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Thursday, July 06, 2017

Lucky Number 7? Ex-US Attorney Martinez Preps U.S. House Bid, Plus: APO Power; Apodaca Fund-Raising Eyed, And: More Consequences From The City Crime Crisis 

Damon Martinez
Will former US attorney Damon Martinez be lucky number 7? Martinez confirmed to me this week he will "soon" announce his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham who is seeking the Dem nod for Governor. Martinez will be the seventh candidate to announce, making for an increasingly competitive and unpredictable primary in June of '18.

Martinez, 51, recently completed a four year stint as US attorney for NM under President Obama. He says one of the chief reasons he's running is to continue his battle against the opioid crisis. He said:

I'll be running on my record as US attorney on that issue which I think has been innovative as well as on the promise to continue to fight this crisis which I am afraid has not yet peaked. 

Martinez is no stranger to Capitol Hill having served as a legislative aide to Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall. He recently joined the Modrall law firm but says he will eventually go to part-time status in order to campaign full-time.

He says his Hill experience, combined with his top national security clearance as U.S. attorney and his service as a military reservist, "uniquely position me to defend Kirtland Air Force and Sandia Labs from any budget cuts."

Martinez has never run for office and agreed his ability to raise money will be a key factor in whether he can be successful. He said he did not think the $1 million mark being thrown around by some consultants would be needed for the primary race. 

Martinez, a native of ABQ, will join the fray as one of the leading contenders because of his US attorney stint. Other top candidates are former NM Dem Chair Deb Haaland, ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis and attorney Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez. 

The only Republican to announce for the seat so far is former ABQ State Rep. Janice Arnold Jones. 

We rank the seat "likely Democrat" for next year's election. The R's lost it in 2008 and have never taken it back. And that's why there is a growing crowd of Dems seeking to succeed Grisham.

APO POWER

Jeff Apodaca
Here's a head turner. A campaign insider with Dem Guv candidate Jeff Apodaca says the ABQ businessman has so far raised nearly $700,000 for his run. That's a big number for the political unknown who announced his bid six weeks ago and is sure to get the attention of newly minted candidate Joe Cervantes as well as Rep. Grisham. In the first campaign reports filed in April, Grisham reported raising nearly $900,000 and having over $700,000 in cash on hand. 

The next campaign reports aren't due until October so we'll have to wait for the official word. But Apodaca told me via text message that the $700k is "pretty accurate" and he says he has not made any significant personal loans to his campaign. Former US ambassador to Spain and longtime politico Ed Romero is known to be helping Jeff Apodaca, the son of former NM Gov. Jerry Apodaca.

In our exchange, Apodaca also took a slap at his foes--Cervantes, a current state senator and a former state rep and Grisham, a former county commissioner turned congresswoman. He scorned them as "career politicians."

If Apodaca, a former executive for Univision, is indeed near the $700k level the chatter about Cervantes, a successful lawyer and family business owner, having to put up at least $1 million of his own to be competitive, is not idle chatter. 

So, Joe, get out the checkbook. Jeff, don't spend that $700k all in one place. And Michelle, look out behind you. As for anti-alcohol Guv candidate Peter DeBenedettis, who is not expected to raise significant money, Peter, you may need a stiff belt of bourbon before this one is over. 

(Cervantes made his candidacy official Wednesday. Here's a report and another

THE CRIME WAVE

Like the econ beat, when it comes to the ABQ crime wave NM Politics with Joe Monahan is the go-to site for the real story. Here's a startling development relayed by veteran ABQ insurance executive and longtime GOP activist Bud Dziak

Joe, Mayor Berry, Governor Martinez and APD have numbers to dispute the crime wave in New Mexico but the real proof is the number of insurance carriers increasing their NM rates by double digits starting in July. Insurance companies file their rate increases with the NM Department of Insurance. A check of these filings shows a number of insurance companies requesting double digit increases in auto insurance. Unfortunately, someone has to pay. Sweeping these issues under the carpet will now come to haunt the responsible people who buy insurance to protect their property.

P.S. I just received a call from First American Insurance Company. They are leaving NM effective September 1 due to losses. This company does a lot of homeowners business in NM, one of the major players here. The Exodus has begun. 

Crime is out of control, and even though this is going to drive rates higher and make insurance agents more money, it makes me sad and not the way I like to profit. I will keep you informed as insurance companies adjust to our circumstances. An insurance crisis is beginning, if not already here. Consumers get screwed. Time to clean house in NM,. I've been doing this 40 years and never seen it so bad.

Thanks for that update, Bud. There's no spinning away the real world consequences of this crime crisis and the leadership void it has exposed.

THE BOTTOM LINES

The news link for our report on the state's financial standing with Moody's was not up for early morning readers yesterday. Here it is.

