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Monday, July 14, 2014

The Heinrich-Hillary Early Honeymoon; What's That All About? Plus: Weh's Woes: Big Government Is His Big Friend 

Why is the new guy on the block so eager to go with the old guard? That's the question in the wake of Dem US Sen. Martin Heinrich's very early endorsement of Hillary Clinton--if she decides to seek the '16 presidential nomination.

Heinrich is going all in for Clinton, attending a weekend ABQ North Valley "Ready for Hillary" event and issuing this statement of tribute:

. . .  I am joining millions of Americans in pledging my support to former first lady, senator and secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, should she choose to run for president in 2016. The next presidential election may seem far off, and it is. But this will be a tough campaign with a lot at stake. As she makes her decision, I want Secretary Clinton to know that people across the country share her values and believe that she will be the best person to lead us at this critical time.

Maybe. Maybe not. There is plenty of Clinton fatigue going around, and look what happened in '08. Obama knocked the front runner tag off her lapel in no time at all. And here we are again with Hillary being presented as the default candidate but with that reminder of her glass jaw far from erased.

Heinrich pulled out a close and important 2010 re-election bid for the ABQ US House seat by veering to the left and planting his flag in the liberal SE NM Heights. It set him up for his 2012 US Senate win. In that context the endorsement of centrist Clinton seems out of sync.

That former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez--who fought Heinrich's election to the ABQ city council in 2003--is the chief NM cheerleader for Hillary--shows how Heinrich has joined the establishment Dem camp with this endorsement, rather than remaining outside the circle and taking a wait and see attitude.

Chavez is barely concealing his hope that Hillary will give him a top administration job if she's elected. Maybe something similar is motivating Heinrich this early--like Secretary of Interior?

ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham has also come out early for Hillary, but notably Dem US Sen. Tom Udall--facing re-election this year--has not. And speaking of the senate campaign. .

WEH'S WOES

Did Republican US Senate candidate Allen Weh just have the stool pulled out from under him? He constantly attacks gridlock in Washington and Udall for bering a "big government politician" but it turns out that it is Weh who is directly benefiting from big government and in a big way. From the Los Angeles Times:

As a Republican candidate for Senate retired Marine Col. Allen Weh says it's time for tougher border security. As a businessman, Weh stands to benefit from the border crisis. His air charter company, CSI Aviation Inc., is the largest private contractor for ICE Air, the aviation wing of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, winning more than $560 million in ICE contracts since 2010. President Obama is seeking $3.7 billion from Congress to help stem the surge of young immigrants from Central America crossing the Southwest border. The proposal includes $116 million for transportation, and a good portion of that is likely to go to CSI.

And Weh's response

Our country is knee-deep in a humanitarian, emergency response situation that appears will only get worse before it gets better. As the CEO of CSI Aviation, I have only one concern and that’s to make sure that every detainee, every woman and child who is in our care while being transported, whether they are here legally or illegally, and our crews and support staff, all arrive safely.

Political insiders have long known of Weh's lucrative government contracts, but the public at large has not. It complicates his uphill battle to take Udall out as he argues against the very government that is making him a wealthy man.

Weh is not alone in the Republican camp in singing the praises of the "free market" but actually making a living from the Feds. ABQ GOP Mayor Berry's construction company was deemed a minority business because it is owned by his wife of Hispanic heirtgate. Federal contracts were a chief reason for its success--not the "free market." And Republican Governor Martinez--who also preaches the evil of big government and the wonders of the private sector--has been a government employee just about all of her  adult life, serving as an assistant district attorney, district attorney and another four as governor.

It is this brush with hyporcisy that Weh must now overcome.

WORK FOR WHITE

Former Bernalillo County sheriff, former ABQ public safety director and Martinez political insider Darren White has left a management position at the ABQ Downs Racetrack and Casino and announces he is becoming a private investigator. One of the Alligators already has some assignments for him:

Maybe someone will hire Darren to investigate the allegations of bid-rigging in the awarding of a racino lease for the Downs, first gentleman Chuck Franco's hunt for alligators in Louisiana where the Downs' owners are based, and former ABQ police chief Ray Schultz's issues with Taser International and the contract he "greased" for them with the city. White could also help track down all those city-issued cell phones that disappeared (including White's) after a district court judge ordered them turned over because they'd been used to photograph attorney Mary Han after she'd been found dead under suspicious circumstances.

The FBI has investigated the racino lease, but no charges have been brought. Schultz's controversial relationship with Taser remains unexplored and the death of Han--suicide or murder?--continues to create legal fallout. It was also the subject of a recent KNME-TV roundtable discussion.

BEEF OVER ROAST BEEF

If you can't blog about roast beef burritos during the dog days of summer, when can you? Our plea for New Mexican restaurants in ABQ--not just  Santa Fe--to include them on their menus brings out the foodies. One reader pointed out that the Copper Lounge near UNM serves the tasty entree, and veteran politico and ABQ radio talk show pioneer Mike Santullo comes with yet another:

Another delicious roast beef burrito in ABQ is at "The Burrito Lady" located on Eubank near Lomas. She's been there for almost 10 years and makes the most delicious roast beef burrito I have ever had. It's a very small hole in the wall, but she has lines out the door at 6:30 in the morning and for lunch. Best kept secret in ABQ. She specializes in what she calls "Santa Rosa NM" style cooking. Very home style and delicious.

Santa Rosa style cooking? Nice, But we'll have to clear that with the Campos family in Santa Rosa as they hold forth at Joseph's Bar and Grill on historic Route 66.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor 

It's not high on the insiders list as one of the state House seats in play, but the campaign of Dem Catherine Begaye says so far it has raised over $50,000 while freshman GOP State Rep. Paul Pacheco--who she hopes to upset in November--has pulled in around $48.000.

