ALBUQUERQUE: Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham launched her transition to power Wednesday sounding a lot like a woman who had just won a mandate.Hours after winning more votes than any gubernatorial …
ALBUQUERQUE: Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham launched her transition to power Wednesday sounding a lot like a woman who had just won a mandate.
Hours after winning more votes than any gubernatorial candidate in New Mexico state history and routing Republican Congressman Steve Pearce by 14 percent, the Democratic governor-elect sought to make clear: This will be very different business.
Saying she would leap headlong into stocking her Cabinet and strategizing with party leaders for the 60-day legislative session that begins in only two months, Lujan Grisham, speaking with reporters not far from where her election night party was held mere hours before, vowed to instill new values from the jump.
A clean energy economy. Robust investments in public education. Transparency from the fourth floor of the Capitol.
"There's something to be said for productive continuity, but 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.
Even after a Democratic wave swept eight new Democrats into seats in the state House of Representatives, Lujan Grisham's postelection message wasn't overtly partisan, as she said she would meet with legislators from both parties and seek to establish "a more cooperative environment" at the Roundhouse.
Referencing her experience as a Cabinet secretary across several gubernatorial stints, Lujan Grisham said she would allow holdover appointees from Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's administration the opportunity to vie to remain in their posts.
More important, however, was to find "the best and the brightest" individuals who can align with her vision, she said.
"I know unequivocally: Running a Cabinet is tough work, but it's incredibly rewarding," she said. "Given two years on the campaign trail, I feel very confident there are a whole lot of folks who want to give back, who want to build good government, who are really anxious and excited to have an opportunity to demonstrate their expertise for the state."
Setting aside the campaign-trail rhetoric in which Lujan Grisham often lambasted the Martinez administration, the governor-elect said she was glad to have spoken with Martinez by phone Tuesday night, calling it an "incredibly gracious and productive" talk in which Martinez offered her "full support" for the transition.
Martinez and Lujan Grisham are the first two Latina governors to be elected in the U.S. The latter signaled Wednesday she would seek to be more available than the often-reclusive Martinez, who promised at the start of her first term her administration would be the most transparent "in history."
"Making sure we have routine -- whatever that looks like -- press briefings and engagements, we are committed to doing that," Lujan Grisham said. "We want that to be a hallmark of what we do."
Former U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat who served five terms before retiring in 2013, will chair Lujan Grisham's transition team.
She said her top-line items heading into the 2019 legislative session will be economic development, renewable energy initiatives and more money for public education, including an effort to find a way to fund universal prekindergarten, a campaign promise.
"We're gonna have to figure out what that looks like," she said.
Also on the front burner for the transition team, she said, will be identifying the state's outstanding liabilities and the level of staffing at both the Children, Youth and Families Department and the Health and Human Services Department, which Lujan Grisham suggested was not up to her standard.
"Part of the transition team effort will be to take a look and confirm whether or not my suspicions are accurate," she said.
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