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Friday, August 02, 2019

Domenici Policy Conference Ends Run Prompting Reflections On His Long Senate Career 

Sen. Domenici
It's unlikely there we will be another, but the annual Domenici Policy Conference at NMSU had a good 10 year run:

The Domenici Public Policy Conference will take a break in 2019, per an announcement by NMSU. The conference, inaugurated by the university's Domenici Institute in 2008, brought policy experts, scholars, elected officials past and present, cabinet officers, military leaders and other figures of note to Las Cruces to engage with students and the public over two days. The institute and the conference were both founded by the late U.S. Senator from New Mexico, Pete V. Domenici, whose death in 2017 was announced on the opening day of that year's conference.

Senator Pete Domenici was the state's longest serving US Senator--1973-2009. How will he remembered? Well, a completely objective rendering won't be possible for another 20 years or so when a new generation will take a look, rather than those who knew him, covered him and/or worked with him.

Despite his national standing on budget matters--he was chairman of the Senate Budget Committee-- we would argue that future historians might be more attracted to Domenici's skill in navigating the Congress from the middle and appealing to both Democrats and R's on a variety of policy. Also, his unprecedented effectiveness in bringing federal money and jobs to New Mexico may make for a case study for other small state senators.

Of course, the personal scandal in which he fathered a child out of wedlock with a lobbyist who was the daughter of another senator and kept it secret for decades will be writ large in those future history texts. Then there was the US attorney scandal where Domenici and the R's sought to politicize the NM US Attorney's office. He was admonished for it be the Senate Ethics Committee in 2008.

A balance will eventually emerge that will place the aforementioned in its appropriate context. One thing is certain: in the hands of a talented writer a history of Domenici would be a book of interest for New Mexicans now and of the future.

FINAL MALOOF CONNECTION

In this space last Friday we remembered the political and economic power once wielded by the Maloff family and how they have since disengaged from the state. A reader sent news of one of the last connections the family has here. He reports the Maloof ABQ home in the Altura Park neighborhood is now for sale. The asking price for the 7,786 square foot mansion built in 1971 is $1.150 million.

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Thursday, August 01, 2019

Senate Summer Action: Age Does Not Deter 87 Year Old Papen; She Seeks Another Term, Plus: Greg Baca Senate Race Draws Dem Crowd  

Sen. Papen
87 year old state Senator Mary Kay Papen, a key leader in the conservative coalition that controls the upper chamber, will not let age deter her and has announced she will seek re-election in 2020. Her decision sets up a major primary battle with two liberal Democratic challengers who are already campaigning.

Papen, first elected in 2000, held off announcing but now with the possibility of two female foes splitting the anti-Papen vote it may have encouraged her to go for one more four year term. There is also a Republican running but the winner of the primary is nearly certain to prevail in the Dem district.

Papen's age may not be front and center in the campaign but it will not be ignored. She will turn 88 next March and would be 92 at her new term's final legislation session in 2024. That would apparently make her the most senior female senator in state history.

While age will be a factor it will be her nearly seven year position as Senate President--made possible by a coalition of Republican senators and conservative Dems--that may be most important to the race's outcome.

The coalition has thwarted liberal legislation originating in the House as well as from the Democratic Governor. The senate presidency is key in handing out crucial committee assignments that often determines the fate of legislation.

Papen's health does not appear to be poor and she has a long list of legislative accomplishments for her district that she can tout. Still, New Mexico and Las Cruces have undergone considerable political change in recent years and the coalition that she helps lead is under attack in other Democratic primary races. Even if she prevails in her re-election bid she could find that when 2021 rolls around the glory days and her leadership opposition have vanished.

MORE SENATE ACTION

The Dem primary race for the seat held by GOP state Senator Greg Baca is getting a bit crowded. Already there are two candidates in the contest--Belen businessman Paul A. Baca (no relation to Greg) and Dick Wilkinson who works for the state court system. Now a third contender--former Valencia County State Rep. Elias Barela--may soon be joining them, according to an insider tracking the action. Barela was first elected in 2006 and defeated by Julian Luna in the 2010 Democratic primary.

