Thursday, May 16, 2024

Ivey-Soto Sex Harrassment Accuser Anaya In Tight Race For ABQ House Seat; Four Way Battle Tests Strength Of Establishment Progressives On Home Turf; House Leader Chasey Reneges On Neutrality As Race Goes To Wire 

Marianna Anaya
Establishment progressives expecting to romp to victory in perhaps the most liberal House seat in the state have been surprised by a stiff challenge from a political newcomer and are now in a down-to-the-wire fight to put one of their own in ABQ House District 18. 

Marianna Anaya, the progressive favorite, is a lobbyist who in 2022 accused ABQ Dem state Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto of sex harassment and in the process became a folk hero of sorts to the far left. She  claimed the harassment occurred in 2015 and demanded that he resign:

As a young staffer for then Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, I attended an NEA reception and you slid your hand across my side and disgustingly groped and pinched my buttocks.

Anjali Taneja
The case was investigated by a legislative ethics panel but the findings were inconclusive and the Senator was never found guilty of any wrongdoing. Ivey-Soto did not resign and is seeking re-election this year. He was, however, stripped of his chairmanship of the Senate Rules Committee.

Now Anaya is trying to ride the fame she acquired from that case into the Roundhouse but has run into a formidable roadblock in Anjali Taneja, a family physician who is getting significant financial support from her medical colleagues and who has nearly kept pace with Anaya in fundraising as well as the sign wars in the SE ABQ Heights district 

Taneja is also a progressive but not an establishment progressive as embodied by Anaya, a former deputy director of ProgressNow NM and the recipient of outside aid from progressive PAC money run by longtime consultant Amanda Cooper and involving media consultant and former Big Bill Chief of Staff Dave Contarino.  

But Taneja has managed to to raise $92,000 to Anaya's $120,000. She inched ahead of her in cash on hand with $70,000 to Anaya's $68,000 going into the final month of the June priumary

Two other candidates are in---nurse Gloria Doherty and community education activist Juan Larranaga—but district observers report they are lagging,

The race has become so heated that outgoing Rep. Gail Chasey, the House Majority Leader who has held the seat since 1997 and promised not to endorse anyone, has reneged on that promise as she tries to rescue Anaya, saying in a constituent letter:

. . .You may have heard me say that I would not support any one candidate unless I heard that another campaign was providing misinformation. . .Unfortunately, that's happened with frequent attempts to disparage Marianna as a "lobbyist." That term can conjure up Washington DC Lobbyists, with wealthy, sometimes unscrupulous, clients. . .In contrast. . . Marianna's advocacy and community organizing experience should be celebrated. She has been a leader in advocating to end the 1969 abortion ban. . . Marianna has advanced work on environmental advocacy, the reduction of homelessness. . . That is why she has the support of 25 Democratic legislators, and is the only non-elected official to be endorsed early by Equality New Mexico, our statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization. . .

But hold on, Gail. The reference to Anaya being a lobbyist is fact. Whether that's disparaging or conjures up unseemly images is another matter--a matter of your opinion. 

Even the progressive press refers to Anaya as a "voting rights lobbyist." And she has been a registered lobbyist with the NM Secretary of State. Any questions?

Well, maybe Gail will have time to read the dictionary once she cleans out her Roundhouse office and not try to rewrite it. 


All of this is critical because Ivey-Soto supporters claim that lobbyist Anaya and other progressives have  accused him of killing their version of a voting rights bill that was in his Senate Rules Committee that he chaired at the time. That's why, they assert, it took Anaya so many years to come forward with her groping accusations and later complained that she felt forced to drink wine with him in his Senate office. 

Were the charges real or political payback? That's the question that hangs in the air. 

In other words, the signature platform of the #MeToo movement--that someone is guilty once they are "credibly charged" has been placed on the trash heap of history.

Critics also blast Anaya and the establishment progressives for staying on the sidelines when it was revealed that married GOP state Senator Cliff Pirtle of Roswell had been having an affair with a teen aged staffer of GOP Senator Crystal Brantley who later gave birth to his child. 

Unlike the Ivey-Soto incident, the Democratic-controlled Senate conducted no investigation into whether  Pirtle had used his position of authority over the staffer to persuade the young woman to have sex. In the Pirtle case there was a complete code of silence at the Roundhouse even as the cries of hypocrisy rattled the old building. 

Taneja has a long list of involvement in healthcare in the public and private arenas, UNM Hospital Board of Trustees the BernCo Treatment Advisory Board and executive director of Casa de Salud "created as a space for fair-priced, affordable, integrative health care."

If elected, she would be the only medical doctor in the 70 member House.

Anaya runs her own consulting firm from which she lobbies from and also has a record of community service, including the NM Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network and NM Latino Education Task Force, Board of Directors.

This district is all Dem all the time. No R's need apply and none have. 


Reader David Luna reacts to our blog where BernCo Dem County Clerk candidate Karen Montoya says her campaign signs have "gone missing" or been "tampered" with:

Hey Joe! RE: Candidate Karen Montoya's crying foul about damage to campaign signs, I wonder if she took the 60 MPH winds we've experienced in the past few weeks into consideration? Seems interesting that she'd immediately blame vandals.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Farmington Fracas: GOP House Leader Faces Upstart "Gaining Traction" In Hot Primary; Newcomer Neil Vs. Rod Montoya, Plus: State's Progressive Mayors Continue To Feel The Heat  

The Alligators are stirring in the Four Corners. 

Those insider sources of ours are sounding an alert for the GOP primary contest featuring state House Minority Leader Rod Montoya and educator and political upstart Keith Neil

This is a David and Goliath narrative with Montoya, first elected in 2014, counting $52,000 in cash on hand for the final weeks of the primary and Neil, dean of students for Navajo Prep School in Farmington, with only $2,300.

