<$BlogRSDUrl$>

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Best, The Worst And The Strangest Of Election Year 2014 

Another zany political year provided enough entrainment to merit end of the year awards for the best, the worst, the strangest and more.  With a hat tip to national political pundit Stu Rothenberg, who came up with the categories, here's our list for 2014:

Biggest Surprise--The nominees are: The land commission office going Republican for only the third time in history; the state House going Republican for the first time in 60 years; the Democrats failing to take back the secretary of state's office after the R's won it four years ago for the first time in 60 years and UNM decides to award the naming rights to the famous Pit to WisePiesPizza.

My winner: It wasn't politics but WisePies Pizza? What were they thinking?

Worst Campaign-- (Besides Gary King)--The nominees are the House Democrats; Maggie Toulouse Oliver for secretary of state; Rocky Lara for Congress and Ray Powell for state land commissioner.

My winner: Ray Powell. Attacked for weeks in TV spots, Powell did not respond until the final days and lost the race to Republican Aubrey Dunn by less than 700 votes out of 500,000 cast.

Most Overrated: The nominees are Allen Weh For US senate; Bernalillo County GOP sheriff candidate Scott Baird and Republican state House candidate Vickie Perea.

My winner: Republican Allen Weh. He ran a decent enough campaign but the race was never seriously in doubt and Senator Tom Udall defeated him by over ten points.

Most Underrated: Democrat Sandy Jones for the southern Public Regulation Commission (PRC) seat; Republican Miles Hanisee for the NM Court of Appeals and Democrat Manny Gonzales for Bernalillo County sheriff.

My winner: Manny Gonzales. A Hispanic Democrat has not been elected Bernalillo County sheriff in living memory, but Gonzales pulled it off.

Most “Memorable” Candidate Interview: The nominees are Gary King and the ABQ Journal.

My winner: Gary King. Actually, it wasn't a media interview of the candidates. It was when Democratic governor nominee Gary King questioned Governor Martinez at a TV debate. It was his one and only chance to pin her down. So what did he do? He asked her why she had hired so many out of state cabinet secretaries. Pfft. . .

An honorable mention for this category. When an ABQ Journal columnist asked southern NM GOP PRC candidate Ben Hall why he was using money from public financing to pay himself and his fiance a salary for campaign work, he replied: “If I didn’t hire and pay myself, I would have to hire someone else. What is the big damn deal?”

Most Embarrassing Moment: The nominee and clear winner is Governor Martinez. In leaked audio tapes of conversation between her and her campaign aides in 2010, Martinez revealed she did not know what WIPP is. In 2014 the nation was stunned by  news of a radiation leak from the low level nuclear waste disposal site near Carlsbad.

Most Weird TV Ad: The nominee and hands down winner is GOP attorney general candidate Susan Riedel who sat on a couch in the middle of the desert as she made her case to voters. It raised two questions: How did a couch get in the middle of the desert and did the producer of the ad enjoy some mushrooms when he came up with the idea?

Name Misspelled or Mispronounced Most Often:  The nominees are GOP state Rep. Sharon E. Clahchischilliage, Republican attorney general candidate Susan Riedel and Democratic state treasurer candidate Tim Eichenberg.

My winner: Sharon Clahchischilliage. Duh.

Isn't It Time To Stop Running? The nominees are Republican Jefferson Byrd for the northern congressional seat; Democratic governor candidates Lawrence Rael and state Sen. Linda Lopez

My winner: Jefferson Byrd. He's now been handily defeated twice in a row by Democratic US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan. Lesson learned?

Best Candidate Of 2014: The nominees are Senator Tom Udall; Governor Martinez; Attorney General-elect Hector Balderas and State Auditor-elect Tim Keller.

My winner: None were really put to the test, but Balderas led the Democratic ticket so he wins.

There's no state election in 2015 so where will the best and worst come from next year?  No need to fret. Just around the corner there's the frolic and follies of the 60 day legislative session.

This column also appears in the ABQ Free Press, on newstands now.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.  

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

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Guv Seen Playing In APS Board Election, Susana Critic Korte Targeted, Plus: More On Kari And The Cops; Shock Waves Downtown Over The Latest 

Korte
Aragon
The wife one of Governor Martinez's political favorites is taking on ABQ School Board member Kathy Korte, giving rise to speculation that the Guv's muscular political machine could dump money and resources into the effort to take out Korte, the Guv's arch-enemy on the board.

Korte is the firebrand on the seven member board and its critic-in-chief of all things Susana. She will seek re-election to another term at the February 3 election.

Peggy Muller-Aragon is Korte's announced foe. She is the wife of attorney Robert Aragon, a member of the state Board of Finance and the recent unsuccessful GOP state auditor candidate. His political fling with Susana goes back to when he was a Democrat and endorsed her first Guv run.

Peggy Aragon is a school teacher who describes her political views as "very conservative."

To the Alligators and insiders this seems like a pretty obvious play by Martinez to rid herself of Korte who has proved to be an effective and outspoken opponent. She has repeatedly criticized Martinez's education proposals--so much so that Korte says she recently lost her job over it and has filed a lawsuit.

School board elections are usually sleepy affairs but this one could get nasty fast and maybe expensive. Candidates have been spending around $15,000 on these races. That could be easily surpassed if the teacher's union gets involved for Korte and if the Martinez Machine comes after her.

Two other school board seats are also up for grabs in the February balloting. Also in 2015, the new board is expected to name a new superintendent to replace Brad Winter who is interim superintendent for the state's largest school district. He has said he will not seek the job permanently. Who the new Super is will be a big deal for the Governor who clashed repeatedly with former Superintendent Winston Brooks.

KARI AND THE COPS (CONT.)

Hell hath no fury. . . like a scorned district attorney. The roofs of ABQ's downtown government office buildings shook Wednesday with the news that BernCo District Attorney Kari Brandenburg is on track to pursue murder charges against two ABQ cops who shot and killed homeless camper James Boyd.

This news came on the heels of APD sending allegations of bribery against the DA to the attorney general. Any connection between Kari's newfound wrath for APD and APD's seemingly ill-advised decision to go after her? How loud can you say "Duh?"

