Thursday, February 02, 2012

They Thought It Would Be Easy: How The Guv, the GOP And The Conservative Press Overplayed Their Hand On Driver's Licenses For Undocumented Immigrants 

Something is happening here but you don't know what it is... famously crooned Bob Dylan. It's a fitting phrase for the never-ending debate at the NM Legislature over Governor Martinez's repeated pleas to repeal the law allowing undocumented immigrants to have driver's licenses. Just why can't she win on what appears to be a no-brainer issue? After all, she repeatedly warns lawmakers that polling shows 72% of the public wants the law repealed. And there has even been evidence that the fraud associated with the licenses is not isolated. It may seem simple to the Governor but interviews with Alligators, pundits, wall-leaners and hangers-on, show it isn't.

Today we have for you what we think is the first real analysis of why this emotional wedge issue that dominates the state's political agenda remains stuck in the mud and in all likelihood will stay there.

--Intensity. Seventy-two percent of New Mexicans may say they want the licenses repealed, but how much do they care? Not as much as the Governor and her political team would like you to think. The truth is illegal immigration is a top priority of the Republican Party but not of the populace as a whole. That's why Democratic Senators are not caving en masse. They know other issues will decided their election fate.

--Overall, voters are most concerned about jobs and their personal financial condition. We are living through the most precarious economic times in recent history. Illegal immigration and driver's licenses don't register in their pocketbooks.

--Illegal immigration has sunk to record lows. The economic recession/Depression here means fewer jobs for everyone. The problem--especially in the state's cities--is nowhere near as noticeable as it was during the late great bull market.

--The jobs undocumented immigrants traditionally fill are not highly sought by most New Mexico residents. Those are back-breaking jobs in agriculture, hotel maids, construction workers and the like. That tamps down resentment and in turn the desire for punitive legislation such as the license repeal.

--New Mexico is a majority-minority state. Hispanics, Native Americans, African-Americans and Asians make up the majority. There is widespread empathy for immigrants--illegal and otherwise--another reason the body politic here does not get in as much as an uproar as it does in less diverse states.

--And we would add one more reason to the list--political fumbling. The Governor's all or nothing approach which is designed to set up Dems for a fall in the election booths, means a no compromise approach. A bill that fell short of outright appeal could put us on the path toward total repeal, but she has insisted on a total repeal--no compromise.

The Republicans could very well pick up a targeted seat or two over the driver's license issue, but they are not going to take over the New Mexican government with it. The Governor, the conservative press and the political operatives appear to have all overreached in their reading of the polls and the general public's true desires. You could disagree with our analysts, but for the third time in a row repeal of the driver's licenses is dying a slow death in Santa Fe. They seem to be on to something.


How about this? The possible return of former longtime ABQ Dem State Senator Shannon Robinson, but as a Republican. Say what? From the Alligator wire:

Democrat State Senator Shannon Robinson may challenge ABQ Democrat Senator Tim Keller for Senate District 17 in the November general election. Robinson changed his voter registration from Democrat to Republican on 12/28/11 and the "third party voter registration agent" is none other than oil and gas operator, Republican financier and former NM GOP Chairman Harvey Yates, Jr. Rumor has it that Robinson plans to challenge Keller in the general election as a Republican--a scheme Robinson and Yates concocted together.

If this comes down, call it "Shannon's Revenge." The veteran attorney was defeated in the June 2008 Dem primary by none other than Tim Keller. And talk about politics making for strange bedfellows. Harvey Yates and Shannon Robinson? That's stranger than the UFO exhibits down in Roswell.

Lujan Grisham
ABQ Dem City Councilor Debbie O'Malley writes of the fund-raising of Dem congressional candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham:

In your post you stated, “Lujan-Grisham has received some early backing from Emily's List--the powerful pro-choice women's group--and that appeared to help her fund-raising.” EMILY’s List has yet to give her a "full endorsement." She has not received much help from the them and still out raised her opponents—that’s pretty impressive. Now that she has two consecutive quarters where she is the money leader, a full endorsement is all but inevitable. When it happens it’s apt to be a “game changer.” In the next report, voters in CD1 will see the power women have when they organize.