If the going gets rough for Pacheco in the Bernalillo and Sandoval county district, he will be able to call on the Guv's PAC and others for help. House District 23 is 42 percent Dem and 36 percent R. In the presidential year of 2012, Dem Marci Blaze lost a squeaker to Pacheco.

Insiders say lower turnout for an off-year election has kept the district off the "in play" list. But Begaye's fund-raising will keep Pacheco burning the shoe leather. He is a retired APD officer and union leader. Begaye, a Navajo born in Gallup, earned her law degree at UNM and is in private practice. . .

Also on the campaign money beat. Senator Udall's office says:

Udall welcomed the Senate Judiciary Committee's approval of his proposed constitutional amendment to restore power to regulate campaign finance to the people. Udall’s amendment would clarify in the Constitution that money does not equal speech, effectively reversing U.S. Supreme Court decisions, which have unraveled campaign finance regulations and handed undue influence over elections to corporations and wealthy donors. . Udall's amendment is expected to be considered by the full Senate later this year.

Talk about a Sisyphean task. Reining in the runaway money machine is like trying to throw a lasso around a barn.

VOLATILE SUSANA

Here's well-known national political pundit Larry Sabato writing of Susana in Politico:

Both Govs. Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Susana Martinez of New Mexico are heavy favorites for reelection. Both are Hispanics in Western states where the GOP once won with some frequency; Martinez is also the first Latina governor in U.S. history. It’s no wonder some party activists are already eyeing them as possible, partial antidotes to the Republicans’ recent disastrous showings with Hispanics. Of course, they have their downsides, too. Sandoval would have trouble with socially conservative Republicans because he’s pro-choice, and Martinez has received mixed reviews because of what some in the GOP leadership regard as her volatile personality.

ROAST BEEF

Thanks to the many readers who emailed us about our Thursday blog "King for a Day." In it we listed the decrees we would issue if given the throne for 24 hours. There is a real aching for change out there--at least among those who read us. But we get the vibe that it's spreading. . . .

On the fun side, one of our decrees was a requirement that New Mexican restaurants in ABQ carry roast beef burritos. We only seem to see them in Santa Fe. Reader Bryan Biedscheid responded:

You should drop by ABQ's Copper Lounge near UNM and get their roast beef burrito. I live in Santa Fe but they don’t come any better than that up here (and we certainly do not have the cheap beer specials they have there). Now, for political insight, go talk to a real alligator.

You mean there's a roast beef burrito at the Copper Lounge and it is better than the one at Tomasita's in Santa Fe? We're all in, Bryan, and you get honorary Alligator credentials. See ya' there. . .

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A New Mexico Daydream: King For A Day; The Decrees That Would Come 

You mean we get to be King for a day? (No, not Gary King!) Who decreed that? Never mind. We humbly accept the honor---but just for a day. We have a blog to do you know. So now that we have been handed the sceptre what should we decree?

--We'll start by "raiding" the state's immense Land Grant Permanent Fund (over $14 billion) for $100 million a year for at least ten years for very early childhood education and finally begin reversing the generational quagmire that has kept the state at rock bottom. No more stalling. We so decree.

--Gradually cut the state's gross receipts tax to 4 percent and replace it by restoring a higher personal income tax rate for those in the top brackets. That's economic stimulation with high impact.

--Float government bonds at these historically low interest rates and build a world class, 21st century performance center to replace the dilapidated Tingly Coliseum at the state fairgrounds. Make it a facility that would attract events like the Final Four and the great world concert tours as well as support local arts and culture.

--It is ordered that Bernalillo County government sell off land and buildings it owns and use the proceeds to build a new county government building, instead of devastating downtown ABQ by pulling out 700 employees.

--It is immediately ordered that ABQ bring in a world class police chief to lead our police department out of the ignominy that has damaged it, the citizens and ABQ's reputation. Immediately. We so decree.

--We hereby direct that Kathy Korte be made president of the ABQ School board--because it would be fun.

--We decree that ground be broken for a new hospital for the homeless who are mentally ill and also that ABQ triple the number of beds available for drug and alcohol rehab. No more half-measures. Spend the money. Now. It is so decreed!

--Reopen the ABQ Tribune and restore media competition and balance in the coverage of the deep social and economic problems our state faces. Start the presses! The King has spoken!

--Henceforth, no New Mexico Governor shall be permitted to travel outside the state to campaign for  the presidency or vice presidency. They must stay here and stew in the anti-glamour with the rest of us. Effective immediately.

--A potpourri of rulings from the Crown: Build a dental school at UNM, build a veterinary school somewhere around here and raise the statewide minimum wage to $9 an hour.

--We decree that a second language be taught to all New Mexico students beginning in the first grade.

--Replace the heads of the ABQ Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Forum and NAIOP. We order the positions go to out-of-towners who will bring new thinking to ABQ's economic dilemma. Obey your King!

--All public employees who are paid more than $250,000 a year (you know who you are) shall have those positions no longer than 8 years. Stop the calcification at the top and let others climb the ladder.

--The New Mexico Legislature will henceforth conduct its legislative sessions in April--not January. It's just too damn cold in January.

--The following positions will from this day forward be appointed--not elected--positions. State Treasurer, State Auditor, Bernalillo County treasurer and Bernalillo County sheriff.

--It is ordered that ABQ restaurants serving New Mexican food must place on their menus roast beef burritos. Why are they only in Santa Fe? (Hey, the King is entitled!)

Okay. That's enough. This King thing wears you out quick. Back into our blogging pajamas. . . .

