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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Claire Gets Boost From VP Pence For GOP Congress Nod; Thanks Her For "Past, Present And Future Leadership"; Herrell Camp Jolted  

VP Pence and Chase
Given the divisions in the New Mexican Republican Party it was more than most expected. But Vice-President Mike Pence stepped into that breach during a Wednesday visit to Artesia, gladhanding with Claire Chase, who is expected to step into the race for the southern GOP congressional nomination, and giving worry warts to the campaign of GOP hopeful Yvette Herrell.

The VP officially was on a trip to promote a Trump free trade agreement but Chase, whose oil-rich family hosted the event at their Elite Well Services, was prominently seated between US cabinet secretaries Wilbur Ross of Commerce and David Bernhardt of Interior. And after she introduced Pence, the nation's #2 introduced Chase to the audience in a way that had insiders arguing whether he was taking sides in the coming primary battle:

I want to say 'thank you' to Clair Chase. . . She's the chairman of the New Mexico Oil and gas Association. She's an advocate for a growing New Mexico economy. . .Join me in thanking Claire Chase for her leadership, past present and future!"

The use of the word "future" is what got the eyebrows raised. Then there's that campaign-style picture of Pence and Chase (a joint wave not a handshake) posted on your blog. Only an Artesia roadrunner suffering from heat exhaustion wouldn't be curious whether this was a dumping of Herrell.

Or was it the innocuous explanation that he was simply playing nice with his wealthy hostess?

Herrell, whose campaign says she was in California for a fundraiser and did not attend, posted an old picture of her with Pence, a feeble effort to derail the tantalizing spin that Claire was Mike's new New Mexico gal pal.

Herrell supporters again raised the specter that former Gov. Martinez and her controversial political consultant Jay McCleskey were going to be players in Chase's campaign. That's what helped Yvette clobber former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman in the '18 GOP primary.

Chase, 35, is expected to formally announce as soon as this weekend and bring with her the bank books of the Chase family which she married into. If her first check is north of $250,000 she will have instantly closed the fund-raising gap with Herrell as well as Las Cruces businessman Christ Mathys who is also running.

Lots of moving parts to this one. Stay tuned.

SPARING MARTINEZ

A blow to those hoping for an effective primary challenge against Rio Arriba area Dem State Senator Richard Martinez who was busted for DWI earlier this year. Freshman Dem State Rep. Susan Herrera is going to stay put in the House, saying that ousting an incumbent Senator is an uphill task. Maybe she should have left it at that because then you get this:

. . . She believes Martinez, despite his legal troubles, has done a better job representing constituents than did Rodella, who served for 26 years in the House before being ousted last year.

What does Martinez's performance versus that of Rio Arriba's Rodella have anything to do with anything? Well, nothing. It does tell you while the public is outraged over the arrest of Martinez and his refusal to take a breath test, the Dem political establishment is reticent to force him out.

That's just like the R's behaved when then-State Rep. Monica Youngblood got busted last year for DWI which, like the Martinez incident, produced a viral arrest video. When it comes to protecting their own the progressives and the R's are one and the same

CLEAN-UP CORNER

We had what one reader called a "senior moment" in the first draft of the Wednesday blog when we omitted the name of ABQ City Councilor Diane Gibson. That's important because it means the nine member council will have a female majority--apparently for the first time--following the November 5th election. We updated the blog with the correct info. Sorry. The traditional punishment of ten lashes with a wet noodle has been applied and we have withdrawn from the Senior Olympics.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Women Set To Gain On ABQ City Council; All Female Race In District 4, Plus: Questioning State Film Incentives 

Ane Romero
A first draft of this report omitted Councilor Diane Gibson

Women will control five of the nine ABQ City Council seats following the November 5 election, a majority apparently for the first time.

Four women are competing for the NE Heights seat long held by Republican Brad Winter who is retiring. The female winner will join Councilors Klarissa Pena, Cynthia Borrego and Diane Gibson. Councilor Trudy Jones is seeking re-election but her lone foe is a woman. That means five female councilors up from the current four.

Now if Gina Naomi Dennis were to pull off a major upset and beat District Six City Councilor Pat Davis that would mean six women councilors.

Let's loop back to that District Four seat and check in with one of our observers there:

Brook Bassan
Joe,  I find the race fascinating because it's four women running in an affluent area that leans right, with only one, Brook Bassan, a declared Republican. Brook however does not bring a typical resume. Will Republicans vote for her, or switch to one of the Dem candidates, a couple of whom--Ane Romero and Athena Ann Christodoulou--bring more conventional qualifications. Hailey Roy is the other Dem candidate.

