Thursday, May 18, 2017

Is "Being The First" Enough For Haaland To Take 1st CD Seat? Plus: The Econ Beat: Fleeing Skilled Workers Leave Facebook Project Short, And:Gold Mines For Consultants Don't Light Up NM's Future 

Deb Haaland
There's something to be said for being first. In 2010 Gov. Martinez's campaign  constantly reminded the electorate that she would be "the nation's first Hispanic female Governor." No doubt the Republican garnered many Hispanic Democratic voters who wanted to push her into the history books. Now comes a Democratic candidate for Congress who is also touting what would be a first. . .

Deb Haaland, 57, former NM Dem Party chair, attorney and member of Laguna Pueblo would be the first Native American woman to serve in the US House of Representatives,  if she were elected next year to the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and which Haaland officially announced for this week.

Unlike Martinez, Haaland would probably not have the appeal across party lines that Martinez had, but then she really doesn't need it. The ABQ congressional seat has become deep blue and winning the June '18 primary election will be tantamount to winning the seat in November, barring an extraordinary occurrence.

Haaland has seen first hand what being first means. When Gov. Martinez sought re-election in 2014 Haaland was the Democratic lieutenant governor candidate, paired with Guv nominee Gary King. They suffered a severe defeat but it gave Haaland a taste for public office.

Haaland released a solid video along with her announcement. The question now is can she raise enough funds and conduct a smooth, professional campaign? Being first comes with expectations. Among her top opponents for the Dem nomination and who will be ready to take advantage of any Haaland missteps is former US attorney Damon Martinez who is expected to join the race soon, ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis who is already announced and attorney Antoinette Sedillo Lopez.


If Attorney General Hector Balderas has his eyes on Senator Tom Udall's US senate seat now that he has decided not to run for governor, those eyes may get very tired.

Udall, who will be 72 when he is up for re-election in 2020, shows little sign of aging, and the 70's seem to be the new 60's in the world of politics. After all, Trump is over 70 and president. Also, the Alligator betting odds have Udall running again, barring any health issues. By the way, Udall's father, onetime Secretary of Interior Stewart Udall, lived to the ripe old age of 90.

There is rarely a free throw for a US senate seat or a governorship. Hector is finding that out fast.

Meanwhile Senator Martin Heinrich is in the sweet spot when it comes to the news cycle. From his perch on the Senate Intelligence Committee he is making dozens of media appearances about the Trump chaos and in the process shaping his image as as a national defense expert as he prepares for his '18 re-election effort. There is plenty of time for the cycle to turn, but right now it doesn't get much better than this for the state's junior senator. As someone once said: "Enjoy it while it lasts, because it never does."


If you head into one of ABQ's popular restaurants on a Friday night you might think the economy here is booming and that spending is off the charts. But the data doesn't support the conclusion. Take a look:

Albuquerque’s gross receipts tax revenues, which provide 64 percent of the city’s total revenue, will increase only 1 percent overall this year – well short of the 2.3 percent increase anticipated in the city’s current budget. The city’s gross receipt tax revenue for May and June would need to grow more than 12 percent over last year to meet revenue projections for the year, Romero said.

Accounting for inflation, that is negative growth in the GRT which is the biggest contributor to the city budget and a key economic indicator. The fact is ABQ is like much of the nation--the "haves" with good jobs are packing the restaurants and auto dealer lots but the many "have nots" continue to scrape by. The numerous dollar stores and payday lending outlets attest to that new economy here. It has been that way long enough to be called "the new normal."


And here's an interesting note on how the state's seemingly never-ending economic stagnation is impacting even the good news. There's trouble filling good paying jobs at the new Facebook data center being constructed in Los Lunas.

