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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Reader Vox Populi: A Rant Against A Retiring Rep And A Rebuttal, Plus; Father Of Southern Congress Hopeful Wants GOP To Make Primary Peace  

Reader Dave in Rio Rancho says we went too far when we praised retiring State Rep. Jim Trujillo, chair of the House tax committee, for his work on a major tax bill that passed the legislature this year. He comes with this blast:

Joe, When I read your short take on retiring Jim Trujillo, I got hot under the collar. "Well done, sir"? A man that raised our taxes? Many of the tax increases were regressive that hurt the poor the most. Then the capital gains tax increase. Sell your house? That will be more money to Lujan Grisham to blow. Also, Trujillo wanted to raise auto registrations to over $100 per car.

They had a zillion new taxes lined up until the Senate shut them down. And that is after two years of back to back billion dollar surpluses from oil and gas revenue. I am glad to see this man retire. He had a negative effect on New Mexicans standards of living.

Also, when I read your flowery send off about former NM Supreme Court Justice Charles Daniels, who completely screwed up our judicial system, it bothered me but I let it go. But not this time. 

Meantime, you never miss a chance to slam State Senator John Arthur Smith, "Dr. No" as you  say. At least he tries to keep our ship afloat by moderating the fools that want to spend every cent they get and then ask for more. Joe, I understand it's your blog and you are a leftist but please, do not praise people that have a lousy legacy and have hurt our state. . .

That's a world-class rant, Dave, and merits a response.

--One of the main features of the Trujillo tax bill was a restoration of the progressive nature of the system in which those with the highest incomes again pay more than those who make far less. That hardly "hurt he poor."

--The capital gains increase will mainly effect the sale of assets such as stocks and bonds. The first $250,000 in profit from a home sale is exempted from capital gains ($500,00 for couples).

--Trujillo proposed a surcharge on car registration fees that would fund for road repairs The state MVD site says:

The registration fee for passenger vehicles is based on the weight and model year of the vehicle. Registration fees range from $27.00 to $62.00 for a one (1) year registration or $54.00 to $124.00 for a two (2) year registration.

As for Justice Daniels, we did not give him a "flowery" send off. We said his service was "important," leaving others to judge the merit of the controversial constitutional bail amendment he championed.

As for Senator Smith, Dave is correct that we've been tough on his policies. That's because we think he and his fellow austerity hawks missed major changes in the state economy that led to a long economic stagnation. We believe they've missed again in underestimating the amount of money the oil boom will produce.

As for being a "leftist," we've supported Dr. No for his stance against legalizing marijuana, advocated for tougher law enforcement by APD and turned thumbs down on far left measures like banning fracking in the Permian. But thanks for the rousing rant, Dave.

SOUTHERN CIVIL WAR

Claire Chase
Southern Republicans fear a repeat of the bitter civil war of 2018 between congressional candidates Monty Newman and Yvette Herrell as Herrell faces off with Claire Chase for the 2020 GOP nomination and the right to take on Dem Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small.

Herrell backers insist Chase is a stalking horse for the forces of former Gov. Martinez who supported Newman when he lost to Herrell. Meanwhile, Herrell is aligned with the Pearce faction of the GOP. Chase's father, Jim Manatt of Roswell, no stranger to politics, comes with this peacemaking effort:

Joe, I read in your blog a suggestion that Claire is aligned with "the Martinez faction" of the party. Claire's campaign is focused upon doing all possible to heal the split, invite all sides into the big tent and, importantly, bring new and younger people into the campaign and into conservative politics in NM. Her campaign is not aligned with any particular faction within the split. It is open to all.

She spent almost 3 years in DC as a Senior Legislative Assistant for Steve Pearce. . .When she was making plans to return to NM, the Pearce organization persuaded her to work as Deputy District Director for Steve's constituent services in SE NM until her wedding. 
Yvette Herrell

Steve has made it clear he is not endorsing in the primary but Claire has a lot of residual goodwill among Steve's constituency, bolstered by the experience she earned/learned as a financial consultant for the NM Finance Authority for SE NM governments.

The main point is that Claire's campaign takes a classic Big Tent approach. The door is open to all and there are no "sides" in her campaign. People from all "sides" throughout the District are becoming involved.

The race for the southern congressional GOP nomination is hotter than Hatch Green and the fall weather isn't going to cool it off.

