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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

APD Chief Medina Says He's Leaving Job But There's A Catch, Also: Decision Comes As Keller Preps For Third Mayoral Run And As APD Reform Lags And Crime Wave Goes On, Plus: More Legislative Primary Debate  

Medina and Keller
APD Chief Harold Medina is leaving his job--but there's a catch. The Chief says he won't give up the reins to his controversial reign until December 2025. That just happens to coincide with the end of Mayor Tim Keller's second term in office. 

Keller says he plans to seek a third term next year and with Medina signaling that he will not be around for a third, the plan is obviously to remove the controversial Medina as a campaign issue. 

Well, good luck with that. 

--Medina has become somewhat of an albatross around Keller's neck as the ABQ crime scene settles into permanently higher rates, even though they have dropped from the spiked levels reached during Covid. 

--Then there is the rate of fatal police shootings, higher than ever in modern city history and the highest in the United States. This despite a decade long presence by the Department of Justice to bring that rate down. 

--Add to it the millions spent on a Federal Monitor for APD who has continually ghosted the city without repercussions, collecting his outsized checks but remaining a phantom.

--Then there is Medina's recent bizarre auto accident that critically injured an innocent civilian and brought into questions the Chief's temperament. 

--There are also problems at the City Council with a handful of the lawmakers expressing no faith in Medina but unable to garner a Council majority to approve a no-confidence resolution in the chief.

--There's more. The look the other way mentality when it comes to the huge amount of overtime pay going out the door at APD continues, despite Keller calling out the abuse when he was State Auditor as have other Auditors.

--Keller and company and public officials elsewhere continue to argue that the crime rate is down and that this is a perception problem. But that's only half true. ABQ homicides, for example, are down from the Covid spike but well above the pre-Covid rate.

--The APD DWI scandal that apparently goes back years continued under Medina's watch, a commentary on the checks and balances in the department.

--Also, the nature of crime--not only its frequency--is what raises public alarm.  

--Guns going off at Coronado Mall--the state's largest. 

--Brazen fatal shootings and others in the heart of Downtown. 

--Open air and ubiquitous drug use in the War Zone in the SE Heights. 

--Property crimes that reveal little fear among the city's drug-fueled criminal class. 

MAYOR 2025

Medina has been chief three years and under state retirement rules his high salary as chief--north of $200,000--will be applied to his retirement benefits. He could be eligible for as much as 90 percent of his current pay for the rest of his life. So Medina's decision to retire is not a shocker but as it is often the case with Medina it comes with a political angle, similar to his bobbing and weaving over the fatal police shootings and the ongoing crime wave

Keller may or not get re-elected. We won't know the lay of the land  until those hoping to replace him step forward. But if he fails to win again his decision to keep Medina will not be a fatal error. That would have happened soon after he took office in 2017 and promised a national search for a chief but ended up picking one from within the culturally dysfunctional APD. That pick didn't last but the culture did.

Medina has lasted but so has the lack of progress in reforming APD exemplified by the DWI scandal and the crime rate which can be partially explained by the pandemic but not fully. Medina or no Medina that will be key to determining the outcome of next year's mayoral election. 

DEBATING THE CANDIDATES

Greg Seeley
We appreciate the give and take our readers are coming with on the June primary legislative races. It's not too soon. Early voting begins May 7 for the June 4 election. 
 
One of the surprises has been the announcement by the progressive Better Future for NM PAC that it would target moderate Dem state Rep. Marian Matthews who took what was once a heavy ABQ NE Heights GOP seat in 2020 and is now seeking election to a third term. 
 
Former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish defended Matthews against progressive attacks on the April 9 blog. Now Scotti Romberg of House District 27, a supporter of Matthews' challenger, Greg Seeley, comes with a different view:

Marian Mattthews not only campaigned against paid family medical leave--SB3 and HB6--she has shown that she does not support working women. In her letter to her constituents dated February 29 she wrote that she sponsored four pieces of legislation. Unfortunately all the bills she co-sponsored, HB 282, HB 284 and HB287 were postponed indefinitely. In addition, according to the Legislative website, she missed nine votes this session and was excused from voting twice. She has not shown up when she was needed. She says she supports women, but voted against increasing the minimum wage, which disproportionately affects women. She said she supports paid family medical leave, but her bill puts all the burden on the employee and only lasts six weeks and with multiple restrictions. Now she is taking money and direction from oil and gas and the Chamber of Commerce. She has forgotten who put her in office. As a woman, I am proud of Greg’s military service. The military teaches many things and those lived experiences do translate into the civilian world. Of course he does not have direct legislative experience as he has never run for office before, but he does have experience working with legislators who mentored him, like Sec.of Interior Deb Haaland and Sen. Ben Ray Lujan. 
 
CRUCES DA
 
From Las Cruces reader and SWOP Community Organizer Arturo Uribe writes:
 
Hello Joe, I’ve been reading your blog since 2003-2004. I look forward to reading it. I’m  reaching out to you again to see if you could plug our candidate forum for Dona Ana District Attorney taking place at the Historic Palacios Barin Mesilla, Tuesday April 16th (today) 6-8pm a non partisan civic engagement event open to the public and to all voters who want to come out and meet the candidates and ask a question. Our guest panelist are former state Representative Shirley Baca (D) and radio host Kelly O’Connell (R). Thank you for your blog and the work you do. 
 
There are five Democrats and one Republicans seeking  the DA's office in Dona Ana. Unlike Bernalillo County where the DA's race is also a hot ticket, Dona Ana Republicans did field a candidate. 

And thanks much, Arturo, for all those years of checking in here. That's a whole lot of La Politica under the bridge. It's our privilege to be. . .
 
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Monday, April 15, 2024

Domenici Tries To Separate From Trump: "Not Looking For An Endorsement" And "Won't Be Giving One"; Also Announces Opposition To A Federal Abortion Ban; Evades Time Limit Issue, Plus: Funny Man Quezada Not Laughing At BernCo Commission  

Domenici
Nella Domenici is trying to shed the heavy baggage that would keep her from mounting a serious challenge to Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich but the Democrats are determined to make her carry the burdensome cargo right up until Election Day. 

