Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Another Rural Broadband Rollout And More Questions About High Cost, Slow Pace And No Satellite Alternative, Plus: Rematch In ABQ Swing House Seat Taking Shape 

The state and Feds continue to roll-out multimillion dollar grants to bring high-speed broadband to remote areas. While each fiber connection established is a victory, it is one of the most expensive undertakings ever in rural New Mexico and is raising questions here and around the nation. 

We've repeatedly noted the absence of satellite internet as an additional alternative but one not promoted by the Feds or the state Office of Broadband Access and Expansion. It's as if they've never heard of it--or don't want to--even though satellite can be hooked up quickly and at a fraction of the cost of fiber. And the speed would more than satisfy many rural residents who are waiting years for fiber to reach their remote areas. 

Jemez Pueblo is the latest recipient of a generous grant from the Feds and state totaling $15.4 million to wire 687 connections. That's an average $22,215 each. On the other hand a slower satellite connection has a cost of about $500 for equipment and a monthly fee. 

But the Feds and state are not willing to go there.

It's all or nothing with fiber when they could be getting school kids and their laptops on line right now--not a decade from now, if then. 

The WSJ has more:

Nebraska’s Winnebago Tribe has long been stuck with sluggish internet service. The federal government plans to fix that by crisscrossing the reservation with fiber-optic cable—at an average cost of $53,000 for each household and workplace connected. That amount exceeds the assessed value of some of the homes getting hookups, property records show. . . The expense to reach some remote communities has triggered concerns over the ultimate price tag for ensuring every rural home, business, school and workplace in America has the same internet that city dwellers enjoy.

Blair Levin, a senior communications policy official in the Clinton and Obama administrations, says: “If you’re spending $50,000 to connect a very remote location, you have to ask yourself, would we be better off spending that same amount of money to connect [more] families?” 

The U.S. has committed more than $60 billion for what the Biden administration calls the “Internet for All” program, the latest in a series of sometimes troubled efforts to bring high-speed internet to rural areas. Providing fiber-optic cable is the industry standard, but alternative options such as satellite service are cheaper, if less reliable. Congress has left it up to state and federal officials implementing the program to decide how much is too much in hard-to-reach areas. In Montana, laying fiber-optic cable to some remote locations could cost more than $300,000 per connection.

At a minimum a legislative committee could spend a day questioning the state's broadband plans and how they might weave into the mix satellite and even wireless home internet from the phone companies which is becoming more common.

Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the Communications and Broadband Subcommittee, remains sanguine about the all-fiber broadband build-out but as Blair Levin told the WSJ "money is not infinite." What is Lujan's's plan if that post-pandemic generosity reverses?  Fiber is best but why not act now with some imaginative positioning of satellite and other alternatives?

As for Jemez Pueblo, they've established their own company to install the fiber as have other Pueblos.


It appears a rematch is in the making for swing state House District 29 on ABQ's westside.

Greg Cunningham announced that he will seek the Republican nomination to take on incumbent Representative Joy Garratt for District 29. “It was Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham’s recent unconstitutional open and concealed carry ban that fired me up to re-run," Cunningham said.

Cunningham, a native of ABQ and a Marine Corp veteran, has 22 years in law enforcement. He says:   

Albuquerque is in decay, and it is not due to bad policing but bad policy. Our elected officials do not prioritize public safety which has weakened our police force and exacerbated criminal behavior. 

Rep. Garratt could argue with Cunningham, the owner of private security firm, over whether public safety is prioritized. The fiscal 2024 city of ABQ General Fund budget is $825 million. Public safety is allocated $428 million, well over half the budget--not to mention the large public safety increases approved in recent years by the Legislature. 

(The city budget totals over $1 billion when various enterprise funds are included.) 

Garratt, an educator, is seeking her fourth two year term. In '22 she won re-election against Cunningham 53 to 47 so this is a race to watch.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Heinrich's Possible Guv Run Plans Could Be Preempted By Something Hard For Him To Resist; The Inside Scoop From DC, Plus: Loretta's PERA Loss, And: The Year Was 2008 

Sens. Heinrich & Manchin
Senator Martin Heinrich has not explicitly said he will seek the New Mexican governorship in 2026, if he is reelected to his Senate seat in 2024, but it's an open secret that that is his plan. Now, however, there is a wrinkle in that plan for the still far off election. There's a chance Heinrich could get a significant DC promotion that he might not be able to say no to, even if it means foregoing a run for Governor. 

Heinrich, 51, is currently fifth in Democratic seniority on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, usually a far cry from the chairmanship but circumstances have arisen that make Heinrich's ascension to that plum spot more reasonable than usual. Let's dive in. . . .

Energy Committee Chairman Joe Manchin is wrestling with his political future and reporting indicates the conservative Democrat from West Virginia may soon be through with his party: 

Manchin and his family said. . . the senator was considering three options: running for reelection in West Virginia as an independent, running for president as a No Labels candidate or retiring from politics. Manchin has not decided what path to pursue, but it seemed clear to those he met with that he is likely to leave the Democratic Party if he chooses to stay in politics. . . 

That is potentially major news for New Mexico politics as well as for billions in federal funding for the state's national labs and other installations operated by the Dept. of Energy.


It breaks down this way: Manchin leaves the Democrats and his committee chairmanship. The Dems remain in the majority after next year's election. Under seniority the chairmanship would fall to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, but Wyden is already chairman of the powerful Committee on Finance. He could not also chair Energy. The betting is he would keep Finance. 

Sen. Wyden
Next in line is Washington state Senator Maria Cantwell who is up for reelection next year and is a heavy favorite to win. However, Cantwell is chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. If Wyden doesn't want Energy it would fall to Cantwell who would have to give up her current chairmanship. Would she? 

