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Monday, November 19, 2012

Falling On Your Sword In Sandoval: Bureaucrat Says His Bungling Caused Voter Debacle, Plus: More On ABQ Jobs Bleed, Ben Ray Climbs Ladder, Ingle Leadership Status, Days Of Jay, And: Vigil-Giron: Justice Delayed; Justice Denied  

Eddie Gutierrez
There's plenty of blame to go around for the voting bottleneck that plagued Sandoval County this election. The County Clerk, the Secretary of State and the Governor are all taking hits--justified ones--for the mess that had voters standing in line for hours on end. But there was no conspiracy--just incompetence. There were not enough computer systems and printers to put out the correct ballot combinations for voters from different precincts at what we now call "convenience centers."

Talk about not living up to a name.

So what's the bottom line? Population growth in Sandoval County--and specifically Rio Rancho where the voting fiasco occurred--has exploded the past 20 years. Yet we get this statement:

Sandoval County Elections Bureau Director Eddie Gutierrez said he miscalculated the general election turnout by basing expected turnout on 2012 primary numbers. “Based on what happened in the primary election, everything went so smooth because of the low turnout,” Gutierrez said. “We thought that the same thing would happen for the general election.”

And Gutierrez appears ready to shoulder the blame:

Gutierrez said he doesn’t like the finger-pointing, but if there is any, it should be directed at him. “The county clerk has me as her director as Bureau of Elections,” he said. “She trusted my years of experience. If anyone is going to take a hit, it should be me.”

Be careful what you wish for Eddie. Still, your stepping out from the shadows can't help but be admired.

The election process in New Mexico is essentially county-run. For example, if a similar debacle happened in Bernalillo County--and, boy, did they ever used to--it would be the county clerk getting excoriated.

 Sure, the state has a supervisory role and should stay on top of matters--which they apparently did not do very well in this case--but these elections bureau directors are full-time, year-round employees and the ultimate responsibility rests with them and the county clerks who hire them.

Seems the new Sandoval County Clerk coming aboard in January has some firing and hiring to do.

PASS THE PIZZA

We still think Governor Susana showing up at the site of the Sandoval County voter debacle and passing out pizza and bottled water was what a chief executive does--offer assurance that no matter how bad it looks everyone will get the right to vote.

She's been roundly attacked for it and her motives have been questioned because it's a Republican area where she made her Pizza PR play.

But it wasn't Martinez's presence at the problem plagued voting center that is the problem. It was her unprecedented involvement in this election through a political action committee run by her political adviser that alienated her and made the Pizza pitch look like a political ploy.

If she had decided to stay out of the legislative election fray--as every governor before her has done--she would have been able to pass out her pizza in peace. (Please, no punditry on the preponderance of P's.)

JOBS, JOBS, JOBS

Sorry, Mayor Berry. It's a nice little feather to get a red eye flight direct from ABQ to NYC, but the big picture is still the same--our city is getting absolutely hammered when it comes to bringing in and keeping good paying jobs. The latest:

GE Intelligent Platforms announced that they are transferring their "systems product line" to Huntsville. The "systems product line" involves the making of single board computers for military and aeronautic applications. The move will take place over next 12 months and will not be final until the end of 2013. The company currently employs 70 employees in ABQ...There will be approximately 40 new jobs in Huntsville...The Albuquerque employees will have the opportunity to apply for those jobs...

These are the well-paying jobs that we are so profusely bleeding and that are being replaced by call center work.

 In his state of the city address Mayor Berry said we must work to protect the federal funding and jobs that are so vital to economic prosperity here. So how about the Republican mayor begin making contacts with members of the GOP-controlled US House to help us out?

And, yes, Steve Pearce represents the southern part of the state, but shouldn't we look to him to do more to influence the House budget cutters when it comes to New Mexico? After all, he is our only Republican now in the five member congressional delegation.

CLIMBING THE LADDER

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan
The pressure is only going to get greater in the months ahead for all members of the congressional delegation to step up to the plate and go to bat for our massive federal funding, Unfortunately for them. they lack clout. Our seniority has disappeared.

But we do have something that is in demand--Hispanic voters. They were key to the national presidential win of Obama and because of it northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan might be able to wiggle his way on to the national stage.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has elected Rep. Rubén Hinojosa of Texas as its Chairman for the 113th Congress and Lujan was elected First Vice-Chair. That would seem to put him on the path to eventually take the chairman's role. He says:

This is an important time for the Hispanic community across the country as we have seen our numbers and influence increase in all facets, from government to small businesses. I am honored to have the opportunity to represent the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as First Vice Chair, and I look forward to working with them and my colleagues in the House to advocate for an agenda that helps Hispanics, and indeed all Americans, by growing our economy, spurring job creation, and investing in education.” 

Ben Ray has his hands full with Los Alamos National Labs--the economic engine of the north. They laid off over 700 employees this year because of budget cuts. In addition, lab mismanagement has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions. Lujan needs to be a watchdog and a bulldog.