District 4 is a very large area geographically, and a field campaign to fully cover it is daunting. Three of the four candidates secured public financing but even with that it's not much relative to the task of reaching and motivating the voters who don't turn out in big numbers for any off-year municipal election. 

If Republican Bassan does not win, the Council Dems will grow from six to seven and we believe that would be a record. The four way race is likely headed to a December 10 run-off since it takes 50 percent to win at the first election.

TOO MANY MOVIES?

Reader David Williams in Clovis is on the econ beat looking at the state's big bet to diversify the state economy by awarding large tax incentives to the film and TV industry:

I have never been able to understand why New Mexico pays so much money to the movie industry. There is no way that industry puts that kind of money into our economy. This op-ed was in the Wall Street Journal on July 19. It should open a lot of eyes in this state. We have roads all over New Mexico that are in need of repair. All of that money that is being put into the pockets of the movie guys, could sure go a long way toward road and bridge repairs.

The op-ed written by Atlanta CPA Jay Starkman argues:

Studies by state economic-development authorities and film-industry lobbyists routinely inflate investment and employment returns. Only 4,000 Floridians, for instance, work in film and television production. Yet in 2015 the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment claimed that film incentives and sales-tax credits had created 675,000 jobs in the state over 10 years. The best jobs on a film or TV production invariably go to nonresidents flown in from New York or California. Locals usually get spotty, part-time and relatively low-paying work as hairdressers, security guards, carpenters, drivers and caterers.

SUGGESTION BOX

The state may want to catch up on how it chronicles employment from the SE Permian Basin oil boom. Currently, economists at NM Workforce Solutions place those jobs into the broad category of "mining and  construction." But with the boom becoming a much larger part of the economy, that does not tell the tale. The legislature and other policy makers could use a specific employment measure for "energy" in the public reports. There seems to be plenty of well-paid eggheads at the Department that should be able to get the job done.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Comings And Goings In Northern Congress Race; Who's On Top? Plus: MTO Needles BRL On Trump Impeachment 

The comings and going continue in the crowded race for the Democratic nomination for the northern congressional seat. But the end of the shuffling is in sight because of the time needed to raise the hundreds of thousands to run a credible race.

Our Alligators were spot on when they said that they expected John Blair to get in the race when he announced last month he was resigning as NM deputy secretary of state. Blair did just that this week, announcing what the bean counters say is the ninth candidacy for the Dem nod.

Blair, 45, has long experience in the federal government, including a stint with Sen. Martin Heinrich. He bills his campaign as a "progressive" bid.

Blair has a way to go to break into the top-tier in the race. A good dose of fund-raising will be essential.

So where does the race stand for the nomination which is tantamount to winning the seat in the heavy Dem district? Well, our top-tier is the same but we are now ready to put them in order of strength.

--In first place is attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez. The endorsement of Emily's List can't be underestimated. Also, she is the strongest of the two Hispanic females seeking the nomination. That sits quite well with the DC Dems. The money should be there for her. She will still need grassroots muscle to perform well at the pre-primary convention next March.

--In second is Santa Fe County District Attorney Marco Serna. He got a break when consultant Robert Apodaca dropped out, making for one less Hispanic male rival for the nomination. State Rep. Joseph Sanchez still lurks but Serna's fund-raising is solid and will keep him in good stead for the next chapter in the contest.

--In third is Valerie Plame She narrowly led in the first batch of fund-raising reports but Blair's entry into the race will chip away at her Santa Fe base. And the former CIA spy must overcome "carpetbagging" charges and expand her appeal. Still, third place is nothing to sneeze at in a nine way contest. Plame's national name ID remains a big fund-raising plus.

SENATE CLASH

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan is vacating the northern congressional seat to run for the Dem nomination for US Senate, and he hasn't been shy about playing copycat to his rival, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver. When Lujan came out in favor of starting impeaching proceedings against President Trump this week MTO could not resist calling him out:

“First it was the Green New Deal, then it was Medicare for All and not taking any more corporate money,” Toulouse Oliver said. “Today it’s impeachment. I’m glad to see the congressman adopting progressive values, but New Mexico deserves a U.S. Senator who will lead on the issues that truly matter.”

MTO first supported impeachment in May.

This is her first major foray into negative campaigning against Lujan who is the established front-runner in fund-raising and conventional opinion. Expect MTO to keep needling the six term congressman as she looks for something--anything--to shake this race up.

CITY RUN-OFF DATE

It's better than December 17th but the date set for the ABQ run-off election will still run up against the holidays. Political operatives report that last night the ABQ City Council set the 10th as the date for the run-off election for council seats in which no candidate gets 50 percent in the November 5th regular election.

