Thursday, January 05, 2012

New Political Year Bursts Into View As We Make The Rounds In ABQ Valley; The Gang Was All There, Plus: Redistricting Blues And Hispanic History 

GOP Judges Alaniz, Hanisee & Winder
The political year to come burst into view as we made the rounds at the Barelas Coffee House this week. You know it's going to be a bombastic 10 months until Election Day when even the Republicans are hanging out in the overwhelmingly Democratic ABQ South Valley. The trio of Republican judges pictured here looked like something on a politically endangered list as they made their way about the fabled restaurant in search of chicharrones and votes. They need to be intrepid in a Democratic state like ours. And who knows? They could turn themselves into upset winners if they keep up the pace.

On the left (in the photo, not philosophically) is Bernalillo County Metro Court Judge Henry Alaniz, appointed by the Guv in April and now running for the seat on his own. The Roswell native is seen chumming it up with J. Miles Hanisee, a Susana appointee to the state Court of Appeals and Sam Winder (on the right) the first Native American Republican District Court judge who she named this year to the ABQ court.

Miles is campaigning statewide and jokes that his slogan is "Miles Per Hour" as he makes his way to the far reaches of New Mexico. He will face either Monica Zamora or Victor Lopez, the two Dems vying for their party's Court of Appeals nod in the June primary. Judge Hanisee recently came under scrutiny for donating $750 to Susana before he was appointed to the bench (Like all judges he was recommended to the Guv by the bipartisan judicial nomination commission). Unfortunately, we ran into him after lunch was over so he wasn't around to pick up our check.

Winder, a UNM School of Law grad ('88) is half African-American, half Native American and a Republican. Talk about diversity. Winder is loving his new job, but it looks as though he will have a tough fight keeping it. Paul Barber will challenge him for the GOP nomination. Also, Metro Court Judge Ben Chavez is expected to be the Dem nominee for the judgeship and that's a name that packs political punch. Sam has a fine sense of humor and he's going to need to keep it handy.

Also kicking off their new year with some Barelas red and green was noted federal prosecutor Greg Fouratt, a Roswell native and Republican who made major waves as the NM US Attorney. He remains a top level prosecutor under new US Attorney and Democrat Ken Gonzalez.

And our table-hopping continued as we ran into former GOP Bernalillo County Commissioner and KANW-FM radio general manager Michael Brasher lunching it up with wife Jorja, a department head for the city of ABQ. We joshed Brasher that he is now known as "Michael Tinnin" in recognition of Governor Martinez appointing him to the state Board of Finance. He replaces fellow Republican Tom Tinnin who resigned because of the wheeling and dealing over the state racino lease for the Downs at ABQ at NM Expo. Brasher smiled over his new nickname (Well...sort of).

Before we got out the door we spotted Agnes Maldonado, sister to Dem State Sen. Bernadette Sanchez. Agnes was an ardent supporter of Governor Susana and now works as director of administration at the state run NM Expo. We steered clear of any talk of that Downs deal, not wanting to cause any indigestion. Not that Agnes is uncomfortable with dissent. Sitting with her and chewing the political tortillas was Theresa Trujeque, a longtime Dem activist currently assisting Dem US Senate contender Hector Balderas. Also on hand was attorney Hilary Noskin and mom Mary Noskin, both Republicans. Mary informed that former NM GOP Governor Dave Cargo remains in an ABQ rehabilitation facility after suffering a stroke late last year. Cargo turns 83 January 13 and his many friends everywhere are wishing him the best.

And that wasn't the only bipartisan table.
National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation President and former Democratic First Lady ('75-79) Clara Apodaca was dishing it up with Edward Lujan, former NM GOP chairman, leading businessman and one of the founding fathers of the center. Edward's brother, former Congressman Manuel Lujan, will be 84 this May and Edward reports he is going strong.

So who says the Dems and R's can't get along--at least when they're not in Santa Fe. Hey, maybe we should move the Roundhouse to Barelas.

(P.S. All of our lunchers report being daily readers of the blog. Heck, there may even be an Alligator or two in the bunch, but we'll never tell.)


