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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Trump Leaves Nothing On Table At Rip-Roaring Rally For New Mexico Votes; Hangs His Hat On Economy And Heavy Courting Of Hispanics, Plus: Prez Visit Turns Into Nightmare For ABQ TV Station 

Trump in Rio Rancho (AP)
President Trump left nothing on the table when it came to courting New Mexico voters at a packed rally at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho last night.

(Full video here. WaPo coverage here.)

With young people sporting "Latinos for Trump" T-shirts as his backdrop Trump went to work for the vote, taking credit for the best economic advance New Mexico has made in recent years.

We have ended the last administration's war on energy. Since my election oil and natural gas production in New Mexico has increased by 40 percent. That means jobs. . . Crude oil production has more than doubled and is going up a lot higher very quickly...and your state's energy revenues are up by tw thirds. . . That's in a short period of time. Give me a little bit more time!

Never mind that the Permian Basin oil boom pre-dates his administration, that's all it took for the boisterous crowd to break into chants of "four more years" as Trump drank in the adoration.

That pitch came right at the top of his 90 minute plus talk, leaving him plenty of time to tout his military and energy budgets and the positive impacts they are having on Sandia and Los Alamos national labs and on the state's military bases most of which he mentioned by name. (Trump recently diverted money from some bases to build the border wall.)

There was more touting of the state's economic conditions by the president--from job creation to higher wages--which have improved in recent years thanks largely to the aforementioned oil boom.

He said that improvement was especially noticeable among Hispanics who hold the keys to any hope he has to winning the state next year.

As usual for a Trump rally the event ran the gamut from serious to goofy. On the goofy side Trump declared:

We love our Hispanics! Get out and vote!

And in urging that the Dems Green New Deal be rejected, he declared:

No More cows. No more airplanes.

Of course "the wall' was front and center in the speech with no backdown from Trump who argued New Mexicans understand the need for a border wall more than most because they've lived with the problems created by a lax border.

State Dems scored the speech:

It’s no surprise that the president has resorted to lying about his accomplishments in a desperate attempt to take credit for Governor Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico State Legislature’s success.

ANALYSIS ROW

The Rally (AP)
Most of the political types we asked thought Trump succeeded in what he set out to do:

Try to get New Mexico to again think of itself as a swing state and give his presidency a deeper look.

Said longtime consultant, former ABQ city councilor and Dem attorney Greg Payne:

I think it was a good speech. It was more down to earth and more in touch with the common voter than anything I've seen so far at the Democratic debates. He's gotten better as a speaker since 2016. And he continues to be willing to say what a lot of Americans feel but don't believe they can say anymore. Conservative Democrats in New Mexico that Trump is courting could get a role to play here, if the Dem nominee is seen as too far left.

One of our Senior Alligator sources called the speech somewhat "tame" for him and wondered if Trump was "lightening up" as he ramps up his re-election bid. He added:

The rally was pretty much standard Trump. It was lacking, however, the red meat quips that usually feed the media, rally supporters and enrage Democrats. His comments about  (then-Governor) Susana Martinez at his last New Mexico rally in 2016 made headlines, but he resisted ripping apart local officials on this visit. This west coast swing by the President seems meant to test various campaign messages to see how they resonate. He obviously worked hard on teasing out various themes around the Hispanic community, but nothing was too provocative. 

From our perch Trump did himself no harm. He put forth some credible arguments about how his presidency has directly benefited the state. He rallied and energized his base voters. Whether he made inroads beyond that in this Dem bastion is doubtful. Polling in the weeks ahead will tell us.

AND YOU'RE WHO?

To say the greeting party for the president was comprised of second-tier politicos is today's understatement. There was not a top Republican official in sight because, well, there are no longer any top GOP officials in New Mexico. They were wiped out in the last election.

San Juan County GOP State Rep. Rod Montoya, the House Minority Whip, mustered his best handshake for the nation's #1. The mayor of Rio Rancho and a couple of county commissioners also greeted Trump as did the Navajo Nation Vice-President. And that was it.

You kinda missed Saint Pete at that moment, as full of himself as he could seem at such times. The  Republican Senator, now gone, gave the greeting of a president of either party some New Mexico gravitas. (And if you don't know who Saint Pete was, you're too young to be reading this stuff).

That low key greeting party should tell the Trump campaign how long a longshot their dream of taking New Mexico actually is.

No Dem officeholders greeted the president. But then he was here for a partisan campaign rally. The Dems did offer up a protest at a park near downtown ABQ to make sure they got airtime against Trump.

TRUMP NM STAFF

As the Trump campaign romances the Hispanic vote in New Mexico there is some irony in the name of the new state director for the president's re-election campaign in New Mexico. She's Leslie White, the executive director of the Arizona Republican Party. Uh. OK.

The Trump Regional Director for the area that includes New Mexico is Brian Seitchik, a political consultant who is a former executive director of the Arizona GOP.

House Minority Leader James Townsend of Artesia and former GOP state Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage of NW NM have been named Honorary State Chairs for the Trump effort.

