1st Latino Governor of New Mexico on the Go : Controversial Policies Have Created Friends, Enemies Among Electorate

Times Staff Writer

As a boy he lived in a three-room adobe home with dirt floors, no electricity, no indoor plumbing. He was the third youngest of 10 children in the crowded house.

The beds for the large poor family were mattresses piled up against walls during the day, taken down and spread on the floors at night.

His father had a third-grade education, his mother never finished second grade. Both spoke little English.

“I learned the value of hard work at an early age,” he recalls. “We kids carried buckets of water into the house from a well, chopped wood, fed the chickens and pigs, milked the cows before and after school.


“Although my parents had very little formal education, they insisted the two most important things for their children were to live up to a high standard of morality and the worth of an education.”

Humble Beginnings

Toney Anaya, 44, the $60,000-a-year Democratic governor of New Mexico, the highest-ranking Latino elected official in the United States, was describing his humble beginnings in his home town, Moriarty, N.M., a small mountain hamlet.

Anaya’s two years as governor has been a roller-coaster ride, exhilarating highs, depressing lows.


“It has been the most exciting, most frustrating two years of my life,” sighs the governor in one of his conference rooms, the one with a cleaver nailed to a wall behind his desk.

(“Three or four reporters are walking around without fingers. The boss didn’t like their stories,” laughs David Roybal, 33, for 10 years an Albuquerque and Santa Fe print and television newsman before becoming Anaya’s press secretary.)

Anaya is a bundle of restless energy. He fidgets with a pencil. Gets up and pours himself a cup of coffee during a state Board of Finance meeting. He is a workaholic, always has been.

Two days earlier, on a sudden impulse, he decided to fly to New York to attend the American Museum of Natural History opening of the New Mexico-sponsored “Maya--Treasures of an Ancient Civilization” exhibit.

The exhibit of 272 priceless ancient artifacts brought together for the first time from Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, represents an outstanding organizational achievement for the Albuquerque Museum. From New York the exhibit travels to Los Angeles, Dallas, Toronto, Kansas City and finally to Albuquerque in late 1986.

Busy Schedule

Anaya had left the Governor’s Mansion at 5:30 a.m. to drive to Albuquerque to catch a transcontinental flight. His house sits on a plateau overlooking Santa Fe, America’s highest (7,000 feet) and oldest continuously used seat of government (since 1610.)

The governor flew to the East Coast to attend the exhibit opening, conduct other business in New York and was back home 22 hours after he left. He returned to the Governor’s Mansion at 3:30 a.m. Five hours later he was chairing the Board of Finance meeting. After that he appeared before legislative committee hearings, munched on a hamburger during a noon staff meeting, did his regular weekly public TV interview show and worked straight through to 7 p.m.


“I’m glad I went to the opening of the Mayan art exhibit. It was spectacular,” he told the Finance Board. “That exhibit will help put New Mexico on the cultural map nationally and internationally.”

Anaya worked his way through grade school, high school, Georgetown University, American University Law School. He became a successful Santa Fe attorney, then served as New Mexico attorney general from 1975 to 1978.

He ran for governor and won on a wave of idealism in November 1982 with a majority larger than that of the four previous governors combined. He and Henry Cisneros, the popular San Antonio mayor, were being touted as the two best hopes among Latino politicians as possible future candidates for vice president and President. In his inaugural address in January 1983 Anaya pledged:

“To endeavor to cast away the clouds so the sun would shine equally upon us all--the Anglo, the Hispanic, the Native American and the black; the women, the poor, the middle class and the rich; the handicapped and the able-bodied; on private enterprise and the consumer; and upon our working men and women . . . “

The ‘Round House’

As soon as he set foot in the 18-year-old adobe-colored Capitol, Anaya named minorities to chair and hold membership on nearly all boards and commissions. The Capitol is nicknamed the “round house” because of its unusual circular shape designed to represent the Zia Indian’s sacred sun symbol.

“He wanted to shake new life into government, to remake New Mexico more representative of the population, more women, more Hispanics, more Indians, more blacks, meaningful lasting change,” explains press secretary Roybal, adding:

“He dropped people in wholesale manner out of the boards and commissions and replaced them especially with women and Hispanics reflecting the gender and ethnic makeup of New Mexico, a state with a 37% Hispanic population.”


(New Mexico has an 8% American Indian population and only 24,000 blacks, according to 1980 census figures, or 1.8% of the total. The population of the state is 1.3 million according to the census report, but Anaya estimates it may be as high as 1.5 million.)

Most of Anaya’s appointments were young professionals in their late 20s, early- and mid-30s. He named four women, four Latinos, one Indian and four Anglos to his cabinet when he launched his administration.

A Lot of Criticism

There was a lot of criticism. It was too bold a move for the liking of many.

“No question, I have done more than any other governor in history for the minorities and women of this state. I don’t think any governor in America can match my accomplishments in this regard,” says the governor in an interview in his office filled with paintings, sculpture, pottery, baskets and other Indian and Latino arts and crafts, trademarks of his state.

“Today I have five women in my cabinet where only one had ever served before. I named the first woman in history to the New Mexico Supreme Court. More than half of my appointments have gone to women.”

The mining industry was going from boom to bust when Anaya became governor. Half of the state’s general fund revenues in the past had come from potash, copper, uranium and coal. So, he embarked on several trips abroad during 1983 and 1984 seeking new markets for New Mexican products.

He went to England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, the Middle East, Mexico and Central America, Taiwan and Japan on trade missions.

Last year he was out of the state extensively to actively campaign for Walter Mondale. He was one of the two people to second Geraldine Ferraro’s nomination for vice president. He was one of four national vice chairmen of Mondale’s campaign.

