Thursday, May 28, 2020

GOP Oil Country Clash: State Rep.Tries To Take Out New GOP Senator And Sparks Fly, Plus: ABQ Westside Alligator Strike; Senate Candidate Gets Ahead Of Himself With Campaign Lit 

Sen. Fulfer
New Mexico oil country is getting hammered by one of the worst depressions in its history so the unusual (and entertaining) diversion of watching an incumbent GOP state House member challenge an incumbent GOP state Senator in the primary is more than welcome in Eddy and Lea counties.

So why is Rep. David Gallegos rolling the dice and leaving his seat?  Well, for one incumbent GOP Senator Gregg Fulfer was appointed to the seat not elected so Gallegos obviously sees an opportunity to step up.

The battle in District 41 has been spirited with Fulfer, an oilman and rancher, being accused in a TV ad of being a "lifelong Democrat" who changed his party registration "in a back door deal to get a Senate appointment" and that he is a "fake Republican." One ad says: "He's still on their team not ours."

The ad is from the Make NM Great PAC, a group supporting GOP southern congressional candidate Yvette Herrell but which started spending money after the latest federal deadline so money details are yet available. Herrell is in a bitter campaign for the southern nomination with Claire Chase of the big oil Chase family of SE NM.

Not being a longtime member of the GOP is a powerful hit. Fulfer, a former ten year Lea County Commissioner, tells us he changed his party affiliation in 2015 and was appointed to the Senate in 2018 by Gov. Martinez to succeed his father in-law GOP Senator Carroll Leavell who had fallen ill. There was no deal for him to switch parties to get the appointment, he said.

He says he was a conservative Democrat and remains a firm conservative today:

I have not supported tax increases as a commissioner  and senator and have been in the forefront of cutting red tape and regulations. I am a conservative and not a fake one. 

Rep. Gallegos
In his ABQ Journal questionnaire Fulfer checked all the right boxes for a conservative. Gallegos, who worked for some 30 years for the NM Gas Co,. did not respond to the questionnaire,

Gallegos is throwing the kitchen sink at Fulfer. You can see his other charges on his Faeecbook.

Fulfer has won the endorsment of Senator Minority Leader Stuart Ingle. Gallegos, who has not been opposed in his last three elections, has the backing of former GOP Rep. Rick Little of Dona Ana County.

Gallegos reported about $60,000 in cash on hand headed into the final weeks. He had spent $32,000 as of mid-May but is also getting outside PAC support. Fulfer reported $85,000 in cash as of mid-May. He reported spending over $131,000 since the start of the campaign. Both contenders have received considerable support from oil and gas interests. Should be an interesting one to watch Election Night. No Dems need apply and none have. This one is all Republican all the time.


Former Dem State Rep. Ben Rodefer is the victim of an Alligator strike. The flyer posted here (another little exclusive for you)  is making the rounds and leaves the impression that US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish are endorsing him. The trouble is neither Ben Ray or Denish have given Rodefer an endorsement for his state senate campaign.

After the mailer came out Denish endorsed another candidate, Brenda McKenna, a former aide to Rep. Deb Haaland who is also endorsing her. Ben Ray is staying neutral and has issued no endorsement, according to one of our politicos who spoke with him. Rodefer has acknowledged the Denish error.

There are three Dems seeking the nomination in the swing Sandoval County area seat that is being vacated by Dem Sen. John Sapien and there are also three R's running. The other Dem hopeful is Corrales village Councilor Kevin Lucero. On the R side it's Placitas businessman John Clark, Tania Artletha Dennis of Corrales and Bridget Condon who heads up the Sandoval Economic Alliance. Insiders give Condon the edge.

Rodefer, a renewable energy expert and onetime aide to Sen. Jeff Bingaman, is well-known in the westside metro area having served in the state House from there. His name ID could make him a strong candidate to keep the seat in the Dem column in November and also give it a more liberal tinge than Sapien has. Rodefer lost the Democratic Senate primary to Sapien in 2008 so he is is hungry for the win and pushed the envelope with his flyer. For that, Ben Rodefer, you are the victim of an Alligator strike, but one that doesn't pierce the flesh.


We'll bring you election night coverage Tuesday June 2, but it won't be of the traditional variety. Instead of gathering at our roundtable at KANW 89.1 FM and KANW.COM, we'll broadcast the results and analysis on the radio using Zoom conferencing. We'll kick things off at 6:45 p.m. and look forward to having you with us.


