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Friday, March 17, 2017

Avoiding A Train Wreck In Santa Fe And Facing A Big Boondoggle In ABQ: ART Money In Peril, Plus: Ethics Schmethics; Commission Plan Scorned By Watchdog Group, And: Martinez Explains Vetos; Why Now?  

Mayor Berry 
While they try to avoid a train wreck over the state budget at the Roundhouse, here in River City what was once just a boondoggle from the Mayor and City Council now threatens to become a colossal boondoggle. Get a a load of this, with miles of Central Avenue already torn up:

The budget released by President Trump wouldn’t fund the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project. (ART).  But Mayor Berry says Albuquerque shouldn’t worry because funding for the project is contained in President Obama’s fiscal 2017 budget proposal, which Congress will be taking up later this year. Trump proposes limiting funding for the. . . grant program that Albuquerque is banking on to provide $69 million for ART.

And here comes the Senior Alligator strike on this potentially monumental misstep:

ART is not in the President’s FY ’18 budget which should send chills through City Hall. It’s still in the last President’s budget, but given the climate in DC does anyone really think Obama’s budget will fly through?  The climate in DC is cut, cut, cut. Yet, here comes the Mayor, in constant denial, assuring us that he’s got the money. Berry seems to forget that, in committee, the House has already reduced funding for the program that funds ART. Meanwhile, ART is 22% complete and is running on whatever City funds (fumes) the Mayor can squeeze. Mayor Berry, it's time to fire your lobbyist and spend more time with your new best friend, Rep. Steve Pearce (who used to sit on the Transportation committee, btw). And if you are someone running for Mayor right now, you'll need to come up with $100 million to fix up the nightmare on Central Avenue.

Mayor Berry, for misleading the public on ART funding and authoring what could be one of the biggest public works disasters in city history, you have been administered an Alligator strike. Congrats, or something.

And just in case Berry is still fantasizing about running for Governor, reader George Richmond comes with the conspiracy theory:

Could it be that big time NM R's don't want a certain Mayor RJ to run for governor but to leave office with ART not funded and the city budget high and dry?

Never mind "big time NM R's." Remember how Republican Berry shunned Trump? Trump tends not to forget such slights.

And that most subdued of City Councils? They approved ART on a 7 to 2 vote. They might want to round up the same number of votes to stop ART and cut their losses. But they won't.

ETHICS SHMETHICS

The proposal to ask voters in '18 to establish an ethics commission in the state Constitution is going down to the wire on this last full day of the legislative session. But the bill approved so far is so bad that one of the top ethics watchdogs--NM Ethics Watch--says pull the plug unless you can put some teeth in this dog's gumless mouth:

NMEW has always maintained that simply having an institution called an “Ethics Commission” will not be enough – a toothless or shell commission would do more harm than having no commission at all. It is imperative that an Ethics Commission have the following core elements protected in the state Constitution:

• be independent of influence from any one branch of government;
• have enforcement power, including independent investigatory and subpoena powers, and the ability to initiate an investigation absent a complaint; and
• operate so that the commission is transparent in its operations, especially in the manner in which it handles complaints.

A House-Senate conference committee is meeting in a final effort to make some meaningful changes. If not, you could end up with a commission that is all hat and no cattle. If that's the case, NMEW says:

The Legislature should stop, take a breath, and return to the creation of an Ethics Commission in next year’s session. The amendment will not go to the people for approval until the 2018 general election.

SOME 'SPLAININ'

Gov. Martinez is now explaining her heretofore unexplained barrage of vetoes this week. Even though none of the bills had anything to do with balancing the state budget and confirmation of her UNM Regents picks, she says both are reasons she vetoed the Senate measures--to send a message to Senators that they aren't crafting a state budget to her liking and frittering their time away.

But why is she putting out this explanation long after the vetoes? Well, there was talk at the Roundhouse that the state Constitution requires a governor to provide an explanation for every veto they make--even a simple explanation or one not even directly related to the vetoed bills as Martinez has now done. If there's no explanation, there is no veto, went the argument that could very well have landed the Governor in court. Senators are also saying she may not have issued her vetoes within the required time period. Other reasons for her veto barrage were taken up on the Wednesday blog.

AUTOMATIC OR NOT?

