Thursday, October 08, 2020

Blue Wave Developing? If It Does Here's What It Means To NM, Plus: Dodging Debates, Haranguing Harry And Susana Surfaces 

National surveys showing a strengthening in the position of Joe Biden has prompted talk of a Blue Wave that puts him in the White House and perhaps Dem control of the Senate. But what would a wave mean for New Mexico? 

We’re no stranger to them, having had a giant one in 2008 when Obama claimed the presidency and in the 2018 off-year election when the Dems bolstered their control of the state House and put Dems in all of the statewide executive offices. 

If there is a 2020 wave it would mean GOP BernCo Senate seats belonging to Senators Gould and Rue would fall. And Republican John Morton, seeking the open NE Heights seat of GOP Sen. Payne, would lose. It would also mean that the R’s would pick up no state House seats in BernCo, continuing to leave the state’s largest county with only one Republican House member. 

A wave would mean the R’s would not pick up the seat of John Arthur Smith in the SW. It would also mean the Sandoval County Senate seat being vacated by conservative and outgoing Dem Senator John Sapien would fall to liberal Dem Brenda McKenna instead of R John Clark.

A three seat Dem pick up would mean a Senate of 29 Dems and only 13 R's, down from the current 26-16 breakdown. 

In terms of policy a wave could mean a higher likelihood of legalizing recreational marijuana, approving a constitutional amendment to tap the $20 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood education and probably fiscal stimulus programs that are more liberal.

For example, the state’s $400 million loan program for businesses impacted by the pandemic has been strangled to death by onerous rules that have roadblocked all but $20 million going to businesses suffering because of the virus-caused economic decline. 

One of the bill's sponsors came with an odd quote about the collapse of the loan program, saying: "Implications about the program that it missed its mark are in bad faith." He further said the unrealistic  standards for the loans was a necessary compromise with Senate conservatives. 

The addition of the more liberal senators could loosen the pursestrings and we could also see less support for keeping budget reserves at extraordinary high levels of 20 percent or more. 

So a blue wave is not only a political development, it likely would have major policy implications as the Senate gave  less resistance to the more liberal House. As for the Governor, she would want to take some surfing lessons to figure out how to ride that Blue Wave.


ABQ Dem Rep. Deb Haaland is taking hits for only agreeing to one TV debate with GOP opponent Michelle Garcia Holmes. That debate will take place this Sunday, Oct. 11 at 4 p.m. But Haaland refused to debate on KOB. That brought this from GOP Chair Steve Pearce:

Is this who we want representing us in Washington—someone who wants our vote yet doesn’t have the courtesy and decency to discuss important issues like rising crime and the ailing economy affecting our state? This is a historic election with so much at stake. Perhaps she’s aware of her left-leaning views and knows they don’t fall in line with traditional New Mexico values. She failed in her obligations as an incumbent to address her constituents. This is disrespectful to the voters, and Haaland doesn’t deserve another term. 

Garcia Holmes was given five minutes of free air time by KOB-TV because Haaland refused to debate.

There was a stir when Dem US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan raised questions about whether he would debate his GOP Senate foe Mark Ronchetti on KOB-TV but he ended up going. The debate back and forth and nothing else--including a month-long run of TV ads--seems to be jolting the contest. 

The latest poll is similar to the ABQ Journal survey from early September in which Lujan led 49 to 40. In a new poll conducted by the Dem-leaning PPP Sept. 30 and Oct.1 Lujan was at 51 percent and Ronchetti at 41. Libertarian Bob Walsh had 3 percent in the survey which had a margin of error of 3.3 percent. Lujan topping the magic number of 50 will not go unnoticed.  


