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Friday, May 03, 2019

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor 

If there are lingering doubts about her candidacy for the GOP nomination for the southern congressional seat former State Rep. Yvette Herrell is working to put them aside. She continues to roll out endorsements from prominent R's in hopes of avoiding a major challenge in her quest to take on Dem Rep. Xochitl Torres Small next year. Her campaign says:

Six current and former Republican members of the NM House of Representatives endorsed Yvette Herrell for Congress: Representatives Jack Chatfield (HD67), Candy Spence Ezzell (HD58), David Gallegos (HD61), Gregg Schmedes (HD22), Bob Wooley (Fmr. HD66) and Martin Zamora (HD63). They join House Republican Minority Leader Rep. Jim Townsend, who last week also endorsed Herrell.

There has been scuttlebutt that Herrell, who failed to beat Torres Small in '18, should not carry the GOP banner again but no other major candidates have surfaced and it appears she is starting to nail things down. We'll keep you posted.

Supporters of freshman State Rep. Joseph Sanchez were not happy that the handicappers on the Thursday blog did not place him in the "top tier" of contenders for the Dem nomination in the northern congressional seat which is being vacated by Rep. Ben Ray Lujan. Jerome Block writes:

Sanchez is  from Alcalde not Mora, although Mora is in his district. Besides his education (masters in engineering and MBA) he is an engineering professional at LANL, which relies on congress for funding. He is a member of family band "Los Blue Ventures" who are popular in Northern New Mexico. They could go on the road and generate a whole lot of votes. Just saying!


BENTON RETURNS FIRE

Benton
Former ABQ City Councilor and attorney Greg Payne this week scorched the idea of expanding the ABQ City Council from nine to eleven members as proposed by Councilor Ike Benton. Here's some equal time from the District Two councilor:

The proposal for 11 districts is in response to one key problem: the 2011 redistricting that packed two progressive-leaning districts, one urban and one rural, into one. In my op-ed I pointed out the unique challenges of this new district, created in order to add a west side district after a decade of sprawl growth. When I fight in the budget for basic storm drainage protection for the Broadway corridor, the response from many is that "District 2 is getting too much" of city resources. Mr. Payne once represented the Heights district with the least infrastructure and public safety needs, and his perspective exemplifies the problem. 

The 11 districts proposal has nothing to do with my office workload but is about restoring equity and improving representative democracy. While County Commissioners may represent a greater number of people, the bulk of that population lives within City limits, so demand on the County from that population is much lower.

Benton, who has been on the council since 2005, is seeking another four year term in this year's November election. He and other candidates have begun raising hundreds of the required donations of $5 each to qualify for public financing. This cycle voters can make those donations online which Benton is doing.

Meanwhile, young Zach Quintero, who has had the pole position in challenging Benton, has some company in fellow hotshot Joseph Griego. The well-spoken Griego, with deep family roots in the district, joins Quintero on the list to watch as the chase to take Benton out heats up. 

If the young hotshots tear into each other, Benton could dodge the bullet. But a Senior Alligator opines of another possible scenario: 

If they both run hard and focus on Ike, one will end up in the run-off with Ike. They both must agree to endorse the one who ends up in the runoff against Ike. If this does happen, Ike will have two people targeting him and both sides will join forces for the last round. 

There will be a run-off if no candidate reaches 50% of the vote in the November 5 election. 

WHAT'S HER NAME?

From a memo to state employees from the Governor's office:

The governor should be referred to as Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham or Governor Lujan Grisham (alternately, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham or Gov. Lujan Grisham, per individual house style). Lujan Grisham is the governor’s full last name and is not hyphenated. “Governor Grisham” is incorrect, as would be “Governor Lujan-Grisham.” Lujan is not the governor’s middle name; the governor’s middle name is Lynn. 

Well, it's good to hear your blog apparently retains the exclusive rights to the Governor's real name which is MLG, or if you don't like something she does, mlg is permissible. Or, if you want to call her Lynn, just write MLLG.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

Reporting to you from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2019

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Back In The Weeds: Voting Data Shows What R's Need To Retake Southern CD, We Name the Top Three Dem Congress Hopefuls In The North And Trump Winning NM? Really?  

They're Back
Okay, we liked it so much in the weeds listening to the likes of pollster Brian Sanderoff this week that we're taking another trip there. This time it's to DC to check on NM's southern congressional district that will see another hard fought campaign next year. So please hold off on that killer weed spray for a minute so we can get the job done. . .

