Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Shopping A "Softer Susana": As Election Nears Guv's Image Makers Make A Turn, Plus: The Intel On Intel And More From The Econ Beat 

First we had the weeper in the ABQ Journal over Susana losing her pets. Now we get another tear-jerker from the national celebrity weekly "People" in which the Guv's care of her developmentally disabled sister is showcased.

Not to make light of the personal problems of anyone, but when politicians let them be thrust into the media spotlight, you can safely bet the ranch that much of this is driven by whatever the latest polling is showing. In the case of Martinez she is ramping up her re-election run for 2014.

Until now, the predominant image her spinners were pushing was Susana as "tough prosecutor," obsessed with repealing  drivers license for undocumented workers. Now they're rolling out "Soft Susana."

The state remains mired in an economic and social conditions malaise that leaves Martinez and the R's vulnerable. The economy was similar for Obama when he ran in 2012, but many experts said his "likability" played a major role in overcoming that obstacle. It is a factor not to be underestimated.

Another major driver for these Guv puff pieces could be what's coming down the road. Three of her former campaign staffers are on the warpath--one of them indicted. Information is going to come out that could challenge the electorate's perception about this Governor. Then there is the FBI investigation of the ABQ Downs racino lease controversy hanging out there. That has been stinking up the room for months.

Then there's the nasty fight over providing behavioral health funding in the state. That has stiffened some Dem spines against Susana and raised the question of how tender she is toward the larger population of disadvantaged New Mexicans, not including her sister.

Yep, it's time for Susana with the soft touch.


Just what are the political connections--if any--of the group of Arizona behavioral health providers the Martinez administration has brought in? They are coming here because Medicaid payments have been suspended to 15 NM health care providers who stand charged with fraud.

Who sits on the boards of directors of these Arizona firms who have been given state contracts worth over $17 million?  What is their history of campaign contributions? Their political involvement? Do they have any relationships with lobbyists in the state? Political consultants? National GOP or related groups? And what are the Arizona-NM political connections? Any? Just askin'.


Here's the line up for the annual policy confab sponsored by former NM GOP US Senator Pete Domenici:

...Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and retired U.S. Sen. Bill Frist are scheduled to speak at the 2013 Domenici Conference at New Mexico State University in September. The conference...will focus this year on the future of American energy, U.S. foreign policy in China and the Middle East, and healthcare reform. Set for Sept. 18 and 19 at the Las Cruces Convention Center, the Domenici Conference is now in its sixth year.


Don't look for any big increase in employment at Intel's Rio Rancho plant in the years ahead. That's the takeaway from the company's latest statements.
We've noted that Intel employment peaked at around 5,500 back in 2006 and today the firm says it stands at around 3,300. (Those numbers don't include contractors).

Intel upgraded its computer chip plant in 2009, spending $2.5 billion and giving the area economy a pop as over 1,000 temporary workers were hired. Now everyone is asking when the next upgrade will come. The answer from Intel when asked if we will get one is "maybe." That's not much to hang your hat on.

Even if Intel were to go for another Rio Rancho upgrade, don't look for the company's employment  to grow. Technology has cut the number of hires needed. In other words, when it comes to Intel what you see is what you get--for the foreseeable future.


The big picture to all of this? Glad you asked. Budgets for Kirtland Air Force Base, Sandia National Labs, Intel and the city of ABQ have been flat to down during these Bear Market years. The budget forecasts for all those big employers in the ABQ metro is essentially more of the same. Meanwhile...

The Guv reported Monday that there has been a slight bump in tourist visits to the state--2.6% more in 2012 over 2011. The report the Guv quoted says spending is also up from out of state visitors. That is helping the low-paying sector of the economy and some business owners. That's welcome. But the well-paying sector of the economy--the one represented by Intel--is another story...


Maybe the numbers are a little fluky, but they're now saying the median price of a home in Rio Rancho  recently sank to $150,000. The "City of Vision" has a very blurry growth outlook compared to the housing bubble days (see Intel story above). Still, you get a lot of house for $150,000 in Rio Rancho, making you wonder if we have finally reached the bottom in prices there.


As we blogged Monday, Dem Pete Dinelli says GOP Mayor Berry has yet to confirm he will debate at an Aug. 20 Tea party forum, but Berry has confirmed he will show for an Aug. 26 discussion before a real estate group. All three mayoral candidates, including Republican Paul Heh, are slated to appear on the panel.

As we close out July, there has yet to be a joint appearance with all three candidates where they had the opportunity to question one another.

Early voting in the mayoral race starts September 3 and Election Day is Oct. 8.


In a first draft Monday, we said former Governor Bill Richardson had recently given $500 to the NM Dem Party. Wrong. A person named Bill Richardson did indeed give that sum to the Dems, but he is a dealer in Indian arts and crafts in Gallup--not Big Bill.

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