Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Clippings From My Newsroom Floor: Susana's Obama Love, A Mayor O'Malley? Also: More Drama In ABQ Westside Senate Battle, And: Our Bottom Line Clippings 

Susana put on her smiley face and warmly greeted President Obama during his SE NM visit this month and even shared how they agree on aspects of education reform. The warm and fuzzy welcome was in direct contrast to a stern partisanship that the GOP Governor has shown to most Democrats. It drew reader reaction like this from Kathryn Carroll of Tucson:

Wouldn't she have eliminated any consideration of herself for the vice-presidency in the eyes of the national Republican candidates when she said "she and the Democratic president "speak the same language" on school reform"?  When you consider that the goal of the Republican party is to defeat the current occupant of the White House, isn't a statement like that which implies that she is in total agreement with his educational policies the kiss of death in their eyes?  I thought it was an interesting choice of words, and I certainly agree with your stand that she could use similar language with the legislature. But the big question remains--why is Martinez buttering up her party's most disliked individual?  

Thanks, Kathryn. Let's take a a stab at an answer. First, Martinez is frequently mentioned as a possible GOP VP candidate but the odds are long indeed. Will her cozying up to Obama cause her some heartburn with the national nominating wing of the GOP? It could. But it's clear Martinez's target audience is not national, but local. She is seeking re-election here in 2014 and needs to maintain the goodwill of conservative Dems and independents. Finding common ground with Obama on  an issue like education which crosses party lines meshes with that goal. (She also spared New Mexico the embarrassment showered upon Arizona when its hard-right GOP Governor insulted the chief executive when he touched down recently in Phoenix.)

Further evidence Martinez is positioning for '14 is found in a recent mailer that went out from Susana PAC. It touted her accomplishments in education at the recent legislative session,  Never mind that her major proposals died in the Legislature, the campaign operatives try to create an alternate reality.


ABQ City Councilor Debbie O'Malley has never drawn raves when her name pops up as a mayoral candidate, She ran briefly in 2009 but folded her tent early. But could 2013 turn out to be an O'Malley friendly year? Her defiance this week (along with two other Dem councilors) of GOP Mayor RJ Berry was the first real showing of any Democratic backbone on the nine member council since Berry took over in December of 2009.

O'Malley took major hits from the mayor and his political operatives for her stance that the $93 million rebuild of the Paseo/I-25 interchange go to the voters, but she came out just fine with her political base and maybe even the community at large. After all, politicians rarely get in trouble for advocating that the public vote on an issue--and that's what O'Malley advocated.

This city council has been borderline obsequious when it comes to pushing back against the 11th Floor, but then the 11th Floor has been pretty somnolent, choosing to do a little but not a lot and hoping that that is enough for another four years.

O'Malley is a liberal in an increasingly blue city. She is also  part Hispanic and a woman in a city that has yet to elect a female mayor.  But her chief appeal is the fight she has in her in contrast to the laid-back Berry. That seemed to work against her when she shared power with more combative personalities like Mayor Chavez. But now the city may hunger for leadership that is more front and center than Berry has been.

Berry's sharp partisan turn on Paseo in which he went after the three council Democrats was intended to polarize them and make him appear as the fighter. But did it have the opposite effect and empower the likes of O'Malley?


The drama continues in that state Senate race on ABQ's west side where 25 year old Jacob Candelaria is attempting to become the first openly gay male to serve in the New Mexico Senate. But unlike, say 20 years ago, it's not his sexuality that has become an issue, but his petition signatures. Are they valid? Carlos Villanueva, Candelaria's rival for the Dem nod in the district from which Senator Bernadette Sanchez has announced her retirement, says that Candelaria's petitions are riddled with fraud.

Villanueva has not been available for comment but a friend of his says he will go to court in an effort to prove the allegation and kick Candelaria off the ballot. The Bernalillo County clerk's office told us Wednesday that they notified the secretary of state of Villanueva's fraud complaint and that the SOS referred it to the state police to investigate.

We posted Candelaria's signatures on Thursday's blog and said some of them looked pretty funky. KOAT-TV learned about the story from your blog and sent a reporter out to interview persons whose signatures were on Candelaria's petitions. Many of them said they never signed their names to the petitions, even though they were listed as signing. The Candelaria campaign released this statement to the TV station and to us in which they acknowledge they have problems with some of their signatures:

We are very concerned if even one of the signatures we filed was improperly collected. Our campaign had no knowledge of anyone who collected signatures improperly and certainly we would never allow that to happen. We hired a local vendor to augment the signatures our candidate and volunteers were collecting and we were assured that all the signatures gathered were in accordance with the law. We are carefully reviewing each and every signature and look forward to working with the authorities to see if anything is amiss.

It takes 75 valid signatures to make the ballot. If Villanueva, a former accountant for Bernalillo county government, can prove in court that Candelaria's petitions contain too many fraudulent signatures to reach that threshold, he could be thrown off the ballot. That would make Villanueva the new senator from the district because no R's have filed for the seat.

