Monday, June 25, 2018

Racino Watch: Race To Win Sixth And Final One Is Underway; Memories Of Downs Deal Cast Shadow, Plus: Downside To NM Oil Gusher Could Slow Party  

There's a new player in the race to secure the license for the state's sixth and last racino. Actually, the new player is quite familiar. It's My Way Holdings, controlled by the family of the late racing kingpin Stan Fulton and longtime owner of Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino in southern NM.

Insiders report the Fultons have joined the competition for the racino which has already attracted a number of groups, including one that wants the new racetrack and casino in Tucumcari and another that wants to build it in Clovis.

Applications for the final racino are being taken until the end of July and the process is starting to draw close scrutiny, Memories of the 2011 Martinez administration deal that awarded a 25 year lease for the Downs at ABQ Racetrack and Casino and which critics said stunk to high heaven, are still relatively fresh. That deal was so mired in politics and accusations of corruption that it became known as the Down and Dirty Downs Deal. The FBI investigated but no charges were brought.

The Downs lease came under the purview of the board of Expo NM and the State Board of Finance, but the new racino must be approved by the State Racing Commission and the state Gaming Control Board. Interestingly, the time frame for awarding the prized racino is the end of the year which happens to coincide with the end of Gov. Martinez's tenure. Also interesting is the fact that Laguna Development Corporation, which lost the competition for the Downs lease, is an applicant for the new racino.

Where the final racetrack and casino will go is yet to be determined (probably on the east side) but with the Fultons joining the chase there will be an extra set of eyes watching the process.


Maybe it's her summer vacation?

Gov. Martinez is traveling to Taiwan for a week at the expense of Taiwan's foreign affairs ministry. A Martinez spokesman said that the governor departed Thursday and will return June 30. The governor's office says travel expenses are being paid for by Taiwan. The purpose of the trip was unclear, with no immediate response to requests for more information.


It seems every politician who has ever had an anti-Trump thought is flocking to the border for a photo op over the latest immigration flap. But syndicated columnist Diane Dimond points out few of them appear to be talking about the fundamental cause of the problem:

Sadly, we hear next to nothing about trying to tackle the two-fold root cause of the illegal immigration problem. First, citizens of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico are fleeing ruthless, murdering drug gangs that often conduct business right under the noses of bribery-blind law enforcement officials. Around $2.6 billion of our tax dollars go to aid programs every year that are supposed to help restore peace and prosperity in Central America. Yet, the violence there seems never-ending. Where has all that money gone?

Maybe the politicos need to visit those countries to find out more, but then they would miss out on the TV studio that seems to have been set up on the border.


We blogged last week of the oil gusher in the Permian Basin and how it's creating a cash gusher for state government, but the punch bowl could be pulled in the months ahead. take a look:

The biggest U.S. shale region will have to shut wells within four months because there aren’t enough pipelines to get the oil to customers, the head of one of the industry’s largest producers said. The worsening bottleneck in the Permian region that straddles west Texas and New Mexico offers an unexpected fillip to OPEC and other oil producers outside the U.S., who’ve seen rampant production from America’s shale producers grab market share. "We will reach capacity in the next 3 to 4 months," Scott Sheffield, the chairman of Pioneer Natural Resources Co. said in an interview at an OPEC conference in Vienna. "Some companies will have to shut in production, some companies will move rigs away, and some companies will be able to continue growing because they have firm transportation."

It's the same old story when it comes to New Mexico and oil booms--enjoy it while it lasts because it never does.

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Biden With Early Endorsement of MLG, R's Find An SOS Replacement And The Winner Of Our Latest Contest Is. . . . 

We're off and running this first day of Summer '18.

That early endorsement of Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham's gubernatorial candidacy by former Vice-President Joe Biden makes you wonder if we're hearing the first steps on the NM 2020 presidential campaign trail. Biden appears to be weighing a bid for the Dem nomination and by stepping early into a state heavy with Hispanic Democrats, a possible weak point for him, Biden might help himself.

For Lujan Grisham Biden's endorsement is aimed squarely at centrist Dems and men. The centrists may have felt alienated a bit during the June primary which was dominated by progressives. Two male challengers were defeated by MLG so there is a need for outreach with them as the general election approaches. And on that note. . .

Jeff Apodaca says on Facebook that he met last week with Lujan Grisham who vanquished him in the June 5 primary for the Dem governor nomination, but the meeting apparently didn't go so well. He was critical of her in his post and that drew some ire from MLG supporters:

As I said after our loss, we have 40,000 voters and 45,000+ social media followers that have asked us they want accountability from our elected officials. Michelle and I met last week to discuss issues in NM, when I discussed opioid issues in our state she took no responsibility as I asked her it needs to be addressed. I feel we have a responsibility to continue to push NM issues with everyone running for political office. Pearce too. . . 

Lujan Grisham garnered 66 percent in the three way Dem guv primary which also featured Joe Cervantes.


It appears the R's have come up with a candidate for Secretary of State to replace JoHanna Cox who won the primary unopposed but left the contest under a cloud because of legal malpractice suits filed against her.

