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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Pearce Vs. MLG? Yes, But It's Also Trump Vs. Big Bill; New Negative Ads Spell Out Final Weeks Strategies, Plus: Medicare For All Is Big Issue In Southern Congress Battle, And: Becoming An "Urban Chicano" 

With just hours to go before thousands of New Mexicans begin casting early in-person votes Saturday, the two gubernatorial contenders came with TV spots that clearly defined their final days strategy, a glimpse of which was seen at this week's televised debate.

For Steve Pearce it's about dampening enthusiasm for Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham by painting her as a corrupt leftover from the Bill Richardson era. He hopes that will keep some of her supporters at home or at least from voting for her if they do vote.

For MLG it's about tapping into the wrath of Democratic voters over Donald Trump and making sure they come out and vote for her, especially in the vote-laden Bernalillo County area.

There will be positive ads, of course, but the negative campaign will be front and center in the final weeks because the race is still not closed out. There are no recent public polls. R insiders claim it's a four point race and say that's why late outside money is coming for Pearce.

(MLG told  a Santa Fe audience Wednesday night her lead was between seven and nine points).

Also, in the WaPo list of governorships most likely to flip from Republican to Democrat, NM is now ranked third, down from first. Still high but something for the R's to hang their hats on.

THE PEARCE HIT

Although Pearce's campaign did not produce the spot, this ad from the Republican Governors Association follows his closing plans perfectly. It brings back the controversy over Delta Consulting, the healthcare group co-founded by MLG.

While other ads on this subject over the long campaign have been somewhat unfocused, this one lays it out simply--and literally in black and white.

It argues MLG's firm received a contract from "scandal tainted" former Governor Bill Richardson when she left a cabinet secretary post; that the Delta contract to run the high risk insurance pool for extremely ill patients overcharged them resulting in big profits for her and excessive premiums for sick patients. The ad declares: "New Mexico doesn't want another scandal tainted administration like Richardson's."

The facts of the Delta ads have been ceaselessly litigated for months by MLG. This ad, however, is solid and potentially persuasive. That doesn't vouch for its truthfulness which is in dispute, but comments on its emotional impact, production values and its success in finally telling this tale as a straight pay to play narrative. The question is whether the time for Delta and Richardson has come and gone.

THE MLG HIT

MLG's hit on Pearce is equally emotional and well put together. Like the RGA ad, it goes with black and white, a surefire sign that high level nuclear is about to be fired. The ad begins with Pearce taking a selfie at the Trump inauguration. . .

Steve Pearce. He took this selfie at Donald Trump’s inauguration. Then voted 90% with Trump.” Like Trump, he believes a wife should “submit as a matter of obedience” Like Trump, he lies… saying his business “rents party equipment”... when it was actually an oil and gas company. Pearce made millions while voting to weaken energy regulations. No wonder Trump gave Pearce his “full support. He shouldn’t be Governor.

The line about a wife submitting plays directly to women supporters in liberal BernCo who polls show are among Lujan Grisham's most enthusiastic backers.

A MLG supporter immediately noted that the contract Delta was awarded was done by a bidding process not a gubernatorial decision. And that MLG's tax returns clearly show she did not "make millions" on Delta.

A Pearce backer challenged the MLG spot, questioning whether Trump has said a wife should "submit" and that Trump prides himself on hiring women to high level positions in his companies. But Pearce did use the submit line in a book he authored.

TURNOUT MODEL

In the last competitive Guv election, held in 2010, about 602,000 votes were cast. Dems would like to see that number at least matched and ideally bump up to 650,000 or more. Republicans are hoping for a repeat of 2014 when turnout crashed to 503,000 in a noncompetitive Guv election. A repeat of '14 is unlikely which is one of the reasons why going into Saturday's early voting the race remains rated Lean Democrat.

MEDICARE FOR ALL?

Torres Small
National Republicans have been hammering southern Dem congressional hopeful Xochitl Torres Small for supposedly supporting the Medicare for All plan that is the talk of DC these days. Their ads falter under a fact check that shows she has not endorsed such a plan. But she gave a lawyerly answer when the Sun-News asked a second time for her position. She said:

There is not a single-payer plan out there that I support.

But that doesn't negate the possibility that a single-payer plan could surface "out there" that she could someday support? Does it?

As for the state of the campaign, as one of our Alligators put it, "Xochitl is running a nimble campaign. Do you notice how she is always talking on camera and Yvette does not? She's establishing a connection."

And you see that in the latest Torres Small ad where she meets with a group of voters to counter the GOP ad that attacks her on Medicare for All, telling the group she wants to hold the drug and insurance companies accountable, not have the government take over healthcare. It is one of her better efforts.

Having said that, the attack ad on her by the R's must been hurting her in the polling and she was forced to respond.

POUNDING HERRELL

Meanwhile, the Super PAC ad that has been pounding Herrell (and we mean pounding as it is in very heavy rotation) and that accuses her of "shady deals" as a legislator--has drawn nary a peep in response from Herrell all these weeks. Yet the ad stays up. Someone is right and someone is wrong here. We'll find out who come Election Night.

GALEA'S REVENGE

Yvette Herrell
Herrell did give an indirect response to another ad that is in heavy rotation--this one from Susan Galea, the former mayor of Alamogordo, Herrell's hometown.

Sporting a patriotic red white and blue scarf, Galea, who supported Herrell's Republican primary foe, Monty Newman, states that Herrell is an "insider who can't be trusted" and that Galea will be voting for Xochitl Torres Small.

Anglo, middle-aged women are core Herrell supporters, so while not putting up a response ad Herrell did send out this message to supporters:

It has become. . . clear to me. . . that Xochitl Torres Small is willing to use any means (and every liberal) possible to discredit my name and impugn my character. Instead of focusing her campaign efforts on issues of extreme importance. . .  Xochitl seeks to rely on the endorsement of a former, disgruntled mayor who actually no longer lives within our Congressional District. . .Just like Xochitl Torres Small, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, Susie Galea did not and does not represent the values of our community.

And for good measure, on the heels of the Galea endorsement Herrell rolled out one from former GOP US House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Ex-Mayor Galea is not without her share of controversy which the Alamogordo paper covered when reporting on her endorsement.

The southern congressional race is rated here as Lean Republican. 

ODDS AND ENDS

TV news picked up on our report this week that the state surplus could reach nearly $2 billion, according to NM House Speaker Brian Egolf. . .And the ABQ mayor's office says former US attorney and Dem congressional candidate Damon Martinez has begun working at the ABQ police department on policy and "interagency coordination" but not on Department of Justice reform which he spearheaded as US attorney. . .

