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Friday, January 20, 2012

Politicos Banter Over State's Top Sports Stories Of First 100 Years, Plus: More On Susana's Grades 

It goes without saying that our readers enjoy the political fray, but for some of them their passion for sports is on par with their love of La Politica. We were reminded of that this week when we posted the top five sports stories since statehood was achieved in 1912. Or at least the top five as seen through the lens of longtime GOP political operative and lobbyist Bruce Donisthorpe. Talk about setting off an argument. Poor Bruce was excoriated for his efforts by a parade of other sports aficionados who then sent in their own lists of what they consider the top sports stories. Before we post them, Donisthorpe says we need to point out that his was actually a top ten list, but the blog trimmed it to the top five. As for the charge that he is an "Aggie" which was hurled at Donisthorpe who is a former top aide to southern NM GOP Rep. Joe Skeen, he retorts: "If I am such an Aggie, how come I left Lobogate off my top five?

Well, it seems these sports fans know more about negative campaigning than the politicos.

So what big stories were on the other lists? Let's find out. ABQ Dem State Rep. Moe Maestas, whose late father, Frank, was a longtime and top sports writer for the ABQ Journal, has sports in his DNA and comes with a "Top Six" list. Never mind that we were looking for the top five. You know how they count in Santa Fe:

July 4, 1912, New Mexico hosted the world heavyweight championship fight! Guess where? In Las Vegas of course. Jack Johnson overcame several head butts to knock out “Fireman” Jim Flynn in the 9th.

1920: Roy W. Johnson moved from Michigan to Albuquerque to recover from the effects of gas poisoning suffered in World War I. He took over as the one-man physical education department, coached every sport and served as Lobo athletic director until 1959.

October 27, 1922, argue-ably the best baseball player from NM, Ralph Kiner, was born in Santa Rita (near Bayard). Kiner was a five time NL All-Star and hit 54 HR’s for the Pirates in 1949.

1956: Highland High grad, Tommy McDonald, lead Oklahoma to its second straight national title and finished 3rd in the Heisman voting. At 5’7, 172, he’s the smallest player (and only New Mexican) in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

July 18, 1997: Although the fight did not take place in NM, Johnny Tapia defeated Danny Romero for the 114 lb. world championship in one of the greatest boxing matches in the history of the sport.

March 2, 1983: Still NM’s greatest moment as NC State and Coach Jimmy Valvano upsets Houston’s Phi Slama Jama (Hakeem Olajuwon & Clyde Drexler) in the PIT for the National Title. If I didn’t see it with my own eyes I would not have believed it.

Honorable mention, June 16, 1962: A young scribe from Highland’s University started working for the Journal and brought NM’s love of high school sports to NM’s largest newspaper (That would be Moe's dad, Frank).

ANOTHER TOP FIVE

Longtime blog reader Dave Matthews says Bruce's list was shortsighted in "a big city way" so he comes with his top fie stores since statehood:

1969. Eastern New Mexico Greyhounds won the NAIA National Men's Basketball Tournament, the nation's oldest such tourney, by defeating Maryland-Eastern Shore 99-76. This is the only national basketball championship by any college or university in NM, by the way.

1978. Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson and Larry Newman piloted the first balloon to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their accomplishment.

1969-70. Hobbs High Eagles Boys Varsity basketball team set a national record for average points per game at 114.6, a record that stood until broken by a Houston High School team last season...that's 40 years.

1959. Ruidoso Downs Race Track establishes the annual All American futurity race, the fastest and richest race for American Quarter Horses racehorses. Also noted is the world speed record for racehorses was set in this race by No Secrets Here in 2006.

1983-90. The Clayton High Yellowjackets Girls Varsity basketball team won eight consecutive State championships. Eldorado High Eagles Girls Varsity basketball team won a total of 14 State championships from 1975-97.

1957-2010. Artesia High Bulldogs Boys Varsity football team won a total of 27 State championships.


Now that we've got the most important sports stories since statehood out of the way, you know the top political stories of the past 100 years can't be far behind. We'll let the fever over the sports stories subside before we go there.

SUSANA'S GRADES


On that KOB-TV viewer poll that gave Governor Susana below average grades for her performance on the key issues of the day and which we blogged about Thursday, a reader writes:

My understanding is that she received a lot of of "A's" as well as a lot of "F's." That gave her an average of C or C- on the issues polled. Politically motivated? She deserves few F's from anyone who is truly objective and even the Dems I hang out with gave her only a couple of D's. I suspect organized labor orchestrated the voting on the left. Hey, remember that if you have one foot on a block of ice and the other on a red hot stove, on average, you are very comfortable.

