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Thursday, July 09, 2020

MLG Signs Cameras For Cops Bill But Sheriff Manny Still Balks, Plus: ABQ’s Sugar High Economy  

MLG has signed what could be the Manny Gonzales Relief Act into law but BernCo Sheriff Gonzales doesn’t see it that way. He tells TV news the bill that mandates that NM law enforcement officers wear body cameras and signed into law is seriously flawed and he is weighing legal action to stop it.  

Gonzales has consistently refused--some would say arrogantly so--to equip his deputies with cameras. Now that it is law Gonzales still won’t acquiesce. Is he signing his political death warrant by opposing a law that could put to rest an issue that has been a nail in his shoe?

Gonzales, who is a veteran lawman, is somewhat inexplicably still atop the potential list of challengers to take on fellow Democrat and ABQ Mayor Tim Keller who will seek re-election next year. The Sheriff has no executive or business experience outside of law enforcement but with a crime wave that continues to crest his law enforcement credentials keep him trending. But the camera controversy could be enough for Keller to take him down in ABQ where the cameras are popular. 

However, a member of Manny’s circle says the rejoicing in the Keller camp could be short lived because Gonzales will address the camera issue next week and put a new twist on it. 

Gonzales’ refusal to bend on the cameras even as they are mandated by law reinforces the criticism that he is inflexible and rigid, not qualities wanted in the city’s primary political leader. Let’s see what he has to say next week. 

THE SUGAR HIGH

While Manny fights his lonely camera battle Keller continues to spend federal coronavirus relief money to plug the budget hole being dug by the pandemic. Cost-cutting is being kept to a minimum as Keller bets that the economic downer will clear up after a year or so. If that bet doesn't pay off, come next July the Mayor could be prepping a re-election campaign in the middle of layoffs and budget-cutting that currently he is avoiding.

Today the local economy is on a sugar high. Tens of thousands of unemployed get an extra $600 a week but that ends later this month. Federal payroll protection money has helped many NM businesses stay afloat, but if there's not another bill from Congress that impact will soon wear off. Then there's the $1,200 checks to every citizen that kept the landlords happy and the aforementioned $150 million the city received from the Feds in pandemic relief. Throw in that tax increase Keller and the city council approved for public safety in 2018 and that puts some $60 million a year into city coffers. That's a lot of sweetener for a very sour economy.

The reality of what future ABQ faces is not yet clear but it is not the one we are confronting today. What that reality will be won't be known until the sugar completely wears off. Sometimes a crash follows a high.

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Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Trump's NM Attack On Biden; Lacking Punch? Plus: MLG Starts To Get Legislative Pushback, And: Why Is The Spaceport Boss in Limbo? 

We told you Monday about the Trump campaign's first foray into the ABQ TV market, a $110,000 buy from July 4-10. Now, here's the 30 second ad their running. It features a phone call to the police department:

You have reached the 911 police emergency line. Due to defunding of the police department we're sorry but no one is here to take your call, If you're calling to report a rape please press 1, to report a murder press 2, to report a home invasion press 3. For all other crimes leave your name and number and someone will get back to you. Our estimated wait time is currently five days. Goodbye.

The script plays out over a backdrop of rioting and looting. A sentence on screen reads, "Joe Biden's supporters are fighting to defund police departments." Also, "You won't be safe in Joe Biden's America" is printed on screen with a large picture of the Dem presidential candidate.

They couldn't say Biden is for defunding because he isn't. The ad appears aimed at the ABQ market which has an ongoing serious crime problem, but with Biden already parting ways with the defunders, it loses some of its punch. Biden's campaign, leading in NM in the early polling, has not announced any plans to come on the state's airwaves.

PUSHBACK TIME

It's about that time when a first term Governor starts getting pushback from the Legislature, and here it comes--in bipartisan fashion:

A bipartisan council of legislators agreed to investigate whether Lujan Grisham exceeded her authority by authorizing well over $30 million in emergency spending to address the COVID-19 pandemic. . .  The Legislative Council voted without opposition to direct its attorneys to review whether the emergency spending interferes with the Legislature’s power to appropriate state funds. The lawmakers also plan to ask Lujan Grisham to outline what authority she is relying on for the emergency orders.

