Thursday, March 29, 2018

ABQ Congress Candidates In Mad Dash Money Scramble, Idalia Ousted From State House Ballot And How A Lifelong Dem Got Switched  

The six candidates for the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat will be scrambling through the weekend as the quarter draws to a close and it will be time to submit federal campaign finance reports. Maybe those reports will give the political pros a better idea of where this race is headed because right now few of them have a firm opinion.

Part of the problem is the lack of public polling as well as the lack of any prominent personality in the pack. All are largely unknown to the public. That may mean TV ads play an even larger role in determining the outcome as voters finally get to see them, or at least the ones that can afford to be on the tube.

Supporters of Deb Haaland are citing her endorsement this week by BernCo County Commissioner Michael Quezada, who represents the South Valley, as a signal that the campaign of former US Attorney Damon Martinez is fading. They say that he has pinned his hopes on moderate and conservative Hispanic voters and Quezada's break to Haaland is a bad omen.

But that could be a bit of wishful thinking. Martinez reported over $300,000 in the bank at last report. If he hasn't burned through it and raised some more, he'll have a noticeable TV presence. Haaland and law professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez are also expected to have significant TV buys. The other three hopefuls lag.

Whoever snares the Dem nomination June 5 might start celebrating early. The R's are not seriously competing in the district that is now as blue as a New Mexican sky.


Hey, your honor. The law may have said you had to throw former Dem State Rep. Idalia Lechuga-Tena off the June primary ballot, but we wanted to let you know the decision is bad--real bad--for the blogging business. Heck, everyone in town knows that Idalia and Debbie Sariñana, the current state rep for ABQ SE Heights District 21, were prepared to give us a race nearly as entertaining as this week's debut of "Roseanne." Well, there go our ratings. The news:

Lechuga-Tena was booted off the ballot by a judge after she acknowledged she’s been living outside the House district she wants to represent. Lechuga-Tena testified that she is renting out the home she owns in District 21 to another family. But she said the house is still her permanent residence because she’s registered to vote there, lived there before agreeing to rent out the house for a year and intends to move back once the renters leave in about 10 days.

Nice try. But Judge Nancy Franchini found that argument weaker than watered down Jack Daniels and off the ballot Idalia went. She will appeal but that's a long shot. There will be no rematch of the '16 primary when Sariñana beat her by five points.

So supporters of Rep. Sariñana not only congratulate her for her court victory but for essentially getting re-elected. No one else is running in the Dem primary and no Republican filed for the race. That's what you call two free tickets to ride.

Still, Judge, try to not hurt us small business owners too much with future decisions. We could have used that showdown.


Judge Madrid (Sun-News)
It seems as though Doña Ana County Magistrate Court Judge Samantha Madrid might have a pretty good case to get back on the ballot. She is a lifelong Dem but in a strange turn she ended up being registered as an independent:

A lawsuit says she was disqualified from running as the Democratic candidate in her re-election bid because her voter registration lists her as an independent. But Madrid said she is a life-long Democrat and has never changed her affiliation. 

According to the lawsuit, Madrid went to the MVD Express in Las Cruces on Oct. 3, 2017, seeking a duplicate copy of her driver's license. She answered a series of questions regarding her driver's license and citizenship, and then proceeded to sign the electronic pad, but was unaware that those questions also were being used to update her existing voter registration. It was during this process, the lawsuit alleges, that Madrid's party affiliation was changed without her knowledge.

Interesting. We'll keep you posted. Speaking of Independents, reader James McClure has some musings about them:

Joe, your analysis on the Tuesday blog of the state’s Democratic shift is on target: The disappearance of moderate Republicans along the lines of former US Senator Pete Domenici has driven more New Mexicans into the Democratic camp. But has the disappearance of moderate Democrats also contributed to the increasing number of people who register as independents?

Also, I’m curious about the impact shifting demographics are having on the state’s political makeup. We’ve had a significant out-migration of working-age people. It’s a reasonable guess that the folks moving for better jobs are not government employees  Has this effected the Dem/GOP balance? I’d love to see someone like pollster Brian Sanderoff investigate this.

That sounds like it's right up Brian' s alley, if he isn't already busy working on the 2021 legislative redistricting. . .

McClure also offered this perspective on the blog debate this week that was critical of the ABQ Chamber of Commerce for not fostering policies that would help stem the ABQ crime wave:

Part of the problem is that Albuquerque does not have a full-fledged private sector. The only corporation of any size is the power company (PNM). The big healthcare enterprises are non-profit and there is little manufacturing. Most banks are no longer locally owned. The chamber is dominated by professional service firms, builders and developers--many of who rely on government business.