The ouster of Montoya, a real estate broker, would have statewide implications since it would mean the House Republicans--greatly outnumbered by the Dems--would have to pick a new leader.  

Neil is getting third party dark money support, says Montoya, who cites a push poll that attacks him for allegedly voting to raise taxes, supporting critical race theory and giving himself a pay raise all of which Montoya says he voted against. 

Montoya is known for his hard-right tactics and Neil, a Four Corners native like Montoya, is talking up a milder approach, although he stands by a "pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-police" platform:

I believe to get anything done you have to work with people who think different than you. It takes commonsense to be able to find the things that we have in common, the things that we do have that are different and finding that middle ground that we can agree that this is what moves us forward despite where it comes from.

A kinder, gentler tone was taken when another Four Corners lawmaker--GOP Rep. Ryan Lane--was called on to be the House GOP leader following the resignations of then-Minority Whip Montoya and Leader Jim Townsend. But he was in over his head and Montoya was returned to leadership last month after Lane resigned. 

Big oil is by far Montoya's biggest financial patron with the legendary Yates oil family in the forefront.  

Neil's largest contribution of $5,500 came from moderate GOP Rio Rancho State Rep. Jason Harper who was ousted from his House leadership post by Montoya and company. Harper is not seeking re-election this year. 


Rep. Montoya
Neil is young, educated and articulate. Montoya, 57, is well-spoken and a known quantity in the Farmington area and with the GOP establishment. The question is are rank and file GOP voters tired of Montoya and his style and ready for something new. Neil supporters say they are and his campaign is "gaining traction."

If Neil beats Montoya in the primary he will be going to Santa Fe in this all R all the time district and open the doors yet again for another leadership change in the topsy-turvy world of state Republicans.

It's a race that will be at the top of our list when we gather of public radio KANW-FM on June 4 for our traditional wall-to-wall Election Night coverage. 


Speaking of election night ABQ Dem state Rep. Joy Garratt will be at the table to assist in analysis of the  results and it looks like she wants to get an early start.

Garratt, like many Dems, is upset with The New Mexico Project, the new political committee working to elect moderate Dems this cycle. She comes to the defense of one of them that the Project says should be retired early: 

I was shocked to see that this project is not supporting Rep. Yanira Gurrola. Rep. Gurrola is a moderate Hispanic Democrat. . . Rep. Gurrola, an immigrant, is a trained engineer who worked for several years in the maquiladoras (large factories) on the border of New Mexico and Mexico. As such, she is deeply familiar with border issues, crossings and economic development and cooperation. She transitioned to teaching in Albuquerque. As a teacher for more than 15 years with APS, she specialized in math and bilingual education at the middle school level, becoming a nationally recognized expert in both. In the Legislature she has been a major advocate for STEM education, equity, and health among many other issues. When unnamed individuals and groups sponsor organizations and websites I question their integrity and motivations, particularly when their support ignores the tremendous qualifications and expertise of people like Rep. Gurrola. 

Gurrola is viewed as the progressive in the District 16 Dem primary race. Her opponent, Marsella Duarte, who the NM Project supports, is viewed as the moderate in the district that covers NW ABQ .

Gurrola is running for the first time. She was appointed to the seat to fill the vacancy created when Rep. Moe Maestas was named to the state Senate. 

No R's need apply. This one is all D all the time although Republican Leland Bohannon is a candidate and we wish him well.


The state's top progressive mayors find themselves under increasing attack.

In ABQ the City Council is trying to lower to 40 percent the number of votes needed to win a mayoral election, a proposal that would have to be approved by voters and that could hamper Mayor Keller's effort to win a third term next year.

In Santa Fe, there is also a mayoral election next year. Mayor Alan Webber is not running but his progressive brand of politics has soured a segment of voters. 

This ad attack on the two term Mayor ran in the newspaper. Chances of recalling Webber are slim to none but the dissent sets the stage for next year's election when Santa Fe progressives could be staring down a formidable middle of the road Democrat (or Democrats)--yet o be determined. 

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Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Primary Mail Attacks Ramp Up; Rep. Castellano Targeted By Enviros And GOP Senate Candidate Fends Off Anti-Pearce Republicans In Roswell 

At this time in an election cycle your blog likes to provide a sample of what's hitting the mailboxes, still the main method of campaign communications in legislative races. All 112 of them are up for election this year so there's plenty of paper jamming those boxes. 

Let's start with this negative hit in what may be the hottest contested House primary race--Dem Rep. Ambrose Castellano of Las Vegas in District 70 versus progressive challenger Anita Gonzales who is running against him for the third time

Progressive groups are throwing money and mail at the race as seen in this piece attacking moderate Dem Castellano over his enviro record. 

Castellano, who beat Gonzales 51 to 49 percent in the 2022 primary, came with this defense of his record:

It is unfortunate that the smear tactics will continue till election day. The group putting this out is a progressive group who endorsed my opponent--Conservation Voters NM. . .These are people that don’t want me there because I stand up for you the constituents of District 70, and I will continue to do so as long as you the constituents want me there. So please get out and vote on June 4 and vote for me to continue being your representative. 


The progressives are hitting the moderate Dems hard and many of the attacks center on the Paid Family Leave Act which was defeated in the House last legislative session when 11 Dems joined with Republicans to defeat the measure. 

Those  moderate Dems are fighting back, including ABQ Dem Rep. Marian Matthews in District 31 in the far NE Heights. She faces progressive challenger Greg Seeley. Matthews ripped the progressives over their hits against her in this op-ed:

I did the unthinkable. I voted against a bill – Senate Bill 3, Paid Family Medical Leave, the far-left progressive wing of my party considered perfect. Twice. I support a sustainable PFML bill that works for all New Mexicans. In 2024, I introduced a PFML bill. When I raised the caregiver issues with the House sponsors of SB 3, they said PFML would be insolvent if we carved out caregivers from the payroll taxes that would fund their program. So, no carveout. PFML would be paid for on the backs of the most vulnerable.