If Wyden and Cantwell turn it down next up is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. The 82 year old has not announced his reelection. He can be expected to run and win but if he doesn't he would be off of Energy and bumping UP Heinrich in seniority behind Wyden and Cantwell. 

Like Wyden and Cantwell Sanders also has a plum chairmanship. His is the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. If he stays in the Senate, that's not a position the independent Senator who caucuses with the Democrats is giving up, given his long interest and support of American Labor. 

If all those dominoes fall then Sen. Heinrich would finally be in line for the chairmanship of a major standing committee of the US Senate. It's difficult to imagine how he could turn down what would be a dream job helping lead national energy policy--a subject that has always animated him, along with the environment. And those are priority issues for this new generation of New Mexico Democrats who are repeatedly supporting Heinrich. 

Apart from the massive changes occurring with fossil fuels, renewable energy and climate change, the Energy Committee is important to New Mexico because of those national labs--Sandia and Los Alamos. Former Senator Jeff Bingaman was a longtime chairman of the committee as was GOP Senator Pete Domenici.


Sec. Haaland
Heinrich has not quashed the Governor rumors leading analysts to doubt his enthusiasm for his current job, but a chairmanship in the middle of the key issues of the 21st century could revitalize his DC ambitions. 

While he faces an easy 2024 reelection bid, his feelers for the '26 Governor's race have been greeted tentatively by some top Dems. One reason is the possible Guv ambitions of former ABQ US Rep and now Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland. At last word from solid sources she remains "highly interested" in the position.

Heinrich's 14 year DC career (he was first elected to the House in 2008) has been workmanlike but has not sparkled. His deep interest in energy matters accompanied with the chairmanship of a powerful standing committee of the Senate would drastically change his status and also get New Mexico back into the power circle. 

Readers may be surprised to hear that Heinrich is currently a chairman of a committee--the Joint Economic Committee--but it is an advisory panel that monitors the economy and does not legislate. Heinrich rarely comments on the committee's work. He may agree with those who call economics the "dismal science."

If the cards fall his way next year the state's senior Senator could finally be in a much more joyful position. 


Jeff Bingaman. He turns 80 in a couple of days and recently authored a book on his Senate career--Breakdown: Lessons for a Congress in Crisis. . .


Here's an eyebrow raiser. 

Loretta Naranjo Lopez, a longtime member of the Public Employee Retirement Board (PERA) and who is seeking the ABQ City Council District 2 seat at the November 7 election, has been voted off the board. In unofficial results she lost to Stephen Astorga, 59 to 41 percent. Naranjo Lopez served on the PERA board since 2005. She was censured several times by fellow board members. We blogged her history August 21

The year could get even tougher for Loretta, head of the Santa Barbara Martinez Town Neighborhood Association. The front-runner for the council position is Joaquin Baca, a member of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. The other candidate in the race is retired teacher Moises Gonzalez. Here's a 90 minute District 2 debate sponsored by the Old Town and Sawmill neighborhoods. 


Election Night 2008
Finally, in keeping with our top theme today, here is some of our traditionally breathless Election Night coverage from the November 5, 2008 blog when Martin Heinrich claimed the ABQ congressional seat for the Democrats:

(The Democrats) most satisfying win and the one they showcased for the 10 p.m. news audience was the historic win of Democrat Martin Heinrich for the ABQ congressional seat. After decades of heart breakers often led by high-profile candidates, it was the unheralded Heinrich, a former one term ABQ city councilor, who finally ended the GOP's 40 year old stranglehold on the seat. What was supposed to be a cliffhanger quickly turned into a rout. When the early and absentee vote was released Heinrich took a nearly 30,000 vote lead in Bernalillo County. You could see the white flags go up at the ABQ Marriott where state Republicans gathered. Into the early morning hours Heinrich held to a 31,000 vote lead--161,551 to 130,101 with 55% of the vote to Darren White's 45%. The champagne poured at the ABQ Convention Center where the Dems rejoiced, but the liquor turned to embalming fluid at the mournful gathering of R's.

"The liquor turned to embalming fluid." Yeah, we were really hoppin' that night. 

The year was 2008. 

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Monday, September 25, 2023

State Shrugs At GOP Calls For MLG Impeachment; GOP Reps Sign On But Not A Single Dem; Odds Of Impeachment Seen As Slim To None, Plus: Readers Rebut Criticism of Rep. Vasquez 

New Mexico has largely shrugged off Republican calls for the impeachment of Gov. Lujan Grisham in the wake of her controversial order banning the carrying of of firearms in Albuquerque (an order since stayed by a federal court and then amended by the Governor). That's probably because the public perceives impeachment as a tool reserved for overt criminals act. While disagreeing with the order they don't see her gun ban rising anywhere near that level. 

Here's what the NM Constitution says about impeachment via a memo from the Legislative Council Service:

The Constitution of New Mexico provides that elected state officers may be impeached for "crimes, misdemeanors and malfeasance in office." The sole power to impeach rests with the New Mexico House of Representatives. The "concurrence of a majority of all members elected" to the House is required to impeach.

The dictionary definition of malfeasance is "wrongdoing or misconduct by public officials" so impeachment can be a political decision. 

Lawmakers under intense scrutiny could be expected to follow criminal law but it's not required. Technically a majority of the state House could impeach MLG because they did not like the color of her hair and send the matter to the state Senate for a trial. 

MLG impeachment advocates maintain she violated her oath of office to uphold the Constitution with the gun ban.

