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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

National Trend Gets Dems Excited About Southern Congress Battle, Udall in 2020 Or Not? Lack Of Clear Signal Prompts Chatter, And: A Sleeper Issue For Pearce 

Xochitl Torres Small
Democratic optimism about taking over the southern congressional seat continues to grow as various pundits see a favorable national trend for the Dems, the latest being Larry Sabato and his Crystal Ball.

Sabato, this blog and others continue to rank the southern race between Republican State Rep. Yvette Herrell and Dem attorney Xochitl Torres Small as "lean Republican" but in a so called "wave election" D's think Torres Small could be swept in. That's what happened in the 2008 Dem wave when Harry Teague captured the seat but was only able to hang onto it for one term.

Rep. Yvette Herrell
The R's are showing some concern as Rep. Steve Pearce, who is giving up the seat to run for Governor, came with an early July 16 endorsement of Herrell. How he performs in the Guv race in his congressional district will be important to Herrell's chances.

Torres Small had a solid fund-raising quarter and at the end of June had more money in the bank than Herrell--$495,000 to Herrell's $100,000. However, Herrell had to spend much of her cash in a contested GOP primary. While Torres Small and the Dems boast of their fund-raising prowess, it may not make much of a difference if Herrell, as expected, catches up over the summer.

Of the three state congressional contests the southern battle is the only one seen as competitive this year.

OUT OF POSITION 

If Torres Small does take the win it would be a big score for her party but for New Mexico it might have an implication the Dems don't want to discuss. Torres Small in the US House would make the five member NM delegation all Democratic. For the first time in decades we would very likely have no Senator or US House member who is of the same party as the sitting president. And the Dems in this delegation are all openly hostile to Republican Trump.

If Trump loses in 2020 that might not be too threatening but if he is re-elected the state's delegation could find themselves even further out of position in DC.

And what does out of position mean? Well, look at the decision to place a majority of the multi-billion dollar plutonium pit program in South Carolina rather than at Los Alamos Labs. Or look at the proposal from Amtrak to end passenger train service from Dodge City, Kansas to Albuquerque. It would replace the Southwest Chief route with buses, forcing train passengers to disembark and take a bus to NM. Or look at the stalled $75 million in federal funding for the controversial ABQ ART project down Central Avenue.

Coincidences or early signals of the state's diminishing clout in DC under Trump? Stay tuned.

UDALL UNDECIDED?

Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Tom Udall has not put out strong signals that he is definitely running for re-election to a third, six year term in 2020. The betting odds favor a run, especially if the Dems were to take back control of the senate in November. But because the smoke signals from his office have not been decisive on a run the parlor game has begun over what Democrats might seek the office if he were to surprise and step down.

The list includes ABQ Mayor Tim Keller, Attorney General Hector Balderas, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez. Those elected officials would seem the likeliest to make a run.

But maybe Jeff Apodaca who tried for Governor this year would give it a whirl. Or northern Dem Rep. Ben Ray Lujan. Maybe a young up and comer like Paul Moya who ran for the ABQ congressional seat last year would make a play. Or an unknown wealthy Dem gets in and self-finances.

Udall's intentions will become more clear following the November election but until then his future gives the politicos something to chat about during these dog days of summer.

SLEEPER ISSUE

Here's a sleeper issue for Guv hopeful Steve Pearce that the state Dem Party is hammering away at:

50 days ago, Steve Pearce promised us his taxes. His opponent, Michelle Lujan Grisham, in the spirit of transparency, posted all of of her tax returns since 2013 on her campaign website, which is unprecedented for a candidate for governor of New Mexico. Pearce still hasn’t delivered. What’s he hiding?  

Pearce made millions in the SE oil business and his tax returns are highly anticipated. The AP reported June 1:

Pearce told a radio show host Wednesday that he would release his tax returns if Lujan Grisham 

We asked the Pearce campaign when he plans on releasing his tax returns but did not receive a response. 

Maybe Steve thought Michelle was bluffing about releasing her returns but his hand on this one is going to be called until he shows his cards.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

New Mexico's New Odd Couple: Steve And Maxine, Plus: Hold Your Horses On That Racino And The Passing Of A Prominent Tea Party Activist  

Rep. Maxine Waters
Maybe she's trying to make up with the enviros after saying those critical of the state's oil and gas industry have "lost their minds." From the NYT:

Should Ms. Lujan Grisham win the general election, she would end eight years of divided government under Gov. Martinez and deliver New Mexico wholly into Democratic hands — a prospect that Ms. Lujan Grisham said could clear the way for significant expansions on several fronts, clean energy chief among them. “We intend to catch up and then advance beyond all the other states,” she declared.