The 63 year old first-time candidate is now trying to bump from the campaign trail both Trump and abortion, the two super-charged issues that have painted New Mexico Republicans into a corner--and a very small corner at that. 

In a podcast interview, Domenici, daughter of the late GOP US Sen. Pete Domenici, sought to separate herself from Trump who lost New Mexico by ten points to Biden four years ago (54-44) and is poised to lose it again in '24. She also offered more substance on her abortion stance after her first interview last month that was skimpy on details.

On Trump, the leader of her Republican Party and soon-to-be '24 presidential nominee, she declared:

I have been a very independent thinker my entire life. . . Sometimes I'll agree with our president--whoever that may be--and sometimes I will disagree. Sometimes I might agree with Donald Trump. Other times I might well disagree. I am not looking for an endorsement from Donald Trump. I won't be giving an endorsement to Donald Trump. I am really just looking for endorsements  from all the voters of New Mexico.

The use of the word "independent" is telling as she faces the long-odds task of keeping her losing margin in big Blue Bernalillo County to manageable levels and without alienating hard-core Trumpers elsewhere who are essential to pulling off an upset.

Because of her father's pedigree as a moderate Republican, she may have some luck convincing voters that she does not worship at the altar of Trump but the Dems will spend big money to block the pivot. 

ON ABORTION

Heinrich
Her fuller stance on abortion, explained in the podcast, is more problematic. It came after Trump announced that he was against a national abortion ban but before the court ruling in Arizona that bans just about all abortions under an 1864 law. She said:

I think abortion should be safe, legal and rare and most importantly it should be rare. I really want to reduce abortion. I am opposed to a federal ban on abortion and New Mexico has decided on its abortion policy and I will abide by that. . . 

I am going to focus on reducing unintended pregnancies. That's the best way to reduce abortions. . . I want us to be able to educate our women on birth control choices, make those birth control choices available to them, trust and respect their decision-making as it relates to increased used of birth control to reduce unintended pregnancies.

I don't want to participate in a big debate about which week. I want to have efforts that reduce unintended pregnancies so we don't have to talk about any weeks. 
 
ANALYSIS AND CONTEXT
 
Domenici would love nothing more than to not talk about how many weeks into a pregnancy abortion should be permitted and not "participate" in one of the greatest issue debates of our time. But the issue is nationalized and there is no escaping. 
 
The Dems and Heinrich will hammer her in the months ahead as she's forced to grapple with her position on restrictive abortion position in other states, including Arizona's. 
 
Also, her call for reducing "unintended pregnancies" raises the question of her stand on the pill mifepristone which is now a preferred abortion method and supported by most Democrats but opposed by many Republicans.
 
Domenici's dance on the GOP twin terrors of Trump and abortion is like watching a spider tangled up in its own web. The problem is that many voters--especially women--simply no longer trust the Republicans on abortion and the fear of Trump remains palpable in a wide swath of the state. 
 
The easy vote is for the Democrat. The GOP hopeful will have to show much more of that "independent" streak to get the voters she needs out on the dance floor while not alienating those who waltz to a more conservative tune. 
 
MONEY RACE
 
Meanwhile, Heinrich reports raising $1.5 million in the first quarter and having $4.3 million in cash on hand. Domenici earlier reported she raised $1.25 million in the quarter including $500,000 she contributed. She did not reveal her cash on hand. Those numbers will be posted by the FEC April 15.  

But how much is former hedge-fund manager Domenici worth? That's the question tantalizing La Politica. We've heard estimates from the tens of millions to over $100 million. Either of those amounts and a willingness by Domenici to tap such a fortune makes Heinrich's numbers look anemic--and they wouldn't under normal circumstances.

NO JOKE

You would think that moderate Dem Bernalillo County Commissioner Michael Quezada would be a happy man now that his new comedy nightclub at Santa Ana Casino is a hit. But the 3 to 2 lock the progressives now have on the Commission is making him frown, so much so that he walked out out of a meeting last week:

With me not having a say-so means that all the people who voted for me do not have a voice right now when we’re passing this resolution. My time is better served in my commission at my desk in my office. This is the first time that I’ve ever felt like I wasn’t included. Like, I’m not a part of a five-party commission. And I think staff knows that that’s the case here, and so with that being said, why am I here?

Before the progressives took over in 2023 a moderate faction controlled the Commission, so Quezada's critics says he getting a does of his own medicine when he protests the method the Commission majority is using to select a new county manager.  

Quezada leaves the Commission at the end of the year. He served two terms representing the South Valley and Southwest Mesa. Frank Baca and William "Billy" Walker are running for the Dem nomination to succeed him. Whoever wins that is headed to the Commission. The GOP hasn't won that section of town since FDR. This year Republican Mary Kay Ingham has the unenvious task of trying to break that cycle.

Quezada has been a diligent commissioner but rather than storm out of meetings, he might want to perform his comedy stand-up act for his colleagues. After eight years, he has plenty of material.

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Thursday, April 11, 2024

On The Econ Beat: Huge Arizona Chip Coup A Reminder Of What Could Have Been, Plus: Cornerstones Of State Economy Remain Solid While Diversifying Remains Elusive; Stocks Of Maxeon And Virgin Galactic Hit All-Time Lows  

Oh my. What could have been. Imagine this here and now it's happening right across our border:

TSMC ’s Arizona subsidiary is set to receive up to $6.6 billion in U.S. government funding under a preliminary agreement announced by the Biden administration. The funding, under the U.S. CHIPS and Science Act, will support Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.’s more than $65 billion investment in three cutting-edge fabrication plants in Phoenix, according to the nonbinding agreement. 

While chip maker Intel in Rio Rancho is also expanding it's not the game changer state economic planners are still looking for as they seek the elusive "diversification" of the economy. But the longtime cornerstones of the economy are solid. 