His continued rise through the Hispanic ranks on Capitol Hill is not a replacement for seniority, but it's a high card in a high-stakes poker game over the future of federal funding here and around the nation.

(Incidentally, ABQ Congresswoman-elect Michelle Luján Grisham was named as the Hispanic Caucus whip. She received nearly 60 percent of the vote this year in her first outing as a congressional candidate. That ought to make for some good cloakroom conversation).

INGLE IN?

Sen. Ingle
A confidant of State Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle is confident that the east side Senator will retain his leadership position when the next session of the Legislature convenes in January, even though whispers of a possible challenge continue

Ingle, first elected in '84, has been the subject of intrigue ever since Governor Martinez took office and rumors began circulating that she and her political team feel Ingle is not aggressive enough when it comes to dealing with Senate Dems. There was even talk that the Guv's minions would feild a primary opponent against him. That didn't happen and the Portales farmer is back in Santa Fe for another four years.

The GOP picked up three Senate seats in November. The Senate is now 25 Dems and 17 R's. That means Ingle would need 9 GOP votes in his caucus to retain his leadership post.

And who might challenge Ingle?

Most insiders point to ABQ area GOP Senator John Ryan. He won his third term this month and is a favorite of Guv political adviser Jay McCleskey. (Ryan's wife is Veronica Gonzales, Secretary of the Department of Cultural affairs).

But the Guv's interference in both R and Dem legislative contests has not settled well with the Senate.
That's going to make it even more difficult for any coup attempt against the affable Ingle who signaled early on that he respects the Governor's office, but he is a Senator first.

DAYS OF JAY

Guv political adviser Jay McCleksey, variously nicknamed named the "Fifth Floor" and the "Shadow Governor" because of the tremendous influence he wields over Governor Martinez, walks away from Campaign '12 a much wealthier man, but one with a lot more enemies.

His sizzling attacks on fiscal conservative Roswell Dem State Senator Tim Jennings drew the ire of former GOP Chairman Harvey Yates, Jr. The prominent SE NM oil man blasted McCleksey when Jennings was on his way to losing to Cliff Pirtle. Now he is back in the aftermath with this op-ed, again ripping McCleskey and his political action committee and revealing the major rift that has developed in the GOP over the tactics of the 38 year old consultant. Yates blasts the attack ads Jay put up against Jennings, calling them "half truths:"

...They lessen the willingness of the best and most able among us to stand for public office. These are folks who have multiple alternative opportunities. For them, public service is not a reward but is a sacrifice. Add to that sacrifice the probability that a political operative will advertise half-truths or worse about them, and we rarely will find them in public office. It is ironic that an organization named “Reform New Mexico Now” has lessened the likelihood of reform in New Mexico. 

Governor Martinez has become alienated from Yates and a number of other powerful Republicans because of the free rein she has given McCleskey. In the months ahead there will be a power struggle in the GOP over lessening his influence.

Because he has become such a well-known political figure, it is unknown how high his profile will be in future races. That Martinez came up mostly empty-handed Election Night does not help his cause. The bitter division that she will face in January at the legislative session as a result of the campaign she sanctioned against lawmakers also raises questions about McCleskey's future.

Will Yates and other wealthy donors start making noise about the money going to McCleskey from out-of-state interests--his Reform NM PAC collected over $2.3 million. Could they somehow cut off that money? It's another key question in the wake of a campaign that has left the GOP wondering how and why so much power is concentrated in one political consultant and what it means to its future.

REBECCA VIGIL-GIRON

Rebecca Vigil-Giron
One of the flaws in our system of jurisprudence--as we see it--is the often interminable wait for an outcome. Investigations go on, sometimes for years. The accused is encased in a torturous state of limbo and taxpayers pony up for the expensive, but too slow search for justice. Which brings us to the case of former Democratic Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron. Or we should say the former case. She was indicted on corruption charges over three years ago--in August 2009--resulting in this:

The corruption case against former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Girón collapsed when a district judge ruled the state had taken too long in bringing the charges to trial. Vigil-Girón was accused of embezzling federal funds and other crimes related to $6 million in contracts that paid for voter-education commercials in 2006. District Judge Reed Sheppard decided there were just too many delays and that violated Vigil-Girón's right to a speedy trial. Vigil-Girón's attorney, Robert Gorence, says his client was ecstatic and believes she has been vindicated...Eight judges were assigned the case after Vigil-Girón was indicted more than three years ago. Six of them were recused.


The actual charges against Vigil-Giron have not been adjudicated, but she says the dismissal means she is innocent. Prosecutors may appeal. Whatever the case, more than three years is a ridiculous amount of time. It reminds us of what seemed like the never-ending investigation of former Governor Richardson and how the newspaper for several years reported rumors of an ongoing federal probe and whether it would result in indictments. Never happened.

By the way, TV news reported that Rebecca has remarried and is now Rebecca Vigil-Gutierrez. She unloaded on Attorney General Gary King over the mishandling of her case in video that is posted here.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2012
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