Reader Paul Stokes writes of the automatic voter registration bill that we covered this week:

The Daily Kos article overstates their claim that the amended bill is “so watered-down.” The bill requires that persons doing business at the DMV are asked on the web-based form if they consent to be registered, and if they say yes, they will then be registered (assuming they are qualified to vote as determined by the county clerk’s office) with no further action needed by the applicant.

That fits my definition of being automatic, even though having to “consent to be registered to vote” is technically an opt-in provision rather than an opt-out provision as I would prefer.

Perhaps more to the point, the bill (HB 28) may not get through its last committee hearing before the end of the session, but even if it doesn’t, the current statute (1-4-47) was intended to provide for a process that is essentially the same as this new language, so Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver working with the DMV can make it so.

PAPEN AND SMITH

Sen. Papen
Reader Kenneth Tabish writes of the defeat of the proposed constitutional amendment that would ask voters to tap a portion of the $15 Land Grant Permanent School Fund for very early childhood education:

Joe, Yes once again the Constitutional Amendment for very early childhood education has fallen because of the no vote by Las Cruces Democrats Senator Mary Kay Papen, who is no friend of education (remember she voted for the confirmation of Hanna Skandera as public education secretary) She clearly doesn’t care about children and the poor families of this state. It is also clear to me that she is listening to Dr. No (Sen. John Arthur Smith) who is also against the amendment. Change will only come through investment in our children via education. Public Education is not failing. It is clearly underfunded. They both know this amendment will pass if it is placed in front of the voters. It is time for change and both of them must go. Their Democratic conservatism is hurting the state!

Papen was key in killing the amendment by agreeing to table it in Senate Rules. Smith is a longtime opponent. Archbishop Wester put out a plea for a last minute compromise.

Okay, let's get the popcorn out and watch the final hours of the legislative session that ends at noon Saturday. Meantime, thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Martinez Veto Mania: She Gives No Reasons For Killing Popular Bills But Theories Abound, Plus: BernCo's Credibility Gap And Top ABQ Issues Pinpointed In Poll  

Gov. Martinez is now throwing around vetoes like her staff threw bottles from that El Dorado Hotel balcony. But it's not for the fun of it, believes reader Kelley Dupont:

Joe, I predict Susana spends the rest of her term making everyone as miserable as she is. She's not having fun anymore with this governor gig.

Not having fun, tired, frustrated, uncertain of the future, contempt for the Legislature and those good old standbys of bitter and vindictive are all reasons the armchair analysts give for the indiscriminate gubernatorial vetoes of bills backed by unanimous or near unanimous margins in both the House and Senate.

The frustration stems in part from some of the Senate Republicans joining with the Dems in support of raising taxes to resolve the budget crisis and also what she sees as the Senate's foot-dragging in confirming her appointments such as those for the UNM Board of Regents. Add into the mix the Senate override of her veto of the teacher sick leave bill and the governor getting busted on the Senate floor over a building lease deal that Senators of her own party said appeared to be a pay-to-play deal.

A question now is whether Martinez will blow up the budget negotiations just because she can. Another question: Is Martinez shadow Governor Jay McCleskey still operating in the shadows? Or is he off looking for greener pastures and leaving Susana to her own devices? Just wondering.

FRESHMAN INITIATION

Freshman state Rep. Daymon Ely is getting initiated into the ways of La Politica. He drew praise from liberals for his proposal to increase the top income tax rate on the state's one percenters by one percent, but then the long knives came out for Sandoval County lawmaker. From the liberal Daily Kos:

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Democrats recently introduced a plan to automatically register every eligible voter when they obtain a driver’s license, unless they opt out. Despite Democratic majorities in both chambers of the legislature, the bill died a stunning death in committee when Democratic Reps. Debbie Rodella and Daymon Ely sided with Republicans to block it. Ely claimed that he voted against the bill because doing so would allow him to re-introduce an amended version, which he later did. However, the revised bill was so watered-down that it effectively was no longer an automatic registration measure whatsoever. 

There's been chatter on the Daily Kos about over finding an '18 primary opponent for Rio Arriba Rep. Rodella.

AMENDMENT DOWN

The proposed constitutional amendment that we and others see as possibly transformative in turning around the dismal state of this state bit the dust again in the state Senate and the fight appears over for this year.

The Senate Rules Committee on a 6 to 5 vote tabled the proposal that would have asked voters to allow a portion of the $15 billion Land Grant Permanent School Fund to be tapped for very early childhood programs.

