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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Cervantes Starts Pitching Negative On MLG In Guv Chase, NRA Dissed In ABQ Is Welcome In South; Herrell Nabs Its Endorsement, And A Kennedy Surfaces In Guv Campaign 

He's got a long way to go and a short time to get there. So Joe Cervantes finally took his first step to take Michelle Lujan Grisham down a notch. Actually, it's about 30 notches if the polls in the Dem chase for the '18 gubernatorial nomination have it right.

Cervantes negative TV ad on MLG was not a given. His supporters were nervous that the low-key state senator would take his lumps and hope for the best. But then there's that $2 million he loaned his campaign. What good does that do him in the First National Bank of Joe? So out came the cash and onto the TV screens came this:

Who's Michelle Lujan Grisham working for? Not us. Since going to DC Grisham has made a bundle off government contacts. Her campaigns have been bankrolled by $2.7 million in out of state contributions. Michelle Lujan Grisham even voted with Republicans to repeal part of Obamacare and benefit the wealthy. And now she wants to come back to be our Governor? That definitely doesn't work for us. 

The ad was on point but not harsh by today's standards, reflecting the personality of Cervantes who has never been one to go for the jugular, but favors the slow kill.

But slow is an issue here. His problem is not money but time. He was goaded by supporters to start his campaign much earlier and not let MLG build the lead she nurses today. He now will try to tear down in three weeks what she has spent over a year building. The moment did not go unnoticed at her campaign:

This ad is ridiculous and full of falsehoods. Congresswoman Lujan Grisham ran a patient advocacy company designed to help people get affordable care. Her small business didn’t make a “bundle” on state or federal contracts. This business saves peoples lives by helping vulnerable patients get health care after being denied coverage by insurance companies. . . 

Additionally, Congresswoman Lujan Grisham has voted over 30 times to save Obamacare from Republicans like Steve Pearce who voted for the Trump/GOP health care bill to take health insurance away from hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans. Michelle has fought to save people’s health care and will fight to expand affordable care for all New Mexicans. False attacks from her opponents won't change that fact.

The third player, Jeff Apodaca, doesn't have the money to join the hit parade. He is left to hope that voters the Cervantes' ad plies loose from MLG might fall his way.

The low cash count hasn’t stopped him from working the beat. He and his wife Jackie seem unfazed by the daunting task facing them and are campaigning seemingly nonstop and with vigor. If they could show that passion for the state in a significant way on TV in the final weeks, who knows?

But the happiest guy over this ad was one Steve Pearce. You could picture the soon-to-be GOP nominee cracking a gleeful smile when he saw the 30 second hit. And you could almost hear him saying, "Good stuff, Joe. I can use that one."

KENNEDYESQUE

Also in the Dem race for Governor, a member of the famous Kennedy clan has made an appearance via the airwaves. Congressman Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts, whose family legacy lingers in the Catholic and Hispanic counties of Northern New Mexico, cut this Spanish radio spot on behalf of Lujan Grisham. Kennedy is a fluent Spanish speaker and her campaign says in the spot he:

 . . . Talks about his family legacy of public service and how Lujan Grisham’s work to investigate nursing home abuse, double the number of school-based health centers for children and families, and to lower drug overdoses through better treatment reflects that same dedication.

F WORD BAD; NRA GOOD

Rep. Herrell
State Rep. Yvette Herrell won't be saying "Fuck the NRA" as ABQ Dem congressional candidate Pat Davis did in his TV ad. Herrell has announced she's received the endorsement of the NRA in her battle for the GOP southern congressional nomination.

Unlike the ABQ area, the endorsement in the south is a feather in her cap and a blow to her rival Monty Newman and his political consultant Jay McCleskey. Her campaign says:

Because of Rep. Yvette Herrell’s A-rating and Pro-Gun leadership in NM's Legislature, she is the NRA's choice for the NM 2nd Congressional district. “I am honored to have the support of the National Rifle Association,” said Rep. Herrell. “I am proud of my record defending the 2nd Amendment and will continue working to protect our gun rights."

The night and day approach to the NRA shows how New Mexico politically is often two or three states in one.

CONGRESS OR BUST

In the ABQ congressional race we've been talking about a three way battle at the top and a poll commissioned by VoteVets, a group that has endorsed Damon Martinez, shows just how tight is. The survey done May 13 and 14 by Lake Research in DC has Antoinette Sedillo with 25 percent, Damon Martinez with 23 and Deb Haaland at 20 percent. The other three candidates get only 5 percent of the vote and there were still 27 percent undecided.

The margin of error in the survey of 390 like Dem primary voters is plus or minus five percent so it's still a jump ball for the nomination. The firm has a long track record in the state and while this work was done for a pro-Martinez group they are not known for spinning.

Lake Research says the poll was conducted using professional phone interviews for cell phones and rob calls for landlines. Only three candidates were listed by name--Sedillo Lopez. Haaland and Martinez. Other insider polling in the race shows the other three candidates--Pat Davis, Damian Lara and Paul Moya in the single digits. However, Lara has gone up on TV since the poll.

NEW TUBE 

New TV ads are being released. This one from Antoinette Sedillo Lopez highlights her legal expertise. This one from Damon Martinez focuses on sexual assault. Deb Haaland continues to garner national attention. The latest is from Nation magazine.

DEEP TV DIVE

In looking over the TV ads by the candidates in the ABQ market this year, we find that KRQE is getting more ad dollars than KOB or KOAT. Media maven Chris Brown explains:

KRQE has the strongest early evening and prime time line up reaching viewers age 35+. They also command higher prices per spot for a typical schedule: 27% more expensive than KOAT, 11% more than KOB. So candidates on balance are buying more spots on KRQE, and paying more for each one, than on KOB and especially KOAT.

Although fading with the younger set, TV ads continue to be the top way to reach voters over 50 who will dominate the June 5 primary.

THE BOTTOM LINES 

We referenced former ABQ GOP Congressman Manuel Lujan, Jr. this week as an uncle to Rep. Lujan Grisham. They are cousins.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sedillo Lopez Surges And Is Greeted With First Negative Hit In The ABQ Congress Contest; Out Of State Super PAC Slams Her; Who Do They Want? Plus: Look Out Damon; Damian Lara Joins TV Ad Club 

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez has come on strong of late in that crowded contest for the Democratic nomination for the ABQ area US House seat and with that newfound status come the attacks. The first one has already hit the mailboxes.

