Thursday, April 19, 2018

Reader Vox Populi, Raul And The Newspaper And A Warning Flag For Film Incentives 

Time again for another edition of the always enlightening Vox Populi, where readers unpack the news of the day with élan and imagination. And away we go. . .

So much has been said about the chaos and crisis of the UNM Athletic Department but this comment from Melanie Evans on Facebook cuts through the clutter and, we think, gets at the crux of the problem:

There's a lot of evidence that the generation coming up behind the millennials cares a lot less about sports, in general, and can't be counted on to support athletics in the future. Football, in particular, is probably going to die out or become a shell of its former self within 15-20 years. Not very many parents are willing to let their kids get CTE so they can play football. With the pipeline of players drying up, and the number of fans dwindling at all levels, how much longer will UNM be able to justify having a program at all? That would be the first thing I'd cut, especially considering the dismal records for both winning and player/coach behavior that have been set in recent years.

UNM is considering what sports to cuts as it grapples with deficits brought about by mismanagement and growing public apathy toward its once big money making basketball program. The new president doesn't seem to have the stomach to challenge the football program, but in the years ahead will that decision be forced on UNM?

An ABQ attorney writes of the city crime crisis:

According to the 2016 FBI Uniform Crime Report El Paso has a population of about 687,000 and in 2016, 812 reported incidents of auto theft. In the same  period, Albuquerque had a population of about 561,000 and in 2016, a stunning 7,710 reported incidents of auto theft.

This remarkable difference is more reflective of whatever is going on here in ABQ as opposed to whatever is happening in El Paso. And “that” in ABQ is a systemic issue and most definitely not what we’ve been hearing in terms of the cause: the courts, the laws, the mayor, the governor, or whatever. We need to get our act together and own this mess as a community because it’s bad. “Owning” it requires holding those officeholders, past and present accountable for contributing to this debacle just as much as the criminals out on the streets today....enough is enough.

Reader Ron Nelson comes with his take on the city report that for the first three months of the year crime in ABQ was done compared to the first quarter of 2017:

You will find that the reason the real reason statistics are down is that people are no longer bothering to report many property crimes. The police won't even take reports on thefts anymore unless enough was stolen to make it a felony. There have been cases where burglary suspects have been caught on camera, but the police don’t have any interest in pursuing the case. I can’t blame them though, why should I waste time chasing a thief who is just going to be released ROR in 30 minutes. This report is shameful because it shows that the citizens of the city have given up, and no longer have confidence in their elected officials or city institutions.

There may be something to the "give up" theory. We'd like to here more about that and how and why it may have happened in other cities


The ABQ newspaper has grown more insular and emboldened in pursuing its own agenda in recent years so we're unsure whether this excoriating review in the respected Columbia Journalism Review about how the paper tried to protect BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez and a prominent politico will play over there.

The report centers on the story first brought to public attention here--that Democrat Torrez's office worked strenuously to reduce the DWI charge of politically connected Ryan Flynn, a former cabinet security in the Martinez administration and that the reward could very well have been the Governor's support for a  hefty increase in the DA's budget. It was not a story that the Journal felt was worth it's time but other media uncovered the somewhat sordid details.

Reading of how the paper has so openly aligned itself with those in power (with prominent exceptions) rather than pursuing a traditional adversarial relationship will come as no surprise, but the machinations to do so--and unabashedly--makes for an interesting read.


Time to wave a warning flag about state film incentives. Depending how much taxes the latest oil gushers bring to the state treasury, the tax breaks for the film industry here may have peaked. Here's why:

By 2009, 44 states, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C., offered some form of film and television production incentives. However, the popularity of these programs has waned, and support for the film industry has decreased in recent years. In 2018, only 31 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands continue to maintain film incentive programs, and several of these states are tightening the requirements for qualifying expenses and reeling in per-project and annual program caps.

We can't imagine this picturesque state without film incentives, but we can see the state keeping them flat or make a play to rein them in.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Keller's Crime Count; He Says It's Down In Many Categories But Skepticism Lives And Patience Is Thin, Plus: Pearce's New Poll And More On McCamley's Money  

Keller & Geier (Brose; Journal)
Good news! Mayor Keller and APD Chief Geier report crime in many categories was down in the first quarter of this year compared to 2017. Guess that means we don't need Tim's tax increase to hire more cops after all. We can get crime down with what we have. . .

Well, before City Hall breaks out the organic Kool-Aid or whatever the Millennials up on the 11th floor celebrate with, be assured that the crime stats that the mayor now says will be released every three months will jump around more than a roadrunner on a hot Tucumcari highway.

Still there is cautious optimism that new APD leadership is inspiring some of the existing force to get after things more aggressively. And then there is the question of how many cars can continue to be stolen when you're already the stolen car capital of America. You have to peak sometime.

While auto burglary and auto theft--subjects of recent special attention by Chief Geier and his force-- showed a significant decline over last year's first quarter, the drop in commercial and residential burglary was not very significant. That signals that the shortage of officers and the continued drug epidemic are sticky problems that aren't going away anytime soon.

Most revealing is the increase in the murder rate from 12 homicides in the first three months of 2017 compared to 18 this year, a 50 percent rise.

Human life is getting cheap, too.  A 15 year old killed another 15 year old earlier this month over a $40 debt. And only a few days ago a 24 year old was gunned down in the North Valley in a dispute over the same amount. That's stark evidence that the drug trade is robust and still at the heart of the public safety crisis.


Anyone who enjoys a breakfast burrito can tell you it will take years to reverse the slide into criminality that the city has endured but patience is not a surplus commodity for Mayor Keller. Take this from V.B. Price, the longtime liberal writer and ABQ observer who was an ardent back of the Keller mayoral candidacy:

Why is Tim Keller seeming more and more like the former mayor — invisible and uninspiring, despite his flurry of good moves following his election victory? Who’s leading the substance and image of....the town these days?

And readers continue to vent over the seemingly everyday violence that has redefined the quality of life in the Duke City. Here's an example:

ABQ “civilization” has become a Hobbesian nightmare where life is “poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” That hasn’t always been the case and, while it’s a relatively new dynamic, that’s where we are now. And there are no signs that it’s going to get better in the foreseeable future. This is primarily because no one in a position of leadership  (especially the ABQ City Council) wants to be honest about how far we’ve fallen and how far we’ve defined deviancy downward, especially while RJ Berry was mayor. 