It appears likely there will be run-offs for the seats in council districts two and four where multiple candidates are running. There are only two candidates each in the races for districts six and eight. A new state law pushed the city election from its traditional early October date into November thus the December run-off.

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Monday, August 19, 2019

Here Comes Claire And Yvette Isn't Yawning; Chase About To Enter Southern Congress Race Setting Up Major GOP Battle For Nomination, Plus: Oil Boom; Where's The Plan?  

Claire Chase
The rumors are about to become reality. The campaign for the GOP southern congressional nomination is poised to be a Battle Royal. Lobbyist Leland Gould, husband of ABQ GOP state Sen. Candace Gould, lets the cat out of the bag in an email to "friends":

Candace and I are having Claire and Chance Chase from Artesia at our home for drink, food and conversation on Thursday, August 29. It will be announced next week (this week) Claire is running for Steve Pearce's old congressional seat CD2 now held by Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small. 

With Chase's entry imminent supporters of former GOP State Rep. Yvette Herrell, who has been running for months, rushed to their battle stations. NM GOP House leader James Townsend led the charge, writing to supporters:

It's time we dispel the rumors and unite this party to win in 2020. There are those who wish to judge Yvette's last campaign and create conflict. Their goal is to divide our Republican party. . . I am asking for your trust and support for Yvette Herrell to be the Republican nominee in 2020. . . Her new team is ready for the fight in 2020. They have made substantial changes to the operation . . . .Yvette is the Pro-God, Pro-Life, Pro-Family, and Pro-Business leader with New Mexico values we can trust.

This will be classic battle between the Republican wing that supports former Governor Susana Martinez and those that disdain her for the treatment she dished out to fellow R's. Chase, chairman of the board of the NM Oil and Gas Association, is in the Martinez camp. Herrell, 55, is distinctly not.

Dropping into the middle of this battlefield Wednesday will be none other than VP Mike Pence who will hold an event in Artesia touting an international trade deal. That event will be held at Elite Well Services which just so happens to be owned by the wealthy Chase oil family into which Claire (Manatt) Chase married. Is that a signal that the White House is ready to make room for Claire in her skirmish with Yvette? Who knows? But the timing is intriguing. Remember, Pence campaigned in Roswell for Herrell in 2018. 

A Senior GOP Alligator says:

He may be looking at his own political future and the money needed down the road. Time to hedge his bets?

Yvette Herrell
Chase, 35, will be making her first bid for elective office. Herrell defeated former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman for the '18 GOP nomination but went on to lose to Democrat Torres Small. The Chase-Herrell battle will be somewhat of a repeat of that bitter contest between the two opposing R camps. It will be complemented by Las Cruces businessman Chris Mathys who has loaned himself over six figures in personal money and already has signs up. That means a two front war for Herrell and she's doing some warm up for it on Mathys:

Probably the most disappointing lie Chris has decided to spread is that I introduced a bill that would allow abortion up to 6 months. The reality? My bill banned late term abortions--a critical first step to ending abortion in New Mexico. Chris’ leftist-style lie is not only dishonest but also hurts the entire pro-life movement. . . 

The state R's were left for dead after the '18 rout in which they lost everything imaginable, but there is still one prize worth having and that's the GOP nomination for the conservative southern district. With a three way clash in the cards it seems there's still bit of life yet in the old GOP Elephant.

BOOM!

Uh, like we were saying. The latest:

New Mexico’s revenue boom is showing no signs of bustingTotal state revenue collections were roughly $273 million above projected levels through April, according to a new report, due primarily to skyrocketing oil production in southeastern New Mexico that has led to a regional economic upswing. The higher-than-expected revenue surge--the state is now on track to collect an unprecedented $7.8 billion in the budget year that ended June 30. . . 

The silence in Santa Fe on the prospect of this being a long-term boom generating even more billions is starting to show. The question being: Shouldn't plans be proposed for this mountain of money in order to reduce the risk that much of it is squandered? The politicos and policy makers spooked by the boom and bust past, but the balances in the state's bank books don't lie. Maybe the boom does go bust, but a big picture play for the next five years still seems in order as historic surpluses accumulate.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Join me at 5 p.m. today as we kick the political football around with T.J.Trout on 770 KKOB and 94. 5 FM.