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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Bg Labor To the Rescue: It Comes With Big Money To Save State House For The Dems, Plus: Lawsuit To Allow Indys To Vote In Party Primaries Draws Critique 

Democratic Party interest groups may be taking a pass on the '14 NM Guv race, but they're starting to get as serious as a heart attack when it comes to keeping the state House from falling under the control of the Republicans for the first time in 60 years:

Labor unions have contributed $180,000 to a political committee that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to influence legislative and other state races in New Mexico. The political action committee Patriot Majority New Mexico received $100,000 from an American Federation of Teachers' political committee last month and $80,000 from a committee of AFSCME  in late May, according to campaign reports. The PAC was a top spender in NM's legislative races two years ago when Democrats retained majorities in the House and Senate. Patriot Majority is a "super PAC" that's free from campaign contribution limits because it independently advocates the election or defeat of candidates. Its campaign work cannot be coordinated with candidates. 

And former Big Bill Richardson Chief of Staff Dave Conatrino is reprising his role from 2012. Campaign reports say he's been paid $19,000 for strategic services by Patriot Majority. Contarino, along with consultant Amanda Cooper--daughter of US Sen. Tom Udall--headed up Patriot Majority when it was successful in assisting such state senators as Majority Leader Michael Sanchez who Governor Martinez had targeted for defeat.

The resurrection of Patriot Majority is sure to calm some Dem fears that  Gov. Martinez and company would overwhelm them financially this fall. House Speaker Ken Martinez is raising additional hundreds of thousands to protect his majority. About 10 of the 70 state House seats will see the bulk of the cash raised by both sides. The R's need to pick up four seats to take control.

NO INDYS ALLOWED

That lawsuit drawing attention this summer  that aims to allow New Mexico's independent voters to vote in the Democratic and Republican primaries draws this comment from Santa Fe Dem Party Chair Richard Ellenberg:

The US Supreme Court case in Tashjian vs. Republican Party of Connecticut (1986) holds that it is up to the party, and not the state, to decide who participates in its primary based upon the right of association in the First Amendment. In Tashjian the State of Connecticut attempted to change who participated in the Republican Primary, and the Republican Party objected. The Supreme Court held the State could not tell the party who was eligible to vote in its primary. It is hard to see how this suit about State law will be able to go anywhere in light of this Tashjian and the Supremacy clause. Given how more people are filling as decline to state, discussion inside the parties of this issue is worth having. Including independents in the primary might assist in prevailing in November. But some feel very strongly that if one is not even willing to register under the party name, then why should they help determine that parties nominees?

METRO REVOLUTION

Since ABQ is languishing at or near the bottom of every national economic indicator, reader Rick Allan in Anthony, NM says it's time to look more outward:

One of your readers thought that it was strange that the UNM President should be devoting resources to economic development . I would recommend to the reader a book by Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley of The Brookings Institution called The Metropolitan Revolution (How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy). In it are  examples from throughout the country of collaborations and innovation “clusters” and networks among universities and public and private entities generating economic movement and growth. The overarching thesis is that  it is metro regions where transformative governance will and must take place --where “stuff” will get done. So I think UNM President Bob Frank is right on and he has a lot of company. I would add that the City of Albuquerque should be in the forefront of the “Metropolitan Revolution” as anyone who reads this book would conclude. That it isn’t speaks volumes. All responsible elected officials and others who want New Mexico to advance should spend some time learning about all the other metro areas around the country that are smartly moving forward--way ahead of Albuquerque.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

On The Econ Beat: The Degradation Of Downtown ABQ, Plus: How To Get Out From Under A One Horse Economy, Also: State Tourism And The Austerity Hawks 

Come on Mayor Berry, city councilors and ABQ business leaders. Hasn't the disastrous decline of downtown ABQ gone far enough? Look at the pic of this sign we snapped during a recent walk through the city's central core. It's not a joke.

Sure, the homeless problem is a tough nut to crack, but giving up is not a strategy. This is the state's largest city and while downtown has struggled for decades, we've now been overtaken by docility and confusion. . .

The degradation of downtown is in part a symptom of the city and state's larger problem--the loss of billions of dollars in federal spending and nothing much to replace it. . .

Like ABQ, Reno, NV has been a one horse town when it comes the economy, For us it's that federal spending. For Reno it's gambling. ABQ is still searching for how to diversify the economy--or even if we really can. Reno has rolled the dice as the gambling decline forces its hand:

. . . Reno stirs images of worn-out casinos, strip clubs and quick divorces. But it is trying to change that reputation and reduce its reliance on gambling by taking advantage of its location and low taxes. . . Instead of poker payouts, Reno now boasts of e-commerce ventures, an Apple data center and a testing ground for drones. It also hopes to attract a large factory to build batteries for Tesla’s electric vehicles. “People believe in this town, and they’re tired of being presented as this joke,” said Abbi Whitaker, a local business owner who helped create a marketing campaign to reshape Reno’s image. “When you’re at rock bottom there’s a good chance to reinvent how you go up.”

On, forget it. Let's all just move down to Hobbs and party like it's 1999:

Although the Albuquerque metro jobs picture remains bleak, the oil patch in southeast New Mexico and in Hobbs is booming. Now economic development officials in the area are hoping to lure Albuquerque workers. The Hobbs Chamber of Commerce placed an ad in the Sunday Albuquerque Journal for its Hobbs Jobs website in the hope of luring Albuquerqueans and other New Mexicans to move to the oil patch.

All ready for your Hobbs advenutre? Here's the jobs site.

A SLOW LEAK 

Like a very slow leaking tire, the generations old housing bubble in Santa Fe has been gradually deflating. And that's actually good news for most City Different residents. A real estate agent says:

. . ."People were waiting for the market to get better and that it would magically spring back to 2007 levels. They have seen the writing on the wall — it’s not going to be overnight. It’s going to be years, perhaps a decade, before we see those levels, so they need to get motivated.”