While It’s true that he inherited one hell of a mess, Mayor Keller appears to be taking the same laid-back, easy-going approach to governing the city that Berry did. Which is incredibly disappointing to a number of his supporters who hoped Keller would be much different than his predecessor. Laid-back and easy-going is not going to turn Albuquerque around. All it will do is ensure that we continue to experience more of the same. A place where lives are cut short over $40 debts.

The crime wave and the many APD scandals has implanted a hard-core cynicism in the city. As an example this reader questioned the veracity of the numbers showing crime going down:

If crime went "down" it's because they monkeyed with the numbers. They won't be able to hide it forever. I don't believe crime is down for one second and neither does the public. 

It should be noted that the city report on crime for the first quarter says the stats are "subject to change" and the numbers do not represent official Uniform Crime Reporting numbers given to the FBI.

Three months of improved crime stats is good news for the city as well as Mayor Keller and Chief Geier but raising hopes after what this city has been through and is going through is like trying to raise the Titanic from the ocean floor.


GOP Guv hopeful Steve Pearce comes with a poll that he hopes convinces both the donor class and the public at large that he has a real shot at defeating Michelle Lujan Grisham, if she is the Dem nominee:

Pearce and Lujan Grisham are tied within the margin of error on the ballot test in this recent survey. This represents a tightening in the race from our poll in 2017. Currently, 45% of voters say they would prefer Pearce and 47% of voters Lujan Grisham, Undecided is 8 percent. Lujan Grisham starts this race with significant structural advantages, including national headwinds and a 14-point party registration differential, yet her inherent weakness with voters and Steve Pearce’s underlying strengths continue to show up in the numbers.

The Tarrance Group, a longtime national GOP polling firm, conducted the survey via telephone interviews with 608 registered “likely” voters throughout the state. Responses  were gathered April 9-12. Margin of error is + 4.1%.

Michelle won't be upset with Steve for showing a potential race between the two to be close. She'll use it to raise more cash.

More worrisome for her will be the attacks on her past record as as a state government official. And they have started to dribble in. This report from the  NMSU student newspaper runs down a variety of issues that have trailed the ABQ congresswoman and which no doubt you will be hearing more about in the days ahead. They include her time as head of the state aging department as well as Sec. of Health.


State Auditor hopeful Bill McCamley came out swinging when the Guv's political machine questioned his campaign finance report, saying it didn't add up that McCamley, 40, reported no income of over $5,000 on his disclosure form yet gave himself a $45,000 campaign loan. He said the loan came from an inheritance and money he had saved when he had well-paying employment.

But McCamley didn't quite get it right. A new report reveals he did receive income of over $5,000 a year but failed to disclose it. The money came from a rental property. The news has McCamley playing defense:

. . . The Democrat wrote on Facebook that he lives in a studio apartment. But that only raised more questions because the address McCamley has listed on financial disclosures is a ranch-style house. McCamley (said) he lives in a studio apartment adjoining the house but rents out the three-bedroom residence. The price: $800 a month, or $9,600 a year. State law requires public officials such as legislators report any sources of income over $5,000. McCamley said he would file an updated disclosure form with the Secretary of State’s Office. “I was given some inaccurate information,” McCamley said, adding he believed it was not necessary to disclose the rental income because it was not a commercial property."

Brian Colón, McCamley's opponent for the Dem auditor nod, has so far remained quiet about his rival's woes. We did receive email from McCamley supporters vouching for his  frugal lifestyle and dedication to public service. Here's one from Marla Painter:

The man lives like a monk. He is an organizer more than a politician. In the past, we have put him up at our home when he was up north on legislative business. We have gotten to know him. A very good man. And my standards are very high. He depends on the kindness of his friends to keep his costs down to a minimum. He is his own campaign manager, scheduler, campaign communicator. He works continuously and tirelessly for his constituents and the common good of the entire state. His pleasures seem limited to one beer an evening if any at all (he rarely accepts an offer of a beer), a good meal, vigorous political or philosophical discussions, conversations with everyday folks and talking about his girlfriend in Las Cruces. The man seriously lives like a monk. He is a certified policy wonk, addicted to ideas and talking about them.

GOP State Auditor Wayne Johnson will run against the winner of the Dem primary.


Mayor Keller issued this statement following the untimely death Tuesday of prominent ABQ businesswoman and longtime community volunteer Jennifer Riordan:

Albuquerque lost a thoughtful leader who has long been part of the fabric of our community. . . This is a tremendous and tragic loss for Jennifer’s family and many others throughout our city. Her leadership and philanthropic efforts made this a better place every day and she will be terribly missed. We are holding Jennifer and her family in our thoughts and prayers.”

Jennifer Riordan was 43.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Congressional Cash Contests Provide Clues To Eventual Winners; Haaland And Sedillo Lopez Take ABQ Lead; Newman Turns Up Heat On Herrell, But She Sticks Around, Plus: The National Labs And Their Long Term Future  

Two exciting primary congressional battles are more fully formed today after the release of quarterly fund-raising reports. Here's what you need to know. . .

Yvette Herrell, the feisty state representative from Alamogordo who is locked in a do-or- die battle with former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman for the GOP southern congressional nomination, has been battered and bruised. But she's not down and out.

As expected, Newman outraised Herrell in the first quarter and reports a hefty $369,000 in cash on hand as of March 31 for the final weeks of the June 5 primary. But Herrell,who was prohibited from raising money during the 30 day legislative session, still reports $256,000 in cash. That's enough for a considerable media buy that will keep Newman on his toes.

Remember Herrell was the overwhelming choice of the delegates at the preprimary convention where she scored a landslide win over Newman. But she took a hit when an ethics charge against her was recently broadcast across the district.

Newman is being consulted by the controversial Jay McCleskey who handles Gov. Martinez. The campaign has become somewhat of a proxy war between the two wings of the GOP--those who support Martinez and those who don't.

The Herrell ethics charge and Newman's money edge have him in the pole position for now. Herrell is going to have to give Monty and Jay a taste of their own medicine to regain steam.