Was Jacob Candelaria a young man in too much of a hurry and will he now miss a golden opportunity to make political history? Or is Carlos Villanueva crying wolf as he tries to stave off defeat from the better organized and better funded Candelaria? Stay tuned.

Carlos Villanueva
There's even more drama in the Valley of ABQ. Dem State Senate candidate Michael Padilla is a friend of Carols Villanueva. And while Villanueva is apparently preparing a court challenge over his rival's petitions, Padilla is also alleging that one of his rivals for the Senate nomination--State Rep. Eleanor Chavez--has filed faulty petitions. He has forwarded his complaint to the Bernalillo County district attorney, secretary of state and county clerk.

It's not known if Padilla will pursue a court challenge, but Rep. Chavez tells associates she is confident she has enough valid signatures to make the ballot. There are two other candidates in that Dem race. It is for the Senate seat that is being given up by Eric Griego who is running for Congress. The winner of the Dem nod will get the trip to Santa Fe in the district barren of Republicans.


Longtime blog reader Jim Terr of Santa Fe writes:

My friend Mark Cross has been working on his book for at least 10 years. It's carefully put together and finally coming out!  Northern New Mexico is at long last the subject of a regional encyclopedia. The Encyclopedia of Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico, scheduled for release in April, contains more than 1,000 alphabetical entries and 180 illustrations, all relating to Northern New Mexico.

Thanks, Jim. That looks like it is right up the blog alley...

Perfect weather for a round of golf lately but it appears it will soon be at a higher price if you want to knock the ball around a city operated course, reports golf writer Dan Vukelich.

ABQ's Doug Douglas comes with this end of week laugher:

An investigation of the racing industry by the New York Times says that five of the six tracks with the nation's highest injury rate are in New Mexico. When the New Mexico racing commission heard this they were shocked and said. "Five out of six?" "That's almost half."

Thanks for stopping in. This is the home of New Mexico politics.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan

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

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Not for reproduction without permission of the author.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

It Must Be A Campaign; Jousting Over Polling Begins, Plus: Marty Starts Jabbing Eric, And: A Thorn For Janice 

TV ads that fudge the truth, brutal mail pieces that misrepresent voting records, robo calls that hit and run and polls that may or may not accurately reflect the lay of the land. Those are just some of the perennial items of the campaign season, and with only about two months and a week until the June 5 primary, they are starting to pop up like spring weeds.

In the case of the polls, the first public one on a state legislative race to draw widespread attention came from the campaign of former State Rep. Ben Rodefer. He's challenging State Senator John Sapien for the Dem nomination in the Sandoval County area district. Conducted by the polling group Third Eye Strategies, it showed Rodefer beating incumbent Sapien by ten points--43% to 33%--among a sample of 300 likely voters taken March 19-22. But Sapien sympathizers dug up a legislative poll also conducted by Third Eye that shows polling in these low-turnout primary races is tricky at best. That poll was conducted May 25-27, 2010, just days before the primary in which challenger Carl Trujillo narrowly lost to House Speaker Ben Lujan in Santa Fe by less than 100 votes, but the Third Eye poll was apparently blind to what was about to happen. Pollster Stephen Clermont reported to Lujan at the time:

Speaker Lujan leads by a two-to-one margin among likely voters (47%-23%). That lead widens with voters who say they will definitely vote (52%-21%) and those definite voters who have voted in multiple primaries (54%-20%). Most significantly, among those who have the most information about the candidates and can give both a favorable or unfavorable rating, Lujan leads 58%-32% with 10% undecided....

Pollster Clermont comes with this response:

The race closed. It happens in low-turnout primaries...There are plenty of factors I cannot model in polls. People answer surveys and don’t vote and people change their minds about the candidates. However, the most important thing from my perspective--the Speaker won the race. Yes the margin was not as large as what the poll indicated but he won in the worst possible environment heading into the vote. If Rodefer wins by one vote, that is fine from my perspective. He is not over 50% in this poll and there is a long way to go. My poll does not say he will win...

Maybe Rodefer is ten points ahead of Sapien--or maybe he isn't. And not to denigrate Clermont and Third Eye. They and the other pollsters do their best. But when it comes to polling in these legislative primaries, the best advice may be Caveat emptor"--let the buyer beware. We think Speaker Lujan would surely agree.

Now more of our continuing and pretty much exclusive coverage of the state Senate campaign that could conclude with the election of the first openly gay man to the state Senate in New Mexico history. He's 25 year old Jacob Candelaria who directs Equality NM, a gay advocacy group, and who is seeking to replace retiring ABQ Dem state Senator Bernadette Sanchez. And there's more drama in this one.

The Bernalillo County Clerk's office confirms that Carlos Villanueva, Candelaria's lone rival for the Dem nod, has filed a complaint accusing Candelaria of filing fraudulent petiton signatures. The secretary of state has sent the complaint to the state police and the clerk's office here confirms an investigation is underway. Candelaria needed about 75 valid signatures. He filed 155. You can look at all of them here. You have to say some of them look kind of funky. Let's see what happens with that investigation. More drama to come? Remember, the winner of the June primary gets the Senate prize. There's no R on the ballot for this west side district.


