Thursday, August 09, 2018

MLG Throws A Bone To Uneasy Progressives As She Talks Guns; Pearce Strikes Back, Plus: Heinrich Unfazed By Possible Johnson Candidacy; Circulates Poll 

Giffords and Grisham
The progressive wing of the Democratic Party, feeling as welcome as ants at a picnic in the circumspect, centrist campaign of Dem Guv nominee Michelle Lujan Grisham, finally had a bone thrown to them. Lujan Grisham brought to town former US Rep. Gabby Giffords who survived a 2011 assassination attempt and is today an ardent advocate for stiffer gun control laws.

A crowd of several hundred packed Lujan Grisham's downtown ABQ headquarters where she declared her support for measures expanding background checks for all gun sales and ban domestic violence offenders from buying guns.

There was not much talk of a federal ban on military style assault weapons but Lujan Grisham has been for that since being elected to Congress in 2012.

Predictably, the event drew the wrath of GOP nominee Steve Pearce who blasted MLG for supporting "extreme policies,” like a ban on the AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle which has been involved in so many mass shootings.

Pearce had the politics right for his side in going after the assault weapons ban. His mainly rural base constituency is with him. MLG has already lost those votes.

More important for her are the Democratic cities of ABQ, Santa Fe and Las Cruces--all of which have become more liberal and have been waiting to hear something they could grasp on to ever since she dissed major progressive policies in a controversial interview with the ABQ Journal.

Sisto Abeyta, a consultant who worked with State Senator Joe Cervantes who MLG beat in the June primary, says the two points of weakness in the Lujan Grisham candidacy right now are "Anglo progressives who need reassurance" and "Hispanic males who are finding g some appeal in Pearce."

The Democratic Party is a big tent and it's like herding cats. MLG will need to throw many more bones out as she labors to hold the tent up and get over the finish line November 6.


That seems to be the message from Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich who, like the rest of us, is waiting for former NM Governor Gary Johnson to announce whether he will accept the offer of the NM Libertarian Party and run against Heinrich on their ticket.

The pro-Johnson crowd has floated all kinds of poll numbers as he hypes his possible interest, so it's only right to give a hearing to the survey commissioned by the campaign of Heinrich. It was done August 1-5 of 800 likely NM voters by GBA Strategies and says:

--Heinrich leads a potential 3-way race with Republican Mick Rich in 2nd place, followed by Libertarian Gary Johnson in 3rd. . .In a 3-way matchup, Heinrich receives 47 percent of the vote, while Rich comes in second with 29 percent. . . Johnson comes in third with 22 percent

--In a contest with only Heinrich and Johnson, Heinrich leads Johnson by 12 points, 50-38 percent. Heinrich gets support from 81 percent of Democrats, while only 61 percent of Republicans say they would back Johnson. Heinrich leads Johnson with Independents 51-33 percent.

The GBA survey seems more in line with what you would expect. Johnson says he wants to get in if he thinks he can win and with those kind of numbers no wonder he is hesitating. Then, there's raising the money. Would Gary's numbers improve if he actually announced his candidacy? Good question.


Here's an interesting tidbit from that Heinrich poll:

Heinrich's job approval stands at 53-33 percent approve-disapprove, while Independents approve of the job he is doing by a similar margin of 53 – 36 percent.

In the Morning Consult Survey conducted over a three month period--April thru June-- Heinrich scores a somewhat anemic approval rating of 43 percent. However, Morning Consult conducts its surveys only online and does not use live interviews with cellphone and landline users. It also interviews "registered voters" not "likely voters."

So where is Heinrich's approval number right now? Based on the difference of methodology in the two polls most observers would put it much closer to 50 or more than 43. And Senator Udall's approval rating of 46 percent in Morning Consult is probably higher when you adjust for methodology.

We got into all of this because it was that Morning Consult survey that got the chatter going over Heinrich perhaps being more vulnerable than thought.

One other note. The GBA survey may have bumped Heinrich's approval a smidgen as his first TV ad of the campaign went up during the survey period.