--New Mexico is now the second largest producer of oil in the USA, trailing only neighboring Texas. And the bull market still has legs, with peak production still several years away.

--Los Alamos National Labs is seeing unprecedented job and budget growth as the "pit" production program for nuclear weapons gets underway and will last for years.

--It's not on the scale of Los Alamos but ABQ's Sandia National Labs is also seeing steady job and budget growth

--The large footprint of ABQ's Kirtland Air Force Base remains and is not threatened by federal closure but NM base watchers are keeping an eye on Cannon AFB in Clovis since restructuring there transferred over 300 personnel to Arizona.

Back on the diversification front, economic gurus are nervous about a $1 billion investment in a solar manufacturing plant announced last year by Singapore-based Maxeon Solar Technologies at ABQ's Mesa Del Sol. Maxeon's stock has since plumbed new lows. In fact it hit a new all-time low of $2.33 on Wednesday. The company is sensitive to higher interest rates and is now valued at only $150 million. 

Federal subsides, however, are key to that Maxeon ABQ invesment and a favorable announcement is expected soon.

And the stock of billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, the chief tenant of the NM Spaceport, has also been trading at new lows as doubts continue about the viability of the company's plans to put thousands of thrill seekers paying hundreds of thousands dollars apiece to be launched into space. As with Maxeon, this company important to the state traded Wednesday at a new all-time low of only $1.04 a share. At that price the company is valued under $450 million, crashing from multi-billions in valuation. 

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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

House Speaker Parts Way With Progressives Working To Oust Conservative Dems; Martinez Supporting All Incumbent Dems In '24 Primary, Plus: More Of Our Reporting On Campaign Money Reports  

Speaker Martinez
Progressives targeting high-profile conservative Democrats like Rep. Patty Lundstrom won't be getting any help from House Speaker Javier Martinez. In fact, his political arm says, Martinez and his Speaker Fund will be supporting all incumbent Democrats this primary cycle even as progressives try to enlarge their numbers by going after Lundstrom and others.

That's not shocking since the current roster of House Democrats made Martinez the Speaker. And even though he stripped Lundstrom of her powerful House Appropriations Committee chairmanship in a show of strength after she ran against him for Speaker, his punishment does not extend to vindictiveness as is often the case in La Politica.

Lundstorm from District 9 in Gallup has has two June primary opponents with Christopher Hudson endorsed by the Better Future for NM PAC run by a trio of progressive consultants. But they may want to offer an early concession. Besides having two candidates splitting the anti-Lundstrom vote, she has nearly $280,000 in cash on hand, says her latest report, while Hudson has just $2,900. The other challenger has raised no money at all. 

In fact, Lundstrom's cash beats out the progressive PAC which reports $262,000 in cash on hand but has to cover a bunch of targeted races with that money and anymore they can raise in the short time before early voting begins. 

If Lundstrom does indeed retain her seat it is critically important to state politics because Lundstrom has the force of personality and a long record of Democratic conservatism. As long as she sticks around that viewpoint will create strength and cohesion for her fellow conservative Dems even as the chamber is dominated by progressives. 

The Speaker's decision to support all incumbents--including Lundstrom--could also be critical down the road if restless progressives challenge his leadership.

Another reveal in the finance reports is the strong financial position of Speaker Martinez whose Speaker Fund reports $377,000 in cash on hand plus his personal campaign account with $76,000 in cash.

HOUSE ACTION (CONT.)

Dr. Anjali Taneja

Let's pick up where we left off yesterday and take a look at more of the state House campaign reports where there are contested primaries. 

In the race to replace longtime Dem Rep. Gail Chasey in ABQ SE Heights District 18, the four way contest quickly became a three way race with lobbyist Marianna Anaya raising $70,000 in the six month period and family medical doctor Anjali Taneja close behind with $66,000. Nurse Gloria Doherty came with $32,000. 

Anaya is the chief sex harassment accuser of Dem Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto. Her list of contributions is a who's who of progressives including Senate President Mimi Stewart who has no love lost for Ivey-Soto. She had her committee give Anaya $5,500. Stewart has over $90,000 in her campaign account. 

Anaya reports $55,000 in cash on hand for the final weeks and Taneja $60,000. The doctor received strong support from the Indian community as well as fellow medical doctors and is positioned as the chief rival to Anaya in what has become a race to watch. Doherty reported $31,000 in cash and appeared to lean more on out of state and out of ABQ contributions than the other two. Candidate Juan Larrañaga has just $1,500 in cash on hand. No Republican is running for the seat so the primary winner takes the prize.

In District 31 in the far ABQ NE Heights, the only Bernalillo County House seat to be represented by a Republican--the retiring Rep. Bill Rehm--there is a three way primary for the GOP nomination. Nicole Chavez has the money lead with $50,000 in cash on hand but Sarah Jane Allen comes with $26,000. Chavez is the favorite but she did lose a House race to Dem Pam Herndon in District 28 two years ago. Democrats will make a serious play to win the seat in November with Vickey Estrada-Bustillo reporting $30K in cash. She is unopposed in the primary. 

In District 41 centered in Rio Arriba County, there was talk that Dem Rep. Susan Herrera, a progressive, could be in for a strong challenge from conservative Margaret Campos. But it appears that challenge is fizzling. Campos reported just $48 in her campaign coffers while Herrera came with $18,000.

There's no primary in House District 38 in Socorro and environs but the general election money battle is fully underway. Former GOP Rep. Rebecca Dow, who represented much of the district before leaving to run for Governor, reports $87,000 in cash on hand. Tara Jaramillo, who won the district in '22 in a cliff hanger, reports $67,000 in cash. This will be near the top of the races to watch come this fall.

DEM INFIGHTING (CONT.)

