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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Summering In the North: The Lure Of Santa Fe, Española And Taos; Our Travelogue 

In Taos
It doesn't take much to persuade us to head north in the glorious New Mexico summer months so we quickly accepted an invite from the Taos County Democrats to speak before the group about the latest goings on in La Politica.

There was plenty to talk about as we appeared the day after Dem Guv nominee Michelle Lujan Grisham's ABQ Journal interview in which she rebuked key progressive proposals like Medicare for all. Taos is a hotbed of progressivism and there were quite a few misgivings expressed over her statements but optimism that going forward she will be lees zealous in her anti-progressive rhetoric.

In the photo. Among those in the crowd were Susan Herrera, fresh off her upset primary win over veteran State Rep. Debbie Rodella. Herrera's election in November is assured as there is no GOP contender in the Rio Arriba and Taos area district. Also on hand were longtime State Rep. Bobby Gonzales, chairman of the House Transportation Committee and Taos Councilman Darien Fernandez who is also chair of the Taos County Dems.

After the meeting we headed over to Lambert's on Bent Street, by far the best restaurant in Taos and actually one of the best in the entire state. Most of the group favored the fresh ruby red trout as they dished out the latest political chatter in the restaurant's Governor's Room. (No, Susana was not in the hood) Lambert's makes its own desserts and offered too many to recount, but a raspberry cobbler topped with homemade ice cream was memorable. That's life at Lambert's.

The Taos Inn remains the go-to spot for a stay in Taos. The historic hotel was recently put up for sale by its longtime owners who have cared for it well. The courtyard rooms are best because they are the largest. The lobby and the adjacent lounge continue to feature music every night during the summer and the Inn is a convenient departure point to take in all of interest in the historic district. The Doc Martin's restaurant at the hotel is a longtime favorite.

We had never toured the UNM Taos campus but thanks to retired PR man and former KOAT-TV report Bill Knief we did and also sat down for a conversation with Dr. Patrick Valdez who has been CEO of the UNM Taos branch for a year. The self-described "Latino from Texas by way of New York City" is one of the fresh faces bringing needed new ideas to higher ed as it faces enrollment and tuition challenges, although UNM Taos remains quite affordable at $78 a credit hour. Its student body is now 6 percent Native American and Valdez is conducting a vigorous effort to reach more students throughout the region.

Dr. Valdez is a convincing salesman for the Taos campus (he says he once peddled insurance for New York Life) and has become popular with legislators who preside over higher ed funding. We met with him at a conference room that had the picturesque Taos Mountain as a stunning backdrop. It's hard not to be inspired by that.

Before we leave Taos, we can't forget Funky Donkey. . .

FUNKY DONKEY


Be on the lookout for Funky Donkey. From George Brown, Treasurer of the Taos County Dems:

The Taos County Democratic Party launched its new face: “Funky Donkey.” The new standard bearer is from a painting by noted local artist Michael Archuleta . . Already established for Funky Donkey is an Instagram identity as funkydonkey_votes and a Twitter account @funkyvotes. The Funky Donkey has appeared in the Arroyo Seco July 4th Parade, at a Questa BBB and at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe, and he’s been seen cavorting with State Rep Bobby Gonzales. Funky Donkey gets around! Wherever Funky Donkey goes people love to have a selfie taken.

That's one of those "Only in Taos" things and makes you look forward to coming back again and again.

A SOARING BUTTERFLY

SF Opera
A night at the storied Santa Fe Opera is always a treat, although like any entertainment venue there can be an occasional miss. Not on our recent visit, however, as we took in the always popular Madame Butterfly, along with a full house of patrons at the extraordinary building and magnificent outdoor setting. Spinto soprano Kelly Kaduce made for a very strong and moving Butterfly as the Opera heads into its 63rd year in 2019 after being nurtured by the retiring Charles McKay. The grounds and environs show no signs of age as supporters here and worldwide protect and perpetuate this grand NM tradition.

Let's finish up our travelogue with a recent stop in Española at the restaurant Angelina's. That's about the only place we know of where you can find Lamb Costillas (spareribs) as well as lamb chicharrones served, of course, with a generous dose of red chile. They've been doing it for 31 years at the family owned restaurant. The lamb is from north of Española, home to sheep herding for centuries. On our next visit the lamb chops are on our menu.

Even in the midst of a busy election season New Mexico offers up a unique summertime break where the livin' is indeed easy. May it ever be so.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

MLG's Bad Week Continues; Accuracy Of Her Latest Ad Questioned, Plus: Libertarian Failure Could Help Pearce A Bit And The Latest On The Money Race For Congress 

This is turning into a week that Michelle Lujan Grisham would like to forget. First there was that controversial newspaper interview in which the Dem Guv nominee threw the progressive wing of her Dem Party overboard and got her in hot water. Now there's questions about the accuracy of her latest TV ad. It has the state GOP calling on ABQ TV stations to pull the spot:

Michelle Lujan Grisham is not being honest with New Mexico voters about her record. Given your station’s responsibility to protect the public from deceptive advertising, I urge you to immediately stop running Lujan Grisham’s ad.

The spot is not going to be pulled but. . .

