Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Fun Photo Caption Contest; Get Yours In And Win A Free Lunch, Plus: It Was The Week NM Hispanic Politicos Advance Across The Board 

You'll be seeing plenty of this kind of pic in the months ahead as the name game gets underway in earnest for 2016.

Here's New Jersey Governor Chris Christie hanging with Gov. Susana Martinez during the final hours of campaign '14 as the duo made a quickie bus tour in rural NM.

Christie is pursuing the '16 GOP prez nod and Martinez is still frequently mentioned as a possible national player. She was named vice-chair of the Republican Governors Association this week.

So just what are these two politicos saying to one another on that bus? You tell us. The catchiest caption wins lunch for two at the Barelas Coffeehouse. Email them in at jmonahan@ix.netcom.com. . .

The state's Anglo politicians might have been a bit envious of their Hispanic counterparts this week. As we said Martinez got that RGA slot. earlier in the week Northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan scored a major political plum when he was named chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham was named vice chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

The best the gringos could do was kind of feeble. Dona Ana Dem state Senator Bill Soules was named by the Council of State Governments West (CSG West), "a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization serving legislators in 13 Western states as a participant in its prestigious training institute for lawmakers in their first four years of service."

The Council of Governments West?  Be still my heart. . .

A reader updates the state land commission race between Republican Aubrey Dunn, Jr. and Dem incumbent Ray Powell, Jr:

The difference between Dunn and Powell is now down to 584 votes, even less than the 789 you reported, which is where it was a few days ago. . .

And then there's former NM GOP Governor Gary Johnson who appears to be in need of political detox. He's addicted to running for president. After garnering 1% of the vote as the Libertarian Party's 2012 nominee, Johnson is preparing a '16 run. Please, no exclamations of: "What's he smoking?" We all know the answer to that. . .

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Berry And The Business Beat; Is It All The Feds Fault? Plus: The Dream Realized: Our Very Own Chicharrone Paddle 

Would ABQ Mayor Richard Berry please provide the names of the companies he is taking about when he says:

We sit down fairly regularly with companies and they say, 'We can't come to New Mexico without a right-to-work status.

And those companies are?

Not only are very few companies relocating to New Mexico--for reasons far more involved than a right-to-work law--but ABQ is seeing a crash in the number of new businesses being formed. In 2010--Berry's first full year as Mayor--there were 4,721 business licenses issued. In 2014 that number had crashed to 3,439. But when Berry is Governor (you heard about that, right?) all that will all turn around. . . Sure. . .

Berrynomics sums up the cause of our woes this way:

Over the last six, seven, decades, our entire economy has become reliant on government. We're a company town centered on government," he said. "And that's going away."

It may be suffering cutbacks, but it is not going away. Billions continue to flow into Sandia Labs and Los Alamos labs and billions more in other federal dollars. It's convenient to blame the entire malaise on the Feds. It relieves local policy makers of any responsibility. . .

A reader writes of the state's and ABQ's economic strategy--or the lack thereof:

If you want to see what it means to shift from a high-skills, high wage economy to a low wage, low skills economy, just say goodbye Emcore (the go-to example of a company born at Sandia Labs and manufacturing high-technology products) and hello Comcast call-center (low wages, nominal skills, highly mobile). What does it say about our state's leadership when we celebrate low-wage low skills jobs and sit slack-jawed while the headquarters of a NM incubated high-tech manufacturer leaves the state? Does anyone realistically think that Bingaman, Domenici, Richardson or Chavez would have just sat around and watched Emcore leave without a fight? No way. Also, in the long-run, what’s our strategy for getting these high-tech companies back? Cut more corporate taxes, cut more services, offer more loopholes, invest less in education, have a workforce that cannot read or write? Then maybe not even the call-centers will come our way. I just don’t see the strategy. . .


Reader Vicki Farrar in ABQ writes of our Wednesday blog in which soon-to-be state House Speaker Don Tripp was less than enthusiastic about more tax cuts:

I think Don Tripp is seeing what happens when ideology rules the actions of lawmakers in the face of reality. He probably is watching the Kansas melt-down and knows what devastation a tax-cutting agenda has on state budgets and essential services. As a small business owner he probably “gets it” over many of the corporate Republicans. If the vast majority of your state is populated by low-wage , under-employed, and unemployed consumers, your business revenues suffer (not to mention the increase in social needs that need to be met by state-services that gobble up tax revenues). Perhaps the state lawmakers who will have to pass a budget are finally understanding that you can spend money on education, mental health and substance abuse programs, and job-training as a priority--or you can spend it on more police, jails and prisons as New Mexico continues to suffer under a poor economy.


Roll Call takes a look at the rise of northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan from milking cows on the family farm to milking votes as the new chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. . .It's down to 789. That's the tiny lead Republican Aubrey Dunn, Jr. sports over incumbent Dem Land Commissioner Ray Powell. It will go to a recount November 25.


Monahan & Garza
Well, it finally happened. After decades of yearning, our dream of owning our very own chicharrone paddle has been realized. As a Gringo from Pennsylvania, the Committee on Chicharrones enforces a strict prohibition on any non-native New Mexican owning their own paddle. But Leo Garza of AARP applied for a special waiver on our behalf. . .

In a rare move, the Committee gave Garza permission to present us with this beautiful chicarrone paddle carved by Jesus Contreras. (God forbid if it were a metal paddle. Use of such a paddle would disqualify me from blogging of La Politica. And any political candidate caught using one has never gone on to be elected.) No, this paddle is the real deal. Now we are ready to crash the matanzas and start stirring. Our used blue jeans and stained UNM Lobo football jersey, proper stirring attire, are on order.