In addition to a public not backing the radical remedy of impeachment there are the numbers. Given the partisan breakdown of the current Legislature and the shaky grounds impeachment rests on, it's a near impossibility for MLG to be impeached by a majority of the state House. Here's why with the help of a social media commentator:

Under the NM Constitution, to call themselves into an extraordinary session to consider impeachment the Legislature needs approval of 3/5 of the members of each chamber. The House has 70 members, the Senate has 42. So 3/5 is 42 Representatives and 25 Senators who would need to sign on to a session for impeachment. And this is all over a 30-day executive order by the Governor that has already been amended and will have expired long before a session could be held.  The House has 45 Democrats and 25 Republicans; the Senate has 27 Democrats and 15 Republicans. Assuming all Republicans are on board, they would need 17 Democrats in the House to impeach and 11 Democrats in the Senate to convict her. How likely is that? All the legislators calling for impeachment know (or should know) all this. But that's not the point, is it? 


It's notable that not one Democrat has signed on to impeach the Governor. At last count 15 of the 25 Republican Reps and four of the 15 GOP Senators had signed a "certification petition" being circulated to get an extraordinary session for impeachment. Neither GOP Senate leader Greg Baca or House leader Ryan Lane have signed. 

Even if the impeachment advocates fail to get the extraordinary session they seek--and they will fail--trying to impeach the Governor at the regular 30 day session of the Legislature is also a doomed effort to be nipped in the bud by the majority Democrats. 

Republicans might be better off talking about what they can do to reduce the gun violence but the emotions set off in their party by the issue of gun control is driving their agenda. 


If the House somehow impeached MLG the Senate would proceed to a trial and Democratic Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Cervantes of Las Cruces would be a key player. He's made clear his position: 

OK. I now have 1,000 emails to impeach the Governor. Of you who wrote, please let me know which of you also promoted impeachment of the last President for an unconstitutional coup. Integrity matters.


Vasquez & Herrell
We spilled a lot of digits recently discussing the supportive position of Dem southern NM Congressman Gabe Vasquez for a Republican-sponsored US House resolution condemning MLG's gun ban. We questioned the wisdom of that decision. Readers who disagreed reacted. Here's Ralph Moller:

Joe, I am a big fan of you and your blog, but I think you missed it regarding Gabe Vasquez and his vote on MLG's gun order. I think he did the right thing. First the order was widely condemned as a stunt which would not lower the murder rate in Albuquerque and is probably unconstitutional. Support, even lukewarm, would make him look foolish. Second, his district is a bright purple with a lot of pro Second Amendment voters. His vote burnishes his street cred among the admittedly few moderate Republicans and independents who might vote for him, but every vote counts. He only won by 1350 votes in 2022. And third, for those same voters, it shows that he has the courage to buck his own party for what he thinks is right, and is not a tool of the Democratic machine. For all those reasons, I think it was a smart move.  

Thanks, Ralph. We should point out that we did not not urge Rep. Vasquez to endorse the gun ban in any way--not even "likewarm--but to go ahead and firmly oppose the ban but also oppose the House Republicans move to condemn the Governor.

David Baake Las Cruces came with this:

Joe, It is irresponsible to cover the Vazquez-Herrell race without mentioning, in every single article, that Herrell tried to overturn the 2020 election and install a President opposed by 55% of New Mexicans. And bringing up Gabe’s comments about police funding, without mentioning that Herrell maintained close ties with Cowboys for Trump founder Cuoy Griffin until after he was arrested and sentenced to prison for his role in the January 6 insurrection? 

Fortunately, those of us in the 2nd District haven’t forgotten Herrell’s role in aiding and abetting the attack on our democracy. But you and your readers might benefit from a refresher: 

In September 2019, days before President Donald Trump held a rally in Rio Rancho, Herrell had posted on her campaign Facebook page that “Cowboys For Trump is truly one of the endorsements I am most proud of! Keep up the great work, Couy!”  She did not denounce him after he stormed the Capitol on January 6. She did not denounce him when, the day after the Capitol Riot, he called for a "2nd Amendment rally" on the steps of the Capitol that would see "blood running out of that building." It took a federal criminal conviction for her to finally distance herself from him. Herrell aided and abetted an attack on our democracy. 

Thanks, David. We agree that Herrell's election denialism should be a campaign issue. However, it's not incumbent upon us to mention it "in every single article" we write about the race. Just as we would not mention Vasquez's past call for defunding the police each time we covered the campaign. 

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Thursday, September 21, 2023

There Was A Better Way Out Of The Corner For Vasquez On The MLG Gun Ban, Plus: Noted NM Historian Passes And At The Movies 

There was a better 
way out of the corner for Dem Rep. Gabe Vasquez who this week announced he would vote in favor of that US House resolution condemning MLG and her gun ban and in the process alienated many Dems and failed to satisfy Republicans who won't support him no matter what. 

Here's that way: 

I firmly disagree with the Governor and have told her so. I believe her gun ban is unconstitutional. But I will not be voting for the resolution because New Mexicans know how to handle their disagreements. They don't need Washington DC meddling in their affairs and trying to run our district and further divide us. 

The Republican majority makes it a habit of going off the rails as they again threaten to shut down the federal government. They need to learn how to do their current jobs before telling New Mexicans how to do theirs. The Governor and I completely disagree but we move forward, and we would appreciate the dysfunctional Republicans minding their own business. 

"God forbid," shout the overpaid DC consultants, "you can't criticize Republicans, Gabe!"

Well, yes you can. The winning margin in the congressional race with Republican Yvette Herrell will be in ABQ and Las Cruces—not Little Texas. And don't say we didn't tell you. 


