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Thursday, June 01, 2017

ABQ Congressional Candidates Multiplying Fast, Gators Feed On Ramo Guv Rumor And "The NM Inquisition" Laughs At La Politica 

Will we reach double digits? That's the question for the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Rep Michelle Lujan Grisham who is seeking her party's '18 Guv nomination. A year before the primary we already are up to six congressional contenders. They are:

Former NM Dem Party Chair Deb Haaland, attorney Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez, ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis, ABQ physicist Dennis Dinge, attorney Damian Lara and Edgewood town councilor John Abrams.

And there are two more waiting in the wings, including former US attorney Damon Martinez and possibly a former aide to US Senator Jeff Bingaman. That would take us to eight.

But expect the sorting out to be fast and furious. Given the low name ID of these candidates, party insiders peg the cost of a successful run for the nomination will run at least $1 million and up to $1.5 million. Not many will be able to reach that bar.

GATORING RAMO

The Alligators came climbing out of Tingley Beach when they read our report about businessman and foreign affairs consultant Joshua Cooper Ramo making some phone calls to top politicos in which he wondered about running for the '18 Dem Guv nomination. Never mind that it's a longshot Ramo would actually run. Behind every possible political move, the Gators dig deep. For example,

Joe, You didn't mention that Joshua Cooper Ramo is the cousin of Amanda Cooper, the step-daughter of Senator Tom Udall and longtime state political consultant. Amanda's mother, Jill Cooper Udall, is related to Joshua's mother, Roberta Cooper Ramo. And remember how Sen. Udall was considering a run for Governor before Michelle Lujan Grisham decided to run. Just sayin'.

Hmm. Joshua as the stalking horse for Tom Udall? Well, that's what you get when you tell the Alligators that it's all over for the Dem nomination and that a Grisham win is a done deal. That's like taking fresh meat from their jagged teeth.

By week's end the Ramo family and a variety of others were making mince meat of the Ramo rumor, saying emphatically he was not running for Governor. Considering he lives mainly in New York, (although he does have a place in Santa Fe as well) you would not expect him to make a bid.

NOT AS EXPECTED

A newspaper report said the stunning drop for state funding of lottery scholarships--from 90 to 60 percent of tuition--was "as expected." Say what? How many of the 26,000 higher ed students getting lottery funding were expecting a drop that will add over $700 a year to their tuition? We're they all eagle-eyed and watching the legislative session?  Of course not. Their jaws are dropping over the news and some of them may not be able to go to classes because of the massive drop in lottery aid.

The scholarship program is rapidly fading away in a state besieged by austerity. But that's New Mexico these days. News that should have folks up in arms and demanding change and accountability is treated "as expected." And that's how you get an economic death spiral in which the the young lead the pack in leaving the state.

THE NM INQUISITION

Thankfully, not all of the talented youth are leaving. We ran into a couple of them who are among the best and brightest--and funniest. Danger Varoz (he swears that's his real name), Sheridan Kay Johnson and a large supporting cast have been garnering plenty of attention and accolades for their new political satire series "The New Mexico Inquisition" or "NMINQ."  The program airs on their Facebook and other social media like YouTube as well as public access TV.

Danger and Sheridan throw piles of comedy and satire at the state's top politicos, fake news, the "real" news doled out by the NM mainstream media and much more. As NMIQ says, "Laugh at the headlines, stay for the Fake News!"

It's sharp writing and quick wit for those who like their La Politica a bit on the wild side. And if you're reading this, that's you. Enjoy.

OFF HIS ROCKER

Gary, what do you mean you're "finally" off your rocker?

In June, Gary Johnson will embark on what he calls his greatest physical challenge yet: riding the Continental Divide from Banff, Alberta, in the Canadian Rockies to Antelope Wells in the desert of Southern New Mexico. The former two-term Republican governor and two-time Libertarian presidential candidate is taking part in the Tour Divide, a nearly 2,800-mile race. Johnson, 64, said that he may be “finally, completely off my rocker.” He said he expects to be on his mountain bike for eight to nine hours a day for something like 40 days.