Newman or Herrell will face the winner of the Dem primary in the R leaning district but you can turn out the lights on that one:

On the Democratic side, Las Cruces water attorney Xochitl Torres Small reported getting $313,332 in contributions and has $243,409 in available campaign cash. Her lone Democratic rival, Mad Hildebrandt of Socorro, had not yet filed a report as of late Monday.

Hildebrand has put forth a decent effort but the national Dems are calling the shots and they think it is Torres Small who stands the best chance to pull off the upset in November.


In the increasingly interesting race for the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham we still have no public or insider polling. But that's okay. The public is still largely unacquainted with the contenders and the TV and mail campaigns are going to be decisive.

The money reports, combined with the outcome of the Dem preprimary convention, indicate the likely winner is either former NM Dem Chair Deb Haaland or law professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez. Former US attorney Damon Martinez is a dark horse and the other three--Lara, Davis and Moya are in the political ICU.

Sedillo Lopez is reporting $457,000 in cash at the end of March but the Haaland campaign says they do not see payments for polling or a mail campaign that Sedillo Lopez conducted during the quarter. Including that could take her cash count down toward the $400k level. Haaland, whose numbers we previously reported, raised $297,000, double that of her nearest competitor. She reports $347,000 in cash in the bank. Martinez is in it with $277,000 in cash but the big defeat he suffered at the Dem preprimary looms.

The Haaland campaign now says a super PAC composed of tribal money will help her, presumably with TV. She would be the first Native American woman to be elected to the US House. And so far that's really the only narrative that has stuck in this race. Sedillo Lopez is going to have to change the conservation if she is to take the prize.

The trailing three in the race are Pat Davis who reported $61,000 in cash; Paul Moya who reported $162,000 in cash, most of which he loaned himself, and Damian Lara who came with $139,000.

Thanks to Martinez campaign manager Abigail Collazo for providing the links to the Federal reports. New Mexican coverage here. ABQ Journal here.


The blog recently covered the differing views of leading Guv candidates Steve Pearce and Lujan Grisham on the security of Sandia and Los Alamos Labs in NM going forward, and that got us mulling over their recent budgets and their impact on Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico.

A NM Senate staffer sends this from Exchange Monitor which specializes in coverage of the nuclear weapons complex.

It shows that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) budget for Sandia and Los Alamos has grown considerably over the past decade, not that there weren't a couple of years when the budget actually went down and the economy here took a hit. But the drive to modernize the nuclear stockpile that started under Obama and that is gaining traction under Trump has sparked bigger budget increases.

The proposed FY 2019 NNSA budget request for Los Alamos is $1.906 billion, up from 1.394 billion in FY10. For Sandia the NNSA requests $1.924 billion for FY19. In FY09 the budget was $1.008 billion.

The Exchange Monitor further reports: "In its 2019 budget request, the agency included a five-year budget projection that shows annual funding climbing more than 14 percent to around $17 billion by 2023."

Including all missions and not just NNSA weapons funding, such as work for Homeland Security and other agencies, the total Sandia budget is now over $3 billion. The Los Alamos total budget is $2.55 billion.

That's over $5.50 billion in spending on the two labs. There are those who abhor the fact that New Mexico is so dependent on nuclear weapons for its economic well-being. They are joined by others who dislike government spending in general and want to diversify our economy with more private sector activity.

Meantime that money is going to be spent somewhere, if not here. That's why the proposal to take nuclear pit production from Los Alamos and send it to Savannah River is headline news.

Diversifying away from nuclear weapons based on moral objections can be understood. But claiming you can significantly diversify the ABQ and north central NM economy away from $5.50 billion in federal funding borders on lunacy.

Right now New Mexico is out of position with the Trump administration which--to use an ironic phrase in talking of nukes--makes the peacemaking ability of the state's mostly Dem DC delegation and our next Governor of paramount importance.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Talk Of The Town: Ambassador Sanchez? Here Comes The Mail, Looks Like Joe Is A Go And BernCo DA Torrez Busted Again Over Flynn DWI Wire Job  

Here's what they're talking about as the new week kicks off.

Not long ago we picked up on chatter about Lt. Governor John Sanchez possibly getting an ambassadorship from the Trump White House. But where? How about Panama?

That's the latest from the rumor mill on John, who is finishing up an eight year stint as Light Guv under Gov. Martinez. But a Panama posting wouldn't be all Piña coladas and sunshine. The US has had a troubled relationship of late with the Latin American nation. But for Sanchez it couldn't be more troubling than dealing with a Governor who doesn't even want to lay eyes on you.

The mailboxes are going to start getting cluttered soon in that multi-candidate battle for the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat.  Readers report Dem congressional candidate Antoinette Sedillo Lopez has already hit with two mailers that appear to be aimed at women voters. No candidate is up yet with broadcast TV ads.

On it goes but it will soon end. We speak of that battle by Dem Guv contender Jeff Apodaca to keep rival Joe Cervantes off the June 5 primary ballot. For a second time a district court judge has turned back Apodaca. He'll make a final pitch to the NM Supreme court but it appears Joe is a go.

Mediocre. That's the best description of the most recent approval ratings for Dem US Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall. Heinrich, who is seeking re-election this year, comes with an anemic 41 percent approval rating and Udall manages only 44 percent. But they are not alone. Washington politicians aren't the most popular species these days. For example, both of Colorado's senators score approval ratings below that of ours. Ditto for Arizona. The pundits continue to rank Heinrich a heavy favorite for re-election. He will face Republican Mick Rich and Libertarian Aubrey Dunn, Jr.

Governor Susana's approval continues to be mired in the 30 percentile bracket. She scores 37 percent approval in the latest survey.

The national polling of all senators and governors by Morning Consult was done from online surveys conducted with about 275,000 registered voters from Jan. 1 through March 31.


Thanks to our Alligators it was this blog that first questioned how the office of BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez handled the DWI case of politically connected Ryan Flynn, a former cabinet secretary under Gov. Martinez who is now the executive director of the NM Oil and Gas Association.

Torrez's office didn't take kindly to the questioning, went into bunker mode and lashed out at us for daring to question him.

