Friday, December 14, 2012

Nullifying The Vote: Minimum Wage Foes Make Last Ditch Effort To Alter The Will Of ABQ Voters, Plus: Ingle Is Still In, And: Pearce Leads Western Caucus  

The last thing Mayor Berry needs is 40,000 low-income city residents pointing their fingers at him and asking him why they're not getting the pay raise 66% of the city's voters approved for them. But he would get that and a lot more punishing consequences if he is led off the cliff by a number of groups that want to nullify the November election results in which minimum wage workers were given a pay boost of a buck an hour beginning next month.

The New Mexico Restaurant Association is asking the nine member City Council to "phase-in" the pay hike--fifty cents next month and the other 50 cents a year later. Then there's City Councilor Trudy Jones saying that the automatic cost of living adjustment in the minimum wage proposal should be repealed by the council because she's not sure voters "understand" what they're doing.

Come on, Trudy. How would you like it if it was decided by the city council that voters in your district didn't "understand" when they elected you. That would make Greg Payne the councilor there.

The nine member council now has six Republicans and three Dems. They do have the power to repeal or amend an ordinance--even one passed so overwhelmingly by city voters as the result of a petition drive. Heck, you can even engage in a conspiracy theory. The Councilors change the law, send it up to Republican Mayor Berry, but he vetoes it knowing that the impact on his 2013 re-election would be decidedly negative. But then the GOP council overrides the veto with their six votes.

Strangely, the media did not even ask Berry where he stood on all this when they reported on it this week. Maybe the elevator to the 11th Floor broke down and the ink-stained wretches could not get up there.


Councilor Jones is joined in her fervor to nullify the city's election results by the New Mexico Restaurant Association which says it wants a "rational approach" to implementing the ordinance. So now voters who pay the taxes and foot the bills for the government follies around here are "irrational." Heck, let's just go back to letting a King decide. It's so much easier.

Seriously, though, the restaurant association has plenty of problems to clean up in its own backyard before it starts attempting to nullify democracy in the state's largest city.

First, there is the recession in the local restaurant scene. What is the association doing to combat that? Fighting a minimum wage hike that will give their customers more money to spend eating out?

We worked for $1.65 an hour washing dishes and scrubbing floors back in the day. That was the minimum wage. It's been raised often over the years and there is no proof that is hampering job creation. None.

ABQ's restaurants are riddled with issues and the minimum wage is the least of them. The city's restaurant scene has declined markedly in recent years, with more mediocre additions, overpricing, and lousy service due to a lack of training. The difference in value and quality you get in most restaurants here compared to what you get in say Phoenix is simply startling (You know what we're talking about).

The "rational" action for the restaurant association is some self-examination about why so many of their prospective customers are opting for what's in their freezers, rather than a trip to the local eatery that may or may not be on its game that day. They might also want to remember that the customer is always right--even when they go into the voting booth.


As expected, State Senator Stuart Ingle was again selected Minority Leader by his party's caucus. The 17 GOP state Senators met at the capitol Thursday and released this news:

...Stuart Ingle (R-Portales) was elected by acclamation...to retain his...position as Senate Minority Leader.  It is a...position he has held since 2000.  All three current leaders in the Republican Caucus were elected by acclamation to retain their current leadership positions. Senator Ingle has served as a Senator since 1985. Senator Bill Payne (R-Albuquerque) will continue to serve as Minority Caucus Whip,  a position he has held for four years and Senator Steve Neville (R-Farmington) will retain his leadership position of Senate Minority Caucus Chair, a position he has held for two years.

It's been a bit turbulent for Ingle since GOP Governor Martinez took over. Some of her more ardent backers don't think Stu has been as thick with her as they would like. Talk of challenging him for leader fizzled when it became clear his colleagues were firmly behind him. Ingle is in the "reasonable Republican" camp, meaning he talks with all sides. That may be sacrilege among the new far right, but it's how you make a political body function.


From the DC PR wire:

Members of the Congressional Western Caucus joined together Wednesday to unanimously name Congressman Steve Pearce (R-NM) and Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) Co-Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus for the 113th Congress...“I thank my colleagues for the honor of leading this caucus for another term,” Pearce said. “I look forward to working...to ensure that we continue to fight for the fundamental principles that are so important to our western way of life. For too long, the issues important to the West have been ignored.  As Chairman, I will continue to work diligently to unite Members who will focus the policy debate on common-sense policies that protect western values and get Americans back to work.”

