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Monday, January 20, 2020

Bulge In The Budget; Not As Big As It May Look, Plus: Take Two On Hispanics In Legislative Leadership 

The New Mexico legislative session begins Tuesday and the state budget will be the main item in the short 30 day meeting.

It may seem like a spending explosion, but the big budget numbers look a lot smaller when you take the long view.

The Guv is proposing a general fund budget of $7.68 billion, an 8.4 percent increase, with a 25 percent reserve target. Only a couple of years ago the budget was $6 billion. Rather than an irresponsible spending spree much of the increase made possible by the oil boom restores cuts resulting from the long recession and the fiscal austerity of the previous administration.

The NM Wilderness Alliance comes with a good example of how this plays out in the Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department and that applies to many other state agencies:

During the Richardson administration, the department averaged $22,504,000 in general fund appropriations. That's $28,194,000 when adjusted for inflation. Under the Martinez administration, EMNRD’s budget saw an average of $19,958,000, or $21,518,000 when adjusted for inflation. This represents a 23.68% cut when adjusted for inflation.

In FY 2020. . . EMNRD’s budget was increased 9.31% from the previous year to $22,084,000. For FY 2021, EMNRD has requested a 12% increase to $24,757,000. . . accounting for inflation, this would represent an +8.84% increase from the Martinez administration, but 16.93% less than the average under the Richardson administration. Currently, the agency’s program support division, responsible for day-to-day operations, has a vacancy rate of 21%. According to the department, the proposed budget increase would help meet its goal to lower the vacancy rate to 5%.

The Governor's budget also continues to restore funding and positions cut or left vacant from the important Children, Youth and Families and Human Resources departments. A second year of proposed raises for state employees comes after years of no raises or tiny increases. Her budget also proposes a modest number of  new state positions.

The great state government retrenchment is over and New Mexico is playing catch-up. The irresponsible spending party that Republicans are warning of may come but it's not here yet.

WAY BACK MACHINE

We jumped in the way back machine to take a look at New Mexico in FY 2004. Back then, the General Fund budget was $4.127 billion. The proposed budget this year is $7.68 billion, an increase of about 86 percent. In FY '04, the Land Grant Permanent Fund totaled $7.279 billion. Today it is $19.5 billion, an increase of about 168 percent from '04. That's despite the historic stock market downturn in '09.

The expansion of Medicaid has been a significant factor in the increase in the state budget. The MLG budget would increase funding by $55.8 million--for a total Medicaid budget of $1.1 billion. The Feds match about three dollars for every state dollar.

There are about 850,000 New Mexicans on the Medicaid rolls today, 41 percent of the state's population. That represents a massive increase that began in 2013 when Medicaid expanded under Obamacare. From the fall of 2013 through July 2016 alone, enrollment in Medicaid soared by 303,355 people.

HISPANIC POWER

We blogged last week of the dearth of Hispanics in the legislative leadership and the leadership of the two powerful appropriations committees.

According to ABQ Dem State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino, our classification of two lawmakers as Anglo was not completely accurate. He reports that Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen says she had a Mexican mother and was adopted by an Anglo family. He adds that House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Patrica Lundstrom has a Hispanic mother. We duly note that, but doubt it will assuage those who feel the leadership still does not reflect the state's majority-minority make-up.

SENATE CHASE

Montoya
Freshly minted GOP US Senate candidate Rick Montoya, 72, of Rio Rancho served as an Assistant Secretary of Interior in the administration of the first President Bush, not the second, as we had it last week. He also served in that post in the Reagan administration. Government consultant Montoya announced his candidacy in Las Cruces.

The now six way GOP race is being narrowed down by the Alligators. They say weatherman Mark Ronchetti, who is aligned with the Martinez faction of the GOP, and Louis Sanchez, part owner of the Calibers firing range who is aligned with the Pearce faction, are the two front runners.

The March state GOP pre-primary convention will sort it out. If a candidate does not garner 20 percent of delegate support they don't get an official spot on the June primary ballot.

Meantime, Gov. Martinez will speak to the February 1 Bernalillo County GOP pre-primary convention, Martinez ally and former GOP County Chair Robert Aragon is seen pulling the strings on that one.

