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Monday, October 24, 2011

No Blood Splashing In Dem Senate Race--Yet, Plus: Hanna Bends; Seeks Deal On Key Education Bill, And: NM Construction Crash; Will Santa Fe Step Up? 

Reps. Heinrich & Sanchez
How long will Hector and Martin stay nice? The two are locked in a battle for the Democratic nomination for the US Senate seat, but both contenders have held their fire--so far. And that is to the delight of the Democratic establishment here. They dread a possible bloody battle between State Auditor Hector Balderas and ABQ Rep. Martin Heinrich. Balderas is the decided underdog and you would expect him to perhaps pull the trigger first. But he remains on his best behavior as seen in this campaign stop at Silver City where he was asked directly about rival Heinrich:

"I have lots of respect for him, but we definitely have different backgrounds," he said. "He's a scientist, while I come from an attorney perspective. Personally, I'm for long-term reform in the government, which is what I feel needs to be done."

So a very mild diss, but not the nuclear warfare that could potentially erupt as we draw closer to the June 2012 primary.

As for Heinrich, he is starting to slowly bury Hector in piles of cash and is showing improvement in his speaking style on the stump. He still comes across as a cool cucumber, but there is a bit more gravtias to him then say a year ago.

MARTIN AND MADRID


That lead photo at the top of the blog is of Heinrich appearing at an ABQ fund-raiser for southern California Dem US Rep. Linda Sanchez Friday. It was hosted by former Attorney General Patrica Madrid who recently endorsed Heinrich over Balderas. That helps Heinrich with the Hispanic vote as does his relationship with the likes of Rep. Sanchez. Madrid told me her endorsement of Heinrich is not personal--but pragmatic. She maintains the time is right for Heinrich, but she remains an admirer of Hector.

Dem US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, who opted against giving up his northern congressional seat to make a run for the Senate seat being vacated by Dem Jeff Bingaman, was also at the Madrid event. He seems to have strengthened himself with the liberal base of the Dem party. Remember, he was primaried by an Anglo liberal in his first campaign in 2008. Like Heinrich, who just turned 40, Ben Ray, 38, continues to grow in the job. Our junior members are more confident. If they succeed in hanging in there, in future years they will be much more than chair warmers.

As for Bingaman, we ran into him Friday at Barelas Coffee House in the ABQ South Valley. He certainly could do with a couple of extra servings of chicharrones as the senior Senator remains thin as a rail. It is one more year to go for Jeff in what will be a 30 year run. By most accounts, it was a successful Senate career. Critics mope that he was too quiet, but when you serve with Republican Pete Domenici there is only room for one roof-top shouter.

As we follow the news, we see Bingaman, 69, is not hanging back. Insiders think he will have success in protecting federal funding for the state in his final months. But it is what comes after that--in 2013 when our seniority on the Hill plummets--that is causing creeping worry among the state's business elites.

HANNA BENDS


Is there a growth curve finally taking hold in Santa Fe.? The "my way or the highway" approach has caused this Governor to come up mostly empty-handed in trying to pass major legislation. But we may be seeing a crack in the dam. Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera may be ready for the "C" word--
compromise:

Skandera said she hopes educators within the New Mexico Coalition of School Administrators will contribute to rewriting the social-promotion bill so it can win favor next January. She reiterated that the plan — which she would like to rename the reading intervention bill — has built-in intervention practices in place to ensure students are reading up to their grade level so they don't have to be held back.

That's the ticket, Hanna. We've had nearly a year to put points on the board and there's nothing much up there. In the legislative process half a loaf is better than none. The social promotion bill--holding back third graders who are not ready to advance--would be the kind of legislative achievement Martinez could tout in her re-election bid, not to mention breaking the glacier pace of Santa Fe.

LEAVING THE FOURTH

Alligators and wall-leaners report that Adam Feldman, Martinez's director of boards and commissions, is leaving the post at the end of the month. No reasons have yet bubbled up. Feldman came to NM from Kentucky to become executive director of the NM GOP. His wife Dana managed the campaign of GOP ABQ Mayor Richard Berry and now works for the city.

As for who is calling the personnel shots under Susana, our top level sourcing says it is still political consultant Jay McCleskey who has the Guv's ear. We know that irks Chief of Staff Keith Gardner when he hears it, but we can't--and won't--mince words or spare feelings when it comes to telling you who has the real power in the government of this state.

And speaking of Jay and the gang, they raised over $560,000 for SusanaPAC, according to the latest reports. The PAC reports $300,000 cash on hand. The Guv's re-election committee has $266,000 in cash. Both are headed by consultant McCleskey.

All this cash is coming at Susana while the two ABQ GOP congressional candidates raised less than a measly $100,000 between them. That leads to the Gators wondering if SusanaPAC is needlessly sucking up campaign money that might otherwise go to the congressional contenders and the effort to take the seat out of the hands of the Dems.

One certain reason for the lousy fund-raising--many R's are holding off to see what 2010 GOP nominee Jon Barela does. But impatience is growing with the economic development secretary-designate. He has refused to give a firm answer on whether he will make a repeat bid. That is hurting the money raising of announced candidates Janice Arnold-Jones and Dan Lewis. How long before Barela becomes the target of higher profile criticism as he continues to play tease?

THE BEAR MARKET

Why have we and others been pounding the table and trying to convince overly conservative Dem Senators like John Arthur Smith and John Sapien to favor larger capital outlay bills? This makes it pretty clear:

The job picture for construction workers got worse in New Mexico during September, bucking a national trend of improved hiring, according to an analysis of federal labor statistics by the Associated General Contractors of America. The state’s construction sector lost 1,100 jobs during the month, which at 2.7 percent was the fourth-highest percentage decline in the country. That was the good news. New Mexico has the most beleaguered construction sector in the country in a year-to-year comparison. The state lost 4,100 construction jobs during the 12 months ending with September. At 9.5 percent, the loss was the highest percentage decline in the country.

Senators Smith and Sapien and the powers that be at the Legislative Finance Committee would do well to heed the call of Governor Martinez who tried to get through a $212 million capital outlay bill in the recent special legislative session. She had to settle for $86 million. Hopefully, she will not get cold feet and again step up in the January legislative session and seek more critical construction funds. And, hopefully, the Democrats (and Republicans) who thwarted the larger bill realize that there is an employment crisis among working class New Mexicans. The time for more stimulus was yesterday.


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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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