Only one of the three US House races is competitive this cycle and continues to draw heat. That 15 second TV ad endorsing Republican Yvette Herrell by former one term southern Dem Congressman Harry Teague is rubbing some supporters of Dem US Rep. Xochitl Torres Small the wrong way. Former Dem Lt. Governor Diane Denish, a native of Hobbs, says:

This ad is a lie. His endorsement has nothing to do with education, healthcare etc.  It's the old story of follow the money. After Harry voted for cap and trade (opposed by the oil industry) during his term, NM Republicans essentially worked to bankrupt him by pulling their servicing contracts from his Hobbs oil firm. Today his business is still on the ropes. His payoff for the endorsement of Herrell is Republican help to bring his business back. Unlike Xochitl, Harry failed to represent his own industry during his term. He didn't know the district in 2010 and he clearly doesn't know it in 2020. Hope the 15 seconds is worth it for him. 

The southern race is pretty much frozen with very few undecided. The two contenders did a 30 minute debate Wednesday night on KOB-TV (no bombs were dropped) but their main job now is getting their vote out. Massive numbers of absentee ballots are set to be returned as soon as next week.


Former NM GOP Gov. Susana Martinez (remember her?) has surfaced on the campaign trail, with the former two term executive urging BernCo voters to support Republican District Judge Daniel Gallegos, one of her judicial appointments. 

I appointed Judge Gallegos just before leaving office because he is a man of honor and integrity. He comes from a family that believes in public service and helping others – his dad was a firefighter and his mom worked in the public schools. Judge Gallegos is tough and principled. 

Dem Metro Court Judge Courtney Weaks is trying to advance to District Court and is opposing Gallegos. The note from the ex-Guv got the attention of her campaign with operatives writing in email:

You need to use this (endorsement) to bring in some money. Should forward this to folks and say Susana is pulling out all the stops. We need your help. . . we need to get up MLG and Deb (Haaland) ads ASAP for Courtney.


The two hopefuls for the open northern congressional seat--Dem Teresa Leger Fernandez and Republican Alexis Martinez Johnson--conducted a TV debate Wednesday afternoon. Video here. . . In blogging of northern Dem state House candidate Roger Montoya this week we said he is seeking the District 50 seat. Montoya is running in District 40 . . .And we said that Sandoval County Commissioner John Block was eyeing a possible GOP run for Guv in 2022. His first name is Jay, not John.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Campaign Trail Features Past Arrests, Duels with Doctors, Disgruntled Dems And More; It's All Here At The Home Of New Mexico Politics 

The Dem Patriot Majority PAC comes with this mailer against Republican Giovanni Coppola. He's running against freshman Dem state Rep. Karen Bash who beat Republican Rep. Monica Youngblood in 2018 and whose infamous DWI arrest on police video cost her the seat. 

2020 is an opportunity for the R's to take the seat back, but the reveal to voters of Coppola's arrests for possession of drug paraphernalia and DWI are not helping. Coppola, 28, comes with this mea culpa to prevent Bash from shutting the race down in the final weeks: 

. . . I have learned and grown from every situation good and bad to become the person I am today. 7 years ago I made some mistakes that are now being used to attack my character. I have and will continue to take full responsibility for everything I have ever said or done. I believe learning from setbacks and becoming better from them is a crucial characteristic to being a good leader. These personal attacks do not define who I am, and only embolden my belief that a leader who takes responsibility, keeps their word, and stands up for what they believe in, is what we need more of in our state.

A Coppola loss would hurt GOP comeback hopes. They are outnumbered in the House 46 to 24. House District 68 is in NW Bernalillo County. Bash beat Youngblood there 58 to 42 percent.


GOP State Senate candidate John Morton, battling Dem Dr. Martin Hickey for the ABQ NE Heights seat being vacated by Republican Sen.Bill Payne, disputes Hickey's claim carried here that he is for eliminating the state corporate income tax: 

My progressive Democratic opponent has sent a mailer to voters in District 20 distorting my position on corporate taxes. Back in May, I made a proposal to temporarily suspend corporate taxes at the height of the Covid-19 crisis. It was a measure that was crafted to take the pressure off companies struggling to stay afloat under extraordinary circumstances. 