Let's finish up with a check on the city beat. Here's veteran radio talk show host (and Republican) Larry Ahrens:

Joe -Your post about the Mayor and crime was quite interesting. I've had the feeling that Keller has been treating the crime issue in ABQ as more of a PR problem than an actual crime problem. City Hall thinks doing a few more news conferences about crime stats is going to change the perception.


Keller and Sanchez
Elaine Romero, policy analyst for ABQ City Council President Ken Sanchez, writes:

Councilor Sanchez asked that I send his statement below in response to your story and remarks, regarding the Topgolf veto override:

After I made the decision not to run for Mayor, I supported Tim Keller’s candidacy to lead our city. Although we didn’t see eye to eye on the details of the Topgolf plan, since being elected President of the Council, Mayor Keller and I have worked on many projects together and I look forward to continuing to work closely with the Mayor. 

We have already been able to make some great strides with the Mayor’s leadership, including key initiatives to get our economy growing again and to improve public safety. We have worked together to pass a significant pay increase to recruit and retain police officers. We have also increased resources for the Safe City Strike Force to address nuisance properties, and I supported the Mayor’s initiative to increase funding for summer and afterschool programs that provide safe learning and recreational activities for our children.  

Peace, harmony and good 'ol back slapping at City Hall. Come on, Ken, you're going to kill the blog ratings.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2018

NM Back In The Headlines Again For The Wrong Reasons; A Filthy Compound Full Of Kids; What About CYFD? Plus: Andrea Busted Again In Audit, Packman Packing For City Hall And Pearce TV Ad Gets Critique 

New Mexico is again back in the international headlines this week for all the wrong reasons--the  discovery of a filthy compound in Amalia in the far north where 11 children were rescued but the remains of one has been found.

It's another sad example of extreme child abuse that haunts the state with sickening regularity and which has put the troubled Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD), led by Secretary Monique Jacobson, under a harsh spotlight. 

Not that the compound disaster can be laid at the feet of CYFD, but the agency still doesn't seem to have embraced the seriousness of their lengthy list of institutional failures that are readily familiar to even the most casual consumer of the news. 

A group of about 40 concerned citizens staged a protest recently outside the offices of CYFD, protesting the endless abuse and murder of children in the state. Jacobson responded with this: 

We are all outraged by the acts of violence against children and I’m encouraged to see the community’s passion to fight against child abuse. I hope everyone who came out today will volunteer and help us in our work to improve the lives of children across New Mexico. I urge all New Mexicans to be vigilant and to report child abuse and neglect.

So the taxpayers are supposed to "volunteer" to help the agency that can't do the job it is supposed to do? That's a new twist. And when New Mexicans are vigilant and do report abuse and neglect how often does CYFD drop the ball? Lots. Also, why hasn't this Secretary been pounding the table to get the resources she needs to do the job instead of silently acquiescing to budget cuts?

You shudder to think that the murders and abuse are going to continue at this pace under a Governor Lujan Grisham or a Governor Steve Pearce.


All that Democrat Andrea Romero has to do now to win her race for a Santa Fe County legislative seat is to beat a write-in candidate, but that write-in could get more votes than expected after this stinging report:

An agency of New Mexico municipalities surrounding Los Alamos National Laboratory approved improper reimbursement for alcohol, food, travel and baseball tickets, the state auditor announced . The released audit especially hits Andrea Romero, former Regional Coalition of LANL Communities executive director, over unlawful reimbursements and found a lack of adequate documentation to support many expenditures “in violation of the published travel policy and state law.” The scathing audit comes as Romero is seeking to win a seat in the state House after defeating Rep. Carl Trujillo in the Democratic primary in June. 

Romero beat Rep. Carl Trujillo in a bitter primary in which she was accused of being a crook and he a serial sexual harasser. Trujillo is probably thinking how he can come back against her in two years. The Speaker of the House might be thinking how he can keep her off the money committees--at least for a while. And will someone in the state's congressional delegation think about shutting down this agency that seems to specialize in boozy dinner parties and not much else?


