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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dems Cast Wary Eye On State Treasurer Race; R's Await Opportunity, Plus: It's Janice; Ex-State Rep. To Council 

Pat Padilla
The statewide races in New Mexico are usually a no-brainer for the Dems. It is rare when they don't carry them all, but there are notable exceptions and some Dems are starting to fear another is shaping up for 2014..

They point to the state treasurer candidacy of former Bernalillo County Treasurer Patrick Padilla who held the office from 2005 through 2012. He served eight years with little notice, but lurking in his background is a corruption indictment from the early 90's when he was serving his first stint as county treasurer. There's also a 2006 DWI bust he would have to contend with. Another potentail problem is a 2012 reprimand of Padilla for imitating a Native American accent with one of his workers and allegedly calling others "stupid."

A jury found Padilla not guilty on the corruption charges.

Maybe that jury verdict is good enough, but in 2010, the Dems lost the secretary of state's office for the first time since the 30's when Mary Herrera was surrounded by an ethical cloud. Could a Padilla nomination endanger the Dems hold on the treasurer's office which they have held without interruption since the 1960's?

It does appear Padilla is in the race. An ABQ fund-raiser for him has been set for April 21 at the Wool Warehouse. Supporters say he will formally announce his candidacy then,.

Despite his background issues Padilla could be a strong contender. He managed to bypass his past problems when he was elected and re-elected county treasurer in 2004 and 2008. If he is the lone Hispanic candidate in the Dem contest he could very well walk away with the nod.

But Dems who are wary of Padilla and who believe he could hand a major opportunity to the R's could turn to Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima. He has told us he is eying a run. And ABQ Dem State Sen. Tim Keller tells us he is also looking at the treasurer's contest (No, Tim is not on the Alligator list for Governor this cycle). Another name floating is John Wertheim, former Dem Party chairman.

Current State Treasurer James Lewis has served the allowed two terms. He came into office on the heels of a major scandal that sent two state treasurers to prison--Michael Montoya and Robert Vigil. That history is also weighing on the Dems.

Adding to the intrigue is the possible Republican candidacy of ABQ's Demesia Padilla, secretary of the state taxation and revenue department who ran against and lost to Lewis in 2006.

THE BEAR MARKET

We're watching closely the price of oil because it has such a great impact on our state's fiscal fortunes. We're now getting about 25% of our general fund money from energy royalties from our energy fields.

Natural gas prices have been in a long-term bear market, hurting the state treasury and wreaking economic havoc in gas-dependent Farmington and the Four Corners. But the SE NM oil fields have been booming along with the oil price.

Now the recent crash in commodity prices--especially gold--has also taken a toll on the oil price as it breaks below $90 a barrel. That could be good news for gasoline prices, but New Mexico is counting on the oil price to stay in the mid to high 80's. A break below that level that lasted for a number of months could jeopardize the revenue projections on which the state bases its nearly $6 billion annual budget.

Some say the state has grown dangerously dependent on the energy complex. It used to be that about 15% of the state's general fund came from oil and gas. Now that number has soared to nearly 25%.

The state's stagnant economy has taken its toll on other economic activity causing tax collections based on jobs and consumer spending to crater.

Of course, what happens next in the oil market also has political implications as we enter the 2014 cycle. Like we said, we're watching it closely.

IT'S JANICE

Arnold-Jones (Bralley)
How about that? A mild surprise as ABQ Mayor Richard Berry appoints former State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones to fill a vacancy on the nine member city council. Janice will take the place of Michael Cook who resigned in the aftermath of his DWI arrest.

Janice will seek election to a four year term in this October's election. She can be expected to run strong in the Mid and NE Heights district. If she takes the seat it could help the GOP retain control of the council. It currently is divided 6 to 3 in their favor but Dems are making a push to take it back.

The GOP Mayor also considered former Councilor Sally Mayer for the appointment. She is closer to him politically (she worked for him at city hall) and used to represent the Cook district, but she was not seen as formidable a contender as Janice when it comes to holding the seat.

Janice, who served 8 years in the Legislature, some of them with Berry, has some appeal to independent and Dem voters. Maybe that was the deciding factor in her getting the nod.

Even though she is seen as more independent minded than Mayer, on key votes she will probably side with Berry who is also up for re-election this October.

Arnold-Jones has publicly split with Jay McCleskey, the controversial political guru for Mayor Berry and Guv Martinez. She ran for the 2010 Guv nod against Susana. Her appointment could help with the faction of the GOP who share her views while Jay and the gang (Hi, Darren) have to look the other way.

Is Janice's appointment an indication that Berry realizes his own re-elect in a heavy Dem city is going to be no walk in the park? We think so.

Other notes. Arnold-Jones, 61, is somewhat outspoken. Her presence on the panel could bring some life to what our Alligators have seen as a lifeless council. Also, if after the election the council moves to a 5 to 4 split in favor of the GOP, she could be the key swing vote. That may not settle well with the other R councilors but that's the reality.

SHE'LL MISS HIM

We blogged back in May 2010 that the $450,000 donation that then Guv candidate Susana Martinez received from Texas home builder Rob Perry and his wife appeared to be the biggest in state history.
It was important to her success in winning the Guv's chair, but Perry's days of making donation history arre over. He has died at the age of 80.

Perry's huge contributions (he also gave $250,000 to Republican John Sanchez when he ran for Governor in 2002) seemed outlandish at the time, but the public's eyes then and now have glazed over at the immense amount of money that flows into political campaigns. Since 2010, we've had the advent of super PAC's and even more enormous sums flooding into the campaigns.

Perry was a big player in his day, but with the legal lid essentially blown off of campaign contributions, he is already looking like small potatoes.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2013 
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