We had a case of first nameitis in our first draft Wednesday, giving State Senator Steven Neville and ABQ city council candidate Catherine Trujillo the wrong first names. Sorry, Roger and Christine. . . err. . . we mean Steven and Catherine.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Better Late Than Never? Cervantes Set To Join Guv Chase Today But Problems Lurk, Plus: New Mexico's Financial Bondage And A Millennial Who Is Not Fleeing ABQ 

Balderas & Grisham In Vegas
Better late than never? State Senator Joe Cervantes told the media he would announce his bid for the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nomination back in April, but it took him until today to pull the trigger. He will make his promised entry with a formal announcement at the Farm and Ranch Museum in his home county of Dona Ana.

Cervantes will be joining U.S Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, ABQ businessman Jeff Apodaca and anti-alcohol advocate Peter DeBenedittis as official contenders, but his problem is the same as it would have been even if he hopped into the race back in April.

Both Cervantes and Apodaca are centrist Democrats with business profiles who will appeal to the same Dem consistences, leaving much of the remainder of the vote heading toward Grisham. (DeBenedittis is not expected to compete on the same level as the other three).

That Cervantes and Apdoca are both Hispanic males is obvious, but important. Already, Grisham has had Attorney General Balderas join her on the campaign trail, only days after announcing his official endorsement of her. The pic of the duo is from an appearance in Las Vegas, near Hector's hometown of Wagon Mound.

While she's working with Balderas to shore up Hispanic northern support, Grisham is free to roam about the building when it comes to more liberal Dems who will be reluctant to go with Cervantes and Apodaca, even if they are still reticent about Grisham.

In the early gubernatorial going the math is simple. Grisham's vote is less divided than her rivals. Cervantes is going to have to break out of the mold he has cast for himself as a veteran legislator if he is to break open this battle for the Dem nod.

MORE THAN ENDORSING?

"That's more than an endorsement, Joe." So said the Alligator who sent in that pic of Grisham and Balderas. Well, if it's more than an endorsement, it's a deal. The details of any such pact between the possible next governor and the AG will be a sidebar that will keep the Gators guessing.

FINANCIAL BONDAGE

Whatever the name of the next governor, they will face even more brutal budget battles. While Moody's has decided not to give the state a second bond downgrade, the ratings agency says the state faces long-term "structural problems" that endanger its financial status.

We've been talking about that for years. In fact, we are not backing off from a concept--first expressed on this blog probably over a year ago--that in the years ahead--say, five to seven--we could see the state's $16 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund tapped to fund a larger share of the public schools budget. There would be a hue and cry about it, but such an amendment giving the state an extra half percent of the money the fund generates annually for a period of ten years would probably pass the electorate with flying colors.

Gov. Martinez's office, in a display of convuluted logic, says her no tax increase pledged that more or less carried the day at the latest special session over the budget crisis was the reason Moody's did not have to downgrade our bonds. That, of course, neglects the first downgrade under her watch and the specter of even more as her administration has failed to address the "structural problems" that Moody's says plague the state.

Conservative GOP State Senator Steven Neville of the Four Corners reacted to Moody's decision to hold our bond rating steady by saying:

The reality is, we have $25 billion in the bank and we’re not going to go bankrupt," referring to money in state permanent funds that make annual distributions to help fund state public schools and other programs.

Yes, the Senator is correct that all of the permanent funds total about $25 billion but that doesn't let us off the hook. If we refuse to generate sufficient revenue to fund the government and then refuse to tap any of that $25 billion to do so, you will get another bond downgrade and then some. 

That scenario is not upon us--not yet. But if the next Governor faces continued depressed energy prices, stagnant population growth, increased Medicaid spending and the brain drain of the millennials the day of really "raiding" the permanent funds may not be far off.

A WILLING MILLENNIAL

Trujillo
We mentioned the millennials. Here's one who just turned 26 and is not fleeing. Catherine Trujillo, a registered independent, is seeking the Westside city council seat being vacated by Republican Dan Lewis who is running for mayor. Trujillo, VP of the Taylor Ranch Neighborhood Association, isn't shy about saying what she believes needs to be done for the beleaguered city:

"Our city is ready for change and fresh faces.We have tough choices ahead. The crime rate, unemployment rate and the rate at which our city is headed should not be contingent on election season. It’s consistency that matters now."

Aside from crime, Trujillo promotes a stronger economy in Albuquerque by encouraging more employment opportunities, economic incentives to help grow Albuquerque businesses and train the workforce.

When you have the Chamber of Commerce giving Mayor Berry an award for public safety, you could say that we just don't need "fresh faces" but we are desperate for them.

Trujillo is in a crowded field which includes GOP attorney Robert Aragon, a fave of the Governor's. The election is October 3. If no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, the two top vote-getters advance to a Nov 7 run-off election.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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