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Monday, August 09, 2010

Susana's Press Honeymoon: Is It Ending? Plus: Dem Fractures In SOS Race, And: Rio Rancho Solar Dream Still Nightmarish, Also: Big Bill & The Budget 

Let's kick-off this summer Monday with some media and politics. How about those two unflattering front-pagers in the state's largest fishwrapper on GOP Guv nominee Susana Martinez? Democrats thought they would never get here.

Since announcing her candidacy 13 months ago Martinez has received little scrutiny, but with the very real possibility she could be the next Governor and early voting now less than 60 days away, the wake-up call has been made.

One of the headlines screamed: "Martinez Defends Office Purchases."

Hey, what happened to Baby Brianna?

The ABQ Journal article reporting how Martinez, the Dona Ana County DA, appeared to have entered a sweetheart contract for office supplies with one of her assistant DA's is not devastating. But it is bad. That's because she is the candidate who has presented herself as clean as a whistle and anything that undermines that notion also undermines her credibility.

That the Martinez camp was worried that her reputation as a corruption fighter had taken a serious hit in that Friday report was on full display when the paper followed up with a Saturday front-pager on the same topic filled with push back from Susana's camp.

The Dems have been pounding the table that Martinez has been getting an easy press ride--especially from the Journal--while Dem nominee Diane Denish is repeatedly punished by the paper and other media as they associate her with the seamy side of Big Bill and pen editorials condemning her use of the state jet.

The Martinez hit came from the paper's still strong investigative unit. Did the basis for the story originate with Dem opposition researchers? Perhaps. But the larger point is that the front-pagers may be signaling the end of the press honeymoon for Susana, while there never really was one for Denish.


GOING NATIONAL


Conservative Fox News has warmed to ABQ Mayor RJ Berry and his budget cutting program. He scored a three minute interview with the news channel and you can see it here. Berry and the budget were also mentioned in a recent New York Times piece.

It is the Republican mayor's first national exposure. His lower key style is in marked contrast to his predecessor, Dem Martin Chavez, but it seems to serve him well, especially during a time when there is little to announce but bad news.

Berry has made small cuts in salaries and implemented some furlough days as well. Disagreement has erupted with the city council and city unions on whether Berry should have gone for more furlough days instead of trimming pay.

That ABQ is now in the spotlight for the impact the Great Recession has had and not for being a booming southwest metropolis--as it used to be portrayed--says it all about what has happened here as well as other cities in the region during the past two years.

MARY, VALERIE AND MAGGIE

May we do some instant analysis for you on the decision of Democratic Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza to endorse Republican State Senator Dianna Duran who is challenging Democratic Secretary of State Mary Herrera? Okay, thanks.

First, Espinoza has sparred repeatedly with Mary as has Denise Lamb, the former head of elections for the SOS and who now works for Valerie.

Valerie gave serious consideration to challenging Mary in the Dem SOS primary, but decided not to. Now she is looking ahead to 2014 and a run when there is no incumbent. If elected, Mary will be term-limited. And the odds are she will be re-elected since, as we just pointed out here last week, no R has taken the post in 80 years.

But Valerie's bad blood with Mary could have consequences. Waiting in the wings and perhaps eyeing her own run for SOS is Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse-Oliver. She hasn't done a bad job here, either.

So Valerie may have gotten some revenge on Mary, but it may cost her. Not only do you have Maggie in the wings, but Valerie's endorsement of Duran could prompt Mary to work to find a prominent Hispanic woman to run for SOS in four years, splitting votes away from Espinoza and to the benefit of Maggie.

Oh, yeah. We love the angles.

Speaking of Duran, we admire her spunk. We had her on our radio broadcast on KANW 89.1 FM primary election night and she actually got the better of me as I tried to wrap up the interview as other news beckoned. Shutting up a professional talker is no easy task. We imagine--favored or not--that Duran will give us a good campaign show.

DARK CLOUDS OVER SOLAR

Noreen Scott
Attention Rio Rancho Mayor Tom Swisstack, City Manager James Jimenez and Noreen Scott, executive director of the Rio Rancho Economic Development Corporation (RREDC) and others pushing the dubious Green2V solar energy deal. This one's for you:

Schott Solar announced Friday it was suspending one of its two concentrated solar power production lines in Albuquerque and laying off 30 people, providing the latest local evidence of a national slowdown in alternative energy industries. Germany-based Schott blamed slow growth in the North American market and a slowdown in the Spanish market.

Company spokesman Matthew Kraft said Schott had 370 employees in Albuquerque before the announced layoffs. The company produces photovoltaic panels and thermal receivers at its 200,000-square-foot Albuquerque plant, its flagship facility in North America.

More job losses are expected in solar as well as wind businesses across the country.

The GreenV2 solar deal announced back in April had Rio Rancho officials and Governor Big Bill claiming 1,500 jobs would result by the end of 2014.

But almost immediately the deal which had Rio Rancho offering millions in financial incentives began blowing up and today it is completely stalled due to lack of financing.

Ms. Scott and company may want to begin steering the ship in a different direction, rather than insist on taking on a hurricane. But Scott seems to be digging in her heels. She's been critical of news coverage of the Green2V implosion, insisting the project is salvageable.

From the Rio Rancho Observer:

Scott said the media have portrayed those responsible for recruiting Green2V as “country bumpkins who do not know what they are doing.” She said the media portray all government as corrupt and elected officials as liars...

But it seems what warrants a critical appraisal is not the media and blog coverage, but the priorities and deployment of resources by the Rio Rancho Economic Development Corporation under the leadership of Ms. Scott.

That a project as flimsy as GreenV2 could pass muster with RREDC and result in a a now embarrassing news conference featuring the state's most prominent politicos promising mega jobs might be a clue that something is amiss. The RREDC is a nonprofit, but its operations are funded in part by the taxpayers of Rio Rancho and Sandoval County. Time for some questions?

BUDGET BUSTING

About those across-the-board spending cuts coming soon to the state budget. It seems Big Bill has no choice in how to apply the cuts. We're told that by legislative mandate they must be across-the-board.

Tax expert Richard Anklam blogged here last week that it would be best if the Guv could prioritize instead of taking the meat ax approach. We agree. But the Santa Fe Alligators email in to explain. They say the Legislature gave Bill the authority to trim the budget in its absence if revenue did not come in as predicted, but they told him exactly how to do it:

....Section 14 of the General Appropriation Act requires the governor to apply reductions proportionally to all agencies, funds, programs and other recipients, and to all programs and categories within all agencies that receive general fund appropriations in section 4.

I think this is important particularly as schools keep insisting that stakeholders call their legislators to keep the governor from applying these across the board. I just thought it was an important point to make that seemed to escape everyone.

It is a crucial point, one we and apparently many others were not aware of.

The Legislature gave Bill the unusual power to cut the budget without lawmaker approval, but they made sure they will be looking over his shoulder when the budget knife comes out.

The next legislative session is not scheduled until January of next year.

ETHNIC VOTING

A reader writes:

Joe, The bottom line for both (Dem Guv nominee Diane) Denish and (Dem US Rep. Martin) Heinrich is how many Dem Hispanics are going to vote their ethnicity instead of their party...It's not something they will talk about with pollsters...

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