Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Padilla Inches Closer To Ending Light Guv Bid; Will Seek Advice From Friends And Family, Plus: Happy Thanksgiving, New Mexico  

Embattled Democratic lieutenant governor candidate and state Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla appeared to inch closer to giving up his bid for the #2 position as storm clouds continued to form over his entanglement in sex harassment charges during the time he worked for the city of ABQ a decade ago. Padilla says he is now seeking advice from friends, family and advisers on whether to end his run. That's political language that is usually the prelude to quitting.

Front running Dem Guv candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham threw Padilla overboard when she was asked in an AP interview whether in light of national developments regarding women and sexual harassment if Padilla should quit. She said he should. That was probably enough to end the Padilla dream but if it wasn't, here's some more:

The Young Democrats of New Mexico, the Bernalillo County Young Democrats, and the UNM College Democrats condemn sexual harassment, assault, and violence. We stand with the victims, and we call on our state leaders to do the same. . . In light of the sexual misconduct allegations, we call for Senator Michael Padilla’s withdrawal from the Lieutenant Governor race and ask for his resignation from his position in the Senate. 

Further, we hereby censure Senator Padilla from all future events with our membership and insist he publicly apologize to the victims. Senator Michael Padilla’s actions were unacceptable, and we ask that he hold himself accountable. We need leaders who will fight to change the culture of systemic sexual harassment, assault, and violence. We stand with victims, and we are committed to promoting candidates who do the same.

Quit the Light Guv race and resign from the Senate?

Well, no, because the voters of Padilla's district were well aware of the charges against him when they voted him into office. Negative campaigning had been conducted and in spite of it the voters decided to elect him on his second try.


What will be interesting down the road is if Grisham gets elected Governor and Padilla remains in his whip position. Will he hold it against her as he whips votes in the Senate? It takes a lot less for Senators to break with a sitting Governor. Just ask Bill Richardson or Susana Martinez.


Political consultant Chris Brown in Santa Fe comes with a poignant comment on the Padilla imbroglio:

Joe, your political obit for Michael Padilla didn’t include his leadership in the state senate to free up Permanent Funds for early childhood. Or the national kudos he received from the real news media - NPR, NYT NBC, Mother Jones - and that’s just the middle of the alphabet - to stop the shaming of school girls whose parents were behind on their school lunch payments. As Shakespeare wrote, the good men do is oft interred with their bones. Especially in today’s politics.

This is a take no prisoners environment and all the good in a person's life can be swept away in one fell swoop.

Former Dem Bernalillo County Commissioner Steve Gallegos says the pain Padilla is getting will cost Grisham:

Michelle just lost a lot of votes. She's accustomed to stepping on others to pursue her career.


It can't get worse for a state senator than what has happened to Padilla, right? Well, don't tell that to former State Senate Phil Griego who is going to be spending some serious time behind bars after his recent convictions on corruption charges.

Griego lost his battle with Attorney General Balderas who brought the charges to trial. The former Senator, 69, now waits to hear how long he will go away.

Well, we didn't mean to get you depressed for the holidays. Speaking of which . . .


Reader Jennifer Harrison writes:

I just wanted to thank you for your blog. I’m a transplant to NM (only been here 4 years), and your blog is a highlight of my news day. You keep me informed and motivated to get involved locally. I look forward to your posts and your honest analysis. Keep it up! We’re reading, and we’re paying attention.

And reader Norm Gagne writes:

Just a quick note to thank you for your excellent coverage of New Mexico, primarily but not just politics and including the economy, a bit of history and some of the culture. Your blog is second on my reading list each morning you publish. Sorry, I check the weather first. Election night coverage on KANW (where, by the way, I am an occasional Classical Music For A Sunday Morning host) was informative and fun. They were a rowdy but well informed crew. La Politica for 2018 should be worthy subject matter for you and your Alligators. I’ll be among the eager spectators cheering you on.

Appreciate that, Jennifer and Norm. That's a reason to be thankful and to say:

Happy Thanksgiving, New Mexico!

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Brack Bust: Will Federal Judge's Dressing Down Of City And APD Help Keller Make Changes? Plus: "Data Driven" Crime Fighting; No Fight At All? 

Judge Brack
The monumental task facing Mayor-elect Keller in getting APD on track and crime under control was crystallized last week when US District Court Judge Robert Brack gave City Attorney Jessica Hernandez and APD Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman a dressing down for their rogue behavior like few have rarely seen or heard.

The Brack berating jolted the city, and for the first time in a long time hopes soared that the seemingly endless APD nightmare is finally about to give way to reform and renewal.

The cause for the judge finally losing his patience with the city and APD was Huntsman using his lapel camera to secretly tape a conversation between James Ginger, the court's Federal Monitor for APD, City Attorney Hernandez and himself.

The will to obstruct is so strong at the city that Huntsman and Hernandez have been trying to thwart the federally mandated reforms by claiming Ginger--who has done this job for a number of cities--is somehow biased against them and APD. They say the over-the-top taping was to prove to the court that Ginger was indeed biased.

The outrageous has become routine when it comes to the city and APD. Brack's ruling, however, will give cover to Keller if he is going to let heads roll, an unpleasant prospect but one it appears he must do if he is to have any hope of being a successful mayor. Huntsman and Hernandez will be gone when he takes over December 1 but there are many more vipers in the nest waiting to strike.

In fact, it's so bad over there that Keller (and Judge Brack) might have to call in the gang intervention unit--not for the crooks on the streets--but for the gang that remains in charge of our police department. And Assistant Chief Huntsman, you can roll tape on that.


Then there's the influence of the Governor's now fading political machine at city hall. City Attorney Henrnadez is a former counsel to Susana and Scott Darnell is a former Deputy Chief of Staff to Martinez who has been pulling down $9,500 a month under a Bloomberg grant to study crime in ABQ. Jessica is certainly out but will Darnell make the Keller cut?

It's a good question because what we seem to be seeing these days instead of real crime fighting is the sexed up phrase "data driven" crime fighting. Darnell and company released a report showing us where the crime occurs in ABQ and District Attorney Torrez has also been nearly obsessed with "data." But he and Darnell have been at it for a year and where are the results? (And, yes, Keller has also bought into the phrase).

