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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gary Johnson: A Blog Reality Check, Plus: The Gotcha Scene Extends To "Voter Fraud," And: My Bottom Lines For A New Mexico Thursday 

Can we have a reality check on Gary Johnson? The former New Mexico Governor, now a 2012 GOP presidential candidate, was snubbed by CNN and not allowed to take part in this week's presidential debate in New Hampshire. Gary's supporters jumped all over the network--probably with good cause-- and said CNN unfairly excluded him based on his low polling numbers. But then they went a step further and with foggy memories as their guide began exclaiming that when Gary ended his eight years as New Mexico's Governor in 2002, he was hugely popular and a stellar example of leadership. That's why it's time for a reality check.

Three months before he left office, in September 2002, Johnson was a deeply divisive and polarizing figure. 45% of those polled by the ABQ Journal that month approved of his job performance and 45% disapproved, with 10 percent having no opinion. Unlike what today's forgetful Johnson advocates are doing, Gary was being anything but lionized. In the history books his administration will be most remembered for the record number of vetoes he cast. Yes, the economy was good and the state ran budget surpluses. But how soon we forget. Under Richardson's administration we ran record surpluses until the last two years of his term when the national recession took hold. He also did something Johnson promised to do but never could--dramatically slash tax rates on the wealthiest New Mexicans--as ill-advised as it may have been.

Gary's advocacy for public school vouchers; his campaign to legalize drugs and his refusal to sign a state budget in his final year all contributed to his mediocre popularity. Gary may wear it as a badge of honor, but in his final days, the New Mexico Legislature--both Republicans and Democrats--voted for the first time in state history to call themselves into an extraordinary session to pass a state budget that Johnson refused to sign. That kind of governmental gridlock gives his supporters grins, but not in more centered quarters.

It's true that at the end of his run Richardson's popularity was ten points lower than when Johnson completed his terms. And God knows, Richardson was no angel. But Bill had something Gary never had--credibility on the national stage. That's why when he ran for President he was invited to all the early debates and why today Johnson is being passed over.

Johnson also has a gaping hole in his resume for these past eight years. If you are so concerned about the welfare of the United States that you want to be President, what have you been doing to improve the nation since you left the Governor's office all those years ago--besides a quixotic and inchoate campaign to legalize drugs?

Maybe if Governor Gary manages to win a slot in a future presidential debate, someone with a sense of history will ask him that?

THE GOTCHA SCENE

There is so much money floating around in politics that many have come to view campaign contributions as legalized bribery. But there's the rub. The system may be corrupt, but a contribution does not amount to a bribe. That's where the allegations that judgeships in New Mexico were awarded via bribery break down. As for actual contributions and the judiciary, there are plenty, as conservative watchdog David Collins details in this lengthy investigative report.

Besides the blind alley investigation into judicial bribery going on in Las Cruces, we now have the state police--at the request of the secretary of state--investigating 64,000 cases of "possible voter fraud." Of course, as New Mexico election expert Denise Lamb points out, there is no such thing. This is about clerical errors--not voter fraud--of which former GOP US Attorney David Iglesias investigated and came up empty-handed.

Lamb said she suspects there is a list-management problem rather than a voting-fraud problem. She said there are a number of factors that could explain discrepancies between the voter list and the MVD list.

People frequently use different variations of their first names, she said, such as "Tom" instead of "Thomas." People aren't always quick to report changes of addresses to the MVD. People mistakenly transpose numbers in addresses or Social Security numbers, she said. But perhaps the most common problem: "County clerks face the decline in legible handwriting. All voter-registration forms are filled out by hand. I'm surprised we get as much right as we do."


How much taxpayer money is being spent poring over these 64,000 records, wonders UNM poly sci professor and election expert Lona Atkeson? She says the discrepancies should have gone to the individual county clerks before being handed over to law enforcement. "We have all of the original records. We might have been able to clear a lot of these up."

Atkeson and Lamb aren't blowing smoke. And we doubt that Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran doesn't share most of their views, even as she is pressured to conclude otherwise by political operatives whose agenda is demonization, not legitimization.

CALIFORNIA GIRL

So what did Susana have to say
during her speech this week to southern Cal Republicans?

Gov. Susana Martinez, addressed the packed ballroom with a message of "honest, accountable and limited government" and the need for Republicans to continue the fight for the principles of the party. Gov. Martinez is the first Hispanic female governor elected in the country. Majorities of both houses of the New Mexico Legislature are held by Democrats, and President Obama handily carried the state in 2008. Thus, it's significant that Ms. Martinez, a Republican, won her seat at all, and meaningful for California to the extent she is successful at working with the opposition party there. It's not a stretch to say that Gov. Martinez could be regarded as a prototype for future Republican candidates in the Golden State, especially given the similarities in political party registration and demographics between New Mexico and California.

How about that glowing review? Well, if Susana slides in popularity around here, there's always California. Yeah, you can just see her and Chuck surfing those waves at Malibu--or at least soaking up some rays....

MY BOTTOM LINES

Champagne and Häagen-Dazs. Do they taste okay together? Guess those attending a GOP fund-raiser today will find out:

You are invited to the 1st Annual Albuquerque Federated Republican Women"Champagne and Haagen-Daz" Fund Raiser to raise money for Great Republican Candidates for 2012. Only $25.00/person Thursday, June 16, 2011; 5:00pm - 8:00pm At the home of of Paul & Marty Lambert...

Hey, they left the "s" out of "Dazs!" And then there's the matter of having a fundraiser named Champagne and Häagen-Dazs during a semi-Depression. But if we go there, Marty Lambert will hold back our helping of white chocolate raspberry truffle. No way are we going to risk that....


We had some erroneous info for our early morning Wednesday blog readers. A Legal Beagle said that House Speaker Lujan's appointment to the Court of Appeals nominating commission was a former Republican Mayor of Espanola. Not so. The appointee, Richard Lucero, is a Democrat. Here is the membership list of the nomination commission which will send a name or names to Governor Martinez to fill a court vacancy. (Four more appointees will be made). As punishment for the error, the Legal Beagle has been impounded for a week--no long walks around the downtown courthouses for now....

This is the home of New Mexico politics---the "must-read" of the New Mexico Net.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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