The political waves over that controversial state House redistricting decision from retired Judge James Hall continue to crash ashore. Here in a nutshell is what happened with the 70 House districts:

Tuesday’s decision increases the number of “swing districts” from five to eight and alters a sizeable number of districts for sitting House members so that the power of incumbency is reduced while increasing the overall competitiveness of statewide races. That’s bad news for Democrats, who saw their plan...rejected. Rep. Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) said he was distressed that Judge Hall bought “into the governor’s crass effort to achieve a radical Republican gerrymander.” Rep. Tom Taylor, who is the House minority leader, sent out an e-mail to Republican members immediately after Hall’s ruling saying, “Whoopee!”...

The Dems could appeal the ruling. Taylor may be overly optimistic. Under the court-approved plan, the odds makers don't see a GOP takeover of the House which is narrowly divided 36 to 33 with one independent. But it may make it harder for the Dems to pick up the two or three seats they were counting on in this big turnout presidential year.

ABQ Dem Rep. Bill O'Neill checks in to tell us he was surprised by the ruling. We blogged earlier how it appeared his district was going to get more Dem. That is still the case, but much less so than under the plan that was approved by the Legislature, vetoed by the Governor and rejected by Judge Hall.

Insiders say 40 year State Rep. Nick Salazar will hang up his spurs if he has to face off with fellow northern Dem Rep. Tomas Garcia as is called for under the judge's ruling.

A sidebar: Any appeal of the plan would go before the State Supreme Court--controlled by the Dems, but the Supremes appointed the retired Hall to do the redistricting. How prone would they be to reverse him?


A state budget that actually calls for spending more? Yep. After three years of the scalpel, the Legislative Finance Committee calls for spending $5.7 billion for the budget year that begins July 1. That's a 4.6 percent increase. The projected surplus is $250 million, The state budget peaked during the bull market at about $6.2 billion, so we are still a long way from those glory days.

The still skittish and scattered economic recovery is generating a bit more tax revenue. High oil prices also add to state coffers. The state gets about a quarter of its revenue from royalties on oil and natural gas.

We calculated that 57% of this state budget proposal goes to education--$2.9 billion for the public schools and $756 million for higher education. The Guv will come with her own budget before the start of the legislative session.


One portion of the higher ed budget that won't be increased is the salary for the new University of New Mexico president. Robert Frank will earn $355,000 plus benefits. The current president pulls down nearly $600,000 in what amounts to one of the most overpaid state jobs ever. Frank is being brought in by the UNM Regents from Kent State University. He faces a campus that has been in turmoil for several years and a university that has a hazy identity. Will he bring in his own management team? He ought to.

Farmington's Tom Mullins, the oil engineer who impressed observers with a strong Republican run against Ben Ray Lujan for the Northern congressional seat in 2010, won't be worrying about any 2012 election deadlines. He's opted out of the action:

I am unable to fully commit myself to the effort necessary to win this challenging seat. I have family and business obligations that preclude me from serving New Mexicans in this important position, should I succeed.

Mullins scored 43% of the vote against Lujan running as a true-blue conservative. His withdrawal leaves businessman Rick Newton as the GOP challenger to Ben Ray who is a heavy favorite in the district where Hispanics and Native Americans make up a majority. As for Mullins, his air of authenticity may position him for a future run. But he might want to drop any notion of putting land mines on the US-Mexico border.


Speaking of Hispanics and the population of the state, reader Bill Hume noted that the blog reported Wednesday that by 2035 New Mexico will be majority Hispanic. He writes:

They were the majority at the start 100 years ago. This is why Hispanics have always had a significant voice in New Mexico political matters, to a degree not matched in any other state, to my knowledge. We haven't been free of prejudice, to be sure -- but our Hispanics haven't been bereft of political influence either.

Thanks for that, Bill. Hispanics are well-represented at the political table. We have a Hispanic Governor, Senate Majority Leader, state House Speaker, and three members of the five member State Supreme Court. It might be argued that the congressional delegation is light with Hispanic representation. Of the five members only Rep. Ben Ray Lujan is of Hispanic descent.


Goodbye to Mike Cerletti. It was a job well done by New Mexico's first tourism secretary. He was claimed by brain cancer this week at the age of 72.

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