One of the state's greats passed away recently with little notice but Marc Simmons had a profound impact on the understanding and awareness of the Land of Enchantment, authoring dozens of informative and readable books detailing our storied history. From the New Mexican:

. . . “I gave up everything for history — salary, family, everything. History is my reigning interest and passion.” The historian and prolific author. . . died Thursday evening in a memory care unit at La Vida Llena Retirement Community in Albuquerque, friends said. He was 86. . .  

. . .A 2005 biography of Simmons with a bibliography of his works listed 43 books published. Simmons said. . . he would have to leave some projects unfinished. “I was hoping to get 50 books published by the time I quit, but I didn’t quite get there.” 

Simmons, a Texas native, developed an interest in history as a child. Family trips to Santa Fe and Taos hooked him on New Mexico. 

After receiving a degree in Latin American studies. . . he began graduate studies at the University of New Mexico, focusing on the Southwest’s Spanish colonial period. 

Simmons was highly regarded by other historians for his knowledge of the colonial period, the Santa Fe Trail and historical figures including Kit Carson. 

. . .Tom Chavez, a former state historian, said of Simmons in a 2016 interview: “No one will replace him. He is the dean of New Mexico historians and has been for some time.” 

Here is a list of books by Mark Simmons.


ABQ film buff and reviewer Eric Lucero heads into the weekend with a tip for mystery lovers:

A Haunting In Venice [PG-13] ***1/2 Stars out of 5, directed by and starring Oscar winner Kenneth Branagh again as the intrepid Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. 

This screen outing has Poirot lured out of retirement to reprise his signature sleuthing persona in post-World War II Venice. Mystery genres have established tropes and dictums which Branagh faithfully navigates Poirot through. Yet, the director and screenwriter still deliver a richer ‘back story’ from which radiates a freshness to Poirot’s character amid a mystery/horror show. 

This tale adroitly melds Shakespearian morality with a well-crafted, dark, supernatural and psychological terror. We expect and are rewarded with mayhem and murder in the first act, with a Halloween Eve Séance. And it works! The Gothic Manor where this Who-Done-It takes place is populated with a curious menagerie of characters, all with their own personal baggage that belies their guilty and dark motives. 

As Branagh has done with his earlier Poirot remakes, he purposely, deftly and successfully hones his unique vision of Agatha Christie’s memorable creation--Hercule Poirot. 

‘A Haunting in Venice’ is a special pre-Halloween treat for Christie/Branagh fans and one for all mystery and horror fans alike. 

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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Vasquez Turns On Guv; Will Support Resolution Condemning Her For Gun Ban; Move Brings Scorn To Freshman Lawmaker From Fellow Dems; "What's Next Gabe? A Trump Rally?" MLG Dump Is His Latest Move To Right As Herrell Positions To Take Seat Back; Some Ponder A Vasquez Primary Challenge 

Rep. Vasquez (Potter, Sun-News)
Rep. Gabe Vasquez made a full-blown loan break with Gov. Lujan Grisham and her proposed gun ban by announcing Tuesday that he will join with the majority Republicans in support of a harsh House resolution condemning her actions. 

It was an exceptionally rare move for a Democrat to abandon their Governor, the titular head of the state Democratic Party and spoke to the panic that has now apparently seeped into the Vasquez campaign as they struggle to fend off former GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell who he is expected to face in a rematch for his southern congressional seat next year. 

Herrell already polled one point ahead of him in the just released SurveyUSA.

While Vasquez is trying to curry favor with conservatives in the district, his break with the Governor was not seen as a brilliant move that will keep the conservatives off his back but a potential political folly that could cause him a new set of difficulties with Democrats.

"What's next for Gabe? A Trump rally"? one disgusted longtime Valencia County Dem opined.

That's not only a a reference to Vasquez dumping the Guv but also for going soft on abortion rights by voting for the national defense authorization act that included  antiabortion amendments. He was one of only four Dems to do so. 

Then there's his ignoring of President Biden whose recent appearance in the state was unattended by Vasquez. And he was also a no-show at Biden's ABQ South Valley campaign rally before the '22 election, again fearful of the political consequences and foregoing a golden opportunity to advance our state's many DC interests.


Other observers pointed out that Vasquez could show his dissatisfaction with MLG's gun ban, already put on hold by a federal court, by simply taking a walk on the vote or issuing a tepid statement in disagreement as Senator Martin Heinrich did. Or, better yet, keeping his mouth closed tight and not saying much of anything. Instead Vasquez made the break

I plan to vote yes on House Res. 684 because, as a responsible gun owner, I support common sense solutions that reduce gun violence. We must produce constitutional, legal, and enforceable solutions that will help protect our children and families.

The resolution was approved by the House Rules Committee Monday but the House adjourned Tuesday without any action. It is not known when or if they will get to it. But Vasquez has already locked himself in. A Senior Alligator analyzed:

He has to be careful. There is still plenty of time for another Democrat to challenge him in next June's primary and this kind of disloyalty--even if Michelle did put her foot in her  mouth--was uncalled for. It speaks to his fear and inexperience and it just might attract a challenger. It's not as though this guy has any real credibility to condemn a sitting Governor. The political pundits have to remember that more than half the vote in the  district now comes from the urban counties of Bernalillo and Las Cruces. 

Others said the national Dems at the DCCC should give up already and encourage a moderate Hispanic woman from either ABQ's Westside or Valencia County to run against Vasquez and push him to the curb. They argue that Herrell is winning the enthusiasm battle and in turn could win the turnout war while Vasquez's political ways could damper enthusiasm among D's. 