Longtime political consultant Stephen Clermont has been running the data in that '18 race in which Xochitl Torres Small scored a rare win for the Dems in the district and comes with this from his DC shop that could have the R's thinking hard about their 2020 strategy:

Joe, Among the regular/consistent voter--the person who voted in 2016 and 2018--Republicans outnumbered Democrats. Xochitl was able to win because of the Democratic edge of people who voted in 2018 but didn’t in 2016 (a pattern in some of the ABQ House districts as well). The dropoff voter was not more Republican in the second congressional district.

For a Republican to win next year, it wouldn’t be from a mass group of Republicans who sat out the 2018 election for various reasons (dislike of Trump etc.) It would have to be from a GOP surge of voters who did not vote in 2016 or 2018 (if they exist) to match the new voters registering Democratic at a higher rate than they are Republican or a rightward shift to the GOP among independent voters based on issues like immigration, Other than that, neither party has a clear edge among the people who declined to participate last year.


That analysis will be of interest to former State Rep. Yvette Herrell, the '18 GOP nominee who is again seeking the nomination to challenge Rep. Torres Small. The R's were already planning on crafting an immigration message to appeal to conservative Democrats and independents. Clermont's analysis reveals that strategy is even more vital for them.

IN THE NORTH 

Serna
Okay, we're out of the weeds but let's stay with the congressional action, namely that race in the northern congressional district to replace Rep. Ben Ray Lujan that could soon need crowd control.

One thing isn't changing--no R's need apply. This district is deep blue so winning the Dem nomination next June is nearly tantamount to winning the November election.

Here's what we're hearing: Santa Fe County District Attorney Marco Serna is all but a lock to get in the Dem race and a formal announcement could come this month. He will be a top tier candidate, given his election as DA and a famous political name, that could both help and hurt.

Outed CIA spy Valerie Plame is "sure to get in" says one of our Alligators of the northern persuasion And they see her star rising now that PRC Commissioner Valerie Espinoza has declined to run. Her national profile gives her entree for national fund-raising.

Plame
Attorney Teresa Leger has filed formal paper work to run and starts off in the top tier because of a strong resume, being the only prominent Hispanic female in the field and the presumption that she can raise the money. Freshman state Rep. Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde is in, but not being put in the top tier yet by the handicappers, mainly because of the cash it costs.

The race may get very crowded but we already see a winnowing because the names out there being mentioned by the Great Mentioner are not well-known and not expected to be able to compete financially.

So our  top tier for this race, in no particular order, is: Leger, Serna and Plame. They are your Big Three a year out.

TRUMP AND NM

Did you hear where the campaign manager for President Trump said New Mexico was on his list of states to flip into the Trump column in 2020?  Blue New Mexico, which has gone Dem in the past three presidential elections and doesn't even have a Republican in its congressional delegation, is "in play?"

Let's put it this way the likelihood of Trump carrying the state is about as likely as Hector Balderas growing hair.  Or Howie Morales seeing his name in the newspaper. Or PNM asking to lower your electric bill. Or. . . well. . . you get the idea.

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Wednesday, May 01, 2019

That Morning Consult Poll: MLG's Low Numbers Scrutinized by NM's Top Pollster, Plus: Jaw Dropping APD's Over The Top Overtime Cop Gets Off And The Critics Wail 

If Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham's approval rating is only at 41 percent after winning election with 57 percent of the vote last November, it's a big story indeed. That's why we're still scratching our heads over that Morning Consult Poll that was taken online among registered voters from January 1 thru March 31 that had her at that meager 41% level, with 33% unfavorable and 27% in the "never heard of" category.

Political pros are cautious. The state's top pollster is Brian Sanderoff of Research and Polling who has been doing highly accurate surveys for the ABQ Journal and numerous private clients for well over 30 years. We asked him for his analysis of the poll and wound up in the polling weeds to weed out the truth:

Joe, I am curious about the 27% "never heard of" that they report. The Morning Consult methodology says it's actually respondents who say, "don't know/no opinion to their survey question. It seems high to me.

Doing internet surveys or robo calls, either way they would be forced to show the respondent the "don't know" category. Conversely, on scientific phone surveys with live professional interviewers, we would just ask whether the respondent approves or disapproves of an elected official, and allow for a volunteered response of "don't know." If Morning Consult shows the "don't know" response as a response category that the respondent sees, it will inflate the don’t knows and thereby reduce the percentage of those who approve and disapprove.