We credited this quote in a first draft Wednesday to the office of State Auditor Brian Colón regarding his investigation into APD overtime practices:

(the office) emailed APD and Mayor Tim Keller's office 10 questions last week regarding Drobik's astonishing amount of pay for the first four months of the year. So far, not one of our questions has been answered.

That quote is actually from the ABQ Report which we quoted in the story and not from the office of the Auditor. It has been corrected.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

TLF Opens 9 Point Lead Over Plame In Emily's List Poll But Turnout Questions Keep Race Alive, Plus: Massive Absentee Push Hits Headwinds And Keller And Colón, Headed For Another Clash?  

Valerie Plame
Is Teresa Leger Fernandez closing the deal in the seven way race for the northern Dem congressional nomination? A poll sponsored by Emily's List points in that direction, but because turnout in this pandemic year is cloudy the other top tier candidate, Valerie Plame, can't be written off.

Clarity Campaign Labs polled the district May 20-21 and contacted 661 "likely Democratic voters" with robocalls calls to land lines and in-person calls to cellphones . The poll has TLF opening up a 9 point lead--33-24--over Plame. TLF and Plame have been the major money raisers and TV spenders in the race.

The other candidates trailed badly. Santa Fe County District Attorney Marco Serna managed only 9 percent; State Rep. Joseph Sanchez garnered 7; John Blair polled at 4; Sandoval County Treasurer Laura Montoya received 3 percent and attorney Kyle Tisdale came in at 2. That left 18 percent undecided.

TLF, a native of Las Vegas, NM, showed strength across the board, leading in every major demographic released by the polling firm. With women she beat Plame 35 to 24. With men she won 34 to 29. Her strongest showing was with Native Americans where she scored 40 percent to Plame's 14. TLF has served as counsel to several Native American Tribes.

Hispanics favored TLF 32 to 16.

Plame's best showing was with Anglo voters. TLF polled at 38 percent with them and Plame was close behind at 31 percent.

The problem for Plame, 56, is the district is majority-minority. Hispanics make up 40 percent of  the residents and Native Americans 18 percent and she is not doing well with them. Also, Leger Fernandez, a White House Fellow under President Clinton, has made no major campaign mistakes since blowing her competition out if the water at the Dem Party March preprimary convention. And she has not been subjected to much negative campaigning as the candidates in the crowded field concentrated on their own backyard as TLF steadily gained traction.

The chance for an upset next Tuesday is in the turnout. Every voter received an absentee ballot application due to a NM Supreme Court order so the electorate could be reshaped compared to past primaries. Could is the key word. More likely is that the turnout hews to  more or less traditional  lines and the polling is not far off. The margin of error in the survey is put at 3.76 percent.


This absentee heavy election is not going to be as easy as 1,2,3. There will be problems because of the volume of ballots sent out by elections officials. And here they come, says Northern US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan:

After hearing reports that Santa Fe County residents have faced significant problems in the absentee voting process. . . Ben Ray Luján is asking Secretary of State, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, to extend the deadline for absentee ballots to be counted. . . Luján. . . is requesting that all statewide ballots be counted if they are postmarked by June 2nd, rather than only if they are received by June 2nd.

“. . . There have been concerning reports of delays in receiving and processing absentee ballots, and some ballots that are missing altogether. . . It’s clear that action must be taken to ensure that all voices are safely heard by extending the deadline for counting ballots. Overall, our vote by mail system is working and is providing a critical option for voters to submit ballots by mail or in person. . .

Well, we won't know until after the election if Lujan is right that "the mail system is working." Fears have followed this election that many of the addresses on file with the Secretary of State will prove erroneous. And then there's the issue of counting all those absentees. Will that come off without a hitch in all 33 counties?


Will they clash again?

An old rival of ABQ Mayor Tim Keller's has his nose under his tent. State Auditor Brian Colón, who ran for mayor against Keller in 2017, is now State Auditor and he doesn't like what he is seeing at Keller's troubled APD:

Colón says his office has been conducting an ongoing probe into overtime practices at the Albuquerque Police Department and that his report could be complete in a month or so. . . APD's overtime king, officer Simon Drobik, has racked up $82,000 in pay for the first four months of this year. Drobik's base salary is $31.50 an hour, and by our calculations, more than $50,000 of what he has made so far this year has come from overtime. Drobik is on track to make $247,000 this year.

