Thursday, November 09, 2017

More Wind At Keller's Back? Latest Election Results Bolster Dem Hopes For Big Mayoral Win, Plus: Another One? Already? PNM Rate Hike Request Comes Amid Stunning Profit Report 

There's little question that Tim Keller has the wind at his back going into next Tuesday's ABQ mayoral election, but did a sudden gust push him even further ahead?

The big Democratic wins in the East Coast gubernatorial races, combined with a progressive Democratic sweep of three Las Cruces city council seats Tuesday night, confirm the Dem enthusiasm that we saw in the initial Oct. 3 ABQ mayoral balloting and that continues in the early voting stats.

According to Data Flux, Dems are outgunning the R's in early turnout 54-34. About 46 percent of the city's electorate is registered Democrats.

Keller scored a landslide win in the first round, scoring 39 percent of the vote to Republican Dan Lewis' 23 percent. If Keller scores another big win it will make it that much easier for him in pursuing his goals in the early months of his administration.

Both Keller and Lewis have transition teams at City Hall as each prepares to take over from Mayor Berry December 1, but with Keller the frontrunner the focus is on him.

One member of Keller's transition team says they are uncovering a "real mess" in many city departments, even as they praise Mayor Berry for conducting the transition in a professional manner.

Keller is already being advised by longtime politicos to immediately report to the public problems found within individual departments and announce his plans for reform. Otherwise, they warn, he could get saddled with Berry's negative baggage at the outset of his term.

Keller is said by sources to have several individuals in mind for the critical position of chief administrative officer, who under the City Charter is charged with running the day-to-day affairs of the city. However, the names are being kept under wraps.

But there's still an election to be held--or half of one since about 50 percent of the vote or more is expected to be cast in early voting which ends Friday. Lewis can't let fatalistic talk about his prospects deter him from a final stretch full charge. Nothing is written in stone until the votes are counted.

(Early voting locations here.)

Speaking of counting the votes, we'll do just that when we convene our traditional wall-to-wall Election Night coverage on KANW 89.1 FM and kanw.com. We'll kick it off at 6:30 p.m.

On Monday at 5 p.m. on KANW my guest experts will join me for our Election Eve Special to chronicle the campaign that was and what to watch for when the vote count starts Tuesday night.

We've covered every mayoral election on KANW since 1989 and we look forward to being with you once again to bring you the very latest results, expert analysis and even a few laughs.


Reader Jeff Baker reacts to the speculation on the Wednesday blog about who will replace Keller as state auditor if he wins Tuesday:

My money is on Robert Aragon to be appointed by Gov. Martinez as the next State Auditor if Tim Keller is elected Mayor and Aragon loses his City Council run-off race to Democrat Cynthia Borrego. Call it “Susana’s revenge” on the Dems.

Not a bad bet. Susana's appointee will fill out a full year left in Keller's term and could cause plenty of havoc. Of course, if Aragon wins the council seat and Keller is mayor, Aragon will be causing plenty of havoc for the new His Honor. You can bet on that.


The local electric company is riding a wave of profits thanks in part to a 10 percent rate hike given to it by the state last year. And its stock price has doubled in the past five years. Now they want another rate hike to the tune of 9 percent?

PNM's net earnings rose by 48 percent in the third-quarter of 2017. . .That marks the third straight quarter of double-digit growth for the utility, driving the company’s net earnings for the first nine months of 2017 up by 71 percent compared to last year. The growth largely reflects a 10 percent rate hike for average residential customers that took effect last October. . . Company finances could improve more in 2018 and 2019, depending on the outcome of PNM’s current rate case at the NM Public Regulation Commission. The utility is seeking another 9 percent average rate hike to be phased in over two years. 

That would mean a 19 percent rate increase over three years. In a stagnant economy like New Mexico's? Where unemployment is among the worst in the USA

And here's the kicker. Because the economy here is a big sag, electric consumption continues to be a problem for the utility causing it to seek to drive our electric rates ever higher:

Those trends continued in the third quarter, with flat or declining consumption among residential, commercial and industrial customers. Overall, the company’s electric load fell by nearly 1 percent from July-September, and by 0.7 percent year to date.

