Thursday, December 14, 2017

Lujan Grisham And Her First Year On The Trail; Plus: New PR Faces For Keller And More Debate On ABQ Animal Agency Boss 

Lujan Grisham
Could it already be a year since Rep. Michelle Lujan announced her candidacy for the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nomination? The general public barely notices but the insiders marvel at how these expensive campaigns launch so early.

To mark her one year anniversary on the trail Grisham released a video and asked her supporters to gather the required signatures for her to get on the ballot.

She remains the front-runner in the race, far outpacing her rivals in fund-raising and name ID, but the year ended for her on a somewhat rocky note.

Her decision to ask Senator Michael Padilla to get out of the race for lieutenant governor--which he did--was hailed by her progressive backers but drew noticeable grumbling in other wings of the party. And the surfacing of a transgender intern who accused Grisham of discrimination while working for her further added to the rocky close for the year.

Political pros tell us there is a narrow window for Jeff Apodaca, currently seen as her strongest challenger. They say he may need to pull a surprise at the March Democratic preprimary nominating convention or Grisham's nomination could look inevitable.

Also in the hunt are state Sen. Joe Cervantes and progressive Peter DeBenedittis who will need some surprises of their own.

But what the field needs most is a fumble by the congresswoman. She has held the ball for a year and forcing her to drop it remains the best hope for any upset. Otherwise it will be on to Grisham vs. Rep. Steve Pearce for the title of Governor.

One of those who help Grisham from fumbling is her communications director Gilbert Gallegos. But he won't be with her for the final push. He is joining the Mayor Keller administration as communications director for the troubled ABQ police department.

Gallegos will bring a respected civilian face to the PR team which lost major credibility when two spokesmen--one a civilian and another an officer out and out lied to the media and were disciplined for doing so.

Gallegos, who is a former political reporter for the ABQ Tribune and a top aide to Gov. Richardson, knows the rules of the game. He should be able to restore some of the trust the media and public have lost in the truth-telling ability of APD.

Keller's belief appears to be that putting a civilian PR expert into the mix will ensure that the department puts its best foot forward but also sheds the overly protective and bunker mentality that has infected the department's community relations.

The mayor has also named Alicia Manzano as his Interim Communications Director. She is a longtime PR specialist, a native of ABQ who speaks Spanish and holds a Masters in Public Administration from UNM.


They just can't resist. An Alligator of the Republican variety chimes in:

Joe, I see that Gov. Martinez has a new political action committee working to boost her popularity called Legacy PAC. It reminds me of  Legacy.com, the site that lists all the obituaries. That seems appropriate.


It's true as we blogged Wednesday that two NM lieutenant governors became governor when chief executives died. But there was also a third who assumed the top job and like the other two was never elected to the governorship in their own right. That would be Lt. Governor Tom Bolack who in 1962 was named Governor when Gov. Ed Mechem appointed himself to a US Senate vacancy.

Thanks to photographer and armchair historian Mark Bralley for that catch.


One of the Alligators on the beat Wednesday worked to shoot down the possibility of Jim Ludwick taking command of the Animal Welfare Department under Mayor Keller. But Lisa Jennings of Animal Protection Voters of NM responds to that Gator strike with a spirited defense of Ludwick, a former ABQ Journal reporter, now an animal analyst, who has in the past tangled with the department's leadership:

Joe, I don’t know which Alligator you relied on for your information, but what they provided about Jim Ludwick and AWD was almost entirely a work of fiction.

Ludwick has been a tireless advocate of animals for decades, and probably knows more about the AWD operation than anyone. . . Jim has served under three mayors and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the budget, the department's operation, and its needs. . . He oversaw the successful completion of a massive physical expansion of the shelter and a new spay-neuter facility, he built a city-wide coalition to successfully address the tragic situation with street cats (dramatically driving down cat euthanasia rates), and he has promoted the sensible idea that the department should have professionals (like the veterinary and professional kennel staff) leading decisions about animal care and disposition in the kennels.

Jim has shared with Animal Protection Voters his vision for the entire operation. . .  That vision involves building a stronger field officer operation, and most importantly ramping up a spay-neuter division that will reduce the crushing number of animals the staff and volunteers have to try to manage humanely. . .

Finally, your Alligator was dead wrong on another point. Jim has worked with Animal Protection Voters to OPPOSE breed-specific legislation every time it rears its ugly head in the legislature. A small group of people continue to lie about Jim’s position on this issue on Facebook.

Okay, we've now covered both sides of this one. Our furry friends await the mayor's decision.


We end our blogging week with a kind note from Berlin and former UNM professors Jim and Connie Thorson who are doing research there but still enjoying the blog:

Hello Joe, You are our favorite blogger, too! Thought we would bring this to your attention since we did not vote in the ABQ The Magazine contest. Your blog always tells us things we need to know but don't know. We find it especially interesting and informative when we are away from NM. We are in Berlin now and will be for seven more weeks. It is a city we find amazingly interesting, and we are enjoying all the delights it has to offer--music, museums, historical sites, excellent food. Keep up the great blogging! We depend on it! Happy Holidays!

Gosh, the holidays are upon us already. Enjoy the parties this weekend and we'll see you back here Monday.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Looking For A Legacy: New PAC Comes With Ads Bolstering Martinez And Mayor Keller Has A Pet Project Ahead Of Him  

It's the Legacy PAC and it's trying mightily to create a legacy for Governor Susana Martinez who enters her final year as governor January 1 and who has by most accounts a thin record of wins.

In a radio spot the PAC tries to make lemonade out of lemons when it comes to the state's high jobless rate by wrapping Martinez in the arms of Facebook:

It was Facebook official. Gov. Susana Martinez went to California, convinced Facebook to come to New Mexico, creating nearly a thousand jobs. And just last week more big news. Facebook announced its investment will now be $1 billion in New Mexico, tripling their size and creating even more jobs.

Fact check: Facebook is planning on spending $1 billion over the next five years to build its Los Lunas data farm, but the number of permanent jobs when it's all done will only be about 300. The big boost will be the temporary construction jobs.

