Thursday, June 25, 2020

Bypassing The Guv: District Court Judge Victor Lopez Makes Play For Nakamura Supreme Court Seat  

Judge Lopez and Sen. Lopez
That upcoming campaign for the NM Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice Judy Nakamura has taken an interesting turn.

ABQ District Court Judge Victor Lopez has decided to jump the gun and not wait for MLG to fill the Nakamura vacancy. He is asking some 400 Democratic state Central Committee members to name him as the party's candidate for the November election:

I offer my many years of experience as an attorney, judge, and community leader. . . I also offer my viability as a candidate. In 2014, the Central Committee nominated me for my seat on the District Court Bench. . . My election committee quickly built a winning campaign in the 2014 General Election against Governor Martinez’s appointee. . .  I have decided not to seek the temporary Supreme Court appointment to fill this position through the Judicial Nomination Commission. Rather, I leave the decision solely up to the democratic process. . .  I believe in the principles of democracy and the importance of having freely elected judges by the people they will serve.

That may or may not come as a surprise to the Governor who will make an appointment to the high court in the coming days based on recommendations from the Judicial Nomination Commission. That appointee could be expected to seek the Central Committee's blessing to run for the seat in November.  If MLG's appointee indeed wants to run to fill out the entire Nakamura term that runs through 2022, Lopez is setting up a rare Supreme Court fight before the Central Committee,

Would the Central Committee reject a Guv appointee in favor of Lopez? One of the Legal Beagles games the action:

Lopez is a very long shot, but there has been scuttlebutt that the Governor might like to have Matt Garcia, her general counsel, on the court. If he did get the appointment, Lopez could fault the appointment and press his case before the Central Committee that the appointment process is flawed. 

This will be the third justice MLG has appointed to the five member court and will give her appointees the majority. The other appointees are Democrats Shannon Bacon and David Thomson. Both are seeking election in November.

Lopez is married to fellow attorney and ABQ Dem state Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, an ally of the Guv's. But in the case of the Supreme Court seat, which pays $148,200 a year, one assumes blood is thicker than water.

As for the R's, their Central Committee will also nominate a general election candidate. However, Nakamura was only the second Republican in the past 40 years to win a seat on the court.


Well, it looks like a bust for those NM delegates selected to attend the Dem National Convention in Milwaukee in August. Officials have announced that Joe Biden will receive the nomination virtually:

Joe Biden will accept the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination at a nearly all-virtual convention in Milwaukee this August, but delegates were told to stay home because of health concerns.

Delegates pay their own way to the convention so the New Mexicans now benched will save thousands in expenses. Maybe they can spend it on a 90th birthday party for Fred Harris?

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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Progressives Still Have Hill To Climb In Senate; Biz Interests Look For Opening, Plus: The Virtual Campaign  

The New Mexico Senate seems headed for a more liberal bent next year but don't expect it to be an all-out embrace of the progressive agenda. That's the word from Roundhouse watchers who say there are early signs that R's and others are making overtures to a group of senators planted firmly in the center of the political spectrum: They are:

Senators Joe Cervantes, Michael Padilla, Daniel Ivey-Soto, Bobby Gonzales, Jacob Candelaria and George Munoz, the conservative Dem the progressives failed to oust at the June primary.

All of them have had their ambitions uncapped with the primary defeats of longtime conservative Dem Senators Smith, Sanchez and Papen. Now the jockeying begins to fill the void. Lobbyists, business interests such as big oil and others with skin in the game are hopeful the centrist senators can hold the line on such items as higher taxes. It may not be an exact replica of the now crumbling conservative coalition comprised of all the Senate Republicans and a half dozen or so of conservative D's, but it could be a check on leftward momentum. The fly in the ointment? If the Republicans were to lose any seats in the November election it would be more difficult to thwart the progressives.