Not only do Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico have to put up with a stagnant economy, it appears they have to pay PNM a fine for it.

If we spot anyone with hind legs at the PRC who is ready to make a serious challenge to Reddy Kilowatt, we'll be sure to light up the blog with the news.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Jockeying To Succeed Keller As Auditor Starts, Keller Makes Direct Strike On GOP Hitman At TV Debate And Lewis Outspent On TV 2 to 1 In Runoff 

If Tim Keller makes it to mayor it could be only a matter of hours before the race to replace him as state auditor is joined. Behind the scenes the action is already warming up.

Insiders expect ABQ congressional candidate and attorney Damian Lara to reconsider his run for the US House seat if Keller is victorious and consider launching a campaign for the Dem nomination for Auditor. And he may have quick company.

The Alligators report that Las Cruces area State Rep. Bill McCamley is making calls saying he's considering an Auditor run. Also, add Bernalillo County Assessor Tanya Giddings to the list of possibles. There could be more.

But there's a wrinkle for those Dems. If Keller wins, GOP  Gov. Martinez will get to name a replacement to fill out the remainder of his term through 2018. Not that that will slow the Dems down. No R has been elected state auditor in decades. But the Martinez appointee could have the advantage of the incumbency, if the person Martinez selects decides to seek the four year term.

Another office that has not seen a Republican elected to in decades is state treasurer. Current Dem State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg is running for another four year term. The R's are fielding a political unknown Jason Hessler out of Artesia to take him on. Not much action there unless Eichenberg blows himself up with some kind of controversy.


Republican operative and attorney Pat Rogers has been merciless on Tim Keller, publicly calling him a "cheat" for alleged campaign ethics violations. Verbal brawling is par for the course for Rogers and the Governor's political machine to which he has sworn his allegiance, but the worm is about to turn.

After absorbing numerous Rogeresque hits quietly, Keller is now on the offense. At last night's KOB-TV debate he responded to Rogers using language that Democrats have mostly shied away from these past seven years:

This was never an issue until right before the election, and then here come a litany of ethics complaints all coming from one person: a disgraced lawyer, a partisan operative who was literally kicked out of their law firm for sexist emails. That's where all of this is coming from.

It seems the Dems, poised to retake power after a long exile, are no longer easy pickings for Rogers and the machine. You could almost hear that worm turning last night.

(Rogers resigned from the Modrall law firm in 2012 after an uproar over an email he sent in which he said Gov. Martinez had dishonored General Custer by attending a summit with tribal leaders. Rogers is a former GOP National Committeeman who was defeated for re-election last year by Harvey Yates, Jr.)

And the mayoral appearances roll on. The NM Business Coalition is conducting "job interviews" for the mayoral hopefuls as well as for candidates for the Westside city council run-off:

The Job Interview BASH is going down on November 9, 2017, from 5:00 - 7:00 pm, at the MCM Elegante Hotel, Candidates will not know what the questions are in advance, will be limited in time on their responses, can only talk about themselves and must answer the question that was asked. No debate, no one talking over anyone - only one candidate will be in the room at a time. This format means New Mexico voters will be able to hear where these candidates stand on several issues in just a few short minutes.

Tickets for the event are here.


One of the major developments of the mayoral run-off is how Republican Dan Lewis has been heavily outspent on TV by Dem Keller. Media veteran Chris Brown reports from Santa Fe:

Joe, Lewis has spent a total of $140,681 for 1,130 TV ads--646 for cable and 484 spots on the four network affiliates.

Keller's campaign has spent $92,317 for 662 spots (15 seconds). All of the money went to the network affiliates. However, the independent committee supporting Keller--ABQ forward--has bought $184,215 for 654 TV ads--213 on cable and 441 on the network affiliates.

That's $276,532 for pro-Keller ads and $140,681 for Lewis. Keller's nearly two to one spending advantage is significant and will impact this race.

Brown reports another committee supporting Keller has not spent money on TV but is apparently supporting him with mail and field support.