Thanks Leo and AARP (where we recently spoke) for making this possible. We pledge to use this distinctive paddle only at events sanctioned by the Committee on Chicharrones. We understand violation of that rule as well as loaning out the paddle to any aspiring politicians will result in confiscation of the paddle and in its immediate return to Mr. Garza. Okay, with that out of the way, it's time to get some red ready for those chicharrones.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tax Cut Fervor Wanes In Santa Fe; New Speaker-To-Be Downplays Possibility, Plus: Driver's Licenses Forever And Our Bottom Lines 

The fervor for tax cutting as a means to stimulate the forlorn New Mexican economy has played itself out. And the messenger of that news is none other than the first Republican who will soon be the first House Speaker in 60 years--Rep. Don Tripp.

Both the Richardson and Martinez administrations have been ardent tax cutters with Richardson dramatically shaving the personal income tax and Martinez chopping away at the corporate tax rate. But in an interview with KKOB-AM radio Tripp signaled that tax cutting as the primary economic plank is played out:

I don't have any big agenda for tax cuts. I'd rather grow the economy.

In fact, it seems Tripp, a small business owner, is looking at a way to find new state revenues. Take a look:

When we think about Internet, we're losing more and more business. The state's revenues are down from Internet sales. It is all over the country so we're going to have to address that. . . because we don't want New Mexico to be in a bad position on that.

Does that mean that Santa Fe will look to extend the state's gross receipts tax on Internet sales as a way to keep state coffers flush and now that oil prices have crashed and threaten to deplete them?

Currently, if a store has a physical presence in the state Internet sales are subject to the gross receipts tax. But if the store has no presence here--like Amazon.com--the state does not collect the tax. Millions of potential tax dollars are at stake, but it's hard to see Gov. Martinez signing such legislation as she has constantly pledged no tax hikes. Still, that the conversation in Santa Fe has moved away from tax cuts as the be-all-end-all for economic development is not an insignificant moment. . .

It was during the final seconds of the 2013 legislative session when lawmakers rammed through a controversial corporate tax cut that over five years will take the rate from 7.6% to 5.9%. When asked about cutting that rate even further Tripp did not sound enthusiastic:

I think the jury is out it may have to go down a little but more to make us even more competitive. It was a move in the right direction. We're looking at the numbers. . . 

The numbers Santa Fe has to look at it is those for job creation because that's the premise on which the corporate cut was sold to the public. It took effect July 1, 2013 and so far there has been no evidence offered that it is attracting business and creating jobs. Supporters argue that we are now being more seriously considered because of the tax cut. . .

In that interview Tripp also talked candidly about the economic devastation in rural NM--he represents the Socorro area--and how those areas are in particular need of Santa Fe's attention. If you have  traveled recently through Raton, Cimarron, Belen and other small towns and cities, you won't disagree. It's like witnessing a second Great Depression. . .

What we are witnessing in the early GOP power positioning is the dividing line between the corporate Republicans and the the small business R's. Gov. Martinez is firmly in the corporate camp, believing tax cutting is the carrot that will lure them. She also benefits from their hefty campaign contributions to PACS in support of her. Tripp, on the other hand, collects few campaign contributions and caters to the small town R's whose livelihoods are not connected to corporate America. . .


Here we go again. Coming once again to a legislative chamber near you and with this twist in the background:

The fate of a little-noticed ballot measure in strongly Democratic Oregon serves as a warning to President Obama and his party about the political perils of immigration policy. Even as Oregon voters were legalizing recreational marijuana and expanding Democratic majorities in state government, they decided by a margin of 66-34 to cancel a new state law that would have provided driver's licenses to people who are in the United States illegally. Obama is considering acting on his own, as early as this week, to possibly shield from deportation up to 5 million immigrants now living illegally in the country. Some Republicans in Congress are threatening a government shutdown if the president follows through.

The R's--as they have for four years--are looking to repeal the NM law allowing undocumented  immigrants to get the licenses. A compromise floating would have them get permits to drive but not full fledged licenses that could be used for identification.


Strange things happen when it comes to the Feds. The WIPP radioactive waste cite nearly Carlsbad suffers a major accident, the place is shut down and now what? Well, look at this from Senators Udall and Heinrich:

In a letter to. . . the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, the senators urged them to provide an additional $113 million above 2014 funding levels to ensure ongoing recovery efforts are maintained and the facility can safely resume operation.

That's a whopper of a budget hike. Will there be opposition as the site shows no signs of reopening anytime soon?


The first thing that jumps out at you about the transition website for Attorney General-elect Hector Balderas is that there is a place for job seekers to submit their resumes. That ought to keep the site at the top of the rankings in job-starved New Mexico. . . Alligators of a wide variety urged then Gov. Richardson not to do a $60 million remodel of the famed basketball arena "The Pit" but to tear it down and build a brand new one. Now we know why:

The NCAA again slammed the door shut on the Pit’s bids to host NCAA Tournament games. The famous University of New Mexico arena has still yet to win such a bid since its $60 million renovation in 2010.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ben Ray's Big Day; DC Dems Turn To A New Mexican To Drive National Hispanic Votes; Lujan To Chair DCCC; The Story, The Interview And The Analysis Are Right Here 

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan
You can cross Congressman Ben Ray Lujan off your Christmas list. There's no room left under his tree now that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has delivered to him one extra large political gift. She has handed him the chairmanship of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or as the insiders call it it the "D-Trip." And, oh my, what a trip it's going to be for the mild-mannered 42 year old Lujan. (Video here.)

Suddenly he is catapulted into the national spotlight and no doubt will soon be seen arguing with the talking heads on Fox News and commiserating with those on MSNBC. And Nancy says he's more than ready to lead the DCCC for the '16 cycle:

(Lujan) is really a focused operational person. He understands that getting out the vote is what this is and how we message to our base and how we message across the board to the persuadables and the rest. I’m choosing him because of his political astuteness, and he can manage all of this very well.

