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Thursday, January 09, 2014

Christie Email Scandal Evokes Susana's Email Woes, Plus: More Reader Input On Omaree, And: NM Gay Marriage And The Legislature 

Christie and Martinez
Maybe New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ought to ask Governor Martinez how to handle an email scandal:

Newly released emails and text messages show that Gov. Chris Christie’s office was closely involved with lane closings on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge in September, and that officials closed the lanes as retribution against the Democratic mayor whose town was gridlocked as a result. 

The growing scandal around the bridge threatens Mr. Christie at the moment he assumes an even larger position on the national stage, as chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association and a leading candidate for his party’s presidential nomination in 2016.

Christie is saying he was misled by his staff and the traffic intervention was "unacceptable."

You'll recall that the discovery of a private email network of high officials conducting state business for the Martinez administration led to questions about possible bid rigging in the awarding of a 25 year lease for the Downs at ABQ racino. After the emails went public Martinez promised not to conduct state business via private email accounts (That racino lease is the subject of an FBI investigation).

But rather than further investigation of the shadow government operating on private email the press and public's attention was diverted when Martinez's former campaign manager was indicted for hacking her campaign email system. It was how the emails were released--not the explosive content they contained-- that became the primary focus.

As for that talk about Christie becoming the '16 GOP presidential nominee and picking Martinez as his running mate, count us among the skeptics. Two "moderate" Republicans would constitute the GOP ticket in a party populated by hard-core conservatives?

In any event, Christie now has his hands full and Martinez--while enjoying favorable poling numbers--has enough baggage to warrant her not taking for granted her re-election. Seems '16 is very far away for both of these Governors.

AG ACTION

Baiamonte
We've talked about getting an exciting attorney general race this year with Republicans Matt Chandler and Amy Orlando as possible top-tier candidates to take on Hector Balderas, the unopposed Dem attorney general contender. But filing day is Feb. 4 and we haven't heard from Chandler or Orlando. We have, however, heard from ABQ GOP attorney Jim Baiamonte. He says he will seek the GOP AG nod. He says:

Our state has suffered greatly under too many Attorney Generals who have developed a ‘do-nothing’ approach, and we are in great need of genuine leadership and a commitment to doing the job correctly. 

Baiamonte, an ABQ native, received his bachelor's degree from UNM and holds a law degree from the University of Wyoming. He served in the U.S. Army for 8 years. He practices criminal and family law.

Baiamonte's father is retired ABQ Judge Phil Baiamonte who in '81 handled the infamous Lobogate case. Some of you will recall that UNM Lobo basketball coach Norm Ellenberger was convicted on 21 counts of fraud. But Judge Baiamonte said Ellenberger was a “victim of high-pressure college athletics" and gave Ellenberger a year of unsupervised probation. In 1983, those convictions were wiped from Ellenberger’s record.

Jim Baiamonte may be a solid candidate, but Balderas will be getting a break if Orlando or Chandler take a pass. They could be expected to attract the money needed to make the contest competitive.

BEFORE OMAREE

Leland Valdez
The tragic abuse death of Omaree Varela continues to draw intense attention and investigation from our readers. One of them writes:

Joe, the Omaree tragedy was not supposed to happen again after the Leland Valdez tragedy in 2011--the 3 year old Pojoaque boy who like Omaree died of abuse. In the Leland case Leland was returned to his mother despite allegations of abuse. Leland ended up dying of abuse while in the care of his mother and her boyfriend. Government officials looked into the child protective issues, which were probably the impetus for the June 2011 Legislative Finance Committee inquiries referenced in your blog.

Governor Martinez was quick to blame the prior administration, and she promised to change things up at CYFD to prevent this from happening to our children again. So what happened and why is CYFD not responsible this time? How do we keep this from happening again?

Martinez says she will seek an additional $600,000 from the Legislature to hire more social workers for CYFD.

SUSANA BACKS OFF

Martinez appears to be backing off from her earlier declaration that CYFD is blame-free in the death of Omaree. The news:

Gov. Martinez has ordered an investigation into what happened to 9-year-old Omaree Varela. The Children, Youth and Families Department is in the middle of an internal review. “When any child dies, you know, we have all failed that child,” said Jared Rounsville, the Child Protective Services director. “We have all failed that child.” Under the governor’s orders, CYFD is now in the midst of a full-scale investigation into Varela’s life and death.

Last week the Governor told TV news:

In the wake of the boy’s death, Martinez is pushing for new laws, and said she doesn’t feel any blame should fall on CYFD and that the investigation in 2012 was not botched.

There has been much political heat generated by this horrific killing--as there should be.

BEHIND THE NEWS

This newspaper article looked innocuous enough, but reader Greg Lennes points out that isn't the case. First, the article:

A national tax-policy think tank is recognizing Gov. Martinez for outstanding achievement in state tax reform for her part in getting a tax package through the state Legislature in 2013. Martinez was one of six people around the country, including five Republican elected officials and a community activist, honored by the Tax Foundation for "extraordinary efforts to advance the cause of simpler, smarter tax policy." The Tax Foundation is a Washington-based nonprofit group that describes itself as nonpartisan.

And reader Lennes with the follow-up:

The Tax Foundation is a right-wing think tank. It has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Koch Brothers. The Koch Brothers recently gave $325,000 to the Tax Foundation. This group is hardly non-partisan. 

Thanks, Greg. Speaking of the Koch bothers, another reader sends along this piece from the WaPo that discusses how the billionaire conservative raised an astounding $400 million for the 2012 election cycle:

The political network spearheaded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch has expanded into a far-reaching operation of unrivaled complexity, built around a maze of groups that cloaks its donors, according to an analysis of new tax returns and other documents.

WEH VS. CLEMENTS

The campaign of David Clements reacts to the news we broke here yesterday that former NM GOP Chairman Allen Weh will join Clements in the chase for the GOP US Senate nomination:

Weh has tried to buy the Republican Primary before, and failed miserably. He spent millions of his own money in the 2010 primary against Susana Martinez, but Republican voters saw through his ruse. Weh lost to Martinez by more than 23-points. Proof that Weh’s money can’t buy support among Republican voters.

Weh did not make a formal announcement Tuesday as we indicated in our first blog draft. He will do that at 11:30 this morning via video stream.

MARTINEZ AND GAYS

Governor Martinez will not be supporting a proposed Constitutional Amendment to reverse the NM Supreme Court's ruling legalizing same sex marriage. That drew this reaction from a reader with a Dem slant:

The outcome of the recent ABQ city election in which an anti-abortion measure went down to a big defeat taught her a lesson. This is an administration that is on thin ice on real issues, and knows it.
One could hope, of course, that social conservatives would force an anti gay marriage Constitutional Amendment on to the November ballot, thus increasing turnout among Democrats. But it speaks volumes that missteps on the Right are the best hope for Democrats, rather than an issue like...well, our going nowhere state economy.

Meanwhile, that coalition of groups in support of New Mexico gay marriage have come with a TV ad to keep the heat on the NM Legislature to not to support a Constitutional Amendment reversing the high court's marriage decision. in the upcoming legislative session. The group says:

The 30-second spot was produced and purchased by the Equality New Mexico Foundation and ACLU of New Mexico Foundation in partnership with Freedom to Marry, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the ACLU LGBT Project.

A Farmington state Senator is proposing a Constitutional Amendment that would ask voters in November to prohibit gay marriage. It It is not expected to go anywhere, especially without Martinez's support.

The TV ad is here.

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