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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

"Dr. No" Seems Ready To Tangle With New Governor Over Budget; Calls For Even Higher Reserves Amid Oil Boom, Plus: Damon Martinez Soldiers On And Heinrich "Evolves" On Assault Weapons 

Sen. Smith 
Is the next Governor already destined for a battle with State Sen. John Arthur Smith? The chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee has earned the moniker of "Dr. No" for his affinity for fiscal austerity. Now with a record oil boom replenishing state coffers Smith is firing a warning shot about spending those funds, and that could cramp the style of the new Governor, especially if that Guv is a Dem. Here's Smith's shot:

. . . The state should use the new-found oil boom to raise reserves to 20 percent to prepare for future busts.“We’re still on a feast-or-famine feed cycle,” Smith said. “We need to take advantage of the current revenue stream to mitigate the hills and valleys.”

Twenty percent? That's double what even conservative economists recommend keeping in reserve, but Smith is nothing if not a protector of his turf. By raising the reserve ante he is positioning himself at the negotiating table with the next chief executive. It's a long way off, but that already seems to be the big story of Legislative Session 2019.

Meanwhile, the outgoing Governor is getting all the barbs that come with being a lame duck with low poll numbers. The Las Cruces Sun-News, Susana's hometown paper, is even piling on. Walt Rubel writes:

The governor proved her first year that she could veto bills with the best of them, but she never proved she could legislate. As a result, she will leave office with nothing permanent to show she had ever been there.

HE SOLDIERS ON

Martinez 
After getting crushed at Saturday's liberal dominated Dem pre-primary convention, garnering only 10% of the vote, former US Attorney Damon Martinez is working furiously to keep his candidacy for the ABQ congressional nomination alive. He comes with an endorsement from ABQ City Council President Ken Sanchez to stem the tide:

I was impressed by his work bringing people together from all sorts of professional and personal backgrounds to address the city and state’s opioid crisis through the HOPE Initiative.

We reported how Martinez still has some $300,000 in cash for the race which was dominated at the convention by first place winner Deb Haaland and second place finisher Antoinette Sedillo Lopez. There are also rumblings that Martinez will be getting third party TV support for the June 5 primary.

The Sanchez endorsement makes sense in that it is  moderate and conservative Hispanics, like Sanchez, who most support the like-minded Martinez. Their hope is that the two progressives will split that vote and Martinez can run up the middle and take the prize. It's an interesting race to the June 5 primary.

THE HEINRICH EVOLUTION

Senator Martin Heinrich has been flying under the radar recently when it comes to the controversial topic of banning military assault weapons. The Democratic lawmaker still does not support the long-standing and sweeping Feinstein bill calling for a ban of assault weapons but his position on a ban has quietly changed. He now says:

I will be working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to craft an assault weapons ban. Those of us who know firearms well have a duty to lead these efforts and to get the details right.

That is from a statement on his website. We have not seen any other public pronouncement of his change--other than a blurb deep down in a news story--which is why we dubbed it flying under the radar.

The low-key shift put Heinrich, 46, in a more politically tenable position and also prevented him from getting dragged into the raging gun debate in the immediate aftermath of the student murders in Parkland, Fl.

The issue arose on the Monday blog when we contrasted Heinrich's position with that of Michelle Lujan Grisham's, who has been advocating an assault weapons ban since she became a congresswoman-elect in 2012. We wondered if Heinrich's position would change. Well, it turns out it had but the switch still leaves open the important question of how comprehensive a ban he will support. What will be those "details?"

The Feinstein bill was again introduced last year and it had the support of nearly two dozen Democratic senators but not Heinrich, who is an avid outdoorsman and who in 2016 announced he had given up his NRA membership in 2012.

A Heinrich campaign insider said the senator's position "has evolved" in the wake of the Parkland shootings and he deserves credit for his flexibility. However, in his media statements following the Parkland slayings Heinrich did not mention assault weapons:

He says he wants to see a federal ban on bump stocks, high-capacity magazines, and clarify the rules on universal background checks.

Heinrich soft pedaling the assault weapons ban he is now working on could be fodder if he had a Democratic primary opponent who supports the Feinstein bill. But he has no primary challenge and his two conservative foes in the general election are not supporting a ban. Given that backdrop, Heinrich, who is seeking a second term this year, gets to give both sides of the equation a little something.

The switch comes after years of advocacy for Second Amendment rights by Heinrich. Many observers think his pro-gun stance made the difference when he beat Republican Darren White for the ABQ congressional seat in 2008 and when he took down Jon Barela in his 2010 re-elect. But times change and that horse no longer runs.

Then there's the fund-raising. With his campaign budget in the multi-millions, Heinrich will travel to deep Blue states like California for the necessary cash. There he no doubt will be asked how he stands on the assault weapons ban. Now he has an answer that may not be exactly what they want to hear but it is much better than nothing.

And that, gentle reader, is how this game of ours is played in the quest for a seat in the United States Senate.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018
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