Let's turn up the heat on Campaign '12--or let's have ABQ Dem congressional hopeful Marty Chavez do it as he starts poking at June primary rival Eric Griego:

Eric Griego claims he “represents the Democratic Party's values.” But what are the facts? Griego took a $24,000 bonus to leave his publicly funded, non-profit position to run for Congress, taking money away from educational opportunities for New Mexican children. Griego voted to reinstate the local food tax, which overwhelmingly hurts low-income families. Griego opposed job-creating projects like expanding the Montaño bridge and the San Juan Chama water project--the largest public works project in New Mexico’s history. 

Meanwhile, Griego appears to be leading in the endorsement wars:

Griego announced his endorsement by Cuauhtémoc “Temo” Figueroa, a leading national Hispanic political strategist who served as the National Latino Vote Director for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.  Figueroa’s endorsement follows Griego’s announcement on Monday of his endorsement by the American Postal Workers Union Local 380.

This is going to be a 15 rounder, boxing fans. If anyone falls down, Michelle Lujan Grisham is waiting at ringside to jump in. She comes with this video that makes it clear that she is going after the gals while the boys tear into each other.


It appears former GOP State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones is well on her way to securing the Republican nomination for the ABQ US House seat, but she will still have to deal with a thorn or two. Gary Smith, the retired Army Seargent who failed to win an official spot on the June 5 primary ballot when he scored only 3 percent of the preprimary vote to Janice's 62%, filed additional petition signatures with the secretary of state to secure a spot on the ballot. The problem he faces? No candidate in state history who has fallen below 20% at the preprimary has ever won the primary. But Smith will poke at Janice for not being conservative enough as he works to shake up the race. A sample:

Janice likes to call herself Lady Sunlight. I believe it’s time to shed some sunlight on her liberal record of voting for taxes increases and huge budgets, voting against the death penalty, and for being multiple choice on issues like abortion. There is a clear choice in this primary between Janice’s liberal record and my true conservative values.

Smith has seeded his campaign with $125,000 in personal money. Janice had an anemic $20,000 banked at the end of the year, but is reporting fund-raising progress since the preprimary.


On the topic of the American Dream, do Governor Martinez's aides make sure she sees reports like this one or are they dismissed as propaganda? From the NYT column of Steven Ratner:

In 2010, as the nation continued to recover from the recession, a dizzying 93 percent of the additional income created in the country that year, compared to 2009--$288 billion--went to the top 1 percent of taxpayers, those with at least $352,000 in income. That delivered an average single-year pay increase of 11.6 percent to each of these households. Still more astonishing was the extent to which the super rich got rich faster than the merely rich. In 2010, 37 percent of these additional earnings went to just the top 0.01 percent, a teaspoon-size collection of about 15,000 households with average incomes of $23.8 million. These fortunate few saw their incomes rise by 21.5 percent. 

Nothing wrong with having the rich get richer but only if most boats are rising. Right now, the middle and lower classes are shipwrecked and the wealthy continue to go along at cruising speed. When will our politics fully catch up with this distributing reality? This isn't class warfare or resentment. This is an economic system run afoul


While we doubt that the New York Times is a part of the Governor's daily reading diet--too "liberal" and all that--we do know there was no way she could ignore that paper's recent explosive expose on the dismal condition of the state's horse racing industry. She says she will ask for a report from the racing commission on the outrageous animal abuse via drugging and the apparent human criminality. How about an outside investigation, Guv? It's hard to have much confidence in the agency under which this scandal prospered. And can you give Senator Udall a call and work with him on the national angle he is pursuing to clean up the racing industry? And what about the Legislature? Oh, sorry, we don't want to wake them ...


We always vote for a sense of humor and Mo Elleithee campaign consultant to Dem US Senate candidate Hector Balderas appears to agree. On our Monday blog we posed a question about Hector's campaign in the wake of the good showing he had at the Dem preprimary convention and which he bragged about. "Where's the Mo?" we wondered. To that, Mo emails:

I'm right here!!  Hope you're well.

Well, if you cant laugh about it you really can't live in this crazy but beloved world known as La Politica.

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

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Obama's New Friend: Gary Johnson, Plus: We Go Long And Deep On The Continuing Woes Of APD And Company; It's New Mexico's Wednesday Blog 

 President Obama has a new friend. Gary Johnson. The former New Mexico Governor who failed in his bid to capture the GOP presidential nomination and switched to running for the Libertarian Party nod has scored 7 percent in a national poll. You can bet most of that would come out of the GOP's hide as Johnson's message is overwhelmingly conservative. For example, he wants to literally cut the federal budget in half.

Johnson is well on his way to securing the Libertarian Party nomination, having so far won half of the party's caucuses. Support for third party candidates often comes down as the campaign heats up. But is 7 percent possible for Johnson in his home state of New Mexico? Perhaps. Even if it is 4 or 5 percent it could throw the state's five electoral votes to Obama. It's a continuing story and one being closely watched here at the home of New Mexico politics...