More realistic pricing seems to be driving the volume, according to agents. And more low-cost homes under construction are bringing prices down, while higher inventory and a poor economy are keeping the lid on price appreciation. The median sales price in the second quarter of 2014 fell 10 percent in the city, to $270,000, and 8 percent in the county, to $409,500, according to the Association of Realtors.

Santa Fe will always be a manget for celebrity types, but the go-go days are gone and never to return. The capital city of the future will be more like the 70's with working classes srill coexisting with the big money and celebrity crowd, but not as dominated by it. . .

STIMULATION, PLEASE

For Santa Fe and so many small New Mexico towns and villages, tourism is vital. The fiscal austerity of the Martinez administration--embraced by the Martinez Democrats in the Legislature--has held the state back, but the two branches of government have loosened the reins somewhat on spending to attract tourists. The results--while not stellar--are heartening: 

New Mexico didn’t attract many more tourists in 2013 than it did in 2012, but it did attract bigger spenders. State visitation inched up just 0.63 percent last year, according to new tourism numbers. Data show that 32.2 million people visited the Land of Enchantment in 2013, up from 32 million in 2012. Though the bump was modest, Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson said 32.2 million still represents a state record for visitation. But she suggests the better news is that travelers are opening their wallets wider. State- commissioned research from Longwoods International indicates overall spending by visitors grew 7 percent in 2013. That represents a gain of about $300 million.

Secretary Jacobson has a point about attracting tourists who spend more, but we still have much room for improvement in attracting raw numbers of visitors. Our northern neighbor of Colorado is getitng nearly double our number

Colorado hosted a record 60 million visitors who left almost $17 billion in the state in 2012. . . Last year, visitor research showed 57.9 million visitors spent $10.76 billion in 2011. This year's studies show the number of marketable vacationers — travelers who chose Colorado over other destinations — increased 2 percent in 2012, and spending climbed nearly 6 percent over 2011, which had ranked as the best year for the state's tourism efforts. 

SANTA FE THINK

The tourism news highlights the contradiction in Santa Fe's economic thinking. By increasing the budget for tourism and advertising, we attract more visitors and stimulate business. Similar investment in infrastructure etc. will have similar results.  Such a suggestion is greeted as apostasy by the ringleaders of austerity politics--Dr. Clifford at the Department of Finance and Senator John Arthur Smith at the Legislative Finance Committee.

Still, the state's current ranking as last or nearly last in the nation in job creation, the migration out of the state and ABQ's freshly announced double-dip recession would seem to vindicate our position. It's  really just a restatement of that old bromide: "You have to spend money to make money." 

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Monday, July 07, 2014

Guv Race Stalls As King-Martinez Cash Gap Grows Ever Larger But A Dem Leader Says No Reason For Despair Plus: T-Shirt Pushback; Readers On Why Susana Really Switched Parties, And: More On The Feds And APD  

Gary King doesn't need to match Susana Martinez dollar for dollar, but if you can't make the ante in a poker game you don't get a seat at the table. With $116,000 in cash on hand at the end of June compared to Martinez's $4.3 million, King is still vastly short of what he needs to get in the game.

Our Alligators reported last month that King had pumped another $200,000 of his own cash into the campaign to finance TV ads. The latest campaign finance reports confirm that, bringing King's personal loans to over $500,000.

King only attracted $120,000 in contributions, despite winning the five way Dem Guv primary June 3. The money report covered the period from May 28 to June 28. 

Meanwhile, Martinez was raking in $869,000 during the month and spending nearly as much. And she again reported $4.3 million in cash on hand---an astounding 37 times as much as King.

It's becoming increasingly clear that King is on his own and that if we're to have a competitive Governor's race, he is going to have to dig deeper into his own wallet. His other hope is that some kind of news event comes along that delivers a body blow to Martinez and changes the perception of the race and attracts donors.

How much does King need? Campaign insiders have previously said at least $2 million to get on the air, stay there and put heat on the Guv, especially when it comes to the economy and jobs.  

NM AND THE RGA

The Republican Governors Association (RGA) has been deeply entwined with Martinez since the start of her statewide political career, donating hundreds of thousands to her election campaigns. The RGA reports it spent $571,000 on TV ads in June attacking King.

The huge dollars the RGA has flooded the state with have not come without questions. Is the RGA getting donations from folks who do business with the state of NM? We know the owners of the Downs at ABQ who were awarded a lucrative and highly controversial 25 year racino lease have been large donors to the RGA. Others?

DON'T DESPAIR

No matter the money mismatch Chavez County Dem Party Chairman Fred Moran tells his party brethren across the stat not to despair over King's chances:

Joe, I recall 2012 when state Senator Tim Jennings was running for re-election against a little known high school graduate from Chaves County's dairyland. No one expected Jennings to lose, however when he was caught off guard defending against the attacks and spent no time running on a stellar 36 year record, thats exactly what happened. He lost!

Susana's team is doing the same now with Gary King. She's firing all the big guns at once hoping King takes the bait and wastes money taking a defensive position. There is a long time between now and November and plenty of money available for Gary's campaign to defend, he just chooses to keep his powder dry until its time to drop the other shoe.

That's when the Martinez camp will have to defend her indefensible and dismal record of cronyism and corruption, her administration's failures for the last four years and the devastating effect they've had on New Mexico. It's all fair game for King and I'm sure he is well aware of how to use it to his advantage.

I have a message for the naysayers. When Gary King came out of the preprimary convention in last place, Democrats counted him out. But in the June primary King won by double digits against a solid field of candidates. I've handicapped these races before with much success. I'm with King and so is the smart money!

We agree there is "plenty of money" for King to defend, Fred. But it appears it may have to be mostly his own. If he is willing to go there, your argument takes on added meaning.