As always, we welcome your email comments, critiques and existential angst at newsguy@yahoo.com.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Cancelling The Coalition: Group Of Women Senate Candidates Emerge To Take On Dem Men, Plus: Update On The 2020 Money Race 

Correa Hemphill
A group of seemingly strong women candidates has emerged to challenge several key state senators in the 2020 cycle and could pose a significant threat to the conservative coalition that has long ruled the chamber.

Pam Cordova of Valencia County Tuesday confirmed our earlier reports and announced she will challenge Senator Clemente Sanchez of Grants in the June 2020 Dem primary. Also announcing a candidacy this week is school psychologist Siah Correa Hemphill of Grant County. She will be challenging appointed state Senator Gabe Ramos in the Dem primary.

Those announcements follow ones by Neomi Martinez Parra who is mounting a primary challenge against Dem state Senator John Arthur Smith, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and de facto leader of the coalition of Republicans and conservatives that control the Senate. Another coalition leader, Senate President Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces, is already busy fending off two Dem primary challengers.

In addition, Santa Fe school superintendent Veronica Garcia has announced she will seek the Dem nomination for the ABQ NE Heights senate seat held by Republican Sen. Mark Moores.

The Senate coalition has repeatedly thwarted legislation sent over by the House, including a constitutional amendment that would tap a portion of the nearly $18 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood education.

This past session the Senate's conservative Dems blocked a pro-choice measure. That led the state GOP to declare that Gov. Lujan Grisham is the force behind the primary challenges:

Several Democrat Senators who stood against their party leaders to defend life and opposed HB 51, a bill decriminalizing abortion laws, are now being challenged in primary elections. Gov. Lujan Grisham is recruiting candidates who agree with her on extreme policies. 

It can't be ignored that Emily's List has promised to take out Democratic senators who bolted on the abortion question and will devote major money to the task. But the frustration with the coalition--(16 R's who sometimes vote with 6 or more Dems in the 42 chamber) runs deeper.

The fingerprints of various progressive interest groups can already be seen in these races. If MLG is pushing the candidacies, she isn't about to shout it from the rooftops. She still has to work with the Senate.

Former ABQ City Councilor, Democratic attorney and political consultant Greg Payne has long held the view that the next major shift in the New Mexican political landscape will come from women.

The issues that are plaguing us impact women most. Dysfunctional families, the drug epidemic, gun violence, education problems and the state's last in the nation ranking in child well-being are all entwined with their daily lives. I was not surprised to see women have great success in the state House races last year. Doing the same with the Senate will be a harder climb but the process of changing the political paradigm in the Senate--and therefore the state--is underway.

The coalition's claim to fame is its insistence on financial frugality even in the face of billions of dollars of oil boom surpluses. The major change if the coalition collapses would be in the state budget which would tilt more toward investment in education and the like rather than tight money management. For the state GOP that is "far left" but depending on how these challenges play out, it could be the beginning of a new political center with profound policy implications.

20 TO 1 

Plame
 20 to 1 is the money lead Rep. Ben Ray Lujan has over Sec. of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver as the two vy for the 2020 Dem US Senate nomination. FEC reports show he had $1.6 million in cash at the end of September compared to MTO's $85,000. The odds of MTO winning may not be as foreboding as the money numbers suggest, but they will be discouraging to even her most ardent backers.

In the intriguing battle for the Dem nomination for the northern congressional seat being vacated by Lujan, Valerie Plame of national fame continues to rake in the dollars nationally and leads the pack. She had $427,000 in cash on Sept. 30. Attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez (TLF) reported $301,000 in the bank. New candidate John Blair had a good six weeks and raised $147,000. That beat out Santa Fe DA Marco Serna who raised $118,000 in the quarter but has $290,000 in cash on hand.

While the race still has 10 candidates it is quickly narrowing. Emily's List is prominently backing TLF and the pressure is now on them to come with more financial backing as Plame turns up the heat. Plame needs not only money but an emotional connection with her adopted north. Serna is the top male candidate and doesn't need Blair on his heels or northern state Rep. Joseph Sanchez for that matter. Yeah, this is a jump ball, Gators.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Henry V. Morales, 70, father of Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, passed away unexpectedly yesterday. Details:
Rosary, Thursday 6 p.m. Harvest Fellowship Church in Silver City. Friday Mass 12:30 PM Harvest Fellowship Church. Military Burial at Ft. Bayard National Cemetery following Mass. 