But that's not going to be the big story if and when criminal charges come down. The conservative press may find fault with any charges because Brandenburg has decided not to recuse herself from the case while she is under investigation. But that will be like a canary chirping at the Super Bowl. America is not going to hear it. It's what they will see--time and time again--that deplorable video of the Boyd shooting. And what do you think will be the reaction in Ferguson, Missouri  and elsewhere if there are criminal charges against the officers?

If this happens, it's going to be big. Very big. So big that if Brandenburg pulls it off and there is a successful prosecution (and if the bribery charges fade) you could see her running for higher office--like maybe mayor in 2017. Say what?

Gov. Martinez was a district attorney who went on to become governor. BernCo DA Steve Schiff was elevated to the ABQ congressional seat in 1988. Former Attorney General Jeff Bingaman rode that office to the US senate. Former AG Anaya claimed the governor's chair in 1982. Prosecutors are naturals for higher office. It just didn't seem that the gun shy Brandenburg was ever on that track, refusing to stir the hornets nest at APD even as its inhabitants inflicted mortal stings across the community.

Brandenburg seems the most unlikely of characters to take on the Nixonian culture that haunts APD and that has led to so many lost lives, disgraced our city nationally and cost us tens of millions in lawsuits with more to come. Not to mention the businesses that shy away from coming here because of the frequent shoot-outs on the banks of the Rio. (We had another fatal law enforcement shooting just this week).

Something had to give and it appears something just did. Stay tuned.

THE RECOUNT

One of the helpful aspects of the recent recount in the state land commissioner race is that it revealed no major fundamental counting problems with the recent election: The SOS says:

The final vote totals are 249,993 for Aubrey Dunn and 249,337 for Ray Bennett Powell, a difference of 656 votes. The original difference between the candidates was 704 votes.

There was this that tidbit that might deserve some further exploration:

The largest discrepancies were in Sandoval and Colfax counties, where a combined 269 fewer ballots were accounted for than were reported on Election Night.


The county clerks there (and the county commissions) might want to take a deeper look at that.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.  

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Jeb Bush Could Make NM R's Happy, Kari Said To Be Moving Toward Cop Murder Charges, Dunn Says It's Done And He's Won, Liberal Replaces Liberal In State House And Rep. Archuleta Dies At 65 

Jeb Bush
Jeb Bush seems to be inching closer to a 2016 bid for the GOP presidential nomination, and that will be cheered by many New Mexico Republicans (not the Tea Party types).

The former Florida Governor has deep ties to the Hispanic community that will get him notice here. He took a degree in Latin American affairs from the University of Texas, he's a fluent speaker of Spanish, is married to Columba Bush, a native of Mexico, and he pledges to seek middle ground when it comes to the hot button issue of immigration.

New Mexico fell off the presidential swing state list after Obama's 2008 win and is unlikely to regain its status as a battleground state. Still, if Bush is the nominee expect him to do a test drive here to see if his background might make a difference. The state's Hispanic population continues to climb and now comprises over 47% of the total.

Bush did fund-raisers for Gov. Martinez in Farmington and Santa Fe earlier this year. Her education secretary--Hanna Skandera--worked for Bush when he was governor of Florida.

KARI AND THE COPS

Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg is said to be preparing to lower the boom on APD. The news:

Brandenburg’s office anticipates pursuing open counts of murder against the two Albuquerque police officers who shot homeless camper James Boyd in the Sandia Foothills on March 16, KRQE News 13 has learned. It is a preliminary decision based on multiple reviews of more than 1,000 pages of evidence and nine DVDs containing recordings from APD’s investigation of the shooting, which police turned over to prosecutors in early October, multiple sources have told KRQ News 13. Brandenburg has said she expects to make a final decision in the spring on whether to pursue charges against the two officers. . .

If the sources have it right, it's the right move at the right time for the embattled DA. APD is trying to get her on bribery charges involving her drug addicted son and have sent evidence up to the attorney general, but the charges appear feeble. And now the newspaper has called for her to take a leave of absence. Not the right play.

If the cops are charged with murder all hell is going to break loose here and nationally which is probably just what this town needs at this point in our sorry history. Mayor Berry, CAO Perry and APD Chief Eden, strap yourself in. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

DUNN SAYS HE'S WON

GOP land commissioner candidate Aubrey Dunn says he's not jumping the gun. He says the recount is done and he's won. He told supporters in an email Tuesday:

The recount is complete and will be certified Thursday. Now let's finally get down to business.

Only 704 votes separated Dunn and incumbent land commissioner Ray Powell out of about 500,000 cast.  Republican insiders say there was little change in the results after the recount.

In his missive posted here Dunn says he "won again." But you don't win until your certified to have won. You won only once, Aubrey, but that should be enough.

The secretary of state's office confirms the Dunn win, saying the final count shows he took it by 656 votes.

MAEZ MAKES IT

Maez
The ABQ state House seat being vacated by Mimi Stewart will stay in the hands of the progressives. The Bernalillo County Commission has named Stephanie Maez, CEO for the advocacy group Center for Civic Policy, as the new representative for HD 21.

Maez, who has a Masters degree in Public Administration from UNM, is an unabashed liberal like Stewart. She also has extensive business experience, having worked in communications for PNM as well as the ABQ Chamber of Commerce. She also worked in the Dem administration of Big Bill.

One of the other applicants for the job was former ABQ state Senator Bernadette Sanchez. She came under a critical eye from progressives because of what they saw as a conservative tinge to her record.

Insiders think Maez, 34, should be a strong candidate when she seeks election to the heavy Dem SE Heights seat in 2016.

PHIL ARCHULETA

Rep. Archuleta
He wasn't in Santa Fe for very long but State Rep. Phil Archuleta made quite a splash. His vigorous advocacy for civil rights and his well-publicized battle with his personal health made Archuleta one of the better known state reps, despite only being elected in 2012 and then losing his Dona Ana County seat last month to Republican Andy Nunez.

Arhculeta died Tuesday of pneumonia. His poor health--he had a leg amputated-prevented him from attending the '14 legislative session. But he campaigned for re-election from his wheelchair and played the role of Happy Warrior. Shortly after the amputation and while he was in rehab, he called me to quiet speculation that he would give up his seat. "I'm a fighter," he said at the time. "I don't give up."

