Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Senate Race: Marking Heinrich As "Extreme" Isn't Easy, Plus: Martinez And Medicaid; To Expand Or Not? And: Rio Rancho Bubble Still Bursting 

How do you counter your opponent's argument that you're too "extreme" for middle-of-the-road New Mexico? Well, if you're Dem Martin Heinrich you come with an ad in which veterans and their families talk about how they support you. Heinrich's new TV ad also touts his role in finding a new mission for the "tacos," the famed 150th Fighter Wing at Kirtland Air Force base.

Republican Heather Wilson has major work ahead of her if she is to shove Congressman Heinrich into the "extreme" corner. He was politically astute when he secured a slot on the House Armed Services Committee. It bolstered his credentials immeasurably with the large military community here. The battle to get the Tacos other jobs cemented that relationship.

This Heinrich ad also goes after a key block of Wilson's base. She is an Air Force veteran with strong defense and national security credentials.

Heather's latest TV ad says Heinrich practices "left wing politics" as well as being too extreme but it offers as an example his vote to not repeal a tax on medical devices. Not exactly what the man in the street would label "extreme"

Heinrich was indeed a very liberal political personality when he began his political career and Wilson is right to try to pigeonhole him. But Heinrich--whether because of political maturity or opportunism--has changed.

Also, Heinrich's Germanic demeanor is reserved--to the point of aloofness. His body language, speech and general approach to politics and policy are nowhere near what one would call "extreme."

Maybe Wilson trots out some old video during Martin's days as a city councilor to prove her point. There was a vintage photo of Heinrich circulating during one of his congressional campaigns that showed him with very long hair when he was in his 20's. Not exactly the "smoking gun" to demonstrate extremism.

Heinrich is proving to be an elusive personality for Wilson to pin down, but she must continue to try. Her unfavorables are so high she can't win this race--she can only make Heinrich lose it.

Unless she comes with something new and startling in her TV ads, Heinrich will probably nurse a steady but small lead all the way into October. That's when there will be three televised debates and Wilson's best chance to cause Heinrich to fumble and change the dynamic of this contest. This race continues to be rated "lean Dem" by this blog, as well The Hill and other political publications and pundits.


Can you imagine Governor Martinez not agreeing to the Medicaid expansion as called for in what is commonly called "Obamacare?" We can't. Since the summer of 2010, Martinez has repeatedly said she does not want to cut Medicaid and education spending. It was her one major swerve to the center--and a significant one at that--and it has kept her from igniting passionate opposition.

Medicaid expansion in one of the poorest states in the nation is a no brainer. The Feds will pay for most of it and it will mean even more healthcare jobs. If the Guv rejected Medicaid expansion it would put her in the company of the radical Republican governors who were also elected in the 2010 election. And you've seen what's happened to their popularity.

Martinez is delaying an answer--probably so she won't look too anxious to her conservative base to give her stamp of approval to an Obama initiative--but in the end she will likely sign on for the expansion. If she doesn't, it would be a major leap to the hard right and probably set off the first passionate opposition to this administration among voters who have not really been engaged in happenings in Santa Fe.


ABQ Mayor RJ Berry made a major political error when he miscalculated and tired to ram through improvements to the Paseo del Norte/I-25 interchange without voter approval. He paid a price when the city council overrode him. That means there will be a vote on the bond package for the $93 million in Paseo improvements this November.

Governor Martinez and Berry are now on the campaign trail urging voter support. This bond package is very likely to pass and when it does Berry's political misjudgment will be erased. But he has been sent a message that citizens here still want a direct say when it comes to projects of this size. It's refreshing to see the Guv and Berry pleading their case before voters. What's wrong with a little democracy?


It's been over three years since the Rio Rancho bubble burst--and it's still bursting. The news:

AMREP Corp. (NYSE: AXR) has reported a net loss of $1,143,000, or $0.19 per share, for its 2012 fiscal year. In 2011, the company’s net loss was $7,561,000, or $1.26 per share. Revenues from land sales at AMREP Southwest were “substantially lower” than the company has historically experienced in Rio Rancho due to a “severe decline in the real estate market in the greater Albuquerque-metro and Rio Rancho areas” that began late in 2008...

This is the longest real estate recession/depression in the ABQ area since the Great Depression in the 30's. But then who said it is a God given right that the value of real estate and houses will always go up? In the 50's and 60's in ABQ there was steady growth but prices rose gently--not in a manic burst.

The housing debacle has been so psychologically damaging that housing and land prices may not rise significantly here for many, many years. It will take a new generation of buyers and investors not scarred by this bubble to reawaken the animal spirits and ignite a new bull market.


It's just not the northern and central sections of NM that lean heavily on government employment. This AP dispatch shows that Dona Ana County is also a government jobs center and that county government there may be top heavy:

Government workers account for 30 percent of the workforce in Dona Ana County. Statistics compiled by the Las Cruces Sun-News...show that 21,600 of the 70,200 workers in the area are employed on the federal, state or local level. The county has almost twice as many public employees as the national average.Local government and education, including New Mexico State University account for about half of the public employees in the county. Richard  Wagner, area director with the New Mexico Workforce Connection office, says that the higher public employment influence is good for the area. because it can act, somewhat, as a buffer against a poor economy, when the private sector is scaling back.


Former Governor and Libertarian Prez candidate Gary Johnson has a shot at the five percent mark in New Mexico in November, say veteran analysts we've spoken with. But he will have to campaign here to get it and probably need a paid media presence as well. Today he appears before the Hispano Chamber of Commerce to make his case. There has been some back and forth and confusing polling on who Johnson hurts most--Romney or Obama. Most think it will be Romney but there are some who think Johnson will not make any difference in the presidential outcome here, UNM political science professor Lona Atkeson among them.

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