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Idea For Speaker Egolf To Avoid Primary, Plus: Rats Amid Homeless Close Colorado Park Near Capitol, And: A New Uniform For NM Senate Dems  

Johnston
Here's an idea for NM House Speaker Brian Egolf: Put in a good word for your primary opponent Lyla June Johnston, a Navajo Nation member, to get this Dem Party gig and escape a possibly bruising campaign for your Santa Fe House seat:

. . . The Democratic Party of New Mexico announced recently that we will be partnering with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to bring on a full-time Native American Outreach Organizer. The addition of this position so early in the election cycle will allow DPNM to more effectively engage Native communities and ensure that Native voices are being heard in the Democratic party.

Meanwhile, Johnston, a climate activist and poet, among other things, has announced she will fast for a full week on the steps of the state capitol and pray for a resolution to global warming.

While the Dems talk about bringing more Native American and Hispanic support to their cause, isn't the meager representation of people of color in the legislative leadership looking even more glaring as this majority minority state continues to add minorities?

These positions are all held by Anglos: Speaker of the House, State Senate Majority Leader, Senate President Pro Tem, Senate Finance Committee chairman, House Appropriations Committee chairman, Senate Minority Leader, House Minority Leader, Senate Majority Whip and Senate Minority Whip.

Just three of the ten posts in the official legislative leadership are minorities in a state that is now well over 60 percent majority minority.

RATS!

Colorado legislators went back to work this week and are facing something that thankfully New Mexico's lawmakers won't when they go back to work at the Roundhouse next week:

Rats close park near Colorado Capitol after spike in homeless camping. . . Denver officials closed Lincoln Park Wednesday, fearing diseases, bites and more from a rat infestation that grew worse as tents popped up in the area. “Human and animal waste, drug paraphernalia, food waste … it’s making the conditions unsafe,” said the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment. “We’ll reopen the park when it’s safe for people to be here again.”

While we don't have that kind of public health hazard, homelessness here has apparently been rising faster than elsewhere in the USA:

. . .  A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report shows New Mexico had the nation's largest percentage increase in homelessness from 2018 to 2019. That increase of 27% is detailed in the 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. In addition, the report shows that the state had a 57.6% increase in chronic homelessness last year, also the highest in the nation.

ABQ voters last year approved a $14 million bond issue to finance a 300 person capacity homeless shelter. Mayor Keller is asking legislators for an additional $14 million. We can only hope rural legislators give us city folks a helping hand and approve the Mayor's request. It's not as if there isn't plenty of money to go around.

YET ANOTHER

Another hopeful or you might say "wishful thinker" is throwing his hat into the race for the GOP US Senate nomination. Rick Montoya of Sandoval County, a former assistant Secretary of Interior in the Reagan and Bush administration, is prepping a run, friends report.

Congressman Ben Ray Lujan is the presumptive Dem nominee, although he has token primary opposition. He is heavily favored to win Blue New Mexico in November. No R has won since Sen. Domenici's re-election in 2002.

NEW UNIFORM 

State Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth has unveiled the new uniform Democratic Senators will sport at the 2020 legislative session.

Designed in a state workshop, the uniform is a classic beige/tan, reflecting the high desert topography of New Mexico and most ably modeled by Sen. Richard Martinez of Rio Arriba County. Don't you think?

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Progressives Livid as R Takes Over as Chair Of BernCo Commission; Rare Recent Win For GOP, Plus: who Will Take Sanchez Council Seat And A Legal Beagle Is Bitten 

Charlene Pyskoty
"She was supposed to be one of us." So said one progressive Democrat bemoaning last night's BernCo commission vote that put Republican Lonnie Talbert in as chairman of the five member panel, despite the Dems having a 4 to 1 majority.

The turncoat, as the progressives saw it, was Dem Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty, who they said campaigned as a progressive but has since backed off and grown more moderate, perhaps because she took the East Mountain seat from a conservative R in the Dem wave of 2018.

Pyskoty voted with Talbert and moderate Dem Commissioner Michael Quezada to give the gavel to conservative banker Talbert. The business and GOP community was ecstatic as Pyskoty had already teamed with Quezada to water down a sick leave ordinance that left the progressives out in the cold. Now this win and in a major election year to boot.

Talbert was elected on a 3 to 2 vote with Commissioner Debbie O’Malley and recently appointed Dem Commissioner Jim Collie voting against.

Talbert's chairmanship is an abrupt shift from that of liberal Dem and former Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins who recently resigned to take a state job.

Attorney David Bucholtz, an expert in local government, wrote in months ago to correct us for saying that the commission's ideological make-up had not changed much because of Pyskoty's election. He argued that Pyskoty would be a reliable progressive. He was right for a while. But the commission is again a lukewarm Dem panel with the R's--thanks to Quezada and Pyskoty--having a fighting chance on key issues.