ABQ Dem State Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas checks in with some interesting news out of Alaska that has a NM connection:

Joe, my UNM Law school classmate, Valerie Davidson, just became Lt. Gov. of Alaska. She hails from the famous class of ’98. The class also has District Court Judge Marie Ward; Metro Court Judge Michelle Castillo Dowler; NMSU Regent Chris Saucedo, former NM Superintendent of Insurance Morris Chavez and UNM Regent Rob Doughty.

Davidson, the first Native American to hold higher office in Alaska, was appointed lt. governor after her predecessor resigned because of "inapprorpriate comments to a woman."

MOVIN' REALLY RIGHT

Talk about moving to the right. GOP US Senate candidate Mick Rich is so desperate to nail down the GOP base that he is having a tussle over with Libertarian Gary Johnson that he's bringing in Trump strategist Steve Bannon to give him a boost:

A key architect of President Trump’s 2016 election victory will be in Roswell Thursday for a screening of his new documentary and to appear alongside Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mick Rich. Bannon, former campaign chairman to Trump and former CEO of the conservative news and opinion website Brietbart.com, will speak with supporters, show parts of his new film “Trump @War” and discuss the future of the Republican Party Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Hi-Q Venue at 208 North Richardson Ave. The event is free.

Rich and Johnson are trying to unseat Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich.

URBAN CHICANO

Joe Monahan
The Weekly Alibi, ABQ's alternative newspaper, is out with its endorsement of MLG in the '18 Guv race and it had a very personal impact on your blogger. Here we go. . .

That she is the most eminently qualified candidate for the job is not the question; rather it’s whether middle class urban Chicanos raised on a diet of Val de La O, man caves covered in rich Corinthian leather and El Modelo brand red chile ribs can finally put aside their pinche machismo and admit the best way forward is with a qualified woman at the helm.

Uh oh. I was a devoted viewer of the Val de La O show airing on KOB-TV back in the 70's. I live really close to El Modelo and relish their red chile ribs. As for the Corinthian letter, well. I  don't have a 1975 Chrysler padded with the luxe material but I have a leather lazy boy from American Furniture that I sometimes use to enjoy a good book. And I have an old Honda with the full leather option. Considering all of that, I think I qualify as a "middle class urban Chicano." It took me over 40 years but I have finally freed myself from the shackles of being a carpet-bagging, Gringo from Pennsylvania. Time to celebrate! Hey, amigo, pass those ribs over here.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Take Two: Second Guv TV Debate Has MLG Bringing Trump To Table And Pearce Surfacing Big Bill; Analysis And Two Views, Plus: RGA Makes Ad Buy For Pearce And About That Early Vote 

With three weeks to go the 2018 gubernatorial candidates went to work to motivate their respective political bases at last night's second televised debate on KOB-TV. In doing so there were no faux attempts to preserve an aura of chumminess between the duo. Both took the gloves off and got down to business. 

Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham brought to the table Donald Trump to get her fans out of their seats and into the voting booths. Republican Steve Pearce surfaced former Governor Richardson and his "corrupt cronies" to scare voters into marking their ballots for him.

MLG has the obvious advantage of a big registration edge. She has held back on hitting Trump but last night it was clear that he will be her poster boy to close the deal. Right at the top she said the election offers two starkly different visions:

One is straight out of Donald Trump’s failed playbook that is leaving New Mexico families behind. The other is my vision, that taps into the determination and optimism of each and every one of us--working together to overcome our challenges.

Lujan Grisham recently released a TV ad that for the first time used Trump against Pearce.  She can take the prize if she can carry her anti-Trump ABQ congressional district by 10 points, a feat she has done before, and banks usually reliable Dem landslides in Santa Fe and Taos counties.

For his part, Pearce, who had been criticized after the first debate for failing to carry the corruption narrative against MLG and Richardson, did not hesitate this time. He said the state should reject "going back to the Richardson era of corruption and cronyism" and that we "suffered enough embarrassment through that. . .we can change our culture."

The problem Pearce ran into was the past eight years under GOP Governor Susana Martinez, not Richardson. That was another name that MLG brought up for the first time before a statewide audience. She attacked the outgoing and unpopular Martinez for presiding over a CYFD riddled with vacancies and for tampering with the behavioral health system with damaging results. And when it came to crime she threw former GOP ABQ Mayor Richard Berry to the wolves.

Perhaps Pearce's best moment was when he emotionally recited some of the horrific child abuse cases that have haunted the state. He said such crime would not stand in his governorship, but in back of him was the ghost of Susana Martinez--not Richardson.

TWO VIEWS

Two opposing views on the debate now. First from Dem political veteran and attorney Greg Payne who scored it for MLG:

Lujan-Grisham won. She was focused, precise, hard-hitting and partisan. Pearce was less focused and didn't go after her in any significant way until the close. He made a few oblique references to alleged corruption under Richardson and during his closing statement to alleged wrongdoing by Lujan-Grisham while she was Secretary of Health under him. But prior to that closing, Pearce felt compelled to throw shade at Gov. Martinez for alleged corruption involving state contracts for behavioral health services.

Bottom line: The NM GOP was on defense. The debate brought reality into the political klieg lights. After eight years of Martinez and eight years of a GOP mayor in ABQ, Republicans can no longer blame "liberal Santa Fe Democrats" for the challenges facing New Mexico. Lujan-Grisham seized on that reality--with glee.

A longtime GOP operative saw it differently:

This debate was more fiery than the last one. His supporters needed this. Both did well on substance. MLG likes to flood the audience with tons of stuff. Pearce’s style isn’t to do that. Neither made any mistakes. But MLG’s closing statement indicates that some of the Pearce charges of cronyism and corruption might be starting to hit. Pearce’s closing statement indicates that he’s going to make the final stage of this campaign about MLG’s failures and that she isn’t qualified to be governor. 

Pearce did not harp on the corruption theme but he raised it enough to reinforce his campaign ads, something he did not do in the first debate. The message is out there. Last night he helped advance it. Now we wait to see if it works. 

RGA APPEARS

The Republican Governors Association made a somewhat surprise appearance in the Guv race Tuesday. The group has bought $339,000 in TV ads for Pearce, giving him his first healthy chunk of outside PAC money. something MLG has been getting from the get go from national Dem interests.

The RGA ad will be an attack on Lujan Grisham but several of the Alligators said the ad buy could also indirectly help southern GOP congressional candidate Yvette Herrell who is locked in an intense battle with Dem contender Xochitl Torres Small. The more votes that come out for Pearce in his southern district the better it will be for Herrell, the reasoning goes. Herrell is being heavily outspent by national Dems.