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Martin Hickey isn't the only doctor trying to capture a state senate seat. GOP State Rep. Greg Schmedes, a surgeon, is the GOP contender in Senate District 19 after defeating GOP Senator Jim White in the primary. Schmedes faces retired Dem naval officer Clauida Risner in the ABQ East Mountain and Santa Fe County district. And she comes with a zinger for Dr. Schmedes: 

 The Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) announced t​heir support for Claudia Risner. CIR is a union representing over 17,000 resident physicians and fellows. They have endorsed Claudia Risner because she believes it is important to use evidenced-based science and data to make sound health care decisions. They know that Claudia will be a strong proponent for improving residency training and education, advancing patient care, and expanding healthcare access for all New Mexicans. “This endorsement is particularly relevant because my opponent is a physician. I am extremely grateful to our health care community for all they do to ensure our health and wellbeing.”

The District is 43 percent R and only 34 Dem (22% Indy) so this is a high hill for Risner to climb. But if Trump's numbers were to take a dive it could make the race competitive. 


Disgruntled Dems in the southern congressional district are calling him Harry Turncoat now that former one term Dem Rep. Harry Teague, disgruntled with Dem Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, has taken to TV with his endorsement of Republican Yvette Herrell who is opposing XTS. The spot is 15 seconds. Teague says Herrell will fight for education, law enforcement and more. He served just one term in the House, elected in 2008 and ousted by Republican Steve Pearce in 2010. The early September ABQ Journal poll had Torres Small leading Herrell 47 to 45 percent. A recent GOP poll put Herrell one point ahead--48 to 47.


The WaPo comes with an analysis of where each of the 50 states stand in this year's presidential election. About New Mexico, they say:

 Republicans’ struggles with Latinos and suburbanites have wounded their party badly here, with no nominee since George W. Bush winning more than 43 percent of the vote. A Senate seat is open, but Republican losses around Albuquerque have made it hard for the party to get to 50 percent


Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes continues to hammer ABQ Dem US Rep. Deb Haaland on the airwaves. Her latest is this radio spot featuring former Laguna Pueblo Governor John Antonio: 

. . . It's time to vote Deb Haaland out. Under her leadership as the chair of the Laguna Development Board of Directors our pueblo lost millions of dollars on a failed casino purchase. If she allowed that to happen to her own pueblo imagine what she is doing in Congress. That money could have been used for our elders and little ones.

Antonio is referencing this: 

Laguna Development Corporation, the tribe's economic development arm, wanted to buy the Isle of Capri Casino Hotel Lake Charles for $134.5 million. But the deal fell through after the firm failed to secure a gaming license, The Gallup Independent reported. The corporation was not outright denied the license, KPLC reported last November. Instead, its application to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board was withdrawn due to concerns about being able to acquire one.

Haaland's camp came with this

. . . Antonio is either misinformed or has purposely misrepresented the facts. Deb was not a member of the Laguna Development Corporation Board of Directors when Louisiana refused to grant the Pueblo of Laguna a gaming license. This is reckless and a lie --what else do we expect from a Donald Trump disciple? Just like the President, Ms. Holmes has no regard for the truth. Deb has delivered for underrepresented people during her first two years in Congress. . . She has fought for universal pre-k, more funding for education, voted to raise the minimum wage, and broadband internet access. . . In Congress she has been a tireless advocate for the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. She has had the support of Laguna Pueblo in her first and current run for Congress. . .

In the early September ABQ Journal poll Garcia Holmes was trailing Haaland 58 to 31 percent. Haaland is seeking a second term in the ABQ congressional district.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Wild And Crazy 2020 Continues: Guv Quarantined, Gay Porn In State House Race And County Clerks Go To Work Today On Absentee Avalanche, Plus: Analysis Of First US Senate Debate 

The wild and crazy times continue. MLG places herself in quarantine after possible exposure to the coronavirus, a state House candidate admits he acted in gay porn films while in college and county clerks today begin sending a historic number of absentee ballots to voters. Let's tackle a few. . .