Now to a Senior Alligator tracking the Dem race to replace retiring ABQ west side State Senator Bernadette Sanchez.  25 year old Jacob Candelaria is up against Carlos Villanueva, with Candelaria looking like the front-runner. There is no R running. The winner of the June 5 primary gets the trip to Santa Fe. There has been talk in the district about Candelaria's ties to former State Senate President Pro Tem Manny Aragon who is now serving time in a federal prison in Colorado on a corruption charge. Our Gator picks up on that:

The grandparents of Jacob Candelaria, Jack and Gloria, were stalwarts in the San Jose Community. Gloria was active in the formation of the “Community Dental “ non-profit. The San Jose community center is named for Jack. Unfortunately, the lining is not all silver. There was an allegation of Medicaid fraud at the clinic in the 90’s. A considerable amount of state pork went into the facility via Manny Aragon. But as State Rep. Kiki Saavedra says, “That don’t make him bad people.” There are always skeletons, even if they skip a generation....

Indeed there are and the skeletons promptly make their appearance when the jockeying for power begins on the crowded stage of La Politica. By the way, a friend of Villanueva says he is looking at the validity of Candelaria's petition signatures as this race draws increasing attention.

APD Chief Schultz
Now to today's in-depth blogging....First this news from the ABQ Journal which came in as we were preparing this report:

Albuquerque Police Officers Association President Joey Sigala and Vice President Felipe Garcia have resigned, officials said. The pair stepped down after a union board meeting this morning amid a growing chorus of city leaders condeming their practice of paying officers involved in shootings up to $500 and a forthcoming audit of union finances that follows revelations of possible financial irregularities.

We'll be following that, but now to our report prepared before those events..

Two more fatal police shootings this mionth (that makes for 18 in just over two years) and trouble at the police union over payments to officers who are involved in such shootings. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice remains silent on whether it will conduct a probe of the many fatal shootings in ABQ.

We're back on the police beat today, although apparently not quick enough for some. Ousted ABQ Public Safety Director and former GOP Bernaillo County Sheriff Darren White took to his Twitter account Tuesday and joined earlier criticism leveled against us by his former boss, ABQ Police Chief Ray Schultz. White tweeted from his political exile:

Joe Monahan has been pounding the APD chief on police shootings, but is silent on the recent union scandal. Why? APOA advertises on his blog.

In January, Schultz emailed us:

The shootings have occurred because of the actions of the individual, i.e. pulling a firearm, pulling a knife, attacking the officer, etc...If you don't support the officers, you should not take the Union's money and display their banner on your web page!

Well, the ABQ police union isn't on yer little 'ol blog to stifle criticism of its activities or influence our coverage. (And if they are, they forgot to tell us). In fact, our positions directly contradict those held by the union--we support a Department of Justice investigation into the fatal shootings and we also think that it is high time for a change in ABQ police chiefs.

Anyway, enough about how the sausage is made around here, let's get to the latest action. Retired APD Seargent Don Klein has been blogging this story with us for well over a year. He's critical of the police department's leadership but shoots his analysis down the middle. We see that today as he delivers some hits to the police union. And if that makes the union want to stop advertising here, c'est la vie. There are no hard feelings around here--just the reporting and blogging of the hard political realities of ABQ and the state of New Mexico. That's why we're a truly independent media voice. Now to Klein who starts with the paying of "bounties".

If I remember correctly this practice has gone on since the early 1990's.  I remember Albuquerque police mental health professionals telling officers that after a deadly force incident they need to take their families and get out of town for a few days--just time spent with their families to decompress and get their heads together.  The way the media works, after 48 hours they will move on to new story and the family can try to get back to a normal life.  One of the worse things that can happen is for the child or spouse of a police officer to watch TV and see people saying their spouse or parent is a murderer. This message has been lost because of a several different things:

--When our mayor and his administration give a knee jerk a response instead of taking the time to research it first.  This is politics and I don't really see any way to get away from it.  The mayor is currently on the ropes and his political opponents are going to go after him, truth be damned.  The mayor might not like what the APOA (police union) is doing, but his response seems uninformed.  He could do better in explaining his position.

--The public and the police department are getting mixed messages from Chief Ray Schultz. When the Chief at first denies knowledge of this practice (Journal March 23, "Police Chief Ray Schulz said he was unaware of the practice.)  In fact, Schulz said through a spokesman he was not aware of such a practice when he was a member of the union, and he did not receive any money from the APOA after he was involved in a shooting after an armed robbery in 1986.  (Schultz declined through a spokesman to comment on the practice saying he wanted to speak to Sigala first").

 Later he reverses himself, On  March 25 the Journal reports "Schultz said late Friday that he has been aware the union provided support to officers after critical incidents, but he did not know until a Journal reporter told him on Thursday that the APOA was making payments to officers involved in shootings on a regular basis".

So the chief didn't know, but he did know, he just didn't know how?  Does this make sense to anyone outside of the spin zone?

Ray would have been better served on March 23 to have said "I have to get back to you" and then go research it and if necessary speak to union president Sigala.  That way he would know what was going on before he spoke.  His March 25 comment seems reasonable, but he has a huge mountain to overcome with creditability (public and police) when you compare it with his comments on March 23. 