Gavin Clarkson of Las Cruces says he wants the NM GOP Central Committee to name him as the November candidate to take on Dem SOS Maggie Toulouse Oliver. The former associate professor at NMSU ran unsuccessfully for the GOP congressional nomination this year. His chances of winning the race are slim but at least loyal R's will have someone to vote for.


Our contest for two tickets ($170 value) to the Vintage ABQ Grand Tasting this Friday had readers scrambling to come with the answers to a trio of questions, and many of them nailed them.

So, in went all the winners into our Sinatra Forever hat, and as Frank sang "Summer Wind" on the old CD player, we reached into the cap and pulled from the batch of contestants the name of Carmie Lynn Toulouse. Congratulations, Carmie. You're going to have a grand time.

As for the questions . . .

First we asked who was the first female justice on the NM Supreme Court . The answer is Mary Walters. There is even a Wikipedia page devoted to the subject of the first Supreme Court justices to serve in each state.

The second question gave some readers trouble. They guessed that the first female member of the NM congressional delegation was Heather Wilson, who was elected to the ABQ US House seat in 1998. But the first member of the US House from New Mexico was Georgia Lee Lusk, who was elected in 1946 and served one term, being defeated in the Democratic primary by former Governor Miles in 1948. She was the mother of Gene Lusk, who was the Democratic candidate for Governor in 1966 and was defeated by David Cargo.

And the NM US Senator who carried the bill in the Senate that created Medicare was Democrat Clinton P. Anderson. That has to be one of the most consequential pieces of legislation ever sponsored by a New Mexican on the Hill. He served in the Senate from 1949-73.

Thanks to all who entered the contest. We appreciate your interest. And thanks to Vintage ABQ for the complimentary tickers for our readers. Proceeds from the annual event go toward arts education in the public schools.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Oil Gusher Creates Santa Fe Cash Gusher; How High Will It Go? Plus: Yvette's Answer To Susana's Dissing, Reader Vox Populi On Keller And Topgolf And Another Chance To Win Vintage ABQ Tickets 

Rep. Lundstrom
The numbers getting thrown around on how much cash state lawmakers will have to spend when they meet in January are getting wild, but they are grounded in reality.

This week we ran into State Rep. Patty Lundstrom, chairwoman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and she told us that the over $500 million in "new money" already forecast to be available for the budget year that begins July 1, 2019 will likely go even higher when the final forecast comes in. The state budget is about $6.2 billion so that gives you an idea how huge a jump in revenue this is. 

Just about all of the increase is due to the oil drilling in the Permian Basin in SE NM that is inflating state coffers like nothing we've seen since before the Great Recession took hold here ten years ago. 

Lundstrom of Gallup cautions that there is much demand to "backfill" budgets that have been depleted by all the recent bad budget years. So, she says, the Santa Fe punch bowl, while filled to the brim, is not as big as it may seem. Still, for the next Governor who takes office January 1, that extra cash is a whole lot of breathing room.


Southern GOP congressional nominee Yvette Herrell has an answer for that dissing she was given by Gov. Martinez, who said she would support the nominee, but added this eyebrow raiser:

I think there are some questions with reference to her ability to … represent New Mexico in a fair and reasonable way.

Herrell's answer is from none other than Lt. Governor John Sanchez, who has been in Martinez's doghouse going on eight years. He says:

Yvette has always proven herself to be a person of great integrity and will carry New Mexico's voice to Washington. . . She is the only candidate who shares our values and understands NM's issues.

Hey, when John Sanchez starts boxing your ears after eight years of hiding under his desk from your political machine, you know you're a lame duck.


Our Tuesday column dealing with the ABQ City Council unanimously overriding mayor Keller's veto of incentives for the $39 million Topgolf project drew considerable reaction, and not a small amount supported Keller. And that's our cue for this mini edition of Reader Vox Populi. Art Tannenbaum kicks it off:

Joe, Your report regarding the city council's antics and the fundamental and deep seated problems facing Albuquerque is spot on. What I disagree with is Steve Cabiedes's notion of Mayor Keller having supposedly wasting political capital with the Topgolf nonsense.

I believe it's for the best that Mr. Keller has put on public display the City Councilors and their petty power lust. While the Mayor works towards necessary improvements in order to change things, the councilors foolishly attempt to protect the status quo. While the Mayor can admit that mistakes may have been made and then work to correct them, the Council will insist on a burying-the-head-in-the sand approach that never admits mistakes. City Council members would be well advised at this point: when you've got your head buried in the sand all people can see is a big ass.

Margaret (Peg) Galbraith writes:

Hi Joe, Love the blog — you are the “go to” source for all things political in NM, for sure! However, I have to take issue with a couple of things in Tuesday's installment. First, as someone whose letter in response to Pete Dinelli’s “report card” on Mayor Keller got published in the Journal. . . I wanted to be sure you knew that I was in no way asked, coerced, or otherwise encouraged to write that letter.

The second point is regarding the rift between Mayor Keller and the ABQ City Council over the swag bag of incentives that Council is dangling in front of Topgolf. An important aspect of Mayor Keller’s economic plan is to provide home-grown businesses the same kinds of incentives that the big guys from out-of-town get. “Political newbie?” Nope. Just a Mayor who realizes that he has promises to deliver to the city, not the City Council. 