As New Mexico in large part has become a one party state the infighting between the moderates and progressive Dems intensifies as we are seeing in this cycle. Here's another example from moderate Dem and former Lt,. Gov. Diane Denish commenting on the progressive PACattack against ABQ NE Heights Rep. Marian Matthews:

There is absolutely no proof that progressive candidate Greg Seeley has a strong history of supporting reproductive choices (and comes no where close to Matthews’ strong support on the issue), paid family medical leave (PFML) or environmental protection. His website is focused primarily on his veterans experience, which is valuable, and his many jobs over seven years with elected reps and government agencies but that simply doesn’t translate to a “long history of support for…) any of these issues. Rep. Matthews problem is she is smart, pays attention to detail, tries to protect caregivers (which Dems wanted to eliminate in PFML) and asks tough questions that apparently can’t be answered by bill sponsors. 

Candidate Seeley, of course, is welcome to respond. 

After progressive Dem Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino came to the defense of embattled Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto on the blog recently the email rolled in and we're still trying to catch up. Here is reader Charity Townsend: 

In response to Senator Ortiz Y Pino’s comments last Thursday, when it comes to who stands with women and who are the reproductive health care champions we should support in the upcoming election I trust Planned Parenthood. If an incumbent has been good on their issues they will support the incumbent. But in the case of SD15 and Daniel Ivey-Soto, Planned Parenthood has proudly endorsed his opponent Heather Berghmans. 

THE BOTTOM LINES 

In the Tuesday monster blog on the campaign money reports, we omitted the name of Republican Frida Susana Vasquez from the Senate District 9 race. She had $212 in cash on hand. And when we reported on the new GOP House leadership we had the incorrect party breakdown in the House. It is currently 45 Dems, 24 Republicans and one vacancy.

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Tuesday, April 09, 2024

BernCo DA's Race Tops Money Charts In Primary '24; Bregman Vs. Martinez Digging Deep For Win In Heated Battle, Plus: Reports On Senate And House Primaries  

The tense race in the winner-take-all chase for the Democratic nomination for Bernalillo County District Attorney could be tight as a drum and despite being confined to only one county this potential nail-biter now leads the state for money raised in reports filed Monday with the SOS.

(All state and county candidate reports here. The period covered is October 3, 2023 – April 1, 2024.)

Sam Bregman, appointed to the DA's post by MLG to fill a vacancy, is trying to shake a decades-long losing streak since winning an ABQ City Council seat in the 90's. To do it the noted trial attorney and former state Dem Party chairman has raised a total of $410,000. He reports $319,000 cash on hand for the final weeks of Primary 2024.

Former US Attorney Damon Martinez went into his own pocket and loaned himself $170,000 to keep pace with Bregman. Martinez, who got in the race later than his opponent, raised a total of $302,000 and had $204,000 in cash on hand.

In individual contributions, Bregman reported that a property concern of Democratic oldtimer and businessman Paul Blanchard came with $5,000. Trial attorney Lisa Curtis donated $2,000. And another Lisa--but this one a Republican--gave the sometimes black-hatted Bregman $1,000. Long ago, Lisa Torraco ran for DA--that was when the GOP didn't take a walk in the contest. 

Bueno Foods, maker of popular Mexican foods, gave Martinez $2,500. Attorney Antonia Roybal Mack came with $1,000. And Martinez had his own GOP supporter. Former NM GOP Chairman Edward Lujan donated $200.

The R's have no candidate on the ballot so they might as well pick sides among the Dems. 

And how about this. Bregman and Martinez have both spent $98,000 so far. To be exact Bregman reports $98,364 in spending and Martinez $98,061. Is that a prelude to how tight this race will be Election Night? Could be and with no Republican running in November this all or nothing primary battle is going to go over the top and under the belt. We promise. . .

SENATE ACTION

Heather Balas
We enlisted the help of our Senior Alligators (longtime trusted sources) to help bring you a cascade of money report news. 

--Retiring GOP Senate leader Greg Baca reports $150,000 in cash on hand, much of which he will likely hand out to fellow GOP senators through the course of the election year. 

--In ABQ's Senate District 13, incumbent Bill O'Neill was outraised by Dem primary challenger Debbie O'Malley. She raised $60,000 and had $51,000 in cash on hand. O'Neill raised about $32,000 for the cycle and reports $27,000 cash on hand for June 4 primary. 

In what may be the hottest GOP legislative primary, Steve McCutcheon, the rancher appointed to fill a SE NM Senate vacancy by MLG, reports raising $104,000, with cash on hand of $43,000. The oil boys came through for fellow oil boy Larry Scott. The state rep going up against McCutcheon raised $203,000 and had $184,000 in cash. This one is all R all the time. The primary winner takes the prize.

In ABQ's District 15 in what is the hottest Dem Senate primary, progressive Heather Berghmans reports raising $87,000 with cash on hand of $65,000. Moderate Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto reported $128,000 cash on hand but $111,000 of it was raised before October 2023.. This seat is a top target of the progressives and their PAC(s) are targeting Ivey-Soto but a surprise endorsement of Ivey-Soto from progressive Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino has been a booster shot for the incumbent.

In District 30 state senate action, former state Senator Clemente Sanchez is trying to get back to the Senate to represent the Grants area and environs. He had money left over from his last campaign outing when he lost the seat and reports $137,000 in cash on hand. His opponent, Angel Charly, a progressive fave challenging the conservative Sanchez, reports raising $50,000 with $35,000 in cash on hand. The state's leading progressive PAC is expected to supplement Charly with outside spending.

In Senate District 9 on ABQ's westside and Corrales and Placitas, public policy expert Heather Balas and Cindy Nava are battling for the Dem nomination for a seat being vacated by Dem Brenda McKenna. Balas reports cash on hand of $51,253; Nava cash is at $28,610. Balas is the moderate and Nava the progresssive so the Balas money muscle is perking up the moderates' hopes. The winner of the primary will face either Republican Audrey Trujillo, who reports $21,600 in cash, or Frida Susana Vasquez who had $212 in cash on hand. 