Some in DC questioned whether Lujan was ready for the upper rungs of the national political ladder. But Pelosi knows what New Mexico has come to know--it isn't much of a gamble to give the job to the fella who eats and drinks it.

We spoke with Rep. Lujan from Washington Monday night and asked him how this was one DC secret that didn't leak:

Leader Pelosi asked me only a week ago if I would be interested. I told her it would be an honor, whatever I could do to help my colleagues. I did tell my mom and chief of staff but otherwise kept it quiet. I got the call that made it official not long before we held the news conference.

Ben Ray learned his politics at the knee of his father, the late legendary NM House Speaker Ben Lujan. He spoke emotionally of him on a most fortuitous day his father did not live to see, but would not have been surprised at its arrival:

I shared with Leader Pelosi stories of my father's work ethic as an iron worker and as a representative and as Speaker. I am humbled by this but I know that dad's example of hard work and leadership will serve me well as it always has.

As for the actual job Rep. Lujan says it's all about getting higher voter turnout including here in New Mexico as the Dems work to put the '14 low turnout election behind them and prepare for the 2016 presidential derby.

No need to state the obvious, but we will for the record. The Hispanic vote is crucial to the Democratic Party in 2016. That vote is overwhelmingly Democratic but not always easy to get to the polls. That will be job one for Lujan, now a leading national Hispanic political figure.

Lujan was handily elected to his fourth, two year term this month garnering nearly 63% percent of the vote. He says "the focus will always be on my district" but he needn't worry about the extensive travel he will now undertake. His heavily Hispanic/Native American district in the North is locked down for him.

Lujan's appointment means many things. As we said, it makes him a national political figure--at least temporarily--and with a national forum (Hello, Susana), it makes him familiar to all DC House and Senate Democrats as well as key Dem fundraisers and donors from coast-to-coast. The prestige and contacts accrued could position him for leadership in the US House someday--if the Dems can reclaim the majority. Even without that majority Lujan's rise on the political ladder might mean New Mexico's concerns will fall on ears more willing to listen.

In the ongoing quest for power Hispanics today are the most sought after group by both parties. Ben Ray Lujan is now at the epicenter of the latest American political movement. Pretty heady stuff and not bad for a onetime blackjack dealer from Nambé. Wouldn't you say?


We blogged of how GOP sources informed us that at the recent House GOP caucus House Majority Leader Nate Gentry urged a vote for Rep. Zach Cook as party chairman. Now we learn that the Cook candidacy is a non-starter--nipped in the bud by soon-to-be House Speaker Don Tripp. The Cook candidacy set up a potential intraparty battle. Now the landscape is benign, with Torrance county Chair Rick Lopez seen as the favorite over IT consultant Max Barnett. . . In a first draft Monday we lumped Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richrd in with ABQ state House members. She is, of course, from the Los Alamos area. . .


Here we go again. Coming once again to a legislative chamber near you and with this twist in the background:

The fate of a little-noticed ballot measure in strongly Democratic Oregon serves as a warning to President Obama and his party about the political perils of immigration policy. Even as Oregon voters were legalizing recreational marijuana and expanding Democratic majorities in state government, they decided by a margin of 66-34 to cancel a new state law that would have provided driver's licenses to people who are in the United States illegally. Obama is considering acting on his own, as early as this week, to possibly shield from deportation up to 5 million immigrants now living illegally in the country. Some Republicans in Congress are threatening a government shutdown if the president follows through.

The R's--as they have for four years--are looking to repeal the NM law allowing undocumented  immigrants to get the licenses. A compromise floating would have them get permits to drive but not full fledged licenses that could be used for identification.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Dems Digging Out Of Hole Get A New Twist With Two Leadership Hopefuls, Plus: Naming Of New House Clerk gets Chatter Going, And: Sam Says Sayonara  

Rep. Louis
The search for fresh leadership to dig state Democrats out of the hole they've dug for themselves gets a new twist as two female minority state representatives emerge as contenders for NM House leadership posts.

ABQ Rep. Christine Trujillo has announced she is in the race for House minority leader. ABQ Rep. Georgene Louis, who told me in a phone interview she is running, is said by capitol insiders to be making inroads to claim the position of House minority whip. ABQ Reps Moe Maestas, Sheryl Williams Stapleton and Los Alamos area Rep Stephanie Garcia Richard are also seeking that slot.

The Dems were decimated by the loss of the state House to the R's for the first time in six decades. It could mean it's a jump ball when it comes to the minority leader post. Reps Egolf and Alcon are already seeking support and Trujillo's entry scrambles the math some more. There are 33 House Dems who will make the decisions. They will caucus this Saturday.

Trujillo, 60, has been one of the state's top labor union leaders and an unapologetic progressive. She has served as president of the American Federation Teachers-NM as well as president of the NM Federation of Labor-AFL-CIO. A Taos native, she was re-elected to a second term this month, taking 61% of the vote. . .

Rep. Trujillo
Big labor pumped a couple of million dollars into the state to try to save the House from the R's but it was to no avail. Now they face the prospect of right-to-work legislation gaining traction in the Legislature. Here's the letter in which Trujillo writes to her fellow Dem reps seeking their support as minority leader. An excerpt:

Now, more than ever, we need to be strong and stand firm for the poor, the working class – the men, women and children that don’t have the luxury of corporate lobbyists As Democrats, we should believe in the old adage, think globally and act locally. That’s why I’m writing to ask for your support for the position of Minority Leader of the New Mexico House of Representatives. I’m a life-long Democrat who’s spent my career working for Democratic values and fighting for working people.