Rep. Stansbury
ABQ progressive Dem Rep. Melanie Stansbury Tuesday made a point of announcing that she will not be joining with Vasquez and the Republicans to condemn the Governor:

I will vote NO on the GOP’s efforts to undermine New Mexico’s executive and distract from House Republican’s complete inability to govern and pass a budget as they careen the U.S. government towards a shutdown. As millions face the prospect of not knowing how they’ll pay their bills, extremists in the GOP are pulling political stunts rather than addressing the needs of the American people, including the epidemic of gun violence. New Mexicans understand that and know we must take action.

Dem Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez voted not to advance the resolution from her position on the Rules Committee but it passed 9 to 3. She expressed disappointment with the resolution during the debate but now she’s being closely watched if the resolution comes to a full House vote. Will she stick with her original no vote or switch in order to have it both ways?

Still, Stansbury and the Dems stand with Vasquez and swallow hard as he morphs into a DINO--Democrat in name only--to keep the House seat in his name.

But why should they, if he is going to continually vote against a majority of his own party? Well, there's really only one reason---he will vote for a Democratic Speaker of the House when the time comes.


While Vasquez took plenty of heat on the left, he also received it from the right as the NRCC, fighting to take back the seat for Herrell, unloaded on him:

Gabe Vasquez is a defund the police extremist who is only speaking up to cover his own political hide. Voters see through this transparent calculation from an extreme politician.” – NRCC Spokeswoman Delanie Bomar  

For Republicans and other Vasquez critics that statement gets to the crux of his problem. A Senior GOP Alligator remarked:

He may be the most inauthentic politician we've ever had in New Mexico.

And there is evidence to back that up because before he was in Congress Vasquez was one of the most liberal Las Cruces City Council members ever and was caught on video advocating for the defunding of the police. Now he is setting off to convince voters he is actually some kind of conservative Democrat. It's not the policy that will necessarily hurt him most but the blatant hypocrisy of his actions. 

He's simply not believable. 


The title: 

 H. Res. 684 - Condemning the actions of Governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, for subverting the Second Amendment to the Constitution and depriving the citizens of New Mexico of their right to bear arms. 

The full resolution is here

Here in a nutshell is the debate over the resolution:

Congressman Tom Tiffany, a Republican representing Wisconsin, brought the resolution forward to the House committee on rules on Monday. "It condemns the unconstitutional order of New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham that bans New Mexico citizens from carrying firearms in the city of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County," Tiffany said. But Democrats like New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler question how much the resolution will accomplish. "It does nothing to promote health and safety," Nadler said. "It will not make a single American safer from gun violence, nor does it have any effect on the rights of responsible gun owners." 

We’ll pick up the story if and when the full House votes. There was much dysfunction there Tuesday and lawmakers ended the day entangled in budget battles. 

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Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Poll: Herrell Starts In Strong Position In Rematch With Vasquez; Race In A Dead Heat, Plus: GOP Gets On The Playing Field In Northern CD And US Senate Contest  

Herrell & Vasquez (KUNM)
Republicans are starting to get on the Election '24 playing field with Sen. Martin Heinrich drawing a conservative rival and northern US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez getting a prominent Native American Republican chasing her. 

Those races still appear far out of reach of the GOP next year (see below) but not the southern congressional district where former GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell is off to a fast start in her challenge of Dem Rep. Gabe Vasquez.

The first public poll of the 2nd CD comes from SurveyUSA for KOB-TV and shows Herrell beating Vasquez 46 to 45 percent, but with a margin of error of 4.8 percent this contest is a dead heat. The poll was done September 6-12 among 541 likely voters. 

The Herrell camp has to be pleased that Rep. Vasquez has not pulled away after nine months on the job while the Vasquez camp has been resigned to a down-to-the-wire battle and the poll confirms that's what's coming. 

The undecided is only 9 percent between these two fairly well-known warriors and that means the race will turn more on getting out the vote than persuading the small pool of undecideds. From SurveyUSA:

SurveyUSA' polling. . .shows a dead heat, 46% to 45%, with Herrell. . . atop Vasquez, and 9% of likely voters saying they are undecided. . .Among men, Herrell leads by 13 points; among women, Vasquez leads by 9, a 22-point gender gap. White voters back the Republican by an 11-point margin; non-white voters support Vasquez by 7. Herrell is up by 12 points among likely voters with high school educations and by 7 among those who have some college; Vasquez leads by 11 among those with 4-year college degrees. Regionally, Vasquez leads by 12 points in urban parts of the district and has a very slight 3-point edge in the suburbs; Herrell leads by 18 points in the rural plurality of the district. 

Herrell's favorable rating in the poll is 38 with 32 unfavorable. Vasquez is 33 percent favorable and 32 unfavorable.

The partisan lean of the 2nd CD has gone to plus 4 percent for the Dems from plus 14 for the Republicans following redistricting that took effect in the 2022 election when Vasquez beat Herrell by 1,350 votes. But Hispanic defections from the Democrats and the possibility that Biden will underperform in the district has buoyed GOP hopes. 

In a fund-raising pitch Monday night Vasquez resorted to off-color language to rouse his supporters as he fretted over the poll:

. . . Because of you, I won with less than one percent of the vote. That pissed off (Speaker) Kevin McCarthy and the right-wing extremists. Now, he’s throwing as much money as he can behind my opponent, and we’re already facing even slimmer margins in the first days of my reelection campaign.

Okay, you're freaking out Gabe, but can't you watch the potty mouth stuff? You are a congressman, right? Geez. . . 

We pointed out Monday that when making his re-election announcement this weekend Vasquez concentrated on the Hispanic ABQ South Valley, Socorro and Las Cruces. With good reason. That seven percent lead he has among nonwhite voters is weak and needs to be shored up. 

