Monday, January 23, 2012

Come On Guv, You Want It And We Know It, Plus: Harry After Ben Ray, Barela Is Out, And: Senator Rebuts State Of State; All Next On A Big Monday Blog 

Let's clear this up for those who may be new at this. The following statement from Governor Martinez in reaction to Mitt Romney mentioning her as a possible vice-presidential running mate in no way rules out her taking the Veep nomination, if offered:

"She has no interest in serving as vice president and will not be a candidate for the position."

Not going to be a "candidate." Huh? There are no "candidates." The presidential nominee will select who he wants--"candidate" or not. And even if Martinez said she wouldn't take the VP position, if offered, we would believe it about as much as someone telling us the fix wasn't in on the Downs at ABQ deal. How many times in American history have we heard politicos say they would no way consider becoming VP only to end up on the ticket? The rules of traditional journalism just can't get at this angle. It has to accept at face value these somewhat incredulous statements and send them out. We're not saying it's good that you have us around, but we're just sayin'....

Susana is being repeatedly mentioned by the "Great Mentioners " and now Romney because she is a Hispanic female Republican Governor--that rarest of political species. Not bad for her but as we've blogged in the past it has nothing to do with her ability as governor, and it can make Mr. & Mrs. New Mexico pretty jumpy that yet another of their chief executives is flirting on the national stage while this state continues to struggle across a a variety of fronts. The days when the citizenry around here glowed in the afterglow of national mentions of our office holders disappeared with the Macarena.

To refresh your memory which may be wandering as you bask in this mid-January bout of spring-like weather, we now have three Guvs in a row--Johnson, Richardson and Martinez--who have pursued national ambitions, although Johnson waited until he was no longer Guv. We just can't swallow that Kool-Aid from the "Fifth Floor," no matter how sweet. We see Susana clearly in a "pursuing" position.

Gentle reader, do you really think Susana political consultant Jay McCleskey (the de facto Guv, and Susana's in-house Svengali) is doing anything to discourage the speculation or not kissing up to Romney (or Gingrich)? No. But then that's why he gets the big bucks. As for Susana, it's a politician's job to be ambitious. So don't bother to spin us that in the highly improbable event that this Guv is offered the veep nomination, she will flatly reject it. Well, at least show some respect and don't spin the Alligators. They've got ties that are older than the kids putting this stuff out.

Former Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya has launched a long shot bid to upset northern Congressman Ben Ray Lujan in the June Dem primary. The two clashed before, in 2008, when Montoya and Lujan were among the contenders who battled for the then open seat. Insiders say animus between the two camps linger. In announcing, Montoya said he is dedicating his campaign to his late father who died from the "horrible" disease of cancer. That was not lost on the Wall-Leaners who noted that it was only last Tuesday that Lujan's father, House Speaker Ben Lujan revealed that he has advanced lung cancer. Make of it what you will, but it came across as kind of odd. If Harry was trying to ward off any sympathy vote for Ben Ray because of his father's condition, it didn't quite make the grade.

Montoya's major challenge, as you might guess, will be raising enough cash to build his candidacy into more than an idle threat. Also, will he be able to get 20 percent of the delegate vote at the Dem pre-primary convention in March? If he doesn't, he would have to get petition signatures to get on the June ballot. No candidate who has been denied the 20 percent has ever won a congressional primary. Can Lujan stop Montoya at the convention and basically end it all there?

By most accounts we've gathered, Ben Ray has turned in a solid performance in his first two terms, but he still has not established the reputation that will quell unrest among the natives and make the seat unquestionably his. That will come in time. Maybe having hopeful Harry to defeat will hasten the effort. (There's another Dem candidate running against Lujan--musician Sean Closson--who poses no threat).


We are natural gas trackers around here, and our readers have kept us ahead of the curve about the plunging price of the commodity and how that may wreak havoc with the prediction that the state will have a revenue surplus of $250 million to appropriate for the budget year that begins July 1st. We were glad to see the ABQ Journal finally come with a definitive explanation on how natural gas prices are figured and how they relate to the over $5.6 billion budget. The piece was done by James Monteleone, the former education writer who now takes over as the paper's political reporter, replacing Sean Olson who left for Idaho.


It was not a shocker, but it did clear the air when Jon Barela, the 2010 GOP nominee for the ABQ congressional seat and the current economic-development secretary-designate (the state senate has yet to confirm him to the Guv's cabinet), told the newspaper Friday afternoon that he would not take a second bite out of the apple.

Barela's possible entrance into the race was driving the other hopefuls crazy and causing a run on anti-depressants at Walgreen's, never mind cramping their ability to raise money. And Barela waiting to the last minute to say he would not run again went down with them about as well as corn flakes without milk.

