Monday, August 13, 2012

Heather's Ryan Riddle: How Much Separation? Plus: Heinrich Pounces; Says Ryan Budget Slashes Labs, Also: Readers Write On Santa Fe Audit Scandal And Memories Of "Little Joe" 

The joyous reaction of Dems to the selection of Paul Ryan as Romney's running mate--one NM Dem consultant called it a "glorious day"--may be overstated but it certainly is not the political elixir Heather Wilson needs to overtake Martin Heinrich in the race for the state's open US Senate seat.

Heather has made Heinrich's alleged "extremism" her lead message, but now the hard-right GOP agenda--the one that Heather has been running from all year--moves front and center. Not good when you are running up to five points behind in a Democratic dominated state.

Ryan's controversial stands on modifying Social Security and Medicare are well-known and are stands that Wilson has been hazy about. The Wisconsin Republican also calls for scaling back the entire federal government. The impact that would have on federally dependent New Mexico was the part of Heinrich's reaction to Romney's selection that grabbed our attention.

...The cuts imposed by the Ryan budget would not stop with Medicare. New Mexico’s national laboratories would be forced to accept decreased funding that would impede their essential missions and harm local economies. Funding for the Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories would be reduced by 10 percent and 17 percent, respectively. The effects would be detrimental to thousands of middle class families that rely on the laboratories as economic drivers.       

Support of the national defense and energy establishment here has been a mainstay for Heather, but Heinrich will work to make the Ryan budget the Wilson budget, giving him an opportunity to eat away at her base. Wilson's backing of the state's mammoth defense and nuclear energy establishments has been unquestioned--until now. She will now be playing defense on the one major issue she has been on the offense.

Wilson's image as a moderate Republican was the reason the GOP intellegentsia settled on her--and not Lt. Gov. John Sanchez--as the GOP Senate choice this year, but the radical Republicans keep pushing--and they are helping to push Heather Wilson over the cliff.


Heather had this to say about Ryan's selection as VP:

I admire his willingness to put forth bold ideas on the biggest issues facing our nation, even if I don’t always agree with him. I look forward to seeing Gov. Romney’s plan to address these very important issues....

Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. If Wilson separates herself too much from Ryan, she takes a hit with her own party. If she snuggles up to him, the election will be lost as she is branded a radical Republican budget cutter. It's like trying to dance on the head of a needle.

ABQ GOP congressional candidate Janice Arnold-Jones was also engaging in operation separation when it came to Ryan. She said:

I believe that this will be a good thing for the state of New Mexico. A little frightening on the lab side, but I intend to go and advocate for the state of New Mexico."

Say what, Janice? Ryan will be a "good thing" for New Mexico, but his selection as VP for Romney is "frightening" when it comes to funding the national labs?

Well, it seems Heather and Janice are sharing space between that rock and a hard place.


The situation remains urgent for Heather, who must keep the race on the national radar in order to keep momentum from slipping too far toward Heinrich and to keep her money machine moving. It's getting more difficult. In DC, analyst Stu Rothenberg says this state's Senate race could be slip, sliding away:

Right now, control of the Senate appears to rest on the outcomes in five states--four of them held by Democrats--Montana, North Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin--and one of them by a Republican-- Massachusetts. Assuming that Republicans take the Nebraska and Missouri Senate seats and Democrats finally win back a Senate seat in Maine, the GOP will need to win four of the five seats that will decide control of the Senate for two more years. Other seats certainly could be in the mix - Florida and Nevada look the most likely--but the five states now seem to be the most likely to determine control. And strategists on both sides of the aisle have a harder time imagining Ohio, New Mexico, Hawaii, Indiana or Arizona flipping parties...


Heather gets a little break from the news that conservative independent US Senate candidate Jon Barrie, who we recently wrote up here, will apparently not be on the November ballot after all:

A “data error” in the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office disqualified two minor party candidates from the ballot this week...Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran disqualified...Independent American Party US Senate Candidate Jon Barrie earlier this month...

Barrie's attorney emails in that he is appealing the denial to the State Supreme Court.


Reader reaction comes to the auditing scandal at the New Mexico Finance Authority that has rocked the Martinez administration:

Amazing to see Rick May put on leave at the New Mexico Finance Authority (NMFA).  He was an experienced DC hand and really one of the few seemingly stable, knowledgeable people on the Martinez team. Also, he was a favorite of (GOP US Senate candidate) Heather and (former GOP US Senator) Pete Domenici.