Hispanic representation? Did someone forget something for the Trump opening act here?

MEDIA NIGHTMARE

While Trump's visit went off smoothly--no violent protests like 2016–the night was a nightmare for one media outlet.

KOB-TV inexplicably went dark right after 6 p.m. as it kicked off its early news. That was only moments from when Air Force One landed at Kirtland Air Force Base and the President disembarking to NM soil, truly "money shots" of a presidential visit.

The station stayed dark as Trump stepped off the plane, waved to the crowd, was greeted by low-level GOP officials and then signed autographs for military personnel. KOB missed it all. Network programming--Ninja Warrior of all things--did pop up during the time of the Trump arrival but with no explanation and more critically with no news.

So what went wrong? A KOB-TV insider told me:

Joe, the station just went to a new graphics system. It had a bug in it and took the entire system down, We could not get any remote camera coverage from KAFB or the Santa Ana center or the studio. Obviously, it could not have happened at a worse time. Of course, everything is done on a shoestring budget around here these days. 

A bug? They better get a can of Raid at the NBC affiliate.

Meanwhile. KOAT-TV cleaned up as it was the only station of the major three to broadcast the presidential arrival live and over the air. Hardly a political junkie, anchorman Doug Fernandez ably narrated the 10 minutes or so that Trump was chatting at KAFB. He was backed by solid camera work.

To add insult to injury KOAT landed a brief Trump interview backstage at the rally, an interview the station billed as "exclusive." Trump will be in town this morning. Maybe the other stations can catch up.

Meantime, as Trump walked on New Mexico territory for the first time as president KRQE amused itself with showings of Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. No live over the air coverage.

While the early going was a disaster for KOB it hardly registered with much of the public (especially those younger) who long ago abandoned TV news for social media and/or alternate video streams.

The TV news audience is much smaller than it was back in 2000 when another disaster befell local media. That's when the Los Alamos fires broke out--some of the worst in state history--and KOAT was unable  to keep its helicopter in the air. However, KOB did keep its chopper flying and delivered alarming and compelling live video of the event. In the aftermath, their ratings soared and they overtook KOAT as the #1 station in the news ratings. You might say the misery at KOB last night was KOAT-TV's long awaited revenge.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

Please note our new email address:

E-mail your news and comments. (newsguy@yahoo.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here. 

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2019

Monday, September 16, 2019

GOP Turmoil In Southern CD Race As Air Force One Heads To NM; Claire Chase Anti-Trump Posts Roil Campaign And Embarrass Pence, Plus: Trump And The NM Economy; The Case He Can Make 

President Trump comes to Rio Rancho for a campaign rally today amid more turmoil in the crucial race for the GOP nomination for the southern congressional seat, turmoil that has embarrassed his Vice-President and cast a shadow over R hopes of taking the seat from Dem Rep. Xochitl Torres Small who scored an upset in '18.

As often happens, social media caused the tempest. Old but stunning Facebook posts from candidate Claire Chase surfaced that denounce Trump as "unworthy" of being President.

The disclosure comes after VP Pence appeared at an August 22 event where he praised the "past, present and future leadership" of Chase, giving the impression that the administration is supporting her over chief rival Yvette Herrell.

You wonder if Chase will be getting any more love from Pence--or Trump--after this politically explosive post on August 30, 2015:

“For all my friends who like Donald Trump, I’m working on a fuller rant than he’s an a**hole unworthy of the office and the power of the President of THE United States,”

And throw another log on this fire:

On September 6, 2015, Chase referenced an article about how former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was eyeing a position as Sec. of Energy if Trump won. She wrote:

“This is reason enough not to vote for Trump, among the other 836,297 reasons not to vote for him."

Whew. Now you have Pence headed for cover:

He of course disagrees with statements like that about the president.

As for what seemed like a Pence endorsement of Chase, there's now this:

This (on Aug. 22) was an official event, and as she’s chairman of New Mexico Oil and Gas, (Pence) was thanking her for her leadership in the past and future on USMCA, as he has thanked business leaders across the country for their efforts on the issue."

Chase's train barely got on the track and it's already in a wreck. Lucky for her she married into the wealthy Chase oil family of Artesia and can write a check to finance her campaign. She may have to judging by the searing comments in pro-Trump Breitbart which broke the story.

CLAIRE'S CRISIS

Chase
Chase will now face a newly emboldened Herrell (as well as Las Cruces businessman Chris Mathys) who will pound her relentlessly over her Trump dissing.

Chase's campaign bungled the push from Pence by failing to scrub her social media accounts before announcing her candidacy and is now trying to contain the damage:

Chase’s consultant Craig Murphy said that she has come around about Trump.“Claire did not support him in the primary, but she voted for President Trump in the general, celebrated his election, supports him now and thinks he has done a great job as President."

Well, as a jacked-up Herrell supporter said: "We heard you the first time, Claire!"

The DCCC also piled on, mocking Chase as it wondered if she is now part of the "Trump resistance."

