Friday, August 30, 2019

Happy Labor Day, New Mexico 

We get this as the unusual late summer heat rolls on:

Authorities in Las Vegas, NM say 31-year-old Paul Trujillo was arrested after he was identified as one of two men who entered a walk-in freezer at a Dairy Queen store and stole 22 boxes of Dilly Bars. Police say the footage shows Trujillo walking up to the freezer following a stakeout. . . Trujillo was charged with felony commercial burglary and misdemeanor larceny.

Is Haagen-Daz next?

Enjoy the holiday weekend.

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Thursday, August 29, 2019

Oil Boom Party Continues; More Record State Surpluses Forecast, Plus: Tracking Epstein And Zapping Zack 

The Permian Basin oil party is just getting started. The news:

The state is on track to spend more than $7 billion in year-over-year spending this budget year, while revenues are expected to reach an all-time high of nearly $8 billion for the 2021 budget year, which starts next July. New money is defined as the difference between projected incoming revenue and current state spending levels. In addition, the state is on pace to have nearly $2.3 billion in reserves at the end of the current budget year (on June 30 2020).

And the pie gets divvied up at the next legislative session in January, The question: Will it be wasted or lead to welcome outcomes?


We mentioned recently that regardless of the election outcome, the ABQ City Council, apparently for the first time, will have a female majority when the new council is seated in December--five women and four men. Several readers reminded us that the BernCo Commission already has such a majority with three female commissioners--Debbie O'Malley, Maggie Hart Stebbins and Charlene Pyskoty--serving with two men, Commissioners Quezda and Talbert. That is also an apparent first.


Conservative ABQ radio talk show host Eddy Aragon has been intrepid when it comes to the Epstein scandal and its NM connection. He has criticized the media here for not paying closer attention. To allay any fears of a conspiracy of silence, off we go. . .

Lately Aragon has been discussing a $2,800 campaign contribution that Dem US Rep. and Senate candidate Ben Ray Lujan received from former Governor Bill Richardson but one the campaign returned. The returned donation was reported by the newspaper but there was no explanation given.

Jeffrey Epstein
Richardson was recently accused in a court deposition by one of Epstein's alleged underage victims of being ordered to have sex with Richardson and other prominent men. Richardson firmly denied the charges. Asked why the Richardson campaign contribution was returned, the Lujan campaign said:

The money was through an LLC and we don’t take corporate PAC money so it was returned. 

The campaign says Richardson has since donated personal funds to the Lujan effort. That money has not been returned. So BRL isn't pulling the rug out from under Big Bill.

Richardson recently said he has been informed through his attorney that the US Attorney responsible for the Epstein case says he is not a suspect or target in the investigation. Richardson has offered his assistance to the investigation.

Aragon, with the help of investigative reporter Conchita Sarnoff, traced the Richardson-Epstein relationship back to 1994, well before he became Governor in 2003. In that year, before Epstein was a convicted sex offender, campaign records show Epstein donated $1,826 to then-Congressman Richardson.

Then-Gov. Richardson returned $50,000 in campaign contributions he received from Epstein in 2006, who by then was a convicted sex offender.

Epstein purchased the Zorro Ranch in Stanley from Governor Bruce King in 1993, one of the Epstein properties where it is alleged sex crimes occurred.

The Farmington Daily Times has more on the donations made by Epstein to a long list of NM politicos.


It's the Democratic Old Guard versus the Dem Up and Comers in the battle for the ABQ City Council District 2 seat long held by Dem Ike Benton. The latest example comes from longtime Dem politico and current BernCo Commissioner Debbie O'Malley. She takes issue with this statement running on the Facebook page of 29 year old Zack Quintero, one of the leading contenders among the five candidates trying to take Benton out:

Meet Zack Quintero running for Albuquerque City Council, District 2 in New Mexico! If elected Zack would be the first Latino to represent the District since redistricting in 2009!

To which O'Malley says:

I served on the Albuquerque City Council representing District 2 until 2012, not 2009. Either Quintero doesn’t know I’m Hispanic or doesn’t know this district’s history, which given that he’s lived in Albuquerque for just three years might be the case. Many long time Hispanic families like mine stand with Councilor Isaac Benton and are supporting his re-election. 