We know the problem. Where are the solutions? Where's the message to the criminal class that they have reason to fear? The reduction in the crime rate? The prosecutions putting high level criminals behind bars? The arrests of those fencing the immense amount of property and automobiles being stolen from under the data driven noses of Darnell and the DA?

"Data driven" is proving to be another phrase cooked up by the political consultants to give those in charge cover. We've got more data than Haagen Daaz has ice cream. What we seem to lack and what we need is some daring and doing if we're going to get results in arresting this crime epidemic.


Reader Jim McClure comes with this comment reacting to our blog wondering whether the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) will get tougher when it comes to another proposed rate increase (9 percent) from PNM:

In addition to the inherent disadvantage of operating in New Mexico’s stagnant economy, PNM is seeing lower consumption because people like me are buying solar panels. That’s a sweet deal for me: I’m still connected to the power grid but pay practically nothing because PNM charges only for energy consumption. Meanwhile, folks who can’t afford solar panels of their own must cover PNM’s rising costs while subsidizing me through their tax dollars and electric rates. If I were a liberal I would feel guilty about this unfairness.

One way to remedy this would be for PNM to unbundle its rates with a fixed monthly charge for connection to the power grid and a variable charge for power consumption. That would enable solar panel owners lke me to pay for connection to the power grid and ease the burden on the rest of their customers. But whenever this kind of pricing is proposed, widespread opposition makes it a non-starter.


In our first draft Monday we may have made it seem as though state Republicans had never nominated a woman for the position of lieutenant governor. They have never nominated a Native American woman but in 2006 State Senator Sue Wilson Beffort was the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor.

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Monday, November 20, 2017

Women Eye State Offices They've Never Held Before; Will Any Complete The Climb In '18? Plus: Grisham And Padilla: It Isn't Pretty For Either 

It was an interesting tidbit that Los Alamos Dem State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard became the first woman in memory to seek the Dem nomination for state land commissioner. If elected next November she would  become the first woman to hold the office.

It brings to mind that there are still some political hills for the state's women to climb. Not only has there never been a female land commissioner,  a woman has never been elected state auditor or state treasurer. And there has never been a woman elected to the US Senate from New Mexico. And the southern and northern congressional districts have never been represented by women.

Garcia Richard might not be the only woman trying to beak down a barrier next year. Bernalillo County Assessor Tanya Giddings is making rumblings about running for the Dem nomination for state auditor. The position is being vacated by Tim Keller who has been elected mayor. The Governor will appoint a replacement to finish out the year left on Keller's term and a full four year term will be on next year's ballot.

State Rep. Bill McCamley has already announced his auditor candidacy and Micaela Lara Cadena has just announced she will seek the Dem nomination for McCamley's Las Cruces area House seat.  Her campaign says she "has experience leading policy, evaluation, and organizational development efforts in non-profit advocacy and within state government. Micaela earned a Master's degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of New Mexico."

Dem State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg is seeking a second term so it's unlikely a woman will get a shot this cycle at taking that office. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is also seeking re-election to her position which has traditionally been occupied by a woman.

The attorney general's office is no longer an exclusive male province. Democrat Patricia Madrid served two terms ('99-'07). In 2018 Attorney General Balderas will seek a second four year term.

Finally, Now that Kelly Zunie has gotten out, it appears New Mexico will not get its first Native American Lt. Governor nominee but not its first woman.

In 1990 State Rep. Mary Thompson became the first woman to become the GOP lieutenant governor nominee. ABQ. State Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort would repeat the feat when she became the GOP Lt. Gov. nominee in 2006.

Zunie says she does not believe she is in compliance with residency requirement and is ending her candidacy but she also was the subject of some severe publicity over her finances which she did not mention when she called it quits.

It is kind of odd to see a Native American whose ancestors have been here for thousands of years have to get out because she may not meet the residency requirement.

Rep. Steve Pearce is the only GOP Guv candidate. ABQ GOP State Sen. Mark Moores is expected to announce his candidacy for lieutenant governor in the coming weeks.


And by now you've heard how state senator and Dem lieutenant governor candidate Michael Padilla has been called on to quit his candidacy by leading Dem Guv candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham. Padilla's past problems with sexual harassment complaints against him has been gnawing at his candidacy for months, but Dems have not pushed him to get out and spare the party a major embarrassment and perhaps a major loss--until now.

In fact Grisham was eating with Padilla at his annual Matanza last month and they looked plenty chummy together. That prompted a cry of hypocrisy from the NM GOP and others over her telling Padilla, a widely respected legislator, to hit the exits.

Well, there's hypocrisy and there's survival---her survival. The charges of harassment were made while Padilla was toiling for the city of ABQ years ago and were settled out of court. But the atmosphere regarding the issue has become toxic and it's hard to see a way forward for Padilla with Grisham dumping him.

Former ABQ State Rep. Rick Miera, Taos educator Jeff Carr and former Dona Ana County Commissioner Bill Garrett are the other lt. governor contenders.

Is Grisham going to continue to involve herself in the race for the second spot. Does she want Garrett from the south to balance the ticket? Or a Hispanic nominee like Miera to help in the north?

Grisham may be hypocritical but Padilla was downright obtuse for not dealing with the issue publicly early in his statewide campaign. The charges were vetted when he ran for senate but that's the South Valley not the brightly lit stage of statewide La Politica.
Now the issue appears to be dealing his hopes to become the Light Guv a deadly blow.

The three governor candidates will be at a Las Cruces fund-raiser today at 6:15 p.m. and are set to go live on Facebook from there and field questions. Will the Padilla matter come up?

Of course, this being New Mexico anything can happen. What about a Padilla-Zunie '18 gubernatorial ticket? She can absolve him of any wrongdoing when it comes to harassment and he can help her pay her back taxes.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Keller Adjusts Expectations: Turning Around City Will "Be Long And Bumpy Road"; Meets With Berry; Hedges On Out-Of-State APD Hire, And: Action In Auditor And Land Office Races 

Berry and Keller
It won't be fast. That's what freshly minted Mayor-Elect Tim Keller is telling ABQ when it comes to a turnaround  for the state's largest city that is afflicted with a crime wave and a not so robust economy.

