Friday, April 12, 2019

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor 

It appears both of the two veteran ABQ GOP city councilors up for election this year will seek another term.

Realtor Trudy Jones, first elected to the council in 2007 has not formally announced she will seek a fourth term, but City Hall watchers say she is gearing up for a run. Jones will be the favorite to win the seat again. It's one of the few council districts that leans R.

Meantime, Republican Brad Winter, the longest-serving councilor who we told you this week will seek another four year term, will have some opposition. Democrat Athena Ann Christodoulou, 63, president of the NM Solar Energy Association, has taken the first steps to qualify for public financing for the November 5 election.

Also up for election this year are Dem Councilors Ike Benton and Pat Davis. Zach Quintero, president of the Young Democrats of NM, has already announced a bid against Benton and two others are also exploring a run, according to the city clerk's site.

Davis is also expected to have a foe, but the City Hall watchers say he does not appear to face as tough a race as Benton.

The council is currently controlled by the Dems 6 to 3 but the panel sometimes divides along nonpartisan lines. . .

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is working to create some pre-announcement buzz and appears ready to join the Dem chase for the US Senate nomination. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan is the only officially announced Dem candidate. Toulouse Oliver will make an announcement about her plans this month. . .

Republican Yvette Herrell has some company in the race for the 2020 GOP nomination for the southern congressional district. 61 year old Las Cruces businessman and Army veteran Chris Mathys has announced his candidacy for the seat held by Rep. Xochitl Torres Small who will seek re-election next year, Herrell won the GOP nomination in '18 but lost to Torres Small.

More home visiting for children pre-natal through age three was one solution offered on the blog Thursday to prevent the many child abuse deaths the state suffers, including two just recently in ABQ. Allen Sanchez, president of CHI (Catholic Health Initiatives) St. Joseph's Children, which runs a large home visiting program, stumped for more state involvement in the aftermath of child killings in ABQ and statewide:

. . . Home visiting is not punitive and it’s not about inspecting or judging,” Sánchez said. “It’s about a relationship and journey with somebody and presenting them with evidence-based best practices.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month but you wouldn't know it looking at the headlines around here.

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Another Spate of Child Killings And Abuse Haunts ABQ; Two Dead, One Critical; What To Do? Plus: Campaign Trail Dust; What State Rep. Said A State Senator Has "Her Head Up Her Butt?"  

You could say the city is aghast over yet another spate of child abuse cases within days of each other, two of which resulted in the deaths of the children, but it's more like numbed.

After all, this has been going on for a number of years. The city's lower economic strata is beset by a drug epidemic of historic proportions while much of the rest of the community goes about its business, unscathed by the violence and terror that now routinely pops up on their TV screens as frequently as high wind warnings. 

They may be unscathed, but not unaffected. The ongoing slaughter is killing the future dreams of bringing this city back to a more peaceable and civilized place.

And, yes, it is the drugs. Look at every one of these dreadful killings of recent years and you will find most of them either directly or indirectly involved drugs.

The ongoing aberrant and abhorrent behavior is especially striking for a metro area of only 900,000. This is not Chicago or Baltimore, populated as they are by millions.

But here we are with a five year old girl dead at her father's hand, an 11 month old infant dead and again the father arrested and the shooting of an 8 year old girl, now in critical condition, the cause of which is under investigation.

What to do? There is no panacea but there are solutions that could prevent future carnage. Let's go back to what early childhood activist and KUNM-FM radio host Stephen Spitz offered blog readers on March 5. It should resonate even louder today:

NM's early childhood programs remain minuscule. For example, the state's Home Visiting program, for children prenatal to 3, presently serves 3,500 kids out of a total client population of 70,000. Numerous studies have found that home visiting gets the biggest bang for the buck, particularly for "at risk" children, such as the 82% of NM births which are Medicaid qualified. In short, ECE needs to be dramatically expanded if we hope to address the state's economic, education, and social crises.

Spitz adds that if the parents are running amok, an extra set of eyes visiting the home can serve as a deterrent to extreme behavior. Such visits can reach out to parents and show them how to deal with their frustrations in parenting, and home visitors are out in the community interacting and learning what's going on in other households where children may be endangered. And such visits can be the first step in intervening in parental drug abuse that can lead to child abuse.

Widespread home visiting will cost tens of millions, but the money is there--in the nearly $18 billion Land Grant Permanent School Fund. The proposed Constitutional Amendment that would ask voters to tap a small portion of it (about $150 million a year) passed the House in the recent legislative session but again stalled out in the Senate. There will be another try next year.

New Mexico has dug itself into a deep and ugly hole. Just when you think we might be climbing out we're pulled back in by the gruesome reality.