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Three Weeks To Go For ABQ Election And The Mailboxes Start To Get Stuffed, Plus: Outside Money Coming In For Two GOP Council Hopefuls 

Mailboxes of likely ABQ voters are starting to get cluttered as candidates in the four city council races begin a three week push to the November 5th Election Day.

Mailers, like the one posted here from ABQ GOP NE Heights Councilor Trudy Jones, are arriving just before widespread early voting begins Saturday.

Jones is one of the few council candidates who did not opt for public financing. In campaign  reports released Monday, she showed a cash balance of $42,000, and that's after spending $26,000 in the period.

Jones, seeking a fourth, four year term on the council, will far outspend her Dem opponent Maurreen Skowran who qualified for $40,000 in public financing. She reports already spending considerably, leaving her $5,250 for the final push.

Mayor Keller did not publicly endorse Dem Skowran as he did three other Dem council hopefuls, but campaign watchers say he is doing some walking of the district on her behalf.

OUTSIDE MONEY

Not that Jones seems to need it, but she will benefit from outside money to help her as will fellow Republican Brook Bassan who is seeking the District 4 NE Heights council seat long held by retiring Republican Brad Winter.

An independent committee called ABQ Vote has formed to support Jones and Bassan and is expected to soon begin advertising. One of the committee's contributions is from longtime ABQ GOP attorney and activist Pat Rogers. The fund starts with just $600 but is expected to grow considerably.

Bassan has two Dem opponents, the chief one being Ane Romero who like Bassan has been busy mailing voters.

Another independent committee (known as a "Measure Finance Committee" in City Hall lingo) has also formed for District 2 hopeful Zack Quintero. However, it reports raising only $2,300 and insiders don't expect much more.

(click to enlarge)
Quintero is in that six way race for the Downtown/Barelas/ N. Valley seat held by Dem Councilor Isaac Benton. Robert Nelson, like Quintero, is a first time candidate whose first mailer is pictured here. Benton is another longtime council member, first elected in 2005.

There is also a council election in SE Heights District 6 where incumbent Councilor Pat Davis is facing off against attorney Gina Naomi Dennis.

EARLY VOTING TIME

Bernalillo County Clerk Linda Stover reported Monday that since early voting began Oct. 8 at the Clerk's downtown annex over 200 ballots have been cast there. She will open 19 early voting centers across BernCo this Saturday. The center locations are here.

IN-DEPTH LOOKS

The Downtown ABQ News has been going in-depth on the District 2 council race and the newspaper has started its candidate profiles beginning with District 2.

NEW ELECTION LAW

A new law election law is in effect this year. It means elections that in the past were held separately have been consolidated for the November 5 balloting. Some are quite familiar to voters, like the CNM Board election and the ABQ Public Schools bond election.. But then there is the Ciudad Soil and Water Conservation District election for three supervisors. Say what?

ABQ Dem State Senator Daniel Ivey Soto, who sponsored the new law, says the district, which has the ability to tax voters, is required to have elections and has done so in the past. However, hardly anyone was aware of them because they were stand-alone elections.

The District is made up of most of BernCo and southern Sandoval County. One of the supervisor positions requires that a voter be a landowner as well as a registered voter to participate. For diehard political junkies, more info is here. A list of the candidates for the Ciudad District and all other BernCo elected offices on the ballot is here.

MORE INFO

BernCo residents can get sample ballots here. Here is a map of all nine of the ABQ council districts.

ALSO. . . 

There are other below-the-radar questions city voters will decide in this election, including a 10-year renewal of a 20-year-old transit tax that is used for road repairs, bicycle paths, hiking trails, and transit. Mayor Keller's office says taxes will not increase if the measure passes, but they would go down if the quarter cent gross receipts tax were rejected.

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Monday, October 14, 2019

Plot Thickens In The South; Xochitl Reverses Course On Impeachment Inquiry As GOP's Chase Comes With Major Money Haul 

NM Congress districts
Now comes the hard part. Not unexpectedly southern Democratic congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small reversed course and now says she supports the House impeachment inquiry into President Trump. The switch came in the aftermath of Trump refusing to cooperate with the inquiry and that left Torres Small little choice. Now comes that hard part--an actual vote on impeaching the president and sending the matter to the Senate for trial.