STATEWIDE WATCH

Here are the latest finance reports for all the '14 statewide candidates. As we previously blogged Dem AG candidate Hector Balderas leads the pack with nearly $800,000 in cash on hand. The AP reports Balderas received $10,000 from Paul Blanchard, a part owner of the Downs of ABQ. Balderas, as state auditor, investigated the aforementioned racino lease. His report found violations of the state procurement code. The FBI has conducted interviews about the awarding of the lease.

T-SHIRT PUSHBACK

Readers rushed to their keyboard to push back against Martinez's latest fund-raising gimmick that we blogged of Friday. Her campaign is selling a t-shirt for $25 a pop that exclaims, "I'll be damned, I'm a Republican!" She says she came to that realization years ago after she and her husband had lunch with a pair of R's and discussed the major issues, but readers see a different motivation for that notable party switch. Democratic activist Theresa Trujeque writes:

I find it quite interesting that the Governor's story on how she became a Republican is on a t-shirt. I think it should really read "I ran for District Attorney as a Republican because the sitting District Attorney running for reelection was a Democrat and I knew I had no chance of winning in a primary so I became a Republican." Her t-shirt could also read "I became a Republican because I damn well knew I had no chance of becoming the "Hispanic" in the Democratic Party as it already has many well qualified female and male Hispanics in offices across the country."

Those are pretty lengthy slogans for a t-shirt, Theresa, but we get the point.

Reader Patsy Romero writes:

I am from Las Cruces and the only reason Susan switched parties is because she wanted to run against Greg Valdez for District Attorney and could not get the Democratic nomination. She then changed parties so that she could challenge Greg. As with many of her "political lines" the truth is she is deceptive, ambitious and does not care who she steps on to reach a higher level.

An anonymous reader came with more:

The real reason that Martinez switched from Dem to Republican was that she was solicited to do so by then-Gov Gary Johnson as payback for her predecessor's participation in a successful lawsuit against Johnson. It was a challenge to "Governor No's" guerrilla budget tactics. Martinez had been fired by her predecessor Greg Valdez and was going to run against him anyway when Johnson contacted her and offered Republican financial backing to get even with her predecessor for participating in the suit. That's when she switched.

TIGHT LIPPED LAW

The Feds are remaining very tight-lipped about the fatal shooting of a suspect by a deputy U.S marshal last Tuesday. We aren't even getting the name or gender of the suspect. The shooting was the fourth time this year a deputy marshal shot someone in NM this year. It brings this reaction from law enforcement watchdog and retired APD Seargent Dan Klein:

Justified or not the Department of Justice must explain to the citizens of Albuquerque and local law enforcement nationwide why they mandate certain things for local cops, but don’t mandate them for the cops they control. US Marshall’s work under the Department of Justice. Yet the DoJ doesn’t give them lapel cameras or even tape recorders. They don’t mandate that their own officers record interactions with citizens. Isn’t that the problem with the Federal government? They want local cops to do things that they don’t do. This needs to change, especially because of the expanded role Federal law enforcement is playing in our nation.

Meanwhile, on the APD beat, it's been presumed that negotiations between the Justice Department and the city of ABQ over a consent decree to reform APD were well underway. But that is apparently  not the case. So what's the hold up?

The Justice Department released its 46-page report of findings on April 10. Officials have said that’s just the first phase of a long process that ultimately will result in a either court-enforceable consent decree, signed by the DOJ and the city, or a lawsuit against the city to force sweeping reforms of APD. . . . To reach an agreement, the city and Justice Department lawyers must enter into formal negotiations. But the negotiations have not yet begun, News 13 has learned. APD Chief Eden said he couldn’t speak to that. “I’m not part of the negotiations,” he said. “That’s between the City Attorney’s Office, our special counsel that’s been hired and the Department of Justice. “So I can’t provide you with any information."

Officials are saying it could take up to six months to negotiate an agreement and years to implement proposed changes. And even longer if the negotiators don't start negotiating sometime soon.

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Thursday, July 03, 2014

Susana's Summer T-Shirt Sale, Plus: More Damning NM Economic News, And: Happy Fourth of July, New Mexico! 

NM Dems are sure to chortle over Gov. Martinez's latest fund-raising pitch. Take a look:

Did you get your “I’ll be damned…I’m a REPUBLICAN!” t-shirt yet?. . . As you know, I used to be a Democrat. In fact, I was raised in a family of Democrats. But 19 years ago, before I ran for District Attorney, my husband and I had lunch with two men where we discussed issues. After that lunch, I turned to my husband and said, “I’ll be damned, we’re Republicans!” I retold the story of that lunch in my RNC speech. Now, you can let all your friends know that you too are a Republican by contributing today and getting an “I’ll be damned…I’m a REPUBLICAN!” t-shirt.

Well, depending on your political persuasion you can take this two ways--"I'll be damned! I'm a Republican and damn glad I finally have had that soothing revelation."

Or, you could say: "Your damn right you're going to be damned for being a Republican!"

One other thing. Will the Christian Right, which has been on Martinez's tail and that of her chief political operative for not being aggressive enough on pro-life issues, take umbrage at her using the curse word "damned?  We're checking with the pastor on that one. . .

Well, Martinez may be a Republican, but she also prides herself on her ability to attract Northern Hispanic Dem votes. She'll be celebrating that this weekend as well as the Fourth of July. Not that her scheduled appearance in Las Vegas isn't setting off some pre-Fourth fireworks:

The decision to make Gov. Martinez the grand marshal in heavily-Democratic Las Vegas's fiesta parade Saturday isn't universally welcomed. Parade organizers had announced the selection of Martinez by saying she'd demonstrated a commitment to the community, including Las Vegas-area reservoir and hotel projects. However, the Las Vegas Optic reports that San Miguel County Democratic Chairman Martin Suazo says it's inappropriate to honor Martinez. Suazo says additional funding proposed by lawmakers for San Miguel County didn't make it into the final state budget approved by Martinez and the Legislature.