Back to the spot:

New Mexico was  hit hard by the federal budget crunch, by federal defense cuts, then again by the global oil crash--factors outside our control. But we're coming back thanks to Gov. Martinez and local leaders fighting to make New Mexico more competitive, less dependent on federal spending. By cutting taxes 37 times small business are growing and we're attracting big companies like Facebook. That's why New Mexico was recently named top ten in the nation in private sector job growth. Call Gov. Martinez and tell her to keep fighting to grow jobs in New Mexico. . . 

The state has indeed been hurt by external factors like federal spending, but shortly upon taking office Martinez closed the state office in DC that watchdogged federal funding. As for making the state less dependent on federal spending, we have yet to reclaim the employment level sfrom when the recession started ten years ago and continue to have a declining or stagnant population growth.

As for cutting taxes 37 times, most of that is a reference to various tax cuts already on the books and being automatically renewed. Her big tax cut was the 2013 reduction in the corporate income tax. However, that tax has ended up costing the state much more than predicted and the gobs of corporate jobs promised as a result of the tax cut have not materialized.

The spot is right in saying there has been recent private sector employment growth, but the jobs being created are mainly of the low-paying variety.

Gov. Martinez's popularity has plummeted into the 30's and there's no reason to believe it will rebound. The slick radio spot does its best to make wine out of water but the fact is Martineznomics has not been a success.


A reader who follows such matters says Legacy PAC is organized as a (501 (c) (4) for which records are hard to come by and none could be found, but our Republican reader reports that they believe the PAC spent only about $7,000 for the radio buy.

The PAC also put out a mailer that you can see here. Martinez's longtime political consultant Jay McCleskey is heading up this PAC as he has with others in the past.


Given the recent news backdrop it's probably a good time to note that no lieutenant governor in state history has ever been elected in their own right to the office of Governor. Two lieutenant governors have assumed the governorship upon the death of the executive and another via a gubernatorial resignation but none of them were later elected. John Sanchez, the current Lt. Governor, has decided not to make a Guv run in '18.

And we stopped in at the ABQ downtown Brixens where new ABQ Mayor Keller is sometimes spotted. It was a a good tip as we immediately ran into one of the Alligators who laid this on us:

Joe, if a strong female candidate got into the Dem lieutenant governor race she could clean up the field. What about BernCo Assessor Tanya Giddings or state Sen. Linda Lopez who has run for the position before or former BernCo Commissioner Deanna Archuleta? This looks like an opportunity but it is passing quickly. 

Okay, ladies, start your engines.

Reader Michele Connelly writes:

Speaking as an out gay woman who’s lived and worked rurally in NM for 37 years, you’re exactly right, Joe, that Javier Gonzales being gay would be an issue in the lieutenant governor race in rural NM. Your critics are the “dinosaurs" for not getting out of the metro corridor and experiencing something other than New Mexico Magazine. His being Hispanic (a plus in most of the state) would be canceled out by being from Santa Fe (anywhere south and east of the metro). And while he wouldn’t be accosted or slurred for being gay there aren’t enough rural Dem voters for whom being led by one isn’t an issue. I doubt it’s radical feminism as much as the basic city/country split. Don’t get caught up in the nonsense!

Thanks for that, Michele. In this era nonsense abounds.


Ludwick (Bralley)
Mayor Keller is busy looking over all the department directors that now fall under his command. This Alligator games out the maneuvering to head one important agency:

An upcoming appointment could have animal lovers who voted for Keller wondering if they made the right choice. Mayor Keller could make a misstep in hiring Jim Ludwick as his Albuquerque Animal Welfare director. Mr. Ludwick has been lobbying hard for the post and campaigned for Keller.

Ludwick was apparently instrumental in the ABQ Journal's story, throwing the then shelter director under the bus, alleging that Animal Welfare was adopting out "dangerous dogs." Mr. Ludwick in fact lacks any education or experience with animals, and does not have the support of shelter staff or volunteers.

The shelter is currently a bright spot for Albuquerque. It has great public support and, under its past few directors, has greatly increased its adoption rates and lowered its euthanasia rates. The picture would likely grow far dimmer under a Ludwick leadership, who appears to favor the type of outdated and debunked breed-specific regulations that cost the city of Montreal its reputation and important tourist dollars.

Ludwick, an animal analyst, is a former ABQ Journal City Hall reporter who went to work for the agency under Mayor Chavez and then under Mayor Berry became a whistle blower about his boss, Director Barbara Bruin. She was forced out of the department in '16 after accusations that she released dangerous dogs for adoption rather than have them euthanized. She disputed the charges and was given another position within the department.

The director position has been a hot seat. The latest director resigned amid controversy as soon as Keller took over. The department is currently being supervised by interim Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael.

Maybe the mayor goes out of state for a director to cool things down and keep the barking at animal welfare at a minimum?

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tables Turned: Grisham Who Scored Sen. Padilla For Sex Harassment Comes Under Fire For Alleged Transgender Discrimination, Plus: Dems Pile On The Blog Over Gonzales Lt. Gov Run; We Respond 

Riley Del Ray (New Mexican)
As we said on the Monday blog, to the consternation of some Democrats, the fact is the whole matter of sex and sex harassment is not cutting their way.

No sooner had front-running Dem Guv contender Michelle Lujan Grisham and her acolytes popped the champagne corks over State Senator Michael Padilla dropping his lieutenant governor candidacy--at the urging of Grisham--than Grisham found herself wearing the same shoes as Padilla. Take a look :

A recent UNM graduate says she was fired from an internship in Rep. Lujan Grisham’s office because she is transgender. Riley Del Rey, 26, says she is raising the allegations now, nearly three years after the internship, because of a slew of stories about sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. But missing in the nationwide debate, she says, are the views of transgender people. Lujan Grisham said through a spokesman that neither she nor her office would discriminate against anyone. “Our office takes the rights of the [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community very seriously, and we are dumbfounded by any suggestion that we would discriminate against anyone for any reason." Lujan Grisham’s office referred questions about Del Rey’s internship to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, the nonprofit organization that had hired her.

Is that wild, or what? The sooner Grisham gets out of the sex mess and on to the economy, jobs, poverty, education and other pressing issues of the day, the better off she'll be. Meanwhile, one Michael Padilla is saying with a smirk: "Welcome to my world, Michelle."

(Riley Del Ray video explaining her complaint is here.)