Odds are the pandemic will prevent most voters from sizing up prospective office holders in person this election year. State Dems have gone deep into to the digital world as they try to make up for the missing personal touch. Here's a Facebook campaign rally featuring the party's major office seekers and others. It's not the same as a round of rousing speeches at a matanza but it is something:

Viewers heard from Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, Representatives Ben Ray Luján, Deb Haaland and Xochitl Torres Small, Candidate for U.S. House Teresa Leger Fernandez , Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, Senate Majority Whip Mimi Stewart, NM House Speaker Brian Egolf, Justices Shannon Bacon and David Thomson, Judges Zach Ives and Shammara Henderson and DPNM Chair Marg Elliston.

Over on the R side of the aisle NM GOP Chairman Steve Pearce isn't taking a summer break yet from his regular podcast "Inside NM." His latest episode fires up the GOP faithful as he discusses "the radical left-led anarchy sweeping the country."


A headline from HuffPo: "Thanks to a controversial New Mexico rule, rich landowners are staking claim to the state’s public waterways". . .

The link posted Tuesday listing the NM delegates to the Democratic national Convention did not work for a time. Here it is again.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Balloon Fiesta Canned; State Fair Expected To Follow As Pandemic Continues To Bite, Plus; Special Session In The Books With Body Cameras For Cops On The Books, And: NM Dems Milwaukee Bound 

The ABQ International Balloon Fiesta--the state's premier annual tourism event--has thrown in the towel or, if you prefer, deflated their balloons. As expected this year's fiesta has been canned because of the pandemic. Likely soon to follow is the September State Fair. Both events generate gobs of gross receipts revenue for the city of ABQ, not to mention crucial revenue for business and jobs.

Our check of local small businesses show many now open but most of the proprietors (dry cleaners, shoe repair etc.) tell us business remains slow--very slow.

The Legislature had an eye on that during its special session--at least when it was not fawning over lawmakers who were defeated at polls at the June 2 primary election. The senate spent an entire half-day of  the session mourning the losses of conservative Dem Senators while voters in their districts were celebrating their imminent departures. Well, that's Club Santa Fe. It never is quite sure what the real word is thinking--or doesn't want to know.

The Senate adjourned Saturday and the House joined them Monday but not before approving $400 million for low interest small business loans that should help some of the small fry from filing bankruptcy papers. Unfortunately, it is too late for many others. The bill also puts aside $100 million for loans to bail out cities and towns like Santa Fe which faces an estimated $100 million deficit due to the pandemic.

And mandating body cameras for law enforcement was approved as the House wrapped up business early Monday evening. The political impact is on ABQ, where BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales is considering a challenge next year to fellow Dem and ABQ Mayor Tim Keller. Gonzales' refusal to use the cameras may now become a nonissue. However there are plenty of multi-million dollar lawsuit settlements and other Sheriff's department bungling to keep the Keller opposition team on the job.


A poll from the Dem oriented PPP firm is being attacked by the state GOP for lacking credibility because it depends on robocalls to landlines and text messages to cellphone voters. The survey, conducted June 12-13 among 740 NM voters, shows Trump losing the state to Biden 53 to 39 with 8 percent unsure. In the US Senate race the survey has Dem Rep. Ben Ray Lujan leading Republican nominee Mark Ronchetti by 14 points, 48-34 with 18 percent unsure. MLG's job approval rating is put at 52 percent, 33 disapprove and 15 are unsure. Her handling of the coronavirus gets 57 percent approval, 34 disapprove and 9 are unsure. Full poll is here.

Sabato's Crystal Ball rates the Prez contest in NM "likely D." The Cook Political Report rates the Senate race "likely D."

PPP says the margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 3.6 percent.


Selfie Expert Colón
State Dems have finalized their list of delegates to the 2020 Dem National Convention to be held at Milwaukee the week of August 17:

 New Mexico Democrats elected 23 Congressional delegates, 4 Party Leader and Elected Official delegates, and 7 At-large delegates, who will join New Mexico’s 11 automatic delegates.

The full delegate list is here and includes State Auditor Brian Colón, also known as the most photographed man in New Mexico. Expect plenty of selfies from Milwaukee.