Dem Senators Clemente Sanchez and President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen joined with the R's on committee to quash the amendment.

The amendment did score a victory in the House where it won approval earlier in the session.

CREDIBILITY GAP

BernCo credibility took a hit when it was revealed that while it's considering  a gross receipts tax hike that would reap the county $30 million, the actual budget deficit they are looking to plug is only $8 million. Never mind a tax boost, BernCo. Here's the money you need at least for a year or so:

. . . The county hasn’t committed to selling any specific buildings yet, but analysis presented by the county’s risk management division to commissioners in 2015 suggested that the county could earn about $11 million if it sold its two downtown Tijeras Ave. office buildings, Union Square, and its stake in the city-county building.

So nix the tax hike, sell the buildings and then use the year that buys you to find $8 million in budget savings. Is that really so hard?

NIX THE TAX?

Speaking of taxes, we blogged that perhaps some of the funding for the city and county libraries ought to be employed for after school programs. A number of readers rebelled against that, including this one:

RE: "The city should divert funding from public libraries to after school programs in the worst performing public schools."

I asked a veteran educator, a two decade middle school principal, to respond to your idea: "Not so good," she replied. "Robbing Peter to pay Paul never has improved our lot-or that of Peter or Paul." She continued: "Libraries are critical components in a functioning democracy--ever more more critical in these dangerous times." Maybe it was a misprint; it would have made more sense had it read: "Put more money into libraries to promote after-school programs." She nailed it, you missed it.

CRIME AND ECONOMY

No surprise here. An auto dialer poll conducted by the ABQ PR firm Carroll Strategies among 853 registered ABQ voters Feb. 28 pegged crime and the economy as the two big issues in this years mayoral contest.

82 percent said crime is getting worse in the city, 50 percent said a safer community was the most important issue to them; the second most important issue was the economy, mentioned by 22 percent of the respondents; 58 percent aid they believe their children and grandchildren will have to leave ABQ to find good jobs. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.9 percent.

The city election is October 3. If no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote a run-off between the top two vote-getters will be held a month later.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Polls And Public Catch Up To Martinez; Senate Strikes With Rare Veto Override; Effort Led By GOP Senator; Dem Victory Dampened As Leader Slips On Lease Scandal, Plus: Pearce To Town Hall With Liberals In Las Cruces 

Sen. Brandt (Moore, Journal)
Where the public goes, the politicians follow. And so it was in Santa Fe Tuesday as the state Senate pushed back against unpopular Gov. Susan Martinez and for the first time overrode one of her vetoes.

It wasn't even close as eight Republicans joined the Dems to deliver the body blow to the second term Governor. And she received an extra sting as Republican Senator Craig Brandt of Rio Rancho, whose wife is an educator, led the override. (Brandt video here.)

Martinez's approval rating has plunged to 42 percent and she officially became a lame duck last November when all Senators were elected to four year terms and her once vaunted political machine was taken out of the picture. Senators, who for years suffered  mostly in silence, finally had their chance to strike.

The override came on a sick leave bill for teachers--a group Martinez has long tangled with--and was easy pickings. It had passed the Senate and House by huge margins. As one wall-leaner wryly commented:

It's good to see that the Legislature agrees that torturing teachers is a bad idea.

The reaction from the Fourth Floor dripped with irony, as Martinez's office dismissed the override as the “petty action of a bitter Senate," upset with her because she won't sign tax increases to balance the budget.

But it is Martinez's own bitterness and vindictiveness--sometimes directed at her own Republican senators-- that has attained near legendary status and may well be the legacy that she leaves.

(In a rare Facebook posting Martinez toned it down some as she wrote in her own name, calling the Senate override and other Senate actions "political stunts.")

And she didn't stop there. Throwing caution to the wind and risking yet another political spanking from the Senate, Martinez vetoed legislation that would have allowed "a computer science class to count as one of a high school student's math or science requirements to earn a diploma."

That measure passed both the House and Senate by nearly unanimous votes but still she vetoed it and without explanation. Now who's bitter?

Regardless of whether the House joins the Senate in the override of the sick leave bill--and it looks doubtful it will--the point has been made. Martinez has 21 months left on her final term but the power is ebbing fast. Judging by her actions and reaction Tuesday, the question is whether she can endure the duress without an outbreak of temperament that furthers the damage. We certainly don't need any more pizza parties.