Herrell and Chase are expected to attend today's Trump rally. Don't look for them in the front row. (Hey, maybe Xochitl will show up. She'd be the lady smiling like a Cheshire cat.)

TRUMP AND NM

The president is expected to reference the strong economy in his pitch to mostly skeptical New Mexicans. The Democratic lean here make Trump's chances of an upset exceedingly unlikely but he does have a case to make on the economy. This is the memo his team could hand him on Air Force One as he heads here.

--Trump has provided a friendly regulatory environment for the booming oil industry in SE NM which in turn has generated billions in state government surpluses that give Democratic lawmakers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pull the state out of the poverty basement.

--Those same polices have stabilized gas prices which are critical to rural New Mexicans. (Keeping in mind the weekend events in Saudi Arabia).

--His corporate tax cut persuaded PNM to roll back a proposed rate increase that saved customers millions.

--The president's consistent support of increased budgets for Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories have been key to stabilizing the economy, especially ABQ where the Great Recession lingered for years in part because of federal cutbacks.

--Trump's controversial border policies are constantly excoriated, but he can argue to swing voters that cutting back on illegal immigration could be helping slow the flow of drugs into a state notorious for its rate of addiction.

--Trump can push back against enviros by noting that his Interior Department agreed to placing a one-year moratorium on oil and gas leasing around Chaco Canyon in NW NM. He could declare that's good for the environment and for tourism.

Those are not arguments often heard in New Mexico where Trump's favorables are in the mid-30's but if pushed they might bump his numbers which could help R's in the southern congressional district and in swing NM House seats.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

Please note our new email address: newsguy@yahoo.com

E-mail your news and comments. (newsguy@yahoo.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here. 

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2019

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Trump Campaign Explains Long Shot NM Strategy As President Preps Monday Rio Rancho Visit; State Director And Staff To Be Hired; Woo Hispanics On Certain Issues; Ramp Up GOP Turnout; Find "New" Trump Voters 

We were all ready to blog our take on why President Trump is coming to Rio Rancho Monday, despite his slim chances of carrying this decidedly Dem state in 2020. But Time magazine did the job for us, interviewing campaign strategists who revealed why Trump is targeting NM. That targeting may turn out to be a short-term play as reality catches up with hope, but for now here's how it's playing out as described by Time:

When President Trump steps on stage for a campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico even his own campaign staffers know he will be facing long odds. A Republican candidate for President hasn’t won the state since 2004. . . Trump himself lost the state by eight points to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and his disapproval rating among registered voters there is a crushing 57%, according to the Morning Consult voter tracking poll.

Nonetheless, Trump’s campaign is betting it can win in New Mexico. Flush with cash, the campaign is planning to announce a state director and additional ground staff there. . . a campaign official tells TIME. Internal campaign data has convinced Trump’s political advisors they can energize a slice of the state’s Hispanic voters to vote for Trump in 2020 by emphasizing Trump’s handling of the economy, border security and his trade confrontation with China. According to U.S. Census data, 49.1 percent of New Mexico’s residents identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino.

The move is part of a series of bets Trump is making to win states that went for Clinton in 2016. Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House advisor Jared Kushner says that voter data has convinced the reelection effort to fund robust field operations in a much larger number of states than in 2016. “I can see us very aggressively playing in 18 swing states,” Jared Kushner tells TIME. . . 

With more than $100 million in cash on hand, Trump’s campaign has the freedom to look for unorthodox opportunities. . .

Not everyone is buying it. Trump’s sagging job approval ratings suggest to many political observers that the map-broadening is a reflection of a search for a long shot way back to the White House. Liam Donovan, a Republican strategist, says that the Trump campaign is right to be trying to get more voters to show up and to branch out into new territory. “There are reasons to compete in all these places,” Donovan tells TIME. But, Donovan says, “he’s not going to win any of these places if he’s still at 43 approval in the RCP average,” referring to the average of Trump job approval polls published by RealClearPolitics. . .

THE TRUMP PLAN

Chris Carr
To do it, the Trump campaign is targeting states that have high rates of support for Trump among Republicans. The bet is that they can ramp up turnout and swamp the votes in traditional Democratic strongholds. That strategy hinges on developing accurate data to find would-be Trump voters and using the months-long head start over a still-unknown Democratic opponent to build a ground operation that ensures those voters are registered. . .

In the case of New Mexico. . . Hillary Clinton beat Trump by wide margins. But. . .voters cast tens of thousands of ballots for the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, votes the Trump campaign believes they can swing to the President in 2020. “We feel very optimistic about New Mexico,” Chris Carr, the political director for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, tells TIME. The Trump campaign believes it can make inroads registering new voters in New Mexico who show a propensity for liking Trump. In recent cycles, the GOP didn’t launch a major voter registration effort in New Mexico or build out a large ground staff, Carr says. . . 