But between this piece in the Santa Fe Reporter and this more recent piece by NM In-Depth, the Democratic DA is thoroughly busted. It is more than clear that Flynn's DWI was reduced to careless driving because of his political stature and interference by the DA. And that's a miscarriage of justice. Also, we reiterate that the Governor's support for a huge increase in the DA's budget during the last legislative session could very well have been a result of the Flynn/Torrez deal.

Emails show prosecutors misled public about plea deal with former Martinez Cabinet secretary.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Boone wanted to reassure his boss. A political blogger was raising questions in February about why the DA’s office had agreed to plead Ryan Flynn’s aggravated DWI charge, leveled after a May 20, 2017, traffic stop, down to careless driving. In a Feb. 8 email, Boone told DA Raúl Torrez he believed the case against Flynn could clear an initial legal hurdle. Additionally, because Boone’s direct supervisor, Metro Division Chief Jason Greenlee, was “really good friends” with lawyers on Flynn’s defense team, Boone told Torrez prosecutors had removed Greenlee from making any decisions about the case. But the Santa Fe Reporter and New Mexico In Depth have found that Greenlee was intimately involved with assessing evidence and negotiating Flynn’s plea throughout the case. Further, Boone, Greenlee and others misled SFR and NMID about the strength of Flynn’s case.

Torrez has often blamed others for the crime crisis in ABQ--the judges, his office budget, etc.--but the self-proclaimed "progressive Democrat" appears to have entered the ranks of the old ways network and that his tough on crime rhetoric applies to some but not to others. The refusal of the ABQ Journal to hold him accountable--probably because he has gotten into bed with their favorite Governor--only makes matters worse.

When the NM In-Depth piece hit Friday, Torrez was quick to put out a news release about gun possession to divert attention. The newspaper gladly obliged him.

Will there be more Ryan Flynns for DA Torrez? Well, deals with the devil aren't usually one time affairs.


Well, as noted above the the newspapers can have their biases but we don't believe they charge candidates for news coverage yet. According to this Gator in Cruces not all of them appear to be aware of that:

Joe, Jaime Gonzalescastillo, the primary challenger of Dem State Rep. Doreen Gallegos, has an interesting notation on his finance report--a $250 "in-kind" donation from the Las Cruces Sun News for an article they published about him. Gonzalezcastillo reported no contributions nor expenses and was told by the Sun News not to report its coverage as a contribution.

Lucky that article about Jaime wasn't negative or else he might have sent the paper a bill for $250.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Under The Gun: Guv's Machine Targets Auditor Candidate McCamley's Questionable Financial Forms; Mystery Over His Income And Employment 

Bill McCamley
The Governor's political machine is going to work on Bill McCamley, the Dona Ana County state representative and Dem state auditor candidate, and it appears he has no one to blame but himself.

In his finance report this week McCamley reported he loaned his campaign $45,000 but on the financial disclosure form state officials are required to file, McCamley reports no employment, no source of income that provides him with more than $5,000 a year, no spousal income or employment and no financial interests that may present a conflict of interest.

So where did McCamley get $45,000 if he doesn't have a job or any assets? That was the question that former State Senator Rod Adair, a charter member of the Guv's machine, posed on social media.

McCamley, 40, isn't required to reveal if someone other than himself loaned him the money and he in turn loaned it to his committee, but for someone who is running for the position that audits agencies across the state and given his self-reported circumstances, how he came up with this loan will raise suspicions. Still, McCamley ignored a request for comment, leaving it to speculation whether he received a loan, for example, from someone who might do business with the state auditor's office and which could represent a conflict of interest.

McCamley responded to this report Thursday and offered an explanation for the loan, saying it was from personal funds. His full response is below.

But if McCamley loaned himself the money where did it come from? If he is being straight on his state financial disclosure forms for the past several years he has had no income or employment. And if it's true he had no employment during this long stretch what does that say about him wanting to become State Auditor? And if he has a trust fund and gets at least $5,000 a year from it, that must be reported.

We asked Brian Colón, McCamley's opponent for the auditor nomination, for comment but he did not respond. But current GOP State Auditor Wayne Johnson, who was appointed by Gov. Martinez when Tim Keller was elected ABQ mayor and whose campaign for election we're told is being handled by none other than Guv Machine leader Jay McCleskey, jumped at the chance to take McCamley down. Seemingly out of the blue he issued a news release that compiled the financial disclosure statements required for elected officials. He said:

Certain candidates and elected officials are required to file Financial Disclosure Statements, which reveal their sources of income and potential conflicts of interest. Officials are required to disclose any income over $5,000 and identify its source, using a list of broad and general categories. The report found that not all elected officials have complied, concluding, “Despite this requirement, four (4) financial disclosures contain no reported sources of income at all for either the elected official or the official’s spouse in this category.”

And, of course, McCamley, a potential Johnson general election foe, is one of those only four officials who reported no sources of income. We get the point, Wayne, but in case we didn't Johnson helpfully posted all the disclourse forms, including McCamley's.

Johnson condensed the disclosure forms that are filed with the Secretary of State so to make sure his information was true we looked at the McCamley statement filed with the SOS and it matches what Johnson put out.

McCamley is a former Dona Ana County Commissioner. During his campaigns for the legislature we recall him reporting several jobs he had, including one in the solar industry. On his candidate website he says "he has had many diverse jobs."

Well, the political community eagerly awaits McCamley's explanation of his financial resources as they assess the candidates qualifications for the financially sensitive position of state auditor. Meanwhile, Rod and Jay have got Bill pinned to the mat. And he may not get back up.


Here is Rep. McCamley's explanation of the loan which came after our report was posted.

Yes, I’ve lived off of my legislative per diem and a few small contracts for the last few years. I’ve done this by keeping my expenses low. I live in a studio apartment, drive a used car, and haven’t had a vacation in a year and a half because I take my role as a Legislator seriously. I’ve devoted my time to work on serious policy issues and respond to my constituents when they have problems.

Furthermore, I’ve never hid the fact from my constituents and even documented how and why I do this in a 2016 Facebook video.

The $45k loan I gave myself to run for Auditor? That is half of my life savings. Some of it came from an inheritance I got a decade ago when my grandmother passed away. Most of the rest came from my work selling solar panels in 2014-15, combined with the markets growing in the last few years of the Obama administration. It did not come from anyone else but me. I view public service as one of the most valuable things we can do to make our communities better, and am proving it by being willing to put half of what I own into the process.

