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Monday, September 10, 2012

BernCo Commission Set To Go R For First Time In Decades, But Probably Not For Long, Plus: City Beat: The Minimum Wage Mess, And: The Polls; Heinrich Marches On; Obama Ahead Of Mitt 

Republicans are ecstatic that they are about to have a majority on the Bernalillo County Commission for the first time in decades. But it's probably only going to last a few months so they'll have to make the best of it.

This weekend members of the central committees of the Bernalillo County Democratic and Republican parties picked candidates for the commission seat that has become vacant with the resignation of Michelle Lujan Grisham--the ABQ Dem congressional candidate.

The Dems picked ABQ City Councilor Debbie O'Malley over Sarita Nair on a 58 to 46 vote. A run-off was forced between them when none of the three candidates received a majority on the first ballot. On that first ballot Debbie had 46 votes, Sarita had 34 and Miguel Gómez had 25.

The R's selected (by acclamation) attorney Simon Kubiak. They will face off in November and with the district heavily Dem, O'Malley is the odds on favorite to win the election to fill out Grisham's term which expires at the end of 2014..

Meantime, Governor Martinez is expected to name Kubiak to the commission where he will serve until the the winner of the November election begins the new term January 1. If that's him, he will stay on. For now it will mean there will be three R's and two Dems on the panel. And what will the R's do with their new found majority? Well, for starters look for them to try to increase the number of sheriff's deputies. And also look for them to send shivers up the spines of government union leaders as they take a look at personnel policies and even the unions contracts.

The commission will also get a new chairman. Hey, how about Michael Wiener? Really. He is on the commission until the end of the year and knows how to cut a deal--not withstanding the scorching he received over his escapades in the Philippines and which cost him when he lost the June GOP primary. The other two R's will be Martinez's appointment (Kubiak) and Commissioner Wayne Johnson.

CITY COUNCIL IMPACT

Meanwhile, over at the city council--controlled by the R's with a 5 to 4 majority--O'Malley will remain on that body until the end of the year--even if she wins election in November. But if and when she departs, Republican Mayor Richard Berry will get the opportunity to appoint someone to fill O'Malley's seat.

O'Malley beat two other opponents at the Central Committee Saturday meeting, but there was plenty of grumbling about her leaving the city council. This Dem operative put it this way:

Such selfishness. If she wins then Berry and Jay McClesky will have a veto proof council which is terrible  for all Albuquerqueans regardless of party affiliation.

And who might Berry appoint to replace O'Malley? A number of names are floating around, but one that grabs our attention is Katherine Martinez, head of the state's Construction Industries Division of the state Regulation and Licensing Department. In 2007, she ran against O'Malley for the ABQ North Valley seat. Martinez was a Democrat back then. We will check on her current registration.

We noticed Katherine upping her profile lately with public service announcements on the TV stations. Could she be Berry's chosen one and be able to hold the seat? If she is still a Dem, she would have a better chance, even as she joined with the council R's on key issues.

Martinez (Katherine Carroll) was born in North Carolina and moved to New Mexico in 1999 with her native New Mexican husband. She has an extensive resume and before joining the Martinez administration was government affairs director for the Central NM Homebuilders Association.

Martinez would have to give up her state job to move up the ladder, but the lure of La Politica does have a price. Let's keep our eyes on this one....
 
MINIMUM WAGE MESS

Maybe there will be some court resolution today to the minimum wage mess brought about by the negligent ABQ City Council and Mayor. (Proponents of increasing the wage from $7.50 to $8.50 an hour didn't help matters when they included a typo on the petition that citizens signed and which called for an election on the proposal.) Meanwhile, here's Dem attorney and Public Regulation Commissioner Jason Marks explaining that the game downtown is to keep the measure from going on the November 6 ballot which would increase its chances of passing:

In reading the Journal story and editorial Saturday about the judicial maneuvering around the minimum wage ballot measure, something didn't make sense. They say the two sides tried going directly to the NM Supreme Court, because "one side or the other" would have appealed any decision coming out of District Court. Obviously, the wage hike proponents would appeal a negative decision by the District Court. But City Clerk Amy Bailey's previous position has been that she didn't think she had authority on her own to add the measure to the ballot absent a City Council resolution or a court order (because of conflicts between city and state election rules).  

So, a lower court ruling in favor of adding the measure to the ballot (and potentially fixing the typo that's been identified) should have been acceptable to the Clerk. But instead, it looks like the City Clerk and City Attorney may be actively trying to keep minimum wage hike off the ballot. If that's the case, who authorized or directed the City Attorney to fight tooth and nail to prevent the wage hike from getting on the ballot and why?

