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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Like Gary And Bill Before Her, National Spotlight Lures Susana And It Impacts Policy Here, Plus: "Crown Jewel" Of ABQ Development Up For Sale, And: Bregman Wins Key Endorsement In Dem Party Chair Contest 


Richardson & Martinez
Susana Martinez is the third New Mexico Governor in a row to sport national political ambitions that appear to be playing a role in how she governs the state.

In the case of Republican Gary Johnson it was his advocacy for drug legalization that vaulted him to national prominence. For Democrat Bill Richardson it was a resume the length of his arm and for Martinez it is her unique standing as the nation's first Hispanic female Governor.

Many doubt that Martinez is ready for a solo role on the national stage. They see a streak of Sarah Palin in her that will prevent her from competing. Maybe. But that is not going to stop her from trying.

Our analysts think that's a key reason for her shift (cave-in?) this week on her previously rigid stance on driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. After two years of making repeal of the licenses her banner issue, she is now heading for a deal that falls far short.

(She was back talking tough on this again Wednesday, but as the saying goes---"We heard you the first time, Guv.")

Martinez and her chief political adviser are nothing if not inveterate poll watchers. They may not live an die by them, but close to it. And on matters dealing with Hispanics and the licenses Martinez was starting to fall behind the curve. For example:

More than 6 in 10 Americans now favor allowing illegal immigrants to eventually become U.S. citizens, a major increase in support driven by a turnaround in Republicans' opinions after the 2012 elections. The finding, in a new Associated Press-GfK poll, comes as the Republican Party seeks to increase its meager support among Latino voters, who turned out in large numbers to help-re-elect President Barack Obama in November.

And then there's Florida GOP Senator Marco Rubio, Martinez's chief Hispanic rival in the Republican Party. On the key immigration issue, he is on the move:

Rubio has been meeting with...conservative opinion-shapers to lay out his vision for a plan that would offer temporary legal status to undocumented immigrants. Those applying would have to pass background checks and other tests designed to eventually lead from permanent residency to citizenship...Rubio has seized a torch that in recent years burned several similarly ambitious Republican politicians. But in a sign of how quickly the parameters of the debate on this issue have shifted since President Obama’s re-election, prominent conservatives--many of whom were vocal in their opposition to previous similar plans--have been lavishing praise on Rubio’s ideas for reform.

Look for Governor Martinez's strident and often harsh rhetoric on immigration and driver'slicenses to melt away even further as she prepares for her 2014 re-election bid as well as a place in the national spotlight.

THE NEW MEXICO BEAR

In discussing the driver's license matter Wednesday Martinez claimed it "is the number one issue" she hears about when she travels around the state? Really? She must not be talking to the same people everyone else is. Because, if asked, the economic turmoil this state faces and the inability of policy makers like Martinez and Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela to do anything about is far and away the #1 issue on the minds of voters,

As if to reinforce its dominance the Bear Market resurfaced as Martinez spoke. The news:

Forest City Enterprises Inc., the Cleveland firm that came to Albuquerque in 2002 to build the 12,900-acre Mesa del Sol mixed-use, master-planned community that would contain 37,000 homes and house 100,000 people, is now trying to sell its 3,000-acre portion of the project. Planning for Mesa del Sol, which was to be the crown jewel of Albuquerque’s development efforts, began in the 1980s when planners envisioned a community where people could work, live and play without having to drive all over town. It was envisioned as an alternative to Albuquerque’s suburban-like sprawl and was to house 100,000 people in 37,500 homes.

Forest City has been no favorite of Susana's. It was given considerable tax breaks by the state and she ran a campaign ad against Dem Diane Denish in 2010 saying the breaks were a "scandal." That was debunked by the fact checkers.

Mesa del Sol was hyped, marketed and presented to us a a new growth paradigm for the metro area. The company gave hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions to pave its way here. It's collapse isn't a canary in the coal mine. It is part of the very loud drumbeat of awful economic news that continues to engulf us.

That's the number one issue facing this state--at least when the veil of collective denial that shrouds us is lifted.

DEM CHAIR RACE

ABQ attorney Sam Bregman is moving for a quick kill in the race for chairman of the Democratic Party. The party's central committee doesn't meet until April to pick a new chairman but Bregman is already out with this biggie:

Bregman was endorsed by the New Mexico Building and Construction Trades Council, representing 10,000 New Mexico workers, in 15 local unions.  “Working men and women know I will stand up and speak out for them every day. That'’s the job of the State Democratic Chair and its time to move forward and commit resources to give people hope and create jobs...

Bregman is the front-runner, but as an attorney he has defended prominent Dems charged with corruption and that's being used against them. Also, some central committee members want assurances that Bregman will not run for the Dem nod for Governor in 2014 before they give him their votes.

Other candidates in the race are Carlsbad attorney Roxanne Lara and ABQ's Cornelia Lange.

LOBO MANIA 

Last night at "The Pit"
There's not much good news to be found in the pages of the local fish wrapper or on the nightly news, but if you live in ABQ a respite is only a short drive away.

Last night we took that drive over to the fabled "Pit" where the UNM basketball Lobos were once again triumphant and had the 15,000 in the seats rockin' and rollin'. Just like the good old days.

Coach Steve Alford and his united team delivered what is becoming routine--a win. The Lobos bested Colorado state 66-61. They are now the #15 ranked college team in the USA and you have to wonder if this is the year history is made.

The Lobos have never made the "Sweet 16" of the national college basketball playoffs but the vibe is good. The Lobos are once again lighting up the night. And that's a good thing.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2013
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