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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Dem Split Between Progressives And Moderates Surfaces In Upcoming Statewide Races, Torrez Vs. Colón And Quintero Vs. Eichenberg, Plus: State Broadband Challenge Goes On And On  

Treasurer Eichenberg
With the Republican Party pulverized, Democrats of a more moderate or conservative persuasion are hoping to slow down the progressives who have taken over the party and the state political agenda. We're already seeing that put to the test in the 2022 election. 

In the early going for the Dem nominations for attorney general and state auditor there is a clear choice between a progressive and moderate. Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez is waving the progressive flag while more moderate Dem and current State Auditor Brian Colón is planting his with the conservatives and moderates. 

In the Auditor's race 30 year old progressive Zach Quintero of Dona Ana County is running for the Dem nomination and our Alligators have been informing that he will face moderate Dem and current State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg in the nomination battle. 

We won't say no R's need apply to these positions but they have not elected anyone to either job in decades. 

In the AG's race the division between the two Dem Party wings is most definitive. 

US Senator Martin Heinrich this week endorsed Torrez as the progressive champion for AG. That's a signal to progressives in the important liberal cities of ABQ, Las Cruces and Santa Fe. 

However, insiders scoff at his endless stream of endorsements and how many of his faves fail to get traction. No sitting Senator in memory has endorsed as many candidates as Heinrich. Still, the endorsement does emphasize the ideological divide and puts Colón on notice that he will have to build a coalition outside of the progressive wing to defeat Torrez. 

The race will be competitive and negative. Colón crusaders accuse Torrez of being a do nothing DA in a metro area with a crime epidemic and who is obsessed with superfluous data while criminals flourish. The Torrez crowd returns the favor, accusing Colón of being a showboat with no substantial record as auditor and a professional politician to boot. 

In the auditor's race to replace Colón, Quintero will face a Dem Party veteran and popular vote-getter in Eichenberg, a former ABQ state senator now serving his second term as Treasurer.

The upstart Quintero, however, will appeal to that progressive wing and it has proved to be the nominating wing in recent races. Eichenberg has proven fund-raising ability and experience in government finance that Quintero lacks. 

Both these nominating races will be ones to watch to see if the majority party Dems will be giving a bigger voice to non progressives next year. 

BROADENING BROADBAND

Solving poverty and crime are bigger than any government policies but providing essential broadband is a construction job, one at which the state continues to fail at

. . .The state Department of Information Technology created a complex digital Broadband Map. . . The map shows widespread connectivity in the state. 

For. . . rural and tribal school districts who spent an entire year trying to get students plugged into the internet, the reality looked much different. “It’s the difference between what’s theoretically possible and what’s practically available,” said Community Schools Coordinator Michael Noll. Much of his rural Peñasco school district falls within Picurís Pueblo tribal lands, where coverage dead zones are common. . . But the broadband map suggests there is service. . . In one example Noll said the map showed that fiber-optic cables ran near a home. But getting that home connected. . . would have cost the family $10,000. . . “You can’t reasonably ask anybody to pay $10,000 for coverage,” he said. “No matter who you are.” 

If the state can roll out the Covid vaccine and get 60 percent of the population immunized in a matter of months, why can't the same government do something similar with life-changing broadband? 

THE BOTTOM LINES

In a first draft Monday we had the death of former Rep. Mauel Lujan occurring in 2014. He died in 2019. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2021

Monday, June 21, 2021

Blog "Alligators" Continue To Call Big Political Stories; Torres Small Elevation Confirmed As Well As Gonzales Qualifying For Public Financing, Plus: Early Missteps Mar Sherriff's Mayoral Bid  

Our senior sources, fondly nicknamed “Alligators,”continue to do a bang-up job (after all these years) in keeping you the most informed about the key moves in La Politica. 

Their May 17 report that former southern NM Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small would be nominated by President Biden as Under Secretary for Rural Development in the Department of Agriculture has now been confirmed. And our early report that BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales was going to qualify for $661,000 in public financing for the ABQ mayoral contest, despite skeptical media reports, has also been confirmed. Mayor Tim Keller has also qualified. 

First, Torres Small. The 36 year old attorney will now have a chance to broaden her resume while keeping an eye open for future state political opportunities. For 2022 she will be out of the game which is good news for GOP US Rep. Yvette Herrell who already faces the prospect of a tougher re-election if the Legislature redraws her district boundaries to her unliking at a special session later this year. 

For Gonzales qualifying for public financing was a coup. Our insiders previously reported he had to rely on help from California to to get the required 3,779 $5 donations, but he did it and that's the important thing. However, Gonzales is having early problems that are marring his mayoral bid. Let's take a look. . . 

IN THE BUNKER

Running to your bunker is no way to run for mayor but BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales may be making that fundamental error as he battles with the newspaper over his department's hesitancy to promptly release information regarding homicides in the county. This follows Gonzales' years-long refusal to adopt lapel camera videos for sheriffs deputies. He finally acquiesced. 

Mayor Keller's APD is also under the microscope when it comes to the record number of homicides being recorded in the city. So far, watchdogs say they appear to be getting an accurate total, but they remain on alert because of the political damage those numbers could deliver. 

