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Friday, December 07, 2012

Busy Weekend Ahead For State Politicos, Plus: R Vs. D In Reader Email, Also: The DOJ & APD; Our Continuing Coverage 

  • John Billingsley was elected chairman of the NM GOP Saturday afternoon in ABQ. Billingsley of Lincoln County beat ABQ engineer John Rockwell and ABQ's Lance Klafeta. The vote was Billingsley 245, Rockwell 103 and Klafeta 6. Billingsley campaigned against the tactics of Governor Martinez political consultant Jay McCleskey.

Most are gearing down for the week when Friday rolls around, but this time politicos on both sides of the aisle are gearing up. Saturday in ABQ the state's top Republicans gather to elect a new party chairman. Sunday in Belen state Senate Democrats conduct a crucial caucus to select their leadership for the legislative session that starts in January.

Lincoln County GOP Chairman John Billingsley has made a point of establishing himself as independent of the Governor's controversial political consultant. He and ABQ engineer John Rockwell is the other major contender.

Dem Senators are certain to again choose Senator Michael Sanchez as their majority leader. The question shadowing the Dem caucus is whether they can shuck the coalition of R's and conservative Dems that has controlled the powerful post of Senate President Pro Tem. The position is voted on by the entire Senate but if at least 22 of the 25 Senate Dems unite around one of their own, the coalition will be history.

We'll have updates for you here and via Twitter and Facebook.

THE BEAR

The state's downtrodden construction industry awaits a boost from Santa Fe which says it has bonding capacity of $500 million for legislators to consider during the January legislative session. The news:

New Mexico saw a decline in construction jobs of 3 percent, the report said. The state went from 44,200 construction jobs in Oct. 2011 to 42,900 in Oct. 2012, a decline of 1,300. 

Well, not all construction workers are in a funk. One of them down in Hobbs just won $2 million in the lottery.

Much of the construction depression, of course, is due to the housing bust in the ABQ metro.

We also noted this week the state is carrying a surplus of 14 percent of revenues--way too high. The sky is falling crowd says we need that in case Washington goes over the "fiscal cliff."

Okay, so when we don't go over the cliff in January, we expect the Legislative Finance Committee and Department of Finance to agree with us that the surplus needs to be put to use to stimulate this moribund economy of ours. We won't hold our breath.

GIVE ME REWRITE!

The central point on our Thursday blog stands--A mail-in election would boost the chances of a city charter amendment dealing with run-off elections. But we screwed up in our first draft by saying the mail-in would be more expensive to conduct than the traditional in-person election. A mail-in election would cost about $550,000. An in-person vote would cost in the area of $750,000. 

The City Council will decide how we vote in the election which is likely for early March now that enough petition signatures have been gathered. The amendment would force a candidate to get 50% of the vote--up from 40%--to avoid a run-off with the other top vote-getter. Passage of the amendment could make it more difficult for GOP Mayor Berry to retain office in 2013. It will be a surprise if the GOP-controlled council opts for a mail-in election.

DARNELL TO DEPUTY

Knell & Darnell (Mark Bralley)
And a couple of our Alligators knew something was up with Guv Martinez Communications Director Scott Darnell, but rather than leaving the Guv's office as they indicated, its been announced that Darnell will now be a deputy chief of staff, replacing Ryan Cangiolosi who took a plum $125,000 a year job at University of New Mexico Hospital. Enrique Knell, spokesman for Children Youth and Families, moves into the Darnell press job. We are assuming that Darnell's wife--Alexis Valdez Darnell--stays on as director of operations for the Guv's office. The same Gators predicted she would move along with hubby Scott.

We will administer the appropriate ten lashes with a wet noodle to the Alligators who got this one wrong and ten lashes to our own backside if we were set up and took the bait. As for Darnell, his word for us was "mum" when he was communications director so we were unable to confirm the original report. (Hey, we don't mean to scare these young fellas...).

THE WAY IT IS

The most imporant thing to note about the various staff changes that have been announced by Governor Martinez is this: Her political consultant Jay McCleskey retains a firm grip on the power of the Governor's office. All top positions are filled by his allies. 

IT'S McMILLAN

From Las Cruces:

After three days of a painstaking vote-by-vote state-ordered recount, Doña Ana County election officials on Thursday declared Republican Terry McMillan the winner of a tightly contested state House race.McMillan, 56, a Las Cruces surgeon and the incumbent, won by an eight-vote margin out of more than 12,500 cast, beating out challenger Joanne Ferrary of Las Cruces, according to official numbers.