If there is no impeachment vote the freshman lawmaker will be off the hook, but her vote for impeachment would enrage the Trump GOP base in the sprawling district which sided with him in the 2016 election. On the other hand a vote against impeachment would turn off the Democratic base in large Las Cruces which is key to her repeating her upset win of '18.

The stakes are high. The NM GOP is almost completely shut out of power in the state after defeats in '16 and '18. Reclaiming the southern district is vital to rebuilding the party. A second win would cement the Democrats hold on the seat. After that, Torres Small would need just one more win in 2020 before the 2021 redistricting by the Legislature. Even a slight improvement in the Dem numbers could make the southern seat safe for the Democrats for ten years.

Meanwhile, also not unexpectedly, southern GOP congressional contender Claire Chase says she will report a large cash haul of over $510,000 in the October FEC report that covers the July quarter period. Chase only announced her candidacy August 27.

Chase married into the Chase oil family of Artesia whose patriarch is listed by Forbes as the richest person in New Mexico. Her close ties to the oil industry give her access to major money.

Still, Chase appears to have slipped behind her main rival, Yvette Herrell, in the aftermath of the release of old Facebook posts that had Chase harshly criticizing Trump. She will need all of her money and more to overcome that stumble out of the gate.

There is also the question of how much of the $510,000 included donations for the general election. That cash will not be available to Chase for the June primary. The FEC report will have the answer. Still, there is little doubt that Chase is going to have the money muscle to take on Herrell and Las Cruces businessman Chris Mathys for the GOP nod. Chase has already collected more cash than Herrell did for the entire '18 GOP congressional primary.

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Thursday, October 10, 2019

It's The Bulls Vs. Bears On NM Oil Boom, Plus: Staffing Up The State And Gracing New Mexico  

The oil Bears were out in force when this article hit. Reader David Meurer was among many readers who pounced:

Signs of a slowdown permeate the Permian Basin, the 55 million acres in West Texas and New Mexico whose abundant oil and widespread fracking fueled America’s quest for energy independence. Dragged into the downdraft of this year’s 19% drop in drilling are orders for everything from giant earth movers that build well-site roads to chemicals used to kill bacteria during hydraulic fracturing. Rig counts are down, hotel proceeds are declining, home sales are slowing and fewer jobs are available than just last year.

Well, David and others, like any boom the first couple of years are the most intense. We suspect the Permian will find a slower growth pattern for the coming years that will continue to generate substantial money to NM's General Fund. The “crashes” of the past are probably history, given the  presence of the giant multinationals (such as Exxon) that can continue to profitably pump oil at very low prices, unlike the smaller independent companies that once dominated the state oil scene. It is true that one of the most dangerous sayings around is: "This time it's different." But you can't ignore the evidence. This time it really does look different.

Senator John Arthur Smith, chairman of the influential Senate Finance Committee has had it wrong on the oil boom and now says two years of gargantuan surpluses in a row still doesn't make us oil Bulls geniuses. But he has been stunned by the anticipated surpluses and we Bulls have not. We have urged Santa Fe to be more daring in funding annual programs that could make a dent in the state's dismal social conditions standing, rather than stuff all the money under the mattress waiting for the sky to fall along with the oil price. Not many takers, but we do find common ground with "Dr. No's" assessment of the state workforce:

State agencies are understaffed and have been for a decade. Despite a steady increase in personnel funding, the number of state employees today is well below 2009 levels. There are simply too few parole officers to effectively monitor offenders, too few social workers to protect vulnerable children – simply too few. . . Some jobs are hard to fill because the workers--especially teachers and healthcare workers – simply don’t exist, and they aren’t in the higher education pipeline. Clearly, rebuilding the workforce for some state services will need the collaborative effort of lawmakers, the state’s colleges, and executive agencies.

AND NOW THE END IS NEAR

Actually, this is a pretty good legacy for retiring 80 year old Santa Fe State Rep. Jim Trujillo, chairman of the House tax committee:

Trujillo. . . was the. . . primary architect of a tax package. . . that paved the way for state and local governments to start levying a tax on online sales--a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed states to do so--and requires nonprofit hospitals to pay the same tax rate that other hospitals do. In addition, the legislation will likely create a new personal income tax brackets for higher-earning New Mexicans, while reducing the tax burden on others by increasing an existing tax credit for working families.