And while you're at it Steve, can you help out Senator Udall with the heavy lifting when it comes to fighting those federal budget cuts that could hurt your constituents in southern New Mexico.

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Thanks for stopping by this week. Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

New Mexico's Early Christmas Present: We Get Spot On Top Senate Money Panel With Udall Appointment; Heinrich Also Scores, Plus: A Stunner From "Dr. No": Powerful Senate Finance Chair Says It Appears His Run Has Ended, But Maybe Not 

Udall & Heinrich
New Mexico has received an early Christmas present and if it's played right it could mean billions under our state tree in the years ahead. Oh, yeah, it also could make the 2014 US Senate race here a ho-hum affair.

We blog of the appointment of Senator Tom Udall to the Senate Appropriations Committee--a key panel in dispensing federal largess--the stuff that keeps the economy ticking here and which has been seriously threatened by the ongoing budget cutting debate on the banks of the Potomac.

Udall is only in his fourth year of a six year term so the appointment is a coup. And, boy, does this state need one. Los Alamos and Sandia Labs are funded to the tune of over $4 billion a year. Then there's the military bases, including Kirtland in ABQ. This town would blow away with the tumbleweeds if KAFB shut down--and with Udall perched on appropriations, the chances of that happening are close to nil. Layoffs at Los Alamos have already hit and now Udall may be able to stop the bleeding.

Udall, criticized by the Republicans for being a lightweight, suddenly looks a lot heftier than he did a couple of days ago. This appointment gives him power on the #1 issue facing the state--the economy and jobs. He has carved out a reputation by trying to reform the Senate filibuster rule. It has won him a lot of good press, but not necessarily much political punch back home. This appointment fills in the blanks and makes him that much more formidable for re-election in 2014.

Republicans are going to have a tougher time making a case against Udall now that he sits on the committee from which former GOP US Senator Pete Domenici held forth and protected the state's economic interests. Not that they are lined up to take him on. Only former NM GOP Chairman Allen Weh is expressing serious interest. The appointment may chase away other R's contemplating a challenge. Did we say "may?" Let's amend that to "will" chase away prospective opponents. Allen, get your running shoes on. It looks like you may be "it."

Soon-to-be Senator Martin Heinrich also scored for the state when the Senate Santa passed out committee posts. He landed a slot on energy, always a committee vital to this state's interests and the one which outgoing NM Senator Bingaman chaired for a number of years. Domenici was also a member of that panel. Congressman Heinrich had talked of getting on Senate Armed Services. He serves on the House version of that committee, but energy will give him an even broader portfolio and entree into the budget for the state's national labs.

Heinrich will also serve on the Intelligence and Joint Economic Committees--solid assignments for the newcomer.

The bottom line to these appointments is that they put New Mexico in a position to fight--something the state's business and political elites have shied away from. Now they have some leadership to rally around.

Udall now is set to continue the 70 year legacy of New Mexico Senators Chavez, Anderson and Domenici in safeguarding the state as a repository for America's national security. There's just no other way to say it--the timing on this is perfect.

In addition to appropriations, Udall will take up spots on the Foreign Relations, Environment and Public Works, Indian Affairs and Rules and Administration Committees. That's a lot of territory, but then he will be the state's "senior" Senator once Bingaman leaves next month.

Nicely done Senator Udall and Senator-elect Heinrich. Now, make sure you deliver or next year it's a lump of coal in your stockings.


Udall's statement on his appropriations appointment:

A seat on the Appropriations Committee is very meaningful for New Mexico. From the labs, to the military bases and our public lands, we have a large federal presence in our state. I have no illusions about the difficult economic times and budgetary constraints our nation is facing, and I am eager to do my best and defend New Mexico through the appropriations process.

Blogger & Ben Ray in DC
It was a banner day for our congressional delegation. Northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan piled on the good news bandwagon, coming with this announcement:

Congressman Ben Ray Luján was named to the House Energy and Commerce Committee...Luján, who will be entering his third term in the House of Representatives, will begin serving on the committee at the start of the 113th Congress in January. 

“I am honored to have this opportunity to represent the interests of New Mexico...This opportunity will enable me to build on my work..on issues from consumer protection to energy...New Mexico is poised to be leader in a clean energy economy, and this assignment will provide New Mexico with an important voice in the discussion of how we move forward toward this critical goal.