Reader Hal Gershenson writes:

Hey Joe, How come you haven't mentioned the Facebook ad that Lauren Poole and that former Mayor Marty Chavez did for Tim Keller? It's had 100k views which is as viral as it gets in an Albuquerque mayoral race. Marty may get a Golden Globe for his pronunciation of "sandwich."

Okay, here it is, Hal.


A state lawmaker is proposing a way to have public comment from New Mexicans who cannot physically be in Santa Fe to testify. ABQ Dem Sen. Jacob Candelaria wants to introduce legislation in the upcoming session aimed to allow people to give their testimony before legislative committees through online means. 

Candelaria said many New Mexicans cannot make the trek to Santa Fe, especially those living in rural parts of the state.

Why go to Santa Fe and catch a cold at the Roundhouse when you could do your business in your pajamas--just like a blogger.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2017

On The Trail: More Santolina Digs At Keller; Is Developer Digging A Hole For Itself? Plus: Pity The New Mayor And 5th Entrant In Dem Light Guv Contest 

David Villegas photo
The Santolina developers have been ants at the Keller political picnic. Well, more like big, fat cockroaches.

First they hit him in dark media ads for coddling sex offenders. That didn't stop him so now they may double down and are pondering filing a lawsuit against State Auditor Keller for raising questions about water rights for the giant planned community proposed for the far westside.

Santolina asserts Keller's questioning of the water situation is retaliation for those hard-hitting, if over-the-top sex offender ads.

We know developers like to dig holes, but the one Santolina is digging for itself could mean the end--or at least a very long delay for Santolina--if Keller wins November 14.

After the pounding Santolina has given him he will be motivated to do all in his power to halt the development--and it won't be difficult.

Maybe Santolina knows they are dead money under Keller and waging a war to the death is their only option. It certainly seems that way now that a they have Republican operative and wild swinging machine Pat Rogers serving as attorney for their cause.

Well, good luck, fellas. . .

It's another round of Keller vs. Lewis tonight at 6 as the mayoral pair face off in another TV debate. This one is being hosted by KOB-TV. There are a lot fewer voters to convince than when the first TV debate aired Oct. 29. We now have at least 40,000 early votes already cast. . .

On the paid media side of the equation you wonder what happened to that independent committee that was supposed to go to work for Lewis under the stewardship of ABQ/Phoenix attorney Simon Kubiak. We blogged of its formation, but it never got off the ground.

That left Lewis outspent on TV in the final days by Keller's publicly financed campaign of $125,000 and two committees independent of his campaign that have raised over $225,000 to support him.

That development plus trends in early turnout thus far show the enthusiasm in this mayoral cycle is with the Dems.


Pity the new mayor. Really. . .

A Subway store on San Mateo is robbed eight times in the past ten months and there's no end in sight. . . A homeless couple pitches a tent and moves onto the roof of a lawyer's office building near Nob Hill and the lawyer below complains about the pooping going on overhead. . . A group of citizens so flummoxed by the lack of crime fighting in the city form a group to fight it on their own. We used to call that vigilantism, now we thank them for it. . .And the murder meter for 2017 is poised to set a new record of well over 70 dead. . .

After that, just being a state auditor or city councilor doesn't sound so bad.

On a more upbeat note. . .

The two mayoral candidates conducted separate interviews with the "Dukes Up" group which was formed to"resist" the Trump administration:

Each candidate answers questions while consuming salsa of increasing intensity. The concept behind the project is to provide a different/easy/entertaining way for viewers to engage in politics and get to know the candidates. 

The videos of Lewis and Keller on their hot seats are here.


But can it stay there? That's the question state budget nerds are asking as the price of oil hits a two year high and breaks over $57 a barrel. For each buck the price rises the state says it gets about $10 million more taxes and royalties into its cash-starved general fund. They've been figuring on the price averaging about $48 a barrel so this is no small change.

But before they can start counting the winnings, they're going to have to mark their calenders. For the state to realize more oil money the price has to stay at current levels for a number of months--not days. Still, the upward tick has the bean counters watching as closely as Phil Griego counts the zeroes on a commission check.