As we noted several months ago, the progressive wave that has swept big BernCo appears to have peaked. Pyskoty turning her back on the progressives and the progressives inability to put Ane Romero into a GOP held ABQ city council seat late last year are signs of that.

Pyskoty didn't not walk away empty handed for her controversial move. She was elected as vice-chairman but the vote was 4 to 1, with Commissioner O'Malley voting against her fellow Dem who out maneuvered her for the chairmanship. There is no peace meeting scheduled.

THE SANCHEZ SEAT

More progressive vs. moderate Dem action is in store in the metro.

Who will Mayor Keller pick to replace westside City Councilor Ken Sanchez who passed away earlier this month? Not a lot of names circulating but a prominent one is that of attorney Damian Lara. He unsuccessfully sought the 2018 Dem nomination for the ABQ US House seat and has recently said he plans on running for the Dem nomination in the June primary against Dem Public Regulation Commissioner Cynthia Hall.

The pick is tricky for Keller because Sanchez was a moderate Dem who upset progressives and who now want one of their own on the council. But there is pressure to keep the seat in the hands of a moderate Dem to keep the council from going too far left and to best represent his working class district with a moderate streak.

LEGAL BEAGLE BITTEN

Recently one of the Legal Beagles speculated that the sexual abuse charges leveled against MLG by James Hallinan, her campaign communications director, could have legs if the matter makes its way into civil court. The Beagle said those at the meeting where the alleged abuse occurred could be placed under oath and that could make a difference. MLG's current communications chief, Tripp Stelnicki, says that's far fetched:

We're projecting/assuming that the multiple witnesses who confirm this (charge) is a fiction would all be perjuring themselves? But Hallinan "talking to a detective" i.e., filing a false police report and making his claims under oath would not be? There's two sides to that coin. and even if he does not go to the police, he's done plenty to diminish and minimize the genuine claims of abuse made by children and adults who deserve to be heard. 

In addition to consulting a detective Hallinan now says:

I am currently vetting counsel to assist me in pursuing this matter to its conclusion and will provide a public update when appropriate.


IT'S ABOUT TIMING

Hey, get that contract renewed before the oil boom goes bust someday:

 New Mexico Oil and Gas Association’s Board of Directors announced a unanimous decision to extend the contract of Executive Director Ryan Flynn through 2024. Flynn has led NMOGA since September 2016, having previously served as the Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources Trustee.

Flynn ran into major controversy when he was busted for DWI in 2017. There were allegations that Dem BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez went easy on Flynn who once served as a cabinet secretary for GOP Guv Martinez. The DWI was dropped and Flynn was only charged with careless driving.

Flynn survived that mishap and is now one of the major political figures in the state because of the unprecedented oil and gas boom. Like we said, it's all about timing.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Teacher Pay Raises, The Oil Boom, Hulk For APD And Calming The Freeways 

MLG has proposed a 4% across-the-board pay increase for New Mexico teachers for the budget year starting in July. Democratic House speaker Brian Egolf trumps her with a 10% proposed increase. Which one do you suppose has a June primary opponent?:

Lyla June Johnston, the first person in years to challenge House Speaker Brian Egolf in a Democratic primary, said she plans to fast on the Capitol steps for seven days and nights as a form of prayer for the planet during a time of rising global temperatures.

Johnston, a Navajo Nation member, poet and Stanford grad is not to be taken lightly in the liberal Santa Fe district.

Some politics may be in play with Speaker Brian's raise but in fairness New Mexico is in a desperate chase to recruit teachers who are paid much more by neighboring Texas. In that context a 10 percent increase would not be out of the ordinary (but don't look for it to pass).

It's just a little old New Mexico oil boom:

Eddy County saw 7,766 workers employed in the oil and gas industry, an increase of 4,985 jobs since 2009.

Former ABQ mayor and state land commissioner Jim Baca doesn’t have a bad idea here:

. . . Hard attention needs to be paid to the lack of any concerted effort at auditing the oil and gas industry to make sure it pays what it owes. It is no secret that under the Martinez administration, the auditing procedures (have) dissolved. Billions of dollars are being made; millions of barrels of oil are being pumped; and there is little being done to make sure all the numbers are adding up.

Stepped up auditing by the MLG administration and agreed to by the oil guys in exchange for nixing Land Commissioner Garcia Richards' insistence on an oil royalty increase would seem like a decent deal, although Baca and Richard might not agree.