Governor Lujan Grisham and Children Youth and Families Department Secretary Blalock come to office at a time of ever increasing peril for a large swath of the state's population that is struggling economically and with drug-induced wreckage. That we are in the middle innings of the crisis and not the closing ones is self-evident. They have the money from the oil boom and the skills accumulated from years in public service to start digging out of the hole. The question is whether they and the state have the necessary determination and willpower. 


Rep. Ezzell
ABQ Dem Rep. Deb Haaland confirms the insider view that she will not leave her House seat to make a run for the open US Senate seat up for election next year. . . Possible northern Dem congressional hopeful Valerie Plame is already getting hit with oppo research. This from the WaPo in 2017:

On the first full day of Rosh Hashanah, unmasked CIA officer Valerie Plame tweeted out an article entitled, “America’s Jews are driving America’s wars.”

Plame later apologized for the tweet.

Our Alligators report that ABQ GOP City Councilor Brad Winter is headed toward announcing a re-election bid for this November's city election. He is the longest-serving councilor, having been first elected in 1999. There is no announced Dem opponent yet to take on Winter, 64, who last year lost a race for a state House seat. . .

Roswell Daily Record reporter Alex Ross comes with this political stinger:

At a Roswell Chamber of Commerce luncheon state Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, said state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, "has her head up her butt" for introducing a bill that would have temporarily banned fracking in New Mexico. 

Come on, Candy. Everyone in Roswell knows walking around with your head up your butt is what you do to prep for the Friday night rodeo rides. . . 

Yeah, now we're blogging New Mexico.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Rumblings On The Left In Senate Chase, No Pay Raises For Top State Officials, And: What's A "Pocket Sign?"  

Not unexpectedly there are rumblings on the left about the US Senate candidacy of Rep. Ben Ray Lujan. Reader Gene Hill writes:

I thoroughly enjoyed the Cash Monster imagery you posted on the Friday blog. But for me it serves as a stark reminder who the real Cash Monster in the Senate race is. Ben Ray Lujan has such a well-oiled money machine in DC at his service that I fear that no bona fide progressive candidate will even have a chance here. 

We've all seen how the Democratic Party establishment (statewide and national) goes overboard in pushing their preferred candidate into the nomination. Then we decry the disastrous results the following November. By way of examples, recall Diane Denish in 2010, Gary King in 2014, and Hillary in 2016. MLG in 2018 was also the machine's choice, but at least she was too strong a candidate to lose. 

Anyway, I fear this type of scenario if Ben Ray becomes the Frankenstein of the national cash monster machine. I implore the Democratic powers that be to make room for a progressive candidate in the primary and try to level the playing field for him or her. 

So far Lujan is the only declared candidate for the 2020 Dem Senate nomination. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who could conceivably run to Lujan's left, says she will make a decision this month on whether to run.

As for a Dem losing the Senate race straight up to an outnumbered Republican, that's hard to see. A more dangerous scenario for the D's in the 2020 general election might be a credible Green Party candidate running to the left, peeling off Dem votes and perhaps giving the R nominee a fighting chance.


We blogged during the legislative session that a proposal to raise the pay of the Governor and other statewide elected officials (SB 547) would easily pass the House and Senate. And it did. But then it ran into a gubernatorial veto. MLG's veto message made clear authors of that legislation made a big mistake by applying the 15 percent raises to those currently in office:

(This bill) makes these salary changes effective for each state officer who're begins on or after January 1, 2020. . . I agree that a pay raise may eventually be appropriate for these positions. However, I am not comfortable signing into law a pay raise that may apply to current office holders who could run for re-election in 2020 and beyond. If the Legislature wishes to provide a longer timeline for when the salary changes will take effect, then I am willing to re-examine this issue. 

The veto cost the Governor a $16,000 a year pay raise, from $110,000 to $126,000. The Attorney General's pay would have gone from $95,000 to $109,250; Land Commissioner from $90,000 to $103,500; the state Auditor, Treasurer and SOS would have gone from $85,000 to $97,750 and Public Regulation Commissioners from $90,000 to $103,500.

Despite this year's denial of a pay boost the salaries of New Mexico's top officials are not that much below those in neighboring Colorado.

Governor - $123,193
Attorney General - $107,672
Secretary of State - $93,360
State Treasurer - $93,360


Governor Lujan Grisham's veto of that 15% salary increase for certain state elected officials reminded a Senior Alligator of provisions related to the Governor's bill approval or veto authority in Article 4, Section 22 of the New Mexico Constitution. They write:

It is generally known that the Governor has 20 days after legislative adjournment to sign, veto, line item veto or pocket veto legislation which passes both Houses during the last 3 days of the Session. However, if a bill passes both Houses before the last 3 days of the Session, the Governor has the option not to act on a bill which then becomes law through what is commonly known as a "pocket sign."