Remember, government doesn't create jobs. The news:

According to Fobes, Los Alamos County is the sixth richest in the United States. The smallest county in New Mexico is also the wealthiest, with the median income at $107,000. The cost of an average home in Los Alamos is $535,000 and Forbes predicts this will go up.

Yep, government doesn't create jobs. Remember that.


Southern NM is getting some representation in the race for the '18 Dem nomination for lieutenant governor. Dona Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett is the fifth hopeful in the contest:

Governor Martinez and President Trump are using the power of their positions to benefit a few at the expense of everyone else. I’m running to be your next Lieutenant Governor because New Mexico needs a team in Santa Fe with the courage, experience, and vision to see that state government addresses the needs of residents as its primary responsibility.”

The other candidates seeking the nomination are ABQ state Senator Michael Padilla, former ABQ state Rep. Rick Miera, Jeff Carr, a former member of the Public Education Commission and David McTeigue of Rio Rancho, a juvenile probation officer.

Thanks to longtime ABQ photographer David Villegas for the image at the top of the blog today. Check out his Facebook page for further info.

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Monday, November 06, 2017

Lewis' Last Chance: His Last Bet Is On "The Keller Con", While Keller Breaks His Taboo And Ties Berry to Lewis, Plus: Dems Say They Can Take Out Aragon with Borrego In Key City Council Run-Off, And: The Eden Exit; APD Chief Resigns And Avoids The Mayoral Axe 

(Daily Lobo)
The dual challenge of hyping Republican voter turnout and cooling down Keller fever among Democrats confronts Republican Dan Lewis as he begins his final push to pull off what would be considered one of the major upsets in ABQ mayoral history.

The early voting numbers reveal the formidable task facing the two term westside city councilor. According to Rick Abraham of Data Flux, figures compiled form the city clerk's office show Democrats comprise 54 percent of 33,000 early votes cast, with R's totaling 34 percent and independents and others making up the remaining 12 percent.

Officially, city elections are nonpartisan but that's a fig leaf that was long ago shredded. Party affiliation continues to be the best predictor of voter behavior, driving home the need for Lewis to do all he can to dampen Dem enthusiasm for Keller and keep D's away from the polls,

Lewis' latest effort to increase the GOP vote and give Dems pause over State Auditor Keller is a TV spot that unveils the slogan: "The Keller Con." It again slams Keller for alleged campaign violations and ethics complaints leveled against him by Republicans. Unlike another recent Lewis TV attack, there appears to be no mistakes in this ad and it's strong.

But Keller's campaign and two independent committees backing him are now heavily outspending Lewis on TV in the final crucial days of the campaign, an ominous signal for the underdog.

Even if the "Keller Con" label fails to put Lewis in the mayor's office, you can easily see the GOP putting it to use against a Mayor Keller as they try to immediately define him and harden early opposition to his administration.

The ad is Lewis' last chance to reverse the turnout trend seen in early voting.

And in that early voting there was a very noticeable spike in Dem turnout in the liberal North Valley Council District 2 where Keller pulled off a landslide Oct. 3 and that was key to his first place finish.

And there's another spike in the Dem vote in conservative GOP Council District 8 in the NE Heights. Obviously, the impressive ground game from Keller and associated interest groups has not let up since the first round of voting.


Candidate Keller has resisted advice that he mention Mayor Berry by name and tie his failed policies to fellow Republican Lewis. But in his closing TV spot of the campaign released Sunday, Keller breaks that taboo and for the first time mentions the eight year incumbent in his paid media. Here's the video and here's the transcript:

Albuquerque is going the wrong direction. I’m Tim Keller. And negative ads and false attacks will never help turn things around. Politicians like Dan Lewis and Mayor Berry have divided and failed us for eight years. It's time we come together. As State Auditor, I've cracked down on public corruption. And I'm running for Mayor on a real plan to keep our families safe, step up for our kids and help revitalize our economy. Let's move Albuquerque forward.

Like Lewis's new TV attack, this is a strong, simple spot. Keller faces the camera and makes his pitch directly to voters. That he is young and camera-friendly doesn't hurt. The Keller camp hopes mentioning the unpopular Berry as a failure could slow Lewis' momentum in the final days of the campaign.