But this is politics so there was no gasping when Janice Arnold-Jones immediately put out a news release calling him a "fantastic" economic development director-designate. Well, Janice's hyperbole can be forgiven, one supposes, as she now faces a freshly formidable Dan Lewis, the ABQ city councilor and pastor who is now being dubbed the front-runner in the wake of Barela's announcement. But Lewis is new and will not get it without a fight from Janice and maybe one from retired Army Seargent Gary Smith. He's been flying below the radar, but was back in DC last week visiting with such PACS as the National Rifle Association and National Right to Life. He has also seeded his effort with some $125,000 of his own cash and insiders say there could be more to come.

Whoever wins the ABQ GOP House nomination will go into the fall election as the underdog. And that's something new. The district was held by the GOP from '69 until '08 when Dem Martin Heinrich scored victory. The crystal ball gazers say it may be much more difficult for the GOP to take it back. Why? Re-districting improves Republican performance in the district by about 1 percent, but that's in the face of the district trending Dem.

And then there's Obama. What did he carry Bernalillo County by in 2008? Wasn't it over a previously unimaginable margin of nearly 60,000 votes? He'll be back on the ballot and even if his margin was chopped in half or more--say a 25,000 vote win, it's hard to see how the Dem congressional candidate would not be carried in on on his coattails.

It seems the DC chattering class is catching on. Longtime prognosticator Larry Sabato has just ranked the ABQ congressional seat as "likely Democrat" in the November election. No more "toss-up" or even "lean Dem." And because of the Obama factor (he still polls well in ABQ) we agree. But hold on. There's 2014 when voter turnout drops and the Republicans can again see the light. Well, yes, but our local dry cleaner hasn't yet put out their free calender for 2014, so we'll pass on that one.


Balderas & Lewis
We caught up with State Auditor and Dem US Senate candidate Hector Balderas at the Martin Luther King Jr. annual ABQ breakfast and snapped this pic of him with Dem State Treasurer Jim Lewis. We felt like a shaggy dog next to these two guys. But both have been champion vote-getters with the hairy as well as the hairless set. Lewis especially so, wracking up huge winning margins in past races for Bernalillo County treasurer as well as state treasurer.

Not to worry you too much Hector, but when James B. made a run for the ABQ US House seat back in '90 he didn't fare too well, losing the nomination to Rebecca Vigil-Giron who in the fall lost to Rep. Steve Schiff.

We broke the news here last week that Rep. Heinrich, who Balderas is challenging for the nomination, showed $1.4 million in cash on hand at the end of December. At the end of September, Hector said he had $465,000. His new cash total will come at the end of the month, but it's not going to be anywhere near Heinrich's number, but at least Hector is saving money on haircuts.

Do we need to repeat here that any money Hector has left over from a Senate run could legally be used for a state campaign like attorney general or Governor? Nah, we don't need to do that, do we?

Ortiz y Pino
Susana's annual state-of-the-state address delivered at last Tuesday's opening of the 2012 legislative session picked at an old sore with us--the administration's exaggeration of how it tamed the state's budget shortfall during its first year in office. Dem State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino was in the chamber for the talk and crafted this critique:

Joe, The Governor managed the ever-difficult double parlay of misstating history and claiming credit for someone else's work, all in the same paragraph. She first gave the good news that we have escaped the "worst problem of structural debt in our state's history this year..." Not so. We were in far worse shape fiscally three years ago. She arrived on the scene two years into the recovery from the depths of the problem. This year our cash reserves will be right around 10%--a far cry from last year's 4.5% or the previous year's microscopic 0.5%. And the cuts in spending have been similarly scaled down each of these past three years. So the welcome recovery began three years ago, not this past year.

Then, when it came to explaining the improvement, she managed to ignore the single biggest factor of all. Sure her Administration has been thrifty. But selling the jet, firing the chefs and getting rid of cell phones made only a tiny impression on the state's debt. What has turned around our fiscal picture has been increased revenues: oil prices and volume have been high (to our fiscal benefit) and natural gas, until recently, also was a robust revenue source for us.

But what the Governor has never acknowledged is that the tax increases we voted in during the last special session of the Richardson era (and that the GOP used against Democratic House incumbents in that Fall's election, not an insignificant factor in the loss of six seats the Dems suffered then) have done exactly what they were designed to do: produce additional revenue. That's the reason we have a stronger budget this year. And that's why her plan to resume cutting taxes is so dangerous. It's a mistake Bill Richardson made and that continues to make us bleed fiscally.

Yep, Ortiz y Pino, 69, is one of the state's leading liberals and a routine critic of the Guv, but on this one he has it nailed. We welcome those who disagree to pen a rebuttal, but we don't think our email box will be flooded.

We won't bother to repost the AP story reflecting how Martinez and the legislature trimmed $150 million from state spending in her first budget, not the $450 million "structural deficit" that she insists on taking credit for. And we guess we won't get into why Richard May lasted about as long as a snowfall in Hobbs as head of the Department of Finance & Administration.

And to those who think we've been too tough on the Guv, flash back to our coverage of Dem Big Bill's administration, he liked it so much he had toilet paper with our name on it. So it goes....

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