SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – Democrats called Wednesday for Republican Gov. Susana Martinez to apologize after the liberal publication, Mother Jones, released recordings in which she and aides used profanity and offensive names to describe political opponents.
The governor, who's seeking re-election this year and is viewed as a possible rising star in national GOP ranks, also came under fire for making critical remarks about public school teachers while telling aides that it was a view that couldn't be expressed publicly during her campaign.
"Governor Martinez and her aides' comments are inexcusable. We have clear proof of her intent to deceive voters and her disdain for anyone who has differing views," said Lawrence Rael, one of the five Democrats running for governor in the June primary election.
Martinez campaign spokesman Chris Sanchez didn't issue an apology on behalf of the governor but acknowledged that the governor "used salty language in a private conversation four years ago with close advisers and will pay the appropriate penalty to the cuss jar."
The campaign sent an email to Martinez supporters noting that Martinez had referred to her 2010 general election opponent, then Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, "using the B-word" in a conversation with advisers.
The recordings were part of an unflattering profile of Martinez posted online by Mother Jones magazine.
Sanchez dismissed the article and Democratic criticisms.
"That the national left is trying to smear the first Hispanic woman governor in American history because they view her as a threat is about as surprising as the National Enquirer reporting that Elvis is still alive," Sanchez said in a statement.
The recordings were "private conversations undoubtedly sent to them by individuals or their allies who are either under federal indictment, or have had their homes raided by the FBI for their role in stealing or distributing Gov. Susana Martinez's email," he said.
A former campaign manager for the governor pleaded not guilty last year to federal charges that he hijacked the campaign's email system after Martinez became governor in 2011.
Martinez, in one of the recordings, privately suggests public school teachers may earn too much.
"During the campaign, we can't say it, I guess, because it's education, but I really keep going back to that ... keeping the teachers from feeling the pain when they already don't work, you know, two and a half months out of the year or three months out of the year but earn salaries at the same rate of people who do work 12 months a year," Martinez said in the recording.
Leaders of educational unions said the governor's remarks were demeaning to teachers.
"I wish the governor's words came as more of a surprise, but they don't. Gov. Martinez has been unabashed in her strategy to attack teachers and dismantle public education in New Mexico," said Stephanie Ly, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico.
Educational unions have opposed many of the governor's policies, including a new teacher-evaluation system.
In another recording, Martinez asks about the purpose of the state Commission on the Status of Women and campaign aides profanely joke about the organization. Martinez laughs at the comments.
A campaign aide in another recording suggested that then New Mexico House Speaker Ben Luján's English-language skills made it appear the Democratic leader had a disability — using a disparaging term to describe the condition. Luján died in 2012.
Luján's son, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, said in a statement that his mother and family "are genuinely hurt and offended by what was said."
"The decision by Gov. Martinez to surround herself with staff like this speaks volumes about her leadership and character. It sends a message that this behavior is acceptable," Luján said. "Using such derogatory terms for women or those who interchange English and Spanish when they speak should not be tolerated."
The former campaign aide, Matt Kennicott, said in a statement that he "was repeating a direct quote of what someone else had said and I apologize if that offended or hurt anyone."
"I was relaying this to someone in private and obviously would not have used this language otherwise, as I knew full well that the governor's sister is developmentally disabled," said Kennicott, the spokesman for the Human Services Department.