Capitol savvy

Watching Gov. Susana Martinez’s angry-seeming vetoes as the Legislature tumbles toward an unhappy end, I am reminded that Gov. Bruce King could turn a rodeo into a pet show.

Scan 41It was no accident that the late “cowboy governor” called the state’s 112 lawmakers his “board of directors.”

Of course, King, unlike Martinez, was one of them.

The Stanley Democrat served a dozen years in the House, and as president of a constitutional convention, before winning three non-consecutive terms as governor. Martinez, the career prosecutor from southern New Mexico, arrived as a Republican outsider, with no legislative experience, and seems to have kept her distance, despite having a former House leader as her chief of staff.

King was New Mexico’s all-around champion in political events, except maybe speechmaking. He sought to get along to the point of being mocked. But he also listened and enlisted lawmakers’ counsel. He vetoed plenty of  bills, including right-to-work legislation twice, but never was overridden.

This is not to say there weren’t legislative giants around who really set the legislative agenda, like Aubrey Dunn and Walter Martinez and Raymond Sanchez, or heavy-hitters like David Salman, John Conway, John Irick and Colin McMillan, really smart operators like Dick Minzner and C.B. Trujillo, Frank Bond, John Bigbee and Eddie Lopez and some certainly dedicated and probably brilliant full-time staff. But giving that “board of directors” tip of the hat to those part-time, citizen lawmakers helped keep the rodeo running smoothly for the better part of three terms.

Which reminds me of this, too. Larry Calloway, longtime former Associated Press writer, Albuquerque Journal columnist and editor, who rolled through Bernalillo and hunkered down at The Range with me the other morning, wrote this mighty fine piece shortly after King died in 2009.

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