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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Dialing In On Redistricting: Insiders Pinpoint Four Best Chances For Dems In 2012 House Races, Plus: Susana On Taxes, And: Alligator War In The Valley 

So what's the deal with the redistricting of the state House and Senate? Who wins and who loses? The insiders have been on hold since the Governor vetoed a legislative redistricting plan approved by lawmakers. Everyone is now waiting for a district court judge to redraw the boundaries for the next ten years. But you can only hold the back the chattering classes for so long. They are bursting to tell us where they see things coming down when the court finally draws the lines. The judge will lean heavily on the plan the Legislature adopted, even though it was vetoed by the Guv.

All eyes are on the very narrowly divided House--36 Dems, 33 R's and one Independent. Can the Democrats broaden that margin and retake firm control in 2012? They have a pretty clean shot if they can recruit the right candidates. So say our legislative experts, insiders, wall-leaners, Alligators, hangers-on and political wanna-bes. Here are their top Dem prospects in the post-redistricting world

--ABQ GOP State Rep. Conrad James-- The freshman lawmaker's district is newly competitive for the Dems. That's because his district has been pushed unto more Democratic turf. He is the first Republican African-American legislator from Bernalillo County. He has adhered to a strong conservative record, giving him little wiggle room as he prepares to see new and Democratic faces on the campaign trail. The redrawn district likely to come out of the courts is split 50-50 between Dems and R's. When James was elected in 2010, the district was much more Republican.

--Valencia County GOP Rep. Alonzo Baldonado. He's another freshman Republican elected in 2010. but his re-election could be endangered by the new boundaries that emerge. His seat has been in play for a long time, but some say he redistricting tilts toward the Dems. He loses some GOP oriented precincts in Los Lunas and Bosque farms. On the other hand, insiders say Baldonado's not gnashing his teeth over the new lines. He doesn't see the changes as imperiling him.

--Los Alamos GOP Rep. Jim Hall-- He was appointed in June to fill the seat of the late Rep. Jeannette Wallace. This district offers the Dems an opportunity for a pick up because the new district as proposed goes more into the city of Santa Fe and out of the rural and more conservative Jemez area. Democrat Stephanie Richard ran a close race against Wallace in 2010 and she is expected to be back in '12 for a second try. This time the second time could be the charm.

--Dona Ana and Otero County GOP State Rep. Rick Little--Yet another GOP House freshman who has to watch his back in 2012. His district would become more Democratic under the redistricting bill approved by the Legislature. In it, he lost his very Republican Alamogordo precincts. Can the Dems find a top prospect to take advantage? Stay tuned.

--GOP veteran State Rep.Don Tripp of Socorro, Catron and Valencia Counties--This is a well-known political and business name, but the Alligators say Tripp is ripe for a challenge in 2012, if the Dems can step up to the plate with a big hitter. The district loses heavily Republican Catron County and southern Socorro County in the legislative approved plan. That makes the numbers more favorable for the Dems, making it a toss-up district. Tripp was first elected in 1998 when he defeated big name Democrats and then-House Majority Leader Michael Olguin. Back then, Don was the take down guy. Fourteen years later could he be taken down? We'll see.

So there you have the top four Democratic pick up opportunities in the NM House, but what about the R's? Our insiders say the GOP did so well in 2010 in this Democratic state when they picked up eight House seats in the 70 member body that there is no low lying fruit left for them to go after. If they simply held their own--and kept the chamber as narrowly divided as it currently is--2012 would be a darn good year for the party of the elephant.

TAX PROPOSALS


There is something to like and not like in the initial dribble of information coming out of Santa Fe regarding the Guv's tax proposals that she is considering sending down to the Legislature at the January session.

On the "like" side of the equation is her proposal to look at reducing the job-killing state gross receipts tax on small businesses--now at 7 percent. On the "not like" side is her ill-advised idea to cut corporate tax rates. In fact, we think she should be looking to increase some corporate rates to make up for revenue that she would lose if she won a cut in the gross receipts tax.

And therein lies the rub. The state will at best run a modest surplus for the budget year that begins next July--and maybe not even that. If we are going to trim the gross receipts tax--a tax that has really spiraled out of control and given our neighboring states a competitive advantage--we are going to have to replace the lost revenue. If not a fix in some of the corporate loopholes that have often been discussed, how about hiking the top state income tax rate? During the go-go years it was taken down from over 8 percent to 4.9. Contrary to far-right propaganda, the rate reduction has had no impact on job creation or in attracting high paid executives to the state. Both were promised when lawmakers of all stripes fell head over heels for the lower rates.

Of course, this GOP Governor is highly unlikely to acquiesce to a tax hike of any kind. And that means while tax reform in Santa Fe is not dead on arrival, it is in intensive care.

The state is under constant financial pressure during this epic Bear Market and can't afford to cut taxes. What it can do is restructure the tax system. Susana may make political points with her conservative base by proposing tax cuts, but as far as actually getting something done? Well, you'd have a better chance betting on a UNM Lobo football win...