Never mind Santa Fe going nuts at the legislative session, they’re already there in Doña Ana County:

Southern New Mexico's Mesilla Valley, an American hub of pecan production, helped the state lead the United States for the second year in a row.

Well, Senator Cervantes and family must doing well with their agricultural interests. Now if he could only nail down the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

FANTASY ALERT?

Just what kind of fantasy is KOAT-TV peddling? That recently retired ABQ GOP City Councilor Brad Winter stood up to former Republican Mayor Richard Berry? They kissed each others backsides whenever they got the chance. Oh, the article is authored by the former head of Berry's Real Time Crime Center. Got it.

HULK FOR APD?

Here's our personal nominee for the next police chief of Albuquerque in case Chief Geier wants to cut out early:

“The Incredible Hulk's Lou Ferrigno will soon become a deputy in New Mexico. Socorro County Sheriff William Armijo is scheduled to deputize the actor. Officials say Ferrigno will bring decades of law enforcement experience to the department. He will also play a role in recruiting for the department and the county. The 68-year-old has served as a sheriff in Los Angeles and Arizona.

Hallelujah! Finally some traffic enforcement on the ABQ freeways. Now maybe the average speed will be cut from 90 to 80 mph. Or wishful thinking? Well, enjoy while it lasts--it's only for a month:

State police will be out in full force starting (this past) Monday. Officers will be conducting targeted operations on I-25 and I-40 in Bernalillo County. The operation is in response to a request by Albuquerque Police for help with traffic enforcement. State Police say the increased patrols will also help with faster responses to crashes. After 30 days, the department says it will consult with APD to determine if more assistance is needed.

To "determine if more assistance is needed?" Duh? Does a bear do you know what in the woods?

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Monday, January 13, 2020

MLG-Sen. Smith Deal Will Give Legislative Session A Conservative Tilt; Moving Needle On State's Deep-Seated Social Problems Could Remain Stalled 

Will the upcoming 30 day legislative session make a difference in the state's bottom of the barrel rankings in child well-being, poverty, high school graduation rates and the crime and drug epidemics? It appears not.

Governor Lujan Grisham has decided to make peace with Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith which means the session will have a conservative tilt that will not directly attack the social conditions crisis that afflicts us. Instead, we will get incremental steps, baby steps, if you will.

Seeking peace with Smith instead of taking a more aggressive stance means that proposals such as the constitutional amendment to tap a small portion of the over $18 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood education are dead for this session. In its place is a much more meager measure that would appropriate about $300 million from the oil and gas surplus for an "endowment" to be funded from the interest of that fund. The difference? The LGPF proposal would provide upwards of $150 million annually early childhood education while the endowment would provide perhaps $25 million.

Also, there is no serious discussion in Santa Fe about implementing widespread drug treatment and detox programs to make a bigger dent in the addiction rate that is largely responsible for the crime wave. And talk of trying harder to curtail the drug imports from Mexico along the interstates with beefed up state police force is nearly nonexistent.

Lujan Grisham and Smith will continue to fill some of the deep hole left by the fiscal austerity of GOP Governor Susana Martinez. While that may help halt the state's decline, it is not likely to lift the state up. For that to happen this Governor and the senate conservatives would have to agree to take some risk with the enormous state surplus and invest heavily in human capital programs that are dearly expensive but would get at the culture of decay that afflicts so many households.

MLG has self-reported herself as a "fiscal conservative." By doing so she has consigned herself to getting conservative results. That may be enough for some, but a year from now when the latest stats on the social conditions of the state arrive and show little change after two years of the administration, frustration will deepen.

That is as why the June state Senate primary elections are so important. An even slight ruffling of the feathers of the conservative Dem incumbents could give this Governor a push away from the status quo and toward the more aggressive stance that she has rejected.

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Thursday, January 09, 2020

Xochitl, A 14 Year old And Socialism, Also: Forgive NM Student Loans? 

Remember this blog photo from around Christmas? We wrote then:

"Say no to Xocilalism," declares the Xmas shirt of this young supporter of GOP congressional hopeful Yvette Herrell. He's not old enough to vote and probably not versed in the nuances of socialism but "Xocilalism" does rhyme with the pronunciation of the first part of the first name of freshman Dem Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small so we guess the "joke" worked. 

