Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sanchez Vs. Benavidez Council Contest Goes On The Watchlist, ABQ Takes Another Hit In Livability Rankings And: Is Eight Enough? Another Dem Joins ABQ Congress Chase 

Veteran Dem political analyst and ABQ attorney Greg Payne, who is monitoring city Election '17 for us, says put the Westside city council seat long held by Democrat Ken Sanchez on your watch list. He expects scrappy Dem activist Javier Benavidez to give the 12 year councilor a run for his money.

Payne believes a more populist message is what the electorate is looking for and they may find it in Benavidez. He also says the problematic state of the city makes all incumbents vulnerable--if they have strong challengers.

There are two other candidates in the race--Republican turned independent Johnny Luevano and Sandra Mills. That means it may be difficult for Sanchez to get to 50 percent to secure an outright win October 3. In that event a run-off election would be held November 7 featuring the two top vote-getters. In this case that is likely to be Sanchez and Benavidez.

Sanchez, who has been on the council since 2005 and runs an accounting services firm, prides himself on bringing projects to the district such as a new library and fire station. But Benavidez faults him for not being more adversarial over the policies of Republican Mayor Berry and for being a "corporate Democrat."

Benavidez recently left the SouthWest Organzing Project (SWOP) where he served as director to run for council. That group describes itself as "empowering disenfranchised communities of the Southwest, to realize racial and gender equality and social and economic justice."

Sanchez, Benavidez and Luevano have qualified for public financing and are each receiving $38,000 in city funds to run their campaigns. However, an independent committee financed by the folks behind the proposed Santolina development could form to fight Benavidez. And national progressive money could come in on his behalf.


Reader Bruce Shah writes:

Joe, You wrote: "Those expecting that the still-hidden ABQ mayoral campaign might revive the city's spirits and renew its hopes are still waiting."

Once again, look no further than our wonderful daily newspaper. Why does it not have a tracking column on the race? The campaign is invisible for the same reason Barry and Martinez were able to do so much mischief. No one is covering it.

The newspaper has been giving occasional coverage to the city election and can be expected to wade in deeper as the election draws near. But we hear you. Given the serious plight of ABQ, you would expect more and earlier coverage from both the paper and TV stations. As for who the newspaper will endorse, the smart money is on Republican Dan Lewis.

And as for the plight of the city, it's bad enough for us to be ranked among the 50 worst to live in:

44. Albuquerque, New Mexico
> Population: 559,131
> Median home value: $189,200
> Poverty rate: 20.0%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.6%

Albuquerque is one of most dangerous cities in the country. There were 966 violent crimes reported per 100,000 Albuquerque residents in 2015, far more than double the national rate of 373 incidents per 100,000 Americans and among the most of any city in the country. Albuquerque also has missed out on much of the job growth that most mid-size cities enjoyed over the past few years, and it continues to struggle with high poverty. While total employment in the U.S. grew by 4.0% from 2013 to 2015, the number of jobs in Albuquerque increased by just 0.1% over the same period. The city’s poverty rate of 20.0% is much higher than the nationwide poverty rate of 14.7%.

Circle the wagons or fight to make it better? How this election plays out may tell us what ABQ decides.


And then there were eight. So goes the jam packed race for the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat. Annie Chavez, government relations officer for Sandia National Labs and a former aide to Dem US Senator Jeff Bingaman, will be the next and eighth contender to join the contest.

I'm a 48 year old native New Mexican. One of 8 kids, my dad was an Air Force mechanical engineer and my mom was a nurse at St. Joseph's hospital. I'm running because I want New Mexicans to see our state as a place with enormous potential to build a life and grow their families. For too long, I've watched family and friends forced to look for opportunities elsewhere. I believe that if we create an environment to provide our kids a great education we will be better able to address crime and help create economic opportunity for all New Mexicans. I will draw on my experiences as a teacher, a lawyer, working for Senator Bingaman, and my time at Sandia National Labs to help address these critical issues, It's also essential that we have a candidate who will stand up with progressive solutions to counter the president and Congressional leaders who encourage a dangerous anti-science agenda based on alternative facts.

Also competing for the GOP nomination in the 1st Congressional District is Michael Hendricks, a 34-year-old immigration lawyer.

The other seven contenders seeking the seat that Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham is giving up to seek the Dem nod for governor are: ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis; former Dem Party Chair Deb Haaland; physicist Dennis Dinge; Edgewood Town Councilor John Abrams; former Dem Party Chair Deb Haaland; lawyer Damian Lara; former NM US attorney Damon Martinez and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, former associate dean of the UNM law school.

On the Republican side former State Rep. Janice Arnold Jones and attorney Michael Hendricks are vying for the nomination.

We rank the seat "likely Democratic." The last Republican to win an election for the seat was in 2006.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Crime Crisis And Spiritual Crisis? Another Rash Of Violence Rocks ABQ, Plus: Pearce Pushback; His Campaign Defends Humble Beginnings Narrative, And: Plan To Shrink NM National Monuments Makes For Big Politics  

We call call it a crime crisis and it is, but now it also feels like a spiritual crisis is engulfing the state's largest city.

In recent days another taxi driver was brutally murdered. This by a suspect who appears to be so far gone on drugs that he thought the driver was working for the Illuminati and was stalking him. Then there was the dispiriting Friday night murder of a 14 year old outside of one of the city's favorite family hangouts--a Dion's Pizza at University and Gibson. You would have thought the mindless violence would have peaked last year with the ghastly dismemberment and murder of 10 year old Victoria Martens, yet another drug-inspired descent into the depths of hell. But our community seems incapable of halting this death spiral.

In a surreal moment that Timothy Leary would have been proud of, the ABQ Chamber of Commerce gave Mayor Berry an award for upholding public safety, only to have it by followed by the aforementioned slayings. And it got even more bizarre when the Mayor devoted his full attention (and PR machine) to an argument about distributing salt at senior citizens centers and bragged of how the salt is back for the "seasoned citizens. Talk about turning tragedy into farce.

This other-worldly contrast with reality seemed to go beyond the usual deflection and fecklessness that has characterized this administration and propelled it into a conscious callousness, a lapse in basic morality that leads to the observation that the city has become a spiritual black hole.