The local radical feminists were having a field day on Facebook criticizing yer little ol' blog for daring to say that the gayness of Santa Fe Mayor Gonzales could be an issue with conservative rural voters (it will be).

Piling on were failed ABQ mayoral candidate Deanna Archuleta who called us a "dinosaur" not an "Alligator" and urged an advertising boycott of the blog (guess there will be no ads from Deanna's wealthy doctor husband), under-the-radar Dem political consultant Heather Brewer and her Beta hubby who were so beside themselves that he called us a "pig." Well, a big "oink" to that.

Hubbie Heather's Facebook is filled with Hillary glorification--and we all know how she supported the piggish behavior of Bill. Now the pig reference sent our direction makes sense.

Brewer also vows to never read the blog again. Well, we vow never to mention her again until she wins something. Gonna be a very long wait. . .

Also feeling their oats were ABQ Dem State Rep. Gail Chasey, the lawmaker that time forgot, Matt Ross, the paid Gonzales political operative who needs a job--any job--and said we equated sex harassment with gayness. (We may not have written with clarity but we did no such thing.)

Maybe these folks should talk to Ms. Riley Del Rey before they mouth off some more?

The sad part of this is that for eight years these consultants and wanna be important politicos have been absolutely rolled by Gov. Martinez and her political consultant Jay McCleskey who have scored victory after victory in a Dem majority state and who have cowed the Brewer political consultancy class into absolute submission and humiliation.

Meanwhile, these consultants and candidates have collected fat checks and/or campaign donations and failed our state--abysmally. Now, as the cycle turns in the Dems favor--with no thanks to them--they are getting brave--and arrogant.

As the news of the transgender complaint against her demonstrates, Grisham needs to get a handle on her hyperactive hand maidens and start getting real about the crucial issues facing this state. In other words, Michelle, put the sexcapades to bed, start reining in your kiddie corp and be a real leader. And if she can't, what's wrong with Jeff Apodaca or Joe Cervantes? Nothing. That's what.


When state Senate Democrats caucus this Saturday in ABQ we don't see them stripping Michael Padilla of his majority whip position. He's already been forced out of the Dem lieutenant governor race by Lujan Gisham. If Padilla was further demoted over sex harassment charges from a decade ago--when he wasn't in the Senate--it could appear that Grisham was running the senate show--not the senators.

Still, Padilla's strength is being tested. Our sources report that ABQ Senator Mimi Stewart has been making inquiries about the post in the event Padilla is dumped.

Padilla has already paid a steep price and will probably never be able to advance into statewide politics. Not a pleasant thought to contemplate at the age of 45. Is that reason enough to not make Whip Padilla the Senate's whipping boy?

Reader and Dem activist Theresa Trujeque says of the changed atmosphere in Santa Fe:

It is about time that lobbyists and legislators receive training in sexual harassment if they think a hand shake or a peck on the cheek will be considered sexual harassment. If they have not done anything wrong in the past why do they think they have to change the way they act. All it takes is treating women with the respect they deserve. It is not too much to ask.


So far in New Mexico it is two Democratic politicians who have fallen from grace over sex harassment charges--the aforementioned Padilla and former Northern State Rep. Thomas Garcia who is accused by lobbyist Vanessa Alarid of offering to vote for a bill she was supporting if he would have sex with her. Now some Dems are reminding anyone who will listen of a past alleged transgression by Gov. Martinez Chief of Staff Keith Gardner. Longtime Martinez critic Michael Corwin resurrected the 2012 Gardner controversy:

To date, there has been no reckoning for Keith Gardner, who as Governor Martinez’s Chief-of-Staff, engaged in one of the most blatant and abusive acts when he very publicly assaulted and battered a young female Albuquerque Public School lobbyist, and did so in front of very credible witnesses (not just a he said she said). Governor Martinez, despite having prosecuted many cases on the strength of eyewitness testimony, protected and enabled Gardner, who thanks to her faced no repercussions. Until Governor Martinez fires Gardner, the reality is that there is a dividing line where powerful men can abuse young women without repercussions as long as they don’t touch her breast. This is wrong. It must end now. Gardner must go.

Here's the background:

An Albuquerque Public Schools lobbyist alleged in a letter to Gov. Martinez that Chief of Staff Keith Gardner painfully gripped her arm and yelled at her in “in an extremely threatening manner,” during the legislative session in February (2012).

“Mr. Gardner walked past me. He saw me and then turned back around to come up to me. My back was facing him at the time. Mr. Gardner grabbed my arm to turn me around. While painfully holding my arm and in an extremely threatening manner, he yelled that (the APS superintendent) should "be aware that the bowels of hell were about to open up upon him unless he stopped opposing the Governor's bills."

Gardner told the Journal he never grabbed Carrie Menapace’s arm or treated her aggressively, and points to surveillance video from the Roundhouse as proof.

Some irony there now that Gardner's wife is a teacher at APS.


ABQ GOP State Senator Mark Moores, mentioned here several times as a possible GOP lieutenant governor candidate, will not be making the run, says ABQ Journal reporter Dan Boyd who spoke with Moores.

That's the latest sign that there is no rush to join a GOP governor ticket with Rep. Steve Pearce, at the top as the Guv nominee. As one GOP consultant put it: "The recent ABQ mayoral election was the canary in the coal mine. The huge Keller win does not bode well for our party next year."

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Look But Don't Touch: Sensational Sex Charges Rock Roundhouse And The Fallout Begins, Plus: Gonzales Goes For Light Guv And Remembering Les Houston  

Lobbyist Vanessa Alarid says she hopes her male friends don't "treat me with kid gloves" now that she has publicly accused former legislator Thomas Garcia of sexually harassing her in 2009 and demanding sex to vote in favor of a bill she was supporting. Never mind kid gloves. . .

When the legislative session kicks off next month one veteran lobbyist says he will be careful even shaking hands--with members of either sex. It's that bad.

Alarid's charges were first revealed in the NYT and then explored in-depth locally. She is adamant in her accusations and ex-Rep. Garcia is vehement in his denials. Whatever the case, the sensational charges are sure to have lawmakers and lobbyists walking on egg shells and reassessing just what constitutes good behavior.

