Thursday, September 29, 2022

Ronchetti Promises Gridlock: Pledges To Veto "Everything" Until Dem Legislature Sends Him Anti-Crime Bills, Plus Odds And Ends From The Campaign Trail  

Ronchetti (Moore, Journal)
When it comes to crime go ahead and call GOP gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti "Radical Ronchetti." He won't mind. That's because he is. 

Ronchetti this week announced that, if elected, he would not put his pen to a single piece of legislation until lawmakers gave him his way on crime:

Nothing will get through the Legislature until we protect the people of this state. We'll veto everything until we make sure we protect our citizens.

No funding for public schools? For CYFD? For state police? 

Ronchetti's pledged to "veto everything" is pure hyperbole but it does reveal that when it comes to gridlock he might outdo previous GOP Governors Susana Martinez and even Gary Johnson who earned  the moniker "Governor No" after casting more vetos than any chief executive in state history. 

Governing by veto is neither practical or possible but with the election clock ticking away and Ronchetti still behind MLG, he sees crime as his last best hope to close the gap in crime-ridden and populous Bernalillo County and give himself a shot at a statewide upset. 

The GOP hopeful is also trying to put more meat on the relatively skimpy bones he has offered as solutions to crime. He is now advocating expanding the "three strikes" law that ensures anyone convicted of three violent felonies is sentenced to life in prison with parole. He wants to add more crimes to the list of convictions that would count as a "strike," a proposal that has been rebuffed since the Legislature passed three strikes in 1994. 

The narrative of the final weeks of Campaign '22 is shaping up as crime or abortion choice for many voters. Expect to hear much about each when Ronchetti and MLG face off at the first of two televised debates on KOB tomorrow night at 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, Republicans are going all crime all the time in the competitive state House races and MLG and company are on abortion like white on rice as they see their pro-choice messaging appealing not only to Democratic women but pro-choice Republican women. 

Several consultants we interviewed opined that Ronchetti would be better off dropping his ad calling for a statewide referendum on abortion, with one saying:

The more he talks about the topic, the worse it gets. He should keep crime front and center and address the pro-choice ads by saying outside special interests are trying to make this a one issue campaign, but it is much more than that.

Ronchetti has probably been hearing that a lot and has opted to cast his veto, something he longs to do from the Fourth Floor of the Roundhouse but that continues to look elusive. 


Not only did ABQ Dem state Senator Michael Padilla win the position of Senate Majority Whip when the Senate Dem caucus met this week, but against tradition he is also being allowed to keep his seat on the powerful Senate Finance Committee. His newfound friendship with Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart already appears to be paying dividends. Will he pay her back by employing his notable fund-raising prowess on her behalf?

ABQ Senator Linda Lopez may not end up empty-handed after being defeated in her bid to unseat Stewart as President Pro Tem at the caucus. Roundhouse analysts say because of her seniority she would be in line to take over the chairmanship of the Senate Rules Committee if Sen. Daniel Ivey Soto is removed because of the sex harassment charges against him. Lopez was majority whip until she decided to take on Stewart for Pro Tem and she was previously a longtime chair of Senate Rules. 

Southern Dem congressional hopeful Gabe Vasquez comes with a new ad that takes on GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell's support of an abortion ban even in cases of rape, incest or when the woman's life is in danger. The ad is accurate but might be more powerful if it also had a female presence in addition to Vasquez's narration. . . Herrell is brining in Sen. Ted Cruz to campaign with her in Las Cruces Monday. She says its part of the Truth and Courage PAC Bus Tour.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Touchy Issue of Race Injected Into State House Campaigns; Dems Decry "Racist" Flyer; GOP Scoffs At Attack, Plus: We Look At ABQ Heights Contest Featuring Black Rep, Also: La Politica's Lenton Malry Has Thoughts On '22 

It's a touchy subject but it's on the table for Democrats working to keep ABQ House District 28 in the city's far NE Heights in their column.  

The subject is race and more specifically whether Dem Pamelya Herndon, appointed to the seat by the Bernalillo County Commission in 2021 when Melanie Stansbury won a special election to fill the ABQ congressional seat, will be hampered by the fact that she would be the first Black woman elected to a predominant Anglo NE Heights district. 

By all accounts Herndon has received a warm reception and entered the final weeks with a two one cash advantage over Republican Nicole Chavez, but since Herndon has not been elected in her own right there is concern. 

And race has moved to the fore in the state House races with this development:

One of the major themes in advertisements paid for by the Republican Party of New Mexico is crime, hitting Democratic candidates. . . for past votes on measures which the GOP argues were too soft on crime, hindered law enforcement or "coddled" people convicted of serious offenses. One negative advertisement, in particular, drew denunciations for appearing to darken one of two figures in a stock photograph in a manner one community leader called "blatantly racist." The ads follow a similar provocative style, using somber colors and stark fonts among tinted or filtered images from prison booking photos or featuring obscured and menacing figures. The ad copy alludes to pieces of legislation supported in past sessions by local representatives, often presenting them as favoring criminals over other citizens.

The ad apparently was not sent into the Herndon district, says a Dem consultant, but we're double-checking. 

The GOP scoffed at the notion that the ad (posted here) was racist and said the Dems are trying to divert attention from their "soft on crime agenda."

District 28 runs east of Eubank up to the Sandia Foothills and north to Academy Blvd, once an Anglo GOP district that now leans blue. The district is 67 percent White and 29 percent Hispanic. The partisan performance is put at 42 percent Dem; 36 percent Republican and 22 percent independent. 

