Martinez Aide Who Said Latino Icon “Sounds Like a Retard” Now Works at Agency Serving Mentally Disabled


On Wednesday, Mother Jones published a story about New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, a rising GOP star, that draws on previously unreleased audio recordings from her 2010 campaign.

In one of the many unflattering moments revealed by the tapes, Matt Kennicott, then Martinez’s deputy campaign manager and policy director, comments on the accent of former House speaker Ben Luján, saying, “Somebody told me he’s absolutely eloquent in Spanish, but his English? He sounds like a retard.”

As it turns out, Matt Kennicott now works for a state agency charged with providing key services to people with mental disabilities. As the Communications Director for New Mexico’s Human Services Department (HSD), Kennicott is, according to his LinkedIn account, responsible for developing “messaging and talking points for various program areas.” He also serves as the “chief negotiator on legislative priorities around health care and public assistance policy.”

The department’s $4.97 billion budget is the largest of any state agency. It oversees mental health services for 85,000 New Mexicans, including programs for low-income individuals with disabilities and behavioral health care for people with mental illness.

Lawrence Rael, a Democrat hoping to unseat Martinez in 2014, issued a statement shortly after the story was published calling Martinez’s decision to hire Kennicott at HSD “unconscionable.” Kennicott did not respond to multiple requests from Mother Jones to comment on the clip.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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