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?


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%.


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.


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.


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. . .

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Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Cervantes Starts Digging At MLG In The Big Game Of Catch Up; Nicks Her Over Debates, Plus: Turmoil On Campus; Leading Professor Exits NMSU And Dubs School's Regents "Incompetent", And: AG Balderas Takes A Hammer To The UNM Stonewall 

He relies on an old standby in his first effort to take Michelle Lujan Grisham down a notch but Joe Cervantes has to start somewhere if this Dem Guv race is going to be something other than watching paint dry. So he nicks the frontrunner over her shyness over debating:

It is completely unacceptable, though not surprising, that Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham is ducking debates. This past Saturday in Silver City she was a no show yet again for a scheduled forum. It isn’t the first time. She has actually withdrawn from scheduled debates when she had already confirmed she would attend. Grisham seems to think that slick mailings and expensive TV ads are all it takes to win New Mexico voters. Don’t the people of New Mexico have a right to a serious discussion of the issues? 

MLG's camp pointed out she has appeared with Cervantes and her other challenger Jeff Apodaca, even if sparsely: 

This isn’t the first campaign where candidates struggling to gain any sort of traction resort misrepresenting the facts. Not only has Michelle already participated in several public forums but she’s committed to several more including one last night in Doña Ana one in Santa Fe, and a statewide televised debate on KOAT. It’s clear our campaign is only picking up more momentum as we get closer to the first day of early voting —Tuesday we released our first radio ad, we are on week two of a six figure television ad buy. . . 

That KOAT face-off stands out because so far it is the only statewide TV debate slated. It is set to air May 20 at 6 p.m.

Cervantes has a TV buy up of $175,000 while Apodaca is below $30,000. That could quickly move Cervantes into second place. Once there, Cervantes would have to decide how hard to go after Lujan Grisham.


Talk about taking a whack at the boss on the way out the door. Dr. Jim Peach, a noted NMSU economic professor familiar to blog readers for being on our exclusive list of "No BS Economists," has had enough of the Las Cruces campus and what he sees as a bunch of political hacks posing as the school's Board of Regents. He's retiring and true to form it's no BS from him on why:

In more than 40 years in the academic world, I have never seen a more incompetent board." Peach condemns the future of the institution under the Regents’ leadership, saying it will be detrimental to this “great institution.”

“The regents have trashed the university publicly and repeatedly while their job is to guide, foster, and promote the institution. The regents have attempted to micro-manage the university but lack the knowledge and expertise to do so,” the letter reads. “At best, the regents are numerically and logically challenged.”

Governor Martinez appoints the Regents at NMSU as well as UNM and the states other universities. When NMSU Chancellor and former Governor Garrey Carruthers was forced out of his Chancellor's position by the NMSU board it was widely seen as a Martinez power play. Carruthers is still on the job as a search continues for a new chancellor.


Will the next Governor break the gubernatorial habit of making the top universities political playgrounds? Something needs to happen. The news:

A recent decline in enrollment at New Mexico public colleges outpaced nearly every state in the nation. An association of state higher education agencies says enrollment dropped by nearly 5 percent at New Mexico public colleges for the school year that ended in June 2017.

Tuition that is too high for a low income state and the brain drain of students to surrounding states would seem to be two chief reasons for that disturbing trend.

And the beat goes on. . . Attorney General Balderas is getting a whiff of the rancid smell that floats above UNM, although he is too polite to describe it in those words. Instead he labels it a "pervasive culture of silence." The normally patient Balderas has been stonewalled so badly in his investigations touching upon the UNM Athletic Department and the school's personnel practices that he is threatening legal action to loosen the closed lips. He also calls for an improvement in "the tone at the top."

Well, the longtime Grand Political Wizard of UNM, David Harris, has finally announced his retirement and will depart this year. That could change the tone. Why his powerful position and his responsibility for what has happened there has never really been brought to the fore in the news is quizzical.