Reader Suzanne Shannon comments:

Maybe TopGolf is the best Albuquerque can do right now in terms of bringing jobs to the city as you say, but what happens when Topgolf realizes that entertainment costs money, and there is little disposable income in Albuquerque to pay for what Topgolf has to offer? I think Tim Keller was 100% correct in rejecting their bid for city money. Topgolf may come in and build another useless structure, employ low-wage workers for a year or two, and then bail when their profits go south, taking another huge chunk of resources with them. Albuquerque city councilors are short-sighted not to see that. Tim Keller is rock solid in his leadership, while they are simply expedient, no-vision politicians.

Keith Miller writes:

It's interesting that Mayor Keller does the right thing and this same group of wind votes him down. This is the same City Council, predominantly, that voted to give away someone else’s (our) money on the ART project.

Reader Tim Kraft writes from Las Cruces:

Your column regarding the incentives for Topgolf--“the best we can do”--is, unfortunately, right on the money. 

Jeffrey Baker writes:

What’s the deal with Councilor Don Harris? First he voted with everyone else on the City Council to override the Mayor’s veto of the Council’s resolution supporting Topgolf, and then he voted against giving Topgolf the incentives it wanted. Does he think the first vote helps him with his fellow Councilors by poking the Mayor in the eye (“Hey Tim, we run this town,”) and the second vote (“I don’t support taxpayer giveaways”) lets him hope voters forget his fingerprints are all over ART?


We said we would give you another chance to win two tickets valued at $170 to the Vintage ABQ Grand Tasting this Friday at the Balloon Museum. And here it is. Answer this trio of questions correctly and your name goes into our Sinatra cap for the grand drawing for the Grand Tasting, just one of the Vintage events this week that will benefit education programs and more.

1.Who was the first female justice to serve on the NM Supreme Court;

2. Who was the first female to serve in New Mexico's Congressional delegation as a US 
 Senator or member of the US House of Representatives?

3. What NM US Senator was the lead sponsor in the US Senate of the bill that created Medicare?

Try to get your guesses in before Sinatra Martini time which begins at 6 p.m. Good luck!

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Topgolf: Why It May Be The Best We Can Do, Plus: The Stunning And Unanimous Rebuke Of Keller By City Councilors 

The debate over taxpayer subsidies to attract a $39 million Topgolf location has laid bare the fundamental and deep-seated problems facing ABQ, the state's so-called economic engine.

While opponents of the $2.6 million in subsidies approved  last night by the ABQ City Council decry the low-paying Topgolf jobs (350 full and part-time jobs at $8 to $12 an hour) calling it a giveaway, the fact is Topgolf is who we are. How?

ABQ has not attracted a significant number of high paying jobs since the Great Recession hit ten years ago. It's not about to happen now because. . .

--Our students' subpar education performance has not prepared much of our workforce for the good jobs being created. Those are going to Austin, Denver and elsewhere. Those that are prepared for those jobs here, go there.

--The city's unrelenting crime wave makes ABQ a pariah to the tech companies that are on the move. Topgolf can live with it because they get loads of cheap labor that already lives here.

In the context of an anemic and out-of-position economy Topgolf makes sense for the city. There are literally tens of thousands of high school dropouts and high school graduates who cannot find enough employment. They desperately need work to pay the rent. Many work two or three jobs to do so and Topgolf will give them another option.

Yes, that's what we have become. Mayor Keller is right that the subsidies are bad policy and bad precedent, but where will the jobs come from, if we don't ramp up our educational performance and solve our crime wave? What is to happen to the thousands of young people ill-prepared for the future? Even more drugs? Even more crime?

Topgolf asked for incentives because they knew how despairing we were over the jobs outlook. They knew the city council would be receptive, So would the job-seekers who lack the skills for pie in the sky "economic base jobs" that pay well and that the mayor and the business community insist can be brought back. But they aren't here and Topgolf is.

Wealthy ABQ contractors received tens of millions  from the Berry administration to build the disastrous ART project. If we're going to hand out welfare money to the city's elites we might as well hand some of it to our kids who are willing to work for ten bucks an hour in a city that has turned its back on them. In the bizarre context of our times jobs welfare for Topgolf makes sense. Actually, it's the best we can do.


The relationship between Mayor Keller and the nine member ABQ City Council hit rock bottom last night when the council overrode the Mayor's veto of a resolution  for Topgolf incentives on a 9 to zero vote. Has any mayor suffered a defeat that big at council?

Keller plowed ahead and was rebuked by all six Democrats and three Republicans. (The final vote on the actual ordinance pertaining to Topgolf was 8 to 1, with GOP Councilor Don Harris opposed.)

Veteran politico Steve Cabiedes says Keller's veto was the result of being a "political newbie":

He learned how to count votes when he was in the state Senate and he apparently needs to relearn how. To waste his political capital in such a way as he did on Topgolf is reckless and weakens him. 

City Hall insiders added that the vote signals that the council, dormant for the eight years of Republican Berry, is now ready to again exert itself. Said one:

You have to learn to pick your battles. That's a cardinal rule and the Mayor picked the wrong battle. He is going to have to reset his relationship with the council. 

