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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Two Months To Go In ABQ Mayoral Race But Strong Chance Of Run-Off Keeps The Crowd Looking Ahead, Plus: Readers Get In On Higher Ed Debate  

As we turn the calendar to August expect the ABQ mayoral race to heat up some, but perhaps not as much as you would like. There are eight candidates in the contest and because none of them is expected to get 50 percent of the vote a run-off between the two top finishers is expected November 7. Political observers say that expectation may be dampening interest in the first round of voting slated for October 3.

It seems much of the media and the public is treating this election as a primary which in many ways it is and that may be stifling enthusiasm and interest somewhat, although turnout at several of the mayoral forums has been robust. KNME-TV will sponsor a two hour mayoral debate on Tuesday, August 15th from 6 to 8 p.m. and KOB-TV will do a Friday evening September 15 debate,  but it appears the other major commercial networks (KOAT and KRQE) will take a pass on debates and wait for a run-off featuring the two top finishers. The venerable Temple Albert Mens Club, long a reliable political debate sponsor, is taking a pass on the Oct. 3 contest, saying it will only host a run-off debate.

It is the first time in a long time that a run-off seems likely thus lessening the impact of the initial voting round. In 2013 it was a two person race with a winner guaranteed in the first round. In 2009 it was a three person field but it took only 40 percent to avoid a run-off so the first round was seen as being definitive. In 2005 it was again a three person field and incumbent Mayor Chavez was heavily favored to win with more than the needed 40 percent in the first round and he did.

While some of the public may be waiting to see who makes the run-off before fully engaging in the campaign, the candidates trying to be one of the two who get to the final round will soon be roused. The big question is the half million dollar money bomb Democrat Brian Colón is expected to drop on the race. What will his message be? It will be the most critical decision of his political life. He is running third in the early polling and must utilize that money perfectly in order to get into a run-off with probably either Democrat Tim Keller or Republican Dan Lewis, the two polling frontrunners.

The candidates have been meeting in periodic forums that have received little media attention but have led to a discussion of the major issues including the one that dominates--the crime epidemic. The crucial question is which candidate captures the outrage of the public over the disintegration of law and order and the shrinking of the police department. Facts and figures the candidates have, but so far none of them has broken through emotionally and got the voters to say, "Okay, that's who gets it." The paid media to come could be decisive.

COUNCIL ACTION 

There are five city council races on the October ballot and activity is picking up. David Haughawout, president of the District 7 Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, writes:

The city council District 7 debate hosted by the D-7 Coalition of Neighborhood Associations will be held Wednesday, August 2 at the Sheraton Uptown Hotel from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.  The debate between Councilor Diane Gibson and candidate Eric Lucero is open to the public and everyone is welcome.

Gibson is the Democratic incumbent in the NE Heights district. Lucero is a Republican.

HIGHER ED DEBATE

Reader Charles Sullivan's comments comparing the number of higher ed colleges in New Mexico to Arizona brought in quite a reaction--both pro and con. Bernalillo County Dem Party Chair Bill Peifer writes:

You published Charles Sullivan’s “relevant math lesson.” Unfortunately, his math is largely irrelevant. Comparing Arizona’s and New Mexico’s higher education system based simply on population of the states is like comparing apples and oranges based on the number of seeds inside. Well over half of Arizona’s 7 million people live in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area. With 4.3 million people living within about a half hour drive of Arizona State University, that portion of the population can conceivably get by quite nicely with just that one university with its four campuses. Another million plus people live in the Tucson metro area and are within an easy drive of the University of Arizona’s campus. 

Our population is more spread out than Arizona’s. It would be very difficult for students from Farmington, Raton, Las Vegas, Portales, Roswell, Carlsbad, etc. to commute to any of our larger universities. We could save some money on regents’ stipends and salaries by turning Highlands, Eastern and Western into branch campuses, but the percentage of the costs saved would be negligible.

But Peter B. Ives, retired UNM Business, Economics and Geography Librarian sided with Sullivan:

Joe, Charles Sullivan makes a good point, although the trade-off is that two of their three universities are massive and the smallest, Northern AZ U in Flagstaff, has about  30,000 students and is larger than UNM. However, their 2-year, or community colleges, take an opposite tack. They are quite numerous and geographically extensive. For instance, look at Wikipedia's "List of colleges and universities in Arizona/" I counted around 50, 2-year colleges. So you have a two-level system (as opposed to the California three-levels: community colleges, Cal State and branches and the University of California and branches). Other states like Wisconsin, Texas, and New York have well-known, multi-level systems.

NM's "system" seems rather poorly thought-out and too political. That said, I was encouraged by the remarks of  state education leaders Abdallah, Carruthers, Winograd and others on progress they've made with management and curriculum efficiencies. That needs to be accelerated. I was also heartened by the NMSU Faculty President's mention that their voice was heard--reform can be done without "business-like" autocrats giving top-down decrees. 

SKYBOX SCANDAL 

Staying with higher ed, this anonymous reader has thoughts one the UNM Pit skybox scandal in which skyboxes were awarded but not paid for:

The problems of these suites is that they were poorly conceived. The views are terrible and few would actually want to sit there. Just guessing, but it could well be that the athletic director begged people to sit there so the fact they are white elephants might not be so obvious—and without any commitment from the users. Who knows? It was a screw-up of major proportions to even think someone would sit there much less pay thousands for the privilege.

Reader Richard Flores came with the obvious--that the skybox scandal could have been avoided if then Athletic Director Paul Krebs and UNM Executive Vice-President David Harris had insured the boxes were paid for in advance.

MEDIA BEAT

No wonder the cost of advertising on the 10 p.m. news in New Mexico has been more than halved in recent years. The audience is drifting away:

In 2016, viewership for network local affiliate news stations (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) declined in key time slots – morning, early evening and late night, according to Pew Research Center analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. Since 2007, the average audience for late night newscasts has declined 31%, while morning audience declined 12% and early evening audience fell 19%. Local TV noon and 7 p.m. news viewership also declined.

Th local stations still stand to make a pretty good buck in the upcoming election cycle because candidates want to appeal to the over 50 crowd that still tune into the late night TV news and are the most likely voting group. Still, it will be interesting to see if in this changing media environment those candidates budget the same amount for TV news as they have in the past.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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