Monday, November 14, 2016

Out With The Old And In With The New As Roundhouse Leadership Switches; We Have The Names, Plus: More Election Night Winners, Trump Impact On NM, And: The Dems Dismal E-Nite Mood  

Sen. Peter Wirth
It's out with the old and in with the new. That's the story in the NM State Senate, with Santa Fe's Peter Wirth now widely expected to pick up where Michael Sanchez left off and become the new senate majority leader.

Wirth, soon to turn 55, is a liberal but viewed as able to work with all sides as evidenced by his stewardship of the diverse Senate Conservation Committee. Like Sanchez, he's also an attorney which these days is nearly a requirement for that job.

ABQ's Michael Padilla has toyed with a run for the top slot but is expected to be re-elected by the Senate Dem Caucus as majority whip from which he will mull a run for the 2018 Dem lieutenant governor nomination.

Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces appears in the early going likely to retain that post which has influence over which committees senators are assigned to. However, there is some news.

It appears the conservative coalition that put Papen in the post--all the senate R's and a handful of conservative Dems--has been wiped out by the election results which added two new Dem Senators to the mix. This time it could be all Dems electing Mary Kay and messaging her that a move to the center from the center right of the ideological spectrum is now in order.

As for Wirth, he'll have his hands full taming the left which has been in the wilderness under Republican Gov. Martinez and after last week's election success is looking for progressive legislation to win, even if it does face the Gov's veto pen.

Another Santa Fe liberal, Dem Rep. Brian Egolf, is in line to become the new House speaker after presiding over a successful election night in which the Dems picked up at least five seats in the 70 member chamber and took back the majority from the R's who held it for a brief two years. It should be at least a 38 to 33 Dem majority (several recounts continue) and that gives the new speaker some breathing room.

ABQ Rep. Javier Martinez is the favorite to become majority leader in the House. ABQ State Rep. Moe Maestas and Las Cruces Dem Rep. Doreen Gallegos may have a competition for House majority whip.

The House and Senate Dems will hold separate caucuses in the month ahead to finalize their new leadership. The legislature meets for a 60 day session beginning January 18.

On the R side of the House aisle, there could be some jousting over the position of House minority leader. ABQ Rep. Nate Gentry is out as majority leader because of the election. There were even rumblings about his leadership post before the ballots were counted. We'll see if more conservative R's mount a challenge against Gentry. In the Senate, longtime minority leader Stu Ingle is expected to continue in that post.


Let's get to some of the insightful reader email that has been stacking up since the big election night. This reader adds to our election winners list which we blogged Wednesday.

Constitutional amendment to tap the the state's $25 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for very early childhood education--Remember those provocative “NM Truth” ads earlier this year? The proposed constitutional amendment calling for a percentage of the Land Grant Fund to go towards early childhood has been given new life with the increased numbers of progressives in the legislature and new leadership dynamics unfolding. With NM kids at the bottom of nearly every list, it can’t come soon enough.

Southern NM--I can’t recall a major NM election like we had last week where the words “El Norte” or “Rio Arriba” were barely uttered during the evening’s returns. The South is where the energy is, so look for new leadership alliances forming between ABQ/Santa Fe progressives and the emerging leaders from down south.

The early childhood amendment only needs approval of the Senate and the House, not the governor, to be placed on the 2018 election ballot. As for the south, it was there--mainly in Cruces--where the Dems picked up three House seats making possible their return to the majority.


Here's one of our longtime Alligators with analysis of the state-of-the-state and the Trump victory:

We really couldn’t be in a worse position the next two years. When interest rates start rising borrowing costs will rise, making it even harder for New Mexicans to get access to capital.

Federal government jobs will be cut. Immigrant labor that fuels some of our biggest industries will presumably be reduced—dramatically impacting the dairy industry (one of our state's largest). Also, Donald Trump dislikes free trade at a time when trade from New Mexico to other countries has been the one bright economic spots.

Compounding this is a lame duck Governor out of favor with the President-elect and our state's Democratic congressional delegation sitting in the minority. If New Mexico is looking for help from DC, we ain’t gonna get it. Someone ought to see when the Base Realignment and Closure Commission starts meeting again to determine the fate of Kirtland, Holloman and Cannon AFB’s. Will Trump want to save our Air Force Bases?

Thanks for that, Gator. Let your blogger add a few words. First, Trump has said he wants to reverse the 2013 budget cuts known as the "defense sequester" and increase military spending. That could benefit NM's military bases.

Also, Trump is talking about an infrastructure spending bill of some $500 million--perhaps more--some of which would no doubt find its way to our state.

As for NM looking for help from DC, we need to lean on GOP Rep. Steve Pearce who campaigned for Trump but has never been a big government spending guy, but if he is willing to do the work, it could help our standing with the White House.


The Dems made legislative gains last Tuesday but the Trump stunner was the big party pooper at the state Dem Election Night party as we get in this on the scene Gator report:

The mood at the Democratic Party Election Night was horrible, disastrous. There were big smiles from people like State Reps Brian Egolf and Javier Martinez but it became a sour victory for them when Trump won and it was hard for people to find any enthusiasm. What have they gained, exactly, by winning the State House? Will they start implementing their agenda? Moving the state out of recession? Unlikely. 

Republican Congressman Steve Pearce was the big winner. His stock goes way up as the #1 Trump supporter in the state. Sen. Tom Udall looks more likely to consider an '18 run for Governor. (ABQ Dem US Rep.) Michelle Lujan Grisham, who also wants to run for the Dem nomination, got a little dose of reality from Udall. 

ABQ Republican City Council Dan Lewis looks more secure in the 2017 ABQ mayoral race given that Trump reaffirmed that conservative white voters are a force to be reckoned with. Trump had a message that resonated with voters and he won. Dems are now in search of a message and a new messenger. 


Is it possible Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who was elected secretary of state last week, could stay in the office for a full decade? It is. First she will fill out the final two years of the term of the previous SOS who resigned. In 2018 she could seek a full four year term and do it again in 2022 and serve until Jan 1. 2027. But she's probably just happy for January 1, 2017 when she begins her term. She beat Republican Nora Espinoza 56 to 44 percent. (A reader writes: "Toulouse Oliver told our convention that she gets to take office early because she is replacing an interim Sec. of State. She said it would be Dec. 9, when the election is certified. Since she is the current Bernalillo County Clerk, that would probably mean that Linda Stover, her successor as clerk , would take office early too.)

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