That comes on the heels of that "nonbinding Memorial" that surfaced in the recent special session and was supported by Speaker Egolf and other top Dems. It called on the MLG administration to not fight for the dismissal of the landmark Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit that placed the state under court supervision to ensure better education for the many at risk public school students including Native Americans and those from low income families. The leadership never got around to having a debate and MLG went to court to get out from under the order. You haven't heard the last about this. . .

ALLIGATOR ALLEY

Gators, can you help out? Why is Spaceport America CEO Dan Hicks under investigation and on administrative leave from his state job?  He says he doesn't know, only that a whistleblower complaint has been filed. And Gators, what about state Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keyes? Does she have her eyes on Hicks' job? Were just wondering. Email us if you have some answers. Thanks.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Who Do You Trust? Survey Polls New Mexicans On Their Perceptions Of State Institutions, People And Professions 

Tom Garrity
Small business gets a big round of applause from New Mexicans but the courts a big boo. That's just one of the takeaways from the Garrity Perception Survey, an annual poll taken by ABQ PR agency The Garrity Group.

The survey is conducted by Research and Polling. This year it was done in January, before the pandemic struck, and contacted 408 adults with 65 percent of the interviews completed via cell phones to ensure accuracy.

When asked to rate state institutions as favorable or unfavorable, it was the small business owners who came out on top, winning a 79 percent  approval rating. They need it. Small business has become more fragile during the state economic downturn, especially restaurants and the like.

The state's burgeoning film industry, often controversial because of the large state subsides it receives, was also a favorite among respondents, getting a 70 percent favorable rating as did community colleges.

The public schools have some work to do. Only 41 percent of this polled rate them favorably. "Medical systems" didn't fare much better winning just 44 percent approval.

But it was the "courts and justice" that were at the bottom of the barrel in favorability at only 30 percent. That's not shocking considering the ongoing controversy over the release from jail of violent suspects and the stubborn crime wave that has bedeviled the ABQ metro.

When it comes to what people and professions New Mexicans trust, respondents to the Research and Polling survey gave their highest numbers to relatives and family. A full 76 percent deemed them trustworthy. Also scoring high were teachers at 69 percent and doctors at 66 percent.

While the courts don't score well in the polling, police officers did better, with 58 percent saying they are trustworthy. But there's a big qualifier. The survey was done before the infamous George Floyd killing and others that gave momentum to Black Lives Matter and the protests that erupted nationally, including in ABQ.

Pastors, priests and religious leaders scored 52 percent in the trustworthy category, down from 62 percent in the 2017 survey.

Among those on the low end of trustworthiness were those ink-stained wretches known as journalists. Only 33 percent of those polled rated them as earning their trust, but the state officials they regularly write about were even lower, with only 31 percent trusting them.

As you might expect lawyers were near last in the trust department, with only 29 percent saying they are trustworthy. However, no one can compete with ad executives when it comes to bad PR perceptions. A mere 20 percent of those surveyed said they trust leaders of the state's advertising firms. Well, they may not trust them but they buy what they sell.

NEWS SOURCES

The perception poll also asked respondents to name their most preferred news sources:

In 2020, traditional media sources are still the preferred media when getting news and information. New Mexico residents are most likely to say television is their primary news source, followed by newspaper and radio news. Television is the single most popular source of information. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of New Mexicans say they get their news or information from television either a lot (49%) or somewhat (23%). . .New Mexico residents access radio either ‘a lot’ (24%) or ‘somewhat’ (24%) for news and information. . . Print or online newspapers are accessed by 48 percent of residents. Digital news sources continue to be a consistent source. . .New Mexico residents are most likely to say internet news is their primary digital source followed by social media sites and internet blogs. Nearly 58% of New Mexicans say they rely on internet news sites either ‘a lot’ (33%) or ‘somewhat’ (25%).

More interesting tidbits from the survey are posted here and here.

The Garrity Group has conducted the poll each year since 2011. The firm was founded 15 years ago by Tom Garrity, a former TV journalist and onetime co-superintendent of ABQ Public Schools.