Way too much overtime is a decades-long systemic problem at APD but the Drobik incident took it to new levels and is a political vulnerability for Keller who is seeking re-election next year. Meanwhile, friends of Colón say he is eyeing a run for attorney general in 2022. A lot of ambition with those two that could collide.

One other thing: If Colón's findings are disturbing does he send them over to BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez for his consideration? The same Raul Torrez who is preparing his own run for the Democratic nomination for attorney general in 2022?

And so go the ever twisting plot lines of La Politica.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

One Week To Go: GOP Congress Chaos: Dem PAC Attacks Claire; Praises Yvette; PAC Backing Claire Goes After Rival Mathys, Plus: GOP Senate Scramble 

Chase, Herrell & Mathys
Chaos has engulfed the brutal battle for the Republican nomination for the southern congressional race, with the three way contest turning into a near circular firing squad as the campaign hurtles toward the June 2 finish line now one week away.

The guns are ablaze in the largely conservative district. Claire Chase is relentlessly hammering Yvette Herrell; Yvette is firing back with her own volleys; a Dem super PAC is now pushing TV ads out for Yvette and another PAC is blasting Chris Mathys who is running the only positive campaign.

The thrust of this chaos is that Chase appears to have closed much of the gap with Herrell. Dems are alarmed. They believe Chase would be a tougher candidate for Dem Rep. Xochitl Torres Small.

Mathys is getting blasted by a pro-Claire PAC apparently because he is splitting the anti-Herrell vote with Claire, vote she badly needs.

The liberal Patriot Majority dark money super PAC has joined the festivities with a $200,000 TV buy and a boost for Yvette over Claire:

There’s Santa Fe lobbyist Claire Chase who opposed President Trump, calling him an assh . . . unworthy of the office. Or there’s Yvette Herrell. She’s 100% loyal to Trump, backed by 11 pro-gun sheriffs and Cowboys for Trump.”

The Claire camp immediately charged that Yvette is now supported by liberal House Speaker Pelosi even as Herrell called for the ads to be pulled, saying:

These liberal super PACs attacking me and my opponent have no business getting involved in this primary. They should stop airing these ads immediately!

But the Dems are out of the closet--they want Herrell--not Chase--to take on Torres Small who won a tight race against Herrell in the swing district in '18. They fear both Chase's oil money and her positioning as a young, fresh face. They figure they have beat Herrell once and can do it again.

As for Mathys, a businessman who came to NM from Fresno, California, the pro-Claire PAC Citizens for a United NM came with a $35,000 buy for a 15 second ad saying this:

Fresno, California, a sanctuary city where City Councilman Chris Mathys voted to cut gang prevention funding. California Chris Mathys. Too liberal and too dangerous.

And guess who is a $2500 contributor to that pro-Claire PAC? It's none other than former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman who engaged in a bitter race with Herrell for the '18 GOP nod and lost. He never got over it.

The trio of contestants appeared on a KRWG-TV forum in mid-May but judging by their demeanor you would never know that just below the surface was a bubbling cauldron of emotion.

Chaos, Machivellian maneuvering, settling old scores and PAC money darker than a black hole. That's the southern congressional race. Don't run out of popcorn. We have a week to go.


Gavin Clarkson is in search of an upset over front-runner Mark Ronchetti in the race for the GOP nomination for the open US Senate seat. And he tells us that while we might not have been able to find his anti-Ronchetti TV ad on the web, it is there. And here it is. The ad starts with a now well-known anti-Trump video of Ronchetti:

Ronchetti says "I am a  conservative who used to be a Republican until the orange one. . .I'm afraid that has taken a part of my soul and that's not coming back."

Enter Clarkson:

I'm Dr. Gavin Clarkson, an enrolled tribal member who proudly served in the Trump administration. Join me. . . to put a battle-tested swamp warrior in the Senate.

Not a bad ad because it speaks for itself and to a GOP obsessed with Trump loyalty. It might go somewhere, if only the under-financed Clarkson could get on the air in a way similar to the blanket buy that Ronchetti has going.


