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Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Guv's Political Machine rolls on; Critic Kathy Korte Steamrolled In APS Board Balloting, Machine Politics In Santa Fe As Ex-Speaker And Lobbyists Targeted And Sandia Labs Money Gets Tighter 

The Guv's political machine knocked off yet another foe Tuesday night. ABQ Public School Board member Kathy Korte, who was left dangling on her own to combat the financial and media resources brought to bear on her, fell hard and lost her seat 63% to 37% to machine-blessed Peggy Muller-Aragon, a retired teacher and wife of attorney Robert Aragon who the Governor appointed to the state Board of Finance.

All APS and CNM board results here.

Korte was outspent by thousands and was at war with the newspaper. A daughter of Muller-Aragon was killed in an auto accident near the end of the campaign and that may also have had an impact at the ballot box.

Korte, whose husband recently lost his state government job, was an ardent opponent of Martinez's controversial teacher evaluation and student testing initiatives. But state Democrats, unions and others did not put up much of a fight to save her. Korte's sometimes aggressive personality may have turned some off but she was the real deal when it came to offering fierce, rare and often effective opposition to Martinez.

With a clear field, the machine effectively targeted Republican voters in the very low turnout election and brought home another win. This feather in the cap followed the November GOP takeover of the NM House, the state land commissioner's office as well as re-electing a GOP secretary of state. And that's how this machine rolls. . .

And the machine rolls on in Santa Fe, with former and maybe forgotten House Speaker Kenny Martinez being brought back to life. They floated a story that when he was speaker, Martinez gave carte blanche to lobbyists Natasha Ning and Drew Setter to use office space in the Roundhouse. The TV news report made out like they practically owned the place but lobbyists (and others) using office space of lawmakers is common, even as it might be bothersome to some.

It isn't often that lobbyists have their faces flashed on TV news because they work hard to stay off. But Ning and Setter were prominently featured. Independent analyst Greg Payne took the machine's message as being "a warning to lobbyists" who are not with them that they too are subject to the machine's public attacks and they better get with the program--or at least feed the machine kitty. He adds that the R's are already working to keep the House under their control in 2016 and casting former Speaker Martinez in a bad light is all part of a day's work in that regard.

But what's good for the goose is good for the gander--if not for the TV types--certainly for the Alligators of La Politica. How could they forget this:

Andrea Goff, the (Martinez) campaign's former chief fundraiser, recalls an incident during last year's (legislative) session when she discovered that (Guv political adviser Jay) McCleskey was operating out of a hidden, closet-like antechamber inside the governor's statehouse suite. "Step into my office," Goff recalls McCleskey boasting, as he revealed a small workspace containing a desk and his laptop. He told her he regularly worked there, physically closer to the center of power than any of Martinez's state-paid aides."

Well, that's just not a bigger deal than lobbyists using some office space. Or is it?

THINK TWICE, IT'S ALRIGHT

Democrats may want to think twice about denying Gov. Martinez her long-held wish of flunking third graders whose reading skills are not up to snuff. Why? After a year or so there will probably be thousands of disgruntled parents across the state--including the Republican NE Heights of ABQ--after seeing their little ones held back a year or forced to take more tests in order to move up a grade level.

That's what happened in Oklahoma when the Republican Governor there pushed through the measure. The Legislature was forced to repeal it because of the outcry. Ending "social promotion" sounds good on paper, but in practice causes a social stigma to the students being held back as well as their parents.

And then there's the out-of-state corporation that would likely be hired to administer the  reading tests which could mean the mass flunking of third graders, while their teachers argue that the kids are actually ready to go to the fourth grade.

If the Legislature passed the measure and had it take effect in September of this year and it provoked the backlash here that it did in Oklahoma, the Dems would have an easy time arguing that they gave the Guv what she wanted and pin the blame for any failure squarely on her shoulders. That would be just in time for the November '16 election. . .

The Dems could also do the same with the symbolic right-to-work law. Give the Governor what she wants and then wait for the jobs to appear, They won't and that could the Dems even more election year ammo.

THE NEW JUAN TABO

Take a drive down ABQ'S Juan Tabo boulevard from I-40 north to Menaul and you'll see a once middle to upper middle class street transformed into a row of payday loan stores, dollar stores and the like. What happened? This is part of the answer:

While total spending and spending with small businesses and New Mexico businesses (by Sandia National Laboratories)  all declined compared to FY13--by $12.8 million, $58.6 million and $46.5 million, respectively--“Sandia remains a driving force in New Mexico’s economy,” said Don Devoti, manager of Sandia’s Small Business Utilization Department. 

Looking at the Sandia budget for FY 2009, we see that it was $2.4 billion. Now flash forward:

If approved by Congress, Sandia could lose a little less than 1 percent of its funding: The proposal calls for an overall $13 million reduction in funding, from $1.78 billion in FY 2015 to $1.77 billion next year.

Now, there are other revenue streams for Sandia that soften that blow but you get the picture. A flat to downward trajectory in spending at what Sandia's Don Devoti accurately called a "driving force" in the state's economy.

NEAR PERFECT

ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez calls the composition of the new nine member Police Oversight Board "near perfect." However, in looking over the appointees there is not a single attorney listed. With all the legal issues surrounding police use of force why was no one with a legal background selected? Please correct us, Ken, if one of the members is an attorney in addition to the listed occupation.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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