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Monday, July 06, 2020

Trump Dips Toe In NM TV Market; "Matter Of Survival" As Electoral Map Shrinks, Plus: ABQ Councilor Scored Over Black Biz Comments 

President Trump's campaign this week is dipping their toe in the ABQ TV market, according to a DC report, but whether they put both feet in remains unclear.

The Hill reports Trump's 2020 campaign is on the air this week (July 4-10) with a $110,000 buy, their first in the state which is seen by analysts as leaning heavily toward the Dems. They say this is not an offensive move but a matter of survival:

We don’t need 306. We just need 270. We can lose Michigan and lose Pennsylvania and still win,” said a top Trump adviser, noting that a win in New Hampshire, combined with one in Nevada or New Mexico, would provide enough Electoral College support to prevent defeat even if Biden wins big in the industrial Midwest. Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale has previously claimed the president’s policy agenda is capable of attracting Latino voters in states like New Mexico. . . Let’s go straight into Albuquerque,” Parscale told Trump at one point last summer. The campaign eventually held a rally in the Albuquerque suburbs last September.

A June presidential poll from Dem-oriented PPP had NM favoring Joe Biden 53 to 39 percent. The Trump campaign made a brief play for the state in '16 but were gone by October. Hillary Clinton won by eight points with Libertarian and former GOP Gov. Gary Johnson also on the ballot.

Whether Trump's summer flirtation with the Land of Enchantment turns into a full embrace is a long shot but one that demands watching.

BLACK LIVES INABQ

A $1 million investment by the city of ABQ to bolster Black-owned businesses has drawn the ire of progressives. They support the expenditure, it's the manner in which GOP Councilor Trudy Jones objected to the appropriation that has them upset. While Jones said she was concerned about the money not being put to proper use, the progressives felt she was being condescending and perhaps worse. This  Jones quote in particular drew their wrath:

Every question out there that anyone would ask before they loaned their child money isn't there.

Comparing successful black businesses to children did not sit well with activist Steve Cabiedes who whipped up a 19 minute video with guest and Black entrepreneur Lauren Ruffin. The video spread quickly.
Councilor Jones

Jones, a longtime realtor, represents District 8 in the ABQ NE Heights, the city's wealthiest section that includes the gated community of Tanoan. Her vote stood out. The council passed the $1 million on an 8 to 1 voice with Jones the lone dissenter.

Before the vote there was this message from the Mayor Keller administration:

At times we mistakenly perpetuate a tri-cultural history myth—and we forget that Albuquerque especially has a vibrant Black community. . . We have ignored a big gap in access to opportunity. . . We’ve got to step up for them to create better access to funding, investment, and capital. . . That’s why we’re asking Council to approve a $1 million investment in positive impact for the Black community. . . Black residents have worse outcomes for health, housing, and economic security, even though unemployment rates and economic achievement are even with or higher than other groups. Some of these problems, like segregation in housing, are getting worse, not better.

There have been no elected Black city councilors since the modern form of government was adopted in 1974, according to Council archives. Solomon Brown, a Black physician, was appointed to fill a vacancy for several months in 1977 from District 3 but was not elected in his own right. According to the latest US Census estimate 3.2 percent of the city's population is Black and has hovered near that level for many years. There have been a number of Black council candidates, most recently Gina Neomi Dennis in 2019 in SE Heights District 6. She lost to incumbent Pat Davis.

One of the city's last ethnic electoral barriers has been stubborn and yet to fall. It is long overdue that it did.

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Thursday, July 02, 2020

Top Rep. Lujan Aide Lands Spot On Biden Transition Team, Plus: Update On MLG Cabinet Chatter And A Rural Take On State Senate losers 

Angela Ramirez
He may not plan on campaigning much here but New Mexicans can't complain that Joe Biden is ignoring them. The latest is this news:

Other officials the Biden campaign has announced hiring for the transition are Avril Haines, a deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration who will manage national security and foreign policy planning; Angela Ramirez, the chief of staff to Representative Ben Ray Luján, Democrat of New Mexico. . .