O'Malley's mother is a Romero. She says her father was a "coyote" whose first language was Spanish, the language her parents used to speak with one another. Her grandfather, Jose Nemcio Romero, served in the NM legislature when the state was a territory. Quintero, head of the NM Young Democrats, is from Las Cruces.

Don't feel too bad about that minor miss, Zack, at least they're talking about you.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Chase Comes In Southern Congress Contest; Video Announcement Muddies Waters Over White House Role, Also: Is She A Lobbyist Or An Executive 

Talk about muddying the waters. Claire Chase dived into the race for the GOP southern congressional nomination Tuesday, leaving the distinct but incorrect impression that VP Pence (and maybe Trump) had endorsed her candidacy and thrown Yvette Herrell--her main rival--under the bus.

Chase's 55 second announcement video opens with her praising Trump as a "fearless leader" who "can't do it alone." Later comes the money shot: VP Pence and Chase waving together to a crowd at the Chase family oil business in Artesia which Pence visited earlier this month to tout a free trade agreement. It is a classic campaign endorsement pose, a picture of which we carried on the Aug. 22 blog.

If Pence (or Trump) had officially endorsed Chase, this thing would probably be over before it started. But they haven't. But that Pence visit and the use of the video of him, will keep Yvette, who won the '18 GOP nomination but lost the general election to Dem Xochitl Torres Small, on the defensive. She will be explaining to extremely curious Republicans what we just blogged--that there has been no endorsement. But Pence, a possible future presidential candidate, did wink at Claire, a member of one of the wealthiest families in the state.

In the end the Chase/Pence endorsement game will be seen as smart politics, duplicitous or both.


--Herrell has been endorsed by the conservative House Freedom Caucus. The National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee (NRCCC) recently added her to their prestigious Young Guns list and she will get special support. If the White House came in overtly for Chase they would split the party in half. Herrell rolled out an endorsement from the conservative group FreedomWorks For America as Chase came into the contest.

--Herrell will have to move quickly to make sure the Administration is seen as being on the sidelines or else her money could start drying up. Chase will work to post a big number--perhaps with the help of some family money--when her first FEC report is filed at the end of Sept.

--Chase's campaign messaging is a cut and paste job from the DC GOP playbook. She says she wants to go to Washington to "take on the DC liberals pushing their socialist agenda."

---Chase took a lesson from Dem Rep. Xochitl Torres Small's campaign ad in which she was shown with a gun in an effort to appeal to rural voters. Claire totes a gun and also rides a horse in her video. Maybe Xochitl will get a pony for Christmas.

--Chase calls herself a "businesswoman." Her job is Director of Government Relations for Mack Energy, the oil empire she married into. That is also known as a lobbyist. Here's her lobbying expenditure reports filed with the SOS in Santa Fe. But lobbyist is a dirty word for a candidate so the following caught our notice.

In its first report on the Chase candidacy the AP sent out a morning report that went like this:

Republican oil lobbyist to seek southern New Mexico US House seat 
A Republican oil lobbyist and member of one of New Mexico's wealthiest families has announced she is running for Congress in what is expected to be a closely watched U.S. House race.

In the afternoon a more in-depth report was filed and you got this from the wire service:

GOP Oil Executive to Seek Southern New Mexico US House Seat
An oil company executive announced Tuesday she will seek the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small for the state's southern congressional seat.

So the fight is on to control the narrative about the 36 year old Chase--is she an oil company lobbyist who served four years in the DC "swamp" as a legislative aide to then-Rep. Steve Pearce or a high-minded executive and businesswoman. Herrell should have fun with that one.


Chase, the mother of three year old twin boys, narrated her video and seemed a bit too rehearsed but nothing problematic and the piece was decently produced. Still, a Herrell supporter picked at it, saying Chase was "like a 12 year old girl taking to the camera."