In the Alarid case there was no question about a line being crossed, but it seems even what was once viewed as innocuous behavior---a warm embrace, a peck on the cheek, a compliment on appearance---may be going the way of the transistor radio at the hallways of the testosterone-laced Roundhouse. It's just too risky to touch. Everyone is going to have to wear their kid gloves until this is figured out.

The social whirl of Santa Fe in recent years isn't anything like it was when state government was swimming in cash. The parties are fewer and more subdued, reflecting the times, say longtime lobbyists but there are still fun times to be had.

GOP State Rep. Kelly Fajardo, who has taken on the role of watchdog of sex harassment at the capitol, is one of the leaders of "The Karaoke Caucus." It gathers regularly during legislative sessions at a downtown Santa Fe restaurant where food, libations and singing and dancing are enjoyed by lawmakers mixing with younger lobbyists and others involved in the governmental process. You wonder in this new environment whether those type of parties will be called into question--or a rule book issued before you enter.


Mayor Gonzales
When we were last with you we wondered of Dem Silver City state Senator Howie Morales and if he would remain the front-runner for the '18 lieutenant governor nomination if Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales launched a bid. Well, Javier did on Friday (video here) but we still see Morales holding the pole position.

Gonzales is ending a somewhat troubled tenure as mayor of Santa Fe and recently said he was retiring from political life to spend more time with his family. So much for that.

Gonzales would be the first openly gay man to win the statewide nomination for lt. governor. His bid comes on the heels of ABQ Senator Michel Padilla withdrawing from the contest because of decade-old sex harassment charges.

There will be problems for Gonzales in the conservative rural areas of the state party. And with two of their own--Padilla and former state Rep. Garcia being taken down by sex harassment charges--the Dems are going to want to move the issue of sex--in all its variations--to the back burner. That points to Morales, unless he has something shocking hiding in his past.

Morales has been around a while--he ran for the Guv nomination in 2014--and can't exactly be called a fresh face, but he seems more fresh than the shopworn Gonzales who suffered a devastating loss when in Santa Fe this year he backed a losing tax proposal on soda.

Former ABQ state Rep. Rick Miera may be the perfect light guv candidate on paper, but he has not made a deep impression and now faces a struggle against Morales and Gonzales. The rest of the field trails far behind.

On the GOP side the light guv race is, well, light. Michelle Garcia Holmes, who recently ran as an independent for ABQ mayor, has now announced she will seek the GOP nod for lieutenant governor. She is the only announced candidate. ABQ GOP State Senator Mark Moores has been mentioned as a possible but he told the ABQ Journall's Dan Boyd he is not going to run.


Aragon and Houston
Speaking of lieutenant governor, it was in 1974 as a student reporter that I first met former ABQ state Senator Les Houston. He was campaigning for the Dem nomination for lieutenant governor. He lost that one and lost again when he sought the 1982 Dem Guv nomination. He later switched parties and ran for the GOP Guv nomination in 1990. He never made it to the top of the heap but he made an impact at the Roundhouse.

After politics he became a prominent Santa Fe lobbyist. Houston, 81, died Friday. He has been cremated and there will be no services.

In 1987 Republican Houston joined with Dem Senator Manny Aragon and caused a major stir. They tried to share the Senate President Pro Tem position, but the deal was struck down by the state Supreme Court. They were some political odd couple.

We take credit for coining the phrase "Manny Houston" but we ran it by Manny one day back then and he didn't laugh.

The picture posted today of Manny and Les comes from Manny's "going away" party when many of his longtime friends gathered to wish him well as he was about to enter federal prison on corruption charges. The photo was first shown on our June 4, 2009 blog and caused yet another stir. But that's how those guys were.

Here's our blog from October 10, 2003 about running into Houston at the Barelas Coffee Shop:

Former Bernalillo County Commissioner Les Houston, hanging out at the Barelas Coffee House on 4th street, comes up with this one:

"The big question in California is: "What does Arnold Schwarzenegger know. . .and when's he going to know it?"

Houston stopped by our burrito laden table and laid a couple of other ribald ones on us that we're sure the Kentucky native will pass on to you when you run into him. Houston is one of the more colorful political personalities in recent NM history.

To say his political career was volatile is an understatement. He was a Democrat for the longest time, seeking the Lt. Governor nomination back in the 70's and then the Dem gubernatorial nod in '82. He went to the State Senate from Bernalillo County and ran for the GOP nomination for governor in 1990.

In the late 1980's, as a GOP'er, he joined forces with Democratic Senator Manny Aragon in a bizarre coalition that had them sharing the title of Senate President Pro Tem. The State Supreme Court threw out the arrangement and retired what I had dubbed: "Manny Houston."

History has repeated itself with Richard Romero winning the pro tem title with the help of Republicans. And, like Les Houston, Romero at one time was a member of the opposite party; in Richard's case the Republicans. And, again, like Les, Romero has had to contend with Senator Manny.

Who said: "The more things change, the more they stay the same?"

Such were the times of a native Kentuckian who chased a New Mexican political dream.

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Thursday, December 07, 2017

Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor  

Dan Lewis may be gone and already pretty much forgotten, but he lives on as a city councilor, at least in the official photo of the council. Republican Lewis left his westside council seat to run for mayor and was defeated by Tim Keller. His seat was won by Democrat Cynthia Borrego, but in one wee corner of cyberspace Councilor Dan Lewis lives on. Congrats, or something, Dan.

Is State Senator Howie Morales the new front-runner for the '18 Dem Lt. Gov. nomination in the crowded field now that Sen. Michael Padilla has dropped out? Probably. What if Santa Fe Mayor Gonzales gets in?

On the GOP side they have a lieutenant governor contender coming in after Kelly Zunie dropped out. Michelle Garcia Holmes ran as an independent in her recent unsuccessful bid for ABQ mayor, now she has turned R and is the only announced GOP candidate for Light Guv. Everyone is still waiting on ABQ Sen. Mark Moores to make his move.

Curious about where state lawmakers get their income? "Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has posted the financial disclosure statements of public officials dating back to 2013 on the Secretary of State’s Office’s website. The financial disclosures, which are searchable by year and name, can be found here."

Pedal fast. ABQ has just been named the most dangerous city in the USA in which to ride a bike.

Headline of the week: "San Miguel Commissioner Rock Ulibarri Endorses VeneKlasen for Land Commissioner." Be still my heart!