Gonzales has always had a "we know best' attitude when it comes to his department. But this is a new ballgame for the feisty Sheriff, a Marine veteran who is now oddly shooting himself in the feet. Other misfires: 

--The allegation that he violated city campaign finance rules when it comes to gathering required $5 qualifying donations.

--His conspiracy minded comment that he thought it was the Keller campaign that put a flying dildo drone in the air at one of his speeches.

--His hiring of GOP political consultant Jay McCleskey, even though Gonzales is a Democrat.

The early missteps have put pressure on Gonzales to start pitching in the strike zone. 

JEAN LUJAN

Jean Lujan
Word arrives of the passing of Jean Lujan, widow of former ABQ GOP US Rep. Manuel Lujan. 

Her obituary described her as "sassy, quick-witted, stylish and always ready with a smile." She was all that, and having known her, we would add compassionate with a capital "C."

Jean graduated from Santa Fe High in the 40's where she met her husband. She led an adventurous life, raising five children as the couple navigated the US Congress from 1969-89 and the executive branch from 1989-93 when he served as Secretary of Interior.  
 
Rep. Lujan died at 90 in 2019. Funeral services will be held for Jean Lujan today at 10:00 a.m. at ABQ's Lady of Fatima Catholic Church. She was 91. . .

THE BOTTOM LINES

How hot is it? KOAT-TV anchor Shelly Ribando opines: "When temperatures finally return to the 80s, we’re all gonna need parkas."

Stay cool New Mexico. . . 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2021

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Lujan Finds Sea Legs In First Six Months As US Senator; Can He Match His Predecessors? Plus: Readers Opine On The Latest Political Doings  

Lujan at Los Alamos Labs (Facebook)
Six months into his six year term as a US Senator Ben Ray Lujan seems to be finding his sea legs. After serving six terms in the US House there was no need for training wheels. 

Lujan has been touted as the answer to the state's need for a senator who concentrates on bringing the bacon home in federally dependent New Mexico in the tradition of Senators Pete Domenici, Dennis Chavez, Clint Anderson and others. Recent activity by the freshman lawmaker as outlined by the specialty energy publication E&E gives a peek on the progress he's making on that front: 

Luján. . . has already shown his legislative chops by rallying support for attaching a bipartisan provision to recently passed innovation legislation that would direct $17 billion in new spending for DOE labs (including Sandia and Los Alamos) over five years. . . Lawmakers, policymakers and advocates say Luján has the intelligence, drive and, perhaps most importantly, pragmatic style that could allow him to find openings. . .They say the combination of his significant experience and relative youth — he turned 49 last week — could allow him to have an impact on energy issues for years to come, a career trajectory similar to former New Mexico stalwarts Sens. Pete Domenici (R) and Jeff Bingaman (D). "I think people recognize that he has that combination of policy smarts and an understanding of the politics of the situation. In order to get the policy right, you have to get the politics right," said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a former House colleague of Luján.

Some argue the state's previous senate delegation was somewhat unbalanced with both Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich experts in and passionate about environmental issues. Lujan is involved with those matters too, but being a more political animal his success as a senator will be by taking the well-worn path of the predecessors we mentioned. 

Heinrich's strength is the environment and renewable energy, topics on which he is building a national reputation. With New Mexico's vast public lands and potential to lead in renewables, there is plenty to keep him busy. 

Heinrich is also chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction so he too has a hand on the pan that fries the bacon.

All in all, the Lujan-Heinrich senatorial pairing appears to give New Mexico a broader brush in DC.

EARLY GUV

New Mexico R's received a lot of attention this week with the entry of Greg Zanetti into the 2022 race for the party's gubernatorial nomination. Now comes the Republican Governors Association PAC to try to soften up Dem Gov. MLG in the very early going. They come with this digital ad "exposing Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham's refusal to be held accountable for the multiple scandals engulfing her administration."

NO BIBLE THUMPING

Former Corrales Mayor Philip Gasteyer writes of the swearing in this week of new ABQ Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury: 

Joe: No more bibles? I found it interesting that Rep. Stansbury took her oath of office with her hand on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the U.S. Constitution. I’m suggesting to the incumbent Corrales Mayor that she use the Alameda Land Grant and the N.M. Constitution when/if reelected next March. Keep up the great reporting. 

MORE SANTA FE RAISES?

A Santa Fe insider comes with a heads-up:

FYI- The governor is pushing a rule change at the State Personnel Office to allow for payment of leave accrued by executive staff during the pandemic. The plan will cost $2.6 million and provide raises to around 1,000 employees (an average payout of $2,600). The employees receiving raises include some of the highest paid officials in government, from cabinet secretaries to governor’s office staff. Given the recent findings of the State Auditor on paying bonuses, it will be interesting to see if this stands. The issue will be heard by the Personnel Board on Friday.

A Guv spokeswoman comes with a response: 

. . . The measure is for all rank-and-file state employees who worked tirelessly on behalf of New Mexicans throughout the pandemic and were unable to take time off. The governor is deeply appreciative of their hard work and wants to make sure that they aren't punished for it, which is why this measure will enable those who carried over excess leave from last year due to being unable to take time off to recoup the value of the leave that they earned. To be clear, because clearly others will try to set an inflammatory and incorrect narrative about pay increases, these are not "raises.". . . 