A super PAC funded by heavyweight financial types, including uber-wealthy hedge fund managers, slammed Sedillo Lopez with this mailer that scorches her on two fronts--for supporting Medicare for all which the "Forward Not Back" PAC says would cost families $7700 a year and for failing to paying her taxes on time seven times.

Sedillo Lopez campaign struck back calling the charges a "baseless smear by an out of state group with close ties to the Republicans."

The PAC says on its one page website that it supports "progressive leadership" but that's a front, says the Sedillo Lopez campaign, who believe her progressive policies have inflamed the group and they want her gone.

Reader "Westside Alligator" comes with this research from CNN Money:

What is Forward Not Back? Apparently, they are part of a larger PAC called No Labels which has the stated purpose of supporting "moderate" candidates in primaries including present office holders both Democratic and Republican.

Sedillo Lopez is an ardent advocate of Medicare for all and the cost of that is highly debatable. As for failing to pay her taxes, her campaign spokesman says she was indeed late paying property taxes seven times on rental properties. But adds:

BernCo taxpayers are asked to pay their property tax bills in two payments five months apart or pay them in full upon receipt of the bill. For several years (Sedillo Lopez and her husband Victor) did not pay their tax until the final deadline in April when they paid all that was owed. They were fined small penalties for not making any first half payments. The taxes have been and are completely paid.

Blog readers were on red alert over the first negative campaigning in the so far slow moving ABQ race. They noted that the national super PAC attackers had about $1 million in cash on hand at the end of March and that one of its donors has a big NM connection. He is Louis Moore Bacon, the billionaire hedge fund manager who in 2013 bought Taos Ski Valley.

Sedillo-Lopez's campaign says they did a data check and matched the super PAC donors with donations made to Republican candidates and causes.

WHO DO THEY WANT?

So what is this out of state apparently conservative PAC doing putting their noses under the ABQ US House tent? Obviously they don't like Bernie Sanders' Medicare for all plan that Sedillo Lopez has endorsed so they are trying to take her out. But who they want in is an even more important question.

Maybe contender Damon Martinez who is seen as the more moderate of the frontrunners, even though like Sedillo Lopez, Deb Haaland and Pat Davis he says he supports Medicare for all. We double checked with him:

Health care is a human right, which is why I will support Medicare for All and single-payer health care.


Another third party group is already up on TV with a heavy buy for the former US Attorney. In any event, the leading theory among the Alligators is that Martinez may be the intended beneficiary of the super PAC hit--if they have one in mind.

RACE WATCH

As for where the race stands, it appears very tight. The news is that Damon Martinez appears to be displacing Deb Haaland in second and some polling indicates he could even narrowly be in first. Sedillio Lopez is perched right at the top with him or a notch ahead, depending on which poll you're reading.

As we said, Martinez is on TV in a big way and dominating the air. Sedillo Lopez has heavy TV as well, but she has also dropped at least a half dozen mail pieces to likely Dem voters. Haaland is stalled out and appears to need a new angle to prevent a fade. Pat Davis is in single digits and the kerfuffle over his controversial NRA ad may have hurt more than it helped.

DAMON MEET DAMIAN

Lara
Everyone and their brother has forgotten about candidates Paul Moya and Damian Lara but get this--one or both of them could spoil this race for hard-charging Damon Martinez.

As of March 31 Moya had $156,000 in cash on hand and Lara had $139,000  Neither has spent barely a dime since then. That kind of money could give them a more than healthy TV presence for the final ten days of the campaign.

And this just in: Damian Lara, 40, is going up on TV today with this spot highlighting his immigrant background and how he worked in the agricultural fields before realizing his dream of becoming an attorney. He also takes a bite out of Trump's immigration policies. The campaign says it has up "a six figure buy" for the June 5 primary.

We're still waiting on any TV from Moya who lent his campaign most of the cash he has.

Will Lara (and possibly Moya) now start to peel enough votes away from Martinez, leaving the battle to Sedillo Lopez and Haaland? They could. Yet another angle in this six way race.

TUCKER VS. DAVIS

Conservative Fox News host Tucker Carlson ripped into ABQ Dem congressional candidate Pat Davis during an interview Tuesday about Davis' anti-NRA ad in which he says "Fuck the NRA." Carlson holds nothing back. The not-so-pretty scalding is here.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Herrell Heat: Congress Hopeful Plays For The Hearts Of The GOP Base And The Votes May Follow, Plus: Follow The Money: Latest Reports Offer Clues On Key Races, And: Manuel Lujan Turns 90 

State Rep. Herrell
The GOP nomination for the southern congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Steve Pearce appears to be slipping into the corner of State Rep. Yvette Herrell.

She comes with a bold and unapologetic debut TV ad backing President Trump and in which she is proudly labeled a "conservative" five times in 30 seconds.

The phrase "game-changer" is overworked but this seems like one.

Herrell of Alamogordo aced Monty Newman, her chief rival, at the March GOP preprimary convention when she landslided him 58 to 26 percent. But Newman, a successful realtor and former Hobbs Mayor, was still seen as a potential threat because of his large campaign war chest and name ID. Now not as much.

Newman's first TV spot was mild compared to Herrell's, focusing heavily on his son's service in Iraq but offered no real emotional connection for the audience. Newman offered little red meat to the Trump base that commands southern Republicans. Herrell has now stepped in to throw that red meat and by doing so she may have shut this race down.

She flings it all out there--that she is a "pro-life Christian" "a Trump conservative" and "despises" big government. All of it is music to the ears of the base GOP vote.

Herrell critics are raising questions about her claim in the ad that "she fought to cut taxes" and her legislative record on the matter is a matter of debate.

Newman insisted on hiring Jay McCleskey, the media wizard for Governor Martinez who earned himself the title "Shadow Governor" for his outsized influence in her administration. But McCleskey has made so many enemies within the GOP that Newman was abandoned by many who would normally support him. Now he faces a decision on whether to unleash McCleskey to let him wage one of his well-known slash and burn campaigns against Herrell in an effort to turn the tide. The task is made more difficult by this Herrell spot. An attack on her at this point could be seen as an attack on the President who she is giving her full backing while Newman hesitates on that score.

As for the November election, it appears it will be Herrell vs Las Cruces water attorney  and rising Democratic star Xochitl Torres Small, but Herrell's able handling of her TV debut is giving pause to some Dem analysts. They still see Torres Small as a strong candidate, but Herrell's unabashed embrace of conservatives in a district with plenty of them and a large bible belt to boot, remind them of how difficult it will be for the Dems to pull off the upset.