R VS. D

Republican Toni Olmi filled space here this week arguing that it is the Legislature--long controlled by the Dems--that is the cause of the state's problems, but Dem Ellen Wedum says Toni needs to look at the Guv's office:

Republican Tony Olmi asks "What and where is the vision for New Mexico?" He believes the lack of innovation is due to lack of action by the Democratically controlled legislature. 

He is looking in the wrong place--he needs to check Governor Susana's veto wastebasket. 

Just compare Governor Richardson's first session with NM legislators in 2003 with the Martinez regime in 2011. In 2003, the Legislature passed about 523 bills that required action by the Governor: Richardson vetoed 84, or 16% of them.  In 2011, under the dampening influence of Governor Martinez, only 285 bills reached the governor's desk, and she vetoed 98, or 34% of them.

Among her 98 vetoes were: "In-State Business Procurement Advantage," sponsored by Tim M. Keller and Larry Larrañaga; SB 187," LFC Review of State Funding Receipents" sponsored by Tim M. Keller, and Paul Bandy; SB 314, "Autism Education Plan Development," sponsored by Clinton D. Harden...I just picked these four bills out of the 98 because they were passed unanimously, or with only one dissenting vote, by both Houses.

COPS & DOJ 

APD Chief Ray Schultz
Our readers continue to chew over the big announcement that the Department of Justice will investigate the ABQ police department because of the numerous police shootings--many of them fatal--that have afflicted the department since Mayor Berry took over city government in 2010. Among those readers is the intrepid retired APD Seargent Dan Klein:

The media are focused on the 25 shootings, but if you listened to the DOJ they believe the problems at APD are much deeper. APD Chief Schultz and Mayor Berry continue to say that they have implemented 95% of the PERF changes and that should make everyone happy.

(Mayor Berry hired the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), an  independent firm in Washington in September 2010 to investigate what APD could do differently. The report is here.)

What I think the DOJ realizes is many of these "changes" are on paper only...Want an example? The lapel cameras. Every officer is supposed to wear one and turn it on in arrest situations. Remember the state fair parade arrest? Schultz wore his, but never turned it on. His Deputy Chief didn't even have one on...This was one of those tense situations that demanded recording, but Schultz's spokesman said Schultz didn't turn it on because it was so tense he didn't have time. They never addressed why the Deputy chief wasn't wearing his. Do as I say not as I do.  


This type of leadership trickles down, yet some media (newspaper and radio) applauded Schultz for arresting the drunk driver, completely ignoring the the fact that Schultz violated his own policies in doing so.

This is a great example of the culture at APD command staff. Implement rules that you think will get the DOJ off your back, but in practice you don't have to follow them. So next time you hear Berry and Schultz talk about implementing 95% of the PERF recommendations ask yourself if that is just on paper? Because in practice they aren't implementing anything but CYA.


We welcome comments from the police chief, mayor and/or their supporters. We have previously blogged and linked to statements by the Mayor in regard to APD.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Lawmakers are starting to make plans to meet with their neighbors in preparing for the 60 day legislative session that begins January 15. ABQ Dem Senator-elect Michael Padilla is among them. He'll conduct a legislative town hall meeting Wednesday, Dec. 12 at 6:30 p.m at Adobe Acres Elementary--1724 Camino Del Valle SW...

In a first draft this week we said one of the candidates for state House Majority Leader was Miguel Gomez. We corrected that to read State Rep. Miguel Garcia. Gomez is a former ABQ councilor...

From Jay Leno:

"And today in Washington, President Obama met with leaders of the American Indian tribes. And they honored the President by giving him his own Indian name – running deficit." 



Thanks for making us New Mexico's #1 political web site.

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Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan

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Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Wrinkle In The '13 Mayor Race: That Run-Off Amendment; We Game The Action, Plus: How John Sanchez Beat Susana, And: Peru Loves Big Bill  

A number of consultants and political types are cautious about the chances of ABQ voters approving a charter amendment that would force a candidate to secure 50% of the vote to avoid a run-off election. But could the way the voters decide the issue make a difference? It could.

The ABQ City Council will decide if we have an in-person election for the amendment or conduct it through the mail. A mail-in election is almost certain to draw a broader cross-section of voters and increase the chances of the amendment winning. An in-person election at voting sites is a sure-fire recipe for lower turnout and a boon for amendment foes.