In the GOP state senate primary in District 21 in the NE Heights, the last ABQ Senate district represented by a Republican, Nicole Tobiassen reported raising $38,000 in the latest reporting period and $52,000 in cash on hand. Former GOP state Senator Michael Wiener reported $46,000 in cash on hand. Most of his donations came from the Wiener Family Trust which came with $50,000 in loans and he loaned himself $10,000. Candidate Craig Morton reported just $2,000 in cash on hand.

HOUSE ACTION 

Rep. Matthews
In ABQ House District 27 Rep. Marian Matthews has been targeted by progressives who have fielded Greg Seeley against her in the Dem primary. But Matthews, an attorney, is off to a solid fund-raising start, reporting cash in hand of $118,000 versus just $10,600 for Seeley. 

Up north in House District 70 in the Las Vegas area, it's another rematch between Rep. Ambrose Castellano and Anita Gonzales. He won the first two by minuscule margins. Gonzales reports $26,000 in cash on hand and Castellano reports a cash kitty of $63,000. Looks like this one will again keep Las Vegas up late on Election Night. 

The progressive PAC Better Future for NM that is heavy into the legislative contests reported cash on hand of $263,000 and spent $76,000 in the reporting period.

More on the money races as the week continues. For now thanks for joining us and remember. . .

This is the Home of New Mexico Politics.  

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Monday, April 08, 2024

Big Monday Blog: New GOP House Leadership Features Familar Face, Plus: Dem Infighting; Progressives And Dem Moderates In Heated Debate Over Legislative Primaries, And: Domenici's Fund-Raising Numbers 

Rep. Alan Martinez
For a minute it appeared that state House GOP members might hew to the middle and choose Rep. Gail Armstrong as their new House Minority Leader. Instead there was a swing to the hard right and former House Minority Whip Rod Montoya of Farmington defeated Armstrong to become the new leader. Armstrong retains her role as Caucus Chair. Freshman Rep. Alan Martinez of Rio Rancho (District 23) is the new Minority Whip.

It's a return to power for Montoya, who served as the minority whip when he and House Minority Leader Jim Townsend left leadership following the poor GOP election results in 2022. But the GOP members turned back to Montoya, 57, a scrappy, confrontational lawmaker from Farmington who will now front the election year effort for the House GOP, including critical fundraising.

The House R's are overpowered by a Dem majority (45-24) that is not expected to change substantially with this year's election.

Rep. Martinez, a retired career employee of the state veterans department, and Rep. Armstrong, a rancher and business owner, are seen as more moderate members of the caucus. 

The House Dem dominance has led to a topsy-turvy pattern in GOP leadership. Townsend departed to run for the Senate and Minority Leader Ryan Lane of Farmington resigned not only from leadership but also from his legislative seat. 

Lane tried to work collaboratively at times with the Dems but lacking experience and with the Trumpers breathing down his neck, he got lost in the maze of Roundhouse politics. 

Supporters of Montoya, a real estate broker who has been in the House since 2015, like his backbone. Critics dismiss him as ineffective and abrasive. 

While serving as minority whip Montoya tussled with House Speaker Egolf. Now he will have a new foil in Speaker Javier Martinez.

WHERE GOP STANDS

Rep. Montoya
The House Republicans only register a heartbeat when they are able to form a coalition with conservative House Dems to defeat progressive legislation as they did this last session with the family medical leave act. Otherwise they suffer from a diminished relevance that has depleted their ranks of political heavyweights.

The House GOP put this spin on their new leadership: 

Representative Montoya, known for his powerful conservative message and bold presence on the House Floor, vows to take his vision directly to New Mexicans and focus on policies that promote education choice, job growth, safe communities, and affordable and reliable energy. Representative Martinez, as the new Whip, complements this vision with his commitment to public service and government accountability. His track record of working with diverse stakeholders is expected to be instrumental in advancing the Republican Caucus’s priorities. Representative Armstrong looks forward to using lessons she has learned across 30 years of business ownership to strengthen the Caucus.

The bottom line is that the GOP in the state House and the state at large is deeply isolated--almost historically so--but is still determined to rebuild by waiting for the Democrats to trip over themselves rather than redefine their party.

The waiting game has paid off in the past but since then the GOP and its positions on social issues has made it an anathema in a Democratic state, urgently needing a refocused party that can again attract moderate Dems and independents,.

That may happen when the Trump era ends but for now New Mexican politics is like an intramural contest between the progressive Dems and conservative Dems with the GOP House occasionally being called off the bench to participate.

Speaking of which. . . 

DEM PRIMARY INFIGHTING

A fiery rebuke of a progressive PAC attack on ABQ moderate Dem Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto by progressive ABQ Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino has the PAC firing back.

The trio of  Dem consultants whose Better Future for NM PAC is seeking to defeat Ivey-Soto in the June Dem primary with challenger Heather Berghmans, sent out a fund-raising letter that the blog published last week and that revealed the well-financed PAC's conservative Dem primary targets.

Here's Amanda Cooper and company of the Better Future NM progressive PAC doubling down on their Ivey-Soto hits in the wake of Ortiz y Pino's defense:

In response to your blog published on April 4th, history cannot be rewritten once it has been documented. You don’t have to search for long to find when Sen. Ivey-Soto refused to support access to abortion care after the fall of Roe or to pinpoint his history of obstruction, for example to paid sick leave. Taking the right vote during an election year does not erase history, but let’s not lose sight of the elephant in the room: multiple credible accounts of harassment in the Roundhouse. Let’s not forget that the report by the independent special counsel (hired by legislators) found "credible evidence" in harassment allegations against Sen. Ivey-Soto. The ethics and accountability system at the Roundhouse is broken, but the voters have the opportunity to help make an unsafe space safer by voting for a change on June 4.  