FOLLOWING THE MONEY 

The candidates came with their latest finance reports for Primary '18 Monday. It covered the period April 3 thru May 7. All reports are here and here's the analysis:

GUV---Michelle Lujan Grisham raised more money during the period but also bought TV and her cash balance ended at $1.6 million down from $1.8 million in her last report. For now that's way more than enough.

Joe Cervantes loaned himself another $500,000 for a total of $2 million for the campaign. He has $1.6 million in cash but probably not enough time to spend it all. Jeff Apodaca has $263,000 in cash. Lujan Grisham remains the front-runner for the Dem nod. Something--something big--is going to have to happen to change that.

On the R side, wily Steve Pearce got on TV but also raised more money. He now tops the Guv field with $1.9 million in cash on hand.

More analysis from political veteran and former city councilor, state legislator and ABQ attorney Greg Payne:

Did something happen here? Wake me if it does.

LT. GOVERNOR--Dem State Senator Howie Morales reports $63,000 in cash on hand. He established himself as the frontrunner for the Dem nod and remains so. The other contenders lag. Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes is unopposed for the GOP Light Guv slot.

Payne-- It's Howie's to lose.

AG---The Balderas money train slowed some with him now reporting $903,000 in cash compared to $891,000 last time. He is unopposed for the Dem attorney general nod and a heavy favorite for re-election over  Republican Michael Hendricks. If he does win, he will sit around and think about what to run for next with all that cash. Or not.

Payne: Maybe Sen. Udall doesn't run for re-election in 2020, but I wouldn't bet $903,000 on it. 

LAND COMMISSIONER--The news on this one is that appears Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard has been effectively knocked out of the Dem nomination chase. She had one more shot to raise the dough but came with just $31,000 in cash on hand. She won't have a statewide presence, leaving the race to environmentalist Garret VeneKlasen and State Senator George Munoz. VeneKlasen reports $73,000 on hand but has had a healthy media presence before spending that money and a third party group is nuking Munoz. The Senator reports $210,000 in cash, most of which he lent himself. This one is only going to get more interesting.

Pat Lyons is the lone R seeking the nomination.

Payne: The enviros and Sen. Heinrich are pushing hard for VeneKlasen. That may be enough for him.

STATE AUDITOR--Bill McCamley lent himself $45,000 and started his campaign for the Dem state auditor nomination earlier than ABQ's Brian Colón. McCamley, a Las Cruces are state rep has already made a decent TV buy and Colón did not bury him in a cash pile.

McCamley reported only $17,000 in cash on hand but he has purchased TV time and production of $120,000. Colón reports $123,000 in cash but had not yet reported his TV buy. A friend says he bought a buy similar to McCamley so his cash is probably in the 20's now.

If McCamley's ad against the Trump wall brings out the progressives in a big way, he has a shot. If the race breaks with an ethnic advantage for Colón, he will win.

Payne: Joe, you said the McCamley TV ad was a bit off the wall, but it connects with progressives and Hispanics. He could crash Brian's party in BernCo and the north. Keep an eye on this one. 

Point taken, Greg, And we just looked at some insider polling that shows more likely Dem primary voters identify as progressives or liberals this cycle than in the past.

On another note, we're pleased to report Greg will join us on Primary Election Night June 5 on KANW 89.1 FM radio and kanw.com to analyze the results as they roll in.

CARL AND ANDREA-- Santa Fe County State Rep. Carl Trujillo is going to outspend Andrea Trujillo in the final stretch but not by very much. Will that make the difference in this Dem primary race that has captured statewide attention, with Trujillo being accused of sex harassment and Romero charged with unethically handling public funds? Romero has $28,000 in cash. Trujillo has $35,000 and spent the same amount in the reporting period. As they say on the playground, they are about to nuke the snot out of each other. Voters, hide if you can.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Our onetime boss, former ABQ GOP Congressman and Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan Jr., turned 90 this week. Here's a pic of him on his special day, sporting his usual smile and exuding optimism. Those were qualities that helped him keep the ABQ congressional seat in the Republican column for 20 years. In 1989 he began a four year run as Secretary of Interior under the first President Bush.

After leaving government Lujan concentrated on business interests and lobbying. He and his wife Jeanne live in ABQ and stay busy today with their large family. We assume he is closely following the race for Governor in which his cousin, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham, is playing a prominent role. But that doesn't mean he'll vote Democratic. You'll have to ask him. Happy Birthday, Congressman.

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Monday, May 14, 2018

A Political F Bomb, A Lie Detector Test, A Guv Candidate With Millions Pleads Poverty And Future Billions Stripped From Los Alamos 

Turn away from the campaign trail and you could miss a lot. Like a TV F bomb, a political lie detector test, a Guv candidate with millions pleading poverty and billions of dollars for Los Alamos Labs going out the window. So let's put on our hiking boots and head out to the trail. . .

Pat Davis is one of the best organizers and activists the state has seen, and perhaps one of its worst congressional candidates.

Call it what you will--a fit of pique or desperation or both--the Dem ABQ city councilor and congressional candidate dropped a bizarre TV spot that began with him telling the audience: "Fuck the NRA."

So far the spot has aired only once on broadcast TV--on the KRQE noon news for $250--but it got plenty of play on social media. Predictably, the over the top 15 second spot generated the controversy and national media coverage Davis was playing for. We suspect it put some cash into his sparse campaign coffers as well, but at what price?

His decision seemed selfish--trash the political dialogue (as if it needs more of that)--in order to try to make his noncompetitive candidacy competitive. It was another dumbing down of a process whose IQ has been steadily dropping.

As for the six way Dem race to take the seat being given up by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, even after waves of TV ads none of the hopefuls have caught fire. The race is a muddle because no one candidate stands out for their past accomplishments and none has a personality that crackles.

By showering his F bomb on the proceedings Davis didn't explode anything. Rather, it further alienated voters from this sparkless campaign and raised further questions about the state's progressive wing which seems headed for the kind of overreach we saw with the Tea Party in 2010. The retort from the far left might be "Fuck that. We're beating Trump!" No, you're beating yourselves.

CARL VS. ANDREA (CONT.)

Trujillo (New Mexican)
A politician voluntarily taking a lie detector test? That sounds like Superman volunteering to juggle Kryptonite. But State Rep. Carl Trujillo needed to do something to change the subject, with prominent unions backing off their endorsements of him because of allegations that he sexually harassed lobbyist Laura Bonar. So on went the detector straps. Of course, the test showed that Trujillo had not harassed Bonar.

