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Thursday, August 02, 2018

Pearce Tries To Break The Ice In ABQ, Ben Ray Has TV Trouble With ICE, And: Obama Endorses A Trio Of NM Contenders 

Steve Pearce's Guv candidacy is dead money if he can't break up a potential Michelle Lujan Grisham landslide in the ABQ metro. So you get this news:

It took the intervention of a U.S. congressman to get the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District to clean out a long-neglected South Valley drainage ditch – even though the MRGCD claims it has been providing regular maintenance on the ditch twice a year. At a news conference in the South Valley, adjacent to the Isleta Drain, Theresa Baca, president of the Atrisco Viejo Neighborhood Association, and Patricio Dominguez, association vice president, thanked Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., for getting the project done, even though the area is not in Pearce’s district.

Rep. Lujan Grisham, the Dem Guv nominee and who represents the South Valley, was left holding the bag:

It’s unfortunate that this group did not reach out to the congressional office for assistance regarding this matter,” said a campaign spokesman. “Had they done so the congresswoman and her staff would have been able to assist them.”

MLG's steadfast support of that pillar of our quasi-welfare state--Medicaid--could stand her in good stead as Pearce tries to come up with more hat tricks in ABQ. Dems reminded their brethren that this week marks the 53rd anniversary of the signing of the bill that made Medicare and Medicaid possible. And our own Senator Clinton P. Anderson, pictured here on the right, was a chief sponsor.

ABOLISHING ICE 

It's a tricky question for the Dems as their left wing calls for doing away with the immigration agency known as ICE, but polling shows a majority of Americans don't agree. And NM Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the Dem Congressional Campaign Committee, found himself pinned to the mat on the hot issue in an appearance Sunday on ABC's This Week.

Asked several times about the Dem position on ICE Lujan bobbed and weaved. He was called out by his Republican counterpart, Rep. Steve Stivers, chair of the Nat'l GOP Congressional Campaign Committee, who said Lujan did not "talk about ICE."

Moderator Martha Raddatz, who asked Lujan several times about ICE said Lujan "did not answer that question" and as Lujan interrupted her she rebuffed him" "I think you had a fair chance to make your argument. We're going to have to stop there. You had your chance."

OBAMA ENDORSES

Former President Obama is back on the campaign trail with a list of his endorsed candidates. Among those making his cut is Deb Haaland, the Dem nominee for the ABQ congressional seat. Her Republican opponent is Janice Arnold-Jones. Libertarian Lloyd Prince is also in the running. The seat is ranked Safe Dem.

Obama also gave his blessing to Sandoval County State Rep. Daymon Ely who is in a swing seat and faces Republican Barbara Boatman.  Also getting the presidential nod was Dem Natalie Figueroa who is seeking the seat being vacated by House Minority Leader Nate Gentry. Her GOP foe is John Jones.

The Ely seat is a swing area but we rank it Lean Dem based on current trends. The Gentry NE Heights seat is also ranked Lean Dem for the November election.

One other note: John Jones is married to Janice Arnold-Jones. Both of them got the thumbs down from Obama. Dems love it. The couple probably wears it as a badge of honor.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Hey, we don't steer you wrong. A reader writes:

Hello Joe, we took our long awaited trip to El Norte this weekend. We stayed at the Taos Inn as planned but after reading about Angelina's restaurant in Española in your blog we had to stop and try the Costillas. All I can say is that after your advice we have a new favorite spot. Thanks for the great tip!

Yep, lamb in many varieties is the specially of the house, with the lamb costillas (ribs) being a fave. Don't forget the red chile with those. . .

And one other foodie note. On a recent stop at Santa Fe's Coyote Cafe we had something we had never had before--Elk. Or as the menu puts it "Tellicherry Peppered Elk Tenderloin." It was quite delicious but competing with lamb costillas is a tough task.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Campaign Kerfuffles: Carson Visit Has Dems Calling Out Pearce While MLG Partying In Puerto Rico Draws R Ire, Plus: Needles And CYFD 

Pearce and Carson at San Felipe
The jousting between the camps of Michael Lujan Grisham and Steve Pearce is getting more intense as each passing day takes us closer to the November 6 election.

On Tuesday campaign kerfuffles broke out between the duo over a visit by a Trump cabinet secretary and the release of photos of Lujan Grisham partying in Puerto Rico at a luxury hotel while on a two day congressional fact finding tour last week to assess hurricane damage there.

The cabinet secretary in question is Ben Carson, head of HUD, who Pearce trotted out for a visit to San Felipe Pueblo to inspect low income housing and learn about pueblo culture, but the Dems called it a ”fake visit" and demanded to know why taxpayers dollars were being spent spent on what they asserted was an obvious campaign event.