Governor Richardson used this provision during his first regular legislative session in 2003. That bill proposed to improve the retirement benefits of former members of the Legislature. So, in addition to Governor Lujan Grisham's suggestion to the Legislature in her Veto Message for SB 547 to "provide a longer timetable for when the salary changes will take effect," the Legislature may want to give the Governor an additional option by sending a future bill to the 4th Floor before the last 3 days of the end of the Legislative Session.

Quite the clever play, Senior Gator. You may get a Christmas card from Maggie, Hector and Company for your due diligence.

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Tuesday, April 09, 2019

A Picture That Really Is Worth A Thousand Words About Today's La Politica, Plus: Great Mentioner Is Back in Biz; New Name Makes Rounds For Northern Congress Seat 

This  picture is truly worth a thousand words. Here from a recent congressional hearing we have Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, the former ABQ Republican Congresswoman ('98-'09) who dominated the political landscape here a decade ago, being questioned by Deb Haaland, the Democrat who now holds the ABQ Congressional seat Wilson once had a tight grip on.

Well, nothing says it better than that picture about how our state has dramatically changed since Wilson's time.

--A congressional district once safe for the R's has gone deeply into the Democratic camp and is no longer even competitive.

--Haaland is the first Native American woman to serve in the US House (along with Sharice Davids) as New Mexico's "majority minority" status fully asserts itself.

--Also at the hearing Wilson was questioned by southern US Rep. Torres Small, who startled the state by turning that red district blue last year.

One of our Senior Alligators could not resist a commentary:

For NM political junkies the April 2 House Armed Services Committee was a fascinating juxtaposition of former and future NM politicos. Air Force Secretary Wilson, the former ABQ GOP congresswoman who was an upstart, headline-grabber for a decade in New Mexico, faced questioning from two new Democratic upstarts—Rep. Deb Haaland and Rep. Torres Small.

The dramatic change of circumstances was probably not lost on Wilson. It was in 2008  that she had her sights set on the U.S. Senate after 10 years in the House and 6 brutal general/special elections.. The cutthroat, take-no-prisoners, military veteran Wilson had to likely exercise major restraint to not tear apart these non-veteran, softy, freshman legislators.

Torres Small and Haaland, neither of whom interacted with Wilson much during her time as a NM rep, probably looked across the carpet to realize how fleeting a life in NM politics can be. They might be having fun right now putting Heather on the spot, but look what New Mexico politics will do to you—Wilson didn’t use to have that much grey hair. 

In just a month, Wilson will be gazing across the state line from Texas as she leaves her position as Air Force Secretary and takes over the presidency of UTEP.  From there she will no doubt keep an eye on the NM political scene that she was once so much a part of.

Video of Wilson's  exchange with Rep. Haaland is at 3:02:25 and the one with Rep. Torres-Small at 3:27.


Leger de Fernandez
Now the latest on what could be a topsy-turvy race for the Dem nomination for the northern congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Lujan. The Great Mentioner is back in business and is mentioning attorney Teresa Leger de Fernandez, a San Miguel County native who now lives in Santa Fe, as a possible candidate.

She runs a small law firm that has done considerable business with Native American tribes. Those pitching her point out she took her undergrad degree at Yale, graduated from Stanford Law School and was appointed a White House Fellow by President Clinton. Leger de Fernandez, 59, is divorced and has three children all in college.

The handicappers say that Santa Fe City Councilor Renee Villarreal may be more out than in for the congressional race. . .People are still waiting for Public Regulation Commissioner Valerie Espinoza to say something about the contest (phone home, Valerie.). . . DC Dems are said to be frustrated with the many Hispanic men looking at the race because they want a Hispanic woman in the seat.

Questions? Send them in and we will forward them to the Great Mentioner.

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Monday, April 08, 2019

The Plame Game: A Flame Out Or A Real Shot At The Northern Seat? We Weigh The Case, Plus: The Year Was 1982 

Valerie Plame
Can an Anglo or half-Anglo carpetbagger become the congressional representative  from the northern congressional district of New Mexico, populated by families that trace their roots back hundreds of years and Native Americans who trace theirs back a thousand?

Well, ask Tom Udall of Arizona who moved to New Mexico to go to UNM's law school in 1975 but eventually (in 1998) landed the northern seat. Or Bill Richardson (half Anglo) who came to the state in 1978 and four short years later found himself as the first representative in the then newly created northern congressional district.

