Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Aftershocks From Speaker Lujan Squeaker: Opening For Conservatives? Plus: Rio Rancho News, And: Latest From The Guv Beat 

The aftershocks continue from the near-upset of House Speaker Ben Lujan last Tuesday. The insiders and the Alligators are all over the map on what it means to the future of New Mexican politics, but all agree something big happened when Lujan only managed to beat his Dem primary challenger by less than 90 votes.

The speaker faces no Republican opposition in November. He will be back at the Roundhouse. But if the R's were to pick up five or six seats in November, there could be a move in the House to replicate the coalition of D's and R's that currently rules the state Senate. That should put the fear of god in the hearts of Dem "progressives' who have often been at odds with Lujan, says Bruce Wetherbee, president of the Northern New Mexico Central Labor Council.

He argues Lujan's close call should unify Dems around him, not be the launching pad for a coup d'etat by progressives. He fears that could lead to chaos and possibly put the conservatives in the promised land. The labor leader, who was closely involved in Lujan's campaign, came with that view and also an opinion of what precipitated the primary night Santa Fe shocker:

It was that almost perfect storm of incumbency with no challenge for ten years, a candidate new to the scene and willing to adjust his positions and political story to whomever he was in front of.

And there was the assumption of the media that it would be an easy re-election, bypassing any serious vetting of a candidate that was one day a Tea Party type and the next a Progressive Democrat--whatever sounded good at the moment.

Then there was the more modern, but now traditional approach to primaries where the operatives spent more time on their computers analyzing the numbers instead of a boots on the ground approach.

When you sacrifice the human element of old style campaigning the result is an unnecessary close win for Speaker Lujan.

The most devastating thing that could happen to progressives would be the assumption that the Speaker is weak. Progressives need to accept the fact that they almost lost their most progressive leader in the legislature, adjust their compass and get back on track.

Progressives should be closing ranks (around Lujan) and making sure the more conservative elements of the party don't sellout to the Republicans to usher in a more regressive political agenda.

And does the downsizing of Ben Sr. have any impact on the fortunes of his son, Congressman Ben Ray Lujan ? You can safely assume that as the politically savvy speaker navigates his way through the newly stormy political waters that that question will be foremost in his mind.


We'd like to tell you that after the state put up $12 million in cash and $8 million in job training money that Hewlett-Packard's division in Rio Rancho won't be included in its layoffs of 9,000 employees from its services division. We'd like to, but we can't.

In a statement, the company said, “HP is not providing geographical locations of the job cuts at this time as final decisions have not been made....Local spokeswoman Linda Wedeen said the site continues to hire new employees. In March, Wedeen said the site had hired 700 people.

The city of Rio Rancho, area legislators and Governor Big Bill bet the ranch on HP. We warned then of the risk. Now it's here. Stay tuned.


And more from the City of Vision. We recently blogged that the approval of a quarter cent increase in the city's gross receipts tax would take the rate there to around 7.5%. A city spokesman says:

Rio Rancho’s current gross receipts tax rate is 7.0625 percent. Effective July 1, 2010, via a statewide increase adopted by the Legislature, the city rate will be 7.1875 percent.
With the .25 percent increase approved by the city council, the rate effective January 1, 2011, will be 7.4375 percent. The current rate for Santa Fe is 8.0625 percent and the rate for Las Cruces is 7.4375 percent.

We understand the logic--that Rio Rancho's tax rate won't be as high as those in Santa Fe and Las Cruces. But we disagree with the premise. The rates in Santa Fe and Cruces are too high. In Santa Fe, the council is running into stiff public opposition as it weighs yet another increase in its gross receipts tax.

Rio Rancho opted not to cut an additional $700,000 from its budget and have the taxpayers make up the difference. They did that because they did not want to cut city government salaries by more than one percent.

As we blogged earlier, Rio Rancho's administration could take a lesson from ABQ where the budget for the next fiscal year was balanced without a hike in the regressive gross receipts tax and where the money shortfall is just as precipitous.


Need even more post-primary election analysis? We sat down for this past Sunday's "Eye on New Mexico" with KOB-TV's Nicole Brady and Stuart Dyson to
do just that. Former Governor Gary Johnson was the surprise guest.

Do you remember that in his two successful runs for office he never cut a negative ad? Dyson reminded us of that during the broadcast. Too few politicos have followed that lead, but it remains out there as an example.


We'll start with the not unexpected news that Real Clear Politics, a neutral referee for political contests, has moved the New Mexico Guv race from "lean Democrat" to "toss-up."

The latest between Republican Susana Martinez and Dem hopeful Diane Denish comes over the death penalty. That's because Paul Astorga was convicted of killing a Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy and faces death even though the ultimate penalty has been repealed in the state. He committed the crime before the repeal. Both candidates say they would let Astorga be put to death by the state. The to and fro is here.

And how about this for a race within a race? Among the Democratic statewide candidates running unopposed for renomination in Tuesday's primary, we have Gary King beating Diane Denish by three votes. Attorney General King received 107, 569 votes to Di's 107, 566. The other statewide Dems on the ballot and unopposed were Auditor Balderas and Treasurer Lewis.

You may recall that Gary flirted for a few seconds last year with the idea of running for the Dem nomination for Guv, but decided to opt for a second term run for AG.

When the official canvass of the election results come in, maybe Gary will retain this lead over Di. If he does, we have a chair waiting for him in the "What Could Have Been Club." You pay a steep price for admission, but you always have plenty of company...

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