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Monday, June 16, 2014

Jobs And The Campaign: It Cuts Toward King But Martinez Steers Conversation Elsewhere, Plus: More On the Econ Beat With ABQ Bear Still Roaming Amid Tax Hike Talk  

Rep. Lujan
The conversation in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign has yet to get to the colossus in the room--the state's abject failure to create or attract jobs, even as we are surrounded by states--Colorado, Texas and Arizona--that are in job booms.

Northern Democratic Congressman Ben Ray Lujan has started to go where Dem Guv nominee Gary King is going to have to follow, if he is to have any shot at unseating Gov. Martinez:

“What’s happening differently in those states than in our state?” Luján asked. He cited Spaceport America and the film industry as examples in which the state’s efforts have not been clear or consistent. The New Mexico film industry in particular lagged after the state backed off its investments, Luján said, prompting the state to reinstate incentives. “There was no reason for that except for embarrassing politics,” Luján said.

Lujan did not mention the Guv by name, but there is tension between the two. Audio tapes of a conversation Martinez had with a campaign aide in 2010 revealed the aide referencing Lujan's father--the late House Speaker Ben Lujan--as a "retard." Martinez was called on to apologize for the remark but never did. 

The Martinez campaign's DC hit squad--the Republican Governors Association--continues to keep the focus on King, coming with a TV ad accusing the attorney general of pay to play for accepting campaign donations from law firms that do business with the state. It's a clear attempt to inoculate Martinez against the inevitable charges that it is she who has perfected pay to play as witnessed in the controversial racino lease awarded to the ABQ Downs. 

The sole TV ad King has running takes a swipe at Martinez for "corruption and cronyism." It debuted to generally favorable reviews by the insiders and Alligators who see strong punching as King's best bet to avoid an early knockdown. But he is still under financial pressure, even after reaching into his own pocket to finance the TV hit.

NEW HAND

King has a new hand on deck to try to steer the conversation back to Susana's weakness--the forlorn economy. His new campaign manager  is Steve Verzwyvelt a native of Louisiana who has worked for a national political firm for 12 years. Said King:

“Steve’s experience over the last 12 years working as a campaign manager and media consultant have given him the necessary talent we need to take on and beat Susana Martinez in the General Election. 

NO SIDESHOW

It appears we will be denied an entertaining summer sideshow in the race for Governor. Jamie Estrada, a onetime campaign manager for Martinez, has apparently cut a deal with the Feds and will enter a plea agreement to charges of hijacking the campaign's email account after Martinez took office. Estrada was working feverishly to allow testimony in his case to be taken on the aforementioned ABQ Downs racino lease, but that was denied. 

An Estrada trial could have put Governor Martinez on the witness stand--and even if she came across as a a victim--it's hard to see the political benefit of her clashing with a former aide. 

The reported plea agreement comes shortly after Damon Martinez became the US Attorney for New Mexico. He has ties to Dem US Senator Tom Udall. A longtime and powerful GOP presence in that office--assistant US Attorney Greg Fouratt--has left and now heads the state Department of Public Safety in the Martinez administration.

PERMABEAR

Back on the econ beat, what appears to be a permanent Bear Market for the ABQ area continues to play out

A respected magazine aimed at site selectors ranks Albuquerque 360 out of 379 metropolitan statistical areas as a place to locate or expand a business--and among the 101 largest MSAs, Albuquerque ranks last behind Wichita, Kan., and Springfield, Mass. Area Development magazine based its rankings on 21 economic and workforce indicators culled from Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and Moody’s Analytics data.

The Martinez campaign blames much of the state's economic malaise on a significant drop in Federal spending which has cost the state jobs. They are joined in that thinking by right-wing think tanks. However, that cut in federal spending does not explain the state's failure to generate private sector job growth.

And it's hard to blame the Democrats in the Legislature. The centerpiece of the Martinez economic plan was a corporate tax cut that was approved only because Democrats voted with the R's.

Therein lies a paradox of Campaign '14: Martinez and the Republicans want to take over the state House because it's 70 years of Dem control that has dragged us to the bottom of the barrel. But at the same time she boasts of her bipartisanship in dealing with the House on such high profile matters as economic policy. Which is it?

TAXING MATTERS

We left this one out on our recent blog about the tax hike mania that has descended on the ABQ metro. This example looks particularly ill-timed:

The Bernalillo County Commission this voted 3-2 to ask county voters to consider a mill levy that would support Bernalillo County’s. . . Open Space Program. Voters will be asked to approve or deny a 0.2 mill levy that would raise $2.78 million a year for 15 years to support the program, which includes 12 properties totaling 990 acres. . .The mill levy funds would also support acquiring new properties to protect them as Open Space. The 0.2 mill levy would add $13.33 to the annual property tax bill for a home worth $200,000. . .

Raise property taxes in the middle of a recessionary/stagnant/low wage ABQ economy? It's fine that the commission wants "new properties" to protect, but maybe first get some "new jobs" that revive this economy and increase tax collections so we don't have to raise taxes? You think?. .

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