Klein continues with more examination of the police union problems:

--Explaining it to the public. I agree with Bill Pounders, past president of the APOA, that it would look better to the public if the APOA made the reservations instead of making a cash payment.  That said, it would still be misconstrued as a paid vacation by those who wish to paint it that way.  Sometimes you are damned if you do or damned if you don't, but I think the APOA could be doing a much better job of explaining what they are doing and why.  Remember getting the officer and their family out of town for a few days is what the mental health folks recommend.

--The other problems with the APOA. This issue is coming on the heels of questionable spending of APOA money.  Once Fred Mower, APOA attorney, raised the flag that something stinks in the APOA budget, it has caused the public and the police officers to question the leadership at the APOA. At this point the only thing the APOA leadership can do is have total transparency.  I don't know if that will be enough to get back in good standing with the public and their own members.

So we have a public and a police department who are getting mixed messages from the people in charge, politicians using this for political gain and a police union who can't seem to clearly explain what they are doing and why.

I would like to add, 99% of the Albuquerque Police Department are professional, hardworking officers/civilians who are good members of our community.  They deserve better from the leadership of the police department, leadership of the city and the leadership of the APOA.  I hope that the citizens of Albuquerque realize the officer on the beat is a good person doing a hard job.  Right now the officer on the beat needs a pat on the back, they are going through hell.

Thanks for that, Dan. Our coverage will continue.

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

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Winners & Losers In Paseo Council Vote, And: Is Gary King A Dead Man Walking? Also: Gay State Senate Contender May Be Closing In On Win 

We'll start today with the winners and losers from the ABQ issue du jour. That would be the $93 million project to rebuild the traffic-challenged Paseo/I-25 interchange and which the ABQ City Council last night refused to approve without a vote from the people. It was a firm rebuke of Republican Mayor Berry by three Dem members of the council. The 6 to 3 vote to get on with the project right away was not enough. The $50 million bonds needed a super majority of seven to bypass voters.

Mayor Berry is a loser on this one. He warned that the sky would fall if voters got a say--probably in November--arguing that the delay would be deadly for the long-delayed project. It won't and voters will very likely approve the bond--as long as it isn't paired with a sportsplex or some other unwanted  project as it was by Berry last October when a $25 million Paseo bond was rejected by voters.

Berry has been pointing a stern finger at the three recalcitrant councilors, but after voters approve the bonds, Berry will once again have full ownership and responsibility for getting the project shovel ready. Why didn't he just embrace the public vote and move on? He says the delay will endanger federal funding, but his evidence is sparse.

Berry tried to demonize the three council Dems and maybe he gets a short term bounce, but the public at large barely knows who these councilors are. It is the mayor they know and will credit or blame for Paseo. This was a battle he was destined to lose and could have easily avoided. It may make those three Dems look stubborn, but it makes Berry look weak.

Democratic City Councilor Ken Sanchez is a loser. As a Republican Alligator puts it:

Ken Sanchez has destroyed any shot he had at being the Democratic challenger to Berry in next year's mayoral election as a result of his play on Paseo.

Sanchez was the only Dem to side with Berry as he made a play for Republican and West Side support for a future mayoral bid, but his abandonment of his party on a rare line in the sand issue like this one is indeed going to hurt.

Winners? Well, the people of Albuquerque who get to exercise their right to vote on this deal. The politicians have muddied it up. Let the voters give them a clear direction.


The blog readers have definite opinions on who's up and who's down on the New Mexico political scene and today we bring you some of their pointed observations, starting with the question:

"Is Gary King A Dead Man Walking?"

Our Friday blog in which we mentioned some of the possible 2014 Dem Guv candidates--including Attorney General Gary King, drew this email response:

Joe, you weren't really serious talking about Attorney General Gary King being a gubernatorial candidate in 2014, were you?  I understand that two weeks, much less two years, is a long time in politics, but Gary has buried himself for any future statewide or federal run. He's the figurative "dead man walking." The people have a short memory, but Gary has sat on his butt for six years and generally been an "attorney general in being."  he had a terrific opportunity and it is, for the most part, gone. Pity.

Well, we did not assess the chances of King securing the Guv nomination, only that he is giving it a very close look.

By the way we did not include former NM Dem Party Chairman Brian Colon on that Friday list of potential '14 Guv hopefuls, but we should have. Did  Colon's performance as the Dems 2010 Dem Lt. Governor nominee help or hurt his future chances?


Comments now from reader Preciliano Martin on our Monday blog where the momentum of Senate candidate Hector Balderas was called into question. Nothing much has happened in the way of endorsements or fund-raising  since he claimed a "phenomenal" success at the preprimary convention, but Martin says it's different this time and that Hector can and will slowly close the gap on front-runner Martin Heinrich:

I think a slow but sure campaign by Hector may be the best way to go for him, regardless of what bloggers and gators have to say.  The dramatic shift will occur on election day in June at the ballot box when New Mexicans realize what can be done on that day.