Well done, sir.

GRACING NEW MEXICO

It's not well-known in New Mexico but word has spread across the globe about Santa Fe's Inn of the Five Graces. In the 2019 Conde Nast Readers' Choice Awards the Inn ranked 17th out of the top 50 hotels worldwide. Pretty impressive.

If you want to squeeze a stay into your weekend plans, prepare to pay up. The starter room is a two bedroom suite and goes for $925 a night (plus taxes). But you will have plenty of elbow room. The suite is over 600 square feet.

And you don't have to miss out on that breakfast burrito you would have had if you went to the final weekend of Balloon Fiesta. They'll deliver a made to order breakfast directly to your room, included in the $925 price tag. Yeah, now you're livin'.

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Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Xochitl's Choice: Pressure Ramps Up As White House Defies Impeachment Probe, Plus: Vice-Chair Of Powerful Santa Fe Committee Eyed, Also: Northern Negativity; Serna Unloads On Plame 

Torres Small
Welcome back. Here's what's happening. . .

That fence southern Dem Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small is sitting on when it comes to the impeachment inquiry of President Trump is getting increasingly uncomfortable. She is one of only a handful of House D's who have not given their support of the inquiry. Torres Small now faces the question of whether to change her mind in the face of the newly announced defiance of the inquiry by the White House.

Torres Small is in a true swing district and will face a stiff Republican challenge from the winner of the 2020 GOP primary. The President's defiance presents both a matter of law and politics that will be difficult for her to ignore. Even if she gets off the fence and parts with the White House, she steps into a pro-Trump briar patch. You can call that Xochitl's Choice.

On Thursday, Torres Small flipped and said she now backs the impeachment inquiry:

Torres Small said a lack of cooperation from the administration leaves her no choice but to support an impeachment inquiry into the actions of President Donald Trump.(she) had been criticized by members of her own party for her refusal to take a stand on the inquiry. And Republicans are using the issue in their campaign to unseat her, staging a “Stop the Madness” rally outside of her office in Belen

A #2 HAWK?

In Santa Fe, the Wall-Leaners are wondering who will be the new vice-chair of the Senate Finance Committee in the aftermath of the passing of Senator Carlos Cisneros who had held the post.

Gallup Senator George Munoz is a name heard frequently. He's been a fiscal hawk during his service on the committee and would be right at home sitting next to fellow hawk and committee chairman John Arthur Smith. The senate's Committee on Committees will make the decision at the next legislative session, but by then the vice chairman deal should have been cut.

It's quite an important position because the Governor is already at odds with the committee on a number of big ticket items. The gulf between the two could grow or diminish depending on who is selected for the #2 spot. Also, that senator would be in line to succeed the 78 year old Smith.

REPLACING CARLOS

As for the Cisneros seat, not much has changed. One of the Capitol Gators says Caroline Buerkle of Taos, a top aide to the Guv, is not going after the seat. State Rep. Bobby Gonzales and Taos nonprofit executive Kristina Ortez are two names that seem to be at the top, with maybe Gonzales higher. The four county commissions in the northern district will send names to MLG who will make the selection to fill out the rest of the Cisneros term.

SERNA STRIKES

Serna
Santa Fe County District Attorney Marco Serna made the smart move and moved to the ideological center (e.g. anti-Green New Deal) in the Dem race for the northern Congressional seat that is crowded with liberals. Now in a new digital ad he attacks Valerie Plame, one of the leading liberals in the contest whose catchy ad of her driving a sports car drew wide attention.

Some people drive fancy cars and want us to believe they are a female version of  James Bond. They think they can impress us with make believe lies that happened over a decade ago. . . The truth is people of the third district want to elect someone to Congress who knows our issues, understands our values and fights hate crimes and anti-Semitism.
Plame

That anti-Semitic reference is based on Plame's retweet of an article widely seen as attacking Jews. She apologized. Serna quotes former Santa Fe Mayor Sam Pick as saying Plame's apologies ring "hollow." The problem is the Serna ad spells "hollow" on screen as "hallow."

In contrast to Plame's estimable driving skills in her racy car ad, Serna is shown in his doing some impressive horseback riding. It's Old School vs. New School.

And if we made any spelling errors in this congressional report, just send them to Valerie. We're sure she'd be glad to correct them.