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Monday, June 22, 2020

More Questions Than Answers As Special Session Wraps Amid A Worried New Mexico, Plus: Supreme Court Election On Tap To Replace Nakamura  

Rarely has more uncertainty hung over New Mexico. Despite a special legislative session this past weekend that plugged a gaping budget hole, lawmakers still have many more questions than answers.

--What will the price of oil be--the primary budget determinant--when the legislator meets again in January?

--Will the historic jobless spike be largely temporary? How about the tourism crash and gross receipts revenue?

--Will the conservative coalition in the state Senate really be quashed by the Democratic primary election results or will a new coalition of R's and right-leaning Dems somehow emerge? Saturday the Senate took a half day to praise incumbents voters kicked out, causing progressives to wonder just where that body ultimately heads.

---Or will the R's lose key BernCo area senate seats in November making a more left leaning Senate unavoidable? GOP Sens. Rue and Gould have to be nervous, and Dems are hungrily eying the GOP NE Heights Senate seat being vacated by Bill Payne. Also, Valencia County GOP Sen. Greg Baca is well-advised to take no naps.

--Will MLG even be around for the January session? She has risen high on the Biden VP list of possibles. That rise could make her more likely for a cabinet position should Biden win. If so, she's gone in January and Lt. Gov. Howie Morales is Governor.

Big picture questions that are headed our way all at once.

As for the special, legislators cobbled together the expected budget package to get the state through the rest of the year without layoffs or tax hikes. Public schools were largely spared. Most departments took across the board cuts of about 4 percent. Higher education was again on the firing line as its popularity with the public continues to wane.

There was also a dust-up over election laws that was dramatic for insiders but which the public barely noticed.

The Senate has adjourned. The House will finish today and is will consider, among other things, mandatory body cameras for NM law enforcement. The Senate has approved them.


That high-profile domestic violence case against now former BernCo District Attorney spokesman Michael Patrick, husband of KOAT-TV news anchor Shelly Ribando, is no more. Case dismissed:

Patrick was charged with one count of battery on a household member for allegedly hitting and pushing his wife at their Albuquerque home in April. Patrick was later fired. Special prosecutor David Foster says the case was dismissed “based on the fact that the victim in the matter does not wish for a criminal case to proceed, as well as the fact that the deficiencies in the police investigation caused there to be insufficient evidence. . . “Unfortunately, it can be challenging to prosecute domestic dispute cases if family members decide not to press charges,” APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said. . .

One of the media mavens chimes in that "it will be difficult for KOAT and Shelly to paint her as they have in the past. The independent woman with the fairy tale family life. She could be pushed into the background for a while." We shall see. . .


Justice Nakamura
There will be a very short campaign for a seat on the New Mexico Supreme Court. Republican Chief Justice Judy Nakamura says she will hang up her robes effective August 1. Because the vacancy is within 70 days of the Nov. 3 general election state law mandates that the seat go before voters at this November's election.

The Judicial Nominating Commission will recommend a replacement justice to Gov. Lujan Grisham. Her appointee will fill the position through December 31. The Central Committees of the major political parties--Republican, Democrat and Libertarian--can nominate candidates for the November election. Whoever wins will fill out the remainder of Nakamura's eight term that expires in 2024.

Nakamura is the only Republican on the five member court. Only two R's have been elected to the  court in the past 40 years. The 2018 GOP election wipeout made Nakamura the highest ranking NM elected Republican official. If the seat flips to the Dems, you would have to look to the Court of Appeals for any statewide elected GOP office holder. Talk about being in a deep hole. . .


The last of the famous three political King brothers, 89 year old Don King, has passed away at Stanley, NM. He was a rancher, a former county commissioner, state rep and state senator. . . Notice also arrives of the passing of former two term BernCo Commissioner Barbara Seward. She served in the 90's and was 87. . .Charlie Zdravesky, 76, better known as Charlie Z, has died. He was a popular NM radio fixture who effectively used his perch to advocate for prison reform in the wake of the 1980 state pen riots.

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