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Endorsement Row: ABQ Councilor Benton Answers Rejection From Firefighters Union And MTO Gets Progressive Party Backing, Also: Tales Of A "Gay Tech Republican" 

Defeating Democratic ABQ City Councilor Ike Benton just got harder. Benton has recovered from the hit he received when the ABQ firefighters union refused to endorse his re-election and instead backed challenger Zack Quintero. Benton answers with a union endorsement of his own that more than neutralizes the firefighters:

Of the over 6,000 city employees, nearly 2,500 belong to AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), the union that represents them. I am proud to announce the support of our city's dedicated workers, AFSCME Council 18, for my re-election campaign. ''

Casey Padilla, President of AFSCME Local 624 Blue Collar workers, said of District 2 Councilor Benton:

"Ike has been a constant and reliable advocate for labor, and for city workers in particular. He has a record of fighting for us to make sure we have decent working conditions, benefits and a fair compensation. We’re proud to support his re-election effort.”

Benton alienated the firefighters union when he was recorded at a city council meeting berating them for what he sees as their overly persistent demands for more raises and benefits. No doubt that tape is being prepped to be used against Benton but to what effect if the largest city workers union says Benton is one of the good guys?

Besides Quintero, Benton faces Joseph Griego and Robert Blanquero Nelson in the November election. If no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote the top two advance to a runoff. But get this. The run-off is expected to be held December 17, right near the peak of the holiday season. That favors Benton if, as expected, he makes the run-off.

Four of the nine city council seats are on the November ballot.

MTO VS. BRL

In the Dem race for the US senate nomination, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has picked up the endorsement of the progressive Working Families Party:

Working Families executive committee member Andrea Serrano said the endorsement is based in part on Toulouse Oliver's aggressive stances in favor of impeachment proceedings against President Trump and dismantling Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Environmental and health care policy also weighed in the choice. The group operates a political committee in New Mexico and acts as a political party in some other states.

Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, MTO's rival for the Dem nod, has received the backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

WHAT TAX RETURNS?

A couple of weeks ago MTO released her 2018 federal and state income tax returns for public scrutiny, but the forms aren't getting much of a once over. The campaign gave the returns to only the Santa Fe New Mexican and the Associated Press and neither news organization has posted the tax returns on line. MTO's campaign says it won't either. So where are Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico supposed to see the returns? Good question. Here is the AP coverage of the returns and the New Mexican's. Lujan says he will not follow MTO's and release his tax return but he does file required congressional financial disclosure forms.

NICHE PLAYER

Kokinadis
Talk about carving out a niche in the political landscape. Take a look at this one:

The Only Gay Tech Republican Congressional Candidate Endorses Trump for 2020

Brett Kokinadis, the only gay tech Republican Congressional Candidate, endorses Trump for 2020 and is running against Rep. Deb Haaland in New Mexico's first congressional district.

"Rep. Deb Haaland endorsed Elizabeth Warren for President. Who a candidate endorses for President says a lot about them. Democrats may not like the President and want to continue to work against him instead of focusing on the work that needs to get done. It's hard to argue with the President's success." Said Kokinadis. 

So far Haaland is unopposed for the 2020 ABQ Dem congressional nomination but as a former Dem Kokinadis probably has that covered as well.

I’m Joe Monahan, reporting to you from Albuquerque, NM. 

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Commentary Corner; Parsing PERA: Raise The Retirement Age And Leave Worker Contributions And Cost Of Living Increases Alone  

The sky is falling again in Santa Fe. The Governor's Public Employees Retirement Association Solvency Task Force bought into the argument that the PERA fund is destined to go broke and make homeless thousands of retired state workers. But many of those retirees, fighting the more austere proposals to "shore up" the retirement fund, are pushing back, calling the task force recommendations "fake news." Among them is retired APD sergeant and PERA watchdog Dan Klein:

PERA was only 70% solvent during the 2007 fiscal collapse and we survived it just fine. The  proposal to make the fund 100% solvent in 25 years is unnecessary. How do we know this? Because pension experts have studied the issue and told us. This report, The Sustainability of State and Local Government Pensions, by Lenny (bank of England), Lutz (Federal Reserve Board of Governors) and Sheiner (Brookings institute) destroys the PERA argument that the sky is falling and we must be 100% solvent.

PERA has a myriad of funds under one umbrella for a variety of local and state government workers. The funds for state government workers and firefighters need adjusting because the benefits going out don't match what's going in. However, 72 percent of PERA's anticipated needs over the next several decades is currently covered. Not exactly a crisis. There is no current threat to anyone's retirement check and you are hard-pressed to see a time there would be.

Task force proposals to eliminate or reduce the 2 percent COLA--the annual cost of living adjustment that doesn't kick in until a retiree is retired for seven years--and raising employee contributions to the funds--already in double digits--would discourage superior candidates from joining the government and are fiscally unnecessary.

THE BEST FIX?