The decision to target states like New Mexico is based on internal campaign data, says Bill Stepien, a senior political advisor to the campaign. “It costs a lot of money to invest in infrastructure and set up a headquarters. The campaign wouldn’t be considering doing that if New Mexico wasn’t a place where the numbers could add up,” Stepien said. In addition, data indicate that messages about blocking late-term abortions, Trump’s trade war with China, and building a border wall resonate with a slice of Hispanic voters in New Mexico, as well as other sunbelt states like Nevada and Arizona. . . 

“We are talking about some states that may not be in play a year from now, but the beauty of this year is that we can test, we can poll, we can see, you know, what takes root,” Stepien tells TIME. . .

. . . (Dem strategist Josh) Schwerin thinks it’s unlikely Trump will gather enough momentum to flip New Mexico. “If they made dramatic enough gains that they could play in New Mexico, it would be such a big blowout that we wouldn’t need to have these conversations. It’s just not on the radar right now,” says Schwerin.

He may be right. The Trump campaign is betting he’s not.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

Please note our new email address:

E-mail your news and comments. (newsguy@yahoo.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here. 

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2019

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Northern Race: Plame's Catchy Ad Draws Scrutiny And Eric Serna Gets Plum Post As Son Marco Runs, Plus: Readers React To Latest Political Polls  

That catchy on line ad from northern Dem congressional candidate Valerie Plame is drawing national attention and not all of it's favorable. The WaPo fact checker sees a couple of problems:

The ad strongly suggests that Plame was an undercover operative in places such as Iran and North Korea, when that was not the case. (She was under diplomatic cover in Greece.) Plame, however, was operations chief at the Joint Task Force on Iraq of the Counterproliferation Division of the CIA’s clandestine operations directorate.

As to who leaked Plame's status as a CIA operative to the press, she says VP Cheney Chief of Staff Scooter Libby but the fact checker says:

But was Scooter Libby, Vice President Richard B. Cheney’s chief of staff, the source of the leak? Libby was convicted of perjury and lying to the FBI during its investigation, but he was not charged with leaking Plame’s name.

The ad earned Plame three "Pinocchio's" which for the WaPo means "it had significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions. This gets into the realm of "mostly false."

Perhaps, but the fact check that goes on and on (for 1,800 words) seems overwrought and the sins in the ad don't seem commensurate with the punishment. Plame did not serve in overseas hot spots like Iran which the ad implies and whether Scooter Libby was a leaker of her name or not (Richard Armitage admitted he did) Libby was caught lying about the Plame affair. For all that we'd give her five lashes with the wet noodle and drop the Pinocchio's.

THE SERNAS

Also in the northern race, a bit of an eyebrow raiser. MLG has appointed longtime politico Eric Serna, father of Santa Fe County District Attorney and congressional hopeful Marco Serna, to the state fair commission which he will now serve as chairman.

The senior Serna lost the northern congressional seat in 1996 to Republican Bill Redmond, the only Dem ever to lose the heavy D district. Two years later Tom Udall took it back for the D's. Redmond campaigned on Serna's ethics issues which are well-remembered by many northern voters. Whether that will impact his son's campaign remains to be seen.

For now the junior Serna is grappling with criticism of how he is handling his DA job. As for MLG appointing Eric Serna to the fair commission, who said women can't be part of the Old Boys Club?

POLLING REACT

MLG scored a 58 percent approval rating in a NEA-NM poll of 500 adults conducted in late August and that we covered Tuesday. State government retiree John Rey disagrees with the majority:

I bet my pension check that if you polled PERA members on MLG the results would be far less positive. I spoke to her at a rally before the election and she not only told me but the crowd that PERA cost of living raises would not be touched. New boss same as the old boss!

The Governor's task force on pension reform has proposed cutting back on the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for retirees in order to strengthen PERA's financial standing. The Governor has not publicly commented on that proposal which is being called "preliminary." The task force plans will be reviewed by the legislature.

Reader David Meurer writes of the polls:

Joe, Traditional landlines continue to be cancelled at a massive rate. I gave up my landline years ago, as have the majority of homeowners. And with my various cell phones, I never answer the call unless I  know the caller ID. Robocalls have created that reaction.

My point is (and the pollsters will hate this question), are polls irrelevant (or woefully skewed) due to these massive handicaps? I am a boomer, but the millennials and digital natives are even more inclined this same way. Maybe the usual methods have gone the way of old steam locomotives. Fun to ride for amusement, but not a serious way to get between two points.

Thanks, David. Even the new fangled on line polls have serious issues.

Finally, the tired cliche uttered endlessly by politicians for decades may finally ring true: "The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day."

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (newsguy@yahoo.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here. 

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2019


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Latest Polling On MLG And Keller And Valerie Plame Hits With Racy Video Ad 

A couple of polls to blog about today, including one of Mayor Keller who is feeling the earth move under his feet in the wake of BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales refusing to rule out a challenge to fellow Dem Keller when the 2021 election rolls around.

Soon after that mini-bombshell exploded the Kellerites were circulating a poll and arguing that Gonzales's possible challenge is doomed. The on line survey conducted in late July by DC pollster Stepehen Clermont had Keller garnering a 57 percent "good or excellent" approval rating with 37 percent not approving. Also, 61 percent of the respondents had a favorable view of Keller. Only 36 percent had an unfavorable opinion.