The fact that I am being attacked by Jay McCleskey and Wayne Johnson on ethical grounds is hilarious.

I have been known for my work on ethics as a legislator, co-sponsoring a bill to establish our first ethics commission. I also am one of two legislators that has not taken meals, ski or golf passes, etc, from lobbyists. Because of this, I have received the highest grade possible from New Mexico Common Cause.

Wayne Johnson was appointed State Auditor on Dec 1. Instead of resigning his seat on the Bernalillo County Commission immediately, he stayed on for a few months. This not only gave him two taxpayer funded salaries, it allowed him to vote on Dec 12th to give a $13 Million County contract to Yearout Electric. The company's CEO has been a large and regular donor to Mr Johnson in his races for County Commission and Albuquerque Mayor. The later is now under discussion with the City ethics panel.

It’s no secret I have been one of the toughest fighters against Susana Martinez’s terrible term as Governor and when information came out that she and the Jay McCleskey-run Susana PAC were possibly getting illegal campaign contributions last year, I asked the Attorney General to investigate. And this wasn’t the first time McCleskey has had run-ins with the law, being investigated by the FBI for similar problems in 2015.

So what’s happening here is obvious. Wayne Johnson has ethical issues and is scared that I am the strongest candidate who can defeat him in November. So he hired the Governor’s attack dog, with his own history of problems, to attack me in order to cover up his own ethical lapses.


From BernCo:

The County Commission is accepting applications from individuals interested in filling the vacant District 22 seat of the NM House. Governor Martinez will appoint a replacement for James E. Smith who resigned from the legislature to fill the Bernalillo County District 5 seat on the county commission. The County Commission District 5 seat was vacated by Wayne Johnson who is now the State Auditor. Bernalillo, Santa Fe, and Sandoval Counties will each send nominees for the Governor’s consideration. Nominations from interested individuals in Bernalillo County will be accepted until Tuesday, April 17, at 5 p.m. 

This week we identified Kristin Haase as the PIO for the Public Regulation Commission. Her correct title is assistant to PRC Commissioner Sandy Jones . . .

ABQ Journal reporter Dan McKay tweets out:

Cross another one off the list: NM Supreme Court rules former Representative Idalia Lechuga-Tena can't run in the ABQ district she hadn't lived in for a year.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Following Up On Filing Day; Readers And Operatives Weigh In, Plus: Apo's Fight Against Joe's Petitions Headed Back To Court 

The political operatives and Alligators have been busy mulling over the finance reports filed by the candidates this week and they have some filing day follow-up. . .

We pointed out that Dem land commissioner candidate Stephanie Garcia Richard has come in light in the cash count when compared to rivals Garrett VeneKlasen and George Munoz. Tarin Nix spins it for Stephanie:

Munoz has loaned himself everything but 48k. Garcia Richard has raised more in half the time. Loaning yourself 200k isn't proving viability with voters. VeneKlasen has raised a good amount and spent it on nothing. $131,000 wasted on consulting fees. None on advertising...not enough left for TV. Garcia Richard will win because we spend our funds correctly. Best ad of the year....40,000 door knocks...thousands in targeted advertising...with way more to come.

VeneKlasen, with $82,000 in cash and still raising money, may very well have enough for a TV buy in the campaign's final weeks whereas Garcia Richard with only $32,000 might be the one to find herself in the dark. But then there are those third party groups that sometimes emerge to help candidates out.

A reader poring over the reports from DC points out we came in low when we said Michelle Lujan Grisham's polling expenditures for the last six months were $72,000. Our reader notes she has spent $158,300 on polling. Her pollster is Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner which has a lot of experience in the state and they obviously get paid quite well for that.

In the Dem race for lieutenant governor we noted Dona Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrey had a solid six months by raising $78,000. However, we should point out that  $25,000 of that was a loan Garrett made to himself.

And how about Hector? We didn't get into his financial report Tuesday because we concentrated on the contested races and Dem Attorney General Balderas has no primary opposition. But it's worth pointing out that he now has $891,000 in cash in his account. That's 20 times more than his Republican opponent Michael Hendricks who has $44,000 in cash on hand. Blair Dunn, the Liberation Party candidate for AG, reports having $7,500.


After his first effort to remove Joe Cervantes from the June 5 primary ballot failed, Guv hopeful Jeff Apodaca will make a last stand. His challenge to Cervantes' petition signatures was thrown out by a District Court judge on a technicality. Apodaca attorney Cate Stetson sets the stage for round two:

We have found case law that opposes the judge's dismissal and filed a motion for reconsideration in the District Court. The case he cited was not applicable to the facts. Also, we have other cases in New Mexico by the federal court and by New Mexico courts that. . . say the Attorney General does not need to be served notice by the party making a petition challenge. The fact that the attorney general appeared in court and entered his appearance on the record, and participated in the writing of the order kind of begs the question in my mind; however the motion includes this information and there is still time to go through the petition signatures if the court wants.

It is an uphill battle in New Mexico to challenge petition signatures, as challenges are disfavored by the courts due to our policy of encouraging as many people as possible to exercise their right to participate in choosing their political representatives. However, perhaps that should be balanced against the specter of blindly accepting duplicate signatures, signatures of deceased people, signatures of people from another party, signatures that are not made by the person whose name is signed, and incomplete signatures and registration information. 

The Cervantes campaign denies he has submitted bad signatures.

Veteran consultant Steve Cabiedes, who has specialized in petition gathering for several decades and who is not working on any Governor campaign, was critical of the decision to throw Apodaca's case out simply because the attorney general had not been officialy served notice of the challenge:

What are we to think? We've had petition challenges for years brought before the courts and the vast majority without notifying the AG of the complaints. The secretary of state does that. Are we to assume all those candidates who did not notify the AG with their challenges should have had them thrown out?


There will be some candidates this year who won't have the headache of raising hundreds of thousands of dollars. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver  says:

(My office) has certified candidates for the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) and statewide judicial seats to receive public financing to fund their campaigns in the 2018 election cycle.

The full list of those candidates and how much public money they will receive can be found here.

