Thursday, April 15, 2021

Scuffling Over ABQ Congress Debates; Independent Dunn Could Be Kept Off Stage, Plus: A Guv Run For John Sanchez?  

For the time being he arguably is the candidate with the highest name ID of any of the contenders seeking the open ABQ congressional seat in the June 1 special election. But former Republican turned independent Aubrey Dunn is having a difficult time convincing local TV stations of his standing. 

Three major network affiliated stations are expected to host debates for the candidates but KOB-TV apparently has already decided to keep Dunn off their stage and keep the debate confined to the three major party nominees--Dem Melanie Stansbury, R Mark Moores and Libertarian Chris Manning. 

This station memo explaining the Dunn exclusion was passed along to us: 

. . . KOB’s executive management decided to offer invitations to our debate to the candidates who earned nominations from their political parties. When it comes to planning live, televised debates, television stations and networks routinely and normally create guidelines and limits on participation. The Federal Communications Commission gives us the flexibility to invite candidates to debate who meet criteria that we set. For this special election, KOB’s criteria limited candidates to those nominated by political parties. KOB also took technical and pandemic concerns in regard. Allowing so many people in our studio presents a public health risk and is technically impossible.

Dunn's camp is obviously not pleased. His son, Blair Dunn, tells us:  

It's obvious they are playing favorites. They know where their bread is buttered--with the ad dollars from the major parties. 

Campaign insiders report KRQE-TV is also preparing to host a debate that also excludes Dunn. 

But the stations appear to be on thin ice in their rationale to include only the three party nominees. And some could see the decision as biased in favor of R Mark Moores. Dunn is widely anticipated to take votes from his fellow conservative. Also. . . 

Independents now make up 23 percent of the electorate in the ABQ congressional district, right behind the 31 percent who are registered R's. Dems have 45 percent. With those numbers, shouldn't the qualified independent have a seat at the table? 

Dunn is not a freak candidate. He narrowly beat an incumbent Democratic state land commissioner in the 2014 race to become commissioner in a Dem dominated state. 

He submitted 6,000 petition signatures to the Secretary of State to qualify for the congressional ballot. Only1,600 were required.

He has raised over $70,000 for his campaign (including a personal loan of $65,000) and has TV spots running on the stations that want to exclude him from their debate airwaves.

And the pandemic excuse seems feeble given the current low virus rate, the commodious studio KOB has and having the option of going remote as a back up. 

Clearly Dunn is a newsworthy contender with a significant public presence. Whatever "criteria" KOB is using seems disconnected from the political reality in the market they are licensed to serve by the FCC.

KOAT-TV is also expected to host a televised debate.


The weak bench the R's have for the 2022 race against Dem Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is a given. So let the debate now begin on whether former Lt. Gov. John Sanchez is a strong or weak member of that bench. 

We say let the debate begin because Sanchez appears to be considering a Guv run. He will be the guest speaker April 21 at the Dona Ana County Republican Party's "Dinner for Conservative Hispanics." 

The appearance comes as the time approaches for announcing a bid for the June 2022 primary.

Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block will become the first '22 GOP Guv candidate when he goes official this Saturday. Financial adviser Greg Zanetti, who ran for the Guv nomination in 2010, is said to be eyeing another run.

Sanchez had eight years under Gov. Martinez whose administration ended deeply unpopular. During that time he made a brief run for the GOP US Senate nomination and ultimately withdrew. In 2002 he was the unsuccessful GOP nominee against Bill Richardson. 

Sanchez runs a successful roofing business and knows his way around La Politica but he's going to have show some impressive bench presses to convince the skeptics.


Former ABQ city councilor and state senator Eric Griego had a big 2020 when he helped spearhead the successful campaign to oust a number of conservative Democratic state senators in the June primary. Now he is leaving his post as state director of the NM Working Families Party:

It is with a heavy heart but one filled with gratitude that I am stepping down as State Director effective April 30. It has been an honor and pleasure working with you all to fight for economic, racial and social justice for New Mexico families. Thanks to your support we have done some amazing work to make our elected officials more representative and accountable, and to pass important legislation to improve the lives of working families. We are currently hiring a new State Lead of NM-WFP.

And we received word from readers that Bill McCamley, cabinet secretary for the Department of Workforce Solutions, notified his colleagues via email that he is leaving that position this week. We'll post more here when it comes in. . . Confirmation on McCamley came Friday afternoon.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

MLG Gets Drudge Treatment Over Cash Settlement In Crotchgate Incident, Plus: The Pot Expungement Numbers; How Many Get A Break?  

She craved the national spotlight when she sought an appointment to the Biden cabinet. But that never happened. Now that spotlight is shining on New Mexico's governor in a most unwanted fashion. 

After it was disclosed Tuesday that James Hallinan, a former spokesman for MLG received $62,500 in cash payments from her campaign fund to settle his sexual mistreatment charges, the headlines hit the Drudge Report, the well-known news aggregating site with a bent toward the sensational and that is a popular stop on the Internet.

She got the full Drudge treatment, pictured in a pink "pussy hat" from the 2017 Women's March in DC, and her trouble getting the #MeTo movement turned upside down on her. 

