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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Losing The Audience? Yet Another Spaceport Launch Date , Plus: Wild West Campaign Money In NM; Anyone Watching? And: Even More Thursday La Politica 

Virgin Galactic moves its target launch date from New Mexico's Spaceport more often than a chameleon changes colors.

Virgin, led by quixotic billionaire Sir Richard Branson who earlier promised a Christmas Day launch into suborbital space, now says--or at least the Spaceport folks say--the ship carrying wealthy passengers will not take off at least until August of 2014. Really?

The Spaceport, one of the most promising ventures for the state in years, is starting to lose its audience. Rumors swirl over the technical readiness of the project while the Spaceport bleeds cash because of the long delay. New Mexicans have been patient, but they are no longer anticipating anything soon.

(Virgin Galactic Chief Executive George Whitesides said the company has not publicly disclosed its timeline for commercial launches of passenger flights.)

Then-Governor Richardson and Branson announced the Spaceport collaboration in December of 2005.  Since then, Virgin has repeatedly given launch dates that have gone bust, setting a grand example in how not to execute public relations.

Well, maybe all ends well and the rocket lifts off in August 2014, flapping a big banner on its tail that says "Re-elect Governor Martinez!"

WHERE WERE THEY?

Democratic US Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich are all in for the candidacy of ABQ Dem City Council candidate Diane Gibson. They issued a joint endorsement of her. 

That raises the question of where they were when Dem Pete Dinelli was doing battle with GOP Mayor Richard Berry October 8. Dinelli got crushed in that race with Berry garnering 68% of the vote. If anyone needed the congressional help, he did. But maybe they saw what was about to happen. And maybe Dinelli's past relationships with the Senators was--how do we say it?--complicated?

As for Gibson, she faces Republican Janice Arnold-Jones in a November 19 run-off for the District 7 council seat. Although the district is Democratic, Arnold-Jones gathered 49% of the vote in the initial balloting and remains the favorite to retain the seat for the R's.

ON THE TRAIL

One of our campaign watchers in  District 7 comes with this on the Arnold Jones campaign:

Mayor Berry's field coordinator Tito Madrid was announced as the campaign Manager. You mentioned him being on the team but not as manager. Geoffrey Snider is the Volunteer Coordinator. Max Barnett is also on the campaign apparently working on data/targeting. 

Gibson is publicly financed and getting only $15,000 for the run-off. She has to depend on third party groups like labor unions to get her message out. Arnold Jones reports raising $37,000 so far.  Traci Cadigan is consulting Gibson.

THE MONEY BEAT

The exclusive we had this week (and that was picked up by the ABQ Journal) regarding the new wave of campaign money in the state was disturbing for a number of reasons.

First is the prospect of possible unlawful coordination between NM Competes "a nonpartisan 501C4 organization" and the Governor's re-election campaign. Are we going to have any supervision in this new era of "Dark Money" campaigns. Or not?

Surely, the US Attorney and/or the Attorney General and the secretary of state need to have watchdogs assigned to monitor these new political money machines and send a message that defiance of federal prohibitions will not be tolerated.

Why the newspaper failed to mention the Governor's chief political strategist--Jay McCleskey--in their article is confounding. If there were to be any prohibited coordination of campaign activity between NM Competes and the Governor's re-election campaign it would be through him. He produces all her media. That's why the very close political connections between NM Competes and McCleskey are so relevant, but not apparently to the paper.

If NM Competes were found to be playing ball with the Guv's campaign, it would have to report how much they are raking in and also comply with NM campaign contributions limits. 

And then there was the troubling mail attack by NM Competes on the unelected superintendent of the ABQ Public Schools. When elected officials take fire it's taken in stride. They signed up for it. But Brooks--like him or not--is the leader of our education community. He is not immune to criticism--we've dished plenty his way--but to have paid political advertising financed by anonymous donors attacking and demonizing him is destructive in a number of ways.

Perhaps chief among them is economic development. Already, out of state businesses shy away from us because of our well-known struggles with education. That the superintendent of the state's largest system is undergoing a public thrashing and vilification collapses confidence in our city as a place to live and do business.

A Governor--no matter how political--has an obligation to foster an atmosphere of respect. Disagreements with non elected community leaders can be loud and sometimes played out in public, but the brutal political tactics ought to be reserved for those who sign up for elected political duty.

AUSTERITY CROWD

The last we checked Santa Fe had hundreds of millions in budget reserves. Yet the Santa Fe austerity hawks want to take out the knife and cut health and early childhood education by $20 million? The news:

Gov. Martinez's administration plans to cut spending on several health and education programs because New Mexico faces the loss of up to $25 million from a nationwide settlement with tobacco companies. The state expected to collect about $39 million in tobacco payments in the current budget year. However, the attorney general's office said that amount will be lowered because of an arbitration ruling against New Mexico and five others states in September. The state is using nearly $20 million in tobacco revenue this year for early childhood services and to shore up a lottery-financed college scholarship program that is running out of money...

Can't the Governor and finance director Tom Clifford hold their horses and wait until the Legislature convenes in January before cutting funding for New Mexico kids whose well-being ranks 50th in the USA,  according to the latest report?

New Mexico's economy remains capital starved. That's why the recession continues to drag on and on here. Cutting that $20 million for kids and college students is lousy economics as well as callous social policy. The Legislature needs to reverse it.

COUPLE OF CORRECTIONS

In first blogging of NM Competes we called it a PAC. It is a nonprofit 501C4. Different reporting rules apply to each...And we blogged Wednesday that there were about 900 lobbyists registered at the 2013 legislative session. The number is actually closer to 700.

CHAVEZ AND THE DEMS

We ran a compelling portrait of NM US Senator Dennis Chavez on last Friday's blog and it drew this reaction from Taos attorney Helen Laura Lopez:

Thanks for posting that great portrait of Senator Chavez. Senator Chavez is largely responsible for Hispanic northern NM being the stronghold of  Democrats. Traditionally northern NM was Republican, until Senator Chavez came on the scene.

The late Sally Howell, the doyenne of Taos Democrats, told me a story. She was a Texas school teacher--a Democrat new to Taos. Sen Chavez invited her to go to the villages with him. She said they went to the Penasco theater, which is still standing, for a Democratic rally. She said she was the only gringa in the place. He gave his speech in Spanish, of course, and excited the norteƱos who were all Republicans. Whereupon they changed their registration. He did this throughout the north.

Chavez served in the US House rom 1931 to 1935, and in the US Senate from 1935 to 1962. New Mexico went Democratic in the FDR landslide of 1932.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2013. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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