Spin zone. "Joe, of the 10,700 people elected to the Congress, not one has ever been a Native American woman. If Deb Haaland wins next year's Dem primary for the ABQ congressional seat she will very likely be the first Native American woman to ever serve in Congress."

Did you hear? The erudite former Las Cruces area Dem State Senator Steve Fischmann is running against Public Regulation Commissioner (PRC) Sandy Jones in the Dem primary next year. That could make Sandy grey.

He is 99% sure that contractor Mick Rich will be the only '18 GOP candidate for the US Senate seat that is held by Dem Martin Heinrich. That from Rich's new campaign manager, Evan Machan, who has arrived from Ohio. By the way Rich is also rich.

Slippery slope? Minnesota Sen. Al Franken should resign because of the many sex harassment complaints he faces, say NM Dem Senators Heinrich and Udall. However, they are not saying whether State Senator Padilla, who dropped his light guv bid because  of sex harassment charges, should give up his leadership position in the NM senate.

A readers asks: "Is KKOB-AM radio going under?" No, but there is this news about the owner of the conservative talker: "Radio broadcaster Cumulus Media Inc. says ill-fated acquisitions and competition from digital streaming and web-based formats contributed to its chapter 11 bankruptcy filing." The company says it has the cash to keep things running while it deals with the bankruptcy.

About the goings on at UNM Health Sciences and its plans to build a new hospital, a reader writes: "I just ”love” closed meetings for strategic planning for a billion dollar replacement hospital."


Finally, thanks to the readers of ABQ The Magazine for voting me the best blogger in the city in the magazine's 13th annual Best of the City awards.

It's always an honor to have it reaffirmed that it is many regular New Mexicans--not just political insiders or the media--we are reaching.

We'll continue to work hard to illuminate and improve our beloved Land of Enchantment because that's the ultimate reward of this journey.

By the way, the Best of City party is at Sandia Resort and Casino tonight (Thursday) Tickets are here. If you stop by be sure to say hello.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Alligator Alley: Our Sources On ABQ Council Intrigue And Light Guv Race Win Plaudits, Plus: RJ Berry Has Left The Building; Introducing Our Heavy Metal Mayor  

You have to hand it to our Alligators--our longtime political sources who stay anonymous but come up from the waters with juicy info on the coming and goings of La Politica. For example. . .

During the ABQ mayoral campaign they said look for the westside city council Democrats to band together and form a voting bloc, even as Dem Tim Keller was winning a 62 percent landslide mayoral victory. And that happened this week which we'll explain in a minute.

Then, one of our second-generation Gators said look for youthful Silver City State Senator Howie Morales to give serious thought to an '18 run for the Dem nomination for lieutenant governor once Senator Michael Padilla dropped out over sex harassment charges from years ago. Padilla did drop out and Howie announced on Facebook Tuesday by putting up his lieutenant governor logo.

Back to our nine member ABQ city council. They elected westside Democrat Ken Sanchez as council president this week, rebuffing a bid by Dem Pat Davis, who represents one of the city's most liberal districts.

And how did Sanchez do it? He formed a conservative coalition with Republican Councilors Winter, Harris and Jones who were joined by Sanchez's fellow westside councilors Klarissa Pena and newly elected Cynthia Borrego. Sanchez voted for himself and took a 6 to 3 victory. Davis and his fellow non westside Dems who supported him--Gibson and Benton--were left in the dust.

Sanchez, Pena and Borrego are from districts that supported Keller but are more conservative socially and economically and heavily Hispanic. Pena dragged her feet in endorsing Keller in the run-off and all three Westside councilors have been sympathetic towards the Santolina development project for the far Westside--not a fave of Keller's.

And how about this? Conservative Republican City Councilor Trudy Jones was rewarded by Sanchez and company for her support by being given the chairmanship of the important council budget committee. A Republican heading up the most important committee on a council commanded by the Democrats with a 6 to 3 majority? Counting council heads just went to the top of Keller's to-do list.

Remember, a 6 to 3 council is a veto proof council, but only if all the Dems stick together and don't play coalition politics. Do we really need to say "Stay Tuned?"


Not only did his fellow councilors reject him as the new council president, they also passed over Pat Davis for vice-president of the council which they gave to Republican Don Harris. That loss of stature can't help Davis as he seeks the nomination for the ABQ US House seat being vacated by Dem Michelle Lujan Grisham who is running for governor.

Davis has already lagged his chief opponents--Damon Martinez, Deb Haaland and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez--in fund-raising. And he has been scored by fellow liberal Dems for being too cozy with former ABQ GOP Mayor Richard Berry.

Davis backers don't deny his candidacy has faced its share of troubles but they argue that with so with so many Hispanic Dems chasing the Dem nomination and Davis the only prominent Anglo progressive, he could still eke out a victory in the June primary.

Meantime, Davis is leaving ProgressNow NM, the liberal advocacy group where he has served as executive director, to campaign for Congress. Former ABQ Dem State Rep. Stephanie Maez says she will take on the ED role permanently at the start of the new year.


Any doubt that there is a cultural change at City Hall ended this week when Mayor Keller took to the stage of the downtown Sunshine Theater Saturday night to introduce metal heavies Trivium. He led the crowd in a chant of "Trivium! Trivium" and on came the band with a blaring set of head-banging numbers. Mayor Berry, as they say, has left the buildingp

On Facebook a reader said the best part of the video clip comes after Keller leaves the stage just before the band comes on and you hear someone in the crowd say, "Holy shit, that's the Mayor!"

Of course, in a few years they could still be saying that about the mayor, but in a whole different context.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Oil Gusher Resumes And State Gets A Budget Break, Also: Padilla Bows Out, Cool Down In Colorado And: Wayne's World; Auditor Appointment Starts Jockeying For BernCo Seat 

New Mexico's decades-long roller coaster ride with the oil and gas industry has again taken an upward lurch, making life a tad easier for state lawmakers when they convene their legislative session next month.

The news that there will be about $200 million more for the budget year that starts next July over what was first estimated means the budget death spiral has been halted, at least for a time. Oil has climbed to nearly $60 a barrel, making for the lion's share of new money as royalties and taxes again gush into Santa Fe's coffers.