So we have Heinrich on Senate Energy, Lujan on House Energy and Udall on Senate Appropriations. This is excellent positioning for a small state of two million that is losing so much congressional seniority.

Ben Ray did not mention that House Energy is also important to Los Alamos Labs which is in his district.


Senator Smith
My, how the wheel is turning as a result of the November election. Listen to this one, kids. The mighty chairman of the State Senate Finance Committee---Senator John Arthur "Dr. No" Smith told a meeting of the New Mexico Tax Research Institute Wednesday that it is unlikely he will retain the chairmanship when the Legislature next meets in January.

The stunning announcement was confirmed by several persons in attendance--including institute director Richard Anklam--and had jaws dropping in the room.

Smith, 74, is one of the most powerful legislators in recent state history. The Deming lawmaker's conservative outlook has frustrated liberals but satisfied the right. However, Senator Pete Campos was nominated by the Senate Democratic caucus over the weekend to become Senate President Pro Tem. That's the position that essentially determines Senate committee assignments.

My top sources say Smith's announcement refers to the possibility of Senator Carlos Cisneros, vice-chairman of Senate finance, being named chairman by Campos. It was Cisneros who nominated Campos at the caucus for the Pro Tem post. My Alligators report the two men drove to the Belen meeting together.

Campos is on track to take the prize, but still faces possible opposition when the position is voted on Jan. 15 by the entire Senate.

But then comes State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez to say that Smith should stay on as chair! From the ABQ Journal:

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez said Wednesday that he thinks conservative-leaning Senate Finance Committee chairman John Arthur Smith should continue in the post when the Legislature convenes in January. “I believe he’s the best person for that position,” Sanchez said. “He has kept us on track in time where we’ve needed direction,” the influential Belen Democrat said. “He’s been that person that has guided us in the right direction. I think he’s a great Finance chairman. I don’t always agree with him on everything, but he’s done great.” Smith, a fiscally conservative Democrat from Deming and a key player in shaping New Mexico’s budgets since 2008, had said earlier  he expected to be pushed out of the finance post by new Democratic leadership in the Senate.

Sanchez's unflinching support for Smith is sure to upset the Democratic base. Why, they will ask, is not Sanchez letting nonconservative Dems take power in the chamber? What was the point of the election?

But does anyone really know what the quirky Sanchez really believes or is up to? He has played his cards close to his vest and even the public statement of support of Smith can't be taken at face value. Maybe he's just trying to block the R's from forming a coalition with conservative Dems and who would use the prospective Smith ouster as a rallying cry. But we did report that Sanchez was not a Campos supporter for Pro Tem, instead pushing for Senator Lopez. Maybe he's comfortable with Smith and the status quo--unlike much of the Dem base.

Meanwhile, Senator Campos did not make a forceful statement over Smith:

Campos in an email said he met with Smith last week and “indicated my support for him to remain as Senate Finance chairman.”

Again, you can hear the footsteps of a possible coalition threatening Campos in that statement.

The implications of Smith no longer chairing finance are enormous for state economic and budget policy. Santa Fe has been locked in a mindset of fiscal austerity, even as the state is starved for capital and job creation lags the entire nation. A Senate Finance Committee without Smith as chairman opens the door to a major policy shift--one that will be sternly resisted by the fiscal conservatives who run the Department of Finance and Administration as well as those who surround GOP Governor Martinez.

As for Smith, a real estate appraiser, who has been in the Senate since 1989, he performed brilliantly when there were times of plenty, repeatedly pulling away the punch bowl as the party got too wild. But now the populace is turning in a more centrist direction--as witnessed by the recent election--and Smith has stayed static.

Smith appears to be looking for reassurances about his standing by making the public statement that he could be on his way out. The Sanchez support is critical, but not conclusive. Let's see what happens come next month.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On The Econ Beat: No Jobs Means No Housing Boom And Sagging Home Prices, Plus: What A Governor Can Do To Protect New Mexico Against The Blunt Budget Axe Of Washington 

Sure, jobs are tight, but most folks are employed and bringing home a paycheck. But that doesn't mean the recessionary environment when it comes to employment around here doesn't impact them. For one, if you own a home in the ABQ metro it's likely its value has taken a hit, and its price isn't going to start going up until the jobs numbers start to spike upward. The news:

In Albuquerque, the value of a typical home dropped 1.36 percent during the past 12 months, ranking it 82nd-worst among the 102 major metros.

