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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Watching For Cracks In House GOP Caucus As Budget Battle Continues, Susana Sustains Political Damage Over Higher Ed Funding Veto, Fake News Alert On State Budget And Rich Says He Is In GOP Senate Race To Stay 

She's hoisted on her own petard now and the Democrats watch and wait for signs that more Republicans will start to flee this governorship, finally leading to a budget deal.

Martinez's veto of the entire state higher education budget is being widely condemned across the state and becoming a defining chapter of her tenure. Former GOP Governor and current NMSU president Garrey Carruthers is, in fact, leading the charge against Martinez's action. The Governor's veto was a political miscalculation of the highest order and combined with her infamous holiday pizza party may very well comprise the bulk of her dour legacy.

State Senate Ds and R's are, for the most part, united in their abandonment of Martinez and agree to a budget deal that includes some tax hikes. It is a radicalized Republican segment of the state House that is hanging tough and refusing to bargain. We say "radicalized" because of their belief that taxes should never, ever be raised--under any circumstance. And if any of the radical R's take umbrage with that definition, we welcome their explanation as to where and when they would vote to increase revenues for the state.

POLITICAL DAMAGE

The political damage being done by their stance and that of the Governor is now palpable. A plunge in her approval rating into the 30's (she's currently at 43%) is a reasonable assumption. Ironically, that would place her where her predecessor Democrat Bill Richardson finished and made possible her 2010 gubernatorial victory and a brief GOP run as the majority party in the state House. Now they are giving it all back.

The radical R's are mainly in safe districts subject to political pain only if they receive primary challenges. An exception is their putative leader--ABQ Rep. Nate Gentry--whose ABQ NE Heights district grows more Blue by the month. If there is to be a big crack in the dam preventing the state from having a budget, it could finally be him wielding the jackhammer behind the scenes.

FEW TAKERS

With the Republican governorship tottering the value of the 2018 Democratic Guv nomination continues to increase, but there don't seem to be many takers. You would think at least a half dozen credible candidates would already be lined up or rumored to be preparing to dive in. So why aren't they? Probably because of the immense amount of cash it takes to run these days. A primary costing upwards of $2 million keeps many wannabe Governors on the sidelines. And then there's the problem of governing this place, faced with limited resources as far as the eye can see and social and economic problems that continue to intensify year after year.

Will an independent business type with plenty of personal wealth be enticed into the race? The ground is fertile for such a play, given the gloomy condition of the state and its politics. Donald Trump did it. Gary Johnson did it here in '94.

FAKE NEWS

Meantime, the Martinez administration seems engaged in its own version of "fake news" as it argues that the current budget year--which ends June 30--is in dire straits and that the Governor may have to furlough state workers to make ends meet. But the real news says:

A revenue forecast for the state indicates that Gov. Martinez is wrong about the need for employee furloughs or a hiring freeze to balance spending for the remaining two months of the fiscal year, according to a top university economist. The budget tracking report from the Legislative Finance Committee indicates “revenues continue to appear on track or exceed expectations from the December forecast.” It projects that the state general fund will close out the 2017 fiscal year at $54 million, or 1 percent, above expectations.

And even more on the busy Susana beat. . .

It was a bizarre sometimes contentious, sometimes even rowdy 27 minute news conference by Gov. Martinez in Taos last Tuesday called to explain her budget vetoes. Often it was upset citizens playing the role of reporters and challenging Martinez before an aide returned the event to the reporters. How did Martinez do? Audio is here.

SANCHEZ VS. RICH VS. HEINRICH?

Mick Rich 
If Lt. Gov. John Sanchez enters the GOP race for US Senate he'll have company. So says ABQ contractor Mick Rich who has been on the campaign trail for a year and tells us he is not about to get off it if Sanchez joins the fray. Rich shoots down speculation that he would withdraw from the Senate race if Sanchez gets in and instead seek the GOP Guv nomination:

I set my sights on the Senate race a while ago. . . I am on schedule and on budget and it's looking good to me. I am running for the Senate. If Martin Heinrich was doing his job and helping hard working New Mexicans, I wouldn't be doing this. If I thought there was somebody better than me I would be on their team, but there isn't. . .The Governor's race is not my race...

Rich also took this passive-aggressive stance on the Lt. Governor:

I think the ABQ congressional race would be a great spot for John. He is well-established in ABQ and I think he would do well there. My only business is to represent the state of of New Mexico as a US Senator.

The ABQ US House seat is being vacated by Dem. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham who is running for Governor.

As we reported recently Sanchez is attacking Dem Senator Martin Heinrich publicly and appears poised to get in the Senate contest. Meanwhile, Heinrich has  $2.5 million in the bank in anticipation of an '18 clash. Rich says he has about $200,000 in cash on hand.

This Heinrich supporter says he welcomes a Sanchez Senate bid:

Joe, I am elated to hear that Lt. Gov. John Sanchez from the failed Martinez/Sanchez administration is contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate. I believe that he is a grossly over rated politico because Big Bill wiped the floor with him by nearly 80,000 votes in 2002 when John ran against Bill for Governor. Plus, as you mentioned, Sanchez was forced to dropout of the 2012 U.S. Senate Republican primary. Sen. Heinrich plays hardball politics. Just remember how he ran for the US House and destroyed Darren White and did the same in his Senate run against Heather Wilson. As Sen. Heinrich salivates I say, Run John run!

Back on the congressional seat, former US Attorney Damon Martinez is a new name floating as a possible for a run at the Dem nomination.

THE BOTTOM LINES

We comment on the  budget mess in Santa Fe for Dateline New Mexico and host Tom Trowbridge. The program runs four minutes.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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