Thursday, July 02, 2020

Top Rep. Lujan Aide Lands Spot On Biden Transition Team, Plus: Update On MLG Cabinet Chatter And A Rural Take On State Senate losers 

Angela Ramirez
He may not plan on campaigning much here but New Mexicans can't complain that Joe Biden is ignoring them. The latest is this news:

Other officials the Biden campaign has announced hiring for the transition are Avril Haines, a deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration who will manage national security and foreign policy planning; Angela Ramirez, the chief of staff to Representative Ben Ray Luján, Democrat of New Mexico. . .

Biden is not getting ahead of the parade. It is traditional for a major party nominee not occupying the White House to start a transition team in the event of a fall victory.

In the years ahead New Mexico's fragile economy is going be even more dependent on federal funding. Lujan is the frontrunner to take the open US Senate seat in the November election so having his top aide on the Biden transition is encouraging.

It's not just about New Mexico, of course. Biden is ever mindful of the importance of Hispanics nationally to his presidential chances.

Ramirez has been with Lujan since he was first elected in 2008. She came to him after a stint as the executive director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. She was raised in Sacramento, CA.

Both her parents spent long days in the fields, living what she called “their version of the American dream.” They would later go on to send their daughter to Princeton.

Then there's Biden doting on Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, vetting her for the vice-presidential slot. As it turns out, Biden is now said to be leaning toward naming a Black woman. Still, the rumor mill persists that the cabinet position of Secretary of Health is really the prize that could await MLG. Would she be interested in shedding the power of a governor to take it? A Senior Alligator close to the situation offers this take:

It would probably be a coin flip on whether she would take it. Some of it could depend on how left the state Senate goes in the November election. She is not comfortable too far from the center. Also, the state's finances could play a part. Given the pandemic the new Sec. of Health will be sharing much power with the White House and that could be another consideration.

MLG is a former director for the NM Department of Health. In the past she has been quick to leave positions to climb the ladder, taking leave of the BernCo Commission to run for the US House and leaving that to seek the Governorship. If Biden wins he can be expected to fill out his cabinet by mid-December. Until then, the guessing game will continue to entertain La Politica. (Okay, Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, watch your heart rate.)


A reader from rural New Mexico snail mails us (yes, they still have that) to disagree with the pundits on their analysis of why so many incumbent senators were defeated at the June primary:

Joe, I believe the pundits got the election wrong. Almost all of the coverage was about how New Mexico is turning left because a handful of moderates in the Senate lost to a handful of liberals. Out in the rest of New Mexico we interpreted this election as a desperate cry from everyday New Mexicans for term limits. That was the real story. 

Seven sitting incumbents in the Senate, 5 Democrats and 2 Republicans, were defeated in their own parties. Never have there been so many Senate incumbents rejected by voters in their own primaries. Joe, go back to statehood. You won't find a primary where more incumbent senators lost to challengers. 

Fully 1/6 of the Senate got shown the door by voters from their own party. You can add Republican Senator Bill Payne and Dem Senator John Sapien who didn't run for re-election because they could at least see the writing on the wall. Good riddance and y basta! (Enough is enough!)

Senator Mary Kay Papen is 88 and John Arthur Smith is 78 so it's not a stretch to say a number of voters went against them because they believed they were there too long. As for the primary seeing more incumbent senators losing than anytime since statehood, we'll have to get back to you on that. Please check your snail mail.

Happy Fourth of July, New Mexico!

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Wednesday, July 01, 2020

NM R's Florida Bound; Delegates Making Travel Plans For National Convention, Plus: Davis Stands Pat; ABQ Councilor Assailed As A Racist Ex-Cop Defends Turf  

The Dems pulled the plug on an in-person national convention in August so the NM delegates will have to find a way to party over Zoom. But for the 22 New Mexico delegates to the GOP national convention in Jacksonville, Fl. August 25- 27, it's party on. Their convention will be mainly in-person and will feature President Trump's acceptance speech of the Republican nomination the night of the 27th.