The Council is controlled by the R's. Will they opt for an in-person election, a move that could be viewed as aiming to protect incumbent Mayor RJ Berry who would be hurt by a requirement that he get 50% of the vote in next year's mayoral election? Or will they decide on a mail-in election?

A mail-in election would cost about $550,000. An in-person vote would cost in the area of $750,000.

How the election is conducted is a critical political decision as well.

The election is being forced by union organizers who gathered enough signatures to mandate a public vote. The City Council is expected to call the election for early March.

Berry won election in 2009 with 44% of the vote. He did not have to face a run-off.

HOW THE GAME IS PLAYED

We blogged Monday about how all the state government job vacancies are causing cash to accumulate in state coffers, with the state's reserves now at what has to be a record high or near record high of 14 percent. An anonymous reader with ties to the Martinez administration comes with more on state hiring:

Joe, I worked with the Governor's transition team in 2010. There were over 4,000 job applications submitted online, many of which had resumes that related to the state cabinet departments for which they were interested. All the applications were printed and filed but they were never really considered. The people who were hired were later told to fill out the online job application so there was a record. Those applications must be in storage in Santa Fe. 

So, yes, there were many New Mexicans that could have filled those jobs in Santa Fe. It's just that Martinez political adviser Jay McCleskey wanted to consolidate power with people he knew.  

And you want to know why they call Jay the "Shadow Governor?"

WEH VS. UDALL? 

GOP candidates aren't exactly lining up to take on Dem US Senator Tom Udall in 2014 and the possible entry of former NM GOP Chairman Allen Weh isn't going to cause the D's to start shaking in their boots.

The 70 year old owner of CSI Aviation, who sought the 2010 GOP Guv nomination, tells the DC press he will make a decision by next spring on whether he will make the run.

A retired Marine Colonel, Weh is an aggressive politico and a successful businessman, but his nomination would be seen as a gift horse to Udall. Pros say the former chairman has little appeal outside of the conservative warrens of ABQ and SE NM.

Other names tossed about as possible GOP contenders include Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela, ABQ Mayor RJ Berry and Lt. Governor John Sanchez. Of them only Barela is seen as somewhat likely to take the plunge.

Early national rankings of the Udall race by national pundits do not put the race in play, but there's a long way to go and a quality GOP candidate could give the freshman Senator competition--especially on the economic issue.

The Senate race is important to Governor Martinez. She seeks re-election in '14 and would like to have strength at the top of the ticket to make her life easier.

FRUSTRATED, NOT APATHETIC

Republican Tony Olmi of real estate fame says ABQ's Joe Craig has a point about ABQ and the state being in an apathetic funk, but Olmi of ABQ says for many it's more frustration than not caring:

Joe, I mostly agree with Craig and the "Consultant" influence over the Governor and Mayor. However, which Party has controlled the Legislature for the last 80 years? That is the place to break up the logjam to innovation. Too much power in one place for too long is a certain formula for "Apathy."

Apathy is a product of discouragement and loss of hope and vision. What and where is the vision for New Mexico? Did I miss something during this extravagant election cycle? Is the only money to be made in the running of political campaigns? Is that New Mexico's plan for future economic development? Spending a lot of money to get nowhere and to be powerful bosses over nothing? I, like many, am frustrated but not apathetic! Otherwise, I would be sleeping at 4:00 am.

Thanks for the comment, Toni. And we appreciate you tuning us in at 4 in the morning. The blog is generally posted each weekday at around 1 a.m...

Reader Loyola Chastain also chimed in about the Wednesday blog:

Joe, You mentioned that Santa Fe wants to grant tax cuts to corporations to bring in jobs.  Well, on Sunday, the New York Times ran an article about just that and how governments and tax payers pay a high price for that. Here's the link.

HERE COME THE JUDGE

Our money is on Hanisee, a Martinez appointee on the court of Appeals who lost a bid for the job last month against Dem Monica Zamora. The news:

A state Court of Appeals judge who lost in the general election is among three candidates recommended to Republican Gov. Susana Martinez for possible appointment to an upcoming vacancy on the court. A Judicial Nominating Commission Tuesday recommended Judge J. Miles Hanisee, Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court Judge Judith Nakamura and state Administrative Office of the Courts Director Arthur Pepin.

HE BEAT SUSANA

From the email on the recent Iowa visit of Lt. Governor John Sanchez:

So, John Sanchez headed to Iowa for Lt Gov conference...he made it to Iowa before Susana!  