You blogged that "he will have to rely on the natural tightening of the race that will occur along ethnic lines."  This will happen, no doubt about it. And it is about time for New Mexicans to have at least one New Mexican Hispanic senator, it has been far too long since New Mexican Hispanics were represented by one of their own.

This is not your typical race, not for this position, not in New Mexico, not at this time in our history and not with the two candidates running in the primary. This time it is not over till it is over.

Appreciate that, Preciliano. Still, you can't help but note that it is Heinrich who continues to tout endorsements important in the nominating wing of the Democratic Party. Most recently the pueblos of Laguna and Mescalero endorsed him over Balderas.


On the GOP side of the US Senate equation, reader Stanley Fitch says our ranking of the Senate contest as "lean Dem" needs some editing:

Joe, Heather Wilson campaigns so hard and tenaciously that I foresee quite a struggle for Heinrich come late-October.  It will not be a cakewalk election.  Instead of lean Dem, I see it as lean Heather.  But then, I'm not a 'gator either.

No, you are not a Gator, Stanley (that's right, Stan, Gator is capitalized) but we've said that while we have the Senate race here going off as "lean Dem" we aren't putting up much of an argument with those who are ranking it as a "toss-up."

More on that race to replace retiring ABQ Dem west side State Senator Bernadette Sanchez. No R's have filed for the seat, meaning the winner of the Dem June primary takes the prize. In case you missed it, politico Steve Gallegos has withdrawn from the primary and endorsed Jacob Candelaria. Carlos Villanueva is the other contender but this is one is shaping up nicely for Candelaria, head of the gay advocacy group Equality NM. The 25 year old would not be the first openly gay state senator. That would be Liz Stefanics who served one term in the Senate from a northern NM district before becoming chair of the Santa Fe County Commission. Still it's a pretty big deal. District 26 is not a citadel of liberalism. It is heavily Hispanic and working class.

Alligators point out that Candelaria was raised by his grandparents who had a close relationship with former State Senator Manny Aragon who is now serving federal prison time in Colorado on a corruption conviction. Candelaria says the association is not relevant to his candidacy and that he represents "future leadership." That may be but it is the old politicos who are helping out in the early stage. Besides the Gallegos endorsement, veteran Dem liberal State Senator Cisco McSorley has endorsed Candelaria. On the younger side, Rep. Moe Maestas has also weighed in with an endorsement.

We have not heard much from Villanueva but an Alligator familiar with him says don't rule him out:

...You barely gave mention of Carlos Villanueva as if he weren't a contender while giving credence to his opponents...Carlos has been working campaigns for as long as I can remember and everyone seems to really like him. Combine the latter with the fact that he has a very large family and is a hard worker people and he has a serious contingent of volunteers. I've seen him work campaigns. He's a hard worker and understands how to run a campaign. Summarily ruling him out of this race is a mistake...

We're not ruling him out. It's just that Candelaria has been making more news.

If Candelaria, a recent Princeton University graduate who has not made his sexuality an issue, takes the nomination, it would mark a new era in Bernalillo County politics. Polling shows large majorities of younger Americans support gay marriage which is not the case among older Americans. We are undergoing a generational shift on a number of cultural issues and Candelaria--if he is successful--would represent the face of that future in our state's politics. 


Here's some follow-up on a story we've been following at the University of New Mexico campus. You mean to say there's still some student power over there? The

The Board of Regents last week retracted a proposal to fund Libraries with a student fee hike next year, but held on to a proposal to increase student fees to fund Athletics. The University plans to loan Athletics $1.2 million from general funds in order to pay off a mounting deficit brought on by decreased ticket sales, the buy-out of former head football coach Mike Locksley’s contract and the subsequent hiring of new head coach Bob Davie. 


She's been a champion vote-getter for years, but Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg isn't taking a fourth, four year term for granted. Nor should she. A stiff challenge in the Dem primary comes from former public defender Jennifer Romero. Kari kicks off her effort with an April 5 fundraiser at the home of Ahmad and Sana Assed and an endorsement from ABQ liberal Dem State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino: 

Kari's strategy as District Attorney is proactive. She relies on involving community groups and forming partnerships. This way she not only responds to crime but actually prevents it from happening. Bernalillo County's citizens are well-served by her approach, her skills and her experience. I like her record and am delighted she's choosing to continue.

Liberals and Hispanics are core constituencies in the June 5 Dem primary and Ortiz y Pino represents both wings--something you want in your corner when going one-on-one against an Hispanic opponent.

As for the general election, what general election? The R's have failed to field a candidate for the high-profile district attorney office. And this is the party that elected a district attorney from Dona Ana County as New Mexico-s Governor in 2010...


Another spirited Dem primary contest features former State Rep. Ben Rodefer challenging Dem State Senator for the party nomination. Rodefer has trotted out a poll of the mostly Bernalillo and Sandoval county district that claims he is ahead:

Rodefer leads Sapien 43% to 33% in this poll, conducted by Third Eye Strategies from March 19-22. The 300 voter sample poll has a margin of error of 5.7%. Pollster Steven Clermont  stated, “Rodefer has the early lead, with a quarter of voters undecided in this race. Sapien faces a big challenge...As many Democrats view him unfavorably as view him favorably. If Sapien were to come back, this would make it very difficult for him to beat David Doyle and would hand the seat to the Republicans.”