Affordable Solar has signed on to build three solar farms for the data center and is starting construction in July on the $45 million project. It has 54 job openings it is advertising. The problem? They can't find folks to fill them. Kevin Bassalleck, president of Affordable Solar explains:

The majority of the 50+ people we’re adding will be construction positions, specifically installers and electricians. The pay range for installers is $15 - $19 / hr and $24 - $33 / hr for electricians. The biggest challenge is the amount of qualified and experienced electricians. I think the relative lack of construction activity in the NM market in recent years has had an impact on the local labor force, and it has likely driven qualified men and women to other markets in search of steady work. We have a very strong portfolio of projects with the Facebook sites, as well as other regional projects that will keep us busy for quite a long time, so we’re able to establish a robust hiring plan with that certainty. 

The company has even put up a billboard in an effort to attract qualified applicants, but with the out migration of skilled people we've seen in the state in recent years, they may have to put that billboard up in Arizona and Texas.


Beware all these special elections, Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico. The fights over peripheral issues have become fodder for the professional consulting and donor classes that have gobs of cash and are spending it on issues that matter little to the future of the state, but generate much emotion and profit:

Two political action committees that duked it out over a proposed Santa Fe tax on sugary beverages spent more than $4 million on their campaigns, final finance reports showed, shattering fundraising records for a municipal election. The group that worked to defeat the proposed tax, Better Way for Santa Fe & Pre-K, won not only the election but the money war, taking in about $2.18 million in cash and in-kind contributions and spending about $189.31 per vote. All cash donations came from the American Beverage Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group that poured in more than $1.9 million. . .

What will be voting on next? Whatever the political consultants and their big money benefactors want us to?

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Grisham Dodges A Balderas Bullet As AG Nixes Guv Run; Anyone Else Out There? New Name But An Old Face Surfaces For GOP Guv Field And Caucasian In Taos  

Balderas and Grisham
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham dodged a bullet as Attorney General Hector Balderas, seen as her chief potential rival for the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, decided not to enter the race and instead will seek a second four year term as AG.

That puts Grisham in the catbird's seat to secure the nomination with the important caveat that here is still a year to go until the primary and other major entries are possible, if increasingly unlikely.

ABQ businessman Jeff Apodaca and anti-alcohol educator Pete DeBenedettis are the only other Dem contenders in the contest and both have a major hill to climb in raising money and garnering name ID.

Back in March Don Ana County state Senator Joe Cervantes told us he "is all in" for the governor's race and would make an announcement in April, but that date has come and gone and Cervantes still has not made a move.

Despite the lure of a race with no incumbent, observers see the high cost of running a primary election--upwards of $2 million--as a major disincentive to join the fray. Cervantes has personal wealth that could make him competitive but still there has been no outcry from Democrats against the easy ride Grisham has been getting.

Grisham's supporters will start to argue more convincingly that the bare field is because she is a superior candidate and that will help with fund-raising.

The Republican problem recruiting a major name candidate is well-known. Gov. Martinez is unpopular and her record will be hard to defend. So far, no R has decided to take up that challenge.

As for Balderas, he will be an odds-on favorite to win a second term as attorney general next year with probably no Dem primary opposition and only token Republican opposition. A Guv run would have forced him to give up that job--a high risk move. At 43, he can afford to wait for better opportunities and he will.

And there's this from Michelle who was ready to lower the axe on the neck of Balderas if he challenged her, but now it's all peace and love. Cue the Beatles, here she comes:

Hector Balderas would have been a tough competitor if he chose to run for Governor because he has such a strong record as a legislator, Auditor and Attorney General. In addition to his successful prosecution of Internet crimes against children and Medicaid fraud cases, Attorney General Balderas is leading efforts to challenge President Trump’s executive orders to ensure they are Constitutional, fair and just. I look forward to a strong partnership with him as we work together to meet the challenges in New Mexico and serve and protect our citizens.

Hey, when he carried her across the threshold as shown in the photo above, we knew love was is the air.


Southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce has the ability to raise the money and the tough political skin to subject himself to the stern attacks he would endure if he chose to seek the '18 GOP Guv nomination, but Pearce is sinking deeper and deeper into the Trump quagmire and in no small part because of his vote in favor to repeal and replace Obamacare. Take a look at his recent congressional newsletter:

We’ve seen and heard a lot of misinformation being shared online and sparking debates on social media, which is why I’ve taken this opportunity to address some of your biggest concerns. As your representative, it is my job to ensure that you have all the facts so that we can work better together to bring greater opportunity to New Mexico.

The problem for Steve is when you're defending, you're not advancing.

By the way, we blogged that Pearce's only statewide race was against Dem Tom Udall for US senate in 2008 and which he lost, but an informed reader points to Pearce's ill-fated run in 2000 for the US Senate GOP nomination against Bill Redmond as another example of a statewide Pearce contest. Well, kind of. Only R's were eligible to vote in that race, so we did not consider it a true statewide battle, but for those who see it that way, we mention it. Pearce lost to Redmond, a former congressman, 60% to 22% with other candidates making up the margin. Dem Senator Jeff Bingaman crushed Redmond in the general election 62% to 38%.


So, if not Pearce for Governor (who is still mulling over a run) and not ABQ Mayor Berry (although he could still dive in) and not Lt. Gov. Sanchez (who has all but announced for the US Senate seat held by Dem Martin Heinrich) then who? How about outgoing Public Regulation Commissioner (PRC) Pat Lyons?

Insiders say if none of the three Rs listed above go for the nomination, the  GOP may turn to Lyons for a name candidate, even if he does carry plenty of political baggage accumulated over the years.

Our Alligators inform that Lyons, who is term-limited on the PRC, was recently reaching across party lines regarding 2018 and met with a former Santa Fe County Dem Party official who has worked the north. He'll need a lot of reaching out if he is to defy the odds and make it to the Governor's chair, but the news is he just might get the chance.

One other thing, if the call goes out to Lyons he might be a sacrificial lamb but given his statewide performance in the past, he could limit the damage the GOP might take in lower ballot races such as the state House.


We all know of the aging hippie class in Taos that dominates liberal politics there but we never heard it quite described this way until Taos News reporter Jesse Moya penned:

The event was attended by more than 50 individuals, largely representing the left-wing Caucasian baby-boomer generation in the Taos area.

Not for anything, but isn't the Taos news owned by Caucasian left wing baby boomer Robin Martin? And it would take an Anglo...err...we mean Caucasian from Pennsylvania like us to point that out.


We characterized the jobs at Trader Joe's grocery store as of the $10 an hour variety but reader Laura Sanchez writes: 

Several sites regarding company wages report Trader Joe's average wage as $13.20.

We were comparing the Trader Joe's jobs that the mayor of Rio Rancho is hoping to attract to those being lost at Intel there and that are some of the highest paying in the state. Not to knock Trader Joe's. We like the name, of course, and when the time comes for us to hang up our spurs, bagging groceries at Trader Joe's beats that Wal-Mart greeting job the Alligators are trying to push us into.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Early Mayoral Polling Has "Big Three" Holding Lead, Pearce's #1 Fan May Hold Key To His Guv Run, No Dunn Dynasty As US Attorney Names Sent To White House And An Expensive Hospital  

We have our official ABQ mayoral field--all nine of them--and inquiring minds want to know who stands where with less than five months before the election.

There has been no public polling and there may not be any until well into the summer, but there has been campaign polling--at least two of them--that we have been made aware of--and we can report that the race still revolves around what we dubbed at the outset of the contest as the "Big Three."

Both campaign polls we have been alerted to by our reliable Alligators show Democrat Tim Keller leading the field with Republican Dan Lewis very close behind and former Dem Party Chairman Brian Colon placing third but quite a bit back of Keller and Lewis. Coming in fourth in the polling was former Dem BernCo Commissioner Deanna Archuleta. The remaining five hopefuls registered marginal support.