That's good for the incumbent but nothing to rest on. The numbers can change in a flash. especially when the crime wave is rolling on and now with Gonzales like a fire eating dragon breathing down the Mayor's neck. The political community is going to want to see a head-to-head poll between the two before jumping to any conclusions.

Meanwhile supporters of Governor Lujan Grisham are taking some solace from another on line poll in the wake of her poor polling performance in the Morning Consult on line survey released in April.

Both polls have issues. The MC one seems to undercount Democrats and the latest one--conducted by the GQR firm in DC for the NEA-NM--surveyed only "adults" not registered and/or likely voters, although respondents were asked whether they were registered and their party affiliation.

It has MLG's job approval rating among the 500 adults asked in late August at 58 percent with 42 percent disapproving. The MC poll in April had her getting only 44 percent job approval and 43 percent disapproving.

We have a polling problem. It is very expensive to conduct a survey of registered voters using live callers to landlines and cellphones. That is generally agreed to be the most accurate method. There have been no such public polls of the Governor or Mayor since they took office. There will be when both draw closer to their re-election bids.

The NEA-NM poll on MLG is here. The Clermont poll on Keller is here.

For what its worth, the GQR survey also asked about education and found that 57 percent of the respondents "strongly support" the teacher pay raises pushed through the Legislature by MLG.

PLAME'S RACY AD

Northern Dem congressional hopeful Valerie Plame comes with a catchy 81 second on line ad that has her showing daredevil driving skills she says she picked up while working for the CIA.

The ad has her in full command of a sporty Chevy Camaro as she maneuvers it backwards at high speeds as well as a variety of circles. She says the point is. .  .

Now I'm running for Congress because we are going backwards on national security, healthcare and women's rights. We need to turn our country around. . . 

While Plame's driving antics are eye catching, the money line she recites in the ad goes to one of her chief vulnerabilities--her relationship with the Jewish community. She says:

I come from Ukrainian Jewish immigrants.

In 2017 Plame tweeted a link to an article headlined “America's Jews are driving America's wars.” Since then she has battled charges of anti-semiticism. One of her nine opponents is likely to use that against her so the citing of her own Jewish background is her trying to get ahead of the curve.

Plame's ad won't air on regular television but it could help her raise money nationally. In the ad she details how she was illegally outed as a CIA agent during the Bush administration and how Trump pardoned the perpetrator. That case is getting long in the tooth but will still ring bells among hardcore Dems. Her video already had well over a quarter million views on YouTube on the day of release,

Plame would love nothing more than to close this race out early with her national appeal and money, but that's unlikely. Media in the race will be critical, but not necessarily decisive. For example, the deep local roots and national support women's group are giving to Teresa Leger Fernandez is a big hurdle for a newcomer like Plame to jump. Still, her online ad may have her driving backwards and in circles but it shows her campaign is headed in the right direction.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here. 

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2019

Monday, September 09, 2019

The Sheriff Calls Out The Mayor; Gonzales Upends City Politics With Crime Raid In SE Heights And Refuses To Rule Out Mayoral Run 

Sheriff Gonzales
Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales is calling out ABQ Mayor Tim Keller and if the Sheriff sticks to his guns the city could be in for one heckuva political spectacle.

It started last week when Gonzales planted his flag deeply in Keller's political base--the crime-ridden SE Heights. In an unprecedented move for a county sheriff, Gonzales released his deputies to fight the crime battle in the battered area without the explicit support of the Mayor or his police chief. But he was invited to come in by the people who count--those who live there. By week's end Gonzales was tallying up the illicit booty his deputies had collected and boasting of it on TV.

That led us to post on Facebook the recent scuttlebutt that Gonzales, a Democrat like Keller, may be prepping a 2021 run for Mayor. (He is limited to two terms as Sheriff). Then in a follow-up report Gonzales confirmed that he is indeed mulling over a mayoral run. That sent the Kellerites back on their heels as they assessed the impact of this Alpha male move that stunned them as well as the political community.

Then there was the Sheriff's hiring of veteran Dem consultant James Hallinan to provide "communication services" to the department for $24K a year. Hallinan says he is out of the political consulting business but it's an open secret that his relationship with the Keller Dems is on the rocks, furthering the Manny for Mayor rumor mill.

Maybe it was a coincidence or maybe not, but the day after Gonzales raided the SE Keller fired up a new Twitter feed for Spanish speaking citizens. That sent the Alligators into a frenzy, predicting that the Gonzales Movida could send the first term Mayor to the political center to choke off Gonzales' oxygen.

But Gonzales has unlimited air to breathe from the never-ending crime wave that is sapping the lifeblood from the city. The smidgen of good news for Keller is that it would be highly unusual for the electorate to reject him in favor of a law enforcement official but it has to be noted that these are unprecedented times. Also, Keller is not up for election until November 2021. He still has two years to make more noticeable headway against the epidemic.