The story at NMFA, I think, is that the Legislature keeps expanding their mission way beyond their capabilities. They're handling millions without the checks and balances that are required of, for instance, a federal agency.

That we are getting constant national headlines about our failures can't be helping our economic development, tourism, convention business, etc..

Also, it's fun to imagine what people (especially Governor Martinez) would be saying about this scandal if Bill Richardson was still around. They don't seem to be too upset about it these days...

Reader Bob Anderson gets in these jabs over the NMFA scandal:

During many elections--both local and statewide--we are told that the GOP will run "Government like a Business." Now this old clinker really rattles around with the NMFA fiasco. Because that's exactly what Gov. Martinez and crew have done--they are running government like a business! Just like those banks that are too big to fail. Creative accounting comes to New Mexico thanks to the GOP.

But reader Mark Valenzuela, Vice-President of George K. Baum & Company, an investment banking firm, says the state needs to get NMFA out of the banking business and look to the private sector:

Your Senior Alligator suggested that the construction industry will be further stymied by the NMFA's inability to finance larger bond deals. There is a competitive private sector market In New Mexico that will absorb those bond deals easily, and despite the statements that the interest costs will prevent the deal from getting done, those deals will likely price right where NMFA would have priced them. And frankly, if the interest cost is the obstacle, then there is something fundamentally wrong with that construction project.

NMFA is a government bank, supported with taxpayer dollars. The low interest rates offered to NM communities that your reference are artificially set low by NMFA, and are lower than what it costs them to borrow money from the capital markets. To make this all work, this Government Bank (NMFA) collects $25 million of taxpayer dollars to cover the difference....

The policy conversation I would appreciate you having with your Alligators is "why is NMFA participating in a competitive private market"? Everyone in New Mexico talks about expanding our private sector, but then they say nothing when a Government Bank ($8 million operations budget) lures infrastructure financing away from private sector bankers with the promise of low interest rates, without explaining how they are able to offer below market rates. 

That's some meaty food for an Alligator discussion, Mark....


We're back on the campaign trail for another of those frenetic three month runs until Election Night, covering the 2012 race to fill the US Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Bingaman.

We took this pic Friday night at a backyard party for Dem Senate contender Martin Heinrich hosted by former Attorney General Partricia Madrid and husband Mike Messina. In the background is special guest and New York Democratic US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She went to the Senate from the US House via gubernatorial appointment in 2009. She is running for the seat this year and is heavily favored to win.

The political crowds these days seem to feature as many candidates as "civilians." Among those attending Madrid's Friday night soiree were ABQ District Court Judge candidates Ben Chavez and Brianna Zamora. Both are current ABQ Metro Court judges. Former Mayor Jim Baca was also on hand, snapping pics for his blog as was blogger and architect Mary Ellen Broderick, a Democrat running against Rep. Nate Gentry for the state House in the NE Heights of ABQ.

As for Heinrich's mood at this point, he's touting the polls that show him ahead, but nervously looking in the rearview mirror. One big mistake and he knows this campaign could reverse course. For him, the eightysomething days until the election must seem like 80 years.


In his stump speech Heinrich mentions that he hopes to follow in a long line of legendary New Mexico Democratic US Senators, including Bingaman, Clinton P. Anderson and Dennis Chavez. He does not mention Joe Montoya, the Democratic Senator who was defeated in his bid for re-election in 1976 by astronaut Harrison "Jack" Schmitt.

 "Little Joe," as he was known, served from 1964 until that '76 loss. He does not make the "best" list of NM US Senators, but we remember him well. The '76 US Senate campaign was the first US Senate race we covered and it made quite the impression. It was the first time we flew in an airplane, a single engine job, buffeted by high winds as we made our way to Roswell.

At the end of each campaign day spent with Joe there were ample glasses of Jack Daniels to accompany the tales of New Mexico politics he told to legendary Associated Press reporter Bill Feather. 

Montoya was a political prodigy who was elected to the state House in 1936 at the age of 21 and climbed rapidly to the top of the political ladder. But he loved his wine, women and song as much as his politics. It was a meteoric rise and a steep descent. We announced his death from liver disease on June 8, 1978. He was only 62.

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