Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Ben Ray Speeds By MTO In First Money Race Reports, Final List Of 2019 ABQ Council Candidates is Out, And: Happy Fourth, New Mexico! 

Let's check in on La Politica one last time before we all break for the Fourth of July weekend:

It's not surprising but it is still a big number and firmly cements Rep. Ben Ray Lujan as the front-runner in the 2020 race for the Democratic nomination for US senate. Lujan announced that in the April quarter his campaign raised "over $1.1 million" putting added pressure on his chief rival Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver.

MTO put on a brave face when confronted with Lujan's cash haul. She said she raised $222,000 in the quarter, but noted that it was for two months not the full three. Her campaign also nipped at Lujan:

Bragging about raking in more than a million dollars shows how out of touch the Congressman has become having lived in D.C. for more than a decade. The per capita income for a New Mexican is $25,000. New Mexicans need Medicare for All, a Green New Deal and economic security not another D.C. insider who cares more about breaking fundraising records. . .

But Lujan has endorsed the Green New Deal as well as Medicare for all. He recently announced he will not take corporate PAC money but has not returned $200,000 MTO's campaign is asking him to.

Lujan sought to cover his bases, saying for the quarter he had 13,000 unique donors and that 97.5 percent of his donations were $100 or less. The complete reports will be posted with the FEC at mid-month.

It doesn't appear Lujan's big money will chase MTO out of the race but the task of overtaking him is now more difficult than ever.


And the list of candidates to replace Rep. Lujan in his northern congressional seat continues to grow. Sandoval County Treasurer Laura Montoya is the latest to announce for the Dem nod:

Laura was elected Sandoval County Treasurer in 2012 and reelected in 2016. . . She has. . .worked in federal, state and county government. Her career began as a constituent services representative. . .  for Senator Jeff Bingaman. . .“I have a proven track record as an advocate for everyday New Mexicans whether it is writing legislation to protect our Veterans and senior citizens or to give land grants and pueblos the right of first offer on delinquent land. . . 

Montoya is a native of Las Vegas, NM.


The battle for the ABQ City Council seat held by Dem Ike Benton will be the most crowded race facing city voters this November. The City Clerk's office reports six candidates have qualified for the ballot in District 2 via the petition process and four of those have also qualified for public financing. District Two is a mostly Valley seat.

Candidates had until June 28th to submit 500 valid petition signatures required to make the ballot

In District 4 in the NE Heights four candidates qualified for the ballot and three of them for public financing. In District 6 both candidates qualified with petitions and also for public financing. In District 8 in the Far NE Heights both candidates qualified for the ballot and one of them also qualified for public financing. Incumbent Republican Trudy Jones did not try to qualify for public money.


Sen. Martinez has entered a plea of not guilty to aggravated DWI. Gov. Lujan Grisham's office, asked about the DWI charge, would not say if she felt the senator should resign or stay in office, instead saying that "no one is above the law."

Rep. Herrera
Yes, we're premature but if Dem State Senator Richard Martinez resigns because of the aggravated DWI charge he faces and that embarrassing video of his arrest, how about filling his seat with State Rep. Susan Herrera of Embudo? Sure, she was only elected to the House last year but she boasts a foot-long list of credentials, experience and accomplishments--and she is not a career politician. That's just what the constituents of Sen. Martinez may hunger for given the ordeal they are being put through.

Herrera pulled off a major upset by beating State Rep. Debbie Rodella in a Dem primary and went on to win last November. She may be 71 but she is anything but old school, bringing a fresh set of eyes and a deep intelligence to the state's problems.

If Martinez resigns, the county commissions in his district--Rio Arriba, Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Sandoval--will send nominees to the Governor to fill the vacancy.

We have not spoken with Herrera and are assuming she resides in Martinez's Senate district--about 80 percent of her district is in his. We're also assuming that our speaking well of her doesn't amount to the Kiss of Death. Hey, you didn't hear it from us, Commissioners.