Those expecting that the still-hidden ABQ mayoral campaign might revive the city's spirits and renew its hopes that this will soon end are still waiting. While not insipid, the eight candidates have certainly been uninspiring. And just as troubling is the seeming lack of depth to the platforms of those who would replace Berry. Add a disappointing lack of vigor and passion and you get a recipe for another low turnout election.

The heart of the campaign for the October 3 election lies ahead and perhaps there will be an awakening, but ABQ is slowly losing heart that the next mayor will lead a turnaround. But then our problems are beyond politics. Faced with a plague of crime and drugs that is sucking the soul out of this place, what we may really need is not a mayor but a priest or rabbi.


Reader and longtime Steve Pearce critic Greg Lennes of Las Cruces went to work here last week to debunk the claim from the freshly minted governor candidate that he struggled in poverty during his very young years. That brought pushback from Rep. Pearce's campaign and more from Lennes as well. Here's the Pearce take:

Claim from Lennes:: “It looks like his father and mother struggled but in reality in 1947 (when Pearce was born) that wage of $2.62 in 1947 would be equal to $29.65 in 2017.” (Monahan blog, 7/20/17)

Fact: In 1947, the year Pearce was born, his parents made $200 for the entire year. Using the same calculation, that equates to $2,245 in income for the entire year in 2017 dollars.

Fact: In 1948, after that year’s cotton crop was ruined, Pearce’s parents made $50 for the entire year as sharecroppers – the equivalent of $516 in 2017 dollars.

Fact: A 2011 study places the average income for the middle fifth of American families in 1947 at $26,548 in 2011 dollars. Using rough estimations, that means the Pearce family made about 8 percent of what the average family made the year Steve Pearce was born. (Source: Economic Policy Institute)

Fact: In 1947, the bottom fifth of American families made an average income of $7,808 in 2011 dollars. Using the same rough calculations, the Pearce family made about a quarter of the yearly income of the average low-income family the year he was born. (Source: Economic Policy Institute)

Fact: After finding themselves unable to provide for their family while working as sharecroppers, the Pearces moved to New Mexico. Steve’s father began working as an oil field day laborer, making about 75 cents per hour when he could find work.

Fact: After several years of hard work and moving around Southeast New Mexico chasing jobs and opportunity, the Pearce family found itself in the late 1950's on a five-acre farm and his father secure in a job with a major oil company earning $2.62 an hour.

And the Lennes response:

Pearce was born in 1947. So he had no idea about his father and sharecropping. When He was 2 years old, his father was already working in the oilfields in 1949 and had the money to purchase a farm in 1954 when Pearce was 7. His father, Melvin Pearce, had a good job with the Humble Oil & Refining Company/Exxon as a technician where he worked from 1951 until his retirement in 1984, plus he owned a farm.

It seems Mr. Pearce is inspired by his so-called poverty. However, he has been fueled by corporate money, scorns compromise and leaves New Mexico "house divided." Now this "humble" millionaire wants to be Governor?

Fact: Congressman Pearce is stretching the truth again. "After the war, Melvin returned to the farm, but continued to play ball for the Oil Belt League. In 1951 he began working for Humble Oil $ Refining Company/Exxon as an Instrument Technician where he worked until his retirement in 1984." Here is the obituary of Congressman Pearce's father.

Well, those may not be the final words on the subject but for today here is a final word from Anne Batson, chair of the Lea County Republican Party:

Joe. . . I did a good deal of research on Steve a number of years ago before I asked him to run for the State House of Representatives. He was born on a hardscrabble farm. His mother had to put cardboard up in the windows to keep the sand out. They started out with very little. His dad was a sharecropper when Steve was born, but that could not support the family. He found a job here in New Mexico and his mother worked her way from the fields to the classroom and eventually became a school teacher. Yes, they made $2.62 an hour – it took years for them to get there, and they supported a family of seven on that wage. Look at the picture of Steve’s childhood home in his announcement video. Does that look like anything but humble beginnings? Steve Pearce is a New Mexico success story. He worked hard, raised a family and built a business. It is sad that people want to tear that down. We should be talking about how to create that opportunity for more people.


Pearce is suing the secretary of state so he can use $1 million in his congressional campaign fund for his gubernatorial run. The reports on that have not brought up a possibility that we blogged about a while back and now reiterate from one of our finance Alligators:

Congressman Pearce can either give it to the GOAL West superPAC, which he has close ties to. That might look shady but is totally legit. Or he can transfer all of it to the State Republican Party and they can spend that money on his race. Federal law allows for unlimited transfers from Federal candidates to State Party federal committees.

So if Pearce were to lose in court, the $1 million could go to one of the above mentioned entities which could spend the money on behalf of Pearce. The catch? The PAC or the party would not be permitted to coordinate its activity with Pearce's campaign, although that prohibition has been only loosely enforced.


Hey, what is GOP state representative and southern congressional district candidate Yvette Herrell doing in DC with Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke? Do you think they're talking about Zinke's talk of downsizing two major national monuments in the state--the Organ Mountains Desert Peak National Monument near Las Cruces and the Rio Grande del Norte Monument near Taos? That's a pretty safe assumption.

Herrell and Pearce both support shrinking the monuments approved under Present Obama. But the state's two US Senators are lobbying furiously to keep them as they are. Herrell confirmed on Facebook that the monuments were a topic for her and the Secretary:

In Washington meeting with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke about issues like Energy, Industry, Monuments and Parks that are specifically impacting New Mexico.

Zinke has said he will visit NM before he recommends any action to President Trump who will have the final say on the monument.s but no date has yet been set for that visit. Meantime, Herrell is gearing up for a tough '18 GOP primary in the battle to replace Pearce. She faces state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, Jr. The Dems have four candidates duking it out for their party's nomination.


Martin Heinrich has $3.1 million cash on hand for his US Senate re-election campaign not the $2.5 million we blogged in an early first take. The FEC report we linked to was the latest one posted but covered only until the end of March not to the end of June.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Following The Money Leads To A Gator Strike On Steve, TV Stations Prep For Windfall, Pushback On Higher Ed Consolidation, And: Joe Carraro; Remember Him? He's Making Noise Again 

We hear you. Follow the money. . . which leads the Alligators to this statement by US Rep Steve Pearce who is also a freshly minted candidate for the 2018 GOP gubernatorial nomination:

Steve grew up south of Hobbs as one of six kids. His parents did everything possible to provide for him and his siblings while earning a $2.62 hourly wage.