State Rep. Doyle is the GOP candidate for this Senate seat.

IT'S 557

That's the number of employees who have voluntarily agreed to leave Los Alamos National Labs in wake of big budget cuts. That's about mid-range in the 400 to 800 that were first projected. Do we need to say this is a major blow to the northern economy? 

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Where's The Mo? Balderas Preprimary Showing Yet To Tranlsate, Plus: Latest Campaign Trail Action, And: Pounding Away At Paseo 

Sam Valencia, Balderas & Brian Colon
So where's the mo? That's the pertinent question in the wake of the heavy spin that came from the Hector Balderas for Senate campaign after his showing over two weeks ago at the Democratic Party's preprimary convention. Balderas lost the convention vote by nearly 10 points--55% to 45%--to Rep. Martin Heinrich--but spun it as a "phenomenal" success that surpassed all expectations. So what has happened in the weeks since then? Not much. Balderas has not come with any big name endorsements or announcements of a fund-raising breakthrough--events that you might expect if there was truly a change in momentum in the contest.

The fact is nothing much has changed. Hector did score some earned media for his intervention in the scandals surrounding the border town of Sunland Park. Otherwise, the campaign has been flat.

Heinrich plods along, making no major blunders and apparently building on his million dollar money lead. (He had $1.3 million banked at the end of the year, compared to about $400,000 for Hector).

While Balderas made a valiant effort to spin the preprimary, expectations among the chattering classes have not been altered. They fully expect a Heinrich victory unless the dynamic of the campaign is radically altered in April, before early voting begins in early May.

Heinrich came with a poll in January that showed him thumping Balderas 52% to 22% with 26% undecided. Few expect Heinrich to win the June 5 primary by 30 points, but unless Balderas delivers a new and stronger message he will have to rely on the natural tightening of the race that will occur along ethic lines to put him over the finish line. That may work for a lower level race like State Auditor but rarely in in a big league Senate contest where voters are more discerning.

A number of insiders say it could be argued that a close reading of the tea leaves shows the momentum Balderas claimed after the convention was somewhat manufactured. They say blogs and media that lean to the right built up the victory because they want a bloody battle that would weaken Heinrich before he faced off with probable GOP nominee Heather Wilson. Blogs and media that lean left read more into the preprimary than was there because they are partial to his anti-corruption credentials and solid record on government transparency--the raison d'être for these outlets existence.

But reality is reality. The Balderas message of fiscal accountability and a veiled attack on Heinrich as a "Washington insider" has yet to take hold. The momentum shift that would be evidenced by a major influx of money, volunteers and endorsements is not to be found--at least not yet.


Probable GOP US Senate nominee Heather Wilson isn't waiting for momentum to switch to Balderas. She is going all in on Heinrich. From her campaign:

My likely Democrat opponent voted for the so-called stimulus bill and against the balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.  He voted for cap-and-trade and against building the Keystone pipeline.  He wants to increase taxes, including on New Mexico oil and gas production, that will cause us to lose more jobs. 

Meanwhile, a Heinrich operative was quick to send in this item penned by the ABQ Journal's Michael Coleman in which Heather once again equivocates over a key national issue:

"House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan released his federal spending blueprint  to cheers
from most Republicans and jeers from most Democrats. Ryan’s 2012 budget has triggered fierce criticism from Democrats, who contend it’s an assault on the middle class and Medicare, in particular.. But for the second year in a row, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Heather Wilson declined to take a clear position. Last week, Wilson said in a statement she “may not agree with everything” in the Ryan budget, but that he “deserves credit for trying to have a serious debate.” Wilson also pointed out the federal debt is growing by $1 trillion per year. When I followed up, Wilson’s spokesman wouldn’t specify what she didn’t like about the proposal.

If she's smart, Wilson will move away from the Ryan Medicare reform once she secures the June nomination. It is proving to be the kiss of death for the R's, especially among those most likely to vote--Americans over 50.

Yep, the battle lines are being drawn for the 2012 New Mexico US Senate race, without question one of the most important of our lifetimes.


Yet another one cashes out. ABQ Dem State Senator Bernadette Sanchez is the eighth sitting senator to say "no thanks" to the Santa Fe scene. She filed for re-election last week, but late Friday withdrew her candidacy. She will have served three terms when she retires at the end of the year. Sanchez cited the political gridlock in the capital as a chief reason for her departure. Once again we invoke the Senior Alligator saying for why we are seeing so many incumbent legislators packing their bags:

"It just isn't any fun anymore."

The Roundhouse is like an office building filled with drones. The drama has been drained out of the place by a GOP Governor and a Dem controlled legislature that gets little of consequence done. And more of the same is in the cards. Add on top of that the lack of funny money to go around for various projects, cutbacks by the lobbyists on their partying budgets for legislators and you get...well..that slogan--"It just isn't fun anymore."