Greg Baca famously ousted Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez in 2016 with the backing of the political machine of then-Gov. Susan Martinez. But that machine is now gone. Also, winning re-election with Trump leading the ticket in a district with swing characteristics could be a challenge for Senator Baca. That backdrop sets up another race to watch as we head to the 2020 starting line.

HIS BEST LAUGH

Reader Dave in Rio Rancho says he had a good chuckle when he read our July 25 blog about Gov. MLG titled: "Dems National Lurch To Left Worries MLG; Says Voters Getting "Scared"

Joe, thank you for the best laugh of the week, courtesy of MLG. Let me think, isn't she the one that ran through the drywall in the TV commercial shrieking "this is what I think of Trump's wall?" Isn't she the one that approved tax hikes despite billion dollar surpluses? Isn't she the one calling the President a racist every chance she gets? Isn't she the one pulling our National Guard off the border? MLG met the enemy, and the enemy is her. NM is becoming a less desirable place to live every day. Why didn't you call her out on the Washington Examiner article about the drugs pouring across the border? Do you think citizens care more about that, or Susanna Martinez having an affair with a bodyguard ? 

Well, it appears the honeymoon is over. Dave, here's that article you cite from the right-leaning Washington Examiner about drugs and the border. Maybe Susana's former bodyguard can get work there?

Your comments, criticisms and existential worries are always welcome no matter the viewpoint. Another reason why. . .

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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Diversifying Economy Easier Said Than Done, Plus: Udall's Regret And Dem Senate Candidates Have Humble Finances 

When it comes to the calls to "diversify" New Mexico's economy, it remains easier said than done. The latest:

The (UNM) analysis showed that Los Alamos National Laboratories was responsible for 24,169 jobs in New Mexico--14,754 of them employees of LANL or lab contractors. . . The other 9,415 jobs were the result of LANL’s spending for procurement and spending by employees and their families. The state’s manufacturing sector produced 26,398 jobs.

LANL has been bedeviled by a lax safety culture but it hasn't impacted their budget. Under President Trump nuclear weapons budgets have been increased and LANL and Sandia National Labs in ABQ have become an even more integral part of the state economy. Diversifying? Uh. Not right now.

NEVER MIND

This mea culpa in the New Yorker from NM Dem Senator Tom Udall must have former Sen. Al Franken wondering how he could have been forced to resign:

Udall said, “I made a mistake. I started having second thoughts shortly after he stepped down. He had the right to be heard by an independent investigative body. I’ve heard from people around my state, and around the country, saying that they think he got railroaded. It doesn’t seem fair. I’m a lawyer. I really believe in due process.”

Udall wasn't the only lawmaker expressing misgivings about calling for Franken to resign. Seven current and former senators now admit that in Franken's case the Me Too movement misfired.

HUMBLE FINANCES

Udall is the only multi-millionaire in the state's five member congressional delegation. (Here is his 2017 financial disclosure form.) and soon there may be none.

Both Dem candidates for the US senate nomination to replace Udall report paltry assets compared to most of the solons on Capitol Hill. From their disclourse forms:

(Maggie Toulouse Oliver) listed. . . student loans of between $50,000 and $100,000. . . additional liabilities are linked to a loan to pay tuition for her son, a student at Santa Fe Community College. Credit card liabilities of at least $30,000 also are listed with a local credit union and a national bank. . . Toulouse Oliver is not currently a homeowner, after a second divorce.

MTO earns $85,000 as NM's secretary of state. As for Rep. Ben Ray Lujan:

Luján's financial disclosures . . .show no liabilities above the $10,000 reporting threshold. He estimates the value of his home and ranch in Nambé at less than $250,000, and reports balances in three bank accounts of less than $15,000 each. Luján earns $174,000 as a member of Congress.

One of those two are likely to take their comparatively humble finances with them to the US Senate as the Dems are heavily favored to keep the Udall seat in 2020.