The obvious problem is that lie detectors are known to be about as reliable as the first budget draft for the UNM Athletic Department, so the stiff primary challenge Trujillo is receiving from Andrea Romero for his Santa Fe County seat goes on.

The question du jour is whether Romero has been able to raise funds from the controversy. Trujillo is a business oriented Dem and those interests have written healthy checks to his campaign, giving him considerably more cash than Romero has. But there's been considerable damage done to Trujillo in the media and the race remains in play.

MICHELLE'S POVERTY

Our heart skipped a beat when we glanced at the latest campaign missive from Rep. Lujan Grisham, thinking we were on to something big. Alas, that fizzled fast when we realized at last report the frontrunning Dem Guv candidate had $1.8 million in cash on hand, but that didn't stop her from pleading poverty:

We're still $12,788 short of what we need to stay on the air with our first TV ad and we're running out of time.

Well, either $1.8 million doesn't buy what it used to or the staffer who puts this stuff together for the campaign needs a new calculator.

Poverty is anything but the problem in Los Alamos County, by far the wealthiest county in the state, but the impact of billions of federal money going into Los Alamos National Labs is felt in impoverished regions near the storied facility. Now, as a result of DC machinations and to the lasting chagrin of the state's congressional delegation, there will apparently be fewer billions pumped into the labs in future years.

That’s because the Trump administration has decided to send most of the expensive work in producing nuclear pits for missiles to the Savannah River nuclear site in South Carolina which, unlike NM, is a reliably red state.

Not that the decision was entirely political. The safety culture at Los Alamos--or lack thereof-- contributed mightily to the lost billions but it was a  big loss for the state and for US Senators Udall and Heinrich.

Udall is not up for re-election until 2020 but Heinrich is seeking a second term this year and the campaign of Mick Rich, his GOP foe, pounced:

This disappointing news shows once again how Martin Heinrich fails to stand up for New Mexico’s national labs – and how critical they are to our economy and national security. New Mexico needs a senator who will stand for jobs and national security in Washington D.C., and Mick Rich is ready to do that on day one.

Los Alamos is still expected to expand its hiring over the next several years because of fresh nuclear policy under Trump.

The loss of the pit production casts a shadow of uncertainty over the long-term future of not only Los Alamos but other federal installations in our state. We remain badly out of position in Washington with little seniority and few open lines of communication to the White House.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Primary Will See Skimpy Public Polling, Pearce Tries To Set Early Guv Narrative, Susana Says She's Staying Put, A Bean Counter Special And Jeff's Favorite Munchies 

Polling is going to be skimpy for this primary election.

We'll have a boatload of insider numbers floating around and we'll bring those to you but as far as public polling the ABQ Journal, according to one of the campaigns, won't come with its survey of the top races until May 27th. By then some of those will already have been defined and decided by the early voting which will make up well over half the total vote cast.

We'll see if PPP or another outfit comes with public numbers. If not we may be flying dark in the weeks ahead but that makes it all the more fun.

Gabe Gallegos is a self-described "Democratic PR guy" and writes to us of the gubernatorial contest:

Republican Steve Pearce's two TV spots thus far show one thing: he is immediately setting the main question of this race as jobs and economic development. Since the Democratic Party primary is so heated right now, there has been no central question that has been defined yet. Voters must take this question to the polls on June 5 as we nominate our candidate for Governor to take on Steve Pearce: Who will be able to face Steve Pearce's common-sense, no frills message on job growth?

Agreed, Gabe, except the statement that the Dem Guv primary has "been heated." It has not.

Dems Michelle Lujan Grisham, Joe Cervantes and Jeff Apodaca have mentioned jobs and economic growth but there's little question Pearce has had the field mostly to himself on these critical issues. If he can keep the conversation there and not on Trump and his own often hard right ideology, it will make the race for Governor more than interesting.

SUSANA'S FUTURE

All the talk of Gov. Martinez somehow snagging a top government position somewhere has come to a crashing halt as her administration sputters into its final stretch. The Governor seems quite aware of it. She told an ABQ business group this week of her plans when her governorship ends:

I will continue to be in New Mexico because this is the place I love most.

Martinez will be 59 when she leaves office at year end. She is finishing in the low 30's in popularity, similar to where her predecessor Bill Richardson ended his two terms. But with an international profile Richardson has been in demand by the media and policy makers outside of New Mexico.

BEAN COUNTER SPECIAL

Because we admire all you bean counters we present for your reading enjoyment ABQ Mayor Keller's proposed budget--line by line--for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Now don't stay up too late reading it. . .

And if you are of a mind to chime in on what attributes the new permanent ABQ police chief should have you can add your two cents worth here. However, be warned that the City Hall Alligators are saying the job has already been wired for "interim" Chief Mike Geier. Well, maybe you can tell downtown what you think about what he should be doing.

AUDITOR ACTION

Las Cruces area State Rep. Bill McCamley left the door wide open for Brian Colón when it comes to the major task facing the state auditor and Colon walks right through in his debut TV ad for the Dem nomination.

McCamley's first ad, catchy as it was with him using a sledge hammer to tear down Trump's "hateful wall" and also calling for more investment in education, never does get around to really addressing the auditor's job.

Colón spends the first half of the spot explaining how he grew up poor then pivots to the money lines:

I am running for auditor because I understand when there is waste fraud and abuse in New Mexico it has an impact on the families. . . I understand the value of money because I understand the value of investing in people .

McCamley wins the creativity contest but Colón directly states to voters what the office is and what he would do if elected. No gimmicks. The first round goes to the ABQ attorney.

JEFF'S MUNCHIES

Attention all you marijuana smokers. Here's how Dem Guv candidate and cancer survivor Jeff Apodaca satisfied his munchies back in the day. You might want to give it a try:

Apodaca ended up as one of the first medical marijuana patients in New Mexico. His own father, Gov. Jerry Apodaca, he said, had signed a law that allowed, for a limited time, research into medical uses of marijuana. Apodaca said he still remembers his first meal after smoking marijuana: corned beef hash with green chile. His grandmother had made his favorite dinner.

If Apodaca is elected he says he will propose legalizing marijuana in New Mexico. If that happens maybe they could pass out his grandma's recipe with the pot. You know, kill two birds with one stoned. Get it? Alright. . . We're outta here, kids. . . .

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Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Watching And Waiting: Who Will Break Out Of Pack In Dem Congress Chase? And: Will History Be Made In June Primary? Plus: A Carl And Andrea Update 

Here's what we're watching and mulling over as Primary '18 starts to hit its stride. . .