It was the kind of unforced error that Steve Pearce badly needs and he quickly took to his Facebook page to pounce:

The AP finds that Michelle Lujan Grisham is misleading New Mexicans in her new TV ad. She claims overdose deaths decreased under her watch as Health Secretary - in reality, they went up steadily.

The fact check gave hope to Republicans that the MLG campaign is not as well-oiled as it should be:

LUJAN GRISHAM: "When I was secretary of health, we lowered overdoses through better treatment." Lujan Grisham led the department from August 2004 through June 2007.

THE FACTS: That was only true for illicit drugs such as heroin in some years, and not those counted as dying from a combination of drugs. Lujan Grisham's campaign cited a 21 percent decline in heroin deaths from 2005-2006.

But statewide annual drug overdose deaths increased steadily from 304 in 2004 to 439 in 2007, according to the state Department of Health. The rate of opioid-related overdose deaths from illicit drugs and pain-relief medication also increased.

The ad misstep raises the question why the MLG camp felt the need to make such a stretch as they nurse a healthy polling lead. The unforced error comes in the middle of summer when attention to the campaign is at its low. But the Pearce camp is paying a whole lot of attention and can only hope for more breaks from their rival.

LIBERTARIAN FADE

There's another tidbit of good news for underdog Pearce. The Libertarian candidate trying to make the November ballot via a write-in campaign has failed to do so:

Libertarians sought the recount in eight counties this year after their write-in candidates for governor, Bob Walsh, and lieutenant governor, Robin Dunn, fell short of the 230-vote threshold required to make the Nov. 6 ballot. They each received about 180 votes in the June 5 primary election. Walsh’s number climbed to 186 votes in the recount, according to the unofficial tallies submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office. . . Walsh needed at least 230 votes, or 2 percent of the Libertarians registered in New Mexico.

If Walsh had made the ballot it's a safe assumption that most of his votes would have attracted would have come from conservatives who normally would go to Pearce. It matters because if Pearce manages a victory over his Dem rival, even his most ardent supports agree it would likest be by the closest of margins.

MONEY RACE

The first money reports for the congressional races this fall make it clear that Democrat Deb Haaland is in the driver's seat in the contest for the ABQ congressional seat and in the southern district the Democrat is going to be well-financed in a district that leans R.

Haaland raised: $458,891.30 in the April-June quarter. She won a six way Dem primary race by a whopping 14 points. Her cash on hand is $241,000. Republican nominee Janice Arnold-Jones raised $54,600 and has cash on hand of $46,660

The ABQ congressional district has not elected a Republican candidate since 2006. It's Safe Dem.

In the southern district being vacated by US Rep. Steve Pearce, Dem Xochitl Torres Small reports raising $619,000 and had $496,000 in cash on hand. Republican Yvette Herrell raised $172,000 and had $100,000 in cash.

Herrell had a contentious primary with two foes, including former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman who was raising money against her in the quarter. Still, the Torres Small number is hopeful for Dems as Herrell works to even things up. The district is Lean R.

TWO VIEWS

Lots of reaction to Lujan Grisham's parting of the ways with her progressive Dem wing in the Sunday Journal piece we blogged about it. Here's two:

This progressive Democrat just lost her lunch. Is Michelle trying to court the oil and gas industry and Pearce voters? If so, she'll fail. As long as she is a registered Democrat, she'll get no votes from that group. Political campaign rhetoric that attempts to satisfy all will fail. MLG ought to take another look at the special election results this year at what type of Democrat wins. Michelle, sweetheart, stand up for your party which is going more progressive rather than less center-left. 2018 is not 2000. Is your advisor named McCleskey? After all, who wants to reverse instead of go forward? A dadgum certified, progressive Democrat, Violet Cauthon, Las Cruces.

And another view:

Joe, believe or not Michelle’s credentials are almost exactly what New Mexico Hispanics are. We grew up with little money to spare and consequently are fiscally responsible. My county, Rio Arriba, is the third largest producer of oil and gas in New Mexico. Why bite the hand that feeds us? The Crocagator.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

No Overcrowding Here; Report Says Hardly Any NM Growth From Now Until 2040, Plus: Troubled BernCo Sheriff Dept; How Does Sheriff Gonzales Re-elect Look?  

Don't worry about not having enough elbow room or having LA sized traffic jams in our enchanted land. The population here will grow at a snail's pace between now and 2040, according to a report analyzing growth in all 50 states.

The report from the Welden Cooper Center at the University of Virginia is a real stunner. It projects the NM population in 2040 will be 2,160,000, a mere 5 percent increase from the 2010 census which counted 2,059,000 New Mexicans.

NM population growth has been stuck in a rut since 2010 when the economy began crashing. While that was happening we were surrounded by booming growth in Arizona, Texas and Colorado. The report expects that trend to continue as well.

Twenty years is a long time to project into the future but already the trend is in place. The July '17 US Census Estimate of the state population was 2,088,00 which is not even two percent growth since the 2010 census.

At the turn of the century the talk was about New Mexico perhaps gaining another seat in the US House. Now the next generation will have to fret about possibly losing a seat.

As for economic growth, you can't have much if you're not growing your population.

For those who shudder at the thought of New Mexico being "Californicated" the report is a dream come true. For businesses looking to grow and university grads thinking about getting a good job and making New Mexico their home, it's another kick in the teeth.

