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Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Filing Day Focus: Heinrich Preps For Re-Elect, Father And Son Team Will Be On State Ballot, A Jumbled Dem Light Guv Race, Plus: Early Childhood Amendment Passes House After Insightful Debate, And: PNM Embraced By The Bear; Stock Hit In Sell Off 

Filing day has come and gone. All those making bids for the Federal and statewide offices in Election '18 are listed here. Now to the action. . .

The 2018 New Mexico US Senate match-up will be between incumbent Democrat Martin Heinrich, Republican Mick Rich---and Aubrey Dunn.

If you're more familiar with Richie Rich than Mick Rich, you're not alone. National R's with the deep pockets are taking a pass on spending the millions it would take to unseat Heinrich so Rich, a political neophyte, will be left to his own devices to try to pull off the upset.

What about Land Commissioner Dunn, the Republican castaway? Yes, he is running as the Libertarian Senate nominee. The Heinrich camp will keep a very close eye on him but it would appear Rich and Dunn could split the GOP and anti-Heinrich vote. Still, Dunn is sure to give Heinrich a good pounding.

Rich has personal wealth from his contracting business that could keep his campaign afloat. And Heinrich's approval rating is below the 50 percent mark, giving Rich and Dunn a sliver of an opening. But with the state voting solid Blue in Senate contests for nearly a decade and Trump's unpopularity dragging them down, that sliver might only be wide enough for an ant to crawl through. Also, at the end of last year Heinrich reported $4 million in cash on hand while Rich reported $250,000. Dunn will need to play catch-up.

When you think about it Heinrich is probably more vulnerable to a Democratic primary challenge than from a GOP opponent. Money he has raised from corporate America--including the pharmaceutical and defense industries--has tarnished his star with the Bernie Sanders wing of his party--but not enough to cost him a free primary ride and clear front-runner status for the general election.

By the way, with this kind of lead there's no need to bash Trump and stir everyone up. Heinrich's filing day statement:

. . My top priority is diversifying New Mexico’s economy and creating new jobs--whether by securing forward looking missions for our military installations, pushing for public land protections that fuel our thriving outdoor recreation industry, or working to position New Mexico as a leader in renewable energy.

MORE FILING DAY ACTION 

Let's pick some other cherries from filing day. It will be Attorney General Hector Balderas facing ABQ GOP attorney Michael Hendricks and a Libertarian nominee in November. Neither drew primary opponents. Balderas will be heavily favored as no R has been elected AG in decades and Hendricks will face a challenging fundraising environment.

ABQ Attorney Blair Dunn, son of Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, is running as a Libertarian.That gives us a father-son team on the statewide ticket. For the first time?

State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg will face ABQ Republican Arthur Castillo. Neither contender drew primary foes. Eichenberg  is a former BernCo treasurer and state senator with name ID in the metro. Also, when the last R was elected treasurer the Beatles were still together.

You know the drill on the Guv's race. The four Dems filed and now everyone is waiting for something to happen. Will Jeff Apodaca, Joe Cervantes or Peter DeBenedettis begin negative campaigning of consequence against Dem front-runner Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham? The primary election is June 6.

Whoever wins that Dem nomination will face GOP Rep. Steve Pearce in November. He has no primary challenger. The Dem hopeful will be favored to beat him. Fortunately for Pearce, however, he will not have to deal with a Libertarian candidate. They took a pass on the Guv race.

ABQ's Michelle Garcia Holmes was the only Republican to file for the office of lieutenant governor and she just switched to the party. That gives you a clue on how R's feel about their Guv prospects. Still, Pearce is a player and the race is not going to be a rollover.

In the Dem lieutenant governor race it's a five way dash, with three veteran politicos leading the way. They are State Senator Howie Morales of Silver City, former ABQ State Rep. Rick Miera and Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales. Billy Garrett, a Dona Ana County Commissioner, is also running as is Taos educator Jeff Carr. The mid-March Dem preprimary convention will help us sort this one out.

