In a recent article at Politico.com, writers Ben Smith and Byron Tau hold Brian Sandoval and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez forth as shining Republican examples. The piece is titled “Some govs succeed with softer touch”:
But a look toward the West finds some rookie GOP state leaders — New Mexico’s Susana Martinez and Nevada’s Brian Sandoval in particular — who have accomplished some of the same conservative policy goals as their higher-profile counterparts with a fraction of the backlash, and it is their example that may prove more useful to 2012 Republican gubernatorial hopefuls.
Beautiful. Can you feel the Sandoval brand coalescing? Smith and Tau continue:
But the two governors also won, to different degrees, dramatic victories on the core issue of education reform, infuriating teachers’ unions and cutting spending without alienating parents.
During the latest legislative session I attended two public meetings at a pair of Washoe County high schools where enraged and utterly alienated parents learned the details of Sandoval’s proposed education budget. Does anyone remember two massive student rallies at the state capital? Smith and Tau refer to a Republican poll commissioned by the committee to reelect Brian Sandoval and blessed by Jon Ralston to conclude parents were not alienated. . And there you have it, manufactured popularity. What is the motto at R&R Partners? “Build and protect the brand.”
Smith and Tau congratulate Sandoval for his head down attitude and civility.
Sandoval and Martinez have fought to keep their heads down and the ideological stakes low. In a nation clamoring for compromise and political civility, theirs is a model to watch.
How is “civility” judged? Is taking a pledge to not raise taxes ideologically loaded? A budget is a moral document. I judge Governor Sandoval on the civility of his school budget. As proposed, Sandoval’s ill-advised lack of support for education would have been devastating for the state’s K-20 schools. Smiling when you stab me in the back does not justify the deed. And who do Smith and Tau use as a source to establish the governor came out of the legislative session a winner, R&R Partners chief lobbyist and Sandoval advisor Pete Ernaut:
Sandoval, too, avoids talking in ideological or partisan terms, which his aides and advisers see as crucial to his good relations with voters and legislators.
“The governors who are in trouble are those who have drawn a hard line in the sand and are unwilling to yield,” said Pete Ernaut, one of Sandoval’s closest confidants. “Though he may have entered the legislative session looking like a hard-nosed conservative, he exited the session as a practical moderate.”
Once again I point out what Ernaut, “one of Sandoval’s closest confidants,” does for a living. Mammoth corporations pay him money to queer the state’s political and legislative systems in his clients’ favor. Smith and Tau seem determined to paint Sandoval a post session winner:
Sandoval – with the support of Democrats in the Legislature – defeated his teachers union to win a broader victory on ending traditional teacher tenure and instituting merit pay. But he compromised elsewhere: When the State Supreme Court ruled that the state had to stop using local funds to close state budget gaps, he raised more than $600 million in new taxes, abandoning a pledge and infuriating some conservatives — but bringing along enough Republican legislators to close the deal.
“People understood that this was the reality: that as the governor, as a leader, I had to deal with this in a very short period of time,” he told POLITICO.
The resulting cuts to education, after losing $600 million in revenue, would have been political suicide, and Sandoval and his handlers know it. And the taxes Smith and Tau say Sandoval “raised” were already in force. Sandoval agreed to prevent their sunset.
Another point worth making, Nevada K-12 schools are already some of the worst funded in the nation. The education budget that resulted from Sandoval’s big compromise is an embarrassment, not a triumph for schools or students.
If you follow the series of fluff pieces lavished on the Sandoval administration over the past several weeks, there is a PR push underway to make the governor look good after the last legislative session. If he had to be known and stand on the level of funding he initially proposed for the state’s schools and colleges, I can’t help but hope the roaring parents of Washoe County school kids I saw will make it their business to vote Sandoval and Republicans out, no matter how loving the media.Tweet