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Thursday, May 03, 2018

Sex Harassment Charge Gets Trujillo Vs. Romero House Race Rockin' Again, Plus: Pearce TV Debut Seeks To Rebrand Him But Does He Stretch? And: APD Chief Geier Pushes For Permanency 

Laura Bonar
One candidate has a problem with a WhistlePig whiskey bill and the other just had the whistle blown on him for alleged sex harassment. Welcome back to that nasty Democratic primary battle for the Santa Fe County state House seat featuring Rep. Carl Trujillo and his  progressive challenger Andrea Romero.

The race was rocked anew Wednesday when Laura Bonar of Animal Protection Voters claimed that in the '14 legislative session Trujillo harassed her and she called on Trujillo to resign. In an open letter she asserts:

You propositioned me. You touched me inappropriately. You held your power as a state legislator over my head, making it clear to me that my passion for my cause would get me nowhere unless I demonstrated ‘passion’ for you.

And then came the long knife:

You did all of this as a married man.

Holy smokes! That must have sent Trujillo, the father of four, running for a shot of WhistlePig. Well, no, but he did push back vigorously:

These charges are lies of the worst sort, because we live in an age where anybody can say anything without proof and be believed. I thought there was a limit to how low my opponents could go. I was wrong. . .To hijack and exploit the #MeToo movement for their own political gain, to undermine the cause of animal welfare and the innocent animals who depend on us... it doesn’t get lower than that. 

Another line in the Bonar letter had the Santa Fe Wall-Leaners on high alert. She said:

I was but one victim of your sexual quid pro quo mentality.


Rep. Trujillo 
We asked a Roundhouse veteran for analysis:

If this remains allegations from one person it could be contained by next week. But if other women surface with similar stories, it could spell big trouble for him. Also, how his wife reacts could be critical. 

Bonar said she waited to announce her charges because she said there was nowhere to report them at the time but the legislature recently adopted a sex harassment policy. That the June primary is so close had Trujillo supporters claiming she was politically motivated.

The Dem House leadership put out a statement saying the Bonar claim will be looked into under the new policy. But will anything come of that inquiry before the election?

STATE OF THE RACE

Gong into Wednesday Trujillo had Romero on the defensive. In case you forgot Romero
was busted for wrongfully receiving reimbursements for alcohol and other expenses when she served as executive director of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities. That includes a $28 glass of WhistlePig whiskey for an unidentified politico, one of several that Romero's group was hosting at a DC dinner.

After that news broke and kept breaking, Romero was given up for dead. But the sexual harassment charges reopen the race, at least for a while.

The difference could be which message voters hear most often leading up to the June 5 primary--that Romero is ethically challenged and can't be trusted or that Trujillo is a flagrant sexual harasser who should be condemned.

Andrea Romero
Also, if turnout among women voters is more than usual, as some expect, could that make a difference?

Trujillo may have the messaging edge, if the story does not explode more. At last report he had $55,000 banked to Romero's $26,000.

The district is dominated by progressives in the southern portion and is conservative Dem in the northern part that runs through Pojoaque and up toward Española.

Trujillo was first elected to the seat in 2012 but the conservative Dem had a close one, beating former Santa Fe Mayor and progressive Dave Coss 52% to 48%.

STATEWIDE IMPLICATIONS

The race has statewide implications. Here's why: Trujillo is in an alliance with fellow northern conservative State Rep. Debbie Rodella. Their common enemy is progressive House Speaker Brian Egolf. The Egolf forces are widely believed to be behind the progressive challenge to Trujillo, as well as one against Rodella. If both are ousted Egolf strengthens his hand and the House turns more liberal. If that were to happen the firewall for conservatism would be the State Senate which is dominated by moderates and conservatives.

The reputations of Trujillo and Romero are taking major hits, even though both are described as smart and able. But it's what happens in La Politica these days.

PEARCE TV DEBUT

You wouldn't know he is a Republican. That's the takeaway from the first ad from soon-to-be GOP Guv nominee and US Rep. Steve Pearce. In a 30 second spot he put over $100,000 behind Pearce shows the abandoned and decayed Texas home he lived in for his first two years and told viewers it had no plumbing or running water.

He says that's why he can relate to the many impoverished New Mexicans and help them, a statement that is sure to get the Dems in an uproar over the conservative Pearce's record. As this Senior Alligator of the Dem variety says, Pearce is going for a rebranding:

It's a good, solid ad. He's rebranding himself as someone that is compassionate about people's problems in New Mexico. No mention of being conservative or a Republican. While people are being drawn into the primary election he's taking the time to get in front of voters and tell them who he is. It's up to the Democrats to  respond sooner rather than later to remind voters of Pearce's extreme voting record.

The ad may be "solid" but Pearce critic Greg Lennes in Las Cruces says Pearce is stretching in playing the poverty angle:

Pearce was born in 1947. So he had no idea about his father and sharecropping. In 1949, when he was 2, his father was already working in the oilfields and had the money to purchase a farm in 1954 when Pearce was 7. His father, Melvin Pearce, had a good job with the Humble Oil & Refining Company/Exxon as a Technician where he worked from 1951 until his retirement in 1984, plus he owned a farm. It seems Mr. Pearce is inspired by his so-called poverty. However, he has been fueled by corporate money, scorns compromise and leaves New Mexico a "house divided." Now this humble millionaire wants to be our Governor.

Whether its good rebranding ad or pure poppycock about growing up in poverty, Pearce is getting on the air a month ahead of the June primary, even though he has no opposition. That's a good strategic decision given his  underdog status.

GEIER NOT GONE

Chief Geier
Mayor Keller's announcement that he is  in the middle of a national search for a permanent police chief and hopes to wrap it up by June led to speculation that Mike Geier, the interim APD chief, will be gone, but that's balderdash.

In fact, its looking more and more like Geier may get the gig permanently. Something similar occurred when Mayor Berry took office in 2010 and launched a national chief search, only to keep on board Chief Ray Schultz. Attorney and former APD cop Tom Grover says:

Geier is positioned on the inside lane and is a knowledgeable and skilled cop. He also has hired a new chief of staff which speaks volumes. I still think Deputy Chief Medina is a problem, though. Hopefully Geier will be endowed with the ability to replace and name his deputy chiefs.

Medina has been targeted by APD reformers who, fairly or not, put much of the blame for the chaos at the department in his lap and those of other commanders who they want gone. They may be disappointed that Geier--who has kept the old crowd around--is in the running and lobbying hard for the chief post. He says:

I didn’t know where it was going to lead but as we’ve gotten more embedded in the job now, definitely I’m interested in staying for the long haul, I just feel that I’ve kind of taken ownership of (the police department.) I feel like this was something that was meant to be.


And that's a wrap for this week. We're starting to get hit by the primary political tsunami but we'll keep riding the wave for you because. . .

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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