ABQ realtors report the median price of homes sold in the metro in November is $165,000. Remember the heady days of the housing boom when that figure soared well past $200,000?

The job and housing markets are linked like Santa and his sleigh--one isn't going anywhere without the other. So while California and Arizona add jobs, housing prices there start to recover. That makes people confident about spending and gets the economy moving. That in turn creates more jobs and generates more tax revenue.

There's a party starting up all around us, but we haven't been invited. Until we start generating jobs, New Mexico is the wallflower at the dance.


It's not just bringing in jobs in here that is a challenge, it's protecting what we've got. We don't think Washington's going to jump off the fiscal cliff. Some kind of deal will be struck, but the "crisis" is highlighting just how dependent we are on federal funding. If DC doesn't get a deal done, the estimates are we could lose 20,000 jobs in our federal energy and defense complex. Governor Martinez is saying as much, but she asserts there is little she can do:

There's nothing I can do other than to encourage that they get in a room and not leave that room until they get an agreement. They really need to just buckle down figure this out...otherwise New Mexico is going to be one of the biggest losers...

Maybe the Governor needs some ideas on how she can use her good offices to protect the state's immense federal funding not just during this fiscal cliff episode, but also in the long-term fight the state has on its hands to keep federal dollars flowing. Hey, glad you asked, Susana...

---How about putting to use the skills of retired US Senator Pete Domenici and ex-US Rep. Heather Wilson? Yes, they are gone from official power, but both are tightly connected to the national defense establishment and congressional Republicans. Surely, they have some ideas. And while it may draw guffaws, Governor Martinez calling on former Governor Richardson and former ABQ Mayor Chavez for assistance is just the kind of move the state needs--bipartisan unity.

--Forming a committee seems like a bland idea, but it's a good one. We formed one in the 90's to save Kirtland Air Force Base in ABQ. It worked. A community and state banded together and working from the same page is a powerful force in Washington. What your grandpa told you about "the squeaky wheel getting the oil" remains a truism today.

--Why the administration took former GOP State Rep. Brian Moore out of the state's DC lobbying position is a mystery. Now we have no one. Republicans involved in business know better than anyone that you have to spend money to make money. Martinez needs a strong lobbying voice for New Mexico. Where is it?

--The state's economic development secretary has passed off the job of protecting the huge federal investment here as a task entirely for the state's congressional delegation. But it's not all their job. Our state government needs to work in tandem with them. They need to be friends, not acquaintances.

--Martinez's administration needs to bring together the state's business community--so much of which would not exist without federal funding and which is gravely threatened by major federal cutbacks. The ABQ Chamber of Commerce, Association of Commerce and Industry and other business players need to learn how to fight--not retreat. And the Governor and her cabinet need to lead.

--The Governor must stop saying drastic federal funding cuts to New Mexico are "inevitable." They will be if she keeps sending that signal to Washington. "Hey, cut New Mexico, they don't really care."

We've heard ad nauseum how the state must transition to an economy more oriented toward the private sector. No one disagrees, but look at the top of the blog today. It isn't happening. It will take a generation of investment, if not more.

New Mexico is making a big mistake if it allows a 70 year national security legacy to fade away like the slowly setting sun. It is what built this state's modern economy. If Governor Martinez and those advising her have a disdain for government employment of any kind, they need to look past it and do the government work they were hired to do.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Susana And Bobby Jindal Have Something In Common, Plus: The Jobs Crunch Finally Getting Some Attention; New Presidents Of ABQ Council & UNM In Front, Plus: Readers Write Of The Real ID Panic 

Welcome back. Let's head out to the Tuesday blogging trail...

Looks like Governor Susana isn't the only one with an emailgate on her hands. Another GOP Governor has been busted for plotting public policy off the grid and on private email accounts:

Top officials in Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration used personal email accounts to craft a media strategy for imposing hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid cuts--a method of communication that can make it more difficult to track under public records laws despite Jindal's pledge to bring more transparency to state government. 

Emails reviewed by The Associated Press reveal that non-state government email addresses were used dozens of times by state officials to communicate last summer about a public relations offensive for making $523 million in health care cuts. Those documents weren't provided to AP in response to a public records request.

Here in our enchanted land, Gov. Martinez was forced to tell her top officials to stop communicating strategy and policy via private email accounts when widespread conniving via private email over the lease for the Downs at ABQ and other official business was disclosed.