While Lujan Grisham's Journal interview was rocky, the one conducted with GOP Guv nominee Steve Pearce and that ran this past Sunday was subdued and serene. He even tried to score points with the left when he talked about his relationship with controversial Rep. Maxine Waters who MLG dissed in her interview. First, the MLG take:

She is troubled by fellow Democrat Maxine Waters’ urging people to confront Trump administration officials in public places. “Talk about a bridge too far. How can she in good conscience say the president is promoting violence and discrimination and then do the very same thing? “I’m not in. I wasn’t raised like that.”

Now here's hard right Pearce putting the political moves on hard left Maxine:

“We would dust each other up pretty good on the Financial Services Committee, and one day I finally walked over and said, ‘Maxine, this is pretty tough stuff … but this is not personal. …You and me, we’re OK?’ “She loosened up, and we both began to make it a practice. I happened to be behind her on the escalator going to the floor on Inauguration Day and she said all sorts of crazy stuff about Trump and he probably said it back about her and she turned and said to me, ‘It’s not personal. It’s you and me. We’re OK?’ And I said, ‘We’re OK.’

New Mexico's new odd couple: Steve and Maxine. Can the state film office do something with that.

STAFFING UP

With the Guv campaign about to enter its intense phase MLG has moved to beef up her communications staff. She has hired James Hallinan as her chief spokesman. He has been working with Attorney General Balderas in the same capacity. 

Hallinan is a veteran of a number of Guv and other campaigns in and outside of New Mexico including Diane Denish’s 2010 Guv run. David Carl, former reporter for KOAT TV, recently signed up as a PR spokesman for Balderas and remains in that position. 

Lujan Grisham’s campaign communications have encountered a few bumps. That recent interview with the Albuquerque Journal where she threw the progressive wing of the party overboard raised questions as to how well prepared the campaign was in dealing with the media. In addition, she took a hit over her latest campaign commercial dealing with the opioid epidemic and that faltered somewhat under a fact check by the Associated Press.

HOLD YOUR HORSES

And we mean that quite literally:

Four horse-racing tracks scored a victory in their bid to at least temporarily halt the licensing of a new track. The state Racing Commission ordered its staff to review the possibility of a study that would examine the feasibility of a new track. The commission also lifted the July 30 deadline for applications for the new racing license. Tracks in Albuquerque, Ruidoso, Farmington and Hobbs have requested the study, citing concerns about how a new track would affect the racing industry. . . 

The suspense is over whether the new racino will be awarded in the final months of the Martinez administration which is politically connected to all the current applicants via campaign contributions or whether the commission will make the decision when a new Governor takes over next year.

JOB WATCH

How about a full-time job with health insurance, a pension and 13 vacation days and 13 sick leave days a year? Of course, in this economy that would have to be a government job. And it is:

– Today (Tuesday) the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) will hold a hiring event (to fill) dozens of vacant positions. It will be held at the South Valley Multipurpose Center, where applicants can take part in on-site interviews for a variety of positions, including corrections officers, corrections techs and social services and food services employees. . . Human Resources staff will also be on-site to start the candidate screening process immediately. 

Starting pay for a corrections officer is about $32,000 but its the benefits package that is the draw. For more info (505) 839-8999.

SYLVIA BOKOR

Word arrives of the death of Sylvia Bokor, publisher of a popular Tea Party oriented New Mexico newsletter that was widely circulated and quoted, especially among Republicans.

Bokor was a disciple of the free market philosopher Ayn Rand and to the delight of her conservative following she showed little patience for liberals, Democrats or anyone who wanted to raise taxes.

Bokor was an accomplished artist from New York City who moved West later in life. She wrote her missives on her personal blog for a number of years but it was the 2010 Tea Party movement that brought her into the limelight and she began emailing her writings and updates on GOP events. In a message before her death from lung cancer, Bokor wrote:

I greatly hope that all the work that I and other grassroots supporters of Right to Work did will not have been in vain. I encourage all those who want a more prosperous state to continue their work! God Bless the United States of America! God Bless New Mexico! And God Bless each of you! And when I use the word God, I mean the best in man and the best man can be.

