Restaurants have food and beverages. In Santa Fe during the legislative session they also have lobbyists and government officials. What restaurants do not have, especially in dining areas open to the public, is any expectation of privacy.
Speaking loud enough that people at other tables to hear you clearly makes what you say fair game.
Yesterday, during a meeting with a few folks at the Rio Chama in Santa Fe, several men sat down at the table behind me. They looked and sounded like lobbyists, and a bit like the country club set from southeastern New Mexico.
A few minutes later, there was a very loud voice that greeted the men at the table behind me. The voice, probably the most recognizable in New Mexico thanks to the now famous recording made by Roswell Firefighter Brian Powell belonged to Susana Martinez’s chief of staff Keith Gardner.
Gardner made some told some loud jokes a few at the expense of Tim Jennings, the former Senate Pro Tem who in Powell’s recording Gardner called every name in the book, and Carrie Menapace, the young APS lobbyist who accused him of physically and verbally abusing her during last year’s legislative session.
Gardner laughed and the men with him chuckled.
Eventually Gardner got around to discussing the legislative session that had just started. It was really interesting to hear the administration’s take on the session as stated by Gardner.
Gardner didn’t talk about the senate. Instead he talked about the meeting he attended with Governor Martinez and Ken Martinez, the newly elected Democratic speaker of the house. Gardner stated that he and the governor met with the new speaker for two hours on Tuesday night. Governor Martinez was apparently quite excited by the speaker’s declarations of his intent to work together with the governor.
There was genuine excitement in Gardner’s voice as he described the good feelings stemming from the meeting with Ken Martinez to the men at his table. This appeared to be much more than the usual declarations of trying to find common ground. It sounded from Gardner that the governor expects genuine cooperation from the new speaker allowing her to advance her agenda.
As intriguing as it was to listen to Gardner’s take on the session, I had to leave to go to an appointment. When I got up to leave, it became clear that Gardner had no idea that I was sitting at the table behind them. The look on his face when he recognized me was as they say in the Visa ads “priceless”.