All are titillating stories but the one history will remember is the over 305,000 absentee ballots that will start getting sent today by county clerks responding to voter applications requested the past three weeks. Those absentees will begin to come back to the clerks over the weekend, putting an end to the campaign for tens of thousands of voters at the earliest point ever.

Voters can continue to request absentees until October 20, perhaps bringing the total absentee vote close to the 400,000 mark or about 50 percent of the total vote expected to be cast. Combined with in-person early voting that begins later this month, the total early vote could comprise 60 to 70 percent percent of all votes cast during this pandemic.

But how can the clerks handle such a crush of absentees? Hard work combined with forward thinking legislation should get the job done. We talked with ABQ attorney and Dem state Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto, recognized not only as an authority on NM election law but also nationally. His Senate Bill 4 legislation (co-sponsored by Rep. Linda Trujillo) was a major overhaul of the voting system. Here's his comments on handling the absentee avalanche:

Under longstanding law Clerks can begin processing absentees five days before the election--opening the outer envelope and making sure certain information was listed by the voter so they are not disqualified. In the big counties such as Bernallio that work can actually begin October 20. That should be plenty of time even for this historic absentee turnout. The votes are "registered" as they come in which means they are counted by the machines and only need to be totaled on Election Night. 

Ivey-Soto says that voters should mail their absentees by October 27 because the post office guarantees delivery no later than 7 days and the election is November 3. But the veteran lawmaker says he will forego the mail. He will vote absentee and then place the ballot in a secure drop box at an early voting location. Good idea.



Should a 59 year old state House candidate be forced to quit his race because he acted in gay porn films when he was 22 and in college? The state GOP thinks so, saying of Democratic District 40 House candidate Roger Montoya:

 This irresponsible and reckless behavior of starring in gay porno films, whether it takes place now or years ago, is unbecoming of any candidate or elected official,” said Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce. “If you’re a public servant, you must be held to the highest standards. New Mexico holds dear to its strong, traditional values, and Mr. Montoya should leave the race immediately.”

For his part, Montoya is staying put:

"I am not proud of that choice, as I was young, and naïve," Montoya, a longtime community organizer who was recognized last year as a CNN Hero, said in a statement. "But those experiences helped me to understand the exploitation young people face," he wrote.

Dems disagreeing with Pearce asked if longtime GOP Senator Pete Domenici should have been forced out of the Senate because he fathered an out of wedlock child with a prominent lobbyist in his early Senate years? They argued that could also be labeled reckless and irresponsible. 

The state Democratic Party says it fully stands behind Montoya and that if anyone should get out of the race it should be Trump because of his past disgraces  

And what about that GOP reference to "gay porn?" Is that more morally offensive than porn consumed by straight viewers?

The story was broken by up and coming GOP blogger John Block who publishes the Pinon Post.

Montoya is opposed by Española GOP Councilor Justin Salazar-Torrez. The district is heavy Dem (but Española has a gay GOP mayor). We'll put it on our watch list for Election Night when we broadcast results over KANW 89.1 FM and kanw.com. 


Republican Mark Ronchetti won last night's KOB-TV debate on style because Democrat Ben Ray Lujan inexplicably appeared for the face-off from his ABQ office with a brick wall as the backdrop. That bounced his voice around the room and caused an annoying echo. Style matters and he let Ronchetti win on that. Because of COVID the candidates could be where they wanted to be. TV pro Ronchetti wisely chose the studio and Libertarian Bob Walsh, like Luján, also chose a remote location.

But in the crucial aspects of the debate--organization, knowledge and effective rebuttal--Lujan held his own against the many expected attacks from underdog Ronchetti who came well-briefed.  

However, Ronchetti's refusal to utter the words "pro-life" in answer to a question on Roe v. Wade may have been a bridge too far for his GOP base as he left them to capture crucial votes in the ABQ metro. He called Roe v. Wade "settled law" and left it at that. 