So who gets the Sanchez Senate seat? Certainly no R. Is there even one running in this heavily Dem west side enclave? The front-runner is now seen as newcomer Jacob Candelaria. Political old timer Steve Gallegos withdrew from the race late Sunday and endorsed Candelaria. A third player is Carlos Villanueva.

Candelaria is only 25 and would be one of the youngest state senators ever elected. Candelaria, a recent Princeton graduate, is the president of Equality New Mexico, an advocacy group for gays and lesbians. He says Gallegos represents old school politics and he represents "strong, new leadership."

Candelaria may have to wrestle with his status as an openly gay candidate in an area with a large presence of Hispanic Catholics who harbor socially conservative views. He will be able to tap progressive groups for campaign cash. Gallegos has business contacts that could help him shake the money tree.

(We updated this story with the news of the Gallegos withdrawal and his endorsement of Candelaria.)


Are all these incumbent state legislators about to be thrown off the ballot for a technical violation?

State Sen. Tim Jennings, Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort, R-Sandia Park; Rep. James Roger Madalena, D-Jemez Pueblo; Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas; Rep. Dianne Hamilton, R-Silver City; Rep. Rodolpho “Rudy” Martinez, D-Bayard; and Rep. Rick Little, R-Chaparral.

The answer is "no." From the wires:

Attorney General Gary King's office says New Mexico courts likely will allow a dozen candidates, including the Senate's top leader, to remain on the primary election ballot despite the omission of some required information from their filing papers. King's office provided a legal memo to Secretary of State Dianna Duran late Friday in response to questions whether she should exclude Senate President Tim Jennings of Roswell and other candidates from the ballot.

Not that the hearts of all those incumbents didn't skip a beat when they learned of their technical foul.


There will be plenty of wailing and gnashing of the teeth when the ABQ City Council holds a special meeting beginning at 5 p.m. today to hear input on whether $50 million in bonds should be approved by the council and not sent to the voters for their approval. Expect Mayor Berry's team to pack the council chambers to target the three Dems--Garduno, O'Malley and Benton--for demanding that the public vote on the $90 million plus Paseo rebuild.. But don't expect them to back down, either. Berry may very well win the short term PR battle--especially on the west side where traffic woes are epic--but long-term is another matter.

It takes a super majority--seven of the nine councillors to bypass the voters and approve the bonds--Several readers pointed out that Councilors Benton and O'Malley--in 2006--wanted to do just that when it came to building a street car system for ABQ. The controversial street car died without a vote but the councilors are now being called hypocrites and accused of blocking the Paseo bonds only because they want to embarrass Republican Berry politically.

Well, you can question their motives, but those of us out here in the bleachers have been consistent, We wanted a public vote on that street car and we want one on Paseo. On November 29, 2006 we wrote one of a number of blogs on the street car mess and the push for a public vote. We parted company with the liberal Dem councilors and supported the R's who were asking for the public vote, but now the Dems are on the right side of the equation--for whatever reason.  The point being that the politicos can and do stake out their territory for political purposes, but around here we have always been and always will be an independent voice.


From the Paseo mailbag, Republican and former city public works head Bob Gurule writes:

Mayor Berry is now sanctimoniously criticizing Democratic councilors for opposing $50 million funding without voter approval for the Paseo del Norte interchange project. This follows the mayor's attempted political trickery of last year when he tied the project at the ballot box to his misguided Sportsplex project.  Man up, Mr. Mayor!

That is a major problem with the mayor's position, Bob. He is now a do or die advocate for Paseo but last October he would not permit Paseo to stand alone on the ballot, dooming it to defeat by forcing voters to approve an unpopular sportsplex as well as the Paseo rebuild. Instead they voted down the bonds for both projects.

And another reader writes:

Somehow everyone is forgetting an important part of the story about Paseo. Berry never wanted Paseo to begin with. Look at the story that was in the Albuquerque Journal in July of last year.  Mayor Berry never even included Paseo in the original package he sent to the City Council for voter approval. In fact, the council changed the bond package from Berry's "4 fun projects" to the Paseo and the Sports Complex package because there was not support to pass Berry's "ABQ: The Plan."  Paseo was never part of Berry's proposed plan to the council and it was, I believe, Councilor Brad Winter that made the Paseo change to cover Berry's rookie mistake of submitting a plan that had no support, even from his Republicans.

Yep. Here's the money quote from GOP Councilor Dam Lewis right after Berry submitted his bond plans for the October election:

City Councilor Dan Lewis said he’s disappointed the Paseo del Norte and Interstate 25 interchange didn’t make the list. The project could be phased in, he said, even if there’s not enough “ABQ: The Plan” funds available to do all of it right away.

Maybe the three Dem councilors who are going to force Berry to ask voters for approval of Paseo are hypocritical, but Berry's new found love for Paseo leaves him open to the same charge. Are he and his political consultants intentionally dividing the community because they see political gains to be had? If Paseo is such an emergency why did the mayor not put it on his list of bond projects last July? When it comes to hypocrisy none of these politicians have a corner on the market.

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