And the Gator push back:

It looks like his father and mother struggled but in reality in1947 (when Pearce was born) that wage of $2.62 in 1947 would be equal to $29.65 in 2017. This is a good wage for the period that works out to about $4,700 a month based on a 40 hour work week. 

Hey, when you're worth millions as Steve is today, that probably looks like chump change. Nice try, Steve, but you're the victim of an Alligator strike, no doubt the first of many to come for both sides in the months ahead. Congrats, or something. . .

Martin Heinrich reports $3.1 million in cash on hand in his latest finance filing. New Mexico is not a targeted seat for the national R's. The waiting game on this one still centers on Lt. Gov. John Sanchez who has been flirting with a run against the freshman senator. . .

We can already declare one winner in the '18 campaign--the TV stations. They're finally going to get some contested races that will draw major league advertising. The open races for Governor and the congressional seats in ABQ and the south will bolster their bottom lines--although all three major network stations in the city are owned by out of state companies. The payday will be good but not as stupendous as it was in 2008 when NM was a swing presidential state, had an open race for US Senate as well as the ABQ and southern congressional seats.


One of our longtime blog sponsors checks in with this news:

Albuquerque Area Fire Fighters, Local 244 of the International Association endorsed Tim Keller for Mayor of Albuquerque. Diego Arencon, President of IAFF Local 244 said, "Tim understands that public safety is our priority, with his accountability and proven leadership he will ensure a safe future for the city of Albuquerque. He knows we must invest in fire and police staffing, operations and infrastructure to protect our community; taking direction from the voters to provide the necessary revenue to get the job done!”

This is the latest in a long line of union endorsements for Keller. The election is October 3.


Attention policy wonks. The 2017 Annual Social and Economic Indicators for New Mexico is out, courtesy of the economists at the state Dept. of Workforce Solutions. Here's just one sample from the swarm of data contained in the review:

New Mexico’s growth between 2010 and 2016 was solely driven by a natural increase in population from births. During the period, the natural increase of the population equaled 59,585 people (or 0.5 percent of the population), while net migration reached -37,780 people (an average annual rate of -0.3 percent of the population). This ranked the state twenty-first in the nation for rate of natural increase but forty-ninth in the nation for rate of net migration. Alaska and Illinois reported larger rates of net outmigration than New Mexico.

Good stuff for those inclined to delight in data.


Democrat Ray Powell was defeated by Republican Aubrey Dunn for state land commissioner in 2014. Not the other way around as we had it in the first blog draft Wednesday. Thanks to the readers who pointed that out.


Reader Brian Borchers thoughtfully writes that the hue and cry for consolidation of New Mexico's over built higher education system heard here and elsewhere may not be the answer to the right sizing question:

Both Georgia and New Jersey have been attempting to save money by consolidating institutions. So far, they haven't achieved much in the way of savings. The reason for this is simply that the consolidations have only managed to save administrative salaries, which are a small part of the overall budget. Facilities costs are sunk costs (you can't easily sell off an unneeded campus and even with leased space you might be on the hook for years of rent) and the cost of instructors is basically proportional to the number of students. Consolidation of institutions didn't result in decreases in enrollment (which Georgia didn't want to happen anyway.) The Chronicle of Higher Ed recently reported on this, and the actual savings achieved by consolidation in George were about 1%. 

My take on the politics of higher education in New Mexico is that the legislature would rather keep cutting every institution's budget by the same amount then take steps to shut down the weaker institutions or even to force a consolidation of the smaller community colleges with UNM and NMSU. 

For New Mexico, Improving retention and ultimately graduation rates is probably a more important and approachable task than consolidating institutions and eliminating campuses. These rates are low at our community colleges and regional universities. They're also low at the three research institutions. This is an area where we should be doing better. Another issue is that NM ranks among the worst states in terms of community college students transferring to 4-year institutions and graduating with bachelors degrees. The ongoing effort to improve articulation between the 2- and 4-year institutions is an important effort that deserves more coverage. 

Now that's what you call food for thought. Have some of your own? Dish it up to our email and we'll serve it to the state.


More than a few of you will recall former NM GOP state Senator Joe Carraro, the brash, forthright and entertaining lawmaker who represented ABQ's west side in the senate for some 20 years. He also made a run for the ABQ congressional seat, later became an independent and then retired from politics. But Carraro, now 72, and living again in his native New York City, hasn't retired from controversy. One of our Alligators visiting NYC recently spotted this item in the NY Post:

A retired NM state senator who came to the Big Apple to pursue a career as a playwright is suing his Manhattan building, saying his Hell's Kitchen apartment is too noisy.  Joseph Carraro's high-rise rental faces West 42nd Street and overlooks the Lincoln tunnel entrance.  

Carraro moved cross-country in June to write the next great Broadway play but the noise  outside his apartment has caused his blood pressure to soar, his suit alleges. He also cites construction noise inside the building, according to the suit in Manhattan Supreme Court. He's suing build manager George Laitsas and accuses the leasing company of a bait-and-switch by putting him in the 42nd Street side of the building instead of the 43rd Street side that had allegedly been agreed upon. Neither Carraro nor Laitsas returned calls

We wonder if New Mexico will get a mention in Joe's "great Broadway play?" Whatever it's about it will be hard to top the shenanigans that go on in real life in the Santa Fe Roundhouse and where Carraro earned his chapter in the never ending book of La Politica.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Another Political Domino Pushed; Dunn Will Seek Southern Congress Seat Leaving Land Office Race Open, Plus: Should Pearce Resign To Make His Seat Safer For The R's? And: "Anti-Alcohol" Guv Candidate Pushes Back Against That Label 

The politicos are seriously cutting into our summer hammock time but duty calls so once again we're off to the early but crowded campaign trail. . .