The electorate there is ranked 47 percent conservative; 41 percent progressive and 12 percent moderate, report Dem consultants.


One veteran Democratic woman operative suggests Herndon, who is campaigning door to door,  occasionally take along White neighbors to introduce herself, saying that could alleviate race-based issues that may lurk. 

One possibility for a tag along would be Rep. Stansbury who has donated $10,000 to Herndon and remains popular in the district she once represented.

We asked Lenton Malry, the first Black to be elected to the NM Legislature back in the 1960's, for his opinion but he demurred, instead urging Herndon to keep up the door knocking because "that's where these races are won."

Conrad James became the first Black male to take a NE Heights seat in 2011 so there is reason to believe that Herndon could indeed become the first Black woman to jump the Heights House hurdle this year. 


Lenton Malry 
Back to our old friend Malry, who helped us call elections on KANW 89.1 FM public radio for 30 years starting in 1988 and who turns 91 this week.

Besides the state House, Malry served two terms on the BernCo Commission and has been a Democratic player since winning that SE ABQ House seat nearly 60 years ago. 

We talked him up about today's politics and he informed that he recently fielded a call from Gov. Lujan Grisham, but being the old hand he is he started the conversation by saying he knew she was calling for money. She was and he gave her some.

Malry is confident of an MLG win:

When it comes to Mark Ronchetti I have rarely, if ever, seen a candidate switch his position on such an important issue as abortion so many times. I think it may have shut him down. 

Besides helping Herndon financially, Malry, who holds a Ph.D and whose career was in education, says he has made donations to all the Black US Senate candidates seeking election. 

Those candidates could do well by taking a look at Malry's autobiography titled: Let's Roll This Train: My Life In New Mexico Education. He had quite the run in education and in La Politica.


On the Guv race a reader wanted to know how the June primary turnout came down for the candidates. Okay. . . 

In the 2018 Republican primary Steve Pearce ran unopposed and the turnout was 75,162. In 2022 Mark Ronchetti, Rebecca Dow and three others ran for the nomination. Turnout was 117,453.

In 2018 in a three way Democratic Guv primary MLG won and the turnout was 175,898. In 2022 the she ran unopposed for her party's nomination turnout was 125,238.

Turnout was about what most analysts predicted so there doesn't seem to be an overly large enthusiasm gap between the two camps. 


Former APD sergeant and now private investigator Dan Klein has a very tall order for federal law enforcement in New Mexico following raids that seized one million fentanyl pills in ABQ:

What will cause the cartels real problems and make them consider going to other states is if the Department of Justice starts seizing their businesses and property where they launder illegal drug money. This hits them where it hurts most. The FBI must start seizing businesses and strip malls that are owned by the cartels,  inhibiting their ability to launder their drug money. It’s just like when Walter White bought the carwash in Breaking Bad, once the feds seized it, that made for TV criminal enterprise came to an end. 


We listed ABQ Dem Sen. Katy Duhigg as vice chair of the Senate Rules Committee last week based on info from an apparently outdated legislative web page. She is no longer in that post as an alert reader points out: 

Sen. Duhigg is not the Vice Chair of Rules. She was previously and remains on the Rules Committee. Beginning last session, she became the Vice Chair of Judiciary.

 If Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto is removed as chair from the committee over sexual harassment charges, as is being contemplated, there would be a new chair. Roundhouse watchers inform that based on seniority Sen. Linda Lopez, if she wants it, would be the new chair if Ivey-Soto is ousted, a return to a position she once had. 

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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Campaign '22 Gets Some Star Power; Pence to Roswell; Pelosi Stops In ABQ And Jane Fonda Lights Up The Santa Fe Trail  

The state is seeing some star power as the campaign gets into high gear. Former Vice-President Mike Pence is the latest big name to make plans to visit, setting an October 6 fund-raising stop in Roswell on behalf of GOP gubernatorial nominee Mark Ronchetti, according to our Roswell sources. 

They report the Pence fund-raiser at the SE NM hub will cost $5,000 a pop, a high price for regular folk but a yawner for the deep-pocketed oil boys who populate the city of 48,000.

Ronchetti previously had Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis campaign for him at a Carlsbad rally and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, a rising national GOP star, is reportedly including a NM stop for Ronchetti on his mid-term tour. 

The visits put Ronchetti in the limelight but his opponents are taking him to task for the events, pointing out that he campaigns as a political "outsider" but is surrounding himself with the ultimate insiders. 

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, no stranger to the Land of Enchantment, was on the trail Monday for northern Dem US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, stopping at the ABQ Indian Cultural Center to discuss the northern fires that recently ravaged historic amounts of acreage. The fires also left big bills in their wake and Pelosi pledged continued federal support for those impacted. 

Fernandez's latest TV spot steers away from the controversies of the day and touts her work on northern water issues. The ad connects her with the land and people of the north even as her new district dips into several conservative southern counties. That's where her GOP opponent, Alexis Martinez Johnson, will score points, but the heart of the district is still El Norte. 


Jane Fonda
There are stars and superstars and Jane Fonda is in the latter category or very close to it. 

The legendary actress and activist is in Santa Fe Wednesday and Thursday conducting two fund-raisers at local homes on behalf of Dem Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard who was starstruck in announcing the visits: 

They had to pinch me when we learned Jane Fonda was coming to New Mexico to support our campaign for re-election and all the work we've done around climate the last four years. Jane will be visiting the land office, talking public lands and climate action but she is also graciously attending two of our Santa Fe events."