Well, that turns out to be Roy, a 14 year old Herrell supporter, who saw that blog and pushed back against the notion that he doesn't understand socialism. The Deming student told us:

Hello, Mr Monahan. I am the "young supporter" in the picture and article. My name is Roy. I am an active member in "Cowboys for Trump." 

I became politically active in 2016 with Trump and Yvette Herrell running. I have attended three Trump-Pence rallies. I have had the honor of shaking hands with Vice President Pence and have met former Congressman Pearce.

The reason why I support these people is because of my research. I have concluded that I am a young Republican. The shirt that I was wearing I made myself, it was my idea after hearing that Rep. Xochitl Torres Small voted for impeachment. I saw how socialism destroyed other countries like Cuba and Venezuela, how those countries are run and how their people are suffering.

I stand my ground as a Republican because we value life of children, upholding the Constitution and Second Amendment rights ( I am a member of a 4-h shooting team). I appreciate your story but would like to clarify that I do know what socialism is. My best definition of socialism is "a communist philosophy of equal sharing" quoted from "A Student's Dictionary" by Ludwig Wittgenstein, 2005. Thank you for reading my response.

Thanks, Roy. It sounds as though you are getting a well-rounded education. However, equating the impeachment vote of Rep. Torres Small with being a socialist is a big jump--even for a young cowboy for Trump. Still, we wish you the best. And if you ever run for political office, please give us the scoop.

Speaking of Christmas, here is a belated holiday gift wish from reader Ken Tabish:

Why not use some of the oil and gas surplus to pay off the student loan debt of NM residents who graduated from any NM state funded post secondary school. The state could also work out a deal with those who dropped out due to the burden of loan debt or just cost. Those committed to return to get an Associates or a BA/BS could have their loan debt suspended or paid off. It is clear that MLG wants to sink more money into public ed K-12 and Early Childhood and provide free tuition at the post secondary level. Well, I say add this to the mix. Let's give a gift that would help boost the economy. It would mean more disposable income to spend, purchase a new home/condo, buy a new car or obtain an advanced degree. The Dept of Higher Ed could negotiate a deal at a lower rate with the Feds and lenders who would welcome the money.

Interesting, but what about all the students who faithfully (and sometimes painfully) paid off their student loans? Is a loan freebie fair to them?

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Conservative State Senate Dems Wonder Where Their Challengers Money Will Come From, Plus: In the Weeds With The PRC And The ETA 

All political eyes are on those contested Democratic state Senate races in the June primary that could change the fabric of the New Mexico legislature. However, one big player is not showing their hand.

Emily's List has been rumored to be preparing to dump serious money into an effort to oust conservative Dem Senators such as John Arthur Smith and Clemente Sanchez and others. Speculation has the powerful pro-choice women's group coming with big bucks for female challengers. We asked one of of our Senior Gators for an update:

Joe, Most Emily's List money in 2020 will go to efforts to flip the US Senate to the Democrats and to protect fragile state legislative seats, such as those won by pro-choice women in New Mexico in 2018. As for the state Senate races, it's possible money for that will home from Women Vote Super PAC, an affiliate of Emily's List.

The senators that would be on Emily's hit list are Dems who voted against a key abortion measure in the last legislative session. Most of those senators are members of the senate's governing conservative coalition that includes all the Republicans.

Regardless of Emily's List involvement, competent women challengers have already lined up to take on many of the senators in question. That guarantees an exciting June primary with the fate of the coalition on the line.

Here is the roster of NM legislative candidates currently endorsed by Emily's List. All are Democrats:

Sen, Liz Stefanics NM-SD39
Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez NM-SD16
Rep. Day Hochman-Vigil NM-HD15
Rep, Liz Thomson NM-HD24
Rep. Melanie Stansbury NM-HD28
Rep, Joy Garratt NM-HD29
Rep. Natalie Figueroa NM-HD30
Rep. Joanne Ferrary NM-HD37
Rep. Christine Chandler NM-HD43
Rep, Andrea Romero NM-HD46
Rep. Karen Bash NM-HD68

PRC WEEDS

We go into the weeds with a Senior Alligator today on an important issue. The Energy Transition Act (ETA) approved by the Legislature in 2019 has divided the elected Public Regulation Commission. The insider details:

Joe, It's interesting how divided the five-member PRC is. It has split 3-2 over what law should apply to the Commission's consideration of electric utility PNM and its abandonment of the San Juan coal plant. and the resource replacement case--the Energy Transition Act (ETA). 