Former Dem State Rep and attorney Daymon Ely, who was a key player in ethics rules and legislation, came with this:

Your readers should know that the process used to investigate Sen. Ivey-Soto was broken, making it impossible to hold legislators accountable. Senator Ivey-Soto was investigated by a well-respected attorney. He concluded that there was probable cause to the claims of sexual harassment. However, because of a flaw in our rules, the Senate was allowed to stop the prosecution in its tracks by the interim ethics committee reaching a tie vote of 2-2. This had two consequences: (1) the process could not move forward; and (2) the Senator could (and did) proclaim his innocence while, at the same time, the complainant was gagged from talking to anyone. As a legislator, I worked to change the rule on the possibility of a tie. And, in the following session, the Majority Whip, Reena Szczepanski, removed the gag provision. No one should confuse the conclusion of that process as a vindication for Sen. Ivey-Soto. 

The voters' decision on Ivey-Soto comes down to a political assessment, not a legal conclusion because  as Ely said none has been rendered--an opinion from the solo investigator is not a conclusion and as  stated no prosecution is contemplated. 

CONSERVATIVE DEMS SPEAK

Campos
Margaret Campos, seeking to unseat progressive Dem Rep. Susan Herrera in District 41 centered in Rio Arriba County, also hit back against the progressive attack against her that claimed she is "well-funded by oil and gas and other special interests."

Campos pointed to a $5,500 campaign contribution to Herrera from Chevron lobbyist Partick Killen. She notes that Herrera lists Killen's employment as a "lobbying organization" failing to mention Chevron. 

That could be an effective hit. A fallacy of state politics is that the oil boys are all Republican all the time. Not so. They have given to virtually all members of the Legislature. No one is turning down that money. 

Progressives can pretend otherwise but big oil has a seat at all the tables in Santa Fe and Campos' hit on Herrera proves the point.

Marsella Duarte, a conservative Dem is running against Rep. Yanira Gurrola in the House District 16 Dem primary on ABQ's westside. The progressive PAC said in their fundraising letter that "Duarte was  recruited and is supported by high-profile corporate lobbyists." Duarte responds:

When did it become wrong to be labeled a conservative and right to be to be known as a progressive? I am neither. Pundits would have the voters in my district believe that I am a one-dimensional candidate with a limited thought process. . .That could not be further from the truth. It’s a polished lie. I will listen to everyone whose agenda is to improve my west side community. My campaign is fueled by a lifetime living in my District. I will represent it with dignity and gratitude. I know what life can be like when all hope is lost. And I know the joy when hope is regained. Conservative or not, my vote is my vote. I was not hand-picked by a group whose goal is to lead a legislator around by the nose.

MONEY WATCH

GOP US Senate candidate Nella Domenici reports that from mid-January when she announced her candidacy through the end of March her campaign has raised $1.25 million. However, that includes $500,000 the wealthy hopeful contributed to her own coffers. Aside from that she raised $750,000. 

Dem Senator Martin Heinrich has not done an early release of his first quarter fund-raising numbers which are due at the FEC April 15. At last count in October he had $3.5 million in cash on hand. 

Domenici has healthy initial fund-raising but without firmer signs she is a real threat she may have to rely even more on her personal funds to keep pace with the two term Senator. She has the money. The question could be if she has the desire to dig deeper into her bank account which will be answered in due time.

Her campaign comes with this spin:

Despite only being in the race for just over two months, the campaign received donations from more than 1,100 individuals. Nella's total is significantly larger than any GOP U.S. Senate candidate raised in New Mexico in the first quarter of an election year. The previous record for a Republican was set in 2012 with $760,000.

But if you don't count the personal funds Domenici has contributed, she falls $10,000 short of that 2012 record. 

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Thursday, April 04, 2024

Progressive Senator Fiercely Defends Sen. Ivey Soto From Progressive Attacks; Plus: Commentary Corner: Flap Over Denish And Park Playground Arouses Ageist Reaction; Thoughts On A Tempest In A Teapot 

Sen. Ortiz y Pino
The progressive onslaught against centrist ABQ Dem. Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, the latest of which was carried on the Wednesday blog from a fund-raising letter from consultants urging that Ivey-Soto be defeated at the June 4 primary, has been met with fierce pushback--and by a progressive Senator. 

ABQ Dem District 12 Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, whose liberal credentials are unquestioned, comes to the defense of Ivey-Soto who has been under siege over sex harassment charges and his voting record. He is begin challenged in the primary by progressive Heather Berghmans

Oritz y Pino writes: 

 Joe, I’m furious after reading the letter from Amanda Cooper, Nick Voges, and Jim Gollum you reprinted in yesterday's blog. Three separate, major falsehoods in what they said about Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto cannot go unchallenged. I have known Amanda and Nick for many years and am shocked that they could have penned such an effort at misinformation. Potential donors need to know they are resorting to fabrication in trying to defeat Daniel. 

When Amanda, Nick, and Jim allege that Senator Ivey-Soto “refused to support the legalization of abortion after the fall of Roe v. Wade,” I have no idea what they are talking about. The truth is that not only did he vote to legalize abortion rights in both 2019 and 2021, he was part of the Senate presentation on this issue, speaking on the Senate floor in favor of it as part of the coordinated presentation of these bills. As long as I have known Senator Ivey-Soto (including his service on the committee I chair), Daniel has been a stalwart ally supporting the fight for abortion rights. 

Their letter said that the Senator “voted against paid family and medical leave.” Senator Ivey-Soto, whom all his colleagues in the senate know is a stickler when it comes to reading the details of bills, may have voted against the 2023 version of the bill, but voted for the bill in 2024. I was there when he told our Democratic caucus that his change in vote came as a result of changes in the language in the bill that satisfied his concerns the previous year. So their claim does not tell the truth: he supported the measure when the bill matured from one year to the next. To me that attention to detail in getting it right is a quality we should all want in our legislators. 

Berghmans
Finally, the PAC operatives repeat the allegation that Daniel Ivey-Soto is a "disgraced incumbent" one who has faced "multiple credible claims of sexual harassment, bullying, and ethics violations." When did so-called "progressives" begin equating allegations with guilt? Daniel has not been found guilty of any of those allegations. He has demonstrated great character in the face of unproven claims. It would be a great loss if the Democratic voters of his district fall for this package of falsehoods and fail to re-nominate him to the Senate. His work there has set high standards for diligence, attention and transparency. I certainly count him among the legislators New Mexico has benefitted from in the past—and now I hope for four more years. 

