Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Diane Denish / Harold Morgan Interview, 8/26/10

Transcription of interview with Lt. Gov. Diane Denish and Harold Morgan, 7:00 AM, August 26, 2010. This conversation was summarized in Harold Morgan’s syndicated column that appears in ten newspapers around New Mexico.

The interview took place in Albuquerque at a coffee shop near Denish’s and Morgan’s home. (They are neighbors.) Gov. Bill Richardson was in Cuba the day of the interview on a “trade mission.”

Transcription done by Harold Morgan. The transcription leaves out a few verbal pauses (umm, er..) and summarizes two digressions. The photos of Lt. Gov. Denish are by Mark Bralley.

* * *

Denish enters and gives Morgan a file.

Harold Morgan: I brought a file, too. I brought a file, too.

Diane Denish: You did! Well I just brought my proposals in case you needed one.

HM: I brought a few with me. With questions, even.

Oren Shur (Denish campaign manager): Diane, Harold and I are both going to record this.


HM: That way if mine doesn’t work… It didn’t work yesterday in Las Vegas at Estella’s. We have backup.

HM: Well, good morning. Thank you.

DD: Good morning. How are you?

HM: Less awake than you are. Lots of ground. Limited time. So I’m going to jump in if I may. Be focused and all that.

HM: Topic one is something I’ve wondered about since 1994. That’s when you first ran for Lt. Gov.

DD: um hm.

HM: And that’s when Patsy Madrid declared for Lt. Gov. After Casey (Luna) pulled out. And beat you. You don’t have to answer this. But I’ve always wondered (about) the tone of the language in the Denish living room after that happened. I assume the language was a little blue.

DD: You know, actually we were just surprised. Because she had signed my petition. She didn’t call and tell me. But a lot of water under the bridge since then. She’s working hard for me this year.

HM: Well, business is business and that stuff.

DD: It was a good first race for me. She and I got 76% of the vote. And there were two men in the race. I was proud of my race that year.

HM: Well, first time out and all that.

DD Yeah, exactly. And she’s been around the block a few times.

HM You’ve stuck with it then. It dawned on me that you have been on the ballot every four years since then. In 1994, were you thinking about running for governor eventually?

DD: No. I was thinking that if I won, I’d see if I liked being elected. Because everything else I’d ever done had been pretty non-profit, business oriented. Everything had been. New Mexico First. Board of regents. All those things.

I knew I could make something of the job. The one thing I knew because (unintelligible) It was seemed like it was always (unintelligible) but never very meaningful or very purposeful. The one thing I knew about the job was that I thought it could be used in a better way.

HM: But then you ran and you got beat. You ran again. Why did you run again? And again?

DD: I had really not planned to run the third time. The second time I thought it was worth a run. I think that if you don’t run again after the first time, you saying you’re out of the game. I looked at other options

I was encouraged to run against Schiff in 1996 for Congress. Chose not to do that.

Ran in ’98. Got to run through a general election. That was interesting, to be on the ticket with somebody. Then I was a party chair. Really hadn’t planned to run. I thought I would hang in there and be the party chair and help the ticket.

I got a lot of encouragement for outside people who said this is the time to run.

(I) thought about it.

I knew I was going to change my business, one way or the other. I was going to do what we did, which was to (unintelligible) my clients off in order to reinvest.

Maybe change the focus a little bit in terms of technology. It seemed like a good transitional period. If I hadn’t won, then I could go do something with my business.

Or seek a new business, actually. That’s what I was going to do.

HM: You have talked about your business over the years. It has been a key of what they call these days, your narrative, the jargon. I’ve never known what your business was. I even went so far as to check the PRC and the corporations listing and I didn’t see anything that looked like your business.

DD: I was a sole proprietor. And I started out doing, well, the reason I started the business, Harold, is because I did a voter contact program for Bruce King in 1990 and ran a project. I thought the coming thing was voter contact. We didn’t do in 19990 what we do today. We didn’t have robocalls. So it was person to person.

So I started the business.

Then I got contacted by lots of other people who do lots of other things. Research. Small donor base building.

So I had non-profit clients, corporate clients. Mostly part time employees.