Heading down to Roswell, we find state Rep. Candy Ezzell favored to win the GOP state senate primary in District 32 against challenger Chad Hamill but not without taking some hits

The anti-Steve Pearce wing of the NMGOP is fielding PAC 22 to attack Ezzell and other R's. Ezzell being one of them.

The PAC is headed by outgoing GOP Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca. Ordinarily such a PAC is deployed to support incumbent senators and candidates in primaries that are uncontested but that tradition has been thrown out as the deep division in the GOP continues.

Ezzell is seeking the seat being vacated by disgraced GOP Senator Cliff Pirtle who is supporting Hamill. She responds to a flurry of attacks:

There are four accusations: 1) I enriched myself at the expense of taxpayers, 2) raised your taxes, 3) voted for healthcare for illegal immigrants, and 4) voted for Critical Race Theory. Each of these are 100%, absolutely, provably false. On my website I address each. . .Who is running PAC22, and why are they attacking me? They are a group of moderate and liberal Republicans, petty and desperate for attention. This group includes the former senator (Cliff Pirtle) for this district, who has left this seat in disgrace, and who does not want to see me elected. This is an ugly, personal attack, and it speaks to the character of both my opponent and the people supporting him. You know that I am someone who always speaks the truth, especially when folks don’t want to hear it. . . These people are snakes. They do not have your interests in mind. They only think about themselves. This race should be about issues that concern the folks of District 32.  

Pirtle gave $25,000 of his campaign funds to PAC 22. Sen. Crystal Brantley of the ex-Guv Susana Martinez wing of the GOP, as is Leader Baca, gave $10,000. 

The PAC reports $291,000 in cash on hand for the closing weeks to support GOP candidates of their choosing. 

Ezzell, a rancher, has served in the House from Roswell since 2005. No Dems are running for the seat which is all R all the time. 


In a first draft Monday we omitted the name of Clayton Pryor, a GOP candidate for Bernalillo County Clerk. 

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Monday, May 13, 2024

"Amateur Hour Is Over": Martinez Slams Bregman In Debut TV As DA Race Is Fully Joined; Chides Opponent For "Playing Cowboy"; Contest In Crime-Heavy ABQ Seems Close 

Damon Martinez
Will BernCo District Attorney Sam Bregman's black hat earn him a black eye from Democratic primary votes and vault Damon Martinez into the winner's circle? 

Martinez seems to think so. 

His debut TV ad portrays Bregman as a frivolous "amateur" who has been "playing cowboy" while ABQ streets have become the "Wild West."

The thirty second spot gets a lot done. It effectively ridicules Bregman's signature cowboy hat meant to convey a tough on crime image. 

It makes the case for Martinez by reminding Dem voters of his service as a US attorney ('14-'17), appointed by President Obama.

The ad takes note of his military service--and in a contention that will surely be disputed by Bregman--claims Martinez took on violent criminals and the drug cartels.

Bregman, appointed DA by MLG in January '23 to fill the vacancy created when Raul Torrez was elected attorney general, immediately donned his black hat causing analysts to wonder if he was going too far for a Dem primary by appealing to Republicans and hard-line conservatives as he turned off center and left Dems.

That is now easy pickings for Martinez who is trying to appeal to Dems across the board. His spot leads off with footage from Bregman's first ad that shows him strolling down an alley in his black hat. The script:

While Sam Bregman has been playing cowboy our streets have become the Wild West. He's left murderers off the hook and given sweetheart deals to big time drug dealers. Amateur hour is over. Damon Martinez is a former US Attorney appointed by President Obama. He took on violent criminals and cartels. As DA he'll do it again. He'll put criminals in jail and make sure our streets are safe for the ones we care about the most.... 

That last line of the narration--"the ones we care about the most"--shows a young boy wearing a cowboy hat and a lasso around his shoulder walking with his back to camera, making for a final dig at what Martinez believes is Bregman's inauthenticity accented by his showy head gear.

DA Bregman
Martinez backs up his accusations on Bregman's prosecutorial record by citing the dates that media outlets published articles about them. But there is more heat than light when any public official around here claims to have made a dent in the historic crime rate.

The line "amateur hour is over" is punctuated with vintage black and white film of a cowboy actor swirling a lasso for a throw while a country western band fiddles away, another effort to make Bregman appear whimsical.

The Obama mention is complemented by a photo of Martinez talking with President Obama, a clear signal to a large segment of the Democratic primary electorate that may be confused about this race. The Obama reference could point them in the direction Martinez desires.

On the other end of the spectrum there is a shot of Martinez in his uniform serving in the US Army Reserves as a Colonel and a JAG officer in the NM National Guard.


The Martinez-Bregman contest in big BernCo is the state's most expensive this primary because there are no statewide contests on the ballot. Bregman has raised over $400,000 and Martinez over $300,000 with over half of his from personal loans.

Neither candidate has a sterling election record. Martinez has never been elected and in his only previous effort he lost the 2018 ABQ Dem US House primary to Deb Haaland. Bregman has run numerous times for various public offices the past 30 years but has only won once--for a single term on the ABQ City Council. 

The race seems close with Bregman's superior name ID putting him in the driver's seat in the early going but now Martinez joining the fray with this effective TV ad and starting to chip away at Bregman, a former criminal defense attorney and onetime chair of the NM Dem Party.  

Neither seems a comfortable fit with the voting public because neither has been convincing that they have credible crime-fighting credentials. That makes their paid media all the more vital.

One of them will win the primary and the four year term up for grabs. No Republican is running.


What would a campaign be if candidates were not complaining about their signs being stolen or vandalized? They are off and running with that theme. This is from Dem Bernalillo County Clerk candidate Karen Montoya: 

We've noticed a few of our campaign signs have gone missing or been tampered with recently. As we work hard to represent you in Bernalillo County, we're asking for your help in keeping an eye out for any suspicious activity around our signs. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. Your assistance in safeguarding our campaign materials is greatly appreciated. 