THE FUNNY WEED


When it comes to jobs and the economy they're still smoking the funny weed over at state GOP headquarters (Monty, do they grow that stuff down in Hobbs?). Out of the blue, the spinmeisters try to give Susana the title of "Jobs Governor."

While President Obama is flailing, Governor Martinez is running the floor by delivering on her promises. It was announced this week that more than 100 jobs are coming to Santa Teresa because of Governor Martinez’s work. New Mexico is open for business and Governor Martinez's administration is working hard to create a more business-friendly state that will expand opportunities for New Mexicans for generations to come.

Wow! A whole 100 jobs! We're going to wet our blogging pajamas if they keep exciting us this way. (By they way, isn't the saying "running the table" not "the floor?" Guess these R's aren't hanging out at the pool halls where we cut our teeth).

The truth is that thousands upon thousands of jobs have been lost in this state during the Great Recession and the retrenchment has continued under this Governor, albeit at a slower rate. But any way you slice it 100 jobs does not make a "Jobs Governor," not when you are presiding over a work force that has shrunk dramatically as people give up looking or move elsewhere. And not when Santa Fe plays ostrich whenever the "jobs" word is uttered.

Having said that, Susana should not be discouraged about the one solid job-creating proposal she has put forth. That would be her $212 million capital outlay bill that was downsized to under $90 million by the perplexed politicos in the Legislature.

If Martinez really wants to be known as the "Jobs Governor" she should come back with a $450 million capital outlay package made up in part with money that has been appropriated but for years has gone unspent. How's that for some "bold change," Guv?

ALLIGATOR WARS

Just what are the boundaries of the storied ABQ South Valley? A Senior Alligator Monday argued that the Barelas neighborhood does not lie in that section of the ABQ metro, but another Gator strikes back at that notion:

a) Barelas is in the southwest quadrant


b) The South Valley is only west of the river?! Seriously?!?! I bet the folks in Mountain View, Kinney and other traditional South Valley neighborhoods would be shocked to hear that they have been summarily relocated to, where exactly? If they're not South Valley, where are they??

And from none other than Wikipedia:

Southwest Quadrant---Traditionally consisting of agricultural and rural areas, the Southwest quadrant is often referred to as the "South Valley." Although the city limits of Albuquerque do not include all of the area, the South Valley is considered to extend all the way to the Isleta Indian Reservation. This includes the old communities of Atrisco, Los Padillas, Kinney, Westgate, Mountainview, and Pajarito. The south end of downtown Albuquerque, the Bosque("woodlands"), the Barelas neighborhood, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, and the Albuquerque Biological Park are also located here.

The Senior Alligator responds:

Westgate Heights is the Southwest Mesa, not the South Valley. Nobody except the uninformed from out of state include any part of Albuquerque in the South Valley. Wikipedia is wrong about this and many other things. See its own disclaimer. The South Valley is only the area between Central to the Isleta Pueblo and between the West side of the Rio Grande to Foothill.
Any other area is not in the South Valley regardless of the errors of many and the pretensions of a few.

All of this got started when Rep. Kiki Saavedra endorsed Dem Eric Griego for the Dem nod for the ABQ congressional seat. Griego was born in Barelas.

Please don't ask how we wade into these things. Being a humble Anglo from Pennsylvania has its pitfalls.

MY BOTTOM LINES

A reminder to the offices of NM Economic Development Secretary-designate Jon Barela. You can't drop the "designate" when referring to him because the state Senate has yet to confirm Barela. That's why he is known as a "Designate." A department news release:

New Mexico Economic Development Department Secretary Jon Barela announced today that William “Bill” Mattiace was named executive director of the New Mexico Border Authority...

Jon is considering a run for the GOP nomination for the ABQ congressional seat and it sure would be nice not to have to have that pesky "Designate" hanging out there. But that's up to the Senate, not Jon the Designated One. (His office stationary does say "Cabinet Secretary Designate." Also, Education Secretary-Designate Hanna Skandera has also not yet won Senate confirmation. She uses designate when describing her position)....

In a first draft Monday we blogged that State. Sen. John Sapien serves on the Senate Finance Committee. We should have said the Legislative Finance Committee. And Rep. Andy Nunez voted "present," not "no" when the vote to retain House Speaker Lujan was last taken.

That doesn't change our analysis that Sapien's conservative votes--in line with those of Senate Finance Chair John Arthur Smith--could cause him headaches if he is challenged in the 2012 Democratic primary which was the focus of our report....

Susana names neither a Dem or an R to a Public Regulation Commission vacancy, but an independent:

Gov. Martinez has chosen a Santa Fe consultant to fill the position left vacant by the resignation of embattled former Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Jr. Martinez named Doug Howe to the commission on Monday. She says he's well-versed in energy, environmental and regulatory issues. An independent, Howe works as a consultant with IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a global consulting and research company.


It looks as though Howe won't be around long--unless he signs up with one of the major parties. This is the heavily Democratic northern Public Regulation Commission seat and it goes up for election next year. Independents are not usually elected, but the appointment does give Martinez some bragging rights that she is trying to be a bipartisan Guv, even while insiders note an R has no hope of taking the seat.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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