The best fix? Setting a minimum retirement age as they do in other states is prudent but it isn't an option mentioned by the Governor's task force.

Currently most new state workers must put in 30 years to get a full retirement check. But there is no age requirement to retire. If the Legislature set a minimum age of 58, it would do much to strengthen PERA. Firefighters, police and corrections officers could have a minimum of 52 before being allowed to collect. That means no more fortysomethings collecting checks for forty years.

In Colorado state workers who began employment after January 1, 2011 can retire at age 58 with 30 years service but not before. They can retire at any age with 35 years of service. NM state employees can retire at any age with 30 years of service. Police and firefighters can exit once they have 25 years on the job. In the age of longer lifespans, that is no longer realistic.

After enacting age reform for new hires, the Legislature could then authorize a cash infusion into PERA from the huge surpluses accumulating from the oil and gas boom. That money will compound over the decades giving the funds even more breathing room.

BAD TIMING

In an era of extreme income inequality and record NM surpluses is it really time to force state employees--most of them modestly paid--to fork over even more of their paychecks to make a fund 100 percent solvent for a generation not even working yet?

The bottom lines: House Speaker Egolf needs to kill ill-advised retirement austerity measures. As for the task force, can they please stop yelling "Boo!"? Save the fake theatrics for Halloween.

RUNNING RULES 

Several readers asked about the state senate candidacy of David Wilkinson, the chief information officer for the state court system, questioning whether he can keep that job while running for the Dem primary nomination for the senate seat held by Republican Senator Greg Baca of Valencia County. Artie Pepin, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, responded:

Management of the Administrative Office of the Courts is aware of Mr. Wilkinson's interest in running for a legislative seat. Mr. Wilkinson also is aware of a requirement under the Judiciary's personnel rules to resign from his job if he is elected in 2020, and that he must use annual leave if campaigning requires him to be absent from his job during working hours. 

Belen businessman Paul Baca is also seeking the Dem nomination for the Greg Baca seat.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Veteran Political Reporter Steve Terrell Calls It A Career; Announces Retirement From New Mexican, Plus; Defending Big Bill In Epstein Scandal; Dem Consultant Fires At Ex-Guv's Detractors  

Steve Terrell
Veteran political reporter Steve Terrell will leave the Santa Fe New Mexican later this year after 32 years of being a beloved ink-stained wretch of La Politica.

Terrell, who will turn 66 next month, is known for his wry sense of humor, a dash of cynicism and mostly for his depth and fairness. He announced on Facebook he will finish his newspaper career around Thanksgiving. One of his followers asked, "then what?" and he replied:

Not worry about daily deadlines. See more of my kids and grandkids. Watch TV. Yell at kids on my lawn. (First I gotta get a lawn).

Terrell's jovial presence has been a fixture at the Roundhouse and on the campaign trail for decades. Before joining the New Mexican he was a reporter for the ABQ Journal North. He is also well known in northern New Mexico for his weekly alternative music program on KSFR-FM.

Terrell is a consummate journalist, playing fair with both sides but not backing off when facing pressure. Both Democratic Governor Bill Richardson and Republican Susana Martinez sometimes showed their annoyance with him as he asked and reported the difficult questions and issues.

The days of a reporter being able to stay at the same paper for 30 plus years and developing valuable institutional memory are coming to a close in the new media age. Terrell made the most of the time given him. His many readers were the grateful beneficiaries.

Quite the run, Steve. Congrats. (And if this sounded like an obit, forgive us.)

DEFENDING BIG BILL

Speaking of Big Bill we blogged Monday of his reputational woes after being linked to the Epstein scandal by a woman who said she was directed to have sex with him when she was a young "sex slave" for Epstein. We implied that Richardson may be persona non grata at the national news networks he often frequents until this story blows over. The former two term governor has denied ever being with the woman as have the other high-profile men she named in a court deposition. Also in that Monday column, a Senior Alligator faulted both Richardson and Martinez, claiming the state hasn't had a governor who wasn't deeply flawed since Democrat Bruce King.

Longtime Dem consultant Chris Brown of Santa Fe thought all of that was a bridge too far and came with this critique:

"Richardson’s final fall.” What? Richardon’s Spaceport is now high and rising. Its high-tech, big-ticket missions could lift much of New Mexico. Do you seriously think that the national broadcast media will blacklist either him (North Korea expert, former U.N. ambassador and U.S. Energy secretary), or just as broadly accomplished Sen. George Mitchell, when they need a talking head to counter Trump nonsense? 

