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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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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