That lease is now under investigation by the attorney general and state auditor.


Council President Lewis
You might not hear much about it, but there is pressure around here to do something about the dismal jobs situation. While neighboring states and cities add employment, ABQ and New Mexico languish and continue to bleed jobs. The lack of leadership has been yawning, but now the new president of the ABQ City Council is stepping up and putting the city's long list of economic woes on the front-burner. From Government Center:

Councilor President Dan Lewis has asked the Administration to provide the Council a monthly economic development report from the Chief Administrative Officer, the Economic Development Department and/or the City Planning Department at the first Council meeting of every month beginning in January. The Council will dedicate time at the second meeting of the month to discuss economic development issues with various groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, ABQ Economic Development, and the University of New Mexico Business and Economic research.

That looks like a start. As we've noted repeatedly, the city's economic and political elites have been playing "see no evil, speak no evil" when it comes to this epic economic downturn that has reshaped the city--and not for the better.

We are also wondering if and when anyone is going to start working with the state's congressional delegation to prevent major cuts to the state's defense and energy establishment. Couldn't the Legislature start that, if the Guv continues her reluctance to get involved? Councilor Lewis may also want a piece of that pie...

It should be noted that Lewis, like Mayor Berry, is a Republican, but Lewis does not march lockstep with the 11th Floor--following an oft neglected tradition of independence and nonpartisanship on the nine member panel.

The GOP-controlled City Council has been so sleepy that we've even waited to blog about the newest member of the council--businesswoman Roxanne Myers--who Mayor Berry appointed to replace Dem Debbie O'Malley who was elected to the Bernalillo County Commission. So what about it? Well, she's a Republican appointee to a Dem seat encompassing the liberal North Valley and Old Town and if she runs to keep it next October she will lose it. Okay, what's next?


UNM President Frank
Change is not happening fast enough for critics of the University of New Mexico. They'd like to see some new leadership faces along side that of new UNM President Robert Frank. But the new Prez has not replaced any high-profile names like VP David Harris or Athletic Director Pual Krebs. The message that the status quo will continue has not been comforting.

However, Frank--like Councilor Lewis--is making some useful noise about the city's #1 problem:

Frank said he will send a team of University administrators to the University of Florida at Gainesville to study the university’s business zone, which surrounds the institution. He said he plans to erect a similar business zone, which would contain dormitories and retail stores surrounding UNM, in the future. “The idea is to start a community that grows and becomes a home for all so you won’t leave here to go to San Francisco and start your company,” he said. “We need to make this a hub for businesses.”

President Frank and Councilor Lewis are two leaders now openly discussing the jobs crisis here. Talk about a small club.


David Doyle, the ABQ state rep who ran for the Senate against Dem John Sapien and lost, is the subject of this scorcher making the rounds and authored by syndicated columnist Milan Simonich. Put your gloves on, this one is too hot to handle:

In the House, you carped when bills you favored did not zip right through. You wanted to run for home during the special legislative session of 2011 because you were unhappy with the Democrats. They had to fight to keep the session alive long enough to pass a public works bill. That bill put people in your industry--construction--to work. But you did not want to stick around long enough to finish it. Mr. Doyle, you were a grown man acting like a petulant boy who just got schooled in a game of one on one. Instead of competing harder, you took your ball and went home. By the way, exactly where is your home, Mr. Doyle? You say Corrales for purposes of elections, but there was good evidence that you were living in Albuquerque this fall, miles outside the Senate district you say you should represent. On Friday, you were at it again, shamelessly trying to change the result of the state Senate election that you lost in November. Mr. Doyle, you are a man who complains about too much government. But now you want a judge to void the voters' decision and elevate you to first place.

That's what called holding a politicos feet to the fire.


From the AP:

The state Canvassing Board has made it official that Republican Paul Pacheco won a recount for an Albuquerque-area seat in the state House of Representatives. The board on Monday certified the recount results, which showed Pacheco defeating Democrat Marci Blaze by 78 votes. That’s up from a 66-vote margin before the recount. The district covers parts of Sandoval and Bernalillo counties.

We were pleased to meet Marci Blaze. She is a bright light and maybe we'll see more of her. We've known Pacheco for a number of years. He's dedicated. The tough campaign Blaze gave him may help make him a better state rep.