Trump's not only named in your link, but was often-photographed with Epstein over the decades. Are you also saying Trump's now toast in 2020? Holding up three-term Governor Bruce King as an aspirational model? He had half again more years in office to do something than the last three governors. What legacy did he leave us? I have no idea: refresh our memories. For much of 2016, former Mass. Gov. Bill Weld and “self-aggrandizing” ski-bum and triathlete Gary Johnson offered a credible alternative to the “political stink” and off-the-rails parties. Alone of any candidate before or since, he not only patronized but praised immigrants as America’s "best workers.” 

Joe, you've seen this movie before, In 1974, Albuquerque's Yellow Journalism rag tried to bury Jerry Apodaca’s gubernatorial candidacy by tying him to an imaginary Las Vegas mob-conspiracy to legalize slots here. Instead he hired UNM experts to streamline cumbersome and patronage-stuffed state government - reforms later undone by his successors. Hey, maybe that’s real grist for an informative column, not more innuendo and guilty until proven innocent screeds. Yes, unfortunately this saga will drag on, because it’s hard to disprove a reputation-tarnishing negative by documenting "I did not do it."


Sometimes they like to give it to us and the Gators right between the eyes. And that was just one of those times.

THE BOTTOM LINES

We had the age of retiring Santa Fe New Mexican political reporter Steve Terrell as 64 on the Tuesday blog. He will turn 66 next month. We thought he had us by a couple of years.

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Monday, August 12, 2019

Two Governors In A Row Fall From Grace: Martinez And Richardson Battle Sex Allegations, Plus: A Reader Lament Over NM Politicos 

Richardson and Martinez (2010)
The stunning fall from grace of the past two New Mexico Governors---Democrat Bill Richardson and  Republican Susana Martinez--may cause glee among hardcore partisans but for everyone else the slow motion train wreck of the pair has been a sad turn of affairs.

Allegations over Martinez's sex life involving a state police bodyguard and other salacious information caused $1.7 million in secret lawsuit settlements, allegedly to keep things quiet. That was the final nail in her political coffin. Sex was also the cause of Richardson's final fall as Friday's revelations in the Epstein scandal had him front and center across the globe in a most negative way.

Big Bill had already suffered a decline here, but his national and international reputation was still solid, Since leaving the Governor's office in 2011 he has made frequent appearances on the cable news channels, traveled to the world's hot spots to put out fires, written regular op-eds and presided over his foundation. Now all of that is jeopardized by the sensational allegation--which he firmly denies--that an underage "sex slave"' of Epstein's was involved with him.

Legal experts say Epstein's apparent suicide is not going to end the pain for Richardson, that his name and those of other other luminaries involved with Epstein will see their names "prominently mentioned" in legal proceedings for years to come. Whether Richardson faces legal action is unclear. A woman who claims to have been a teenage "sex slave" for Epstein says she was directed to have sex with him and other well-known men, but she did not say in her court deposition what her age was at the time or whether she actually had sex with the former Governor.

One of our Senior Alligators (sources) comes with a timely lament:

The allegations that Epstein sent a sex slave to Richardson just tarnishes his record further--whether the allegations are true or not. Ditto for the trashy allegations recently about his successor, Susana Martinez. What happened to the low-key, humble public-servant governor? 

We haven’t been without an egotistic, self-aggrandizing, national-profile-seeking Governor since Bruce King left in 1994 (whether MLG can distance herself from that record is yet to be seen). Other politicos in high-profile state jobs aren’t any better. They’ve been part of a never-ending drum roll of drunk-driving, harassing people of the opposite sex, profiting from their positions, paying settlements to friends, saying stupid stuff and sleeping around. Rarely do these egomaniacs appear truly embarrassed, humbled or apologetic for their actions.

The inept Republican Party and the enabling Democratic Party don’t seem to be offering any true deviation from this course. Sadly, the next generation of politicos pursue their own Millennial version of corruption and self-serving behavior. 

The more the political stink grows and the parties run to opposite ends of the spectrum you would think the path is open for a moderate, independent, responsible party and/or politicians that aren’t personalities. But, alas, it’s New Mexico and it seems like this trend will never end—but it will certainly provide plenty of material for bloggers such as yourself.

HELP WANTED

It's not news that making a buck in the newspaper business is as difficult as getting a red chile stain out of a white dress shirt, but what is news is how the business is trying to survive. Take, for instance, the Santa Fe Reporter, a weekly founded in 1971 and robustly supported during that time by advertisers and the community. The paper now says that's not enough. In a note to readers editor and publisher Julie Ann Grimm, writes:

Local business advertising has long been the way we pay for it all. The business model, however, is changing. But, we’re not giving up. Not by a long shot. What we’re doing is opening a new way forward. If you value journalism like ours, and you want it to be here in the future, be a friend. Join Friends of the Reporter.