Gary has been "off his rocker" for as long as we can remember, but we've got to give it to him. No one is going to put this peripatetic senior athlete in a rocking chair.

THE BOTTOM LINES

On our big Wednesday blog we called Ray Powell the state land commissioner. He, of course, is the former commissioner. The current commissioner is Republican Aubrey Dunn. . . And we said in the first draft that there are two women on the ABQ city council. There are three--Councilors Gibson, Pena and Jones.

WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR

Calling all New Mexicans! New Mexico First invites you to THE policy event of the year on June 7th. U.S. Senators Tom Daschle and Trent Lott will headline the event and highlight important issues facing our state! Bipartisanship awards will be given to Rep. James Smith, Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richards, Rep. Jim Dines and Sherman McCorkle. Buy tickets here.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Month Of May And The ABQ Mayor's Race; What Changed? Plus Idle Guv Chatter Surfaces Possible But Unlikely New Dem Guv Contender, And: Powell Positioning On Early Childhood Amendment Could Change 

Colon, Keller. Lewis (NM Pol. Report)
As we wrap this month the ABQ mayoral race is basically where it was when we flipped the calendar to the merry month of May. Dem State Auditor Tim Keller, GOP ABQ City Councilor Dan Lewis and former NM Dem Chairman Brian Colon lead the eight person pack. But there is an important change to note. Colon continues to lag significantly behind Keller and Lewis in varied insider polling circulating.

That's worrisome for Colon, but he has raised a lot of money and not spent much yet so he'll have a chance to pull closer to his rivals with a media and grassroots campaign.

However, rather than a contest that features a "Big Three" as we dubbed it at the start of the month, for now it's more like "The Big Two And A Half." Colon has come serious catching up to do if he hopes to be one of the two top vote getters and advance to a likely run-off election in November.

The first round of the mayoral balloting is October 3, but early voting starts a month before that. In an eight person field, no one is expected to get the 50 percent of the vote that would make them the outright winner.

Keller is the only mayoral candidate to qualify for public financing but that means he's limited to spending less than $400,000. His supporters are saying they are sure a political action committee will come in to help Keller be more competitive financially with Lewis and Colon. That PAC would likely be financed by labor unions--like this:

Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union No. 412 has endorsed Tim Keller for Mayor of Albuquerque, the union’s vice president announced. 

Tim Keller has done an excellent job representing not only himself but all the citizens of Albuquerque and New Mexico in his roles working with us as a state senator and a state auditor,” said Mike Archuleta, Union Vice President.

A MAN'S JOB

With the withdrawal from the mayoral race of former BernCo Commissioner Deanna Arhculeta, the chances that ABQ will get its first female mayor have plunged. The other two women on the ballot--Michelle Garcia Holmes and Susan Wheeler-Deichel--are no slouches, but neither has shown the fund-raising muscle needed in these modern campaigns to break into the top tier. Archuleta was the best known of the candidates but her chances were never all that good either. Her fund-raising and polling numbers lagged.

(Old Town's Stella Padilla continues a court challenge to overturn a decision by the city clerk denying her a place on the mayoral ballot because she failed to turn in enough valid petition signatures).

There are currently three women on the nine member city council. The highest ranking woman in the current mayoral administration is City Attorney Jessica Hernandez.

IDLE GUV CHATTER

Ramo
Some scuttlebutt that you may want to put on your political radar: How about Joshua Cooper Ramo seeking the Dem nomination for Governor, joining Rep. Lujan Grisham and ABQ businessman Jeff Apodaca who are already in the contest?

Who??