In a letter thanking his supporters for giving him a landslide win of 62 percent Tuesday night, Keller worked to buy himself some time and quell any outbursts of public impatience during the first months of his term which begins December 1:

Tuesday night we came together around new leadership. We restored hope going forward. But we also recognize the steep hill we have to climb to keep our families safe and have confidence in our city. Turning around our city will be a long and bumpy road. There is a lot of work to do and it will take the help and support of everyone in our city pulling together. 

Keller is inheriting a plate full of problems from the outgoing GOP administration of Mayor Richard Berry. Wednesday they broke bread together at the Artichoke Cafe where Keller made some news that might give some supporters pause.

When asked about his search for a permanent chief to lead the troubled APD, he reiterated his campaign promise that a national search would be conducted. But he hedged on committing to an out-of-state hire, saying that after the search is complete

We might end up right here back at home. 

That's going to cause concern among law enforcement officials and APD critics who have been insisting that an out-of-state hire is imperative in order to untangle the web of wrongdoing and deceit that APD has weaved. They fear anyone with New Mexico law enforcement ties could be compromised and unable to sweep the nest clean.

One thing that stirred no controversy was the restaurant where the outgoing Mayor and the Mayor-to-be decided to lunch. The Artichoke Cafe is a fixture at Edith and Central. It has had its ups and down over the years, but right now it is hitting on all cylinders and is one of the best in the city.

We understand Mayor Berry picked the Artichoke for the mayoral meet. If only his decision making had been so spot on when it came to APD and the ART project. His approval rating might be at 54 percent--not 34.


We were saddened to hear that Ray Powell's health is forcing him to drop out of the race for the 2018 Democratic nomination for state land commissioner. He has held that office several times--longer than anyone in state history--and has served New Mexico tirelessly and with much success. Our lands were in good hands with Ray. He said on Facebook Wednesday:

I recently learned that I have a rare auto-immune condition called myasthenia gravis. While there is a very good probability that with treatment I can live an active life, I cannot sustain the intensity of effort that New Mexico needs and deserves. In the past when faced with challenges and adversity I just worked harder. Regrettably, that is not an option in this case. Therefore, I have reached a very difficult decision that I will not continue my run for Land Commissioner for 2018.

Powell, 67, had one last political surprise as he announced his withdrawal. He's backing northern State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard for the land office nomination:

As I step away from this race I am appreciative that an extremely well qualified leader is willing to take up the cause. Stephanie Garcia Richard is one of us, a fighter with a strong history of standing up for New Mexico and its people. Stephanie is a native New Mexican with connections to the land from her family’s in La Garita. Her years fighting for working New Mexicans in the State Legislature and as an educator has proven she is the leader we need at the Land Office.

Garcia Richard would be the first female state land commissioner but the path to the nomination is anything but easy. Conservative Democrat and State Senator George Munoz of Gallup is already running. So is environmentalist Garret VeneKlasen who has the backing of Senator Heinrich.

And get this. There is already a forum for the Dem land commission candidates. It will be tonight and is sponsored by the Santa Fe Dem Party. It will be the coming out party for Garcia Richard who will be there along with the other two hopefuls.

On the Republican side it's still not certain whether incumbent GOP Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, Jr. will seek a second term after ending a brief run for the GOP nomination for the southern congressional seat. He won't say. Now he's talking about making a run for Governor as a Libertarian. (Republican Pat Lyons has announced his candidacy so we're assuming Dunn is out of the land commission race).

Following the madcap adventures of Aubrey is like following the tail of a fish waggling in the water. But 2018 is shaping up to be a Dem year whether he is in the running or not.


And the Alligators who told us to prepare for a run for a State Auditor candidacy by Las Cruces area Dem State Rep. Bill McCamley had it right. He announced a run for the Dem nomination shortly after current State Auditor Tim Keller won the ABQ mayoral election Tuesday night.

Now the Alligators are saying this could be a crowded race and that while McCamley is first in, he still would have time to walk back the announcement if things don't go well and seek re-election to his state House seat that he has held since 2013.

Meanwhile, Gov. Martinez will soon appoint a state auditor to finish out the 13 months left in Keller's term That will be interesting. Interested in the job? She's taking applications here.


House Speaker Egolf says he is not worried about losing any seats because of the ambitions of his members for statewide office. He says the McCamley district is solid Democrat and that he already has a strong list of candidates to replace Garcia Richard.
He also tells us her district, while still in the swing category, has been growing a bit more blue in recent years.


click to enlarge
Now that the ABQ mayor's race is over and there is less than a year to go until the 2018 general election, get ready for the Guv and legislative campaigns to gear up.

The three major hopefuls for the Dem nomination will be at a Monday fund-raiser in Las Cruces to benefit the House candidates sponsored by House Majority Whip Doreen Gallegos.

Watch your wallets! Here they come, New Mexico!


Thanks for joining us this week on the blog, Facebook, Twitter, KANW- 89.1 FM and kanw.com for our wall-to-wall election coverage It's been a fun and gratifying week as it always is when so many of you turn to us for your election coverage.

Finally, thanks to candidates Tim Keller, Dan Lewis, Cynthia Borrego and Robert Aragon who campaigned tirelessly this year to improve the quality of life in ABQ.

Reporting to you from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

KELLER TAKES CONTROL: Scores Landslide Mayoral Victory Taking 62% Of Vote; "Thank You For Clear Mandate"; Victory Ends 8 Year GOP Rule In ABQ; Dem Borrego Beats Keller Foe For Council Seat  

Mayor-Elect Keller (Sorber, Journal)
Tim Keller scored a landslide victory in ABQ Tuesday night, giving Democrats control of City Hall after an 8 year Republican run and setting the stage for a major change in tone and policy in the state's largest city. Keller, who will turn 40 this month, will take the oath of office for a four year term December 1.

The charismatic Keller swept through the city with opposition that was softer than the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Republican Dan Lewis could manage only 38 percent of the vote to Keller's 62 percent. (Complete results here.)

"It was about a city wanting to hope again, to turn the corner on the drumbeat of negativity to getting on with solving our problems and making ABQ realize its potential," opined Gene Grant of KNME-TV to our KANW-FM 89.1 Election Night audience.

