No, New Mexico’s GOP Governor Did Not Rail Against Obamacare Repeal

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez addresses a joint session of the House and Senate at the start of the legislative session in Santa Fe, N.M., on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
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New Mexico’s health care exchange is apologizing after a draft letter it wrote to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on behalf of the governor was leaked. The letter – in which Republican Gov. Susana Martinez purportedly warned against GOP plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act right away without a replacement – was apparently never seen by the governor, and she never even knew it existed.

The state’s Obamacare exchange is now conceding to TPM that it drafted the letter for the governor’s review and that the draft was somehow leaked.

The supposed letter–dated Dec. 12– was leaked to Politico Pro, which published a story about it Wednesday. The letter included an apparent plea from the governor herself not to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement. It circulated quickly in media and political circles given the obvious schism it seemed to suggest between Martinez and Republicans in Congress who have been clear they plan to immediately repeal the law in January. It was big news. Here, it appeared a Republican governor was sounding the alarm against carrying out one of the GOP’s biggest priorities.

The letter included the names of the governor and the superintendent at the bottom, but not their signatures. It included language like, “We want to make it clear that the ACA has provided significant benefits to New Mexico.”

The New York Times picked up the letter and Democratic groups like Americans United For Change blasted it out.

But there was apparently way more to the story.

The governor’s office, unaware of the letter’s existence, was surprised by the report and immediately moved to correct the record.

Politico Pro updated its story with a statement from the governor’s spokesman, Chris Sanchez, who was clearly upset with the state’s Obamacare exchange. “This organization has no right to communicate the governor’s views. She never saw the letter, doesn’t agree with it, and never would have signed it,” Sanchez told Politico.

Officials at the New Mexico state exchange are now corroborating that account, telling TPM they drafted the letter simply to outline what they thought the governor should say, not what she actually believed, and that they had no idea how the draft letter was leaked.

In a statement provided to TPM, the interim CEO of the New Mexico health care exchange offered an apology and reiterated that it was a draft letter that was never intended to be portrayed as the direct opinion of the governor, but was only meant to be sent to the governor’s office to explain what was at stake with the Obamacare repeal. The exchange decided to write the letter to respond to a request it knew Republicans in Congress had made to governors asking for them to weigh in on how Obamacare repeal might affect their states.

“The New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange wants to make it clear that the Governor’s office or the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance never saw or were aware of the draft letter to Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office. Both offices did not sign off on the draft because they were not even aware of its existence,” Linda Wedeen, the interim CEO of the exchange, said. “The New Mexico Health Insurance exchange regrets this draft letter was misconstrued as any kind of official or unofficial statement on behalf of the Governor’s office.”

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