Thursday, March 15, 2018

Dems Raise Expectations For State House As Dust Settles From Filing Day And The Contest For A BernCo Commission Seat Gets Strange Indeed 

Now that the dust has settled from Tuesday's filing day for the 70 state House seats the spinners have taken to the playing field. Over at State Dem Party headquarters they are setting the bar high, really high:

Five newly-open Republican seats in the New Mexico legislature are now up for grabs and Democrats have fielded a strong slate of candidates to run in each race. Open Republican seats include HD-15, HD-22, HD-30, HD-51, and HD-67. If these seats are gained and current Democratic seats successfully defended, Democrats will have a 43-27 majority in the New Mexico House of Representatives.

To get to 43 the Dems would have to take the Gentry and Maestas Barnes ABQ seats which they are vacating.

House Speaker Egolf currently has only a small majority over the R's of 38 to 32. A 43 seat Democratic House would strengthen his hands in all sorts of ways, including keeping a better check on powerful State Rep. Debbie Rodella who can team with a couple of R's when need be to upset Egolf's apple cart.

By the way, Rodella has drawn a Dem primary opponent up in Rio Arriba County. Of course, Speaker Egolf's team would have nothing to do with that. Right? No way. No how. Of course not. . .


The R's said the recent Dem pre-primary convention was riddled with "chaos" including the arrest of a protester. A Dem responds:

It’s not surprising that the GOP thought that our convention was a little bit chaotic. We Democrats actually like a little bit of chaos. That’s bound to happen when you let your delegates choose from among multiple candidates instead of the party telling the delegates up front who the winners are going to be.

A reader writes:

What do you mean, Joe, that if State Senator Howie Morales of Silver City is the Dem nominee for lieutenant governor and Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham is the Guv nominee the ticket would be "ethnically balanced?"

We can phrase that better. The all Hispanic Republican ticket of Governor Martinez and John Sanchez broke new ground and in a increasingly majority minority state that kind of ticket could be the new norm. Such would be the case if Lujan Grisham and Morales were the '18 Guv ticket. We should say "ethnically representative" rather than balanced.

Here's a little noticed development that could mean some trouble for the GOP with the statewide races:

Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver says she still wants to restore straight-ticket voting in which a slate of major-party candidates can be chosen all at one time. . . She hopes to allow straight-ticket voting in fall elections. . . The option was removed beginning in 2012 by then-GOP Secretary of State Dianna Duran. The National Conference of State Legislatures says the number of states with straight-ticket voting dwindled to nine last year.


John Jones 
What happened to that face-off that we were expecting for the BernCo Commission seat in the far SE Heights and East Mountains? Well, former GOP commissioner and radio station manager Michael Brasher, who had said he was going to seek the seat that was vacated by Wayne Johnson when he was appointed state auditor by Gov. Martinez, never filed for the slot Tuesday. That mystified, and according to insiders, miffed John Jones, a water expert who had already announced his commission candidacy. Jones ended up abandoning his commission race and running unopposed for the GOP nomination for the House seat being vacated by Nate Gentry. So how did that come down?

Jones, the husband of Gov. Martinez political rival and ABQ GOP congressional candidate Janice Arnold-Jones, wanted the commission seat most but an associate of his says when he asked Brasher about rumors that he would not run, Brasher went silent. So when the opportunity came for Jones to run for the Gentry seat Jones took it thinking that he would be avoiding a tussle with Brasher, when in fact he could have filed for the commission seat and had no opposition because Brasher was actually out.

Rep. Jim Smith ended up as the major GOP candidate for the commission seat. However, Smith did not file until very late Tuesday apparently awaiting word from the Governor's office that if he ran she would appoint him to fill the Johnson vacancy so he could run as an incumbent. He got late word and filed his candidacy just before the deadline.

As to how and why Rep. Smith suddenly emerged, that's another story we'll have to piece together.

For his part, Brasher isn't saying why he did not run. There was speculation that FCC equal time rules could be a problem for Brasher who appears regularly on KANW-FM as an announcer. The station may have had to provide equal time to any Brasher campaign opponent that requested it or else he would have to leave the air.

So now we expect Martinez to appoint Rep. Smith to the $30,000 a year position just as everyone expected her to appoint Brasher, who she previously named to the state Board of Finance.

There is another Republican seeking the commission seat, political unknown Natasha Hadrych Rosier. Charlene E. Pyskoty is the sole Dem contender and there is also a Libertarian candidate. This seat is all R all the time and Smith will be in the driver's seat.

Sometimes covering La Politica like this we think we're going down a never ending rabbit hole.

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.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

An Eventful Day In La Politica: House R Leader Gentry Leaves The Stage And So Does The Chairman Of The Dem Party; Complete Coverage  

Leader Gentry
Two high profile departures shook La Poltica Tuesday with one signifying a retreat in the fortunes of state Republicans and the other reinforcing a cultural trend that is impacting politics.

The decision of House Minority Leader Nate Gentry to not seek re-election to his ABQ seat which was only revealed when he did not file his official paperwork with the Secretary of State as required Tuesday. (All filings here.)

GOP consultant Bob Cornelius summed up the reaction in the political community:

That's huge!

Huge because Gentry cashing out is the ultimate symbol of the retreat from power of state R's as a Democratic trend led by the President's unpopularity is setting in for the November election. It also signals yet again compelling demographic changes that are casting doubt on the long-term prospects of the GOP in a state where they now seem like the proverbial fish out of water.

Gentry's far NE heights district is being gradually engulfed by a  sea of blue. He only won re-election by four points in 2016 and the same Dem opponent filed Tuesday to run again. Gentry also faced the prospect of leading a diminished minority next year and likely facing a Dem Governor. And we won't get into the negative campaigning that was about to be unloaded on him.

Gentry isn't the only R seeing the handwriting on the wall. ABQ GOP State Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes is not seeking re-election to her swing seat district and Rep. Dennis Roch of Tucumcari, a natural replacement for Gentry as minority leader, also took a pass on a re-election bid. (Look for Valencia County Rep. Kelly Fajardo to make a move to replace Gentry as minority leader).

The Gentry departure will coincide with the end of Gov. Martinez's eight years at the helm. They both arrived in 2011 and both will leave at the end of the year. Gentry formed a deep alliance with her political consultant Jay McCleskey and they employed hardball tactics and took advantage of a redistricting designed with a GOP Governor in charge. That put the House in Republican hands for two years following the '14 election and  Gentry sported the title of House Majority Leader before he turned 40. But later he  broke away from McCleskey and now both are in the political wilderness.