Also, they say they weight the polling sample by various demographics to make it more representative, but they don't weight on party affiliation which is the most important variable to ensure a representative and accurate sample. I would want to know the distribution of the sample by party affiliation. They don't report it, but they do show the margins of error by party affiliation. Without boring you with the math, the sample may undercount Democrats. 

Okay, we digested all of that slowly. We get Sanderoff's point. The reason for MLG's low favorable rating in this poll--in contrast to her Election Night winning percentage--is likely not due to news events, her actions or voters waiting to see what she's all about. It's likely in large part due to an undersampling of those most likely to support her--namely Democrats. That doesn't mean she's necessarily knocking the ball out of the park but neither does it mean she's whiffing.

For a better and more fuller picture we have to wait for a poll that is conducted with live interviews, reaches both cellphone and landlines and accurately weights the sample by party affiliation.

IF YOU DISAGREE

If you think the poll has it right, MLG critic Silvio Dell'Angela is your man. He says:

The Governor's allies have rushed to try to discredit the poll, but the fact remains that Michelle Lujan Grisham has pushed through a radical liberal agenda that isn't consistent with her campaign messages and is very unpopular not only with Republicans, but also conservative Democrats.

OVER THE TOP OVERTIME

What do you think would happen to you if you violated the overtime polices where you work 51 times? Rest assured, it would be more than ten lashes with the blog's wet noodle. But not at APD where abuse of overtime has been a problem for over 30 years. The officers and command protect it like an abused doberman snarling at used car lot customers. Which leads us to. . .

Officer Simon Drobik, the public information officer, who incredibly ended up being the highest paid city employee last year by pulling down immense amounts of overtime and a paycheck of over $192,000. The Civilian Police Oversight Agency (CPOA) says his violations were so egregious that Drobik should be fired.

But not only won't be fired he won't be disciplined. Chief Mike Geier and Mayor Keller want to reform the overtime system which they say is subject to abuse and was mangled by the previous administration. Not good enough, cried the critics. They said Drobik getting off reveals much about Gier and the Mayor. First, retired APD Sergent and APD watchdog Dan Klein:

Do we really think APD command is interested in doing anything more than covering the ass of a favored friend? Drobik offering to return his comp time is like a burglar offering to return the stolen goods. Geier and Keller are completely ignoring the CPOA investigation that found someone in APD manually overrode the payroll system for Drobik. The computer knew what was happening was wrong. That’s why a human had to manually change things. If that isn’t enough to call for an outside forensic criminal investigation into this matter then Geier and Keller will never look into allegations of corruption within APD. . . Taxpayers need to hold on, their money is being squandered.

Now a Senior Alligator who came on to dry land to take this one on:

APD is the tail that wags the dog. The last Mayor who attempted to stand up and reform the department was Jim Baca. But he was elected with only 28% of the vote, spent most of his term focused on “Downtown Revitalization” and was crushed in his re-election bid for. APD doesn’t answer to anybody, including this Mayor. It’s not just criminals who can make money in the midst of ABQ’s rampant crime epidemic. So can a lot of law-enforcement officers. First and foremost, Simon Drobik, APD’s “untouchable” spokesman. Membership definitely has its privileges.

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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Time For Sen. Pinto To Bow Out? Benton's Plan To Increase ABQ Council Size Draws Fire, And Let The Senate Fund-Raising Begin  

Not everyone wants to see Dem State Senator John Pinto celebrate his 100th birthday in office. We pointed out recently that if the Senator from Indian Country runs and is re-elected next year he would celebrate his centennial in December of 2024, just days before his term expired.

A Roundhouse Wall-leaner says he wishes no ill will toward the legendary Pinto, one of the few living Navajo code talkers from WWII still alive, but clearly it's time for him to make room for a younger Native American:

Joe, As noble as it seems to root for a Roundhouse 100th birthday party for Senator Pinto there is also something to be said for stepping down and aging gracefully in the shadows. Sadly, for those of us with a front row seat at the legislature, we are witnessing Senator Pinto age past his usefulness. It truly is painful to witness him continually lose his place in the mountains of legislation in committee or to stumble through his many unintelligible words on the floor. I sincerely hope that his family will urge him to get out of the game while he's still able to remember that he's on top.

