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Monday, October 11, 2010

Blog Columbus Day Edition: Di Dishes, Labs Stabilize, Susana Talks Lineage And Parsing The Pit Rule 

Hey, Di. That's a pretty good chicharrónes stirring technique for a gal from Hobbs. Where did you learn that, anyway? Well, wherever she had her stirring lessons, the Democratic Guv nominee seemed happy to put them to use this weekend in this photo snapped by one of our Alligators on patrol at a festive matanza in the ABQ South Valley.

Nice pick on the paddle, too. When we ran a photo a couple of months ago of Di running mate Brian Colón stirring the chicharrónes pot he was using a metal paddle. That's a no-no as readers were quick to point out that the real deal is a wooden chicharrónes paddle often handed down from generation to generation.

Well, Di is hoping the generations-old South Valley habit of voting Democratic is also being handed down this election season.

CONFUSED SUSANA?

Di says GOP Guv hopeful Susana Martinez "is confused" because "she thinks this race is about Bill Richardson." She narrates her new 30 second ad that is a response to the Martinez spot that uses old footage of Di praising Big Bill.

THE REAL RATE

If your neighbor knows too much about what is going on with daytime TV, maybe it's because he's one of the underemployed:

The so-called underemployment rate -- which includes part- time workers who’d prefer a full-time position and people who want work but have given up looking -- increased to 17.1 percent from 16.7 percent.

New Mexico's latest jobless rate is put at 8.3 percent. But if our underemployed rate is about the same as the national rate, we are looking at about 16 percent of the New Mexican workforce that is fully or partially underemployed.

STABLE LABS

There should not be any job worries at Sandia and Los Alamos for the next year. When the Congress left DC to campaign they passed a continuing resolution to keep the government going. Most agencies were funded for the budget year that started October 1 at the same level as last fiscal year. But not the agency under whose umbrella Sandia and LA operate. Sen. Jeff Bingaman says:

As part of President Obama’s commitment to the new START Treaty with Russia for a smaller safe and secure stockpile, the bill increases the National Nuclear Security Administration’s stockpile budget to $7.01 billion – a 10 percent increase over this year’s budget. Overall, the NNSA budget grew by 12 percent to $11.1 billion.

Insiders think funding for the national nuclear labs here looks pretty good for the next two years--or through 2012. (Hey, isn't that the year Senator Bingaman seeks re-election?). It is beyond that timeline where things get fuzzy--and worrisome.

For now, it appears the number of employees at Sandia and Los Alamos will stay flat, with perhaps a slight uptick. Los Alamos is also receiving over $275 million in one time federal stimulus money so that's keeping things hopping on The Hill.

MOMENTUM MEANS MONEY

The latest money reports from the Guv candidates are due today but GOP Guv hopeful Susana Martinez got a head start on things. releasing a glimpse of her latest fund-raising that shows her positive polling momentum has translated into cash in her campaign account. From her spinners:

...The numbers show that Martinez has raised over $1.4 million since the last reporting period in September and has over $1.3 million on hand. Specifically, Martinez raised $1,444,431.34, which results in her having $1,345,984.74 on hand for the final weeks of the midterm election cycle.

That $1.444 million was raised from just September 9 thru October 4, giving you an idea of how there is a bandwagon effect when you start winning. And then there's all that national Republican loot that is coming her way.

In September, Dem Diane Denish reported having $1.3 million in cash. Both candidates are doing heavy media spending, but even if Martinez throws $250,000 a week at TV and radio for the final three weeks--not out of the question--that would only consume about $750,000 of her cash stash.

MORE BAD ADS

The political consulting business is worse than used car sales. How else to characterize it in the face of a ceaseless stream of political ads that are simply false. The ABQ Journal fact-checked the latest 30 second spiels from ABQ congressional candidates Dem Martin Heinrich and Republican Jon Barela and found them both to be basically inaccurate.

But the ads will stay up and continue to mislead voters. They won't even revise them. Ultimately, it is the candidates who must be held responsible for the bad ads.

The impunity of the political class ignites voter anger and cynicism. There must be a better way to run a railroad.

WHICH IS IT?

The New Mexican may want to fact-check Martinez's response to a question they posed to her about her ancestry.

In a June 24 interview transcript with national radio talk show host Laura Ingraham and sent to us by Democratic operatives, Martinez said her grandparents on her father's side came to the USA from Mexico. However, when the newspaper asked: "What were your family's most recent ancestors to immigrate to the United States?" she responded:

My great grandparents from both sides were born in Mexico.