Well, Sanchez is always rumored to be running for something so why not add President to the list?

FROM PERU WITH LOVE
Big Bill. Not so popular in New Mexico. But they love him in Peru. The news:

Ambassador Harold Forsyth will travel to New Mexico to honor Governor Bill Richardson with the highest Peruvian decoration the “Order of Merit for Distinguished Services.” On Thursday, December 6th the Peruvian Ambassador will bestow this decoration to the Governor...This order was established on July 18, 1950 to honor Peruvians and foreign nationals as recognition for their distinguished contributions to the prestige of Peru and to honor the valuable services rendered to the country in the fields of politics, arts, sciences, industry and commerce.

What did Bill do for Peru? Are they starting a Spaceport down there and he got a contract?  Well, he did help monitor a Peruvian election last year.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2012

On The NM Econ Beat: Santa Fe's Too Big Surplus, Tax Cut Talk & Why It's Too Soon, Plus: Half a Billion For Construction? And: Our State's Current Curse: Apathy 

Can you remember a December this warm in New Mexico? You have a few years on your hush puppies if you can. Of course, the blogging is hot and heavy no matter the season, and once again we're off and running...

New Mexico continues to gasp for air when it comes to the economy. We need to get money circulating, not stored away in a bank account that pays nearly zero interest. And that brings us to this item:

The state ended the last budget year in June with cash balances of about $755 million -- the equivalent of nearly 14 percent of spending. The reserves provide a cushion for the state in case of unexpected financial problems.

That reserve is way too high and reflects, in part, the large decline in state government employment, The administration has kept many positions vacant and the cash to pay for them is accumulating.

Reserves should be between 5% and 10% by most economists accounting.

THAT SANTA FE GAME

Meantime, Santa Fe is talking about a corporate tax cut as a means of stimulating the economy, but we could do that by getting that extra reserve money circulating.

And does Santa Fe really believe that a small corporate tax cut is going to make a difference in job creation? No. They are just so used to saying it that they think they believe it.

The Legislative Finance Committee continues to skew too far to the right. The state faces a human capital crisis. Cutting taxes is not going to put to work a workforce that is not prepared. We need further investment in drug and alcohol addiction programs and literacy programs and the like.

Until Santa Fe puts into the financial mix the vast social ills of this state--the worst in the nation--we are destined for stagnation--and you can take that and your corporate tax cut to the bank.

CASH COMING IN

The state says it will generate about $280 million in new revenue for the budget year that begins next July 1 and that's what they would finance the corporate tax cut with. But over $70 million of that is already committed to Medicaid and the like. That only leaves about $200 million for new spending.

A corporate tax cut is DOA in the Legislature. Supporters of the measure deep in the bowels of the LFC and on the Fourth Floor would be better off coming up with a plan to target any extra state money for spending that would serve a purpose and get the cash in circulation--like subsides for child care for working parents.

BUILD IT

The modest state surplus--largely reflecting the oil royalty boom not a robust statewide economy--is good news and so is the availability of $500 million for capital outlay projects for the next budget year. The Governor has been more amenable to spending in this area than she has been in targeting what we call the human capital crisis. Will she recommend a full $500 million in construction projects? Construction company owners and workers sure hope so and so do New Mexicans who want to see bridge and road repair go forward. The Guv will have the wind at her back if she comes with a $500 million bill. That is economic stimulus badly needed in a state where employment growth has for months been ranked last or near dead last in the USA.

WHO CARES?

Maybe the long spate of warm weather has ushered in a laid-back attitude among the masses. Or is it downright apathy? Readers are picking up on the latest zeitgeist in our enchanted land with letters like this one from ABQ's Joe Craig:

Apathy is the key word for New Mexico. Maybe we should change the state motto from the "Land of Enchantment" to the "Land of Apathy."  I was a the recent Urban Land Institute meeting and as questions were being asked of the national speaker, I just want to yell out that the problem with our state is lack of leadership. I refrained, which is unusual for me!
 

An apathetic state newspaper and a governor and a mayor leading the state's two largest public economic engines who don't get it. Continued negative growth amidst regional job growth and a Department of Justice investigation of the state's largest police force and both the Mayor and Governor being run by the same political consultant. 

Well, I am probably just another failure of the state's "Flagship University." All those wasted classes in economics...Someone in the state Republican and Democratic parties ought to take a hard look at  the last national election. Apathy in our government isn't going to cut it in the 2014 election.