And  Rep. Georgene Louis emerges as a contender to become House minority whip. Her advocates say she has just the kind of background needed to restore the street cred the Dems have lost with base voters. She is a native of Acoma Pueblo, a single mom, 36, who worked her way though the UNM School of Law.  First elected to her Westside district in 2012, she was re-elected this month with 56% of the vote. . .

That Trujillo and Louis are coming to the fore seems natural as the party deals with its crisis. Even though Hispanic and Native American women are pillars of the Democratic Party (a majority of the party is women) they have not been awarded prominent roles that would put them before the media and public. Their issues--education, wage inequality and early childhood development--are among the hot-button issues of the day. But with the R's in power the conversation has switched to right-to-work and voter ID and the like.. . .

Up in Colorado where the Dems are also grappling with a turned-off Dem base they named an all-female leadership team to the state House Friday. We'll see how much of that trend extends here. . .


The naming of Denise Greenlaw Ramonas as chief clerk of the NM House, replacing longtimer Steve Arias who was forced out by the new R majority, has the chatter going.

While Ramonas, an attorney, did indeed once work for Republican Senator Pete Domenici as legislative director, for the past decade she has served as chief of staff to Santa Fe business heavy Gerald Peters. He was one of the more influential and wealthy Democratic political players in the Big Bill administration.

One wag wondered aloud: "Do Peters and Bill get a set of eyes with this appointment?"

R's are not going to like that chatter, but it's a reality. The appointment has all the markings of being the handiwork of Majority Leader Nate Gentry--who also worked with Sen. Domenici--and not that of soon-to-be House Speaker Don Tripp.

The full House has to approve the appointment of Ramonas. R's have the majority and the appointment should be pro forma, but given the backdrop the vote will be closely watched. . .


To no one's surprise NM Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman--who presided over one of the worst statewide Democratic election performances in history--says he will head to the sidelines and not seek another term as party chair.

But many point out that Sam has been on the sidelines for most of the two years he has served. He started with bravado but quickly fell silent, prompting all sorts of speculation on just what happened to one of the most bombastic personalities state politics has produced.

The political parties have been stripped of much of their relevance by the advent of the super PACs that are now the vehicle of choice for big donors. But there is still a role for a party chair. That person can get free media to push the party cause, help set the narrative and be the attack dog against the opposition. . .

Early names for the new Dem chair--who will not be selected until next spring--are Deb Haaland, the Native American attorney who was the Dem Lt. Gov. candidate this year, and ABQ attorney Ahmad Assed.

Republicans meet to pick their new chair Dec. 6. Names announced are Torrance County GOP Chair Richard Lopez and Max Barnett who runs an IT consulting firm. Insiders say a candidacy by Rep. Zach Cook has been aborted. The GOP central committee members will name a replacement for John Billingsley who is not seeking a second term. . .


Mo Udall
Reader Tim Lowrey writes:

You attributed a quote to the late Arizona Congressman Mo Udall in your Thursday blog--"The people have spoken, the bastards." 

He may well have said it but the first Democrat to say it was Dick Tuck, a famous political prankster who detested Richard Nixon. In 1966 he ran for the California State Senate and came in third. His concession speech was:  "The people have spoken, the bastards."  I know this because my father served 11 terms as a California Sate Assemblyman. He was a Democrat. I remember hearing about Dick Tuck's speech from him.

Thanks, Steve, Let's try this one that is also attributed to Mo and is especially timely as state House Dems prepare to caucus:

I have learned the difference between a cactus and a caucus. On a cactus, the pricks are on the outside.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Round The Roundhouse: "The Netflix Session" To Come, Gaming The Senate And A Judge Who Defied The Odds 

Here's more on what's in store for the NM House Dems as they assume minority status for the first time in 60 years in the next session of the Legislature starting in January. From a Roundhouse wall-leaner:

House Dems will now do what House Republicans used to do for decades. Sign in at roll call, and watch the other side's show. House Dems have long lunches ahead while Republicans caucus to actually pass a budget and legislation. The Dem leaders will do what they've seen Republicans resort to for all the time the members have served -- engage in long debates to slow things down when possible. They will toss out amendments which will be defeated but hope to someday use those votes against the R's in a future election.  House Dems will look for leadership that can speak at length, sound articulate, but can expect to do little more for the next two years. The Dems will be painfully watching the clock, and coveting those back row seats where they can watch Netflix without prying eyes in the gallery above.

Meanwhile Rep. Patty Lundstrom of McKinley and San Juan counties says she is weighing a run for minority leader and joining Reps Egolf and Alcon in that chase. She's been in the House since 2001. 

Let's shift it over to the state Senate where one of our Senior Alligators games it out this way:

Just as during the Richardson administration we will have a NM House Speaker from the Governor's own party and at her beck and call. All real action will be over in the Senate. The Senate proudly takes its independence from the executive branch very seriously, and this election changes practically nothing in that upper chamber. The Dem Senate will now be the only check on total Republican control of state government and policy. Republican Sen. Leader Ingle was already talking about putting a right to work bill on the Governor's desk the day after the House election loss.

The now open majority whip position could become important with Sen. Tim Keller moving out after his election as Auditor. If a Senate committee chairman claims the whip post--and Sen. John Sapien is one of three running--that would open his Education Committee chairmanship.


Republican Jim McClure writes:

Unique as New Mexico claims to be, we’re still affected by national trends. One such trend is growing voter pushback against teachers’ unions in Wisconsin and other states. So perhaps a promise to roll back school reform should not have been the centerpiece of Gary King’s campaign. I am thankful for small blessings. however. Because of the accident of Gov. Martinez’ gender, we were spared the tiresome "war on women” campaign the Dems ran in other states. I’m also curious: As a recovering public opinion researcher, I have to wonder if our local politicos conduct polls and focus groups on issues as well as candidate preference. Would Gary King’s opposition to school reform, or Dem secretary of state candidate Maggie Tolouse Oliver’s softness on voter fraud, have passed muster in a serious round of issue research?