Our other experts nodded in agreement. They said the landslide was due to that and these other reasons:

--The city had tired of 8 years of GOP rule under Mayor Berry and his lack of success in curbing the crime wave.

--The smooth campaign run by Keller with emphasis on the ground game and getting out the vote. 

--Keller is charismatic, intelligence and telegenic. He looks like change. It brought voters to his side and he will become the second youngest mayor in city history.

--The Keller message or as veteran Dem activist Sandy Buffett explained: "Tim had an aspirational message and his opponent was all negative."

Keller's assertion in his Election Night victory speech that he was given a "mandate" was backed up not only by the massive win, but by a healthy turnout of 96,908, only slightly lower than the 97,399 who showed up for the initial round of balloting October 3 and led to Tuesday's run-off election. (Keller's full speech is here.)

Lewis alone
The race was immediately called by our KANW 89.1 FM election team when 60,451 votes cast early and absentee were posted thirty minutes after the polls closed. That represented over 60 percent of all votes cast. Keller was ahead with 63 percent and only gave up a point when all the ballots, including the 38 percent of the vote cast on Election Day, were counted.

The small gathering for Dan Lewis cleared out fast and the night belonged to a jubilant Keller who gave media interviews and mingled with the throng gathered at the Hotel Andaluz. Only a couple of hundred yards away at the downtown Hyatt his rival admitted defeat early and called Keller to congratulate him. He then conducted this press gaggle.

The photo posted here and snapped by KRQE-TV's Chris McKee at Lewis' party sums up the moment. Lewis appears abandoned, a fitting analogy as his own Republican Party never fully warmed to his candidacy.


I asked Keller in our radio interview for details on his transition. He confirmed that former high ranking city officials James B. Lewis and Fred Mondragon are helping to head up his transition team. He will need their expertise as he pointed out his will be the shortest transition in city history with only days to go before he takes the oath. However, the transition will continue over the course of several months, he said, and he will select interim leaders for some city departments as he ponders who to name permanently.

As he said during the campaign, APD will get an interim chief as a national search is launched for a new APD leader for a city besieged by crime and which was the paramount issue of the campaign.

Keller's pick for the powerful position of Chief Administrative Officer is widely anticipated and should come soon.

Former City Councilor Pete Dinelli said while there is hope for change in ABQ there is also impatience over the crime epidemic. Realistic or not, Dinelli said "people will expect some results in 6 to 12 months. Because of the state of the city and the high expectations for Keller, this could be a relatively short honeymoon."


The Keller camp breathed easier when the results came in from the runoff in City Council District 5 on the west side and showed Dem Cynthia Borrego handily defeating R Robert Aragon, an ardent Keller foe.

The Borrego win--54-46%--gives Keller 6 Dems on the nine member council, a super majority if he can keep them together. Most important there will be no Robert Aragon, an effective opponent who has now been silenced.


Former City Councilor Greg Payne and consultant Steve Cabiedes said that the mayoral election also showed that a progressive Democrat can unite the party. "It doesn't always have to be a progressive reaching out to the moderates. Keller showed how it can be the other way around, even though he also had appeal to independents who liked his watchdogging as State Auditor." Said Cabiedes.

Payne said Keller's willingness to criticize Berry and Borrego's willingness to take on both Berry and Gov. Martinez was a departure from previous "meek" Democratic behavior that cost them dearly. "He brought home the Democrats because he showed something that has not been seen from them--leadership," analyzed the Democratic attorney.


Here's our Election Night radio gang and I want to thank them for a great job.

From left to right is Republican Rick Abraham, Democrat strategist Sisto Abeyta, Gene Grant of KNME-TV, Greg Payne, Catherine Trujillo who ran in District 5 in the October 3 election, your blogger and former City Councilor Pete Dinelli. They were all on their game last night.

However there was one problem. We forgot to thank listener Claire Dudley Chavez for buying pizza for the crew. We may be tired but we're not hungry--thanks to Claire and her husband.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Election Day '17 Is Here: Final Campaign Hours Consumed By Late Ethics Board Decision Against Frontrunner Keller; Lewis Tries to Make Some Last Minute Hay, Plus: Our Election Night Coverage Begins At 6:30 P.M. On KANW 89.1 FM and KANW.COM  

Our live continuous Election Night coverage begins at 6:30 this evening on KANW-FM 89.1 and on KANW.COM. More on that later in the blog but first our final dispatch from the trail. . . 

Mayoral Campaign '17 ended Monday in a flurry of finger-pointing as an unexpected and very late decision by the city's Board of Ethics roiled the waters enough to breathe a bit of life into the oxygen starved candidacy of Republican Dan Lewis and keep the butterflies churning in the stomach of frontrunner and Democratic hopeful Tim Keller.

The board gave Keller a slap on the wrist for violating the rules over "in-kind" donations to his publicly financed campaign, saying he violated the city election code but the violation was unintentional so he would suffer no penalty. (The full ruling is here.)

It seemed a relatively innocuous decision, although ABQReport journalist Dennis Domrzalski said the Board's decision was "serious."

Whatever the case, coming as it did with only hours before Election Day voting, it sent both campaigns into high gear.  First, more on the ruling:

The Board of Ethics ruled that Keller violated the city's election code by claiming that cash donations to his publicly financed campaign were in-kind contributions. Despite the unanimous ruling, the board decided not to impose any penalty against Keller because it said he didn't intentionally break the election law. In the past, publicly financed candidates did the same thing, the board said. The board said that Keller's campaign consulting firm, Rio Strategies, solicited the cash contributions, deposited them in a bank account separate from Keller's campaign account, and then used the money to buy goods and services for Keller's campaign.

Lewis, who has made ethical complaints against Keller a centerpiece of his uphill campaign, grabbed onto the ruling like a drowning man grabbing a life preserver:

This ruling serves as proof that Tim Keller lied to Albuquerque voters and illegally worked with his political allies to funnel cash to his campaign. How can we trust Tim to hold criminals in this city accountable when he thinks he is above the law himself.

Lewis was asked at a news conference whether he thought Keller should drop out of the race because of the ruling. He look surprised at the query and said "absolutely" while sporting a broad smile.

Well, given the polling in this race, never mind Keller dropping out, he might have to drop dead to give Lewis a reasonable shot.