We say a budget "death spiral" because the $6.1 billion budget for the current year is about where the general fund budget stood a long ten years ago. Calculating inflation into the equation and you see that funding for basic government operations--especially the schools--has suffered a significant decline in real dollars this past decade. That $200 million will be gobbled up quickly.

Meanwhile, Democratic legislative leaders are being taunted for not pursuing a complete overhaul of the state's complicated gross receipts tax system in the upcoming 30 day session. They are being accused of waiting for a Democratic governor to come in at the start of 2019 and do the job then. The current Governor's allies are accusing them of playing politics.

But there is no dire need to ram through a tax reform bill that originated under the House Republicans when they briefly held the majority but who are now distinctly in the minority. The majority party has a responsibility to draft its own bill using its own governing principles as the primary foundation for the reform. Besides, getting the sitting Governor to make a deal on anything is like trying to convince a scorpion not to bite you.


While NM stagnated this past decade, Colorado boomed. And too much for some. The news:

Colorado’s red-hot population growth rate is cooling, and while current residents may celebrate, those who are leaving in increasing numbers say they were driven away by rising housing prices, jobs that don’t pay enough and traffic jams. The state in 2016 saw its first drop this decade in the number of people arriving from other states, while those leaving Colorado hit a record high, resulting in the lowest net-migration number — 30,000 total new residents — in seven years. New annual figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show that 193,000 Coloradans moved away last year, 10,000 more than in 2015, while 223,000 moved here, down about 4,000 from the year before but still well above recent years.

No need to cry for Colorado. Their growth boom was off the charts and a breather may be what they need to catch up with quality of life issues

The state that is most popular for those fleeing the Centennial state is Washington. Not neighboring New Mexico.


No stunner here but it did take a while. ABQ Dem State Senator Michael Padilla ended his bid for the 2018 Democratic lieutenant governor nomination late Monday, over two weeks after front-running Dem Guv candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham urged him to get out.

We covered the politics of the Padilla candidacy extensively on the Monday blog and by Monday night he decided it was time to go. He said:

I do not want to be a distraction as we come together as New Mexicans to solve this unacceptable work place issue.

The brouhaha started when Grisham called for Padilla to hit the exits because of sex harassment charges leveled against him a decade ago while serving as a supervisor at an ABQ call center. He never admitted guilt but the city made settlements with the women who said they were the targets of his harassment,

What did Padilla get for getting out? Alligators wondered. Padilla did not respond when we asked him if he had met with Grisham before announcing that he was dropping out.

Is his relationship with Grisham still an issue? Will he support her in the coming campaign if, as appears likely, she is the Dem nominee? And if she's governor and he is still Senate Majority Whip will someone have to pull out a defroster to break the ice between the two?

Questions for the future but for now Dems can breathe a sigh of relief that Padilla is out and that likely GOP Guv nominee Steve Pearce has been deprived of a prime political target.


Insider betting weighs toward former ABQ City Councilor and BernCo Commissioner Michael Brasher as the likely replacement for Wayne Johnson if, as he indicates, he soon resigns his county commission seat in the wake of being appointed state auditor by Gov. Martinez. (He took the oath Monday).

Republican Johnson is filling the unexpired term of Tim Keller who was elected ABQ mayor. Johnson ran against Keller in the recent mayoral election but failed to advance to the run-off.

Brasher has indicated he is preparing to run for the Johnson commission seat situated in the far NE Heights and East Mountains. Johnson's term expires at the end of '18. Already in the running is retired naval officer John Jones, husband of ABQ GOP congressional candidate Janice Arnold Jones.

Martinez named Brasher to the powerful State Board of Finance and the Guv's relationship with Arnold Jones remains rocky. The bad blood started in 2010 when Arnold Jones ran against Martinez for the GOP Guv nomination. There has been no peace made.

If Brasher, the longtime general manager of public radio station KANW 89.1 FM, gets the appointment, John Jones could run a primary against him but it would be an uphill battle against an incumbent. Also, Brasher was elected to the seat in 2006, preceding Johnson's tenure.

No matter the R appointed, the commission district is strong Republican. No Dems need apply.

Johnson is signaling that he will seek a full four year term for state auditor in 2018. Will that temper any zeal he may have to go after Dems as he looks to make friends across the aisle? Or does he go full throttle against Keller and legislative Dems? Or does he just play it as it lays and do a job based on good government?

And does any R have a real chance to become state auditor? None has been elected to the position since 1966 when Harold G.Thompson won what was then a two year term. He was re-elected for another two years in 1968.

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Monday, December 04, 2017

Michelle's Dance With Padilla Turns A Bit Dangerous; Damaged Lt. Gov. Candidate Has Yet To Heed Her Call To Step Aside, Plus: It Doesn't Take Long; New ABQ Mayor Already Under The Microscope 

Padilla Still Campaigning
Late Monday Sen. Padilla ended his candidacy for the '18 Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor.

It's turning out to be a bit of a dangerous dance for Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham when it comes to the race for the 2018 Democratic lieutenant governor nomination.

Grisham, the front runner for the Dem Guv nomination, has publicly called on ABQ State Senator Michael Padilla to take himself out of the running because of sexual harassment charges he faced a decade ago and for which the city of ABQ paid out settlements, but the call came over two weeks ago and Padilla is still running.

Padilla, 45, went dark after Grisham's rebuke but he resurfaced this weekend on his social media accounts, congratulating ABQ Mayor Keller on his election and putting up the photo posted here posing with Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Public Regulation Commissioner Lynda Lovejoy. On Saturday Padilla was campaigning in Raton.

The angst in the Grisham camp is palpable. They think Padilla's addition to the ticket at a time when sex harassment is a red hot topic could hobble her if she eventually wins the Guv nomination and faces off with likely GOP nominee Steve Pearce.

Padilla was keeping his cards close to his chest when I ran into him late last week at the Starbucks at the ABQ Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. He was sharing a cup with fellow Dem ABQ State Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto.

While Padilla did express chagrin over the news coverage of his dilemma, pointing out he has an extensive senate record and these were long ago charges, he was tight-lipped about his future plans.

Others watching this melodrama have looser lips. They believe that if Grisham wants Padilla out she may have to cut a deal. That would mean abandoning those who are calling for him to resign from the senate and extending an olive branch when it comes to working with him in the senate where he serves as majority whip.