Peter St. Cyr, a veteran news reporter and most recently the executive director of the NM Foundation for Open Government, has a new gig. He's the new public information officer for GOP State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn. Kristin Haase has left the post to become assistant to for Dem Public Regulation Commissioner Sandy Jones.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Money Race: Pearce And Lujan Grisham In Solid Shape; Joe Gives A Jolt And Writes A Million Dollar Check; APO Running Low On Ammo Plus The Cash Count In Other Big State Primary Contests.  

Where are most of the statewide candidates headed now that they've filed their money reports covering the last six months? Well, most of them will make a beeline to the desks of thankful TV executives who will have no trouble putting to work the hundreds of thousands raised by the contestants. Let's take a look at the cash hauls filed with the SOS Monday and start with the top of the ballot. . .

Steve Pearce is holding his own in the money department but can he continue his fund-raising pace with a Blue wind blowing in his face? That's a question that arose as the gubernatorial hopefuls filed their finance reports for the six months ending April 2.

Right now it's pretty much even-steven between the two leading Guv contenders. Pearce reports $2.1 million in cash on hand and Dem Michelle Lujan Grisham reports $1.8 million. Pearce raised $1.6 million in the period but that included a transfer of over $780,000 from his congressional fund.

Lujan Grisham came with $1.4 million raised in the period and has now raised a grand total of $3.6 million for Campaign '18. That means she has burned through half of her cash but she did score a landslide win at the Dem preprimary and remains the odds-on fave to take the Dem prize so her supporters argue it was not overspending but money well spent. The expenditures this period include $108,000 for TV production. Her campaign says her ads for the June 5 primary will start this month. She also spent $158,000 on polling.

(Full Pearce report here. Lujan Grisham report here. Joe Cervantes report here. Jeff Apodaca report here. AP coverage here. New Mexican here. Journal here.)

Pearce's campaign is not going to starve but the momentum is with the Dem candidate and she is on pace to outraise him, especially if polling shows the race tilting her way.  But with $2 million already in the bank and no primary opponent Pearce has a solid financial foundation to build on. A Dem consultant commented:

Steve Pearce will not lose the Governor's because of money. If he loses it will be because this turned out to be a Democratic year.

So it's unlikely the Dems will overpower Pearce financially. He has a long and successful record of raising money. He also has something else in his corner. The most recent ranking of the NM Governor's race from heavily followed pundit Larry Sabato has it "lean Democrat" not "likely Dem." That will help Pearce blockade the narrative that the contest is a done deal for the Dems--at least until when or if public polling shows otherwise.

Meanwhile Sabato's "Crystal Ball" has the US Senate race here featuring incumbent Dem Martin Heinrich as "Safe" and not the lower rank of "likely Dem" that GOP Senate hopeful Mick Rich may have been hoping for.


Joe Cervantes gave the Guv race a jolt as the attorney, state senator and agri-businessman wrote a check from his personal bank account for $1 million and plopped it into his campaign account. That's on top of an earlier $500,000 he loaned himself. And he hasn't spent much of his loot, leaving $1.4 million in cash on hand. Hey, if spent wisely that could do some serious damage. So will he?

That was the question on the lips of politicos statewide (including Michelle and Jeff) as they gave the multi-million dollar man another look. The other question being how do you apply for a job with the Joe Cervantes campaign and help him spend that pile?

His campaign says it's the real deal, with a spokesman predicting a TV buy in the area of $600,000. One thing for sure: Cervantes can now argue he's the man nobody  owns. 

Oldtimers will pick up on what we just said. When Jerry Apodaca ran successfully for Governor in 1974 his slogan was: "The man nobody owns." Now his son, Jeff, is trying to follow in Dad's footsteps but is having trouble gaining traction. He reports only $323,000 in cash on hand for the final two months. That's enough to get on TV strong for a couple of weeks but that's not enough to win.

Part of the problem is the spending. He raised $253,000 and spent $628K. Apodaca has loaned his campaign $450,000 in personal money. If elected, Jeff has promised to bring 225,000 jobs to the state. Judging by the numbers of hangers-on he has on the campaign payroll, he's down to 224,000.

And what's up with those "consulting fees" of $14,000 Apodaca paid to former Guv candidate Peter DeBenedettis who at the March 10 preprimary convention dropped out of the race and endorsed Apodaca? A couple of days later the $14k is dropped on Peter who was also named Apodaca's communications director. Well played, Peter. Even Jay McCleskey and Alan Packman would have trouble pulling off that deal.


Howie Morales led the Dem pack of lieutenant governor candidates in the fund-raising derby, raising $103,000, spending $52K and leaving him with $53K in cash on hand. He did that despite not getting started until December and by law not being allowed to raise money for 45 days during and around the legislative session.

The political committees of several fellow state senators of Morales kicked in considerable cash, including ABQ Sen. Ivey-Soto who came with $5,000. Amon Morales' major expenditures was campaign consulting provided by Jim Farrell.

Morales scored a big win at the Dem preprimary and is favored to take the June 5 nomination, but Dona Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett had a solid fund-raising period reporting $78K. Former ABQ State Rep. Rick Miera raised $58K.


Las Cruces State Rep. Bill McCamley outraised his Dem rival Brian Colón, but Colón's camp was quick to point out that Colón got in the race late in the reporting period (in early January) and also that McCamley loaned himself $45,000 of the $111,000 he reported raising. Colón, known for his fund-raising prowess, reported raising $76,000 for the three months his report covered.

Appointed GOP State Auditor Wayne Johnson will be the R nominee. He reports raising $43K and a cash balance of $37K.


Garrett VeneKlasen was the leading money raiser in this one but he also spent a lot of what he raised. He took in $145,000 and sent out $131,000. His cash balance is $82,000.

State Sen. George Munoz loaned himself $100,000 in the reporting period and has spent some on TV. He is reporting $160,000 cash on hand. Munoz fared poorly at the preprimary convention, getting below 20 percent of the vote. But with that kind of personal cash could he become only the second person in history to win the June 5 primary without getting 20 percent at the preprimary?

Stephanie Garcia Richard raised $55,000 spent $54,000 and had a cash balance of $30,000. That cash balance seems a bit low and gives Munoz hope that he will not split as much of the Hispanic vote with her as his supporters fear. We'll see.