A self-described Junior Alligator writes:

Did Republican Secretary of State Diana Duran win the election for the Republicans this year by getting rid of straight ticket voting? Look at the final numbers and see where, when forced to actually vote in each individual race, the voters crossed party lines. Would Republican Aubrey Dunn be land commissioner if there were straight ticket voting?  Would Duran still be secretary of state with it?

the straight ticket is thought to help the Dems most. But only 14 states now provide for straight ticket voting so the Dems are going to have to learn to live without it. 


Judge Miles Hanisee
Freshly elected NM Court of Appeals Judge Miles Hanisee is accepting congratulations from both sides of the aisle over the election win he marked up. It is not very often that a Republican gets elected to that statewide office and this was close. He won 51% to 49% over Dem Kerry Kiernan. Hanisee was appointed by the Guv to fill a court vacancy and had to seek election in his own right. One of the readers comes with the story: 

Bill Riordan (NMSC), Christina Armijo, Sutin, Kennedy and now Hanisee are the only five Republicans who have been elected to appellate courts since 1981, and I'm given to understand that's the case for more than another 30 years before that.

Running two statewide races chasing the job like Miles did involves more than 200,000 miles put on cars, developing a deeper relationship with your windshield than your family sometimes), endless mountains of overcooked chicken and undercooked green beans, and the pressure to be a true partisan when you know that Democrats are the ones who will elect you--if you can just meet enough of them and have a chat.

As noted above Hanisee ran a vigorous campaign that included TV ads. His Dem opponent did not appear on the airwaves.


In our first draft Wednesday we made a mistake when we said that Speaker Ken Martinez was the second Dem Speaker to be removed from power in the modern era. Actually, he is the third. Here's the chronology:

Speaker Martinez's father was removed by a conservative coalition in 1979. Dem Gene Samberson served as speaker from '79 to '82. Dem Speaker Raymond Sanchez broke the coalition and served from '83 to '84. Then Sanchez was dethroned by the conservative cowboy coalition with Samberson again becoming speaker for '85 and '86. Raymond Sanchez broke the coalition for good, becoming speaker again in 1987 and serving until 2000. It was a tumultuous period in state history. . .

And we referenced Valencia County GOP Rep. Alonzo Baldonado as "minority whip" when in fact he is majority whip. It's going to take some getting used to, Alonzo. . .

Let's give the final word on Election '14 to the late, legendary Arizona Democratic Congressman Mo Udall:

"The people have spoken. Those bastards."

Thanks for dropping by.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The End Of A Very Brief Era; Speaker Martinez Will Not Seek Minority Leader Post, Plus: The Wake-Up Call Is Coming For House Dems And So Is The Pain; First Casualty Is Legendary Roundhouse Clerk 

Speaker Martinez
Now that outgoing House Speaker Ken Martinez has thrown in the towel and announced he won't seek to become House minority leader when the R's take control in January, the question is whether the House Dems will seek a leader who will be calling out the GOP or accommodating it? (Martinez's letter of withdrawal below).

Accommodation and compromise were the hallmark of Speaker Martinez's brief two year tenure and, as the saying goes, look where it got him.

Confrontation is not without risk, but the Dems have painted themselves in a corner by ceding so much ground to the GOP. Those that argue they will automatically take back the House in the higher turnout year of 2016 might want to take a closer look at the math. The Dems return is anything but guaranteed. They will need at least three seats and maybe more, depending on retirements. If that means they will have to fight hard to win it back, it means sending a firmer message to women, working class voters and minority New Mexicans who make up the bulk of the Democratic Party. . .

Does that also mean the new leadership should be female and center-left? The two public candidates so far for minority leader are Santa Fe Rep. Brian Egolf and Grants area Rep. Eliseo Alcon, but there is room for more if someone has the yearning. ABQ State Reps Moe Maestas and Sheryl Williams Stapleton will seek to become minority whip and there's room for more competition there, too.

We've confirmed that the House Democratic caucus will meet Nov. 22 to select its leaders.

ABQ State Rep. Mimi Stewart, frequently mentioned as a possible minority leader, won't be in the House much longer and won't run. She is poised to be appointed to fill the ABQ state senate seat left vacant by Tim Keller who was elected state auditor. Insiders say Stewart has the three Bernalillo County Commisison votes needed to win the appointment in January.


Clerk Arias (by Bralley)
If state House Democrats have yet to absorb the shock here's a wake-up call for them on what they are about to endure when the R's take control of the 70 member chamber for the first time in 60 years. From the Roundhouse:

All of the Democrat chairmen and chairwomen will be moving out of their nice big offices, and saying goodbye to the staffers they were allowed to employ. Those chairmen and chairwomen will be replaced by the incoming Republicans, and the Dems moved into small shared offices, probably many out of the Capitol and in the annex building, and out of sight and out of mind. 

Since all those Dem chairs are accustomed to power, and now will have absolutely none, many will begin thinking that the three leadership posts are the only way to remain remotely relevant. The competition for minority leadership positions, including the Whip and Caucus Chair, may be the only thing House Dems get to decide in the next two years. House members will be called to caucus quickly to try and contain the public bloodletting, finger-pointing and handwringing. There is just enough of the old Raymond Sanchez and Ben Lujan caucus to hang onto Kenny Martinez as minority leader for nostalgic reasons.  Kenny has got to hold to those memories and similar hopes of a rebound someday. 

One of the first casualties of the GOP takeover is longtime Chief House Clerk Steve Arias. He has held the position since 1983 and his tenure in the House dates to 1966. What a run of great service to the people of New Mexico. Write a book, Steve.