Sylvia Bokor was 85. She requested that no funeral services be held.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018

Monday, July 23, 2018

Hot Topics (Besides The Weather): Court Ruling Upends NM School Funding; Battle Ahead, Plus: UNM President Stokes The Athletic Department Fire And Gets Burned  

Okay, we're going to hop out of the pool long enough to do some blogging, but with the temps today again headed toward the century mark we'll make it an easy read.

How hot is it? Well, the roadrunners are hanging out on the telephone wires. That's how hot.

What's not so hot is the state's public education system. Perennially cited as underfunded and discriminatory towards low income Hispanic and Native American students, Santa Fe District Court Judge Sarah Singleteon forced the state's hand and came with a ruling in a lawsuit that finds the low funding unconstitutional. That handed the state legislature a potato hotter than a Tucumcari parking lot in a July heat wave.

As State Senator Mimi Stewart points out, rather than settling the matter the judge's ruling (which could be appealed by the Martinez administration) appears to set up a free for all between liberals and conservatives in the next legislative session in January:

Stewart, an Albuquerque Democrat and chairwoman of the Legislative Education Study Committee, said the judge “wasn’t prescriptive” in what has to happen next, but rather left it to lawmakers and the governor to develop a plan.

Let the chaos begin. Here's Patty Lundstrom, chair of the House Appropriations Committee:

Whatever we come up with, I hope we have the steady revenue stream to keep it going so we don’t end up back in court.

And if anyone thinks austerity hawk and Senate Finance Committee Chair John Arthur Smith is about to plow tens of millions more into education without combat, we've got some igloos for sale for you at the Kimo Theatre downtown. Get 'em before they melt.

It's going to have to be Patty who will have to melt John Arthur's cold, cold heart. And it will be the new Governor who is going to have to somehow warm the space between the two.

On the hopeful front, one of the Alligators analyzed:

The condition of our children will now get national attention. This will mix up elections. Change is in the air. 

STOKING THE FIRE

UNM President Stokes
The last thing the new UNM president needed was a bonfire outside her door during a heat wave. But that's what Garnett Stokes got.

It happened when she went along with new Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez and the Governor Martinez controlled UNM Board of Regents and agreed to axe the UNM men's soccer team as well as the ski teams. The budget balancing move caused an uproar and also caused any goodwill for newcomer Stokes to evaporate faster than the summertime virga over Mora County.

Stokes, 61, who took over the UNM presidency in March, had a chance to position herself as an agent of change by, for example, clipping the wings of UNM football. But she quickly fell in line with the donor class in showering money on that sputtering sport and decapitated soccer, a sport of the future, which was amply demonstrated by the pro-soccer crowd that jammed the Regents meeting where the axe fell.

And eliminating the ski teams that excel nationally in a state that's home to the renowned Taos Ski Valley and numerous other ski destinations that attract tourists from around the world? The bubble that Stokes, Nuñez and the Regents are living in must be made of stainless steel.

Well, no one is stoked about Stokes anymore, except maybe former Athletic Department Director Paul Krebs. He is long gone after passing the athletic department mess to her  and in the process avoiding being indicted for financial hanky-panky at the disgraced department.

Oh, well. Don't you know? Soccer is for sissies.

Let's throw the beach ball to the readers:

Joe, it's the student/athletes that get hurt, especially the local athletes that would like to play for their University. Did you know that 3/4 of all student/athletes at UNM are on the honor roll? We are going to give up some of the brightest and most athletically talented students for $500,000 a year? Talk about a brain drain from NM. Where's the vision?

And another:

Joe, The one UNM sport that should have been eliminated is David Harris. As the financial policeman/paymaster for UNM, it should have been his job to not only monitor, but control the expenditures. And his annual salary could certainly help in making up the budget shortfall. Or if he was advised not to control, he certainly could have made the profligate overspending known to his many friends in the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Or maybe he was complicit in this fiasco. I'm just sayin'.

Harris is retiring at the end of the year. The last we heard his salary and deferred compensation is somewhere north of $400,000 a year. His state retirement check in the first year alone will be enough to buy an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a bar in Acapulco stocked with free margaritas for life.

And with that round-up of the bizarre state of affairs in the halls of academia it's definitely time to get back in the pool and dive deep into some icy water. Hey, Gators: Marco Polo!

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018
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