Garcia Richard, seeking a second four year term against Republican Jefferson Byrd, has had a low-key tenure as commissioner. While pursing renewable energy she has avoided loud clashes with the oil and gas industry whose exploration on state lands the land office supervises and which has been so financially beneficial to taxpayers.

As for Fonda, she would easily make a list of the "World's Most Interesting People."

Over the summer we ran across her autobiography from 2005. Its frankness about her life--including her real and imagined shortcomings--made for a real page turner as she delved into her multiple roles---two time Academy Award winning movie star, workout queen, pioneer feminist, political activist and wife and mother.

Locals will note her write-up of her visit to the UNM campus in 1970 following the Kent State Shootings to protest the Vietnam war. She also covers without hesitation her hyper-controversial trip to North Vietnam in '72.

Fonda is no carpetbagger in New Mexico. She lived for years on a ranch east of Santa Fe where she says she recovered from her divorce from media mogul Ted Turner who today is the largest landowner in the state. Fonda sold her 2,300 acre estate in 2015 that had a list price of $19.5 million. 

In recent years she has continued her indefatigable work habit through acting but has been just as focused on climate change, engaging in civil disobedience to drive home its urgency and authoring a book on the pressing topic. 

Fonda at UNM 1970
She had three marriages, one of which was to Tom Hayden (from '73-'90), the intellectual and social and political activist who rose to prominence in the 60's. She writes that they connected very much politically but in the end not emotionally. 

Her brother, the late Peter Fonda, also an accomplished actor, had a breakthrough role in Easy Rider, the counterculture film he co-wrote and much of which was filmed in the Taos area.

The father of Jane and Peter, Henry Fonda, an FDR Democrat, was a major film star who planted the acting seed with his children.

Earlier this month Fonda, soon to be 85, announced she has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma-- a highly treatable cancer. 

Critics of Fonda often get lost in disagreement over her politics--especially Vietnam--but if viewed in totality you discover a fascinating life almost too fully lived, often magnificently and sometimes desperately, but always with passion and a self-correcting compass.

Despite age and illness her journey remains one in progress and still lived vicariously by students of both politics and life. 


On last Thursday's blog we mistakenly said that the abortion issue was breaking for the "nonwhitehouse party" which would mean the Republicans. We meant to say that the issue was breaking to the Dems--the party currently controlling the White House. 

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Monday, September 26, 2022

Cries Of Hypocrisy After Saturday's Senate Democratic Caucus; Ivey-Soto Punished Over Sex Harassment Charges With More Set To Come This Week, But Another Senator Previously Charged Is Picked By Caucus For Top Leadership Post 

Sen. Stewart
Not surprisingly cries of hypocrisy filled the air following Saturday's caucus of state senate Democrats. 

Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, charged with sexual harassment, was stripped of an interim committee chairmanship by Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart while another, Michael Padilla, who settled harassment claims for subjecting women to a "sexually hostile work environment" was chosen by the caucus as the new majority whip. Here's the deal. 

ABQ's Ivey-Soto is under fire for alleged harassment, putting tremendous pressure on Stewart and the Dems from well-funded interest groups who not only revile Ivey-Soto personally but also despise him for his often moderate/conservative stands on their pet issues. 

Stewart Saturday stripped him of his chairmanship of the NM Finance Authority Oversight Committee. However, she did not have the power to do the same with Ivey-Soto's important position as chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee which the interest groups are clamoring for. 

Late Sunday Stewart, obviously feeling more heat from the progressive interest groups planning a protest outside the Roundhouse today over Ivey-Soto, ratcheted up her attack on him:

Pro Tem Mimi Stewart announced that the Senate Committees’ Committee will be meeting on Thursday, September 29 to discuss her recommendation that Senator Ivey-Soto be removed from his position as chair of the Senate Rules Committee.“As I stated when announcing the removal of Senator Ivey-Soto as chair of the NMFA Oversight interim committee, it is inappropriate for him to remain in a position of authority until the allegations against him are truly resolved,” said Senator Stewart. “We must send a clear signal that inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated, and the Roundhouse will be a welcoming, safe environment for all people who engage in the legislative process.”

So the takedown of Ivey-Soto appears on the fast track with the progressive interest groups that now essentially run the party giving Stewart her marching orders, although she has tried to drag her feet as some fellow senators reminded her of the constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. That fell on deaf ears. 

The full Senate in January would  have to approve any recommendation to remove Ivey-Soto as chair. 

The charges against Ivey-Soto went before a senate subcommittee which decided (controversially so) not to advance them but not before his allegedly aberrant conduct was major news and calls for his head were everywhere. 

But that didn't stop the caucus (including Sen. Stewart) from placing ABQ Senator Michael Padilla back in the position of majority whip, despite the city of ABQ paying out $250,000 over sex harassment charges leveled against him in 2006. 

The charges forced Padilla out of the 2018 primary for lieutenant governor as well as his position of majority whip that the Senate Dem caucus stripped from him in Dec. 2017 but on Saturday reappointed him to.

One of our Senior Alligators Alligators comes with the hypocrisy hit: 

How quickly the senators forget. They want to punish one of their own charged with sexual harassment  but promote another with the same charges in the very same meeting. This looks so bad to the public. No court has ruled on the charges against Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto but the city of ABQ did pay out over $250,000 to settle lawsuits accusing Sen. Padilla of harassment. This will all come back to bite Mimi. The silver lining in this cloud is that it gives the House more space to shine. The Senate has demonstrated they are no longer the upper house but the dog house. The House of Representatives now has a chance to lead with integrity.