Reader reaction to the media panic over the Real ID deadline and Governor Martinez's role in it comes in after we blogged of it Monday. How the public can be told that they are going to need a passport to get on a plane if they are from New Mexico is beyond our analytical skills and more a commentary on the disarray in some corners of the media these days and the Governor's ability to take advantage of it.  From reader Mark Michel:

Governor Martinez’s participation in the airport ID phony crisis is unbelievably irresponsible.  Hundreds, maybe thousands of New Mexicans are being needlessly panicked by all this misinformation coming from the local TV media and our governor.  Outrageous!

From a judge who wishes to remain anonymous:

I believe all the law requires is proof of citizenship. How about a check box on the license that says: "citizen" or "non-citizen?" That way no one needs to panic.

Reader Ray Rodgers came with this:

It is curious that no one (news media) has quoted from the actual noncompliance report from the feds. I worked for over 15 years with federal grants and compliance issues with the state. I'm sure there is correspondence between the state and the feds regarding the areas of noncompliance. I'm suspicious that there are other issues beyond driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. But is seems no one in the news media is asking to see the facts.


Former New Mexico GOP Chairman John Lattauzio writes:

Joe, I believe it appropriate to mention the passing of a great lady, Dorothy Thomas. Dorothy was a devoted mother, friend, neighbor, political ally, confidant, and a good citizen. She managed Congressman's Joe Skeen's offices in Las Cruces professionally; delivering excellent service to all. She will be sorely missed. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to her family and all who loved her. I will miss my friend.

Thomas died Nov. 28. She was 77.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Campos The Coalition Killer Or Not? He Wins Senate Dems Nod For Pro Tem Post, But State Awaits Final Decision, Plus: GOP Snubs Jay; Political Adviser At Center Of GOP Chair Battle; Billingsley Wins, And: Light Guv Sanchez Will Seek Re-election; Senate Seat Not In His Sights  

Senator Campos
Does the nomination of State Senator Pete Campos for President Pro Tem by the Senate Dem caucus Sunday spell the end of the conservative coalition of R's and D's that has made life more comfortable for Governor Martinez? The answer is no one knows, but the Dems may be inching toward enough unity that could--we emphasize "could"--finish it off.

Campos, in the Senate since '91, was one of four candidates nominated for the post at the Dem caucus. The ballot was secret so it is not known how many of the 25 Senate Dems voted for him. The position is decided by the entire 42 member Senate, so he needs 22 Dems to take the victory. To form a coalition all 17 R's would get behind a Dem contender and then try to pick off five Dems to join them.

We know Campos received at least 50% of the votes plus one at the Sunday caucus because that was the rule to win the nomination. Insiders game it out that he has about 17 firmly in his corner and now through negotiations and deals over committee assignments he will work to get that up to 22. The Pro Tem's influence comes from his power to determine committee assignments for Senators.

Worth noting: Senator Carlos Cisneros of Questa nominated Campos. He dropped his own bid to become Pro Tem.

Campos might have had an easier time of it if Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez was solidly in his corner, but high ranking Dem sources say Sanchez was pushing Senator Linda Lopez of ABQ for the key position. She, however, fell short (Sanchez was unopposed and was again chosen for the powerful majority leader slot).

Sanchez appears to believe that he would have had more influence with Lopez but if Campos wins with an all-Dem vote, Sanchez may have made the wrong bet. And the onus is still on Sanchez's shoulders to get a Dem Pro Tem--not one out of a coalition. He is the majority leader who beat back the Guv's political machine, scoring an 11 point re-election victory. And the state went deep blue in all major top of the ticket races. They want the coalition ended and they expect Sanchez to deliver.

In what could be a key development, GOP insiders are saying there does not seem to be much momentum for a coalition among the 17 R's. They can no longer band together behind Roswell Dem and Senate Pro Tem Tim Jennings since he was defeated in November by a Martinez backed candidate.

Las Cruces area State Senator Mary Kay Papen--who was one of the three candidates to lose to Campos Sunday--is the horse they have to ride. But the 80 year old lawmaker does not command the GOP Senators as Jennings did. Also, Campos has worked closely with Senate Minority Leader Stu Ingle. Ingle--who has taken his share of lumps from the Guv's political operatives--may not be in any mood to advance a coalition that would help her out. We'll see.

As for Campos, he has given mixed signals on whether he would seek to take the Pro Tem slot with a coalition. His backers say he is not in the coalition business, but this is high-level Senate power plays. Anything can happen. Everything must be watched.