Montoya is competing with Deputy County Clerk Michelle Kavanaugh for the Dem Clerk nomination. County Clerk Linda Stover is term limited. Robert Kwasny and Clayton Pryor are the GOP candidates but the Dem primary winner is heavily favored in November. A Republican hasn't been elected to the post since. . .well. . .we'd have to look that one up.

By the way, Clerk Linda was toying with a run for ABQ Mayor in 2025 but has now told friends she will not be a candidate.

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Thursday, May 09, 2024

Big Oil Active In Legislative Races; Chevron, Marathon And Conoco Phillips GIve Generously to Both Dems And R's, Plus: Raising Money From Domenici's Money News  

There may be a strong antipathy in some quarters toward the powerful oil and gas industry but the news is not filled with reports of a ban on fracking or a hike of the royalty rates the industry pays. 

Maybe, just maybe, that has a little something to do with the financial support the industry gives many of our 112 lawmakers in Santa Fe.

That conclusion is hard to escape when scanning a list of contributions made by Chevron, just one of the oil giants drilling away in the lucrative Permian Basin in SE New Mexico and reaping millions in profits but also filling state coffers with historically high royalty and tax payments.

Chevron lobbyist Patrick Killen's lobbyist report for the January-May period shows $248,000 in contributions to legislators and the party committees involved in the legislative races. That may not be very much for Chevron but it is a tidy sum for the smallish legislative campaigns. 

Chevron's donations for the period are weighted to their GOP allies but eight Democrats, including the two most powerful--the Speaker of the House and the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee-- also received donations. That can help getting an opinion heard when it comes time for decision-making on key industry issues. 

We put Chevron's contributions to the majority Democrats in bold. Take a look:

Republican Campaign Committee of New
Mexico Chevron USA, Inc. $27,500.00

The Speaker Fund (House Democratic
legislative campaign committee)
Chevron USA, Inc. $27,500.00 

PAC 22 (Senate Republican legislative caucus
committee) Chevron USA, Inc. $27,500.00

New Mexico House Republican Campaign
Committee Chevron USA, Inc. $27,500.00 

3/27/2024 New Mexico Senate Democrats $27,500.00

3/27/2024 GOP Rep. Jenifer Jones Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00 

3/29/2024 GOP Rep. Alan Martinez Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00
3/29/2024 GOP Rep. Harlan Vincent Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00
3/29/2024 GOP Rep. Randall Pettigrew Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00
3/30/2024 Dem Rep. Art De La Cruz Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00
3/30/2024 GOP Rep. Brian Baca Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00
3/30/2024 GOP Rep. Jackey Chatfield Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00
3/30/2024 GOP Rep. Joshua Sanchez Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00 

3/30/2024 Dem Rep. Pamelya Herndon Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00
3/30/2024 GOP Rep. Preston Duncan Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00
3/30/2024 Dem. Rep. Reena Szczepanski Chevron USA, Inc. $5,500.00
3/30/2024 GOP Rep. Rodney Montoya Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00 

3/30/2024 GOP Sen. William Sharer Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00
3/31/2024 Dem Rep. Charlotte Little Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00
4/1/2024 GOP Rep. Andrea Reeb Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00
4/1/2024 GOP Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00

4/1/2024 GOP Rep. James Townsend Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00
4/1/2024 GOP Rep. Jimmy Mason Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00
4/1/2024 GOP Rep. Luis Terrazas Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00
4/1/2024 GOP Rep. Martin Zamora Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00 

4/1/2024 GOP Sen. Pat Woods Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00
4/2/2024 GOP Rep. Cathrynn Brown Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00
4/2/2024 GOP Rep. Jared Hembree Chevron USA, Inc. $5,500.00
4/3/2024 Dem Sen. Bill O'Neill Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00
4/3/2024 Dem Sen. Pete Campos Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00
4/3/2024 GOP Rep. Stefani Lord Chevron USA, Inc. $3,000.00 

4/30/2024 Dem Rep. Meredith Dixon Chevron USA, Inc. $5,500.00
5/2/2024 Dem Rep. Javier Martinez Chevron USA, Inc. $5,500.00
5/2/2024 Dem Rep. Nathan Small Chevron USA, Inc. $5,500.00

This is from only one oil company. There are others also giving.

Through their lobbyist, ConocoPhillips donated $45,000 to 41 lawmakers--about half of them Democrats--during the reporting period, with Speaker Martinez and Chairman Small receiving the largest donations, $5,500 and $2,000 respectively. Most other donations were $1,000.

Through their lobbyist Marathon oil came with $60,000 for 14 lawmakers, including 11 Democrats. 

$5,000 went to Dem Sen. George Munoz, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee and $2,500 was donated to Marsella Duarte who is challenging ABQ westside Dem progressive Rep. Yanira Gurrola in the June 4 primary in District 16.

While the donations may have influence we would add that proposals such as banning fracking and raising the royalty rates on oil are not widely supported--with or without contributions--since the industry remains vital to the state's economy as well as the health of the state budget.  


What do you do when your opponent's financial disclosure statement shows she could be closing in on a personal worth of nearly $100 million? Well, if you are Dem Senator Martin Heinrich reacting to Republican Nella Domenici's towering wealth, you try to raise your own pile of money. His campaign says in a fundraising missive:

Martin’s hedge fund executive challenger is worth up to $94 million. We knew that she was a multi-millionaire who built a career out of making the ultra-wealthy wealthier, but new financial disclosures give us a bigger picture of how much she can invest in this race — from sending misleading mailers to launching bad-faith TV ads. She’s already poured half a million dollars into this race, and she could drop millions more at any time to tip the scales in her direction. Meanwhile, she’s largely avoiding sharing her stances on the key issues New Mexicans care about. She would rather buy this election than actively participate in it. We can defeat Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate one grassroots contribution at a time. Will you help us prepare for the inevitable flood of massive spending and attack ads by pitching in with an emergency donation of $10 or more now? 