I filed my first news report in the Land of Enchantment in June of 1974. Without question, the depopulation/stagnation in this century of this once thriving, magnetic Sunbelt state is the biggest story of them all, with more political, social and economic ramifications yet to unfold.

SHERIFF WATCH

The wheels have been coming off at the Bernalillo County Sheriff's department this month, leading reader George Richmond to ask about the political fortunes of Democratic Sheriff Manny Gonzales:

Joe, how do you rate his chances now for re election?

Well, George, despite the Sheriff's problems with nepotism in the department, the lawsuit over a deputy's fatal shooting of two men in a parked car and the heat Gonzales continues to take for refusing to have his deputies wear video lapel cameras, his chances for re-election still look pretty good.

The main reason is that his his GOP opponent, Lou Golson, has hardly any cash on hand to put out a negative message on Gonzales who is seeking his second, four year term this November. At the start of this month Golson reports only $2,700 in cash while Sheriff Gonzales has already amassed $64,000.

Not that Gonzales isn't at least somewhat vulnerable. In the three way June primary he was held below the 50 percent mark, garnering 49 percent of the vote, with Sylvester Stanley taking 38 percent. Not exactly a huge vote of confidence by members of Gonzales' own party.

Another problem for Golson is the changing nature of BernCo. Not long ago the sheriff position was a swing seat, shared by Dems and R's, but in recent years the county has swung deeper into the blue. For example, when Gonzales was elected in 2014, he was the first Democratic Hispanic in memory to take the sheriff's office.

Golson is an Air Force veteran and retired APD officer who is well-known in ABQ for having suffered four gunshot wounds while making a traffic stop. He underwent a long recovery. But a quality candidate needs support and the R's, at least so far, don't seem willing to pony up for Golson and make the Gonzales-Golson face-off a banner race, even as Manny draws banner headlines. We'll keep any eye on it for you.

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Monday, July 16, 2018

Lujan Grisham Shocker: She Throws Progressive Dems Under The Bus; Rejects Their Key Planks; She Says Some Of Them Have "Lost Their Minds"; No Harm Or Does Dem Base Rebel? 

We're all familiar with how Democratic candidates come out of the primary and start moving away from the left and more toward the canter of the political spectrum to appeal to the broader general election electorate. But what Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham did in a lengthy interview is simply breathtaking in the way she separates herself--with fervor--from the nominating (and progressive) wing of the Democratic Party and it is sure to rankle the true believers. Here's a look at key excerpts from the ABQ Journal interview:

SHE'S A FISCAL CONSERVATIVE: Have you ever heard of Rep. Lujan Grisham being identified as a fiscal conservative in Congress? Well, that's her new identity:

“I am socially liberal,” she says. “I believe in total equality. And I’m a fiscal conservative.”

NO MEDICARE FOR ALL--In one fell swoop she throws overboard the centerpiece of the progressive agenda in this election year:

She says the numbers “don’t work” for either single payer or Medicare for all, but she believes health care is a right and that if elected governor she would like to set in motion a number of changes to reduce costs, increase access and make it more fair.

NO PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS: She doesn't exactly disown the label progressive but comes darn close:

“I won’t join the progressive caucus because I think they have looked to minimize national security and productive, smart defense investments. That’s made me very nervous.”

KEEP ICE: Progressive Dems new battle cry over immigration is to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department (ICE). Again, Lujan Grisham nixes this key progressive proposal:

She has decried the separation of families and says the nation needs to address immigration, but she does not favor abolishing ICE. “ICE does money laundering, human trafficking and a whole laundry list of activities that are all about public safety and national security,” she says.

MAXINE WATERS--The controversial California congresswoman is an easy target for conservatives to throw overboard and it turns out that applies to her Dem colleague Lujan Grisham:

She is troubled by fellow Democrat Maxine Waters’ urging people to confront Trump administration officials in public places. “Talk about a bridge too far. How can she in good conscience say the president is promoting violence and discrimination and then do the very same thing? “I’m not in. I wasn’t raised like that.”

LOST THEIR MINDS--In what may be seen as a troubling overreach in her own party, the Democratic Guv nominee gets personal in unloading on environmentalists who tangle with the oil and gas industry.

Speaking about those in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party who are openly hostile to the oil and gas industry, Lujan Grisham says, “They’ve lost their minds.”

“We’re the third-largest oil producer in the country. I’m (as governor) going to get a benefit from that.”

Wow. It wasn't necessarily the fact that she trashed key progressive ideas (she is not one of their own as much as they would like her to be) but she didn't even throw the progressives a bone and she often used harsh language in condemning them. That will sit well when the conservative Journal editorial board sits down and endorses her (and they will) but it is sure to cause concern among those progressives who at least until now have been among her ardent backers.

SENIOR ALLIGATOR ANALYSIS

Politically, MLG is obviously determined not to let Pearce pigeon hole her as a wild-eyed liberal and realizes most gubernatorial elections are resolved in the center. That's the upside to the interview..

