Politicians don’t believe it, but verbiage is their enemy. The more they say, the more skepticism they draw.
Former Republican Congresswoman Yvette Herrell and Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham are prime examples. They would rather pander at length than craft a succinct message aimed at unifying the country or improving the state.
Let’s start with Herrell. She carried water for Donald Trump after his defeat in 2020, voting against certifying the presidential elections in Arizona and Pennsylvania.
After her own defeat, Herrell left Congress during the weekend like a firefighter in Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451. She poured gasoline on flames of division.
“During my time in Congress, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with countless great patriots in New Mexico, people who are willing to fight for freedom and prosperity,” Herrell stated. “These courageous men and women remain strong in hard times and don’t care about what the media or the Washington Establishment says — as long as they’re on the side of truth and justice.”
Herrell no doubt counts herself as part of that intrepid group. Yet she voted to throw out accurate election results.
Had her maneuver succeeded, it would have stolen the votes of millions of people. She nonetheless mimicked conspiracy theories of rioters who tore through the U.S. Capitol in hopes of keeping failed candidate Trump in power.
After all that, Herrell cast herself as a freedom-loving truth teller.
Her divisive parting remarks came with a political calculation. Herrell already has filed paperwork to run for Congress in the 2024 election. Bowing once more to Trump might help Herrell fend off competitors for the Republican nomination, or so she hopes.
More likely, Herrell will face primary opposition. Republicans have watched her lose two of the last three elections in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District. With that record, Herrell shouldn’t have a free ride to the nomination.
Unlike Herrell, Lujan Grisham won reelection. The governor also inherited a new power bestowed on her by voters and state legislators.
Voters decided to stop electing people for the highly technical job of regulating public utilities. The electorate approved a constitutional amendment that reduced the state Public Regulation Commission from five elected members to three appointees.
Enabling legislation empowered the governor to select the three members. But there was a political problem, at least according to Lujan Grisham.
The special committee that evaluated applicants for the governor didn’t send Lujan Grisham any finalists from northwestern New Mexico, home of many Navajos and other tribal members.
Lujan Grisham made her appointments to the Public Regulation Commission during the last workday of 2022. Then she larded the process with a political appendage that had nothing to do with the constitutional amendment.
Lujan Grisham issued an executive order calling for a Tribal Advisory Council. “It is necessary to create a council consisting of representatives from Native American communities to advise the PRC and ensure that their communities’ unique considerations are regularly discussed with the PRC,” Lujan Grisham wrote.
Her “order” is unnecessary and unenforceable. Lujan Grisham has no say-so in the day-to-day workings of the PRC. Her attempt to tell the new commissioners how to operate is a political intrusion on what is supposed to be a professional agency.
Like everyone else, tribal members already are free to comment, criticize and advocate on utility cases. If they receive special audiences with the regulators, every utility company and special-interest group should demand the same consideration.
The Public Regulation Commission has a simple mission but a complex job. It is supposed to balance the interests of consumers with the financial needs of utility companies.
Competence was a glaring problem with the old five-member Public Regulation Commission. Inept or corrupt politicians would often win elections in geographic districts of the PRC. For instance, onetime Commissioner Jerome Block Jr., D-Española, was convicted of fraud, embezzlement and violating election laws.
Block didn’t pay attention to his constituents or any other group. He often skipped work until he was removed from the PRC because of his felony convictions.
The appointed commissioners are supposed to be many cuts above Block and other party hacks who won election to $90,000-a-year jobs on the PRC.
It’s impossible for the three-member commission to include a representative of all the old districts. The upside is supposed to be that all three appointed commissioners have solid credentials.
If Lujan Grisham chose well, her appointees would ooze competence. They would work with an open mind while holding every advocacy group at arm’s length. Tribes and all of New Mexico will be better for it.
But if Lujan Grisham chose poorly, the new PRC will resemble the old PRC. It was an agency where a couple of skillful commissioners and the professional staff carried the load. The rest of the politicians received a handsome salary for impersonating utility regulators.