No doubt about it. The NM economic news has been damning throughout Martinez's tenure and there's no let up as we inch closer to the more intense stage of the '14 Guv campaign:

Albuquerque was the only major metropolitan region in the region to lose jobs in the 12 months that ended May 31, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The four-county region lost 2,700 jobs for a negative 0.7 percent growth rate. Denver gained the most jobs at 34,800, and Austin was second with 31,000. Those job losses for Albuquerque translated into $147.9 million in lost payroll, according to an analysis by Albuquerque Business First. 

HAPPY FOURTH

The long Independence Day weekend is upon us and that brings us to reader and film reviewer Eric Lucero:

The crop of films out this week is weak--but there are some worthy “holdovers." For example: "Jersey Boys" (3 out of 5 stars) is director Clint Eastwood’s sincere effort to bring the highly successful Broadway play to the Big Screen. Eastwood pays deserved homage to the iconic 1960’s rock ‘n roll foursome, the Four Seasons, who thrilled not only their generation, but influenced others to come. Actor/Singer John Lloyd Young reprises his Tony Award winning role as the brilliant and troubled crooner, Frankie Valli. This bio/musical strikes the right notes and will please. . .

If you still haven’t seen Tom Cruises actioner, "Edge of Tomorrow" (3.5 out of 5 stars), and/or it’s Sci-Fi post-apocalypse companion, "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (3.5 out of 5 stars), both are worth a peek in 2D.

For fans of the tearjerker, "The Fault in Our Stars" (3.5 out of 5 stars), which deals honestly with the reality of living with “dreaded” cancer, fits the bill. Not since "Love Story" (1970) or ABC TV’s "Brian’s Song" (1971) have audiences cried so much.

Film listings for the ABQ metro are here.

Happy Fourth of July, New Mexico.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

I'm Joe Monahan, reporting to you from Albuquerque

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

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Balderas' Bulging Bank Account, Guv Internal Poll Has Her With Large Lead On King; We've Got the Analysis. And: Reasons For Long Spaceport Delay 

New Mexico Democrats, facing an uphill battle to take the Governor's chair and a scrappy battle ahead to retain control of the state House, have one bright light to look at. Dem attorney general candidate Hector Balderas will report this week that he has $800,000 in cash in his campaign account. That will be far more than that of his GOP foe Susan Riedel. National money could come in to give Balderas a hard time--as it has in past AG contests--but with that kind of early money he will be more than able to defend himself. . .

On the Guv trail, the Martinez campaign released an internal poll conducted June 24-26 of 600 likely voters that shows her leading Dem Guv nominee Gary King 54% to 38%. A poll released here last week and conducted by Bruce Donisthorpe of BWD Global for the state GOP on June 10 and 11 had the race at 53% for Martinez and 40% for King.

(Speaking of Johnson, who became famous or infamous for advocating for drug legalization while serving as governor, he just announced he is heading up a marijuna products company. Hmm. Wonder of he gets free samples?)

Neither Guv poll is independent from the partisan fray, but both make sense in an historic context. Gary Johnson, the last popular incumbent GOP Governor, secured re-election with a 55% to 45% win over Martin Chavez. That's probably about as good as it gets for a Republican in a Democratic state.

The bad news for King is that he is at or below 40 percent. The good news is he appears to have bottomed out. The Martinez poll comes amid a month long nonstop TV attack on King. More attacks will serve to keep him from growing, but it's unlikely he will sink further.

And it is this kind of news that is going to have to break through if King and the Democrats are going to start chipping away at Martinez's lead:

. . . Prior to the recession in 2008, the state’s labor participation rate--working-age people who are employed or actively looking for jobs--was almost 61.5 percent. In 2014, it was slightly above 54 percent, below historic lows. . . Another measure of the economy is the U-6 rate, or the rate of people who have stopped looking for work or are underemployed. Some economists say it is the real measure of a state’s unemployment rate. Between the second quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, New Mexico’s U-6 rate was 13.4 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

INDY INCLUSION

Here's one to keep on your political radar for 2016:

ABQ attorney Edward Hollington has filed a lawsuit in District Court on behalf of David Crum aimed at allowing non-party-affiliated voters access to New Mexico’s primary election ballot. . .Currently, 19 percent of the state’s registered voters, or 240,741 individuals, are registered as “Decline to State” or DTS. They are prohibited from voting in the state’s primary election. . .The lawsuit would allow for those voters currently registered as DTS to request a major party ballot at the polls during the primary election. They could then vote for the Democratic or Republican slate of candidates of their choice.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Here's a must-read for followers of the NM Spaceport on why the long delay in getting into suborbital space:

As the differing paths taken by Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR Aerospace show, there’s no single reason to explain the long delay in commercial human suborbital spaceflight. Sometimes it’s the technology, sometimes it’s the financing, and sometimes the companies working on these vehicles are not in as great a hurry as the advocates and enthusiasts anxiously awaiting their flights. . . .

Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM) announces that Victor Reyes is the group's new political director. Reyes recently worked fundraising for the Alan Webber Governor campaign.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Behavioral Health Billing By AZ Firms Raises Anew Questions About Any Political Connections; Will We Get Answers? Plus: King's New Political Calender And How Dem Guv Remarks Haunt Effort 

Was New Mexico gouged by those Arizona behavioral health firms brought in to replace New Mexico firms in one of the most controversial shake-ups of the administration of Gov. Martinez? And where is the reporting on whether there are any political connections--campaign contributions, for example--from those associated with the Arizona firms? First, the news:

. . . All five Arizona firms billed the state between $200 an hour and $300 an hour for the salaries of their management and executive teams. A marketing and communications director from one firm, for example, billed at a rate of $250 an hour, even for time spent waiting in an airport for flights between Arizona and New Mexico. That works out to an annual salary of $520,000.