Biden is not getting ahead of the parade. It is traditional for a major party nominee not occupying the White House to start a transition team in the event of a fall victory.

In the years ahead New Mexico's fragile economy is going be even more dependent on federal funding. Lujan is the frontrunner to take the open US Senate seat in the November election so having his top aide on the Biden transition is encouraging.

It's not just about New Mexico, of course. Biden is ever mindful of the importance of Hispanics nationally to his presidential chances.

Ramirez has been with Lujan since he was first elected in 2008. She came to him after a stint as the executive director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. She was raised in Sacramento, CA.

Both her parents spent long days in the fields, living what she called “their version of the American dream.” They would later go on to send their daughter to Princeton.

Then there's Biden doting on Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, vetting her for the vice-presidential slot. As it turns out, Biden is now said to be leaning toward naming a Black woman. Still, the rumor mill persists that the cabinet position of Secretary of Health is really the prize that could await MLG. Would she be interested in shedding the power of a governor to take it? A Senior Alligator close to the situation offers this take:

It would probably be a coin flip on whether she would take it. Some of it could depend on how left the state Senate goes in the November election. She is not comfortable too far from the center. Also, the state's finances could play a part. Given the pandemic the new Sec. of Health will be sharing much power with the White House and that could be another consideration.

MLG is a former director for the NM Department of Health. In the past she has been quick to leave positions to climb the ladder, taking leave of the BernCo Commission to run for the US House and leaving that to seek the Governorship. If Biden wins he can be expected to fill out his cabinet by mid-December. Until then, the guessing game will continue to entertain La Politica. (Okay, Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, watch your heart rate.)

A RURAL TAKE

A reader from rural New Mexico snail mails us (yes, they still have that) to disagree with the pundits on their analysis of why so many incumbent senators were defeated at the June primary:

Joe, I believe the pundits got the election wrong. Almost all of the coverage was about how New Mexico is turning left because a handful of moderates in the Senate lost to a handful of liberals. Out in the rest of New Mexico we interpreted this election as a desperate cry from everyday New Mexicans for term limits. That was the real story. 

Seven sitting incumbents in the Senate, 5 Democrats and 2 Republicans, were defeated in their own parties. Never have there been so many Senate incumbents rejected by voters in their own primaries. Joe, go back to statehood. You won't find a primary where more incumbent senators lost to challengers. 

Fully 1/6 of the Senate got shown the door by voters from their own party. You can add Republican Senator Bill Payne and Dem Senator John Sapien who didn't run for re-election because they could at least see the writing on the wall. Good riddance and y basta! (Enough is enough!)

Senator Mary Kay Papen is 88 and John Arthur Smith is 78 so it's not a stretch to say a number of voters went against them because they believed they were there too long. As for the primary seeing more incumbent senators losing than anytime since statehood, we'll have to get back to you on that. Please check your snail mail.

Happy Fourth of July, New Mexico!

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Wednesday, July 01, 2020

NM R's Florida Bound; Delegates Making Travel Plans For National Convention, Plus: Davis Stands Pat; ABQ Councilor Assailed As A Racist Ex-Cop Defends Turf  

The Dems pulled the plug on an in-person national convention in August so the NM delegates will have to find a way to party over Zoom. But for the 22 New Mexico delegates to the GOP national convention in Jacksonville, Fl. August 25- 27, it's party on. Their convention will be mainly in-person and will feature President Trump's acceptance speech of the Republican nomination the night of the 27th.

The R's named their delegates this past weekend. A complete list is here. It includes old warhorses of the state GOP including former state GOP Chairs Allen Weh, his daughter Debbie Maestas, Harvey Yates and current NM GOP Chair Steve Pearce. State House Minority Leader Jim Townsend and former NM House Speaker Don Tripp are also on the list of delegates Florida bound.

The GOP reports that at their weekend meeting Townsend and Tina Dziuk, Roosevelt County Chairwoman, were elected to replace Yates and Rosie Tripp as the party's national committeeman and woman following the national convention.

