She gets an F in running confirmation hearings
Thousands of words have been wasted to describe the way state Sen. Linda Lopez handles confirmation hearings for cabinet appointees.
All it takes is a sentence to sum up Lopez's performance: She is slow but inconsistent.
Lopez, D-Albuquerque, moved like molasses in January when it came to the candidacy of Hanna Skandera, secretary-designate of public education.
Lopez, right, was faster in considering the nomination of Gregg Marcantel, who runs the state prison system. But this was only because she believed she could knock Marcantel from office and gain publicity in the process.
No cabinet nominee was treated worse by Lopez than Marcantel, but Skandera gets more attention.
Gov. Susana Martinez hired Skandera in January 2011 to head the state Public Education Department. After almost three years on the job, Skandera still has not received a confirmation vote from Lopez's Senate Rules Committee.
This roadblock, set up by Lopez herself, has prevented the full Senate from deciding whether Skandera should be confirmed or fired.
The absurdity of Skandera's situation was highlighted inadvertently last week by state Sen. George Munoz. His frustration with Skandera is boiling over.
One of Munoz's children attends Gallup High School. Munoz, a Democrat, said so much time at school was devoted to standardized testing that learning and intellectual curiosity were dying.
Desperate, Munoz said he wanted the Legislature's education study committee to evaluate Skandera.
But if Lopez had done her job correctly, Skandera would have been evaluated months or years ago through the established process of a Senate confirmation hearing and vote.
Lopez finally began a hearing for Skandera last winter, the start of Skandera's third year on the job. The hearing dragged for 10 hours across three days, but Lopez never allowed a vote on Skandera's nomination.
Instead, Lopez piled up requests for records and more background on Skandera's performance.
Now Lopez is running for governor, and Skandera is either a lingering problem or potential benefit for a campaign stuck in mud.
Lopez, in a phone interview Tuesday, promised that Skandera will get a vote in 2014.
She says the process has been thorough, but Lopez is full of excuses about why Skandera's hearing has taken so long. Lopez got sick in 2011 and missed the final part of a 60-day legislative session. Lopez's mother fell ill in 2012, when the Legislature had a 30-day session. Lopez's inquiry of Skandera in 2013 still has unanswered questions.
But even those with bad memories know that Lopez's explanation is hollow.
In January 2012, Lopez scheduled and held a confirmation vote on Marcantel, who had been appointed only two months earlier.
Marcantel, right, was Martinez's second choice to run the prison system. The first corrections secretary was eased out by Martinez after only eight months.
In reviewing Marcantel's nomination, Lopez thought she had caught him in a lie.
Marcantel, a burly former Marine, might be the straightest shooter in all of state government. At his hearing, he answered every question from Lopez and her Senate committee with grace, intelligence and honesty.
Then the Senate confirmed him in a couple of hours on a 38-1 vote. Only Lopez opposed him.
Lopez made time for Marcantel's hearing because she thought she would get his scalp. But during that same period, she said there was no opportunity for Skandera to receive a hearing.
This made sense only on one level. Lopez did not have the votes to fire Skandera, so she stalled.
It also should be noted that the Senate Rules Committee has 10 members. The absence of one member -- including chairwoman Lopez -- because of illness or emergency should not paralyze the confirmation system.
Even the federal government can be faster than Lopez.
The U.S. Senate needed 35 days to hold hearings and a confirmation vote on Clarence Thomas, the most controversial Supreme Court nominee of the last 25 years.
Lopez will take at least 30 times that long for a vote on Skandera. As a chairwoman running a committee, Lopez gets an F.