Another interesting strategic development in this mayoral race is the swing away from the controversial social issues that could be a headache for Lewis, a baptist pastor.

In the Oct. 3 election Lewis was called out for an endorsement he received from Reverend Smotherman of Legacy Church who praised Dan because he would be a mayor who would not back "the homosexual agenda."

Lewis did his best to squirm out of that one and since then homophobia and other social issues like abortion have been as absent from the run-off as a Lobo football win.

Well, it's certainly not in Lewis' interest to pursue a conservative social issues agenda in a Democratic city. And Keller's team probably saw no need to rouse Smotherman and company to get out and vote against Keller by getting gay over gay marriage.

Those are the same reasons we probably haven't heard anything from either of our contenders about that guy in the White House.


Democrats are expressing cautious optimism over their chances of taking back the northwest side city council seat being vacated by Dan Lewis.

Early voting trends in the run-off show Dem participation outpacing their registration there. About 45 percent of the early votes tallied are Dem, while the district's Dem registration is 39 percent.

This is key race. A win by Dem Cynthia Borrego, combined with a victory by Tim Keller, would give the new mayor a 6 to 3 council majority, up from the 5-4 current Dem majority.

Also, Republican Robert Aragon, an attorney and vocal advocate for Gov. Martinez, would no doubt be a major thorn in Keller's side if the two were serving together. Keller defeated Aragon in 2014 to become state auditor.

Borrego, a self-described "conservative Democrat," has her party out in force in the district, with the congressional delegation and a variety of local politicos all hitting the phones and doors to push her over the top.

Borrego, 59, a retired city planner now in the private sector, is attacking attorney Aragon for being a supporter of unpopular Mayor Berry and his crime policies. And she's bringing up lawsuits and tax liens from Aragon's past--as seen in the piece posted here.

(We haven't received any Aragon mailings but if we get one we will post it).

Aragon, 60, who serves on the state Board of Finance by appointment of Gov. Martinez, made history back in the day when he became the state's youngest-ever elected state legislator at the age of 21.

His family has a political pedigree that goes back decades.

It's amusing to see Borrego attacking Aragon by pointing out he "comes from a political family--convicted felon Manny Aragon is Aragon's cousin."

Of course, Manny Aragon, a longtime state Senate powerhouse, is, like Borrego, a Democrat and in fact one of the most prominent D's in state history who ended up serving prison time on corruption charges. Robert Aragon switched to the R's several years ago.

Aragon is receiving help from the head of the Martinez machine--consultant Jay McCleskey. In addition, Lewis hopes to push Republican vote high in his home district to give his mayoral candidacy a boost. That could help Aragon. But in the early going it's not happening.

While Dems cite the early voting numbers and their unity behind Borrego's candidacy, GOP consultants at party headquarters are holding on tight, believing that in the end the demographics of the district--which they say lean conservative--will save Aragon from defeat.

Aragon only beat Borrego by one point--39 to 38--in the initial October 3 balloting. That was closer than expected and gave her momentum. Catherine Trujillo, who finished third and did not make the run-off, has not made an endorsement.


Chief Eden (Brose, Journal)
The charitable spin that that can be put on ABQ Chief of Police Gorden Eden--who announced Saturday he will retire at the end of the month sparing himself from being fired by the new mayor--is that he was in way over his head and tried his best to keep it above water in leading the deeply troubled agency.

The worst that can be said is that he essentially conspired with other top brass at APD to defy efforts to reform the department, sanctioned lying by his staff to the press and blamed everyone but himself and his department for the continuing crime wave that has upended the lives of thousands in the metro.

However you spin it, Eden, a career government employee, was a failure. The unceasing crime epidemic is the lead paragraph in his political obit.

Now it's up to the new mayor to clean up the mess. But a word of warning: Mayor Berry, in what turned out to be a sham announcement, said he would look across the nation for the best police chief he could find only to settle on the politically connected and unprepared Eden. If the new mayor goes down that path, his honeymoon will indeed be brief.


This is the final week to vote early in the city election and the last day is Friday, Nov. 10. Here are the early voting locations where you an cast your ballot from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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