Keller won election last year in a huge landslide but last night it seemed it never happened. The council appeared unconcerned about any mayoral consequences as they unanimously rebuked him.

9 to zero. The rookie Mayor was shut out. Now he must maneuver just to get back in the game.


Mayor Keller's PR mavens trotted out a defense of his first six months in office after 2013 mayoral contender and former Dem ABQ City Councilor Pete Dinelli awarded him a mediocre grade of "C" in a Journal op-ed column.

Among those enlisted to counter that assessment was former Dem ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez who Dinelli served under as a public safety officer. Chavez, a three term holder of the office, says Keller has been "rock steady"in executing his job. He points out that Keller inherited "a mess" from former Mayor Berry when it comes to the crime wave and ART. Chavez did not give Keller a grade.

After what happened to Keller at the city council meeting last night, Marty might want to shop his op-ed to them.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

Unraveling Of Martinez Administration Quickens With State Police Scandal, CYFD Woes And PED Fallout  

The Martinez administration has been a slow motion train wreck ever since the infamous pizza party of December 2015 that cracked her approval ratings and led to a loss of confidence in state government leadership. Now with just over six months left in her second and final term, the unraveling of the administration has quickened. Here's how:

--The State Police Chief is now mired in scandal which has also entangled the Governor:

The state paid at least $200,000 in a settlement with a former member of Gov.  Martinez’s security detail, but a new lawsuit filed by current and retired law enforcement officers alleges the agent had been removed from the job after he was caught gambling on duty. It also suggests the payout was ostensibly to allow him to reimburse Martinez, who the officers claim loaned him thousands of dollars. The allegations are just one part of the lawsuit filed against State Police Chief Pete Kassetas claiming he harassed and discriminated against employees while enjoying protection from the governor.

--The Children Youth and Families Department announces disciplinary action against 11 of its employees who were involved in the case of a 7 year old ABQ girl who was put into prostitution by her family. That notorious case follows the murders of 7 years old Omaree Varela and 10 year old Victoria Martens, cases that also blackened the record of CYFD.

--Public Education Department. Even GOP Governor nominee Steve Pearce is now rejecting one of the pillars of the state Public Education Department--the controversial teacher evaluations--leaving another major state department in need of new leadership and a culture change.

What a mess.

It will be either Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham or Republican Steve Pearce who will be charged with cleaning it up.

Lujan Grisham is said to have served in the cabinet of state governors longer than anyone and her advocates say she is more than qualified to institute needed reforms. But foes claim her state tenure was marked by serious mismanagement.

Pearce is a tough talker and knowledgeable. His supporters say he means business and will turn around state government as if it were a business. But he has little executive experience and his bull in the china closet mentality may stymie him. Also, he would have to deal with a Dem dominated Legislature.


Sec. Jacobson (Journal)
CYFD has become what the state corrections department was back in the old days--a tinder box waiting to explode on the Governor's desk which it does repeatedly and often horrifically.

CYFD Secretary Monique Jacobson is polishing her resume in her final months in office, recently touting her performance before a business group. She won media praise for disciplining the CYFD personnel in the case of the 7 year old, but she refuses to release the names or the punishment, apparently in defiance of state law. Also, what about discipline for her performance? Where is the accountability there?

Jacobson preformed well as state tourism secretary but her three and half year tenure at CYFD has been deeply troubled. Her appointment was criticized as blatantly political since she had no experience in CYFD issues. But she was given the reins, was unable to change the culture of the agency and here we are.

Governor Martinez isn't saying much of anything about any of the breakdowns in state government or even on the matter of ABQ GOP State Rep. Monica Youngblood, a longtime Martinez ally, being arrested for aggravated DWI even though anti-DWI has been one of this Governor's banner issues. One of our Alligators aptly sums up the fading days of Martinez this way:

These days, Susana seems to have her gaze firmly fixed over the shoulders of any and all that she deals with concerning the worse-than-before state she is soon to leave NM in, with a laser focus constantly scanning the horizon for any potential shot that may yet open up for a Trump administration appointment. Sort of the Chris Christie of the West, On his way out he didn't give a rip about what was going on in his state of New Jersey, he only cared about the state of his personal options to cash in on his time in office. In other words, the conduct underlying this lawsuit involving the state police chief arose on the watch of an executive who really doesn't care what's going on in her government because she's already focused elsewhere.


In Santa Fe over the weekend we ran into Mayor Alan Webber and asked him what has most surprised him about his new job:

You're always on. It's pretty much nonstop. That's the biggest surprise. 

Webber is the city's first full-time Mayor and receives a salary of $110,000 per year. The citizens seem intent on getting their money's worth.

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Candid Camera: Rep. Rodella Relaxes After Suffering Primary Upset: Plus: At APD The Old Boss Is The New Boss, And: The Winner Of Our Vintage ABQ Ticket Giveaway Is. . . . 

Rep. Rodella
It seems State Rep. Debbie Rodella, defeated in the biggest upset of Primary Election Night, is ready to ease into retirement. One of our Alligators sent us this pic of Debbie relaxing at the slots at Sandia Casino--and it was taken the afternoon after her June 5 defeat.