KELLER'S CRIME BEAT

Mayor Keller
Keller says he has made a difference and regularly releases statistics backing his case. But beleaguered citizens continue to push back hard, saying they don't see a difference. Many maintain that much crime is now going unreported because citizens have given up. That, they claim, skews the stats in favor of City Hall.

Some readers also complain that APD collects "information reports" for many auto break-ins and the like so victims can collect their insurance but does not report the incidents as crimes that are included in the FBI's Uniform Crime Report.

Then there's the growing impatience with an APD that says its hands are tied by the Justice Department consent decree governing the agency, but continues to clock overtime that would make a glutton proud.

Gonzales showed Wednesday just how "handcuffed" APD is when he announced 51 felony and 25 misdemeanor arrests, the seizure of 45 pounds of meth, 3 pounds of heroin and 24 firearms in the SE Heights area renamed the "International District" from its old moniker of War Zone." (You be the judge on which one fits best.)

This latest Gonzales operation (and a previous one authorized by the Governor) have begun to redefine the narrative from one that says APD is doing all it can under the circumstances to. . .

"If the Sheriff can get results why can't APD and does this mean all those new cops won't really make a difference?"

APD has received a massive budget increase financed by higher taxes to pay cops more and hire more of them. But Keller was left with a department decimated by previous Mayor RJ Berry. He has said it will take years to straighten it out. But in politics you are rarely given years, especially as the trauma created by all the crime takes a devastating toll on thousands of victims.

Gonzales obviously sees an opening. He and his supporters believe the public is receptive to a more populist approach that puts getting tougher on crime at the top of the priority list and moves progressive items like banning plastic bags to the bottom.

PEAKING PROGRESSIVES?

With Gonzales teasing a mayoral run the progressive movement in city politics--while here to stay--appears to have peaked and hit its ceiling. 

The Sheriff has been elected twice, is a native Hispanic, a Marine Corp veteran and is tough as nails. He even refuses to allow his deputies to wear lapel cameras despite withering criticism. His natural base is Hispanic Democrats, Independents and many Republicans, if they choose not to field a candidate of their own. All of this is enough to send shivers up the spines of Keller and his well-paid circle at City Hall.

Regardless of the politics, Gonzales, who has had his own troubles steering his department, may be doing ABQ a favor by arguing that we can do better, that the incremental progress on crime that the city is being asked to settle for is not enough. Is it Manny's MAGA moment--Make ABQ Great Again? Stay tuned.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here. 

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2019

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Another NM Money Tree Is Growing, Does Keller Have Another ART On His Hands? And Readers Write 

State employees take their share of heat as overpaid desk jockeys, but then there's this from the Legislative Finance Committee:

New Mexico state employee take-home pay is the lowest in the region, largely due to the comparatively higher cost of health insurance. New Mexico state employees receive approximately 70 percent of their total compensation in salary, roughly in line with the seven surrounding states. However, employees’ take-home pay is just 55 percent of total compensation, lower than surrounding states.

That's the best part of the August LFC newsletter. Most of the rest is filled with scary stories about oil prices crashing and the state being sent to the poor house soon.

There is nearly zero recognition among the LFC economists and other Santa Fe policy wonks that this time could be different, that the boom, or at least steady surpluses, could continue for much longer than they expect. Where's the plan for that?

THE MONEY TREES

There's another money tree growing besides the one in the oil patch:

LANL has outlined an initial five-year, $5 billion institutional infrastructure plan to upgrade the lab as it gears up for annual production of 30 nuclear pits — the triggers that set off nuclear weapons — by 2026. In all, the infrastructure improvements could reach $11.2 billion over 10 years, all subject to congressional budgeting approval. . . 

The Feds are also expanding the budget and jobs at ABQ's Sandia Labs. Diversify the state's economy away from the oil patch and the Feds? That'll happen when they ban the burning of Zozobra.

KELLER'S ART?

The rapid transit project for ABQ's Central Avenue know as ART is widely regarded as the worst public project in the city's modern history. It was authored by GOP Mayor RJ Berry who left office with no political future, in part, because of it. Now in light of recent developments, the question arises if Dem Mayor Tim Keller is going to be the author of another White Elephant:

Preparing the Albuquerque Rail Yards for redevelopment could cost the city between $50 million and $80 million in infrastructure, environmental remediation and structural renovations, according to a preliminary analysis by an outside consultant. Leland Consulting Group said in a draft report filed with the city this month that the range reflects three development scenarios: $50 million is the estimated cost to ready the Rail Yards for a low-density redevelopment strategy, while $80 million is for a more intensive plan.

That's a huge amount of cash and the city has yet to pinpoint where it would come from. On the November election ballot voters are being asked to approve $5 million in bonds for the rail yards development. But it has been under study for nearly a decade and nothing much has happened. The city says it would like to get the private sector involved but after ten years there are no takers. What does that tell us?

First there was ART, the ABQ Rapid Transit project. Now there's the ABQ Rail Yards or ARR. The similarities are getting too close for comfort.