Vasquez vs. Herrell will likely be the only competitive race for the state's three US House seats. ABQ Dem Rep. Melanie Stansbury has yet to draw a Republican opponent. Elsewhere. . .


Sharon Clahchischilliage
A familiar Republican name is going to try for the northern congressional seat. Former state Rep. Sharon Clahchischillage has announced her candidacy for the GOP nomination and if successful will face Dem Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez who is seeking a third term next year. 

Clahchischilliage, 74, a Navajo born in Farmington, served in the state House from District 4 in the Four Corners for six years ('13-'19). She ousted a Dem in her first race and lost to Dem Anthony Allison in '18. She made a run for Secretary of State in 2002 and for president of the Navajo Nation in 2010. She is a former teacher, has a Masters Degree in social work and has long been a fave of the GOP who need more faces like her. 

She says of her candidacy:

It’s time for Congress to hear a voice like mine, someone who has served our country, taught in the classroom, raised on the family farm, and fought against the radicals in Santa Fe.

She says high inflation and high crime are two reasons she should be elected. 

In 2022 she won a seat on the state Public Education Commission. 

Leger Fernandez, 64, an attorney and liberal Dem, won  her 2020 election in the old district 59 to 41. But she didn't slow down in the new district when she won with 58 percent in '22. 

In the old northern CD Biden won elected by 17 points. Under the new map that goes down to 10. The district sprawls across the north and now also takes in some conservative SE NM territory. 

The district has a large percentage of Native voters but they vote heavy Dem. 

TLF's main work in this term has been to steer fire relief for those impacted by the historic Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon blaze


Ben Luna
In the US Senate race Dem Martin Heinrich has yet to draw a high-profile and/or a well-financed challenger but he does have an opponent now in Ben Luna, a former chair of the Otero County GOP, perhaps the most conservative county in the state. Ne told the conservative Pinon Post he is running. Luna's website describes him as an:

Entrepreneur, independent citizen journalist, and American patriot who aims to return America to the founding principles which created the greatest and freest nation. Aside from experiencing the restriction of liberties during the Covid pandemic, Ben has witnessed the widespread devastation of authoritarian policies and social degradation by woke progressive activism. Ben is determined to safeguard American rights, freedoms, and opportunity for hardworking Americans and the rising generation.  

Heinrich is seeking a third term. 


In a first draft Monday we said newly appointed GOP state Senator Steve McCutcheon had worked as City Administrator for the city of Carlsbad. Actually, it was the senator's father who had that job. 

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Monday, September 18, 2023

MLG Leaves Her "Vietnam" Behind Her and Heads To Taiwan; Dilutes Gun Order Before Take-Off; No Special Session As Cooling Off Begins, Plus: Big Bill Gets Adieu From Other Big Bill, Rep. Vasquez Wants Another Term, And: MLG Senate Pick May Set Up Hot GOP Primary 

After a week in which one of our Senior Alligators cleverly described MLG's gun control imbroglio as her personal "Vietnam" with no easy way out, she did find a temporary reprieve. She's in Taiwan for a trade mission this week, 7,200 miles away from the embers remaining from the firestorm she ignited with a public health order that banned carrying guns in public in Bernalillo County. 

What a week. It included armed men milling about ABQ Civic Plaza (ala the Taliban) in defiance of her order, a federal judge issuing his own order that stayed enforcement of the gun ban, a public dust-up between the Governor and Attorney General over the ban and finally her Friday news conference where she watered down her order making it apply to only playgrounds and parks. (Mayor Keller responded that the city banned guns in most city parks in 2020. He added: "It is being challenged in court.") 

Full update of order here. Full MLG news conference here. AP report here

The Guv also announced--to the relief of most of the state--that there will be no special session of the legislature to tackle gun laws, a road to nowhere if there ever was one--and she will prepare for the regular 30 day session scheduled for January. 

A special would mean only chaos as there is is nothing close to a consensus after MLG's shocker. Republicans would love nothing better than to prolong the pain of MLG and the Dems with a special session. But the point of such a session would be to get something done not extract political retribution. 

ABQ Mayor Keller and APD Chief Medina were also all in for a special session as the beleaguered duo continue to look for ways to shift the burden of proof for the historic crime wave to the state and away from them. 

But the now out of the country Governor was not about to go there and neither was House Speaker Javier Martinez whose caucus contains a handful of conservative Dems who could cause mischief if they joined with the Republicans at a special.

Meantime ABQ is again an island unto itself. The rest of the state did not have high enough crime rates to be covered by the gun ban. 


After all the recent drama the poignant funeral service for former Gov. Bill Richardson was assurance that long-standing rituals can still provide the steadiness needed to keep this democracy dancing. 

No-one rises to the occasion of such rituals as former President Bill Clinton and he did so again in eulogizing Richardson whose career he advanced with an appointment as UN Ambassador as well as Sec. of Energy. 

Clinton also appeared to solve one of the mysteries Big Bill took with him. Had he ever apologized for turning his back on the Clintons in the 2008 presidential race when Richardson endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton for the Dem nomination? He may have. As the former President told those at the services Thursday:

He told mourners they had two big fights during their long friendship, though he did not say what they were about. “In one, I’m proud to say I was able to apologize to him and tell him I thought he was right,” Clinton recalled “And in one, I’m grateful he mustered the courage to ask me to forgive him. That’s what real people try to do with their lives.”

Clinton was a class act act at the Santa Fe funeral of some 1,000. He gave comfort and support to Richardson's widow Barbara who he sat next to. He drew effusive praise for his eulogy from the Archbishop and others. Afterwards he stopped at the Shed restaurant, a favorite hang-out of Richardson's and shared memories with his friends. 