Several readers reacted to our blog this week where we pointed out that several wealthy politicians had no problem getting elected and re-elected. They pointed out that ABQ businessman Phil Maloof famously spent $8 million to try to unseat ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson in 1998. Here's more on the long lodt tale of Phil Maloof.

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Wednesday, May 08, 2024

Range of Domenici Wealth Revealed: Her Worth Could Be Near $100 Million Or $21 Million On Low End; How Much Will Go To Her Senate Race? Dems Howl: "We Want An Election Not An Auction"; Our Exclusive Deep Dive Into The Monied World Of A Would-Be Senator  

Nella Domenici
New Mexico has not seen a candidate with this kind of money in the modern era. Now the question is how much of the vast personal fortune of Nella Domenici and husband Patrick McDonough will the state see deployed in her campaign against Democratic US Senator Martin Heinrich and to what effect?

In her US Senate candidate financial disclosure report this week Domenici, 63, and making her first bid for elective office, was required to give only a broad range of her personal wealth. But even the low end of that range at $21 million puts her in rarefied air in a place where simple millionaires are as rare as a crime-free ABQ weekend.

On the high end of the range--$94 million--even the East Coast circles where Domenici accumulated her wealth as an investment banker and financial chief for a giant hedge fund, would win her a nod of approval. 

(Her full disclosure statement is here. Highlights to follow below.)

But in the public arena she is walking on egg shells--as gold-plated as they may be--as she tries to assure everyday voters that she is one of them--or at least used to be--until accumulating a fortune that is akin to hitting a nice-sized Powerball.

Martin Heinrich, one of the least wealthy of the 100 US Senators, must be terrified and elated at the same time. Terrified that Domenici could flood the zone with cash, move the polling numbers and get their race in play in a Democratic state. Elated because that same wealth gives him a meaty issue to contrast himself with Domenici in one of the poorest states in the nation. 

Domenici, the daughter of the late GOP US Senator Pete Domenici who accumulated power but not money during his long carreer, has already opened her checkbook to the tune of $500,000 to kick-start her campaign, a mere pittance for her. The prospect of her risking a backlash and coming with several million is more conceivable now that we know she could be closing in on centi-millionaire status.

Heinrich reports $4 million in cash hand in his latest report which sounded like a hefty bundle but now seems oddly vulnerable. 

Domenici is like Santa Claus with a huge bundle of gifts thrown over her shoulder. How many of them will she put under her tree? 


The state Dems had this to say:

Nella Domenici and her husband confirms the former hedge fund manager is worth up to an eye-popping $94 million, raising even more concerns about her recent return to the state to run for political office.  Nella may have parachuted back into the state to run for office, but New Mexicans aren’t buying what she’s selling. We want an election, not an auction.


Where did all that money come from and where is it now? We delved into her financial disclosure to bring you details and analysis.

--Her investment in True North Capital Advisors in Nashville, whose founder is husband Patrick McDonough, is put at $5 million to $25 million. The firm provides strategic advice to major business clients.

Analysis: So much for McDonough being a "kept man."

--Her New York City Fifth Avenue apartment is assigned a worth of anywhere from $5 million to $25 million.

Analysis: Big Apple real estate listings point to the higher figure.

--The couple's Stamford, CT home is also valued in the disclosure at $5 million to $25 million. 

She also two mortgages--one for $5 million to $25 million and another for $1 million to $5 million. The couple also own a Santa Fe home. 

Analysis: Yes, there is an irony that homelessness is a major issue against that backdrop.

--She reports having $1 million to $5 million in stock in Bank of America.

Analysis: The stock has doubled in value since 2016 so if she's a long-term holder this is a winner.

--She reports holdings of $2 million to $10 million in two Neuberger Berman stock mutual funds. A Merrill Lynch mutual fund is valued at $1 million to $5 million.

Analysis: The stock market has been the place to be the last decade. And even if the future is not as bright, she's not going to be hurting,

--She reports owning United Health stock valued at $500,000 to $1 million.

Analysis: Another long-term market winner

--Her Morgan Stanley employment plan is valued at $1 million to $5 million 

Analysis: Earn a lot, save a lot.  


--Stock in Dataminr, a nonpublic stock of an artificial intelligence company. Her holdings are valued at $1 million to $5 million.

Analysis: When you're wealthy you're on the inside of companies with nonpublic stock that could explode in value.

--She has an investment in Element US, a Florida recyclable waste company valued from $1 million to $5 million.

Analysis: Google it and get nothing--unless you're worth north of $20 million. 

--Domenici pulled down about $850,000 in earned income in 2023 much of which came from the financial asset management firm AllianceBernstein where she sits on the board of directors.

Analysis: Everyone needs some walking around money.

In a news release Domenici's campaign says:

In the past seven years Domenici and McDonough have donated more than $1 million to charities and other causes, nearly half of that donated to Excellent Schools New Mexico.

That works out to about $140,000 a year in charitable donations and Democrats are already questioning whether that level of charity is commensurate with her striking wealth. 


Explaining her wealth, her campaign says:

Nella has broken barriers for women in business and has been incredibly successful. She and Pat have been blessed, and are committed to giving back to New Mexico and working every day to give New Mexico families the opportunities they had to achieve their own versions of the American Dream.

Well, this is the American Dream on steroids and in an age of historic income inequality might be dubbed a nightmare by her populist detractors.

But we haven't seen wealthy candidates punished for their status. Former GOP Governor Gary Johnson was worth several million and spent some of it like Domenici to start his campaign. Of course, he was not in her league financially. 

