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Friday, February 25, 2011

Susana & More Spaceport Uncertainty, The 2014 Campaign (Already) And Those Other Senate Candidates 

Will Governor Martinez privatize the Spaceport? A New York Times piece says that's the plan. Rick Homans, the former executive director of the Spaceport, told the paper:

Let’s face it--privatizing the Spaceport means selling it off and trying to remove any risk to the state. The message would be that the state is not committed long term, and the new industry will look at other states where they can find a fully engaged partner.

Homans is close to Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic which has collected over $55 million from 400 hundred hopeful suborbital space tourists. Flights have not been scheduled with two years being the latest best guesstimate. Homans is indicating that keeping Virgin here will be put at risk if the Guv moves to privatize. That would essentially end the New Mexico space program.

Most of the money for the Spaceport has been put up. But the concern for southern New Mexico is that it could need a bit more and that Martinez will not support an appropriation, arguing that the Spaceport should be sold off to a private company. But that could mean a much downsized vision for the facility, not the major economic development project it was envisioned as.

Martinez said:

The Spaceport is part of the plan for economic development in New Mexico, and the voters made it clear they support it. We want to be a leader in space exploration, but we want to do it within our budget.

The Times says the Governor "has made it clear she wants any additional financing for the Spaceport to come from private industry."

That would seem to indicate that even if only a couple of million dollars in extra funding were needed to put tourists in suborbital space, Martinez would object if the money had to come from the state. That is a giant red flag. What if a private sector investor could not be found? Will the state demand that Virgin Galactic pay?

And who is Susana going to sell an untested Spaceport to? The facility's value is going to come when they light the rocket and send the first tourist into suborbital space and not until then.

The Spaceport is one of the few economic development ideas the state has on its drawing board that could make an immense difference here. But there is reason to fear that that it could be strangled in its crib.

CAMPAIGN TRAIL

The news:

Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza says she'll seek the Democratic nomination for the Public Regulation Commission seat in northern New Mexico held by fellow Democrat Jerome Block Jr. Espinoza is in her second term and term limits forbid her from seeking re-election as county clerk next year.

The analysis: Espinoza has long flirted with running for Secretary of State. Her decision to go for the PRC and apparently forgo an SOS run leaves Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver as the leading potential candidate for that far away contest in 2014. With Valerie gone, there is again room for a Hispanic Dem candidate to emerge. Republican Dianna Duran, the current SOS, was the first R elected to the position in 80 years.

THE SALARY BOOK

One of our readers has a helpful tip (and complaint):

The ABQ Journal put the entire UNM salary book on line. Now you can easily look up the salaries of the fat cats. Even associate deans are making $150,000. while we cut teaching assistant positions.

THE SENATE SCRAMBLE

Back on the Senate beat, there is an announced candidate for the GOP nomination. Greg Sowards of Las Cruces is seen as a gadfly who has sought office before. Here's what he is saying about Sen. Bingaman's retirement announcement:

I have a taste of Bingaman's vision for America. I see it in the food and gas prices, the lack of incentives for people to take risks in business, our debilitating national debt, and the creation of an out of control welfare state. Yes, we are experiencing that vision at present and we can do better, much better. So, what kind of person should replace him? I am not a candidate who sees the retirement of Jeff Bingaman as an opportunity for career advancement. Washington is full of those kinds of "servants." We must be wary of those who seek positions of power for personal gain or aggrandizement.

Bill English of Alamogordo is another below-the-radar GOP US senate candidate.

THE BOTTOM LINES

We didn't get a chance to cover the Guv's controversial PR blitz at the Roundhouse this past week, but Steve Terrell did. The Guv is still in campaign mode and she's good at it, but while it may or may not be registering with the public, the issues she is pushing--driver's licenses for illegals, voter ID, etc. are not passing. And it doesn't appear any of them will.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Thanks for popping in here this week.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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