Organization is key in a primary and while Michelle has had two good money quarters, she has to catch up to Eric Griego and Marty Chavez in that department. We're watching to see if she can.

And an Alligator email on Michelle's money report:

To Michelle’s credit, she did better on raising money than people expected her to. That said, she has zero organization. All three candidates will spend roughly the same amount on TV, but guess what? Michelle doesn’t have the organization to turn the voters out. Don’t get me wrong--she can easily go on a spending binge starting immediately to hire lots of organizers and build her campaign infrastructure, but she’s so far behind the curve that she’d have to spend and hire double what Marty and Eric’s done respectively. Marty has invested in building a strong organization. And Eric has invested in building a strong organization. Michelle? None. Nada.


While the money isn't bad in ABQ, generally it pays more to be a lawyer in Santa Fe. By the numbers

Lawyers in Santa Fe make an average annual salary of $117,190, or $56.34 per hour, based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The BLS data puts 280 lawyers in Santa Fe as of May 2010.The runner up in New Mexico is the Albuquerque area, where its 1,560 lawyers earn an average of $90,080 annually.

Over 1,500 hundred lawyers in the ABQ area? That has to work to keep their prices down.


Is there a chance that the judge in the legislative redistricting case could be reversed by the State Supreme Court? Dems have sued there asking that Judge Hall's plan be overturned, saying it is biased toward the R's. We asked one of our Legal Beagles for the latest:

I heard a lot of talk at the Legislature's opening day along the lines of "the Supreme Court appointed Jim Hall, they won't reverse him."

I personally think that to do so requires far greater math skills than they'd want to utilize.

The Supremes appointed Judge Hall to do the redistricting after the Legislature failed to come to an agreement.


We blogged the other day of how State Senate Rules Committee Chair Linda Lopez made a play against the nomination of Greg Marcantel as Secretary of Corrections. The administration called it a "smear" job and fought back hard. And on this one we would say the Fourth Floor played it right. The vote news:

A move to derail Gov. Susana Martinez's nominee to run the state prison system fell flat Wednesday. State senators voted 38-1 to confirm Gregg Marcantel as secretary of the Department of Corrections. Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, stood alone in opposing Marcantel, saying she was not satisfied that he honestly answered questions about his past. Lopez is chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee, which runs background checks on nominees for high-tier government appointments. She said Marcantel, unlike hundreds of nominees before him, did not properly answer a question about a history of workplace discipline.

But then there's Susana's state fair commissioners. The Senate played games with the Guv on those. She tried to withdraw the nominations, but the Senate went ahead and voted on them anyway.


Las Cruces day care center owner and GOP US Senate candidate Greg Sowards announces:

Conservative Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Greg Sowards announced that his campaign will show over $636,000 in cash on hand after the fourth quarter transition:

"We have turned a major corner at the Sowards for Senate camp. I have brought on a new Campaign Manager and a new Grassroots Coordinator. My message of restoration is resonating with the people of New Mexico and America. We are now well-positioned to mount an impressive fund raising drive."

Sowards has largely self-financed his campaign. When he turned over his initial campaign team, there was speculation that he was getting cold feet and would not spend much of the money he loaned to himself. His main rival, Heather Wilson, has $1.1 million in the bank and Sowards remains a long shot at toppling her. But if he does end up spending a bunch of TV money it will probably help Wilson as it would take votes away from Lt. Governor John Sanchez who is seen as her most formidable rival. Meantime, Sanchez has been so MIA in the Senate race that he has to quash rumors that he will leave the Senate contest and seek the GOP nod for the ABQ Congressional seat. His chief consultant says no switch is planned.

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