Phillip Archuleta was 65.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.  

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Longest Serving State Senator Turns 90, The Oil Bear Starts To Rip SE NM And There's A New TV News Leader 

Sen. Pinto
He's the longest serving current state senator and he may be the oldest person to ever serve in either chamber of the NM Legislature. John Pinto turned 90 last week. He celebrated with a visit from US Senator Tom Udall and a cupcake with a single candle.

Pinto, born on the Navajo reservation in dirt poor conditions in 1924, represents Indian Country in San Juan and McKinley counties. He has brought millions back to his district since winning his first term in 1976 and rarely draws serious election opposition.

For many of us Pinto's crowning achievement was winning money to turn one of the most deadly roads in New Mexico into four lanes. That would be the old U.S. 666--the "Devil's Highway." It's now U.S 491 and much, much safer.

It's hard to believe Senator Pinto, who had a career as an educator, will run for another four year term in 2016 when he turns 92, but in 2011 when we blogged that he would not seek another term in '12, Pinto later decided against retirement.

Pinto's now traditional singing of the "Potato Song" at the end of each legislative session is one of those only in New Mexico moments. That he was one of a handful of Navajo code talkers in WWII only enhances his legendary status.

CAREFUL OUT THERE

From our email:

The five states or jurisdictions where a person is most likely to be killed by law enforcement are New Mexico, Nevada, District of Columbia, Oregon, and Maryland. California ranks sixth from the top. Alabama, North Carolina, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York are the safest (or, perhaps, the worst at reporting).

THE OIL BEAR

The impact of the epic bear market in oil prices is now bearing down on New Mexico:

ConocoPhillips said Dec. 8 that it would cut spending next year by about 20 percent. The Houston-based company is deferring investment in North American plays including the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico and the Niobrara formation in Colorado.

On Monday oil plunged below $56 a barrel. We did a doulbe-take when we heard KOB-TV anchorman Tom Joles report that the price of a gallon of gas at one ABQ station is going for $1.99. More of that kind of Christmas gift is more than welcome.

Speaking of TV, our media mavens report that for the first time in about 8 years KRQE-TV has relinquished the 10 p.m. news crown to KOAT-TV. The Nielsen ratings for November for that newscast have KRQE in second place and KOB-TV in third.

It was the first ratings period for KRQE, channel 13, since the departure of veteran anchorman Dick Knipfing and that obviously hurt them. Media watchers are now waiting to see if the station can quickly recover from the hit.

GASSING UP

Back on the big oil story, reader Paul Donishthorpe (brother to political pollster and consultant Bruce) notes that the Santa Fe governing class is freaking out as the state budget is socked over $7 million for each dollar that the price of oil declines. But Donisthorpe says look at his side of the coin:

The ABQ newspaper reported on the completion of the Paseo del Norte/I-25 project, noting that 150,000 vehicles use that roadway every day. Some simplistic assumptions: 150,000 vehicles each traveling 20 miles in a day and getting 20 miles per gallon would use one gallon of fuel or a total of 150,000 gallons every day.

With a $1.50 per gallon saving in the cost of that fuel (we were paying $3.60 per gallon not that long ago), each vehicle would save $1.50 every day driving those 20 miles. For 150,000 vehicles that's $225,000 every day that real people are saving. That's $6,750,000 every month. If the savings can continue for 6 months, that is over $40 million dollars. 

Thanks, Paul. The average motorist is much more interested in those stats--not how much heartburn the oil drop is causing the politicians.

JOB ALERT

End of the year job hunters still have time to get their resumes to State Auditor-elect Tim Keller who takes office January 1. Applications for five open positions are being taken here on his transition web site. You might get a chuckle when you see that Keller has on the same page as the job listings a button to click on to make a campaign contribution. He assures us the two are not related.

BODY COUNTING

Here's a true New Mexico story:

The Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center is offering free lung and whole body counting services, or radiation scans, to residents who live within a 100-mile radius of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The scans are part of a research project titled "Lie Down and Be Counted." Since 1997, the program has been working to establish a baseline of normal radiation present in adults living in the region. "Natural radiation is already in the body. You can get it from eating a banana or eating a lot of wild game, such as elk," said Russell Hardy, director of the center.

Watch that banana intake.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.  

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

Monday, December 15, 2014

NM Senators Take Last Gasps Of Majority Air As They Prepare To Become Backbenchers, Plus: Critical Eyes Turn Toward PNM's Oversized Rate Hike Request 

Heinrich & Udall
The last gasps of majority air taken by New Mexico's two United States senators seem frenzied, as if something most dreadful is imminent. And indeed it is for Democrats Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich. Come January they will be cast into the minority, shedding much of whatever power they have managed to accumulate in their short-lived senatorial careers.

In a news release announcing passage of the public lands package the senators declared it contained "momentous gains for New Mexico." The appointment of Senator Heinrich to the Senate Armed Services Committee was described by Hill rats as "huge" for the state.

Although the lands and wilderness package and Heinrich's new appointment are solid achievements, adjectives such as "momentous" and "huge" don't quite fit the bill.

The Valles Caldera, already a National Preserve, will now become part of the National Park system. The Columbine-Hondo near Taos--which has had quasi-wilderness status for decades, now gets full wilderness status.

Heinrich's committee appointment is notable for a state heavy on military bases, but he will be in the minority on the panel. That is a "huge" difference from being in the majority.

It was as if the duo was flexing their muscles to try to stave off the atrophy that will soon afflict them. Next year and for as long as the GOP retains control of the Senate Udall and Heinrich will be challenged just to remain relevant. That's the pickle the Democrats have gotten themselves into and now they pay the price.

It has been decades since both of New Mexico's senators have been in the minority party. With GOP firebrands like Ted Cruz on the loose and other more powerful senators trying to bring home shrinking supplies of bacon, our federal funding seems less secure and our stature undeniably diminished. Being consigned to senatorial minority status will test our senators in ways that are not yet fully visible.

Udall and Heinrich shouting from the rooftops of final successes in these dying days of the congressional session is understandable but yelling at the cattle doesn't stop a stampede and that's what these two diligent lawmakers face in the years ahead.

