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Monday, January 22, 2018

NM DC Dems Play With Fire In Gov't Shutdown, Martinez Mulls Her Future, New Legislative Hispanic Caucus Has Work Ahead And Insider Polling Has Webber Leading Santa Fe Mayor's Race  

Sen. Heinrich and Monahan 
A deal was struck Monday to reopen the federal government.

NM Democratic Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich made their point and it gladdened the hearts of the Democratic base, but if the government shutdown drags on for very long because of their party's insistence that a resolution to the immigrants known as Dreamers be included in any budget deal, they could find support sinking fast.

The government shutdown took hold over the weekend and for New Mexico, a state heavily dependent on federal funding and employment, it hits close to home. Udall and Heinrich are going to have balance that reality with the insistence of their base voters that they hang tough until R's cave on the Dreamers.

Heinrich is up for re-election this year but faces no primary challenge and an unknown GOP opponent in Mick Rich. Still, the federal government is largely what drives this state and a long shutdown that causes economic damage isn't in his interest or New Mexico's. Ditto for Udall who isn't up for re-election but who remains under pressure from thousands of NM families to keep the government running and the paychecks deposited.

Heinrich and Udall may have laudable credentials when it comes to protecting immigrant rights but the chaos of shutting down the federal government for an extended period of time will trump their party's determination to force a Dreamer deal.

New Mexico's two US Senators need to keep in mind their primary responsibility while balancing the demands of their most zealous patrons.

SUSANA'S FUTURE

Gov. Martinez squashed speculation that she would try to become a federal judge or the head of NMSU as she prepares to exit the Guv's office at year's end. And she says she won't have an announcement about her future plans until she is all done with being Guv.

There are no political paths open to the two-term Governor, given her polling unpopularity but she might be able to make some coin serving on the boards of directors of companies that would welcome the ethnic diversity that Martinez represents. She also has a lot of government time in and will be eligible for a state pension.

As for her governing legacy, Martinez, 58, gave what she saw as a long litany of accomplishments in her final State of the State speech, many of which were criticized here as fantasy.

In that speech she failed to mention what many observers believe is her major accomplishment and that will give her at least one lasting and positive legacy: Her decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare and most recently not attempting to force Medicaid receipents to work in order to receive the benefit.

It can be argued that Martinez had no choice but to sign the Medicaid expansion for low income citizens in a Blue state like New Mexico while Red state governors had an easy time turning thumbs down. But she did sign it. And in the future she will get credit for vastly improving the number of citizens who are experiencing easier access to health care and leading healthier lives.

The Legislative Finance Committee January newsletter reported that "more than 850,000 New Mexicans received Medicaid in October, down 3.4 percent from a year ago and up 0.1 percent from September."

That's a huge portion of the state's citizens receiving Medicaid. Many of them, Martinez pointed out, are working but don't make enough money to be disqualified from the program.

There's an important caveat to note here. Martinez's administration made a wreck of the state's behavioral health system, causing pain to thousands of New Mexicans, a circumstance that can't be ignored even while giving her credit on Medicaid. Hers is indeed a mixed overall heathcare record.

Complaints are common that Medicaid recipients often have better health care than some private sector plans. But it can be argued that the problem is not with Medicaid, but with those private plans that are too skimpy.

SOUTHERN CD ACTION

Trying too keep up with who and how many Democrats are running for the nomination for the southern NM US House seat being vacated by Rep. Steve Pearce? So are we and we have the Deming Headlight to help us out:

The Democratic field of candidates in the race to replace Rep. Pearce in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional district has narrowed to three ahead of the June 5 primary.

There are five candidates seeking the GOP nomination but the main players are former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman and Alamogordo area state Rep. Yvette Herrell.

By the way, we are getting word that GOP Texas Governor Greg Abbott will soon be in the state to campaign for Pearce who is the lone candidate for the '18 GOP gubernatorial nomination.

WITH A CAPITAL H

JoHanna Cox, an attorney, is the lone GOP contender for the secretary of state nomination. We told you about that last week but in doing so for some reason we also called her JoHanna King and also had a faulty link to her bio. For the record it's JoHanna Cox (with a capital "h") and here's her bio. This is a relatively minor infraction, but still two lashes with the wet noodle will be administered to the blogger's backside.

A NEW CAUCUS

What took so long?

Citing lingering education and poverty issues in one of the nation's most diverse states, a bipartisan coalition of senators announced they will form a Legislative Hispanic Caucus. The announcement came just days after a leadership vote left white lawmakers holding the three top posts for Senate Democrats. 

Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque said the caucus was not created specifically in response to the recent leadership vote. But at least one other senator suggested it sends a "message." New Mexico has the largest percentage of Hispanic residents in the nation - about 47 percent as of the last census - but until now has not had a formal Hispanic caucus. 

Long overdue, for sure, but what about Hispanic Dem Senators playing coalition politics with the Republicans? That's how one of their own was deprived of the president pro tem position. Maybe the first rule of the Hispanic Caucus should be "Learn to Stick Together."

WEBBER LEADS

Alan Webber is the front-runner in the Santa Fe mayor's race, according to two insider polls we've seen. The election is in March. Webber, a Democratic entrepreneur, has been endorsed by new ABQ Dem Mayor Tim Keller. But the election is not a done deal. City Councilor Ron Trujillo and Kate Noble--both Dems--are also polling well in the Santa Fe contest that will decide who will replace outgoing Mayor Javier Gonzales who is now seeking the Dem nomination for lieutenant governor.

One interesting sidebar: In one of the surveys only 39 percent of likely voters thought the City Different was headed in the right direction.

Public turnout for the mayoral forums has been more than healthy. 800 showed up for the most recent one. Does that foreshadow a large turnout like the one we saw last year in the ABQ mayoral race? Could be.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018
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