Artesia's Mack C. Chase, the 88 year old Mack Energy founder and Chase family patriarch, is worth anywhere from $700 million to $900 million, according to media reports. Claire is married to his grandson Chance. Forbes lists the older Chase as the richest person in in New Mexico. Claire Chase's father, James Manatt of Roswell, is also in the oil game. Claire Chase has left her position as chairman of the board of the NM Oil and Gas Association.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

City Election '19: Keller And Haaland Go All In For Three Dem Council Candidates; They Endorse Benton, Davis And Romero; Impact Analysis Is Up Next  

Haaland, Keller & Romero
ABQ Mayor Tim Keller and Congresswoman Deb Haaland are joining forces for the Nov. 5 city election, urging the electorate to support three progressive Democrats for the nine member panel.

The pair took to Facebook to give endorsements in a short video to incumbent Dem Councilors Ike Benton and Pat Davis as well as Dem hopeful Ane Romero.

Said Keller:

With the right leadership we truly can come come together to be the best city we can be.

Not exactly a call to arms there, but a number of observers we spoke to said given the state of city politics Keller and Haaland don't have to do much to move the needle. Senator Alligator analysis:

There is no effective opposition yet to Keller, Haaland and the progressives. That's why you are seeing this. In the past such endorsements would be kept somewhat below the radar, but not today. The endorsements are also a commentary on the weak opposition campaigns being run against Davis and Benton. Keller and Haaland saw little to lose and hope their backing will spike progressive turnout for the three endorsed candidates.

But could the endorsements fire up Republicans and independents and some Dems who see the mayoral endorsement as a power grab? More insider analysis:

Remember, former Democratic Mayor Marty Chavez got in trouble when he went around endorsing candidates and trying to mold the council in his image. It gave rise to a progressive rebellion and Democrat Richard Romero who challenged him in the 2009 election. Chavez lost to Republican Berry in a three way race, largely because of the split Democratic vote. 

But ABQ was a different town then, with a still alive Republican Party and a streak of Democratic moderation. Today the turn has been decidedly to the left, so much so that the city's two leading Democrats can pretty much do what they please--at least until they bite off more than they can chew and the opposition comes onto the playing field.


Today is the day candidates must file their declarations of candidacy. Are Keller and Haaland hoping their endorsements cause some hopefuls to back out, increasing the chances of their faves? Insiders say behind-the-scenes pressure from Ane Romero consultants and others has led Hailey Roy to decide to withdraw from the District 4 race. That reduces the number of Dems in that contest and perhaps helps Dem Romero.


Benton and Davis
The dual endorsement of North Valley/Barelas District 2 Councilor Benton is big. He is being challenged by four candidates, chief among them is young Dem gun Zach Quintero. The Keller endorsement is a body blow to Zach who has spoke highly of the Mayor, but Benton has always endorsed Keller and now the favor has been returned. Still, an outside committee upset with Benton over ART is still expected and spend money attacking him. Quintero has been endorsed by the unions for police and firefighters.

Haaland had already endorsed Pat Davis in SE Heights District 6 so he got another bite out of that apple with the second endorsement. He has a talented Dem opponent in Gina Naomi Dennis but his camp is painting her as offering unsteady leadership. ART was a disaster for Davis, who supported the controversial transit project, but Keller and Haaland are bailing him out. Dennis backers call Davis a "fake progressive."

Bassan & Winter
The one district where the endorsements might cut two ways is NE Heights District 4. That's where Ane Romero is now boasting of the Haaland-Keller backing. However, the lone Republican, Brook Bassan, may use the endorsements to coalesce Republicans and conservative independents.

Haaland's politics are too far left for a large swath of the district, giving Bassan a chance to reinforce the GOP attacks on Romero that she is too "radical." The seat is being vacated by longtime GOP Councilor Brad Winter who has endorsed Bassan.

Keller and Haaland did not endorse in the other council contest that features incumbent Republican Trudy Jones and Democrat Maurreen Skowran in NE Heights District 8.  That district is solid R .

If no candidate in a  city council race gets 50 percent of the vote there will be a run-off election December 10 between the two top finishers.