This is intended to make whole all state employees who could not avail themselves of the benefits they were and are entitled to as employees. Additionally, DFA has run the numbers and confirmed that every agency is fully able to absorb the cost, requiring no additional funds. . . I emphasize this is not an increase in cost to anyone. This is about making sure that hardworking rank-and-file state employees don't lose out on the value of time off simply because they were working nonstop on behalf of the state 

THE BOTTOM LINES

It's North Dakota not South Dakota, as we blogged in a first draft, that New Mexico could soon pass to become the second largest oil producing state in the nation. . .

And more on lieutenant governor. In a first take we said that a Lt. Gov. in early statehood ascended to the governorship via appointment when the sitting governor died. We inferred that this was a one time occasion, but one of our history mavens comes with this: 

Actually, at least three New Mexico lieutenant governors became governor, including that one in the 1910s you mentioned, one after the death of Governor Seligman in the early 1930s, and Tom Bolack in late 1962 after Gov. Ed Mechem resigned to become US Senator, replacing Dennis Chavez.

However, no lieutenant governor has ever been elected Governor. But have a good weekend anyway, Howie. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2021

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Stealth Bull Market In Oil Confounds Santa Fe Bean Counters; Surplus Set To Explode Again, Plus: Photo Prompts Musing On What Might Have Been In Lt. Guv Contest 

A stealth bull market in oil prices has stunned the state's bean counters who never saw it coming. A barrel of oil is now fetching over $72 a barrel, a three year high that is stuffing Santa Fe's cash coffers. 

The latest forecast predicts a $350 million increase in state revenue, mostly attributable to the once again buzzing Permian Basin in SE NM. The state had already been carrying a surplus well north of $1 billion as a safety net for a possible drop in prices. The new money gusher is confounding the predictions of the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC).

New Mexico is now positioned to pass North Dakota to become the second biggest oil producer in the USA. Why?

Experts say that it’s cheaper to drill and complete oil wells in the Permian Basin, as compared to most other major fields. Moreover, there are certain parts of the shale play whose well-returns are the best in the U.S. This means that producers can make money and sustain growth there at the current price. According to estimates, the average breakeven prices in most of the Permian well locations is below $50 per barrel — the lowest in the United States.

New Mexico's dependence on oil revenue is not going anywhere. There's no way to replace the third of the state budget it funds. The challenge is how much money to put away for that next bear market and how much to risk in new and existing programs that could prove transformational for a state that ranks last or near last in key social conditions standings. The debate in Santa Fe remains one sided. It's always easier to put the cash under the mattress rather than tackle the stubborn and generational issues that have held us back. 

Just to mention two. Is there any reason with the kind of surplus money being generated that the state is not putting more than $133 million into expanding broadband in the next budget year when the need is several billion?

And is there any reason for the Governor and Legislature to bellyache over the repeated findings by the courts that the state is violating its own Constitution when it comes to providing fair and equitable public education? A poverty mentality has policymakers nibbling around the edges of these big issues, not an absence of resources.  

STANSBURY COMMITTEES

The committees new Dem US Rep. Melanie Stansbury has been named to are traditional for the ABQ  district but her comments on them offer a new wrinkle that emphasizes her progressive base: 

Stansbury received approval from the Democratic Caucus to serve on House Committee on Natural Resources and House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. . . "I look forward to serving on the House Natural Resources and Science, Space, and Technology Committees to ensure New Mexico has a seat at the table as we work to create a more just, sustainable, and resilient future.”

Okay, but don't forget to bring the pork home, or at least help Ben Ray out.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN 

Padilla & MLG (Journal; Moore)
Here's one of those "what might have been" pics, or maybe one of those "somebody done somebody wrong" songs.

That's ABQ Dem State Senator Michael Padilla backing up Gov. MLG as she announces that Padilla will examine the call center for the troubled Workforce Solutions Department. 

The snapshot took us back to December of 2017 when Padilla, a leading candidate for the Dem nomination for lieutenant governor, was forced out of the race by MLG. She was worried about sex harassment charges leveled against Padilla a decade previous while he was serving as a director of a city of ABQ call center. 

The city paid out $250,000. In one lawsuit a jury found against the city for subjecting one woman to a  “sexually hostile work environment.”

MLG called for Padilla to withdraw two weeks before he bowed out. It was the height of the Me Too movement and his candidacy in a Dem primary had become untenable, even if the charges were a decade old and not all that earth shaking. But the bad news wasn't over for Padilla. He was later unceremoniously dumped from his post as Senate Majority Whip, again because of the Me Too backlash.

Padilla was never rehabilitated to the point where he could seek statewide office but he has continued to busy himself from his South Valley Senate seat. In politics timing is everything. No one knows that better than Michael Padilla. 

MORALES REPEAT

State Sen. Howie Morales went on to win the 2018 Dem Lt. Governor nomination. He is expected to do so again next year. His tenure as Light Guv has been pedestrian. He has been given some responsibilities by MLG but no Governor really wants their #2 to shine and that has been the case with Morales. He is in the Guv's orbit but not her inner circle.