Rodella, a moderate/conservative Dem who chairs  the important House Business and Industry Committee, will soon have plenty of time to try her luck at her favorite games instead of worrying about complicated tax policy and the like. She will finish out 25 years as a legislator at the end of the year.

While Rodella is getting early retirement at 56, the woman who defeated her is going to have to delay any plans she may have had to join Debbie. 70 year old progressive Dem Susan Herrera was the unexpected victor for the northern legislative seat. No R's are running for the seat and none need apply in this all-D-all-the-time district. . .

No retirement for interim ABQ Police Chief Mike Geier but you already knew that. Despite protestations by the Keller administration that there would indeed be a true national search for a reform-minded police chief, interim Chief Geier was tapped for the permanent position. The police union that marches to the tune of the status quo is happy, even as the Kellerites say there will be reform under Geier, a 20 year APD veteran and former Rio Rancho chief.

Geier was criticized recently for defending the bungling of the case of a seven year old girl whose parents forced her into prostitution and whose bloody underpants were never collected as evidence when APD was investigating. But that wasn't enough to shake the Mayor's faith in him.

If he turns the department and the crime count around, Geier will make Keller a hero. If he doesn't, he could make him a one term mayor. . .

That had to be one of the shortest-lived political careers in a while. GOP Secretary of State candidate Johanna Cox has dropped out of the race, leaving it to the GOP to find a replacement candidate. Cox cited the need to attend to family but news articles outlined several legal malpractice cases against the ABQ attorney that put the heat on her to make for the exits.

It's all somewhat academic. Dem SOS Maggie Toulouse Oliver is the odds-on favor to win re-election. Former State Rep. Sandra Jeff is running as a Libertarian. Now let's see who the R's put on the sacrificial altar.


A Senior Alligator writes from Valencia County:

Joe, "Chicharrones" Monahan, keep an eye on the race between Republican State Rep. Kelly Farjado and Democrat Leroy Baca in Valencia County. Leroy has a good chance. He has strong support from the two warring sides of the Democratic Party in Valencia County.

Really? Kelly has been an able vote-getter there but we'll watch.

Ever since we sat down with that Gator for some chicharrones in Bosque Farms he has awarded us the nickname  of "Joe "Chicharrones" Monahan. It's one of our higher honors in our 15 years of writing this thing.

Meantime, former Bernalillo County Commissioner Steve Gallegos, who years ago suffered a heart attack, told us the other day he limits himself to one serving of chicharrones a month and that we should do the same. Hey, Steve, how about if I volunteer at the next matanza to stir them but not eat them? Does the vapor count?


It was a trick question and why not? After all there was $170 in tickets on the line for the Vintage ABQ Grand Tasting Friday, June 22. But you can't fool all the people all the time and more than a handful of readers submitted correct answers in an effort to win the pair of tickets. The questions were:

Who is the first person to be born in the State of New Mexico to be Governor of the State?

And who is the first person to be born in the State of New Mexico to be a US Senator from NM?

The tricky part was being "born in the state." That means beginning on January 6, 1912 when New Mexico became a state, not prior to that when it was a territory of the U.S.

Kim Armano was one of many who got thrown off by the semantics:

Here's my guess - generated with a couple minutes from the group think of wikipedia- Ezekiel Cabeza de Baca as governor and Dennis Chavez as senator. Toss that in your crooner cap.

Kim, I would have loved to toss that in my "Sinatra Forever" cap along with the winning answers, but both of those men were born when New Mexico was a territory.

Reader Isabelle Zamora went even further back in territorial history for her answer:

Donaciano Vigil was the first Governor of NM born in Santa Fe NM in 1802 and he was first elected into office in 1847. Dennis Chavez was the first US Senator born in Los Chaves, Valencia County, New Mexico in 1888 and was first elected in 1930.

Ed Mechem
Okay, so what were the correct answers? Well, it turns out there is one answer to both questions as was explained by our question designer:

Some people will get tripped up by the fact that there was at least one Governor and one US Senator born in NM before NM became a state, namely Gov. Seligman and Senator Dennis Chavez. But the answer to both of those questions is actually the same person --Ed Mechem. He was never actually elected to the US Senate, having been appointed, but he was the first person to be born in NM after NM became a state to be both the Governor and the first US Senator to be born in NM after statehood.

Big Ed, as the Republican politico was called, was born six months after we achieved statehood in January 1912. From Wikipedia: "He was elected Governor in 1950 and 1952, did not run in 1954, and was elected again in 1956. . .After winning another term as governor in 1956, he was defeated for reelection again in 1958, then elected to a fourth term in 1960."

In 1962, when Senator Dennis Chavez died, Mechem appointed himself to Chavez's vacant seat. Big Ed ran for election in his own right in 1964 but lost to "Little Joe" Montoya.

So who is our winner? Well, as we said we had several so we put their names in our Sinatra cap, told Alexa to play Frank's' "Come Fly with Me Album" in the background, mixed up the scraps of paper and then pulled the name of Dennis Gabaldon out of our hat.

Congratulations, Dennis.