The eye-popping figures billed by the Arizona providers occurred during a transition period between June of last year and Dec. 31, 2013, when the state subsidized $24 million in costs associated with their takeover of the behavioral health caseload. During that time, the new providers billed the state for everything from employee salaries to phone bills, hotel stays, rental of ballrooms where they interviewed prospective employees, meals, legal expenses, office space rental, car rentals and airfare.

The state stopped subsidizing the Arizona companies for transition costs at the end of 2013. That meant that, effective Jan. 1, the companies were expected to rely on Medicaid billing for revenue, just like the New Mexico companies they had replaced.

New Mexico behavioral health firms that were tossed out over allegations of fraud contained in an audit have cried foul. One of our readers did some investigative reporting back in August to get the ball rolling on any political connection angle from those associated with these firms to the Guv's campaign or the Republican Governors Association which has spent major money on her re-election bid. All fair questions. But we await more from New Mexico's full-time investigative reporters. Here's that August 7 blog report:

We asked recently what political connections there are--if any--between the Martinez administration and the five Arizona behavioral health firms that have been called in to replace NM firms that have been accused of fraud. . .  Reader Greg Lennes got to work on our question and comes with this:

Joe, There is a link between Susana Martinez and Jim Click, a Tucson businessman who is the founder and president of Linkages, a nonprofit whose mission is to increase "employment opportunities for people with disabilities."

The CEO of La Frontera, Dan Ranieri, serves on the board of directors of Linkages with Click.

On May 7, Jim Click hosted a fund-raiser for Governor Martinez. Here is the invitation:

Jim Click, Jr. and the Southern Arizona Hispanic Republicans (SAHR) invite you to join Governor Susana Martinez for a reception on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 5:30 p.m. at The Viscount Suite Hotel, Tucson, Arizona  $100 per person  *Contributions to Susana Martinez for Governor are limited to $10,400 per election cycle per legal entity. Personal, Corporate and PAC contributions are acceptable.*

I wonder if Click introduced Ranieri of La Frontera to the Governor? 

This newspaper report says:

The $4.75 million contract with La Frontera provides for hourly pay rates for its top officials for the next 90 days that include $300 an hour for an executive director, $275 an hour for a chief operations officer and a chief financial officer, and $250 an hour for a manager. After 90 days...La Frontera should be fully billing Medicaid and those transitional pay rates will expire, according to HSD...

That's good investigative reporting, Greg. In the game of La Politica, always follow the money. Always.

THE NEW CALENDER


Dem Guv nominee Gary King writes in a fund-raising pitch that the '14 campaign could be decided by the end of August. It doesn't seem to be an exaggeration, given the pounding he is taking on the tube. He says:

A lot of races don't truly heat up until September or October, but clearly - this one is an exception. Washington Republicans began attacking our campaign just 48 hours after the election because they know what we all know--Martinez is a failed leader. We're pushing back hard on Martinez's lies, but the outcome of this race could come down to how much TV we can afford these next two months.

King's missive again raises the question of him using much more of his own considerable financial resources to compete against the R onslaught. If he doesn't raise big money soon, that will be the issue confronting him.

King's fund-raising prowess was certainly not enhanced when the head of the Democratic Governors Association--Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin--declared the NM Guv race as unwinnable for the Dems.

Former NM Governor Bill Richardson weighed in here, telling us he has been speaking to Shumlin and believes DGA will reverse the pessimistic statement during the course of the campaign, but so far the group hasn't and that is holding King back. We are even hearing a conspiracy theory that there are some staff at the DGA that really doesn't want King to win. Check it out, Guv. Schumlin. Meanwhile. .

Schumlin also pronounced the chances of Dem Wendy Davis taking the Texas governor's race as highly improbable. That statement was a shocker because even if Dems can't win it this year, the state is seen as trending Dem in the long-term and the Davis candidacy is seen at a minimum as a building block.

Rather than take her whipping from the DGA lying down, the Davis campaign lashed out at Schumlin, calling him a Washington desk jockey:

The uninformed opinions of a Washington, D.C., desk jockey who's never stepped foot in Texas couldn't be less relevant to what's actually happening on the ground.

Wendy and company can afford to be cavalier towards the DGA. She became a national political star when she filibustered an ant-abortion bill in the Texas legislature. Her campaign has raised over $20 million. As for the DGA, the slogan accompanying this blog item sums it up for the critics:

"Republicans didn't get to where they are without a fight, but the Democrats sure as hell did."

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Monday, June 30, 2014

King Saddles Up New Campaign Manager; Is Third Time The Charm? Plus: More On The APD Crisis  

Gary King has saddled up a new campaign manager. Is the third time the charm? Keith Breitbach, described in his bio as a "veteran of dozens of political races," is King's third manager--the first one cashed out after King won the June primary and the second was forced out after opposition operatives unearthed controversial tweets the would-be manager had posted.

Breithbach, a vice-president with Totten Communications for 17 years, is coming off the successful primary campaign of freshman US Rep. Eric Swalwell of the San Francisco area.

Bretibach immediately confronts the same problem of that of his predecessors--an unrelenting TV attack on King from Governor Martinez and the Republican Governors Association that has put King on the defensive. And there's no end in sight. King is slapped in a new ad for a vote he cast as a state representative over 20 years ago. It scores him for supposedly being soft on parents who are delinquent in their child support.