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Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Some Words Not Heard Often In Santa Fe, River City District 8 Musings, New R Candidate Learns A Lesson And Another Ben Ray Money Bomb 

You don't hear this very often in Santa Fe. From Dem State Rep. Jim Trujillo on his decision not to seek re-election next year:

It’s time. By the time of next year’s primary, I’ll be 81 years old. It’s time for me to turn it over to a younger generation. I’ve done the best I could for my district." Health concerns played a role in his decision, he said. In 2017, he was treated for a stroke in a Denver hospital.

"It's time" are not words you hear from 78 year old state Senator John Arthur Smith or 87 year old Senate President Mary Kay Papen who, if re-elected, will head into their 80's and 90's in their next terms. That leaves the "younger" generation of Dems on the back benches. They don't seem to mind. They just kiss up to Mary Kay and John Arthur and all is well.

RIVER CITY MUSINGS

Here in River City we blogged Monday of how most Dems seem to think the far NE Heights district of GOP City Councilor Trudy Jones is safe for her re-election. But Catherine Sherwood, volunteer campaign manager for Jones' Dem challenger Maurreen Skowran, makes a point. The city has turned so blue so fast that it's hard to keep up:

District 8 can be flipped: The voter registration in District 8 is about 16,000 Dems to 16,000 GOP with 10,000 DTS. State House Representatives who have precincts in this District include: Democrats Melanie Stansbury, Liz Thompson, Natalie Figueroa and Bill Pratt. . . There is a strong grassroots network within key areas in this District and we all know. . . how much this District truly needs someone who has its best interest in mind. 

The Jones district has been R for over s decade and she's still favored. Would Mayor Keller endorsing Skowarn, as he did two other council Dem contenders, make a difference? Maybe. But Skowran getting tougher on Jones could prove more decisive. So far, we're not hearing much of that.

LEARNING A LESSON

Jill Michel
A Republican woman running for the seat of retiring Dem State Rep. Bill Pratt may have the right idea. She's sounding a bit like a Dem as she tries to take the seat back for the R's who held it for years before Pratt pulled the upset. (He's leaving for health reasons). Here's the lowdown on GOP contender Jill Michel from her campaign:

 . . .She has been an advocate for children while fostering hundreds of New Mexico children. . .Michel is a founding board member of the New Mexico Child First Network, an. . . organization that helps foster parents and children in state care. Michel has been a member of Davita Medical Group’s Patient and Family Advisory Council. . .Michel and her husband were Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) with New Mexico Kids Matter. 

“If we don’t begin to focus on the. . . failures of crime, education and child well-being. . .New Mexico will continue to be last in every category. I am running to be a strong voice in Santa Fe so that (children) have access to a great education, increased economic opportunities, and the safest communities. . .

No Trump or tax cutting talk there, but an emphasis on a background and platform that could have crossover appeal.

The Dems will drill down on Michel's underlying conservatism, but she appears to have learned a lesson from the Dem BernCo '18 landslide that left only one R in the county's legislative delegation.

MONEY BOMB

Dem US Rep and US Senate candidate Ben Ray Lujan threw another money bomb. He says he raised a bit over $1 million in the third quarter, almost replicating the $1.1 million he raised in the second quarter. He says he's not taking any corporate PAC money. He did not report his cash on hand. That will be made public when FEC reports are released Oct. 15.

Lujan remains the favorite for the Dem nomination. Rival Maggie Toulouse Oliver has strong support in Big BernCo but not his money.

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Monday, October 07, 2019

City Election Gets Moving This Week With Absentee And Early Voting; Where The Four Council Races Stand, Plus: ABQ Looking Good To This Big City Retiree 

The 2019 ABQ election gets underway in earnest this week. The first batch of absentee ballots go into mailboxes tomorrow and continue through Oct. 31. Early in-person voting also gets going tomorrow with voting at the downtown BernCo Clerk's annex. Early voting citywide for the Nov. 5 election begins October 19.

It's the races for four seats on the nine member city council that will garner the most attention in the final stretch. Here's how they look today:

District  Two--Downtown/North Valley/Barelas. This has been an exceptionally quiet campaign, given the sometimes controversial service of Dem incumbent Councilor Ike Benton. He has drawn four challengers but they have run campaigns so below the radar that political pros wonder if Benton can get 50 percent of the vote and avoid a run-off election. A run-off would be held Dec. 10 between the two top vote-getters if no one gets to 50 percent Nov. 5. Benton may have a shot for a first round win but his opponents still have a couple of weeks to move the needle.