Could be. But leaving aside the grade she deserves or whether the poll was pushed by particular interest groups, we would think most observers would agree that little substantial legislation reached her desk during her first year.

BUILD WHAT?

We've argued for a large capital outlay bill from this Legislature to get the construction industry
back to work. That drew this reader inquiry:

Joe, you wrote, "The collapse of the housing and construction industries is a large part of the problem."But there is no point in building more houses when there is no one buying the ones that exist because no one has jobs. What kind of new construction do you have in mind?

The construction we have in mind includes roads, bridges, improvements to state buildings, public schools and the like. The housing problem the reader points out would not be helped directly by state capital outlay funds.

R TAKEOVER?


We're not so sure we agree with Inside the Capitol columnist Jay Miller about this, but it did catch our eye:

A change of one more seat from Democrat to Republican will put the House under GOP control. The redistricting map approved by a judge last week makes that possibility look very likely.

If New Mexico stays strong for Obama and we get the usual higher turnout for a presidential year, the Dems, in our view, should be able to hang on to control of the state House. But they are going to court over the redistricting plan approved by a district court judge, so maybe they agree with Jay that the situation is more dire for them than we suppose.

MEDIA BEAT

A reader informs:

The ABQ Journal is closing its downtown bureau. Lots and lots of consolidation going on at the Journal these days.

We're told there are no layoffs associated with the closure of the longtime downtown newspaper office on Silver SW, but it is a sign of the media times.


STAFFING UP

ABQ GOP congressional candidate Dan Lewis gets some serious experience as he signs Joyce Pullen as his field representative. Pullen, 73, served as office field manager for many years for former GOP Senator Pete Domenici. She recently left the office of ABQ GOP Mayor Berry where she served as a constituent services staffer. Lewis says Pullen will be coordinating volunteers and coalitions and organizing for the County Conventions. Lewis has also hired professional consulting firms out of DC--including the well-known Tarrance Group--to handle his campaign. Also running for the GOP nomination is former ABQ GOP State Rep. Janice Arnold Jones and retired Army Seargent Gary Smith.

Did we mention that another political veteran who was recently working for Mayor Berry is back in the political world? In case we didn't, Tito Madrid is now on board the campaign of GOP US Senate candidate Heather Wilson. It's familiar territory for Tito who worked the field for Heather when she was the ABQ US Rep. He is also known as a political pragmatist who works with all comers. That can't hurt.

THE BOTTOM LINES


From Jimmy Fallon:

Last night President Obama took Michelle out to a steak restaurant for her birthday, marking it the first time in months the word 'Obama' and 'well-done' appeared in the same sentence


This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Only "C" Grades For Susana? We Explain, Plus: Hollywood Bashing Recedes, Natural Gas Price Plunge, Heinrich's Money Totals & Our Indian Country Visit 

Governor Martinez may score high on the likability charts but that doesn't mean the public is going to let their feelings substitute for results. For example, a KOB-TV news poll conducted on its website and being released this week gives Martinez a barely passable grade of C- when it comes to job creation.

Not that it's the sole chore of the state's governor to "create jobs" and it's not as though Martinez's administration has done nothing. But jobs remain scarce. The Guv points to a decreasing unemployment rate but does not point out that joblessness is decreasing largely because the work force has not been growing, not that we are adding gobs of jobs. The public at large and business owners feel the stagnation. Many people have dropped off the radar and are no longer counted as unemployed or as looking for work.

The 600 call center jobs Lowe's announced for ABQ recently sound good on the surface, but we've lost thousands of such jobs during this recession/Depression. The Union Pacific Railroad project in the south as well as the Spaceport will add hundreds of good-paying jobs in the years ahead but we've lost over 50,000 jobs. It will be a long time digging out of this hole.

The collapse of the housing and construction industries is a large part of the problem. Martinez and the Legislature could come with a giant capital outlay bill on the order of $400 or $500 million to start putting folks in construction and design back to work. But Santa Fe (including a reticent Legislature) seems more prone to lip service than concrete action. More resolve and more results will be needed before the public awards this Governor a job creation grade she can brag about--and run for re-election on.