In case you were in a cave, Hallinan accused MLG of throwing a bottle of water on his crotch and then grabbing his crotch through his pants, while she laughed.  He said the incident occurred during a 2018 campaign meeting as she sought the governorship. 

She denied the charge as did other staffers who Hallinan said were at the meeting. MLG's attorneys said the settlement was done to "avoid distraction" and the "cost of litigation." But the settlement delivered a blow to her national image and the national R's took the bait with their Governors Association coming with this blast: 

 $62,500 is a lot of money for a sexual harassment scandal that Lujan Grisham originally called 'bizarre,' 'slanderous' and 'categorically false. The payments certainly suggest that there must be some truth to the story, and Governor Lujan Grisham should publicly apologize to her victim for her behavior.

One unanswered question is whether the $62,500 is the ultimate cost of settling the Hallinan case or whether the Governor has also agreed to pay him personal funds to make the mess go away. 

Politically, MLG may be out of the running in national politics (did the Hallinan incident hurt in that regard? The first payment to him was made last November when she was being vetted for the Biden cabinet). But the Republican bench for the 2022 Governor's race remains weak, giving her something to hang her pussy hat on as she seeks re-election.

Meanwhile, you've been Drudged, Guv. Congrats. . . or something. 

While Drudge was a downer for MLG, she did get a shot in the arm from this positive Politico piece titled:

The Unlikely State Setting the US Vaccination Pace.


How many New Mexicans will have their arrest and conviction records for marijuana related offenses expunged now that the legalization bill that includes such expungements has been signed into law? Let's start with this item that left some readers confused: 

. .  .An initial state Department of Public Safety review has identified roughly 150,000 people who will have their records reviewed for possible expungement.

That does not mean there have been 150,000 folks arrested for pot related offenses. That number, says ABQ Dem State Rep. Moe Maestas, a key player in the cannabis legislation, represents the approximate 150,000 residents who have criminal records. 

Maestas estimates the total marijuana expungements under legalization will total anywhere from 5 to 10 thousand. That straightens that out, but that there are 150,000 New Mexicans who have criminal records is another story.


A self-described ABQ Westside Gator comments on the dust up in the special ABQ congressional election over exempting Social Security from state taxes: 

 Joe, If New Mexico government really wanted to help seniors, or anyone on fixed incomes, they should place a freeze on property tax increases. Don't hear much about that though, why? 

Property taxes are relatively low here compared to the rest of the nation but so are incomes. There is a property tax break for low income seniors 65 and over that freezes the value of a senior's property. From the Sandoval County Treasurer.

The income cap to qualify for the limitation on property tax valuation, also called the “Property Valuation Freeze” (is) $35,000. . .  The value freeze is for a single-family dwelling occupied by a person who is sixty-five years of age or older or disabled, and whose modified gross income for the prior taxable year did not exceed $35,000.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Medical Marijuana Use Continues To Soar; Over 112,000 Now Taking Part As Guv Signs Legal Pot Bill, Plus: The Politics of NM's One And Only Billionaire 

There are now over 112,000 New Mexico medical marijuana patients, making one wonder how many customers there will be for legal recreational use which the Governor signed into law Monday. Perhaps fewer than anticipated.

The medical marijuana program grew by 32 percent from March 2020 thru March 2021. If that growth was replicated in the next year--before legal weed takes full effect in April of 2022--the state would have nearly 150,000 patients.

And it may grow even more. After all, medical marijuana will not be subjected to the 12 percent excise tax (that eventually goes to 18 percent) as recreational pot will, so why not get to the doctor and get medical marijuana while the getting is good?

Well over half of those prescribed medical marijuana are diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. There's plenty of that to go around in New Mexico. 

As for legal weed, the rhetoric upon the Governor's signing of recreational legalization was typically over wrought, replete with promises of an economic transformation. But we've reported extensively on the mostly low wage jobs (about $13 an hour) that will dominate the new industry. And the 11,000 jobs that supporters say would result from the industry would take a decade to come on line. That’s under the rosy scenario.

And with medical marijuana use soaring and the black market expected to continue to operate, the economic boost the boosters pledge may come in on the low end of expectations. (Estimates for tax collections have repeatedly been lowered.)

Cannabis is going legal mainly because it has become what a martini was (or still is) to your parents or grandparents--a way of taking the edge off, and a majority of the population now supports legalizing.

But the political class couldn't help from throwing a pot party rooted in a disconnected reality as the Governor gleefully signed the new law. The real reality will be on their doorsteps soon enough. Don’t say we didn’t tell you. 


Ron Curio
So is Is New Mexico's new one and only billionaire a Democrat, Republican or something else?

Thanks to our Alligators we learn that 59 year old Ron Corio (net worth $1.1 billion) belongs to that growing group of voters registered as "decline to state" or independent for short. 

According to voter info from official files, Corio voted in all NM general elections from 2004 through 2020, with one big exception. In 2016 when Trump was elected, Corio did not cast a ballot. 

Corio may be the richest man in New Mexico but when it comes to housing he appears to live below his means. On Zillow the value of his 5,800 square foot ABQ home is put at $1.4 million. 

Corio made his fortune in solar (Array Technologies) and when the ABQ-based company's stock was listed on the NASDAQ he reaped millions. 