However, this Senior Alligator (more than 25 years in NM politics) says the downside is potentially serious:

The Journal interview wasn’t politically devastating forLujan-Grisham but it definitely helps GOP nominee Congressman Steve Pearce. For inexplicable reasons, she potentially alienated the entire progressive wing of the Democratic Party while attempting to schmooze the conservative newspaper. 

Progressives aren’t going to vote for Pearce. But they might just sit it out when it comes to her, especially given Lujan-Grisham’s statements on the oil and gas industry, ICE, the direct attack on her fellow Democrat Maxine Waters and no statement at all on early childhood education funding or other impending social issues.

Low turnout elections are what the GOP depends on for their diminishing electoral wins in NM. It makes no sense that Lujan-Grisham wouldn’t get in the Journal's face some and rally the Democratic base. Instead, she chose to play the old school 1980's and 90's NM Democrat political game of bowing and genuflecting to the state’s conservative newspaper of record. 

Democrats win when they ignore the Albuquerque Journal, the way Donald Trump ignores CNN and MSNBC. In New Mexico, there’s absolutely no reason to be a Donald Trump Democrat. But in this interview that’s exactly what Lujan-Grisham comes off as. And for that reason alone, her election went from being a done deal to something else. Claiming to be one thing during the primary, and then becoming something entirely different during the general election is a dangerous game. That’s how you lose your base, and that’s how you lose elections. That's what happened to Hillary Clinton. 

SINGLE FOR NOW

Manny Cordova
Lujan Grisham, a widow, would, to our knowledge, be the first single person elected Governor. But she said in her newspaper interview that could change:

She is engaged to Manny Cordova of Albuquerque, who owns Southwest Collision Craftsman. She says he’s sweet, wonderful and not really into politics.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Replacing Nate: Dems Look To Take Seat of House Minority Leader; Changing District Gives Them A Shot, Plus: Poverty And Drugs Make Way On To The Guv Campaign Trail 

Is the ABQ seat of House Minority Leader Nate Gentry destined to go to the D's this year?

For sure, it's going to be a blistering battle to replace Gentry who opted not to run for re-election, perhaps in part because his NE Heights district is rapidly becoming more blue.

Coming back for a second shot at the seat is Democrat and Spanish teacher Natalie Figueroa who lost narrowly to Gentry in 2016 (52%-48). On the GOP side John Jones, a retired Naval officer and husband of ABQ GOP Congressional nominee Janice Arnold-Jones, will try to keep the seat in the R camp.

The first finance reports give an edge to Figueroa. She reports $49,000 in cash on hand while Jones reports $39,000. Also, Clinton carried the district over Trump by 10 points two years ago, revealing the rapidly changing nature of this once economic high-end area which has become less affluent like so much of the city. The caveat being that turnout in mid-term elections is lower than presidential years and can tilt more conservative. Look for the outside PACS to play big in this one.

GOVERNING A CRISIS

An interesting development in the early going in the race for Governor has been the two major candidates focusing on the state's social condition crisis. Republican Steve Pearce even trotted out the "P" word in one of his first ads. Hearing a Republican decry poverty is a rarity and demonstrates the depth of the crisis here.

And Dem Michelle Lujan Grisham is out with a spot devoted exclusively to the drug addiction problem, a constant issue but one that has not garnered much attention on the campaign trail, until now. She says in the ad that, if elected, "I'll force the drug companies to stop pushing opioids and start paying for treatment."

Her campaign says:

. . . In particular she would continue to support the ongoing lawsuit Attorney General Balderas has brought along with other states to hold drug companies accountable for the damages caused by pushing highly addictive prescription drugs. The lawsuit specifically seeks damages for costs for providing medical care and treatment, costs of providing treatment, counseling and rehabilitation services. . A copy of the complaint can be found here.

The pharmaceutical companies are a touchy issue with the Democratic base, part of which rebelled when Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich last year voted against a Bernie Sanders measure that would have allowed cheaper Canadian pharmaceuticals to be imported into the states.

A check of Lujan Grisham's "major" donations thus far in the Guv campaign does not show any from the drug industry

MONICA AND SUSANA

Republican Guv nominee Pearce isn't the only R taking heat over his decision not to call on ABQ State Rep. Monica Youngblood to step down after being arrested in May for aggravated DWI. Gov. Martinez, who has governed on an anti-crime platform more than any Governor in the modern era, is also taking hits over her silence on Youngblood, a key political ally. A reader comments:

No surprise to see Susana's wing man attorney Paul Kennedy turn up battling a DUI on behalf of her hard-core acolyte Monica Youngblood. If Kennedy's in the picture whining about a jury trial in the face of Youngblood's infamous DUI video, you know the gov personally dispatched him. Where's the gov's shoot-from-the-lip tough on crime rhetoric now? DUI is historically such a serious problem for NM, thus this particular case demonstrates in spades what a hypocrite Susana has always been. I've lost track - is there an ethics investigation of Youngblood for throwing her office around in the effort to skate on the DUI?

As far as we can determine, there has been no comment from the Governor on the Youngblood arrest.