The City Council is currently controlled by the Dems 6-3 but there is a history of bipartisan action on a wide range of issues. ABQ elections are officially nonpartisan, with no party labels listed on the ballot. Whatever was left of that fig leaf was shredded by all the Dem endorsements from the Mayor and first-term Congresswoman.

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Monday, August 26, 2019

Defiant Sen. Martinez Announces Reelect Bid; Will His DWI Surface A Strong Foe? Plus: Plum UNM Job Could Go To Politico  

There wasn't even a hint of contrition as embattled Democratic State Senator Richard Martinez emerged from two months of hiding to comment on his aggravated DWI arrest. When asked if he planned to resign, he was defiant: "I have no intention to resign," he declared. And bursting the hopes of those who thought the humiliating viral video of his arrest would persuade him to end his political career, he added: "And I'm running for re-election, too."

With that Martinez may have set up a test of the boundaries of what his largely rural northern district expects and will tolerate in a lawmaker. It certainly will draw unwanted attention to the Democratic leaders in the legislature and party who have refused to call for his resignation or even condemn his refusal to take a breath test after getting into a traffic accident in Española.

The Governor chastised him but fell short of demanding his resignation. And a possible Dem primary opponent--State Rep. Susan Herrera--has bowed out. So it's not certain that Martinez will face a primary challenger.

His district is 65 percent Democratic so he obviously sees an escape route from the humiliating video that has come to define him to the state, even as supporters argue his long record of service should excuse his behavior. But at 66 shouldn't he know better?

The North is changing. There's a gay Republican Mayor in heavy Dem Española (who would have thunk?) and the aforementioned Rep. Herrera ousted ethically challenged Dem State Rep. Debbie Rodella in the '18 primary. Here in ABQ GOP State Rep. Monica Youngblood lost her seat to a Dem in '18 following her DWI arrest and the viral video that resulted.

Martinez and his fellow lawmakers have spent countless hours and appropriated millions of dollars to address the state's chronic DWI problem. His district is home to some of the highest rates of substance abuse in the nation. His refusal to take the high road and resign makes the stench of hypocrisy waft even stronger over him, the legislature and the Democratic Party. Not to mention that he chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee that authors the DWI laws applied to the citizenry.

Martinez's exaggerated narcissism in the face of disgrace seems not to bother any of them one bit. Will it bother his district enough to generate an able opponent? Or will we see the Governor, who says elected officials like Martinez must be held to a higher standard, give him the pen she uses to sign the next piece of DWI legislation?


A UNM search for a "Chief Government Relations Officer," a position with starting pay from $175,000 to $250,000, is drawing the attention of insiders who point out that prominent politicos are surfacing as possibles. A higher ed Alligator reports:

Could State Senator John Sapien (D-Bernalillo) abandon his district before a tough primary battle? It would be a really soft landing for the senator. So far, he has no announced primary opponent but it is a swing district. My understanding is the progressives are looking for a primary challenger.  The other name floating around is Democratic Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins. Perhaps unable to find a position for Maggie in the Lujan Grisham administration, the 4th floor could be looking to help Maggie find a soft landing before she is termed out in 2020. . . It looks like the new President is en route to keeping alive the UNM tradition of hiring politicos for six-figure jobs. 

$250k a year to start? That may not be a smooth swallow for the public, especially given the recent indictment of former Athletic Director Paul Krebs.

If you're thinking about getting your resume in order, don't. The plum position was advertised for just two weeks in July. Applications are no longer being taken.

Speaking of the embezzlement indictment of ex-UNM AD Krebs, reader Richard Flores writes:

As a taxpayer, it is my opinion that the Attorney General's decision to indict Krebs is the right decision. If there are others that were complicit in the misuse of university funds, they too, should be indicted if there is evidence of wrongdoing . . .Perhaps all those who benefitted from Mr. Krebs's largess, be it a free golfing trip to Scotland or free use of the suites at the Pit, can now come together to pay for his defense. Our UNM students deserve a "fair shake" when it comes to how university funds are used and ethical behavior from university leaders. 

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