With the impending sale of PNM, New Mexico will soon lose its only company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, but we're picking up a billionaire. If there's anything the state needs it is more capital circulating. So spend and invest liberally in the community right here, Mr. Corio, and watch out for those Alligators trying to make you sign up as a D or R. 

By the way, Corio may get to be a billionaire a couple of times over. His father, Phil Curio, lived to the ripe old age of 109. 


We continue to get comments on that spat between Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart and ABQ Dem Senator Daniel Ivey Soto that took place in the final hours of the recent legislative session. Our last commenter favored Stewart. This one goes with Ivey Soto: 

I have been in the political realm for over two decades. The entire scenario and media behind Senator Mimi Stewart is completely blown out of proportion. Stewart’s comments are taking the entire women’s moment backwards. We have overcome unequal pay, no access to credit, second class citizens, and sexual harassment. Stewart was treated like an equal, a colleague. The fact that she could not answer the questions or did not like Ivey Soto's questions is not the same as abuse, and it is certainly not the same as abuse from a family member. As a survivor myself, her comparison to abuse trivializes what I have endured and survived. She is taking us backwards. Women deserve more. We have prevailed in this society and in no way do I want a man to refrain from treating me like an equal or with kit gloves. A woman on leadership should portray herself strong and not an a victim.       

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Monday, April 12, 2021

ABQ Congress Battle Quickly Goes Negative; Moores And Stansbury Spar Over Taxing Social Security, Plus: First Legislative Retirement of '22 Cycle, And: NM Labs Boom But Threat Is Out There 

GOP congressional candidate Mark Moores is wasting no time in trying to define Dem nominee and front-runner Melanie Stansbury. After opening with a positive spot about his UNM football playing days, Moores unveiled his first hit on the ABQ lawmaker.

The 30 second spot, not posted on the net, accuses state Rep. Stansbury of doing "very little" to abolish the state tax on Social Security benefits while he, a GOP state senator, has been a leader on the issue and supports doing away with the  tax. He says seniors have been among the groups most hurt by the pandemic and deserve the break. 

The spot is filled with plenty of gray hairs as Moores aims his sights squarely at the 60 plus crowd that is expected to have one of the highest turnouts in the June 1 special election. 

But Stansbury isn't buying it as her campaign responds with this: 

This attack is false and laughable considering Moores plans to go to Washington to vote with the Republicans to privatize Social Security. Rep. Stansbury has sponsored bipartisan legislation to provide a Social Security income tax exemption. . . She has been there for seniors throughout the pandemic, and even helped shop for her senior constituents when they couldn’t. On the other hand, Mark Moores has not sponsored a single bill with the sole purpose of exempting Social Security income from income taxation. 

New Mexico is one of 13 states that taxes Social Security. A bill to repeal the tax was tabled in the House tax committee in the last legislative session. 

The secretary of state said Friday that six candidates, including two write-ins, have officially qualified for the June 1 ballot. 

Independent Aubrey Dunn and Libertarian Chris Manning will be on the ballot with Stansbury and Moores. 


Rep. Ely 
One of the first election announcements from a state legislator for the next election cycle comes to us. Dem Rep. Daymon Ely of Bernalillo and Sandoval counties says he will not seek re-election in 2022. The 63 year old attorney, who specializes in legal malpractice, say family considerations are the reason. 

Ely of Corrales is a former Sandoval County Commissioner who was first elected in 2016 to House District 23 which was then a swing district. Since then, the district has become more Democratic and will likely remain so when the once a decade redistricting is completed later this year.  

Ely has been tight with House Speaker Brian Egolf who relied on him for advice and rulings as the House parliamentarian. It was often at late night sessions where tempers sometimes flared where you could see Ely doing his legal footwork. 

Ely most recently made blog news when he announced that he would introduce a bill requiring political parties to conduct primary elections to pick candidates for congressional seats that become vacant in between regular elections, instead of having their central committee members do the task. The bill was not approved and the central committees selected the nominees for the vacant ABQ congressional seat on the June 1 special election ballot. 

Ely was a key player in implementing the state ethics commission approved by voters in 2018

He still has the redistricting session as well as a regular legislative session before his term expires at the end of 2022. 


Sandia and Los Alamos nuclear weapons labs have been firing on all cylinders, financed with record appropriations and bursting with record employment. But a threat to that growth spike is surfacing in DC as a spending brawl is pending:

Nuclear weapons are emerging as one of the top political brawls in the brewing battle over next year's defense budget. Democrats have been introducing bills to curtail costly nuclear modernization programs, as well as writing letters urging President Biden to support their efforts. But Republicans are shooting back with their own letters and op-eds calling on Biden to stay the course on programs that largely originated during the Obama administration. They’re also working to pin down Pentagon nominees on where they stand. 

Los Alamos is so overflowing with new employees that they're moving 500 of them with an annual payroll of $64 million to Santa Fe offices. How would you like to own a restaurant next to that? But the modernization of nukes is seen as wasteful and unneeded in some quarters and that's what the legislative battle will be over. (Better take only a one year lease on that new lunch spot you're opening.)  