History says Morales' own climb up the ladder will get harder from here. If he is re-elected, the Guv's chair would be open in 2026 but competition for an open nomination would be keen. Then there's the fact that no lieutenant governor in state history has ever been elected governor.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Herrell Doubles Down On Her Support Of Donald, Stansbury Takes Oath, Keller PAC Reports Fundraising And Zanetti Makes It A Trio For '22 GOP Guv Nod 

Like the weather, the political news got overheated Monday and your go to source has you covered. The temps hit over a hundred and we nearly hit 1,000 words. Off we go. . . 

Politically endangered southern NM Congresswoman Yvette Herrell is doubling down on her support of Donald Trump. 

The freshman lawmaker posted selfies on social media enjoying the ex-president's company, apparently at his Mar-a-Largo Florida outpost. 

Herrell said of her Thursday visit with Trump, who carried her district by ten points in the 2020 election:

A truly special day spending time with President Trump! He loves the people of New Mexico and isn’t done fighting for our country and the principles we believe in! 

The pics are sure to make northern and ABQ Dems more determined than ever to redraw the boundaries of Republican Herrell's district at the legislative redistricting session later this year. But Herrell isn't without cause to embrace Trump, who while winning the southern district, was getting aced by Biden elsewhere and lost NM 54 to 44. 

First, Herrell doesn't need a primary challenge from the Trumpistas next year. Her meeting with him puts that potential problem to rest. 

Second, Trump means campaign donations and Herrell will need plenty of those in the often competitive district. 

Third, Herrell can't control what the legislature does to her district. She has to play what is her strongest hand and right now that means plenty of handshaking with the Donald.

THE NEWEST 

Meanwhile, the newest member of the state's five member congressional delegation, Dem Rep. Melanie Stansbury, gave her maiden speech to the US House Monday after taking the oath of office from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

Her 90 second speech and the text is here

Video of the ceremonial swearing-in is here

Stansbury, 42, was elected in a landslide at a June 1 special election to fill out the term of Rep. Deb Haaland who was appointed Sec. of Interior. Stansbury now represents the ABQ area First Congressional District. 

In taking the ceremonial oath, Stansbury placed her hand on the US Constitution and also a copy of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the 1848 peace treaty between the US and Mexico that put half of New Mexico under US control. Her father, James Stansbury, held them in place. 

US Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan, both of whom served the House, were on hand for the ceremony.

Stansbury's assigned office space is room 1421 in the Longworth House Office building (202) 225-6316. Her district office is in downtown ABQ at 100 Gold Ave. (505-346-6781). 

PAC WATCH 

Manny Gonzales isn't the only mayoral candidate getting some wind in his sails from the big players in the ABQ real estate biz. The PAC supporting Mayor Tim Keller also tapped into the sector in their initial round of fund-raising for the November election. 

Build Back 'Burque reports raising $22,500, the lion's share of which came from the Garcia automative famous but who also are major stakeholders in downtown ABQ real estate. All told the family gave the PAC $15,000 or about two thirds of the total raised from May 4 thru June 7. Full report here

By law the these PAC's for the candidates must operate separately from the mayoral campaigns of Sheriff Gonzales and Keller. 

The city recently inked a deal with the Garcia family to lease a downtown building they own for a police substation. 

We reported Monday on how the Gonzales PAC--Save Our City--raised $69,000 in their initial fundraising. We wouldn't read too much into that big beat of Keller's committee but it does show that Gonzales, while the underdog in the race, is not going to get completely rolled over in the money race. 

Each candidate is expected to quality for $661,000 in public financing for their campaigns. (Keller already has).

MAKE IT THREE

Greg Zanetti
There is no shortage of candidates seeking the 2022 GOP gubernatorial nomination but there is a shortage of big names that would jolt the political community into sitting up straight and paying closer attention. 

That won't change with this week's entry into the race of financial consultant and retired NM National Guard Brigadier General Greg Zanetti who says:

Our economic development plan consists of casinos, weed, and personal injury attorneys. New Mexicans don’t feel safe. Crime is out of control and the potential for social unrest rises every day. Our education system is focused on politicians, bureaucrats, and administrators instead of students, parents, and teachers. We can do better and under real leadership, we will. . . We are not growing and thriving like neighboring states and that’s because. .. Michelle Lujan Grisham, has failed all of New Mexico. 

As would be expected, the state Dems did not have a very warm welcome for Zanetti's campaign launch:

Zanetti would enable armed extremists and conspiracy theorists: Zanetti publicly sympathized with armed, far-right militia groups in New Mexico, like those that led the January 6 Capitol Insurrection, calling them “really nice guys.” Zanetti would endanger religious freedom: During his unsuccessful run for Lieutenant Governor, Zanetti supported a Christian Theocracy, publicly endorsing the idea of turning New Mexico into “a theocracy with Christ at the head.”

Zanetti is smart, photogenic and more than lucid, but his name ID is limited to party insiders and his fundraising ability is an open question as it is for the two other announced GOP hopefuls--Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block and Karen Bedonie. 

Nominating Zanetti could consolidate the GOP base. He has the ability to speak to both the Trump and non-Trump wings of the party but his very conservative profile (he says neither he or his wife will be vaccinated for Covid) would not pose a threat to MLG in the Rio Grande corridor where the votes of ABQ, Santa Fe and Las Cruces are such that even a well-known and well-financed Republican nominee would have their hands full. 

Still, there are now three contenders for the nomination with more likely to follow. That's something for the beleaguered GOP to be hopeful about. 