Is it possible that two candidates who failed to get 20 percent of the delegate support at the March Dem pre-primary convention can defy history and win their party's nominations June 5?

Former US Attorney Damon Martinez only managed 10 percent of the delegate support yet is showing some momentum in the contest for the ABQ Dem congressional nod. His anti-Trump TV is keeping him in the game with base voters.

Neither Deb Haaland or Antoinette Sedillo Lopez--the two leading candidates--have taken command with their first wave of TV, according to campaign insiders, and that leaves alive the theory that they could split much of the women's vote and allow the moderate Martinez to take the prize. Much will depend on whether Haaland or Sedillo Lopez can begin exciting this electorate which so far has escaped them.

Meantime, that third party ad buy from the independent veterans group "With Honor" we told you about yesterday turned out to be a biggie. The group has purchased $112,000 for just the first week. The ad is here. In it a former US Attorney who served with Martinez, Carmen Ortiz, praises him.. And there you have that battle over the female vote as the PAC supporting Martinez tries to splinter it further.

Also, the independent Native American PAC supporting Deb Haaland is coming on the air with a $46,000 TV buy spread over two weeks. The ad is here.

Haaland also came with another campaign ad, a testimonial. Five women praise Haaland in the spot but only one man. That tells you all you need to know about the battle over the women's vote between Haaland and Sedillo Lopez. If one of them can break out with women, they will win. If not, we could be in for a long primary night.

LAND OFFICE BATTLE

Then there is the Dem chase for state land commissioner. State Senator George Munoz also failed to garner 20 percent of the delegates at the Dem pre-primary while Garrett VeneKlasen and Stephanie Garcia Richard went over that mark. Yet Munoz is alive and well. He has loaned himself $200,000 and has a decided financial advantage over VeneKlasen and Garcia Richard. Both are working furiously to close the gap so they can compete on TV with Munoz this month.

VeneKlasen advocates sense the urgency of the moment. An environmental group is running a negative ad against Munoz, claiming he is in bed with "special interests.”

VeneKlasen’s campaign released two 15 second ads, one of them in which Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich, who has backed VeneKlasen from the beginning, endorses him. The other ad has VeneKlasen touting wind power.

Only one candidate--Dem Gary King for Governor--has failed to secure 20 percent pre-primary support and went on to win his party's nomination for statewide office. Will Munoz and/or Martinez do the feat and make some history?

And what if ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis pulled the upset and won the ABQ congressional nomination? He's a candidate the R's have said they would like to run against. Would they decide to bolster their nominee, Janice Arnold-Jones, if Davis were the foe? The R's currently have no plans of targeting the seat.

PEARCE POVERTY BEAT

His first ad said he spent his first two years poor with no indoor plumbing and now that's followed by a second spot in which he again cites that poverty and that of the state and says jobs are the way out. He calls for apprenticeship programs in the state's high schools for students not going on to college.

In both spots Pearce holds the camera well and the scripts are tight. No doubt they are building the positives of the GOP Guv contender as intended. And he will need every positive point as the Dems and independent money groups will soon be on his tail.

TRUJILLO VS. ROMERO

As expected the sexual harassment complaint leveled against Santa Fe County State Rep. Carl Trujillo by then-lobbyist Laura Bonar involving the '13 and '14 legislative sessions has been forwarded to an investigative subcommittee of the Legislative Ethics Committee. What's not expected is any kind of resolution of the complaint before the critical June primary featuring Trujillo and his Dem challenger Andrea Romero. If such a decision were to come it could tilt the race to whomever came out best in the investigation--Romero if Bonar's complaint is found true or Trujillo if it isn't. But, hey, in Santa Fe you never know. We'll keep a close watch for any curve balls. Three Dem state reps have called on Trujillo to resign--Miguel Garcia,Christine Trujillo and Debra M. Sariñana but he has no plans to do so. The primary is critical because there is no R running for the seat. The winner June 5 is essentially elected to the two year term.

NM DRUGS

Several informed readers commented on our description of the state's drug problem for including fentanyl, but they report fentanyl has yet to make a major presence here as it has in a number of other states. They report meth, heroin and opioids are the drugs most widespread and causing the pain.

THE BOTTOM LINES

In a first draft Tuesday we had the incorrect address for in-person voting at the BernCo Clerk's Annex. The correct address is 1500 Lomas Blvd.

And we were not clear on this so we repeat it:

Secretary of State Toulouse Oliver announced NMVote.org is where New Mexico voters can request an absentee ballot online for the first time in the state’s history.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Campaign '18 Goes To The Early Birds Starting Today; More TV Ads Popping As Candidates Vy For Position, And: Mayor Asks For Help Naming Newborn Elephant; We Answer The Call 

Campaign '18 has been more like a dawdle than a dash but it's here. The first votes will be cast today when the state's county clerks welcome the early birds to cast ballots at their locales and also send out the first batch of absentee ballots.

In BernCo you can vote beginning today at the Clerk's Annex downtown at 1500 Lomas NW. Countywide early voting begins May 19 and Primary Election Day is June 5.

You can register to vote online and also request an absentee ballot. The Secretary of State's link to do either is here. Today is the last day to register for the June primary.

The major candidates for office are well aware of these dates and many have been running TV ads to ensure the early voters don't forget them.

In the southern congressional district Monty Newman, who is seeking the GOP nomination, comes with this bio ad. He cites border security and national defense as two key issues. He emphasizes his son's service in Iraq and says that's "why all this matters to me." But supporters of Newman's chief rival, State Rep. Yvette Herrell, say Newman relies too much on the son's service and not his own. Newman is not a military veteran.

Newman's advocates have panned Herrell over her failure to report on her state financial disclosure form all of the income her company earned. She has since amended the form. There are two other candidates in this one but it's going to be Newman and Herrell fighting to the finish line.

OFF THE WALL

What does Trump wanting to build a wall on the US-Mexico border have to do with the office of NM State Auditor? It's not readily apparent but it is the centerpiece of this ad from Dem auditor hopeful Bill McCamley. You might say it's a bit off the wall:

. . . Let’s use every tool in our toolbox to knock down Donald Trump’s hateful and wasteful wall. Speaking of walls, we invest $24 billion of our money on Wall Street. Let’s take some of that money and invest it in education for all of our kids. . . In the Trump era we need a Democratic auditor who’s going to build bridges, not walls.”

McCamley is vying for the nomination with ABQ attorney and former NM Dem Party Chairman Brian Colon. The Republican nominee will be Wayne Johnson who was appointed state auditor by the Governor to fill a vacancy.

