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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Gridlock Or Goals Scored? House Shake-Up Puts Controversial Measures In Spotlight, Plus: How Turnout Played For R's In The House Takeover 

Update: House Speaker Ken Martinez has announced he will not seek to become House minority leader as R's prepare to takeover the chamber in January.

The chattering classes were saying during the campaign that even if the R's took over the NM House not much would happen--that the Dem controlled Senate would block the GOP's pet bills. But if we're reading the tea leaves right, don't bet on that.

Right-to-work legislation, as dormant as a hibernating bear for three decades, seems actually to have a pretty good chance of getting to the Governor's desk. Remember, the Gov. Martinez Democrats are still in the Senate. All the R's need is four of them to get right to work passed. The law would drop any requirement that a worker belong to a union before he is hired. . .

There is little union presence in NM besides government employees. Our lack of a manufacturing base sees to that. And does anyone see the national unions clamoring very loudly to stop right to work in New Mexico as they did in Wisconsin? Maybe not since they already dropped a couple of million trying to save the House for the Dems. Also, the Gov. Martinez Dems know no matter what they will probably draw primary challengers from the left in 2016. They will likely prepare to fight from the right--not switch.

As far as right-to-work having any impact on the state's forlorn economy, like the corporate tax cut of 2013 it will have no noticeable effect. but you already knew that. . .

We're also seeing signs that a statewide voter ID bill could squeak through and even some kind of compromise on the perennial issue of driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants could have a shot. And holding back third-graders who are not scoring well. It could have a better shot in the Senate than the conventional wisdom has it.

As they say, elections have consequences and this one could have more than just continuing the gridlock.

LUCKY'S PLACE

State Rep. Lucky Varela will be 80 in February and with the GOP takeover of the House his dream of becoming chairman of the House Appropriations Committee appears to have vanished. But a number of Varela loyalists--and there are many--come with a suggestion to honor Varela.

They wonder if outgoing state Rep. Kiki Saavedra--current chair of appropriations--would not decide to resign from the legislature a few weeks before his term expires so his friend Lucky--who is next in line for the chairmanship--could at least have the title by his name before leaving the legislature and before a new R chair takes over in January. Varela was recently re-elected to what is expected to be his final term. He was first elected in 1986 and is known for his knowledge of the state budget.

HOW IT CAME DOWN

An informed reader puts the battle for the state House in the context of the overall turnout:

The majority of the 70 House seats were not in contention. However the 2010 redistricting resulted in more Democratic voters being concentrated into districts where they did not affect the outcome of the fight for control of the House. This election saw 29,156 more people casting votes for Democratic legislative candidates than Republicans. If redistricting had spread those voters around more evenly Tuesday’s results could have been very different.

In your Friday blog, a reader wrote that the “electorate is tiring of Dem leadership of the Legislature.” I think we can argue that is not true as the majority of voters chose Democratic candidates. It was the imbalanced redistricting map that led to the ultimate shift in power.

Also, there was a failure of the campaigns to really push turnout. Statewide turnout was below 40% of registered voters, lower that it was even in 2010. It appears that in most of those swing state House districts turnout averaged around 45%, but that is still low.

The two districts where Democrats did have victories this year were in the districts that saw average or above average turnout. This includes District 50 where Matt McQueen was victorious with an estimated turnout of 51% and he won by 7 points. The one that really stands out is District 43 where Garcia Richard had an estimated turnout of 56% and won by 13 points.

What this seems to confirm is that if turnout is higher the Dems will have a chance of retaking the House. But because of imbalanced redistricting they are starting the race behind the Republicans.

Good stuff. That crash in turnout to only about 513,000 will long be remembered.

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