And Pearce finally released his long awaited tax return for 2017 but the release turned out to be skimpy and that had the Dems pounding away, pointing out that MLG has released five years of returns and much more info than Pearce has:

Pearce reported earning $431,114 in adjusted gross income last year . .  .(He) filed jointly with his wife, reported $124,322 in income from his congressional salary and claimed several allowable tax exemptions and deductions. Pearce had come under pressure from state Democrats to release his tax returns. . Pearce had pledged to release his tax returns earlier this year if his general election opponent did likewise. However, he released only his 2017 state and federal tax return cover sheets--not the attached tax schedules--along with the required congressional financial form from 2017 that he had filed earlier this year. 

The race for Governor is rated Lean Democrat

EARLY VOTE

The statewide early vote total through October 15 is 22,702. The Dems dominate. The indys lag. With our projected total turnout of 600,000 the turnout thus far represents 3.8 percent of the electorate. But it's the D spike in Dona Ana County that has them buzzing. One of our Senior Alligators of the Dem variety says an absentee vote drive by Dems pushing southern congressional candidate Torres Small is a likely reason for the Dem spike there. Agreed.

NO MAIL CALL

It seems the mail is late for reader Bruce Thomson:

Joe: I just got back from a 3 week trip out of town. The house sitter collected a 16 inch pile of mail for us in which there was not one single piece of campaign junk mail. This raises 3 questions: 1) Am I still registered? 2) If not junk mail, what are the candidates spending their huge sums of money on? and 3) What am I going to burn in the wood stove on these cold dark nights? 

The political mail has been somewhat of a trickle. But as we write this the mailboxes are filling up now that in-person early voting is ready to kick off this Saturday.

So don't worry, Bruce. We think you'll have plenty of fuel for that piñon fire.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Rep. Monica Maimed: Dems Hit Hard On DWI As Seat Teeters, Plus: Hard To Beat Haaland, The Money Race For The Fed Races And MLG TV Defender Diego Zamora Dies  

Democrats who were nervous that their party and its allies would not mount an effective offensive against ABQ GOP State Rep. Monica Youngblood can put down their worry beads,

As you can see from the hit piece exclusively posted here, the Dems are in full offense and it appears unlikely that Youngblood, arrested for aggravated DWI and who Monday reported for her day in jail sentence, will be able to hold the seat for the GOP.

The hit lit is paid for by the Patriot Majority PAC, funded mainly by labor groups. It relieves Democrat Karen Bash, Youngblood's challenger, from having to do the dirty work herself and freeing her to run a positive campaign above the fray.

The money line in the hit piece declares:

If you refuse to follow our laws. . . you shouldn't write our laws. 

That's a reference to Youngblood's DWI and her refusal to take the breath test when she was stopped in May for driving drunk.

The police lapel camera video that followed was devastating and humiliating, showing the 42 year old NW ABQ lawmaker pleading with the arresting officer in an apparent effort to avoid being arrested. She also reminded him that she helps police officers in her role as a legislator. The attorney general began a review to determine if that statement violated the Governmental Conduct Act.

Youngblood is a BFF of GOP Governor Susan Martinez. However, the media has not asked the Governor what she thinks of her ally's arrest, an ally who repeatedly sponsored tough on DWI laws in Santa Fe and which were backed by Martinez.

It's not always the crime that causes the political stumble, it's the hypocrisy. And in this case all it took is one hit piece to make that perfectly clear.

HOW MANY?

There was very little chance that the state GOP was going to prevent a loss of state House seats this cycle but with Youngblood down and out the chance of them not suffering an overall loss of at least two seats seems remote. The Youngblood loss will be a gift. The GOP oriented district was never on their target list. The state House is currently divided 38 to 32 in favor of the Dems. House Speaker Brian Egolf tells us he believes the Democrats will pick uo two to seven House seats in the November balloting.

HARD TO BEAT

Turn the clock back a dozen years and Republican Janice Arnold-Jones might be in a dead heat for the ABQ area congressional seat, but the district has moved so far to the left since then that last night's televised debate between the three candidates seemed like going through the motions.

Arnold-Jones, a political veteran who was the GOP nominee for the seat in 2012 and who served in the state House and on the ABQ city council, is more than comfortable on the little screen. In the face-off on KOB-TV she showed depth and political acumen. But with the national GOP not contesting the seat, Dem nominee Deb Haaland just had to avoid any embarrassing moments and she did. That Haaland will take the prize has been somewhat of a foregone conclusion since she won the hotly contested June primary. Libertarian Lloyd Princeton is also on the ballot.

One interesting note. Haaland, who would be the first Native American woman to serve in the U.S House, told viewers that, if elected, she would pursue a seat on the conservative House Armed Services Committee in order to keep an eye out for ABQ's Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia National Labs.

It struck us that some of Haaland's not too distant ancestors were probably among those who fought an invading US military on New Mexico soil in the 19th century. And there she stood last night, a very liberal Haaland of Laguna Pueblo promising to defend the military establishment of today.

The historic Haaland candidacy is transcendent, going beyond the politics of the day or even Haaland's own individuality. Janice Arnold-Jones can win a debate but it's asking too much of her to beat that.

THE MONEY RACE

With millions being spent by outside groups on the southern congressional race, the cash advantage that Dem congressional hopeful Xochitl Torres Small posted Monday over Republican hopeful and State Rep. Yvette Herrell may not be as significant as it may have been in past years.

As we blogged Monday Torres Small, riding national Dem enthusiasm, had a record-breaking June-September quarter by raising $1.9 million, the most ever for a NM congressional race. Torres Small has a major ally for money and other needs in NM Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, the chairman of the Dem Congressional Campaign Committee from which the money flows. She ended September with $1.1 million in cash.

Herrell raised $564,000 and reported $419,000 in cash on hand. But if her campaign is concerned about the shortfall it could be made up by national GOP interests.

The southern race is ranked Lean Republican here, although some DC raters--including the Cook Report--call it a Toss Up.

UNDER 500?

Dems are increasingly hopeful about the southern race but not bursting with confidence. A top Dem operative with insider knowledge thinks Torres Small will win with one of the tightest margins ever in a state congressional race--less than 500 votes.

We asked Dem veteran political consultant, attorney and former ABQ City Councilor Greg Payne for his take:

I think Herrell will hold on. The Torres Small gun ad was the one with the most public perception but Herrell answered it effectively. Also, I am not seeing a blue wave that will seep into the conservative district. It's more like a ripple.

We'll see which way it goes on Election Night when Payne and other experts join us for Election Night coverage on ABQ's KANW 89.1 FM and kanw.com.

SURPLUS BONANZA

Reader Richard Flores writes of what state House Speaker Brian Egolf told us could be a state surplus that approaches $2 billion for the current budget year:

Public education should be our top priority, and teacher salaries should top the list of spending appropriations. Teachers have earned and should get a substantial raise independent of anything else on the spending list. This is a golden opportunity for legislators to do the right thing for our state and our children.