Thanks for stopping by and Happy Fourth. We'll see you next week.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Battle For State Senate Brews As Emily's List Pledges "Massive Investment" In Key NM Races; Pro-Life Dems Seen As Targets, Plus: Politically Damaging Police Video Of Sen. Martinez DWI Bust 

Socially conservative northern state senate Democrats, already reeling from the aggravated DWI arrest of one of their own--Senator Richard Martinez of Espanola--are about to be shell shocked again. The pro-choice women's group Emily's List today will announce "a massive investment" in next year's key legislative races. That likely means targets on the back of Sen. Martinez (if he isn't forced to resign) and other pro-life senators such as Pete Campos, Carlos Cisneros, George Munoz and Clemente Sanchez and others.

EMILY's List to Announce Largest-Ever State Legislative Effort For Crucial 2019 and 2020 Cycles. EMILY's List will be announcing a massive investment in states like New Mexico.

They have the money to do it. During the 2017-2018 cycle, EMILY’s List raised $110 million and launched a "record" independent expenditure campaign.

You may recall that one of their targets in primary '18 was former US Attorney Damon Martinez who was seeking the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat. He had a head of steam heading into the final days but then there was that hit financed by Emily's List accusing Martinez of not doing enough to curb police violence. Down he went. Deb Haaland took the nomination.

Already Dem activist Pam Cordova of Valencia County appears primed to challenge Clemente Sanchez in next year's primary. And other viable candidates would seem certain to emerge against other Dem targets now that big money will be on their side.

We saw a blue wave in the NM House elections last year that turned that chamber sharply to the left. Will 2020 see a pink wave that does the same to the Senate?


Meantime, it's kind of a nothing burger from Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth on the aggravated DWI charge facing Senator Richard Martinez, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

This is a difficult situation. Our immediate concern is for the well-being of everyone involved in the accident. Senator Martinez is a valued member of our caucus and is entitled to the process afforded him under the law. DWI continues to be a very serious issue for our state. This is a developing matter and we have no further comment at this time.

Well, that's not going to sell with the public, but at least Wirth said something. There was never any comment from the GOP House or Senate leadership when then ABQ GOP State Rep Monica Young refused to take a breathalyzer test last year and subsequently was voted out of office. A similar fate could be in store for Martinez now that Emily's List is on the prowl for a contender to take him on.

Police released an 11 minute video of the arrest of Sen. Martinez. It is not as devastatingly embarrassing as the Youngblood video, but it is politically explosive and very humiliating for the well-liked Martinez as he struggles unsuccessfully to pass field sobriety tests while on a hospital stretcher. Then there is this nearly 3 minute video of Martinez asking not to be arrested and refusing to take a breathalyzer test.


Reader Susan Richards writes of the mammoth surpluses accumulating in Santa Fe and the fear of Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith that they could be spent irresponsibly.

Joe, if legislators such as John Arthur Smith are concerned about the legislature spending surpluses responsibly, the first place they should plunk a pile of money is into the state retirement funds--the education retirement fund (ERB) and the public employees retirement fund (PERA) that serve the underpaid public servants and educators of New Mexico.  Wipe out their long-term projected deficits in one fell swoop and that would match the outlay for the film industry. Thanks for keeping us informed.


Sanchez and King 
Here's Allen Sanchez, president of nonprofit CHI St Joseph's Children with former NM Attorney General Gary King receiving the annual Alice King Public Service Award at this year's Kids Count conference.

For nearly a decade Sanchez has been leading the effort for a constitutional amendment that would tap a small portion of the $18 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood education. It has passed the House several times but been stymied in the Senate. He is credited with--as Bruce King might say-- "a yeoman's" effort. The amendment has gone from the back pages to the front under his persistent advocacy and he has enlisted a wide range of support (including ours) for that amendment.

Meantime, Sanchez supervises CHI St. Joseph's free home visisitng programs for children throughout the state as he and CHI work to reverse New Mexico's poor standing in the national child well-being rankings.