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Monday, April 09, 2018

Cervantes And Apodaca Squabble Brings McCleskey Back Into Spotlight; Lujan Grisham Says No Problems For National Labs But Pearce Warns 

It's the race for Governor that tops the Monday blog.

The two men who seek to take Michelle Lujan Grisham down a notch and get the contest for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in play are now squabbling. That's a hope fulfilled for her and allows her to go unscathed with the June 5 primary now less than two months away.

State Senator Joe Cervantes was a happy camper last week in the aftermath of a court victory he won against Jeff Apodaca. It means he won't get kicked off the ballot over his petition signatures (unless there's an unlikely Supreme Court reversal). But Cervantes wasn't happy enough to stop him from floating a conspiracy theory about Apodaca, the aggressive ABQ businessman. The Dona Ana County lawmaker walked out none other than Jay McCleskey, the controversial political consultant to Gov. Martinez, accusing Apodaca's campaign of playing footsie with the leader of the once vaunted Martinez political machine:

I think the Apodaca campaign is getting some of its advice from the Martinez campaign people. I’m told that there may be all kinds of games at play here.

That was a reference to the rumors floating about that McCleskey has met with Apodaca about his Governor campaign and may be providing him with advice. Not good because McCleskey is now a toxic figure in Democratic as well as most Republican  political circles. Apodaca's campaign manager moved to put out the fire calling Cervantes' claim "laughable" and "completely untrue" adding:

That’s actually kind of crazy. I don’t know where he came up with that.

Crazy or not the charge that Apodaca and McCleskey are collaborating is such a nightmare scenario for Dems who have been subjected to 8 years of browbeating by the brash consultant that it is sure to have them digging through Jeff's closet for any signs of the political bogeyman--just as Joe hoped.


Despite running two successful gubernatorial campaigns on behalf of Gov. Martinez, ousting Senate Dem Leader Michael Sanchez and engineering a brief GOP takeover of the state House, McCleskey has been mostly shunned by his fellow R's. That's because he turned his guns on those in the GOP who would not play his version of hardball with him and there were plenty who would not.

However, he has managed to secure a consulting contract with former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman who is seeking the GOP nomination for the southern congressional seat. But that's already turned problematic, with Newman getting crushed at the GOP February preprimary convention, a development knowledgeable R's blame on his hiring of the resented McCleskey. But that doesn't mean Monty is out of the game. Far from it.

That point was made clear when the AP was fed a story by the Newman forces that called into question the ethics of the woman who humiliated him at that preprimary convention. The news:

(Alamogordo State Representative and congressional candidate Yvette Herrell) failed to disclose that her real estate company earned nearly a half-million dollars in contracts with two state agencies over five years, according to an analysis of campaign finance disclosure records by The AP. The review of documents found Herrell's company, Herrell Properties, took in $440,000 by renting property to the Taxation and Revenue Department and  the Environment Department since 2013. However, she did not disclose that income on ethics disclosure statements, but listed herself as the company's owner,

Not an explosive charge but still a nick on the neck that, of course, will soon be followed by negative TV ads courtesy of Newman who has an advantage over Herrell in fundraising.

Newman showed over $356,000 in cash on hand at the end of last year, compared to Herrell's $202,000. Federal finance reports for the first quarter have been filed but are not yet public. Herrell was restricted from raising money while she attended the 30 day legislative session. That will hurt. Newman is well connected to the SE energy business where the boom times are back and which he can tap for campaign cash.

The Newman-Herrell battle is a kind of proxy battle for the future direction of the state GOP. A win by Newman-McCleskey would give them a foot back in the door that has been closed to them by the likes of GOP National Committeeman Harvey Yates and others who became disgusted with Gov. Martinez and have taken control. Soon-to-be GOP gubernatorial nominee Steve Pearce is squarely in the Yates camp. He has not publicly endorsed a candidate for the congressional seat he is giving up but you don't need a detective to figure out where he's at.

(There are two other GOP hopefuls in the primary, but this one is Newman vs. Herrell all day long)


Rep. Pearce
The state got a brief preview of a possible Pearce-Lujan Grisham match-up when they appeared before business leaders last week. It was their takes on national security and the big budgets it provides to the state that proved the most newsworthy:

"We need to be a good host, not always compliant, but a good host," Pearce said, adding that state leaders need to acknowledge the real possibility that other states could successfully woo the labs and functions. Lujan Grisham dismissed that idea, saying " those labs are not going anywhere."

That was a bit of an eyebrow raiser for the ABQ congresswoman, not because anyone expects the labs to go anywhere but the concern, as Pearce indicated, is how much of them will stay here. There is a serious play under way to move the billions of dollars for upcoming plutonium "pit" production to a facility in red-state South Carolina. Numerous security and environmental lapses are another concern that could influence the future of Los Alamos.

ABQ's Sandia National Labs has better future visibility than Los Alamos. The Trump budget pumps up the national nuclear budget. However, in the not too distant future Kirtland Air Force Base--where Sandia is situated--will likely be subjected to another dreaded BRAC review. The Base Realignment and Closure study could lead to an eventual reduction in the KAFB mission.

Lujan Grisham's cocksure statement that the Labs are "not going anywhere" may offer a political palliative to New Mexico but it does not cover the nuance of the matter. That her statement in some quarters was read as a taunting of the Trump administration, which holds sway over the billions of funding for the labs, gives the possible future governor another reason to regroup before Pearce starts chipping away.

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Thursday, April 05, 2018

Paul Moya: Mystery Candidate For The ABQ Congressional Seat, Plus: Haaland's Cash Surge And Some Political Odds And Ends 

Sometimes mystery candidates pop up out of nowhere for high political office. Here's an example.

He has an impressive background but so far thirtysomething Paul Moya has gained absolutely no traction in his race for the Democratic nomination for the ABQ US House seat. You may not even know he is running, as he has flown well below the radar. However, he did surface this week with a newspaper op-ed in which he supported banning assault weapons.

His website describes him as "a 4th-generation agriculturalist who grew up in this District on his family’s alfalfa farm" in Valencia County. It further states he is a grad of Notre Dame and Harvard and "is also a small-business owner and CEO of Millennial Labs--a full-service consulting firm that has impacted leaders from organizations ranging from Acura to the US Department of Defense."