Now that's monster blogging, kids. Don't try it without adult supervision. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2021

Monday, June 14, 2021

Chief Actor In "Crotchgate" Now Heads PAC To Elect Gonzales ABQ Mayor; First Money Report Shows Real Estate Heavyweights Backing Sheriff 

Hallinan & MLG
Major real estate interests are first in line to dole out cash to support BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales in his bid to defeat Mayor Tim Keller this November. 

According to the first money report from the pro-Gonzales Save Our City PAC, the committee has $59,000 in cash on hand and raised a total of $69,000 after the first weeks of fund-raising with the promise of more to come. 

Don't look for John and Jane Doe on that list. The significant donors are major ABQ real estate players. Like Jimmy Daskalos ($10,000), Titan Development ($10,000), Peterson Properties ($5,000) and business group Fresquez Concessions ($5,000). Full report here.

Reports for the PAC's, which operate separately from the candidates' campaigns, are due with the City Clerk today, including the Build Back 'Burque PAC which is supporting Keller.

And who is supervising the raising of all this moolah to back Manny? Well, none other than veteran Dem operative James Hallinan, fresh from months of making headlines over "Crotchgate" in which he accused then Guv candidate MLG of throwing water on his crotch and then grabbing him there. Hallinan, our reliable Alligators inform, is now the director of the Save Our City PAC hoping to unseat Keller.

The gig marks the return to the state political circuit of Hallinan, 38, who has been cashing checks totaling $62,500 from a lawsuit settlement with the MLG campaign over his sex harassment charges. There could be more coming his way but the Guv is mum:

“I was focused on the pandemic, and I'll stand by that decision every minute of every day," said Lujan Grisham, describing the decision to settle. . . The governor's office and campaign have declined to say whether further payment is still due to Hallinan. 

Gonzales is a conservative Dem who progressives shun. Hallinan has been most often associated with moderate Dems such as State Auditor Brian Colón and Attorney General Hector Balderas. In fact, Hallinan has been supportive of Trump. Sheriff Gonzales fielded criticism when he worked with the Trump administration to curb the city's crime rate. 

The Save our City PAC is headed by Sam Vigil, whose wife was a murder victim, and ABQ state Rep. Bill Rehm, a conservative Republican. Under city rules Gonzales can have no involvement in the PAC--known in city lingo as a "measure finance committee." 

The Dem sheriff, however, made a controversial hiring of his own when he signed longtime GOP operative Jay McCleskey as his lead campaign consultant. 

Both Keller and Gonzales will receive $661,000 in taxpayer money to run their campaigns. The PAC's can be expected to raise enough to make each contender a $1 million player. 

Our Alligators last week broke the news that Gonzales was on his way to qualifying for that public financing. That has been confirmed. According to the city clerk, the sheriff now needs only a couple hundred more $5 individual donations to make the cut. The deadline is this Friday. 

BEARS REPEATING

It bears repeating. A Democratic governor in Dem nominated NM is very difficult to topple. Dems don't like to vote for R Guv candidates. But when they do it is often prompted by corruption or allegations of corruption, so we get this

(MLG) on Friday announced overhauls aimed at helping the Department of Workforce Solutions better handle a barrage of pandemic-related unemployment benefit claims. The changes include a partnership with Attorney General Hector Balderas' office to crack down on rampant fraudulent jobless claims estimated to be as high as $133 million over the last year, as well as hiring an additional 110 employees to staff an unemployment operations center.

Workforce Solutions (aka the labor department) has been a dumping ground for political appointees for at least 50 years. The pandemic exposed its institutional failures and reforming it may be a beneficial side effect of the health crisis. For a Governor facing re-election, reform is now an imperative.  

THE BOTTOM LINES

Former ABQ Dem state Rep. Idalia Lechuga-Tena is the latest prominent Dem to pursue appointment to the vacant seat of State Rep. Melanie Stansbury who today will be sworn in as the state's newest member of Congress. 

The Bernalillo County Commission will make the appointment and is now taking applications: 

The commission will appoint a replacement. . . during a special meeting on Tuesday, June 22 at 4 p.m. The meeting will be held via Zoom. Nominations from interested individuals will be accepted until Friday, June 18 at 1 p.m. Applicants should submit a cover letter and résumé to the Bernalillo County Manager’s Office, Attention: Julie Morgas Baca, County Manager, Suite 10111, One Civic Plaza, NW, Albuquerque, NM, 87102 or via email to: manager@bernco.gov. District 28 is located here.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2021

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Competition Heats Up To Fill Stansbury State House Seat, MLG Campaign Works To Turn Ill Fated Re-Elect Speech Into Positive And Best NM Retirement Spots 

Pamelya Herndon
The competition is heating up to fill the soon to be vacant state House seat held by Melanie Stansbury who will be sworn in Monday as the new ABQ congresswoman.

The latest hopeful is attorney and longtime Dem activist Pamelya Herndon. She joins Michelle Peacock, a 13 year US Army veteran and nurse practitioner, in seeking the appointment from the Bernalillo County Commission to fill out Stansbury's unexpired term which runs through 2022. We profiled Peacock May 6.

Also seeking the post is Bunnie Cruse who would be the first transgender woman in the state legislature.