Grimm says the paper's goal is to raise $20,000 during the rest of this year.

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Thursday, August 08, 2019

Update: Epstein Dead In Apparent Suicide; Ex- Gov. Richardson Denies Involvement with Epstein "Sex Slave"; Epstein's NM 'Baby Ranch' In National Spotlight; Plus: King Family Back In La Politica; They Target House Seat Once Held By Gov Bruce, And: A New ABQ Newspaper  

This story has required several updates since we first posted Thursday. The latest is the news that Epstein died of an apparent suicide in his New York City jail cell early Saturday. 

The news that broke Friday regarding former Gov. Richardson in the Epstein scandal is in this report.

The notorious New Mexico ranch owned by wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein, now jailed in New York  on charges of sex trafficking in underage girls, is examined in detail this week by the Daily Beast. Other recent reports contain the bizarre news that Epstein hoped to seed the human race with his DNA by impregnating women at the huge ranch.

The Daily Beast report is headlined: "Epstein Seen With Young Girls as He Shopped for ‘Baby Ranch’ in New Mexico."

The article contains titillating tidbits for followers of La Politica. Some samples:

He chose to buy a ranch through another realtor, Rhonda King, who was also then a representative to the New Mexico legislature. The purchase of the 10,000-acre Zorro Ranch came with an additional, instant political connection, as Epstein bought it from the realtor’s uncle, former Gov. Bruce King.

Epstein proceeded to build a 26,700 square foot hacienda-style hilltop mansion, the largest private home in Santa Fe County, perhaps the state. The former governor’s nephew, New Mexico State treasurer David King, was quoted saying of Epstein, “He’s building what you want as a heavenly ranch.”

And another:

Visitors to the mansion included the leading candidate for governor in 2002, Bill Richardson, who was later quick to say that he was accompanied by his wife. Epstein contributed $50,000 to Richardson’s campaign. Epstein kicked in another $50,000 towards Richardson’s successful run for reelection in 2006.

Gary King, the former governor’s son, was running for state attorney general that year and Epstein donated $15,000 to his primary campaign. Epstein also donated $10,000 toward Jim Baca’s campaign to become head of the land commission and $2,000 toward Santa Fe County Sheriff Jim Solano's bid for reelection.

In the meantime, Epstein was apparently flying in underage girls as well as fresh bread, usually through Santa Fe when he was using his Gulfstream, or the larger Albuquerque airport when using his Boeing 727. One of his accusers would say that she was raped at the ranch when she was 15.

UPDATE: RICHARDSON STATEMENT

On Friday the Daily Beast came with this:

A young woman who says financier Jeffrey Epstein and socialite Ghislaine Maxwell kept her as a sex slave also accused a host of high-powered men of being involved in Epstein’s alleged sex-trafficking ring, according to court records unsealed Friday....Virginia Giuffre, who says that Epstein and Maxwell trafficked her to powerful people for erotic massages and sex, claimed in a 2016 deposition that Maxwell directed her to have sex with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Britain’s Prince Andrew (whom she has accused before), wealthy financier Glenn Dubin, former senator George Mitchell, now-deceased MIT scientist Marvin Minsky, and modeling agent Jean-Luc Brunel, as well as “another prince,” a "foreign president," and the owner of a “large hotel chain” in France.....

A spokesperson for former Gov. Richardson told The Daily Beast, “These allegations and inferences are completely false. Governor Richardson has never even been contacted by any party regarding this lawsuit. To be clear, in Governor Richardson’s limited interactions with Mr. Epstein, he never saw him in the presence of young or underage girls. Governor Richardson has never been to Mr. Epstein’s residence in the Virgin Islands. Governor Richardson has never met Ms. Giuffre."

Giuffre said she was directed to have sex with Richardson while he was Governor at Epstein’s secluded ranch in Santa Fe County.

The released court documents are listed below this story regarding the accusations against Richardson and other well-known men.

KING COMEBACK?

The King political dynasty went dark after Gary King lost the 2014 gubernatorial race to Susana Martinez, but now word comes that it could be resurrected:

King Spindle
Rebecca “Becky” King Spindle a rancher and the granddaughter of former New Mexico Governor Bruce King announced her candidacy for the NM House of Representatives District 50. Becky has served for the past three years as a member of the Moriarty School Board and was proud to support the district in their lawsuit against the State to increase funding to our students. . . King Spindle graduated from Moriarty High School and later attended New Mexico State University where she studied Animal Science. She has been married to Tommy Spindle for 24 years and has four children. 