The Gentry departure is one of the last wheels to fall off the once mighty Martinez political machine. Not everyone thinks it had to be that way. Former Republican turned Democrat and former state legislator Greg Payne said the Machine got the demographics right by securing many Hispanic Republican for politics but:

They wasted seven years arguing over driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. Their candidates had the right profiles but the wrong policies. No way was that Machine built for the long-term. Now we are entering an era where New Mexico will be much like California, dominated almost completely by Democrats and the party breaking into more sharply defined progressive and conservative wings.

Cornelius shares that view, pointing to the state's economy as a chief reason:

We don't have a robust economy that would be more Republican friendly. It has become more and more a welfare state as the economy has declined. Unless (Governor candidate) Steve Pearce can pull a rabbit out of his hat, I agree with Payne that New Mexico is going more Blue and staying that way for a long time.

The R departures from the House seem to nearly guarantee that the Dems will grow their 38-32 majority by at least one and maybe quite a bit more. And that takes us back to the secular political trend that is ready to take hold here.

With a legislature controlled by the Dems as well as the governorship, the legislative redistricting of 2021 might be called The Day of the Donkey. The possibilities include the southern congressional district becoming Democratic and the state House revamped to create even more Dem dominance.

Could anything stop the train that Gentry and others are jumping out of the way of? With Trump at the helm and the GOP locked down, the party is looking more defiant and ready to make a last stand and not change its ways. Reps. Gentry, Maestas Barnes and Roch know how that movie ends.


NM Dem Party Chair Richard Ellenberg is the latest to fall to the #metoo movement after putting his foot in his mouth. Ellenberg cast doubt on sexual misconduct allegations made against prominent Democrat and union leader Jon Hendry who Ellenberg happens to own property with. That came after a sexual misconduct flap with a Dona Ana Dem county commissioner in which Ellenberg was accused of trying to get the commissioner's accuser to back off.

Well, he's gone. The state's Dem congressional reps and SOS Toulouse Oliver issued a joint statement as they placed Ellenberg in his political coffin:

As Democrats, we stand with the silence-breakers who have come forward to share their stories of sexual harassment and abuse. Questioning the credibility of sexual misconduct allegations is contrary to our values, and it is time for new leadership that better reflects them. 

Of note is that the woman involved in the Dona Ana County case is Neomi Martinez-Parra, the vice-chair of the Dem Party. She will now become chairman and perhaps seek the permanent chairmanship when the State Central Committee fills the post. Others may compete.

So what does it matter? The parties are shells of their former selves with the campaigns running the show with their big money. Dem analyst and operative Israel Chavez explains:

The party plays a key function in organizational structure that supports the candidates when they're not running. 

Union chief Hendry was a key player in corralling cash for the state Dems but Chavez said the union money will still be there, no matter who heads the party. He adds:

The individuals come and go but having leaders that reflect Democratic values is essential.

Consultant Cornelius said he and many of his fellow R's thought the Ellenberg axing was an overreaction, saying he only defended Hendry, an old friend, and was not accused of misconduct himself.

Politics watcher Steve Cabiedes, without offering an opinion on Ellenberg getting the boot, opined:

We are living through a cultural shift. In the rush to change in some cases the punishment may fit the crime or may not. The hope is that in the long-term this period will end with fewer instances of sexual harassment.


Republican John Jones, the husband of ABQ GOP congressional hopeful Janice Arnold-Jones, filed to run for the Nate Gentry House seat. He had been running for the BernCo Commission seat vacated by Wayne Johnson who was appointed state auditor. Natalie Figueroa is the Dem hopeful for the Gentry seat.

Can City Councilor Brad Winter keep the Maestas Barnes House seat in GOP hands? He'll try but he will have to overcome Dem attorney and political newcomer Dayan Hochman. She specializes in aviation law. Winter's council district overlaps some with the portion of the House district in the NE Heights. If Winter wins does he have to leave the council to serve in the Legislature and would Mayor Keller get to name his replacement? The way we read the law he would.

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.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

"Dr. No" Seems Ready To Tangle With New Governor Over Budget; Calls For Even Higher Reserves Amid Oil Boom, Plus: Damon Martinez Soldiers On And Heinrich "Evolves" On Assault Weapons 

Sen. Smith 
Is the next Governor already destined for a battle with State Sen. John Arthur Smith? The chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee has earned the moniker of "Dr. No" for his affinity for fiscal austerity. Now with a record oil boom replenishing state coffers Smith is firing a warning shot about spending those funds, and that could cramp the style of the new Governor, especially if that Guv is a Dem. Here's Smith's shot:

. . . The state should use the new-found oil boom to raise reserves to 20 percent to prepare for future busts.“We’re still on a feast-or-famine feed cycle,” Smith said. “We need to take advantage of the current revenue stream to mitigate the hills and valleys.”

Twenty percent? That's double what even conservative economists recommend keeping in reserve, but Smith is nothing if not a protector of his turf. By raising the reserve ante he is positioning himself at the negotiating table with the next chief executive. It's a long way off, but that already seems to be the big story of Legislative Session 2019.

Meanwhile, the outgoing Governor is getting all the barbs that come with being a lame duck with low poll numbers. The Las Cruces Sun-News, Susana's hometown paper, is even piling on. Walt Rubel writes:

The governor proved her first year that she could veto bills with the best of them, but she never proved she could legislate. As a result, she will leave office with nothing permanent to show she had ever been there.


After getting crushed at Saturday's liberal dominated Dem pre-primary convention, garnering only 10% of the vote, former US Attorney Damon Martinez is working furiously to keep his candidacy for the ABQ congressional nomination alive. He comes with an endorsement from ABQ City Council President Ken Sanchez to stem the tide:

I was impressed by his work bringing people together from all sorts of professional and personal backgrounds to address the city and state’s opioid crisis through the HOPE Initiative.

We reported how Martinez still has some $300,000 in cash for the race which was dominated at the convention by first place winner Deb Haaland and second place finisher Antoinette Sedillo Lopez. There are also rumblings that Martinez will be getting third party TV support for the June 5 primary.

The Sanchez endorsement makes sense in that it is  moderate and conservative Hispanics, like Sanchez, who most support the like-minded Martinez. Their hope is that the two progressives will split that vote and Martinez can run up the middle and take the prize. It's an interesting race to the June 5 primary.


Senator Martin Heinrich has been flying under the radar recently when it comes to the controversial topic of banning military assault weapons. The Democratic lawmaker still does not support the long-standing and sweeping Feinstein bill calling for a ban of assault weapons but his position on a ban has quietly changed. He now says:

I will be working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to craft an assault weapons ban. Those of us who know firearms well have a duty to lead these efforts and to get the details right.

That is from a statement on his website. We have not seen any other public pronouncement of his change--other than a blurb deep down in a news story--which is why we dubbed it flying under the radar.

The low-key shift put Heinrich, 46, in a more politically tenable position and also prevented him from getting dragged into the raging gun debate in the immediate aftermath of the student murders in Parkland, Fl.