Once I got through the first two years. At the end I had three full time. At my highest time I had 26 part time employees. Every two weeks. People that needed extra work. Most of them were either moms that went to work after school, in the night, people that were trying to just get extra hours of work.

You’d be surprised how many people I run into today that say I used to work for you at the Target Group while I went to school.

HM: It’s called the Target Group.

DD: A lot of my clients are still in business. The non-profits. The for-profits.

HM: One of the things that you have gotten flack about is your relationship with the Governor and the broader administration. Well, first of all, to interject, I’m operating on the premise that the state is a mess, both economically and within the administration. It is that a fair premise?

DD: Well, I think that we’re in a global economic downturn. So financially, we’re very, very challenged. Comparatively to the rest of the country, we’re actually better off than many other(s). I don’t know what our ranking is.

I know Texas has a $1.3 billion deficit. Colorado has a $1.4 billion deficit. Arizona has a four point something billion dollar deficit.

I think that in terms of fiscally we’re not weathering the storm, but we

have to deal with a $150 million deficit.

HM: That’s the current number? The $150 (million)?

DD: The $150. Right. And we expected that to be this year. My current information is this year and next year, that we’ll have the budget year 2011 and 2012. We don’t know about 2013.

The other thing is, we’re in a transitional period. When the governor’s leaving, people start leaving.

I would tell you there are a lot of people in state government who are working their butts off to do their jobs. Social workers, correctional facility people, tax and revenue people. There are a lot of people working their tails off.

A lot of the things the Governor has been criticized for, the State Investment Council, almost all of things have been corrected in the last session. The criticisms of the third party administrators and all that. Those rules have been changed, either administratively or by legislation the governor signed. Those are going to be the rules for the next governor.

HM: In thinking about this it dawned on me…

DD: There are only three states in the country that are not in budget deficit situations. You know that I assume.

HM: That are not in budget deficit.

DD: There are only three of 50 states. Illinois is cratering. California is cratering. Arizona sold their public buildings and are leasing them back.

HM: They of course may get in big trouble on that 20 years down the road.

In thinking about this, though, it occurred to me that there are really two pieces of what might be called “the issue with the administration.” One is the policy part of it. Then one is what you might call the culture.

It dawned on me that they are really quite separate. On the policy side, do you have any real significant or even middle range significant issues with what the administration has done the last eight years?

DD: On the policy side… That’s a pretty broad question.

HM: Well, yeah. That’s why I asked “significant.”

DD: I think it’s more on how I would operate with the legislature. I would operate differently with the legislature a little bit. Be a little more collaborative with the Senate and the House. The House seems to be fine. The Senate needed a lot of work in terms of relationship building.

I’m trying to think if there’s something… In the short term right now, I’ve been pushing for the administrative practices act. The things that will make from a business standpoint, predictability, processes available to business.

The Governor, that wasn’t one of his priorities at all. I would have operated differently from that standpoint. I think business, whether you’re regulated strictly, or not regulated at all or just considering that business deserves predictability, timelines, a predictable process. We’ve been working for two years and a half, almost three years on that administrative practices act. Now it’s finally getting a solid hearing.

Those are things I would have done differently.

(Digression to consider schedule)

DD: I have a totally different style than the Governor. The other thing I just have to say is, I believe that governing, if you do a good job being a governor, your legacy follows you. You don’t have to follow it out in any one area.

As Lt. Gov., I have some key areas and I’ve had success. I couldn’t be prouder of anything than that microlending program. I travel around the state. I meet hundreds of people who would have never had access to a $500 or a $1,000 loan if it hadn’t been for ACCION, WESST (Corp.) the loan development fund, the microlender who benefited from that one little tweak in the law.

Don Kidd was the crafter of the SBIC. At first he didn’t want to do it. Now he’s the biggest user and the biggest proponent. I asked him if he’d give me a statement about it. He said, yes, I’d tell them you were a lot smart than I was.

There’s the policy side. Then there’s the stylistic side. I’m just different than the Governor. Everyone will tell you that.

HM: I know that quite well. I‘m partly kidding here, but I’m just idly curious about a specific item. Within your thinking about economic development, do you have any trips to Cuba on the agenda?