The early surveys confirm the danger Lewis faces from fellow Republican hopefuls Wayne Johnson and Ricardo Chavez. If Lewis had the GOP field all to himself he might be in first place.

Just about everyone watching this race expects there to be a run-off election between the two top vote-getters following the initial October 3rd balloting. That's because it would  would take a candidate securing 50 percent of the vote to win the mayor's office outright. The insider polling indicates that is unlikely and a run-off is a near certainty.


What's stopping Steve? Southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Peace is touring the Land of Enchantment this month as he tests the waters for a 2018 GOP Guv run. The conservative lawmaker could easily have the nomination, but getting elected is another story. The R's are on the ropes after eight years of Gov. Martinez and the Dems are favored to take the Governor's chair next year.

Pearce's one foray into statewide politics ended disastrously in 2008. That's when Dem Tom Udall beat Pearce for a US Senate seat by a margin of 61 to 39 percent. That has to be giving pause to Pearce but there's another reason.

Our Alligators report that Pearce's wife Cynthia is not very keen on Pearce making the high-risk Guv run and giving up his congressional seat to do so. Her advice could well outweigh the hundreds of GOP well-wishers who Pearce is hearing from and who are pushing him to run. If Pearce, soon to be 70, really has the fire in the belly to seek the Governor's office he may have to go overtime with the pillow talk if he's to convince his #1 fan.

On the Democratic side alcohol-prevention teacher Peter DeBenedittis of Santa Fe has made official his run for the Dem nomination:

DeBenedittis formally announced his candidacy Monday, describing himself as a progressive Democrat and political outsider who does not owe favors to past political contributors. A New Mexico resident since 1995, DeBenedittis wants to pursue policies that expand early childhood education and provide universal health insurance coverage, while increasing taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. He has not previously run for public office.

DeBenedittis joins Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and ABQ businessman Jeff Apodaca in the Dem chase. but unlike them he is not expected to raise oodles of cash for his campaign.


So much for a Dunn dynasty. Early rumors that ABQ attorney Blair Dunn, son of GOP State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, was in line to become the new US Attorney for New Mexico did not pan out. The news:

Rep. Pearce and Senators Udall have agreed to send to the White House the names of Fred Federici, currently an assistant U.S. attorney in Albuquerque, and John C. Anderson, a Santa Fe-based former federal prosecutor now with the Holland & Knight law firm.

Anderson is an R and Federici is a Dem so it's expected the White House will send Anderson's name to the US Senate for confirmation. He would be in line to replace former Dem US Attorney Damon Martinez who is expected to seek the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Grisham.

Did Dunn's reputation a a political firebrand thwart his ambitions? Could be. As for Aubrey Sr, he's expected to seek a second term as land commissioner next year and will probably face off against Dem Ray Powell who he beat for the seat in 2014.


That $250 million price tag for a new 120 bed UNM hospital was an eyebrow raiser. Why so much? That's a question Terry Storch tackled on social media:

I am a supporter of public hospitals and a taxpayer, but the price tag appears far too high. Industry average for hospital construction is $1.5 million a bed, and a new hospital in Merced, CA, came in at under $900,000 per bed. This price tag is $2 million a bed. After the expensive and unnecessarily lavish Bill and Barbara Richardson wing at UNM hospital and after the public suffering staggering prices for health care and the prospect of loss of care under the Republican "plan," I want to see hospital money spent on function not fashion. 


From Rio Rancho: 

Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull launched a social media campaign this month, asking residents to reach out to Trader Joe’s and request a new location to open in the area.In his online post on May 2, Hull’s minute-long Facebook video asked residents to “take the Mayor’s Challenge” and fill out a request form on Trader Joe’s website.

Maybe he should have them to take a Mayor's challenge to get Intel to stop laying off people in Rio Rancho, instead of trying to attract $10 an hour jobs from the grocery chain. But then Intel and all those high-paying jobs at Rio Rancho already appear poised to join the ash heap of history.

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