The issue arose on the Monday blog when we contrasted Heinrich's position with that of Michelle Lujan Grisham's, who has been advocating an assault weapons ban since she became a congresswoman-elect in 2012. We wondered if Heinrich's position would change. Well, it turns out it had but the switch still leaves open the important question of how comprehensive a ban he will support. What will be those "details?"

The Feinstein bill was again introduced last year and it had the support of nearly two dozen Democratic senators but not Heinrich, who is an avid outdoorsman and who in 2016 announced he had given up his NRA membership in 2012.

A Heinrich campaign insider said the senator's position "has evolved" in the wake of the Parkland shootings and he deserves credit for his flexibility. However, in his media statements following the Parkland slayings Heinrich did not mention assault weapons:

He says he wants to see a federal ban on bump stocks, high-capacity magazines, and clarify the rules on universal background checks.

Heinrich soft pedaling the assault weapons ban he is now working on could be fodder if he had a Democratic primary opponent who supports the Feinstein bill. But he has no primary challenge and his two conservative foes in the general election are not supporting a ban. Given that backdrop, Heinrich, who is seeking a second term this year, gets to give both sides of the equation a little something.

The switch comes after years of advocacy for Second Amendment rights by Heinrich. Many observers think his pro-gun stance made the difference when he beat Republican Darren White for the ABQ congressional seat in 2008 and when he took down Jon Barela in his 2010 re-elect. But times change and that horse no longer runs.

Then there's the fund-raising. With his campaign budget in the multi-millions, Heinrich will travel to deep Blue states like California for the necessary cash. There he no doubt will be asked how he stands on the assault weapons ban. Now he has an answer that may not be exactly what they want to hear but it is much better than nothing.

And that, gentle reader, is how this game of ours is played in the quest for a seat in the United States Senate.

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.


Monday, March 12, 2018

Martinez Sapped The Dem Energy But Trump Brought It Back; Delegates Frolic At Pre-Primary Convention As They Winnow The Field In Key State Races; Complete Coverage And Analysis Is Up Next  

Rep. Lujan Grisham
Governor Martinez took it away but President Trump helped bring it back. After eight nearly years of being browbeaten by the R's the New Mexico Democratic Party was reenergized this weekend at its pre-primary convention. The 1,500 delegates to the ABQ convention acted like freed hostages hooting and hollering at the speeches and nearly gloating over their improved prospects this cycle.

Even while basking in her landslide convention win that matched expectations, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Michelle Lujan Grisham declared that complacency may be the D's newest obstacle, warning that beating Republican Steve Pearce will not be a lay-up.

(Complete results for all offices here.)

But the congresswoman was one of the few fretting. Delegates were relishing the upcoming November election in which pundits of all stripes are predicting the Governor's office will return to the Dems and that their chances to take all of the statewide offices up for election hasn't looked this good in years.

The state GOP did its best to restrain the frolicking, calling parts of the convention "chaos" but that only underscored their defensiveness, a fresh posture for the minority party that now looks at November 6th like a date with death row. Now on to the action.


Out of deference to possible future events we won't call Rep. Lujan Grisham the "probable nominee" for Governor but right now she is. When you score 67% of the vote, deny two of your three opponents the needed 20 percent to get an official ballot spot and when your lone foe to make that crucial mark--Jeff Apodoca--does so with only a point to spare, a sense of inevitably begins to surround a candidacy.

Apodaca is known for his feistiness and is expected to battle on but veteran analyst Greg Payne says his challenge is daunting:

Dem Guv Candidates
He will have to raise a lot of money which won't be easy after what happened at the convention. And he is faced with deciding whether he wages a fierce negative campaign against Lujan Grisham who just scored an outsized win in his party. It may be his only viable option but I think we will be wary of going there. 

State Senator Joe Cervantes vows to fight on, despite garnering only 10 percent of the delegate votes. He also faces a tough decision--does he put up at least $1.5 million of his  personal wealth to take on the front-runner? Now that's a craps game we'd like to watch.

Longshot progressive Peter DeBenedettis doesn't have any decision to make. He withdrew at the convention and endorsed Apodaca. And that means for the first time this election year we get to use that old standby: "Politics makes for strange bedfellows."

What's next? Apodaca will likely take some measured digs at Lujan Grisham, hoping to force here into a fumble on which he could pounce and use to redefine the race which was so clearly defined Saturday.


Howie Morales came in first at the 2014 Dem pre-primary when he ran for Governor, only to lose the June primary nomination to Gary King. History is not likely to repeat.

The Silver City state senator scored an impressive 50 percent of the vote in a four way contest for lieutenant governor Saturday. He does well on TV, balances the ticket ethnically (Hispanic male) and geographically if Lujan Grisham is the nominee. He's on his way.

Former ABQ State Rep. Rick Miera is one of the most qualified lieutenant governor candidates the state has seen but he managed only 28% at the convention, another sparkless performance which mimics what's been happening on the campaign trail.


The delegates did their job and winnowed this six way race for the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat to two, well, maybe two and a half. Former NM Dem Chair Deb Haaland won with 35% followed by law professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez with 25%. The other three, including ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis whose supporters touted his organizational ability, were crushed. Davis won only14%. Former US Attorney Damon Martinez did even worse, coming in at 11% and Damian Lara at 12.

So if Haaland and Sedillo Lopez are the two left standing who is the "half candidate?" That would be Martinez who raised over $300,000 before the convention and hasn't spent much. Can he defy history and win? Probably not. The party has signaled that it is looking for a progressive candidate to replace Lujan Grisham and Martinez does not fit the bill. The ABQ Dem party of today has moved away from the pragmatic centrism that Martinez represents and once was essential to winning the seat. No more.

What to look for: Will national Native American money come in heavier for Haaland in the wake of her win? And what about her loose campaign spending ways that have been criticized? Her staff says she has reorganized and the money is not moving out the door like it was.

Sedillo Lopez supporters say Haaland underperformed at the convention given that she once led the party, but the same might be said of Sedillo Lopez. She has led the fund-raising but failed to keep the convention race close.


No surprise here. National and local Dems have anointed Xochitl Torres Small of Las Cruces as a rising star and she scored a 65% to 35% pre-primary win over Soccoro's Mad Hildebrandt. Something similar can be expected in the June primary. It may not be fair to Hildebrand that the Dems cleared the field for Torres Small, but when does that matter?


Heinrich & VeneKlasen
Yes, there was a snafu on this one in Alligator land, but as in every other contested race, the Gators nailed the land commissioner winner which in this case was State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard who claimed 44%. But the pre-primary preview blog had Gallup State Senator George Munoz coming in second and environmentalist Garrett VeneKlasen third. But it was VeneKlasen getting 39 percent for second and Munoz in third with 17 percent.