Former Gov. Bruce King had millions in land holdings but never did use much of it for political purposes and there was little resentment of his wealth. But he made his money in New Mexico--not New York.

Around the nation this cycle there seem to be more rich candidates. That includes David McCormick, Domenici's former colleague at the Bridgewater hedge fund, the world's largest. He's spending big while running as a Republican for a Senate seat in Pennsylvania.

If their campaigns don't work out at least Nella and David can still exchange stock tips when they meet up. 

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Tuesday, May 07, 2024

ABQ Council Power Play Develops As Incumbent Mayor Struggles; Plan Would Lower Number Of Votes Needed To Get Elected Mayor Or Councilor; Also Gives Council Power Over Key City Appointments; Voters Would Have To Approve; The News And The Analysis Up Next  

Keller and Lewis

A virulent form of anti-Kellerism has taken hold at the ABQ City Council and has led to sweeping proposals to reduce the power of the Mayor in favor of the nine member body.

Mayor Keller immediately labeled them politically motivated:

Our community expects, and deserves, us to be focused on tackling crime and finding solutions to curb homelessness, not wasting time on distractions that are ultimately political ploys for power. I’m always open to a charter reform task force and community discussion, but over-politicizing police and fire, removing safeguards for patronage and corruption, and ignoring the public’s referendum for ‘majority wins’ elections, is simply out of step with what our city needs.”

Keller's full response is below.

Chief among those proposals is to eliminate the requirement that a Mayor or city councilor be elected by majority vote--50 percent. A bill sponsored by Republican City Councilors Dan Lewis and Renee Grout and Democrat Klarissa Pena would change that to just 40 percent to win election with a run-off election held between the top two vote-getters if no candidate achieved the 40 percent in the initial balloting.

This proposed changes to the City Charter would have to be approved by voters. 

(Full Council news release here.)

When the modern Council/Mayor form of government was adopted in 1974 there was no winning percentage required. The winner was the candidate who got the most votes--plurality or majority. There was no run-off.

That standard has been changed through the decades. Republican Mayor Richard Berry was elected with 44 percent of the vote in 2009 when the 40 percent requirement was in effect in his three way race with Mayor Marty Chavez and Dem Richard Romero. 

The 2017 election where Mayor Tim Keller was elected was held with a required percentage of 50 percent and a run-off election if no contender reached that mark. Keller beat Republican and now city Council President Dan Lewis in a run-off, getting 62 percent of the vote. Keller was re-elected in 2021 by getting 56 percent of the vote in a three way contest.

The proposal comes amid heightened animosity between Keller and the Council which in his second term has taken a more conservative tilt with conservatives--four Republicans and one conservative Dem--often forming a majority on the nine member panel. 

It takes six votes to override a mayoral veto which the Council has for the most part been unable to assemble as progressive Keller has used that weapon more often in the face of Council opposition. 

Councilor Pena from the city's westside is the key Council swing vote. Her sponsorship to lower the threshold to win election to Mayor reflects her desire to have a westside candidate. 

Martin Chavez was the last Hispanic and westside resident to win the top job when he was re-elected in 2005.

Republican Lewis has made no secret that he will be running in the 2025 mayoral election when Keller will be seeking a third four year term. Keller trounced Lewis in the '17 mayoral run-off by 62 to 38 percent.

The city has grown more Democratic this past decade and the only way a Republican can be elected is probably by a non-majority.

The proposed change could bring in more candidates of all political stripes including--City Hall observers say--the possibility that Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman runs for Mayor--if he defeats Damon Martinez in the June 4 Democratic DA primary. (There is no Republican running in the primary.)


ABQ Council
ABQ is already quite polarized and critics warn that returning to a 40 percent benchmark to elect a mayor could further divide the city.

They point to Democrat Jim Baca who was elected in 1997 with a mere 29 percent of the vote in a crowded field of seven which included Sam Bregman who came in fourth. The Baca administration was marked by bitter controversies with the Council which was attributed to the personalities of the time but also Baca's lack of a mandate for his progressive policies. 

Baca was defeated for re-election in 2001 in a four way race. He came in last while Chavez won with 38 percent of the vote. That election had no 40 or 50 percent voter requirement and unlike Baca Chavez went on to win another term in 2005.

The main political meme surrounding Keller is that in spite of his unpopularity, no-one of note is running and no-one will because of the difficulty of the job. But lowering the bar for victory to 40 percent would almost certainly change that dynamic.

Keller, now deep into his second term, has seen his approval ratings dive in the face of unrelenting troubles with the ABQ police department--now engulfed in a officer-involved DWI scandal--in addition to the ongoing crime crisis and dissatisfaction with the leadership of APD Chief Harold Medina. 

The Keller Council critics are striking at a time of weakness and could get the six votes they need to place the mayoral/council election change on the general election ballot this year. Such process changes to the City Charter have been routinely approved by voters unless there is vocal opposition. 


In addition to the election changes, the anti-Keller Council contingent is proposing that the Council share with the Mayor the power to fire the city's Chief Administrative Officer, Police Chief, City Clerk and City Attorney. That power has belonged to the mayor with some appointees requiring the Council to confirm them before they assumed office. The resolution that would be sent to voters if approved by the Council states: 

The Police Chief and Fire Chief shall have an employment agreement with the City specifying the terms and conditions of employment including a provision for early termination of employment. The Mayor may terminate either employment of the Police Chief or the Fire Chief at any time. The Council may terminate the agreement at any time, with notice to the Mayor and affected Chief, by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the entire membership of the Council.

Mayor Keller's woes have only grown in recent weeks--not only with the APD DWI scandal and the controversial auto accident involving Chief Medina. Now there is a report that the city's Inspector General is looking into special payouts given to top city officials who have resigned--including Sarita Nair, Keller's former CAO who has since been appointed to MLG's cabinet. 