That TV news poll also gave the Guv a pretty low grade on fighting corruption considering she is is a former district attorney who made corruption a banner issue in her 2o10 campaign. Viewers gave her only a C in the corruption fighting category. The poll is far from scientific but it does come on the heels of that down and dirty lease deal for the Downs at ABQ. Did that ethical swamp help sink her corruption grade?

And on education--another banner issue for the Guv--she is awarded another C-. To improve that grade, She and education secretary Skandera may have to take night school lessons on how to handle the Legislature.

(By the way, over the decades we have found these nonscientific surveys by the state's TV stations to be quite similar to later scientific polling results. Politicians ignore them at their peril. In this case Martinez did not, fielding questions about the results and offering pushback, rather than attacking the survey's methods).

BACKING OFF THE BASHING

The administration spent a good part of its first year bashing Hollywood and the film industry, but the biting of the hand that feeds you has finally ceased and Governor Martinez, as she did with the Spaceport, seems to be lightening up. Maybe it's getting results. after concerns it would go elsewhere, it was announced that the probable blockbuster--"The Lone Ranger"--will film in New Mexico. The production is estimated at $200 million. Now that's the kind of cash that is going to juice up the balance sheets of a lot of locals. And it should keep the Hollywood bashers sidelined for sometime. The state last year did scale back the amount of rebates to the industry, but Martinez and company have since been employing softer talk in referencing the movie biz and saying there will be no efforts to reduce state support further.


The film industry is but one component of the new and improved economy we hope to see for New Mexico's next generation, The others include the Spaceport, maintaining a strong federal jobs base, robust tourism, a productive energy industry, building out New Mexico with a large capital outlay bill and a constitutional amendment to provide funding for education and social programs for children from birth to five years old. That last one is the way we can finally end the cycle of wasted generations and ensure we have a work force that can fill the jobs in the new economy. Speaking of which...

COUNTING KIDS

How are the kids doing? So asks New Mexico Voices for Children and then answers with a 52 page report. They say:

The continuing Great Recession has thrown more of New Mexico’s children and families into poverty. This annual report looks at the well-being of the state’s children with some data presented by county and school district.

And a reader writes:


Joe, I have some evidence to back your call for the constitutional amendment to support education and social programs for kids. The Foundation for Child Development is releasing a report that shows that New Mexico is dead last in the country for overall child well-being. This is because of the direct relationship the report finds between higher state taxes, larger investments in key public programs and higher child well-being. New Mexico isn’t making the cut on any of those fronts.

GUV '14
Bregman
Given the millions it takes to run for Governor, some Democrats are going to have to start making some noise soon about the 2014 race. One of our Senior Alligators 0f the Dem variety reports at least one is:

At the Roundhouse Tuesday attorney Sam Bregman looked more like a candidate running for Governor than a "casual" opening day onlooker. His handshake resembled (former Governor) Bruce King's.

Several people asked him to run for Governor and he nodded. At the Democratic legislative dinner Tuesday night, many people were dropping names for Governor. I think Democrats are looking forward to the next Governor's race.


Bregman, a former ABQ city councilor, recently ran and narrowly lost a bid for the Dem Party state chairmanship. He has told friends he is looking at the Dem race for Guv.

MOVING UP
Johnson

I
nsiders report that new Democratic Bernalillo County Commission Chairman Art De La Cruz has ousted Democratic Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham from the powerful city-county water authority board and replaced her with Republican Commissioner Wayne Johnson. Johnson voted recently to bump Commission Chair Maggie Hart-Stebbins and replace her with De La Cruz. Of course, Johnson getting named by De La Cruz to the water board has nothing to do with his chair vote. I mean, really, banish the thought.

And now Alligator analysis of what is going on within the water board and Commissioner De La Cruz's role:

De La Cruz and water board executive director Mark Sanchez, a veteran of La Politica, want to further their control of the water authority. Apparently, questions being raised about Sanchez's running of the utility are not appreciated. The City of Albuquerque appointees on the Authority Board are considered pushovers, and Sanchez, et. al. want to extend utility water to Johnson's East Mountain areas and to De La Cruz's South Valley areas by eating up the small mutual domestics surrounding Albuquerque.This would enhance the power of the utility.

My, oh, my. Power grabs over water? In New Mexico? Shocking!

NOT A GAS

Reader John Gniady wants to update us on the continuing crash in natural gas prices, a resource NM relies on to fill its treasury with royalties:

This is not good news for the 30 day legislative session just getting underway. We had
another 47 cent decline Tuesday and if it stays there it means another $50 million in state royalties disappear.

