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Monday, January 08, 2018

Brian Colón To NM: Let Me try Again; After Mayoral Setback He Announces Bid For State Auditor, Plus: A Softer Susana Emerges To Announce Her Budget; Will It Last? 

Brian Colón (Gabe Gallegos '17)
Can Brian Colón pick up the pieces of a political career shattered by a triple whammy? He had a bumpy tenure as state Democratic Party chairman, a disappointing run as the 2010 Democratic lieutenant governor nominee and most recently suffered a big defeat as a contender for ABQ mayor, a campaign in which he spent over $800,000 and still came up empty-handed.

Despite those setbacks the intrepid Colón will give it one more shot. He announced Sunday that he will seek the 2018 Democratic nomination for State Auditor. And his friends think he may have finally hit upon a winning formula. One of them put it this way:

Brian has been trying to go from zero to 60, seeking high level offices before he accumulated any political experience. Serving as Auditor could give him the chance he needs to prove himself to the voters. 

Colon pushes back against criticism that he is running just to run. He told us the once sleepy office of Auditor "has become exciting since Hector Balderas and Tim Keller held the position."

"Many of the issues that have come to the fore in the Auditor's office--crime fighting, the education system and waste and fraud--are issues that I ran on for Mayor." He said.

Needless to say, both Balderas and Keller climbed higher on the political ladder from their Auditor perches.

Colón, an ABQ attorney, has become the Happy Warrior of La Politica. His presence on social media and at social events is ubiquitous. Always armed with a smile and looking as if he is about to break into a cheer over something--anything--Colón has built a considerable following, just not enough for electoral success. But now that could change.

The only other announced Dem hopeful for Auditor is State Rep. Bill McCamley of Las Cruces but Colon's well-known ability to raise money, his name ID in the ABQ metro and his Hispanic heritage that could position him for a big win in the North, appear to put him in the driver's seat.

McCamley has said he is giving up his House seat to run for Auditor. He is able to spend $50,000 he had in his House campaign account as of October on the Auditor run. One question may be how negative he goes, if at all, against the better known Colón. McCamley does have roots with labor and progressives, both important Dem constituencies and that gives him a shot.

When Colón, 47, took a tumble in the mayoral race he also dragged down his BFF--Attorney General Hector Balderas who went all in for him with TV ads that fell flat. But the two amigos are nothing if not political wind-sniffers and this time they think it's finally the smell of victory wafting Colón's way.

FACING JOHNSON

Whoever gets the Dem nod in the June primary their chances of a November victory are high. Appointed State Auditor Wayne Johnson will seek to become the first R to be elected to the position since the 60's. Harold Thompson was the last R Auditor. He won election in 1966 and re-election in 1968. That's not a promising history when combined with what is shaping up as a Democratic year. But Johnson is an able campaigner who was twice elected to the BernCo Commission and is busy collecting his petition signatures. Johnson told me Sunday he is definitely running for Auditor and added that he will be resigning the commission seat.

SOFTER SUSANA

(Journal; Moore)
The gubernatorial attitude prior to this upcoming legislative session is markedly different than years past. Rather than attack and prod lawmakers--her traditional approach--Martinez unveiled her proposed budget and legislative ideas in a more concilatory fashion. House Dems took note of the lame duck Governor's softer side, but remained wary that the rough and tumble Susana could come out when the 30 day session kicks off January 16 and she punishes lawmakers with an all crime all the time agenda.

But it seems unlikely. Martinez appears to want to put a few points on the board with tax reform, crime and make the peace over a budget that finally has some surplus money. Then she could take her walk into the history books diplomatically.

Others will say she is gunning for a presidential appointment to one of two soon-to-be vacant NM Federal judgeships--a lifetime appontment--so she's on her best behavior. (Would Trump give it to her after she refused to endorse him?).

Whatever the motivation, there is surely a case to be made for a subdued Susana. Two disastrous vetoes in recent years helped plunge her approval rating to 37 percent. One year she vetoed the entire capital outlay budget, prompting an uproar in the business community and forcing her to call a special session to undo her handiwork. The other came last year when in a fit of pique she vetoed the entire higher education budget, causing alarm statewide. That also had to be undone.

The Martinez years will be mainly remembered for the campaign-style attacks she led against her foes, whether it was an election year or not. She succeeded politically for a time, but the constant warfare produced no memorable legislation that dramatically altered the course of the state.

With DC in chaos and the public here weary of her administration, Martinez's initial approach to her final legislative session fits the bill. In fact, it could help her get a couple of major bills passed for a change.

THE BUDGET

The beleaguered state budget will finally be budged upwards. Both the Governor and the bean counters at the Legislative Finance Committee agree the state should have at least $200 million more available for the budget year that starts July 1 compared to last year's budget.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith delivered a dose of reality when he informed New Mexicans that the increase is almost entirely due to a boost in oil prices. The state's overall economy remains anemic, albeit with a few bright spots.

Taking the general fund budget from $6.1 billion to around $6.23 billion, as envisioned by both budget plans, is not earth shaking, but there is also money to restore the state's reserve account which was drawn down to nothing and endangered our bond rating. It also is enough to award a symbolic pay raise of about one percent to state workers who have not had a pay hike in three long years.

The budget battle has been like a roller coaster since $100 a barrel oil disappeared in 2014. Lawmakers were strapped in and screaming as they dealt with the coaster's steep and scary declines. Now the coaster is on a flat section with a slight uprise and they can breathe a bit easier.

What will come next in their thrill ride? More flat track? A return to terrifying drops? Or a heart thumping ride upwards? Only the oil Gods know for sure and they don't care about our roller coaster.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018
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