And if you rely on government business you might not want to be too adventurous in advocating polices that might upset the politicians who dole out that government business.

Happy Easter, New Mexico.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The New Reality: Outgoing GOP Leader Gentry: "No Problem Supporting Pro-Business Democrats" Plus: A Final Round On The Chamber And Crime And A Fake News Bust On Us 

Outgoing state House Minority Leader Nate Gentry, chased out of a re-election bid by an ABQ NE Heights district that has become increasingly competitive, has joined the chorus of Alligators and Wall-Leaners who believe New Mexico is returning to a time when the Democrats so dominated that the party's conservative wing basically substituted for a moribund Republican Party. Says Gentry in his swan song:

I have no problem supporting pro-business Democrats. I think it's very unlikely that there's ever going to be a Republican majority in the Senate. And I think it's going to be a real challenge, given the national climate, to get a majority in the House of Representatives. So, if the alternative is a fringe progressive, I think it makes sense to support the moderate Democrat.

Some frank comments there but based in a reality that is already taking shape. It includes the recent election of Dem Mayors Keller and Webber, Dem Heinrich's noncompetitive US Senate race, the easy D lay up for the ABQ congressional seat, the retake of the state House by the Dems and a Governor's race that leans decidedly Dem.

That has the minority leader conceding that the GOP will be reduced to being a player in moderating the Democratic Party, not beating it.

Why after such outsized GOP success--a two term Republican Governor, a takeover of the state House for two years and the election of a secretary of state and land commissioner--did it come to this?

Gentry started in politics at the knee of Senator Pete Domenici who made famous "moderate Republicanism" in the state, but the party has since gone into a hard right ideological corner that has boxed them in here. And the usual exhaustion with a two term governor has not helped.

The great political success of Gov. Martinez and Gentry was to capture the Tea Party energy as well as disgust with incumbent Democrats and give the R's those many aforementioned victories. Their great failure was their inability to moderate policy or pass consequential legislation to keep more of the state in toss-up territory. Now the bill is due but Martinez and Gentry won't be around to pay it.


Let's go one more round on the ABQ Chamber of Commerce and its role in turning around the crime wave. Retired APD Sergeant Dan Klein was taken to task for suggesting that the Chamber needed to come up with job creating ideas and also retire its longtime chief executive, if the business community truly wants to help end this crime wave. Klein's critics argued the Chamber is useless in that regard, citing its past record and ideological bent. Klein responds:

I agree with what everyone is saying, but I know that Chambers of Commerce can work to make communities more economically vibrant. Two years ago when I wrote for the ABQ Free Press I contacted over two dozen chambers of commerce. They all worked with their communities to make their cities better places to live. Only one of the cities, Salt Lake City, had a chamber president who had served longer than 5 years. All the rest of the chambers (El Paso, Tucson, Phoenix, Denver etc) purposely changed leadership every three to five years. Their reasoning was that it kept the chamber working with new people and new ideas. It certainly seems to be working as those cities, working with politicians and business leaders, are doing great.

So I get it that people here know that the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce is a poorly led and poorly managed organization. But they need to understand that this should be the reason for a dramatic change in leadership. Not ignoring the Chamber, but getting fresh faces and ideas into the leadership position at the Chamber so they can help the new mayor create a viable economic plan for Albuquerque.


Reader Tom Miles and I are busted. That Tuesday submission he sent in that we labeled some of the "best" political spin ever was actually fake news that has been circulating for a number of years. A bunch of readers chuckled at our Fake News mishap over Senator Harry Reid and how he supposedly had a horse thief as a long ago relative. Maybe I should spend more time on Facebook to track all the fake news. In any event, we corrected the blog but kept the story up because the spin is so delicious. Also, the photo with the fake news story is of the hanging of infamous NM outlaw Black Jack Ketchum, not of Reid's nonexistent relative.

As for Tom Miles, he writes:

My apologies, Joe. Never intended to hang you out like this. I usually check Snopes for wild ones like these but sure missed on this one.

Step up, Tom. You're first to feel the pain of 20 lashes with a wet noodle for your egregious error and I'm right behind you. Ouch!

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Unloading On The Chamber Of Commerce; Suggestion That They Come With Job Plan, Plus: It's fake News But Still Some Of The Best Political Spin  

(David Villegas)
The long knives came out when retired APD sergeant and crime watcher Dan Klein suggested on the Monday blog that the ABQ Chamber of Commerce be pressured to come up with some tangible job creation plans in order to halt the ABQ crime wave. Bill Jordan, senior policy advisor for NM Voices for Children, pushed back with this:

Please God, let’s not ask the Chamber of Commerce and the NM Association of Commerce and Industry (ACI) how to create jobs as Dan Klein suggests! The Chamber and ACI are the ones who got us into this mess. They only have two ideas, cut taxes for the well-off and keep wages low for those who aren't. 