READERS WRITE

Here's the self-proclaimed "Crockagator" commenting on the huge state surpluses due to the SE oil boom:

Joe, I am wondering why the state doesn't use the new income to pay off the bonded debt the state currently has thereby lowering the tax we pay on everything but groceries. This to me would be sharing the wealth with all New Mexicans. The Crockagator.

Interesting suggestion. Legislators had so much cash last session that they paid cash for road projects without floating bonds. That had to be a first.

Reader C.T. writes of the GOP southern congressional race:

Joe, You mentioned Yvette Herrell being on the defensive. On a recent weekend she was in Deming participating in the Great American Duck Race Parade, only she had no campaign material up. She rode on a horse with a group called “Cowboys for Trump.” Again, no one was made aware that she was a candidate for Congress. Seems Yvette has not learned from her first failed attempt at CD-2 and is continuing to misstep. It definitely is going to be a steep uphill battle for her to win this primary.

No doubt Herrell is going to have to bring her "A Game" as her GOP foes Claire Chase and Chris Mathys apply maximum pressure.

THE BOTTOM LINES

ABQ City Councilor Ike Benton was first elected to the council in 2005 and Martin Heinrich in 2003. We had different dates this week. . . And John Blair was the deputy secretary of state not the deputy chief of staff which we blogged in a first draft.

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Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Top R Tries To Keep GOP Congress Hopefuls In Line, Councilor Benton With Another Big Name Endorsement But All Are Not Convinced 

Joe Monahan (2007)
The heated race for the GOP nomination for the southern congressional seat is putting NM GOP Chairman Steve Pearce on the hot seat. He reports he's been getting phone calls about who he might endorse for the seat he once held. But as party chair Pearce is prohibited from endorsing any of the contenders and says he won't.

The spirited battle between Yvette Herrell, Claire Chase and Chris Mathys also apparently had Pearce fielding inquiries about that debut video Chase produced to announce her candidacy. In it she left the clear impression that VP Pence was endorsing her, but he has not. Said Pearce:

I ask that each candidate make a pledge now to back the winner, regardless of outcome and that these campaigns remain above reproach by not insinuating endorsements in mailers, photos, or verbally as they work to earn your vote.  As Chairman of the Party, I pledge that we will steadfastly work to support whichever candidate the voters decide will best represent us.

It is critical for Pearce to keep the three hopefuls from letting the campaign get so out of hand that there's a repeat of the '18 southern GOP  nomination battle. That year Monty Newman lost to Yvette Herrell and the bad blood was never rinsed away. It's blamed, in part, for Herrell's upset loss to Dem Xochitl Torres Small.

BENTON'S BIG NAMES

Ike Benton, the incumbent Dem City Councilor seeking re-election this year, seems to be calling in a lot of favors. First he was endorsed by AFSCME, then came ABQ Mayor Tim Keller and Dem US Rep. Deb Haaland. Now he scores the endorsement of Sen. Martin Heinrich, who says of the veteran councilor:

Ike is all substance—a policy wonk, a details guy, with a nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic. He’s not flashy. Just effective. Today, Ike and I are working together to raise the bar on energy efficiency in Albuquerque and I support his work updating Albuquerque’s Energy Code, which we collaborated on years ago as City Councilors.

Benton, who represents the Downtown/North Valley/UNM District 2 seat, has five opponents but the top-tier endorsements he's getting have them scrambling. (Zack Quintero has been endorsed by the unions presenting police and firefighters.)

Heinrich was elected to the city council in 2003 in what was his first bid for elective office, the same year Benton was elected. Unlike Benton, Heinrich had a hard time getting the then-Mayor to endorse him. In fact, Mayor Martin Chavez worked against him but Heinrich won anyway. Benton's opponents are obviously hoping this year's mayoral endorsement gets a similar response.

As for Heinrich, his endorsement record could stand some improvement. In recent years he gave his nod to Dem presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Land Commissioner hopeful Garrett VeneKlasen. Remember them?

NOT EVERYONE AGREES

The big name endorsements of Benton are drawing fierce criticism from those who blame Benton for supporting the disastrous ART project and assert he did nothing substantial as the city was plunged into an historic crime wave that changed the very fabric of the city. A former top city official sums up that line of thinking in urging that Benton be defeated:

Albuquerque can tolerate all sorts of things: crime, homicide, a minimum wage economy, a substandard educational system. But the one thing it especially can't stand is criticism of its status quo leadership (the city is still moving forward with ART?WTF?). And it’s not because the criticism is invalid. It’s because the truth hurts but not as much as their failed leadership continues to hurt the city. In this case we’re talking about a pack of political peacocks and their hurt feelings. The public and the voters are supposed to be grateful for their uncanny ability to run what was once a great forward moving city into the ground. But here’s the real issue: the voters of Albuquerque are choosing to support these people. So it’s not just indictment on the political and community leadership. It’s an indictment on the city as a whole.