Craig has a point. Did you get wind of that Monday night ABQ City Council meeting where more than a dozen members of families of the victims of police shootings expressed their outrage over the shootings and their thanks that the Department of Justice has decided to investigate? Not one of the nine councilors had a word in response--not a word, a smirk or a smile. Talk about bumps on the log. And talk about an opportunity for someone to step up and shake things up. But who?

MISSISSIPPI AND US

We quoted the old New Mexico joke here the other day about our state languishing in all the quality of life rankings but we can always be thankful for Mississippi because they often are the sole state that is worse off than we are. That brought this from a native of the Magnolia state

...It is extremely disconcerting to see New Mexico follow in the footsteps of such a poor state, (but) at least Mississippi has more industry and jobs.  They somehow attracted Toyota to invest heavily and build cars there.  The community colleges offer courses to get folks ready to take jobs like those at Toyota. New Mexico is doing nothing but bleeding jobs out of the state. And just so you know--even though poverty is the worst in Mississippi, those folks give more to charity than any other state. Yep, the poorest are the most generous. 

Actually, Utah leads the nation in the share of income donated to charity, but Mississippi is among the top eight.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

ABQ Mayor's Race: Candidate Polling And A Trip to The Polls For City Voters Before October Election, Plus: The Bear Market: In the Economy And On The Education Scene 

Here's the latest on the political scene this Tuesday...

Dem ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez says he will do a poll this month before he makes a final decision on entering the 2013 ABQ mayoral race. Incumbent GOP Mayor RJ Berry is expected to seek a second term, despite speculation that he could drop out and make a run against Dem US Senator Tom Udall in '14.

Meanwhile, city unions say they have gathered enough petition signatures to force an election on a City Charter amendment that could endanger Berry's re-election chances, but insiders say it may have a hard time winning voter approval.

Currently, if a mayoral candidate gets 40% or more of the vote he (or she) is elected without a run-off. However, if no one reaches 40% the top two contenders face off in a run-off. The proposed amendment would change that. A candidate would have to get 50% to avoid a run-off. That means the chances of a first round victory--as Berry pulled off in 2009--would be greatly diminished. In addition, if the run-off featured one Dem and one R--as is likely--the Dem would have a big advantage in ABQ where Dems far outnumber R's.

The problem? A special election will be called for sometime around March at a cost of $500,000 or so. Taxpayers aren't going to be too happy with that. And then there's the issue of fairness. Should not the change apply to future mayoral elections--not the one we are in the thick of?

Dem consultant Harry Pavlides, sympathetic to the proposal, says "it is the wrong one at the wrong time. Turnout would be exceptionally low and that would favor opponents of the measure. More older and conservative voters would dominate. The unions will have a difficult time motivating voters."

But a union official sees it differently:

My understanding is there will be more than 20,000 signatures filed. Those signing are pretty evenly distributed between Republicans & Democrats. In a special election it will probably take no more than 25,000 votes to win this. There are at least that many motivated people upset at the current system that will show up and vote. This could be an issue where both Labor and the Tea Party are turning out people for the same side of  a referendum...

Once the petition signatures are submitted to the city council an election has to be called within three months.

SOUNDS OF SILENCE

While Berry may dodge a bullet with that 50% run-off measure, others wonder if the recent announcement that the Department of Justice will investigate the ABQ police department for possible civil rights violation will weaken the incumbent.

It certainly could, but so far the silence in the city has been deafening. There have been few comments about the DOJ probe sparked by several dozen police shootings here since 2010--when Berry took over. Nothing from the nine member City Council. No comment from Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg. Nothing from the police union either. And nothing from any business leaders.

The apathy surrounding city events and policy is quite the spectacle for a town that has seen more than its fair share of upheavals over the decades. It will take a vigorous mayoral campaign to get them off their seats. The Dems have their work cut out for them.

THE BEAR MARKET

You've got to think that Mayor Berry is most vulnerable over the terrible state of the city's economy. Take a look:

The Albuquerque metropolitan area remained in a full recession in 2012, and in terms of economic recovery the area ranked 282nd within the world’s top 300 metro areas, according to a study released Friday by the Brookings Institution. The area’s per capita GDP had a negative 1 percent growth rate in the year, and its job-growth rate was a negative 0.6 percent, said Brookings’ Global MetroMonitor survey.