What happened? Well, we got sloppy. A survey of the delegates floated before the pre-primary had Munoz running third but several of the Gators thought it was second.

For our part, we forgot that Sen. Martin Heinrich has endorsed VeneKlasen, even nominating him at the convention, giving him added momentum. Not that Heinrich is especially forgettable. We just weren't paying close enough attention,

For those hoping that our error means punishment by 10 lashes with a wet noodle, you can keep your pasta in the pantry. The Gators called the winner and that's the main event.

As for the June 5 primary, Munoz will have to hustle to prevent this one from quickly becoming Garcia Richard vs. VeneKlasen. His17% showing is ominous. We recall only one candidate going on to win a statewide primary when failing to get the 20 percent needed for an official ballot position. That was the aforementioned Gary King in 2014.

Longtime analyst Steve Cabiedes says political rookie VeneKlasen may need even more bolstering from Heinrich and company and Garcia Richard will need to hope that Munoz doesn't get off the canvas after his knockdown. If he stays down it would give her an easier path in the heavy Hispanic north.


Driving I-25 north Saturday in the hours after the convention we spotted a billboard for Dem State Auditor candidate and Las Cruces area State Rep. Bill McCamley. The billboard was paid for by an independent group whose name we did not make out. That's a potentially important development in the chase for the Auditor's office. As predicted here, the more liberal McCamley handily dispatched former NM Dem Party Chair Brian Colón 60.46% to 39.4% but Colón is known for his fund-raising prowess. If independent groups can narrow that gap for McCamley it could change the character of the race.

Analyst Cabiedes said:

As the Hispanic candidate Colon benefits from compelling demographics that could propel him ahead. However, there may be some Colón fatigue after he served as party chair, ran and lost for mayor last year and in 2010 ran for lieutenant governor. McCamley's challenge will be to get people to pay attention to this dow ballot race and disrupt Colón's demographic edge.

The Democrats had no competitive contests for US Senate, the northern congressional seat, secretary of state, attorney general or state treasurer. All are held by incumbents and considered safe in the general election.


Lt. Gov. hopeful Jeff Carr tangled with the Alligators when they predicted he would not make the 20 percent mark at the convention. The Taos educator upped the stakes and declared that he would not only reach 20% but get to 30% and that when he did he expected us to buy him dinner. We countered that if we were right we were expecting a steak dinner from him at ABQ's ritzy Ruth's Chris steakhouse.

Carr scored only 13 percent. So. . .

Jeff, don't spend all that leftover campaign money at Doc Martin's up there in Taos. We've got a medium rare rib eye in our mind's eye and with your name on the check.


For policy nerds only: The State Dem Party Platform passed with 90% support. You can read it here. . .

We've blogged that Gary King is the only candidate to win a primary after failing to get 20 percent of delegate support at the pre-primary. Both the Journal and New Mexican said there have been "candidates" who have accomplished the feat. We asked veteran Journal capitol reporter Dan Boyd who were the others. Neither he or I could come up with another example. So until we're shown otherwise, Gary is the sole politico to accomplish the feat. . .

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.


Thursday, March 08, 2018

Does NM Owe Trump A "Thank You?" Plus: Carr Convention Power? Pushing Pat, A Shocker In Española And Keller Vs. Lewis (Redux) 

Welcome back. Let's check out the latest La Politica. . .

We didn't see any thank you notes to Trump for this from Senators Udall or Heinrich, but:

The U.S. Energy Department released more details of how it hopes to fund nuclear weapons projects in New Mexico, outlining a combined request of $4.2 billion for nuclear security spending at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories. The request for fiscal year 2019, which relies on congressional appropriations, represents an increase of about $249 million for Los Alamos and $377 million for Sandia over the labs’ budgets for fiscal year 2017. 


Dem Lt. Governor candidate Jeff Carr of Taos pushes back against Alligator analysis that has him fighting to get 20 percent of the delegate vote at Saturday's Democratic pre-primary convention. He says he will get 30 percent and says if he does we have to buy him dinner. And if he doesn't, he buys.

Where should we take Jeff to dinner? How about some chicharrones at Barelas Coffee House? As for us. don't fret, Jeff. We're easy. If we win, just book a table at Ruth's Chris. Make sure your credit limit isn't capped.


Supporters of ABQ congressional candidate Pat Davis note that we did not mention him in the blog that gamed the convention action. They say Davis has a strong grassroots organization and look for him to surprise at the meeting.

Maybe Davis' foes are getting nervous. One of them takes this dig: "Someone should point out that Pat's new campaign office is on Central Avenue, right in the heart of the ART project that he voted for as a city councilor but that isn't running."


And more pushback against claims that there was hanky-panky at some of the county conventions that sent delegates to the pre-primary. BernCo Dem Chair Bill Peifer writes:

Claims of “rigging” the process by me or the party in favor of any of the campaigns fall somewhere between pure political posturing and absurdly ridiculous. I have been meticulously careful about any semblance of partiality in this primary race, to the point that I don’t even attend events of, or sign petitions for, even the unopposed candidates. When we selected site coordinators for each of the eight locations where ward meetings were held we chose individuals who did not have direct ties to any of the campaigns and eliminated a few of our best volunteers who had gone public with who they were supporting. 


Española, in the heart of the Democratic north, has elected a Republican mayor? Really? Yep:

Española voters elected Javier E. Sanchez to replace Mayor Alice A. Lucero, who opted not to seek a third term. Sanchez won with an overwhelming majority over Robert J. Seeds and Adrianna Ortiz.

Locals say Sanchez is the first GOP mayor in the city in decades.

(That sound you just heard is Emilio Naranjo rolling over in his grave.)


So who wins the popularity contest? Santa Fe Mayor-elect Alan Webber or ABQ Mayor Tim Keller? Both are progressives now at the helm of the state's two most prominent cities. (Sorry Cruces and Rio Rancho). Webber managed to get 66% of the vote Tuesday. in a five way race to win the Santa Fe contest and Keller was elected in a two way runoff in November with 62%. But Webber was elected under the "ranked" system where he was picked by many voters as their second choice which made his big percentage possible. Still, quite an accomplishment as was Keller's. However,

In the first round of four rounds of voting--before he was awarded second choice votes--Webber garnered 39% of the vote. In the October ABQ election featuring 7 candidates Keller had an identical amount--39 percent. But because he faced more candidates he ekes out a win in the popularity contest.

The bad news for this political duo, who are good friends, is that often a mayor's popularity peaks on the day he is elected.