The R's named their delegates this past weekend. A complete list is here. It includes old warhorses of the state GOP including former state GOP Chairs Allen Weh, his daughter Debbie Maestas, Harvey Yates and current NM GOP Chair Steve Pearce. State House Minority Leader Jim Townsend and former NM House Speaker Don Tripp are also on the list of delegates Florida bound.

The GOP reports that at their weekend meeting Townsend and Tina Dziuk, Roosevelt County Chairwoman, were elected to replace Yates and Rosie Tripp as the party's national committeeman and woman following the national convention.

Much of the national convention business was moved to Jacksonville from Charlotte, NC when that state's Dem governor would not commit to hosting a fully attended convention, without social distancing and face coverings. Still, 6 of the NM delegates will travel to NC to take part in business still scheduled there.

As usual, the GOP has its work to do in blue New Mexico. Polling shows the president trailing Biden here and that could make it tougher for Yvette Herrell to reclaim the southern congressional seat for the R's from Dem Rep. Torres Small. That's their top goal this year. Another is to play solid defense and prevent the loss of several state Senate seats being targeted by the Dems.


Councilor Davis
ABQ City Council President Pat Davis is a racist ex-cop and should resign. That was the call recently from ProgressNowNM, the progressive advocacy group once run by Davis.

They declared war when longtime Davis critic and former ABQ City Councilor Pete Dinelli came with a blog post that took Davis to task over a well-known 2004 shooting in which then-DC cop Davis wounded a Black suspect. The post also included new info on lesser known abuse allegations when Davis was a UNM cop.

The news was especially sensitive given the recent momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement. However, no other major progressive groups have joined in calling for the head of Davis and he has said he will not resign his presidency or the SE Heights council seat to which he was elected to a second term last year. He comes with a vigorous defense, saying that Dinelli "misrepresented" his record. His complete response is here.

So what's really going on? Much of the conflict is due to Davis' involvement in the recent BernCo Commission candidacy of LGBQT activist Adrian Carver who attacked his opponent, Adriann Barboa, another member of the LGBQT community as is Davis. 

Carver was skewered by progressives for scorching Barboa for a past cannabis arrest as well as outstanding warrants for traffic violations. He was soundly defeated by Barboa for the Dem nomination in the June 2 primary for the commission seat that takes up a large part of Davis' council district. Davis worked for Carver's campaign. 

No R is running in November so Barboa is headed to the five member commission.

Calling progressive Davis a racist or nonprogressive is like calling a priest an atheist. Still, his foes could try to launch a recall election against him. That would take 2,5000 signatures of registered voters. But there's a clause in the City Charter that makes a recall unlikely:

. . . As a condition of circulating a petition for recall the factual allegations supporting the grounds of misconduct in office or violation of the oath of office stated in the petition shall be presented to the City Clerk. The petition shall not be circulated unless, after a hearing in state district court in which the proponents of the recall and the official sought to be recalled are given an opportunity to present evidence.

Davis is not being accused of any wrongdoing while holding his council seat and his term doesn't expire until the end of 2023. That will probably mean more contentiousness between him and Barboa. The public will be watching because progressives are accumulating power on the commission and council. Their infighting matters.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Yes To Yazzie And No To MLG: Court Upholds Landmark Public Ed Ruling, Plus: Readers React To Haaland And Oñate  

It's yes to Yazzie and a get to work message for Governor Lujan Grisham. The news:

A state district judge on Monday rejected the governor's motion to dismiss Yazzie/Martinez v. The State of New Mexico, a landmark education funding lawsuit. "Until there are long-term comprehensive reforms implemented by the state," First Judicial District Judge Matthew Wilson said, "the court will maintain jurisdiction over this case." 

In 2018 Judge Sarah Singleton ruled New Mexico's schools had been depriving English-learning, Native American, low-income and special-education students — around 80 percent of the state's 330,000 students — of an education that adequately prepares them for college and careers.