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Thursday, April 08, 2021

Where Is ABQ's Woman Mayor? Plus: Santa Fe Mayor Brawl Features Charges Of Anti-Semitism, Mark Moores Worst Nightmare Is On TV And More On Mimi-Daniel Spat  

Anti-Semitic cartoon?
With the races for mayor of ABQ and Santa Fe starting to shape up, reader Nancy Cliff wonders:

Why is it that ABQ has never had a woman mayor? Even Silver City has had one! 

That is an oddity, considering that women now make up the majority of the state House and the ABQ City Council and represent all three of the state's US House seats. 

The only answer we have, Nancy, is that perhaps women are better at recognizing a dead end than the men. No ABQ mayor has ever gone on to higher office, and not for lack of trying. 

ABQ Mayor Tim Keller may want to go higher someday but first he has to win re-election this November. He explains why he thinks he deserves a second term in this recent announcement.

In Santa Fe, the brawling has started seven months before the balloting with Mayor Alan Webber accusing his opponents of engaging in anti-Semitism

 The AFSCME union created and distributed a flyer that includes the cartoon among its members. . .The cartoon depicts a man Webber says is meant to represent him, except with “a large, exaggerated nose.” Large noses have historically been used in derogatory depictions of Jewish people. . . Webber referenced that history when denouncing the cartoon. “This has no place in Santa Fe, not just with regard to me, but for everyone in our diverse city. We must reject this kind of divisive ugliness.”. . . Union officials – who have been critical of Webber’s time in office –said the  person depicted in the cartoon is not supposed to be Webber. Rather, they say it’s a generic city employee and is not based on a real person.

Webber's critics accuse him of ginning up the incident and using it for fund-raising but there's little question that Santa Fe is tearing itself apart along ethnic lines. This campaign is way too long--already.  


Aubrey Dunn, also known as Mark Moores' worst nightmare, says he's joining Dem Melanie Stansbury and Republican Moores on the airwaves as he battles for the vacant congressional seat as an independent candidate in the June 1 special election. 

Dunn, a former R turned Libertarian turned Indy, is back with his familiar trademark cowboy hat preaching the conservative gospel. No "teddy bear" talk from this hard-hitting rancher/banker in his first ad:

My opponents follow their party lines no matter how extreme. The  border crisis, liberal abortion laws, defund the police and Nancy Pelosi. Come on.. . I live on a ranch and know BS when I see it."

Dunn also takes credit, for generating "record revenues" while land commissioner. 

Unlike fellow conservative hopeful Moores, the well-known Dunn doesn't have to introduce himself. Instead he gets an early start at throwing out the red meat to the conservative base. 

No word on how much Dunn’s TV buy is or how much he's raised. That's probably best for Moores whose nightmare is already pretty crowded.


Reader and political consultant Sascha Anderson thinks we got it wrong in our latest coverage of the row between Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart and fellow Dem and ABQ Senator Daniel Ivey Soto. She writes: 

I was so disappointed in the coverage of Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart's op-ed. You wrote, "She appears to equate his behavior with sexual abuse she suffered as a child," but it actually doesn't appear that way to any reasonable reader of the piece--at all. In fact, to imply as much is incredibly exploitative of Stewart's candor and courage in recounting that detail of her life. It's clear that she only uses her experience to illustrate that she is able to identify abusive behavior--in no way did it seem that Stewart was calling the two things equivocal. I get that you need to drive readership, but this was pretty beyond the pale. 


We had a passionate crowd of over 100 join us for a webinar Wednesday night sponsored by Retake Our Democracy and moderated by group leaders Paul Gibson and Roxanne Barber. The attendees peppered us with questions on how the legislative process can be made more responsive, even while celebrating several major achievements from this year, including a constitutional amendment for early childhood funding. One disappointment for the group was the defeat of a bill that would have lowered those notoriously high-interest payday loans from 175 percent to 35 percent, but there's always next year. Paul's blog can be found on the Retake site linked above. 

The results of the Melanie Stansbury-Antoinette Sedillo Lopez Dem Central Committee runoff for the ABQ Dem congressional nomination don't add up to 100 percent because one delegate abstained. From the D's: Melanie Stansbury – 103 votes, 51.24%; Antoinette Sedillo Lopez – 97 votes, 48.26%.  

Yes, we do get email about such matters.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Aubrey Dunn Throws A Block At Moores, Files for Independent Run for ABQ Congress Seat And Could Corral R Votes, Plus: More On Filing Day And Key Analysis At The Starting Gate 

No wonder GOP congressional candidate Mark Moores centered his first TV spot on his UNM football playing days. The spot appeals mainly to men and Moores now has a man-sized problem. 

Former GOP Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn is officially an independent candidate for the seat left vacant when Rep. Deb Haaland was named Sec. of Interior, and Dunn is likely to split GOP votes with Moores, unless the ABQ state senator can tackle him.

On Tuesday's filing day at the office of the Secretary of State, Dunn submitted 6,000 petition signatures to make the June 1 ballot, about 4,400 more than required. Unless there is a successful court challenge to those signatures Dunn will be on the playing field. 

As expected, filing for the Dems was State Rep. Melanie Stansbury and Chris Manning for the Libertarian Party. Two write-in candidates, Laura Olivas of NE ABQ and Robert Ornelas who gave an Anaheim, CA address and phone contact. Both are independents. (Full list of filers is here.)