More background on Padilla's problems when he was placed in charge of overhauling ABQ's 911 dispatch center:

The city settled one lawsuit for $149,000. A jury sided with one of Padilla’s accusers in a second lawsuit, finding the city liable for subjecting the woman to a “sexually hostile work environment.” The city paid $1,200 to the woman and more than $101,000 in legal fees. 

Should Padilla's errant ways follow him all his life? No. He has paid a stiff price. But should the senate have consistency in applying ethical standards? Yes. 
And politically, should Senate Dems have reinstalled him to power in the middle of a contested gubernatorial campaign? No. They could have at least waited before they shoved the voters' face in it. 

That the monied interest groups powering the anti-Ivey-Soto movement simply stood by and had their silence stand as their assent to the Padilla promotion also showed that their drive to oust him is in no small part ideological. For Ivey-Soto they want the death sentence but for Padilla? Well, let bygones be bygones. 

That the harassment charges against Ivey-Soto arose soon after he helped kill a voting reform bill in the senate had already revealed that this is not only a war against Ivey Soto's allegedly boorish behavior but an attempt to change the policy framework of the New Mexican senate. 

That's politics, for sure. But the background needs to be reported. (More on that below.)

Would a senator facing the same allegations who was politically acceptable to the interest groups get as much grief from them? We got our answer to that loud and clear Saturday on the hypocrisy watch.  


At the caucus Stewart was again the pick for the important Pro Tem position that influences committee assignments and the direction of the senate. Afterward she declared the 26 Senate Dems "unified." But ABQ Sen. Linda Lopez again challenged her for the post and other Hispanic senators remain unhappy with her leadership, even as they voted to retain her.

The pro tem is selected by the entire Senate which means the Republicans will have a say when the full senate votes but Stewart is expected to prevail. 


Despite constant mumbling that Santa Fe Senator Peter Wirth is one of the weakest majority leaders in memory, his ability to go along, get along and do a good job as a traffic cop won him another two years at the Saturday caucus. But his inability to corral the senate and enforce discipline (why didn’t he stop Ivey-Soto’s behavior from going too far as well as halt the Saturday hypocrisy?) will continue to shadow his leadership and the senate. 


St. Cyr 
Longtime NM journalist and open government advocate Peter St. Cyr was moved to react to the Ivey-Soto-Stewart-Padilla imbroglio, saying he was writing from a voter's perspective:

Ivey-Soto was duly re-elected for a four year term in 2020. Two years into that term these interest groups who knew about some of the claims had said nothing to inform voters. Only after their voting reform legislation stalled out did they blare their horns. That seems like they are serving their own special interests more than the public’s interest after already voting to re-elect the senator. 

As for Ivey-Soto, he needs to be intellectually honest and consider the public’s interest. Has he served with integrity? Can he continue to serve in a leadership role? Does a rehab program fit the bill and allow him to serve the remaining two years he committed to serve?

These groups appear to be the ones playing games. They didn’t get what they wanted and then speak up. They should have informed voters in 2020. They did not and so they can wait two years for the next election. Then Ivey-Soto can make his case or ride off into the sunset.

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Thursday, September 22, 2022

Old Rule Predicting State House Races Looking Worn And Torn, Plus: More House Candidate Quotes From Across The State; You've Landed At The Home Of New Mexico Politics 

They say rules were made to be broken and after scoping out the state House races this week it seems an old rule with staying power could end its run. At the start of this campaign pollster Brian Sanderoff explained:

The phenomenon that the “nonwhitehouse party” benefits electorally can be best seen when viewing NM statehouse races. During the 2 Obama mid-term elections the Republicans picked up a total of 13 house seats and took over the majority in the state house. During the Trump mid-term election the Democrats picked up 8 statehouse seats. This shows how the mood of the nation affects local races.

The problem in '22 is that there are not that many competitive House contests for the national mood to influence, and for several reasons. Republicans have not fielded strong candidates in many of them and abortion has changed the mood on the ground in favor of the White House party. 

Ditto for the gubernatorial race where it appeared in June that the incumbent was in serious peril but now has emerged as the clear frontrunner, thanks to both abortion and the structural make up of this Blue state. 

As things stand (and there's a small chance they could change) the make-up of the state House following Election Night could be almost the same as we started--with 45 Dems in the 70 member chamber. The GOP may get downright moody if that happens. 

But what about southern Congresswoman Yvette Herrell? Shouldn't the Democrats who are now getting better vibes from the electorate be hurting her against challenger Gabe Vasquez? Strikingly, there has not been a single independent public poll released on that race. That's fine. We can use all the suspense they throw at us.


Time now for part two of excerpts from the ABQ Journal questionnaires of candidates for state House seats in districts with competition. We begin today in the Southwest. . . 

Democrat Rudy Martinez of Silver City  in Distrcit 39 has a simple and perhaps unique view on reforming the gross receipts tax: 

What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code? 

There aren’t any changes that I would make. The GRT is necessary to help pay for the services our government owes to the public. 

Santa Fe will be flooded with GRT reform plans next year but for Rudy no plan is a good plan.


