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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Ben Ray Rolls In the Dough As Dems Play For US House Takeover, Haaland Candidacy Gets National Ink And Keller's New Airport Director Comes Under Scrutiny  

Lujan and Pelosi
Northern Congressman Ben Ray Lujan is riding high in his role as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and he's also rolling in the dough as he leads the effort to take back the US house from the Rs this year:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised nearly $10.6 million in February.That’s the most the committee has ever raised during the second month of the year. . . So far this cycle, the group has raised more than $50 million online, which includes 300,000 first-time online donors, and a total of $125 million this cycle. It ended February with $49 million in the bank.

While that cash haul is being celebrated Lujan and his mentor House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi realize the stakes have gotten much higher and if the Dems fail to take back the House there will be calls for both of their heads.

As for NM, Lujan has only token opposition in his heavy Dem district this year. He is seeking his sixth, two year term in the House. Yes, it's hard to believe it has been that long.

NATIONAL INK

The ABQ congressional seat is widely expected to stay in the Dem column this year but the battle for it is spirited and generating interest. The New York Times this week focused on the many candidacies by Native Americans this cycle, including that of ABQ congressional hopeful Deb Haaland who has a shot at being the first Native American woman elected to the US House:

Montana has more than a dozen Native Americans running for the state House this year. Utah tribes are pushing the governor to make a seat for them in his cabinet. Five native people serve in the Minnesota Legislature, and four of them are women. . . (Haaland) frequently cites her heritage, and she makes the argument that many of the issues affecting native communities — the ubiquity of low-wage jobs, violence against women — afflict other groups as well.

Haaland has five opponents for the June Democratic nomination. The campaigns have not gone negative yet but there are rumblings that while Haaland stresses she would be the first Native American woman elected to the House, she is a lightweight on the issues. The campaign will tell the tale. . .

"POLITICS AS USUAL?"

Most of Mayor Keller's appointments to head major city departments have drawn little criticism but his appointment of 29 year old Nyika Allen as Director of Aviation has raised some eyebrows inside and outside of City Hall.

Before being tapped as aviation director Allen was executive director of the NM Technology Council, a member driven association that promotes technology but she has no experience in aviation or airport security. Reader Deborah McFarlane says she fired off this letter to the Mayor questioning the appointment:

While I understand the symbolic politics of appointing a female millennial to manage these operations, I also believe that this type of appointment requires aviation, safety, and transportation experience, which Nyika Allen lacks. Moreover, her lack of experience has been recognized by the retention of Jim Hinde, Mayor Berry’s appointment to head the Sunport. Now, instead of paying for one Director of Aviation, taxpayers have to compensate two directors of aviation.

I noted your plans to turn the Aviation Department into “an intermodal economic development engine.” The fact remains that the airport needs to focus on safety, and the person at the top should understand exactly what that entails. Unfortunately, my perception of this staffing decision is that it reflects New Mexico politics as usual, not the professional competence and fiscal responsibility that I had expected from your administration.

And the defense of Allen from when the mayor appointed her:

Nyika brings her experience and a new perspective to shape the Aviation Department into an intermodal economic development engine for the City, She joins us as our first executive from a new generation of leaders for Albuquerque. We will work together to create opportunities for residents, travelers, and businesses based near and far.

But McFarlane isn't pacified. As she pointed out Hinde was retained by Keller to run the "day to day operations" of the Sunport, a job McFarlane contends should be handled by Director Allen and she adds:

Hinde moved from Director of Aviation to Deputy Director of Aviation without an open search. According to the airport master plan, there are three associate director positions, but no official deputy director position.

Through several mayors and a major decline in passenger traffic the Sunport has been well maintained and pretty much a showcase for what is attractive about ABQ and NM. While Allen may bring "a new perspective" to the director's position she will have to convince skeptics that Hinde isn't actually running the facility and that her appointment isn't as McFarlane argues "politics as usual."

THE BOTTOM LINES

Dem activist Sharla Parsons says "she probably won't be" a candidate for NM Dem Party. We said in a first blog draft Monday that she was a candidate. Sandoval County Dem chair Marg Elliston is a candidate for state chair. And she does not spell her first name with an "e" as we did.

Longtime Dem attorney and politico Bob McNeil says Elliston "has solid support" in the party and he expects here to be elected when the Dem Central Committee picks a new chair to replace Richard Ellenberg next month.

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