As for an investigation, Attorney General Balderas says he is reviewing the video of Youngblood's arrest to determine if she attempted to use her political position to convince the officer who was making the arrest to let her off.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Monica Update: Her DWI Trial Comes One Day After Deadline To Withdraw From Race; So Far She's All In Plus: Hector's Hefty Cash Stash  

Rep. Youngblood (Thompson, Journal)
GOP State Rep. Monica Youngblood, charged with aggravated DWI and facing a campaign in which an embarrassing video of her arrest and its aftermath will go viral in her ABQ NW District, shows no signs of quitting the race. Her trial on her May DWI arrest has been set for August 29.. Meantime, August 28 is the last day for a general election candidate to withdraw their candidacy.

Does she do some polling and let that guide her in her ultimate decision?

Youngblood, who has prided herself as a tough on crime (including DWI) Republican, reports having $37,000 in her campaign account, not an insignificant sum. Democrat Karen Bash reports $13,000 but is sure to attract more as the Dems target a weakened Youngblood in a seat that should never have been in its sights.

Nervous Republicans fret over Youngblood but none, except attorney general candidate Michael Hendricks, has had the moxy to tell Youngblood to get out of the race. That's fine with the Democrats who have been offered a gift. Still, the untested Bash is going to have to run a solid campaign, if Youngblood is to fall

One question still dangling: Will Dems try to make the Youngblood candidacy a point against Republican Steve Pearce who has refused to say she should leave the seat? They could, given the state's ongoing substance abuse problem.

HECTOR'S HEFTY STASH

He grew up a humble youngster from Wagon Mound but today he is nearly a millionaire. Well, at least in his campaign account. We speak of Democratic Attorney General Hector Balderas, who this month reported having over $900,000 in campaign cash on hand.

That's a boatload of dough and there's no way he's going to spend it down much in his campaign for a second four year term against Republican Michael Hendricks. No R has been elected AG since the 80's and Balderas is heavily favored.

So what if Hector keeps that stash around for some future race, like US Senate, a post he sought in the past? The problem is while a candidate can transfer money from his federal campaign account to his state account, as Rep. Steve Pearce did, a state candidate, we're told by finance mavens, is not permitted to transfer their funds to a federal account.

So if Dem US Senator Tom Udall were to decline to run for another term in 2020 and Balderas got in the race, he would be limited to giving his Senate campaign a tiny silver of his 900k.

But he can dole out contributions up to $5,500 to statewide candidates this year, and now that the contenders have heard how much he has in the bank the line is forming.

Hey, no shoving, guys.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Victoria's Murder Prompts Early Political Fallout; Possible Major Dem Primary Foe For DA Torrez Emerges 

Ahmad Assed
The murder case that has rocked the city like no other could soon be rocking the political scene, with word circulating that veteran criminal defense attorney Ahmad Assed is seriously weighing a run against BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez in the 2020 Democratic primary.

That may seem a long way off but the horrific murder of 10 year old Victoria Martens will be remembered far into the future and Torrez's handling of the case would be front and center if Assed makes the run, say those pushing him to take on Torrez.

Torrez has been making the media rounds in recent days trying to quiet public outrage over the Martens case, including the stunning plea bargain his office made with Victoria's mother. It was a deal that could see her serving as little as half a dozen years in prison and has not gone down well in a community scarred by the ghoulish murder. Victoria was raped, strangled, dismembered and her lifeless body set afire in an apartment bathtub.

The revelation that Michelle Martens was not directly involved in her daughter's slaying but was away from the apartment searching for drugs with boyfriend Fabian Gonzales at the time of the killing had the city reeling from shock. For nearly two years they (and the authorities) believed the false confession the mother had given and that Victoria would have justice. When Torrez announced that Michelle Martens was lying and that an unidentified fourth suspect is now being sought in the sensational case, the city again gasped.

Now Assed, a UNM law school grad with deep community ties, enters the picture. His voice has been heard on the case via his role as a legal analyst for KOB-TV and he hasn't backed off from criticizing Torrez's handling of the notorious murder. For example, he said this about the "John Doe" suspect whose DNA, Torrez announced, was found on Victoria's back:

Why do we publicize that we are looking for this unidentified individual? And if he does exist, why do we put him on notice that we're looking for him? This is a big problem for me. I'm sure maybe the DA's office has their reasoning for doing that.

And Assed told the viewing audience that the entire case could be in danger of collapsing:

It's a leap to associate the finding of the DNA – those samples – with a crime.  There's transferred DNA that happens all the time. I don't know how long that DNA's been there—could have been there days, could have been there months, could have been three hours.

Based on the District Attorney's Office view of the case in the beginning and the investigation and the hyping of the case, it is extremely difficult for us to believe anything that the District Attorney's Office is going to say about a fourth component, unidentified individual. What they need is evidence.

THAT PLEA BARGAIN
DA Torrez (Brose, Journal)

But it is that plea bargain that Torrez said he had no choice but to make that is the DA's soft underbelly and what Assed is sure to key on if he enters the race. Here's how one of those egging on Assed puts it:

Raul’s had the case for a year and a half and cut a BS plea deal with her scumbag mother, but the Journal wants the public to give him credit for being on top of the case, for some bizarre, twisted reason--even though Torrez has said he’s not going after the guy who gave 10-year-old Victoria a sexually transmitted disease. What a bunch of BS.