Dem Rep. Eliseo Alcon of Milan in District 6 is from a rural area but that doesn't mean he isn't for some restrictions on guns:

Would you support or oppose legislation that banned or restricted the sale of AR-15-style semi-automatic weapons, such as raising the age limit for purchasing such weapons? And what about legislation making it a crime to fail to safely secure firearms around children? 

Yes I would restrict AR-15s to military and police only. I would vote for a law that makes it a crime not to lock up one’s guns. 

 Independent candidate Laura Gutierrez in House district 15 in ABQ disagrees: 

I do not support the restriction of the sale of firearms to law abiding adult citizens, more laws don’t fix the problem, better education for children regarding the dangers of firearms and better enforcement to keep guns from people who should not possess them is the best solution. 


Improving the performance of the troubled CYFD has been a matter that has befuddled Santa Fe for years. ABQ Dem Rep. Natalie Figueroa in District 30 says change needs to come from outside the agency.

What changes would you support to improve the operations of the Children, Youth and Families Department? 

The safety of children is paramount. I support an independent ombudsman to help implement necessary improvements, accountability, and increase full time equivalent employees to ensure case follow-through. CYFD is large and unwieldy, making it difficult to effect change. I would explore dividing the department so oversight and change can be implemented swiftly. 

GOP candidate Nicole Chavez in District 28 agrees: 

What changes would you support to improve the operations of the Children, Youth and Families Department? 

I testified in support of an independent and autonomous ombudsman during the 2022 New Mexico legislative session. CYFD cannot continue to police themselves. There must be an external oversight agency. Child safety and department transparency must be top priorities for our state as children are dying under the current CYFD administration. 


The Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit settlement governing education for at risk youth is another complex issue that has been slow to be resolved. Dem Rep. Joy Garratt in District 29 came with this:

What more, if anything, should the Legislature do to address a court ruling that found New Mexico is failing to provide a sufficient education to all students, especially Native Americans and those who don’t speak English as a first language? 

 The Legislature needs to ensure the Public Education Department finalizes its comprehensive response plan and support a robust pipeline to prepare bilingual educators. It also needs to allocate adequate resources for Hispanic, Black and Indian education advisory boards and liaisons as well as equitable resources for students with disabilities. 


Dem Eleanor Chavez in District 26 admits to being arrested twice--and proudly so:

Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state? If so, explain. 

I have been arrested twice, both in planned acts of civil disobedience. One was fighting for labor rights against a corporate hospital and the second was being arrested with a Catholic nun and one other woman protesting former Gov. Susanna Martinez. 


That constitutional amendment that would allow the Land Grant Permeant School Fund to be tapped for early childhood education funds finally made the ballot and will be decided by voters Nov. 8. Dem Rep. Liz Thomson came with her view:

Do you support or oppose the proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would withdraw more money from the state’s permanent school fund to increase funding for early childhood services and K-12 education? 

Strongly support as a primary co-sponsor. The best way to affect a myriad of costly problems (including crime, child abuse, poor educational outcomes, poverty, substance use) is to prevent them. Investing in our youngest and their families is a proven strategy with a great return on investment 

GOP candidate Alan Martinez in District 23 sees it differently:

I oppose the proposed constitutional amendment to withdraw additional monies from the permanent fund. We have to protect the body of that fund. I support early childhood services, pre-K, and K-12 education. However, I support a transparent process including more accountability on how the current funding is spent


Are the Governor's emergency powers too broad and need to be rolled back? GOP District 22 Rep. Stefani Lord says they are.

Do you believe changes should be made to the emergency powers held by a governor during a pandemic or other time of crisis. If so, do you believe such powers should be expanded or reduced, and in what specific ways? 

 No Democrat or Republican should have unlimited, unchecked powers in a representative government. In multiple sessions, I co-signed onto a bipartisan bill to terminate the Emergency Response Act after 90 days and force the governor to call us into a special session to address the need for an extension. 

Lord's Dem opponent, Augustine Montoya, had an interesting response to the same question: 

I believe that emergency action should be balanced with passage by a full time, paid Legislature. This is why we have checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches. 

District 7 Dem candidate Danny Bernal weighed in with this: 

No. It’s the legislature’s responsibility to check the other branches of government, but not to impede. The people elect a governor to lead in times of crisis. It’s her elected responsibility to make the toughest decisions. Let the people decide if there should be a change of leadership in November. 


Independent candidate Enrique Cardiel in ABQ District 19 has some very specific thoughts about the gross receipts tax: 

What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code? 

We need to tax sugary drinks and alcohol at a greater rate and put that funding into public health programs that help deal with issues caused by those substances. These examples are public health issues and as a public health worker it is clear we can do better on these. 

The questionnaire for the Guv candidates is also out. (MLG's is here and Ronchetti's is here.) We'll analyze those answers in a future blog.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Two Chances For Ronchetti To Move The Needle; Guv TV Debate Schedule Set; Neither Is Close To Election Day. Plus: Traditional Candidate Questionnaires Provide Mucho Blog Fodder  

MLG and Mark Ronchetti throw plenty of arrows at each other but from afar. 

There have been no joint appearances between the two the entire campaign and it looks as if there may be only two meetings where New Mexicans see the duo spar in person. 

The Governor's campaign announced Tuesday she will engage in two, hour long TV debates with Ronchetti but there is no word of any other event that brings the pair together before the November 8 election. 

As we reported last week the first TV face-off will be at 7 p.m. Friday, September 30 on KOB. That comes well before early voting begins and is a good starting point but Friday night is a low viewing night so the audience will be minimized. That's an advantage for the incumbent who is leading and whose job is to avoid any errors and, God forbid, actually make some news. 