Democratic Commissioners Cynthia Hall and Steve Fischmann support applying the new ETA to the entire case on the basis that legislative enactments are controlling. However, the majority of the PRC--Democrats Becenti-Aguilar, Espinoza and Republican Jefferson Byrd--voted to split the case into two parts with the San Juan abandonment question to be considered under the law in effect when the PRC filed the case. The ETA is more specific and better assures that PNM will recover its cost for abandoning the polluting plant. 

The NM Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal lodged by both sides. The  ETA law will likely be changed in this legislative session to make clear that the ETA applies to the whole case. 

In November, Fischmann prepared a two page letter about the PRC for a legislative committee's consideration. Espinoza surfaced the letter in a mid-November public meeting said  "it undermines the PRC." Becenti-Aguilar asked Fischmann why he hadn't had the "courage" to share the letter with his fellow commissioners before he sent it.

Regrettably, it appears the five commissioners are not playing well together. And, they're making decisions involving millions of PNM ratepayer money. 

Thanks for that.

The argument is that PNM gets a bailout from ratepayers under the ETA plan allowing PNM to float over $300 million in bonds to pay for closing down San Juan and associated costs. ETA supporters argue the measure is landmark legislation that dictates utilities generate 50 percent of their energy from renewables by 2030 and it should stand.

Voters may hear more about this during the November campaign. A constitutional amendment will be on the ballot that would change the PRC from an elective body to an appointed one.

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Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Weatherman Turns Politico; All Wet Or Sunny Skies Ahead? Plus: R's Eye MLG's Hallinan Problem  

Ronchetti
Is the weatherman all wet? Or are sunny skies ahead? 

The expected entry of longtime KRQE-TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti into the chase for the GOP US senate nomination this week has R's who aren't meteorologists putting their fingers to the wind and trying to predict what's next. In a party devastated by heavy losses and torn asunder by factionalism, predicting where Ronchetti will fit into the picture is like trying to predict what Iran will do next. 

Th first reaction of many was to question why Ronchetti would give up his well-paying weather gig that he has had since 2006 and at which he has been highly successful. Would the station take him back if his Senate bid failed, or is Ronchetti looking for something new and jumping without a net?

Dem Chris Catecheis joked:

Why would he quit a job where he could be wrong 80% of the time and still stay employed, just to run for the senate?


Don't expect the other GOP candidates to yield to him. That means the R's March pre-primary convention is pivotal. 

That convention will place candidates on the June primary ballot. If a contender doesn't get 20 percent of delegate support, he doesn't get an official ballot spot and would have to file additional petition signatures to make the ballot. However, failing to get 20 percent at the convention dries up the money and is almost always the death knell for a candidacy.

As for Ronchetti, the popular media personality is aligned with the Gov. Martinez and consultant Jay McCleskey faction of the GOP and not the ruling faction led by GOP Chairman Steve Pearce. Former Governor Martinez was no Trumper but it’s the Trumpers in command of today's party. 

On his website Ronchetti is said to "support all the President has done to energize America's economy." He is described as a "conservative who also believes taxes should be low and 2nd Amendment rights should be protected." He will run as a "pragmatic outsider."

So far, the national R's have shown no interest in taking on heavily favored Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, the presumptive Dem nominee who is banking millions in preparation for November.

Ronchetti, 46, who can tap into what's left of Martinez’s donor list, will be joining Gavin Clarkson, Mick Rich, Elisa Martinez and Louie Sanchez in the GOP race. He has celebrity but to raise money he'll have to make a compelling case that Lujan can be defeated. So far, there are no takers for that proposition. 

In the US Senate race you don't need a weatherman to tell you which way the wind is blowing--at least not yet. 

MLG WATCH

The sexual abuse allegations made against Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham by her campaign communications director, James Hallinan, continue to be dissected in political circles. Republicans are watching for any opportunity for their down and out party. A GOP operative analyzes:

When NM Democratic Party Chair, Richard Ellenberg, stepped down in 2018 for not dealing with sexual harassment issues appropriately, then candidate for Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham said, “As Democrats, we stand with the silence-breakers who have come forward to share their stories of sexual harassment and abuse. Questioning the credibility of sexual misconduct allegations is contrary to our values.” 

She couldn’t have said it better, but apparently it doesn’t apply to her. Her office did everything they could to trash Hallinan, calling the allegations “bizarre” and “slanderous” and dissing his work performance. Where are the Democrat leaders who made comments that victims should be believed? Kind of shows you the double standard that exists in their Party and why they’re losing membership. 

