Thursday, February 08, 2018

BernCo DA Torrez Gets Major Pushback On 30% Budget Hike Plan, Alligators Pile On With Powerful Info As Senate Handles This Hot Potato, And: ABQ Congressional Race Heats Up Over Money Reports  

DA Torrez
The heat is on in the Senate Finance Committee to cave on a major funding increase for the office of Bernalillo County Democratic District Attorney Raul Torrez.

For example the conservative media--e.g. KOAT -TV 7--has started some kind of war to get the money. The general manager is urging viewers to jam the phone lines of committee members to get them to support a whopping 30 per cent budget increase for Torrez--$5.4 million--that is being supported by GOP Gov. Martinez.

Torrez maintains he cannot fully prosecute criminals without the extra funds and says in addition to felons walking, the office has a low DWI conviction rate because of a lack of resources.

But as Senate Finance prepares to meet on his request this traffic case apparently involving a former NM Cabinet Secretary under Gov. Martinez is making the rounds, raising questions at the Roundhouse about how Torrez handled it (were the charges the result of a plea down from a more severe offense?) and how it could impact his money request.

What gets your attention with this case is that the ABQ attorney for the former government official shares office space (201 12th St.) with attorney Paul Kennedy, the legal Mr. Fix-it for Gov. Martinez who has had hundreds of thousands in contracts with the state (maybe more but the state won't release the contract totals to the media).

Kennedy once defended Martinez in court by calling journalism "a racket." Maybe the news department at KOAT might want to look into this? They wouldn't want to be part of a racket, would they?

As for the media, go ahead and advocate, play favorites and show your true agenda. We won't mind. Just stop trying to bullshit the public that that this is any kind of objective "journalism." Because it isn't.


That's not Raul's only problem as he tries to pressure rural lawmakers for more money. Critics are coming out of the closet, like Pete Dinelli, a Dem who served as the Chief Deputy District Attorney for BernCo in the 90's:

Torrez wants funding for an additional 34 attorneys without explaining why he cannot fill the 18 attorney vacancies he has. Torrez has given no explanation how he is going to recruit so many more prosecutors to work for him while competing with other District Attorney offices in the state. What is known for sure is that Torrez is hiring retired Assistant District Attorneys and retired former Assistant United States Attorneys, some on contract, and paying them anywhere from $75,000 to $125,000 a year which is significantly more than entry level positions that pay between $45,000 to $50,000 a year.

In his first year in office Raul has railed against the judges and now he and his political consultants have employed the media to ride herd on the Legislature and shift the blame for the crime wave to them. But where is the coverage of the concern of how he is handling the budget he already has? We suppose the Senate Finance Committee will have to provide that.


The Alligators are everywhere on this one. Yet another Torrez takedown as the DA and his consultants attempt to redefine the criminal justice system to his liking but finding it's a tough sell to those in the know. Heads up Senate Finance. Here's the real deal:

It is short sighted to believe that the funding of the DA will actually solve anything. The DA wants 34 more attorneys to prosecute an additional 2,000 felony cases. The next step, the legislature would have to increase funding for public defenders who represent 85% of those cases. Then the legislature would have to fund the courts to pay for additional judges and jurors needed to handle all these cases.

And most costly, there will be additional funding to the Dept. of Corrections. For example, if the DA got a 1 year prison sentence on 10% of those 2,000 cases then that would be an additional 200 people in prison at 36k per year for a total of $7.2 million. Probation costs DOC $2,700 per year, so if the DA secures 1,000 additional people on probation then that would add up to $2.7m.

Senate Finance is staring at a $20 million hole if they go the DA's way and they know it.

Assuming the legislature is going to spend $20m to address the crime problem in Albuquerque, the question becomes 'what is the best use of that money? Torrez subscribes to locking people up in a cage as a way of addressing the problem. Many nationwide trends and majority of think tank institutes believe there are better ways. Education and prevention lead the way. Once a person is identified as having a mental illness or substance abuse addiction, it is far more effective and less costly to address and treat the underlying issue. 

First the DA chose to blame the district judges for his bad results. Then the DA blamed the defense attorneys for his bad results. Then the DA blamed the New Mexico Supreme Court's rules for his bad results. Now, the DA admits that his office fails to open cases, loses cases and is ineffective in its prosecutions. Would we allow a coach of a losing team to blame the referees for the loss, then blame the other team for cheating, then declare that the rules of the game must be changed. And would we then support that coach to get a pay raise and be promoted to athletic director?

Oh, my, Raul, you've let the Gators out of of their cages and there's not a darn thing KOAT's Mary Lynn Roper, KRQE's Larry Barker or the editorial writers at the Journal can do for you. That $5.4 million increase is not happening. Something less, yes, But all is not lost. You can then add Senate Finance to the list of those to blame for the crime wave that you were elected to help resolve.


That six way battle for the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat is getting really heated. One of the Gators came with a round of analysis of the recent fundraising reports that had Damon Martinez, Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and Deb Haaland in the top tier and he took a bite out of Haaland for having spent so much of what she has raised. Another Gator has an angle more friendly to her:

Hey Joe, The analysis by one of the Alligators of the CD1 money race was a little bit misleading. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez raised $506,000 total so far but gave herself a $50K loan, her actual fundraising is at $456,000. Therefore she has $347,000 with the loan cash-on-hand but without the loan it is $297,000 cash. Sedillo Lopez has spent about 158K, most of it on her staff but some on media consulting. 

Damon Martinez has raised $370,000 total but gave himself $60K in loans, meaning his actual fundraising is closer to $310K. He has $322,000 on hand with his loan, $262,000 without the loan. Damon did spend very little of the money he raised--47K. This is not necessarily a good thing, there are very little payments for staff, and Damon does not have a lot of name recognition not to mention he entered the race late. 

Deb Haaland has raised $386,000 and has given herself no loans. She has 195K on hand which seems low, but why? Her expenses were $190K so far. This may seem like a lot and it is, but for good reason. Deb has already solidified her staff and media consultants, the other candidates have not.


And what about ABQ City Councilor and congressional candidate Pat Davis not making the top tier in Alligator land in this race? Davis has been a punching bag for just about everyone with a beef with the city. Here's Davis supporter Noah Seligman with some equal time:

I definitely consider Pat Davis a top tier contender. No other candidate can match his progressive credentials given his strong record in City Hall and with ProgressNow. He also is quietly building a top level field operation. His opponents will have to spend some of their money on expensive ads to introduce themselves to the small primary electorate. Meanwhile, Pat can invest more in field and targeted GOTV. I don't believe fundraising prowess or burn rate will be determinative. There's definitely lots of great energy for Democrats this year, but that doesn't mean turnout will equal general election levels. So that benefits the candidate with the strongest field operation and that's clearly Pat Davis.

Okay, Noah, and let's keep on our radar Damian Lara and Paul Moya, the two remaining candidates. This one is getting wild. Just the way we like it.

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