New Mexico has never sent an independent candidate to the US House and Dunn is unlikely to make history, but he is no slouch in the vote-getting department, having narrowly won the land office in 2014 in a Democratic state. 

His presence on the ballot is not a minor headache for fellow conservative Moores. Combined with the Libertarian candidate, who will also tend to draw from the R's, his chances of inching past Stansbury are diminished. 

While Moores took to the gridiron to launch his TV campaign, Stansbury talked a bit like an athlete in her first paid TV outing, saying New Mexicans are "resilient, determined and full of heart."

Both spots were of the "getting to know me" variety. The negative will come in a couple of weeks. The start of early in-person voting May 15 is a psychological deadline to get the race in your corner as the great majority of votes are expected to be cast well before the June 1 election day. 


The ABQ congressional race starts here ranked as "Solid Dem." Here's why:

--No R has been elected to the seat since 2006 and the last close election was in 2010.

--The Dems are coming off an historic 61 percent presidential win in the district for Joe Biden in 2020.

--The sitting Dem Gov. has been involved in controversy but her popularity has not crashed, depriving the R's of an easy target. 

--Some voters may be disappointed that there is not a Hispanic or Native American contender in the contest, but the majority of that vote is registered Democratic and are not about to cross over to Moores who says his mother is Hispanic. 

--No corruption meme has surfaced about Stansbury, a key item for the GOP when they are able to find success.

--Moores is a good fund-raiser but the national R's are not targeting the race which would mean substantially more resources. The national Dems will flood the money zone at the first sign of any trouble. 

The Solid Dem ranking is subject to change but to move it will take a major shift in the campaign. 


They probably have some Ben-Gay at the ready to treat any hand strain MLG may get this week. She continues to sign and veto (mostly sign) over 100 bills approved at the recent legislative session as the Friday deadline for her decisions fast approaches.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Senate's Dueling Duo Continue Feud; Stewart Compares Ivey Soto Behavior To Her Abuse As A Child; Papen Weighs in For Him, Plus: Guv's Busy Week And A Wall-Leaner's Session Winners 

Sen. Stewart
State Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart is showing no signs of ending her feud with fellow Dem Senator Daniel Ivey Soto

Their battle began with a blowup on the Senate floor in late March in the final hours of the regular 60 day legislative session when debate turned hot and heavy over a paid sick leave bill Stewart sponsored.

Instead of the heat going down in the aftermath, it's going up. 

Ivey Soto was accused by Stewart and a number of her legislative colleagues of misogyny and bullying behavior in his persistent questioning of Stewart. She engaged in lengthy debate with him but then, citing his behavior, refused to yield the floor to the ABQ NE Heights lawmaker.

Now in an op-ed, Stewart takes her case against Ivey Soto a step further and in a more controversial  direction. She appears to equate his behavior with sexual abuse she suffered as a child: 

When I was growing up, my sisters and I were physically, verbally and sexually abused by the man my mother married after my father died. I was orphaned as a teenager. Believe me, I know the difference between regular debate and abusive behavior. 

Stewart's Sunday op-ed followed one from the woman who preceded Stewart in the Pro Tem position, former Sen. Mary Kay Papen of Last Cruces. She said she did not view Ivey Soto's behavior as abusive at all: 

From my perspective, I felt Ivey Soto, while asking tough questions, did nothing wrong and did not engage in inappropriate behavior.

Sen. Ivey Soto
A viewing of the exchange between the dueling duo has drawn mixed responses from readers and political observers, with some backing Stewart while others maintain there wasn't much to see and that the exchange did not amount to abuse. (The full exchange can be see here and starts at 9:44 p.m.).

One reader opined that Ivey Soto did badger Stewart by the dictionary definition of  "to harass or annoy persistently" but that did not constitute verbal abuse. 

Both diligent senators have plenty of room to make the peace but Ivey Soto has now emerged as a leading Senate moderate in the wake of the defeats of several conservative Dems. That could give progressives incentive to try to keep him in the doghouse over the Stewart incident. 

The state Senate primary elections aren't until June 2024 but long knives are known to retain their sharpness, even while hidden. Still, John Lennon seems apropos: 

Mimi and Daniel: Give Peace a Chance. 


Lawmakers sent 158 bills to the desk of the Governor during the 60 day legislative session and this the week she starts using her ink in a big way:

Gov. Lujan Grisham began a critical week Monday by signing legislation that will deliver extra funding to some schools and ban animal trapping on public land — a burst of action as she faces a Friday deadline to act on dozens of bills. She approved 50 bills altogether Monday, touching on public financing for judicial candidates, community solar projects and medical debt.


Rep. Maestas
A Roundhouse wall-leaner with a dog in the fights comes with his winners of the session:

HB 6 - State Equalization Guarantee Distributions - Rep. Patty Lundstrom - eliminating credit taken for impact aid - this will allow Native American community public schools to retain millions of dollars in federal funds. Currently the state takes credit against these funds.

 HJR 1 - Permanent Fund for Early Childhood - Rep. Moe Maestas and Rep Javier Martinez - to tap a portion of the $22 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to be used for early childhood education - this will be a long term investment to make New Mexico's future brighter for the children of New Mexico if the voters approve the Constitutional Amendment. 