Former BernCo Chief Deputy District Attorney and '13 ABQ mayoral candidate Pete Dinelli also believes the plea bargain poses political trouble for the DA:

The leniency Torrez showed towards a mother who placed her 10-year-old child in harm’s way and made the child a victim of one of the most horrendous murders in Albuquerque history will be remembered given his own past statements on our criminal justice system and conduct towards Judges. In 2016, when Torrez was running for District Attorney, he proclaimed that our criminal justice system was broken and that he was the guy who could fix it. Just a mere year ago, Torrez again claimed that our judicial system was broken stating the decisions by the judges to dismiss cases were “absurd.” Torrez proclaimed defense attorneys were “gaming the system” to get their clients off.

The ABQ Journal ran a weekend editorial about the case, largely exonerating Torrez of any blame for the mishaps that have occurred in the Martens case. The DA has ingratiated himself with the GOP-oriented paper as well as the Gov. Martinez political machine. That's making some Democrats antsy. Further, his critiques of local judges have made him enemies and could help an opponent like Assed raise a hefty amount of cash to finance a primary challenge.

The 2020 Dem primary will likely be decisive. Republicans have shown no interest in the race, letting Torrez run unopposed in 2016.

In reality much of the blame for the failed investigation of Victoria's murder can be laid in the lap of APD but Torrez has been easy on them, saying his office and APD will learn from the mistakes but his reticence to hold APD more accountable makes him more of a target.

DA Torrez has often been mentioned as a candidate for higher office someday but right now holding on to the one he has may be the stiffest political challenge he ever faces. Stay tuned.

THE BOTTOM LINES

No one needs to be reminded of the historic accomplishments of Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, the former GOP NM US Senator who walked on the moon. But in our first draft Monday we omitted one of his accomplishments when we listed Schmitt as among the major politicos of the last half century who did not serve in the military. Well, not quite:

As a civilian, Schmitt received Air Force jet pilot wings in 1965 and Navy helicopter wings in 1967, logging more than 2100 hours of flying time. . . Selected for the Scientist-Astronaut program in 1965, Schmitt organized the lunar science training for the Apollo Astronauts, represented the crews during the development of hardware and procedures for lunar surface exploration, and oversaw the final preparation of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module Descent Stage.

We relied on Wikpedia for our initial info on Schmitt and it did not mention his Air Force jet pilot wings nor his Navy helicopter wings. Schmitt served just one US Senate term, suffering a re-election defeat in 1982. But his name is forever etched in the history books.

One other note on this from Santa Fe's Jerome Block:

Joe, Regarding your article of military service: Only two Vietnam Veterans have been elected to statewide office in NM. Ironically, both Jimmy Glenn and I were elected to the State Corporation Commission.

The Corporation Commission is now known as the Publica Regulation Commission. Thanks, Jerome. . .

And thanks to you for checking in with us today.

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Monday, July 09, 2018

One Down And Four Months To Go In Guv Derby: How Are They Doing? Plus: At Your Service: Our Politicos And Military Service; Does It Make A Difference?  

It's one month down and four to go in the 2018 gubernatorial derby. Neither candidate tried for an early knockdown, unlike 2010 when then Dem Guv hopeful Diane Denish tried unsuccessfully to take out Republican Susana Martinez with a spate of negative TV ads only days after that year's June primary.

Both Dem nominee Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican hopeful Steve Pearce put up TV ads for the first month but they are positive bio spots that aim to build good feelings among the electorate before the heavy hitting starts after summer.

The major development in the first month since the June 5 primary was the release of two public polls that both showed Lujan Grisham over the critical 50 percent mark, with SurveyUSA calling it 51% to 38 for her and the Carroll PR landline survey showing similar results. That put Pearce on defense as his pollsters pushed back against the methodology of the polls. Still. . .

The greatest fear of Pearce is that the race will be put to bed early with a series of polls showing Lujan Grisham with a firm lead that will scare off his donors. That's why he pushed back hard against these first surveys, but tellingly his campaign has not released any fresh polling of its own. For what it's worth Dem insiders think Lujan Grisham has the lead but more on the order of eight points rather than the double digit lead she sports in these early surveys.

Because of her post-primary polling lead and the way she crushed her two Dem rivals in the June primary by garnering 66 percent of the vote, Lujan Grisham retains the title of front-runner going into the second month. Also, even though her cash on hand has gone below Pearce's because of money she spent in her contested primary, she did out raise him in the campaign's first month--$433,000 to $321,000--further cementing her front-runner status.

Lujan Grisham reported $873,000 cash on hand in the first report following the primary and filed last Thursday. Pearce reported $1.943 million in cash. Pearce had no primary challenge.

Going forward big picture trends demand Pearce's attention. No two term governorship has been followed by a governor of the same party. Can he successfully separate himself from unpopular GOP Governor Martinez or will she be hung around his neck? Also, how can he attract more women to his candidacy in a year when Democratic women are hitting it out of the park?

For Lujan Grisham the task for the next thirty days is the same as the last: Don't fritter away your lead by dropping the ball and giving Pearce an opening--and prepare for the guns of August.