Thanks to all who took part. And it's not over. We'll have one more contest with the prize being another pair of Vintage ABQ Grand Tasting tickets so stay tuned.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Wednesday Political Potpourri And Check Out Our Contest For Free Vintage ABQ Tickets 

It took a week but Damon Martinez finally put out his swan song to supporters Tuesday. The unsuccessful candidate for the ABQ Dem congressional nod had to be deeply disappointed in his 15 point loss to Deb Haaland but did not directly mention the defeat in his farewell to supporters, instead thanking them "for giving me your trust, your faith, and your support over this campaign. I will never forget it."

Will Martinez, a former US attorney for NM and onetime staffer to NM Senators Udall and Bingaman, be back? Maybe, but it's hard to see any opportunity for him in the short-term.

Voters are probably taking a break from the Guv race and anticipating their summer vacations but the non-stop campaigns go on no matter what. The Republican Governors Association is circulating this attack ad against Dem nominee Michelle Lujan Grisham and MLG continues to run one of her primary ads on broadcast TV.

Whoever wins the race--MLG or Republican Steve Pearce--gets to live in the Governor's Mansion in Santa Fe, although the residence built in the mid-50's hardly qualifies for that moniker in this day and age. Never been there? Here's your chance:

The Governor’s Mansion Foundation hosts docent-guided tours from 1-3 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month through November. The mansion is located north of the Plaza, west off Bishops Lodge Road at One Mansion Drive. For more information, visit here.


After a year and half in the high profile, hot spot job of BernCO District Attorney Raul Torrez is headed to the bunker:

DA Torrez and his spokesman, Michael Patrick, did not hand over policies that relate to conflicts of interest, and they ignored written questions and a request for an interview with Torrez for this story.

Torrez took major heat for what appeared to be a wire job in the DWI case of former Gov. Martinez cabinet secretary Ryan Flynn. He is now under intense scrutiny in how his office handles the DWI case of GOP State Rep. Monica Youngblood, another Martinez acolyte who has hired Martinez machine lawyer Paul Kennedy.

Torrez has never addressed the allegation that he sold out the Flynn case in exchange for the Governor's support for his increased budget request from the Legislature.

The DA's situation is now inviting open speculation about a possible Democratic primary challenge in 2020, should he decide to seek re-election. But that word may have a hard time penetrating the bunker.


First, let's set the table, so to speak. We have two free tickets to award to a lucky blog reader that sell for $85 each to the Vintage ABQ Grand Tasting Friday, June 22. Take a look:

A tented wine & food extravaganza, located at the beautiful Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum grounds, you can taste from over 100 wines from all over the world. And, scrumptious dishes from over local restaurants who try to outdo each other for best food of show. They might be competing, but the real winner is you!

And you can be a  really big winner it you can answer the questions crafted by the sly and mischievous Foster Hannett, ABQ attorney and veteran NM politico. Answer these right and the Grand Tasting tickets are yours. If we get multiple winners we'll mix them up in our "Forever Sinatra" hat and pick the final winner.

Who is the first person to be born in the State of New Mexico to be Governor of the State?

And who is the first person to be born in the State of New Mexico to be a US Senator from NM?

If those questions stump you (as they did us) you can still enjoy the Grand Tasting and other Vintage ABQ events. Just click on the Vintage ad for tickets. All events offer high quality gourmet food and wines, and the proceeds go to support education and the arts in the ABQ metro.

Good luck to the contest entrants. Email your answers and stay tuned for yet another chance to win tickets.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Tale Of Two Guvs: One Makes The Peace With The Past As The Other Grapples With Her Present, Plus: Rating Tim Keller  

Richardson-Martinez 2010
It's the tale of two governors. Bill Richardson and Susana Martinez. Let's dive in.

He finished his gubernatorial terms at rock bottom approval levels but in the nearly 8 years since his departure Bill Richardson has shrugged off whatever resentments and frustration he had and has found contentment in his post political life. And success.

The former UN Ambassador, now 70, is seemingly everywhere as the summit between the US and North Korea takes center stage. He has traveled there repeatedly to free prisoners as an off the grid diplomat and serve as an intermediary with he isolated government.

In an appearance about the summit this week on the Today show Richardson displayed the confident, knowledgeable, affable personality that propelled him into the highest ranks of state and national politics. He probably still rues his fall from grace in the state he served as Governor and congressman, but if there is any residue of bitterness it is buried deep inside. This is a guy now completely comfortable in his own skin who has nothing to prove, but a lot to show.

Will Susana Martinez who is also finishing her governorship with rock bottom approval ratings manage to find the serenity that Richardson apparently has when she leaves office at year's end? Perhaps, but judging by her most recent foray onto the political battlefield she has a long way to go.

In the aftermath of State Rep. Yvette Herrell's big primary win of the southern GOP congressional nomination, Martinez stunned the GOP by openly dissing the woman who has a very good chance of taking the congressional seat in November:

I’m certainly going to support our Republican (nominee). But I think there are some questions with reference to her ability to … represent New Mexico in a fair and reasonable way.”

