Tuesday, February 07, 2012

What's Next for Heinrich & Balderas? Smiles Continue But Tension Lurks, Plus: More On Berry-Schultz Lawsuit Imbroglio, And: An "Agonizing" Session 

Martin & Hector play nice
Now that the R's seems to have settled their Senate nomination with John Sanchez apparently dead in the water, ready to exit and pave the way for Heather Wilson, attention shifts to the Dems and their potentially spirited Senate battle between Martin Heinrich and Hector Balderas. But will it?

The two Dem Senate contenders seem happy enough together in this photo snapped over the weekend at the IBEW Union Hall in Carlsbad. What Dems want is that same pic following the June primary.

Like Lt. Governor Sanchez, who reports raising only about $100,000 in the final quarter of 2011, Balderas is cash-strapped compared to Rep. Heinrich who had $1.4 million in the bank at year's end. Hector had less than $450,000.

Dems are dreading possible nuclear warfare between the two popular politicos. Could an exit deal be brewing for State Auditor Balderas or a truce where the two agree to negative-free campaigning? That would be a rarity.

Whatever the case, state Dems are all ears as they monitor the Heinrich-Balderas relationship for signs of what's to come--or not to come. Stay tuned.

Footnotes: Pictured above is Court of Appeals candidate Victor Lopez, Heinrich, Dem southern congressional candidates Evelyn Madrid-Erhard, Court of Appeals candidate Monica Zamora and Balderas.

And we aren't ignoring GOP Senate candidate Greg Sowards, the Las Cruces day Care center owner who has largely self-financed his own campaign and who had over $600,000 banked at year's end, compared to Wilson's $1.1 million. We just haven't seen a sizable number of GOP voters or insiders unhappy with Heather's "moderate" record flocking to him.


She kicks up some dust, but we are learning that Governor Martinez rarely draws a line in the sand when it comes to the state budget. One totaling $5.6 billion was approved by a House committee and will get House Approval Wednesday and then be sent to the Senate. Once again there has been only minor disagreement between the GOP Governor and the leading fiscal Dems in the Legislature.

You might say that's because the Dems have a boatload of budget hawks and Susana has little to disagree with them about. Or you might say she realizes she doesn't have the votes to change much in the budget so she toes the line. And unlike a hot button issue like repealing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants, a budget battle could get her lost in the weeds with little public sympathy. In addition, we have gone from a budget of over $6 billion down to the near $5.3 billion level. State government has shrunk--to the delight of conservatives.


Former KOAT-TV news political reporter Matt Grubs tells me he is back in New Mexico after a brief out-of-state adventure and is producing news for public TV station KNME-TV. He blogged about the budget for the "In-Focus" broadcast hosted by Gene Grant on Friday evenings.


This email from reader and retired ABQ Police Department Seargent Dan Klein pretty much sums up the meaning of the news over the enormous cost of police misconduct suits:

In the Feb. 6 ABQ Journal article the city admits they have paid out over $30,000,000 of our dollars in the past ten years for police lawsuits. Once again they dump all blame on former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez. Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry states that Mayor RJ Berry inherited Marty's policy of no settlements and going to court with all such cases.

Berry also inherited ABQ Police Chief Ray Schultz. That seems to be the common denominator here. Berry could do something about this, but for some reason he holds on to Schultz.

February is the month for love, but the love Berry has for Schultz is costing the Albuquerque taxpayer too much money. When will the Berry administration stop blaming Chavez and start making changes?

Thanks, Dan. He's been covering this story for us with his armchair expertise for many months.

It's apparent that Mayor Berry has made his bed with Schultz and will rely on a community wide fear of crime to overcome Schultz's negatives.


Another negative that Berry may have to deal with when he stands for re-election in 2013 is opposition from social conservatives in his Republican Party. ABQ Pastor Smotherman is again putting the heat on him for being too gay friendly, a charge he also leveled at Governor Martinez who appointed a gay man--Douglas Howe--to a seat on the Public Regulation Commission. Gay rights advocates protested at his church.

Berry needs a unified GOP in a Democratic city to win another four years. If Smotherman's rants propel an actual conservative candidacy that manages to get on the ballot, it would be a real threat to the mayor.

Martinez, meanwhile, has stayed silent over her gay appointment, She knows it alienates social conservatives in her GOP base, but nevertheless is taking a progressive stance. That's not going to hurt her with the wider swath of voters who have a much more tolerant attitude than the good Pastor Smotherman.


Back to the police beat, one our Legal Beagles has a keen question about the many police misconduct settlement cases:

Why isn't there a sunshine law requiring the full reporting of every settlement or verdict resulting from any civil rights violation by the City?

The sealing of settlements to public view covers up the misconduct. The legal fees are reported because they're expenditures requiring accounting. What happened to justify the City paying out more than three times attorney Paul Kennedy's fees in damages, who were the victims, and of what misconduct?

I'll give you fifty bucks if you can show me copies of the civil complaints or tort claims notices filed with the city in five or more cases represented by Kennedy's fees. Take it in cash or a Barelas Coffee House gift card.

Hey, we know a sucker's bet when we see one, Mr. Beagle, even if we will dearly miss that $50 bucks in enchilada money for Barelas. Maybe Gywneth Doland in her new capacity as executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government can look into this?


Back to former Mayor Chavez, he's back on the campaign trail these days seeking the Dem nomination for the ABQ US House seat. We caught up with him recently at a Black History Month luncheon where veteran national Dem operative Donna Brazile was the featured speaker.

Chavez developed a strong environmental record as Mayor and formed ties to former VP Al Gore who has been a leading advocate for correcting global warming. Brazile was Gore's campaign manager in 2000 and now spends her time as a commentator, analyst and advocate for President Obama.

Donna posed for the pic, but did not endorse Chavez. He has two opponents--State Sen. Eric Griego and Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham. In this early phase of the campaign, the contest seems winnable by any of the three.


Here's an interesting stat. Ron Paul has out raised Mitt Romney in New Mexico:

In the West: Up 54.7 percent in Alaska ($72,915 for Paul vs. $47,142 for Romney), 4.7 percent in Hawaii ($67,013 vs. $64,030), 29.0 percent in Montana ($75,868 vs. $58,797), and 34.7 percent in New Mexico ($78,057 vs. $57,933)

New Mexico is not without its libertarian streak--just ask Gary Johnson.


Veteran ABQ Journal New Mexico politics editor John Robertson is at the Roundhouse for the duration of the 30 day session, but it sounds as if he's had enough. He is looking forward to the annual House-Senate basketball game Friday night:

It’s a good cause, of course, and a welcome break from the legislative session, which has 11 agonizing days to go.

Agonizing, we presume, because there is simply not much for John to write about that is of much interest beyond the political community. However, if big stuff starts to pass in these final days, that will turn on a dime.

The game is a fund-raiser for the UNM Cancer Center.

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