HB 255-Alcohol Deliveries - Rep. Moe Maestas - allowing for restaurant liquor licenses and eliminating mini's and sales at gasoline stations in McKinley County other than beer.

Special Session HB 2 - Cannabis Regulation Act - Rep Javier Martinez - to legalize the adult use of marijuana for recreational use. This also included SB 2 the Expungement of Certain Criminal Records - to allow those with past cannabis criminal records to have a clean record and open up more employment opportunities in the future. 

The Martinez-Maestas combo is starting to become a common refrain. When Popejoy Hall reopens maybe they can be the opening act. 

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Monday, April 05, 2021

Stansbury Upset Win For CD Nomination Draws More Analysis; Men Appeared Key To Victory; High Profile Endorsers Also Pushed Her Across Finish Line, Plus: More On Deb's Rocky Interior Start 

Interest in how State Rep. Melanie Stansbury pulled off last Thursday's upset for the ABQ Dem congressional nomination is sky high in the political community. Stansbury's stunning 51 to 48 second round win over Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, after a 16 point first round shellacking, has the political detectives looking for answers so we take a deeper dive. 

The candidate herself assigned credit to the "grit and determination" of her team. They went to work minutes after their first big loss Wednesday--37.2 to 21.6 percent. No doubt that was a major reason for the success as were numerous late high profile endorsements.

In any election there are also demographic and ethnic considerations. We asked longtime Dem political consultant Sisto Abetya how the 200 Dem Central Committee members from the ABQ district broke out in the final round: 

Joe, Sixty-six percent of the votes were cast by Anglos and 34 percent minorities. Stansbury received 54% of the Anglo vote and Sedillo Lopez received 46%. Sedillo Lopez received 54% of the minority vote and Stansbury 46%.

When it came to gender Abeyta said 60 percent of the men voted for Stansbury and 39 percent for Sedillo Lopez. 51 percent of women voters went for Stansbury and and 48 percent supported Sedillo Lopez. Both received 1 percent of the nonbinary vote. So it was the men who appeared to move the nomination Stansbury's way. 

The question lingers: Would Stansbury have won a regular primary election featuring thousands of Dem voters instead of just 200 party insiders?

She may have had a tougher time. There were eight candidates running and a plurality not a majority would have decided a primary election. 

In the first round at the Central Committee--the plurality election--Sedillo Lopez scored that 16 point win over Stansbury 37 to 21 percent but when forced to get a majority she came up short. 

One other issue would have confronted Stansbury in a primary. A majority of Dem voters are Hispanic and Sedillo Lopez would probably have been the strongest and best financed Hispanic candidate in the field.

There have been murmurs about Stansbury, if she is elected, getting a Dem primary challenge in June of 2022 when she would be expected to seek a full two year term. History says don't count on it. Congressional incumbents, whether appointed or elected, have access to a mountain of resources, financial and otherwise. 

It's a quirky law that permits party central committees to nominate candidates for vacant congressional seats. The law will probably will be revisited by the legislature in the future (an attempt this year failed) but for Melanie Stansbury that quirk may have made her a United States Congresswoman.


Well-known names came in for both Stansbury and Sedillo Lopez when crunch time arrived with the final round of voting Thursday. 

Among those with endorsements for Stansbury, 42, were State Sen. Katy Duhigg, former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish (who supported Georgene Louis in the first round), State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg, Julie Heinrich, former Land Commissioner Ray Powell Jr., veteran lobbyist Vanessa Alarid and former NM first lady Clara Apodaca

Pushing Sedillo Lopez late in the game were State Sen. Mimi Stewart, State Rep. Andres Romero, House Majority Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton and former Sec. of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron. 

State Rep. Georgene Louis and activist Selina Guerrero, who both sought the nomination, threw their support to Sedillo Lopez after losing the first round.


The special election to fill the vacant seat of of Rep. Deb Haaland who was named Sec. of Interior will be held June 1. Republican State Senator Mark Moores is the GOP nominee and Chris Manning is the Libertarian Party candidate. Former GOP Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn Jr. says he will present petition signatures to get on the ballot, making it a four way race. 

Early in-person voting in Bernalillo County will begin May 15th. 

The winner of the election will fill out the remainder of Haaland's term that runs until the end of 2022. 


Haaland is off to a somewhat rocky start in her new job. More developments on that ill-advised party--now cancelled--that was being planned for the new Secretary:

The White House is removing the Interior Department’s chief of staff, Jennifer Van der Heide, who recently planned a 50-person indoor party at the agency that the White House ordered canceled, and is moving her to a senior counselor job at the agency, according to two Biden administration officials. 

The White House’s Cabinet affairs office ordered that party, which was intended to celebrate Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s confirmation, to be called off amid fears it could become a superspreader event. . . A White House spokesperson said that Lawrence Roberts, who was the head of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs at the end of the Obama administration, will be the new chief of staff.

It's nice to make history, but there's a price to pay when you shine so brightly in the limelight. 

