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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"Mayor Likable": Berry's Pleasing Personality Key To His Early Re-elect; But What About The Issues? Also: Dem Legislative Leaders Set To Do Some Damage Control, And: Blog Readers Join Heated Gun Debate 

Mayor Likable? (with dog Skip)
While we wait for the field of mayoral candidates to fill out--or not--Richard Berry, ABQ's first GOP Mayor since the 80's, continues to make the rounds and seems to be well-positioned before he starts absorbing  campaign punches.

On Monday we chatted up several attendees among the many hundreds at the Martin Luther King Day breakfast as Berry sat on the dais listening to the speakers and a chorus that entertained the gathering.

Also at the head table was State Treasurer Jim Lewis, the state's highest-ranking African-American elected official who recently nixed a run for Mayor.

"I like him. He shows up and he stays," said one of those taking in the event.

But what about the numerous fatal police shootings, the management of the police department and the investigation of APD by the Department of Justice? The response: "Didn't those start happening under the previous mayor?" (No, the outbreak of fatal police shootings began under Berry's watch in early 2010.

Another African-American voter told me: "(Former Mayor) Marty Chavez was too pompous. Berry has done a good job."

But what about the worst job environment in recent city history? The response was a nod, but a repetition of how Berry's personality is so user-friendly.

If that's what hard-core Democratic voters are saying about Berry, whoever becomes his rival has their work cut out for them. There is still Chavez fatigue out there and Berry obviously remains highly likable--one of the most important qualities for a politician.

Berry's extended press honeymoon, a dormant City Council and a quiescent Democratic Party has left the public with little to grab onto. There are major issues--like the aforementioned unemployment and APD problems--but they don't seem to have yet fully penetrated public consciousness.

Former ABQ Public Safety Officer Pete Dinelli is the only announced challenger to Berry who is expected to announce his re-election plans soon. No other candidates have yet announced a bid against Berry. And our interviews at the MLK breakfast explain why. Taking out Berry is possible, but it's going to take a lot of voter education. That means money,

Candidates who qualify for public financing will receive less than $400,000. That's not much money for TV ads to change the positive opinions that voters have of the incumbent as we begin the countdown to October.

DAYS OF DINELLI

While Berry has the luxury of waiting to make his official announcement, Dinelli is busy organizing his effort. It's not easy collecting 3,500 petition signatures as well as the same number of individual $5 donations to qualify for the October ballot, so Dinelli has brought on board his first staffers as the mid-February kick-off for petition gathering nears.

Idalia M. Lechuga-Tena, who has consulted for a number of political campaigns, has signed up with Dinelli. Idalia is fluent in Spanish, French, Italian and English. That comes in handy in a campaign because you can swear about what's happening in four different languages.

Dinelli's personal accountant, CPA Keith D. Balkcom, is the campaign treasurer. He is the president of Balkcom, Pearsall &Parrish CPA's and a past president of the New Mexico Society of CPAs. Most important, Keith is a Republican and that's a language neither lifelong Democrat Dinelli or Idalia are very fluent in.

WALLY'S WORRY

It is something to behold--this seeming dichotomy over ABQ. If you are Mayor Berry or a Berry fan you see the scene as perhaps troubled. On the other side, are those who see this place as in dire shape. Among them is veteran journalist Wally Gordon of the weekly East Mountain newspaper The Independent.

 Something has gone wrong with Albuquerque. It is headed for its own cliff. The pessimism about Albuquerque is not based solely on its failure, unlike most other cities, to start recovering from the Great Recession. It is more importantly linked to a future in which nuclear weapons are phased out, federal transfer payments decline, government budgets shrink, construction fails to recover to levels previously taken for granted, skilled young men and women desert the state for jobs elsewhere, and immigration, from both Latin America and other states, continues to lag behind emigration out of the state while the fertility rate slides inexorably below the replacement level. 

Former Dem Lt. Governor Diane Denish, who continues to weigh a mayoral bid, told me recently that the problems in the state and city are so towering that she understands why many people are leaving. She says that for many it has become a 51% to 49% proposition and it can tip either way.

