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Thursday, August 19, 2010

We Set The Table For Tonight's First Denish-Martinez Face-Off; What's At Stake? Plus: Susana & Global Warming, And: Tea For Who? 

  • Denish-Martinez debate starts at 6 p.m. tonight. Listen to it live here and here. Video of the debate will be streamed at kob.com
Diane Denish and Susana Martinez will have two goals when they meet in debate for the first time this evening. First, don't commit a faux pax that could haunt you for the rest of the campaign. Second, try to take the offensive and begin defining your opponent.

The stakes are high, but not as high as they can get. The debate, sponsored by ABQ Public Schools and to be held at 6 pm at the Eldorado High auditorium, will not be televised. That will limit the reach of this first appearance and keep anticipation levels high for the eventual TV debates between the pair that are expected, if not yet scheduled, for the fall.

The debate will be broadcast live on KANW 89.1 FM radio, which is licensed to APS. It will also be streamed live at the station's Web site as well as the APS site where video excerpts will also be posted.

TV news will trumpet the debate, coming as it does at the opening of the 6 p.m. newscasts. The event will last 75 minutes, ending around 7:15 and making it headline material for the heavily watched 10 p.m. news.

The debate, to be moderated by APS Superintendent Winston Brooks, will focus on education.

Some 400 tickets were handed out to the debate, with a third of them going to the campaigns.

LOOK FOR SPARKS

Sparks are bound to fly between Martinez and Denish, one of whom will be the first woman elected governor of New Mexico.

Martinez's apparent switch on the controversial issue of school vouchers has been fodder for the Denish campaign. And Martinez has repeatedly criticized the "Richardson-Denish administration" for not living up to its promise to improve the state's dismal public educational standing.

Martinez is an experienced prosecutor so she has the ability to take after Denish, but she lacks the podium experience that can sometimes inhibit confidence.

Denish has the benefit of in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of government and can out maneuver Martinez. But she is running from behind and that puts pressure on her that she has rarely encountered in her long political career.

One line of potential attack is already neutralized. Martinez has pledged not to cut the public schools budget any further. That's a position she shares with Democrat Denish.

The Denish camp is hosting two ABQ "listening parties" for the debate. One of them will be at the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Union Hall, at 510 San Pedro. Details at 505.255.1282. We have heard of no official debate parties for Martinez.

We'll wrap the debate action for you on the Friday blog.

BE CAREFUL


Newcomer Martinez has been steering her candidacy to the middle--no school cuts, no Medicaid cuts, no traditional school vouchers--but she has to be careful not to head to the far-right. That point was driven home to her when the Politico came with this story:

New Mexico GOP nominee Susana Martinez told POLITICO in Albuquerque on Saturday that she had her doubts about the role human activity plays in global warming. “I’m not sure the science completely supports that,” she said.

That view on climate change is shared by politicos like Sarah Palin who campaigned for Martinez, but bumps up against the majority view of the scientific community. Susana came with this damage control after the Denish camp rubbed her nose in the Politico statement:

While there is disagreement in the science community concerning the causes of global warming, there is little disagreement concerning our responsibility to take care of the environment while creating jobs in New Mexico. Politicians engaging in an ideological debate over the causes of global warming does nothing to protect the environment, or create jobs. As governor, I will support balanced and evidenced-based environmental protections.”


Okay, Susana, but be careful.

BACK TO VOUCHERS

Back on education and that school voucher debate that erupted on the Guv campaign trail. Reader Dan Kloke weighs in:

Hi Joe, In the Thursday, August 12 blog, you write regarding the Di/Susana positions about school funding and vouchers:


"Vouchers could cause less money to go to the public schools, but those schools also would have fewer students."

Well yeah, but the other-than-public schools that the vouchers would go to would then have more students. Those student won't just vanish.

If a voucher program does take away from public school funding, it's possible, even likely, that the public schools will cut teachers or at least teacher hours.

This could offset any reduction in class sizes with a reduction of the number of teachers to teach them. In other words, the student to teacher ratio might not change much. But fewer teacher hours intrinsically means less one-on-one time for students.

And I can tell you from personal experience that the non-public schools will not hire any more teachers than they have to, just to keep the student to teacher ratio static. On the contrary, the profit lies in increasing the student to teacher ratio, not in decreasing it.

So shifting funding to a vouchered system is more likely than not to create larger class sizes in one place, and reduce teacher availability ("one-on-one attention for students") in another...

SECOND BANANA UPDATE

One prominent supporter of Denish's won't be at tonight's Guv face-off. While Denish strides to the podium at Eldorado high, Dem Lt. Governor candidate Brian Colón will be doing what candidates seem to do the most of these days--raising money.