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Thursday, April 01, 2021

Historic Night In The Land Of Enchantment As Long March For Legal Marijuana Ends In Victory, Plus: The Stansbury Stunner; She Pulls Off Upset To Become Dem Party Congress Nominee 

Celebrating On Senate Floor (Journal)
An historic night in the Land of Enchantment Wednesday as New Mexico joined the ranks of states legalizing recreational marijuana. Whether that is for better or worse is to be determined but politically it is yet another event that cements a more liberal politics in a state that has so often hewed to the center or right. 

The 22 to 15 vote of approval in the Senate followed a 38 to 32 win for the measure in the House. The bill now goes to Gov. Lujan Grisham who called the special session to push the bill through, after it fell short in the regular 60 say session. 

It was like an Election Night with the winners popping the champagne corks and the losers drowning in their stale beer. MLG spoke for the champagne sippers (and pot mavens):

This is a good bill. This special session was a success. And the work of making sure that this industry is a success, that New Mexicans are able to reap the full economic and social benefit of legalized adult-use cannabis, that workplace and roadway safety are assured to the greatest degree possible – that work will go on. Change never comes easily and rarely does it occur as quickly as we might like. But with this major step forward, we are signaling more clearly than ever before that we are ready, as a state, to truly break new ground, to think differently about ourselves and our economic future.

GOP Chairman Steve Pearce came forth with the bitter brew: 

This marijuana session was a travesty. As expected, progressive Democrats catered to the Governor’s wishes to make sure this legislation was passed. There was no need for lawmakers to return to the Roundhouse for this bill. With New Mexico’s collapsed economy, high unemployment and weak education system, it’s sad that marijuana takes priority in a Special Session. Legalizing pot is not an important issue with the state facing so many serious problems. In addition, recreational marijuana would lead to even more crime, underage use and impaired driving. 

ABQ Dem State Rep. Javier Martinez was a big winner, shepherding the measure for several years, showing the patience of Job and the passion of a Roman gladiator. In the regular session he had done the same with the constitutional amendment that would tap the Permanent Fund for early childhood education. That is significant legislating. And that may be an understatement. 

These are House-based measures that the Senate now agrees to. The power shift to the lower chamber is in our faces as the Senate is now chaotic, having lost veteran members in last year's election who kept the place together. Meantime, House Speaker Egolf has grown in stature--and importance. 

For MLG she was as much a survivor as a winner, coming dangerously close to losing the marijuana bill. But her bag of tricks worked, at least this time, and the adrenaline ride she got and gave paid off. 

Legalization could be a signature achievement for her, if the reality lives up to the hype, or it could be her Rail Runner, endlessly looking for light at the end of the tunnel. One sidebar: legalization takes effect in April of 2022, just in time for the next gubernatorial election.


Melanie Stansbury 
She may have to take a cue from Bill Clinton and start calling herself "the comeback kid." 

After last night State Rep. Melanie Stansbury has surely earned the title. In a major upset she captured the Democratic Party nomination for the vacant ABQ congressional seat, narrowly getting by Antoinette Sedillo Lopez. That came on the heels of a 16 point loss to Sedillo Lopez in the first round of balloting Tuesday by 200 Dem Party Central Committee members who made the decision.

The stunning victory was a shock to the more progressive wing of the party (read Bernie Sanders) who rallied behind attorney Sedillo Lopez only to see her lose a heartbreaker, 103-97 or 51.24% to 48.26%.

But they might have seen it coming. Stansbury pulled off her first upset when she flipped a Republican state House seat in ABQ's NE Heights to the Dem column in 2018. 

She may have to wait a while to stun La Politica again. The 42 year old with a science background will enter the June 1 special election as a heavy favorite. She will run against Republican State Sen. Mark Moores and others. No R has won the ABQ district since 2006. 


The establishment Dems put on a last minute rally following the Tuesday night defeat, with Stansbury rolling out endorsements from a crop of them, including Julie Heinrich, as well as fellow House members. It paid off. 

Also, even some supporters of Sedillo Lopez said she "had lost a step" since her last run for Congress in 2018.

While there isn’t a mile of policy distance between the two contenders, there is some. Stansbury is from the Obama wing and will bring a bit more pragmatism to the campaign than Sedillo Lopez.  

There was grumbling that a woman of color will not fill the seat any longer, breaking up the state's status as the only one with a US House delegation composed entirely of women of color. There were other unfortunate racial overtones in the campaign that will have to be addressed. 

After her win Stansbury gave the healing a shot : 

 I want to take a moment tonight to thank all of the candidates who ran for CD1 and particularly @ASL4Justice4all, who ran phenomenal campaigns filled with heart & vision. Thank you & your teams for lifting up the issues that matter most. Together we will win on June 1st. 

For her part, Sedillo Lopez said on Facebook:

It was a long drive home from Santa Fe...I want to thank my amazing team, friends and supporters who worked so hard on this incredible race. I am grateful to everyone who spoke with me about the future of our country and our state. I want to Congratulate Melanie Stansbury, our soon to be CD-1 Representative. We need to all come together to keep the seat blue!

The announcement of Stansbury's win was particularly poignant for Sedillo Lopez. It occurred as she and the other Senators began their first round of voting on the historic marijuana legalization bill. It was those kind of votes she will not be making in the US Congress.