Who authorized the city attorney to fight to keep the measure off the November 6 ballot where it could have a decent chance of passing because of large turnout in a presidential election year and could also draw Dem voters to the polls who would not vote for R candidates?

Geez, Jason, now who would want to do that? Could it be Republican Mayor RJ Berry? Could it be Berry's chief political adviser Jay McCleskey? Could it be the Republican majority on the ABQ City Council? I don't know, Jason. That's a tough one. Do you think we should sign up a private eye to get to the bottom of it?

HEINRICH VS. WILSON

It's early September but Dem Martin Heinrich is only one point away from the magic 50% mark, according to the first in a series of ABQ Journal polls released Sunday. It's Heinrich 49% to GOP contender Heather Wilson's 42%. Eight percent are undecided. MOE is 3.8%.

Heinrich builds a commanding seven point lead over Wilson by scoring 60% support among Hispanics and pulling a muscular 76% among all Democrats. Those are numbers on which you ride to the US Senate. Wilson needs a major campaign event to shake up the race if she is to pull off the upset. There are three statewide TV debates scheduled between the pair and Wilson never needed them more.

Pollster Brian Sanderoff notes that Wilson is getting 53 percent of the independents. But it's crossover Dems (and Hispanics) she needs now and she's not getting them.

We and others have said Wilson needs to make a cleaner break from some national GOP policies, a high-risk move, but this poll confirms it may be her best chance. She could also use some help from Heinrich who has run an error free campaign.

Wilson's campaign reacted stoically to the survey, saying, "Let the comeback begin." She will fight to the end as is her style, giving Heinrich no reason to rest no matter what the polls say. One major flub and Wilson is more than capable of seizing the moment.

The Journal poll is the latest a long line of surveys since June that have Heinrich leading the contest. The National Republican Senatorial Committee recently cancelled plans to buy TV for Wilson. Getting them--and the electorate--interested in this race again is going to take some doing.

NM Politics with Joe Monahan ranks the open US Senate seat here "lean Dem."

OBAMA VS. ROMNEY

We continue to rank the presidential race in New Mexico "lean Dem," notwithstanding the Journal poll Sunday that has Obama at 45%, Romney at 40% and former NM Governor Gary Johnson with 7%. While those aren't deadly numbers for Romney and we still could have a relatively close finish, it's hard to see Romney's path to victory here. In other words, the Alligators see the headline in the Sunday Journal that screamed "Presidential Race Close" as a bit of a stretch. The AP called it "a small lead" for Obama which we think better sums up the situation. The newspaper started polling September 3 and ended its polling the day before President Obama gave his acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention.

The average of all the presidential polls here has Obama leading Romney by about nine points. A PPP poll in July also showed a five point race here so we don't find the Journal results surprising.

Remember, you can't have a "battleground state" until someone starts battling. It is revealing that neither the Obama or Romney campaigns have bought broadcast TV time here. (Third party groups have.) The state can not be considered back in play until one of the campaigns starts spending a lot of money here. What are their polls showing?

As in the Senate race, it appears the Republican contender needs a big event to shake up the race, otherwise it will follow the demographics of the state and naturally drift to the Democrat.

The poll shows former Republican and now Libertarian Gary Johnson pulling equally from both Romney and Obama, but in the end we--and our stable of experts--believe he will hurt Romney more. How much is the question.

The Alligators have set the over/under on Johnson at 5% for Election Night. Historically, a third party candidate continues to lose support as we head for the finish. With Johnson now at 7%--down from double digits in other polls this summer--he could very well dip below 5% if he does not do TV advertising.

Obama is getting 56% of the Hispanic vote and 71% of the Dems--numbers he can easily improve on to put the race away. Third party groups have been advertising against him in the state and that could be helping to keep the lid on him. As we said earlier, neither the Romney or Obama campaigns have bought TV time here. If Romney has any hope of restoring New Mexico's status as a battleground or swing state, it will be up to him to spend the money to do so--not Obama whose lead will stand if it goes untested.

As we begin the final two months, Heinrich and Obama appear well-positioned here. But campaigns are all about the unexpected and the unanticipated. The Republicans are hanging on just enough to take advantage if anything should fall into those categories and burst into the headlines.

NM Politics with Joe Monahan ranks the presidential race here "lean Dem." 