Shame on Amanda Cooper, Nick Voges, and Jim Gollum for these lies and deceptions. They may prefer another candidate, but they shouldn't be permitted to resort to falsehoods to try to promote someone without half the background and independence that Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto has. 

Yep. The Dem primary battle in Ivey-Soto's District 15 is going to be a brass knuckles, take no prisoners brawl.  And you're going to see it all right here. But you already knew that.

COMMENTARY CORNER

Netherwood Park
Talk about the crime not fitting the punishment. 

Former Lt. Governor Diane Denish used her influence with MLG to have her veto $200,000 targeted for a playground at Netherwood Park in ABQ neighborhood and Denish took plenty of heat for it. But this ageist rant from the ABQ newspaper sounds like a verbal lynching, not reasoned opposition.

We get that Democrat Denish hates the Journal and has for years and that the Journal despises her. But is taking her bait and talking about her and seniors like their irrelevant rag dolls a mature response? 

Some samples from the rant:

You don’t have to be a man to be part of the Ole Boys Club in New Mexico politics. You can be a 70s-something female, too.

Is there ever consensus in a neighborhood on anything? Isn’t two-thirds support enough to override a grumpy old woman’s opposition?

As for Denish, she should focus her golden years at yelling at kids to get off her lawn

And if the sound of kids having fun outdoors bothers Denish and other Scroogies in her neighborhood, they can close their windows and mumble themselves to sleep. 

"Mumble themselves to sleep?" The average newspaper reader is probably near 70 these days so beating up on seniors doesn't seem to be the most persuasive tool.

More to the point. Denish lobbied the Governor. Contrary to the implication of the news story and the editorial and the claim of the sponsor of the vetoed appropriations, that is done all the time. And we mean all the time.

It's fair to ask whether Denish's influence outweighed those of her neighbors but was it unethical for her to call the Governor to express her opinion as a private citizen? Certainly not. 

Also, floating a flimsy survey where people emailed City Hall and implying it is scientific proof that the neighborhood was dying for the playground is plain old phooey. (Oops, we're aging our self with that word). 

It's the ageist vilification that is the worst part of this tempest in a teapot. There hasn't been a playground at Netherwood Park for 75 years which is known for its expansive and unobstructed views. Not everyone wants to be around noisy kids. That's no crime and it is a weak peg for an all-out investigative report and an even weaker excuse for a diatribe that condemns an entire class of people for the sake of getting revenge on an old enemy. 

Now get off our lawn!

THE BOTTOM LINES

We recently blogged that Republican Jay Block is a former Sandoval county commissioner. He is a current commissioner whose term expires at the end of the year.

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Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Progressive Primary Election Targets Revealed; Their Lead PAC Takes Aim At Conservative Dems Including Reps Lundstrom, Matthews and Sen. Ivey-Soto, Plus: The PAC Letter that Seeks To Shape The State's Election Narrative  

The leading progressive election PAC in the state is back in business and conservative legislative Democrats are on notice. 

Better Future For NM, a committee that relies heavily on labor and environmental funding to the tune of hundreds of thousands, if not more, reveals in a fund-raising letter the key races they will be targeting in the June 4 primary in an effort to keep progressive power intact at the Roundhouse and break up a small group of conservative Dems who sometimes put sand in the the progressives' gas tank. 

As in the past, longtime NM consultant Amanda Cooper is heading up the effort along with veteran consultant Nick Voges, a NMSU product, and Jim Gollin of Santa Fe, a "former investment fund executive and current Democratic donor who is active in a number of left-of-center political causes." Former Gov. Richardson chief of staff and political consultant Dave Contarino has worked a number of election cycles with Cooper. 

The PAC fund-raising letter explains the fine details of their strategy and comes on the heels of a legislative session where 11 conservative and centrist House Dems bolted from their party to kill the progressive-backed Paid Family Medical Leave Act. Abortion rights also played a role in who got a target on their back. 

Rep. Patty Lundstrom of Gallup, the putative leader of the conservative Dems and a thorn in the side of House Speaker Javier Martinez, is the most well-known and powerful Dem who will now have a progressive fight on her hands. 

Somewhat surprising is ABQ NE Heights Dem Marian Matthews making the list. She represents an area that used to be solid GOP and has kept a conservative edge in representing the district in order to keep the seat. But the progressive PAC believes she has strayed too far and will work to take her out after two terms. 

The PAC says its heavy spending will replicate what the wealthy energy industry will be doing to protect their conservative presence in Santa Fe. Soon the money will be rolling out from both sides. For now let's get to that PAC strategy letter exclusively for our blog readers and which we have edited for length. 

THE LETTER

Dear. . . 

Consultant Voges
While every seat in both the NM House and Senate will be up in November, many general election races will not be competitive. So in many cases the most important election date will be primary day, June 4th.

While the Democratic majority is expected to hold in November, the June primary will decide whether our state can continue to advance on progressive issues from reproductive rights, climate and clean energy, payday lending reform, early childhood education, modernizing the legislature, paid family and medical leave, LGBTQ+ rights and more. 

Recall that the effort to give New Mexican workers a right to paid family and medical leave failed this year by one vote, as 11 centrist and conservative Democrats defected to join the Republicans. We have some of the best reproductive rights in the nation, but the reproductive health majority is a slim 3 votes. Similarly, there is a razor thin majority in favor of continuing the transition to a clean energy future. 

As in the last cycle, there is a well-funded, organized effort by oil and gas, conservative, corporate, and Republican funders to unseat our incumbent progressive champions and install “Democrats in Name Only” in numerous open seats. Our aim is to counter that threat with broad-based support for the champions of climate, women, early childhood education and more.

In addition to protecting and advancing policy goals, we seek a state legislature that is more reflective of our New Mexican citizenry. For example, only 26% of our Senators are women, though over half of our voters are female. And while our state is roughly 11% Native American, only 6% of our legislators are Native American.