Natural gas is now trading at around $2.50. The liquefied stuff goes for more but it is also declining. Energy expert Gerges Scott with DW Turner says for every one dollar decline in the natural gas price, the state treasury suffers a revenue loss of about $100 million. Will new state revenue projections trim that $250 million surplus that is projected for the budget year that starts July 1st? If they are, the entire tenor of this legislative session will change abruptly.

MONEY WATCH
Rep. Heinrich
The money reports for the federal candidates for the last quarter of 2010 won't be filed until January 31 (not mid-January as we mistakenly blogged recently) but they are starting to leak out. For ABQ Dem Congressman and US Senate hopeful Martin Heinrich the news is good.

Although he did not match the $650,000 he raised in the 2010 third quarter, he did come with a hefty $483,000. That gives him a bulging cash on hand total of nearly $1.4 million. He has raised nearly $2 million since the start of his Senate campaign. This makes Heinrich the obvious front-runner over State Auditor Hector Balderas, his lone primary foe. Hector reported $465,000 in cash at the end of September. The pressure on him to raise more funds is enormous. His grassroots appeal lessens that pressure, but only some. A fully contested primary for an open United States Senate seat means intensive and expensive TV ads. Heinrich now has his TV money banked.

REPLACING PICRAUX

We get this from political consultant Sterling Fluharty:

Both Christine Trujillo and I announced on Facebook our campaigns for the Democratic nomination for the state House seat held by Rep. Danice Picraux.


We earlier noted the entrance of labor leader Trujillo into the race for the mid-NE Height seat held by Rep. Picraux who this month announced her retirement. We have not yet seen any R's candidates for the Dem leaning district. Fluharty, 34, runs Southwest Political Services. He says:

One of my strengths is having a lot of different skills. I am a trained historian. I have taught college. I have been an administrator at a high school. I have worked in libraries and archives
.

INDIAN COUNTRY
Prez Chino & Blogger
We headed to the Mescalero Apache Reservation near Ruidoso last week for a ceremony that you can't find just anywhere--the swearing in of a new tribal president. That president is Fredrick Chino, Sr. who won election in November.

The event drew Indian leaders from across the region--including Navajo President Ben Shelly. Southern GOP Congressman Steve Pearce keynoted the event. State Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings was also on hand to help induct Chino. The new tribal leader told me young Mescaleros are a chief concern. Their suicide rate remains high and there are also problems with domestic violence and alcoholism.

A number of poignant letters written by 11 and 12 year olds from the Mescalero schools addressed these issues and were read aloud at the inauguration. Later, when we talked with the new president, he said he not about to sweep long-standing problems under the rug. He pointed to the student letters stuffed in his back pocket and told me, "I've got my work orders."

THE BOTTOM LINES

Ruidoso remains a premier tourist destination--especially for nearby Texans. When we grew extra hungry after the three hour Mescalero inauguration we stopped at the Landlocked Restaurant. It is slow season now and our party of two were the sole customers. With a name like Landlocked you would think the salmon sandwich would be the last thing to order. But order a pair of them we did and without regret.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's political community? Advertise here. Email us for details.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2012
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Power Shall Soon Pass; Speaker Lujan's Wrenching Personal Drama Revealed; Succession Plotted, Plus: Senate Graveyard Again Awaits Guv's Dreams 

Speaker Lujan (ABQ Journal)
The wrenching personal drama of state House Speaker Ben Lujan, one of New Mexico's most storied political figures, pushed aside the usual opening day headlines of a 30 day legislative session and cast a pall over the capitol, sparked respectful but intense rounds of speculation over who would replace him and pushed aside--for the moment--the agenda of the Republican Governor that Democrat Lujan has so come to dread.

Most of the politicians gathered to hear Lujan's opening remarks on the first day of the 2012 session knew that he was not well--only hours before this blog broke the news that his health was an issue not to be ignored--but still there were audible gasps when he dropped the bombshell and announced that he was afflicted with advanced lung cancer and would not seek re-election. (Lujan video here.)

Both men and women dabbed at tears as Lujan--tethered to oxygen with the tell-tale transparent tubing pushing against his nostrils--delivered a five minute speech that transitioned from the medical to the political and back again. His son, Ben Ray Lujan, now a northern New Mexico congressman, watched it and felt it as only a son could watch a father. And at his desk, Rep. Ken Martinez of Grants, now the heir apparent to the New Mexican speakership, listened intently and stared downward, perhaps fully realizing for the first time the impact this moment would have on his life.