State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, Jr. is the latest to set off a domino effect. He will leave the Land Office rather than seek re-election next year and instead seek the GOP nomination for the southern congressional district that Rep. Steve Pearce is leaving to make a run for Governor. Here's what that means:

--Former GOP Land Commissioner Pat Lyons, now on the Public Regulation Commission but term limited, is the most likely major name to seek the GOP nomination for the Land Office, according to GOP Alligators.

--The Dunn decision can be seen as a boost for former Dem Land Commissioner Ray Powell, Jr. who is in a testy Democratic primary battle with political newcomer Garrett VeneKlasen. Dunn beat Powell four years ago and Dems have been nervous about again making Powell their nominee. The Dunn jump will ease that concern but with an aggressive challenge from VeneKlasen, who is getting support from Sen. Heinrich, Powell is not out of the woods.

--Lyons would be an easier candidate for the Dems to beat than Dunn who had the power of an incumbent. The race goes from toss-up to "lean Dem."

--Dunn is now the clear frontrunner for the GOP nod for the southern district. Not that Alamogordo state Rep. Yvette Harrell, who got in the race last week, is a lightweight. She is well respected in her conservative area but Dunn has the district wide name ID and a better ability to raise the funds needed for the race. But Dunn did run and lose a previous bid for the GOP nomination so the race will remain on the watch list.

--If Dunn is the eventual nominee, it will be a difficult ride for the Dems. Dunn a native of Alamogordo, has proven his statewide electability by already beating a Democrat. And his cowboy image fits well with the district. And he doesn't shy away from negative campaigns. He was already on the attack against Powell as he announced his candidacy

“As New Mexico’s Land Commissioner, I have ‘drained the swamp’ that Ray Powell and his Santa Fe cronies left behind at the Land Office,” Dunn said. “By setting the right tone at the top, I’ve worked hand-in-hand with exemplary staff to enhance customer service, direct more money to education and the Land Grant Permanent Fund, and bring a common-sense approach to the conservation of our public lands.”

--There are vulnerabilities for a Dunn candidacy and reader Greg Lennes was quick to focus on a couple of them:

Dunn says he supports private landowners’ rights and is an anti-Federal government advocate. However, Mr. Dunn should applaud the federal government for his own farm subsidies over the years - $542,478.  Now he questions our Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument near Las Cruces. He is the ultimate political hypocrite. When Pearce says "jump" to him, Mr. Dunn is hopping in a frenzy. Their goal is strictly to carve up our National Monument for the benefit of a few political contributors.


There is more than idle chatter about Rep. Steve Pearce making life easier for his party by resigning his congressional seat and devoting his full-time energies to his Guv run. Why?

Well, first, if Pearce were to resign, the Governor would need to call a special election within 90 days to fill out the unexpired portion of Pearce's term which runs until the end of '18. Such a hastily called election is seen benefiting the Republicans who already have an edge in the district.

If Pearce were to resign--and no one is saying he is about to--the central committees of the state Dem and GOP would name nominees who would face-off in the special.

The Dems don't have an obvious front runner, plus the truncated campaign would give them little time to make the case the district needs a big change.

A Pearce resignation would also give the new GOP congressman for the district--assuming that is the outcome--a leg up in the important seniority rankings, if, as expected, he or she were to seek re-election to a full term in 2020.

Pearce has taken fire from GOP loyalists over the Guv run who say as the only R and conservative in the state's congressional delegation he should stay put and not risk an all blue NM congressional delegation.


Sometimes we get under the skin of the politicos (who would have thunk?). Our recent blogging of Dem Guv candidate Pete DeBennedettis is a case in point, and we give him equal time to make it:

Hi Joe, You recently wrote: 

"As for anti-alcohol Guv candidate Peter DeBenedettis, who is not expected to raise significant money, Peter, you may need a stiff belt of bourbon before this one is over."

I get that you don’t take my candidacy seriously, but do you have to make stuff up about me — calling me “Anti-Alcohol?” Since when is working to keep kids from drinking being anti-alcohol?. . . And exactly how is standing up for NM tax-payers who shell out $400 each per year to pay for the costs our state bears because alcohol taxes are so low being anti-alcohol? I think the 50% of New Mexicans who don’t drink call it being fiscally prudent.

You’re missing a couple of things staring most New Mexican’s in the face when you give my candidacy short-shift. I’m the only bonafide progressive in the race. Do you honestly think the 48.5% of the Democratic primary voters who supported Bernie are going to jump behind the other moderate to conservative choices in the race?

And about not raising big money. Every poll for the past 10 years . . .report that money’s influence in politics is a big problem. Over 70% of voters in both parties think politicians are more interested in paying off their donors and taking care of themselves than about really helping everyday people. The fact that the other candidates have raised so much is my biggest advantage. Old school politicians and analysts who can’t see the handwriting on the wall are going to be in for a big surprise when the primary results don’t match their poll numbers and pundit proclamations.

Gees, Peter, we haven't had our ears boxed like that since we were caught smoking in high school. But you're going to have spread your love around because we are far from the only one reporting in the Governor's race who is calling you the "anti-alcohol" candidate. Why, just Sunday, Dan McKay, writing in the ABQ Journal, used the exact same phrase  to describe you:

and Peter DeBenedittis, an anti-alcohol activist from Santa Fe. . . 

Cover your ears, Dan, Peter is on his way over. (Well, at least he's not hitting us with an empty bottle of Smirnoff.)

And, Peter, are you really helping your cause by now advocating legalization of marijuna in the state? What about keeping kids from smoking pot, not just boozing their brains?


The annual jobs fair held by Dem ABQ South Valley state Senator Michael Padilla has become a draw in job needy ABQ. The latest edition is today:

"This year's job fair will feature 93 employers with over 2,100 jobs available" said Padilla. Last year's job fair drew over 4,000 job seekers. All registered employers are hiring right now. Click here for the current list of registered employers. The job fair is today--Wednesday, July 19, from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, at Harrison Middle School, located at 3912 Isleta SW, located just behind the South Valley Library. 

On a political note, we broke the news here earlier this year that Padilla would seek the Dem nomination for Lt. Governor in '18. He now says he is ready and will make his bid official next week. . .