(P.S. Heinrich's appointment to Armed Services received notice in the environmental community. Can he use that position to get on top of that dangerous Kirtland Air Force Base fuel leak that is causing so much consternation in the city?)

BOXED IN

Meanwhile, back in the marble corridors of DC, Heinrich and Udall found themselves boxed in when that giant omnibus budget package came up for a vote over the weekend. Both confessed to being deeply disturbed about banking and campaign finance provisions in the measure that were decried by Sen. Elizabeth Warren who has emerged as the new populist leader of the Dems. But because the budget contained so much pork for NM, both senators voted in the affirmative. In the House, the two Dem Lujans--Michelle and Ben Ray--voted no. GOP southern congressman Steve Pearce voted yes.

As for Sen. Warren, her bold stance during the budget debate gave rise to speculation that she will soon become the anti-Hillary and go for the '16 Dem prez nomination. Heinrich has already endorsed Hillary but Udall has held his fire. He had Warren in ABQ for a rally in his recent re-election bid.

PNM'S RATE JOLT

Unlike some big businesses PNM is not scorned by its customers. The electric company has long been known for its community involvement but PNM seems to be putting at risk a sizable measure of goodwill as it comes with a proposed price jolt for its residential customers. It wants a 14% increase in residential electric bills effective Jan. 1, 2016.

That request comes as a shock as New Mexico continues to shed high-paying jobs and replaces them with the $10 an hour variety. That is, if we replace them at all. Employment growth is a blip or nonexistent, matching the wage stagnation.

In fact, one of the great ironies of the proposal is that because New Mexico's economy continues to stagnate less electricity is being used by customers. PNM wants to raise rates to make up for the lack of demand. That alone should tell the company that this is not the time for the vast majority of its customers to absorb a 14% rate hike.

What's particularly troubling to critics of the PNM rate hike is how it shifts the company's expenses away from large corporate users and onto the backs of the ordinary citizen. Big users could see on average an actual monthly rate decrease of nearly 8 percent.

This is an era when even the weakest corporations are prospering. That's in stark contrast to labor which is at a low point. No one wants to see their bills go up but if anyone is best able to shoulder an increase, it is the large industrial users that PNM is letting off the hook.

This is part of a larger and more disturbing pattern. The Governor and Legislature in 2013 cut the corporate income tax, only to force local taxpayers at the city and county level to make up the revenue lost to the state. Now we are hearing how the administration and Legislature want to triple the amount--to $50 million--for the "closing fund" to lure corporations here. This comes as even tiny pay raises for most state government employees and school teachers are being nixed.

The bottom line is that average NM workers have taken major hits to their bottom lines in recent years with no pay raises, fewer benefits and lack of job opportunities.  PNM and its industrial customers do not operate in a societal vacuum. They are prospering while so many others aren't. That makes them much better suited to shoulder more of the rate burden than Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico. The Public Regulation Commission (PRC) should bring a sharp scalpel when it considers this rate hike.

BERNADETTE'S BELIEF

We mentioned the concerns some Democrats have over former ABQ state Senator Bernadette Sanchez possibly being appointed to the state House by the Bernalillo County Commission to fill the vacancy created by ABQ state Rep. Mimi Stewart. She was appointed by the commission to fill a vacant state senate seat. Sanchez responds:

SB10 which I sponsored in 2010 to balance the state budget did not reinstate the food tax. It narrowed the food tax to nutritional foods similar to the early childhood nutritional food educational program managed by the Department of Health for low income pregnant women, mothers, children, and infants. The bill (would have taxed) soft drinks, candy, chips, sweets, and white flour tortillas and other foods that have no nutritional value. . .The bill was chosen by the Senate Democratic Caucus to balance the budget and protect low income people from cuts to needed services.

I had several opportunities to join the Senate coalition with the R’s but my record verifies I didn't. Joining or not joining a coalition is not a priority for New Mexicans. What is important to them is getting assistance and needed representation in improving their quality of life. There are many New Mexicans that I worked with that were struggling as a result of no housing, being unemployed, trapped in small loan debts, having or a family member having a mental health disorder. . .

I am able to provide my experience not only as a former senator but as an educator and mental health counselor. . . I am proud of. . . the legislation that I sponsored that became law to improve education outcomes, mental health, disability services, creation of mental health courts (and) substance addiction treatment. . .

The county commission will decide at a special meeting Tuesday who will fill Stewart's vacant House seat.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.  

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

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Christmas Wish List: What The Politicos Want Under Their Trees 


It wouldn't be Christmas without a wish list and that includes our beloved politicos. Let's take a sneak peek at their lists with the help of our undercover elves. . .

You would think Gov. Martinez would have little left on her wish list after scoring a big re-election win and seeing her Republican Party take control of the state House of Representatives for the first time in 60 years. But it turns out Susana has one very important wish--not to have a second term like those that preceded her under GOP Governor Gary Johnson and Democrat Bill Richardson.

Johnson had a good run in his first term only to see his popularity disintegrate in his second as he even fought with members of his party. Richardson arguably had one of the most productive first terms of any governor in state history, only to crash and burn his second term amid allegations of pay to play. He scored a 69% re-election win in 2006. When he left office his popularity had plunged to the 30's. Susana's second term begins January. Will this be her last very Merry Christmas as governor?

Lt. Gov. John Sanchez has the same Xmas wish as Susana: Don't let her go down the tubes or I go down with her and ruin any chances I have at getting the 2018 Republican gubernatorial nomination.

The newly empowered House Republicans have a Christmas wish with a lot on the line. They wish that the hard-right members of their party don't start talking about repealing gay marriage or changing abortion laws or they could lose in 2016 the historic House majority they picked up in the November election.

The House Democrats now playing second fiddle to the Republicans wish that at the least the Republicans leave them a few good parking spaces at the Roundhouse.

ABQ Mayor Richard Berry has a long wish list. After all, most of his previous wishes have gone up in smoke. The city's economy has yet to make a recovery from the Great Recession, Albuquerque's national reputation hit the skids because of the numerous fatal police shootings and while he had a majority Republican city council when he started in office he now faces a Democratic majority. So for His Honor the wish list includes putting some business points on the board by attracting new jobs, getting the APD stabilized and handling the Dem councilors with agility. And one other wish: That John Sanchez does not seek the '18 GOP gubernatorial nomination because Berry also has his sights set on that.

