Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dems Get Boost in ABQ Special Election; Results & Analysis, Plus: Senate Leader Sanchez And The Hail Mary; Could He Throw One? And: The Spaceport; Susana Owns It Now As Liability Bill Passes 

It could be a bit tougher for ABQ Republican candidates to get elected in the future, but passage of a City Charter amendment last night might not have much impact on the 2013 mayor's race.

The proposal won widespread support, passing in eight of nine council districts, including several that lean Republican.

The tally--with a few ballots still left to be counted-was 32,055 for and 25,884 against. That was a win of 55% to 45%. Support was strongest in the heavy D southwest part of the city, garnering 71%. In District 8 in the NE Heights--the most GOP voting district--the amendment was defeated 56-44.

(Unofficial results here.)

The amendment means a council or mayoral candidate must get 50% of the vote to win election--instead of 40%. That increases the chances for run-off elections in multi-candidate contests, but not necessarily this time. We already appear to have a nearly one-on-one match between Dem Pete Dinelli and Republican Mayor RJ Berry.

In 2009 we had two Dem candidates and Berry running. Berry won with 44% of the vote. If the amendment had been in effect then he would have faced a run-off election with Mayor Chavez and he might have lost because ABQ Dems far outnumber R's.

Will the requirement that Berry get 50% of the vote in October encourage some new candidates to get in?

Candidates only have until the end of this month to qualify for $362,000 in public financing. Dinelli is working toward that. Any candidate who got in now would have to privately finance--as Mayor Berry has decided to do. Raising hundreds of thousands of dollars unless you are a very well-known name is a steep uphill climb. Let's see if anyone emerges in the days ahead.

Dinelli was heartened by passage of the amendment. Even though it favored Dems, it did win in GOP-leaning council Districts 4 and 7--perhaps showing ABQ voters are willing to set partisanship aside. But it was put on the ballot by petition signatures gathered mainly by city labor unions who are staunchly anti-Berry.

With the sluggish economy and a very troubled APD, look for some spirited ABQ election action--no matter what the early polls say.


About 55,000 of the city's voters cast ballots in the special mail-in election, demonstrating that this type of election does favor Dems who benefit when turnout jumps. A non-mail in election probably would have attracted fewer than 10% of registered voters.

There likely won't be any legal action over City Clerk Amy Bailey's decision not to count over 5,000 votes from people who failed to sign the outer envelope of the ballot. Those votes would not make a difference in the result, although it does raise the question of the city ordinance that disallows those votes. We can do better. We think the city clerk would agree.

We also think she might agree that hours of posting no election results does not engender confidence in the vote-counting process. She posted the results from city council districts one through six at around 7:45 p.m. and then nothing was posted for over three hours and with no public explanation.

Sen. Sanchez
Sen. Smith
Could Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez rescue what has been a pretty dismal legislative session for himself? He might.

What if in a "Hail Mary" move he forced a vote on that constitutional amendment that would let voters decide if they want to spend Permanent Fund money on very early childhood programs?

Sanchez does not like to cross Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith who has voiced opposition to the amendment, saying it would mean the state's nearly $12 billion permanent fund would grow more slowly. Smith is the central obstacle to getting a vote in the full Senate--a vote that could see the amendment prevail.

Sunday's House passage of the amendment--which does not need the Guv's signature and if approved by the Legislature would go before voters in 2014--was one of the few legislative moments of import in which House Dems have been able to unite. It won on a 37-32 vote and was sponsored by ABQ Dem State Rep. and majority whip Moe Maestas.

But Senator Smith is--as the Alligators put it--a "Martinez Democrat." He, along with a handful of other Martinez Dems, join with the 17 R's in the 42 member Senate to squash any matters they see as violating their brand of fiscal conservatism.

Leader Sanchez had a chance to turn the tide in the aftermath of the November election by backing Senator Pete Campos for a leadership position that could have reduced Smith's power, but he didn't and the Senate's conservative coalition was again off and running with Smith leading the pack.

The paltry results of this session for the state's Democratic base voters has given rise to worry about motivating those voters in the '14 election cycle. The amendment could do it--especially among young women voters who are overwhelmingly Dem--if they vote.

If Leader Sanchez made an unexpected play against the coalition it would rock the state--and set up a philosophical duel with Republican Governor Martinez as she seeks re-election in 2014. All of a sudden you would have a legislative session that went from the routine to somewhat extraordinary.

After he scored an impressive win over Governor Martinez's forces in the November election, Sanchez had the political world on a string. But he didn't pull on it. He has a final chance this week.


It's not only Democrats who bang the drum over getting more active on the early childhood front in an effort to reverse generations of education under performance. Prominent Republican and retired PNM Chairman Jerry Geist is backing the constitutional amendment: He says the state “is winning the race to the bottom” in early childhood programs and education.


Senator Smith--aka "Dr. No"--is under increasing scrutiny because of the Senate power he wields. One of the Alligators comes with this;

I found it interesting that there is an article in the Deming Headlight announcing that the state's Children Youth and Families Department is awarding $450,000 to Healthy Start in Senator Smith's district. This will replace federal funding that is no longer available. 

One could at least call it "interesting" if not "suspect" that while Senator Smith's district is awarded this substantial amount from CYFD, he continues to block a vote on the constitutional amendment which would ultimately provide the same opportunity for other areas of the state to be funded for Home Visiting, Pre-K, and other  effective, evidence based programs  for early childhood. It seems what is good for the goose is not good for the gander in Senator Smith's tired, antiquated, worn-out approach to how NM best invest its money...

Smith's approach may or may not be antiquated, but take a look at this note from a state Senator on how they believe Smith has accumulated so much power:

Publicly Senators complain about John Arthur, but in private and in caucus realize he alone really knows the budget, tax policy and economic issues, and they uniformly defer to him. Unfortunately nobody else in the Dem caucus knows these issues well.

"He alone" really knows the budget? What are the other 41 Senators? Mannequins? The last we looked there were a number of competing economic viewpoints out there. Maybe NMSU can send up some economists to the Senate and give them a briefing?


She was brought kicking and dragging to the table but now Governor Martinez--after over two years in office--finally has ownership of the NM Spaceport. The passage of a needed liability bill Monday and her expected signature on it gets the project back on an even keel. But it also means Martinez's administration will be held accountable if the Spaceport implodes or if they starve it of needed cash as the project near T or C gets its finishing touches. Also, there's the issue of competing spaceports. It will be up to the administration to make sure we are not one-upped.

Martinez was hostile to the Spaceport at the start of her administration because it was so closely aligned with Governor Richardson. We could have had a liability bill already if that had not been the case. But
her political base in southern New Mexico wants this badly. In the end, there was no way she could turn away from it, no matter how repulsed she is by Big Bill.

Congratulations, Susana, you are the proud owner of a new Spaceport. Now held get that rocket lit and those tourists in orbit.


If the city of Santa Fe is to recapture some of the tourism spirit of its glory days, it's going to have to do stuff like this:

Mayor Coss Meets with the Chinese Consulate Tuesday to Discuss Trade and Tourism; Who: Mayor David Coss; Sun Weide, Deputy Consul General, the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China; Chen Minhui, Vice Consul Political Section, the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China; Li Weizheng, Commercial Section, the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China..

We remember a couple of years ago Santa Fe businessman Jerry Peters talked of getting more Chinese tourism into Santa Fe. They probably think we're as exotic as we think they are.

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