AT YOUR SERVICE

Pearce's current TV ad highlights his military service in Vietnam which made us wonder just how many of the state's top politicos of the past 50 years or so served in the military. Actually, few of them is the somewhat surprising answer. Here's a look:

US SENATE--Democratic Senators Dennis Chavez, Clinton Anderson, Joe Montoya, Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall did not serve in the military. Neither did Republican Senators Pete Domenici. Sen. Schmitt, an astronaut who walked on the moon, received Air Force jet pilot wings in 1965 and Navy helicopter wings in 1967. Senator Jeff Bingaman was a member of the US Army Reserve from 1968 to 1974.

GOVERNOR--None of the last three Governors---Martinez, Bill Richardson or Gary Johnson--served in the military, Former three term Governor Bruce King served in the Army in WWII. Former Governor Jerry Apodaca ('75-'79) served in the Marines.

ABQ CONGRESS--You find more military service with our US House reps. However the man who represented the ABQ district longer than anyone--Congressman Manuel Lujan-- ('69-89) did not serve. Republican Steve Schiff, who followed Lujan, was a reservist in the NM Air National Guard. Heather Wilson, who succeeded Schiff, was an Air Force officer for seven years and was the first female military veteran elected to a full term in Congress. Today she is Secretary of the Air Force.

SOUTHERN CONGRESS--Democrat Harold Runnels '71-80 served in the US Army Air Force Reserves in WWII; Republican Joe Skeen, who held the seat for over 20 years, served in the US Navy in WWII; Current Rep. Steve Pearce served as an Air Force pilot from '70-76. Dem Harry Teague, who held the seat for one term, had no military service.

NORTHERN CONGRESS---Bill Richardson and Tom Udall both had this seat and as mentioned earlier neither served in the military. Current Dem Rep. Ben Ray Lujan has no military service. However,  Republican Bill Redmond, who served one term in a fluke election in the heavy Dem Northern district, did serve in the US Army Reserve.

And there you have it. It seems military credentials might bolster a candidate but they are far from necessary to climb to the top of the ladder of La Poltica.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Thanks for making us New Mexico's #1 blog, year in and year out. We appreciate it!

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Thursday, July 05, 2018

The Lujan File: Ben Ray's National Star Will Shine Or Dim Depending On November; What It Means For New Mexico  

Rep. Lujan 
2018 could very well be the most important election in the life of Congressman Ben Ray Lujan. Not that he has much of a challenge to overcome in his heavily Democratic northern congressional district--he doesn't--but as chairman of the Democratic Congressional campaign Committee (DCCC) he does have a challenge in meeting the expectation that the Democrats retake the majority in the US House.

If the stars align in November and the Dems are back in power Ben Ray's star will shine brighter than ever, so bright that some DC pundits say it could catapult him into a new role--chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, the number 4 slot in the US House leadership. That would keep the 46 year old deeply involved in the national scene and perhaps positioned to climb even higher in the House leadership in the years ahead. That in turn could enhance New Mexico's fortunes which are inextricably tied to federal government spending.

The political calculus is pretty simple: Win the House and your jet takes off. Lose the House while Trump occupies the White House and you stall out.

Even if Dems retake the majority Lujan would have a battle to take the caucus chair post which is opening up because of the stunning primary upset of New York Rep. Joe Crowley.

Chief among them is Rep. Linda Sánchez, vice chairwoman of the caucus and No. 5 behind Crowley. The California Democrat had been seen as the most vulnerable member of the leadership team after publicly calling last fall for Pelosi, Hoyer and Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) to move on to make way for a new generation. . . But the opening could also prompt other younger, ambitious members to vie for the post. Lawmakers including Reps. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Cheri Bustos of Illinois and Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico were being floated by Democratic members and aides.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has been instrumental in Lujan's rise but she is battling a burgeoning uprising among newer generation Dems. But nothing is as rejuvenating as victory and if the DCCC brings one home Election Night the Lujan association with Pelosi will have hit pay dirt. If they lose, well. . .

WHAT'S THAT?

So just what does the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus do?

The House Democratic Caucus serves as the organizational forum to elect party leaders at the outset of each new Congress. The caucus meets on a weekly basis to discuss party policy, pending legislative issues, and other matters of mutual concern. 

The chairman is limited to two terms for a total of four years and is elected by the entire Dem membership in the House.

BACK HOME

Congressman Lujan faces two unknown candidates this November as he seeks his sixth term. They are Libertarian Christopher Manning of Kirtland and Republican Jerald Steve McFall of Angel Fire.

He won his 2016 re-election in a landslide, 62% to 38. The central part of the district--Hispanic counties like Rio Arriba, Santa Fe and Mora--go heavily for him. His weak spot is GOP dominated San Juan. It has a large population but one that has stagnated in recent years because of the natural gas crash. He also has soft spots in small rural, conservative eastside counties like Curry and Roosevelt.

Lujan appears to have become a creature of the House and has exhibited no open ambition to become a US Senator or some day make a run for Governor.

A potential trouble spot for him is Los Alamos National Labs whose future has become a bit more uncertain under President Trump. It is by far the most important economic presence in the district.

Meanwhile, he visits the district often, gets good press and votes in tune with the center-left politics of the majority of the region. That adds up to landslide re-elections.