For having lung cancer, the speaker, 76, spoke strongly. It reminded us of how former Congressman and Governor Bill Richardson adopted the campaign slogan, "Fighter for the North," but Tuesday at mid-day in Santa Fe it was the real deal. The fight for political life was cast aside, as the fight for life itself moved starkly to the front and center.

KEEPING A SECRET

The most shocking revelation from Lujan's speech came when he revealed that he had been undergoing cancer treatment since November 2009. What? And the news never made it to the public? Who says you can't keep a secret in the Internet age. It wasn't until we posted quotes from our Senior Alligators Tuesday at 1 a.m. that the story--after better than two years under wraps--began to seep to the surface. The ABQ Journal came at 7:30 in the morning with a report that mirrored our speculation.

WHO IS NEXT?
Rep. Martinez
As for speculation, the City Different was rife with it. And why not? Openness and transparency eventually carry the day in a democracy. So the Wall-Leaners, Alligators and other assorted political creatures quietly murmured their crystal ball forecasts as they nursed their favorite beverages at Capitol watering holes or pressed to their ears their always present cell phones.

The nearly unanimous opinion? State Rep. Ken Martinez, an attorney, will succeed Lujan, keeping the speaker's gavel in the Hispanic column and in the north (even if some don't consider Grants to be truly northern country).

The fly in the posole could be a Republican take over of the House in November. The R's only need a couple of new members to do the deed in the 70 member chamber. If they pull off the upset there could be a contest for the speaker's chair between House Minority Leader Tom Taylor of Farmington and House Minority Whip Don Bratton of Lea County.

But most of the political intelligentsia are betting the Dems continue to control the House, even as they have lost much of the agenda to the Republican Governor. She's been able to cobble together assorted coalitions in the narrowly divided chamber to pass such conservative items as a repeal of driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants, only to see them die in the Senate.

If Lujan finishes out his last year in office, the election for speaker would come in January 2013 and would perhaps include some new Democratic members elected in the November election. Some analysts thought that could perhaps hamper Martinez's vote gathering efforts. But Lujan and his allies have been in Kenny's corner since he tried an ill-fated coup of Lujan in December 2006. Our blog leading up to that event captured the moment:

The spirited behind the scenes battle between Lujan and Martinez has been fascinating to behold. There is Lujan, 70, a Santa Fe native who started his career as a working man and rose to hold power at the upper reaches of government without benefit of a college degree; a man who scraped and fought to advance not only himself but his son who is now a member of the powerful Public Regulation Commission (PRC).

And then there's Martinez, 49, of Grants, NM who is from a bloodline associated with the state's Spanish aristocracy; himself the son of a House Speaker; a graduate of Notre Dame and an accomplished trial lawyer; a man seemingly destined for leadership since boyhood.

Of course, Martinez is now five years older and presumably wiser. He will not say right now whether he will seek to succeed Lujan but if he said he wasn't, the shock would be almost as great as Lujan's withdrawal announcement. By the way, Lujan has made the peace with Kenny and insiders say he is strongly backing him as his replacement.

THE SPEAKER'S SEAT

And what of Carl Trujillo, the upstart candidate who nearly toppled the Speaker in the Dem primary in 2010? Will he now be in line for the Speaker's Santa Fe area House seat? He's running again, but you have to think the Lujan machine will try to find an alternate candidate. They just couldn't stomach seeing Trujillo take the prize. The Speaker himself signaled as much when he said he was hurt by the speculation that he was lazy in 2010. He said he was suffering the effects of his cancer and it prevented him from full-fledged campaigning.

THE GOVERNOR

And then there's the Governor, hardly an afterthought in the world of La Politica on any given day, but Tuesday her message was drowned out somewhat by the breaking news and humanity of the moment. Before delivering the traditional state of the state address, Martinez gave the speaker and her avowed political foe a warm hug and declared that the state was "pulling for him."

In spite of a serviceable speech (full text here.) and some kinder thoughts for the Legislature in general, the Republican Governor's agenda seems doomed to languish once again in the limbo of the state senate. There, our Alligators report, the bill to hold back third graders with reading problems will sink. And so will for the third time the move to repeal driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. Her proposal to eliminate the gross receipts tax on businesses grossing less than $50,000 a year shows no signs of early momentum and seems headed for that crowded Senate graveyard. (Is Senator John Arthur "Dr. No" Smith the caretaker there?)