And then there's the matter of the ABQ City Council. For the first time in a quarter century it and the Mayor's office is controlled by the Republicans (Five R councilors and 4 Dems). And they have presided over the city's worst economic bust sine the 30's. Several of those GOP councilors face voters next year. They too would appear vulnerable, if ABQ's voters and community leaders awaken from their slumber.

THANK GOD FOR MISSISSIPPI

ABQ is stagnated economically and so is the state. The latest grim reminder:

According to 2011 data, in the Land of Enchantment the percentage of  families living below the poverty level is 16.60 percent. Individuals  living below the poverty level sits at 21.50 percent.
Only Mississippi has worse rates in both categories--17.40 percent and 22.60 percent, respectively.

Not to be a grinch, but there's more (and thank God for Nevada):


Only Nevada, the District of Columbia and the Bureau of Indian Education rank below New Mexico on the percentage of students graduating in four years. Nevada had the lowest graduation rate, with 62 percent graduation, just ahead of New Mexico’s 63 percent...Across the board, from low-income to Native American to black students, New Mexico always fell in the bottom quarter nationwide. 

White students were the second most likely to graduate in four years at 70 percent, numbers showed. They make up 26 percent of New Mexican students. Hispanic students, the majority of students at 59 percent, posted a 59 percent graduation rate. Native American and Alaskan Native students, who make up 10 percent of the New Mexican student body, had a 56 percent graduation rate...

We have a minority education crisis in this state---but you already knew that.

PALS OF PAUL

Lance Klafeta
There will be a third contender for the chairmanship of the state Republican Party when delegates gather in convention Saturday. He's Lance Klafeta, a supporter of libertarian/GOP Congressman Ron Paul, and a longtime libertarian activist in his own right. He says:

A life long libertarian activist, I believe a coup d'etat to establish a period of nationalist capitalist dictatorship, and the carrying out of a cultural revolution under a vanguard One Party is our only hope to save this country.

The two leading candidates for the chairmanship and the right to replace outgoing chair Monty Newman are Lincoln County GOP Chairman John Billingsley and John Rockwell, owner of an ABQ engineering firm.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Reader Dan Balzek writes of our Monday blog in which we informed of the Governor's appearance last night on the conservative Fox News TV network:

Thanks for warning us that "The Guv will appear on the (conservative!) Fox News." Any thought about headlining the "Liberal"  New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan? How about if she were to appear on the (liberal) MSNBC?"

Thanks, Dan. If the Guv appears on MSNBC--which we don't anticipate anytime soon--we would dub it a "liberal leaning" network. As for our site being "liberal," we have our moments in that camp as well as the conservative one. More often, we are independent.

But your note raises another issue, Dan. Why you don't see Governor Martinez going one-on-one on national TV interview programs like "Meet the Press" or "Face the Nation?" We believe it's because her handlers don't believe she's ready for that kind of tough cross examination, preferring to showcase her in the friendly confines of conservative media like Fox News. Nothing wrong with that, but you are not going to carve out a national reputation--beyond the symbolic--until you are able to take it to the top.

Hey, maybe former Governor Big Bill who is still appearing on those broadcasts can give her some tips?

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Monday, December 03, 2012

Is It Campos To End Coalition? Senate Drama Builds, Stakes High For Dems And Guv, Plus: Hispanics & The GOP; The Readers Write, And: Roasting Rebecca  

Senators Jennings, Campos & Smith
Let's update the big political story. Cautious optimism continues to prevail among state Senate Democrats hoping to end the coalition of conservative Dems and Republicans that holds major sway in the 42 member Senate.

They say that Senator Pete Campos of San Miguel County--a top candidate for Senate President Pro Tem--is slowly grinding it out and that they see the 25 Dem Senators "leaning" his way with this Saturday's caucus now in sight. But the dynamics of any caucus are delicate, with horse trading over committee assignments and other valuables always in the background. In other words, it doesn't take much to upset the apple cart.

Key questions: Will all 25 Senate Dems show up at the caucus? They need a total of 22 to elect a pro tem without GOP support. If the caucus can't unite behind one candidate this weekend and announce that to the New Mexican public then we could be headed for a floor fight over renewing the coalition.

This decision over who will be Pro Tem--the key player in handing out Senate committee assignments--is seen as one of the most crucial political decisions of any recent Legislature.

Dem Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings of Roswell was supported by all the Senate Republicans and a healthy dose of conservative Dems. It set a conservative tone, helpful to Governor Martinez who was not faced with the unpleasant task of having to decide on controversial legislation that reached her desk. The coalition has meant gridlock and gridlock--while maddening to many--is good for a GOP governor who paints the Legislature as the bad guy.