He is hosting a fund-raiser at the ABQ Country Club with the help of former US Ambassador to Spain and longtime Dem Party player Ed Romero. Tickets top out at $500 a person. (Click on image of invite to enlarge).

Colón says the money raised will go to the Dems "coordinated campaign" and not to retire the $70,000 debt he toted up in his race for the Light Guv nod.

Some R's were spinning that Brian was less than confident about the Dem ticket's chances of success in November and thus the early fund-raiser to retire his own debt. But the former Dem Party chairman says that is not the case at all and pledges to raise "in the six figures" for the coordinated campaign.

POT OF GOLD--UPDATED


That pot of gold we blogged of Wednesday is apparently not as full as we implied. We speak of the $1 billion in capital outlay money that we speculated some of which could be transferred over to the general fund for a one time fix to plug the gargantuan state budget hole. We took our info from the Legislative Finance Committee newsletter, but the LFC explains further that all but nine percent of that $1 billion--or about $90 million--is locked down:

I’ve attached the LFC Brief presented to LFC last month which gives you a clearer picture and more detailed information than the newsletter regarding the status of outstanding capital funds. While there is $1 billion outstanding, only nine percent of the funds are authorized from the general fund. Also, without checking each general fund project individually, we do not know what obligations or encumbrances are in place for the outstanding projects. Another update will be presented to the committee in October.

So there is only a small potential pot of gold. Okay, back to the drawing board.

THE RAID

We mentioned Wednesday the possibility of the Legislature raiding the state's permanent funds--currently valued at about $14 billion--to help balance the budget in future years. That would be a hyper-controversial move and several readers pointed out this would take a constitutional amendment approved by a majority of the Legislature and state voters. The earliest that could get on the ballot would be 2012. But with the economy projected to drag for several years that doesn't seem so far away.

Could you issue bonds backed by permanent fund money without a constitutional amendment? They're batting that one around the corridors of the Roundhouse.

MARTIN AND THE MOSQUE


He was camping in the Jemez Mountains with his son. That, says his staff, was why ABQ Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich was the only member of the state's congressional delegation not to quickly issue a statement on the hotly-debated proposal to locate a Mosque near Ground Zero in NYC. Here's the statement:

I understand how sensitive this issue is for the families who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. If it were up to me, I'd choose another location for a cultural center and mosque. At the same time, we don't get to pick and choose when the Constitution applies. During this discussion, it's important to remember that America is at war with al-Qaeda not Islam.

"Unfortunately, the Republicans in Congress are taking this opportunity to again stir up fear and anti-Muslim sentiment purely for political gain...

The decision...should and will be decided by the city of New York. I believe my constituents want my focus directed on creating jobs in our community, providing support for our small businesses and strengthening our economy, and that's what I'm going to keep doing.

Conservative talk radio had a field day when Heinrich did not come with an immediate statement. Don't they have cell phone coverage in the Jemez?

MARTIN'S LOUSY WEEK

It's turning out to be an acrimonous week for Congressman Heinrich. First, the uproar on talk radio and now his old nemesis--Jim Scarantino of New Mexico Watchdog, comes with a report on Heinrich's flying habits:

Representative Martin Heinrich upgrades to first class on frequent flier miles bought by taxpayers...He racks up many miles in the air traveling between Albuquerque and Washington, D.C. But instead of using the benefits of frequent travel for free tickets that would save taxpayers the cost of another round trip, he upgrades himself to a first class seat. Is this a good policy for members of Congress, particularly in these tough economic times?

Heinrich's office said:

By earning frequent flyer points that qualify him for a free upgrade if seats are available, Rep. Heinrich has flown first class between Washington, D.C. and Albuquerque a handful of times, but again at no time has taxpayer dollars been used to purchase first class tickets.

Welcome to Populism 2010, Congressman. Better fasten that first-class seatbelt, it could be a bumpy ride.

TEA FOR WHO?

Another matter we've been writing about this week--that no politicos in New Mexico are running under the Tea Party umbrella. Several readers said the ABQ Tea Party does not encourage candidates to run under its banner. But a reader reminded us that there is a Tea Party Caucus in the US House and pointed to this news release from the Dems as demonstrating that there is a way for a candidate to run under the Tea Party umbrella:

If elected will Jon Barela, Tom Mullins and former Congressman Steve Pearce join Congressional Tea Party Caucus? They’ve been spending countless campaign hours courting Tea Party groups around New Mexico. So, if elected, will Jon Barela, Tom Mullins and Congressman Steve Pearce embrace the founding principles of the Tea Party by joining the Congressional Tea Party Caucus?

None of those R candidates said they would join the caucus.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2010
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