Okay, we're not saying it is likely to happen but our reliable Alligators report Ramo has been having conversations with Dem politicos about the possibility. And just who is Joshua Cooper Ramo? Well, his parents are sure to beat him in the name ID game, at least in ABQ. His father is Dr. Barry Ramo, a familiar visage to Channel 7 viewers where for decades he has served as medical reporter in addition to being a long-established heart specialist. His mother is Roberta Ramo Cooper who hails from a once prominent business family here and is a nationally recognized attorney. As for Joshua he's built a reputation in foreign affairs and to quote Wikipedia:

. . . is vice chairman and co-chief executive of Kissinger Associates, the consulting firm of former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. He is also the author of several non-fiction books including two New York Times best-sellers, The Age of the Unthinkable and The Seventh Sense.


Cooper was born and raised in Los Ranchos but left here in his teens to attend the University of Chicago and never looked back thus he has few ties to the state, other than his parents and friends.

An outsider coming in and shaking up the scene could appeal to voters but how far outside the circle would voters allow? Then there's the financing of an effort. And how would a Ramo candidacy appeal to Hispanic voters? Is he more familiar with Russia than Rio Arriba? In any event, we mention it--just in case.

But there is one big reason New Mexicans may want to lend an ear to Ramo should he run. He's on the board of directors of worldwide coffee giant Starbucks. Never mind a matanza, think of all those free coffee coupons he could shower on voters.

POWELL POSITIONING

Powell
Former State Land Commissioner Ray Powell, now locked in a battle with environmentalist Garret VeneKlasen for the '18 Democratic land office nomination, may be positioning to change his mind on using a portion of the state's $16 billion Land Grant Permanent School Fund for early childhood education. We blogged Tuesday that VeneKlasen was for a constitutional amendment that would ask voters to tap the fund and that Powell was opposed. Here's what Powell said in 2013:

Powell says the risk of eroding the permanent fund could be averted by looking in a different direction: toward the estimated 1 million acres of federal lands in New Mexico that the Bureau of Land Management has designated as “disposal lands” because they don’t fit the BLM’s mission. He wants New Mexico to ask the federal government to grant the state some of that land. . .  that could earn revenue from leases. . . Under the plan, the revenue derived from the leases would go into a newly created separate fund, not the Land Grant Permanent Fund, for use on early childhood or other education-related programs.

And here is a statement from Powell this week:

I am meeting today with one of the main supporters of early childhood education and I hope to have an update of the current proposal to use $ from the Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF) for early childhood education, including who is accountable and how to measure success. To me there is no better investment than education. 

One point that many people don't appreciate is that the Land Commissioner is the Constitutional Trustee of moneys generated on State Trust Lands through the distribution from the LGPF to the designated 22 Trust beneficiaries. It is truly One Trust and the Land Commissioner must pay close attention to the investment, and distribution of that money. I  know from experience it is easy to be a candidate and give yes or no answers. When you actually have taken the oath of office and have gained knowledge and experience about this complex job - answers are much more complicated.

This is a litmus test issue among the nominating wing of the Democratic Party and they will wait with anticipation a complete answer from Powell on the early childhood amendment. The legislature continues to debate the constitutional amendment. The House passed the measure in the January legislative session, but it died in the Senate.

WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR

Calling all New Mexicans! New Mexico First invites you to THE policy event of the year on June 7th. U.S. Senators Tom Daschle and Trent Lott will headline the event and highlight important issues facing our state! Bipartisanship awards will be given to Rep. James Smith, Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richards, Rep. Jim Dines and Sherman McCorkle. Buy tickets here.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Back Story On Dem Land Commission Chase Involves Heinrich, All Eyes Still On Pearce For His Guv Decision And Yet Another Entrant in Crowded ABQ US House Race 

Welcome back. The Legislature will reconvene today to close out its special session begun last week. The lawmakers are expected to make quick work of adjourning since Gov. Martinez has signed the state budget that was hammered out earlier.  Now here's the latest from the home of New Mexico politics . . .

There's a back story on the entrance of longtime conservationist Garrett VeneKlasen into the race for the Democratic nomination for state land commissioner and it's one you will get only here. . .

