Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Another High-Dollar Holiday Fund-Raiser Is Reminder Of Battle To Come For State House, And: Dems "Bipartisan" Strategy With Susana Questioned, Plus: You And The Economy; Readers Weigh In  

Another high-dollar GOP holiday fund-raiser is just around the corner and this one is of special interest to those gaming the odds of the R's staging a historic takeover of the state House in 2014.

Governor Susana will headline the event (surprise!) that asks donors to play Santa for House Minority Whip Nate Gentry. They're asking $3,000 for a table for eight and one seat at the Guv's table--or $500 for a single ticket.

Gentry's ABQ NE Heights district has changed a bit. In 2012 he received a credible Dem challenge, but that was a presidential election year. The lower turnout year of '14 doesn't present much jeopardy to Gentry, an ABQ attorney.

You might be right to assume that some of the cash raised at the Dec. 16 Rio Chama restaurant fund-raiser may find its way into the coffers of other GOP legislative candidates. That's because Gentry is heading up the campaign effort by the House R's next year.

But what will be raised at Rio Chama will only be a drop in the bucket. Already expert insiders are saying we could see $2 to $3 million spent by the GOP--from all sources--in the effort to win the House.

It will take more than money for the R's to make history--or even to pick up enough seats to form a coalition with conservative Dems and seize power. They will need a popular Governor Martinez at the top of the ticket. That was a no-brainer a month ago, but the environment now seems more uncertain.


Among the big political stories to watch as we inch closer to the election year: Can Governor Martinez maintain her polling strength in the face of more intense opposition and can the R's put together a roster of candidates who can genuinely position them for a run at the state House?


The corridor chatter continues over the strategy of top NM Dems to play "bipartisan" ball with Governor Susana when it comes to the dreary state economy. Last session Legislative Dems did a bipartisan corporate tax cut that has many party loyalists up in arms. Now they've come with a "bipartisan" jobs council. Why, ask critics of that strategy, are the Dems not decrying the Martinez administration's economic record and setting the table for a run against it and her next year? A sample of the chatter from one of our Senior Alligators:

Joe, that "bipartisan" corporate tax cut and "bipartisan" jobs council could bite the Democrats on the ass next year. They are giving Susana cover for a lousy economy when they ought to be giving her full ownership of it. The R's are taking the economy away as an issue. That means we could get an election for Governor and the House that focuses on wedge issues like driver's license for undocumented workers and under performing schools. That puts the Dems on the defense, not the offense where they need to be to increase turnout among their base voters.

Dem House Speaker Kenny Martinez seems convinced that the bipartisan path is the way to go because the Governor is popular. Martinez, his pollsters and consultants can't seem to make the distinction between avoiding attacks on her likable public persona yet holding her to account for the worst economy in generations.

If the Speaker is having any second thoughts, he can make a mid-course correction when the Legislature convenes next month for it's final session before the November election.


NM Dem Party Chairman Sam Bregman hasn't had much to say about that widely read National Journal article on Guv political adviser Jay McCleskey  which included information on Governor Martinez's campaign finances. But Tuesday he opened up and requested an IRS probe of the dark money group New Mexico Competes which is run by close political associates of Martinez and McCleskey, including a former Martinez deputy cabinet secretary:

I request that the IRS investigate whether New Mexico Competes, Inc., a non-profit corporation formed in Washington, DC and registered in New Mexico. . .which operates as a 501 (c)(4) is illegally coordinating with and attempting to conceal campaign contributions on behalf of Governor Susana Martinez with the intent of violating New Mexico law limiting campaign contributions to candidates.

According to an article appearing in the National Journal on November 21, Andrea Goff, the former finance director of Martinez's campaign and of Susana PAC, said that Governor Martinez, "specifically told her that (Guv political adviser Jay) McCleskey was launching" New Mexico Competes, Inc.

McCleskey runs both Governor Martinez's re-election campaign and her political action committee. Any involvement. . . would violate rules prohibiting coordination. In addition, New Mexico Competes, Inc. has refused to disclose its donors, the amounts they have donated, and whether those individuals or businesses have also donated to Susana Martinez's re-election committee, which under New Mexico law may only receive a maximum of $5,200 from an individual, business, or political action committee each for the primary and general election cycle.

 . . . Any coordination between them that involved expenditures on her behalf would be required to be treated as contributions and likely in excess of the caps set by New Mexico law. In addition, contributions from individuals, businesses, and political committees in excess of New Mexico law that were donated through New Mexico Competes, Inc. may have violated both federal and state law.

I ask that you undertake an extensive investigation of these activities as quickly and expeditiously as possible.

McCleskey has said there is no coordination between the Guv's campaign and NM Competes.

There are also a number of dark money progressive groups operating in the state, but they have not been accused of illegally coordinating with a candidate's committee.


Reader reaction now to our ongoing coverage of the NM economy. Reader Susan Johnson writes:

I am so grateful to you for hammering on this downward spiral that is Albuquerque's economy these days. I have written letters to the editor and had many conversations with people about this over the last year. Our political leaders are deniers of the worst sort: they can clearly see the problem (anyone who lives here can) but it serves them personally not to acknowledge it and therefore not to deal with it. Thank you for using your bully pulpit to generate awareness and concern. If the leaders are going to play their fiddles, the citizenry will have to address the fire.

Conservative Jim McClure worries that New Mexicans aren't committed to education reform as stated by the Martinez administration:

Joe, your assessment of New Mexico’s drain-circling economy is right on target. As a relative newcomer to New Mexico, I am puzzled by the passion with which our citizens defend an unsatisfactory status quo. Even my home state of Illinois--hardly a paragon of political and fiscal responsibility--had the political will to begin reforming Chicago’s failing schools. Yet New Mexicans appear likely to elect a new governor based on widespread opposition to education reform.

Don't know if they are going to elect a Dem Governor because of the proposed education reforms, Jim, but it has stirred up a hornet's nest.

Reader Paul Donisthorpe writes:

Joe, you wrote that, "If a way to reverse the trend is not found, the state will be a no-growth zone for years to come (or even decline in population), looking more like an Iowa or South Dakota--not a promising and prosperous Sunbelt state where young people can carve out a future."

Well, five  minutes of research would lead me to counsel young people to choose either of those states over New Mexico to carve out a future, weather notwithstanding...but that's just grumpy old me on a Monday morning. Maybe things will be better after a chicharrone burrito at Barelas Coffee House for lunch.

Thanks, Paul. Things always look better after a properly prescribed dose of chicharrones.

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