NOT A CLEAN WIN

Of course, leave it to the Dems not to be able to pull off a clean win against Martinez. The waters on their side of the aisle were getting very muddy indeed, even as the Senate delivered the veto override that the chamber's PR office called an "historic" rebuke.

It turns out that Gov. Martinez personally called new Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth  on that state lease deal legislation that exploded in scandal when it turned out the beneficiaries of the deal were major campaign contributors to the Governor. Martinez called Wirth after he voted against the bill in committee. After the call he reversed himself and carried the Guv's water by getting the bill back on track. It then blew up in his face when both R and D Senators disowned the bill saying it appeared to be a pay-to-play scheme. The bill was dead.

The new majority leader assumed his post with a bend over backwards attitude toward the chief executive, vowing "bipartisanship" and lots of handshakes and pleasantries. Wirth may have figured that Martinez was ready to play ball now that the man she reviled--Majority Leader Michael Sanchez--was successfully ousted by her Machine and paved the way for his promotion.

Didn't Wirth know there was a skunk in the building when that smelly lease deal was personally pushed to him by Susana? Wirth desperately wants to be a peace maker and a deal maker. But he forgot the lesson Michael Sanchez leaned early on--this is a governor who will hang you out to dry--and if you don't believe us, Peter, look at the blood stains on your back.

TOWN HALL MANIA 

No sooner had we pointed out that while conservative GOP southern Congressman Steve Pearce has held two town hall meetings but both of them in conservative areas of his district, he pops up with the news that he will have a town hall in the heart of the liberal center of the district in Las Cruces. And get this, co-hosting the meeting with him will be the Indivisibles Group, arch-foes of the Trump-Pearce agenda. Pearce says:

I consider myself lucky to represent such a passionate and engaged district. 

Well, he will certainly have passion at the noon Saturday town hall.

This is the new Steve Pearce, ready to listen to the libs and look across party aisles. And that is a Pearce who looks more and more like an '18 GOP gubernatorial candidate. His potential foe--Lt. Gov. John Sanchez--must be wishing fervently that the rumors about Gov. Martinez sniffing around the US Justice Department for some kind of position are true and that he eventually gets appointed Governor. But with Pearce furiously pacing time is growing short.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Longtime Reader Mick is tilting at the rumor mill:

Joe, (former ABQ Chief administrative officer and attorney) David Campbell is leaving the federal service and has applied for the presidency of UNM. Shout it out in 72 point type.

We'll stick with your shout out, Mick, and keep you neck on the line as well.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Death Spiral Continues: NM Has Worst Jobless Rate In USA; Stagnant Population And Leadership, Plus: Retirees Wanted (Or Not)  

The death spiral continues and now even Mississippi can't save us. New Mexico has the highest rate of unemployment in the USA:

The state’s rate was 6.7 percent in January, compared to 6.6 percent in December and 6.5 percent in January 2016. The national rate was 4.8 percent.

Much of the pain is hidden way from the cities as the oil field and rural areas are slammed with something akin to a second Great Depression. But it's no bed of roses in the ABQ metro either as the best and brightest continue to flee, leaving behind an even more under prepared workforce and a state increasingly unattractive to businesses looking to expand.

The state's myriad of ills has been well-documented here. The jobless report reminds us that this death spiral can't be stopped or even contained without transformative leadership. However, with the potential agents of change leaving the state--the young and educated--we are faced with an aging population and stagnant leadership.

For example, how long have the heads of the ABQ Chamber of Commerce, the ABQ water utility and the executive VP of UNM been in those jobs? A long, long time. There is very little turnover in the plum posts that pay over $100k a year. There is nowhere for them to go, and generating new ideas is not conducive to their status quo.

The jobless news isn't the only thing casting a pall over these final hours of the legislative session. The price of oil has plunged below $50 a barrel for the first time in three months. Lawmakers scurrying to get out of Santa Fe will keep their blinders on to that news. But it's a grim reminder that the new state budget could be built on a bed of sand--yet again.

HISTORY MAKING

There was much made of the return of ailing Rep. Jim Trujillo to the House floor last week to cast a vote for the proposed constitutional amendment that would ask voters to approve spending money from the state's Land Grant Permanent School Fund for very early childhood programs. And Trujillo's momentary return after heart surgery was indeed poignant. But it's not what history will remember.