HAALAND FOR WARREN


Haaland and Warren
Rep. Deb Haaland is the first member of the state's DC delegation to offer an endorsement in the Dem presidential contest. She has given the nod to Elizabeth Warren who has been repeatedly scorched by President Trump for allegedly fudging her ancestry by calling herself part Native American. He has derisively labeled her "Pocahantas." In that light, the endorsement from one of the first Native American congresswomen hits the sweet spot for the Massachusetts senator Says Haaland:

. . . We’ve worked together to introduce legislation that demands a solution to unsafe military housing, tackles the opioid crisis, and provides universal child care. Elizabeth has been a great friend to me and a great partner for Indian Country. She has made it a priority to address. . . an economy that works for everyone, student loan debt, and the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. As a single mom, who is still paying off my student loans, I understand the challenges so many of us face and Elizabeth is the person who will deliver real change for families. . . ”

Hey, we didn't know that Deb was still paying off her student loans. Maybe she and MTO can talk about it over lunch? The one who owes the least gets the check.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Still No Name Senate Candidate For R's And City Dems Try To Soothe Their Rural Counterparts  

The value of the Democratic nomination for US Senate is going up faster than Bitcoin. As we head into August the Republicans have yet to field a candidate of note to take on the winner of next June's Democratic primary. That winner will either be Rep. Ben Ray Lujan or Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver.

It's unclear if the national Republicans will cede the seat without fight as they did in 2018 when they put up only symbolic opposition to Senator Martin Heinrich. 

Their symbol then was contractor Mick Rich who now appears ready to take another bite out of the apple and join Gavin Clarkson as a candidate for the nomination.

The affable Rich managed only 31 percent of the vote against Heinrich who came in at 54 percent with Libertarian Gary Johnson garnering 15 percent. 

Clarkson lost in a landslide to MTO in the '18 SOS election.

The rumor mill keeps churning out the name of Neilla Domenici as a possible Republican contender. She is wealthy and has name ID as a daughter of the late GOP US Senator Pete Domenici. But her brother Pete Jr. got nowhere when he ran for the GOP nomination for Governor and Nella Domenici has skimpy ties to the state that may be insurmountable even if she does join the fray.

Then there's the little problem of raising at least $5 million for a serious GOP general election run. Enuf said.

A PIT BULL AND TOMCAT

The Dems and MLG are getting slammed in rural New Mexico as Santa Fe leans more liberal on key issues so you get this:

Democratic Party of New Mexico Chair Marg Elliston and Vice Chair Marcus Porter spoke with Democratic leaders in Colfax, Curry, Harding, Quay, Roosevelt, and Union counties at a regional meeting of eastern and northeastern Democratic party officials. . . County leaders discussed how to bolster eastern and northeastern county voices in upcoming elections. . .Elliston emphasized DPNM’s commitment to hearing from Democrats in every corner of our state. . .

The divide between the rural counties and the state's three major cities--always there--has never seem more pronounced. Unifying them is like trying to get a pit bull to share a cage with a tomcat.

PLENTY OF HISPANICS

Gov. Johnson 
Former Dem NM Attorney General Madrid is getting some reader push back over her contention that Republican Guv Gary Johnson "underserved" the Hispanic community during his two terms in office ('94-2001). She made that comment on the Monday blog in the context of her 1994 lieutenant governor candidacy. Reader Kevin Garcia has the rejoinder:

Patricia Madrid's comments concerning Gary Johnson's administration sounds like sour grapes. As a Democrat who worked for Gov. Johnson at the NM Board of Finance, I met many Hispanics who remained state employees during his tenure. And Gary did more for the Native American tribes and Pueblos than most administrations. Gary looked for the most qualified candidates regardless of party affiliation and was honest to a fault regarding his campaign promises. . . Many may disagree with his policies, but Johnson did what he said he would do regardless of the politics! I still call NM Highway 550 the "Governor Johnson Highway" as he pushed through innovative capital appropriations to turn it from a Death Trap into a modern highway to the Four Corners when the Legislature said "it couldn't be done!"

As you say Kevin, many disagreed with Johnson's policies. We think his most lasting positive legacy is his insistence on honesty no matter the personal political cost.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Former ABQ City Councilor Tim Kline has died. Kline served two terms on the council representing a mid-Heights district from 1989-93 and again from 1997 to 2001. Kline was an APD officer who became the public face of the Crime Stoppers program following founder Greg MacAleese.

A middle of the road Democrat, he was defeated for re-election by Republican Sally Mayer when redistricting forced him into another council district. He died of lung cancer Sunday at his home in Chandler, AZ. Tim Kline was 74.