On the subject of dark money, Dem northern congressional candidate John Blair makes that his target in a new TV ad as he chases front-runner Teresa Leger Fernandez.


Speaking of Dems running for Congress, one of their old warriors is back in action but not as a candidate. Attorney John Wertheim, former chairman of the NM Dem Party who twice ran for the ABQ Dem US House seat, is back in the state and serving as campaign treasurer for MLG. His wife, Bianca Ortiz Wertheim, recently left the position of Chief of Staff to Senator Tom Udall who is retiring. She has been named by MLG to head up the state Homeland Security Department. The Gators are already snapping that she lacks a law enforcement background. Backers point to her administrative abilities. Uh, welcome back, Bianca. . . or something.

So Dem BernCo Commissioner Michael Quezada was snubbed by MLG who endorsed Frank Baca, his primary opponent for the ABQ South Valley commission seat. But Quezada supporters point out that ABQ Mayor Tim Keller, ABQ Rep. Deb Haaland and ABQ City Councilor Klarissa Pena have all endorsed Quezada. That's a good break for the Breaking Bad actor. . . Marcos Gonzales is another BernCo commission candidate this year. We called him "Marco" Monday. Well, there is a Marco Gonzales in La Politica and. . . oh, never mind.

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Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day 2020: BernCo Vote Centers Open, Progressive Infighting And Some Bottom Lines  

For those whose travel plans have been thrown out the window this Memorial Day 2020, it might be a good time to go cast your vote in the June 2 primary. Early voting centers are up and running in BernCo today and shouldn't be too busy. Dems, R's and Libertarians are eligible to vote:

Voting on Memorial Day is a thoughtful way to honor the fallen and their families who have sacrificed so much for this country,” said Clerk Linda Stover. “And with the social distancing requirements we’re working with, we need in-person voters to vote early so we can avoid a last minute rush on Election Day.”

Election officials continue to courage absentee balloting. Voters are responding and absentee voting is at record levels for a primary.


Today's out of sorts Memorial Day is just one of many special occasions in the months ahead that New Mexico will be feeling the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. It's all but certain the State Fair and International Balloon Fiesta will not take place. Santa Fe's famous annual September burning of Zozobra will now be held on the Internet. In fact, state tourism officials are warning that it could be one year to 18 months before mass gatherings like those events are permitted.

Why the State Fair has a clock on its website counting down the days and hours to the soon to be postponed September 10-20 event is a mystery. Shouldn't they instead be preparing to lessen the economic pain for the vendors and others? Ditto for the Balloon Fiesta.


Here's a little exclusive for you this holiday. It's the postcard mailed out against Dem BernCo County Commission candidate Adriann Barboa that is causing deep divisions in the city's progressive and gay communities. (Click to enlarge).

The card comes from Barboa opponent Adrian Carver and cites Barboa's past arrest for possession of a small amount of marijuna and bench warrants issued for her arrest when she failed to pay parking tickets. Barboa also has a past DWI for which she apologized. That is not mentioned in the Carver mailer. After Carver's hit smoked the mailboxes, he got hit:

“Shame on candidate Carver for criminalizing one of his opponents, a queer woman of color, for her possession of a small amount of cannabis after a traffic stop,” Marianna Anaya of Progress Now New Mexico wrote on the organization’s website.

Carver's defenders say the hit piece was in order because it shows a tendency by Barboa to flout the law. Carver stands by the mailer.

Both Barboa and Carver are well-known activists in the LGBQT community. How divisive is Carver's attack? Well, he just lost his job over it with a major LGBQT advocacy group.

Barboa is policy director for Strong Families New Mexico. A third candidate, Marcos Gonzales, works for BernCo's economic development division.

The seat was vacated by Dem Maggie Hart Stebbins who took a state job. It is primarily in the ABQ SE Heights, the most liberal section of the city. Adrian vs. Adriann has them talking


As the state begins to work on an economic recovery plan former Governors--Democrat Bill Richardson and Republican Garrey Carruthers--come with op-eds about economic ideas  . . Former ABQ state Senator Bernadette Sanchez is up with a TV spot in the race for the Dem nod for BernCo Treasurer. She faces incumbent Treasurer Nancy Bearce, former Treasurer Pat Padilla and BernCo employee Danny Daniels. The winner of the primary gets the prize. This one is all D all the time. No R's need apply and none have.

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