MORE MONEY RACE

Deb Haaland says she raised about $605,000 in the third quarter and has about $417,000 in cash for the final month. Republican Arnold-Jones reported about $138,000 in contributions and has about $44,000 in cash. That means no TV buy of significance for her. Libertarian Lloyd Princeton reported $800 in cash on hand.

The ABQ congressional race is rated Safe Democrat.

In the Senate chase, Libertarian Gary Johnson reported raising only $235,000 by the end of September and had $64,000 in cash. Johnson did not get into the race until mid-August but supporters claimed that he could raise a million or more right off the bat. It didn't happen and Johnson is relying on a PAC associated with his political consultant to come with more money.

Senator Martin Heinrich reports $2.3 million in cash on hand September 30 after spending $2.5 million in the quarter in which he raised $911,000.

Republican Mick Rich has bombed in the fund-raising department. He says he raised  $133,000 from July through September, spent $173,000 and ended with about $158,000 in cash. He has enough for a small end of campaign TV buy, but barely.

The US Senate race is rated Safe Democrat.

DIEGO ZAMORA DIES

Diego Zamora, the Santa Fe attorney suffering from pancreatic cancer who cut a TV spot defending Michelle Lujan Grisham from attacks about her role in the state's high risk insurance pool, has died.

 In the ad he explained how MLG's Delta Consulting had help him acquire health insurance. The campaign of GOP Guv contender Steve Pearce struck back with an ad that pointed out controversies in Zamora's past. That in turn drew an ad from MLG's camp that called the Pearce ad attacking Zamora "reprehensible." All the ads are posted here. Diego Zamora was the brother of well-known Santa Fe attorney Geno Zamora. Lujan Grisham said:

I was heartbroken to learn that Diego Zamora passed away. . .  Diego was a true fighter. . . and each challenge he overcame only made him stronger. His compassion and strength defined him, especially in the face of adversity. He will truly be missed.

Diego Zamora was 60.

The race for Governor continues tonight at 6 P.M. when Lujan Grisham and Pearce meet in the second of three televised debates. The one hour broadcast will be aired on KOB-TV.

THE BOTTOM LINES

The League of Women Voters is out with its voter guide for the ABQ metro. You can see it here. . .The Secretary of State's office comes with a Native American Voting Guide that will "provide greater access to election information to our tribal communities." The ABQ Journal also has a voter guide.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018

Monday, October 15, 2018

Exclusive: Historic And Astonishing Budget Surpluses Taking Shape: House Speaker Says $2 Billion Now In Sight And To Continue For Years; Political Narrative Transformed, Plus: All The Latest Campaign Action 

Speaker Egolf
It's historic and astonishing. The explosion in wealth from SE NM oil production is now projected to deliver to the state an immense surplus that approaches $2 billion, up from the $1.2 billion that was projected only two months ago. In a Sunday budget briefing New Mexico House Speaker Brian Egolf gave me the exclusive news:

With the latest developments we are already at $1.4 billion and don't be surprised if the surplus hits $2 billion. This is an historic opportunity for our state. 

The current general fund budget for the year that ends June 30, 2019 is $6.3 billion. A $2 billion surplus would represent 32 percent of that budget, a stunning amount that Speaker Egolf and oil experts expect will continue for five years.

The oil boom in the Permian Basin in West Texas and SE NM brought about by fracking and other technologies is itself unprecedented. The oil being extracted there is so bountiful it's being being called America's Saudi Arabia. In a democracy like ours the largesse from the bonanza won't fill the coffers of princes and kings, but it will mean vast wealth that can be used for the common good

The numbers are so amazing that even the Santa Fe austerity hawks are bound to rest their wings and let the spending begin.

The entire political narrative of this state is about to be transformed.

THIS NEW ERA

Egolf says this new financial era can give the state an "education moonshot." He sees the budget for kindergarten through 12 rising $200 million in the first year of the surpluses and in the years ahead the hiring of as many as 10,000 additional teachers to resolve a severe shortage. He explained:

We don't have the capacity to immediately absorb this kind of money. We will need teachers' colleges and increased classroom capacity. We need to roll it out over the five years. As for early childhood education funding, which is key to an education turnaround, I see that increasing by hundreds of millions in the years ahead.

In the first year of the budget boom, the Democratic speaker expects the surplus to easily shore up the state's required reserves, fill a hole in government pension funds as well as address shortfalls in Medicaid funding and provide for the aforementioned $200 million boost for public ed.

He says that will still leave hundreds of millions in the upcoming budget year for one time spending on capital improvements, mostly roads and bridges throughout the state:

The Department of Transportation has a long list of projects that are ready to go when the funding is available. That's where my colleagues and I will look first when it comes to infrastructure spending.

The dramatic turn in the state's financial fortunes comes after a seemingly endless decade of gloomy economic news that forced major slashes to the education budgets. In the 2009 fiscal year the state budget (excluding federal funds) was $6.015 billion. A decade later it is only $6.3 billion, not even keeping pace with inflation.

Since the economic implosion struck in 2009 New Mexico has suffered some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, an out migration of its population (much of which went to prosperous neighboring states), a drop in the national education and poverty rankings, a drug and crime epidemic that has wreaked havoc statewide, especially in the ABQ metro, and an outbreak of child murder and abuse that has swamped the Children Youth and Families Department.

That's the bad news. The exceedingly good news is that the next Governor and Legislature will have the tools--and no excuses--to start the rebuilding of a state that has lost so much of its soul but now at long last can perhaps look forward to brighter days.

A REDEFINING MOMENT

It was a redefining moment when Rep. Egolf went before the NM Oil and Gas Association meeting last week in Santa Fe. It's a group the liberal lawmaker has often tangled with over the years but this time, clearly humbled by the enormity of the surplus the industry is making possible, he thanked them and was in turn applauded.

GOP State Land Commissioner candidate Pat Lyons was on hand and used the moment to reach out to Democrats he needs to win in his race with Dem nominee Stephanie Garcia Richard. His campaign said on Facebook:

Brian Egolf Democrat and Speaker of the House thanks the Oil and Gas industry for the huge budget surplus and commits much of the surplus to education and to add 10,000 new teachers over the next five years. Patrick Lyons is committed to working with the Oil and Gas Industry to ensure that this vision presented by the Speaker comes to fruition. This is a great example of our elected officials working across party lines to do what is best for New Mexico.

Lyons saying he is in agreement with Egolf's spending plans is a clear example of those fiscal hawks resting their wings.