Yet again that amendment is stuck in the state senate and unable to find its way to a floor vote. There's over $15 billion in the Permanent Fund. Historians will footnote Rep. Trujillo's appearance, but it could well be the failure of that amendment that will cause them to scratch their heads and to write of why we didn't even use a small portion of our largess to reverse the death spiral we left to future generations.

TRUTH SQUAD

Let's truth squad the story on population stagnation. You see the fact thrown around that ABQ's population grew by 24 percent between 2005 and 2015, but the vast majority of that growth was in the earlier part of of the decade:

The Albuquerque metro area’s population grew by a measly 0.27 percent in the year that ended July 1, 2015, the second-worst performance of 10 major metro areas in the region, according the U.S. Census Bureau. In addition, the four-county area continued to suffer a so-called “brain drain,” posting a net outmigration of 1,552 people, meaning that many more people left the area than came here. The area’s population grew by 2,399 people and was 903,502 as of July 1, 2015, the Census Bureau said.

For many environmentalists the growth slowdown is welcome news. The problem is many of them can't find work to stay here and enjoy it.

RETIREES WANTED

Reader Cheryl Haaker writes in response to reader Jim McClure who wrote of the biz community's efforts to attract retirees. He did so with tongue in cheek as does Haaker:

Well, Mr. McClure's logic seems unassailable to me! Why do we want New Mexicans that require government services? (And who will become productive citizens one day?) Let's rake in all the old geezers and let the private sector (funded by the federal retirement system) take care of 'em? No more of this "Land of Enchantment" nonsense, or "New Mexico True" (whatever that was supposed to mean). Now, it'll be:

--Make New Mexico your final destination!
--New Mexico! A great place to live, a great place to die!
--Future passing you by? Don't understand your grandkids anymore? Go to New Mexico, where it's always 1920!
--Quiet, remote, untouched by industrial or commercial commotion - New Mexico!
--Our taxes are low - because we know you don't need much. And you won't have to support those young slackers anymore!

The copy just writes itself, although the cynicism does, too...

THE BOTTOM LINES

Reader Steve Snyder writes of the legislature considering making La Marcha de los Novios the official state song:

Isn't making a wedding polka the state song in a state with a below-average marriage rate and above-average divorce rate ironic at a minimum and hypocritical at the most?

Here is a video of the song.

Journalist and blog reader Daniel Libit, who has been putting UNM athletics under his spotlight, writes:

Hi Joe, I’m suing the UNM Foundation, claiming they are a public entity pretending to be otherwise.


No pretending around here. This is it. . .

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Final Week Of Legislative Session Delivers Stark Reminders On State's Economic Standing, Plus: Some Early (Very Early) Gator Gaming Of The '18 Dem Guv Race  

First we reported that the state's Medicaid rolls were "over 900,000." Then we quoted the AP as saying there were "nearly 900,000." Well, we should have stuck with the first estimate. The ABQ Free Press reports on the February Medicaid stats:

For the first time the number of Medicaid recipients topped 900,000. The actual number was 904,258 or 43.4 percent of the state's population.

To qualify for the Medicaid health insurance program a single adult can't make more than $16,404 a year; for a family of four it's $33,540 a year. Of the 904,000 on the Medicaid rolls about 350,000 are children.

That's a state chock full of low income families and singles and if you think they're living the life of Riley on their free Medicaid, check out the rates at the local payday loan store where many of them go to make ends meet paycheck to paycheck. The state House has passed legislation that is almost too embarrassing to mention. It takes the top rate on payday loans from 375 percent to 175 percent. Meanwhile the well-heeled continue to borrow at bargain basement rates of 3 percent.

Then there's the state income tax rate which has more or less become a flat tax with everyone--the rich and the not so rich--all paying the same amount, a point made by Dem Rep. Daymon Ely when he called for an income tax increase--from 4.9 to 6 percent--on the state's one percenters (not that there are many of them left these days).

Ely also voted against that bizarre payday loan legislation, reminding the state that the rate for such loans elsewhere is capped at 35 percent. But only in the self-contained Roundhouse bubble would an interest rate cap of 175 percent be greeted with back slapping and celebratory shots of Johnny Walker Blue at the Bull Ring. God bless em'.