King Spindle, 44, is the daughter of rancher Bill King, one of Bruce King's sons.

She is showing some bravado in her first political outing by challenging Dem Rep. Matthew McQueen in next June's primary. McQueen has held the seat, which includes portions of Bernallio, Santa Fe, Torrance and Valencia counties, since 2015. The primary winner is likely to take the seat in the Dem district next November.

McQueen is liberal. King Spindle is expected to run as a more centrist candidate in the largely rural district which was once held by her grandfather governor as well as her attorney general uncle Gary King.

NEW NEWSPAPER

Reader Peter Rice writes to tell us he has started a newspaper to cover the ABQ Downtown area:

Hi Joe, Downtown Albuquerque News. ., (is) covering Downtown neighborhoods a mile deep. This is a publication for the. . . population who care obsessively about Downtown development projects, transport, homelessness, culture, recreation. . . and are willing to pay a few bucks a month for the quality and detail they can't get elsewhere. DAN will be published weekdays. . . It'll just be for subscribers ($10/month or $100/year) who will receive it via email. Folks who sign up get the first two weeks free. 

Rice is a former ABQ Tribune reporter who has also worked for newspapers in Oregon and Colorado.

Good luck, Peter.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2019

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

No Sixth Racino For NM, Trump In El Paso Today, Torres Small Race Complex And More Permian Notes  

Gambling peaked in New Mexico several years ago and there's no sign that it's about to take off again. That's clear from the decision of the NM Racing Commission to forego awarding a license for a sixth racino. The best place to have put it would have been on the east side to capture the Texas traffic, but getting enough horses is an issue. A casino without horse racing might fare better but that's not allowed. Meantime, Native American casino gambling profits are still there but relatively flat for this decade.

President Trump is in El Paso today, scene of a mass shooting that claimed the lives of 22. It's a visit that will be heavily covered in the NM southern congressional district where Republicans hope to oust Dem Rep. Xochtil Torres Small next year. She continues to thread the needle in this complex district that has plenty of liberals and conservatives. She appears strong going into her re-elect but still. . .

Las Cruces liberals have another reason to ponder a primary challenge of Torres Small:

Reps. Ben Ray Lujan and Deb Haaland voted for the bill commonly called the Charleston Loophole which would expand the time for background checks (for gun sales) from three days to 10. Representative Xochitl Torres Small was one of seven house Democrats to vote against it.

Previously Torres Small voted against increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and has not called for impeachment proceedings against the president as have a majority of Dem House members. That latter issue has stirred Mad Hildebrandt who was defeated by Torres Small in the '18 Dem primary. She criticized Torres Small on her Facebook page. Is that the prequel to another primary challenge?

Dem presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg swept into Santa Fe over the weekend to pick up some campaign cash. Insiders say the openly gay contender's fundraisers at two private homes drew Santa Fe's large gay community. Also, two noted politicos were spotted meeting with Mayor Pete--Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber and MLG.

In an exceptionally violent month, ABQ's ongoing crime problem isn't going unnoticed. Take a look at this eyebrow raiser:

Uruguay's Foreign Ministry urged citizens who travel to the U.S. to take "extreme precautions." Uruguay specifically warned against traveling to Albuquerque, Baltimore and Detroit, which it claimed have been ranked among the most dangerous cities in the world.

At least Trump isn't tweeting about us--at least not yet.

MORE PERMIAN NOTES

Readers continue to chime in on our special report this week from the Permian Basin oil boom in SE NM. From DC a Senior Alligator writes:

Joe, A tip of the cap to your most excellent dispatch from Eddy County. It's been too long since I've been in Carlsbad, but  Hyatt and  Hilton building there was the perfect detail to capture the boom. 

The late, great Lea County state Senator Billy McKibben--a true country wit--observed that after God created Eddy and Lea counties He looked back and said, "My, that's awful ugly." So, He put oil and the Ogalala aquifer under the surface.

John Strong writes:

Thanks for writing such a good in-depth article. It would be nice for you to do an in depth piece like this once in a while on other topics! Well done.

Thanks, John. A number of readers made similar comments. Any suggestions out there on what we might tackle next time?

THE BOTTOM LINES

In a recent blog we had Senator Mary Kay Papen serving as President Pro Tem for "nearly ten years." She was elected to the post in 2013 and will mark 7 years in the post at the next session.

If Papen is re-elected next year she would turn 92 in the final year of her term, but she would not be the longest serving senator in history as we blogged. That would be Sen. John Pinto who died this year at 94. However, Papen would be the oldest female senator in state history. In fact, she may already hold that title.

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