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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Heinrich Joins Balderas On Gay Marriage; He Now Favors It, Plus: Darren White Resurfacing, And: Hawaii Happiness: Politicos Tie Knot 

Heinrich Vs. Balderas
The early announcement from Dem US Senate contender Hector Balderas raises the question of where Rep. Martin Heinrich stands on the often controversial matter. In 2008, when he first sought the ABQ congressional seat, Heinrich was against gay marriage. But flash forward to his contest today for the Dem Senate nod and Heinrich has changed positions. Like Balderas, he is now in favor of gay marraige, but has not made that position widely known. As a result some news articles continue to cite Heinrich's 2008 stance. His office told us:

Martin has supported gay marriage for some time. I just don't think he was asked about it. Thanks for asking!

That contrasts with his 2008 view when he said:

I am not supportive of gay marriage, but I do believe that everybody in the United States has the same civil rights in front of the government.

News of Heinrich's switch comes as polling shows gay marriage opponents are now in the minority. However, Hispanic Catholics are a more conservative group and the Balderas decision to come out (no pun intended) for gay marriage so early had some analysts questioning whether he should have held back. The upside is that the position gets him more notice in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party--the heart of Martin's support.

If Heinrich had stayed static in his gay marriage position it might have cost him campaign dollars from the local and national Dem gay community as well as important votes.

WHITE WATCH

Alligators checking in here report that former ABQ Public Safety Darren White apparently is not going to stay jobless for long. They say he has a deal in the works--or a deal already made--to do security consulting either at the Downs at ABQ racetrack or for Expo NM where the track is located.

In March the Martinez administration dumped Expo NM manager Craig Swagerty. Dan Mourning, a close friend of White's, was named interim manager. Mourning previously managed Capo's restaurant in downtown ABQ which has since been closed.

White remains under investigation for his actions at the scene of a July auto accident involving his wife. The city's inspector general is conducting that probe. White was forced to resign as public safety director because of the controversy and also had to give up his position on the state Judicial Standards Commission which he was named to by Governor Martinez.

Now Darren is out of the city orbit, but apparently back under the wing of Susana and state government--even if it is via a private contract or employment through an Expo vendor. But that's the way things usually work in New Mexico politics. Isn't it?

JOHNSON WHO?

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From the Washington Times:

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is the Rodney Dangerfield of this year’s GOP presidential field — he gets no respect, despite a strong conservative record, a stint as governor of a key state, and a colorful background in the public and private sectors. In a year when voters seem tired of what is seen as wasteful spending and regulatory overreach in Washington, Mr. Johnson said he is surprised he is not getting the attention of other governors who have served fewer years, or whose campaigns are sputtering, or who aren’t even in the race.

MIDDLE OF THE ROVE?

A reader writes of that $1,000 a person ABQ fund-raiser tonight for GOP US Senate candidate Heather Wilson with Bush political strategist Karl Rove as the featured guest:

If Heather is in the "midstream" and Rep. Steve Pearce is on the conservative end of the spectrum, does bringing in Karl make Heather "Middle of the Rove?" And where is that on the axis?

Wilson can surely use the campaign cash, but bringing Karl Rove in dredges up the muck of the past. The putative reason for the visits is that Rove will appeal to conservatives that are giving Heather a hard time.
Trouble is Rove has lousy relations with tea party types--the very group Wilson is vulnerable from.

We need to see some new tricks from this US Senate candidate if she is going to stall challenger John Sanchez.


CHASING HISPANICS

From the
wires:

--A Republican group formed last year to woo more Hispanics to the GOP will hold its second conference in Albuquerque next month. The
Hispanic Leadership Network, which is backed by former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman and his American Action Network, will meet Sept. 23 and 24 at the Hyatt Regency...

Coleman said the Hispanic Leadership Network was created to engage the country's growing minority voting block as the group builds a "center-right" agenda on issues like the economy, jobs, education and immigration reform...New Mexico was chosen in part because it has a new Republican Hispanic governor, Susana Martinez, who along with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has agreed to speak at the conference.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

So the good news is personal income in the Albuquerque metro area grew by 2.2 percent in 2010. But the not so good news is that almost all the growth came from “transfer payments” such as unemployment, Social Security and other government benefits programs, not from a robust economy.

And the state reports that its projected $120 million surplus for the budget year that started July 1st will probably all be gobbled up by a Medicaid accounting error ranging from anywhere from $60 to $120 million. The state has a budget of about $5.4 billion and is spending $860 million a year on the program for mainly low-income New Mexicans. That's about 16 percent of the entire budget---and growing.

A lot of us are hoping the NM Spaceport will bring some good-paying jobs on line in the years ahead and the news on that front is good:

Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline..has been selected by
NASA to provide flight opportunities for engineers, technologists and scientific researchers to fly technology payloads into space. This arrangement marks the first time that NASA has contracted with a commercial partner to provide flights into space on a suborbital spacecraft, and represents another important endorsement of the value of regular commercial space access for a wide range of science and educational applications.

That's a welcome addition to the Spaceport from which Virgin plans to launch tourists into space at $200,000 a pop. The NASA contract expands the mission--and the opportunity.

FROM UNM

One of the hottest of the hot-button issues we've covered here in recent years is the top-heavy administration at the University of New Mexico. Now that he is headed for the exits, outgoing President David Schmidly says the incessant criticism over the matter has brought results. In a recent "Monday Morning Message," the Prez wrote:

In 2008, UNM had a total of 16 vice presidents--10.5 on main campus and 5.5 at the Health Sciences Center. Total salary was $4.3 million. By 2011, the number of vice president and equivalent positions was reduced to 12 with seven on main campus and five at the Health Sciences Center. Total salary is now $3.4 million. In the same three-year period, UNM reduced its annual salary expenses by $900,000, representing a 21 percent cut. Cuts were achieved by attrition savings. Total annual payroll at UNM is in excess of $835 million. The VP expenses account for less than ½ of one percent of total payroll...

Meantime UNM has put up $250,000 for a firm to help it fund a new president.

HAWAII HAPPINESS

Two well-known politicos found love later in life and tied the knot July 11 in Hawaii. Dona Ana County Dem State Senator Cynthia Nava, chairman of the education committee and a professional educator, and Ron Curry, the environment department cabinet chief under former Governor Big Bill, report "life is good."


Nava, 59, has announced she is
retiring as superintendent of the Gadsden Independent School District to enjoy more free time now that she is married. She was first elected to the Senate in 1992 and is expected to seek re-election next year.

Ron says he is busy "working in Texas, Florida and Tennessee on enviro/management issues, flying the balloon and spending a bunch of time with Cynthia."

He'll have to enjoy that time with his new bride as she is soon off to Santa Fe for a special session of the Legislature. Insiders say that will start September 6. We wonder if she will look as happy after that contentious confab as she does in her wedding pic.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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