We said in a first blog draft that a $1000 donation that ABQ Dem congressional nominee received from Rep, Deborah Armstrong, a close ally of Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham,  a Dem candidate for Governor, night reveal Grisham's own leanings in that crowded congressional contest. But Dem Alligators remind us that it was Grisham who urged attorney Antoinette Sedillo Lopez to get in the race so the Armstrong donation isn't necessarily a tell on Grisham supporting Haaland.

Grisham has not endorsed anyone in the race as she did in the ABQ mayoral race when she threw her support behind Deanna Archuleta who later withdrew. With all that in the background it's probably best Michelle not poke her nose under any more political tents other than her own. It gets the Gators going. . .

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Hot Summer On The Campaign Trail: Fundraising Surprises In ABQ Mayoral And Congressional Contests Rattle Contestants  

It's a hot summer on the campaign trail. Let's start with that growing hotter-by-the-day ABQ mayoral race. . .

Bad news for Dan Lewis. The GOP city councilor can't shake fellow R mayoral hopeful and BernCo Commissioner Wayne Johnson who surprised with a campaign report showing he raised $122,000 in the last three month reporting period and now has $187,000 in cash on hand. That pretty much ensures Johnson will have a TV buy and mail campaign for the final stretch leading to the October 3 election.

(All mayoral campaign finance reports here).

In his personal appearances Johnson has been running an aggressive attack campaign against Lewis. The latest insider polling still has Lewis holding on to second place. His chances to make a two person run-off--which will happen if no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote--still seem good. But Lewis will have to look behind him as he runs, keeping track of Johnson's position.

Lewis has $192,000 in the bank, only a few thousand more than Republican rival Johnson. But Lewis is thought to have a better shot at raising more. He paid longtime fund-raiser Terri Baird nearly $30,000 in the latest reporting period.

Then there's 81 year old businessman and Republican Ricardo Chaves. Can he catch fire? He has the kindling. Chavez has stoked his campaign kitty with another $200,000. That's on top of the initial $300,000 he anted up. He reports $374,000 in cash on hand, second only to Brian Colon.

Chaves is the first mayor wannabe to do a mass mailing. It hit last week and we have it posted here today.


There are no signs yet that the Governor's political machine is in on the Johnson effort, according to the finance reports filed last week with the city. He has been using veteran GOP fundraiser Ann Ekern to help him raise his cash. She has not been associated with Martinez machine leader Jay McCleskey.


Brian Colón's reputation for being an able fund-raiser was enhanced when he again zipped past the field by raising $263,000 in the past three months. The other good news for Colón--who polling shows running a distant third behind Dem Tim Keller and Lewis--is that he has hardly spent any of that cash. He has $513, 000 cash on hand. If he can come with a message that resonates--something that has eluded him thus far--his supporters believe that money could help him quickly close the gap.


Keller opted for public financing and he hasn't been shy about spending it. He has already burned through $132,000 of the $342,000 the city deposited into his account. The state auditor has coughed up over $100,000 of that for consulting and campaign salaries. He is being consulted by Alan Packman's firm which has emerged in recent years as a near ubiquitous presence on Democratic campaigns.

Keller is going to need every penny that independent committee being formed on his behalf plans on raising. Right now it has a paltry $2,000 in its account. But that is expected to change. If for some reason the committee falls short or its media is ineffective, early frontrunner Keller could find himself threatened by Colón and Lewis because his own campaign account is headed lower.


Chaves mailer (click to read)
Some entertaining entries from the finance reports. Former NM Democratic Party Chairman and attorney Sam Bregman donated $250 to none other than Republican Dan Lewis. Bregman is also a former ABQ city councilor. . .

Another lawyer and A former GOP state senator--Lisa Torraco--came with $1,000 for Republican Wayne Johnson. . .

Former GOP US Senator Jack Schmitt ponied up $2,000 for Johnson who is more conservative than Lewis. . . And who says the news media is a bunch of liberals? Former TV news anchor Carla Aragon raised the flag for Johnson with a $350 donation. . .

He may know something you and me don't because what money Brian Colón spent went largely for a $28,000 poll. Do tell, Brian. . . Lewis is paying the campaign manager he brought in from out of state--Stewart Bragg--$6,000 a month, according to the reports. . .

And here's one of the eyebrow raisers from the reports. Former Dem state Senator and now lobbyist Richard Romero gave $150 to Wayne Johnson. Romero has been scorned in some Democratic circles ever since 2009 when Romero, then-Dem Mayor Martin Chavez and R Richard Berry duked it out for the mayoral chair. Berry went on to win handily and many Dems hold Romero accountable for the loss, saying he split the Democratic vote. . .


There will be major mayoral action in ABQ tonight as all the candidates are expected at a League of Women Voters/ABQ Tea Party sponsored forum. It will be at the UNM Continuing Education Center from 7 to 8:30 p.m.


An early shake-up in the seven way Dem race for the ABQ congressional seat. The most "progressive" candidate in the bunch came with a surprisingly weak money report.

ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis, who heads the advocacy group ProgressNowNM and who is thought to have access to national political support, only raised $68,000 in the most recent quarter. That was far surpassed by attorney Antoinette Sedillo Lopez who came with $201,000 and former Dem Party Chair Deb Haaland who raised $150,000 but says she only solicited funds for two of the three months,

The early knockdown of Davis raises the question of whether he can get off the canvass. His next report will be watched for signs of recovery and if the well-known progressive doesn't show progress, his foes will pounce.

For Sedillo Lopez the question going forward is whether she can keep up her fundraising pace. Her first quarter is dominated by contributions from fellow law professors and attorneys from here and across the nation. Former NM AG Patrica Madrid came with $1,000 as did Cynthia Hall, an attorney who serves on the state Public Regulation Commission. Lopez loaned herself $8,400 and her son donated $5,400.


Something a bit historic is happening in the early going in the Dem race for Congress. Large sums of money from Native America tribes and pueblos here and outside the state is starting to flow to Haaland, who would be the first Native American woman ever elected to the US House.