VeneKlasen is a big time fave of Dem US Senator and ardent environmentalist Martin Heinrich. Former Land Commissioner Ray Powell, again seeking the Dem nod for the post, is not a Heinrich fave. Whether Heinrich makes a public endorsement of  VeneKlasen over Powell before next June's primary is worth watching as it could mean campaign cash and more support for the political newcomer.

However, Heinrich could risk some blowback from Powell supporters if he gets too aggressive for VeneKlasen. Heinrich is on the ballot for re-election in '18. He doesn't need rumblings about a primary challenge of his own. That might not be as hard to scare up as one thinks, considering how Bernie Sanders' supporters are still disgruntled over Martin's very early endorsement of Hillary.

Whether its Powell or VeneKlasen taking on GOP Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, it will be no easy task. Dunn defeated then-Land Commissioner Powell in '14 in an exceptionally tight race, taking it by only 704 votes. He is expected to launch a vigorous re-election bid.

DEANNA AND MICHELLE

Another member of the state's congressional delegation, ABQ Dem Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, waded into local politics when she endorsed former BernCo Commissioner Deanna Archuleta for ABQ Mayor, but Archuleta--citing the health of her 86 year old father--withdrew from the mayoral derby last week. Will Grisham now endorse one of the remaining eight candidates? Don't count on it, but do expect Archuleta to stay close to Grisham during the Guv campaign and even closer if the congresswoman wins the prize next year.

OGLING PEARCE

Speaking of the Guv's race, all eyes are still on southern GOP Congressman Steve Pearce. He said he would make a decision on an '18 Guv run right about now. The Alligator odds on Pearce giving up his congressional seat to seek the governorship have been all over the map. If nothing else, Pearce has done a fairly good job of keeping everyone guessing and building anticipation in the GOP.

The R's have reason to be pushing Pearce to run as there is no other obvious major GOP contenders to take on the eventual Dem nominee. Of course, if Pearce runs then we get a fun free-for-all for the contest to take his seat in the U.S. House.

We've lost our objectivity on whether Pearce jumps in. We bet a steak dinner with one of the Alligators that he would not. Don't worry too much for us, though. The loser does not have to treat the winner to the pricey Ruth's Chris. The Outback ought to be good enough.

WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR

Calling all New Mexicans! New Mexico First invites you to THE policy event of the year on June 7th. U.S. Senators Tom Daschle and Trent Lott will headline the event and highlight important issues facing our state! Bipartisanship awards will be given to Rep. James Smith, Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richards, Rep. Jim Dines and Sherman McCorkle. Buy tickets here.

1ST CD ACTION

Damian Lara
Damian Lara. You probably haven't heard of him but he's been toiling in the background of La Politica and is now ready to come forward. Lara, 39, will be the latest pursuer of the '18 Dem congressional nomination for the seat being vacated by Rep. Grisham when he makes a formal entrance into the race today at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. (Video announcement here.)

Lara, a native of Melrose on the eastside. is an immigration attorney in ABQ and believes his wonkish resume could catapult him to the nomination. Among the experience Lara touts is his staff duties for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in DC,  his stint as a BernCo Deputy Assessor and time as an attorney for the Legislative Council Service.  Lara is the current president of the NM Hispanic Bar Association.

With Lara in, we count at least five hopefuls for the Dem nod with more to come.

And while the Dem candidates jam the starting gate for the ABQ seat, what about the R's? There are few takers for their nomination because the seat has turned deep blue in recent years. But former GOP State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, who was the party's nominee in 2012 and was defeated by Grisham, says she's going to give it another shot. It will be a long shot but the party is likely pleased to have anyone agree to take on that stiff challenge.

WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR

Calling all New Mexicans! New Mexico First invites you to THE policy event of the year on June 7th. U.S. Senators Tom Daschle and Trent Lott will headline the event and highlight important issues facing our state! Bipartisanship awards will be given to Rep. James Smith, Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richards, Rep. Jim Dines and Sherman McCorkle. Buy tickets here.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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