What's a Governor to do? She can nibble around the edges, one supposes, and get legislative agreement on a state budget which is the main purpose of the session. And she can still wow us by proposing passage of a large capital outlay bill that would create real jobs. Will she?

We sense that Speaker Lujan gave us all the earth-shaking we're going to see in this legislative session, but that doesn't mean that Santa Fe can't deliver a successful minimalist session that keeps the lights on.

HISTORY LESSON

Native New Mexican and former TV news reporter Rodger Beimer reports from his retirement perch:

In the last 50 years--half of New Mexico’s statehood--there have been 9 Speakers of the House and 11 governors. And there's never been a better vote counter than Ben Lujan…

And Susana may have been in an office for over a year now, but the honeymoon goes on with some of our readers:

The spotlight was on Governor Susana Tuesday and she delivered her vision for New Mexico and parameters for the session! Her remarks were interspersed with humor, poignancy, seriousness of purpose, and conciliation to others of differing views. Few governors have done better! Bravo!

We give the bottom lines to former Governor Big Bill who made history by forging a deep alliance with Speaker Ben Lujan and pushed through a mountain of legislation--including controversial tax cuts--during Bill's first Guv term from 2003 to 2007:

There is no better legislator or representative of the people than Speaker Ben Lujan. He is also a formidable fighter who will battle this illness with ferocity and incredible grace. With his departure from politics an era of legislative accomplishment in tax cuts, education, jobs, transportation and healthcare will never be equaled and will be a shining example of the Speaker’s legacy to New Mexicans. He is a true giant of New Mexico politics.

Like him or not, Ben Lujan has lived a life that mattered and long ago earned a couple of chapters in our never-ending book of La Politica. Now his final chapter has begun.

Reporting to you from Santa Fe and Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2012
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Session 2012: Up Close & Personal With The Top Sources: Speaker's Health, Power Struggles, The Gov & More; Santa Fe Under The Scope On Opening Day 

  • Santa Fe drama--House Speaker Ben Lujan announced during the noon hour at the opening session of the Legislature that he has stage 4 lung cancer and will not seek re-election to the chamber. He said he has been dealing with the cancer privately for several years.
  • He was speaker for 12 years, the second longest run in the position in state history
  • Lujan indicates he will be around for this 30 day session. House Majority Leader Ken Martinez is the favorite to replace Lujan in the Dem-controlled House.

    We've called upon our top sources in New Mexican politics--the Senior Alligators, the Wall-Leaners, the Hangers-On, the Wanna-Be's and more--to give you an exclusive inside perspective on what is really happening as the 2012 New Mexico legislative session convenes for 30 days in Santa Fe today. It's titillating and scintillating info so let's get right into it:

We have been told Speaker Ben Lujan has been ill. Since last January there have been rumors about the Speaker's health, and his participation in interim committees has fueled those rumors. Then Speaker did not hold his annual holiday fundraiser in December, which is put together by the lobbyist heavy weights. He has promised retirement to get votes.

The Speaker did not take the lead in the recent legislative redistricting trial despite Judge Hall's ruling that it was the Speaker's directives to maintain northern legislative seats that was ultimately the key flaw in the Democrats' case. The successful Republican strategy at trial was to challenge Speaker Lujan's motivations in passing the House plan.

THE SUCCESSION

If Lujan goes from the Speaker's chair after more than a decade of wielding the gavel who takes the second most powerful position in the New Mexican government? To the Senior Alligators;

If the House stays Democratic after the November election, Rep. Ken Martinez of Grants is Speaker Lujan's designated successor. The mantle will get passed down to Martinez despite his past attempt to defeat the Speaker. Since then Martinez has been duly chastised and obedient to the Speaker. Lujan really has no other choice but Martinez in order to keep power within the historic Santa Fe circle. Although Martinez is from Grants, his father--the late Walter Martinez-- was the former Speaker and a mentor to former Speaker Raymond Sanchez as well as Speaker Lujan. So Martinez is as close to a Santa Fe insider as there is to choose from.

House Democrats don't like to rock the boat or shake things up like they do in the Senate. House Dems are poised to go along with a succession plan that keeps the Speaker's chair in the posession of the North. That's the way it has been going all the way back to the 1970's when Ken's dad was Speaker.