They wanted a cut in personal income taxes and got a massive $500 million per year tax cut, but we got no jobs. Then they wanted a massive $200 million corporate income tax cut and they got it, but we got no jobs. Over the years they got dozens of tax cuts including 40 or more from Governor Martinez. Again… few if any jobs. What did happen however is that we had to cut K12 education by 12% and higher ed by over 30% since the beginning of the recession. We also cut health care, public safety and all the other supports that our families and communities need to thrive. Over a billion dollars in tax cuts requested by the Chamber and we got no jobs.  

And they opposed a Constitutional Amendment to fund very early childhood education that would provide thousands of jobs. 

Seriously Joe, name one good strategic initiative of the Albuquerque Chamber. I can’t think of any. If we want our economy to improve, if we want safer streets, if we want a better quality of life, the new mayors in Albuquerque and Santa Fe and our new governor in January would be well-served to do the opposite of whatever is on their policy agenda.

Adrian Carver, executive director of Equality NM, weighed in with this:

ACC and ACI have been the biggest culprits at putting sticks in our spokes every time we get the chance to get our economy moving. While the rest of the region is pulling itself out of the recession, the chamber has gotten everything it has wanted for at least 8 years and there is little to show for it. Meanwhile, municipalities are struggling to keep communities safe and big corporations aren’t fully paying taxes! LGBTQ+ people and all New Mexicans have been done a disservice by ACC/ACI's ideas. Here’s an idea for economic growth—replace Terri Cole at the Chamber (president and CEO) with someone who cares about the bottom line—the people.

Pretty rough stuff. But with reason. Remember, the "tell" on where the major biz players in the city stood came when freshly sworn-in Mayor Keller appeared before the Economic Forum. He received rousing applause when he said there was no need to blame anyone for the dire straits the city finds itself in. Obviously, that's not the rule around here.


We thought that UNM of late was a hotbed of student activism. Think again?:

Elections for president and vice president of the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico will be held over a period of three days--with only two names on the ballot. President Pro Tempore Becka Myers and Sen. Emily Wilks are the only candidates running for ASUNM president and vice president, respectively. Presidential elections will take place from March 26 to 28.

No opposition for Myers and Wilks as UNM gets yet another tuition and student fee increase and as the athletic department's credibility along with its budget, continues to crumble? Either a large dose of apathy has seeped onto the campus or those two candidates have got some really right stuff.


NOTE: Reader Ken Rooney sent this in about this submission from reader Tom Miles but even with the caveat that this is apparently "fake news" the spin is delicious. 

Looks like you may have been caught in the spin cycle yourself! The story about Harry Reid's ancestor is an entertaining one to be sure but sadly not true. Looks like everyone from Tipper Gore to Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump have been accused of a family lineage filled with horse thieves. Now that's some fake news!

Okay, with that major caveat, enjoy. . .

This is surely near the top, if not at the top of the list, when it comes to political spin. Reader Tom Miles sent it:

Judy Wallman, a professional genealogy researcher in southern California, was doing some personal work on her family tree. She discovered that former Nevada Senator Harry Reid's great-great uncle, Remus Reid, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. Both Judy and Harry Reid share this common ancestor. The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows in Montana territory.

On the back of the picture is this inscription: “Remus Reid, horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889.”
Sen. Reid

So Judy e-mailed Senator Reid for information about their great-great uncle. Believe it or not, Harry Reid's staff sent back the following biographical sketch:

“Remus Reid was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.”

Yeah kids, now were spinnin'.

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Same Old Story: Census Shows ABQ Population Stagnation Goes On And So Does The Crime Wave, Plus: It's Round Two For Idalia Vs. Debbie And It Could Get Wild, Also: New BernCo Commissioner Arrives 

It's that same old story. The latest federal population estimate for the ABQ metro shows we grew by a mere 0.42 percent for the 12 months ended July 1, 2017. That stagnant population and economic trend in the four county region has been in place since 2010 and is being dubbed "The Lost Decade."