District 4--This seat in the NE Heights is drawing attention because incumbent GOP Councilor Brad Winter is retiring and has endorsed Republican Brook Bassan. But Bassan is running into trouble because of her voting registration habits. We broke the news recently that Bassan switched to the R's only in May. The Alibi adds:

Bassan changed her registration to Republican in late May of 2019 after spending two years as a registered Democrat. In fact, Bassan has changed her registration from Democrat to Republican five times over the past 13 years.

Bassan's back and forth registration drew one of the first negative hits in a council race with Dem contender Ane Romero chiding her with this email:

. . . Republican Brook Bassan, has changed her registration “from Democrat to Republican five times over the past 13 years.” And she changed her registration from Democrat back to Republican just a few months ago and halfway through the public finance period in June, presumably for some sort of political advantage. . . I think this District deserves steady, transparent leadership. You'll always know where I stand on the issues that are important to District 4.

The third candidate in the race is Athena Ann Christodoulou but this is a two way drama. Dems think the Bassan registration controversy and endorsement of Romero by Mayor Keller increases their chances of taking this swing seat--and without a run-off. Bassan backers hope that her to and fro registration shows she is not a hard core partisan and is a good fit for the swing district.

District 6--In this sprawling SE Heights district incumbent Dem Councilor Pat Davis remains favored despite concerns over his crime fighting record and his backing of the controversial ART project. His Dem foe is attorney and neighborhood leader Gina Naomi Dennis but she has hardly put a glove on him and time is running out.

District 8--This appears to be the lone bright spot for the R's as Republican Trudy Jones is positioned to win another four year term in the far NE Heights district. Her Dem opponent Maurreen Skowran is praised by Dems as highly competent but Mayor Keller did not endorse her and the district remains dominated by R voters.

ABQ'S LURE

Crime remains a major problem but ABQ's star shines bright for those weighed down by the high cost of living in big cities. A headline from Marketwatch:

This 57-year-old said ‘screw this’ to San Francisco — and retired to ‘delightful’ Albuquerque, where she slashed her expenses by 70%

It’s an artsy spot — there are hundreds of galleries and art studios; monthly art crawls, and a robust performing-arts scene — and a city where outdoor enthusiasts flock to. That’s helped along by the miles of hiking and biking trails as well as the roughly 300 days of sunshine. And Reinstein says she loves that it’s a diverse city with its own unique cuisine and celebrations.

We ran that because Mayor Keller wants everyone to clean up their act for Balloon Fiesta. Fine, Mayor. Just don't ask us to clean up a homeless camp.

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Thursday, October 03, 2019

Will A "Party Patrol" Stop ABQ Teen Killings? Follow The Drugs Not The Booze, Plus: Mad Scramble Continues For Cisneros State Senate Seat 

Markey Memorial (Louis-Pierre; Journal)
Bring back the APD "party patrol" in the wake of the murder of a 17 year old Sandia High student in ABQ's "White Heights"? Sorry, Councilors Winter, Sanchez and APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos. "Alcohol and guns" is not the problem. The problem is drugs and organized drug dealing. What you need is an anti-drug patrol because this is not 1999. Today this is an entirely different city.

17 year old Sean Markey is only the latest teen murder victim. Earlier this year two teens were tortured and killed over a marijuana deal gone bad. Recently in the South Valley a family of four was slaughtered in a drive-by shooting, including 17 year old Daniel Alex Baca whose friends say he died because of "the life he chose." Again, drugs and drug dealing. And there are more examples.

Whether the Markey slaying near Eubank and Montgomery was drug-related is unknown. But if it turns out that it was a drive-by shooting at the Saturday night homecoming party where he lost his life, it points to more of the same.

The Mayor says the gun violence is only afflicting "parts of ABQ."  The latest shooting is a deadly wake-up call that all sections of the city are now facing or will be facing the face of drug caused death.

APD and the city council can leave the warnings on alcohol to the state and those DWI ads. People aren't partying like it's 1999. They are partying like it's 2019. What's needed here is vigorous, unrelenting law enforcement against the widespread drug dealing occurring among the youth of our community. It truly is a matter of life and death.

