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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lewis Drops Out Of ABQ GOP Congress Race, Plus: A Glimpse Of The Future? Susana-Hector Pic Gets Them Talking, Plus: Candidate Filing Day Is Today 

Dan Lewis
What a 60th birthday gift for Janice Arnold Jones. As she celebrated her birthday today, the ABQ congressional hopeful received the news that her chief rival for the Republican nomination is getting out of the race. We broke the news to the state via our Twitter account Tuesday morning. Here's the story....

Dan Lewis announced today he is out of the race for the GOP nomination for the ABQ congressional seat, paving the way for the June nomination of former ABQ State Representative Janice Arnold Jones who trounced Lewis at Saturday's preprimary convention. She garnered about 63% of the delegate support to Lewis' 34 per cent. Retired Army Seargent Gary Smith received four percent.

In getting out Lewis said he did not want to "split the party," the same reasoning Lt. Governor John Sanchez gave when he recently gave up his challenge of GOP US Senate candidate Heather Wilson. Lewis said he is not endorsing Arnold Jones because the ABQ primary is still contested.

Here is his complete withdrawal statement

Lewis, an ABQ west side city councilor, has had trouble putting his campaign together. He began with political consultant Doug Antoon, but when he left the campaign he never did hire a campaign manager. His fund-raising was also anemic. At the end of the year he only had $102,000 banked. But Arnold-Jones has been even more challenged in the fund-raising department, She showed only $20,000 in cash on hand at the end of the year. But that is all about to change as R's pull out their wallets to give her a push toward November.

The withdrawal of Lewis means a bloody, internecine battle between Janice and Dan is avoided and the R's can prepare for the fall battle. It also denotes that while the hard-right of the Republican Party talks a tough game their candidates have proven to be only electable in southern New Mexico.

Lewis, a pastor, tangled with 2010 ABQ GOP congressional hopeful Jon Barela and also split with ABQ GOP Mayor RJ Berry on a number of occasions. That tarnished his conservative credentials in some quarters and was seen as a factor in his decisive defeat at the preprimary.

The rush to Arnold-Jones is seen as a play by the R's to bolster the chances of GOP US Senate hopeful Heather Wilson. She needs a good ABQ area performance and the presence of Arnold-Jones on the ticket is seen as drawing conservative Dems and independents to the R side. They also see Arnold Jones as the best bet against liberal Dem State Senator Eric Griego, the current front-runner for the Dem nomination, believing that the ABQ district, despite becoming more blue in recent years, still desires a moderate congressional representative.

But Arnold Jones is not popular with the conservative Republican base. Her refusal to endorse the death penalty is especially problematic with them and her reaching across the aisle to Dems in Santa Fe has also drawn critics from the conservative column.

Arnold Jones looks good on paper, but her lackluster performance when she sought the 2010 GOP Guv nomination haunts her. She only managed to win 3% of the vote. Still, the Lewis withdrawal catapults Arnold Jones to the highest political plateau of her political career. Smith says he will stay in the race and get on the June ballot by collecting extra nominating petitions, but the party is quickly closing ranks behind Janice and she will be the prohibitive front-runner.

The ABQ congressional seat went Dem for the first time in its history in 2008 when Dem Martin Heinrich was swept in with the Obama landslide. He narrowly won re-election in 2010 and is now leaving the House to seek the open US Senate seat. We have the ABQ seat ranked as "likely Dem."

SUSANA AND HECTOR--2014?
Shades of 2014? (Capitol Report photo)
Is this photo of Republican Governor Susana Martinez and Democratic State Auditor Hector Balderas a glimpse of what we will see come the 2014 New Mexico's Governor's race? Never mind that the two were holding a news conference Monday to talk about a possible state government takeover of scandal-plagued Sunland Park. The politicos were rarin' to go, speculating that if Hector comes up short in his current bid for the Dem US Senate nomination against Rep. Martin Heinrich, he could start hatching plans for a '14 Guv run against Susana. And why not? There's not exactly a line forming of well-known and well-liked Dem candidates.

We note that Susana and Hector held the news conference outside of the Guv's office, not in the traditional room with the big roundtable and voters are used to seeing their Governors hold forth. "Don't you get any ideas," Susana may have been thinking about Hector.

Both elected officials, however, might have to work on their decisiveness. They said it's too soon for the state to intervene in Sunland Park, even though top officials in the border city are under indictment and the whole scandal reads like a Third-World political novel.

ISN'T THAT SPECIAL?

Call us sentimental for a bygone era but we found the rare bipartisanship that the photo of Martinez and Balderas represents refreshing. We find this Governor especially cagey when it comes to posing with anyone of the opposite political persuasion. Maybe now that she's done it with Hector she will find it doesn't hurt very much--and that it will benefit her politically as she looks to her 2014 re-election.

One other thing. Does Martinez posing with Balderas give him a boost against front-runner Martin Heinrich in that Senate Dem primary? Well, if it does, Susana isn't complaining.

LAST CALL

It's last call for the 112 New Mexico state House and Senate seats. Today is the official filing day for Primary Election 2012. Most of the key players and races are known by now, but everyone is on the look out for a filing day surprise or two.

We've had quite the exodus from the Legislature this cycle, as the AP reports:

The New Mexico Legislature is poised for its most dramatic facelift in two decades as near record numbers of  House and Senate members have decided to retire or seek another office. All 112 seats in the Legislature are up for election this year and 17 lawmakers have announced they're not running for another term..