The new UNM president, who has worked at mostly normal places like Florida State University, already seems stunned by the culture that has been fostered at UNM. Good luck to Hector and her.  We can already hear the emails at our Harvard on the Rio Grande being deleted.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Smokin' In Ruidoso, ABQ Crime Felt In The South And A Red Hot State House Contest 

Let' s start this May 1 with a rib tickler in the form of a headline from the Ruidoso News:

Fire engulfs Can't Stop Smokin' restaurant in Ruidoso

No injuries in that blaze that also had a bit of a political connection. "Can't Stop Smokin'' is located on Mechem Drive in Ruidoso, named for former NM GOP Governor and federal Judge Ed Mechem. Hey, when you're a certified political junkie there's La Politica to be found in every story.

As usual, there's nothing very funny about the ABQ crime beat. No sooner had we reported on the Monday blog the there had been 26 murders in the city this year, then we had the 27th at a park near downtown where homeless often congregate.


We blogged about that speech last week from ABQ Planning Director Dave Campbell in which he asserted the media is over emphasizing crime coverage, but James Miller from Alto, NM says the problem is definitely not one of perception. He writes:

I work with other community leaders in rural economic development in southcentral New Mexico. As such, I know that for decades many rural NM residents frequently visited and did a good deal of their shopping in Albuquerque. Entertainment, retail shopping, college/professional sports--these things brought us to Albuquerque. That has increasingly changed over the past several years out of personal experience for many people. 

The car theft impact there has been significant. My nephew, a UNM student, a retired banker friend and an elderly fellow church member have all had their vehicles stolen in Albuquerque. Stolen cars coupled with high murder and other violent crime in Albuquerque have caused many of us to no longer visit, or certainly to visit less frequently and no longer to stay overnight. We've also shifted our shopping trips to Las Cruces or El Paso. For many of us, these perceptions are real, through personal experience, not due to media excess.

Keeping it in the south, what's up with Yvette and Monty, the two leading candidates for the GOP nomination for the southern congressional district? Well, supporters of State Rep.Yvette Herrell say they aren't too concerned about the cash on hand discrepancy between her and former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newton. They point to contributions that Newman has collected for both the primary and general elections, upping his cash on hand total, even though he can only use the primary money for the June 5 election.

Accounting for that, Herrell's advocates say, the cash battle is much closer than it appears. As of March 31 Newman reported $369,000 in cash and Herrell $256,000.


A PPP poll conducted for ABQ Dem congressional candidate Pat Davis before TV ads kicked in had the two women contenders in the race--Deb Haaland and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez--leading the contest with 15% each. But with TV ads blasting from those two and Damon Martinez things are moving fast. Later this month we'll see how fast. ABQ Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff confirms he will conduct a poll for the paper this month on the ABQ congressional contest as well as the Dem Guv race and more.


Here's a red hot one for you Roundhouse watchers this primary season:

Whoever comes out on top in the June 5 primary, either retired LANL physicist Peter Sheehey or former lab attorney Christine Chandler, will face Republican candidate Lisa Shin in November to represent a state House district that covers Los Alamos County, and parts of Rio Arriba, Sandoval and Santa Fe counties. Current Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, a Democrat who is vacating her seat to run for state land commissioner, took what had been considered a GOP stronghold when she was first elected in 2012, then soundly defeated Republican challengers in two subsequent elections.

If you're with the R's you're all over this one because Lisa Shin is a high quality player who could deliver one of the few bright spots for the GOP this year.

Chandler had $6,300 cash on hand for the final month at the last report and Sheehey had $3,250.


In a first blog draft Monday we put the Joe Cervantes TV ad buy for the Guv race at $95,000. That was for the ABQ broadcast market and did not include ABQ cable and El Paso. Buys there brought his total to $175,000 for the period 4/25-5/6.

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Monday, April 30, 2018

Cervantes Says Hello, New Mexico, He Debuts TV As He Looks For A Late Charge, Plus; Say What? Donald Trump Has Been Good For New Mexico? Really? We Explain  

Joe Cervantes hopes to put on a late charge to catapult himself into the thick of things in the chase for the '18 Dem gubernatorial nomination. To that end he's released his first TV ad and put behind it about $175,000 of the $1.4 million he reports in cash on hand.