There have been questions about the tribes coming through for her, but that seems put to rest based on an examaination of her first finance report. Take a look:

NM's Santo Domingo Pueblo made one of the many $2,700 Indian Country primary contributions that flowed to Haaland, the maximum allowed by law. Matching that amount were the Washginton state tribes Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottowa And Chippewa Indians and the Swinomiosh Tribal Community. Back here, Isleta Pueblo gave her $2,700 as did the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in Claifornia.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Higher Ed Pummeled By Enrollment Decline And Battered State Budget; Time to Downsize And Change Constitution? Plus: Readers On Denver And Our Bottom Lines 

New Mexico higher education leaders keep trying to patch up their leaky boat with never-ending tuition increases and pre-doomed marketing campaigns to attract more students. In short, they're doing a lot of stuff to try to arrest the secular decline in student enrollment brought about by recent demographic changes--not enough college aged kids, New Mexico's stagnant population growth and its lousy economy. They seem to be talking about everything but the obvious--that the state is overwhelmed with colleges, universities, branch colleges, etc. etc.

Education leaders, including university presidents, legislators and NM Higher Ed Secretary Barbara Damron will gather to discuss this "crisis" at a town hall meeting July 19 at 7 p.m. that will air on KANW-FM 89.1.

For decades New Mexico has been in the grip of a state Constitution that went overboard with pork barrel politics and established too many schools. We've been off to the races ever since adding dozens of institutions for a small state of 2 million and one whose once promising growth has been halted for the better part of a decade.

The question for education leaders and the next Governor is not how to keep patching the old boat but to build a new, slimmer and more efficient model for a state that shows no signs of the major economic turnaround needed to sustain the top heavy higher ed establishment.

However, the desperation to cling to the model of the past, which supports so many well-paid administrators, endures. NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers continues to maintain that his school can and should attract thousands of students from Mexico to sustain the failed model. Why? To sustain a super sized education system--31 universities and brain colleges-- that demands right sizing?

If the talking heads at the townhall really want to get serious, they can start talking about this and urge the next Governor to lead the way. NM House Appropriations Committee chairwoman Patty is nibbling at the edges:

(Rep.) Lundstrom – like many others – questions the viability of a higher education network that includes so many points of access. She noted that Silver City-based Western New Mexico University has a presence in her Gallup district, approximately a half-mile from the University of New Mexico’s Gallup branch. She said there are many similar examples around the state. “It’s a lot of money (going to higher education). And we want to make sure it’s going to the best, most efficient system,” she said.

And what about the gubernatorial candidates? Will any of them step forward and question the wisdom of having seven, four year schools embedded in the state Constitution in this era? Will any propose a constitutional amendment for reform? Former GOP Governor Carruthers  analyzes that:

You want to get a governor right at the end of a term to do it,” he said. “… I will tell you it would take a lot of political courage to do a lot of work on that and perhaps it’s time we found somebody with the political courage to do it.

Only when you start hearing specific and multiple references to some of those 31 higher ed institutions whose time has passed will we know that New Mexico is getting serious about building that new boat and finally retiring the leaky craft that our leaders keep trying to plug.


Quite a number of responses to our essay on our recent trip to Denver and contrasting it with ABQ. Some readers, including Nicolas Cordova, thought we may have downplayed Denver crime. For example, this dispatch from the Denver Post:

Crime rates dropped or remained static in many of the nation’s 30 largest cities last year, but in Colorado the crime rate per 100,000 people spiked by 3.4 percent, fueled by a rise in auto thefts, rape, murder and robbery. Colorado’s crime-rate increase in 2016 was more than 11 times the 0.3 percent average increase reported in the 30 largest cities in the nation, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Last year’s number of homicides — 189 — marked an 9.9 percent increase over the 172 in 2015, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation report “2016 Crime in Colorado.” Nearly one in three homicides were committed in Denver.

Not good, but not so bad that it seems to be interfering with Denver's growth path and prosperity, unlike here.

Former Duke City resident Scott Maddaux writes from Denver:

Hi Joe, I made the move to the Denver area about 4 years ago after getting laid off from my job in Albuquerque. It was bittersweet as I am a native Burqueno and I was one of the last of my circle of friends to stick around ABQ. For the longest time I was convinced I was never going to leave. I felt that I had to stay in my home state to help contribute in some way. I didn't want to be just another person who gave up on New Mexico. Alas, I became yet another victim of the stagnant economy and had to leave to find gainful employment. In the end, moving to Denver was one of the best decisions I ever made.  The economy is booming, there's tons of cultural, sporting, and outdoor activities, and it's overwhelmingly safe. I bought an alarm system for my home two years ago and my wife and I rarely remember to turn it on. You just don't have that low-key sense of menace here that you have in Albuquerque. You can relax a bit more. My parents still live in the Duke City and I'm trying to encourage them to move here. They are retirees, and at times I fear for their safety. My dad recently told me that he's taken to carrying a knife when walking the dogs. I just had to shake my head. What is happening to my city?

And Isabelle Zamora wrote:

Joe, a couple years ago in graduate school, I did a paper on Denver’s economy. What struck me was the emphasis they placed on the children beginning in preschool. I really believe many professionals move to or leave a state with their children’s future in mind. 

Isabelle sent this link to the Denver city budget which highlights the city's investment in early childhood programs.


We blogged this week that Dem Guv Candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham held her fire and did not attack GOP Congressman and freshly minted Guv candidate Steve Pearce on the day he announced his Guv bid, but this reader says while Michelle may not have beaten up on Pearce, that doesn't mean her fund-raising arm held back. This letter from hit soon after Pearce made it official:

Pearce will never stand up to Trump's dangerous agenda – because he agrees with it. He's voted with Trump 95% of the time so far, including voting for the deadly GOP health care bill that would rip insurance away from 23 million people. Between him and Michelle, the choice couldn't be clearer – and the stakes couldn't be higher . . .If we don't fight to support Michelle, Pearce could turn New Mexico into Trump Country. We need to get $10,000 in our rapid response fund by midnight. . .

Hey, there could be an idea there. We appeal to the President's ego by changing the name of New Mexico to "Trump Country" and sit back and watch the dollars flow. Imagine, a new Trump Tower" in Old Town! Yeah, now we're bloggin'. . .

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dateline Denver: What Do They Have That We Don't? A Summer Trek To The Mile High City Shows The Upside And Downside Of One Of The Nation's Fastest Growing Metros  

It's not a Utopia. Far from it. But a trip to Denver, just a six hour drive from ABQ,  brings you to one of the most thriving and  fastest growing metro areas in the nation. It also reveals reasons why that is and what keeps our city from matching some of that success.