As for the ABQ City Council, the nine members have a popular wish for the season. They want a best selling book. Their pick? "How to Win Friends and Influence People" because for the past four years they haven't been doing much of either.

MORE WISH LIST

Defeated Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gary King has already had his wish list fulfilled. He had been wishing for months that the election would finally be over. It is and now King, whose campaign never did find its footing, has a holiday greeting for us: "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night (and good life!)"

Now that the R's have taken over the US Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall have plenty of time to make a wish list. So much time that they say they will get back to us on that.

Southern Congressman Steve Pearce also doesn't need much time writing up his wish list. His gift also came early as he soundly defeated Rocky Lara who wanted to get close enough that she would be set up for second bout with Pearce in 2016. After the thrashing she received from Pearce that dream is now as distant as the Christmas Star.

Northern Democratic Congressman Ben Ray Lujan doesn't have much room under his tree for any of his Christmas wishes. Not after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi put an extra large gift under that tree. She named Lujan chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and instantly made him a leading national Hispanic political power player. Now that's a gift worth celebrating with some eggnog.

This column was also published in the ABQ Free Press, on newstands now.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.  

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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Killing The Holiday Cheer: NM ranked 49th On Another Of Those Lists, Plus: Susana's Inaugural Booty, The Land Commission Recount And Kari And The Cops 

Talk about killing the holiday cheer. It's another of those not-so-nice lists. This one says our fair New Mexico ranks as just about the worst run state in the USA. We come in 49th:

. . . Nearly 22% of New Mexico residents lived in poverty last year, the second highest rate after Mississippi. A typical household in New Mexico earned less than $44,000 in 2013, below all but a handful of states. The state’s crime rate was also higher than in all but one other state, with 613 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents in 2013. . . People left New Mexico faster than they moved into the state. Between the middle of 2010 and July 2013, the state lost 9,750 residents to migration alone. S&P recently revised its outlook on New Mexico’s credit rating to negative from stable. The revision was based on New Mexico’s weak economic recovery from the recession and over-reliance on government aid and the energy sector.

Hey, there's some news in there. We didn't see anything around here about the state's credit outlook going negative. But it did--a few days ago:

New Mexico's dependence on energy revenues and government funding brings a negative outlook to the state's AA-plus rating from Standard & Poor's.

That news could mean higher borrowing costs for the state. We can't recall when a major ratings agency last hit us with this kind of negative revision. . .

And the state's dependence on tax income from the oil fields got slammed home once more Wednesday as oil prices plunged yet again--to near $61 a barrel. You'll recall just a few days ago state policy makers said for the budget year beginning July 1 they are counting on an average oil price of $66. In Santa Fe, that oil price is getting eyeballed more than a burning Zozobra. . .

If things get really bad maybe Susana can hold a fund-raiser for the state. She's pretty good at it:

(In 2010) Martinez' inaugural committee capped its contributions to $25,000 and publicly disclosed contributors. But this year, the governor's inaugural committee is capping contributions at $50,000.

$50,000 contributions for the inaugural committee? What? Are they hiring Lady Gaga to play?

RECOUNT TIME

Powell & Dunn
Aubrey Dunn's lead over Ray Powell is as thin as a wafer but soon we will know if it holds up. The recount in the race for state land commissioner begins today with Republican Dunn hanging on to a 704 vote lead over incumbent Dem Powell in a race that had about 500,000 votes cast.

The duo sparred over recount procedure but the state Supreme Court ordered it to go forward. That drew rare praise for the all Democratic court from none other than the state GOP and its new chairwoman. We'll check to see if something is freezing over somewhere.

KARI AND THE COPS

Can we give you Senior Alligator analysis on the predicament of Bernalillo County District attorney Kari Brandenburg when it comes to pursuing an indictment against the cops who shot and killed homeless camper James Boyd earlier this year? Okay, thanks. Actually, it does not appear to be much of a predicament. . .

These elder Gators say even though Brandenburg has been investigated by APD on bribery charges involving burglaries conducted by her drug-addicted son, any indictment would stand the smell test. That's because of the now infamous video of the Boyd shooting. Sure, Brandenburg's charges would be called biased, but that would last about as long as snow on the ground in Hobbs. The national media would quickly shift the focus to the fact that a police officer in the USA involved in a shooting was actually indicted. The Boyd video would go viral all over again. Brandenburg's status would be a footnote. At least that's how those scaly denizens of the Gator pond see the deal.

Brandenburg says she expects action on the Boyd shooting in the spring of next year. She also has said she will evaluate her position on handling the case in light of the APD investigation which is now in the hands of the attorney general.

SEEKING A CHAIR

Harris
Former US Sen. Fred Harris writes of the candidacy of Deb Haaland for chair of the state Democratic Party:

She's a woman. She's an Indian (and the R's have now chosen the Laguna Pueblo Governor as their vice chair). As a single mom, Deb has a great story, having literally pulled herself up by her bootstraps. She believes in the right things, is a champion for middle and working class people. She is an experienced campaigner. She made a lot of friends as a candidate, raised a considerable amount of money. She's my former student. I'm loyal. She asked me. How could I say no? I didn't. I stick. And not halfway with me. In for a penny, in for a pound. She called and asked me for $250. I gave it. She texted me and asked me if I would introduce her at her kickoff. I texted back: "Count on it!" She texted back: "Thank you." Can she win? Will she? I think so. I hope so. She ought to.

Harris, 84, is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

INTO THE SUNSET

Off they go, all those retiring state legislators, including this one:

Retiring state Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis, will be honored today at the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce’s annual legislative breakfast. . Crook announced in February that she would be retiring at the end of the year after more than 20 years as the District 64 representative, most recently serving on the taxation and revenue and transportation committee. Clovis City Commissioner Randy Crowder was elected in the November general election to fill her seat.

Can you imaging having the name of Crook and getting elected for 20 years? She was doing something right.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.  