Benton's opponents have so far refrained from that kind of tough talk about the state of the city. However, former ABQ City Councilor Pete Dinelli has called for the defeat of Benton as well as Councilor Pat Davis, placing blame on them for the city's economic and social downward drift.

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Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Sen. Martinez DWI Bust Starts To Enter Political Arena, Dark Money In Southern Congress Race And A New Candidate Gets An Alligator Strike  

The aggravated DWI arrest of northern Dem Senator Richard Martinez is starting to get politicized. Attorney Alan Hall, Democratic primary candidate for the ABQ North Valley and Sandoval County state senate seat (District 10) held by Republican Sen. Candace Gould, comes with this:

Joe, When I moved to New Mexico in 1983, the drunken driving fatality rate was multiple times what it is now. (Still plenty of room for improvement, of course.) Changing New Mexico’s DWI culture has been an arduous struggle involving the dedicated efforts of thousands of citizens. With acceptance of proper punishment, and genuine contrition, the ordinary Joe can perhaps be excused for driving drunk---once. But a state legislator driving drunk, and then not promptly resigning, cannot be forgiven. In New Mexico, it is unforgivable.

Hall's position may not go down well with the Santa Fe Dem insiders who refuse to take a stance on the Martinez arrest, but then Hall isn't an insider--at least not yet. However, he is the husband of Public Regulation Commissioner Cynthia Hall. Meantime, Sen. Gould has no opposition for the GOP nomination. She is seeking a second four year term. She will have a fight. In 2016 she beat Dem David Simon by the slim margin of 51 to 49%.

As for Senator Martinez, his case has not yet gone to court but he says he will seek re-election. No Dem primary opponent for him has yet surfaced.

DARKENING IT UP

You may have seen that TV ad running during the August congressional recess touting the health care record of Dem southern Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small. It's not being paid for by the Torres Small campaign. We can't tell you exactly who is paying for it. Here's the deal:

A new “dark money” group funded by secret donors plans to spend almost all of its $10.4 million budget on ads helping Democrats in House races heading into 2020. House Majority Forward was quietly incorporated in March but operated under the radar until its public launch in July as a new 501(c)(4) arm of House Majority PAC, the Democrats’ flagship super PAC for congressional races that is closely aligned with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Unlike the super PAC, HMF can keep its donors, as well as many details of its activities and finances, hidden from the public.

The campaign for the southern seat is expected to be one of the hottest in the nation as Torres Small seeks a second term. Three Republicans are running for the GOP nomination.

ALLIGATOR STRIKE

John Blair
He's won accolades for his service as a congressional aide, a top Interior Department official as well as Deputy Chief of Staff at the Secretary of State's office. But now John Blair is a candidate and how the game changes. His entrance into the race for the Dem nomination for the northern congressional seat brought this Alligator strike against the freshly minted candidate:

John's announcement from a scenic patio in Santa Fe talking about swimming at Santa Fe High, playing in the band and Santa Fe getting the short end of the stick makes you wonder if he knows the district he is running to represent. No one in Clovis or on the Navajo Nation thinks that. And now that the Santa Fe vote is going be split so dramatically, the candidate who has roots in the district, not just Santa Fe, has the upper hand. That is what puts Teresa Leger in the frontrunner spot--longtime family and progressive roots in San Miguel County, strong connections with the northern Indian Pueblos and the EMILY's List endorsement.

Leger Fernandez appears to be the front-runner of the moment for the nomination in the ten person field but there's a long way to go until the June primary. As for Blair, welcome to La Politica, John. Don't worry. That soft staffer skin will get tough quick--just like a Gator's.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Former NM Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels died Sunday at 76. He had been ill with Lou Gehrig’s disease for several months. His was one of the more important legal careers in state history. Gov. Lujan Grisham issued the following statement:

I am truly saddened by the loss of an undisputed leader in the New Mexico legal community. Justice Daniels was an honest and committed jurist, a man of stellar wit and devotion to fairness and equity. As chief justice, he led New Mexico’s highest court with clarity and conviction, leaving a legacy rivaled by few. Not only was he professionally talented, he was incredibly kind, with a warm personality that drew so many people to him, including myself. I am incredibly grateful for his many years of service to the people of New Mexico. . . 

ICYMI, second-tier Dem presidential candidate and US Senator Cory Booker made a stop in downtown ABQ recently to raise money for his effort. . . John Jones will try again. He was defeated in '18 by Democrat Natalie Figueroa for the District 30 state House seat in ABQ's far NE Heights. He has announced he will run in 2020.

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Friday, August 30, 2019

Happy Labor Day, New Mexico 

We get this as the unusual late summer heat rolls on:

Authorities in Las Vegas, NM say 31-year-old Paul Trujillo was arrested after he was identified as one of two men who entered a walk-in freezer at a Dairy Queen store and stole 22 boxes of Dilly Bars. Police say the footage shows Trujillo walking up to the freezer following a stakeout. . . Trujillo was charged with felony commercial burglary and misdemeanor larceny.

Is Haagen-Daz next?

Enjoy the holiday weekend.

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