--First, the most obvious reason. Denver does not have a crime epidemic. People you speak with feel safe in their homes and cars. That's what a booming economy does--it circulates money and jobs. For too many ABQ has become a fearsome place to reside.

--Denver has a metro population that is now over 3 million.  The ABQ metro has yet to breach the  one million mark and stands at around 900,000. That's a huge difference in potential.

--Denver and Colorado have billionaires. From fortunes in high tech to cable TV, they've minted five of them. And they are rooted in the state, giving immense sums to enhance the culture and arts which in turn attracts bright young people seeking an exciting lifestyle and good jobs. In NM, the richest person is said to be oilman Mack Chase with assets of $650 million (maybe less in the wake of the oil price debacle). Even though he is a non-billioanire, he still has very few peers keeping him company.

--Denver has an incredibly diverse economy, attracting professionals in the high tech, biotech, financial services and health care fields. Denver's culture is entrepreneurial while ABQ's is governmental. When federal spending began to collapse here, that was the end of the party. Denver was also hit by the Great Recession but it had such diversity it soon bounced back.

--Like ABQ, the Denver area is set against a magnificent natural setting and blessed with a relatively moderate climate. Without the widespread crime and poverty that afflicts ABQ, it has proved more attractive to the legions of Easterners and Midwesterners who have been gravitating West in recent decades.


Their problems? They are not little. Homelessness has increased and experts generally agree the legalization of marijuana exacerbated the situation. The homeless more than dot the landscape as you walk the cultural district into downtown. They seem to be everywhere.

Homeless in Denver
Housing costs can be stiff, with some regular neighborhoods even selling homes for nearly $500 a square foot and the average price of a one bedroom apartment is near $1,400 a month. Housing prices have soared but appear to be finally leveling off. Still, it's expensive. Well-paying jobs make it possible but many Denverites are getting squeezed hard.

In the early 90's Colorado added budget restrictions to its Constitution and some believe they are cramping its style. Miller Hudson, a government relations pro we lunched with at one of the many trendy restaurants on downtown Denver's 16th Street Mall, is one skeptic.

He explains that the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) passed in the early 90's restricts increases in government spending to population growth and the rate of inflation While that has kept the reins on government, the state now ranks 49th in per capita spending on higher ed and 44th in road spending.

We need more and better roads to handle the wave of growth and keep the momentum going, but the restrictions are hurting us. Reform is getting serious discussion as we work to keep up with the growth, 

Hudson also pointed out that Denver's housing boom has been egged on by very low property tax rates:

A home that went for $400,000 in our neighborhood a decade ago was recently valued at $700,000. Still, the property tax is only $1,300 a year.

Well, homeowners will fight with their lives to keep that tax rate.

Adding momentum to the economy--along with some headaches--is the 2014 legalization of marijuana in Colorado.. It has brought droves of tourists to the city who spend millions. Then there's the $150 million a year in taxes legalized pot generates. That sounds like a lot but with a state budget of $27 billion a year, that's only a few drops in the bucket.


Our visit made us a little bit more understanding of the Innovate ABQ concept that has been launched to spark more entrepreneurial activity, but it also reinforced our belief that Innovate ABQ is akin to putting the cart before the horse.

Too much of our workforce remains unprepared for the 21st century economy of cities like Denver. The social conditions crisis here--crime, poverty, lack of early childhood education and drugs--must be fully attacked and contained if we are to advance in a meaningful way. The recent threat of high tech company Lavu to leave ABQ and NM because of crime is undeniable evidence of that.


The ART, a hotel, with a lot of whimsical art decorating the place, is right in the middle of the cultural district, next to the Denver Art Museum and across the street from the History Colorado museum. (Both are well done).

It's a short walk to catch the shuttle to the 16th Street Mall to downtown and its many attractions, or the hotel shuttle will take you. It's also a short walk to the state capitol where there are regular and informative tours.

There's a decent on-site restaurant at the ART, but a Denver breakfast institution--Dozens--is only a short walk away and filled with down home comfort. Downtown, the restaurant Rioja is touted as the best in the city and is worth a stop. Ditto for the top notch chain steakhouse Capital Grille. The Crimson Room is a cool Larimer Square jazz venue. We ran into Stu Macaskie playing there, who for years was a fixture on the ABQ music scene, but has found a better vibe in the Mile High City. He misses ABQ but said the opportunities here dried up.

If you are driving, on the way back you can treat yourself to a bite to eat at one of the finest resorts in the USA--the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. A casual lunch at La Taverne and a stroll around the grounds will do you a world of good.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Picking Apart Pearce: Why Run Against Long Odds? How Did The Roll Out Go? Who Will Be His Lt. Gov.? Who Takes His Congressional Seat? Complete Coverage And Analysis Is Up Next 

Steve Pearce knows the odds are against him winning the governorship. So why did the southern NM Republican congressman roll the dice at the age of 69 and give up his US House seat in what could turn out to be a quixotic bid for the Governor's chair? (Video here). Long time political consultant Steve Cabiedes offered one school of thought:

Pearce knows this is going to be rough sledding in a Democratic state but he is taking one for the team. If he didn't run the R's would be in a desperate position. They have no bench to speak of.  The Pearce candidacy will at least get out the base GOP vote and help protect Republican state House seats. Also, he could win. It would be like a lightning strike but such things do occur, if rarely. 

And, remember, Pearce is friendly with President Trump and Vice-President Pence. Perhaps they would put some salve on Pearce's wounds in the form of a role in the administration if he goes on to lose? Otherwise, he and his wife Cynthia have millions in personal wealth they could enjoy spending. Looks like a pretty soft landing one way or the other.

The Pearce move certainly does allow some dominoes to fall into place. Like Lt. Governor John Sanchez perhaps soon announcing a bid for the US senate seat held by Dem Martin Heinrich. And GOP State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn seriously eyeing the GOP nomination for Pearce's congressional seat, a seat Dunn once ran for. Dunn is the strongest contender of all the names floating, but in the hours following Pearce's announcement Monday, a top GOP operative described the positioning as "wide-open and wild and crazy. It will take time for it to settle."