Herndon has worked as a deputy cabinet secretary in the state General Services Department and in the litigation division under Attorney General Madrid. More recently she was executive director of the Southwest Women's Law Center. 

Herndon would be the first Black woman to represent an ABQ NE Heights district. Dem Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, who is also Black, represents a SE ABQ District and is the House Majority Floor Leader.  

The commission will begin accepting applications for the House seat after Stansbury takes her congressional seat. A Democrat is almost sure to get the legislative appointment The commission is 4 to 1 Democratic. 

House District 28 in the ABQ NE Heights was a longtime GOP bastion held by Rep. Jimmie Hall. But as the county turned more blue Stansbury ousted Hall in 2018 and was easily re-elected in 2020.

LEMON INTO LEMONADE

Working to turn lemons into lemonade the MLG campaign comes with a fund-raising video that puts her ill-fated re-election announcement at the ABQ Museum last Thursday in a better light. 

It uses video of the protesters to show that many were extremists who likened the Governor's pandemic actions to Nazi Germany and even painted a Hitler moustache on her. "These are not New Mexico values," says the video. It then switches to a strong part of MLG's speech in which she says she would not be intimidated:

We're going to protect New Mexico and no amount of noise will deter, intimidate leadership that makes a difference for every single New Mexican.

However, the video does not show the controversial portion of her speech in which she refers to the protesters as “QAnon Lizard People." The video concludes: "We cannot let extremists stop our progress. Donate now." 

ABQ AS THIRD WORLD

One of the Gators took on former Democratic Public Regulation Commissioner Karen Montoya Wednesday for signing up to help BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales beat Tim Keller in the mayoral race this year. Her comeback: 

Tim Keller campaigned on promises to fix crime, homelessness, mental health and the economy but each have spiraled so far out of control most of us don’t recognize our beloved city anymore. Record-breaking murders and violent crime are so bad that third world countries warn their citizens not to visit Albuquerque. Homelessness has exploded. . .and thousands of Albuquerque small businesses have been decimated by the unchecked property crimes, shoplifting and burglaries. No more marketing campaigns. . .We need a leader to clean up Keller’s war zone.

BEST NM RETIREMENT

What are the two best places to retire in our state? It comes as no surprise that Las Cruces and Santa Fe top the Forbes list of places to hang it up here when you're done punching the clock. The magazine ranks the best retirement locales in all fifty states and says of NM:

College town Las Cruces (population 102,000) leads The Land of Enchantment. Median home price $164,000. Cost of living 10% below national average. PROS: Low serious crime rate. CONS: Low ratio of physicians per capita. Poor air quality. NOTED: Elevation 3,900 feet. RUNNER-UP: Trendy state capital Santa Fe (population 84,000). Median home price $349,000. Cost of living 17% above national average. Good rank on Milken Institute list of best cities for successful aging. Good air quality. Elevation 7,200 feet. TAXES: No state estate/inheritance tax. State income tax on Social Security earnings. Top marginal income tax rate 4.9%.

Las Cruces and Santa Fe have alway had a laid back, senior feel. More so now as the state's population ages. 

THE BOTTOM LINES

We blogged this week that the only announced GOP 2022 gubernatorial candidate is Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block. Karen Bedoni is also an announced candidate for the GOP nod.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Mano A Mano: Early Suspense In ABQ Mayor's Race Begins To Resolve; Keller And Gonzales Now Both Expected To Get Public Financing; Race Set To Be Two Man Duel; No Third Candidate Appears; City's Alarming Murder Meter Will Be Top Issue 

Early suspense in the ABQ mayoral race is being resolved. The bottom line is that Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales is on his way to qualifying for critical public financing of $661,000 and the Nov. 2 race will apparently be limited to him and Mayor Tim Keller who will be the only other candidate to receive public funds. 

Gonzales' campaign this week flooded the city clerk's office with $5 individual contributions needed to qualify for the taxpayer money, according to a Gonzales associate. The Keller campaign is quick to point out that he has done so with the help of canvassers from California. Gonzales' side does not dispute that.

That means Gonzales is closing in on the 3,779 individual $5 donations he needs. Without them he would be forced to run a privately financed campaign, not an easy task against an incumbent.

For any mayoral candidates not seeking public financing, Tuesday was their first day to begin collecting petition signatures to qualify for the ballot  but so far there are no takers.

That leaves the city with a Keller vs. Gonzales do-or-die battle with no run-off election because one of them will get the 50 percent required for the win.

So when will the public see this mano a mano duel in person? Probably not until August when the first round of forums traditionally kick things off. 

What we will see next week are the money reports from outside finance committees supporting the two combatants and which could play an outsized role in the forthcoming political fesitivities. 

MURDER METER

Saving Lives At UNMH Trauma
Keeping up with the ABQ murder meter is like keeping score at a fast moving NBA game. 

No sooner had the city recorded two weekend murders when another two happened Monday. That brings the official toll to a gruesome 54 and on track for an all time yearly high. 

But it's even worse, says retired APD Sergeant and crime watcher Dan Klein. His unofficial count has the number of homicides at 63. He explains:

Remember APD says these are "homicides" not murders. In my tally homicides have to include those that are deemed "justified." I also include vehicular homicides and child abuse resulting in death. 

