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Monday, April 25, 2016

Warning For John Sanchez: Don't Mess With The Machine; Light Guv Hit On Use Of Campaign Cash And Intel's Reprieve May Not Be Much Of One  

Lt. Gov. Sanchez
Hey, John Sanchez. Don't mess with the Machine! That seems to be the none too subtle message the lieutenant governor  is getting as he grapples with headlines accusing him of possibly unethical behavior. Here's the gist:

. . . Sanchez is under fire for using more than $40,000 in campaign funds during the 2014 election to pay himself rent for an office in an Albuquerque warehouse that he owns. The building. . . is also used by Sanchez’s Right Way Roofing company. Beginning in January 2013, Sanchez used the office as headquarters for his campaign as he ran unopposed for re-election in the 2014 Republican primary and in the general election on a ticket with Gov. Martinez, who won. . . over Democrat Gary King. “If I was trying to hide something, I wouldn’t have reported it,” Sanchez said. . . Democrats as well as a group that has pushed campaign reforms in the state blasted Sanchez.

The rent story was dug up from Sanchez's recent campaign finance report. You can't prove that it was the Governor's political Machine that was behind this one, but it was eerily similar to an attack leveled by Martinez against Dem foe King in the '14 Guv race. Here's the TV ad from then:

Politician Gary King. Insider deals. While in the statehouse, Gary King wrote legislation for the state to lease an office building in Moriarty. But King never mentioned who owned that building he was asking the state to lease — Gary King. He used his elected position to push a state contract to himself. Gary King pocketed $192,000 from taxpayers. Politician Gary King: insider deals for him, a bad deal for us.

The context of all this is simple: Sanchez is seeking the '18 GOP gubernatorial nomination. ABQ Mayor Richard Berry is expected to seek the same nomination. Berry is backed by Martinez political consultant and Machine leader Jay McCleskey. Sanchez is their enemy.

But why now? Wouldn't the Sanchez rent story be more effective closer to that still far off Guv campaign? Probably. But as readers of this space know, Sanchez has been conducting an "Operation Separation" when it comes to fellow Republican and Governor Martinez.

He has twice taken to Facebook in recent weeks. First, on March 21 he questioned the Governor-appointed UNM Regents on how they revamped the governing structure of the UNM Health Sciences Center.  Second, on April 1 he veered further to the right on abortion than Martinez, questioning UNM's role in a fetal tissue controversy. This, in part, because he does not want to be strangled by Martinez's possible unpopularity as happened to Diane Denish, Light Guv under Dem Guv Richardson, who was defeated by Martinez in 2010. And Sanchez also wants to keep social conservatives disgruntled with Martinez and Berry under his roof. They are important in a GOP nominating contest.

NAUGHTY JOHN

Naughty John appears to have gotten the Guv's goat so it was payback time now. Not later. And never mind that the story might be better used down the road. That's how the Machine rolls.

As for the political impact of the report, Sanchez handled it well in his on camera interview and it will strike some as a campaign process story. But it did have some sting and reminded you of how the Machine has poisoned so many Hispanic Dems over the years over ethical issues. Berry could move to lump Sanchez in with that crowd as he faces an uphill battle to take the Guv nomination away from Sanchez. Sanchez is not naive and blamed the rent report, if vaguely, on his "political opponents."

Sanchez has tried to soften his separation operation by dumping his breaks with the Fourth and Fifth Floors on Friday afternoons on Facebook. Now he's finding out that you can't negotiate with machines. You either fight or die.

INTEL'S REPRIEVE

It's not certain how much of a reprieve it will be, but for now Intel says--contrary to speculation--it will not close its giant computer chip plant in Rio Rancho. But that doesn't mean it will ever return to being the once robust operation it was. The new speculation has Intel laying off employees there again this week--along with thousands of others worldwide--but keeping the plant open on a caretaker basis. If that's the case the current 1,900 workforce could shrink into the hundreds over the next few years.

The slow and agonizing downsizing of one of the state's major employers has given rise to discussion about the hundreds of millions in ongoing tax breaks and incentives Intel received for locating here over 30 years ago.

Tom Cafcas of Good Jobs First (an outfit that tracks the impact of tax subsides) says companies are increasingly focusing on education and infrastructure, and if New Mexico wants a takeaway from Intel, it is to spend money not on tax incentives, but on investments in public amenities.

“Focus on basic investments in workforce training or transportation assets or education … in this case. . .Those are the things driving where companies locate,” he said. “This is an important moment to step back and notice.”

Once again it appears an expert is anyone from out of town. Santa Fe, operating under an umbrella of austerity for the entirety of this decade, isn't listening.

It makes you wonder what Gov. Martinez and the traveling Amigos--a high-roller group that each year travels to different cities to promote business in the state--is telling New Yorkers and South Carolinians--this year's destinations. Maybe they're trying to sell them a plant in Rio Rancho.

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