"Wild and crazy?" Hey, we can live with that. 

(Alamogordo state Representative Yvette Harrell announced Tuesday she would seek the Republican nomination for Pearce's congressional seat.)


The Pearce roll out was solid, as it should be from someone who has run so many contests, including statewide. The news popped on the GOP friendly ABQ Journal at about three in the morning. It was also leaked early enough for it to make the print editions that the older voters still read. Pearce appeared early morning on conservative radio talker KKOB-AM, another place the GOP base is tuned into.

The announcement got solid notice on social media, but excitement about it was not much in evidence, signaling the difficulty the candidacy faces. TV coverage included sound bites from Pearce.

The messaging was solid. He cited people fleeing the state for jobs, too much poverty and bettering education. The problems will come when the Pearce policies to those pressing matters are unveiled. Meantime, he can take heart that his campaign seems up and ready for the challenges ahead.


That Pearce decided to run appeared to be one of those rare occasions when the insiders were more surprised than the public. Pearce had been telegraphing a run in news stories and on his tours of the state, but many veteran R's were not taking the bait. Thus when he announced the scurrying by the GOP political class got underway in earnest.

From our corner, Pearce's entry will cost us a steak dinner from a GOP insider. Fortunately, we hedged our bet and said the loser takes the winner to the Monte Carlo not the uber-expensive Ruth's Chris. No hard feelings, Steve. We'll do our best to present unbiased analysis even if you have already taken a bite out of our hide.

One insider who wasn't fooled was Roswell oilman Mark Murphy who has been involved in GOP politics for years and is a close friend of Pearce's. A Pearce friend tells us Murphy will serve as chairman of the gubernatorial campaign to come.


Old reliable Pat Lyons heard his name being tossed around in a more serious vein in the wake of the Pearce decision. How about letting him run for land commissioner for the GOP if Dunn goes for the congressional seat? Lyons, currently term limited on the Public Regulation Commission, is a former land commissioner.


As for a lieutenant governor candidate to run with Pearce, the pros were quick to call for a Hispanic woman to take on the task and waited for the names to start floating. One did bobble up but was not an Hispanic female. How about Dr. Richard Luarkie, the former Governor of Laguna Pueblo who Pearce has spoken highly of and who has a business background? He is also African-American.

So, as you can see the Pearce decision does indeed have the embroynic makings of a statewide team for the R's who have to face an electorate poised to go Democratic after eight years of Susana Martinez. But sometimes not losing badly is almost like winning.


For his money Cabiedes says a Guv run for Pearce does not risk a blowout of 62 to 38 as Pearce suffered at the hands of Tom Udall in 2008 when the duo faced off for an open US Senate seat.

Pearce will bring the troops home and raise the flag. That will keep the winner's circle in his sights, if not within walking distance.

Still, the early odds of a Pearce win in Dem NM following 8 years of a now unpopular GOP Governor have to be on the order of 6 to 1? What do you think?


For Dem Guv front-runner Michelle Lujan Grisham the less said about Pearce on Monday, the better. She followed the old school rule of letting your opponent have his day in the sun and let the head banging chores go to Dem Party Chair Ellenberg who ably wielded the Dem hammer on the conservative Pearce.


Down south, there's pretty much complete disarray in the Democratic ranks when it comes to the nomination for the congressional seat to be vacated by Pearce. There are four candidates running but none of them are seen by veteran observers as top tier. Still, what you see is what you may get, unless the likes of Senator Howie Morales emerges. Or how about former state Rep. Jose Campos of Santa Rosa who has talked about running for the seat if someday it became open. Well, Jose, it's open.

And forget about Dem state Senator and freshly announced Dem Guv candidate Joe Cervantes doing an about face and dropping his bid for governor to run for the congressional seat. Not going to happen, say those close to him.

Because it is conservative country and there are no big Dem names in the race yet, we are going to rank the seat in the early going as "Lean Republican."


Back in the big city, money raising is the news in the Dem fracas for the US House seat being vacated by Rep. Lujan Grisham. Former NM Dem Party Chair Deb Haaland is touting the $150,000 she raised in the first two months of her campaign as putting her on track to become the "first Native American Woman in Congress." But attorney Antoinette Sedillo Lopez is putting a hurdle up for her to jump. She says she raised $200,000 in the first three months of her campaign for the Dem nod.

The Republicans? Former State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones is the only announced hopeful. But let's get crazy for a minute. Now that Pearce is in the Guv race and has seemingly dashed any hopes of Mayor Berry to get in that contest, how about if Berry runs as a Republican for the congressional seat? Hey, stop your snickering. We did call it getting crazy.

There's more on the Pearce run on our special Monday blog. Just scroll down.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Pearce's Guv Run: Smooth Flying For The Nomination But A Kamikaze Mission For The General?  

Steve Pearce will be the Republican nominee for Governor. He is popular in the party, will be well-financed and has the conservative credentials the nominating wing of the GOP  demands. It is highly unlikely now that any other name brand candidate will run. Beyond that, however, Pearce's path to the governorship looks very cloudy.

(Pearce's video announcement for governor is here.)

His statewide loss to Tom Udall for the US Senate seat by a margin of 62 to 38 in 2008 illustrates the problem. He was crushed in the ABQ metro and the Hispanic north while competing in the less populated southern district. Unless he or the electorate changes in a dramatic way, he faces a possible repeat.

Pearce's long-held conservative views--all on the record--will be his chief obstacle. His determination to repeal Obamacare in a Medicaid dependent state is just one example of what will be a major attack point for the Democratic nominee. His support of Trump is also problematic, given that the president lost this state by 8 points. Pearce has some degree of separation from unpopular Republican Governor Susana Martinez, but the Democrats should have an easy time linking him to her, despite his protests.

In his last political hurrah Pearce, who turns 70 in August, seems to be betting that whoever the Democratic nominee is, they will be weak and prone to mistakes while a political pro such as himself can dodge the minefields to come.

Pearce, who served as an air force pilot and who recently flew a small plane around the world in honor of American veterans, will need perfect flying conditions to pull off the upset and extend eight years of Republican rule to twelve. Otherwise, this is going to look like a kamikaze mission.

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