The GOP leadership, we've confirmed, will be giving Arias his walking papers. And then there's the over 250 "seasonal staff" Arias is in charge of hiring to service the House during legislative sessions. Get your resumes in GOP loyalists, looks like there's going to be some openings when a new clerk is named. . .


The real pain for the Dems will come about halfway through the 60 day legislative session that begins January 21, says our Roundhouse Gator:

Sometime around the middle of the coming 60 day session the House Dems will begin to get angry about the bills they can’t stop and their inconsequential role other than to wait on capital outlay with everyone else. Their Dem bills will quickly go down to defeat in committees on party line votes. Only then will the magnitude of this loss, and the failure of the past leadership, begin to sink in.

Oh, my. Get the painkillers out Dems. You're going to need them. . .


Sen. Sanchez
In blogging about the possibility of the state Senate going along with the soon-to-be Republican controlled House on a number of key issues, we noted that if four Martinez Dems joined with the 17 R's they could pass the measures. The Senate has 42 members so if everyone voted and the four Dems voted yea and joined the R's there would be a 21-21 tie. However, that tie would be broken in the R's favor by Lt. Governor John Sanchez who presides over the Senate and has the right to break tie votes.

To get measures such as voter ID approved, the Senate might have to "blast" the measures to the floor and away from committees where they would likely be killed. The question, as one lawmaker put it to us, is whether "the stodgy Senate" would resort to that tactic and jeopardize the "integrity" of the committee process.  Well, it would be very unusual but so is the first GOP controlled House in 60 years. We'll have to see how it plays out come January. Maybe there will be surprise vote switches by spooked and/or deal making senators in the committees and the blast option won't be relevant. Or maybe the Dems will actually stick together and kill the House GOP agenda.

Pressure will be enormous on Majority Leader Michael Sanchez to hold the line in the Senate. That pressure grew when Valencia County state Representatives Alonzo Baldonado and Kelly Fajardo were named to leadership positions by the House GOP caucus.

Baldonado was named majority whip and Fajardo caucus chair. Senator Sanchez is also from Valencia County and up for re-election in 2016. You could easily see Fajardo and Baldonado telling Valencia County that the House passed politically popular measures like voter ID and right to work but it was Senator Sanchez who blocked them and therefore must go. Let's say it together: Elections have consequences. . .


The speakership of Ken Martinez will soon be part of the history of La Politica. Here's what he wrote to his fellow House Democrats as he withdrew his name from consideration as minority leader:

Dear Representative -

I write to thank you for all your support over the years.  It has been an honor to serve as your Speaker and before that as your Floor Leader.  This past Tuesday, New Mexico House Democrats endured very difficult losses in the general election.  I am proud of the effort made by our members and candidates.  We didn’t have the outcome that we wanted but I believe as much as ever in the future of this caucus.

It’s time to rebuild, learn from this campaign and move forward. After much prayer and quiet contemplation, I believe that the time has come for me to pass the baton to the next generation of leadership.  I will not be running for any leadership position in the next caucus election. We have a deep and talented bench and I am confident that new and inspiring leadership will emerge from this process and together we will continue to fight for working New Mexicans.

A caucus date will be set in the next few days and staff will follow up with details.  I look forward to working with you in the days and months ahead.  There is a lot of work to be done and I will be with you every step of the way. Sincerely, Speaker Ken Martinez

The historical irony of Speaker Martinez's loss of power is lost on noone. In 1979, his father, Walter Martinez, was another Democratic speaker to be toppled. Back then a coalition of Republicans and conservative Dems took control of the chamber and ousted Martinez. They named a conservative Dem as speaker. Walter Martinez died in 1986 at the age of 55.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Gridlock Or Goals Scored? House Shake-Up Puts Controversial Measures In Spotlight, Plus: How Turnout Played For R's In The House Takeover 

Update: House Speaker Ken Martinez has announced he will not seek to become House minority leader as R's prepare to takeover the chamber in January.

The chattering classes were saying during the campaign that even if the R's took over the NM House not much would happen--that the Dem controlled Senate would block the GOP's pet bills. But if we're reading the tea leaves right, don't bet on that.

Right-to-work legislation, as dormant as a hibernating bear for three decades, seems actually to have a pretty good chance of getting to the Governor's desk. Remember, the Gov. Martinez Democrats are still in the Senate. All the R's need is four of them to get right to work passed. The law would drop any requirement that a worker belong to a union before he is hired. . .

There is little union presence in NM besides government employees. Our lack of a manufacturing base sees to that. And does anyone see the national unions clamoring very loudly to stop right to work in New Mexico as they did in Wisconsin? Maybe not since they already dropped a couple of million trying to save the House for the Dems. Also, the Gov. Martinez Dems know no matter what they will probably draw primary challengers from the left in 2016. They will likely prepare to fight from the right--not switch.

As far as right-to-work having any impact on the state's forlorn economy, like the corporate tax cut of 2013 it will have no noticeable effect. but you already knew that. . .

We're also seeing signs that a statewide voter ID bill could squeak through and even some kind of compromise on the perennial issue of driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants could have a shot. And holding back third-graders who are not scoring well. It could have a better shot in the Senate than the conventional wisdom has it.

As they say, elections have consequences and this one could have more than just continuing the gridlock.


State Rep. Lucky Varela will be 80 in February and with the GOP takeover of the House his dream of becoming chairman of the House Appropriations Committee appears to have vanished. But a number of Varela loyalists--and there are many--come with a suggestion to honor Varela.

They wonder if outgoing state Rep. Kiki Saavedra--current chair of appropriations--would not decide to resign from the legislature a few weeks before his term expires so his friend Lucky--who is next in line for the chairmanship--could at least have the title by his name before leaving the legislature and before a new R chair takes over in January. Varela was recently re-elected to what is expected to be his final term. He was first elected in 1986 and is known for his knowledge of the state budget.