The Lewis campaign immediately put ads on social media to publicize the ruling and hoped they could squeeze something out of it, even though over half the city vote has already been cast via early voting and Lewis, according to the Journal poll, is losing badly--53 to 34.

Keller, leading big, nevertheless loaded up his cannon for one final volley:

Though our opponents have used trumped up terms like dishonest, “money laundering” and “cash under the table,” those assertions were always baseless and the board’s ruling confirmed that today. That came out loud and clear in today’s ruling which emphatically notes our good faith efforts.

And Keller's campaign added that Lewis' tough talk against Keller on the ethics finding was "a last gasp effort."

But Keller's campaign made a mistake by not getting clear-cut, official permission for how they handled the in-kind donations. And the candidate paid a price in the final set of media headlines:

City Ethics Board rules against Keller campaign over in-kind donations
Board finds Keller violated ethics code
City Ethics Board confirms Keller violated campaign finance rules

The impact on the voting today will be negligible but you can be sure Keller's foes will use any future misstep to remind the city of the ruling. It makes the ethics walk a little narrower for the man who appears to be on his way to becoming the city's new leader.


The Board of Ethics ruling was immediately criticized by Alligators and pundits of all stripes as coming way too late in the process. What was an official government board doing meddling in the campaign on Election Eve? Why wasn't this complaint against Keller filed by Republican Wayne Johnson on September 8 not settled long ago?

Not that the ruling did much good for Lewis or Keller. For Lewis it was like getting your big Christmas present on the morning of December 26. If he had the time to use it in paid media, it might have made a difference. For Keller it was like a rain cloud put over his head just as the electorate was about to give him a halo.

The city ethics system is broken. The Board can't do its job efficiently and its decision to tamper with voter behavior only hours before the polls opened seemed, well, unethical. Fixing the mess is yet another item for the next mayor's "To do" list.


And look who is out sniffing the political winds. It's Republicans Sally Mayer and Darren White. Former BernCo Sheriff White became ABQ Public Safety Director under Mayor Berry but was forced out after a crash involving his wife. He showed up at the scene and drove her to the hospital before she was tested for impairment.

Since then, White, a staunch anti-drug advocate during his law enforcement career, has reversed his position on medical marijuana and is now a director of the ABQ nonprofit medical cannabis firm PurLife. The firm gave $1000 to ABQ Forward Together, an independent committee supporting Keller. White was listed as the contact for the November 6 contribution.

Well, as the old saw goes, politics makes for strange bedfellows.

Let's see. The Journal endorses Keller, the medical pot firm that Darren White works with gives money to aid the Keller cause and former ABQ GOP City Councilor Sally Mayer, whose daughter heads CYFD under Governor Martinez, endorses Keller.

Gees, this is a tough race for us pundits to get a handle on. :)


Reader Clifton Chadwick read our Monday blog where we listed a number of reasons on why Keller has taken the upper hand in this campaign, but said there is one we did not mention:

While the money matters I'm disappointed you don't give a little ink to the army of volunteers Tim Keller for Albuquerque has had on the ground since the beginning of his campaign. Yes, I contributed to a committee backing him and if Tim is "beholden" to Labor I'm all for it. Better than being beholden to the owners as far as the vast majority of our citizenry is concerned. And so, back to the "Volunteer Labor" that has given Tim Keller for Albuquerque so much impetus - not even a word?


We look forward to having you with us as we cover the mayoral run-off and the westside city council run-off on KANW 89.1 FM and kanw.com starting at 6:30 this evening.

We have some top notch political talent to help bring this one home: Joining me will be former City Councilors Greg Payne and Pete Dinelli, veteran Dem strategist Sisto Abeyta, former Bernalillo County GOP Chairman Rick Abraham, among others.

And among those "others" is none other than Gene Grant, the longtime host of KNME-TV's public affairs program "In Focus" who is also a former columnist for the ABQ Journal. Gene is one of the top political analysts in the state and we are looking forward to working with him once again.

And also joining us will be independent Catherine Trujillo who ran in that hotly contested District 5 city council race that is going to a run-off tonight.

Gene Grant
The Keller election night party will be at Hotel Andaluz and the Lewis event will be at the downtown Hyatt.

If you haven't voted yet, here are the polling locations that are open today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Election Eve '17: Where We Are And How We Got There, Plus: Drama Drained From Mayor's Race But Aragon Vs. Borrego For Council Draws Eyeballs, And: Join Us For Our Election Special Today at 5 p.m. On 89.1 FM 

Joe Monahan (Bralley)
Join us today at 5 p.m. on KANW 89.1 FM and kanw.com for our Election Eve special as we cover the final hours of Campaign '17 and prepare to bring you live, continuous Election Night coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. Now off to the trail. . .

Dan Lewis has been nearly contemptuous in the way he has dismissed Tim Keller in this mayoral race, casting him as an underachieving politician with a big blind spot when it comes to ethics. But the public sees something different and tomorrow night, unless there is an upset of epic proportions, the 39 year old Democratic State Auditor will soundly defeat his Republican rival and get his revenge for the unrelenting attacks Lewis administered to him during their more than 50 public appearances together.

The ABQ Journal poll released Sunday showing Keller at 53 percent to Lewis' 34 and 13 undecided wasn't even the final nail in the coffin. Lewis's political casket had been lowered into the ground the night of October 3 when he earned only 23 percent of the vote to Keller's 39 percent and the run-off limped forward.

Let's take a look at some of the factors that got us to where we are on this Election Eve.


R's are not often outspent in top competitive level races but it happened this time.

According to figures compiled by the Journal's Martin Salazar, Keller's publicly financed campaign received a total of $506,000 for the initial Oct. 3 election and the run-off. But the killer for Lewis was the $852,000 raised in support of Keller by political committees independent of his campaign.

That amounts to a total of $1.358 million for Keller, far surpassing any previous mayoral spending, including the $920,000 raised by Mayor Berry's 2013 re-election campaign.

It's true that unlike in '13 we have had two elections this cycle but Keller's number is nearly 50 percent higher then Berry's spending just four years ago.

Lewis, dealing with a divided GOP, raised a total of $847,000, not even close to Keller's count.

Keller's critics say his campaign made a farce of public financing because of those outside committees and that his administration will find itself too beholden to the labor interests that donated so much of that committee cash.