Much of the national convention business was moved to Jacksonville from Charlotte, NC when that state's Dem governor would not commit to hosting a fully attended convention, without social distancing and face coverings. Still, 6 of the NM delegates will travel to NC to take part in business still scheduled there.

As usual, the GOP has its work to do in blue New Mexico. Polling shows the president trailing Biden here and that could make it tougher for Yvette Herrell to reclaim the southern congressional seat for the R's from Dem Rep. Torres Small. That's their top goal this year. Another is to play solid defense and prevent the loss of several state Senate seats being targeted by the Dems.

DAVIS STANDS PAT

Councilor Davis
ABQ City Council President Pat Davis is a racist ex-cop and should resign. That was the call recently from ProgressNowNM, the progressive advocacy group once run by Davis.

They declared war when longtime Davis critic and former ABQ City Councilor Pete Dinelli came with a blog post that took Davis to task over a well-known 2004 shooting in which then-DC cop Davis wounded a Black suspect. The post also included new info on lesser known abuse allegations when Davis was a UNM cop.

The news was especially sensitive given the recent momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement. However, no other major progressive groups have joined in calling for the head of Davis and he has said he will not resign his presidency or the SE Heights council seat to which he was elected to a second term last year. He comes with a vigorous defense, saying that Dinelli "misrepresented" his record. His complete response is here.

So what's really going on? Much of the conflict is due to Davis' involvement in the recent BernCo Commission candidacy of LGBQT activist Adrian Carver who attacked his opponent, Adriann Barboa, another member of the LGBQT community as is Davis. 

Barboa
Carver was skewered by progressives for scorching Barboa for a past cannabis arrest as well as outstanding warrants for traffic violations. He was soundly defeated by Barboa for the Dem nomination in the June 2 primary for the commission seat that takes up a large part of Davis' council district. Davis worked for Carver's campaign. 


No R is running in November so Barboa is headed to the five member commission.

Calling progressive Davis a racist or nonprogressive is like calling a priest an atheist. Still, his foes could try to launch a recall election against him. That would take 2,5000 signatures of registered voters. But there's a clause in the City Charter that makes a recall unlikely:

. . . As a condition of circulating a petition for recall the factual allegations supporting the grounds of misconduct in office or violation of the oath of office stated in the petition shall be presented to the City Clerk. The petition shall not be circulated unless, after a hearing in state district court in which the proponents of the recall and the official sought to be recalled are given an opportunity to present evidence.


Davis is not being accused of any wrongdoing while holding his council seat and his term doesn't expire until the end of 2023. That will probably mean more contentiousness between him and Barboa. The public will be watching because progressives are accumulating power on the commission and council. Their infighting matters.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Yes To Yazzie And No To MLG: Court Upholds Landmark Public Ed Ruling, Plus: Readers React To Haaland And Oñate  

It's yes to Yazzie and a get to work message for Governor Lujan Grisham. The news:

A state district judge on Monday rejected the governor's motion to dismiss Yazzie/Martinez v. The State of New Mexico, a landmark education funding lawsuit. "Until there are long-term comprehensive reforms implemented by the state," First Judicial District Judge Matthew Wilson said, "the court will maintain jurisdiction over this case." 

In 2018 Judge Sarah Singleton ruled New Mexico's schools had been depriving English-learning, Native American, low-income and special-education students — around 80 percent of the state's 330,000 students — of an education that adequately prepares them for college and careers.

That MLG would challenge Singleton's finding that the state was in violation of its Constitution for failing to provide for children at risk was perplexing. She had said early in her term that she supported Singleton's ruling and would launch an educational "moonshot" to correct deficiencies. But the moonshot was off the pad for only a short time. The oil crash and pandemic took it down. Besides, much of the Governor's education budget increase went to teacher pay--not to programs to satisfy the court order. But she didn't want to give up control of public ed to the courts and fought.

HOUSE CELEBRANTS

Judge Wilson
A number of Democratic Hispanic and Native American state House members firmly opposed MLG's motion and celebrated the ruling:

Rep. Derrick Lente (D-Sandia Pueblo): “My district includes all of the children named in the Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit. I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure they have their constitutional right to a sufficient and uniform education. . . It is my hope the work that lies ahead will be done with a spirit of cooperation that will yield many benefits for. . . our children.”

Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena (D-Mesilla): ". . . .I send my kids to school hoping their classrooms are safe, equitable, and equipped to get them ready for the future they and all little ones deserve. . . I appreciate Judge Wilson for recognizing that New Mexico is only getting started on meeting the mandates of the historic Yazzie/Martinez ruling.”

Historic indeed and brilliantly reasoned by the late Judge Singleton. Her full ruling is here. To his credit, Judge Wilson, a Democrat appointed by GOP Gov. Martinez, recognized the transformational change his colleague had put forth. Now it's up to Santa Fe to find the funding to make the change--and to obey the law.

HAALAND AND OÑATE (CONT.)

Rep. Haaland
Reader reaction to our Monday blog that ABQ Dem Rep. Deb Haaland is not calling for removal of public statues commemorating Juan de Oñate. Here's the self-proclaimed "Crockagator" from ABQ's westside:

Joe, I think that you better do a little more research before you say Oñate cut off the ankles of Acoma Pueblo men. It was the dedo del pie, otherwise known as the toes. This was the sentence that was handed down at a trial in Santo Domingo. Oñate was not at Acoma when the battle between 70 Spaniards and over 1,000 Acomas took place over five days. Another thing: Oñate was not a Conquistador but more like a Crusader who came from a rich mining Mexican family and funded the settlement and made sure that priests were part of his retinue. 

Reader Tom Miles writes:

The Albuquerque Tricentennial Timeline at the Convention Center lays out a pretty complete history of Hispanic/Native American interactions from Oñate to after the Pueblo Indian Revolt and reconciliation. I created it in 2005-6 exactly for that reason: to give a fuller, richer, accessible view and understanding of Albuquerque’s and New Mexico’s rich and fascinating past. The Timeline copy at the Airport has not gotten re-installed in the visitor wing since the new art went up and came down. I’d love to see it there so folks could gain a better and quicker idea of what New Mexico and Mexico was and is all about.

Mitchell Freedman of Rio Rancho disagrees with our description of Haaland as "unabashedly supporting her party's left wing."

Haaland. . . has not supported Bernie's single payer health care proposal and has voted for every military budget Trump and the Republicans have presented. Deb was mum about Bernie's detailed Green New Deal proposal which environmental groups such as Greenpeace have stated is the best GND proposal so far. Deb supports free public college tuition but was not an early advocate and has continued to refuse to support canceling student loan debt. In 2016, Deb supported Hillary Clinton. Recently, Deb was a late supporter of  presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren but after Warren dropped out refused to back Bernie. As a progressive I fully support Deb for re-election. However, I think it is more accurate to describe her as somewhere in between an Establishment Dem and a progressive--not "unabashedly left wing."

On her campaign web site Haaland says:

We need national public health insurance -- Medicare for All -- a model that has been proven across the world to lower costs, increase efficiency, and ensure the most people have access to care. Health care is a human right.  

As for Warren, she endorsed her in July of 2019.

Haaland is seeking her second term this year. She is being challenged by Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes.

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Monday, June 29, 2020

Another Twist In the Judge Judy Retirement; She's Not Ready To Go, Plus: Haaland And Oñate And Trump And New Mexico 

Justice Nakamura
Hold your horses, Victor Lopez. . .

An upcoming vacancy on the NM Supreme Court continues to provide summer intrigue.

The latest has Chief Justice Judy Nakamura delaying her planned August 1 retirement because of issues with her retirement with the Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA). But how long a delay?

If Nakamura retires after September 3--less than 60 days before the November 3 election, state law says there would be no election for her seat. The appointee picked by the Governor from the list provided by the Judicial Nomination Commission would fill out Nakamura's term and the seat would not be up for election until 2022.

Nakamura says her retirement will be delayed until "later this year." That could easily mean past the 60 day election deadline. If she leaves after the November election , that would give MLG breathing room to appoint someone who might be questioned for being too politically close, according to the Legal Beagles. Her general counsel has been mentioned as a possible appointee.