An informed reader puts the battle for the state House in the context of the overall turnout:

The majority of the 70 House seats were not in contention. However the 2010 redistricting resulted in more Democratic voters being concentrated into districts where they did not affect the outcome of the fight for control of the House. This election saw 29,156 more people casting votes for Democratic legislative candidates than Republicans. If redistricting had spread those voters around more evenly Tuesday’s results could have been very different.

In your Friday blog, a reader wrote that the “electorate is tiring of Dem leadership of the Legislature.” I think we can argue that is not true as the majority of voters chose Democratic candidates. It was the imbalanced redistricting map that led to the ultimate shift in power.

Also, there was a failure of the campaigns to really push turnout. Statewide turnout was below 40% of registered voters, lower that it was even in 2010. It appears that in most of those swing state House districts turnout averaged around 45%, but that is still low.

The two districts where Democrats did have victories this year were in the districts that saw average or above average turnout. This includes District 50 where Matt McQueen was victorious with an estimated turnout of 51% and he won by 7 points. The one that really stands out is District 43 where Garcia Richard had an estimated turnout of 56% and won by 13 points.

What this seems to confirm is that if turnout is higher the Dems will have a chance of retaking the House. But because of imbalanced redistricting they are starting the race behind the Republicans.

Good stuff. That crash in turnout to only about 513,000 will long be remembered.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

It's A Tripp; GOP House Takeover Goes From Surreal To Real As New Leadership Is Named, Plus: Gobs Of Post-Election News, Analysis And Reader Mail; Warning: Monster Blog Straight Ahead 

Rep. Don Tripp
The surreal is suddenly very real. After 60 years in the shadows state House Republicans are finally getting a taste of the long forbidden fruit--real power. Over the weekend they convened an historic caucus to select the first Republican to lead a legislative session since 1954. They selected Rep. Don Tripp of Socorro as their nominee for Speaker of the House.

The 68 year old is a legislative veteran--respected on both sides of the aisle--who was first elected in 1998. He was born in Pasadena, CA before the family moved to NM. They opened a small jewelry store in Socorro that became a success and which today Tripp owns along with other business interests. He earned a bachelor's degree from NM Tech in Socorro in 1969 and is married to longtime NM Republican National Committeewoman Rosie Tripp.

Come January the majority Republicans--37 to 33 Dems--will formally ratify Tripp as the second most powerful leader in the New Mexican government. It will be his call on what legislation goes before the 70 member chamber and it will be his personality and temperament that sets the tone.

Having set the stage, let's go to the politics. Tripp has been angling for the speakership behind the scenes. Months ago we mentioned him as a possible speaker if the GOP took control. Possibly standing in his way was ambitious 39 year old ABQ GOP state Rep. Nate Gentry. He is the House minority leader and a key ally of powerful Guv political adviser Jay McCleskey who has earned the title "Shadow Governor" for calling the major plays of the Martinez administration. The pair worked together to devise a strategy to win a GOP House majority this year.

But at Saturday's caucus Gentry was named Majority Leader not speaker.  He beat out Rep. Dennis Roche for the post. There was, however, no challenge to Tripp. That enabled the R's to put forward a united front in their first exercise of power.

(Rep Alonzo Baldonado was named majority whip and Rep. Kelly Fajardo was picked as Caucus Chair. Both are from Valencia County, part of which is also in Tripp's district).

The competition between Gentry and Tripp was nipped in the bud when it became clear Gentry did not have the votes, espseically after his re-election campaign in which he was brutalized by the Democrats over personal transgressions.

Still, Gentry, an attorney and former aide to former NM US Senator Pete Domenici, is known for his legislative agility and leadership abilities and will be a key player. Tripp will have to do a balancing act here--keep Gentry close but not so close that he is accused of being a figurehead Speaker and that Gentry and McCleskey are really calling the plays. . .

The state awaits to hear the legislative priorities of the Governor and the speaker before the legislature convenes in January. Tripp did signal to TV news that right-to-work legislation will be a priority. . .

One thing about Tripp that campaign reformers may like--he has spent little money getting re-elected, accepting relatively few contributions in his 15 years in Santa Fe. He spent only about $20,000 on his re-election this year. He beat his Democratic foe 71% to 29%. Of course, Tripp is in a safe GOP district. . .

Old timers will remember the fateful 1998 election that is ultimately responsible for catapulting Tripp into the historic position he is in today. He beat Michael Olguin, then the powerful state House Majority Leader, in a stunning upset that ended Olguin's career. The irony is that many felt Olguin was on the path to become Speaker. . .


GOP sources tell us that at Saturday's caucus Majority Leader Gentry urged those in attendance to support Rep. Zach Cook (Lincoln & Otero) for chairman of the NM GOP. John Billingsley says he will not seek another term. Cook, an attorney, will have the advantage in the race with backing from the Guv. Torrance County GOP Chairman Rick Lopez is saying he will also seek the chairmanship when the GOP Central Committee meets in early December.

Like its Democratic counterpart, the state GOP has been cash starved as money flows to independent committees and individual campaigns.


As poet Robert Frost might put it, we still have miles to go before we sleep when it comes to Campaign '14. It's a ton of post-election news and reaction so here we go. . .

Supporters of Dem Senator Tom Udall are sensitive to criticism that he could have done more to prevent the Democratic debacle We blogged about Friday saying Udall tended to his own re-election needs. Reader pushback:

I take offense to the statement) that Tom Udall didn't do his part. From the blog:

"Heinrich and the rest of the Dem congressional delegation saw the train wreck coming and did little. Senator Udall tended to his own re-election needs. ABQ US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham did do work for the state House candidates but could she have done more? Ben Ray Lujan stayed north. Could the delegation--by putting more into King's campaign--made the landslide less malignant?"