That Martinez and her chief political advise Jay McCleskey were all in for former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman, Herrell's chief rival for the nomination, was well known. And Martinez has never dealt with defeat well. But the bitterness displayed there, coming as it did so close to her own exit, reveals that she has yet to make peace with her own downfall and grapple with her post-gubernatorial future.

Richardson held grudges and in the end managed to let them go. Martinez has held even more grudges. Now this most warlike of Governors faces the daunting task of letting them go, if she is to eventually find peace within herself and a meaningful role in retirement.


It's time for the 2018 edition of Vintage ABQ, the annual festival celebrating the state's finest foods and wines with proceeds going to educate ABQ area kids. Click on the ad to get your tickets to the various events and stay tuned here as we will be awarding readers with tickets to the popular Grand Tasting.

After six months in office the appraisals of ABQ Mayor Tim Keller are coming in. We noted the "C" grade awarded the mayor by Pete Dinelli, the former ABQ city council and 2013 mayoral contender who was defeated by Mayor Berry. That drew this response from Patrick Hoffman:

I appreciate Pete Dinelli's service over the decades, However, I find his schoolmarm article awarding Mayor Keller an overall grade of "C" to be unfair. He obviously gave more weight to some "subjects" than others. In the area of public safety, the analogy of turning a large, heavy ship would to apt. It does not turn on a dime.

A good teacher does more than pontificate on a student's real and perceived faults, failings and shortcomings. Giving fair weight to successes is needed. Encouragement and positiveness are essential. I see little to none of that in this rather spiteful article.

And reader John reacted with this:

The only change I have seen so far with Mayor Tim is that he has hung his portrait wherever there is a vacant nail. No denunciation of the ART boondoggle or rearrangement of APD. "New Boss same as the Old Boss." What a disappointment.
I don't think the "only in office for six months" excuse has much traction since he knew from his announcement for mayor what the problems were with the past administrations. 

Tim, get out the bulldozers and flatten the ART stops, send the photo op buses back and cut our losses, and get rid of the old cronies at APD or I predict you will be a one hit blunder. 


Reader Kim Switzer writes of Monday's bottom lines

Joe, you blogged:

Reader Frank Gilmer has the final bottom lines for this edition:

Joe, here's my prediction for Trump's reaction to the Deb Haaland candidacy: "She's no Native American, she's Dutch. Just look at that last name--Holland!"

I spoke with Deb before the election and she told me her family name “Haaland” is actually of Scandinavian derivation, not Dutch which was my first thought since I am half Dutch myself with the surname “de Groot” and am aware of the “aa” in that language. She said “Haaland” is Norwegian.

You can already see the yard signs: "Norwegians for Haaland."

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Dems Look To Broaden State House Playing Field In Wake of BernCo Turnout Boost, Plus: Does Monica Go? And About Those Primary Polls 

Dems are looking to broaden the playing field for state House seats in Bernalillo County in the wake of the increased turnout in the '18 primary last week. If they can keep the energy going they say the seats of longtime ABQ NE State Reps Larry Larranaga 80, and Jimmie Hall, 70, could be tested.

Those have been hardcore GOP mainstays but in a big blue year the margins of victory could be trimmed, setting up a takeover challenge for the high turnout 2020 presidential year or even an upset victory this year if certain factors come together.

The BernCo seats already on the Dem hit list are being vacated by Reps Sarah Maestas Barnes and House Minority Leader Nate Gentry, with Gentry's seat seen as the most likely to tip to the D's.

The party seems to have several things going for it in its quest to boost turnout in November in the state's largest county. There is the strength of Guv hopeful Michelle Lujan Grisham, the chance for Dems to cast a history changing vote to elect Deb Haaland as the first Native American woman to congress and the unpopularity of President Trump in Blue Bernalillo.

Still, it will be up to Lujan Grisham and Senator Martin Heinrich, who is seeking re-election, to work together in a coordinated campaign to maximize those factors and deliver results in November.

The state House is narrowly controlled by the Dems 38-32 so even a pick up of a single seat would make a difference in policy.


There is another BernCo seat that the Dems are hoping to get a shot at. It belongs to Republican State Rep. Monica Youngblood who was arrested for aggravated DWI last month and who last week entered a plea of not guilty to the charge.

GOP insiders say there is a quiet effort under way to persuade Youngblood to leave the seat so the party can name a replacement candidate. But if she does not the Dems will pounce and probably have a good chance to take the contest. The video of the Youngblood arrest contains memorable and embarrassing moments that could easily be made into mailers and TV spots.

While Youngblood faces a DWI charge a number of readers point out that she does not act overly intoxicated in the arrest video. True enough. But her political problem may not be driving drunk as much as it is the hypocrisy of refusing to take a breathalyzer test, after being one of the leading advocates in the Legislature of such tests and making it even more punitive if a driver avoids one. That's what makes the Youngblood seat low lying fruit for the Dems--if she insists on staying in.


Here's a reader who thinks we were too tough on the polling in the ABQ congressional contest for the June 5 primary.

I would not be so hard on the early polls. The one for your blog by robocall was taken  May 23, and the ABQ Journal's was taken May 20th-24th. They were in enough agreement to infer that they had some validity. However these were taken two weeks before election day allowing enough time for much opinion change.  Moreover, there were large numbers of "undecided" in both surveys. In addition, there may have been some methodological "difficulties" with both surveys, such as only surveying those who had voted in previous elections, thus not catching the young, first-time voters.