What's not lost on Mr. and Mrs, ABQ is that while the stagnation continues, crime is on the move and to historic levels. Breaking the stubborn crime wave amid an understaffed APD and a lousy economy has been like trying to dent steel with a plastic hammer. We asked longtime APD watcher and retired police sergeant Dan Klein for his latest analysis on the crime crisis:

It would be nice to believe that putting more police on the street is the sole solution to the problem but it's not. The conversation in 2018 has centered on that worthy idea, but what we really need to be talking about for a long-term solution is the economy--the lack of jobs and the drugs and poverty that engenders. We need to be asking Mayor Keller and the Chamber of Commerce what they are going to do to restore economic growth here. Without that, the yearslong crime wave has many more years to go.

There has been little in the way of economic news so far under the new administration. On his website the Mayor says:

My administration is also committed to fulfilling Albuquerque’s enormous potential, by prioritizing job creation, igniting innovation, and fostering broad-based economic growth. For Albuquerque to be successful, we must place increased emphasis on growing the incredible businesses located right here in the City.

The latest Census estimates report that as of last July 1 the ABQ Metro--Bernalillo, Sandoval, Valencia and Torrance counties--had a population of  910,726, up from 906,877 in 2016.

As for the state in the 12 months that ended July 1, the Census says New Mexico had a net outmigration of 4,666 people and that the population grew for the twelve months by a tiny 0.1 percent. But that slight uptick was only because there were more births than deaths. As of July 1, 2017 New Mexico's population was 2,088,070.


Rep. Sariñana
How about another wild ride in House District 21 in the ABQ SE Heights? Well, we could get one if Idalia Lechuga-Tena manages to stay on the ballot but that may be a big if.

Dem State Rep. Debbie Sariñana ousted fellow Dem and then State Rep. Lechuga-Tena in the June '16 primary election. Now they are back for a rematch this June

During the '16 campaign Sariñana raised questions about Lechuga-Tena's residency in the district and she's dong so again. Only this time she has filed an action in district court alleging that the house Lechuga-Tena claims to be living in is actually a rental and that her primary foe owns it but is not living in it. She is asking the court to throw her rival off the ballot.

(The petition to keep Lechuga-Tena off the ballot is here.)

The '16 race garnered statewide attention when Lechuga-Tena, who was born in Mexico,  admitted she had voted in a New Mexico election before she became a naturalized citizen. She said she did so innocently, not knowing she was violating the law and she was never charged with any wrongdoing. Sariñana beat her by five points in a three way June primary.

Lechuga-Tena was appointed to the House seat by the Bernalillo County Commission when a vacancy occurred in 2015. Funny thing, though. It was the two GOP county commissioners who made her appointment to the liberal district possible. Two Dems--O'Malley and Hart Stebbins--voted against her.

Rep Sariñana is a Manzano High teacher. Lechuga-Tena has worked as a political operative and state employee. She recently married lobbyist Macros Gonzales who lives in Santa Fe.

As in '16, this year no Republican has filed for this all-D-all-the-time-district. The winner of the primary takes the prize.

If you like your rides wild this is one you'll want to be on. That is if Debbie doesn't buck Idalia off her horse before the ride gets started. A court hearing on the residency complaint is scheduled for this Wednesday.


Martinez and Smith 
There's a new BernCo Commissioner and thus a vacancy in the State House:

Gov. Martinez announced that she has tapped State Rep. Jim Smith of Tijeras for County Commission District 5. The seat was previously held by Wayne Johnson, who left after being appointed state auditor by the governor. Smith, a retired high school teacher, has been a legislator since 2011, where he represented House District 22. Smith’s district includes the East Mountains, where he lives, and parts of the northeast and southeast heights.

The appointment gives Smith a heads-up in his bid to win a four year term this November. Not that he needs too much of one. The district is heavy R. However, he does have an opponent in the June primary. On her LinkedIn profile Republican Natasha Hadrych-Rosier describes herself a as a radiation therapy manager with 15 years in healthcare. Charlene Pyskoty is running for the seat as a Democrat and Libertarian Michael Wismer is also making a bid.

Smith's departure means Gov. Martinez will also get to fill Smith's House seat with another R.


Attorney General Hector Balderas has given his blessing to southern Dem congressional hopeful Xochitl Torres Small in her Democratic primary with Mad Hildebrandt. The seat is being vacated by GOP Rep. Steve Pearce who is running for Governor. Earlier Balderas endorsed Michelle Lujan Grisham for the Dem Guv nomination, after deciding not to run for that position himself. . .Hildebrandt will host a Facebook conversation on crime tonight at 6. . .

And Valerie Jarrett, former senior adviser to Barack Obama, has endorsed the ABQ Dem congressional candidacy of Deb Haaland. There are six contenders in that June 5 primary.

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