XOCHITL'S SURPLUS

Speaking of surpluses, look at this. Southern Democratic congressional candidate Xochitl Torres Small has just broken the record for the amount of funds raised in a single quarter for a state congressional race. She received a stunning $1.9 million in the three month period that ended September 30. And she's not alone. Many of the Dem races are attracting money from across the nation:

. . .  At least 60 House Democratic candidates reportedly raised more than $1 million each in the third quarter of the campaign cycle that ended Sept. 30, eye-popping sums that defy even the most optimistic of projections. But with Nov. 6 less than a month away, some political observers have wondered publicly whether a candidate could have too much cash.

Well, they'll find a way to spend it. You can count on that. The full federal reports will be released this week, including that of State Rep. Yvette Herrell, the GOP nominee hoping to defeat Torres Small.

HISPANIC TURNOUT?

Torres Small has no money worries. That's for sure. But in a race that is hanging by a thread there is always something to walk the floors over. In her case, it is signs that motivating the Hispanic base she needs is an issue.

NO DEBATES

Dems point hopefully to a turnout spike in the very early voting in Dona Ana County. That's where Torres Small must take a commanding lead over Herrell in order to offset the Eastside and score a win. They say it's encouraging but are not ready to say it's a trend.

Even amidst the tidal wave of cash that is washing over Torres Small the Herrell camp doesn't appear to be panicking. As they have for Xochitl, third party groups have been smothering the airwaves on Yvette's behalf. So Herrell's camp has decided that they are not going to risk what appears to be a small lead by debating their opponent on TV or anywhere else.

Apparently they believe facing water attorney Torres Small would only enhance her stature and that debates are too too risky. That might be sound political strategy but it does deny the voters the chance to compare the two contenders side by side.

The race is ranked Lean Republican here although some DC pundits have it in the Toss Up column.

EARLY VOTE COUNT

About 2.5 percent of the electorate has already voted, if you assume the total turnout for the election will be about 600,000 which several political pros prognosticate. Secretary of State Toulouse Oliver's office reports that at the end of Friday 15,697 New Mexicans had cast ballots since absentee and certain in-person early voting began October 9. Those numbers will skyrocket October 20, the first day of widespread in-person early voting.

THE GUV FRONT

On the Guv front the attack ads are coming fast and furious. And they are better produced and more compelling as the consultants hit their stride.

GOP nominee Steve Pearce comes with a solid hit against Dem Michelle Lujan Grisham's service as a Secretary of Health and she in turn gets an effective jab in as she compares Pearce to Trump.

Strategically, Pearce appears to believe he has done what he can in the North and is now concentrating on bringing more votes out in his southern congressional district. A turnout spike there, combined with negative ads that he hopes will dampen BernCo turnout for Lujan Grisham, seem to be his end play. By trotting out Trump MLG is putting a moat around BernCo and Santa Fe to keep Pearce out.

While he has worked hard to soften up northern Dem Hispanic social conservatives she in turn comes with a TV spot that features a northern sheep rancher supporting her. Such ranching is a cultural touchstone in the North that goes back 400 years to when the Spanish arrived there. A recent Republican-financed social media video featured northern ranchers who declare themselves upset about a progressive turn in the state Dem Party.

INK STAINED SUPPORT

The state's three major newspapers are all expected by the political insiders to endorse Lujan Grisham. She snagged the first one Sunday when the Las Cruces Sun-News gave her its editorial blessing and in doing so rejected their area congressman:

Pearce has represented us in Congress since 2002, with the exception of one term. We know that he is a skillful campaigner, well versed in the arts of retail politics. But, as a member of the Freedom Caucus while in the House, Pearce too often took unyielding stances that helped contribute to the dysfunction of Congress. Those stances may have fit with the conservative part of the district that Pearce represented, but are out of step with the state at large.

The race for Governor is ranked Lean Democrat. .

SENATE ACTION

By all accounts the US Senate race is going to be something akin to a blowout for Democratic incumbent Martin Heinrich but that doesn't mean it can't get interesting. And thanks to Libertarian and former NM GOP Governor Gary Johnson it did just that Friday night in the first of two debates that also featured Republican nominee Mick Rich.

The hour long affair on KOAT-TV was often turned on its head by Johnson who brought  his now familiar high pitched voice and plaintive calls for Social Security and Medicare reform, He also melodramatically warned of economic collapse if the federal deficit continues to soar and he often violated the time limits and interrupted Heinrich while he was speaking. Johnson's shtick may have been appreciated by voters bored with the race but even as he tried to dominate, he did not win.

WHO WON?

Believe it or not, Republican Mick Rich, who had an uneven debate performance, was the winner, only because tens of thousands of Republicans who had never really heard or seen him at last knew they had a Senate nominee.

Rich gave them what they wanted--a defense of the proposed border wall and a vote of confidence in Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh. Now if the R's could help him get on TV he would have a clear run for second place and maybe help Steve Pearce whose race on the ballot is right below Rich's. Johnson is up on cable TV and digital media and Heinrich has been saturating airwaves since late summer.

As for Senator Heinrich, he was his usual cautious self. As the game days dwindle down he is emphasizing the bread and butter issues that will keep his Democratic base with him--Social Security and income inequality, to name two. His goal now is to reach a majority in a three way race--50 percent--to quash any scuttlebutt that he is losing his electoral touch.

THE BOTTOM LINES

 Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez will appear Tuesday morning  in ABQs Northeast Heights and in Rio Rancho in Sandoval County as he works to increase Dem turnout. Details on attending his ABQ visit here and his Rio Rancho visit here.

Retired NMSU economist Chris Erickson writes of our 15th anniversary on the blog that we're observing this month:

Congrats on the anniversary. When you were getting ready to rev up the Blog I remember you telling me that it was going to be the sort of Blog you read once or twice a week, not a daily thing. You were wrong. I’ve missed very few days over the last 15 years. Thanks for the 15 year addiction.

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Who's Got The Energy? Wave Or No Wave? Plus: Debating Johnson Vs. Colón, GOP Spooked Over Cabinet Rumors, Trump Sours On Heather And Your Blog Turns 15 

Who's got the energy? That's the perennial question when voting time comes around. It's especially intriguing now that absentee voting has begun in the state and it comes right after the tumult over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. Will it prompt a wave of Democratic women who don't normally vote in NM's mid-term elections to flock to the polls? Will it energize Trump Republicans in the conservative southern congressional district?

If the "Year of the Woman" creates a blue wave it could make the most difference in the race for land commissioner in which Dem Stephanie Garcia Richard appears to be locked in a tight battle with Republican Pat Lyons. Also, the southern congressional district contest could be impacted where Republican Yvette Herrell is favored but Dem Xochitl Torres Small could pull off the upset if she gets an unexpected bump.

The land commission race continues to be rated a Toss Up. The southern congressional race in our rankings moves from Likely Republican to Lean Republican in light of the new national developments.

