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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Martinez Passes On Pearce Endorsement; A Snub or A Blessing? And: "Dr. No" Says He's Not Going Away Anytime Soon  

Pearce and Martinez
Was it a snub or a welcome surprise? That's the question in the wake of GOP Gov. Susana Martinez refusing to give soon-to-be GOP Guv nominee Steve Pearce her political blessing. But if she did endorse his candidacy, it may have been a curse.

Martinez is headed toward the exits this year with record unpopularity--in the low 30's in the last public poll--and maybe even lower in private surveys, say some consultants. And after two terms of beating up not only on Dems, but rivals within her own party, Republicans have also lost that lovin' feeling.

So Pearce not getting her endorsement--at least in the early going--is not a bad deal. One of his biggest problems is actually convincing the electorate that he is not a carbon copy of his fellow R. He already has overwhelming GOP support but is desperately searching for conservative Dems and independents to get him in a competitive position. Having Martinez snub him could actually help with that task.

It almost makes you wonder if the duo--who have long disliked each other--worked this one out behind closed doors.

SMITH TILL 85?

A statement from conservative Democratic State Senator John Arthur Smith, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is sure to send shudders through the bones of backers of a constitutional amendment that would allow a portion of the state's $17 billion Land Grant Permanent School Fund to be used for very early childhood education.

The 76 year old Deming lawmaker, who single-handedly killed the amendment this year and who many Roundhouse observers speculate might not seek re-election in 2020, is not only indicating he will run in 2020 but well beyond:

He has no plans to step aside, health and elections permitting. (Ike) Smalley, the cigar-chomping senator from Deming who was Smith’s patron and mentor, served for more than three decades and didn’t quit until he was 85 years old.“I was schooled by a good doctor that said, ‘You know, hard work has killed damn few, but lack of work has killed a lot more,’” Smith said. “My attitude is, I’m planning on working until my last day.”

Sen. Smith
The constitutional amendment passed the state House and the Senate Education Committee this year but Smith refused to give it a hearing in Senate Finance.

His stubbornness in the face of growing support for the amendment raises the question of whether a new Democratic Governor would apply pressure on him to support the amendment and/or a compromise? And can "Dr. No" keep all his members in line under the growing political pressure? For how long?

Smith has earned a legacy as an effective budget hawk but could he really hold sway over the state's fiscal policies into his 80's? After all, his mentor Ike Smalley was largely a symbolic figure in his last years in the Senate, not a powerhouse.

Smith doesn't have to worry much about 2020 and getting re-elected but he does have to fret about "aging out" as happened to Smalley. His biggest fear in the years ahead has be to be that his staunch opposition to the early childhood amendment will be overridden and all that he has worked for and accomplished will be forgotten and that one moment of defeat will be his legacy. Ultimately, that possibility is what could bring "Dr. No" to the negotiating table.

FOR THE RECORD

By the way, a newspaper editorial that asserted "Lawmakers were right to reject a proposal to tap into the state’s largest permanent fund to pay for early childhood programs" was not quite accurate. As we mentioned the measure passed the full House 36 to 33--hardly a rejection--and won the approval of the Senate Education Committee on a 5 to 3 vote. It died only when Senator Smith acted unilaterally and refused to give the amendment a hearing.

The point being that the amendment's support has grown and Smith did his fellow Senators a favor by not forcing them to take a public vote. As we blogged above, how many more years can that act run?

HO HUM SESSION?

While corners of the press that cherish the status quo regaled the recent 30 day session as  a bipartisan paradise that produced significant legislation, most of us in Alligator land--including observers of decades-long experience labeled it a "low energy" session in which lawmakers main goal was to avoid an election year fight.

Former longtime ABQ Dem Senator Dede Feldman, author of Inside the New Mexico Senate: Boots, Suits and Citizens came with this:

Was it just me or did the 2018 session seem rather ho-hum? The extra money seemed to damp down underlying controversies, and the Governor and the Legislature seemed to be largely on the same crime-fighting page. Sensible tax generators like the Internet tax and the hospital tax that the hospitals don’t object to (!) once again seem destined for the chopping block and the use of a small fraction of the huge permanent fund for desperately needed early childhood education is running into the same old roadblock in the Senate Finance Committee. . . 

The only controversial item seems to be the decommissioning of the San Juan coal plant. The Sierra Club has put on an admirable lobbying campaign there. But apart from that, legislators are eager to get back to the campaign trail and even the reporters seem eager to go home. Am I missing something?

THE BOTTOM LINES


Word comes to us of the passing of Steve Lawrence who from 1995 to 2006 was the publisher of the popular ABQ/Santa Fe alternative newspaper Crosswinds. The growth of the Internet put a halt to the endeavor but it made its mark. Lawrence was also a frequent guest on KNME-TV.  He lived in Sherman Oaks, California. Lawrence was 75.

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