Lieutenant governor’s job: important or insignificant?

by Sergio Jimenez / Daily Lobo New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez greets supporters at her election night party held at Abuelita’s New Mexican Kitchen on Tuesday evening. Martinez ran unopposed in the Republican primary.

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][text_output]

Lieutenant governor’s job: important or insignificant?

Quickly, name the lieutenant governor of New Mexico.

If you frowned and scratched your head, you’re like most people recently sampled in our very non-scientific survey.

It would seem the second most powerful state executive can be a bit invisible to the average student.

For the record, his name is John Sanchez and he has some high hopes for his next four years in office.

“The top priority for the administration will be to continue to work hard to create good high paying jobs for the state,” Sanchez said in a recent phone interview. “Every week it seems like the governor and the administration is announcing new job creation throughout the state.”

Sanchez and his Republican running mate, Gov. Susana Martinez, defeated Democrats Gary King and Deb Haaland 57 to 43 percent on Nov. 4. Their re-election was the largest victory by a republican in the state’s history.

As for the how important the role of the lieutenant governor is, experts gave mixed answers ranging from pretty vital to not so vital.

UNM political science professor Timothy Krebs is in the latter camp.

“The position is not particularly important, the office doesn’t come with much in the way of power,” Krebs said. “It’s really just somebody who can replace the governor or when the governor can’t fulfill the duty of the office.”

Sherri Greenburg, director of the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, argues that there is a lot more responsibility for the lieutenant governor position than people think.

“The lieutenant governor appoints all the chairs of the committees in the Senate, determines where the bills are going to be sent and to what committees and the timing; and so this is extremely powerful,” she said.

Sanchez said that being the lieutenant governor is a lot like being the backup quarterback in football.

“I would give the example of a professional football team,” he said. “The backup quarterback (lieutenant governor) everyday is going to practice, he knows every play in the book. The only difference is that he is not looking for any of the media, he knows his role as the backup.”

The job may not be glamorous, but its occupant does keep busy. In addition to presiding over the state Senate and filling in for the governor when she’s out of state, the job also includes serving on eight boards and commissions, including the State Board of Finance, the New Mexico Border Authority, the New Mexico Children’s Cabinet, Community Development Council, Military Base Planning Commission, Mortgage Finance Authority, New Mexico Spaceport Authority and the New Mexico Youth Alliance.

Sanchez earns $85,000 a year and manages a staff of four.

“I have a role that I play behind the scenes; kind of the grease that kind of keeps the gears of the state government moving,” Sanchez said. It’s not a very glamorous job, you don’t get your name in the paper, you’re not on television but the work gets done.”

Former lieutenant governor candidate and lawyer Brian Colon said the role also requires one to serve as the “ombudsman” for all state agencies.

“What I wanted that office to be was essentially chief constituent service office for the state of New Mexico,” Colon said. “That office has the capacity to allow somebody to be the number one ambassador in constituent services officer in the state of New Mexico.”

The lieutenant governor position may seem like a stepping stone to become governor, but in the history of New Mexico, this has only happened once.

The first lieutenant governor of New mexico was Ezequial Cabeza de Baca in 1812. He is the only lieutenant governor to run for governor and win the election according to Wikipedia.

He died two months into his governorship and his lieutenant governor, Washington E. Lindsey, took over.

Since then, there have only been two lieutenant governors to take over for the governor. Andrew W. Hockenhull took over office in 1933 when the governor died and Tom Bolack in 1962 when governor Edwin L. Mechem resigned after losing the reelection. Bolack served for 32 days.

Only two other lieutenant governors have run for governor. Roberto Mondragon lost the 1994 election to Gary Johnson and Diane Denish in 2011 when she lost to Susana Martinez.

Asked about his ambition for higher office, Sanchez was coy, but said if the spot arises and the opportunity presents itself, he will look at his options and decide then.[/text_output][share title=”Share this Post” facebook=”true” twitter=”true” google_plus=”true” linkedin=”true” pinterest=”true”][/vc_column][/vc_row]