BEMOANING BRIAN

Our ranking of the race for state auditor as "Likely Democrat" gets some push back from one of the Alligators friendly toward the candidacy of appointed GOP State Auditor Wayne Johnson who is being challenged by Dem Brian Colón;

I disagree with your assessment. I do agree that it should be likely Dem, but it's not. Even the progressive and far left Daily Kos recently ranked the race as a Toss Up. Johnson has made this a race by doing an aggressive job of going after fraud and abuse that has been ignored for years. He's been on the news constantly working on high profile audits that actually impact New Mexicans. He's even matching Colón in fundraising. That's a huge feat given that Colón is a known as a fundraising powerhouse. Colón's candidacy is flawed. He's run for so many offices even longtime Democrats I talk to say, "Not that guy again?” He's the weakest link on the entire Dem ticket. For all these reason, this is a race to watch.

That Toss Up ranking from the daily Kos surprised us because in the early September ABQ Journal poll Colón was at 45% and Johnson at 39%. Also, no R has been elected auditor since 1966. And while they are pretty evenly matched on money, it would seem Johnson will need to outspend Colón with a negative campaign to peel Dems away from him. Johnson, a former BernCo Commissioner and ABQ mayoral candidate, is well known in the metro but this is also a big blue patch that is anti-Trump and that should help Colón. We rank the race Likely Dem not "Safe Dem" because of some of those argument for our Gator, but this one is still Colón's to lose.

GOP SPOOKED

Our blog mentioning that the rumor mill has two prominent liberals as possible cabinet choices should Dem Michelle Lujan Grisham win the Governor's race really spooked the state GOP. They came with this reaction:

Lujan Grisham has allegedly been floating names for potential cabinet nominees . . She’s signaled to New Mexicans that she will make absolutely no effort to work in a bipartisan manner by floating the names of far-left partisan insiders like radical environmentalist Garrett VeneKlasen and corrupt State Representative Bill McCamley.

“If Michelle Lujan Grisham needs a reminder about the dangers of measuring the curtains before votes are counted, she should ask Hillary Clinton,” said RPNM Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi. “Instead of laying out a vision to govern on behalf of all New Mexicans, Lujan Grisham has embraced far-left radical politicians and abandoned any dwindling illusion that she would be a bipartisan leader. Lujan Grisham and her would-be cabinet nominees are cut from the same radical partisan cloth. They would march arm-in-arm as Lujan Grisham leads the state toward bankruptcy.”


So Bill and Garrett don't make any plans yet for those state paychecks, okay?

AD WARS

Reader Janet Blair writes of the ad wars in the race for the southern congressional seat:

I think the prize for misleading ads this campaign cycle has to go to a RNCC PAC ad for (Republican) Yvette Herrell. The spot implies that (Democrat) Torres Small will eliminate employer-based healthcare and send all the premium money to DC with nothing in return. A low-information voter might reasonably be terrified by this assertion. It doesn’t explain that this proposal is  “Medicare or Medicaid for all” and that if implemented could mean even better benefits with lower administrative overhead---as compared to profit-making health insurance companies. I think that is a long way off, politically speaking, but this ad with its lopsided information is totally irresponsible. We now watch TV with the remote in hand---ready to mute these kinds of ads in a millisecond!

And here's some analysis of the race from a seasoned veteran on the Dem side who requested anonymity:

There indeed may be a blue wave, but the Republicans are very supportive of Trump in this district and Republicans feel strongly about immigration issues and guns (hence the Xochitl gun ad).

Yvette easily dispatched Monty Newman in the GOP primary, but some of Monty’s people were not pleased with her treatment of him. Will that result in them not voting in this race? Maybe, but is the number significant? Yvette will get help from Steve Pearce as he needs maximum votes out of this area if he has a chance to win.

There may be a blue wave, but I think Republicans here will stand up for their candidates. That being said, Xochitl may be banking on the fact that this district is 40% Democrat, 36% Republican, 23% declined to state and 1% Libertarian. She is well-funded and comes across as intelligent, articulate and humble. She will need to maximize her vote among Democrats and the “decliners,” especially in Dona Ana County (52,770 Democrats vs. 30,193 Republicans). I still give Yvette the edge, but it may be close.

SOUR ON HEATHER

Heather could get the hatchet. That's the word circulating as Wilson, a former ABQ GOP congresswoman who is now Secretary of the Air Force, is having trouble navigating the Trump White House:

President Trump is peeved with Heather Wilson over her handling of his directive to stand up a separate Space Force in the U.S. military, and he’s considering ousting her after the midterm elections, three sources with knowledge of the matter told Foreign Policy. Wilson recently angered Trump as well as Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Defense Secretary James Mattis’s second in command, with what is seen as a campaign to undermine the Space Force effort, the sources said.

Not even her Republican friends on Capitol Hill will be able to save her if Trump warms up his "You're Fired" mantra.

BILL'S PEANUTS

We joked of the low dollar amount--$25--for a fundraiser for Dem congressional hopeful Torres Small hosted by former Governor Big Bill who is known far and wide as one of the state's most prodigious fundraisers. That brought this from Joni Gutierrez, a former Dem national committeewoman, who attended the event:

Hey Joe, I agree with you and do believe Gov. Richardson could bring in a crowd at a high dollar event but for crying out loud we are a low income county, in a low income state. Our goal was to have access for our voters to not only see Gov. Richardson but more importantly Xochitl. 

Well, Bill can be frugal when need be. We'll always remember an ABQ South Valley fund-raiser he had for his second run at Governor in 2006 where the price was something like $100 bucks. And for that he served bottled water and peanuts. But he did win, scoring the biggest landslide--68%--in state gubernatorial history.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY--TO ME

It's been so hectic we forgot to pause and celebrate our 15th anniversary of bringing you New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan. We achieved that mark earlier this month. But it's still hectic around here so let me simply say thank you to all the readers and advertisers who have been supportive of my efforts these past 15 years as well as to my critics who make me better. And join me November 6th for our 30th consecutive year of Election Night coverage on ABQ's KANW 89.1 FM and on kanw.com.

That's a lot of time on the clock and worthy of a final quote for today from author Henning Mankell writing in "The Man from Beijing":

The passage of time was relentless and capricious, and one would lose the battle with it in the end. The only resistance a man could offer was to make the most of time, exploit it without trying to prevent its progress.

Thank you, New Mexico.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Spending Craze Hits New Peaks: $1 Million To Air One Ad? Super PACS Take Control Of Airwaves, Plus: Are Dems Too Progressive For North? And: Zombies And Aliens On The Campaign Trail 

They're spending with reckless abandon now so soon it will be time to hide under our beds to avoid the media warfare from the giant Super PACs invading the state yet again.

When we say reckless abandon we mean it. How else to explain the news release from Emily's List and other progressive groups that they have banded together to spend $1 million on a TV spot and digital ads in support of Dem congressional candidate Xochitl Torres Small?