Here is the full news release from Keller's office on the City Council plans:

A group of City Councilors is introducing a slate of charter amendments under the guise of streamlining City government procedures for hiring selection and City elections, but these charter amendments reflect the opposite of transparency and efficiency. It is unfortunate that faced with crime and homelessness, a group of Councilors are wasting time on the politics of power, instead of bringing real solutions to the table. 

“Our community expects, and deserves, us to be focused on tackling crime and finding solutions to curb homelessness, not wasting time on distractions that are ultimately political ploys for power,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “I’m always open to a charter reform task force and community discussion, but over-politicizing police and fire, removing safeguards for patronage and corruption, and ignoring the public’s referendum for ‘majority wins’ elections, is simply out of step with what our city needs.” 

One proposal would modify the minimum votes required for candidates for Mayor or Councilor from 50% down to 40% of the total number of votes cast. This proposal is not only undemocratic, it reverses an 11 year old public referendum, when voters decided that our elected leaders should be elected with a majority of the votes to hold office. Further, the proposal would not eliminate the need for runoff elections. 

They are also suggesting that our City change the procedures to appoint and remove the City Attorney, City Clerk, and Chiefs of Police and Fire. These ‘govern by committee’ proposed changes would erase critical checks and balances that are in place to prevent corruption and patronage. They would essentially make these key city jobs “at-will,” and beholden to the needs of a few council districts, rather than the city as whole – as represented by the Mayor. The additional bureaucracy, creating 10 bosses for most executives, would politicize recruiting and promotion of professionals, create more turnover, and weaken the stability of police and fire leadership that our community relies on. 

Given the enormity of the potential impact and the number of changes, the appropriate course of action would be to convene a Charter Review Task Force made up of City Council, the administration, and other representatives.


State Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, whose decision to withdraw from her Senate race after the June 4 primary was the subject of Monday's blog, reacts to a comment about her future political plans submitted by one of the Alligators:  

Hi Joe, I read your blog. I have never been asked to run for Lieutenant Governor and I have never told anyone that I have been asked by Senator Martin Heinrich. I’m focused on my family and not interested in running for office. 

Okay, applications remain open for the position of lietenant governor on the '26 Dem ticket. Please call Martin Heinrich for an application. On second thought, you might want to call Deb Haaland first. 

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Monday, May 06, 2024

Dem Star Bows Out Of State Senate Race Giving GOP Golden Opportunity; Correa Hemphill Cites Family And Finances As Departure Reasons; Could She Still Pop Up In Future? 

Sen. Correa Hemphill
A bright star of the state Democratic Party stable is hanging up her saddle and giving the Republicans a solid chance of taking over a coveted state senate seat.

State Senator Siah Correa Hemphill has announced she is bowing out and while her name will appear on the June 4 Democratic primary ballot she will withdraw the day after. 

Members of the Democratic Party Central Committee from the three counties in her SW NM district will be charged with naming a replacement for the November ballot.

Correa Hemphill, a school psychologist, says she is leaving in part because of family financial considerations:

When I first started, I had money in the bank, and I was thinking that I’d be able to do some work during the interim. I had no idea that the interim was so busy, and of course, being on the Legislative Finance Committee, that’s a blessing and a curse because it’s so much work and required so much time away from home, and additional time that I’m not able to work. … And ultimately, it just wasn’t conducive to the life or the work of a school psychologist, because you have to be able to give consistent therapy sessions and consistent behavioral support to the schools for parents to be happy and for kids to be able to make progress. It just was not feasible.” 

The Senator is the mother of four with three children still at home, one who has a severe disability. Her husband works in marketing for Western NM University.

She relayed a conversation she had with Gov. Lujan Grisham:

She called me and just wished me well, and expressed her gratitude for me serving in the Senate. I just again framed it around needing employment — it’s particularly challenging in Senate District 28. Because when you’re a legislator in Santa Fe, or Albuquerque. . .you know, it’s like 15 minutes (from the Roundhouse). So the bulk of legislators don’t have to figure out how to save money to go up and serve during a 60-day session — that’s a good $10,000.


Gabe Ramos

As progressive Correa Hemphill, a member of the powerful Senate Finance Committee bows out, conservatives are celebrating. 

They believe that prominent Silver City businessman and former Grant County Commissioner Gabe Ramos, who was appointed to fill a vacancy to the senate seat as a Democrat but lost to Correa Hemphill in the 2020 primary, is well-positioned to take it over. He is running for the seat this year as a Republican.

An ABQ friend of Ramos reacted to the news:

Sen. Martin Heinrich's #1 progressive candidate from the 2020 primary who he endorsed and raised money for was Sen. Correa Hemphill. That primary election saw her defeat moderate Democrat Sen. Gabe Romas. Ramos was 1 of 7 moderate Democrats that Heinrich went after. Moderates lost 5 of the 7 seats. Correa Hemphill has been telling people Heinrich has asked her to run for Lt. Governor in 2026 and become his running mate should he run for Governor in 2026. We hear Ramos is defeating Correa Hemphill in polling in the district so it's not surprising she's dropping out. She sees the anti-progressive movement coming her way. 

Our sources report that Correa Hemphill's polling shows her down against Ramos by high single digits. But her decision to head for the exits does not necessarily speak to an anti-progressive wave but it may speak to the new composition of her district. 

The 2020 district she represented was composed of Catron, Grant and Socorro counties, giving it a more Democratic tilt than her new district which includes portions of Grant, Hidalgo and Luna counties.

While the new District 28 has 48 percent registered Democrats, a Dem consultant says polling shows 12 percent of those Dems identify as conservative and 83 percent of independents, who make up 23 percent of the registered voters, identify as conservative. 

That makes the district fertile ground for the Republicans since Correa Hemphill only won by 386 votes against a Republican in the 2020 general election and has never run in Hidalgo or Luna counties.