VETS VOICE

We reported a while back that ABQ Dem US House candidate and former US Attorney Damon Martinez would be getting some third party support for his bid. That has happened as this Politico report spells out:

VoteVets is going up with a TV ad buy backing Martinez in the open seat. "Donald Trump fired New Mexico's U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez because he prosecuted corporations that pollute our environment," the ad's narrator says. "Because he cracked down on domestic violence and took assault weapons off the streets, because he fought for his fellow veterans." Watch the ad here.

Following 9/11 Martinez enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve and became a Judge Advocate.

Another third party veterans group, With Honor, is also going to weigh in with media for Martinez.

The most recent insider polling has the ABQ Dem congressional race still close between Deb Haaland and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, with Damon Martinez also in the top tier. Pat Davis is trying to break through with a widespread ground game. One Dem consultant calls the race "a dogfight."

LIGHT GUV DOINGS

It's all about what could have been for Lt. Governor John Sanchez this election cycle but he's still managing to collect a few perks, like this one:

. . . Sanchez will receive an honorary doctorate from Western New Mexico University at the spring 2018 commencement ceremony on Friday, May 11. Sanchez has advocated for the university in countless instances and has been instrumental in seeing that Western New Mexico University’s students have resources that are often more limited in rural communities like Silver City, Western New Mexico. . .

We're still having fun tracking the hot rumors that Sanchez is in line to be appointed an ambassador by President Trump, perhaps to Panama, but we haven't heard anything firm yet.

NAME THE ELEPHANT

Mayor Keller has asked the public to help name the baby elephant born this month at the ABQ BioPark and we’re more than happy to oblige. . .

Considering that the newborn came into the world only yards from the biggest White Elephant in the history of the city, we propose that the bouncing baby boy be named ART. It's a great name and as he prospers in the decades ahead baby ART will forever be a reminder of the city's bus folly and not to repeat it. So there you have it, Mayor. If you go along with us at least one ART will be up and running.

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Monday, May 07, 2018

Poverty And Drugs Make For An Evil Dynamic That Strikes Again In Abuse Case Of 7 Year Old; A CYFD Disaster; Plus: Did Rep. Trujillo Survive The Weekend? And Remembering Mayor Larry Abraham 

CYFD Secretary Jacobson
The state of New Mexico continues to fail in its most basic obligation--to protect those least able to protect themselves--and that failure is going to reverberate on the campaign trail.

The astounding news that the state Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) had every opportunity to stop the latest case of sensational abuse, but didn't, sent the state reeling yet again:

Court documents reveal CYFD had more than 21 opportunities to help a 7-year-old girl who was forced into prostitution. Meanwhile, police had at least six times to save her, so why didn't they? "I think there are steps we could've and should've taken to better protect this little girl and her brother," CYFD Cabinet Secretary Monique Jacobson said. Court documents reveal CYFD had been dealing with Teri Sanchez and James Stewart for years. Starting in June 2004, CYFD was called to check on the couple's three children after reports of everything from medical neglect, physical abuse, the kids not going to school, to sexual molestation concerns.

This is only the latest in a growing list of ghastly abuse cases at the hands of supposed loved ones. Those who have been murdered in recent years are familiar as your own family: 9 year old Omaree Varela in 2014, 10 year old Victoria Martens in 2016 and 13 year old Jeremiah Valencia in 2017 all suffered agonizing deaths and, like the seven year old, all were on the radar of the state CYFD or other authorities before they were brutally slain.

Think of it. All that horror in a smallish state of only 2 million, not some giant metropolis. When will New Mexico find the will to reverse what has become a vile trend?

Secretary Jacobson had no choice but to admit her department's incompetence in this latest case. She has had over three years on the job to reform the bureaucracy under her and has not been up to the task.

THE WARNING

Sen. Padilla
Gov. Martinez
ABQ Valley State Senators Michael Padilla and Linda Lopez, both familiar with the extreme conditions facing children in their lower income districts, warned of her political appointment to CYFD when Jacobson was named to the post by Gov. Martinez. They said her lack of social work experience would be a detriment. Sadly, they were correct.

In her first appearance before the Legislature as secretary in 2015 Jacobson meekly caved in to the Governor who insisted on cutting the CYFD budget and staff in the middle of a social conditions crisis. How did she expect to be taken seriously after that?

It all doesn't fall on one cabinet secretary's shoulders. The government as a whole--from the Governor's office to the Legislature--doesn't seem to fully understand the evil dynamic that has gripped the state and has been unwilling or unable to respond. Let's spell it out:

New Mexico's chronic poverty, combined with a pernicious and persistent drug epidemic, has created a devilish and depraved environment in an untold number of New Mexican households.

This is not old West Virginia style poverty where kids ran around barefoot and neglected while their parents guzzled moonshine. This is a poverty mixed with meth and fentanyl and that drives parents to do more than drink. They kill. Their own kids.

One proven solution is succinctly stated by reader Stephen Spitz:

Last year only 4,500 infants received home visits. The 2018 Legislature expanded HV by $1.5M so that for FY 19 4,800 will get home visits. This is less than 5% of our infants, the overwhelming percentage of which are born into poverty and would benefit most from the program.

It's pretty simple. If you can spot the abuse you can stop the abuse.

You have to have a CYFD that is not dysfunctional. For example, the foster care system and abuse:

“It’s preventable, and that’s really the heartbreak here,” said Sara Crecca, an ABQ attorney who has worked 17 years as a court-appointed guardian for children in CYFD custody. “Our system needs changing from every aspect, from every angle. The whole entire apple cart needs to be turned over.” But the ultimate responsibility, Crecca said, always falls to CYFD and the state caseworker assigned to ensure the child’s safety, visit the child in the treatment foster home and attend treatment meetings with the foster care company. . .

While the murders and abuse are met with outrage, it has been of the moment, similar to the uproars heard in the aftermath of mass school shootings. The cries for change echo through the nation but then slowly fade and we are back to where we started.

It will be up to the next Governor to sustain a change movement. Will the candidates tell us before they are elected who they will name as CYFD secretary and what reforms they expect? What the CYFD budget will be? Will they commit to a home visiting program that has nearly 100 percent reach in four years? Or are repeated cases of murdered and abused children just part of what passes for the "new normal" around here?

TRUJILLO VS. ROMERO 

Will he make it through the weekend? That was the question on the lips of the politicos as they eagle-eyed the melodrama of the Dem primary between State Rep. Carlos Trujillo and his Dem challenger Andrea Romero.