Pearce did enjoy the pics that showed him with the African-American cabinet secretary taken amid the San Felipe community, groups that this GOP nominee believes he can appeal to more than those of the past.

MLG in Puerto Rico
Meanwhile, the R's acted like their summer lemonade was spiked with Puerto Rican rum as they relished photos of MLG having a drink with a fellow lawmaker and enjoying some dancing with with New York Representative Adriano Espaillait.

While the pics were innocuous (the campaign says she had one drink and paid for it herself) the R's felt they scored on the optics--MLG partying on an island gripped in a humanitarian crisis that Congress has oversight over isn't exactly what you would call a campaign photo op.

Ironically, R operatives were saying that MLG reminds them of outgoing and unpopular Governor Susana Martinez whose holiday pizza and drinking party a couple of years ago started her long downward polling descent. But Dems cackled that rather than a political hurricane, this was a tempest in the teapot. Former ABQ mayor Chavez weighed in on Facebook about MLG's trip which was also attended by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:

Let's see, the day of work was done and she went downstairs for a drink with her colleague and someone asked her to dance. Not much of a scandal. The real scandal is Steve Pearce's slavish loyalty to Trump and his absolute disregard for the well-being of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the horrific hurricane. Nothing funny about that.


All of this is the prelude to the main event when the negative TV ads will start raining down like a nonstop monsoon, probably later this month. As Mayor Chavez might, say--nothing funny about that.

NOSTAGLIA CORNER

Call us nostalgic but ABQ today often seems like a city we don't recognize:

Mayor Keller unveiled a plan to clean up improperly disposed needles and syringes around the city. The new program, called SHARP – Safe Handling and Routing of Paraphernalia – is a coordinated effort among several city departments, along with Bernalillo County, to cut down on the number of improperly disposed sharps in public spaces.

And then the drugs lead to cases such as this over and over and over again:

An Albuquerque mother and her boyfriend who are facing child abuse charges in a case that left a 1-year-old boy in a medically induced coma will not await trial in jail, a judge ruled. Dahn Leidy, 24, and Florencio Mendoza, 35, were arrested last week on suspicion of child abuse resulting in great bodily harm and tampering with evidence. They will now be released with certain conditions they will have to follow. 

And, of course, once again CYFD:

The state Children, Youth and Families Department was investigating Leidy and her son at the time of alleged beating, Cabinet Secretary Monique Jacobson told the Journal last week. Police had been called to the home in early July when the child was found walking alone and without shoes, pants or a shirt at Leidy’s apartment complex.

Heaven help us if MLG or Pearce puts another political appointee in charge of the agency. Or we should say Heaven help the scores of endangered New Mexico kids.

FAST TRACK

After slowing down the decision making process for the state's sixth and final racino the state racing commission has quickly put it back on the fast-track:

The state Racing Commission, reversing a decision made just 11 days earlier, voted at a hastily called meeting Monday to restart the process of licensing a new horse track.The commission met in secret before setting a new deadline of Aug. 17 for applications for the racing license. “We did this because the commission decided to, plain and simple,” Commissioner Chairman Ray Willis told an attorney for four tracks when the lawyer asked why the commission was changing course.

You gotta love that line "because the commission decided to." This racino selection is up to a horse's neck in politics, with Gov. Martinez's administration appearing to want to make this decision before her term expires at the end of the year. All the groups that have applied for the racino have political connections to Martinez (primarily campaign contributions) so if she is trying to wire this deal (like the Downs at ABQ racino lease at the start of her term) she may have to make some friends mad.

Meanwhile,

The Fulton family decided not to seek a license for another track so it could focus on running the Sunland Park racino, said Rick Baugh, general manager of the track and casino. The family wants. . . to make the racino a destination resort, Baugh said. 

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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Senate Scramble: Dunn Gets Out And Urges Johnson To Get In; Former Governor Is Inching Closer To Pulling The Trigger; Republican Rich Quashes Withdrawal Rumors. Plus: The Guv Battle: Apodaca Gets Cozy With Pearce, No Endorsement But Close; Lujan Grisham Took June But Pearce Wins July  

In a US Senate race suddenly turned on its ear Republican nominee Mick Rich is busy quashing rumors that he would be getting out the contest as Libertarian and former NM GOP Governor Gary Johnson weighs a bid.

Rich told supporters Monday his commitment to the race "is stronger than ever." He also rolled out an endorsement from the National Right to Life Committee. Johnson is pro-choice and obviously Rich is going to use that to block former Republican Governor Johnson with social  conservatives.

Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, Jr. officially dropped out of the race Monday, paving the way for Johnson. Dunn is urging the Libertarian Party to name Johnson as his replacement. Johnson appears to be inching towards a run. Sources report calls have gone out from Johnson associates looking for staffers for a Senate bid.