Udall went to every single one of those districts and campaigned for those house candidates - Emily Kane, Liz Thomson, Philip Archuleta, Mariaelena Johnson, Harrison Todacheene, the list goes on and on. He was there for them, often changing his own plans in order to campaign for these candidates. Implying that he selfishly ignored down-ballot races is just plain wrong.

Truth is, King's folks didn't want the help. Or more precisely, King didn't want the help. The Democratic Party and the Coordinated Campaign tried and King resisted. He refused to join the ticket as they toured the state, planned only his own events and didn't take Udall's outstretched hand even once.

Udall's camp points out he set up the Coordinated Campaign and pumped major money into it. Dan Sena who headed that effort for Udall said it provided the House and statewide candidates with all the important demographic and voter modeling info but in the end it was the "persuasion" efforts of the campaigns that led to the GOP takeover. 

We would only add that if someone--Udall, Speaker Martinez or the state Dem Party--had held their nose over their disdain for Gary King and diverted $300,000 to put up negative ads against Gov. Martinez in the final 10 days you probably would have trimmed her win to 55% instead of 57% and might have saved the House in the process. Dems might want to ask themselves why that wasn't done.

As for state Dem Chairman Sam Bregman, it's not necessary to recount his role in the Dem collapse. That has been done time and again for months. He went AWOL soon after he took over as chairman.


Reader Susan Loubet on ABQ Dem US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham:

I thought that Michelle did as much as she could and way more than she had to. She didn't have a race that she needed to really worry about, but she ran it as though she did and she geared that campaign to the local candidates that she could help. She was out walking constantly with local candidates who were in tight races. I don't remember Congressional candidates walking their districts at all, in the past.  There were some times when Michelle had to be in DC during the campaign, but I think that she was out campaigning with local candidates much of the rest of the time, as well as helping raise money. And, you know, that is the hard work-not just lending your name as an endorsement. 

Reader Norm writes:

If we're passing out blame, let's not forget the Democratic Party primary voters who gave King the  nomination. The delegates at the pre-primary convention clearly didn't want him. He finished in last place and it's hard to say in retrospect that the delegates didn't know what they were doing. And those primary voters having thus expressed the will of the rank-and-file, they then went fishing in November.

This game is going to continue, in New Mexico and almost everywhere else, until the electorate realizes that although politics can be disgusting, you can't opt out. . . 


One of the more devastating Dem losses was in the southern congressional district where Dem Rocky Lara--touted as an up and comer--was destroyed by GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce--65% to 35% That will end speculation that Lara will be a contender for the seat again in 2016. Reader Mike Davis piles on in this letter to Lara:

You would have gotten 35% of the vote if you had not campaigned one day or spent one single dollar--your name on the ballot would have guaranteed you that hard core Democratic base vote in southern New Mexico--like me. Even though I know Congressman Pearce and his lovely and warm wife well and they have always been cordial in all our dealings, I am not going to vote Republican.

The thing most people will remember about your campaign, sadly, is the constant wheedling, whining, whimpering and wailing about the need for more contributions that arrived at supporters' inboxes like me from you, your family, your staff, and a compendium of surrogates. That is why I requested repeatedly to have my name removed from your list serve, which finally happened after numerous attempts. Unfortunately, that meant I would not see information on your stance on issues, but I was fine with the trade off.

Man, this blame game can get rough and even rougher. From another reader:

Blame the Party for putting Gary King on the ballot in the first place. It's almost as though they purposely chose someone who they knew would get beaten. I blame Gary King for taking the bait. I blame the losers for not personally taking it to the streets and talking to individuals (you know...those pesky folks we call "constituents"), rather than crying about the lack of campaign funds for counter-ads. Mostly, I blame the Party leaders for being a bunch of self-serving, resume-building, lazy-arse, back-stabbing charlatans who are in it for anything but the "service" to the citizens of New Mexico. Signed, Embarrassed by my Party...yet again.

ABQ attorney Jeffrey Baker writes:

The Ds who are playing the blame game (it’s Gary King’s fault, it’s Kenny Martinez’ fault), and acting as if the sky is falling, should take a deep breath. A one party controlled House since 1954 is not a sign of good government. It is reminiscent of one party government in the third world, which is no one’s idea of anything positive. Sometimes change for change’s sake is therapeutic. Change provides an opportunity to take stock. New Mexicans have been addicted to one party legislatures much too long. Addiction is not healthy. Detox is never comfortable, but it is always necessary. Detox rarely kills the patient. Usually it makes her stronger.


At least one Democratic consultant had a good year--Mark Fleisher. All three of his candidates won Tuesday night. ABQ State Rep. Moe Maestas was not a tough one, but Dem Public Regulation Commissioner Sandy Jones won in a cliffhanger over Republican Ben Hall. And while two Dem statewide candidates were falling, Tim Eichenberg scratched out a victory for state Treasurer against Rick Lopez. Fleisher says his campaign winning streak is now 12 in a row. He's lucky Speaker Martinez didn't put him on the payroll or his streak would be gone.


For Veterans day:

Riverside Funeral Homes and non-profit Cell Phones for Soldiers Inc. are asking Bernalillo County residents to help troops call home by donating gently-used cellular phones. Although the military landscape is ever changing, as many as 290,000 troops are serving in the U.S. military overseas around the world. By donating to Cell Phones for Soldiers, New Mexico residents can provide troops with that precious connection to loved ones back home during the upcoming Veterans Day and holiday season. Beginning October 30, 2014 through Veterans Day, November 11, 2014, residents can donate their phones at both Riverside Funeral Home locations, 225 San Mateo Blvd. NE or our Los Lunas/Valencia County location at 820 Main Street NE, Los Lunas, NM.

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