The second debate will air on KOAT at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 12. This is also good timing as early voting at county clerk's offices begins October 11. Widespread early voting at locations around the state begins Saturday, October 22. 

Per tradition this debate will be co-sponsored by the ABQ Journal. KOB radio will also participate and air the debate live. 

It's a third TV debate late in October that is missing and that Ronchetti is being denied. Any mistakes then would have the most impact on voters.

The GOP nominee is the former chief meteorologist for KRQE, the missing link on the schedule. We asked veteran anchorman Dean Staley if the station had offered the Guv candidates debate time. He said they had and that he and co-anchor Jessica Garate would excuse themselves from moderating because they are former Ronchetti colleagues. He said if the debate had been conducted a journalist from outside the station would have been named moderator. But a KRQE debate did not make MLG's schedule. 

So strategically having the two debates at these times plays in favor of MLG but Ronchetti will still have his chances to upset the applecart and utilize his lengthy broadcast experience to make a mark. His camp came with this statement:

Mark is looking forward to debating the governor and holding her accountable for her disastrous record on crime, education and the economy. He is also ready to show New Mexicans his plans for the state and that there is a better path forward.

MLG's camp made it clear that they hope to make abortion a major debate topic, saying she looks forward to taking part:

. . .  New Mexicans will have the opportunity to hear about (her) exemplary leadership. . . and compare it to the lack of experience and dangerous plans that weatherman Mark Ronchetti brings to the table.  

Those "dangerous plans" they reference are from a WaPo opinion piece discussing how GOP candidates have "retreated" from their original abortion positions and in which Ronchetti is featured.    


Announcement of the timing of the TV debates is a traditional indicator that the campaign is about to be fully joined and so is the ABQ Journal questionnaire. 

The questions are straight forward and not devious but those dealing with personal topics like business failings and drunk driving have been the ruination of a number of hopefuls over the years (decades?) who for some reason decide to fudge the truth only to be found out and see their political careers prematurely ended. 

If the newspaper was playing a game of "gotcha" and laid devious plans to upend the politicians there might be some sympathy, but these are personal questions a second grader could answer honestly and in the blink of an eye. But staring down the truth can apparently be too much of a jarring experience for some seeking the voters' blessing. 

We just completed reviewing the many questionnaires from the competitive state House races on the ballot (hey, someone has to). We didn't spot any glaring missteps but we reserve judgment as the competitors begin fact checking the questions about bankruptcies, DWI arrests and the like.

Meantime, we bring you excerpts of answers to major issues posed to the House hopefuls that we found of interest and sometimes entertaining.


In ABQ District 14 Dem incumbent Dem Miguel Garcia, first elected in 1996, came with this answer on whether lawmakers should be full-time and paid:

Yes, I support a salaried Legislature. They should be paid the average salary of a New Mexico elementary school teacher, or the average salary of a municipal refuse collector — whichever is greater.  

"Refuse collector?" Now that's putting the outsized Roundhouse egos in their place. 


Garcia Richard
State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard told readers to look to Texas for an answer to this question:

Would you support or oppose a ban — or temporary moratorium — on fracking permits for the oil industry on state trust land? 

We’re losing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue because the Legislature doesn’t require oil and gas to pay their fair share. I’d support a moratorium as a way to force the Legislature to act and raise royalty rates to match Texas. 

Uh, don't say that too loud in Carlsbad, Steph.


This question required a one word answer--yes or no--and it got it from independent District 56 candidate Elaine Allen of Lincoln County:

Do you believe former President Donald Trump’s claim that he was the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election? (Yes or No answer only, please) 


Like we said, Elaine is from Lincoln County. 


House District 57 Dem candidate Michelle Sandoval of Rio Rancho is for a full-time Legislature and she knows just what to pay the 112 solons: 

New Mexicans can hold legislators more accountable as their time is paid for. If so, $40,000 is a baseline yearly salary. 

Okay, but Michelle probably needs to check with Rep. Garcia on what refuse collectors are making.


Rep. Harper
Michelle is running against Republican incumbent Jason Harper who couldn't figure out how to answer the Trump question. 

Do you believe former President Donald Trump’s claim that he was the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election? (Yes or No answer only, please) 

Respondent did not limit answer to yes or no as requested. 

It's not really a "gotcha" question, just yes or no. But for Harper we have to yell "Gotcha!"


Democrat Kathleen Cates, a Rio Rancho Realtor, is running for House District 44 and has a plan for diapers.

What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code? 

No longer tax baby diapers. We already stopped taxing adult diapers. Removing the tax will help address this very difficult challenge. There are too many corporate exemptions. 

Hey what's good for an 80 year old can be good for an eight week old.  

Cates is running for a redesigned district that is heavy Dem and is expected to beat Republican Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert.


Las Cruces Dem state Rep. Nathan Small told constituents in District 36 about his very brief time in jail in answering this query:

Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state? If so, explain. 

In 2011 during a traffic stop, I was taken into custody because of a bench warrant for forgetting to pay a traffic ticket. Embarrassed, I paid the traffic ticket at the station and the issue was resolved

Now there's a guy who has dealt with this questionnaire before. 

Fun stuff and we'll have Part 2 of our questionnaire review tomorrow. 