High profile Dem political consultant Alan Packman is packing up and moving into new digs. Packman, according to City Hall insiders, will be working in the Department of Technology and Innovation which oversees the 311 service. That's the centralized call center for the city for all non-emergency inquiries and services from constituents. 

Keller, Packman and his Rio Strategies firm came under fire during Keller's mayoral campaign over financial improprieties. Packman solicited $30,000 in cash donations but listed them as "in-kind" services to the Keller campaign. The city ethics board ruled the Keller campaign had violated the ethics code but did not mean to and did not fine or reprimand him.

Packman's star was dimmed after he ran into the ethics buzzsaw. Rio Strategies had been charging clients as much as $10,000 a month for consulting services.

No word yet on what Packman will be getting paid at the city. His last campaign was for Garrett VeneKlasen who lost the Dem nomination for state land commissioner in the June primary.

An earlier incorrect version of this report said Packman would be working in the Mayor's office in constituent services under Alan Armijo.


The point on the Tuesday blog was not that ABQ Mayor Keller was wrong for opposing the big subsidies to attract Topgolf here. The point was that you don't expend so much political capital on a low agenda item such as Topgolf that you're veto is overridden by seven of the nine councilors. And you end up having to suck up to City Council President Ken Sanchez who appears to have his own idea about who is Mayor. Keller's reaction on getting his veto overridden:

. . . We were pleased to welcome Topgolf to Albuquerque, but we felt that this deal missed the mark. We believe in spirited public discussion, even when we agree to disagree. Our focus remains on using the tools in our toolbox to grow the local economy and create good-paying jobs. We continue to work with the council on a variety of initiatives under the steady leadership of Council President (Ken) Sanchez.

Geez, Tim. "Steady leadership?" Does Ken say that about you?


On the tube in the Guv's race, MLG is running an anti-crime spot and Steve Pearce sticks with jobs. Reader Bruce Blevins has a critical look at the Pearce spot:

Pearce's ad is pie in the sky. A "silicon mesa" is a slogan where he implies that integrated circuit fabrication can be the salvation of New Mexico by selling to LANL and Sandia National Labs. A few questions: Is the market for specialized integrated circuits at LANL and SNL a significant part of the LANL and SNL budgets? No, their volume is small compared to other purchases. Is there already a fab for ICs in New Mexico? Yes, there is a company, Intel, with a fab here in ABQ. Is there a fab for rad-hard ICs in New Mexico? Yes, there is one at SNL. 

Suppose you were contemplating a start up here in NM - would you concentrate on the LANL and SNL markets as your primary customer? You had better not. The customer base must be much larger than these two organizations. Why would you limit yourself to these two customers? So, the real impediments to industrialization in NM are the availability of educated workforce and parochial viewpoints. Steve Pearce is an example of a parochial view point. . .

Blevins is the chief technical officer of Antenna Development Corporation in Las Cruces. He  comes with more of his take on the Pearce economic proposals here.

We welcome media critiques from both sides of the aisle.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2018

No One Said It Would Be Easy: Crime Still Defines ABQ And Mayor Keller, Plus: The City Council's Rare Veto Override 

Mayor Keller
Try as he might with the latest PR techniques featuring a myriad of announcements on small ball stuff, ABQ Mayor Tim Keller remains behind the eight ball as a violent summer continues pretty much unabated in the state's largest city.

The city is approaching 50 homicides for the year (47 so far) and that number has already been surpassed when you include all of BernCo. The latest slaying was that of a 25 year old man Saturday night in downtown ABQ, delivering a further blow to the city's economic development even as Keller prepared the release of his economic plan.

Downtown ABQ, with often good cause, is perceived by tourists and visiting businessmen and women as a dangerous place to traverse. Keller has resisted pleas from business owners to establish a downtown police district, something they assert he promised during the campaign.

The administration has claimed some success in reducing auto theft and other property crimes since taking power last December, but the spate of shootings and murders lend a sense of anarchy when it comes to getting crime truly under of control.

Patience is starting to wear thin, with not only the violence weighing on residents but the still uncertain leadership skills of APD Chief Michael Geier.

Mayor Keller's economic plan has long concentrated on bolstering local businesses. That's good. Because what major national business with good jobs, young employees and their families would want to come here given current circumstances?