Of course, coalitions could and probably would still form in the Senate over specific legislation, but defeating the Pro Tem coalition would show party unity and discipline and pave the way for the same on key Dem bills.

While a busting of the coalition is seen greatly benefitting the Dems, the Pro Tem post is elected by all Senators. Campos is seen as being able to build bridges to them thus his candidacy is getting some momentum.

So it really is all on the line for the state Democratic Party and Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez who so handily triumphed over his Governor-supported election foe. If Campos or another non coalition Dem can't pull off a Pro Tem win it will be a major win for Martinez who unwittingly unified the Dems by unleashing her political consultant to run negative legislative campaigns across the state. But that new found unity has to withstand the challenging atmospherics of a Senate caucus and the recent historic tilt toward Senate conservatism.

Sanchez can rely on his brother--former House Speaker Raymond Sanchez for advice--but this is the big test of his political career and he will have to carry the day. If he at all wavers the smell such weakness generates would waft across the state. The state's majority party would have again been outfoxed by the minority R's, legislation that would pit the Governor on the spot will stay stuck in the Senate and her re-election prospects for 2014 would be strengthened tremendously. And that's why this relatively obscure battle for an insider Senate position is being watched by power players and politics from coast-to-coast.

(We haven't talked much about Susana outfoxing everyone by crafting compromise legislation on key issues getting it to her desk. That's not been her style or desire. She has insisted on the no compromise path and failed to remove legislators in the recent campaign who she maintained stood in her path. That path remains blocked but she can still fall back on a compromise strategy to change the narrative if the Legislature starts to move against her).

HOUSE ACTION

Over on the House side the drama is much less, but still interesting. Kenny Martinez of Grants has no opposition in his bid to become the next Dem House Speaker, but the #2 post--majority leader--has them buzzing. Kenny is giving up that post and the vacancy has attracted the interest of at least four members of the 38 member state House. They are Debbie Rodella from Rio Arriba County and three ABQ Democrats. And therein lies the rub. As the lone non-ABQ Rep vying for the posts she  is emerging with some muscles as the three big city reps may be splitting up votes.  Those three are Reps. Rick Miera, Gaily Chasey and Miguel Garcia. But maybe they all don't take it down to the wire and a vote. If it's Debbie versus one or two--not three-something might happen. We'd describe this race as fluid.

HISPANIC POLITICS

Lots of reaction to our Friday blog. We talked about the need of the state GOP to broaden it appeal with Hispanic voters and quoted longtime GOP activist Marge Teague. And we ran a letter from a friend of former Dem Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, defending her against allegations of corruption that were recently dismissed because the judge said too much time had elapsed since she had been indicted. First, some thoughts on Hispanics and the GOP from a Valencia County R:

While I agree entirely that a more inclusive attitude concerning the Hispanic population in the GOP is necessary, I have to point out that we elected an Hispanic Governor, Lt Governor and Secretary of State in 2010. All Republicans. I don't believe that this is duplicated anywhere else in the country. They have the potential of being, and in many respects already are, the role models for the young Hispanic population. All coming from poverty or very poor situations and making it to the top. This is a real, on the ground, demonstration of inclusion of Hispanics in the Republican Party. It sure looks like a good start to addressing that issue here in NM. to me.

In this culture of poverty and low educational expectations we really need to reach out. I certainly know this personally from traveling with John Sanchez when he was a candidate. An example of that took place in Moriarty when a young Hispanic girl ran up to John and gave him a hug and thanked him for giving her the confidence to believe that if she worked hard and did the right things, she too could escape the cycle of rural poverty as he did. Everyone there was truly moved, especially John.

We pointed to the election of native Republican Hispanic Monica Youngblood  to an ABQ westside state House seat as an example of how the GOP is making some progress, but not everyone agreed,including this GOP reader in ABQ 

Marge Teague is right about the GOP needing to recruit Hispanic candidates. Yes, we need more of them and we also need more to participate in the operation of the state party. But what we don’t need is more candidates like Monica Youngblood. I was talking with a couple of her soon-to-be colleagues who totally agree she’s going to be nothing more than a puppet of Gentry/McCleskey. So as a Hispanic, I’m completely appalled that she’s somehow seen as an example of the “solution.”

Bottom line, we need more non-dark side Hispanics who are smart independent thinkers and who will stand up to the BS.  The worst thing the party establishment can do is to recruit more empty suits like Susana and Monica.