Sure, you buy both the ABQ and El Paso TV markets and lots of social media but if they actually spend that kind of money on this ad with less than a month before the election it will bring new meaning to the term overkill.

By the way, the spot did not require much research. It's a rehash of the ad that the Democratic Governors Association ran against State Rep. Yvette Herrell, the GOP rival of Torres Small. It slams Herrell over her family's business getting "sweetheart contracts" with the state and not reporting them on her disclosure forms. It also accuses her of using state money to take "lavish trips."

Both charges have been explained in the free media and the ads are not generating any news coverage or a response from Herrell. Will putting a million bucks behind the charges make a difference? Here's the gold plated ad.

There's more crazy spending. The Save the Children Network says it will dole out $415,000 on TV supporting Dem Guv contender Michelle Lujan Grisham. Crazeeee.

That and more is headed your way in the weeks ahead courtesy of the US Supreme Court and its Citizens United ruling that opened the floodgates to this inglorious excess a number of years ago. Like uncontrollable weeds in your garden, it grows and grows.

At the start of the campaign we thought the TV stations might have only a so-so ad year because there was not a competitive US Senate race and only one competitive US House contest. We didn't count on the no limit Super PACS to go overkill. Staffs at the stations ought to be clamoring for a pay raise.

And in this cash-crazed environment it's only appropriate that we shot too low Tuesday when reporting the total spending of the two Guv candidates so far. Michelle Lujan Grisham has raised a total of $7.8 million since the start and Steve Pearce has raised $4.3 million.

MORE SUPER SPENDING

And even more Super Spending. The same Super PAC helping Torres Small is coming with nearly $400,000 over two weeks for this TV hit on GOP Guv nominee Steve Pearce.

It scores him for voting to repeal Obamacare, although the spot does not use that often controversial phrase. It also hits him for wanting to do away with the requirement that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions, although on his website Pearce says:

We need lawsuit abuse reform, and a ban on discriminating against pre-existing conditions.

Pearce was looking for critical votes in Bernalillo County this week where Dems hope to blow him away in a landslide. His campaign said in a news release:

Congressman Steve Pearce toured Sandia National Lab with United States Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry.

And while the Super PACs we're playing bad cop for MLG, she was playing good cop, releasing her latest TV ad which is a positive take on New Mexico's clean energy potential. Remember when she called the enviro foes of the oil industry "crazy"? Well, she's busy offering olive branches.

This is also the season for the campaigns to start time releasing opposition research on their foes as the first absentee votes are cast and widespread in-person early voting gets going October 20. Take a look at this report that calls out Steve Pearce for questionable ethics, the same charge he happens to be hurling at Lujan Grisham:

. . . Pearce owns two companies that actively lease oilfield equipment to undisclosed customers even as he campaigns to regulate a booming petroleum sector and expand an oil-dependent economy. . .Pearce’s campaign confirmed that the congressman’s businesses, Trinity Industries and LFT, provide oilfield equipment rentals after The AP found corporate registration documents that describe the activities. . . Pearce has reported holdings in Hobbs-based Trinity Industries that were worth between $5 million and $25 million in 2017. . . 

And the predictable turning of the screws on Pearce by the MLG camp:

. . . Despite the 2003 sale of some oil and gas-related assets, and repeated claims to have businesses involved in party rentals, Steve Pearce still has millions of dollars in business with the New Mexico oil and gas industry. Steve Pearce has yet again been caught lying to New Mexicans, while he continues to hide his tax returns. 

Pearce has said he will release his income tax return for 2017 this month.

INTERNET ONLY

Then there's this Internet only ad. It's a strange trip indeed. A PAC financed by oilman and former NM GOP Chairman Harvey Yates puts this 2:30 video up. It features Hispanic Northern New Mexicans who profess themselves tired of fellow Democrats who they dub "ultra-progressive."

The ad doesn't mention any candidates but it's clearly aimed at weakening Hispanic support for Lujan Grisham and building support in the Democratic Spanish North for Pearce. He is among those circulating the video. Also, some of those appearing in the ad are supporters of State Rep. Carl Trujillo, who lost a bitter northern Dem state House primary battle to progressive Andrea Romero. The GOP PAC is taking advantage of that rift.

Because the ad is not on broadcast or cable TV and resonates with mostly older, rural voters not heavily engaged in social media, its impact will be negligible. However, a Senior Alligator of the Dem variety thinks it could portend things to come in Santa Fe:

It does possibly predict the dissent we will see among Democrats at the next legislative session. State Representatives Trujillo and Gonzales and State Senator George Munoz and others may be on to something here. Could they join with Republicans and form an anti-progressive, Anti-#MeToo majority in either chamber? Could there be dissent in the race for state party chair next spring? 

MORE STATEWIDE ACTION

Cockroaches? Is it an ad for Raid? Dem Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver who is running against Republican Gavin Clarkson as well as a Libertarian candidate, shows the roaches getting the shoe crushing treatment and the SOS says:

With the lights on, it's easy to see what needs to get squashed, That's why I've shined a light on dark money and worked to clean up state politics.

Nothing like a big heel crushing scurrying cockroaches to break through the political ad clutter.

Meantime Republican Clarkson is running into a headwind over his service in the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Trump administration:

Clarkson, then a business professor at New Mexico State University, was selected in July 2017 for a top job in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As part of his role. . .he oversaw the program that had guaranteed (a) loan in 2010 for the Lower Brule Sioux. . .Clarkson resigned in November, shortly after. . . ProPublica reported about the loan.

ZOMBIES AND ALIENS

Clarkson still seems to be having fun in the race that is ranked Safe Democratic. He accused Toulouse Oliver recently of registering "aliens and zombies" to vote when she was BernCo Clerk.

Chill, Gavin. We can assure you that the only zombies and aliens registered to vote are three candidates who are seeking elective office this year and we aren't telling.

CONSERVING ADS

You want your state auditor to be fiscally conservative, right? Dem hopeful Brian Colón goes that route by putting up the same TV ad for the general election that he used in the primary.

The ad recounts how he "grew up pretty poor" and understands "the value of money because I understand the value of investing in people."

Don't worry about Brian having to use old TV ads. If he needs some help he can call on his BFF Attorney General Hector Balderas who this week reported he now has $962,000 in cash in his campaign account. And that's for a race ranked Safe Democratic. Hmm.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Guv Candidates Have Plenty Of Money But Who Has The Winning Message? Plus: A Round-Up Of The Latest Money Reports In Key Races 

Michelle Lujan Grisham will easily take the title of top fund-raiser for the 2018 gubernatorial derby. Still, Republican nominee Steve Pearce is not a pauper and if he could find the right message in the final month he has the money to make it count.

