Wednesday, September 06, 2017

More Second Term Creepy-Crawlers For Susana; UNM Exposé Reveals Raw ManeuverIng, Plus: Mayor '17; More Reader Clashes Over Colón, And: Cervantes Coming Out Party 

The second term creepy-crawlers continue to emerge from under the gubernatorial carpets of Susana Martinez.

Journalist Daniel Libit, who authored a memorable 2013 National Journal piece on Susana's "Shadow Governor" and chief political consultant, Jay McCleskey, now comes with a 20,000 word missive on the backroom wheeling and dealing between UNM, the Governor, McCleskey, former Lobo basketball Coach Craig Neal and the UNM Board of Regents. Highlights of this soap opera gone sad include:

--Did Susana have "a crush" on Coach Neal, as one former UNM Regent says on the record, and did that crush lead--bizarrely--to Neal becoming the prime contact with the Governor for UNM?

--If Martinez Secretary of Higher Education Barbara Damron is named the new UNM president by the Martinez Board of Regents, will UNM become a dumping ground for Martinez appointees like Chief of Staff Keith Gardner who are going to need jobs when her term ends next year?

---Did something so petty as personal hatred for her former Deputy Chief of Staff Ryan Cangiolosi, who secured a job at the UNM Health Sciences Department and is also chairman of the NM GOP, a big reason the Governor and Regents punishing that department as well as stalling efforts to build a new UNM hospital?

--Has McCleskey and his pollster wife Nicole gone into the basketball coaching business? Yes:

Last summer, the McCleskeys filed paperwork with the Secretary of State to create Dream Basketball Training Center LLC. They now operate an Albuquerque hoops gym out of an office park off Jefferson Street. In July, they hosted a two-day camp for kids. Former Lobos Obij Aget and Devon Williams, two of Craig Neal’s favorite players, served as instructors.

Libit, a native of ABQ who is a national freelancer based in Chicago, now authors the UNM watchdog blog NM Fishbowl. In this saga, the hallmarks of the now unpopular administration are peeled back like scabs--the pettiness, the vindictiveness and the lack of interest in public policy.

Screwing your enemies and demanding fealty from all you encounter has been the "governing" principle of the administration. The Fishbowl piece shows they did that pretty well at UNM but not much else. One wag on Facebook calls the Martinez UNM maneuvering a product of "Mayberry Machiavellians."

It's another sorrowful creepy-crawler tale that, as Libit writes, has "everyone counting" the days until the Martinez era finally concludes on Dec. 31 2018. As the Grateful Dead sang so memorably: "What a long, strange trip it's been. . . "


Where in the heck has Joe Cervantes been? That's what inquiring minds have been asking ever since the Las Cruces area state Senator announced July 5 he will seek the 2018 Dem Guv nod. Apparently Joe was taking it easy since announcing but is now ready to switch gears. Cervantes will be hosted this Friday, Sept. 8 at the NE Heights home of veteran Dem consultant Mark Fleisher at an ABQ coming out party. Fleisher says on the invite:

This will not be a fund-raiser, just an opportunity to meet Joe and Jennifer Cervantes and talk about issues that are important to you. I would personally appreciate you coming to meet and talk with Joe. 

The event runs from 5 to 6:30 p.m. More info at mfleisher@aol.com.

There's really only one question the political community has right now for Cervantes, an attorney whose family has large agricultural interests in Dona Ana County. That's whether the rumor is true that he will salt his own campaign kitty with as much as $2 million in personal money? If he does, the game is on with his main competitors Jeff Apodaca and Rep. Lujan Grisham who have been on the campaign trail for months. If not, Cervantes may have trouble getting traction.

Cervantes is a former state House member as well as a state Senator so knowing the issues is no problem. But knowing when and if he should take out his wallet for a tough primary battle is tricky.

On the party invite Cervantes unveils a possible campaign slogan: "Transforming New Mexico."


For the past week the TV airwaves in the ABQ mayoral race have belonged to Brian Colón alone. That higher profile has sparked a reader debate over his association with the Robles Rael Anaya law firm that has done considerable business defending the city police department and its officers during its most turbulent time ever.

That association, Colon critics argue, means he can't be put in charge of reforming the department. We pick up again on the debate. First with another defender of the candidate and then another critic:

Brian Colón was never interested in practicing law. He has always been interested in politics, and that is where his energy has been directed. He was not generating money for the law firm. He and managing partner Marcus Rael went to NMSU and UNM law school, and are close friends (along with third friend, AG Hector Balderas). “Of counsel” can mean almost anything. What it means for Brian is that he has an office and a telephone, and is not expected to practice law. The obvious benefit for the law firm is that if Brian is elected to anything the firm expects to win its share of government contracts (although, as I wrote earlier, the firm has some excellent lawyers). Optics aside, if Brian is elected Mayor, the City will be well served if RRA continues to do work for the City.

And another view:

I want to call B.S. on Colón and reader Catherine Sherwood’s comments about Colón’s role at Robles, Rael and Anaya. The truth is that Brian’s role at the firm changes based on what crowd he’s talking to. Colon’s team is trying to cloud the issue. 

At the Albuquerque Police Officers Association meeting just two weeks ago, Colón says: 

“Those of you who know me know that I have built a career at Robles, Rael and Anaya. That name is familiar to you because that’s the law firm that stands besides officers when they are in their deepest and darkest days. When they are involved in use of force cases, our law firm has stood tall by them. I’ve got some competitors that like to use that against me and say that my firm has stood with law enforcement when they’ve shot innocent Albuquerque citizens. I wear this as a badge of honor." (Video here).

Let’s unpack that. First, Colón shamelessly touts his role at a law firm that has collected millions from the Berry Administration representing the worst use of force cases. Regardless of his role at the firm, he is happy to use that affiliation to get votes from police (by the way, up until a few weeks ago, Colón listed himself as “partner” at the firm in his LinkedIn account). 

Second, wearing the shooting of innocent Albuquerque citizens as “a badge of honor” takes his pandering to police to a whole different level and is insulting to the families of victims. Lets remember that Colón’s firm settles all of its cases for millions, implying that they don’t have a strong enough case to win. 

Finally, Colón didn’t talk about how the firm benefits from their sweetheart relationship with the Berry Administration collecting millions in contracts. In those contracts, Colón’s services are listed at $150/hr. That doesn’t sound like someone who has absolutely no association with those cases. Brian needs to come clean. It’s time to see his tax returns, employment agreement and other documents that prove he is not part of defending APD and the Berry Administration. Because voters are going to want to know, how can Colón be a part of reforming Berry’s APD when he benefits from defending it?


Services have been set for longtime Santa Fe State Rep. Lucky Varela who died over the weekend at the age of 82. Varela will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda Thursday from 1 to 5 p.m. where a memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. The rosary for Varela will be recited Sunday, Sept. 10th at 2 p.m. at St. Anne’s Catholic Church. The Christian funeral mass is scheduled for noon Monday, Sept. 11th at St. Anne’s, with interment at 2:15 p.m at Santa Fe National Cemetery.

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