The other candidate who ran for the Pro Tem nomination Sunday was 39 year old Howie Morales of Silver City. The full Senate votes on the post on opening day of the January legislative session. Stay tuned.


How about that? Two young Dems from Bernalillo County won leadership positions at the Sunday Dem caucus. Second term Senator Tim Keller beat out fellow second termer John Sapien to become majority whip and Senator-elect Jacob Candelaria will be caucus chairman after winning out over ABQ Senator-elect Daniel Ivey Soto.

The two fresh faces in the leadership could serve to spruce up Leader Sanchez's look and it gives state Dems what they want--dyed-in-the-wool Dems to carry the cause against the R's.

Keller has worked well with Republicans, but progressives count him as firmly in their camp. Keller is well under 40 and Candelaria is 26. Keller is weighing a run for State Treasurer in '14.

The young blood is going to put a new face on Legislative politics. It is also a reminder of how important Bernalillo County is to the state party. It is delivering huge election margins for the Dems in all key races. It's hard to deny the party's center of gravity more force at the Roundhouse.

The conservative south could still rise, but at the Sunday Senate Dem caucus it looked as if a Progressive/Norteño coalition was taking hold, with Campos of Las Vegas being the man in the middle.


John Billingsley
We take you from the Holiday Inn Express in Belen where the Senate Dems met Sunday to the Hotel Albuquerque near Old Town where on Saturday members of the GOP State Central Committee gathered and gave a forceful snub to Jay McCleskey, the controversial and powerful political adviser to Governor Martinez.

The committee overwhelmingly elected Lincoln County GOP Chairman John Billingsley as the new state chairman, replacing Monty Newman of Hobbs. Billingsley has been highly critical of McCleksey for involving himself in Republican primaries and for using scorched earth tactics against the Republicans he opposes.

The most glaring examples of the intervention that has gotten Jay in hot water with his own party is the support of Angie Spears over Pat Woods in the June GOP primary for a Clovis area state Senate Seat. Woods handily won. There was also dissension in the ranks when McCleskey and Co. went after longtime conservative Dem Roswell State Senator Tim Jennings. He was replaced by GOP neophyte Cliff Pirtle.

That battle prompted an op-ed piece from former GOP Chairman Harvey Yates, Jr. decrying McCleskey's tactics. Jay retorted that Harvey was just mad because he lacked "influence" with Martinez. That haymaker had the Jay foes running to their battle stations. (We don't know who Yates supported in the chair fight, but it hardly mattered. His voice regarding Jay was heard loudly and clearly).

Against that backdrop and much more, it was no surprise that Billingsley emerged the victor, with ABQ engineer John Rockwell finishing a distant second (Billingsley garnered 245, Rockwell 103 and libertarian/ Republicans Lance Klafeta received 6).

In victory, Billingsley was euphoric and toning down his anti-Jay image:

You’ve got to understand that Jay McCleskey is a very fantastic strategist/ He is a campaign guy who, in this state at least, is second to none. Consequently, you have to understand that his job is to elect a candidate. And we have a governor in Susana Martinez that is extremely well-liked, that has the backing of not only myself, but the entire leadership.

But there was this from Billingsley about McCleskey's power in running the government versus his power as a campaign consultant:

...McCleskey’s role in all of this is to get (Martinez) re-elected. It’s not to run the party, it’s not to run the administration--because after all, Susana Martinez is our governor, and she is doing an outstanding job.”

That's about as close as anyone in a high ranking position in this state has come to confirming on the record the extent of  McCleskey's power in Martinez's government--even if it has been a central tenet of New Mexican politics for two years as we have so often reported to you during that time.


Jay McCleskey
Martinez and McCleskey tried to keep their fingerprints from getting too overtly on the the chair race, but they were on there and they take a hit. McCleskey's close friend and Downs at ABQ General Manager Darren White spun it this way via Twitter:

The Guv supported no one, knowing the state party is an empty shell post-Citizens United. The party wont raise enough to be relevant.... 

The state GOP irrelevant to Susana? Hold on there, Darren. Remember, a candidate still has to be nominated by a political party to make it on the ballot--both at a pre-primary convention and at a primary. Super PACS still don't have that power. 

No, you can bet Susana cared and cared deeply. There was just little she could do because of the many rivals McCleskey has made within the party. Their relationship was outed at an official party function for all to see--and assess. The fact that Martinez--the titular head of the GOP--did not attend the convention revealed the rock and the hard place she has put herself in by going all in with McCleskey.