The Governor’s image has yet to be cemented statewide. Maybe it’s time stop the pranks? The water fights? People are going to quickly tire of the “rambunctious” Governor’s office and Facebook posts of staff goofing off at the Capitol, especially if there aren’t tangible results to go with it. 


LEGAL BEAGLE TAKE

A Legal Beagle weighs in on the campaign meeting where Hallinan alleges that MLG threw a bottled water on his crotch and grabbed his genitals. No one at the meeting has corroborated Hallinan's story and ABQ Rep. Deborah Armstrong, who was there, says it never happened. Our Beagle says:

The witnesses to the alleged Hallinan groping by MLG will no doubt want to support MLG. But if Hallinan files a civil suit, he gets discovery --that's under oath. Will the three witnesses and the defendant MLG commit perjury? Discovery will raise the stakes a lot. MLG is not off the hook.

Hallinan says he is going to contact a "detective" about the alleged assault but has said nothing else of his legal plans regarding the incident.


THE BOTTOM LINES

From BernCo:

Governor MLG has appointed James M. Collie as the new commissioner in District 3. Collie currently serves as a member of the Bernalillo County Planning Commission and is a retired pastor and administrator in the Presbyterian Church. .  Collie replaces (Democrat) Maggie Hart Stebbins who resigned her seat to accept a position in state government.

MLG said she would appoint a commissioner who pledged not to run for the seat in 2020. Collie won't and there are several Dem candidates now seeking the Hart Stebbins seat.

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Monday, January 06, 2020

Sheriff Manny Gets Closer To Mayoral Run; Says Announcement Later In Year, Plus: Oy Vey! Drunk Driving Senator Martinez Draws Foe With Own DWI 

Sheriff Gonzales
Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales isn't having any second thoughts yet about running for Mayor of ABQ in 2021. He openly flirted with the idea last year and now is inching closer to challenging Mayor Tim Keller. 

The first-term Mayor announced on our November Election Night broadcast on KANW 89.1 FM  that he would seek a second term in '21. Now comes Gonzales in a Friday interview with TJ Trout on KKOB-AM-FM letting this shoe drop:

My intentions are to do it, to officially announce sometime this coming year, and when I do, I told you, you would be one of the first to hear. . . 

It's early, but the city's record high '19 murder rate (82) and other sky high crime stats appear to be pushing Gonzales toward the run, and to get in early to keep others out. 


Like Keller, Gonzales is a Democrat but more conservative. Appealing to Republicans and independents would be key to a serious challenge, but also avoiding entangling himself with the GOP in a Dem dominated city.

Gonzales managed a 55-45 win in his 2018 re-elect over Republican Lou Golson.

Gonzales, the first Hispanic sheriff in BernCo in the modern era, earned praise for his intervention in the crime-ridden SE Heights in 2019. But he is drawing criticism from Keller supporters. They say the Sheriff, who is serving his second, four year term that ends in 2022, is getting in way over his head and that his administration of the sheriff's department has been far from stellar. 

Still, crime is the be-all-end-all issue for ABQ. If it continues to rise, the star of law and order Gonzales could rise. If it falls, Keller's crime-tarnished star could gleam again. 


The mayoral election may be in 2021 but 2020 will be a pivotal year in deciding the shape the race will take.

OY VEY!

Jaramillo
Oy, Vey! It turns outs the fella who has announced he will seek to oust DWI-convicted Dem state Senator Richard Martinez in the June primary has a DWI record of this own. That's right. 43 year old Rio Arriba County Commissioner Leo Jaramillo was busted in the 90's for drinking and driving. But he says it's unfair to compare his arrest to that of Martinez's who crashed into a couple, causing them injury,  and who refused to take a breath test when arrested:

The difference between the 18-year-old college freshman who pleaded guilty and took responsibility as opposed to the 66-year-old state Senator who pleaded “not guilty” to aggravated DWI; never showed remorse or apologized to his constituents or the victims is astronomically different.

Okay, but why didn’t Jaramillo come clean on his long ago arrest when he first announced  his candidacy against Martinez which is largely the result of Martinez's DWI? Why did the news have to leak and then he issues a statement? And Jaramillo was once a journalist? Not a good start and not at all inspiring.

Martinez stands to lose the seat he was first elected to in 2000. Gov. MLG has called on 
Martinez to resign, a call he has refused to heed. He has said he would not keep his chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee, not that he wasn't going to be stripped of it anyway. 
Martinez arrest

Martinez not only refuses to resign he even argues, incredulously, that his drunk driving conviction will "probably make him a better Senator."