Now comes outed CIA spy Valerie Plame of Santa Fe with book smarts and movie star looks who wants to follow in their paths. Made famous by a 2003 CIA leak scandal that outed her as an intelligence operative and that made her a heroine of the left, Plame and her then husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, moved to Santa Fe in 2006 to escape the whirl of publicity.

With this fresh AP write-up that went national, she seems to be inching closer to running for the Democratic nomination for the US House seat being vacated by Rep. Ben Ray Lujan who is running for the senate seat that Senator Udall is retiring from next year.

Plame first floated a possible candidacy for the Senate seat but is backing off that as Lujan is the heavy favorite to take the Dem nod.

Plame, 55, is a classic high-rent liberal, the kind that nestle into the multi-million dollar homes on Santa Fe's east side, resting securely in the knowledge that their Volvos are safe for another night. And they vote. They were instrumental in electing Alan Webber, another NM outsider, as Santa Fe Mayor a year ago.

Plame's task would not be as easy, running as she is in one of the most sprawling and ethnically diverse districts in the USA. But her obvious hole card is already showing. The likelihood of a multitude of Hispanic candidates running for the seat and perhaps splitting that vote is high and getting higher.

Already two top possible Hispanic female contenders have emerged--Renee Villarreal of the Santa Fe City Council and Public Regulation Commissioner Valerie Espinoza. Plame is so far the sole prominent Anglo woman being mentioned as a possible contender while Villarreal and Espinoza already appear poised to split votes. Then there is the long parade of Hispanic male candidates starting to form that could further the vote splitting.

Ethnicity isn't the key factor in the June 2020 primary--qualifications are--but it's hard to see Plame avoiding a flame out if she doesn't get a demographic boost that would strengthen her base Santa Fe vote.


The author of a book about the CIA leak scandal and the co-author of two spy novels, Plame has kept her name in play on the national circuit, but skeptics say her fame is fading and that Plame is only toying with the idea of a congressional run to regain her stature on the speaking circuit. They say they will believe she is in only when she is in.

But the pessimism about her having no real path to victory has subsided somewhat. Democrats have been electing women left and right and while there appears to be a push by the DC Dems for a Hispanic woman for the seat, Plame is halfway there.

Celebrity, even if fading, is a strong lure for voters in this hyper-media age. And it can help raise money on-line as we have seen from the presidential candidates. And it can attract big donors off line.

The bottom lines? Plame needs several Hispanic rivals and deep pockets to pull off what Richardson and Udall did and deliver the seat to an outsider. That it has been done before is of more than passing interest.


The 1982 primary that Bill Richardson won and that catapulted him into the Congress in that November's election was one of the more interesting in state history.

The district was new and four brand name Democratic candidates emerged. Richardson was first among them, having in 1980 narrowly lost a spirited campaign against Republican Congressman Manuel Lujan, Jr, whose district then included ABQ and the entire north. When the redistricting took hold in '82 ABQ became the centerpiece of a new district and the north the centerpiece of what would be the state's third congressional district.

Richardson was joined in the primary by then Lt. Governor Roberto Mondragon, District Court Judge George Perez and Tom Udall, a 34 year old political novice but hailing from a famous Arizona political family.

It was not a cakewalk for Richardson who appealed to Santa Fe Anglo liberals, Hispanics and Native Americans. Thanks in large measure to Mondragon and Perez splitting the Hispanic vote newcomer Richardson took the prize, capturing 36 percent of the vote to Mondragon's 31. Perez received 17 percent and Udall got 14 percent.

Richardson went on to become one of the more accomplished politicians in state history. Mondragon never won another race after finishing his second term as lieutenant governor in 1982 but today, at 78, he is beloved in the north for his efforts to preserve Hispanic culture. George Perez of Bernalillo continued his legal career and retired. And Tom Udall learned from that 1982 defeat, eventually becoming the state's senior Senator in DC from which he will retire at the end of next year.


I was living in Santa Fe in 1982 and found myself in November broadcasting the Election Night returns on radio station KAFE-AM 810 (now KSWV) with my guest expert, the late District Court Judge and NM Secretary of Corrections Michael Francke.

He was a close friend of Jeff Bingaman. and that night Jeff made history when he defeated GOP US Senator Harrison "Jack" Schmitt.

It wasn't very late in the evening when it became clear Bingaman would win. Glancing over at Francke he stunned me, saying that he had the Senator-elect on the phone from his ABQ hotel room and he was ready for an interview. I believe it was the very first one he gave that night--to his close friend Michael, and to my benefit.

That night was the last time New Mexicans would hear of the defeat of an incumbent US Senator. It hasn't happened since.

The year was 1982. I was there. And that's how I remember it.

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