The Cervantes spot is a standard bio ad introducing him as a businessman and state senator who "was born and raised on a farm." The strongest portion is when he highlights his wife and three daughters, with the female narrator saying that the title he is most proud of is "father of three" and that "Joe Cervantes raised his daughters with New Mexico values" as the camera pans the family enjoying the moment.

Cervantes, 57, is going to need a deep connection to women voters who will comprise the majority in the primary, if he is to start chipping away at frontrunner Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The policy message in this first ad is generic boilerplate: He pledges to fight "for working families, better schools, safer neighborhoods and a fair economy."

The problem he faces is an old one but emerges with more clarity as the campaign nears its climatic phase and Cervantes takes to TV:

If Cervantes can't break through with the broader electorate he will end up splitting male Hispanic voters with Jeff Apodaca allowing Lujan Grisham to ride to victory with majority support from women.

In other words, Cervantes is going to need some edgy follow-up spots to his mild mannered introduction if he is to make a go of it. Campaign polling continues to show MLG with a distinct advantage in the three way match.

Meantime the danger that Apodaca faces from Cervantes is evidenced in the latest TV buys. While Cervantes is coming with that big buy from 4/24/ to 5/7, Apodaca posts a meager buy of $15,000 in ABQ, reports media watcher Chris Brown. MLG has purchased about $55,000 of broadcast and cable as of 4.27, just enough so viewers don't forget her as Apo and Joe play to the crowd.


Murder #26 in ABQ for 2018 has been counted after only four months. A police spokesman says murder is often a crime of passion and thus difficult to stop. However, that passion often arises from drug deals gone bad as was apparently the case with two recent slayings, both over mere $40 debts. The thought follows that if you can stop some of that drug trafficking you can slow the murder rate.

Meanwhile readers checking in say they do see more of a police presence on the streets under APD Chief Geier. We actually encountered the rare sight of a hyper-speeding motorist being stopped by a city officer near the Big I recently. But then we spotted a bunch of young motorcycle riders popping wheelies with abandon and no law enforcement in sight in the middle of busy Montgomery Boulevard on a sunny and warm Sunday. Who knows which incident best reflects the current police presence but short-staffed Geier is trying.

ADDENDUM: Monday afternoon the city recorded its 27th homicide of the year.


Sure Donald Trump is pretty unpopular in New Mexico but the pragmatists are again warning that it's really not in the interest of our state for our congressional delegation to go out of their way to dump on this White House? Why? Well, because the Trump presidency is turning out to be a pretty good one for the state in terms of its finances.

First, there is Trump's beefed up nuclear policy which will mean larger budget for NM mega-employers Sandia and Los Alamao Labs.

Second and thirdly, there's that big tax cut Trump pushed through Congress. The electric company--PNM--was able to slash a high single digit rate increase down to a low single digit one because of the tax cut it will be getting.

And now comes word that same tax bill will very likely mean the state can avoid paying dreaded balloon payments for the controversial Rail Runner.

. . . The state road fund will go from paying $29 million (in bond payments) this year to nearly $118 million in 2025. The fund, which is meant to cover the costs of improving roads and highways, will have to cover another $111 million in 2026 before debt payments on the Rail Runner taper off.

But those huge payment time bombs can now be reduced and made more manageable. How so? Because of provisions in the Trump tax bill. That's how.

As everyone knows, New Mexico is one of the most dependent state's in the nation when it comes to federal spending. The Dems in the congressional delegation may be going mad as a hatter over Trump's antics but any politician worth his salt will tell you don't bite the hand that feeds you. It follows that our DC guys and gals need to occasionally bite their tongues when it comes to their outrage over the President. And they need to take advantage of this time to bring more badly needed federal funding to the state.

There are plenty of lawmakers on Capitol Hill who can save the world from Donald Trump and follow the Russia thing or whatever else they want down a rabbit hole. And they can do it without economic risk to their states. The pragmatists are right--the Land of Enchantment is not one of those states.

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