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Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Slipping Away: Three ABQ House Seats GOP Had Hopes For Look Good For Dems; Fund-Raising Key Factor As Well As Abortion, Plus: Howie On the Hustings  

Rep. Dixon
There's a reason political pros expect Democrats in the 70 member state House to hold their own in the '22 election. Republicans are making little effort in two of three crucial ABQ NE Heights seats and in the third they are positioned to be outspent two to one.

The disappointing outlook in areas where the GOP once romped and was their hope for some sort of a comeback is deeply disappointing for the party that has not struggled like this since the 1970's when the joke was their elected officials could meet in a phone booth. 

Well, there are no phone booths anymore but the R's still don't need the La Fonda ballroom to hold a confab. They have no elected statewide officials and they are down to 24 of the 70 House members. (There is one independent).

The 45 Dems in the House even have reason to believe that against the odds they could add a seat or two to their overwhelming majority this year, and that takes us back to the NE Heights. 

In District 20 which includes affluent Four Hills freshman Dem Rep. Meredith Dixon donned a full suit of armor for the coming combat. State reports say she has raised the immense sum of $247,000 for a House re-election bid and started the month with $115,000 in cash. 

Her GOP opponent, retired Sandia Labs engineer Robert Salazar, is barely on the radar, raising $10K and having only $9K in the bank. Maybe Dixon can wear her armor for Halloween. 

There's a reason behind Dixon's big take. She's a professional fund-raiser, having done the job for Senator Tom Udall and the '08 presidential bid of Gov. Richardson. And she has a business--Blue Sky Advantages--that is involved in political fund-raising. 

It's not like the R's could not compete against Dixon. Redistricting has the partisan performance at just 50.5 percent Democratic. (She won 53.5 to 46.5 in '20).

But the number that really matters is the 11 to 1 lead Dixon has in cash. The GOP was not about to compete with that, not with an incumbent who has no major missteps on her record. 


Rep. Herndon
We told you weeks ago about how the GOP's other great NE Heights hope--District 27 held by first term Democrat Rep. Marian Mathews--was all but shut down. And it stays that way today. Matthews has raised six figures and Bob Godshall, her R opponent, has been buried under it. 

And to think that this district for years was a stronghold of conservative GOP Rep. Larry Larranga. That really drives home how the Blue has spread in the state's largest city. 

The GOP is still hanging on in District 28 but Rep. Pameyla Herndon, appointed to the seat and seeking her first elected term, might turn the lights out early on her GOP opponent, Nicole Chavez. Dems have united behind her and she sported a 2 to 1 cash lead at the start of the month--$150,000 to $75,000. 

While Chavez is praised as a solid anti-crime candidate abortion and women's rights could be the reason she is falling behind as the national mood, according to pollsters, has a heavy influence on these down ballot races. 

Republican Kurstin Johnson has raised a boatload of money in her effort to take out Dem Rep. Natalie Figueroa but so has the District 30 NE Heights incumbent. But if the R's are going to make a play up there it appears it may have to be Johnson pulling a major upset. 

House Minority Leader Jim Townsend has been around long enough to not be a Gloomy Gus over the outlook, but he has to be wondering whether the political pendulum that is supposed to swing back and forth got stuck somewhere. 


A reader lament:

Joe- I am wondering if we just have to get comfortable being at the bottom of the good lists and at the top of the bad lists. I am even trying to think about “settling” if we were in the middle, but we are not there. 
This is what I have found from your reporting and my research. 

--Highest unemployment in the nation.
--Last in education--performance, safety, community, investment, class size and attendance; 51st (District of Columbia beats us). 
--Rural homes without broadband access; highest in the nation at 42 percent.
--NM alcohol death rate is 53 per 100,000- highest in the country and over twice the national average. -----Ranked 50th for child wellbeing.

We hear you gentle reader. Much of what you wrote is what has kept us at this blog for nearly 20 years. 


Lt. Gov. Morales
The state's lieutenant governor, campaigning out on the rural hustings, is being brought into the big city today to add his voice to the abortion debate. NM Dems say Howie Morales will be at a news conference with a group of women and will "speak to the punishment and criminalization that women in New Mexico would face under Mark Ronchetti’s proposed abortion ban."

MLG's problem attracting Hispanic males is well-known (although she did a pretty good job with her husband) and having Howie hanging around in the final weeks can't hurt. In fact, maybe the Guv can bring him a cup of Starbucks for helping out--if Manny doesn't mind. 

Meanwhile, the kids of Mark Ronchetti seemed to have disappeared from the media portion of the campaign, but the candidate has his wife Krysty working overtime. She appears in two of his key campaign ads--one about a home invasion she says the couple suffered (but happened many years ago) and another backing him on his proposal to have voters decide state abortion law. She does own a PR firm so if the workload gets too heavy, she can always bill him. 


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Monday, September 19, 2022

Dysfunctional Senate Dems: Will Chaos Spill Onto Campaign Trail? Dispute Over Timing Of Caucus Meeting To Pick Leaders As Ivey-Soto Sex Harassment Controversy Rages; He Calls For FBI Probe of Sen. Stewart As She Faces Pro Tem Challenge; R's Eye Any Opportunity With MLG Harassment Case Resurfacing  

Sens. Wirth and Stewart
The ultimate dysfunctional family these days is the NM Senate where a sex harassment case against a senator has spun out of control, where a leadership battle threatens to further tear apart the 26 member majority Democratic caucus and where Republicans are starting to lick their chops over the internal squabbles of their opposition colleagues.