Full funeral mass and Clinton eulogy here

Clinton has long been a special friend of New Mexico. The ex-president also eulogized former Gov. Bruce King at his 2009 funeral. The pair formed a deep bond when Clinton was Governor of Arkansas, another state that faces major economic and social challenges. He also befriended then-ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez when he spent a week in ABQ in the 90's preparing for the presidential debates. 

During his two terms Clinton's friendship with the state strengthened defense and energy spending here and lifted up Hispanics (including Richardson and Chavez) as they were becoming an important Dem constituency. 

Bill Clinton still shows up for New Mexico--in good times and bad. It's what friends do. 


We're not going to again berate southern US Dem Rep. Gabe Vasquez for not showing up for the Joe Biden presidential visits but the Clinton visit is a reminder that New Mexico needs friends in Washington and it's his responsibility as a congressman to make them. 

Over the weekend Vasquez announced his bid for a second term in the southern congressional district and he did so by currying favor with Hispanic voters who are now the crucial factor in his expected rematch with Republican Yvette Herrell whom he ousted by just 1,350 votes in 2022. 

Vasquez made his re-election announcements in Hispanic strongholds up and down the Rio Grande. He hit the South Valley, Socorro and Mesilla which is in his home county of Dona Ana. 

The new district is more unfriendly toward Republicans but the recent bleeding of Hispanic support by Biden and the Democratic Party is a major concern and is keeping this race firmly in the toss-up column. 

The problem for Vasquez is the same problem Dems Xochitl Torres Small and Harry Teague had when they both lost the seat after just one term to their GOP opponents--they appeared soft and weak as they worked overtime to please all points on the political spectrum.

At his re-election announcements Vasquez called this positioning a demonstration of his "independence" and "bipartisan" approach to the job he has held for just nine months. But in facing Herrell--a down the line hardcore conservative--he risks losing the character argument as Torres Small and Teague did. 

As we said the district is more friendly toward the Democrats now, but Vasquez still has to prove to those conservative Dem Hispanics he is courting that he's got the guts to show real independence--and not just pander. 


Sen. McCutcheon
MLG may have set up a potentially exciting GOP state senate primary when she appointed Republican Eddy County rancher and businessman Steve McCutcheon II to the vacancy created by the resignation of GOP Senator Gay Kernan in SE NM District 42. 

The county commissions of Lea and Chaves had recommend that GOP state Rep. Larry Scott of Hobbs get the appointment but the Eddy County Commission gave the nod to McCutcheon and MLG went with him. 

McCutcheon served a four year term on the Eddy commission (2019-'23).  so while a rancher and businessman he has plenty of political connections that helped him snag the coveted appointment, 

One reason MLG may have gone with him and not Scott is because of Scott's deep professional and ideological ties to the oil and gas industry. This at a time when the Guv is coming under pressure from climate change advocates who publicly dissed her performance on the issue after the last legislative session. 

Scott, a nine year House veteran, says he's not backing down and will still run for the seat even though he was passed over. McCutcheon has not yet said whether he will seek election next year but it's hard to see why he would not. 

Scott's higher name ID and ability to raise cash may make him the early favorite in any primary but he was also the fave to get the Guv's appointment. Stay tuned.


An old friend of the blog and a legendary Dem political consultant--Chris Brown in Santa Fe--takes time to report on the funeral of Big Bill who was among his many clients:

Bill Clinton gave a 30 minute plus tribute to Richardson after the traditional Catholic mass and homily by the Archbishop, who likened Richardson to the Good Samaritan for showing love of neighbor, especially those passed by, ignored, looked down upon and languishing unjustly in prisons. 

Then Clinton noted “most of us grew up learning that parable”and proceeded to expound upon the Greek word for love, agape (the English gospels having been translated from Greek). The Archbishop thanked Clinton for coming to Santa Fe and for his eulogy and asked, to the laughter of the mourners, “Sir, are you available for homilies?" 

Aah, good stuff for sure.  

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Thursday, September 14, 2023

Gun Ban Slapped Down In Federal Court; Legal Setback For MLG But Also A Way Out Of The Corner, Plus: AG Returns Her Fire Following Ruling Also: Gov. Richardson Lies In State, Planning For The Surplus And More Reader Vox Populi  

Gov. Lujan Grisham found a rare moment of calm as she paid her respects to former Governor Bill Richardson amid what has been perhaps the most turbulent week of her governorship. 

As Richardson, who died September 1 at 75, lay in state at the Capital Rotunda the political waters continued to churn over MLG's hyper controversial ban on carrying guns in public in Bernalillo County. 

As expected, a federal judge slapped a temporary restraining order on enforcement of the 30 day ban, giving MLG a legal defeat but perhaps a reprieve from the outrage generated by her order and a way out of the corner she has placed herself in. 

She began that process with this reaction to the court defeat in which the judge threw her a bone:

Today a judge temporarily blocked sections of our public health order but recognized the significant problem of gun violence in this state, particularly involving the deaths of children. I refuse to be resigned to the status quo. As governor, I see the pain of families who lost their loved ones to gun violence every single day, and I will never stop fighting to prevent other families from enduring these tragedies. To be clear: gun violence and drug abuse are acute threats to public health and safety in this state. We will stay the course by increasing State Police presence in Bernalillo County, arresting the hundreds of violent offenders with outstanding warrants still on our streets, and directing our healthcare system to immediately expand capacity to accept persons experiencing drug addiction and homelessness. 

