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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Busy Season For SOS, Plus: The Great Mentioner Takes On '14 Senate race, Also: Latest On NM Space Race 

It's busy season for Secretary of State Dianna Duran. Here she is attending a recent NM Supreme Court hearing over challenges to candidates being on the ballot. Duran was snapped by veteran photog Mark Bralley,

Duran is the first Republican Secretary of State since the Depression and she got off to a rocky start. She went hunting for voter fraud and came up empty-handed causing her and the office a dose of embarrassment.

Things seem to have settled down with the office sticking more to the nuts and bolts of election law enforcement, rather than the wedge issues of voter fraud and voter ID. The SOS web site has had some minor problems but the campaign reporting system, by most accounts, is running quite smoothly and that's a major break through for the office.

In the background in this pic is ABQ Metro Court judge Ben Chavez, a Dem who is seeking a seat on the ABQ District Court. He challenged the petition signatures of Republican Sam Winder this cycle but Winder came out the winner. As for Duran, she is likely to seek a second four year term in 2014. How she does the remainder of Election year 2012 will influence that campaign.

THE GREAT MENTIONER

Flash forward to 2014. Who will be the GOP challenger to Dem US Senator Tom Udall? The Great Mentioner has a first round of possibles:

Clovis area District Attorney Matt Chandler, Lt. Governor John Sanchez, ABQ State Rep. Nate Gentry, Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela, PR executive Doug Turner and ABQ Mayor RJ Berry. A wild card? How about federal prosecutor Greg Fouratt? Any others?

THE SPACE RACE

After some fits and starts, the New Mexico spaceport appears well on its way. That won't surprise readers of this space as we've long said this project is a gateway to the economic future for us. And we're not alone. Look at this:

The  Uniparx Development company said it was planning to  build a  spaceport in central Russia near the birthplace of Yury Gagarin,  the  first man to conquer space. The Russian spaceport will be similar  to the existing Spaceport  America...It will host  museums, entertainment  facilities, exhibitions and tours for Russian and foreign guests...According to  the head of the project, Alexander Tarasevich, the  spaceport could also  host U.S.-made suborbital spaceships from Richard  Branson’s fleet of  commercial spacecraft. “We are planning to contact Richard Branson  [whose Virgin Galactic  company is planning to start flying its private  manned spacecraft from  Spaceport America in the near future] and offer  him the possibility of  placing part of his ‘space fleet’ [at the  spaceport] to serve Russian  space tourists..." 

NICKEL AND DIMING?

Santa Fe needs to be more committed to the Spaceport, declares Scott Krahling, a member of the Spaceport board of directors and a Democratic Dona Ana County Commissioner. He frets that high-end visitor centers for Hatch and t or C may go by the wayside because money is needed for runway improvements at the Spaceport. Why, he asks, can't Santa Fe step up and make up the difference?

Gov. Martinez should immediately support an effort to allocate the necessary funding to build Spaceport America right. If that happens, I believe we will follow through on the commitments made years ago. If it doesn't, then the board is forced to get creative with the funding of these projects and we will end up sacrificing their quality. The communities that stepped up to fund the Spaceport instead of funding other critical needs deserve better. Unless the situation improves, and we collectively work to make these facilities the world-class innovations we voted for, then I'm not sure how we can honestly say that we've lived up the commitments made in the past.

We can't do the Spaceport half-assed when the world is watching, can we?
 
WHAT ABOUT THE JOBS?

The Spaceport skeptics downplay the import of the project, but there are already a lot of jobs coming on line:

Just look at all the businesses, a number of them from this area, that  have played roles or will as the spaceport grows from ideas and plans to  finished product. Construction of the spaceport brought with it jobs for workers in this  area. With the economy still in a fragile condition and unemployment  still a concern, the jobs provided by the spaceport have given us a  needed boost. Approximately 1,000 New Mexicans have worked on the project so far and  it's estimated that by 2014 that number will have risen to about 1,500.

One thing the Spaceport board and its executive director could do to build more public support is to give us a new web site that adds some life and zest. The current one has served its purpose but we need a world-class web presence to match the worldwide interest.

WILSON VS. SOWARDS

The two candidates for the GOP US Senate nomination in their own words and from a recent debate in Alamogordo. Former Congresswoman Heather Wilson:

I believe the way to create jobs is through free enterprise," she said. "I believe in low taxes. We need a moratorium on job killing regulations. I believe Obama care is unconstitutional. If the U.S. Supreme Court doesn't throw it out, it needs to be repealed and replaced. I believe strong families are the foundation of American society. I believe marriage is between one man and one woman as husband and wife. I believe in a strong national defense because a weakened American military means a more dangerous world.

And Craig Sowards, a day care center owner from Las Cruces:

These principals of liberty are constantly being challenged by politicians in Washington, D.C. Heather Wilson was there for 10 years and often voted against our Republican platform. To name just a few, she voted for the initiation of the Kyoto Protocol and the United Nations cap and trade tax scheme. She voted to expand the job, killing EPA to a cabinet level position...She raised the debt ceiling several times at the expense of future generations. She supported funding for Planned Parenthood and other anti-life programs. I love New Mexico. Unlike my opponent, I was raised here.

Wilson is heavily favored to win the nomination.

THE BEAR MARKET

The good side of the long Bear Market is about restoring balance, popping some of the bubbles, including that Santa Fe real estate bubble:

Santa Fe home sales rose 16 percent in the first quarter, buoyed by lower prices. There were 249 sales in the quarter compared to 216 a year ago. The overall median price of homes in the city and county dropped to $352,500 from $355,000 in the same quarter of last year. The volume of home sales fell by 2 percent, from $120.1 million in the first quarter of 2011 to $117.8 million in 2012.

THE BOTTOM LINES

There are going to be so many new faces in Santa Fe next year because of legislative retirements or lawmakers seeking other offices, that longtime state Capitol reporter Steve Terrell quips:

I'm going to need a program to know who's who with all these new legislators.

There's a total of 21 lawmakers who aren't seeking re-election this cycle--12 in the State House and nine in the Senate. Terrell might not need that program for all of them since nine of them are giving up their seats to run for other offices, including a number of State Reps who are going after Senate seats.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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