EVEN MORE ACTION

Incumbent Secretary of State and Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver is considered safe against GOP attorney JoHanna Cox who is the sole R running. Former State Rep. Sandra Jeff is running as a Libertarian and that could liven up things.

The land commission race features three Dems chasing the nomination--State Senator George Munoz, State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard and environmentalist Garrett VeneKlasen. Former land boss Pat Lyons will again be the GOP nominee. Libertarian Michael Lucero will carry his party's torch.  The seat is likely Democratic. The D nomination battle will come more into focus at the March preprimary.

State Auditor Wayne Johnson was appointed by Gov. Martinez to fill the shoes of Dem Tim Keller when he was elected mayor of ABQ. He will carry the R banner. Dems Brian Colón and State Rep. Bill McCamley will battle for the Dem auditor nod. Colón has the edge because of his name ID in the ABQ metro. The winner of the Dem nomination will be favored to win, but Johnson will have the advantage of the incumbency and we'll see what he makes of it.

We covered the ABQ congressional race on the blog this week. We'll scope out the others for you in the days ahead.

THE GREAT DEBATE

The three hour debate on the state House floor over the early childhood constitutional amendment Tuesday was one of the more meatier and informed ones you will see. No wonder. The proposal, according to amendment advocate Allen Sanchez, president of Chi St. Joseph's Children, has been introduced a total of eight times. The debaters know this issue inside out and it showed Tuesday.

Republicans Rebecca Dow of T or C and ABQ's James Dines did their best to take down ABQ reps and amendment co-sponsors Moe Maestas and Javier Martinez but they more than held their ground. No minds were changed and the amendment passed the House for a second year in a row, mostly on a party line vote of 36-33 with no Republicans breaking ranks.

(Hey, what happened to all that "bipartisanship" everyone was touting in Santa Fe? As we blogged, that's only for the fluff.)

Amendment advocates such as ourselves were disappointed to see ABQ GOP State Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes "take a walk" and fail to cast a vote. Don't her constituents in her ABQ NE Heights swing district deserve to have their voices heard on this landmark legislation?

Make no mistake. This is landmark stuff. The Amendment would tap the state's $17 billion Land Grant Permanent School fund for $150 million a year and devote it mainly to early childhood--ages zero to five--when brain development is at its most critical stage. If the investment proved successful, it could bring dramatic improvement to the future NM workforce and put us on a path to correcting the state's long-standing social conditions crisis.

Like last year the amendment is now headed to the state Senate where Republicans, in coalition with a group of conservative Democrats, have their swords drawn to kill the measure again. Maybe Senate Leader Wirth should invite Representatives Maestas and Martinez over to replicate their spirited and passionate House debate for those wary Senate conservatives. It just might make a difference,

PNM'S BEAR HUG

The wild gyrations on Wall Street have sent the state's only New York Stock Exchange listed company into a bear market. PNM's most recent stock peak was $46 a share but Tuesday it was trading below $35, a plunge of about 25 percent from the top. A bear market is defined as a decline of at least 20 percent. The culprit is primarily higher interest rates now available from government bonds. Investors in search of yield are fleeing utility stocks for the more secure government income.

PNM's annual dividend now amounts to 3 percent annually, but some experts say investors will be demanding even higher returns as government bonds provide stiff competition. That could mean PNM and other utility stocks stay in the cellar.

For long-term investors in the electric utility the picture is less sour. PNM traded at around $22 a share in February of 2013. Those investors are still up 50 percent, not counting their dividend payments.

There is some more bad news for PNM shareholders to contemplate. That controversial bond proposal the company put before the Legislature to pay the costs and lost profit of shutting down a coal-fired plant in the Four Corners was tabled by a state Senate committee, signaling the end of the deal--at least until the 2019 session,

The bill was pushed hard by ABQ Dem Senator Jacob Candelaria, despite widespread opposition among progressives and environmentalists. His advocacy of the measure has raised talk of a possible primary challenge to the ABQ westside senator in 2020. But that's a long way off.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018
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