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Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Hector And Michelle: Honeymoon On? Plus: Mayor's Race Thins Some But Not Much, And: UNM Economist Defends Susana  

Balderas and Grisham
It looks as though the honeymoon is on. Here's a revealing pic of NM Attorney General Hector Balderas carrying ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham like a new wife and looking for a threshold to carry her over.

The photo was snapped at this past weekend's Democratic Party Central Committee meeting where attorney and former Santa Fe County Dem Party Chairman Richard Ellenberg was elected in a landslide to become the new state party chair. But the real news is the pressing matter of the '18 Dem gubernatorial contest and whether Balderas will challenge Grisham for the nomination. .

Our very timely pic, delivered promptly by an Alligator, is the latest signal that Balderas will take a walk on the '18 race, choosing to run for re-election as AG. It's a big deal because Grisham has already raised close to $900,000 and credible challengers--other than Balderas--are few and far between.

Insiders report that the pair have been communicating occasionally about the Guv race but this picture intimates that the relationship is now on the verge of blossoming into a political love affair. Spring is in the air, Gators. We'll let you know when the wedding invitations go out.

NOT THAT THIN

The mayoral field has been thinned but not quite as much as observers expected, leaving an already topsy-turvy race even less predictable. Nine candidates--maybe 10 before all the counting is done--collected the required petition signatures to make the October 3 ballot. That's the most since 1993 when voters chose among 11 contenders. Interest is higher than usual in part because the '17 race is the first since 1997  that does not include an incumbent mayor. Republican Richard Berry did not seek a third term and will end his run December 1 when the new mayor is sworn in.

City elections are officially nonpartisan but the voters break along partisan lines. This year both major parties face the prospect of seeing their vote split among multiple hopefuls.

For the Dems State Auditor Tim Keller, former NM Dem Party Chair Brian Colon and ex-BernCo Commissioner Deanna Archuleta are the top three. Keller appears to be leading the grassroots campaign while Colon is the top dog in the money race. The Archuleta candidacy has shown early strength with Dem women voters.

3,000 voter signatures were required to make the ballot. Keller came with over 9,000, the most of any candidate. If he could  translate that into actual voters it would be major boost as about 85,000 to 90,000 voters are expected to turn out for the election. As for fund-raising, Keller qualified for public financing and receives about $380,000 for the campaign. Former GOP BernCo Commissioner, city councilor and state Senator Michael Wiener thinks for now Keller has the pole position:

After 8 years of a Republican mayor and considering the challenges we continue to face, the city will be ready to reverse. Keller is showing the potential to capture first place among the Democrats in a nine way race and that would land him in the run-off election. 

With so many candidates a run-off election is a near certainty. A candidate would need to win 50 percent of the vote to win the race outright. If no one does that, a run-off would be held between the two top- vote-getters a month after the October 3 balloting.

On the Republican side the three major candidates to make the ballot are City Councilor Dan Lewis, BernCo Commissioner Wayne Johnson and businessman Ricardo Chaves who muscled his way into the race by coming with $300,000 in personal campaign cash.

GOP analysts say Lewis has the early edge to lead their party's pack. That's because he has a political base on the Westside which he represents on the council and also has appeal in the conservative far NE Heights where most Republicans votes are cast. He also has been adept in the early fund-raising, although the rate at which he is burning cash could be an issue.

With the GOP vote subjected to so much splitting the prospect of a run-off featuring two Democratic candidates has also begun to float, with the speculators pointing to Keller and Colon as the two most likely in that scenario,

But with nine hopefuls in this race the crystal balls are foggy if not downright muddy. Any number of surprises and plot twists await. Not only is this the most crowded mayoral contest in years, it could be one of the most interesting.

"LAZY ANALYSIS"

Mitchell (Journal)
You have to feel a bit of sympathy for economist Jeff Mitchell, head of the UNM Business and Economic Research division. He's caught between a rock and a hard place. Gov. Martinez has vetoed the state's higher education budget, threatening his livelihood and that of his colleagues and at the same time they are charged with attempting to deliver objective analysis  of the state's dismal economic conditions. How does that play out? Look at these more than charitable quotes from Mitchell after more than six years of Gov. Martinez and see for yourself:

“I do not think  (the economy) is as simple as political leadership or a governor. Their influence on the economy is greatly exaggerated on every level. . . It's “far too lazy of an analysis” to blame one gubernatorial administration or another. Their influence on the economy is greatly exaggerated on every level.”

Well, that ought to keep Jeff's division from the budget axe. But no one with any real knowledge is saying this Governor or any other Governor is entirely responsible for NM's economic woes. Mitchell is giving us a classic straw man argument there.

The reality is that a Governor's policies are pretty darn important to economic outcomes in this state. Just one example: Martinez and (Richardson) cut taxes by hundreds of millions, promising it would attract jobs. It didn't, but for a decade it has comprised the main economic development plan for the state. We took the wrong direction and are paying a mighty price for the mistake. Also, Mitchell contradicts himself when he says:

Decades of under-performance and under-investment in New Mexico’s schools as the economy shifts to knowledge and skill-based jobs may also be coming to a head now, Mitchell said.

Well, that "under-performance and under-investment" is directly related to the policies of the Governor and the Legislature. That is not a "lazy" analysis. It is objective reality.

This is not a time to let state political leaders skate away on arguments that it's really not their fault--no matter how ineffective their polices may be. Now more than ever they need to be held accountable for their actions and we need vigorous debate over the economic future of our state. But we understand that's not the easiest thing to do when you have the Governor dangling a budget sword over your head.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Reader Ray Rodgers writes

Joe I enjoy reading your column but I really disapprove of your depiction of ABQ Police Chief Gorden Eden. I've known the Chief for many of his law enforcement years-- since he was an instructor at the Law Enforcement Academy. I am not a close personal friend but do know him up close having worked with him in numerous state safety strategies and I was fortunate to know his father. He was in law enforcement and I considered him to be a fine man. Anyway, I would appreciate you easing up on Chief Eden. We are lucky to have him and his depth of knowledge. . .

We take a look at the '18 Governor and US Senate race here with Dateline New Mexico and host Tom Trowbridge. The four minute program is here.

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