The man Keller defeated in November--former City Councilor Dan Lewis--lambasted the new mayor for supporting a tax increase this week that was approved by the city council and for doing so without the public vote he promised. Reader Ken Tabish has the inevitable pushback:

What do you expect from a sore losing conservative Republican who lost the mayoral election in a landslide? Same old Republican policies which haven’t worked for the past eight years under ex-mayor Berry--cut services and middle class city jobs to balance a budget--and Berry still left the city with a deficit and a disastrous ART. I really dont see that as “competent leadership.” Let's remember that the deficit has come from a Republican administration and not a "progressive liberal" one. I guess Lewis thinks the crime wave will just go away all by itself. 

It's a “wish list deficit” to want to invest in the city by hiring more police officers to alleviate some of the crime we are experiencing? Balancing the budget and investing in our police force costs money. We want to attack the crime wave and balance the budget but we dont want to pay for it? As they say everything costs and we are paying the price. I agree that the gross receipts tax is not the best way to solve the deficit and invest in our depleted police force. It needed to be done and Keller and the city council were willing to take the political hit to pursue and pass the increase.

Tax increase or no tax increase, for ABQ, as the old country song says, "It's time to pay the fiddler."

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.


Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Dem Pre-Primary Convention Gamed; Who's Up And Who's Down Going Into Saturday Meet? Candidates Vie For Crucial 20% Of Delegate Vote, Plus: City Election Results; Webber Wins; GOP Incumbents Too 

There will be a lot of doing and some dying at this Saturday's Democratic Party Pre-Primary nominating convention. The nearly 1,500 delegates from across the state will winnow the field for the June 5 primary election when they vote to place candidates on the ballot. If a contender fails to get 20 percent of the vote, they can still get on the ballot by submitting additional petitions signatures but in almost all cases failure to cross that 20 percent threshold dooms a candidacy. Money and morale dry up.

So how does does it look only days away from when a sea of blue will form at the ABQ Convention Center? Our Alligators, Insiders, Wall-Leaners and Hangers-on have all checked in and here is how they see the pre-primary shaping up:

GOVERNOR--Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham has long been the front-runner for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. The consensus is that she will score from 60 to 69 percent of the delegate vote. That would make it impossible for the three other contenders to each get 20 percent. Jeff Apodaca is seen as having the best chance.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR--State Senator Howie Morales of Silver City appears to be on the brink of a big pre-primary win, say our insiders. In 2014 he won the pre-primary in the governor's race but lost the primary to Gary King. King is the only candidate to ever win the June primary without getting at least 20 percent pre-primary support. Chasing Morales this time will be former ABQ State Rep. Rick Miera who is expected to finish far behind Morales but still get 20 percent. Light Guv contender Jeff Carr says he has the votes lined up to make the 20 percent mark.

ABQ CONGRESS--A field of six hopefuls is battling for the crucial 20 percent in this contest but it appears no more than three will make it and there's a decent chance it will be only two. Former NM Democratic Party Chair Deb Haaland is expected to finish at the head of the pack, with attorney Antoinette Sedillo Lopez seen as the second place winner. Former US Attorney Damon Martinez has raised over $300,000 for the primary but the convention delegates lean liberal and he is more moderate. He would no doubt continue his candidacy even if he fails to get the 20% but if Haaland wins big the race could be redefined.

LAND COMMISSIONER--First place likely goes to northern NM State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard; second to Gallup State Senator George Munoz and third to environmental leader Garret VeneKlasen. Garcia Richard is more liberal than Munoz and thus picking up more delegate support but the electorate moves more to the center for the June 5 primary. With his base in Gallup and northern Hispanic support Munoz will be in the thick if it. VeneKlasen needs to make something happen.

STATE AUDITOR--Again, the liberal make-up of the convention is going to be a factor here with Las Cruces area State Rep. Bill McCamley favored to take first place, but ABQ attorney Brian Colón, a former chairman of the party, shouldn't be far back. Like Munoz, he is counting on heavy Hispanic support to make the difference June 5, and it very well could.

SOUTHERN CONGRESS--Contender Mad Hildebrandt of Socorro told you all you need to know this week when she attacked her party, saying:

Washington’s political elite has pushed every Democrat out of this race except my Democratic Primary opponent, whom the D.C. insiders have endorsed, and me. On behalf of all the loyal Democrats. . .the insiders have tried to silence, I’m not going anywhere.

Her opponent is Xochitl Torres Small of Las Cruces, a former congressional staffer who the national Dems see as a rising star. She will score the big pre-primary win so Hildebrand will have her work cut out for her in the June balloting. But come November Small, if she is the nominee, will have no easy time of it. The seat being vacated by Rep. Steve Pearce is still a GOP stronghold.

Political parties may not matter as much as they used to because of the big independent money out there, but they still have some muscle and Saturday it will be shown off.


Mayor-elect Webber
No major upsets in the Tuesday mayoral balloting in three of the state's largest cities. Incumbent Republican Gregg Hull managed 50.7% of the vote in Rio Rancho against former Dem Mayor Tom Swisstack's 44.6% with a third candidate getting the rest. If Hull fell below 50% there would have been a run-off with Swisstack who was hoping for a more energized Dem vote given the Trump factor, but that did not appear to happen even though the 13 percent turnout was larger than usual. Both Hull and Swisstack are well-respected figures in Rio Rancho but Hull was more of the moment.

In Santa Fe the chips fell as most observers thought they would. Alan Webber, who handily outspent his rivals, was elected with 66 percent of the vote in the new ranked voting system. Webber, 69, is a successful entrepreneur who sought the 2014 Dem gubernatorial nod. His challenge will be to fully represent not just the older, wealthy Anglo class which has become a growing factor in the City Different, but also the Hispanic majority population which was attracted to the candidacy of Councilor Ron Trujillo. Webber received endorsements from prominent Hispanics so he's on his way. He will also be a mayor with new powers which should help.

In Roswell former Mayor Del Jurney failed in his comeback bid. Incumbent GOP Mayor Dennis Kintigh was re-elected with 40% to Jurney's 32%. Other candidates trailed. Kintigh is also a former police chief who is wrestling with a nasty crime problem in the SE NM city, but Roswell residents apparently didn't see Jurney handling it any better.

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.


Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Tuesday Potpourri: Collectors Items, An Oil Boom, A "Progressive Liberal" And A Lament Over The Tone Of Today 

The election is still eight months away but we're already scooping up collectors items from the campaign trail and preparing to put them on ebay.

This Grisham-Gonzales sticker was cute when it first came out but then the chances of would be Democratic Lieutenant Governor Javier Gonzales sank faster than Trump leaving for a golf game and he dropped out of the race. How much are we bid for this prized item?

And if you have any campaign buttons saying "DeBenedettis for Governor or "Dunn For US Senate" you can start your own collectors stash. . .