WILD AND CRAZY

That struggle for power over the vacant northern NM state senate seat of the late Carlos Cisneros is shaping up just the way you like it--wild and crazy--like it always is in the politically charged north.
Kristina Ortez

The latest is a new hopeful angling for the gubernatorial appointment to fill the seat and she appears to be the favorite of the many Taos area progressives. Kristina Ortez (not Ortiz) wants the job, say friends, and enviros are pushing her hard. Ortez is executive director of the Taos Land Trust whose mission is to:

Create, Preserve, Protect and Pass on a legacy of open, productive, and natural lands for future generations.

Ortez is a Harvard grad who arrived in NM in 2008 which could be an issue in the native-centric north. Apparently that's no problem for Taos Town Councilor Darien Fernandez. He had already announced a primary run against Cisneros and insiders thought he had a good shot at the MLG senate appointment. Now Fernandez tells me he is out of the race and endorsing Ortez because he believes the Governor wants a female senator and that Ortez aligns with him philosophically. Wild. 

Progressives fret over Dem State Rep. Bobby Gonzales who didn't seem to want the senate gig but now is deep in the running, according to the Taos trackers. He's a Roundhouse powerhouse but at 68 some may want someone younger and maybe a bit more liberal--like Ortez.

Say Rep. Bobby gets the senate nod. Then his state House seat opens up and that would be another appointment but not from the Governor--but from the Taos county commission. That's because the Gonzales House district is exclusively in Taos County.

For the Senate appointment, the four county commissions in the Cisneros district will send recommendations to the Governor who gets to fill vacancies in multi-county legislative districts.

Okay, have a wild and crazy weekend--if you can beat all that.

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Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Gay Congress Candidate Says Hate Messages Piling Up From "Bad Apples" Plus: More Wednesday La Politica 

John Blair 
Fair warning. The first blog item today is X-rated. It's a fund-raising pitch by northern Dem congressional candidate John Blair who says he would be the state's first LGBTQ representative in Congress:

I have received so much love and support in this race. But, there’s always a few bad apples to remind me that the fight for equality and acceptance isn’t over. Here's just a sample of a few real messages my campaign has received:

"F*** you f******"
"Take your gay dog and go away"
"I want your f***** a** to stop emailing me!"
"I don't vote for gay f*****"
"Not voting for a confused gay boy"

Blair did not say what form the homophobic messages took, whether by phone, email or in person. It's hard to believe many of them came from likely Dem voters in the liberal northern district. Whatever the case, Blair will get divided opinion on this one--sympathy from voters offended by the hateful comments and want to push back or criticism for going too far exploiting his sexuality to raise campaign money.

The northern Dem primary, the winner of which is almost certain to win the seat in the general election, is hotter than a Tucmucari parking lot in July. But only three of the candidates have broken into the top tier--ex-CIA spy Valerie Plame, Santa Fe County DA Marco Serna and attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez. That's why you're seeing eyebrow raising emails as others try to break through. The election is next June. The last we looked there were around ten candidates, but don't hold us to that number.

There's an election right here in ABQ that will be happening a lot sooner than next June. It's the Nov. 5 balloting in which voters will choose city councilors in four of the nine districts.The battle for the Downtown/North Valley seat held by incumbent Councilor Ike Benton has been one to watch. Well, you can't call it much of a battle. The five contenders haven't thrown as much as an eggshell at one another--at least not yet. They get another chance to mix it up Thursday:

District 2 City Council Candidate Forum: Thursday, October 3, 2019 at Washington Middle School from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. All District 2 candidates have agreed to attend. Steven Baca, Isaac Benton, Joseph R. Griego, Robert Raymond Blanquera Nelson, Zachary A. Quintero and Connie Vigil

STATE SENATE WATCH

Will there be another hat in the ring for that coveted gubernatorial appointment to the state senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen, Carlos Cisneros? Insiders are now talking up longtime Taos area State Rep. Bobby Gonzales for the slot. He's long on experience and knowledge of the north. The four county commissions in Senate District 6 will send names to MLG from which she will pick the appointee.

Okay, filling the senate seat is important but perhaps of more importance is who will take over the position of Vice-Chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, a post long held by Cisneros. Will it be someone who shares the conservative fiscal views of Chairman John Arthur Smith? Of course not, it will go to a wild-eyed liberal who will shake Senator Smith to the core and completely change the committee's views. Now you know. . .

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