Klein says the FBI has categories for both methods of calculating the homicide rate. He adds that the city's  Emergency Medical Services and UNMH's Level One Trauma Center deserve the community's thanks for keeping that homicide number lower by providing excellent medical care for shooting victims.

"I think we would already be over 100 murders without their life saving skills and dedication," he said.

Agreed. And a shout out to the EMS crews, the medical teams at UNMH and the city's other hospitals dealing with the crime crisis. 

ALLIGATOR STRIKE

Former Public Regulation Commissioner Karen Montoya has enlisted as an officer of the Save Our City PAC that is supporting Manny Gonzales. She fast became the victim of an Alligator strike for faulting Mayor Keller over the city's crime crisis:

Someone needs to tell Karen Montoya the dysfunction and crime started under Mayor RJ Berry. Her hometown of Albuquerque and mine became “decimated” by his failed leadership. The excess force of his police force that brought the DOJ here has kneecapped police. Keller inherited a big mess. I’ll agree, it’s Keller’s mess to fix now. Sadly, if Gonzales were to be elected I predict more excessive force and more problems.

BOTTOMLESS PIT?

They might want to rename our famous basketball arena "The Money Pit:"

The Athletics department received over $10 million for the 2021 fiscal year as a result of a second (federal) pandemic stimulus package, according to documents from the UNM Controller Administration. Yet, in spite of the infusion of aid, the department still expects to fall short of meeting its budget goals by the end of the fiscal year. “It's not going to give us everything we're looking for, but it is allowing us to make up some lost revenue. Even with the $10 million, we're still looking at about anywhere between a $1 (million) and a $3 million loss this year,” Eddie Nuñez, the athletics director, said.

Hey, maybe Eddie can win that $5 million state lottery for getting your Covid vaccination. That would keep Lobo Louie fed for a while.  

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Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Stansbury Set To Take Oath June 14 As Next ABQ Congresswoman, Down To The Wire As Manny Gonzales Chases Public Financing And More Reaction Over MLG Re-Elect Rally 

Rep.-elect Melanie Stansbury will take the oath of office from the House floor Monday, June 14 and become the seventh person and fourth woman and fourth Democrat to fill the ABQ area congressional district since its founding in 1968.

The 42 year old is expected to be a loyal lieutenant of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Her campaign says the Speaker will conduct a ceremonial swearing in of the new congresswoman at 4:40 p.m. June 14 ABQ time. That will be streamed here.

Stansbury has been celebrating her June 1 special election landslide win--60-36--over Republican Mark Moores but that joyful mood was jolted when Stansbury last Thursday addressed the re-election rally for Gov. Lujan Grisham. The new lawmaker was visibly taken aback by rowdy protesters who drowned out her talk and that of other guest speakers. The incident was a reminder of how emotions continue to run high in the post-pandemic, post-Trump era. 

Stansbury will fill out the unexpired term of Deb Haaland who is now Sec. of Interior. She will seek a two year term of her own in 2022. Talk of challenging her in next June's Dem primary has quieted but there were strong emotions when Stansbury defeated Antoinette Sedillo Lopez to become the Dem Party nominee. 

Republicans have the unenviable task of coming up with another candidate to take on Stansbury in a district that seems to be getting even more Blue. 

SPECIAL IMPACT

Gonzales
There's little doubt that the Stansbury win in that rare special election is good news for ABQ Dem Mayor Tim Keller who faces re-election this November. 

Progressives dominated the election and their voting history and campaign donations are now available to Keller's team. Turnout is hard to drive in a mayoral election and voters motivated enough to turn out for a special election will now be prodded to do the same for Keller. 

The Mayor's one and only opponent is conservative Dem Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales. He's going down to the wire in collecting the $5 donations necessary to qualify for over $661,000 in public financing for his campaign. He is short 1,237 of the 3,779 required and has only until June 19 at 5 p.m. to get them. 

Keller is only a few dozen short and now his campaign is putting heat on Gonzales, filing an ethics complaint with the city clerk alleging fraud by the Gonzales campaign in collecting those $5 contributions: 

Keller’s reelection campaign is accusing Gonzales of committing fraud in his effort to obtain public financing. An ethics complaint filed by the Keller campaign alleges Gonzales personally told a voter that he did not have to pay the $5 contribution that Gonzales must collect from 3,779 city voters to qualify for public financing. In a statement, Megan McMillan, a Gonzales’ campaign official, called the complaint “baseless” and said “neither Sheriff Gonzales nor the campaign covered any contribution.”

A Gonzales associate says the campaign remains confident that they will qualify for public financing but is also raising questions about the fairness of the process. 

If Manny falls short he could still opt for private financing but could there be legal squabbling with the city clerk's office? Stay tuned.

GEIER FOR GONZALES

Gonzales supporters continue to bang the drum over crime. That PAC supporting him--Save Our City-- rolled out an endorsement by former APD Chief Mike Geier who was embittered when Keller forced him out. Says Geier:

Manny Gonzales is the best hope for changing the city's direction concering the crime crisis.