The Gentry the reader references is ABQ GOP State Rep. Nate Gentry, recently chosen as House Minority Whip. Jay McCleskey is the Guv's controversial political adviser who ran a political action committee that spent millions on the recent legislative races.

And reader Gerald Pacheco says Youngblood is not the new blood the party needs:

Monica Youngblood is the exact opposite type of face Republicans need to attract Hispanic and Latino Voters.  Youngblood is from the Nora Espinoza wing of the Republican Party. The only way she won the Republican Primary was through courting far right wing evangelical voters like herself.  She built a strong alliance with failed US House candidate (and ABQ City Councilor) Dan Lewis and the ultra-right machine. Monica Youngblood is to Hispanics and Latinos as Alan Keyes is to African Americans--out of touch with their communities values.

Nora Espinoza is a GOP Roswell state representative with ties to the hard right of the state GOP via outgoing Roswell State Senator Rod Adair.

In fairness to Lewis, he has not been all "ultra-right." He is the lone GOP councilor who supported having the Department of Justice investigating possible civil rights abuses in the ABQ police department.

TEXAS EXAMPLE

PhotobucketAnother Republican reader--we have them with them across New Mexico and the USA--sends this
report from the Politico about the GOP and Hispanics in Texas and says there's something for NM Republicans to learn from:

This is a good piece which begs the question why a state with a higher Hispanic population, a longer history of Hispanic political participation and an Hispanic governor and lieutenant governor can't do the same. From the article:

In a state that’s nearly 40 percent Hispanic, all statewide offices are held by Republicans; about 700 new Hispanic delegates went to the party’s convention last summer; Ted Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant, has just been elected to the U.S. Senate; and George P. Bush—who is of Hispanic descent—looks primed for a statewide run. In interviews, a dozen party leaders, operatives, businessmen, elected officials and others said Texas could serve as a model for national Republicans looking to draw more Hispanics into the fold. They point to a proven Lone Star recipe that combines policies aimed at assisting immigrants, mixed with an effective political ground game and outreach - all of it glued together by welcoming language that embraces the Latino population and its concerns. And, those involved say, the Texas GOP has largely avoided miring itself in anti-immigrant legislation and sharp-edged words and phrases that have turned off Latino voters nationally, particularly in the last election cycle.

MORE ON THIS

All this talk about GOP and Hispanics is certainly justified. Look at these numbers from the November election:

A poll released Friday by a national Latino research organization  said President Obama captured 77 percent of the Hispanic vote in New  Mexico, a powerhouse showing that enabled him to carry the state. The same percentage of Hispanics voted for U.S. Sen.-elect Martin Heinrich,  also a Democrat, according to the election-eve poll by Research for  Latino Decisions. The company calls itself the country's leading Latino  opinion research firm. Obama defeated Republican Mitt Romney in  New Mexico by 9 percentage points. Heinrich's margin over Republican  Heather Wilson, a former congresswoman from Albuquerque, was 5 points.

REBECCA MAIL

Now to the mail on Rebecca Vigil Giron and the use of federal voter funds that were at the center of the corruption scandal Robert Carroll writes:

I will never forget the endless TV commercials with Rebecca Vigil-Giron saying that for more information “you can go to my website.” I remember thinking that this woman believes that she owns the Secretary of State’s office and that she was destined for corruption trouble. As for the Attorney General failing in another prosecution...par for the course with him.

And another reader asserts:

They (Vigil Giron and others indicted) were manipulating and using that federal money for the sole purpose of boosting her profile for future office....She was looking at Governor's office or Congress. 
It was so blatant at the time a lot of people have forgotten the barrage of those horrible images of her day in and day out.

State charges against Vigil-Giron have been dismissed. Federal charges are pending against several who worked with Vigil-Giron. She does not face federal charges.

THE BOTTOM LINES

From the wires:

Gov. Susana Martinez will help kick off the rest of the holiday season in New Mexico with the lighting of the state Christmas tree at 5 p.m. today. The ceremony will take place outside the state capitol in Santa Fe...The ceremony will include music from the New Mexico National Guard 44th Army Band, and a Santa Fe-based Girl Scout troop will be serving apple cider and biscochitos, New Mexico's state cookie.....

The Guv will appear on the conservative Fox News Channel at 8 p.m. tonite with Greta Van Sustern who spent a day with Martinez and posted some pics of the Guv's childhood home in El Paso...

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