DAMAGE CONTROL?

With the Legislature in session a change in Santa Fe's nickname from "City Different" to "City Same" is entirely justifiable. Maybe the frustration over that has led to this event that will come down tonight and feature the Legislature's Dem leadership:

The Democratic Party of New Mexico is proud to sponsor a tele-town hall meeting with Speaker of the House Ken Martinez and Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. Our legislative leaders will be taking the time to review their agenda for the 2013 session as well as answering some of your questions. State Party Chair Javier Gonzalez will be moderating the call. This one-hour call will be on Tuesday, January 22nd at 6:00 p.m...You can call into the town hall by dialing the following number: 1-(800) 756-6201..

There was bitterness (and downright disgust) when the state Senate leadership battle ended without any real change in direction by the state's majority party. The conservative coalition still dominates.

In the House, Speaker Martinez is not well-known yet. Dems are watching him closely to see if he will provide a contrasting agenda to the Republican Governor and stick with it. Tonight Martinez can do some damage control.

Maybe he will. Here's a quote from him from a recent profile:

We shouldn’t even refer to the executive in debates. You should only be arguing how it will affect the people of New Mexico. Before we talk about what the governor wants, we should talk about what my House members think.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, it is your House now.

THE SPEAKER'S WATCHDOGS

We mentioned recently that if Kenny starts to lose his nerve over challenging the Fourth Floor, he has a team of watchdogs around him like Rep.s Chasey, Stewart, Miera and Maestas who are anything but gun-shy. They are either chairing key committees or in the leadership. We didn't mention the new chairman of the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee, but this Alligator says Rep. Eliseo Alcon of Milan has already shown his mettle in the duel with Susana:

After a brutal primary battle, Alcon defeated his opponent by over 10 percent. Alcon was the only incumbent House member to withstand calculated attacks by Susana's political consultant Jay McCleskey and the Reform New Mexico PAC he operated.  The Governor’s Chief of Staff, Keith Gardner, gave Alcon a verbal lashing in the final days of the 2012 legislative session. Alcon’s victory was used as a model by the Democrats for maintaining control of the House in the general election.

Guess someone should send Eliseo some boxing gloves. His corner sounds ring-ready.

NOT JUNK

Las Cruces reader Greg Lennes let loose on assault weapons in the wake of an ABQ South Valley murder spree that left five members of one family dead in their home. A 15 year old member of the family allegedly used two guns--one of them a military style assault weapon (AR-15)--to commit the dastardly deed. Did Lennes get carried away when he referenced "Second Amendment junk?" Reader Herb Romero thinks so:

Joe, I have to take issue with the choice of words used by Mr. Lennes. I think we should know better than to refer to one of the Bill of Rights as junk.  Even  countries like Iran and North Korea don't dare print such inflammable, anti-American words....

Appreciate that, Herb, but with people being murdered regularly by assault weapons, the "inflammable" words are going to pour forth from the hot cauldron that is America's gun control debate.

Meanwhile, at that barrel of laughs in Santa Fe we get this knee slapper. Not:

A Republican legislator is proposing to allow people licensed to have a concealed handgun to take their weapons into a bar. Rep. Zach Cook, a Ruidoso lawyer, introduced the measure last week in the House....

Great timing, Zach. Now Give that man a shot of Jack Daniels and one of those assault weapons over there near the jar of pickles.

COMEDY TONIGHT


Well, the comedy is actually Thursday night, informs a blog reader helping to put together a political night out;

Joe, would you help spread the word about this show Working Classroom is putting on Thursday night in Santa Fe?  It is a great spoof of the legislature and Governor and is for a good cause. I just joined their board and helped put the show together.

Click on the image posted here for show details.

By the way, by order of the Governor, everyone attending Thursday's show must present a valid New Mexico's driver's license. In lieu of the license, a certified letter proving that you have passed the third grade is also acceptable. Enjoy...

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2013
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