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Race Underway For Dem Party Chair; Haaland First In; Status Quo Or A Bloodletting? Plus: Filling Mimi's Shoes; House Vacancy Eyed By Former Senator, And: No Frozen Inaugural Fingers; Guv Opts For Indoor Oath 

Deb Haaland
2014 Dem lieutenant governor candidate Deb Haaland has made official her bid for the chairmanship of the NM Democratic Party. The election to replace Sam Bregman will be held in April. Haaland's candidacy comes against the backdrop of a Democratic disaster including her own loss as the running mate of Gary King. She said in her letter to state Dem central committee members:

We must build bridges in our communities, capitalize on our strengths and focus on winning elections. I am not one to sit idle, nor will I speculate on what went wrong this past election, or criticize anyone for what they did or didn't do. I see that many House races were lost by 300-400 votes, and all I know is that those seats belong to Democrats.

But what went wrong with this election for the Democrats is exactly what many of them want to talk about. Haaland seems to be saying that because some of the Dem House seats were lost by 300 or 400 votes that the election was somewhat of a fluke and not a deeper commentary on the messaging crisis the state Dems have had.

The Dems have lost two governor elections in a row, lost the NM House for the first time in 60 years, failed to regain the secretary of state's office this year and appear to have lost the state land commission office. In addition, they continue to confront a ruling conservative coalition in the state Senate that is cemented by Martinez Democrats.

The passion and energy in New Mexican politics is all on the Republican side. Worred Democrats say their party needs new blood and perhaps a bloodletting. If Haaland is content to preside over the status quo that could make room for a stiff challenge. That is, if the veil of apathy over what has happened to the majority party is to be lifted.

FILLING THE SHOES

Sanchez
Dems are mulling over who will replace ABQ Dem State Rep. Mimi Stewart now that the Bernalillo County Commission has appointed her to the state senate to fill the vacancy created when Sen. Tim Keller was elected state auditor. One name that has surfaced has some controversy around it.

Former ABQ Dem State Senator Bernadette Sanchez now lives in Stewart's NE Heights district and is said to be interested in being named by the BernCo Commission to fill her shoes. But some Dems fret that Sanchez might not be a reliable Dem vote, citing her move to reinstate the tax on food in 2010. It didn't go anywhere but in the process Sanchez alienated the liberal wing of the party who called her bill "The Tortilla Tax" and passed out tortillas at the Roundhouse.

If Sanchez wins the appointment it won't make much of a difference for now. The House is newly controlled by the Republicans. But down the road--in 2016--the Dems hope to take the House back. If they do that by just a vote or two they worry that Sanchez could thwart their efforts by entering into a coalition with the House R's. Will that give the majority Dems on the commission second thoughts about sending her to Santa Fe? A decision is expected later this month. Stay tuned.

NO DEEP FREEZE

Newshound Steve Terrell says it was so cold at Susana Martinez's first inauguration that the ink in his pen froze. We know. Why in the heck is a reporter in the digital age using ink? In any event, Terrell and the public at large won't have to worry about being frozen out at Susana's second inauguration. Wisely, it has been scheduled indoors--for the state House Chambers at 9:00 a.m. January 1st. That will be followed by a reception--also open to the public--at 10:30 a.m. at the capitol Rotunda.

In a twist the inaugural ball on New Year's night will not be in Santa Fe, but at the ABQ Convention Center. Tickets are required. Pre-inaugural events include a "Governor's Gala" Dec. 28 in Las Cruses at the Pan American Center and a December 31st 5 p.m. mass at Santa Fe's Cathedral Basilica. Info and tickets for all events is here.

By the way, Maria Berry, wife of ABQ GOP Mayor Richard Berry, will chair the ABQ inaugural ball. Hey, what about Debbie Sanchez, wife of Lt. Gov. John Sanchez? He's running for Governor in 2018, too, you know.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Readers have been weighing on what is New Mexico's most iconic building after the UNM athletic director nominated the famous basketball "Pit" as numero uno. Reader Joe Craig comes with his faves:

Los Poblanos is one of the top three cultural gems in New Mexico. From the huge Peter Hurd mural to the Gustave Bauman carvings, it is a continuous work of art with a history going back to 1716. With its John Gaw Meem architecture from 1930's to the current stewardship of the Rembe family it is nothing short of remarkable. Los Poblanos coupled with Acoma Pueblo and Taos Pueblo all take your breath away. There is nothing in Santa Fe that even comes close to Los Poblanos.....

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.  

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

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

A Deft Deflection: DA Brandenburg Bounces Ball Back To APD; Firmly Denies Criminal Charges; Hangs Tough And Acts Cool Amid The Heat, Plus: Santa Fe's Unusual Optimists  

Brandenburg & attorney (Journal photo)
Cool, calm and collected. That was Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg as she stared down the most difficult moment of her long public career Monday. Those expecting panic, overemoting or even a resignation amid criminal allegations that she had involved herself in burglary charges confronting her drug addicted son walked away disappointed.

Brandenburg emphatically denied any wrongdoing of any sort:

"I did not do anything wrong. I am absolutely clear I did nothing wrong or commit any violation," she declared of the bribery and witness intimidation charges brought against her by APD.

That puts her squarely on the public record without equivocation and tosses the ball back into the court of APD which has sent the investigation results to the state attorney general.

Has APD--itself drenched in scandal--overreached? Brandenburg seems confident it has. Presuming she will be cleared, she said she hopes the media gives that eventual news as much play as the charges are getting.

Brandenburg wasn't flawless during her half hour meeting with reporters at her attorney's office but she was pretty darned close. The Legal Beagles and Alligators said the DA came across poised, professional and sincere and that she also managed to connect on an emotional and human level. That was especially so when she spoke about being a single parent and the difficulty of having a child who is addicted to drugs. If APD was hoping their leak to the ABQ Journal would result in some sort of quick political knockout, they miscalculated.

There is still much to know, however. On the advice of her attorney and because she has not seen the police report, Brandenburg would not discuss details of the case or the charges. That means this show is far from over.

HITS FROM THE HIGH ROAD

Even as she said she was taking the "high road" she did manage to get in some digs against her chief antagonists--APD and the ABQ Journal.

Of the newspaper she said:

We are troubled that the existence of the investigation was leaked to the Journal. . . The integrity of any investigation is compromised when there are leaks. . . At the least the motive of the investigation is called into question. . . 

