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Thursday, December 08, 2016

Rebooting The Race For Governor: Udall Out, Lujan Grisham Getting Ready To Dive In; Balderas On The Fence, Plus: Never Too Soon; List of Possible Dem Replacements For ABQ House Seat Circulates, And: Say What, PNM? Another Rate Increase? 

Sen. Udall
The race for the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nomination was reset Wednesday as Senator Tom Udall decided to stay put and ended his flirtation with a candidacy. (His full statement here). Here's what his decision means:

--Udall's exit will likely hasten the entrance of ABQ Dem US Rep Michelle Lujan Grisham who has been all but saying she is going to run. With Udall gone it is that much easier.

---Lujan Grisham, coming off a 65 percent re-elect win in November, is the front-runner but she would have to share that status with Attorney General Hector Balderas if he decided to opt in. So far, the signals are mixed. The statement on his behalf in the aftermath of Udall's announcement: “The attorney general is seriously considering a run for governor and has deep concerns about the future of our state. He’ll make a determination in the near future.”

--Balderas could be reluctant because he would probably have an easy AG re-election in '18. At 43, he might want to wait, but an open seat for Governor doesn't happen everyday and he could take the plunge.

--Without Balderas in the race the challenge to Lujan Grisham would fall to lesser known possibles that include businessman Jeff Apodaca, son of former Governor Jerry Apodaca, Alan Webber, a 2014 Dem guv hopeful, Las Cruces state Senator Joe Cervantes who is taking a peek as well as Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales.

--Lujan Grisham can be expected to act fast so she can start raising money and discourage others from getting in. She was recently named chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, giving her access to donors throughout the nation. Also, as first out of the gate she could begin the criticism of the Martinez administration and position herself as the alternative.

--Attacks from behind-the-scenes on Lujan Grisham have already begun with critics calling her "disorganized" having an "over the top" personality and lacking any significant congressional accomplishments to run on.

--Udall's decision makes GOP Congressman Steve Pearce again look seriously at a run for the Republican nomination. But his conservative profile is good for getting the nomination, but a hindrance in a statewide race. Lt. Gov. Sanchez is very likely to go. ABQ Mayor Berry could, but he is not a fave of the nominating wing of the GOP.

--Udall said he wasn't running for governor because he was better positioned to "fight" for New Mexico as a US Senator, but insiders speculate he was also not gunning for a fight for the nomination against Lujan Grisham. She might have gotten out if he had gotten in, but he could not be sure. Most of Udall's races have been lay-ups with little opposition. Did Udall poll the race before making his decision? Hmm...

--The fire in the belly factor. The grind of the governorship with its constant infighting with the opposition party and presiding over a state with such deep-seated problems probably in the end did not appeal to the laid back Udall. Ultimately, his wife Jill and daughter Amanda, a political consultant, may have had more interest in it than him. The Senate suits him just fine.

NAME GAME

And the name game continues. If, as expected, Lujan Grisham gives up her congressional seat for a Guv run, who would line up to take her place? The seat appears solidly Blue so it's the possible Dem candidates that insiders are most focused on. The Dem nominee would be the odds-on favorite to take the win. So, using as our guide the slogan "it's never too early," the Alligators offer the potential D field in no particular order:

State Rep. Javier Martinez, State Senator Jacob Candelaria, State Senator Michael Padilla, NM Dem Party Chair Deb Haaland, State Rep. Debbie Armstrong, BernCo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis, Regional USDA Director Terry Brunner and BernCo Assessor Tanya Giddings.

There's a little something for everyone on that list.

SAY WHAT?

What is with PNM? Is Gordon Gekko running the electric company? First, residential customers are hammered with a 9 percent rate boost approved in October and now the monopoly utility is back at the feeding trough asking for an outrageous rate increase of 13 percent.

PNM is in trouble because it its serving a stagnating, declining state where electricity demand is falling. Add in the downsizing of Intel in Rio Rancho--a huge industrial user--and you see their problem. But it is their problem, not ours.

Businesses across the board have been taking a hit because of the lousy economy while PNM tries to exempt itself from the new reality of doing business here. It seeks to keep its return on equity (its profit) above 10 percent. Why aren't they sharing the pain with the consumers?

The Public Regulation Commission (PRC) ought to reject any rate increase, and PNM should realize it's serving a market where many are struggling economically and which many are leaving.

13 percent?! Come on, man.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2016
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