Others say if Padilla persists hardball tactics will have to be employed, perhaps by third parties. That could include paid media against him if Padilla is still a candidate next year and as the March Dem pre-primary convention approaches.

Complicating Grisham's problems is the perceived weakness of the field outside of Padilla. He has a solid record as a senator, is an able campaigner and speaker and has generated considerable national publicity in his tenure over issues such as school lunch shaming. But he appears irreparably marred by the sex harassment charge.

The other major Dem Light Guv hopefuls, Taos educator Jeff Carr, former ABQ State Rep. Rick Miera and Dona Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett, have made no move in the wake of the Padilla controversy, preferring to wait and see. That's not exactly causing sleepless nights for Padilla.


But there is some movement. The name of Dem State Senator Howie Morales of Silver City is now being floated as a possible Light Guv candidate. Like Padilla, he is seen as a substantial senator. Getting him in, the theory goes, would make it obvious to Padilla and the Dem base that they have a strong replacement on the bench and the Grisham-Padilla standoff ends.

In the old days Padilla would already be a dead duck--or an over roasted chicharrone--whichever you prefer. But Grisham does not yet have a strong statewide support base like a Bill Richardson or a Bruce King so Padilla limps along. She could have some heavy lifting to do if she is going to get Padilla out and she knows it. And so does Michael Padilla who may be holding his cards close to his chest, but still has a few to play.


Grisham faces two major foes for the '18 gubernatorial nod--Jeff Apodaca and Joe Cervantes. Neither have made much of the Grisham-Padilla spectacle. Apodaca did say that the voters should decide in the June primary whether they want Padilla or not. Cervantes issued a statement supporting the victims in the Padilla sexual harassment case from a decade ago when he was supervising a city of ABQ call center.

Neither Apodoca or Cervantes has caused the hearts of Dems to flutter and as we head deeper into December it's clear the only way one of these fellas is going to emerge is to wage an all out campaign on why Grisham is not the best choice and why they are. The pre-primary convention is now only about three months away. Cervantes and Apodaca may still think they have a lot of time. But they don't.


The brouhaha over Padilla has led some in the political class to examine the whole notion of having the parties nominate and vote on Lt. Governor candidates.

ABQ Dem State Rep. Moe Maestas is among those who believe it's time to return to the days when the governor nominee chose the lieutenant governor candidate they would run with and do away with the separate primary election of the state's #2. "It is not a position of power or importance and it needs to be treated as such," he said. Maestas also said the position should return to being part-time.

The main job of the Light Guv is to preside over the state senate when it's in session and to stay alive if the Governor dies so they can take their place. Often their secondary job is to annoy the governor they serve under.


Forget about governor or lieutenant governor, the political position that commands the most publicity in New Mexico is arguably the mayor of ABQ. Situated in the state's media center the scrutiny is intense. And so it is for Tim Keller after only a few days on the job. Hold on to those glasses of craft beer, Keller fans, here come the critics.

Reader Jim McClure writes:

Did anyone seriously believe the police union endorsed Tim Keller because of his tough stance on crime? A Dem mayor means the unions are back in the driver’s seat. So it’s no surprise that the mayor-elect is having second thoughts about bringing in an outside APD chief against the wishes of the union. Expect to see a new union contract restoring “union time” that allows union work on the taxpayers’ dime. The only question is whether the police union will be allowed to reinstate its payments to officers involved in shootings.

Reader Carmie Lynn Toulouse says:

Joe. I am a supporter of our newly elected mayor but It has been bothering me since I got the email invitation to Tim Keller's inauguration that his four watch parties were all at local breweries. I am aware, having a son & daughter and various other relatives in the new mayor's age group, that his generation makes frequent use of the breweries for social functions. With the DUI rate in this city & the social problems from addictions this city suffers, however, it doesn't send a positive message from the new mayor to his constituents to encourage them to gather where they can drink before they drive to celebrate his assumption of power.

And so it will go over the next four years, with every move of the new Mayor put under the microscope.


To balance out that criticism we offer some praise for two year old Jack Keller.

During what seemed like an inauguration ceremony that would never end--with five elected councilors pontificating way too much--Jack took it all in like a seasoned veteran and not someone afflicted with the terrible twos.

Meanwhile, everyone else was fidgeting in their seats and getting ready to throw something--like a regular two year old might.

And that's a fact, Jack.

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Keller Era Arrives; He Shores Up City Hall Staff Ahead Of Swearing In, Plus: Examples Left By Past Mayors That Could Fit Today  

Tim Keller took the oath of office Friday evening at the ABQ Convention Center. The swearing in ceremony for the new mayor and his inaugural speech is here

As he prepared to be inaugurated on Friday as ABQ's next Mayor, Tim Keller shored up his City Hall staff with the addition of government veteran Lawrence Rael and shed some of his vulnerability when it comes to dealing with a bureaucracy that can often be thick with treachery.

The young mayor (he turned 40 this month) will rely on old hand Rael as his interim Chief Operating Officer. Rael is the ultimate city insider. He had an unprecedented 11 year run as a city deputy chief administrative officer and then Chief Administrative officer. He served under three mayors--Saavedra, Chavez and Baca--beginning, says his Linkedin page, in 1990 and ending in 2001. Talk about knowing where the bodies are buried. . .

As ably as his state auditor staff may have served him--many have followed him to Government Center--the lack of institutional knowledge in the Keller portfolio was a hole that should now be filled.

Keller has promoted himself as an agent of change but first he must know in detail what exactly needs changing and how to have the bureaucracy execute his will.

Rael, along with former city administrators James B. Lewis and Fred Mondragon who are helping guide the transition, are all around for the Keller debut and will be able to point out the potholes that await him, even if they can't prevent him from stepping in some.

While tending to old school needs with the Rael appointment, the Mayor-elect also moved to quench the thirst for new faces. He hired attorney Oriana Sandoval who will "serve as interim deputy city attorney, a position created by the new administration. Sandoval will focus on such things as immigrant rights protection, refugee affairs, environmental justice and civil rights."

Those concerns are especially top-of-the-mind in the ethnically diverse SE Heights where Keller served as a state senator and which is an important part of his political base. That's in stark contrast to the Republican NE Heights that was the base for outgoing Mayor Berry.