State Rep. Zach Cook from Billingsley's home county of Lincoln in the SE sent out an email that likened attacks on McCleskey to an attack on the Governor. But Cook's email fell flat. The party elite remains deeply supportive of Susana, but they are obviously quite tired of of McCleskey. Cook's email drew this response from a Republican foe of Jay's who uses the pseudonym "John Fremont."

So what is the practical impact of all of this? Billingsley will lead the GOP but McCleskey heads the well-funded Susana PAC and he just finished up running the multi-million dollar Reform NM Now PAC. That one has now been closed, but operating outside of the official confines of the party has never been easier. As White noted, Super PAC's like Reform NM are off the regulatory leash courtesy of the US Supreme Court. All that outside money threatens the ability to attract inside money represented by the state GOP.

Still, the big Billingsley win was a shot across the bow of the Governor, signifying that most of the GOP hierarchy wants McCleskey--aka "the Shadow Governor"--reined in.


Here is the complete list of winners from the GOP confab: Chairman John Billingsley, 1st Vice Chair Rube Render; 2nd Vice Chair Rick Lopez; Secretary Orlando Baca; Treasurer Devon Day; Congressional District 1 Vice Charles Christmann; CD2 Vice Alice Eppers; CD3 Vice Frank Trambley.

Insiders say with the exception of Devon Day, these new officers are not in the McCleskey camp.


Democrats love nothing more than to see a good family fight in the GOP and they got that this weekend. NM Dem Party executive director Scott Forrester also sized up the new leadership of the GOP team and offered this zinger:

7 of the 8 of the new NM GOP leaders are men. So much for the consequences of 2012 election..


Lt. Governor John Sanchez didn't shock anyone when he told the GOP delegates Saturday that he would seek re-election in 2014. Still, there has been plenty of speculation that John might make another run at the US Senate, seeking the GOP nod for the right to run against Dem US Senator Tom Udall. Sanchez was a potentially viable candidate against Udall so his circle has to be pleased.

After his shaky challenge to Heather Wilson for the 2010 GOP Senate nod, John seems to have concluded that his best hope for a political future lies within the borders of New Mexico. 

His affable personality is one reason Sanchez could endure. We and other pundits bashed the daylights out of the Light Guv for his lightweight Senate campaign, but unlike some in the current GOP power circle, he refuses to take it personally. Instead, he marches forward looking for a new path to make it work. That's a formula for success in business and politics.

Sanchez did not overtly endorse Billingsley in his speech before the convention, but he emphasized supporting "county leaders." As we mentioned, Billingsley is chairman of the Lincoln County GOP.

John didn't have to say much more. He is deeply in the anti-McCleksey camp. His every move has been opposed by the Guv and Jay, including his decision to run for Light Guv in 2010.

The Susana camp is already talking up a possible primary opponent for Sanchez in the name of one Randy Baker of ABQ's South Valley. Baker and his wife operate a successful electrical contracting firm.

But Sanchez is nothing if not popular among Republicans. He has also had success in business--the roofing business--and will have the resources to fight off Baker and any other comers. We're guessing it will take a lot to take him out.


It appears Gov. Martinez has been caught trying to spin a little too hard and in the process perhaps needlessly alarming the public. The news:

Don’t panic, New Mexico. Your state-issued driver’s license will still get you on an airplane and into federal buildings after Jan. 15, even if the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t extend the forthcoming deadline for the Real ID Act. For at least another two years, that is Local television news and talk radio reports during the past week have created something of a frenzy around the state, and even a run on appointments to get passports.

Martinez appeared to join that frenzy. From TV news:

Gov. Martinez told KOB she knows of no other additional form of identification other than a passport that may be sufficient to get through Transportation Security Administration security after the Real ID Act takes effect. If that is the case, this would apply at any airport in the country, not just the Sunport.

Martinez is using the Real ID controversy to advance her cause of repealing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. She will make a fourth attempt at repeal in the January session of the Legislature. 

And it appears the ABQ Police Department is also going over-the-top:

A spokesperson for the Albuquerque Police Department said that as a precaution any APD employee who does not have a passport will not be scheduled for out-of-state travel. Those employees will travel by car or train if necessary.

Doesn't APD Chief Schultz have enough problems without politicizing his department? Just asking.

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