Michelle Lujan Grisham put out a campaign poll last week that gives her 72 percent of the vote in the June Dem Guv primary. So does that mean she will underperform if at this weekend's Democratic preprimary convention she wins less than 72 percent of the delegates support?


At the top we said Election Day is eight months away. That's for the statewide general election, but as you may know today is city Election Day in Santa Fe, Rio Rancho, Roswell and other municipalities around the state.

The five way Santa Fe mayoral contest has generated a lot of interest since the new executive is going to have more power. Also, ranked voting where voters make more than one choice has been an eye-opener, leading to a mostly positive campaign because everyone is appealing to, well, everyone.

Even though we didn't learn what misbehavior they were up to in high school, we did learn enough to know to make a rare statement: these are five strong candidates and whoever wins is going to be up to the job. We met personally with Ron Trujillo and Alan Webber but neither bought us lunch so we really are neutral. Much of the vote was cast early. Here are today's Santa Fe polling locations.


The boom is back. Hotel prices in Carlsbad are in the heavens again as the shale fields in the Permian Basin near the city are being pumped for three million barrels a year.

Carlsbad is notoriously short of hotel rooms for these kind of spikes. It shows at the La Quinta Inn where a night's stay is going for $374 a night (is that the honeymoon suite?). It could be even higher if so much of the Permian was not in West Texas. SE NM has only a slice but it's enough to keep even the most humble lodgings packed with workers with ample paychecks.

Oil prices are in the $60 barrel range, the sweet spot for shale production, say the experts. If it stays there or rises the state budget will continue to be stabilized from the taxes and royalties coming from the Permian. That's at least one piece of good news for the incoming Governor in 2019. Insiders are already saying that Governor will face a mess similar to what ABQ Mayor Tim Keller found when he took over the reins from Mayor Berry.


From the state Dems:

Over the weekend, it was revealed that GOP State Representative Sarah Maestas Barnes has been operating a fake Facebook account under the name, “Stacy Baca.” The account regularly sends friend requests to other New Mexicans and appears to target friends of Maestas Barnes’ opponents.

In New Mexico, we value respect and trust. But Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes breached that trust with many of her constituents. . . to troll her opponents. In an era in which fake Facebook accounts are being created to undermine elections by foreign adversaries, it’s absolutely irresponsible of Maestas Barnes to use those tactics. . .

Well, "Stacy" has now disappeared from Facebook. Did she move to Moscow?


As expected the ABQ City Council wasted no time in rushing through a tax increase at its meeting last night to bail out the under water budget. The vote was 8 to 1, with only GOP councilor Winter voting against. Mayor Keller backed away from his campaign pledge to send the three eights of a cent gross receipts tax increase to the voters. Dan Lewis (remember him?) the former GOP city councilor who lost to Keller in the run-off election in November, comes with a bit of revenge:

Did you expect that a self-proclaimed progressive liberal mayor would not suggest that raising taxes is the way to solve a budget deficit? Did anyone believe that this Mayor would keep a promise to put a tax increase before the voters? There is not a budget deficit. There is a wish-list deficit, and a leadership deficit. A leader in the mayors office goes to the nine members of the City Council and asks them to balance a budget on what we have, and make the budget reflect a solid financial priority for public safety. A leader in the mayor's office will propose that kind of budget himself. A $40 million so called deficit goes away immediately with a competent leader in the mayor's office. 

A progressive and a liberal? Now that's a twofer.


Andrew Sullivan, writing in New York Magazine, best describes the current political zeitgeist:

There are moments when everything I have come to believe in — reasoned deliberation, mutual toleration, liberal democracy, free speech, honesty, decency, and moderation — seem as if they are in eclipse. Emotionalism, tribalism, intolerance, lies, cruelty, and extremism surround us (and I have not been immune in this climate to their temptations either). Trump has turned the right into a foul, spit-flecked froth of racist reactionism, and he has evoked a radical response on the left that, while completely understandable, alienates me and many others more profoundly with every passing day.

Gosh, after reading that kids, we need a really long vacation or at least a big breakfast burrito to numb the pain. . .

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.


Monday, March 05, 2018

Keller Rolls The Dice On Tax Hike Without Voter Approval; Rush Is On To Approve Controversial Boost; Necessary Or Funding The Government Of Yesteryear?  

Mayor Keller
Mayor Keller and the ABQ City Council are on breakneck speed as they rush to approve a three-eights of a cent increase in the gross receipts tax, with the measure before the Council today.

There is no sunset on the proposal. It would be permanent and take the tax to just under 8 percent.

Keller has all but signed off on it, releasing a report that decries the city's financial situation but that pooh-poohs budget cuts as unreasonable or too painful, even as it it presents them as alternatives to a tax increase.

However, when it comes to the proposed GRT hike the report does not point out any negative consequences, including the fact that it is felt most by low income households and that businesses could also suffer because a high GRT can stifle economic development.

The new mayor's popularity is going to take a hit for the tax increase. He pledged during the campaign that a tax that would in large measure go for public safety--like this one--would be presented to the voters. By walking back that pledge, he will pave the way for Republicans and independents to coalesce in opposition. He can afford some slippage since he was elected with 62 percent of the vote. But after the tax increase the city's politics will be more polarized and Keller will have a bigger target on his back.

Ultimately, Keller's fate will rise or fall with the crime rate. If there is a tax increase and crime shows a notable decline, he'll be hailed. If not, he'll be labeled a heel.


Former ABQ City Councilor Greg Payne has this reasoning on why the Council is so determined not to send the tax to voters:

The Council won't send this tax out for a vote because they know it will be voted down. The public isn't inclined to pay for the past eight years of the City Council's complacency, incompetence and malfeasance. But just like ART the public is right about this tax. It needs to be axed--along with the City Hall fat no one seems willing to go after.


Ex-Mayor Berry
The administration's report reveals some of the epic mismanagement that occurred under Mayor Berry and which the City Council did little, if anything, to thwart. It was sad to read of the ransacking of city departments, financial hocus pocus, the city's stagnant economy and the woeful state of public safety. Not that we were unaware that the Berry gang was running amok. But it's sad that as a community--the City Council, business interests, citizen activists and we in the media did not do more to rein in Berry.

Keller will do better. The bar is low. But his rush to embrace this tax increase and ignore those calling for bold reforms to right size the city after eight years of recklessness is redefining him as a more cautious personality. Reader Ezra Spitzer explains it best:

The revealing quote is this: "Keller said the GRT tax increase represented the “least worst option."  It seems the new mayor is already operating in an echo chamber. The easiest solution is rarely the best solution. 

There seem to be two primary drivers of the budget imbalance--poorer than expected economic activity and a poorly run city. We all know the gross receipts tax rate is already too high and therefore we carve out a million special interest exemptions to it which further undermines the revenue from it and makes the tax even more regressive to working families. Furthermore, raising the rate certainly won't address the stagnation in the economy. If anything it will have the opposite effect. And even if it were the best short-term option wouldn't you promise a sunset one year from now?