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Monday, July 29, 2019

Prez Campaign Lands In NM; Jill Biden Makes The Fund-Raising Rounds, Plus: Trump Toys With NM Votes And A Last Look At MLG's Firing Of Sec. Trujillo 

Biden in Corrales (Facebook)
The presidential campaign came to New Mexico over the weekend with Jill Biden, wife of leading Dem hopeful and former VP Joe Biden, making the rounds. An Alligator of the Dem variety reports:

Biden's fund-raiser in Santa Fe was at the home of Henry Munoz, the former finance chairman for the Democratic National Committee who moved there recently. The ABQ area fund-raiser was in Corrales at the home of attorney John Voorhees and was co-hosted by attorney and former NM Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman. 

New Mexico's presidential primary isn't until next June and is unlikely to play a role in the nominating contest but the leading candidates can be expected to harvest cash here

TRUMP TOYS WITH NM

While NM is seen as reliably Blue in the presidential race Trump allies continue to create chatter over his chances here. Donald Trump Jr. added to that as he stopped in Sunland Park, NM last week for a border conference and to praise his father's proposed border wall. And Trump  himself singled out NM for praise in a recent Facebook post:

President Trump (took) note of the state's growing economy. The president wrote: “Business applications are thriving in New Mexico since I took office." He added that New Mexico is a "key battleground state.". . . Business applications have jumped 29 percent since Trump was elected and New Mexico saw the biggest increase in the country.

The oil boom is responsible for the greater part of the state's improved economy. Trump may see an opening but the doors still seem closed in the key cities of ABQ, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.

THE TRUJILLO FIRING

The reasons given for the Governor's firing of Public Education Secretary Karen Trujillo were ambiguous, but the enormous pressure MLG is under to reform the troubled education system was perhaps one reason for the abrupt dismissal. That's made clear with this news:

33% of students in the state are proficient in English, and 20.3% of students are proficient in math, according to standardized test data by the Public Education Department...In Albuquerque Public Schools, the 2019 data showed about 20% of students were proficient in math and 30% proficient in English.

MLG spent style points for her awkward firing of Trujillo and if repeated with regularity could impact her popularity. However, in the avalanche of reaction to the dismissal it's significant that the new education policies of MLG and the legislature are not under serious attack. Rather, the argument is over the pace of implementation.

The oil boom in SE NM that is flooding the state coffers with unprecedented surpluses is a make or break opportunity and it is the sitting Governor who is going to take the credit or blame for how effectively or ineffectively that money is spent. There is nowhere to hide for MLG or her cabinet.

There will be much more pushing and shoving required to reverse the state's dismal educational standing. The public appears confident that this Governor has the policy down, but the personality in dealing with personnel may need attention.

VEGAS WARMTH

The race for the Dem nomination for the open northern congressional seat continues to spark reader debate. Here's Victor Valdez:

I am writing in response to the individual who wrote on the July 18th blog about Valerie Plame's presence at the Las Vegas fiestas parade. I personally saw Valerie actively trying to talk to as many people as she could regardless of ethnicity during the parade. From my vantage point I saw the great people of Las Vegas of all ethnic backgrounds welcoming Valerie with warmth and kindness that Las Vegas is known for. 

As we blogged July 11, it was in Las Vegas in '94 when Dem lieutenant governor candidate Patricia Madrid uttered a statement that made political history:

These Republicans are not our people – they are Anglos – they are newcomers – they don’t understand us – our language – our culture – they are here only to exploit our people and our land – you must vote Democratic!”


Today Madrid, a former two term attorney general, is retired in Mora County and writes us about her statement of 25 years ago:

Joe, When I was the running mate of Gov. Bruce King it became clear that the third governor candidate, Roberto Mondragon, a former Democratic lieutenant governor who ran as the Green Party nominee, was taking enough Northern Hispanic votes to effect the outcome. King had asked me to make this argument to sway the Hispanic vote. I said that Republican nominee Gary Johnson had no appreciation for Hispanic culture and people, and that if he won he would surround himself with Anglos in his administration and not include Hispanics. As it turned out, we lost because of the King-Mondragon split and as I predicted, Gary Johnson did surround himself with Anglos and the Democratic North was ignored and underserved during his tenure.

The Hispanic split was evident in the '94 results. Johnson won with 50 percent to King's 40 and Mondragon's 10 percent.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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