Over the past four days, I’ve seen more attention on resolving the crisis of gun violence than I have in the past four years. Now is the time to bring clarity of purpose: New Mexicans must again feel safe walking home from school, driving to the grocery store, or leaving their hometown baseball stadium. Who will stand up to protect families and children? I will. 


But MLG's frontal attack Tuesday on Attorney General Torrez, who crossed swords with her on the order, and accused him of basically being a failed BernCo District Attorney when he held the post before becoming AG, left a very sour taste with Torrez. He continued his feud with her following the ruling:

AG Torrez
Judge Urias’ decision to block implementation of the Governor’s unconstitutional Emergency Order is not at all surprising and the Attorney General hopes that today’s ruling will prompt the Governor to abandon her unilateral and divisive approach to complex problems and engage in a more deliberative process that will yield tangible results. . .The Attorney General is committed to the legislative process and to working with Governor Lujan Grisham to build a safer community without sacrificing the constitutional rights of our citizens. We need more and better trained police officers; stricter gun laws and tougher guidelines for pretrial detention; robust mental health and drug treatment; rehabilitation programs to reduce recidivism. . .

A clash between the AG and the Governor of the same party is highly unusual. But there is literally blood in the streets in our town--the blood of our children--and if these two want to spill some of their own in a fight to see who can do better, so be it. 

Maybe the upside of the Guv's misstep is that we get greater accountability among the politicians and law enforcement in the state and city. Up until now, they have utterly failed. 

(MLG had her General Counsel represent her at the hearing after Torrez, whose job it is to represent the Governor and state in lawsuits refused to do so.)


As the gun ban frenzy peaked and the ruling by Judge David Urias, 56, a Biden appointee and UNM School of Law product, calmed the waters, a consensus among top sources in the political community started to take hold on how we got where we are. Here's how one sized it up:

Joe, The Governor was obviously prompted to take action by the shooting deaths in ABQ of a 5 year old and an 11 year old, but she acted impulsively which has often been a characteristic of her time in office. The Public Health Order she announced was not properly vetted so we had the surreal sight of other top Democratic officials rebuking the state's chief executive. The fallout was harsh and the Governor's fighting instinct then took over and she posted combative responses to her critics. Her goal of having a "dialogue" over guns was lost in the chaos. In the end she was stuck playing defense and now is trying to dig herself out of the hole she dug for herself. 


While the backlash should be stilled with the court order Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca did get off this blast:

Judge Urias
We applaud the judge’s ruling against the governor and her unconstitutional order. The governor’s malfeasance and utter disregard for the Constitution is alarming. By her own admission, she believes there are virtually no limits to the exercise of executive power. The Constitution says otherwise, and today, the court took action to remedy her blatant abuse of power against the citizens of New Mexico. We hope this ruling and the vast backlash sends a clear message to the Governor and her allies—the people have had enough, and we will not stand by idly and allow our freedoms and rights to be eroded.

The conservative editorial board of the Wall St. Journal also took time to pile on:

Ms. Lujan Grisham’s order might have been meant to show she’s serious about gun violence. Instead it’s sending the message that she’s unserious about governing and ineffectual besides. Her comeuppance is a useful lesson for other Governors tempted to violate the Constitution to make a political point.


While Republicans had a field day attacking the Governor over her gun ban they did not appear to advance the ball very far. One of our Senior Alligators explains:

Joe, this state is now so Democratic that the consequences of this are within the Democratic Party--a split between the Dem conservatives and progressives. The Republicans have no major personality on the state stage to take advantage and their numbers in the Legislature are so slim that they are roadblocked there. I would give them the PR victory in MLG's misstep but unfortunately for them their relevancy remains borderline at best. 

Part of the reason for that irrelevancy is the continued embrace of radical Republican elements by the state party. That was again in evidence by the attendance of MAGA outlaw Couy Griffin at the news conference conducted Tuesday by GOP Chair Steve Pearce regarding the party's lawsuit over the Guv's gun ban. 

Still, the mishap has been a blow to the Governor's prestige and power at the Roundhouse, a sure sign that we are heading deeper into the traditionally more troubled second term for a Governor. 

Now that the court ruling has reduced the heat, her best bet may be to lay low and perhaps ponder what Bill Richardson would do, the man who helped start her off in public life and whose considered advice she will now surely miss. 


Sen. Tallman
One item MLG could busy herself with is more specific and comprehensive plans for deployment of the billions of dollars that continue to accumulate in state reserves from the SE oil boom. We blogged about the lack Aug. 24 and ABQ Dem state Sen. Bill Tallman comes with this reaction: 

Joe: You are absolutely right to be distressed about the lack of planning regarding how to use the billions of dollars in "new" money to address the problems that lead to our low ranking in many of our quality of life rankings. NM has a long history of not performing statewide strategic planning on a number of the state's issues, problems and crises. Please see my attachment for 5 additional examples of nonplanning.

In that attachment Tallman lists behavioral health, education, replacing oil revenues, water infrastructure and how to allocate capital outlay funds. The full document is here


Gun conrol, like abortion, is an emotional trigger for many voters and that has been reflected in our email. An ABQ reader came with this: 

Joe, more money to hold a special legislative session is BS. We have enough laws. What we need is less talk. We need judges who actually punish criminals not judges who bypass commonsense and fall back on guidelines. This is not an issue of arresting criminals, it’s a penalty issue plain and simple. 

Reader Michele Connelly writes:

Hi Joe, Thank you for your excellent, balanced, sane coverage of MLG and the gun ban. I know of no one else who is saying what needs to be said. Keep it up!  

Will do, Michele.

Thanks for checking in here. 

Reporting from ABQ, I'm Joe Monahan

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