Perhaps, but Keller's spending left Lewis in the dust. In the final days, he struggled to keep a decent TV buy on the air.


Another reason for this polling blowout is Lewis' difficulty in getting his attacks over Keller's ethics to stick. It's even more difficult when Keller, in his role as State Auditor, continues to uncover ethics capers across the state, like the one at UNM that made headlines only days before the election:

The State Auditor released an audit Friday on the UNM Athletics Department, revealing the University has missed out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, due to what the audit calls “a lack of financial controls and confusion about responsibilities among staff.”

Lewis has had some success with the ethics complaints the R's have filed against Keller over how money was handled by his campaign but most won't be decided until after the election. That deprives Lewis of a clean hit on his foe, if the ethics board eventually goes his way.


Then there's the TV ads where Lewis has been so heavily outspent. We asked media watcher and ad buyer Chris Brown in Santa Fe for a final update on the ad buys in the mayoral run-off.

He says a small error on one station's spreadsheet reduces the Keller campaign buy from the previously reported $90,000 to $85,000. But the big media story  continues to be how Keller and the committees backing him have used a pile of cash to dominate Lewis on the airwaves:

Joe, We have the ABQ Forward Together committee supporting Keller spending $226,102 on TV for the run-off. Combined with the $90,000 from the Keller campaign, that's $316,000. Lewis' final total appears to  be $151,902. We end with Lewis being outspent on the air by a better than two to one margin. 


Then there's Lewis' other media problem, The reliably Republican ABQ Journal is twisted in knots over this election. First, they issue a bizarre dual endorsement in the October 3 balloting for Democrat Brian Colón and Dan Lewis. Then, on Thursday, apparently seeing the handwriting on the wall, they come with a rare endorsement of a Democrat for a top office, giving the nod to Keller over Republican Lewis.

The endorsement will do little to bolster Keller as it is mainly read by Republicans, but it hurt Lewis and R's we spoke with were not happy about it.

The waffling at the paper may reflect the economic stagnation and uncertainty in ABQ, where newspaper circulation continues to slide and advertising is more important than ever--including hefty government advertising.

Remember, it is not the editorial board, composed of the lowly ink-stained wretches, who decide who the newspaper ultimately endorses, it's the owners--the Lang family. They must navigate a dangerous landscape while riding the ultimate dinosaur.


If Keller wins he will likely have only a short-lived honeymoon with the paper. That's clear as they were back to their predictable ways with an endorsement of Republican Robert Aragon over Dem Cynthia Borrego in the run-off for the District 5 westside city council seat.

Aragon is a card carrying member of the Governor's political machine who was defeated by Keller when the two ran for State Auditor in 2014. If elected, Aragon would likely become the opposition leader to Keller--an effort that would get full media coverage. No wonder Dems are working so hard for Borrego.

Aragon, 60, an attorney with a family political pedigree that goes back decades, is no plain thorn in the side. He showed his stuff at the NM Business Coalition job interviews where he swung at the ball hard and scored. The DNA of La Politica and the Movida runs thick in his bloodstream.

A who's who of GOP donors have flocked to Aragon, supplying him with ample cash as he tries to fend off what could be a Democratic wave in his swing district. Old political rivals in the NM GOP like Harvey Yates and Pat Rogers are united in their support of Aragon, both donating cash. Consultant Jay McCleskey is on the ground with Aragon, coordinating the mail strategy.

The R's desperately want Aragon in to thwart Keller. If Borrego and Keller win, Keller would have a veto proof city council majority of 6 to 3.

Again, whether Aragon wins tomorrow night could make a major difference in how a Keller administration would navigate the political waters. In other words, if Aragon is defeated Keller won't be dodging a bullet, he'll be dodging a cannon.

Aragon vs. Borrego will be front and center when we take to the KANW airwaves Election Night at 6:30 p.m. 


Keller and Pena
Also on the endorsement front, ABQ Dem City Councilor Klarrisa Pena finally came with an endorsement Thursday of fellow Dem Keller. She prefaced it by calling it "Better late than never" and said:

Joe Monahan, you’re an awesome dude but you got this one wrong. I have been a supporter of Tim’s long before his run for Mayor. He has been a champion for issues important to Albuquerque’s South West Area. As State Senator he provided dollars for the soon to be a reality Visitors Center atop of Nine Mile Hill on Central.

Well, to be truly awesome we'll have to do some work on our upper body muscles, but we appreciate the description.

As far as being wrong, we blogged October 31 that when it comes to Keller Councilor Pena appeared to be a hold out. At that time she had not issued an endorsement of Keller and her name was notably absent from a fund-raiser for Keller that listed all her fellow Democratic councilors as co-hosts. Does that make her "appear" to be a hold-out? You decide.

The Keller team said Pena's endorsement would come the week of the Oct. 31 blog, but it never did. Councilor Pena said a family emergency interfered with the endorsement and it finally came last Thurday with two days left in early voting.

Look, there's no doubt that Keller and Pena would be on the same page on a majority of issues, but their differences over the controversial Santolina development proposed for the far westside is not going away. That and other matters could color the relationship between the mayor and the council. And that's the news we predict you will be reading about down the line.


From a Senior Alligator:

Joe, Republican Wayne Johnson (who finished fourth in the Oct 3. mayoral balloting and did not make the run-off) does not have a Dan Lewis yard sign in front of his casa. When Wayne's signs came down, nothing replaced them. Maybe they ran out!

Is that what you call a sign of the times?

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Thursday, November 09, 2017

More Wind At Keller's Back? Latest Election Results Bolster Dem Hopes For Big Mayoral Win, Plus: Another One? Already? PNM Rate Hike Request Comes Amid Stunning Profit Report 

There's little question that Tim Keller has the wind at his back going into next Tuesday's ABQ mayoral election, but did a sudden gust push him even further ahead?

The big Democratic wins in the East Coast gubernatorial races, combined with a progressive Democratic sweep of three Las Cruces city council seats Tuesday night, confirm the Dem enthusiasm that we saw in the initial Oct. 3 ABQ mayoral balloting and that continues in the early voting stats.

According to Data Flux, Dems are outgunning the R's in early turnout 54-34. About 46 percent of the city's electorate is registered Democrats.