NOT SO FAST

A spokesman for MLG comes with this take on her Thursday ABQ re-election rally disrupted by protesters: 

I would not be so quick to say the protesters were simply "constituents who happen to disagree with MLG’s strict lockdown measures," who are not "on the far fringes of conspiratorial politics." These were the deep depths of the deep end -- with Nazi chants, heckles and salutes, signs and shouts about 5G and wifi conspiracies, screaming aggressively and making threats all night, including through the tribal invocation, the Pledge of Allegiance and national anthem.  It was a sickening display, shades of Jan. 6 at the Capitol, and I'm glad no one was hurt. .  .To suggest this was just your average "we politely disagree with MLG" group is just not correct. 

Reader John Rey came with his reaction:

Now her true colors emerge and all of us ex-lounge lizards are happy about the shout out. Her Qlizard comment is right out of Orange Sunshine’s playbook. Is this the way to counter protests? Your words will come back to haunt you, MLG. It’s a good thing there is no competition so far. Remember not all who protested are Republicans. This state is last in everything and you call constituents names. Biden was right. You are not a good fit! 

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Monday, June 07, 2021

Unsteady Start: MLG's Re-elect Rally Implodes; Guv Image Cast In New Light As She Rips Protesters As "Lizard People"; R's Try To Take Advantage But Still No Name Candidate 

Messy, unnecessary and amateurish. Those were some of the takes from political pros weighing in after the worst PR debacle of Governor Lujan Grisham's tenure. 

Her Thursday evening re-election announcement at the ABQ Museum turned into such a fiasco that for the first time some doubt was cast over the conventional wisdom that her second term is as likely as the summer monsoons. 

The mishap has roots before the event when MLG and her team ordered up a public announcement of her intention to run for another four year term in 2022. 

Why do one at all when she had already said she was seeking re-election? Is there someone challenging her in the Dem primary? No. Is it too early to politicize the image of a sitting Governor and turn her into a candidate? Yes.

And why do it in a public venue like the museum amphitheater where protesters easily drowned out the entire event with indignant shouts powered with megaphones and who dominated the news coverage? 

And why make the event exclusive to the Democratic elite (e.g. House Speaker Egolf and Senate Leader Wirth), reinforcing the notion that the pandemic put her above the fray ordinary citizens faced?

And if you’re going to announce your re-election, can you inform the state what your plans are for the next four years instead of a program of speakers who conducted a pep rally?

Of course the protesters made sure that MLG had little chance of saying much of anything and what she did say only made matters worse. 

Frustrated by the overwhelming cacophony and the knowledge that the event was crashing and burning before her eyes she went after the protesters, calling them “QAnon lizard people.” Say what? 

She should have been kicking herself and her staff for the political folly not those who took advantage of the misadventure. Remember Hillary and the "deplorables?" Well, MLG just empowered the "lizard people."

The protesters are also constituents who happen to disagree with MLG’s strict lockdown measures. That's not a position that puts them on the far fringes of conspiratorial politics. Casting them as such again furthered the narrative that the Governor, already busted for high living ways during the pandemic, is out of touch. 

The chaos at the occasion was all the more remarkable because of MLG's recent legislative successes and her generally well received handling of the virus crisis. The image of that success was drowned out by a small group of protesters who effectively punctured the bubble MLG and her campaign staff have apparently been operating in. 

One mistake leads to another and now that MLG's fallibility has been showcased, the game is on to stage repeats. Heck, the flying dildo drone may even show up next time. (MLG was forced to cancel a Friday campaign event at Espanola because of security concerns).

THE OPPOSITION

Chase and Pence
The Governor is blessed with a weak opposition and we mean weak. The state GOP is at their lowest point since the 1970's. 

There still is no big name Republican Guv candidate but the Thursday mishap may have someone of note mulling over a run.

Who might that be? Probably a hopeful who can mostly self-finance an expensive campaign because raising money will be a challenge against an incumbent, unless her numbers are deep in the cellar. 

Claire Chase of the wealthy SE NM oil family who ran for the southern GOP congressional nomination in 2020 comes to mind. Besides money there is the need for a fresh R face. But Chase isn't even 40 and better opportunities may come along.

While without a campaign leader, the Rs are codifying their 2022 anti-MLG messaging that will rally their base: 

The Governor’s unfair and illegal decisions during the pandemic killed our economy, lost thousands of jobs and cost our children a school year with no classrooms. Many students and job seekers have had to move out of state. . .The Governor even gave her staff pay raises. . .

Her refusal to reopen has caused irreparable damage and has led to suicide and mental health problems. Lujan Grisham based her COVID decisions on political science, not medical science. . . 

Her character must be questioned. She continues to act like a monarch with absolute rule. . .Lujan Grisham has broken the rules that she decreed . . .She closed shops to the public but enjoyed buying jewelry for herself, closed grocery stores but feasted on steaks and exotic foods at taxpayers’ expense.

MLG could have laid back for months, making no political announcements and depriving the R's of a target. The silver lining for the D's is that it is still way early and there's plenty of time to forget. But there's no denying that with an ill-advised and poorly executed re-election event MLG shot herself in her colorful cowboy boots and instead of charging out of the gate, she comes out limping.     

LIZARD NATION

The only announced GOP gubernatorial candidate, Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block, didn't waste any time incorporating lizard people, the state's newest political meme, into his campaign

I am very much looking forward to going back to Block Country in Artesia. We have tremendous support there and our campaign is moving along very well around the state. I also will have some huge news to share with you shortly. Stay tuned Lizards!

And don't forget the Alligators. They're still out there, too. 

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