One of our analysts said that if Trujillo could make it through the weekend without more women surfacing accusing him of sexual harassment he would likely weather the storm created when Laura Bonar with an animal protection group accused him of sex harassment during the'14 legislative session.

No additional women have emerged to charge Trujillo but ABQ Dem State Rep. Armstrong threw kerosene on the fire when she alleged that other women had confided in her that Trujillo had also harassed them. But Armstrong, the treasurer for the Guv campaign of Michelle Lujan Grisham, gave no names or details. While that story caused a kerfuffle, Trujillo continued to fight back and will not resign.

So Trujillo did make it through the weekend with some cuts and scrapes. Now both candidates will take their cases to the mailboxes. Voters with weak stomachs in the Santa Fe County district may want to stop mail delivery until after June 5.

LARRY ABRAHAM

We were saddened to hear of the passing of Larry Abraham, the longtime mayor of the Village of Los Ranchos in the ABQ metro North Valley. He was first elected  in 2004 and remained popular until his untimely passing on Saturday during a trip with his wife to his second home in St. George Utah. His sister said the cause of death was apparently a massive heart attack.

Abraham is especially known for advocating for the North Fourth Street Revitalization Project which has spruced up the area considerably. He was also a political bridge builder who was an independent. In 2007 he made blog headlines when he hosted a major fund-raiser at his Los Ranchos home for then-Senator Pete Domenici with President George W. Bush as the headliner.

A couple of years ago when we were at a Vintage ABQ event he pulled us aside to meet with then-UNM President Bob Frank to see if we could see eye-to-eye on some issues. He was that kind of leader.

We first became friends with him when we were both at UNM and he was a student senator and we covered him for the Daily Lobo. He went on to become a busy businessman and entrepreneur.

Former ABQ Chief Administrative Officer Lawrence Rael who is now chief operating officer  under Mayor Keller worked closely with Abraham over the years:

So sad to hear the news. I worked with the Mayor for many years. He was always supportive and interested in making our community and state a better place. I will miss him very much. Kim and I send our condolences to his family. So sorry. Rest In Peace my friend.

The family plans a memorial service.

Larry Abraham was 64.

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Thursday, May 03, 2018

Sex Harassment Charge Gets Trujillo Vs. Romero House Race Rockin' Again, Plus: Pearce TV Debut Seeks To Rebrand Him But Does He Stretch? And: APD Chief Geier Pushes For Permanency 

Laura Bonar
One candidate has a problem with a WhistlePig whiskey bill and the other just had the whistle blown on him for alleged sex harassment. Welcome back to that nasty Democratic primary battle for the Santa Fe County state House seat featuring Rep. Carl Trujillo and his  progressive challenger Andrea Romero.

The race was rocked anew Wednesday when Laura Bonar of Animal Protection Voters claimed that in the '14 legislative session Trujillo harassed her and she called on Trujillo to resign. In an open letter she asserts:

You propositioned me. You touched me inappropriately. You held your power as a state legislator over my head, making it clear to me that my passion for my cause would get me nowhere unless I demonstrated ‘passion’ for you.

And then came the long knife:

You did all of this as a married man.

Holy smokes! That must have sent Trujillo, the father of four, running for a shot of WhistlePig. Well, no, but he did push back vigorously:

These charges are lies of the worst sort, because we live in an age where anybody can say anything without proof and be believed. I thought there was a limit to how low my opponents could go. I was wrong. . .To hijack and exploit the #MeToo movement for their own political gain, to undermine the cause of animal welfare and the innocent animals who depend on us... it doesn’t get lower than that. 

Another line in the Bonar letter had the Santa Fe Wall-Leaners on high alert. She said:

I was but one victim of your sexual quid pro quo mentality.


Rep. Trujillo 
We asked a Roundhouse veteran for analysis:

If this remains allegations from one person it could be contained by next week. But if other women surface with similar stories, it could spell big trouble for him. Also, how his wife reacts could be critical. 

Bonar said she waited to announce her charges because she said there was nowhere to report them at the time but the legislature recently adopted a sex harassment policy. That the June primary is so close had Trujillo supporters claiming she was politically motivated.

The Dem House leadership put out a statement saying the Bonar claim will be looked into under the new policy. But will anything come of that inquiry before the election?

STATE OF THE RACE

Gong into Wednesday Trujillo had Romero on the defensive. In case you forgot Romero
was busted for wrongfully receiving reimbursements for alcohol and other expenses when she served as executive director of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities. That includes a $28 glass of WhistlePig whiskey for an unidentified politico, one of several that Romero's group was hosting at a DC dinner.

After that news broke and kept breaking, Romero was given up for dead. But the sexual harassment charges reopen the race, at least for a while.

The difference could be which message voters hear most often leading up to the June 5 primary--that Romero is ethically challenged and can't be trusted or that Trujillo is a flagrant sexual harasser who should be condemned.

Andrea Romero
Also, if turnout among women voters is more than usual, as some expect, could that make a difference?

Trujillo may have the messaging edge, if the story does not explode more. At last report he had $55,000 banked to Romero's $26,000.

The district is dominated by progressives in the southern portion and is conservative Dem in the northern part that runs through Pojoaque and up toward Española.

Trujillo was first elected to the seat in 2012 but the conservative Dem had a close one, beating former Santa Fe Mayor and progressive Dave Coss 52% to 48%.

STATEWIDE IMPLICATIONS

The race has statewide implications. Here's why: Trujillo is in an alliance with fellow northern conservative State Rep. Debbie Rodella. Their common enemy is progressive House Speaker Brian Egolf. The Egolf forces are widely believed to be behind the progressive challenge to Trujillo, as well as one against Rodella. If both are ousted Egolf strengthens his hand and the House turns more liberal. If that were to happen the firewall for conservatism would be the State Senate which is dominated by moderates and conservatives.

The reputations of Trujillo and Romero are taking major hits, even though both are described as smart and able. But it's what happens in La Politica these days.

PEARCE TV DEBUT

You wouldn't know he is a Republican. That's the takeaway from the first ad from soon-to-be GOP Guv nominee and US Rep. Steve Pearce. In a 30 second spot he put over $100,000 behind Pearce shows the abandoned and decayed Texas home he lived in for his first two years and told viewers it had no plumbing or running water.

He says that's why he can relate to the many impoverished New Mexicans and help them, a statement that is sure to get the Dems in an uproar over the conservative Pearce's record. As this Senior Alligator of the Dem variety says, Pearce is going for a rebranding:

It's a good, solid ad. He's rebranding himself as someone that is compassionate about people's problems in New Mexico. No mention of being conservative or a Republican. While people are being drawn into the primary election he's taking the time to get in front of voters and tell them who he is. It's up to the Democrats to  respond sooner rather than later to remind voters of Pearce's extreme voting record.