And all of this could be exacerbated and exaggerated by an out-of-the-ordinary Senate Democratic Caucus meeting to pick leaders that is scheduled for Saturday but is usually held after the November election. 

The immediate problem is if the Dems are unable to keep their dysfunction in the family and it starts to leak onto the fiery gubernatorial and state House campaign trail. The long-term problem is a caucus ripped to shreds with hate and resentment spilling over into policy and causing the state to suffer. 

It's like Lord of the Flies. There are no adults in the room," opined political analyst and attorney Greg Payne.

We turn to one of our Senior GOP Alligators to analyze this convoluted state of affairs afflicting the legislature's upper chamber:

Joe, by holding their caucus Saturday the Dems could open the floodgates on the corruption issue for Republicans. A divisive discussion will no doubt arise over the sexual harassment charges against ABQ Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto who is being called on to resign his committee chairmanships but who is fighting the charges vociferously. 

In addition, ABQ Senator Michael Padilla has announced he will try to win back his position as Senate Majority Whip, a position he was stripped of in 2017 because of sex harassment allegations and which then governor candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham used to force him to end his 2018 candidacy for lieutenant governor. 

The Governor is now prepping for her own sex harassment problems as the Ronchetti campaign can be expected to unload TV ads over her settlement of the infamous Crotchgate case in which she paid out $150,000 from campaign funds to a former campaign staffer who says she assaulted him. That and the events surrounding Ivey Soto and Padilla could easily be used to paint a picture of Democratic corruption. And there's more. There are the pending felony kickback charges charges against former ABQ Democratic Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton and the high profile drunk driving convictions of  Rep. Georgene Louis and former Sen. Richard Martinez

That's a mouthful but it ably outlines the political peril that the Dem dysfunction could pose to the still not closed out Governor's race. No wonder ABQ Sen. Jerry Oritz y Pino (and other senators behind the scenes) are calling on Majority Leader Peter Wirth and Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart to hold off conducting the Saturday meeting.  

That meeting could be even more politically explosive because Sen. Stewart's longtime rival and current Majority Whip Sen. Linda Lopez is planning to again challenge Stewart for the Pro Tem title. That's in addition to Padilla's controversial caucus comeback play. 

Not to mention that someone could call for a vote to kick Ivey-Soto out of his chairmanships, even though the ultimate decision is made by a full state Senate committee. The Senator is so reviled by certain interest groups that they will leave no stone unturned in pursuit of him, even as his lawyerly mind seems to be crafting a trap for his pursuers. 


Sens. Lopez and Ivey-Soto
One of the more bizarre aspects of this Senate Dem turmoil is Ivey-Soto contacting the FBI to investigate his charge that he was approached by an intermediary of Senator Stewart's who urged him to resign his committee chairmanships--or else a confidential report on his harassment case from a senate subcommittee would be leaked. He said he refused and the report was indeed leaked. 

Stewart calls her actions innocuous and the natural political gesture to make--not a criminal act. 

Ivey-Soto disclosed that the senate investigation of the charges is over and found that there is no probable cause to pursue the matter. Sen. Lopez was among the four senators making that finding. 

Not a few lawmakers are mentioning Ortiz y Pino, who will not seek re-election in two years, as a possible "peacemaker Pro Tem" to end the blood feud between Stewart and Sens. Lopez and Ivey-Soto. 

The most sensational allegation in the leaked report is that Ivey-Soto, who dated ABQ Senator Katy Duhigg before she was elected, once pinned her to the floor against her will. Duhigg refused comment. 

An ally of Ivey-Soto's says Duhigg did not support the allegation when interviewed by the senator's attorney during the senate probe. 

But calling the FBI into the state Senate? That's like yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater. Who knows where the flames would be fanned? Senators, watch your coattails.


Team Ronchetti appears to need a mountain of Democratic mistakes in order to get the Guv race in play before widespread early voting starts October 22. That's because he has made his share of errors when it comes to abortion rights--and he may have made another late last week. 

Under the gun as women voters give MLG big majorities in the polls, Ronchetti came with yet another TV ad on abortion to try to break the steel ring women have formed around the Governor. This time he proposes that abortion rights be placed in a constitutional amendment and sent to the voters to decide. He says the politicians should not make the decision but, of course, constitutional amendments are written by the politicians--the members of the Legislature. 

Most concerning for the GOP nominee is his loss of trust on this issue and in turn perhaps a loss of trust in his overall candidacy. 

In 2020 when he ran for the US Senate he said he was a strong opponent of abortion "at all stages." This year that morphed into support for abortion during the first 15 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. Now he proposes to send the matter to the voters but doesn't say exactly what language he would like voters to decide, although it is presumed it would be the ban on abortion after 15 weeks.

Then there is the video of ABQ Pastor Steve Smotherman who told his congregation this summer that he met privately with Ronchetti "for hours" and who told him he is against all abortion but has to start slowly in banning them or else he would not be elected. The video of Smotherman has not yet been shown in TV ads but it's certain it will as Election Day nears. 

Even Republicans admit Ronchetti has lost the narrative over abortion and has to find another way to ease women's concerns over his candidacy. Now more than ever he needs MLG to stumble in her colorful cowboy boots. 


A reader erred Thursday in identifying the construction group that Michael Puelle once worked for. Puelle is the chief of staff to Mayor Keller who last week was named the new top lobbyist for UNM. He previously worked for the Associated General Contractors (AGC) New Mexico. He was not, as the reader inferred, involved in anti-union activity. 

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