Pinto has not yet announced his re-election plans.

IKE PLUS TWO?

The newspaper comes with the news that BernCo has had a total of 114 shootings in 112 days. 

Meanwhile, City Councilor Ike Benton, seeking re-election this year, says he and his assistant are so overwhelmed by their work load they think getting two new city councilors on the nine member panel is an urgent matter. To that former City Councilor Greg Payne says "Say what?"

Unlike the Legislature, the City Council meets year round (except for their July vacation). They have full-time assistants. They have a full-time staff. Why do we need two more City Hall politicians? What the city really needs is two hundred additional cops on the street. And if Councilor Benton is overwhelmed by the job, maybe he should do the city a favor and step aside and let someone new and who isn’t overwhelmed have a go at getting the job done. BernCo Commissioners (5 of them) represent approximately 135,000 constituents. The nine ABQ councilors? Approximately 62,000.

Oh my, Ike, it looks as if your complaining about your work load has given your main Dem rival in the November election, 29 year old Zach Quintero, the right to challenge you to a jogging contest or something. And by the way, adding two new councilors is DOA. That makes it the 115th shooting of the year in BernCo.

SENATE CHASE

The race for the Democratic nomination for the state's open US Senate seat in 2020 won't exactly be in hibernation over the next several months, but neither will be it be very high profile. Now that Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and Sec. of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver have made their official announcements they will be busy organizing their campaigns and most of all raising money.

The fund-raising is already in high gear. Let's take a look. Lujan is going to lean on high profile national Democrats to help him finance the race. One of the first coming for him is Rep. Adam Schiff of California, well-known to cable news viewers as chairman of the House intelligence Committee. His dispatch to Dems goes like this:

. . . You helped us flip the House, but we have more work to do.  If we want to truly make progress, we can’t let Mitch McConnell and the GOP control the Senate. We have to flip the Senate in 2020.  That’s why I am asking you to help my dear friend Ben Ray Luján win his critical Senate race and bring the Blue Wave to the Senate. Will you chip in $10 before his very first End of Month Deadline in 96 hours? I watched Ben Ray lead the charge to reclaim the House for Democrats, and without him, we wouldn’t be back in the Majority today. I wouldn’t be leading the House Intelligence Committee. And we’d be completely powerless to hold this President accountable.  Believe me when I say electing Ben Ray to the Senate, taking down Mitch McConnell, and flipping the Senate is downright critical to making progress and defending our democracy. 

In contrast to BRL, MTO is working to get grass roots donors to match his big name list. Here's one of her first efforts:

I’m running because New Mexico needs a strong, progressive Democrat as our next Senator. We need someone who’s ready to fundamentally change the dynamic in this country--who’s ready to say no to dirty corporate PAC money and return the power to the people. We can do this. We can build a team ready to take on the big money and messages of hate and division on the other side--but we can only do it together. On Wednesday, I set a goal of raising $20,000 online from grassroots donors like you giving what you can -- $5, $10, or $25 at a time. Right now, we’re $7,113.78 short of meeting that goal. So I’m coming to you to ask: Will you rush a contribution to my campaign now to help us get off the ground strong? We cannot build this team without you.


Hey, if you ever feel left out or that people don't like you, just get your name on the fund-raising lists of the Senate candidates. You'll have someone hanging on for your responses at least twice a day. 

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

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Monday, April 29, 2019

What's Not To Like? Following Huge '18 Gains State Dems Stick With Their Chair, And: Remembering Manuel Lujan, Jr.  

Marg Elliston
What's not to like? That was the prevailing sentiment as the NM Democratic Party Central Committee met Sunday in Rio Rancho to elect party officers for the 2020 election cycle after making historic gains last year. Presiding over those gains was Party Chair Marg Elliston who delegates rewarded with another two year term by a landslide vote of 353 to 51 over challenger Rusty Pearce of Las Cruces.

The afterglow of the '18 election results hung in the air. How could it not? Elected were a new Dem Governor, an all Dem congressional delegation, a near Dem super majority in the state House and a Dem capture of all elected statewide offices.

For her part, Elliston, a retired government employee and wife of legendary former US Senator Fred Harris, told the convention she was especially pleased that women now make up 35 percent of the 112 member Legislature, an apparent high water mark. She also touted the organizational drive the Dems put on to win their hardest fought '18 victory--electing Xochitl Torres Small to the southern congressional district.