That MLG would challenge Singleton's finding that the state was in violation of its Constitution for failing to provide for children at risk was perplexing. She had said early in her term that she supported Singleton's ruling and would launch an educational "moonshot" to correct deficiencies. But the moonshot was off the pad for only a short time. The oil crash and pandemic took it down. Besides, much of the Governor's education budget increase went to teacher pay--not to programs to satisfy the court order. But she didn't want to give up control of public ed to the courts and fought.


Judge Wilson
A number of Democratic Hispanic and Native American state House members firmly opposed MLG's motion and celebrated the ruling:

Rep. Derrick Lente (D-Sandia Pueblo): “My district includes all of the children named in the Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit. I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure they have their constitutional right to a sufficient and uniform education. . . It is my hope the work that lies ahead will be done with a spirit of cooperation that will yield many benefits for. . . our children.”

Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena (D-Mesilla): ". . . .I send my kids to school hoping their classrooms are safe, equitable, and equipped to get them ready for the future they and all little ones deserve. . . I appreciate Judge Wilson for recognizing that New Mexico is only getting started on meeting the mandates of the historic Yazzie/Martinez ruling.”

Historic indeed and brilliantly reasoned by the late Judge Singleton. Her full ruling is here. To his credit, Judge Wilson, a Democrat appointed by GOP Gov. Martinez, recognized the transformational change his colleague had put forth. Now it's up to Santa Fe to find the funding to make the change--and to obey the law.


Rep. Haaland
Reader reaction to our Monday blog that ABQ Dem Rep. Deb Haaland is not calling for removal of public statues commemorating Juan de Oñate. Here's the self-proclaimed "Crockagator" from ABQ's westside:

Joe, I think that you better do a little more research before you say Oñate cut off the ankles of Acoma Pueblo men. It was the dedo del pie, otherwise known as the toes. This was the sentence that was handed down at a trial in Santo Domingo. Oñate was not at Acoma when the battle between 70 Spaniards and over 1,000 Acomas took place over five days. Another thing: Oñate was not a Conquistador but more like a Crusader who came from a rich mining Mexican family and funded the settlement and made sure that priests were part of his retinue. 

Reader Tom Miles writes:

The Albuquerque Tricentennial Timeline at the Convention Center lays out a pretty complete history of Hispanic/Native American interactions from Oñate to after the Pueblo Indian Revolt and reconciliation. I created it in 2005-6 exactly for that reason: to give a fuller, richer, accessible view and understanding of Albuquerque’s and New Mexico’s rich and fascinating past. The Timeline copy at the Airport has not gotten re-installed in the visitor wing since the new art went up and came down. I’d love to see it there so folks could gain a better and quicker idea of what New Mexico and Mexico was and is all about.

Mitchell Freedman of Rio Rancho disagrees with our description of Haaland as "unabashedly supporting her party's left wing."

Haaland. . . has not supported Bernie's single payer health care proposal and has voted for every military budget Trump and the Republicans have presented. Deb was mum about Bernie's detailed Green New Deal proposal which environmental groups such as Greenpeace have stated is the best GND proposal so far. Deb supports free public college tuition but was not an early advocate and has continued to refuse to support canceling student loan debt. In 2016, Deb supported Hillary Clinton. Recently, Deb was a late supporter of  presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren but after Warren dropped out refused to back Bernie. As a progressive I fully support Deb for re-election. However, I think it is more accurate to describe her as somewhere in between an Establishment Dem and a progressive--not "unabashedly left wing."

On her campaign web site Haaland says:

We need national public health insurance -- Medicare for All -- a model that has been proven across the world to lower costs, increase efficiency, and ensure the most people have access to care. Health care is a human right.  

As for Warren, she endorsed her in July of 2019.

Haaland is seeking her second term this year. She is being challenged by Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes.