NM Libertarian Party Chairman Chris Luchini tells me the party will conduct a central committee meeting this Saturday, August 4 to name a replacement for Dunn. That would give Johnson about 90 days as a candidate for the Nov. 7 election.

Senator Martin Heinrich joined the fray Monday by previewing his first TV ad to supporters. It's called "Every Corner."

Mick Rich 
The 60 second spot features Heinrich, who is seeking a second term, traveling the state in a pick-up and staying active meeting a wide variety of New Mexicans. The message essentially is that New Mexico is a pretty nice place and avoids any mention of the serious social and economic issues plaguing the state.

The ad positions the 46 year old Heinrich as energetic and youthful. Until Johnson or Rich start putting serious heat on him that's about all he needs for now.

THE CASH

Johnson's fund-raising potential has to worry Heinrich. He raised $12 million for his '16 presidential bid. Pros taking wild guesses think a cash haul of $1 or $2 million is achievable for Johnson because of his national contacts. Heinrich at last report had $4 million in the bank and has continued to raise cash.

If Johnson raises even $1 million he would have a significant media presence for the final two months of the campaign. That could make him the de facto GOP nominee if Rich, now a poor candidate, fades into the woodwork. However, one of our alligators received this spin from Johnson advocates who are touting his candidacy:

Johnson plans to raise between $4M-$5M. Internal poll currently shows Gary within the margin of error when they ask undecideds who they are leaning toward (39–Heinrich—35–Johnson—Rich—26) 

The DC Alligators think the NM Senate race would become more competitive with Johnson in but don't expect any of the pundit ratings to change unless and until there is polling showing Heinrich more vulnerable. The race is currently rated Solid Dem.

THE POLLING

The public polling is critical. Johnson is already widely known here. He will have to come out of the chute strong or interest will dry up fast.

Johnson has prided himself on not running negative campaigns against opponents. That means a third party PAC or PACS would have to come in to do the dirty work on Heinrich. But they aren't going to come if the race is viewed out of Johnson's reach.

If you haven't seen Johnson on video in a while, here's an interview he did earlier this month. Johnson is still pursuing his love of athletics but at 65 he will have a challenge keeping up with Heinrich in the vim and vigor competition,

GETTING MIGHTY COZY

Apodaca and Pearce
Jeff Apodaca is getting mighty cozy with Republican Guv nominee Steve Pearce. Mighty cozy.

While not endorsing the conservative congressman outright, Apodaca, who lost a sometimes bitter battle to Michelle Lujan Grisham for the Dem Guv nomination in June, walked right up to the endorsement line by saying:

Apodaca didn’t endorse Pearce, and he said he would push both Pearce and the Democratic nominee, Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, to commit to “investing in New Mexico.” But said he had met with Pearce recently for two hours to talk jobs and the economy, and “I think he has a pretty good plan.

Apodaca managed only 22 percent of the vote in the primary which also featured State Senator Joe Cervantes who scored 11 percent. Lujan Grisham won in a landslide, garnering 66 percent.

Cervantes has endorsed MLG. To our knowledge Apodaca has not endorsed her.

Apodaca, a onetime media executive and son of former NM Governor Jerry Apodaca, recently signed up as a spokesman for New Mexico Democrats for Democracy, a group with an anti-MLG tilt. It says its mission is to "change New Mexico for the better by supporting candidates instead of parties."

Some of the bad blood between Lujan Grisham and Apodaca may be personal, according to insiders. They say a post-primary meeting between Apodaca and MLG did not go well and Apodaca felt ignored and insulted.

Apodaca's main platform plank during the campaign was to invest hundreds of millions of dollars from the $18 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund into local businesses to spark economic growth. Pearce on Monday pulled a surprise and called Apodaca up to the podium before a group of ABQ business leaders and said as Governor he would expand  the program that invests in local businesses already set up under the smaller Severance Tax Permanent Fund.

Apodaca's political future is uncertain. His poor primary performance gives him little cachet with the nominating wing of the Democratic Party and getting cozy with Pearce is only going to further alienate him from the party. But Pearce is no political dummy and using Apodaca, a prominent male Hispanic Dem as a foil against Lujan Grisham, is an easy play.

Apodaca's critics said on his Facebook page that he was job hunting. 2010 Dem Guv nominee and former Lt. Governor Diane Denish called him a "sore loser."

For Lujan Grisham the problem is not so much that Apodaca is burning her, it raises the question of why she has not been able to make peace with him. That's a skill she will need to employ countless times if she assumes the governorship.

PEARCE TAKES JULY

On our scorecard the month of June went to MLG in the race for Governor but Pearce takes July. Why? Well, it was mainly of her own making, not anything Pearce did.

