Monday, August 29, 2016

Election Narrative Rocked By Shocking Crime; Where Will It Settle? Plus: Martinez Hits New Polling Low; The Post-Joyful Era Of ABQ And NM; We Are On It And Tying It All Together 

Yet again the battle for the political narrative is set on its heels as we head toward the November election

The hideous slaying of 10 year old Victoria Martens immediately prompted calls for reinstatement of the death penalty for child killers, only days after Gov. Martinez called for the same following the murder of a Hatch police officer.

The pair of gut-wrenching crimes sent to the back pages the state budget crisis where Gov. Martinez and her political machine have labored mightily to keep it. Their intent from the beginning was to run an "all crime all the time" campaign to maintain GOP control of the state House and perhaps pick up a seat or two in the senate.

Despite the shift toward their favorite theme there are signs that the crime agenda could turn out to be a case of "be careful what you wish for." Perhaps most revealing in that regard was this bold, lead paragraph from the Associated Press:

The killing this week of a 10-year-old Albuquerque girl who was drugged, raped and dismembered is just the latest horrific child slaying case for New Mexico, which has the nation’s highest youth poverty rate and a state government that has had highly publicized difficulties protecting children from abuse.

That's not exactly the return to the tough on crime narrative Martinez was hoping for and planning to forcefully use against the Dems. Not even close. Sky high poverty, another child killing and an incompetent state government.

And another:

Many behavioral health providers, child protection advocates and even some law enforcement authorities say Victoria’s death, rather than spur tougher criminal penalties, should force government officials to re-examine the priorities of a state that many say invests too little in mental health, child welfare and drug treatment services. “It’s important we hold the offenders accountable, but I also think it’s important we take a much deeper look at ourselves and our community,” Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said.

That's the problem for Martinez--that after years of tough on crime rhetoric and as the violence doesn't abate, the debate gets more nuanced.


Then there is the ability of this Governor to command the attention of the public as she nears the later years of her second and final term. Like the two, two-term governors who preceded her, Martinez is losing her audience.

The latest PPP poll conducted Aug. 19 to 21 among 1,103 registered voters shows her approval rating diving to a new all-time low of 43 percent. The most stunning drop comes among Republicans with whom she once commanded 90 percent approval but has now tanked to 63 percent. (The margin of error is 3%.)

That dive is based on a number of factors. Her infamous holiday pizza party helped take her to 47 percent in a May PPP poll, below the critical 50 percent mark. When that occurred political reporter Steve Terrell wrote:

Those are hardly disastrous numbers, but they are down from Martinez's first term, when pollsters routinely found her approval score to be more than 60 percent. 

Now her poll numbers are more than "down." They are on the borderline of diving into the cellar, below 40 percent where Big Bill finished up.

Advance NM Now, a political action committee led by Martinez chief operative Jay McCleskey, tried to destroy the credibility of PPP, a group that surveys mainly for Democrats. In a series of fast and furious tweets, the PAC called the firm "discredited" and assaulted its methodology.

But there were no such GOP attacks on PPP when it previously showed solid results for the governor, including her 52 percent approval rating two years ago. And polling expert Nate Silver's latest rankings give PPP a grade of B+.

There is a point to be made that the poll was conducted among "registered" and not "likely" voters who lean more conservative. That might bounce her a bit, but McCleskey will need to come with legitimate polling contradicting the latest Martinez slide, if he  hopes to halt the damage.


The reasons for her latest drop? Martinez's refusal to endorse Trump and his punishing criticism of her for it at a May ABQ rally contributed mightily to the crash in her GOP support. She was already under water with Democrats in the May PPP.

Remember, Trump is the official GOP nominee and when all is said and done they will and are coming home to him, with or without Susana.

Then there's the forlorn state of the economy with long-term high unemployment and thrown anew into the dumpster by tanking oil prices. The massive state budget deficit reminds New Mexicans that whatever was tried these past six years to improve this economy hasn't worked.

Now the social conditions crisis again rears its ugly head with the tragic loss of Victoria as it did with the 2013 murder of 7 year old Omaree. Martinez, a former district attorney, campaigned for governor on a platform of improving the lives of New Mexico children. As Sarah Palin might say, "How's that working out for you, Guv?"

Advancing the emotional death penalty cause may keep the political wolves at bay for a week or two, but the underlying problems causing the breakdown of this state are no longer underlying. That AP lead tells the tale. The narrative is still up for grabs.


When Omaree Varela was killed at the hands of his mother Martinez's CYFD took a major hit for dropping the ball in a case they were heavily involved in. Now CYFD is again coming under scrutiny. This time because of of the loss of Victoria:

Children, Youth and Families Secretary Monique Jacobson said state records show no prior cases involving violence or sexual abuse against Victoria. . .Jacobson said she was prohibited by law from disclosing whether the agency had received any other complaints related to Victoria. . .

Other complaints? What exactly was CYFD aware of? More to come, we're sure.

Meanwhile, the obvious child well-being disaster the state faces is provoking some clear-headed thinking among more shocked politicians. ABQ Dem City Councilor Klarissa Pena says of Victoria's murder:

I know there is talk about what should happen to these people, and, yes, they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. But the real underlying issue in our community is we have a drug epidemic, and we have to start addressing it.

A drug epidemic? She's got that right. So what about that $17 million Bernalillo County has raised the past year from a tax hike for the purpose of improving mental health? Will the county commission now get moving and put it to use, in the name of Victoria?


Despite previous shocks ABQ and NM went on as it has in the past, grieving deeply for the loss of the child or police officer but then returning to what seems to be a deep-seated apathy that has arisen in this post-joyful era of the city's (and state's) history. Republican reader Brent Eastwood from DC:

In other cities, religious and faith leaders, business leaders, community leaders, everyone would head to city hall and demand the mayor address the underlying problems of this city. And the mayor would emerge with a plan, tell the people what that plan is and make the plan happen. I doubt this will happen. This is about political leadership and a lack of political leadership and a lot of citizen apathy. It is one of the reasons I took my family and moved 3,000 miles away.

ABQ attorney and former APD officer Tom Grover is also monitoring events for your blog and comes with this:

It's really getting old with the endless horror coming out of this city and state and our "leaders" do little but obfuscate reality or grandstand at opportunities for self-promotion. Here's an idea, own it or step aside because enough is enough and you've utterly failed. And by the way, my kids have noticed.

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