On the Blog Beat
It has been a long, very long, 8 years under outgoing Mayor Berry but rather than look at the Berry legacy--we all know the score--the city looks forward to the new. We've seen similar circumstances in the past.

In 1977 ABQ grew tired of Republican Harry Kinney, its first mayor of the modern era, and replaced him with David Rusk, the son of a famous political figure but with a mind and a vision of his own who became the city's youngest ever leader. However, Rusk's popularity plummeted over the most pedestrian of concerns--he did not act quickly in cutting down wild weeds growing throughout the city after a heavy monsoon season. Rusk lost his re-election bid.

That's a reminder for our new high energy mayor that the most pragmatic of today's problems--the rampant crime--must be attended to with laser-like focus or else the rest of his agenda could slip away.

In 1993 ABQ was aching to get rid of Mayor Louis Saavedra and the frosty Saavedra was as equally eager to be rid of them. He didn't bother to seek re-election. In came another youthful jolt of energy by the name of Martin Chavez. He quickly changed the psychology of the city from a hibernating outpost on the Rio Grande into a cheerleader for growth in the go-go 90's. The lesson for the new mayor being that it's just not what you do, but how you do it. Certainly it is time again to tell Albuquerque it can be the best that it can be.

Asked to describe what is different about this inauguration eve than all the others, we would reply the sense of urgency. ABQ has never faced an identity crisis like the one it has today.

The decrease in federal funding, the virulent crime epidemic so much more tenacious than any of the past and the necessity of so many young professionals to vacate the premises in search of a better life are 21st century challenges that started brewing with the onset of the recession in 2009.

ABQ's path forward is uncertain. That's different. Will we continue to attempt to just contain our problems or free ourselves from them? According to the election results the city has chosen the latter option. The journey begins now.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Keller Keeps It In The Family As He Makes first Stab At Stabilizing APD; Can Old Hands Bring In A New Way? Plus: Pearce Gets Cash From Court Ruling But Sea Of BernCo Blue Is His Big Problem 

Mayor-elect Tim Keller has decided that for the foreseeable future the job of turning around the troubled ABQ police department and getting a handle on the crime epidemic will be kept all in the family.

The prospect of bringing in a chief from out of state with no ties to APD was in effect shelved as Keller said his national search for a new APD leader may not be completed until the end of next year, well over a year after he takes office this Friday.

That was seen as a victory for the public safety unions that ardently supported Keller and who have not been keen on bringing in an outsider.

In announcing the appointment of former Rio Rancho Police Chief Michael James Geier as interim APD Chief, who served 20 years with APD, Keller said Geier will be free to apply for the permanent post.

That sounded similar to what Mayor Berry did in 2014. He announced a national search for an APD chief only to make local Gorden Eden his permanent selection. But the comparison ends there. Eden was a politically connected lifelong government official while Geier's background in law enforcement is substantial.

Keller also named a team of three interim deputy chiefs, all of them with long service in APD during the troubled tenures of Chiefs Schultz and Eden. Senior Alligator analysis:

The new mayor has picked his team and if they are able to clean up the APD mess, fine. But if they are too attached to the past culture and unable to make the needed sweep, the APD mishaps will continue and these appointments will come back to bite him. 

The complete Keller announcement and bios on all appointees is here. Keller also met with BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez Tuesday to discuss the crime crisis. Video of that is here.

Another point APD watchers noted was Keller's comments concerning the appointment of a civilian public safety director to oversee APD as he talked about in his campaign.

That, like an out of town chief, appears to be on hold. Keller said he has not been able to find a suitable pick. That gives his APD interim choices a free hand to succeed or fail on their own in the first critical months of his administration.

With a 62 percent win under his belt Keller has been given a wide berth by the public and his APD team will be given the wait and see treatment. But that won't last forever. Even as the mayor-to-be was announcing his moves the city was about to set a new modern day record for murders and the Bernalillo County Sheriff's department was confronting a management crisis of its own. All of that and more is waiting for Keller on Day One.


Don Harris
When ABQ GOP City Councilor Don Harris compared the Central Ave. bus project known as ART to the Golden Gate Bridge, we called it over-the-top. Reader Dan Otter sees it this way:

Hey Joe, It looks like you are never going to come around on ART. The point Harris was making is that most of these types of projects are controversial during build out. While I feel for businesses affected by the ART construction, that’s now over. It looks to me like the already solid businesses survived and the one’s that weren’t so strong to begin with struggled. 

Aesthetically, Central looks much, much better. Let’s see what happens next. Even supporters don’t know exactly how this will play out. One thing is clear: the future is not automobile centric development. It’s multi model and I think Albuquerque has taken a bold step forward. 

Reader Alan Schwartz differs:

My favorite over-the-top quote was when then Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson suggested that the Spaceport theme building would be as iconic and in a class with the Sydney Opera House. Ironically, while the Spaceport management continues to cite the use of the facility for filming car commercials as one of their "successes," the theme building never appears in the ads. As is the case with ART, so far the Spaceport critics seem to be right.


There's no one who thinks Republican US Rep. Steve Pearce won't be well-financed for his 2018 Guv run so a federal court decision allowing him to shift nearly a million in cash from his congressional campaign fund to his gubernatorial kitty was somewhat anti-climatic. It in no way "reshapes" the Guv race because of the millions Pearce is expected to raise from traditional GOP donors, particularly the wealthy oil and gas sector. And Dem Guv frontrunner Michelle Lujan Grisham has already surpassed the $1.5 million mark in cash.

The bigger worry for Pearce is Bernalillo County. The sweeping mayoral win by Tim Keller--20 plus points over his GOP foe--points to an increasingly deep blue sea of voters in the state's most populous county. It will take more than a court order to get them to pay any mind to the conservative Pearce. What's his plan to deal with that?


Toulouse Oliver calls for sexual harassment training for NM lobbyists

Reader quip: Our lobbyists need to improve their sexual harassment skills?


We mangled the last name of incoming ABQ Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair in the first draft of the Tuesday blog. Somehow it ended up as "Najar." We were probably thinking of Dan Najar, one of the more effective but under-the-radar lobbyists in the state. How's it going, Dan? You're not related to Sarita, are you?

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