The paper reported that it gained access to the case through a request under the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). It did not mention any tip or tipster. But Brandenburg pointed out that it was a leak to the Journal that prompted the paper to file the IPRA.

As for APD, she pointed to what she deemed a flawed probe:

We do have serious concerns about the investigation. Key people were not interviewed, including myself.

That raised the question of why no one at APD contacted Brandenburg who happens to be the chief prosecutor for the county. If the charges prove false it might put the city in the ironic position of being sued by Brandenburg.

LEGAL BEAGLE CORNER

This comes from one of them:

Outrage is still widespread over the failure to prosecute law-enforcement for the choke hold killing of Eric Garner in New York City. Albuquerque had a similar experience over the killing of homeless camper James Boyd. The perception (right or wrong) that the APD leak could be connected to Brandenberg's possible indictment of Keith Sandy for the Boyd killing may mean renewed national interest in Boyd's death. Only this time the narrative would be, "What police departments do when they think a DA is going to charge a cop with murder."

Brandenburg has been dubbed soft on the cops because she has not charged any officers in the dozens of police shootings in recent years that prompted a federal civil rights investigation by the Department of Justice. Looming large at the news conference was Brandenburg's continuing review of the most notorious of the police killings--that of homeless camper James Boyd. The police lapel camera video of the incident shocked the state and nation.

If Brandenburg were to ever reverse course and decide to charge police officers with a crime, it would be the Boyd case. Because she is nearing a decision on that case, it prompted speculation that dark forces were conspiring to take Brandenburg down.

If she did charge officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez in that shooting she could be accused of retaliation against APD because of its investigation of her. Is she concerned that she now has a conflict of interest and will have to turn that case over to an outside authority for final review? "We will definitely be evaluating that," she replied.

If she keeps the Boyd case in her purview she is now saying that a decision would likely come "in the spring." On November 21 the newspaper reported: 

". . . Her office was expecting to complete its review of several officer-involved shootings by Christmas. She said, a decision on whether state charges will be filed in connection to the James Boyd shooting is expected by early 2015."

It has been reported that the Feds will not charge any officers in the Boyd killing so the future of the case is all on the DA's shoulders.

SUPPORT AND SEETHING

Social media was awash with comment on Brandenburg's trouble, both supportive and seething. Here's a sample:

Phillip Howell wrote:

Every parent who is on the road of misery with a drugie child knows the impossibility of the journey. Nothing, other than the death of your child is as difficult as this journey. I do not know any facts, therefore any comment about Ms. Brandenburg and this story-other than the difficult journey of a child's addiction- would be wrong.

Aya Peterson said: 

She'll defend herself by pointing to the fact that she never paid these people as proof that there was never a deal. In other words, her kid ripped them off, she offered to pay for it, and then she ripped them off all over again, only now she'll be calling them liars to boot. So, she'll be victimizing the hell out of these people in her own best interest. But hey, "I have never at any time violated the law. My friends and colleagues know this."  I wonder what all the innocent people she's coerced into plea deals would say? Maybe we should ask them?

An anonymous writer did not agree that Brandenburg handled her news conference well:

I felt it was lacking. She did not deny that she offered to make restitution on behalf of her son in exchange for no charges to be filed, which is the problem. It is the appearance of impropriety and the use of her position do help her son that the public will not forgive nor forget. All she said was "I have done nothing illegal or unethical." The strongest defense is that the investigation is politically motivated, that APD leaked it, and the Journal published it, but she did not go there which tells me this is far from over..

THE LAWYER

A final note on all this. Brandenburg's criminal defense attorney is Peter Schoenberg. He may be familiar to some who remember he was also the lawyer who defended former Governor Richardson when Richardson was being investigated for corruption charges by a Federal grand jury. No charges were ever brought.

SANTA FE'S OPTIMISM

Sen. Smith
It seems odd to say but Santa Fe's budget hawks may be too optimistic. They can usually be counted on for generous doses of doom and gloom but in the face of a full-fledged bear market in the price of oil, they are rejecting the notion that it could get much worse.

Both Department of Finance boss Dr. Tom Clifford and State Sen. John Arthur "Dr. No" Smith--the most famous of the hawks flying over the Roundhouse--say that there will be about $140 million in new money for the budget year that begins next July 1. Due to the oil price crash, that is now half the original new cash estimate of $280 million.

But even as Clifford was briefing lawmakers on the outlook, West Texas crude was crashing again--down $2.88 a barrel to $66.19. By Clifford's own accounting each dollar drop costs the general fund $7.5 million.

The Legislative Finance Committee is projecting that the oil price will average $66 a barrel for the next budget year--exactly where we are right now. If we head lower and stay there, the proverbial call of "look out below" will be heard echoing around the Roundhouse Rotunda.

Clifford and Smith are not about to say the state will have to dip into its reserves next year--or God forbid--raise taxes somehow. But if the oil bear stays out of his lair a more than ample state reserve of over $610 million (about 10% of the over $6 billion projected budget) will be eyed hungrily by lawmakers.

Thanks to years of soaring oil prices Santa Fe's theme song has been, "How High The Moon?" Suddenly, the new hit is "How Low Can You Go."

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.  

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

Monday, December 08, 2014

Brandenburg's Gate: DA Gets Mired In Muck As Her Decision Nears On Controversial Police Shooting; The Questions Being Asked, Plus: New GOP Chair Says State Party Should Be About The Cash Not The Ideas, And: Freshman Senator Snags Whip Post 

Kari Brandenburg (ABQ Journal)
All eyes will be on Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg today as she holds a news conference to answer allegations that she offered to reimburse burglary victims for not implicating her son as a suspect in the burglaries.

There will be plenty of questions for Brandenburg about what exactly she did or did not do to help her son dodge responsibility and possible criminal charges for two burglaries he was allegedly involved in, but there are also other questions raised.

Update: At a news conference Monday Brandenburg said: "I have never at any time violated the law. My friends and colleagues know this." She said her son is a drug addict and has been in jail three times. "I have never nor would I ever do anything other than hold him 100 percent accountable for his actions." She also said "absolutely not" when asked if she committed any ethical breaches. Asked if she will continue to review police shooting cases, she said, "I will continue to do my job." But added that she will evaluate her position going forward. She also indicated there would be no decision this month in the shooting case of James Boyd. Entire video of news conference here.

