to talk to them about their priorities,” Lujan Grisham said.