The ad may be "solid" but Pearce critic Greg Lennes in Las Cruces says Pearce is stretching in playing the poverty angle:

Pearce was born in 1947. So he had no idea about his father and sharecropping. In 1949, when he was 2, his father was already working in the oilfields and had the money to purchase a farm in 1954 when Pearce was 7. His father, Melvin Pearce, had a good job with the Humble Oil & Refining Company/Exxon as a Technician where he worked from 1951 until his retirement in 1984, plus he owned a farm. It seems Mr. Pearce is inspired by his so-called poverty. However, he has been fueled by corporate money, scorns compromise and leaves New Mexico a "house divided." Now this humble millionaire wants to be our Governor.

Whether its good rebranding ad or pure poppycock about growing up in poverty, Pearce is getting on the air a month ahead of the June primary, even though he has no opposition. That's a good strategic decision given his  underdog status.

GEIER NOT GONE

Chief Geier
Mayor Keller's announcement that he is  in the middle of a national search for a permanent police chief and hopes to wrap it up by June led to speculation that Mike Geier, the interim APD chief, will be gone, but that's balderdash.

In fact, its looking more and more like Geier may get the gig permanently. Something similar occurred when Mayor Berry took office in 2010 and launched a national chief search, only to keep on board Chief Ray Schultz. Attorney and former APD cop Tom Grover says:

Geier is positioned on the inside lane and is a knowledgeable and skilled cop. He also has hired a new chief of staff which speaks volumes. I still think Deputy Chief Medina is a problem, though. Hopefully Geier will be endowed with the ability to replace and name his deputy chiefs.

Medina has been targeted by APD reformers who, fairly or not, put much of the blame for the chaos at the department in his lap and those of other commanders who they want gone. They may be disappointed that Geier--who has kept the old crowd around--is in the running and lobbying hard for the chief post. He says:

I didn’t know where it was going to lead but as we’ve gotten more embedded in the job now, definitely I’m interested in staying for the long haul, I just feel that I’ve kind of taken ownership of (the police department.) I feel like this was something that was meant to be.


And that's a wrap for this week. We're starting to get hit by the primary political tsunami but we'll keep riding the wave for you because. . .

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Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Cervantes Starts Digging At MLG In The Big Game Of Catch Up; Nicks Her Over Debates, Plus: Turmoil On Campus; Leading Professor Exits NMSU And Dubs School's Regents "Incompetent", And: AG Balderas Takes A Hammer To The UNM Stonewall 

He relies on an old standby in his first effort to take Michelle Lujan Grisham down a notch but Joe Cervantes has to start somewhere if this Dem Guv race is going to be something other than watching paint dry. So he nicks the frontrunner over her shyness over debating:

It is completely unacceptable, though not surprising, that Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham is ducking debates. This past Saturday in Silver City she was a no show yet again for a scheduled forum. It isn’t the first time. She has actually withdrawn from scheduled debates when she had already confirmed she would attend. Grisham seems to think that slick mailings and expensive TV ads are all it takes to win New Mexico voters. Don’t the people of New Mexico have a right to a serious discussion of the issues? 

MLG's camp pointed out she has appeared with Cervantes and her other challenger Jeff Apodaca, even if sparsely: 

This isn’t the first campaign where candidates struggling to gain any sort of traction resort misrepresenting the facts. Not only has Michelle already participated in several public forums but she’s committed to several more including one last night in Doña Ana one in Santa Fe, and a statewide televised debate on KOAT. It’s clear our campaign is only picking up more momentum as we get closer to the first day of early voting —Tuesday we released our first radio ad, we are on week two of a six figure television ad buy. . . 

That KOAT face-off stands out because so far it is the only statewide TV debate slated. It is set to air May 20 at 6 p.m.

Cervantes has a TV buy up of $175,000 while Apodaca is below $30,000. That could quickly move Cervantes into second place. Once there, Cervantes would have to decide how hard to go after Lujan Grisham.

OUT WITH NO BS

Peach
Talk about taking a whack at the boss on the way out the door. Dr. Jim Peach, a noted NMSU economic professor familiar to blog readers for being on our exclusive list of "No BS Economists," has had enough of the Las Cruces campus and what he sees as a bunch of political hacks posing as the school's Board of Regents. He's retiring and true to form it's no BS from him on why:

In more than 40 years in the academic world, I have never seen a more incompetent board." Peach condemns the future of the institution under the Regents’ leadership, saying it will be detrimental to this “great institution.”

“The regents have trashed the university publicly and repeatedly while their job is to guide, foster, and promote the institution. The regents have attempted to micro-manage the university but lack the knowledge and expertise to do so,” the letter reads. “At best, the regents are numerically and logically challenged.”

Governor Martinez appoints the Regents at NMSU as well as UNM and the states other universities. When NMSU Chancellor and former Governor Garrey Carruthers was forced out of his Chancellor's position by the NMSU board it was widely seen as a Martinez power play. Carruthers is still on the job as a search continues for a new chancellor.

MORE HIGHER ED WOES

Will the next Governor break the gubernatorial habit of making the top universities political playgrounds? Something needs to happen. The news:

A recent decline in enrollment at New Mexico public colleges outpaced nearly every state in the nation. An association of state higher education agencies says enrollment dropped by nearly 5 percent at New Mexico public colleges for the school year that ended in June 2017.

Tuition that is too high for a low income state and the brain drain of students to surrounding states would seem to be two chief reasons for that disturbing trend.

And the beat goes on. . . Attorney General Balderas is getting a whiff of the rancid smell that floats above UNM, although he is too polite to describe it in those words. Instead he labels it a "pervasive culture of silence." The normally patient Balderas has been stonewalled so badly in his investigations touching upon the UNM Athletic Department and the school's personnel practices that he is threatening legal action to loosen the closed lips. He also calls for an improvement in "the tone at the top."

Well, the longtime Grand Political Wizard of UNM, David Harris, has finally announced his retirement and will depart this year. That could change the tone. Why his powerful position and his responsibility for what has happened there has never really been brought to the fore in the news is quizzical.

The new UNM president, who has worked at mostly normal places like Florida State University, already seems stunned by the culture that has been fostered at UNM. Good luck to Hector and her.  We can already hear the emails at our Harvard on the Rio Grande being deleted.

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