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Friday, June 26, 2009

The Week That Was: After Long Wait, News Cycle Gets Marty Foes Into The Game; Denny's Tragedy & High Jobless Rate Crack Open Stuck Campaign Window 

Chavez, Berry & Romero
One good week does not make a campaign, but after a six month run in which incumbent ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez had not had much more than a glove laid on him, the camps of mayoral challengers Richard Romero and RJ Berry finally hit pay dirt. Not that it was anything that they or Chavez had done. The Denny's murder that soon morphed into a debate over illegal immigration was a hand-made issue for Republican Berry and his conservative base. He moved to take advantage and probably consolidated some of the GOP vote that has been holding back. Romero also saw the first glimmer of hope that Chavez can be weakened as he heads into the final three months. The violent crime issue, always a problem for incumbents, gave Dem Romero just the right opportunity to unveil a crime program, even if much of it was a rehash of proposals heard over the years.

The Denny's tragedy is the first campaign issue to draw widespread attention and was a quintessential example of how the news cycle is now the Mayor's main concern for the October 6 balloting. On Friday, there was more news that the three term leader could not control. The city's unemployment rate zoomed from 6.2 percent in April to 7.0 percent in May, a level not seen in decades and one that could help his challengers foster an anti-incumbent mood. The ABQ area jobless rate last neared this level in June 1993 when it hit 6.8 percent. We've asked the NM Dept. of Workforce Solutions to determine when the last time was we experienced 7 percent unemployment or more in the state's big metro. It may be a modern day record for the government-insulated economy of the state's largest city.

Until this week, the mayoral campaign was a six month game of solitaire starring Mayor Marty. Now we've got a game of poker with three players. The challengers are going to need much more than serendipity in the news headlines to take the champion's stack of chips away, but at least those headlines were finally able to get them in the game.

CASTING A NET?


Alligators and insiders are wondering if there will now be a large net cast by the press and/or campaigns over other violent crime suspects who have also been in the city illegally and fallen through the cracks. If any have, surfacing them could rekindle the Denny's issue in the weeks to come.

STATE JOBS


While ABQ's official jobless rate cracked the psychologically important 7 percent mark, the state rate was also zooming upward--to 6.5 percent in May, up from 5.8 percent in April. And that's the reported rate. And how about that Santa Fe jobless number? That's now at 5.6 percent, a relatively low rate, but not one a government town is used to. Considering that the lost jobs are not laid off government workers (at least not yet), it means the unemployment is coming from the private sector--primarily tourism and construction. So what would the unemployment rate be if we looked only at private sector employment? We shudder to think about it. And the same for ABQ. Government jobs are pretty stable, but the private sector is getting hammered.

Readers here know that NM economic experts believe the overall jobless rate to be higher that reported because of the way the numbers are compiled. From the state report:

Job growth is at a 55-year low, while the unemployment rate is only at a 12-year high. Individual data series appear to contain conflicting messages or may be at different points in the economic cycle. We recommend looking at all the workforce indicators—unemployment, job growth, and unemployment insurance claims—published in this report.

The months ahead are likely to see more job losses and could create a stiff headwind for incumbent politicians.

THAT'S A WRAP

The sun sets on another week of La Politica, and reader Hal Tuttle sends this ABQ West Side summer sunset to help us make the point.

Thanks for tuning in. This is the home of New Mexico politics. E-mail your news, comments and photos.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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