Nakamura made her delay announcement Friday, only days after Dem ABQ District Court Judge Victor Lopez announced he would seek election to the seat and asked the Democratic Party Central Committee, responsible for naming a candidate for the vacancy to name him. (Republicans and Libertarians--the state's other major political parties--would also get to name candidates for the election in the event of a vacancy.)

The Lopez jump-the-gun move was the subject of our Friday blog. It received mixed Dem reaction because Lopez seeks to make an end run around whomever MLG appoints to fill the vacancy. That appointee could also be expected to seek the blessing of the Central Committee to become the party's November candidate.

Republican Nakamura, 59, is creating plenty of twists and turns for the Dems, but the odds of the seat staying in R hands are slim. Only two R's--including Nakamura--have managed to get elected to the five member court in the last 40 years.

HAALAND AND ONATE

ABQ Dem Rep. Deb Haaland, one of two Native American women in the US House, is known for unabashedly supporting her party's left wing, but she is taking a softer approach when it comes to a thorny issue close to home that has the progressive wing inflamed. In an op-ed Haaland avoids directly answering the question of whether statutes commemorating Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate should be removed:

Should we remove statues of Oñate? Perhaps we should erect statues of local heroes who have been a strong voice or remedied injustice. Would removing the statues erase the pride that Hispanic communities should feel? No, their generations of families have made our state what it is today. We all should be proud of the Hispanic heritage in New Mexico.

The violence this month that broke out at a demonstration over the Oñate statue near ABQ's Old Town ended with a man being shot. As for the statue, the city has removed it and a committee will now consider its future. Another statue of Oñate, in Española, has also been removed--at least temporarily.

Oñate's legacy includes ordering the cutting off ankles of Acoma Pueblo men during his conquest, a shocking event that is central to the calls for the removal of the statue commemorating his journey through the state in the 16th century. But Haaland is searching for a middle ground that takes into account the centuries-long and nuanced relationship between the state's Native Americans and Hispanics. She notes how intertwined they are culturally and in many other ways. A good chunk of her political base may be clamoring for removal of the Oñate statue but it is a decision our state will have to live with for years to come. Haaland's reflective posture leans toward  understanding, not a verdict. Ultimately, that's the way forward.

ANXIOUS R'S

Republicans anxiously await a signal from the Trump campaign that it will seriously compete for New Mexico's five electoral votes. The latest from The Hill:

The Trump campaign has circled Minnesota, New Mexico and New Hampshire as blue battlegrounds it believes are primed to turn red. There is very little polling of these states but nothing yet to set off alarms for Biden’s campaig. . . A survey of New Mexico from left-leaning Public Policy Polling found Biden ahead by 14 points.

Trump's performance is key in the battle for the southern congressional district where first-term Dem Rep.  Xochitl Torres Small faces Republican Yvette Herrell. In 2016 Trump won the district by 10 points. R's fear that if he falls below that mark this year Herrell's chances will greatly diminish.

As for Trump carrying New Mexico, that remains a very long shot. The Dem bastions of ABQ, Santa Fe and Las Cruces have been reliably blue for three consecutive presidential contests. Carry them and you carry the state.

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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Bypassing The Guv: District Court Judge Victor Lopez Makes Play For Nakamura Supreme Court Seat  

Judge Lopez and Sen. Lopez
That upcoming campaign for the NM Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice Judy Nakamura has taken an interesting turn.

ABQ District Court Judge Victor Lopez has decided to jump the gun and not wait for MLG to fill the Nakamura vacancy. He is asking some 400 Democratic state Central Committee members to name him as the party's candidate for the November election:

I offer my many years of experience as an attorney, judge, and community leader. . . I also offer my viability as a candidate. In 2014, the Central Committee nominated me for my seat on the District Court Bench. . . My election committee quickly built a winning campaign in the 2014 General Election against Governor Martinez’s appointee. . .  I have decided not to seek the temporary Supreme Court appointment to fill this position through the Judicial Nomination Commission. Rather, I leave the decision solely up to the democratic process. . .  I believe in the principles of democracy and the importance of having freely elected judges by the people they will serve.

