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Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Celebrity Power At Polls, The ABQ Mayor's Race Gets A Crowd In The Early Going, Replacement Eyed For Speaker Tripp Seat And Former Lt. Gov. Jack Stahl Dies 

Quezada takes oath
Welcome back, kids. We've got you covered in 2017. . .

Celebrity offers a powerful entree to the political stage as we are seeing with the election of Donald Trump and even a glimpse of it here in ABQ. There stands "Breaking Bad" TV star Steven Michael Quezada on New Year's Day being sworn in as a new Democratic Bernalillo county commissioner.

Quezada, 53, was previously elected to the ABQ School Board but his November election as commissioner did not come without controversy. His GOP opponent accused Quezada of being a "no show" school board member and cited his multiple past DWI arrests in an effort to paint him as reckless and not serious. But Quezada overcame those attacks--no doubt in part because of his celebrity--and now gets the chance to prove that he is more than a bit player when it comes to the complicated stage of La Politica. The commission has a 3 to 2 Democratic majority so Quezada will be able to lean on veteran Dem Commissioners O'Malley and Stebbins.

MAYOR 2017

When it comes to ABQ Mayor Richard Berry let's pick up in the new year where we left off on the last day of the old one--mulling over his low approval rating. We received some more tidbits from that poll conducted before Christmas on behalf of one of the possible mayoral candidates. The survey was conducted among voters 55 and over. They are the most likely to cast ballots in the October city election. Berry's approval rating surprised some, plunging to 43 percent, far below the important 50 percent mark. Political consultants say his approval among other age groups likely mimics that among those with the highest voter turnout.

Despite his increasingly dangerous political standing Berry is still trying to position himself for higher office. He was tagged positively by a WaPo reporter for his program for the homeless and was seen having fun over the weekend (and garnering publicity) by taking part in A swimming pool polar bear plunge." (Plunge being the operative adjective in Berry's new political lexicon.)

Berry's path to the '18 gubernatorial nomination remains harrowing as does a run for the '18 GOP US Senate nod. His fellow Republicans are enraged over the controversial ART transit project tearing up Central Avenue. And then there's the #1 issue in the city. . .

That, of course, would be the crime wave. In that poll that measured Berry's popularity among the 55 and older set, crime was named the top issue by 30 percent of the respondents. Hardly surprising given the nonstop crime headlines and the increasing boldness of the criminal element here. Berry will be forever saddled with the APD mess and crime wave. If and when he seeks higher office he will have plenty of 'splainin to do.

While the ABQ economy stagnates and will be an important issue, many people are voting with their feet and taking job opportunities outside the state. That lessens the intensity of the econ debate even though it sadly indicates that many Albuquerque residents and New Mexicans have given up on the economy improving anytime soon.

But crime will be a hyper hot button issue as those who remain here see a severely understaffed police department unable to make much of a dent in the mayhem that routinely startles the public.

There will be plenty of mayoral candidates, at least in the early going, to talk about that and other issues facing the city. The list of wannabes grew over the holiday break to include a second tier of contenders, including ABQ radio station CEO, ardent Trump supporter and independent talk show host Eddy Aragon, 66 year old Stella Padilla, an education management professional, and Michelle  Garcia Holmes, a retired APD officer who once worked in the attorney general's office.

The problem the relatively unknown contenders face is not only raising money but getting at least 3,000 petition signatures from registered voters that are required to be placed on the ballot. That process starts in mid-February and ends April 28. To ensure they get that many valid signatures, political consultants say a candidate should plan to collect about 5,000. So come March 31 the burgeoning mayoral field will likely narrow.

Currently in the first tier of candidates and positioned to raise some money as well as get those signatures are GOP City Councilor Dan Lewis, Dem City Councilor Ken Sanchez, (if he doesn't run for Congress instead) Dem State Auditor Tim Keller, ex-NM Dem Party Chairman Brian Colon, former Dem BernCo Commissioner Deanna Archuleta and '13 Dem mayoral hopeful Pete Dinelli and BernCo GOP Commissioner Wayne Johnson who is indicating a run. Councilor Lewis and Garcia Holmes plan to make formal entries into the race this Sunday.

Former State Treasurer James Lewis has decided against a mayoral run, although he did take a stab at it in 2001. We recall his slogan back then and we think it might be fitting for this year's campaign: "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired of being sick and tired." Amen, James.

TRIPP REPLACEMENT?

Armstrong
Republican insiders are talking about Gail Armstrong, wife of TLC Plumbing company owner Dale Armstrong, as a very strong possibility to replace GOP State Representative and outgoing House Speaker Don Tripp.

Tripp, who loses the speakership as the Dems take over the House, plans to resign his seat before the legislative session begins later this month. His district goes across three counties--Socorro, Valencia and Catron. County Commissioners from those counties will send a list of possible replacements to Gov. Martinez to choose his successor from. Each of those commissions have Republican majorities.

Gail Armstrong, 50, describes herself on Facebook as the "Chief Cook and Bottle Washer" at the family ranch in Magdalena in Socorro County. She is from Datil in Catron County and graduated from Quemado High School.

TLC is based in the city and is one of the contractors for the ART project on Central Avenue. Dale Armstrong has for years been an active contributor to GOP candidates. The Tripp district is ranked safe Republican. The appointee, if they choose, would stand for election in 2018.

JACK STAHL

We take note of the passing of former NM Lieutenant Governor Jack Stahl. He died over the holidays at his ABQ home at the age of 82 after suffering a stroke. He was a major power player in the ABQ real estate industry (Hooten-Stahl) and GOP politics before and after serving as Lt. Governor under Gov. Garrey Carruthers who he was elected with and served one term starting in 1987.

Stahl commanded quiet authority as he presided over the state Senate where he served before becoming the state's second in command. He was also a former member of the NM House and had a stint as NM GOP chairman. He was a Reagan conservative in the 70's and 80's in a town then filled with Republican moderates. His side eventually won, with GOP moderates now an extinct species.

Jack Stahl was a heavyweight business leader during the city's go-go years from the 60's into the 90's. He leaves behind a city trying to regain its footing. His full obituary is here.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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