All this is to say that New Mexico has built being poor into its economic model. It receives about four dollars for every dollar it puts into the federal-state Medicaid program, a program that now totals $6 billion and has become a major economic driver; it has a thriving payday loan industry that exploits the masses of low income citizens and it taxes those low income citizens at the same rate as the wealthy. In addition, the gross receipts tax, which impacts the lowest income brackets most negatively, is now soaring past 8 percent in many sections of the state furthering the income equality gap already at historic highs. Yep. We're poor and by many measures getting poorer.

In these waning days of Session '17 there are a couple of housekeeping chores that could especially help hard hit areas of the state. That capital outlay reform proposal from Dem Sen. Cervantes and GOP Rep. Fajardo is long overdue. We still have hundreds of millions of public works projects approved but the money going unspent. And then we have the projects that need to be killed.

Then there is the frenzy over the many exemptions to the state's gross receipts tax that are estimated to cost $1 billion a year. That's a subject ripe for a commission of lawmakers. You're not going to resolve that tax puzzle--as has been proposed--by attempting to eliminate every exemption all at once. But you just might get rid of a good number of them and raise needed revenue for the state if you come with a comprehensive study showing which work and which don't.

Finally from the Roundhouse, a $6.1 billion budget for the year that starts July 1 is getting closer to approval and being put on the Governor's desk.

Some on the right of the political spectrum have become so radicalized that they dismiss the point that the proposed budget is the same amount as it was in fiscal year 2007--ten years ago. In other words, the Tea Party and their affiliated fiscal austerity hawks have won. The smaller government that they claimed would stimulate the economy and bring jobs is here. Never mind that they were wrong--again.

Rather than declare victory and fight to keep their gains, the hawks are going for more cuts, arguing that the budget is still bloated, But the end of their run is in sight. The new budget--backed by Republican Senate Leader Ingle--finally ends the blood letting at our public schools and is supported by both sides of the aisle. But it's not something to make merry over. It's more like survivors climbing out of a bunker after the bombing and surveying the damage that was wrought.

EARLY GUV GATOR ANALYSIS

How about some early Alligator analysis of the early jockeying for the 2018 Dem Guv nomination? Why not? It's never too early around here. To the Alligator pond and one of the creatures with particularly sharp teeth:

(Santa Fe Mayor) Javier Gonzales is a good guy, but he’d be dead in the water at the 2018 nominating convention. As most veteran state central committee members will attest, his tenure as Chairman of the state party was mediocre, at best. He was an able place holder after Brian Colón left the chairmanship to run for Lt. Governor, but that’s about all that can be said for him in that position. He’s not a particularly powerful speaker. In a venue shared with (ABQ Congresswoman) Michelle Lujan Grisham it would be like comparing day-old oatmeal with a superb chile relleno.

Alan Webber could be a viable alternative to Michelle if the ultra-progressives are able to succeed in their bid to “reform” the Democratic Party with a huge grassroots turnout for this year’s ward and precinct meetings, but quite a few of them have already left the party, vowing to go Green or start a new “Progressive Party.” And Alan’s forte is economic development, and so would be a better pick for appointment as Secretary of Economic Development in a Lujan Grisham administration than as Governor.

(Attorney General) Hector Balderas would be formidable if he runs, but staying in the AG position for another couple of years makes better political sense for him. He’s young, with lots of time left to build his reputation in 2019 and 2020 and then run to replace Senator Tom Udall when Tom retires at the end of his current term (no, I don’t know that he’ll surely retire, but it’s a pretty good bet since he’ll be 72).

As for Jeff Apodaca, the son of former Governor Jerry Apodaca, he was a notable UNM Lobo football player, is a cancer survivor and had a career in Spanish language media, but he’s unknown in the party except as “Jerry’s kid.” In my opinion, the nomination is Michelle’s to lose.

That's some acerbic analysis that is sure to please Grisham, but it is still early and we still don't know the full field. We notice that our Gator did not mention state Sen. Joe Cervantes as a possible contender. And while Mayor Gonzales might not be popular at the party's nominating convention, he could still get on the June primary ballot without their support.

As for Sen. Udall retiring in 2020 and Hector taking his place, it's true that Udall will be 72 that year, but there's a catch--his father, the famous Interior Sectary Stewart Udall, lived to the ripe old age of 90. That would seem to leave plenty of elbow room for another Udall run in '20.

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