In case you missed it, here again is our unofficial slogan for the new Santa Fe:  "It just isn't fun anymore."

How could it be? The bull market days of an overflowing state treasury are gone, the Republican Governor and Dem Legislature fight with each other constantly, nothing gets passed and there are a lot fewer lobbyist parties being thrown for the disgruntled lawmakers.

Still, the show must go on--or in this case---the government. It's just going about its business in much smaller ways---and with much smaller thinking.

FOLLOW THE ACTION

Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver says many of the state legislative candidates from this area are required to file with her office. You can monitor who is filing today via the clerk's website.

OTHER OFFICES

It's not just filing day for the legislative seats but also county commission hopefuls, district attorney candidates, Public Regulation Commission contenders and more. One tidbit for you. GOP Bernalillo County Commissioner Michael Wiener--who owns more than his share of controversial headlines--will draw a primary challenge from Republican businessman Lonnie Talbert, a former president of the ABQ Chamber of Commerce. Add that one to your "races to watch" list.

DA DOINGS

We've told you about the heated race developing between Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg and Jennifer Romero, a former public defender who is challenging her for the Dem nomination as Kari seeks a fourth, four year term. But who will the winner of that primary face in November? The R's say they have a name. He is Chris Sturgess who has worked with the state public defender's office. The R's are busy rounding up last minute petition signatures to file today so  Sturgess will be on the primary ballot come June 5.

SMITH WATCH

Amid speculation that he would quit his campaign for the ABQ GOP US House nomination after failing to score the needed 20% delegate support at the state preprimary convention, the campaign of retired Army Seargent Gary Smith says he has suspended his advertising. However, the campaign adds that at this time he intends to go forward with his candidacy. A spokesman say he first wants to secure the extra petition signatures he needs to get a spot on the June 5 primary ballot. No candidate has ever won the primary after being denied a ballot position at a preprimary.

THE BETTING LINE

The very early betting line from the Senior Alligator crowd has the Dems picking up a couple of seats in the state House in November and putting an end to talk of a GOP takeover. Overall, they say the recent legislative redistricting is not going to be as much of a problem for the Dems in a high turnout presidential election year. However, that could change in the low turnout year of 2014. It's early so the betting line is subject to change.

DEAD ZONE

Is ABQ a jobs dead zone or what? Has anything of any size--outside of the Lowe's call center--come in here the past several years? Nope. And you hear zip about it from the city's economic development department, the city councilors or the mayor. We've seen more life in roadkill in Tucumcari than in the ABQ job market. Just sayin'.

It is absurd to hear some corners tell us not to fret about possible forthcoming federal budget cuts that would wreak havoc with the state economy They advise us to bring in new jobs to replace the high-paying fed positions and contractor money that would be lost in as the federal hatchet fell. The problem? They don't tell us how long we would have to wait for those wonderful new jobs. We want them as bad as anyone and believe our private sector can get it done--but eventually not overnight.

No, the short-term answer is clear as the starry sky on a summer night in the New Mexico mountains.New Mexico must fight to keep the federal funding it has while it goes about the very long term business of diversification. Our congressional delegation must muscle up. Our state's core national security mission--which founded the modern day economy here during WWII--has to be explained and defended. Otherwise, the economic rug is going to be pulled from underneath us and this state is going to be sent reeling backwards. The long unwinding may have already begun with the Los Alamos cutbacks.

Let's not kid ourselves. If the federal budget cuts are here to stay, some states will suffer more than others. States with congressional representation that is savvy, committed, has seniorit and is in fighting shape are going to get more. But if you keep telling Washington that you don't care about the spending cuts, that you can replace all that federal money with dreamed of private business, guess what? You're gonna get cut.

What this state needs in the here and now is not a fantastical new economic paradigm, but a Dennis Chavez, a Clinton Anderson or a Pete Domenici. Call us when you see one.

BLACK GOLD

In blogging of Obama's planned visit to Carlsbad tomorrow, we pointed out how the state's small population counties--like Eddy County--contribute a huge share of state revenues via royalties on energy production. That brought this quick retort from former ABQ mayor and state land commissioner Jim Baca who never misses an opportunity spar with the oil and gas crowd:


Those oil royalties paid in Eddy County are paid because the state and feds own the oil. It is our share of the take. The oil boys always say they pay for everything when in fact they are just paying for a product that is not owned by them.  It is owned by the State Land Office which funds education or by the Bureau of Land Management which then turns around and gives a portion of its royalties to the state as payment in lieu of taxes.

True enough, but the oil and gas industry does do the exploration and risk-taking to get the oil and gas out of the ground--no matter where it is.

BUST OF THE MONTH

Lt. Governor John Sanchez, you are so busted!

Sanchez spoke (at Saturday's GOP preprimary convention) of the pride he felt as an 18-year-old when he voted for Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election. The curious part is that every record we have checked shows that Sanchez was born on Jan. 11, 1963. Therefore, he would not have reached the legal voting age of 18 until 1981--two months after Reagan's election. Sanchez could be older than his stated age of 49, meaning various biographical data and public records about him are incorrect.

Is John vain and fudging about his age? Or did he (someone warm up the black helicopters) vote illegally for Ronald Reagan? Ye gads!  Say it ain't so, John. And what about your driver's license, John? You got the right birth date on it? An illegal driver's license? Susana, pull this guy over....

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2012
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