Leave it to 'ol Steve Pearce to throw some dirt on the dance floor: 

 The decision to pick Stansbury, a California-style progressive, shows that Democrats are determined to continue on this path in Washington. She backs legislation that destroys jobs, cripples our economy and heavily taxes New Mexicans. This won’t change on Capitol Hill. Rep. Stansbury is one of the most radical lawmakers in this state. She is simply out of touch with the needs of New Mexico.

Dems will stay on their toes for Steve and the gang, but unless Stansbury's closet is filled with unspeakables, an aggressive get out the vote campaign combined with a heavy dose of advertising puts her in the driver's seat. 

What an event filled week. Even the Alligators are finally sated and ready for a respite, as we are sure you are.

Thanks for stopping by and Happy Easter, New Mexico! 

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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

STANSBURY WINS CONGRESS RUNOFF ; Sedillo Lopez Scores Commanding First Round Win; She Faces Stansbury In Runoff Today For The ABQ Dem Congress Nomination, Plus: Marijuana Moves At Special Session  

Breaking Wednesday evening: 

State Rep. Melanie Stansbury scored an upset win at today’s Democratic Party runoff election, beating Antoinette Sedillo Lopez for the Democratic nomination for the June 1 special election to fill the vacant ABQ congressional seat. Sedillo Lopez had defeated Stansbury by 16 points in the first election round but prevailed today 103-97 in the central committee vote. Stansbury will face GOP State Sen. Mark Moores. 

More from the Dem Party: 

 The results are as follows: Melanie Stansbury - 103 votes, 51.24% Antoinette Sedillo Lopez - 97 votes, 48.26% In addition, one person wrote in “ABSTAIN” Therefore, Melanie Stansbury has received 51.24% of the votes and is the Democratic nominee in the CD-1 general election, which will take place on June 1, 2021.

She ran third in 2018 when she last sought the Democratic nod for the ABQ congressional seat but Tuesday she rose to the top of the heap. Now Antoinette Sedillo Lopez is closing in on becoming the party's nominee for the vacant ABQ US House seat that will be decided at a June 1 special election. 

Sedillo Lopez scored a commanding win Tuesday in the first round of voting by 199 members of the Dem Party's central committee. She garnered 74 votes or 37.19%, with second place finisher Melanie Stansbury getting 43 votes or 21.61 percent. 

Under party rules, because no candidate in the eight person field received 50% there will be a runoff election today between top finishers Sedillo Lopez and Stansbury. The winner will face Republican nominee and ABQ State Senator Mark Moores at the special election. 

Also on the ballot will be Libertarian nominee Chris Manning, although KOB-TV’s Ryan Laughlin reports a lawsuit has been filed over the legitimacy of his candidacy. Aubrey Dunn, Jr. is gathering signatures to run as an independent.

With an impressive showing in the first round Sedillo Lopez, 63, an attorney and ABQ state senator, is the  favorite to win today. But Stansbury, 40, an ABQ state representative, has waged a feisty campaign. After the first round vote was announced she rolled out more endorsements in the hope of scoring an upset win. 

The low-key, insider method for picking the Dem nominee belies the fact that this is a high-stakes happening. The party's choice will be heavily favored to become the next US Rep. The Dems have held the seat since claiming it in the 2008 election. 

As in the first round, today's second round will take place via email from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.  

Here are the complete results from round one:  

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez - 74 votes; Melanie Stansbury - 43 votes; Randi McGinn - 34 votes; Victor Reyes - 18 votes; Selinda Guerrero - 13 votes; Georgene Louis - 13 votes; Francisco Fernández - 2 votes; Patricia Roybal Caballero - 1 vote. In addition, one person abstained.

Sedillo Lopez, who wears her progressive stripes on her sleeve and who was helped in the committee voting by supporters of Bernie Sanders, now seeks the backers of other candidates: 

I’m honored to earn the trust, confidence, and enough of the vote to enter a runoff. . . Our campaign is based on equity, justice, and stewardship. Running amongst talented, hard-working Democratic candidates for this seat has been the privilege of a lifetime. Each of my fellow Democratic candidates demonstrated will, passion, and dedication. Coming out of the first round with a 16% lead is a testament to this campaign's hardworking supporters, volunteers, and staff.

For her part, Stansbury said

I am proud to have the support of so many in our communities and looking forward to Tuesday's second round of voting. As someone who was born and raised in New Mexico, I have the grit, determination, and heart to win this election. . .With eight candidates in this race, it's been a tireless effort to get here. My team is thrilled to advance to the runoff,

Third place finisher McGinn made no endorsement for the runoff in the hours after the votes were announced.

The seat became vacant when Rep. Deb Haaland was appointed Sec. of Interior. She made no endorsement in the contest.

No matter what happens today the Dems will field a woman nominee for the ABQ seat as they have since MLG first won the seat in 2012. 


If there is to be any fireworks at the special legislative session over legalizing recreational cannabis in New Mexico they should come today, after the state House approves the bill and sends it over to a more skeptical Senate. 

The bill is nearly 180 pages long and has not dramatically changed since it failed to win Senate approval in the regular 60 day session which prompted MLG to call the special session. There is plenty of room to debate, amend and maybe filibuster. 

The session began at noon Tuesday and could end late today if the Governor and pro-pot lawmakers manage to extinguish any blazes that erupt in the Senate. If not, well, that's when things would get interesting.

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