As first lady when Bruce was Governor, Alice King was a fierce advocate for New Mexico children and was instrumental in establishing the Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD). She passed in 2008. Gary King, an attorney, retired from elective politics in 2014.

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Monday, July 01, 2019

Will Sen. Martinez Survive DWI Arrest? Also: BernCo Politics And Handling The Capital 

Sen. Martinez 
It's possible but hard to see how Democratic State Senator Richard Martinez survives his Friday night arrest in Española on aggravated DWI and reckless driving charges. After all, the former Rio Arriba County magistrate is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that writes state laws. Now he's accused of breaking one that has major emotional impact.

The longtime senator, 66, was first elected in 2000. He is now likely to face a primary challenge next June as a result of the accident. The alternative is that he doesn't and voters look the other way, but in this era when punishment for DWI has escalated, that seems unlikely.

Martinez refused a breath test thus the "aggravated" DWI charge. He failed the field sobriety test given him. Also, he rear-ended another vehicle and police say he admitted he had been drinking.

When ABQ GOP State Rep. Monica Youngblood was busted for DWI last year she tried to hang on. Her Republican Party looked the other way with only one prominent R (AG candidate Michael Hendricks) calling on her to resign. Still, she was handily defeated for re-election last November by her Dem challenger.

Martinez was last challenged in a Dem primary in 2012 when he secured a 58 to 42 victory. If a foe emerges and Martinez stays and fights, he will have a campaign account with $112,000 in it to start.

It will be interesting to see how Martinez's Democratic senate colleagues react to his arrest. Perhaps Martinez will announce his resignation before they are put on the spot?

If he did resign, the county commissions of the four counties in the district--Rio Arriba. Los Alamos, Sandoval and Santa Fe--would recommend replacements to the Governor who would make the appointment. As for the Senate Judiciary Committee, ABQ Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto is Vice-Chair and could be in line for the chairmanship if Martinez steps aside.

Martinez's troubles will especially get the attention of women's groups who have already been talking about running primary foes against socially conservative northern Dem Senators like Martinez who voted against repealing an antiquated abortion statute during the last session of the legislature.

The Martinez district is heavy Dem. No R's need apply.


ABQ attorney David Bucholtz, who was part of our 2018 Election Night team on KANW 891. FM, notes our recent blog in which we said we did not pay an inordinate amount of attention to the Bernalillo County Commission races last year because the five member panel was not going to flip from the Dems to R's. Bucholtz parses that:

None of us saw the upset by Democrat Charlene Pyskoty over appointed Republican incumbent James Smith, even on election night. Technically, Smith was the incumbent even though he had only just been appointed by then Governor Martinez to replace Wayne Johnson, who had gone on to be State Auditor.

That election has had a dramatic effect on the balance of power on the commission. Previously there were two relatively progressive Democrats (Maggie Hart Stebbins and Debbie O’Malley), two Republicans (Smith and Lonnie Talbert) and one conservative Democrat Michael Quezada who really held the balance of power. With Pyskoty’s defeat of Smith, the power now resides with the three progressive Democrats. I am not sure you would have had the same results on things like banning plastic bans and paid sick leave if the 2-2-1 lineup had remained.


James Jimenez is the executive director of NM Voices for Children. He writes of our blog urging the Governor and legislature to approve a Capital Outlay Commission and take some of the huge influx of pork from the oil boom out of the hands of the politicos:

Joe, while I agree that a Capital Outlay Commission may be useful in setting priorities what is really needed is staff in the agencies that handle the approved projects. As we know, the Martinez Administration gutted state government and most agencies simply don’t have the bodies to manage all the projects. There are lots of steps between an approved capital outlay budget and a ribbon-cutting and without the people to manage those steps money will continue to languish. In addition, the Governor should consider bringing a Capital Budget Czar on board, in the Governor’s Office, to “ride herd” over the agencies and to ensure that bottlenecks get identified and addressed.

We would add that it hasn't only been under Martinez that millions in capital outlay went unspent or toward questionable priorities. It is a longtime issue.

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