Monday, April 09, 2018

Cervantes And Apodaca Squabble Brings McCleskey Back Into Spotlight; Lujan Grisham Says No Problems For National Labs But Pearce Warns 

It's the race for Governor that tops the Monday blog.

The two men who seek to take Michelle Lujan Grisham down a notch and get the contest for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in play are now squabbling. That's a hope fulfilled for her and allows her to go unscathed with the June 5 primary now less than two months away.

State Senator Joe Cervantes was a happy camper last week in the aftermath of a court victory he won against Jeff Apodaca. It means he won't get kicked off the ballot over his petition signatures (unless there's an unlikely Supreme Court reversal). But Cervantes wasn't happy enough to stop him from floating a conspiracy theory about Apodaca, the aggressive ABQ businessman. The Dona Ana County lawmaker walked out none other than Jay McCleskey, the controversial political consultant to Gov. Martinez, accusing Apodaca's campaign of playing footsie with the leader of the once vaunted Martinez political machine:

I think the Apodaca campaign is getting some of its advice from the Martinez campaign people. I’m told that there may be all kinds of games at play here.

That was a reference to the rumors floating about that McCleskey has met with Apodaca about his Governor campaign and may be providing him with advice. Not good because McCleskey is now a toxic figure in Democratic as well as most Republican  political circles. Apodaca's campaign manager moved to put out the fire calling Cervantes' claim "laughable" and "completely untrue" adding:

That’s actually kind of crazy. I don’t know where he came up with that.

Crazy or not the charge that Apodaca and McCleskey are collaborating is such a nightmare scenario for Dems who have been subjected to 8 years of browbeating by the brash consultant that it is sure to have them digging through Jeff's closet for any signs of the political bogeyman--just as Joe hoped.


Despite running two successful gubernatorial campaigns on behalf of Gov. Martinez, ousting Senate Dem Leader Michael Sanchez and engineering a brief GOP takeover of the state House, McCleskey has been mostly shunned by his fellow R's. That's because he turned his guns on those in the GOP who would not play his version of hardball with him and there were plenty who would not.

However, he has managed to secure a consulting contract with former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman who is seeking the GOP nomination for the southern congressional seat. But that's already turned problematic, with Newman getting crushed at the GOP February preprimary convention, a development knowledgeable R's blame on his hiring of the resented McCleskey. But that doesn't mean Monty is out of the game. Far from it.

That point was made clear when the AP was fed a story by the Newman forces that called into question the ethics of the woman who humiliated him at that preprimary convention. The news:

(Alamogordo State Representative and congressional candidate Yvette Herrell) failed to disclose that her real estate company earned nearly a half-million dollars in contracts with two state agencies over five years, according to an analysis of campaign finance disclosure records by The AP. The review of documents found Herrell's company, Herrell Properties, took in $440,000 by renting property to the Taxation and Revenue Department and  the Environment Department since 2013. However, she did not disclose that income on ethics disclosure statements, but listed herself as the company's owner,

Not an explosive charge but still a nick on the neck that, of course, will soon be followed by negative TV ads courtesy of Newman who has an advantage over Herrell in fundraising.

Newman showed over $356,000 in cash on hand at the end of last year, compared to Herrell's $202,000. Federal finance reports for the first quarter have been filed but are not yet public. Herrell was restricted from raising money while she attended the 30 day legislative session. That will hurt. Newman is well connected to the SE energy business where the boom times are back and which he can tap for campaign cash.

The Newman-Herrell battle is a kind of proxy battle for the future direction of the state GOP. A win by Newman-McCleskey would give them a foot back in the door that has been closed to them by the likes of GOP National Committeeman Harvey Yates and others who became disgusted with Gov. Martinez and have taken control. Soon-to-be GOP gubernatorial nominee Steve Pearce is squarely in the Yates camp. He has not publicly endorsed a candidate for the congressional seat he is giving up but you don't need a detective to figure out where he's at.

(There are two other GOP hopefuls in the primary, but this one is Newman vs. Herrell all day long)


Rep. Pearce
The state got a brief preview of a possible Pearce-Lujan Grisham match-up when they appeared before business leaders last week. It was their takes on national security and the big budgets it provides to the state that proved the most newsworthy:

"We need to be a good host, not always compliant, but a good host," Pearce said, adding that state leaders need to acknowledge the real possibility that other states could successfully woo the labs and functions. Lujan Grisham dismissed that idea, saying " those labs are not going anywhere."

That was a bit of an eyebrow raiser for the ABQ congresswoman, not because anyone expects the labs to go anywhere but the concern, as Pearce indicated, is how much of them will stay here. There is a serious play under way to move the billions of dollars for upcoming plutonium "pit" production to a facility in red-state South Carolina. Numerous security and environmental lapses are another concern that could influence the future of Los Alamos.

ABQ's Sandia National Labs has better future visibility than Los Alamos. The Trump budget pumps up the national nuclear budget. However, in the not too distant future Kirtland Air Force Base--where Sandia is situated--will likely be subjected to another dreaded BRAC review. The Base Realignment and Closure study could lead to an eventual reduction in the KAFB mission.

Lujan Grisham's cocksure statement that the Labs are "not going anywhere" may offer a political palliative to New Mexico but it does not cover the nuance of the matter. That her statement in some quarters was read as a taunting of the Trump administration, which holds sway over the billions of funding for the labs, gives the possible future governor another reason to regroup before Pearce starts chipping away.

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