Despite a wealth of depressing economic stats--not to mention a number of possible corruption scandals--King and the Dems have not fought for free media coverage--so they have gotten none. What trouble Martinez has had has come from within her own party. Her pro-life foes last week clashed with her chief political operative, giving Dems a chance to smirk, but in fact the chairman of the Dems--Sam Bregman--continues to be distracted:

Political opponents of Gov. Martinez, including the chairman of the state Democratic Party, were sued for allegedly violating federal privacy protections by their involvement in intercepting and disclosing email from the governor's hijacked email account. The lawsuit in federal district court seeks civil damages and was filed by four people whose email was disclosed, including a former Martinez aide who had an email bank record intercepted and released. Among those sued were Albuquerque lawyer Sam Bregman, who became Democratic chairman last year, and the governor's ex-campaign manager Jamie Estrada, who pleaded guilty last week to hijacking Martinez's campaign email system. 

When he became chairman Bregman promised an aggressive push against Martinez and the R's, but he became sidetracked early on and never recovered. Dem special interest groups seem to have written off King, who is striking back at Martinez but in a limited fashion as he is being heavily outspent.

The nonstop negative assault on King is also having the desired effect on the electorate--they tire of the ads and thus they tire of the campaign--a recipe for the low turnout that Martinez thirsts for as she seeks her second four year term.

The newspaper's editorial cartoon Sunday pictured a father and his teenage daughter. Dad is watching political ads. The daughter, reading a book, asks him, "What does ad nauseum mean?" He responds: "I'm pretty sure it's Latin for too many political commercials."

If any state ever needed a healthy debate over its economic and social future, it's this one. But the cynical pall beginning to cover the campaign could deny us that.

Is that enough on your plate, Mr. Breitbach? Well, dig in, and, yeah, welcome to New Mexico. . .

APD CRISIS

Call this one the Granddaddy of the lawsuits to come over the many fatal APD shootings:

The family of James Boyd, the mentally ill homeless man who was shot and killed by two Albuquerque officers, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against APD. Boyd's brother, Andrew Jones, filed the lawsuit. The suit claims "APD's standards for hiring, training, policies, oversight, or lack thereof, contributed to the unjustified killing of James Matthew Boyd. As did Albuquerque's failure to take any action in the face of what was plainly an out of control police department."

We blogged last week that the officer who shot and killed 19 year old Mary Hawkes had turned his lapel video camera on and off several times. Actually, an investigation shows the camera was turned off in the minutes before the killing, but there is the possibility the camera equipment malfunctioned. Retired APD seargent and APD critic Dan Klein comes at the story with this angle:

If the officer did purposely turn off the camera, I think that will come out in the Department of Justice investigation or a lawsuit. But what about Albuquerque buying a $2,000,000 product that the Department of Homeland Security knew had this defect over 2 years ago! Why did we buy this Taser product if it was already known for the cable pulling out? Until there is overwhelming proof that the officer did this, then he deserves to be considered not guilty. Your smoking gun is the DOJ report from 2012 on this Taser product and APD still purchased it. That is where your outrage should be. 

THE BOTTOM LINES

And now Ladies and Gentlemen, another episode in the ongoing saga of "The Most Transparent Administration in State History":

The self-described “most transparent” governor in state history now faces instructions from a district court judge to produce information to the Santa Fe Reporter on how she responded to the paper’s requests for public records. Three attorneys representing Gov. Martinez. . . (face) the prospect that they must also defend against SFR’s claim that she violated the newspaper’s First Amendment rights. SFR's September 2013 lawsuit alleges the Republican governor illegally withheld documents from the newspaper on a handful of requests for public records. . .

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Friday, June 27, 2014

State Dem Leadership: Time For A Change? Plus: The Readers Write 

We end the week with Gary King finally responding to the nonstop TV onslaught he's been subjected to from the Guv. Martinez camp. The ad is strong but the buy is nowhere near what is being spent against him.

Gary could use a whole lot of back-up, but the state Dem Party seems defunct as do third party groups that might ordinarily be called on to administer first-aid to King and launch some counterattacks....

It raises the question of state party leadership and whether current chairman Sam Bregman should consider stepping aside after the Fourth of July and letting someone take over who is ready to do battle.

A recent op-ed piece from former Dem Guv candidate Alan Webber in which he slammed the Martinez economic record had a number of the Alligators wondering if the Santa Fe businessman might be the guy to take the helm of the party for the campaign months to come. Bregman has indicated no plans to depart and a forced change is unlikely, but the grumbling over the lack of fight in this 21st century Democratic Party is far from over. . .

GUV NUMBERS

We still await the first independent, nonpartisan polling on the '14 Guv race, but Bruce Donisthorpe of BWD Global says he was commissioned to do a poll for the NM Republican Party and is now sharing those results.

The automatic phone call poll was taken June 10 and 11 as the heavy TV attacks on King were first starting. It showed Martinez with a 53%-40% lead over King. About 7% of likely voters were undecided. The auto-dial survey included 1,526 interviews with likely voters. The survey’s margin of error is 2.5%.

Donisthorpe has often polled for this blog, but we did not take part in this poll. Donisthorpe also did polling in the Dem Guv primary for candidate Lawrence Rael.

Reader Larissa Lewis writes:

When will someone acknowledge, explain, reveal the subterranean/shadow economy that functions as the matrix for cash flow in Burque?- the drug trade. With one of the highest concentrations of gang members per capita, these guys are not making $8.50 an hour, and with every job lost here, a vacuum is created and probably filled with drug sales. So the crime rate and drug overdoses increase, and thus the negative spiral accelerates. .

Reader Joan Fenicle writes:

I'm hearing that it is difficult to get Gov. Martinez to commit to any forums or debates. A suggestion to the sponsors of these events--don't cancel the event. Just put a cardboard cutout of the missing candidate in an empty chair and hold the event without her/him.

A UNM professor writes:

Joe, during your visit with UNM President Bob Frank did you ask him why the heck UNM is spending its money on economic development and not on its teaching and research mission? It seems to me economic development should be the responsibility of state and local government in collaboration with the business community.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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