In the past he has marketed himself as a motivational speaker and charged for his appearances but he has had trouble motivating his party. At the March Dem preprimary convention Moya finished last in a field of six candidates. There does seem to be some potential there--if voters knew about him.


It appears Deb Haaland, the frontrunner for the ABQ congressional nomination, has blown the doors off when it comes to first quarter fund-raising. And she wasted no time getting the word out.

The reports for the January-March period are not officially due until the middle of the month, but Haaland's campaign wants it known that it has apparently set a new quarterly record for the seat by raising $296,000. And Haaland has improved her cash position, reporting $345,000 on hand. She had taken some hits about the "burn rate" of her campaign but she appears to have shored things up and will be able to finance a major TV buy.

The campaign says it raised $192,000 in March alone. That's the month she won a solid, if not overwhelming victory, at the preprimary convention, and was also featured in a New York Times article about her quest to become the first Native American woman to win a US House seat.

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez has been chasing Haaland and has been the fund-raising leader, reporting at the end of the year that she had $347,000 in cash on hand. For now Haaland has nearly caught her in cash on hand, but Sedillo Lopez may widen the gap a bit when she files her report.

Former US Attorney Damon Martinez is the third major player. He reported $322,000 in cash at the end of the year and will probably increase that number when we see his report. But Haaland says her internal polling has Martinez back in the pack, with Sedillo Lopez in second place.

What it all means is that this trio will be the candidates whose faces are in front of the public via paid media in the final weeks leading up to the June 5 primary.


In the Dem race for Governor, the insider numbers making the rounds have Michelle Lujan Grisham getting over half the vote in the June 5 primary. She scored 67 percent at the preprimary. Jeff Apodaca is running second, as he did at the preprimary, and Joe Cervantes is third.


We knew former ABC newsman Sam Donaldson had retired to New Mexico but we didn't know he was also blogging. He is and his blog is here. However, don't look for coverage of NM. He concentrates on the national scene he is so well acquainted with. And there's no blog shilling for Dem Guv candidate Jeff Apodaca who Sam has endorsed and also narrated some campaign ads for.


Retired Las Cruces District Court Judge and U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe H. Galvan, 84, died on March 25 in Corrales, his family members announced this week. . .

Did you know that 1 out of 40 New Mexicans is now using medical marijuana. That's 50,000 to be precise. About half of them get the cannabis prescription to cope with post traumatic stress disorder. Many of you who have followed New Mexico politics for more than ten years may have PTSD. Let us know if your medical marijuana app is approved.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Tidbits From The Campaign Trail, ART Funding Still Uncertain And Some Wednesday Bottom Lines  

Let's head out to the campaign trail this Wednesday. . .

That three way battle for the Dem state land commissioner nomination is heating up. Foes of Garret VeneKlasen are scoring him for being a "lifelong Republican" who did not become a Democrat until June 2015.

On the website Democrats Demand Action (authors unknown), VeneKlasen's voter registration history is covered in detail with back-up documentation, including this 2014 article from the Durango Herald in which he is quoted in his role as executive director of the NM Wildlife Federation:

“The genesis of the public lands idea comes out of the conservative party,” he says. “As a lifelong Republican, I don’t understand why the party itself has abandoned this.”

The group asserts that Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich, who has endorsed VeneKlasen, has been "tricked" and that readers should sign a petition "demanding answers" from VeneKlasen about his longstanding GOP affiliation.

The other two hopefuls in the June 5 primary are State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard and State Senator George Munoz. Recent insider polling shows most likely Dem voters are still undecided on the race. Republican Pat Lyons is the lone GOP contender. . .

In the race for the Dem nod for state auditor Las Cruces State Rep. Bill McCamley has come with a long list of union endorsements, including the American Federation of Teachers, the NM Building Trades Council and Communication Workers of America.  Brian Colón has been endorsed by the International Association of Firefighters here. Early insider polling has Colón opening up a lead on McCamley, riding his strength in the ABQ metro. . .

In the race for the Dem lieutenant Governor nomination State Senator Howie Morales scored a landslide win at the Dem preprimary convention. That victory is reaffirmed in early inside polling that has Morales leading his closest pursuer--former ABQ State Rep. Rick Miera. . .


City Hall is so nervous over that $75 million in federal funding for the controversial ART project on Central Avenue that their fingernails are sweating. And with good reason. It remains highly uncertain if the Feds will come with the money. Look at this:

The Trump administration has more than tripled the amount of money flowing from an Obama-era transportation program to projects in rural areas, shifting aid to localities that the White House says have been left behind in years of post-recession economic expansion. The $211 million swing toward rural communities in the Transportation Department grant program is one of the most concrete policy shifts in the agency’s stated goal of helping less densely populated areas of the country—most of them regions that voted for President. . .

The ART project remains stalled because of construction errors and buses that don't meet specs. If the city doesn't get the federal money one plan to make up for it would use the bonding capacity of the ABQ Sunport.


From CNN:

A political appointee at the Department of Defense has resigned after a CNN inquiry about controversial postings he made on Facebook. Todd Johnson is a former Trump campaign state director in New Mexico who joined the Department of Defense in 2017 as an advance officer, a Pentagon employee with the sensitive task of providing logistical support related to the secretary's events and appearances...A CNN review of his social media found that Johnson posted birther conspiracies about then-President Barack Obama and shared a video that claimed Obama was the Antichrist.

Obama the Antichrist? Aah, the good old days.


Sen. Stewart
TV news followed up on our Monday blog report from a City Hall Alligator and confirms that APD Real Time Crime Center Director T.J. Wilham has been ousted from his post by the Keller administration after an attempt by the Berry administration to keep him on board. . .

She's been in the public light for decades but these details about the upbringing of ABQ State Senator Mimi Stewart grabbed attention this week:

. . . Her passion for improving the lives of children comes from her own rough childhood. Stewart was 3 years old when her father died in a car crash. Her mother remarried a man she called "a problematic person." “It was just a hard life, trying to avoid being beaten up by my stepfather, trying to avoid being sexually assaulted by him,” Stewart said. She said she coped by throwing herself into school work. "I think I was just as stubborn then as I am now,” she said.

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