Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Winners & Losers In Paseo Council Vote, And: Is Gary King A Dead Man Walking? Also: Gay State Senate Contender May Be Closing In On Win 

We'll start today with the winners and losers from the ABQ issue du jour. That would be the $93 million project to rebuild the traffic-challenged Paseo/I-25 interchange and which the ABQ City Council last night refused to approve without a vote from the people. It was a firm rebuke of Republican Mayor Berry by three Dem members of the council. The 6 to 3 vote to get on with the project right away was not enough. The $50 million bonds needed a super majority of seven to bypass voters.

Mayor Berry is a loser on this one. He warned that the sky would fall if voters got a say--probably in November--arguing that the delay would be deadly for the long-delayed project. It won't and voters will very likely approve the bond--as long as it isn't paired with a sportsplex or some other unwanted  project as it was by Berry last October when a $25 million Paseo bond was rejected by voters.

Berry has been pointing a stern finger at the three recalcitrant councilors, but after voters approve the bonds, Berry will once again have full ownership and responsibility for getting the project shovel ready. Why didn't he just embrace the public vote and move on? He says the delay will endanger federal funding, but his evidence is sparse.

Berry tried to demonize the three council Dems and maybe he gets a short term bounce, but the public at large barely knows who these councilors are. It is the mayor they know and will credit or blame for Paseo. This was a battle he was destined to lose and could have easily avoided. It may make those three Dems look stubborn, but it makes Berry look weak.

Democratic City Councilor Ken Sanchez is a loser. As a Republican Alligator puts it:

Ken Sanchez has destroyed any shot he had at being the Democratic challenger to Berry in next year's mayoral election as a result of his play on Paseo.

Sanchez was the only Dem to side with Berry as he made a play for Republican and West Side support for a future mayoral bid, but his abandonment of his party on a rare line in the sand issue like this one is indeed going to hurt.

Winners? Well, the people of Albuquerque who get to exercise their right to vote on this deal. The politicians have muddied it up. Let the voters give them a clear direction.


The blog readers have definite opinions on who's up and who's down on the New Mexico political scene and today we bring you some of their pointed observations, starting with the question:

"Is Gary King A Dead Man Walking?"

Our Friday blog in which we mentioned some of the possible 2014 Dem Guv candidates--including Attorney General Gary King, drew this email response:

Joe, you weren't really serious talking about Attorney General Gary King being a gubernatorial candidate in 2014, were you?  I understand that two weeks, much less two years, is a long time in politics, but Gary has buried himself for any future statewide or federal run. He's the figurative "dead man walking." The people have a short memory, but Gary has sat on his butt for six years and generally been an "attorney general in being."  he had a terrific opportunity and it is, for the most part, gone. Pity.

Well, we did not assess the chances of King securing the Guv nomination, only that he is giving it a very close look.

By the way we did not include former NM Dem Party Chairman Brian Colon on that Friday list of potential '14 Guv hopefuls, but we should have. Did  Colon's performance as the Dems 2010 Dem Lt. Governor nominee help or hurt his future chances?


Comments now from reader Preciliano Martin on our Monday blog where the momentum of Senate candidate Hector Balderas was called into question. Nothing much has happened in the way of endorsements or fund-raising  since he claimed a "phenomenal" success at the preprimary convention, but Martin says it's different this time and that Hector can and will slowly close the gap on front-runner Martin Heinrich:

I think a slow but sure campaign by Hector may be the best way to go for him, regardless of what bloggers and gators have to say.  The dramatic shift will occur on election day in June at the ballot box when New Mexicans realize what can be done on that day.

You blogged that "he will have to rely on the natural tightening of the race that will occur along ethnic lines."  This will happen, no doubt about it. And it is about time for New Mexicans to have at least one New Mexican Hispanic senator, it has been far too long since New Mexican Hispanics were represented by one of their own.

This is not your typical race, not for this position, not in New Mexico, not at this time in our history and not with the two candidates running in the primary. This time it is not over till it is over.

Appreciate that, Preciliano. Still, you can't help but note that it is Heinrich who continues to tout endorsements important in the nominating wing of the Democratic Party. Most recently the pueblos of Laguna and Mescalero endorsed him over Balderas.


On the GOP side of the US Senate equation, reader Stanley Fitch says our ranking of the Senate contest as "lean Dem" needs some editing:

Joe, Heather Wilson campaigns so hard and tenaciously that I foresee quite a struggle for Heinrich come late-October.  It will not be a cakewalk election.  Instead of lean Dem, I see it as lean Heather.  But then, I'm not a 'gator either.