The ABQ crime wave has entered the Governor's race, with Dem hopeful Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham releasing a TV ad that touts her success in winning federal funding for crime fighting:

In Congress I got millions of dollars for our police. I can do even more as Governor.

More money is always welcome but that is not ABQ's problem. The Mayor and City Council approved an increase in the gross receipts tax that took effect July 1 that is expected to pump over $50 million a year into city coffers, the lion's share of which will go to police and crime fighting.

That money is Mayor Keller's last leg to stand on. If a year from today we are still dealing with an orgy of violence, drug-dealing and horrid child abuse cases it won't be for a lack of money, it will be for a lack of leadership.


Meanwhile the city does continue to attract some mostly low-wage employers with enticing financial incentives like the ones offered to TopGolf and which has won the backing of the nine member city council but which Mayor Keller vetoed. Monday, in a rare rebuke of a Mayor, the Council on a 7-2 vote, overrode that veto. His dream is for high paying economic base jobs. The council is desperate to put any kind of economic points on the board.

Keller's council setback is somewhat stunning. He garnered 62 percent of the vote in his landslide election last November to win a four year term. That he has already suffered such a stern political defeat is worrisome for those hoping for a firmer hand at the helm in the wake of the failed tenure of former Mayor Richard Berry.


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi continues an ABQ visit on behalf of ABQ Dem congressional candidate Deb Haaland that started Monday with a fund-raiser at the home of ABQ attorney Lisa Curtis.

Today. . . Pelosi will join Haaland to call out Republicans who refuse to strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence, including Native American women. If elected, Haaland intends to prioritize the crisis of violence against Native Women. Currently, programs supporting law enforcement in Indian Country are drastically underfunded based on estimated need. . . Pelosi will urge voters to rally around Haaland to ensure she can bring the fight for survivors and justice for Native American women to Congress.

Pelosi is a lightning rod in many congressional districts but ABQ's has gone a deeper shade of blue and should boost Haaland. Not that the Dem nominee is in any trouble. The seat continues to be ranked Safe Dem as Republican Janice Arnold-Jones struggles to gain traction.

In blogging that, it struck us that for the first time it appears two of the three NM US House members will be women. Both major party ABQ nominees are women and ditto for the southern congressional district. (There is also a Libertarian candidate in the ABQ District, Lloyd Princeton.)


Maybe after all Senators Udall and Heinrich, who have combined forces with other Senators whose states are impacted, can get the funds to keep the Southwest Chief train rolling. We've mentioned that issue here as a possible signal of NM weakness in DC during the Trump era. . .

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Monday, August 06, 2018

Johnson Hesitates On US Senate Run; Libs Give Him Their Nod But He Frets Over Chances Of Victory, Plus: Report From Indian Country On Prez Race There And More MLG Vs. Pearce 

The peripatetic, shoot-from-the-hip personality of Gary Johnson has been put on hold as the former two term NM GOP Governor hesitates over running for the US Senate.

The more cautious Johnson emerged Saturday evening immediately after the NM Libertarian Party awarded him their Senate nomination to replace Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, Jr. who pulled out of the race, hoping that Johnson would lead the third party effort to unseat Dem Senator Martin Heinrich.

Johnson said he is still mulling over whether he can win the race which also includes Republican nominee Mick Rich:

A major factor is, simply, whether I can win. When I set out to summit Mt. Everest, I did not do so with the thought that I would just go half way up. Seeking to serve New Mexico in the Senate will be no different. If I run, it will be with the intention to win, and give our state a strong, independent voice in Washington.

And Johnson seems to be facing a political Mount Everest. By stalling on whether to take the plunge, he appears to be waiting for a mini miracle--that somehow Republican Rich will find a reason to withdraw from the race, giving Johnson a chance to take on Heinrich one-on-one, increasing his chances of unseating the incumbent.

But Rich has signaled strongly and repeatedly that he is not getting out. And to have a major party with an over 150 year history forgo putting up a Senate nominee in favor of a Libertarian could tear the party apart and further weaken its already fragile minority standing. Not to mention that Johnson ran as the Libertarian Party presidential candidate against Trump in 2016 and the GOP is now owned  lock, stock and barrel by Trump. 