That may or may not come as a surprise to the Governor who will make an appointment to the high court in the coming days based on recommendations from the Judicial Nomination Commission. That appointee could be expected to seek the Central Committee's blessing to run for the seat in November.  If MLG's appointee indeed wants to run to fill out the entire Nakamura term that runs through 2022, Lopez is setting up a rare Supreme Court fight before the Central Committee,

Would the Central Committee reject a Guv appointee in favor of Lopez? One of the Legal Beagles games the action:

Lopez is a very long shot, but there has been scuttlebutt that the Governor might like to have Matt Garcia, her general counsel, on the court. If he did get the appointment, Lopez could fault the appointment and press his case before the Central Committee that the appointment process is flawed. 

This will be the third justice MLG has appointed to the five member court and will give her appointees the majority. The other appointees are Democrats Shannon Bacon and David Thomson. Both are seeking election in November.

Lopez is married to fellow attorney and ABQ Dem state Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, an ally of the Guv's. But in the case of the Supreme Court seat, which pays $148,200 a year, one assumes blood is thicker than water.

As for the R's, their Central Committee will also nominate a general election candidate. However, Nakamura was only the second Republican in the past 40 years to win a seat on the court.

MILWAUKEE OR BUST

Well, it looks like a bust for those NM delegates selected to attend the Dem National Convention in Milwaukee in August. Officials have announced that Joe Biden will receive the nomination virtually:

Joe Biden will accept the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination at a nearly all-virtual convention in Milwaukee this August, but delegates were told to stay home because of health concerns.

Delegates pay their own way to the convention so the New Mexicans now benched will save thousands in expenses. Maybe they can spend it on a 90th birthday party for Fred Harris?

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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Progressives Still Have Hill To Climb In Senate; Biz Interests Look For Opening, Plus: The Virtual Campaign  

The New Mexico Senate seems headed for a more liberal bent next year but don't expect it to be an all-out embrace of the progressive agenda. That's the word from Roundhouse watchers who say there are early signs that R's and others are making overtures to a group of senators planted firmly in the center of the political spectrum: They are:

Senators Joe Cervantes, Michael Padilla, Daniel Ivey-Soto, Bobby Gonzales, Jacob Candelaria and George Munoz, the conservative Dem the progressives failed to oust at the June primary.

All of them have had their ambitions uncapped with the primary defeats of longtime conservative Dem Senators Smith, Sanchez and Papen. Now the jockeying begins to fill the void. Lobbyists, business interests such as big oil and others with skin in the game are hopeful the centrist senators can hold the line on such items as higher taxes. It may not be an exact replica of the now crumbling conservative coalition comprised of all the Senate Republicans and a half dozen or so of conservative D's, but it could be a check on leftward momentum. The fly in the ointment? If the Republicans were to lose any seats in the November election it would be more difficult to thwart the progressives.

GOING VIRTUAL

Odds are the pandemic will prevent most voters from sizing up prospective office holders in person this election year. State Dems have gone deep into to the digital world as they try to make up for the missing personal touch. Here's a Facebook campaign rally featuring the party's major office seekers and others. It's not the same as a round of rousing speeches at a matanza but it is something:

Viewers heard from Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, Representatives Ben Ray Luján, Deb Haaland and Xochitl Torres Small, Candidate for U.S. House Teresa Leger Fernandez , Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, Senate Majority Whip Mimi Stewart, NM House Speaker Brian Egolf, Justices Shannon Bacon and David Thomson, Judges Zach Ives and Shammara Henderson and DPNM Chair Marg Elliston.

Over on the R side of the aisle NM GOP Chairman Steve Pearce isn't taking a summer break yet from his regular podcast "Inside NM." His latest episode fires up the GOP faithful as he discusses "the radical left-led anarchy sweeping the country."

THE BOTTOM LINES

A headline from HuffPo: "Thanks to a controversial New Mexico rule, rich landowners are staking claim to the state’s public waterways". . .

The link posted Tuesday listing the NM delegates to the Democratic national Convention did not work for a time. Here it is again.

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