It is critical for us all to support both the groups and the candidates. The limit per individual is $5,500 per race, and contributions are part of the public record. 

KEY SENATE PRIMARIES

Heather Berghmans (SD 15) ABQ

Replace disgraced incumbent Democrat Ivey-Soto. Heather is an ABQ native and has worked as a policy analyst as well as a fundraiser for the NM Democratic State House Caucus. At 35, she would be the youngest woman serving in the Senate, but already has a long history working in the NM legislature under Speakers Egolf and Martinez. She is challenging disgraced incumbent Daniel Ivey Soto, who has faced multiple credible claims of sexual harassment, bullying, and ethics violations, which resulted in his removal from leadership positions. But only the voters can remove him from the Senate. Ivey-Soto is supported by high-profile corporate lobbyists and special interests, voted against paid family and medical leave, refused to support the legalization of abortion after the fall of Roe v. Wade, and has been disavowed by the Democratic Party of New Mexico. This is a safe Democratic seat.

Angel Charley (SD 30) - Cibola, McKinley, Socorro & Valencia - open/pickup seat. 

Angel is a Native American (Laguna/Zuni/Diné) woman and first time candidate running for the Senate in rural and tribal west/central New Mexico. Angel is the former Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, and now heads a national native group. Redistricting dramatically changed this district so that a Native American can win and hold this seat. She is running against former State Senator Clemente Sanchez in the Primary. Clemente Sanchez was a bad vote on key issues like abortion, education, healthcare and workers when he was defeated in 2020. There is no Republican in this race, so the primary winner heads straight to the Senate.

KEY HOUSE PRIMARIES

Rep. Lundstrom
Christopher Hudson (HD 9) - McKinley County - Replace a conservative Democrat.  

Christopher is Navajo, born and raised in HD 9, and has worked on the McKinley county health council to invest in better health outcomes for his community. HD 9 is a largely Native American District, but has long been represented by conservative Democrat Rep. Patty Lundstrom. Lundstrom has worked with Republicans and oil and gas funders to recruit and fund conservative candidates to primary progressive incumbent champions, primarily targeting young women of color. She is anti-repro health, an entrenched ally of the extractive industries, payday lenders, and other corporate interests. Conservative Democrat Arval McCabe is also running. House District 9 is primarily Navajo, and includes a significant portion of Gallup. There is no Republican running in this district.

Rep. Yanira Gurrola (HD 16) - ABQ Westside - Protect

This is a key incumbent protection seat. Yanira is an immigrant and engineer who has worked in education, first as a math teacher active in the teacher’s union, and now works as a national consultant in bilingual education. Yanira is being challenged by conservative Democrat Marsella Duarte, who was recruited and is supported by high-profile corporate lobbyists. There is no Republican running in this district.

Rep. Susan Herrera (HD 41) - Rio Arriba, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Taos - Protect. 

This is a key incumbent protection seat. Susan has an impressive background as the former ED of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and President and CEO of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation. Under her leadership, the foundation's endowment grew from $8 million to $80 million, providing key scholarships to New Mexican students. While in the House, Susan led the fight to end predatory lending in New Mexico, worked to modernize New Mexico’s antiquated water laws, and supported rural communities. She faces a stiff challenge from primary challenger Margaret Campos, who will be well-funded by oil and gas and other special interests. There is no Republican running in this district.

Michelle “Paulene” Abeyta (HD 69) - Bernalillo, Cibola, McKinley, San Juan, Socorro, Valencia - Replace conservative Democrat

Paulene is a member of the Navajo Nation and is from To’hajiilee, NM. Paulene serves on the To’hajiilee Community School Board of Education and the National Native American Bar Association Board. She is an attorney and first-time candidate for the Legislature. This largely Native American district covers sparsely populated Western, Central and even Southern NM. She is running against conservative incumbent Democrat Harry Garcia. Garcia has repeatedly voted against reproductive rights, advancing climate and clean energy policies, capping predatory lending, and expanding paid family and medical leave. This is a Democratic Primary only. 

Greg Seeley (HD 27) - ABQ NE Heights - Replace conservative Democrat. 

Rep. Matthews
Greg is a retired US Air Force Veteran, who most recently served as the Federal Funding Coordinator for the City of Albuquerque and previously worked as a legislative aide for both Rep. Deb Haaland and Sen. Ben Ray Lujan. Greg has a long history as a champion for reproductive health, climate and clean energy, and paid family and medical leave. Greg is running against incumbent Representative Marian Matthews, a conservative Democrat who was instrumental in killing family and medical leave legislation over the past two legislative sessions. This will be a highly competitive general election race as well.

Anita Gonzales (HD 70) - San Miguel and Torrance - Replace conservative Democrat. 

Anita is challenging conservative Democrat Ambrose Castellano for the third time after losing by less than 80 votes in both the 2020 and 2022 primaries, which were impacted by COVID and then the wildfires. She is the Deputy Director for NM MESA which prepares middle and high school students for careers in STEM related fields, and serves on the board of the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter. Incumbent Rep. Castellano is anti-choice, votes against climate change/enviro legislation, against gun safety bills, and against protecting consumers from payday loan companies. He is almost exclusively funded by corporate interests--especially the state's powerful oil and gas industry. This year, Anita's campaign is being professionally managed to meet strong fundraising and field goals and is supported by numerous community organizations. This is a Democratic Primary race only.

Of course, there are still more primary races, but we have focused this list on races where there is a strong contrast between conservatives and progressives, or where our allied partners have prioritized, and where our candidate has a meaningful chance of winning both the primary and the general election.

Sincerely, Jim Gollin, Amanda Cooper, and Nick Voges 

That's quite the roadmap for the progressives and with major league dollars behind it. Conservatives can be grateful that the price of oil remains strong so they have the funds to keep up. Now they need a strategy.

Exclusive coverage of Primary 2024. Another reason why. . .

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