THE R'S PLOT

But what if the Republicans pick up the handful of House seats they need to become a majority and do so for the first time in decades. That scenario is also being gamed out by our expert Wall-Leaners:

There is a great deal of talk about Republicans taking over the House after the House Democrats lost big in the 2012 elections, and now in court after redistricting. The Republicans have been on a huge roll for two years in the House, and there is now a lot of speculation about who would be the Republican Speaker and chairmen of the major committees. Rep. Don Bratton (Lea County) is thought most likely as a Republican speaker.

While Democrats are worried about moving their offices to the capitol annex, they are also counting on the Obama team to hold on to the House by a vote or two.
Either way the power is now moving entirely to the Senate, and at least for the remainder of Governor Martinez's term the House will be mostly an afterthought. The Senate is highly unlikely to go Republican in November. There, Senators often exercise their power in a bipartisan way to effectively check and balance both the House and Governor.

Unless she is re-elected and wants to wait again until the 2016 election, Susana will not likely make any more progress with the Senate than she has had so far.


THE 2012 SESSION

Now expert analysis from the halls of the Roundhouse with those deep on the inside on how this session can be expected to play out:

The session will be almost entirely about the coming campaigns despite the pressing issues you have raised in your blog. Susana has made clear she wants to replace Dem legislators . She will be told to set up targeted Dems for bad votes difficult to defend in November. Her political handlers can look forward to making a lot of money working to capture the 3 or 4 votes needed to take over the House. The House is merely in a survival mode getting by vote by vote, and day by day. With margins slim, every committee vote becomes a problem unless every member is present.

[Joe, by the way and as a tidbit--The seemingly bizarre daily schedule of the September special session--the hours the House was on the floor and the Republican complaints of nothing going on--were often driven by the fact that Rep. Richard Vigil, a bus contractor, needed to be driving his bus twice a day every weekday. With every vote needed, the floor sessions were scheduled around Richard's daily absences. An example of what happens when the margin between the two parties is only one.}


Expect a session filled with automated telephone calls into members' districts, and a strategic political blitz coming from the Fifth Floor. (The "Fifth Floor" is a reference to Susana's powerful political consultant Jay McCleskey). But hot button legislation and posturing will also deepen the Susana fatigue and animosity which has set in with Dems and Repubs alike. Despite Susana's new overtures to work with legislators, it is probably too little and too late for second chance to make a good first impression, and the sincerity of the new overtures will remain suspect.


Susana has made clear she wants Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez out of her way, and his Senate allies will stop her agenda there because the House can't. With Senators up for election only every four years, and with new districts, the Senate will be focused on those elections.

SANTA FE BURN OUT

Now we get the current zeitgeist from the Hangers-on in the state's capital city as the power making and power playing commence:

The fact that the legislators were in session almost three months of the past year, and just came off the special session, there is a lot of Santa Fe burned out. The fact that there is very little new or anything exciting coming from the Governor contributes to a new Santa Fe malaise. For all his many faults former Governor Richardson has left a huge leadership vacuum in the capitol, which Susana and her team have not come close to filling. Legislators were unaccustomed to setting the agenda for eight years while Richardson was at the helm, and so now nobody is leading or remembers how.

THE WAY IT WORKS

Our Santa Fe Alligators now details for you how power in this government is being divided:

The ruling coalition of Dems and R's working together in the Senate are for the most part governing this state. The redistricting trial is very good example of where things stand. The Senate Dems, R's and the Governor coming together and working out a compromise for a Senate redistricting plan is a good example of the bipartisanship required for any progress in a divided government in the next three years. It is also a good example of how the House is likely to be sacrificed in the process.

That Senate coalition will be tested occasionally on bills repealing driver's licenses for illegals and establishing voter I.D. . But mature experience and leadership are present with the likes of Senators Jennings, Smith, Sanchez, Ingle and others. They can lead Susana along if she wants to accomplish anything in her remaining three years.


MY ALLIGATORS AND ME

Even more exclusive, must-read analysis from New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan and its corp of Senior Alligators:

In a 30 day session the Governor exclusively controls the policy agenda and everything but appropriations. There hasn't been anything resembling a bold agenda announced from the Governor yet, and she did not engage much through the interim committees to develop an agenda over the past year. You have proposed a better explained agenda in your own blog so hopefully the Governor is reading and taking notes on your ideas.