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Monday, June 29, 2020

Another Twist In the Judge Judy Retirement; She's Not Ready To Go, Plus: Haaland And Oñate And Trump And New Mexico 

Justice Nakamura
Hold your horses, Victor Lopez. . .

An upcoming vacancy on the NM Supreme Court continues to provide summer intrigue.

The latest has Chief Justice Judy Nakamura delaying her planned August 1 retirement because of issues with her retirement with the Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA). But how long a delay?

If Nakamura retires after September 3--less than 60 days before the November 3 election, state law says there would be no election for her seat. The appointee picked by the Governor from the list provided by the Judicial Nomination Commission would fill out Nakamura's term and the seat would not be up for election until 2022.

Nakamura says her retirement will be delayed until "later this year." That could easily mean past the 60 day election deadline. If she leaves after the November election , that would give MLG breathing room to appoint someone who might be questioned for being too politically close, according to the Legal Beagles. Her general counsel has been mentioned as a possible appointee.

Nakamura made her delay announcement Friday, only days after Dem ABQ District Court Judge Victor Lopez announced he would seek election to the seat and asked the Democratic Party Central Committee, responsible for naming a candidate for the vacancy to name him. (Republicans and Libertarians--the state's other major political parties--would also get to name candidates for the election in the event of a vacancy.)

The Lopez jump-the-gun move was the subject of our Friday blog. It received mixed Dem reaction because Lopez seeks to make an end run around whomever MLG appoints to fill the vacancy. That appointee could also be expected to seek the blessing of the Central Committee to become the party's November candidate.

Republican Nakamura, 59, is creating plenty of twists and turns for the Dems, but the odds of the seat staying in R hands are slim. Only two R's--including Nakamura--have managed to get elected to the five member court in the last 40 years.


ABQ Dem Rep. Deb Haaland, one of two Native American women in the US House, is known for unabashedly supporting her party's left wing, but she is taking a softer approach when it comes to a thorny issue close to home that has the progressive wing inflamed. In an op-ed Haaland avoids directly answering the question of whether statutes commemorating Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate should be removed:

Should we remove statues of Oñate? Perhaps we should erect statues of local heroes who have been a strong voice or remedied injustice. Would removing the statues erase the pride that Hispanic communities should feel? No, their generations of families have made our state what it is today. We all should be proud of the Hispanic heritage in New Mexico.

The violence this month that broke out at a demonstration over the Oñate statue near ABQ's Old Town ended with a man being shot. As for the statue, the city has removed it and a committee will now consider its future. Another statue of Oñate, in Española, has also been removed--at least temporarily.

Oñate's legacy includes ordering the cutting off ankles of Acoma Pueblo men during his conquest, a shocking event that is central to the calls for the removal of the statue commemorating his journey through the state in the 16th century. But Haaland is searching for a middle ground that takes into account the centuries-long and nuanced relationship between the state's Native Americans and Hispanics. She notes how intertwined they are culturally and in many other ways. A good chunk of her political base may be clamoring for removal of the Oñate statue but it is a decision our state will have to live with for years to come. Haaland's reflective posture leans toward  understanding, not a verdict. Ultimately, that's the way forward.


Republicans anxiously await a signal from the Trump campaign that it will seriously compete for New Mexico's five electoral votes. The latest from The Hill:

The Trump campaign has circled Minnesota, New Mexico and New Hampshire as blue battlegrounds it believes are primed to turn red. There is very little polling of these states but nothing yet to set off alarms for Biden’s campaig. . . A survey of New Mexico from left-leaning Public Policy Polling found Biden ahead by 14 points.

Trump's performance is key in the battle for the southern congressional district where first-term Dem Rep.  Xochitl Torres Small faces Republican Yvette Herrell. In 2016 Trump won the district by 10 points. R's fear that if he falls below that mark this year Herrell's chances will greatly diminish.

As for Trump carrying New Mexico, that remains a very long shot. The Dem bastions of ABQ, Santa Fe and Las Cruces have been reliably blue for three consecutive presidential contests. Carry them and you carry the state.

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