Keller scored a landslide win in the first round, scoring 39 percent of the vote to Republican Dan Lewis' 23 percent. If Keller scores another big win it will make it that much easier for him in pursuing his goals in the early months of his administration.

Both Keller and Lewis have transition teams at City Hall as each prepares to take over from Mayor Berry December 1, but with Keller the frontrunner the focus is on him.

One member of Keller's transition team says they are uncovering a "real mess" in many city departments, even as they praise Mayor Berry for conducting the transition in a professional manner.

Keller is already being advised by longtime politicos to immediately report to the public problems found within individual departments and announce his plans for reform. Otherwise, they warn, he could get saddled with Berry's negative baggage at the outset of his term.

Keller is said by sources to have several individuals in mind for the critical position of chief administrative officer, who under the City Charter is charged with running the day-to-day affairs of the city. However, the names are being kept under wraps.

But there's still an election to be held--or half of one since about 50 percent of the vote or more is expected to be cast in early voting which ends Friday. Lewis can't let fatalistic talk about his prospects deter him from a final stretch full charge. Nothing is written in stone until the votes are counted.

(Early voting locations here.)

Speaking of counting the votes, we'll do just that when we convene our traditional wall-to-wall Election Night coverage on KANW 89.1 FM and kanw.com. We'll kick it off at 6:30 p.m.

On Monday at 5 p.m. on KANW my guest experts will join me for our Election Eve Special to chronicle the campaign that was and what to watch for when the vote count starts Tuesday night.

We've covered every mayoral election on KANW since 1989 and we look forward to being with you once again to bring you the very latest results, expert analysis and even a few laughs.


Reader Jeff Baker reacts to the speculation on the Wednesday blog about who will replace Keller as state auditor if he wins Tuesday:

My money is on Robert Aragon to be appointed by Gov. Martinez as the next State Auditor if Tim Keller is elected Mayor and Aragon loses his City Council run-off race to Democrat Cynthia Borrego. Call it “Susana’s revenge” on the Dems.

Not a bad bet. Susana's appointee will fill out a full year left in Keller's term and could cause plenty of havoc. Of course, if Aragon wins the council seat and Keller is mayor, Aragon will be causing plenty of havoc for the new His Honor. You can bet on that.


The local electric company is riding a wave of profits thanks in part to a 10 percent rate hike given to it by the state last year. And its stock price has doubled in the past five years. Now they want another rate hike to the tune of 9 percent?

PNM's net earnings rose by 48 percent in the third-quarter of 2017. . .That marks the third straight quarter of double-digit growth for the utility, driving the company’s net earnings for the first nine months of 2017 up by 71 percent compared to last year. The growth largely reflects a 10 percent rate hike for average residential customers that took effect last October. . . Company finances could improve more in 2018 and 2019, depending on the outcome of PNM’s current rate case at the NM Public Regulation Commission. The utility is seeking another 9 percent average rate hike to be phased in over two years. 

That would mean a 19 percent rate increase over three years. In a stagnant economy like New Mexico's? Where unemployment is among the worst in the USA

And here's the kicker. Because the economy here is a big sag, electric consumption continues to be a problem for the utility causing it to seek to drive our electric rates ever higher:

Those trends continued in the third quarter, with flat or declining consumption among residential, commercial and industrial customers. Overall, the company’s electric load fell by nearly 1 percent from July-September, and by 0.7 percent year to date.

Not only do Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico have to put up with a stagnant economy, it appears they have to pay PNM a fine for it.

If we spot anyone with hind legs at the PRC who is ready to make a serious challenge to Reddy Kilowatt, we'll be sure to light up the blog with the news.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Jockeying To Succeed Keller As Auditor Starts, Keller Makes Direct Strike On GOP Hitman At TV Debate And Lewis Outspent On TV 2 to 1 In Runoff 

If Tim Keller makes it to mayor it could be only a matter of hours before the race to replace him as state auditor is joined. Behind the scenes the action is already warming up.

Insiders expect ABQ congressional candidate and attorney Damian Lara to reconsider his run for the US House seat if Keller is victorious and consider launching a campaign for the Dem nomination for Auditor. And he may have quick company.

The Alligators report that Las Cruces area State Rep. Bill McCamley is making calls saying he's considering an Auditor run. Also, add Bernalillo County Assessor Tanya Giddings to the list of possibles. There could be more.

But there's a wrinkle for those Dems. If Keller wins, GOP  Gov. Martinez will get to name a replacement to fill out the remainder of his term through 2018. Not that that will slow the Dems down. No R has been elected state auditor in decades. But the Martinez appointee could have the advantage of the incumbency, if the person Martinez selects decides to seek the four year term.

Another office that has not seen a Republican elected to in decades is state treasurer. Current Dem State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg is running for another four year term. The R's are fielding a political unknown Jason Hessler out of Artesia to take him on. Not much action there unless Eichenberg blows himself up with some kind of controversy.


Republican operative and attorney Pat Rogers has been merciless on Tim Keller, publicly calling him a "cheat" for alleged campaign ethics violations. Verbal brawling is par for the course for Rogers and the Governor's political machine to which he has sworn his allegiance, but the worm is about to turn.

After absorbing numerous Rogeresque hits quietly, Keller is now on the offense. At last night's KOB-TV debate he responded to Rogers using language that Democrats have mostly shied away from these past seven years:

This was never an issue until right before the election, and then here come a litany of ethics complaints all coming from one person: a disgraced lawyer, a partisan operative who was literally kicked out of their law firm for sexist emails. That's where all of this is coming from.

It seems the Dems, poised to retake power after a long exile, are no longer easy pickings for Rogers and the machine. You could almost hear that worm turning last night.

(Rogers resigned from the Modrall law firm in 2012 after an uproar over an email he sent in which he said Gov. Martinez had dishonored General Custer by attending a summit with tribal leaders. Rogers is a former GOP National Committeeman who was defeated for re-election last year by Harvey Yates, Jr.)