Talk about problematic candidates for  Democratic voters in the four county northern Senate district that includes Española. 


Well, if they want a change they are going to have to take the least flawed of this pair. Since Martinez's aggravated DWI took place while he held office and caused injuries and is accompanied by that embarrassing and humiliating arrest video, removing him is the first order of business. 

But Jaramillo, 43, who proclaims himself the standard-bearer of a new generation, needs to get rid of old school habits he shares with Martinez and that led him to attempt to cover up his past. The cover-up is much worse than his offense. The North is changing (ask Debbie Rodella or Carl Trujillo). It's no time for pretenders. 


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Thursday, January 02, 2020

Death Claims Longtime ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez; Champion Of The Westside Was 63, Plus: Readers Talk "Irishman" 

ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez died too young at 63, but with nearly 25 years in elective office and a record of involvement and achievement, he will be long remembered for effectively championing the Westside of the city, which was often treated as an orphan in favor of more prosperous neighborhoods.

Sanchez, who had an undisclosed "medical emergency" over a month ago, died New Year's Day. No cause was announced. Another Westsider, City Council President Klarissa Pena, summed up Sanchez's impact during his 14 council years beginning in 2005:

We lost a pillar of our community – a true giant in his service to others, his generosity, and his morality. He believed in this community and in our government’s ability to continue to make Albuquerque a better place, and he lived it through his actions every day. It’s with heavy hearts that we must bid farewell to a man who was a friend, colleague, mentor, and supporter to so many – he will not be forgotten.

Sanchez made a living preparing tax returns, among other things. The financial acumen he brought to the nine member council was a defining feature of his career. He was one of the few councilors who truly understood city financial affairs.

A moderate to conservative Democrat, Sanchez climbed to area fame along with like-minded ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez. Sanchez was elected to the first of two terms on the BernCo commission in 1995 while fellow Westsider Chavez had been elected to his first mayoral term in 1993.

Those were the salad days for them and the city. ABQ's future looked limitless, with tech and other companies beginning to flock here as the economy had a sustained boom along with its population.

Sanchez and Chavez were at their most effective meeting and nurturing those growth challenges, with Sanchez ensuring the then rapidly growing Westside received its share of the prosperity.

Like fellow Councilor Brad Winter who last year concluded a 20 year council career, it was the later years of Sanchez's career that gave him trouble. The ABQ these two dedicated men had known their entire lives started to come undone with the 2009 economic crash. Crime soared, APD started to unravel and opportunities dried up. Sanchez continued to champion the Westside but it wasn't the same. Nothing really was.

One of Councilor Sanchez's last public appearances was on my long-running KANW 89.1 FM Election Night broadcast. It was for the November '19 ABQ city election. I thought he was ribbing me when he said it had been "a 30 year dream" of his to appear on the roundtable. But he wasn't. He was a truly humble man who loved ABQ with fervor. Talking about that love on Election Night was something he savored.

Mayor Keller will name a replacement to fill out Sanchez's council term which will be up for election in 2021. They will truly be big shoes to fill.

THE IRISHMAN (CONT.)

A film review of "The Irishman" on the New Year's Day blog by reader and reviewer Eric Lucero drew a response from reader Mitchell Freedman in Rio Rancho:

Joe, I hate to break it to Eric Lucero, but The Irishman is based upon a falsehood. Frank Sheeran was lying about his supposed role in killing Hoffa, as the legendary investigative reporter, Dan Moldea has shown. See also Jack Goldsmith, the former FBI lawyer who turned against the Bush administration on the subject of torture, who has written a recent book debunking Sheeran, based upon the fact that one of his family members was tied up with the Mob and Hoffa.

Sheeran's allegations and claimed admissions were thoroughly investigated and found wanting. If moviegoers want to see a film that gets at truth in a dramatic way, and far less long a time of movie watching, I would suggest "Dark Waters," about DuPont poisoning countless people with its product known as Teflon, particularly for workers in West Virginia where the product was made.

And reader Nancy Cliff in Silver City wrote:

Thanks for the review of The Irishman. Having grown up on the East Coast in the period covered, the film resonated. It was overly long but director Martin Scorsese takes advantage of the audience when he can. Robert De Niro is on screen most of the time, but his acting is so nuanced and subtle that one hardly notices. Thanks too for the explanation of the book title. "Splatter" made it all too real. Happy 2020.

The Irishman is playing on Netflix.

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