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Friday, October 07, 2016

Our Winners And Losers From The Tumultuous Special Legislative Session Of '16. Plus: "Let's Roll This Train" With Lenton Malry  

Sens. Ingle & Smith 
It was a brutal, chaotic and tumultuous week long special session of the New Mexico Legislature. One would expect that, coming as the session did amid a crucial campaign that will decide if the House GOP retains control and whether the R's can make inroads into the Dem controlled state senate. And the primary subject matter--an historic state budget crisis and hot button crime bills--were guaranteed to make this session tempestuous. Still there were winners and losers arising from the chaos and here they are.

State Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle. The Portales Republican once again positioned himself as a badly needed bridge between the radical House Republicans, the stubborn Governor and top Democrats. The budget package that emerged from his efforts was only a short-term save but his steady and experienced hand was never more necessary or welcome.

State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. He killed the Martinez crime bills which was absolutely essential if there was to be any Democratic Party unity going into the election. Now he faces the Guv's political machine who believe Sanchez signed his death warrant by keeping the bills from seeing the light of day, but they've said that before. It was Sanchez's firmness in the face of the attacks from an increasingly unpopular Governor that could be the deciding factor in his election bid. Voters like deciders.

State House Minority Leader Brian Egolf. Unlike previous sessions where he was tentative in tangling with the House R's, this time the Santa Fe lawyer stiffened his backbone and that of his caucus and repeatedly challenged the majority House R's over their trio of crime bills and specific budget cuts. Instead of the deadly sin of playing defense, Egolf was usually on offense. Firebrands like Reps Patricia Roybal Caballero and Bill McCamley seemed to relish the moment. Some of them even seemed to rattle the usually unflappable House Speaker Don Tripp.

State Senator John Arthur Smith. Smith again joined forces with Ingle to keep the state from going into the gutter. The pair was able to calm the air and secure compromise budget bills. However, Smith appears to have overreached by trying too hard to solve the immense crisis--over $600 million--all at once. He could have plugged the deficit for fiscal year 2016 and taken a smaller bite out of the current year's deficit of over $450 million and won wider and quicker agreement in both chambers and saved the rest for the January legislative session. Smith scored when he didn't blink and called the Martinez administration a "failure on jobs and fiscal management." That may be campaign rhetoric but it was a rare and bold hit directly on the Fourth Floor from the conservative Democrat who was close to Martinez during her first term.

LOSERS

Gov. Martinez--It could not have been a worse week for public opinion polls to rain down on the Governor showing her political appeal crumbling and fast. First, the ABQ Journal poll showed her approval rating at a dismal 42%. Next came SurveyUSA reporting she had tanked to a miserable 36% approval. That emboldened the Democratic opposition. Also putting Martinez on the loser's list was her decision not to come with her own specific plan to solve the budget crisis. She left it to the Senate to bring her something. She violated the cardinal rule. Never call a special session unless you are sure of the outcome. While not going far enough on the budget, Martinez went too far on the crime bills, including the death penalty. It may or may not help her on the campaign trail. While the crime narrative competed with the budget for dominance, it did not come out on top.

State Rep. Jason Harper--The GOP chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has a problem. Instead of "ways" he offers only one way to resolve the state budget crisis. That's by never, ever raising revenue under any circumstances whatsoever. This radical position has isolated what appears to be an able lawmaker who has a contribution to make. He says his way of raising revenue is to close tax loopholes Okay, but how much revenue could you raise doing that? Flexibility in a chairman is a virtue not a vice. That is learned with time which Harper may or may not have depending on whether the Dems stay in the minority after this election.

House Republicans--We see nothing in the session to alter our odds of 51 to 49 in favor of the Democrats either tying up or taking back the state House in November. They need two pick ups for the tie and three to win. Will the death penalty really work against Democrats in enough swing districts? It polls exceptionally well. But the way the R's buried the debate over it in the middle of night may indicate that they're worried that they pushed too hard while the state's economy sputters and staggers.

HONORABLE MENTION

Rep. Patricia Lundstrom of Gallup has been nominated by Roundhouse Alligators for this mention. They say in the special session she has shown the stuff necessary to become the next chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, if the Dems take back House control. One of those Gators says:

She helped fine tune the budget during the amendment process. She is the only one with the gravitas in the House to work with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Smith to finalize a reasonable budget. After years of training from budget experts like Reps. Lucky Varela and Kiki Saavedra, Lundstrom carried the budget debate for the House Democrats and should the Democrats regain control of the House Lundstrom is poised to be the next House Appropriations chair.

 LET'S ROLL THIS TRAIN

We go back a way with Lenton Malry, and so does New Mexico. He's widely known as the state's first African-American legislator, a former Bernallio County Commissioner and a distinguished educator. Getting where he got in life was not easy and certainly worthy of a book. And now there is one. "Let's Roll This Train" is now available:

This inspiring memoir chronicles Lenton Malry’s journey from segregated Louisiana to a distinguished career in public service in New Mexico. Malry worked as a teacher on the Navajo Reservation, as a public school administrator in Albuquerque, and as a commissioner in Bernalillo County. He was also the first African American elected to the New Mexico state legislature and the first African American to earn a PhD in education from the University of New Mexico.

Since 1988, Malry, 75, a lifelong Democrat, has served as a panelist on every one of our Election Night broadcasts on KANW-89.1 FM. That's a lot of history. And he'll be back with us November 8th when he returns to our airwaves one last time to track Election '16.

Meanwhile, Malry has a series of appearances slated where you can catch up with him:

He'll speak Monday, October 10 to the Albuquerque Press Women and Friends noon lunch at the Claim Jumper on Jefferson near I-25.  More info at presswomen@yahoo.com.

On October 16 he'll speak to the ABQ Historical Society at the ABQ Museum Auditorium at 2000 Mountain Road NW. Admission is free.

Malry signs “Let’s Roll This Train” at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 19, at Bookworks, 4022 Rio Grande NW, and at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 27 at Page One Books, Mountain Run Shopping Center, 5850 Eubank NE.

Enjoy the book tour, Cuz.

FOLLOW THE MAIL

Over the years readers have helped out here by sending in samples of the flood of campaign mailers they are getting (do keep them coming). Now Sandra Fish of  the nonprofit NM In-Depth says the site has started a project to gather as many of the mailers as possible and put them in one place.

Joe, let your readers know that we’d really like them to contribute the campaign literature they’re getting here. NMID is trying to track these messages and provide more information about them, since outside groups don’t have to say which races they’re spending in.


Of course, calling it "literature" these days is a stretch. They might better be labeled paper mud pies.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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