But that transcript from the June 24 Ingraham interview has Martinez giving a different answer when it comes to her most recent ancestors to immigrate:

Martinez said her paternal grandparents were born in Mexico. Martinez was asked about her parent’s background and whether they came from Mexico. Martinez said, “No. My, my paternal grandparents did. My parents…who were born in the United States...and my maternal grandparents were in the United States but not my paternal grandparents...

So were her father's parents born in Mexico or only the great-grandparents?

The paper's Sunday profile of Diane Denish is here and the Martinez profile is here.

Oddly, the paper gave us some "family history" of Denish (her grandfather moved to Hobbs from Iowa) but little such history about Martinez who would be the first Hispanic female governor in the USA and whose family history and ties to Texas have been made into a campaign issue by Dems, especially up north.

LUJAN VS. MULLINS

It was Saturday night live for the northern congressional contenders. It's Dem US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan vs. Republican Tom Mullins.

PARSING THE PIT RULE

Here is just one of the factual assumptions about the "pit rule" by Governor wannabe Martinez that comes unraveled upon closer examination:

Martinez claims the pit rule has driven the cost per well up by "as much as" $250,000. But according to testimony by well producers during the pit rule hearing, the costs under the new rule run an extra $35,000 and $150,000, depending on the depth of the well. The $250,000 figure is the cost of cleaning up old "legacy pits" constructed before the pit rule.


And here's another:


Martinez also says New Mexico was the only state to see a drop in gas production in 2009 because the pit rule chased away producers. But Kansas also saw a decline in gas production. And the sharp drop in oil and gas prices was the major cause of reduced production in 2008 and 2009, according to a report on the Economic Impact of the Oil and Gas Industry by New Mexico State University economist C. Meghan Starbuck.


Not long ago we issued a challenge asking for definitive proof of lost jobs in the oil and gas industry as a result of the pit rule--a contention made by the rule's opponents. With reporting like that above, it is no wonder that no one could provide that proof.


THE OUTLOOK

The next Governor should book time at St. Francis Cathedral and put in some prayer time for higher oil and natural gas prices. That's the easiest way out of the state's ongoing budget disaster. We remember the oil crash of the mid-80's when prices plunged to nearly $10 a barrel. Taxes had to be raised after they had been cut earlier in the decade.

The big driver for our budget now is natural gas prices. We get much more royalty revenue from that resource than oil. The current price is $3.56 per million BTU. That's way below the $6 plus figure the state has counted on. There is a glut of gas and a Great Recession to boot. It's anyone's guess as to when we get a new bull market. (Oil is trading at about $80, but much of the rise is due to commodity investors, not from demand.)

The over 80 year history of oil and gas exploration in the state tells us that higher prices should be coming--someday. If it happens in the next four years the new governor will be mighty grateful. They would be positioned for re-election in 2014 as state coffers are replenished and the band strikes up "Happy Days Are Here Again" one more time.

ORTIZ Y PINO'S PLEA

Liberal Dem have been silent in the bleacher seats while Dem Guv hopeful Denish tries to get them off their seats. Now she's called on one of their favorites--State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino--to sound the rallying cry:

Too much is at stake in this election for Governor for progressives not to be involved. Whatever our critique of the Democratic Party and its candidates, there can be no doubt that our legislative goals and the future of our State are in far better hands with the Denish/Colon ticket than they would be were Susanna Martinez and the Republican Establishment the ones making crucial decisions about schools, health care, civil rights, economic development and the environment.

Ortiz y Pino was defeated in his quest to become Denish's running mate this year. He is not expected to seek re-election to his senate seat in 2012. Would he have made a difference as Di's #2? That's a question that will never be answered.

THEY SAID IT

We end our Columbus Day musings with some solid college sports writing on Saturday's Aggie win over the Lobos:

By the graces of God, it mercifully ended without any need for overtime.

After Lobo quarterback Brad Gruner unfurled a gaggle of errant passes on the UNM football team’s final drive, and a last-gasp, intended-for-who-knows-who ball was intercepted, New Mexico State had its first win of the season — a 16-14 meat-grinding win that made the seeing wish they were blind and the living wish they were dead, under the lights at Aggie Memorial Stadium Saturday.

Well, not if you're an Aggie.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2010
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