While Elliston of Corrales basked in the glow of undeniable success, there were dissenters. The complaints are from the party's progressive wing which aches to see a number of conservative Democratic state senators who have thwarted their favored legislation removed. That would include an abortion bill and a constitutional amendment that would tap the $18 billion Land Grant Permanent School Fund for very early childhood education. But Elliston declared that despite the failure of those bills to get Senate backing progressives are winners:

Progressive priorities that had been pushed off the table in past years, like raising the minimum wage, a path to 100% carbon-free power, and over $500 million in investments in education took center stage in the legislative session because we demanded action.

In recent remarks Elliston, 74, rankled  progressive doubters by refusing to take sides in what could be several primaries challenging conservative Dems. She said:

There’s no “litmus test” for legislators who are elected to represent diverse districts statewide – and no punishment for Democrats who stray from the party’s platform. “We put the platform out there and we don’t chop anyone’s head off for not following it 100 percent."  

More to come on that to be sure, but for now Elliston can celebrate her re-election. It's not like it happens every time.

SENATE SPARKS

Two prominent Dems already on the primary battlefield were at the convention seeking support. Both Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver wooed delegates as their campaigns for the 2020 Dem nomination for the US Senate began to take form. And there were a few sparks.

Former Sandoval County Dem Chairman David Montoya, a Lujan  backer, took to social media to call on Robert Lara, treasurer of the state Dem Party and also the treasurer for the MTO campaign, to step aside from the party job because he now has a conflict of interest. But Lara retorted he sees no conflict and also said his decision to serve in both roles met with approval of none other than BRL.

Does the early elbow throwing among campaign acolytes signal a rough and tumble campaign to come? Or will it be a peaceable affair? To be continued. . .

MANUEL LUJAN, JR.

Here are details of services this week for former NM Congressman and Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan Jr. who died Thursday night at the age of 90.

A memorial service is set for Thursday at 5 p.m. at ABQ's Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church. A  rosary service will follow. The funeral Mass will be held Friday at 11 a.m. also at Our Lady of Fatima. He will then be buried at Gate of Heaven Catholic Cemetery.

His brother, Edward Lujan, a former chairman of the NM GOP, said Manuel had been in ill health in recent months and recently fell and broke his hip.

The NYT came with a thorough obituary of Lujan's life as did his hometown paper.

In today's photo, taken a number of years ago (when we had few gray hairs), we are meeting with Manuel and veteran public administrator Bob Gurule. I forget the occasion but we all look intensely involved in the conversation so politics would be a good guess.

I found that photo (probably taken by Mark Bralley) thumbing through memorabilia from my time on the congressman's staff in Washington as communications director in the late 70's and early 80's.

A highlight of that time was the 1980 campaign when Manuel faced what would become his stiffest re-election challenge to his ABQ congressional seat. It came from a young Bill Richardson who he narrowly defeated. However, Richardson had made his mark and went on to represent the northern congressional district and become a two term NM Governor.

As we reminisced over the weekend this email came from the always globetrotting Big Bill:

Joe, Enroute to Nigeria and am in London and just learned of Manuel’s death. Know how important he was to you and to our state and country. A classy guy with the best constituent service I ever saw. A great moderate. As governor I tried to name a state building after him. He would not hear of it because of his great modesty and class. Americans miss leaders like Manuel Lujan who was always looking for bipartisan solutions. My condolences to Jean and the family.

Even though his public service ended in 1992 his send off has been heartfelt and widespread. That's because he won the hearts of New Mexicans with his vibrant smile, warm personality and natural ability to connect and empathize with people from all walks of life. No wonder he was so successful in politics.

His passing, coming as it does in the midst of a polarized political environment, evoked memories and longing for a time when there were certain rules of decorum, respect and decency that could not and would not be crossed. By his constant example Manuel was an enforcer of those standards. That time is sorely missed, as he will be by the many whose lives he touched.

For that and more, Manuel Lujan, Jr. earned his chapter in the never-ending book of La Politica. Vaya Con Dios, MLJ.

THE BOTTOM LINES

We blogged recently that Santa Fe attorney Teresa Leger was seriously considering a run for the Dem nod for the northern congressional seat. Now she is close to announcing, having filed paperwork with the FEC. . . And outgoing ABQ City Councilor Brad Winter is 67, not 64 as we first blogged Friday.

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 2019
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