Indeed, there was difficulty in catching those first-time voters, writes pollster and consultant Stephen Clermont on our Facebook:

Polling will be a challenge in an election like this. Of the early vote in the congressional contest, 17% of Dems didn't vote in either the 2014 or 2016 primary. Another 26-28% only voted in 2016.  Turnout was much higher, so if polls relied on regular midterm primary voters, they will be off. But if the pollster don't get the right group of new voters, they will be off too. There has to be a better way of scientifically evaluating these campaigns besides phone polls where only campaigns with a lot of $$ can afford to call cell phones.

If the Journal and the blog had polled the week before the election no doubt the surveys would have picked up the narrowing of the race and the momentum for Deb Haaland. But get this. We're told a Super PAC poll conducted in the days leading up to the election still had Damon Martinez up by two points and Haaland closing in. But she won by over 15 points. The polling model did not account for that influx of new voters which can, as Clermont says, throw the numbers askew.


Mayor Keller has wrapped up his first six months at the helm and former Dem ABQ City Councilor Pete Dinelli says the Alcalde earns a C grade for his maiden months. . .

Reader Frank Gilmer has the final bottom lines for this edition:

Joe, here's my prediction for Trump's reaction to the Deb Haaland candidacy: "She's no Native American, she's Dutch. Just look at that last name--Holland!"

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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Thursday, June 07, 2018

More Winners And Losers From Primary '18 

WINNER--The pre-primary convention. Once again no candidate who failed to get 20 percent delegate support at the March Democratic pre-primary convention won the June primary. Only one candidate in history has done so--Guv contender Gary King in 2014. Damon Martinez scored just 11 percent at this year's pre-primary but it looked for a time like he might be the second to defy history. But he fell short in the Dem ABQ congressional contest, losing to Deb Haaland. Like it or not, the pre-primary retains its predictive power.

LOSER--The polls. The Dem primary attracted new voters--many of them women who had not cast ballots in 2014 or 2016. The polling models broke down and none of the surveys--the Journal's, this blog's or the campaign polls got this one right.  Back to the drawing board.

WINNER--NM House Speaker Brian Egolf. He plays coy when it comes to ousted state Representatives Debbie Rodella and Carl Trujillo but every Alligator around is saying how much easier the absence of these willful and often conservative lawmakers will make his job at the next session of the Legislature. In short, the House is headed more left.

LOSER--Senator Martin Heinrich. For the first time the Dem Senator spent a hefty portion of his political capital on another candidate, heartily endorsing land commissioner hopeful and fellow environmentalist Garett VeneKlasen. It failed spectacularly with Stephanie Garcia Richard pulling off an upset win. Heinrich won't suffer in his re-election bid because of it, but it takes him down a notch in stature. If there's a book called "The Art of the Movida" it needs to be on the senator's bedside reading table.

LOSER--The Super PACS. It turns out they can't buy everything in sight. Their big bucks for Damon Martinez fell short as did the PNM PAC play against two liberal candidates for the Public Regulation Commission.  But don't worry, they'll probably be back to test that theory in the fall election.

LOSERS--The Trump bashers. Congressional candidate Martinez, auditor hopeful Bill McCamley and land commissioner hopeful Garrett VeneKlasen spent much of their campaigns bashing Trump. But Deb Haaland was more restrained, Auditor candidate Brian Colón did not lay a glove on Trump and Stephanie Garcia Richard also held back. They all won. Trump is easy pickings, perhaps too easy, and voters picked candidates who were offering more. That could hold a lesson for the Dems in November.

WINNER--Haaland political consultant Scott Forester. The longtime Dem consultant was on the ropes as Haaland struggled until the last week of the campaign. Critics complained that he was a local and that these congressional candidates demand out of state consultants. But Haaland's win put that to rest. And Forrester emerged from the forest.

On The Radio 
LOSER--State Senate conservatives. Can you imagine the pressure that is going to be on that small group of conservative/moderate Democrats in the Senate if the House moves to the left and there is a Democratic Governor to boot come November? When those Dems get together with the R's they control the show. But resisting too hard next year could put them on a collision course with the progressive wing which is sporting more muscle. The leader of that conservative coalition--State Senator John Arthur Smith--may face his ultimate test.

WINNER--The Old West connection. A candidate named Jesse James Casaus but who campaigned as Jesse James, won the Democratic nomination for Sandoval County Sheriff Tuesday night. New Mexico's frontier and wild west roots aren't gone yet.


The NYT takes a deep look at the historic Haaland candidacy. . . A reader writes about our Election broadcast on KANW 89.1 FM:

Comcast cable went out Tuesday night, and we had to turn to the Monahan Group radio show for results. You managed to be right on the Rep Rodella and Rep. Trujillo thing…although I detected a little bit of anxiety in your voice about 9:30 when Rio Arriba (uh hem) hadn’t reported…

First, thanks for the Comcast outage. Second, sometimes I think Rio Arriba holds back results intentionally just to make us gringos from Pennsylvania writhe in our seats.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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