With less than a week before the 2012 opening it is probably too late for anything resembling the promised boldness we heard during the 2010 campaign, and this administration is still on training wheels when it comes to governing.


And there you have it. Quite the breathtaking wrap up from the Gators and more to come in the weeks ahead. Certainly we have not heard the last of news broken here today about the Speaker's health status--whatever it is.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

2012 Legislative Session Gamed Out As Lawmakers Prep For Tuesday Opener, And: What Are The Top 5 Sports Stories Since Statehood? 

It's Martin Luther King Day and just about everything is shut down in observance of the holiday, but it's a working day for many of New Mexico's 112 legislators. They are scurrying to make final arrangements for the 30 day legislative session that kicks off tomorrow at the storied Roundhouse in Santa Fe.

(New Mexican preview here, ABQ Journal preview (subscription) here and the AP preview here.)

There's a little more money for lawmakers to divvy up than in most recent sessions but not much (around $250 million). The budget battle since Gov. Martinez took power has been more like a sparring than a boxing match between her and the Dem-controlled Legislature. There will be mostly soft punches thrown again between the two as they hammer out what appears to be pretty like-minded budgets, says this AP analysis:

Lawmakers and Martinez will work out a budget deal without too much difficulty. But the governor's tax cuts face problems because many Democrats want to use available revenues to shore up programs that were cut when the state recently faced budget shortfalls. Modest tax relief for veterans could have the best chance of success. One option for lawmakers is to scale back existing tax breaks and use the money to offer new economic development incentives sought by the governor.

It may be tame going when it comes to hammering out a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 but it could get wild again when Gov. Martinez tries for the third time to push through a measure to repeal the law that allows an undocumented immigrant to get a state driver's license. Again, the AP analysis:

The governor's license proposal should pass the House, as it did last year, but it will be a close vote in the Senate if the measure makes it that far. The governor's measure failed in the Senate last year when only two Democrats joined Republicans in support of the legislation. But election-year pressures on lawmakers could improve the governor's chances of picking up Democratic support.

The wire service take is tinged with a bit more optimism than other observers who see Martinez getting her third strike on her repeal effort.

STILL A HOT BUTTON

Let's flash back to the 2010 NM GOP Guv nomination battle because it is still relevant today. Remember when Susana Martinez
busted foe Allen Weh for being soft on illegal immigration and his polling numbers began to collapse? Well, immigration is still a hot button issue in a very conservative Republican Party. From the national stage:

Mitt Romney plans to hammer Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry on immigration in a bid to win over conservative voters in South Carolina, where the GOP front-runner has a narrow lead in polls...Appeals on immigration could be a winning formula in South Carolina, where the Legislature earlier this year passed a strict anti-illegal immigration law modeled on Arizona’s measure, which the Justice Department has sought to block.


An operating principle for Martinez and her pollsters ever since she assumed office is that the R's can take over the state House this year by using the driver's license repeal--the ultimate wedge issue--as the stake through Democratic hearts that go against her. But the R's are not taking back the Senate so she is still going to be confronted with divided government--no matter what happens with the House elections--for the rest of her term.

For not a few New Mexicans the Martinez-Legislature gridlock has been welcome. They don't want state government to do much of anything. Others see lost opportunity and a state that continues to founder.

THE SPORTS BEAT
Donisthorpe
He's not only a political junkie, he's a sports junkie. So it was no surprise to see Bruce Donisthorpe's come with his five top sports stories of the first 100 years of our statehood. See if you agree with him:


1. 1970, New Mexico State Aggies Men's Basketball team advances to NCAA Final Four in College Park Maryland, losing to -- you guessed it -- UCLA in the semifinals. NMSU won their ticket to the event by defeating Drake in the Midwest Regionals.

2. 1966 completion of construction and dedication of "The Pit" at the University of New Mexico. One of Sports Illustrated's Top 20 National Sports Venues of the 20th Century!

3. 1971 establishment of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, our State's top tourist event which features several balloon competitions and exhibitions.

4. 1983 NCAA Final Four at The Pit in Albuquerque. North Carolina State upsets Houston in the championship game.

5. Unser family dominance of the Indy 500 events throughout the 1970s and beyond.

Republican Donisthorpe is a veteran federal lobbyist who is a former staffer to GOP Gov. Garrey Carruthers and GOP Congressman Joe Skeen. Bruce is also the son of former Farmington area State Senator Christine Donisthorpe, another student of New Mexico history. Wonder if she helped out with that sports list?

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E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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