The money reports released Monday covering Sept 4 through October 1  ended with $782,000 in cash on hand, compared to Pearce's $1.254 million. She out raised him three to one in the month--$1.1 million to $416,000--but by harvesting his cash Pearce is prepared for the end game financially, if not philosophically.

Lujan Grisham announced her run in December 2016 and so far has raised $7.8 million. The later starting Pearce has raised far less--$4.3 million--but both US House members  have high name ID and strong bases of support so Pearce was not blown out early because of the money gap.

Not blown out but maybe not making as much progress as he would like.

The Democratic Governors Association came with a big late August TV buy blasting Pearce but has since disappeared. That likely signals that their polling shows Lujan Grisham with a lead the DGA considers healthy.

The NEA PAC is up with a big buy for Lujan Grisham. But there is no third party money on the air for Pearce. That stings.

The polling is no doubt what hurt Pearce's September fund-raising. The Sept 7-13 Journal survey had the race 50 to 43 against him. Donors pay attention.

The Lujan Grisham camp remains wary of Pearce as they should of the wily political veteran. He has just a couple of weeks to come up with something that could finally pick the lock for him. Money is not the problem. It's the clock.

The Governor's race is ranked Lean Democrat.

NO TOGETHERNESS

The two Guv candidates have been strangers to one another after a couple of joint appearances back in the summer and a mid-September TV debate. But only two joint appearances--two TV debates--are definitely on the calender for the remainder of the campaign. Both sides blame the other. Pearce says MLG has been ducking out of forums as she nurses a polling lead. Her camp says Pearce has been fiddling with his schedule, causing two joint appearances to be canceled. Whatever the case, this Guv run will feature few side by side appearances.

LAND ACTION

In the only other statewide race clearly in play besides the Guv run, Dem Stephanie Garcia Richard and Republican Pat Lyons seem low on cash for the final stretch. But there is a caveat. While Lyons reports just $55,000 in cash on hand he spent $188,000 on TV and mail in September. And he can expect hundreds of thousands in support from PACS funded by the oil boys. Garcia Richard reports $41,000 in cash after making only modest media buys. She will need the enviro PACS to help her take Lyons out.

The land commissioner race is rated a Toss Up

AUDITOR ACTION


In the state auditor's contest that conceivably could get into play, Democrat Brian Colón and appointed GOP State Auditor are pretty close in cash on hand. Johnson had $120,000 to Colón $160,000. However, Colon outraised Johnson for the month--$64,000 to $16,000.

On the campaign trail, Johnson has been calling into question Colón's ethics. He'll probably do the same with his TV buy, but without something new and inflammatory this one goes in the Dem column. The race is rated Likely Dem.

STATE HOUSE RACES

GOP State Rep. Monica Youngblood reported $59,000 in cash at the end of September. Dem Karen Bash improved her game somewhat and has $25,000 for the final innings in the NW ABQ district. But as we've said before the hits on Monica are going to have to come from the labor union PACS over her aggravated DWI conviction and refusal to take a breath test. If they do come in and do a good job, the odds are Monica is out. If the Dems hesitate in the attack, she could sneak in.

In a hot ABQ NE Heights contest, Republican Brad Winter is being outscored in the money department. He reports $18,000 in cash compared to Day Hochman's $52,000. This is a swing district and with those numbers the race is now rated Lean Dem.

Natalie Figueroa and R John Jones are basically tied in the cash on hand report with both in the low 40's. But the far NE Heights district is moving Blue and it's Figueroa's second time around the track. This race continues to be rated Lean Dem.

Still in the NE Heights, R Jimmie Hall is struggling with Dem Melanie Stansbury. He reports $52,000 in cash to her $97,000. This district is still R friendly and Hall can survive but this one goes down to the wire.

NETFLIX PERSPECTIVE

It is certainly very good news that entertainment giant Netflix is buying ABQ Studios at Mesa del Sol and saying it hopes to employ1,000 there annually and invest $100 million a year in new production for ten years. We could use the shot in the arm, even if it is costing taxpayers $14 million to get them here. 

And our ridiculous crime rate did not scare them away!

But the politicians aren't satisfied unless they convince us such announcements are akin to the Second Coming. ABQ Mayor Tim Keller has a habit of reaching for the stars in making these announcements and he did it again with Netflix. The quote:

This is Intel equivalent. There has been nothing like this in central New Mexico other than Intel. For us though, Intel was one of 13 fab (fabrication) plants. This is it. It is their only studio they have in the United States that they’ve purchased. They are putting their anchor here and it’s going to redefine the economic landscape in Albuquerque and the Southwest.

Not quite. Well, not even close to "equivalent." Intel's Rio Rancho chip manufacturing facility was the biggest private sector development in the ABQ area in the post-WWII era.

For example, the company did two multibillion upgrades to the plant, in 2007 and 2010.  And those were just upgrades. At its peak Intel employed 7,000 and the vast majority of those jobs were high paying. Now that redefined the economic landscape. And so did the end of the party. Today Intel employs about 1,500 and is no longer doing multibillion upgrades. The impact of the downsizing has been felt across the metro.

Having a major NASDAQ listed company like Netflix is a feather in our cap and congrats to the Mayor and his team as well as the state film office. He pointed out that many of the Netflix studio jobs don't require college degrees--unlike many of the Intel jobs. Because we did not have the trained workforce necessary, Intel had to pay penalties for not being able to hire enough locals, a requirement for obtaining certain government economic incentives. With the ABQ economy still losing college grads a larger percentage of the workforce is made up of high school grads. Netflix will make a difference for them (and train them) and its main impact will be a large shot of adrenaline to the important ABQ and NM film industry.

There is a big issue for the film industry with this announcement. One of our Senior Alligators points out:

Joe, Netflix alone will suck up all the state film incentives which are capped at $50 million a year. Easily. Now we have to revisit how we do things. All of our incentives were written to bring in outside dollars and good jobs. Mission accomplished. Now what? If we just throw more money in the cap, it’s a waste. It's time to focus internally which also benefits our newest local businesses: Netflix.

There has been chatter about increasing the $50 million incentive cap but as our Gator wonders, what for? We have attracted the big kahuna and for a ten year commitment. Welcome to the high desert, Netflix.

ABOUT THAT "RIFLE"

That's a shotgun that southern Dem congressional hopeful Xochitl Torres Small ad is toting in one of the more talked about ads thus cycle--not a "rifle" as we blogged. Several gun enthusiasts wrote in, including this one:

That is a shotgun, not a rifle, in that Xochitl ad. She was ostensibly shooting at little birdies, not ferocious carnivores as might have been the case had it been a rifle.

The ferocious carnivores Xochitl has to worry about are all those Eastside Republicans starving for a Republican win under the banner of GOP contender Yvette Herrell.

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