Anaya also traveled throughout the nation as national chairman of Hispanic Force ’84 in an effort to politically organize Latinos.

Bumper stickers began popping up on automobiles and trucks all over the state. They read:

“Toney Phone Home.”

While Anaya was busy trying to generate foreign markets for New Mexican products and active in national Latino affairs and campaigning for Mondale and Ferraro and Latino candidates outside the state, his absence became a major political issue. And, members of his own party in the Democratic-controlled state Legislature voted down his programs in both the 1983 and 1984 sessions.

In last November’s election the conservative, anti-Anaya coalition picked up new strength in both the House and Senate. The President Pro Tem of the Senate, Democrat Les Houston of Albuquerque, and the Speaker of the House Democrat Gene Samberson, of Lovington, are leaders of the conservative coalitions.

The Senate is evenly split 21 Democrats, and 21 Republicans, but the conservative coalitioncounts 24 in its corner and the loyalist group, all Democrats, number 18.

In the House there are 43 Democrats and 27 Republicans, but the conservatives total 36, including nine Democrats. The Anaya loyalists number 33 Democrats and one Republican.

There are 24 Latinos in the House, 13 in the Senate; four Indian members of the House and one in the Senate, and no black members of the Legislature.

“After last year’s election I began to wonder if I was doing the right thing, if I had taken the proper positions on issues. But any doubts I had then, I am over now,” said Anaya.

He had told newsmen earlier this year, after a series of rebuffs by the Legislature, that he was thinking of leaving politics when his term of governor is finished. “It’s not enjoyable any more,” he had said.

“Many of the Democrats in New Mexico are out-Republicaning the Republicans,” he told The Times. “Coalition government has no place in the American two-party system. It’s counterproductive. We just went through a 60-day session when very little was accomplished. Few bills of any substance were passed.

“It was totally irresponsible, a disaster.”

He has called a special session for this week to take up the matter of funding for public schools, and other crucial items that failed to be acted upon in the regular session.

Anaya defends his travels overseas to drum up business for New Mexico. “Swiss, German and French investors are developing 1,250 acres in vineyards near Truth and Consequences (a New Mexican town named after Ralph Edwards’ popular radio show of the 1950s). Taiwan is buying $4.7 million in buses assembled in Roswell and purchasing 27,000 metric tons of corn. Italians are planning tanneries near Clovis. A Swiss company is studying the possibility of a 24-mile scenic railroad in Ruidoso. There has been a sizeable Japanese investment in the state.

New Markets for Local Products

He tells of negotiations to create a new border crossing with Mexico at Santa Teresa and to establish feed lots in New Mexico to fatten Mexican cattle, and mentioned the sale of 200,000 sheep this year to Mexico.

He says no other New Mexican governor has ever ventured abroad to seek new markets for local products.

“I do not regret anything I did the first two years of my administration, but I will spend more time closer at home these last two years,” he says. “I am still evaluating my whole involvement on the national scene. I don’t want to totally close down my national activities.”

He says, however, that he has turned down national television appearances he would have readily accepted his first two years--to respond the Reagan’s state of the union message, to be a guest on “Good Morning America” and on Ted Koppel’s “Nightline” show.

“You know my political options are not that great,” he continues. “According to the state constitution, a governor cannot succeed himself. He can run again for the office after sitting out a term. Only one governor in history has done that.

“I’m not going to run for the House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate. I have no idea what I will be doing come 1987.”

Dan Lopez, 39, who was a professor of political science at the University of New Mexico for 10 years, is a member of Anaya’s cabinet, the secretary of the department of finance and administration.

“The governor has lost a lot of the popularity he had when he won his landslide victory,” says Lopez. “He wanted to do it all. He spread himself too thin campaigning for Mondale and his national Hispanic activities outside the state.

“He catches a lot of heat for a preponderance of the Hispanic and women appointments. As for the Hispanic thing, he is married to an Anglo. His three children are half Anglos. He did not make his Hispanic appointments solely at the expense of Anglos in government. He was seeking equitable representation. He wants all people, of all walks of life, to have the opportunity to contribute to the fullest extent.

“His is the great American dream. He is as patriotic as they come. . . . “

Christina Chavez, 32, an attorney, is another member of Anaya’s cabinet. “I’m young, a Chicana and a woman. The governor has been criticized for naming too many young Hispanics and women. I am all three,” she laughs and recalls when she was introduced as the new superintendent of the state Regulation and Licensing Department, Fred McCaffrey, a long-time Capitol columnist for several New Mexico papers commented: “My God. It looks like you just did your first communion. How old are you?”

Hispanic Force ’84

Chavez said Anaya’s outside-the-state efforts in developing Hispanic Force ’84 created problems for him, both with Latino and non-Latino people. “They felt the governor should have remained here. The same happened when he was active in the Mondale campaign and active in helping Latinos running for mayor in large cities.

“He was so highly regarded when he came into office two years ago. He represents a philosophy completely opposite to ‘if a wheel isn’t broken don’t fix it.’ He wants so badly to improve government, to make it work better, to improve life for all New Mexicans. He has made a dramatic breakthrough with his appointment of women to high places in government . . . “

Mary Walters, 63, an Anglo, who was chief judge of the Court of Appeals when Anaya named her the state’s first woman Supreme Court justice, says New Mexico is a “politically unbelievable state.

“Political labels don’t apply in the purest sense at all here to either Republicans or Democrats, that’s why we’re seeing the tug of war in the Legislature between the conservatives and loyalists,” she explains.

“I have a great deal of respect for Toney Anaya’s intelligence. He has been in a very difficult position most of his administration. He would like to be more active (in achieving his programs) than events or circumstances has allowed him.”