DD: Not in the first four years. I don’t smoke cigars.

HM: I forgot by the way, I should have said, “Good morning, Governor.”

DD: Yes, exactly. You saw my security guard Herb Denish out there with me. He gets a dollar a year, or two dollars.

HM: Yes, I did. Coming to this, the differences. Coming back at it in another way. You of course are very much an establishment person in New Mexico. Second generation establishment person By becoming governor, you would inherit the mantle of leading the establishment. Some would argue that the establishment got us in the mess.

We might disagree about degree of mess. We could spend a lot of time on other states and their money. We’re not going to do that.

But how would you respond to that notion? The sort of contra notion is, “Throw the establishment out.” How do you respond to that notion?

DD: I think people who want someone who will talk straight to them. You made an important point here. I’m a second generation New Mexican. And I have a stake in the game here. Very different from my opponent and from the governor. And I have a third generation of New Mexicans and a fourth generation of New Mexicans following behind me that live in our neighborhood.

I think what people want is, they want somebody who is thoughtful about our future, who is thinking about beyond their own legacy about what’s good for New Mexico, who they believe is on their side because they also know it’s important to us, it’s

important to you, it’s important to me.

And it’s not for personal gain. I think those are the things that people are looking for. They have to believe, they want to know that I understand what its like to own a business and make a payroll, what it was like to be a single mom, what it was like to raise three children.

What it was like to put my dad in a full care living facility when he had Alzheimer’s.

People want to know you have lived their lives in a way. And that you care about where they live. They don’t want somebody that’s off to do their own thing.

People ask me if I’m going to sell our house in our neighborhood. I say absolutely not. Being governor is a temporary job. I’m going to go back to my neighborhood.

And I haven’t been on the government payroll all my professional life like my opponent has. Every single day of her professional life, CYFD for a short time and the DA’s office for twenty… whatever.

HM: And (the Governor) has been on the public payroll almost all of his adult life.

DD: Isn’t that a funny similarity between the two of them.

HM: And that’s interesting, and that gets to cultural things. More culture. New Mexico, as is often said, is a small population state. Lots of folks know one another. Key folks in New Mexico grew up Hobbs and went to high school together and have ended up running, chairing significant pieces of state government. Names aren’t germane here. That’s not the point.

DD: Right.

HM: I would argue that the specific (department) I’m thinking of is in a huge mess. How would go to someone who has been an acquaintance if not maybe quite a friend for forty years plus and say you’re not going to be part of my administration because there was a problem. How do you do that?

DD: You know what, I don’t think you separate anybody out, even your friends. I think you say, I’m the new Governor. What I expect is people to respectfully give me their resignations. Tell me if they’d like to serve or not. And then make my choices about what I think needs to be done.

All of that will be done in the context of smart reorganization. Looking at our proposal for efficiency and jobs.

Making sure we’re designing a cabinet that works in the time that we’re in.

All my friends know that. People that I know in government that are new friends, old friends, long-time friends.

You know half of the people in this state are not people who grew up here. There’s lots and lots of valuable expertise available to us now, especially in this climate, where people are maybe even job hunting. They have lots of valuable educational, as well as worldly expertise. I think new governors have the opportunity to gather that around and make new recommendations.

I would submit to you that people that are on all these boards and commissions that have worked very, very hard, eight years is a long time for them. That may be their level of service. Long time friendships will endure if they’re friendships, whether you put them on a board or commission or not.

That’s what I know about New Mexico.

People I know that are my fifty-year friends are not going to not be my friends because I don’t name them to a board or commission. They’re also not going to be my enemy. They’re going to want to continue to be my friend. Because at the end of the day after you’re governor, that’s what endures.

(Discussion of follow-up interview)

DD: Let me just say about… I have a rooted upbringing in New Mexico and in Hobbs. My longest time friends are from various communities, from the university, all around. I’m not going to throw them under the bus. They’re not going to throw me under the bus. At the end of the day, we’re still going to be friends. Do we argue? Yep. Do we disagree? Yep.

HM: Yep.

DD: I’m not trading them in for any Governor’s license plate. They’re not going to trade me in for any board or commission appointment.

HM: Thank you.

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