We have to find real solutions to our revenue problems not ones that fall disproportionately on the poor and further widen the divide between the rich and poor. We need bold leadership willing to listen meaningfully to the community and to take a stand.


So what is bold leadership? Well, slow the budget train and fully audit each department and not just proclaim that "Mayor Berry already cut everything." That's a blanket assumption not a plan.

What the mayor and the Council and so many others cannot bring themselves to admit is that ABQ is not the city it once was and the odds are there will be no reversal in our economy anytime soon.

Albuquerque had the lowest population growth of 10 major cities in the region, and it continued a six-year population stagnation. Since 2010, the city’s population has grown by 13,142 people, or 2.3 percent. As of July 1, 2016, Albuquerque’s population was 559,277.

We are funding a government designed for yesteryear when this place was booming. There is a way to avoid this tax, or at least minimize it, if the City Council and Mayor don't panic. Take a look:

--The city's financial report assumes it is essential to have 1,200 cops but that rings hollow when you look at the immense cost. How about budgeting for 1,000, get there and then look around? That would be an increase of nearly 20 percent and even that will take several years to achieve.

--The city's report says if 200 currently unfilled positions are left vacant the annual savings would be over $13 million, Some of those positions are vital, but City Hall can't make the tough decisions to save $8 million there? It would go a long way to resolving the projected $40 million deficit for the budget year that begins July 1.

--Another cost cutting alternative is to sell Ladera Golf Course for $1 million in annual savings. Do that and then realize millions more by selling the land to a motivated private developer who can deal with the drainage issue opponents say prevent a sale. (By the way, there has been an explosion in golf course options here, even as fewer participate in the sport).

--Why aren't the city's hefty legal contracts targeted for savings in the administration's report? These are the most well off citizens who should be called on to sacrifice--not just low income households that would be most impacted by a GRT increase.

--Needless to say, not one of our leaders downtown have the stomach to even broach  the idea of redirecting a portion of the BioPark tax to public safety even as they call public safety "a crisis."  And where is the Council and media oversight over how effectively that money is being spent?

That's just for starters. Then there's the city travel budgets, take home vehicle policy and overtime and sick time abuse. No mention of that. At all.

To reiterate what reader Spitzer said: "We have to find real solutions to our revenue problems. 

Hiking city taxes with no accountability for the excesses and incompetence of the previous administration and City Council will simply paper over the long-term problems that will continue to fester and lead to more tax increases and more stagnation. No wonder the Council is anxious to push it through. But the Mayor can and should do better.

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.


Thursday, March 01, 2018

Was The Fix In For Flynn? Investigative Report Casts Major Doubt On DA Torrez Decision In Politically Connected DWI Case; Questions Over A Susana Link And DA Office Funding Explored  

DA Torrez
The peculiar alliance between Democratic Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez and Governor Martinez and her political machine and how that played into Torrez reaping extra millions for his budget from the recent session of the Legislature is back in the spotlight. It raises anew serious questions about how Torrez's office handled a DWI bust of former Martinez environment cabinet secretary Ryan Flynn, who is now executive director of the NM Oil and Gas Association.

An investigative report from the Santa Fe Reporter and NM In Depth explores questions first asked here in a January blog:

Was the fix put in for Flynn when he was arrested for aggravated DWI last May and when Torrez's office reduced that to the much less serious charge of careless driving? And was that a favor rewarded by Martinez with her unprecedented public support for his increased budget request and other political snuggling they have engaged in? 

Torrez is all over the map on this one. He told the Legislature he needed extra money in part to increase his DWI conviction rate, but the veteran officer who arrested Flynn says it was a no-brainer that Flynn had been drinking to excess, had bloodshot eyes and smelled of booze and booked him for DWI. So why go light on Flynn if you are truly trying to improve drunk driving convictions? The DA's office gives a tortured explanation with Torrez himself saying he was not "directly involved" in the Flynn decision. But then a spokesman for Torrez called the reporters back and says the DA was not involved at all in the Flynn case. What is one to make of that?

The investigative report, replete with the officer's lapel camera video of the Flynn arrest, casts major doubt on the DA's decision.

We can add some context from our sources: On the night of his arrest Flynn, 39, was attending a fund-raiser hosted by Gov. Martinez for her Legacy PAC at the Marriott Pyramid. After the event ended Flynn and Jessica Perez, Martinez's finance director, drove to a Nob Hill bar to host some donors. Later they left the bar to go back to the Marriott Pyramid where Flynn's erratic driving led to his arrest around Midnight.
Flynn DWI test

Ironically, on the same day the investigative report was published this week the Martinez-friendly ABQ Journal editorial pages, which started out not liking Torrez but since have embraced him, was publishing a glowing editorial about his stance on guns.

Torrez received an extra $4 million from the Legislature after he enlisted the Governor, the media and the public to put pressure on the Senate Finance Committee. That's when the Flynn/Torrez connection surfaced on our blog. Senate Finance Chair John Arthur Smith was reluctant to give him the money but he caved under the pressure while warning the DA he will have to show results.

Now that the Flynn Fix has been uncovered it is sure to haunt Torrez as he pursues his political future. But for the Martinez machine it's just another day in the life. Flynn says  the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association will be "the most powerful organization in the state of New Mexico." 


Lujan Grisham
Jeff Apodaca told us this week the Dem pre-primary nominating convention is being "rigged" by the party for Rep. Lujan Grisham, and with her complicity. She's expected to come out on top at that March 10 convention and her campaign responds that Apodaca's accusations are "baseless:"

It is disappointing that Jeff Apodaca is making baseless accusations against our campaign and against the droves of supporters who have shown up at meetings across the state to support Michelle. She has been overwhelmed by the support she has received at these grassroots meetings from Taos to Las Cruces and from Gallup to Loving. We understand that Jeff and his campaign are disappointed by the lack of support for his campaign but to try cast doubt on the votes of hundreds of New Mexicans who turned out to vote for Michelle is unfortunate and a slap in the face to the thousands of volunteers organizing for Michelle across the state.

People are excited about the opportunity to represent Michelle at the state convention and see her as our next Governor. That excitement continued to build in every corner of the state over the last few months at delegate trainings, grassroots organizing meetings, and at local democratic conventions attended by hundreds of supporters, including many who have never been involved before.