First there was that MLG interview with the ABQ Journal in which she went over the top in dumping on the progressive wing of her party, even saying that those hostile to the oil and gas industry had "lost their minds."

Second, there is her TV spot on the opioid epidemic that was called out in an AP fact check for stretching the truth on how much the overdose rate was cut during her tenure as secretary of the state health department.

Third, there is the aforementioned Apodoca who is now playing the position of thorn in MLG's side and getting some attention for it.

Now it's on to August.

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Monday, July 30, 2018

Reefer Madness Or Realistic: Johnson Weighs US Senate Run; Plus: The Pittance From Pot And Dunn Appears Done  

Gary Johnson 
The sleepy US Senate race has been jolted from its long summer's nap by word that former NM GOP Governor Gary Johnson, that aficionado of quirky political theater, may step into the race. But if he is going to do it he's going to have to invoke his well-known penchant for ignoring political reality. Take a look:

To be clear, though, I will not run unless I believe I can win.

But with Republican Senate nominee Mick Rich vowing to stay in the race and Johnson planning to run as a Libertarian now that Aubrey Dunn has dropped out of the race, it's hard to see a path to victory for the 65 year old two time presidential candidate, who in '16 polled three percent nationally and 9 percent in NM as the Libertarian standard-bearer.

Rich and Johnson would be slicing up the same conservative pie but Johnson, who is blessed or (cursed) with an outsized ego, is never one to take reality too seriously.

Social media had fun with that political problem calling his possible Senate run "reefer madness," referencing Johnson's longtime advocacy of legalizing marijuana and his own use of the drug.

Watching all of this from his seat atop a stack of $4 million in cash in the bank is Dem Senator Martin Heinrich who is seeking a second six year term in November. He will begin to deploy his stash this week with his first round of TV ads. Then he will wait and see like the rest of the state how serious Johnson is when it comes to running. Would he raise the couple of million he would need for a serious bid? It's a tall order, given that we are now less than 100 days from Election Day.

Meantime, contractor Mick Rich continues to wander the state like a man without a country. With even Republicans cynical about his chances and no national money coming to his aid, the conversation is more about whether it would be Rich or Johnson who would take second place to Heinrich.

Johnson is not shooting totally in the dark when it comes to Heinrich. The Senator's latest approval rating in the Morning Consult poll of registered voters is an anemic 43 percent, disapproval is 32 and no opinion is 23 percent. That's even a bit low in this era when getting to 50 percent approval is a major mountain climb. (Senator Udall gets 46% approval), However, the lack of a Heinrich TV presence, which is seen playing a role in his relatively puny numbers, will soon be resolved.

Some GOP consultants say they would hunger for a one-on-one match between Johnson and Heinrich, but even then an upset is more like a dream. No incumbent NM Senator has been ousted since 1982. And nothing but Democrats have been elected to the Senate from NM since Republican Pete Domenici won his last re-election bid in 2002.

Heinrich also can take solace in knowing that Johnson--to his credit--has never waged a negative campaign and Rich with only $200,00 in cash at last report will be unable to.

If Gary does get in it could be difficult for Heinrich to ignore him. The media clamor for TV and other debates would be high. The level of competition might not be what the fans would like, but a Johnson run would make the entertainment value of the somnolent Senate campaign skyrocket.

THE POT PITTANCE

No doubt one of the topics that would come to the surface if Johnson gets in the Senate contest is the legalization of pot. That's probably coming here someday as it has already in several states, but the argument that it will somehow be a boon to the state's financial fortunes just doesn't add up:

The Tax Foundation projects a 15 percent retail tax on cannabis could raise about $34 million for the state in a year while a 25 percent tax could raise about $57 million.

In a state budget of over $6 billion, that's barely a drop in the bucket. Then there are the social costs associated with more widespread pot use. Legalizing pot is about a lot of things but adding significant money to the state's budget isn't one of them.

DUNN DONE?

By ending his US Senate bid, as is expected today, State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, Jr. appears to be putting an end to his erratic political career.

Long ago the rancher/banker ran for the southern GOP congressional nomination and lost. He returned to the political stage in 2014 and pulled off a great win against Dem incumbent Ray Powell, Jr. But then he decided not to seek re-election to the land office this year, even though his chances were not half bad. Instead he again sought the southern congressional seat only to withdraw. He then became a Libertarian and ran for the Heinrich senate seat. Now he's getting out of that contest.

It's believed Dunn, 62, bolted from the GOP when as land commissioner he got crosswise with the oil and gas industry. You wonder if looking in the rear view mirror he may regret not making peace with the oil boys and sticking with the R's.

By the way, the R nominee for land commissioner this year is Pat Lyons who previously served in the post. The Dem contender is State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard. The race is ranked Lean Democrat.

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