THE BOTTOM LINES

New Mexico is a state that historically has had a power position on Capitol Hill through Senators such as Chavez, Anderson and Domenici. If it is to resume that power position it now appears for the first time the state's best chance currently come from the US House and NM native Ben Ray Lujan. That makes the 2018 election not only crucial for the politically savvy Lujan but for New Mexico as well.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Tidbits For The Fourth: Dems Fight Back Against R Corruption Charges, Indy Candidates Make Ballot, The Race For The Racino, Defending Raul And Hairy Steve Pearce 

Here are some political tidbits as we prepare to break for the holiday. . .

The R's have tried mightily to tie the yoke of corruption around the neck of Dem Guv candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham, citing her involvement in Delta Consulting which had state contracts, and it appears they will keep hammering Delta until November. But the Dems are working to break that yoke and counter with this:

A former cabinet member (Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla) getting charged with multiple crimes is one heck of a big deal, but with so many GOP officials and candidates getting into serious legal and ethics scandals, (State Auditor) Wayne Johnson’s campaign finance violation fines and sanctions, (former secretary of state candidate) JoHanna Cox’s legal malpractice lawsuits and sloppy campaign finance reports, (Land Commissioner nominee) Pat Lyons’ suspicious land deals, (ABQ GOP State Rep.)Monica Youngblood’s aggravated DWI charges, and (GOP attorney general nominee) Michael Hendricks’ concealment of campaign donors), it feels like just another week in Susana Martinez’s New Mexico. Martinez has been out for a burger for the last 8 years and let her cronies run wild. . . 

Lujan Grisham's ethics and character could be central to the GOP's playbook to take her down in November but they obviously have plenty of their own ethical baggage.

INDY MOVES

Former State Rep. Bob Perls has this news:

Unite New Mexico, a citizens movement to bridge the growing partisan divide by electing thoughtful, independent candidates to office, today announced that all of their endorsed candidates turned in enough signatures to make the ballot for the November general election. The Secretary of State must still certify the signatures. Tweeti Blancett for House District 40 and Jarratt Applewhite for HD 50 turned in over twice the number of signatures needed to qualify. In addition, Kathy Colley turned in her signatures for County Commission District 3 in Sandoval County.

House District 40 is in the north and is being vacated by longtime Dem Rep. Nick Salazar. The seat is considered safe Dem. House District 50 is in Santa Fe County and represented by Dem Rep. Matthew McQueen. The seat is also considered safe D.

RACE FOR THE RACINO

Here's an update on a story we broke this week:

The Fulton family, which already has one license for its Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino, announced its intention to submit a bid for the New Mexico Racing Commission's sixth and final racing license. Applications are due July 30. The four other current racetrack and casinos, also known as "racinos," operating in New Mexico are in Ruidoso, Albuquerque,Hobbs and Farmington. At least two other companies are also planning bids, with plans to open a racino in Clovis. Stan Fulton and his family took control of Sunland Park Racetrack Casino in 2000. He died earlier this year at the age of 86. Fulton's sons and daughters now operate the racino, and his children Liz Fulton Jones and Mike Fulton are the trustees helping with the family's bid for the license.

DEFENDING TORREZ

An Alligator with a Legal Beagle pedigree writes of our coverage of BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez and the murder case of 10 year old Victoria Martens:

The DA isn’t reticent. I’m actually shocked that a DA would have the courage to do what Torrez did. It’s tough sometimes for the brain to accept facts that totally contradict what one is convinced of. Particularly prosecutors’ brains. A case “falls apart” when you can’t prove what happened. It appears the investigation showed the case against the mom was based on false allegations which were then proven untrue. This isn’t “falling through the cracks” either. Falling through the cracks is when a case doesn’t get the attention it deserves due to bureaucratic indifference, overburden system, etc. This case had multiple DA staff working only on this case. 

What would you have him do? Reject the scientific evidence and spend 3 weeks trying the mom for murder only to have her beat the rap? Oh, and murder suspect Jessica Kelly is going to get the book thrown at her. (Unless she IDs the other killer which would be worth it.) How do you figure she wins her case? The new revelations may have made the case against her even stronger. Now APD's investigation, that’s a whole other story.

We quoted defense attorney John Day as saying the murder case of Victoria could end with no convictions if the unidentified man whose DNA was found on Victoria could not be found.

MOBILE VOTING

ABQ attorney Chales Knoblauch takes note of the news that BernCo County Clerk Linda Stover has bought a mobile voting unit and will station it outside various senior facilities to make it easier to cast a ballot:

Joe-a segment of the population even more restricted from reaching the polling booths than the seniors are the inmates in MDC. Why not have it sent over there on voting day? Most of the prisoners have not lost their right to vote and the political conversations in the pods would certainly be interesting.

Okay, Charles, just make sure that if they place the mobile unit at the jail, it isn't too mobile, if you get our drift.

HAIRY PEARCE

Republican Guv nominee Steve Pearce sometimes takes a ribbing over his bald pate, but we don't think he'd prefer having this fulsome head of hair that's been placed on him by the political pranksters. But where's the trademark orange coiffure of the Prez? This looks more like a gray mop top, definitely not presidential.

As for Steve, he might want to sport a guitar with his new do and take his show on the road. Think of the campaign money he could raise.

Thanks for stopping by. We appreciate it.

Happy Fourth of July, New Mexico!

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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