And the mayoral appearances roll on. The NM Business Coalition is conducting "job interviews" for the mayoral hopefuls as well as for candidates for the Westside city council run-off:

The Job Interview BASH is going down on November 9, 2017, from 5:00 - 7:00 pm, at the MCM Elegante Hotel, Candidates will not know what the questions are in advance, will be limited in time on their responses, can only talk about themselves and must answer the question that was asked. No debate, no one talking over anyone - only one candidate will be in the room at a time. This format means New Mexico voters will be able to hear where these candidates stand on several issues in just a few short minutes.

Tickets for the event are here.


One of the major developments of the mayoral run-off is how Republican Dan Lewis has been heavily outspent on TV by Dem Keller. Media veteran Chris Brown reports from Santa Fe:

Joe, Lewis has spent a total of $140,681 for 1,130 TV ads--646 for cable and 484 spots on the four network affiliates.

Keller's campaign has spent $92,317 for 662 spots (15 seconds). All of the money went to the network affiliates. However, the independent committee supporting Keller--ABQ forward--has bought $184,215 for 654 TV ads--213 on cable and 441 on the network affiliates.

That's $276,532 for pro-Keller ads and $140,681 for Lewis. Keller's nearly two to one spending advantage is significant and will impact this race.

Brown reports another committee supporting Keller has not spent money on TV but is apparently supporting him with mail and field support.


Reader Hal Gershenson writes:

Hey Joe, How come you haven't mentioned the Facebook ad that Lauren Poole and that former Mayor Marty Chavez did for Tim Keller? It's had 100k views which is as viral as it gets in an Albuquerque mayoral race. Marty may get a Golden Globe for his pronunciation of "sandwich."

Okay, here it is, Hal.


A state lawmaker is proposing a way to have public comment from New Mexicans who cannot physically be in Santa Fe to testify. ABQ Dem Sen. Jacob Candelaria wants to introduce legislation in the upcoming session aimed to allow people to give their testimony before legislative committees through online means. 

Candelaria said many New Mexicans cannot make the trek to Santa Fe, especially those living in rural parts of the state.

Why go to Santa Fe and catch a cold at the Roundhouse when you could do your business in your pajamas--just like a blogger.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2017

On The Trail: More Santolina Digs At Keller; Is Developer Digging A Hole For Itself? Plus: Pity The New Mayor And 5th Entrant In Dem Light Guv Contest 

David Villegas photo
The Santolina developers have been ants at the Keller political picnic. Well, more like big, fat cockroaches.

First they hit him in dark media ads for coddling sex offenders. That didn't stop him so now they may double down and are pondering filing a lawsuit against State Auditor Keller for raising questions about water rights for the giant planned community proposed for the far westside.

Santolina asserts Keller's questioning of the water situation is retaliation for those hard-hitting, if over-the-top sex offender ads.

We know developers like to dig holes, but the one Santolina is digging for itself could mean the end--or at least a very long delay for Santolina--if Keller wins November 14.

After the pounding Santolina has given him he will be motivated to do all in his power to halt the development--and it won't be difficult.

Maybe Santolina knows they are dead money under Keller and waging a war to the death is their only option. It certainly seems that way now that a they have Republican operative and wild swinging machine Pat Rogers serving as attorney for their cause.

Well, good luck, fellas. . .

It's another round of Keller vs. Lewis tonight at 6 as the mayoral pair face off in another TV debate. This one is being hosted by KOB-TV. There are a lot fewer voters to convince than when the first TV debate aired Oct. 29. We now have at least 40,000 early votes already cast. . .

On the paid media side of the equation you wonder what happened to that independent committee that was supposed to go to work for Lewis under the stewardship of ABQ/Phoenix attorney Simon Kubiak. We blogged of its formation, but it never got off the ground.

That left Lewis outspent on TV in the final days by Keller's publicly financed campaign of $125,000 and two committees independent of his campaign that have raised over $225,000 to support him.

That development plus trends in early turnout thus far show the enthusiasm in this mayoral cycle is with the Dems.


Pity the new mayor. Really. . .

A Subway store on San Mateo is robbed eight times in the past ten months and there's no end in sight. . . A homeless couple pitches a tent and moves onto the roof of a lawyer's office building near Nob Hill and the lawyer below complains about the pooping going on overhead. . . A group of citizens so flummoxed by the lack of crime fighting in the city form a group to fight it on their own. We used to call that vigilantism, now we thank them for it. . .And the murder meter for 2017 is poised to set a new record of well over 70 dead. . .

After that, just being a state auditor or city councilor doesn't sound so bad.

On a more upbeat note. . .

The two mayoral candidates conducted separate interviews with the "Dukes Up" group which was formed to"resist" the Trump administration:

Each candidate answers questions while consuming salsa of increasing intensity. The concept behind the project is to provide a different/easy/entertaining way for viewers to engage in politics and get to know the candidates. 

The videos of Lewis and Keller on their hot seats are here.


But can it stay there? That's the question state budget nerds are asking as the price of oil hits a two year high and breaks over $57 a barrel. For each buck the price rises the state says it gets about $10 million more taxes and royalties into its cash-starved general fund. They've been figuring on the price averaging about $48 a barrel so this is no small change.

But before they can start counting the winnings, they're going to have to mark their calenders. For the state to realize more oil money the price has to stay at current levels for a number of months--not days. Still, the upward tick has the bean counters watching as closely as Phil Griego counts the zeroes on a commission check.


Remember, government doesn't create jobs. The news:

According to Fobes, Los Alamos County is the sixth richest in the United States. The smallest county in New Mexico is also the wealthiest, with the median income at $107,000. The cost of an average home in Los Alamos is $535,000 and Forbes predicts this will go up.

Yep, government doesn't create jobs. Remember that.


Southern NM is getting some representation in the race for the '18 Dem nomination for lieutenant governor. Dona Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett is the fifth hopeful in the contest:

Governor Martinez and President Trump are using the power of their positions to benefit a few at the expense of everyone else. I’m running to be your next Lieutenant Governor because New Mexico needs a team in Santa Fe with the courage, experience, and vision to see that state government addresses the needs of residents as its primary responsibility.”

The other candidates seeking the nomination are ABQ state Senator Michael Padilla, former ABQ state Rep. Rick Miera, Jeff Carr, a former member of the Public Education Commission and David McTeigue of Rio Rancho, a juvenile probation officer.

Thanks to longtime ABQ photographer David Villegas for the image at the top of the blog today. Check out his Facebook page for further info.

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