JANICE VS. MICHELLE

We're headed for a blow-out in the ABQ US House race unless GOP contender Janice Arnold-Jones comes with big bucks. She trails Dem Michelle Lujan Grisham by 12 points in the ABQ Journal poll--46% to 34%. Republicans aren't helping Janice enough. She polls only 66% of them. Is her "moderate" reputation hurting her with them?

NM Politics with Joe Monahan ranks the ABQ congressional race as "likely Democratc."

DETAILS PLEASE

The political community looks forward to the Journal surveys, but a new generation of readers is demanding more--like complete cross tabs from the poll as is now customarily disclosed by nearly all credible polling organizations. The Journal is still holding back. They give you a few from each survey but we are not getting complete survey results by gender or age and other cross tabs. We also need the margin of error for the small subsamples like independents.

The paper's polling secrecy conflicts with its dedication to increase transparency for public institutions. Hopefully they will reconsider their position.

TOURISM DEBATE

Let's keep it on the city beat as we rejoin the debate over the downturn in the city's tourist economy, with the return of the Senior Alligator who faults the ABQ Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB).

He hit with a piece here August 2 in the wake of the news of the decline in Lodgers' Tax revenue and the forlorn city Convention Center. Then Dale Lockett, head of ACVB, came with this blog retort. Lockett came back again, this time in the newspaper--touting ACVB and the city tourist economy. Our Senior Gator is back as well:

Shakespeare comes to mind as the Albuquerque Convention and Visitor's Bureau (ACVB) kicks its spin machine into high gear: "They doth protest too much..." The second ACVB receives any criticism the kind of energy and activity some would like to see used promoting and selling the City and the Convention Center ACVB uses instead to sell and protect themselves--and their lock on a $5 million a year city contract.

Just days after ACVB President and CEO Dale Lockett's defended (on your blog) his organization's long-standing tradition of not being able to sell the Convention Center, the Albuquerque Journal popped up a front-page story and headline: "Convention Center Shows Sign of Life".

The up-shot of the Journal story was that yes, things at the Convention Center are bad--but they're just about to get better. In fact, according to that article, 2012 bookings may be "the best year in a decade."--skyrocketing from $50 million in 2010 and $51 million in 2011 to $84 million this year.

But the accounting ACVB uses would make Doug Vaughan blush.

None of this reported "$84 million" represents money, or people or conventions that are here now. In fact, some of the bookings (like the USA Roller Sports) won't be arrive (if they do) until July 2015. What's also interesting is that while ACVB claims their bookings for 2010 and 2011 were up--Lodger's Tax revenue was down and has dropped three out of the past four years.

What the Journal should have done is ask for verification of ACVB's numbers. What does ACVB spend those tax dollars on and what does it produce as a result? Have their past reportings ever been audited and verified? How much is spent on salaries and administrative overhead? How much is spent on travel? Who goes? Do any elected officials go on those trips? Does ACVB spend any of its budget on lobbyists? There's no reason not to ask-- unless the press and our elected officials just don't want to know what's really going on at the ACVB.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Rogers
The Republican Party is still hanging in there with attorney/lobbyist Pat Rogers, their controversial NM national committeeman, despite calls for his resignation from the Native Ameircan communty and the decision by his law firm--Modrall Sperling--to give him the boot.

When one of Pat's emails leaked that had him making fun of Governor Martinez for meeting with Native American tribes, saying General Custer would be "offended," we predicted that Modrall's billable hours could take a hit and that could mean Rogers would be shown the door. That appears to be pretty much what happened:

Controversial remarks by then-Modrall Sperling attorney Pat Rogers so angered Sandoval County Commission Chairman Darryl Madalena of Jemez Pueblo that he threatened to end the county’s contract with the firm. A June note Rogers sent from his Modrall email account to Gov. Susana Martinez’s staff appeared to suggest that the governor “dishonored Col. Custer” – a controversial Indian fighter of the 1800s – by attending a summit with state tribal leaders...

Modrall is billing Sandoval County $265 an hour. They could have lost that deal and more because of Rogers. Whatever they paid Pat to get him out was probably worth it.

Rogers' outlandish emails that have leaked out in recent weeks poke "fun" at Hispanics, Native Americans and gays are sure to be fodder for future campaign charges--as long as Rogers keeps his hat as GOP national committeeman.

The R's have taken a bunker mentality on this because Rogers is so fully integrated into the party via his connections with Governor Martinez and "shadow Governor" Jay McCleskey. They appear to want to take a bullet for Rogers. If so, they could be wounded politically and so may the national GOP as it works to try to convince minorities that the party is not exclusionary.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2012
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