In a first draft Wednesday we called the ABQ westside district of Senator Jacob Candelaria "heavy R." We meant to say it is "heavy Dem." And about Candelaria's resignation as Senate Dem Caucus Chair because Majorly Leader Peter Wirth is celebrating the death of the PNM bond bill Candelaria sponsored, reader Savannah Baca writes:

I'm glad Senator Wirth stopped that Bill! PNM has profited huge from the plants in Farmington. Why should we consumers be saddled with the recovery costs? Farmington talks about job losses  If you look at the power company that supplies power to the northeast corner, they don't even buy their power from those plants. I wasn't surprised Candeleria sponsored that bill. Industry knows what senators and representatives are for sale.

Candelaria's arguments for the bill were covered extensively here Wednesday.

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.


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Tensions Rise in Dem Guv Race: Apodaca Accuses Party Of "Rigging" Preprimary For Lujan Grisham, Plus: Sen. Candelaria's stunning Rebuke of Dem Senate Leader Wirth; He Resigns As Caucus Chair; "I'd Rather Die Standing Than Live On My Knees." Strap Yourself In For the Wednesday Blog 

Jeff Apodaca
Tension is rising in the camps of the four Democratic gubernatorial candidates as the critical March 10 pre-primary nominating convention looms. Jeff Apodaca is going public with the friction and accusing the campaign of Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Democratic Party of "rigging" the recent county ward meetings at which delegates were elected to the statewide convention. He told us he has video of a number of violations of party rules and will be releasing it to support his accusations.

Apodaca's campaign says it notified State Dem Party Chair Richard Ellenberg and BernCo Chair Bill Peifer of the alleged violations but said the chairs denied there were any.

Apodaca said he personally saw paid campaign staffers for Lujan Grisham's campaign helping ward delegates in Socorro and Torrance counties fill out their ballots when making their choice for governor, a practice prohibited by the party. He also said there was proxy voting permitted at some ward meetings when there's not supposed to be any.

Apodaca's charges that the party is rigging the pre-primary for Lujan Grisham comes amid speculation that she could chalk up a blowout win at the convention. Delegates sent there will vote on who to place on the June primary ballot. It takes 20 percent to win a spot but if a candidate doesn't make the cut they can file additional petition signatures to gain ballot access.

However, failure to make the 20 percent is almost always a death knell for a campaign. Money dries up and supporters grow discouraged. Only once in pre-primary history has a candidate won the June primary after failing to get 20 percent. That was in 2014 when Gary King did not reach the mark.

Apodaca says he is "very confident" that he will get the necessary 20 percent but if Lujan Grisham comes with something in the 65 percent area the race could be seen as a done deal. The other hopefuls, State Senator Joe Cervantes and Santa Fe's Peter DeBenedittis, could be in jeopardy of not getting official ballot approval if that scenario plays out.

2002 REDUX?

"Prince of Darkness"
Apodaca campaign manager Chris Khoury noted that in 2002 Bill Richardson played hardball in keeping Gary King and Ray Powell below the 20 percent mark, effectively ending that year's Dem primary Guv battle. Political strategist Dave Contarino worked for Richardson at that convention and he is working this time with Lujan Grisham. Khoury told us:

 I have worked with and like Dave but we call him the "Prince of Darkness." He will do anything to win and he and Michelle crossed the line this year." 

Contarino later served as chief of staff to Gov. Richardson. He now lives out of state.

Apodaca, a onetime UNM football star, is stoic in the face of his uphill climb:

I'm able to take the hit and get back up. We knew this was coming.

Well, none of the Guv contenders are taking off their helmets at this stage of the game.


A family dispute erupted among state Senate Democrats Tuesday with ABQ Dem Senator Jacob Candelaria resigning as Senate Democratic Caucus Chair and in the process delivering a rare and scathing public rebuke of a Senate Majority Leader, in this case Senator Peter Wirth.

We broke the news on social media of Candelaria's email critical of Wirth (posted here) that scored the leader for sending an email to his Santa Fe constituents boasting that "we stopped Senate Bill 47, a utility bill asking the state to securitize energy bonds."

Wirth and Candelaria
With that, Candelaria went ballistic and came with a stunning email takedown of Leader Wirth that he shared with fellow Democratic senators. It not only discussed a policy dispute over a complex bonding bill on behalf of PNM that Candelaria was sponsoring but revealed the ethnic tensions in the Senate:

. . . I have never seen legislative leadership message against a bill sponsored by a member of their own caucus. Your use of the collective "we" also implies that stopping this bill was a Democratic initiative/priority. This was not a utility bill. This was my bill.

Your email goes on to say that a problem with the bill was it "went too far by guaranteeing 100% stranded asset recovery.". . . In addition to the stranded asset recovery, the bill also included an increase in the state renewable energy portfolio standard to 50% by 2030. It also required that PNM re-invest nearly $20 million in the Farmington community for job training and economic redevelopment. 

. . .I believe it is the role of leadership to foster an environment where the diverse opinions and political beliefs of our caucus are respected. I do not see how attacking a Democratic member's bill in this way accomplishes that goal. I also respect that we can disagree about policy. We can debate bills, as I have certainly done, in committee and the floor. But I feel that claiming that the defeat of a Democratic member's bill is a key legislative accomplishment is something quite different than that. 

As such, I am resigning my position as caucus chair effective immediately.

(Your) email further confirms that diverse voices and opinions are not being represented, or empowered, in our caucus. I feel this is the right thing to do, regardless of the repercussions. As the old saying goes...prefiero morir de pie, que vivir de rodillas. 

(I'd rather die standing than live on my knees.)

Wirth kept his cool, reacting this way:

Sen. Candelaria has been a valuable member of our leadership team and I am sorry to see him resign as caucus chair.

It won't be the PNM dispute remembered from this flare-up but Candelaria baring the racial divide that has crept into the Senate since Wirth became Majority Leader. For the first time in memory Anglos hold the two top positions in the Legislature--Majority Leader and Speaker of the House. At the legislative session in January Candelaria spearheaded the formation of a Senate Hispanic Caucus, saying Hispanics are underrepresented in the government.

The Candelaira takedown was so scalding that it immediately led to speculation that he is done with the Senate and will not seek re-election in 2020 or if he does he will draw a primary opponent in his heavy Dem westside district. He was re-elected with no opposition in 2016. But he told us he is ready to defend his seat from all comers:

I’ve been a 100% supporter of early childhood and women’s healthcare access. I’ve passed bipartisan bills that have been signed into law that expand broadband access and bring more technology to schools. And I got a Republican governor to sign a bill banning conversion therapy. I’m proud of my record, and ready to run on it.

As for PNM's controversial bond bill, remember they won our 2018 Legislative Sore Loser Award when they took out newspaper ads slamming an environmental group that helped kill the bill. Our Facebook readers launched a spirited discussion of the measure in the wake of Candelaria's resignation from the leadership.

No guesses yet on who replaces Candelaria as Caucus Chair. It is not the most sought after of positions.

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.

website design by limwebdesign