No, you are not a Gator, Stanley (that's right, Stan, Gator is capitalized) but we've said that while we have the Senate race here going off as "lean Dem" we aren't putting up much of an argument with those who are ranking it as a "toss-up."

More on that race to replace retiring ABQ Dem west side State Senator Bernadette Sanchez. No R's have filed for the seat, meaning the winner of the Dem June primary takes the prize. In case you missed it, politico Steve Gallegos has withdrawn from the primary and endorsed Jacob Candelaria. Carlos Villanueva is the other contender but this is one is shaping up nicely for Candelaria, head of the gay advocacy group Equality NM. The 25 year old would not be the first openly gay state senator. That would be Liz Stefanics who served one term in the Senate from a northern NM district before becoming chair of the Santa Fe County Commission. Still it's a pretty big deal. District 26 is not a citadel of liberalism. It is heavily Hispanic and working class.

Alligators point out that Candelaria was raised by his grandparents who had a close relationship with former State Senator Manny Aragon who is now serving federal prison time in Colorado on a corruption conviction. Candelaria says the association is not relevant to his candidacy and that he represents "future leadership." That may be but it is the old politicos who are helping out in the early stage. Besides the Gallegos endorsement, veteran Dem liberal State Senator Cisco McSorley has endorsed Candelaria. On the younger side, Rep. Moe Maestas has also weighed in with an endorsement.

We have not heard much from Villanueva but an Alligator familiar with him says don't rule him out:

...You barely gave mention of Carlos Villanueva as if he weren't a contender while giving credence to his opponents...Carlos has been working campaigns for as long as I can remember and everyone seems to really like him. Combine the latter with the fact that he has a very large family and is a hard worker people and he has a serious contingent of volunteers. I've seen him work campaigns. He's a hard worker and understands how to run a campaign. Summarily ruling him out of this race is a mistake...

We're not ruling him out. It's just that Candelaria has been making more news.

If Candelaria, a recent Princeton University graduate who has not made his sexuality an issue, takes the nomination, it would mark a new era in Bernalillo County politics. Polling shows large majorities of younger Americans support gay marriage which is not the case among older Americans. We are undergoing a generational shift on a number of cultural issues and Candelaria--if he is successful--would represent the face of that future in our state's politics. 


Here's some follow-up on a story we've been following at the University of New Mexico campus. You mean to say there's still some student power over there? The

The Board of Regents last week retracted a proposal to fund Libraries with a student fee hike next year, but held on to a proposal to increase student fees to fund Athletics. The University plans to loan Athletics $1.2 million from general funds in order to pay off a mounting deficit brought on by decreased ticket sales, the buy-out of former head football coach Mike Locksley’s contract and the subsequent hiring of new head coach Bob Davie. 


She's been a champion vote-getter for years, but Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg isn't taking a fourth, four year term for granted. Nor should she. A stiff challenge in the Dem primary comes from former public defender Jennifer Romero. Kari kicks off her effort with an April 5 fundraiser at the home of Ahmad and Sana Assed and an endorsement from ABQ liberal Dem State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino: 

Kari's strategy as District Attorney is proactive. She relies on involving community groups and forming partnerships. This way she not only responds to crime but actually prevents it from happening. Bernalillo County's citizens are well-served by her approach, her skills and her experience. I like her record and am delighted she's choosing to continue.

Liberals and Hispanics are core constituencies in the June 5 Dem primary and Ortiz y Pino represents both wings--something you want in your corner when going one-on-one against an Hispanic opponent.

As for the general election, what general election? The R's have failed to field a candidate for the high-profile district attorney office. And this is the party that elected a district attorney from Dona Ana County as New Mexico-s Governor in 2010...


Another spirited Dem primary contest features former State Rep. Ben Rodefer challenging Dem State Senator for the party nomination. Rodefer has trotted out a poll of the mostly Bernalillo and Sandoval county district that claims he is ahead:

Rodefer leads Sapien 43% to 33% in this poll, conducted by Third Eye Strategies from March 19-22. The 300 voter sample poll has a margin of error of 5.7%. Pollster Steven Clermont  stated, “Rodefer has the early lead, with a quarter of voters undecided in this race. Sapien faces a big challenge...As many Democrats view him unfavorably as view him favorably. If Sapien were to come back, this would make it very difficult for him to beat David Doyle and would hand the seat to the Republicans.”

State Rep. Doyle is the GOP candidate for this Senate seat.

IT'S 557

That's the number of employees who have voluntarily agreed to leave Los Alamos National Labs in wake of big budget cuts. That's about mid-range in the 400 to 800 that were first projected. Do we need to say this is a major blow to the northern economy? 

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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