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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

NM Court Of Appeals Shakeup Could Give R's A Boost, Plus: Susana's Fancy Footwork On Trump Presidential Vote 

We start this Wednesday with breaking political news-- a coming shake-up at the New Mexico Court of Appeals that could mean for the first time in years the Republicans could have nearly as many judges on the panel as the Democrats.

Two of  the court's ten judges are set to resign this fall, leaving Republican Gov. Martinez  to appoint their replacements to fill out the remaining years on their terms.

Republican Judge Rod Kennedy confirms his departure date is set for mid-November. Also set to to resign is Democratic Judge Michael Bustamante. His departure is expected at the end of October.

Kennedy says his departure and that of Bustamante's are in part due to changes in the state pension system. Both have had long runs on the court.

Kennedy was appointed by GOP Governor Gary Johnson in 1999 and reappointed in 2001. He was retained by voters in 2004 and 2012. His current term ends at the end of 2020. Bustamante was appointed by Democratic Governor Bruce King in December 1994, elected in 1996, and retained in 2002 and 2010. His current term expires in 2018.

The court is not known for partisan politics, but its judges do run for eight year terms under party labels. Right now there are 6 Democrats and 4 Republicans.

In addition to Kennedy the other R's on the bench are Judges Miles Hanisee, Jonathan Sutin and Judge Stephen French who earlier this year was appointed by Gov. Martinez to fill a vacancy.

Our Legal Beagles speculate on one possible scenario. French, who is being challenged by Democrat Julie Vargas in the November election to fill out the term of resigned judge Cynthia Fry and who is expected to lose that election, could be reappointed by Gov. Martinez to fill the Bustamante seat, extending his time on the court until the 2020 election.

As we said, the Court of Appeals is professional, not a partisan panel and is not known for judicial activism. But the changing political dynamic on the panel shows how a two term Governor can cast a long shadow when it comes to judicial appointments.

FANCY FOOTWORK

LeDoux and Martinez
Those who predicted that Gov. Martinez would not cast New Mexico's 24 national GOP convention delegates for Donald Trump had it right, but she did some fancy footwork to keep her foot in the Trump door.

When it came time last night at the national GOP convention for the state to cast its votes for president, Martinez took to the microphone to proclaim the state "amazing" and then turned the mike over to delegate Sam LeDoux who uttered the crucial words "the next president of the United States" as he made the official announcement of how the state voted. (Full video of the NM vote is here.)

Martinez has been between a rock and a hard place, not endorsing Trump but not wanting to be shut out completely either. His blistering attack on her at an ABQ campaign rally have kept the two at bay. The Martinez play to have her cake and eat it too when it comes to Trump had the state Dems blasting away:

 Instead of casting New Mexico's 24 delegate votes to Donald Trump, she moved aside while another Republican delegate from New Mexico made the announcement.

Governor Martinez is playing games. It's disingenuous and disrespectful to New Mexico that she won't denounce Donald Trump and instead continues to stay on the sidelines, while Trump pushes dangerous policy ideas that risk the safety and economic future of our country.

NM GOP delegates in Cleveland
Still, it was a pretty clever threading of the needle by the Governor who has had her share of setbacks of late.

Insider polling shows Martinez took a hit from fellow Republicans following Trump's criticism of her and that was after a PPP poll already showed her approval rating plunging below 50% (47%) before the Trump attack.

This election season is probably Martinez's final moments in the national political spotlight. A crashing state budget awaits here when she returns home for her final two years as well as that increasingly restless electorate over the job she is doing here.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2016
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