What immediately struck seasoned observers was the timing of this. The ABQ Police Department learned of the allegations against the DA in October 2013. Now--within weeks of when Brandenburg could announce whether she will pursue criminal charges against former APD officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez in the controversial shooting of homeless camper James Boyd--this news breaks. Brandenburg has never charged a police officer for their role in a police shooting, but the Boyd slaying drew international attention and looms large. Brandenburg said she was personally investigating the Boyd case and was preparing to make a decision on criminal charges early next year.

Does this new twist mean she may send the Boyd shooting to a preliminary hearing before a district judge presented by another DA's office? Otherwise, she seems damned if she moves to charge the officers and damned if she doesn't.

Another question: APD began its investigation in October 2013. Why did it not turn it over to an outside law enforcement agency since it involved the district attorney who has the authority to charge APD officers with crimes? On November 25 APD asked the attorney general's office to review its year long investigation. The question is whether it should have ever been an APD investigation. Is there a conflict of interest here?

And how about how fast that open records request from the newspaper was fulfilled by APD which has a history of dragging its feet on such inquires? The detective wrote his letter to the attorney general on Nov. 25 and only days later the letter and the story land on the front pages. How come APD doesn't respond so quickly for IPRA requests for police lapel camera video and so many other requests?

Another question thrown out: Has the DA been intimidated by the ongoing APD investigation into her and her son and thus not charged any officers in police involved shootings?

On the political front, are the allegations damaging enough to eventually force Brandenburg to resign?  That would have major political impact as Republican Governor Martinez would get to appoint Brandenburg's replacement. Even if Brandenburg stays through the end of her term the allegations may already have put the R's in a position to stake a claim for the office in 2016. R's will pressure Brandenburg to resign, perhaps citing the case of ABQ Public Safety Officer Darren White who interfered in the handling of an auto accident involving his wife and was forced to quit.

How will Attorney General-elect Hector Balderas, a Democrat, handle the case? The hot potato is going to be in his hands as the term of Attorney General King ends Dec. 31.

Public opinion is bound to be harsh on Brandenburg, although she will win some sympathy as a mother tyring to help a son. She is midway through her fourth, four year term as DA, the longest tenure in modern history. She has a high-powered criminal defense attorney and from what has been disclosed so far she seems to have walked a fine line in her son's alleged criminal activity.

No matter the outcome of the Brandenburg incident, it is another black eye for the state's largest city. APD is under investigation by the Department of Justice for the many police shootings and the District Attorney is now mired in muck. Add to the mix a don't-worry-be-happy ABQ Mayor and City Council and a relentless economic recession and you have a city adrift. Where will the waves take us next?

PARTYING WITH THE R'S

Debbie Maestas
The weekend election of Debbie Weh Maestas as the new chair of the NM Republican Party did not set off shouts of glee in the camp of Governor Martinez, but neither did it send it into a spiral of depression.

Maestas is the daughter of former NM GOP chairman Allen Weh who clashed with Martinez for the 2010 GOP Guv nomination. But the party and the position are not what they used to be as the money and power has shifted to the anything goes super PACS.

The Martinez camp was content to see John Billingsley out of the post which he used to poke at key Martinez aide Jay McCleskey. The Guv's political aides were nowhere to be seen at the Saturday convention.

Martinez is expected to travel heavily in the next two years as she looks for a perch on the national stage and raises money for the GOP. She will leave behind the often bitter intraparty strife that has accompanied her tenure. It is epitomized by the discontent with Martinez of former GOP Chairman Harvey Yates, Jr. who backed Maestas.

Maestas, whose professional background is as an executive with her father's CSI Aviation, also had the backing of GOP southern Congressman Steve Pearce who has no lost love for Susana and company. With that kind of backing Maestas (247 votes) trounced challengers Max Barnett (110) and Rick Lopez (87). A complete list of the new state GOP officers is here.

While the chair position has been diminished it still has the bully pulpit. Media interviews, speeches, news releases and the like still give her an opportunity to help shape the narrative (without stepping on the toes of Susana and the newly in charge state House Republicans).

But Maestas indicated she doesn't want to wade into issues much and will concentrate on raising money:

“The party's goal, their responsibility, is to raise money so that we can support our candidates who are out there running. The party doesn't need to be the organization that has the platform, they need to be the organization that is the support … We need to be strong and make sure candidates and county (Republican) chairs have what they need.”

Well, maybe. But the political parties are unlikely to be major players in the individual races in the super PAC era. It would be nice if they were for those R's who chafe under the thumb of the Martinez Machine. It had its hand in several super PACs this cycle.

As for Maestas's assertion that the party should not concern itself with a platform, what is a political party without ideas? A perpetual fund-raising vehicle? Maybe she just wants to spare herself involvement in the deep chasm between the social conservatives and the corporate wing of the GOP.

Maestas, 42. will give the male dominated GOP a female face as the '16 presidential cycle comes into view. Given her background she should be able to raise enough cash for the party not to go penniless.

The next challenge for the GOP could come from its right wing as it pushes social issues like pro-life. Talk is already surfacing of a parental notification bill for teens wanting abortions. That is something the GOP House and Martinez can probably sign on to. However, if more stern anti-abortion measures start to advance, look for trouble to start.

WHIPPING IT 

Sen. Padilla
The position of state Senate majority whip will stay with an ABQ lawmaker. Sen. Michael Padilla won the job at the Sunday caucus of Democratic senators. He beat out Senators Lopez and Cervantes and will replace ABQ Sen. Tim Keller who was elected state auditor. Senators Sapien and Candelaria dropped out of the race earlier in the week. Candelaria was again selected as caucus chair. My sources tell me Padilla beat Cervantes of Las Cruces in a run-off.

Padilla, 42, is a freshman senator so this is a particular feather in his cap. He is aligned with Dem progressives which will make for interesting observation as he deals with Dem senators aligned with the R's and who comprise a ruling conservative coalition in the 42 member chamber.

Sen. Michael Sanchez of Belen was again chosen as majority leader. The 2015 legislative session begins January 20. Other actions taken by the caucus are here.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.  

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