The Libs have given Gary two weeks to make a decision. But one is expected within days.

Then there's the money. You can assume that Johnson did not get millions of dollars in immediate donor pledges as he floated the prospect of his Senate candidacy for better than a week. That also could be keeping him on the leash.

So Johnson, 65, has to make what will likely be the last consequential decision of his political career. But even if his decision is to dive in it may not be of much consequence to the state. No Libertarian has ever been elected to the Senate.


They're keeping it relatively quiet because wherever she goes she is chased down by Republican video trackers and/or protesters, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is in ABQ today. She will be attending a fund-raiser for ABQ Dem congressional candidate Deb Haaland. The event will be held this afternoon at the home of ABQ attorney Lisa Curtis and will also be hosted by northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the Dem Congressional Campaign Committee.

You can click on the invite posted here for more info. Should she win, Haaland would be the first Native American woman to serve in the US House. And that brings us to this news. . .


Do you think there's just a little bit of interest in becoming the next president of the Navajo Nation? How about 18 candidates competing in the August 28 primary? We get a report from one of our Indian Country Alligators who says while candidate interest is high, he's not so sure about the voters:

Joe, Earlier this year, 18 presidential candidates qualified for the August primary. A few notables, as well as a few recycled candidates, have now been working their way through the reservation, the size of West Virginia, looking for votes.

Current Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, brother of former and embattled NM State Rep. Ray Begaye, is also facing battles of his own after his hired legal counsel and daughter was arrested in Arizona for a DUI in a tribal vehicle, which was smashed into a semi. Begaye’s current vice president, Jonathan Nez, threw his hat in the ring, which many are noting as an act of defiance of the president. 

Former Navajo President Joe Shirley, his fourth attempt at running, has again decided to try to convince Navajo voters he has new and fresh ideas. Former Navajo Vice President Rex Jim also qualified and this is his second attempt at the top spot. Others include: Navajo Nation Council members – Tom Chee and Alton Shepherd; as well as a few community leaders. 

 Former Navajo Nation presidential candidate Chris Deschene, who was this year’s apparent front runner, decided against another bid, when a language qualification jeopardized his run four years ago. So, there will be some rumblings out this way in the next few weeks, but we'll have to see if  this group of 18 excites and motivates. 

The Nation is struggling to find its footing after coal-fired electric power plants are set to be mothballed, tribal revenue is drying up, faith in tribal leadership is at an all-time low and a new generation of voters are often disenfranchised when trying to infuse ideas into a government built and protected by tradition. 

Well, that's one Gator's perspective. The top two candidates will face off for the presidency November 6, the same day NM elects a new governor.


About Rep. Steve Pearce getting that South Valley irrigation ditch cleaned up and leaving his Dem Guv opponent--Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham--who represents the area-- looking a tad weak reader Janet Blair comments:

Joe, a few years ago, I reached out to Pearce to give him my opinion on a national issue that affected all of New Mexico. The staffer I spoke to would not take my name or my message and summarily dismissed me because my zip code indicated I was not in his district and therefore did not merit his attention. He has no real interest in representing all of New Mexico and will never get my vote.

Okay, but GOP Guv nominee Pearce will be getting the vote of another Democrat. that would be 95 year old Dorothy Runnels, widow of Dem Congressman Harold "Mud" runnels who represented the southern district from 1971-80. She said:

Our state needs help in so many ways. I tell every Democrat I know that in the race for Governor, Steve Pearce is the right person for the job. Steve Pearce puts the country and the people of New Mexico above party. I am proud to support his candidacy and know he will be a great Governor for all of New Mexico.

Runnels lives in Hobbs. Her late husband was involved in the oil business as was Pearce. Her son, Mike Runnels, became lieutenant governor of NM. Mike Runnels died at 69 in 2015. Harold Runnels died in office in 1980 at the age of 56. He was replaced by Republican Joe Skeen who won the seat in an historic write-in vote.

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