The notion that the outgoing senator could get involved in the 2026 race for Lt. Governor is not without foundation. She seriously considered running for the Dem nomination for the southern congressional seat in 2022, but Sen. Heinrich adopted Gabe Vasquez as his favorite and kept Correa Hemphill out. 

We covered Heinrich's endorsement of Vasquez and Correa Hemphill's decision not to run for the US House on our Sept. 21, 2021 blog

Correa Hemphill reported $93,000 in cash on hand in her campaign account at the end of March. 


The Senate is currently dominated by the Dems 27 to 15. Consultants on both sides of the aisle predict the margin will be similar following the November election, the first under the redistricting that followed the 2020 census. 

While Ramos would add to the GOP numbers, Dems are destined to pick up Senate District 30 in Cibola county where the winner of the Dem primary--either conservative Dem and former Senator Clemente Sanchez or progressive Angel Charley--will win the seat in November as no R is running. However, progressive Charley is heavily favored to take the primary which has a large Native American vote. 


Speaking of Heinrich and his many endorsements, we reported last week that he had "indirectly endorsed" ABQ Dem senate candidate Heather Berghmans who is challenging Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto in the primary. But what does that mean? 

Well, it turns out Heinrich has explicitly endorsed Berghmans, according to her literature. We called it "indirect" because it is Heinrich's wife, Julie, who was put forth as the hosts for a Berghmans and Angel Charly fund-raiser this Wednesday--not the Senator. Our use of the word "indirect" was incorrect. But then it's not easy easy tracking of all the races the state's "First Endorser" gets involved in. Try it when you have a spare week or two. 


And in an early blog draft Thursday we said that MLG had issued "a rare endorsement" in the Democratic primary for Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies who is being challenged by former DA Marco Serna. The Governor has not endorsed a candidate. However, she did give complimentary quotes about both candidates to their campaigns that they are using in their literature. Go figure. . .

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Thursday, May 02, 2024

With Top Of Ballot Action Lacking Three DA Battles Take The Primary Spotlight; ABQ, Santa Fe And Las Cruces All Picking Top Prosecutors As Crime Takes Center Stage  

With little or no competition for the state's congressional seats and no statewide offices on the ballot, three battles for District Attorney in three of the state's four largest cities largest cities have taken the primary spotlight. 

Coming in the middle of an ongoing crime crisis and with the Governor calling a special legislative session for July to tackle more crime bills, that seems appropriate. 

In  the DA's race in Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties,  District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies is in a rematch with former DA Marco Serna. He won the office for one term but in 2020  made an unsuccessful bid for the northern congressional seat. 

Carmack-Altwies has been hammered by Serna for hiring outside special counsel to lead the prosecutions  in the high-profile Rust movie set shooting that claimed the life of a cinematographer and whose star--Alec Baldwin--will stand trial on charges this summer. But her office brought home a win in the case when in March movie armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed was was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Serna is also critical of his successor's handling of DWI cases, saying it has resulted in fewer cases being pursued but the incumbent says her conviction rate is 80 percent. 

Serna, 40, is now more seasoned but his running of the office while seeking the congressional set has been a point of contention. Carmack-Altwies, who worked under him, says he was a bungling administrator.

The two faced off in a spirited debate recently that can be seen here. There is is no Republican seeking the office so the primary winner takes the prize.


DA Bregman
Here in Bernalillo County, his polling must show an unabashed tough on crime stance is popular with all types of Democrats from conservative to progressive. 

How else to explain MLG-appointed District Attorney Sam Bregman again showcasing his black hat in his first campaign ad in his contest with former US Attorney Damon Martinez in the Democratic primary for DA?

Bregman's donning of the black cowboy hat, accompanied by his tough crime talk, makes him appear like  a rural county Trump-backing Sheriff but he's betting BernCo is sick and tired of the constant drumbeat of crime. His 60 second spot reads like this: 

In January of 2023 I was appointed district attorney. Since then we've worked around the clock to fight back against Bernalillo County's historic crime wave, taking on the cartels, putting violent gang members behind bars and establishing a zero tolerance policy for guns in our schools. 

Using cutting edge technology to crack down on illegal guns. Unclogging the backlog of open sexual assault cases to get justice for victims. Increasing pretrial detention so instead of violent suspects right back on the streets they remain in custody. 

I took this job to fight crime because our law-abiding residents outnumber the few who are making it unsafe. I am running for district attorney to protect my family and yours. That's why I'll throw the book at career criminals who put our community under siege. Join us, cuz we're just getting started. 

Damon Martinez would like to confront Bregman over his messaging but his campaign says Bregman has turned down a TV debate offered by KRQE-TV as well as one with the progressive group Indivisible ABQ. That could be a signal that Bregman feels he has the lead.

Martinez has raised over $300,000 and Bregman over $400,000 so both have plenty of firepower to make their cases in the final weeks. 

The campaign has been confusing to veteran observers who can't figure out where the large progressive Dem voting block will end up in this race. Maybe both contenders--neither progressive--end up splitting the vote. 

The Dem winner takes the prize. The GOP has been given ten lashes with the blog wet noodle for failing to field a DA candidate even as they assert crime is the top issue here. 


Finally, in Las Cruces, Gerald Byers, one of the few if not the only African-American District Attorney in the state, is seeking re-election after running unopposed in 2020. But this time he has well-known opposition in the Dem primary from Fernando Macias, an attorney, former legislator and outgoing Dona Ana county manager.

Byers says he prides himself on his management of the office now and during the pandemic. Macias pledges to "drastically reduce the rate of dismissals and operate the office with full transparency." But his county contract was ended early by the commission and that could weigh on voters. 

Shaharazad Booth and Ramona Martinez are also seeking the Dem nomination. Michael Cain is the sole GOP primary hopeful.

So while New Mexican voters are not being treated to heated primary contests at the top of the ballot, if they dig a little deeper there's plenty of La Politica to grab their attention and their votes.

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