His dilemma is that the centrist voters who elected Senator Domenici and Congressman Manuel Lujan, Jr. and in whose footsteps he is trying to follow are today few and far between. He made a debate effort to find them in ABQ with a tough on crime message that does have cross party appeal. But it was not enough to topple Lujan. Some observers think this campaign could lead to a Ronchetti run for ABQ mayor in 2021. 

For his part the six term congressman didn't need to say much else than what he said about his work for New Mexico: "It's in my blood." He would be the state's first Hispanic US Senator since Joe Montoya left the post in 1977 and he's paid his dues to get there. Ridiculed early in his career for being a blackjack dealer and airhead, at the debate Lujan showed the insider congressional knowledge (and knowledge of the state) that has catapulted him to the #4 position in the House leadership--Assistant Speaker. 

Ronchetti called Lujan out for his support of Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, both policies that Lujan was pushed toward by the liberal wing of his party. His responses showed that at heart he is an establishment Dem, not an AOC acolyte. And Lujan called out Ronchetti for wanting to privatize Medicare and Medicaid, a charge Ronchetti denied.

UNM political science professor Lona Atkinson said both candidates often dodged the question posed to them and went off on their own tangents. 

The presence of 83 year old Walsh proved more of a distraction than enlightening and hurt Ronchetti by gobbling up airtime he could have used to press more attacks against Lujan.

And how about this? We did not count any mentions of Donald Trump by the candidates. None. (Maybe we missed one? One of the moderators did mention him in a question.) Talk about an elephant in the room going unnoticed. That was like a trio of them being ignored.

There was no defining moment in the hour long face-off that will change the narrative but there was enough back and forth to make a viewer look forward to the KOAT-TV debate later this month. 

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Monday, October 05, 2020

Old Fashioned Snail Mail Deluge Begins; Skimpy Voter Contact In Virus Era Makes Method More Valuable; We Have Some Samples  

Forget email and text messaging. Good old fashioned snail mail is still a king of campaigns in the final stretch. The mailboxes of New Mexicans are so stuffed with campaign literature that the volume rivals the days when folks used to mail Christmas cards. Let's take a look at some of this modern day literature using the old school post office.

First up is this piece from Democratic Dr. Martin Hickey, seeking election to the state Senate in a new battleground district in the ABQ NE Heights--the seat being vacated by longtime GOP Senator Bill Payne. 

Talk about good timing. There are no doctors in the 42 member senate and Hickey's backers say what better time for one than the middle of a pandemic? Hickey takes advantage and sports a face mask in this piece that reinforces his concerns with the virus. His Republican opponent is John Morton, a  retired Air Force Intelligence Officer, who has yet to hit the mailboxes. 

In addition to emphasizing his public safety credentials Hickey is labeling Morton as "too extreme," citing his support of eliminating the state corporate income tax.

Senate District 20 has been a GOP stronghold but BernCo going Blue in recent years has now put this open seat in play. It breaks down at 40 percent Dem, 36 R and 24 Independent. Because of the very real possibility that Trump will be defeated in BernCo in a landslide this Senate seat along with the ones held by BernCo Republicans Sander Rue and Candace Gould are also in danger of falling to the D's.  


One of the shocks of election Night '18 was the defeat of GOP state Rep. Jimmie Hall at the hands of Dem Melanie Stansbury. The district had been solid R for decades, but even this far NE Heights and East Mountain district (28) went blue in the Dem year with former Obama administration aide Melanie Stansbury taking the win. But now she has to get re-elected and the Dems don't appear to be taking any chances.

This hit piece from the Dem Patriot Majority PAC against R Tom Stull, a 30 year retired Air Force veteran challenging Stansbury, jabs him over health care policy. 

The district is now 39 percent Dem, 37 R and 22 percent independent. If the R's are going to get back this territory now would be their chance by taking on a first-termer. However, demographic changes and Trump's weakness give Dems the edge. 


If you're a fan of the elected Public Regulation Commission (PRC), we've got bad news. The forces that favor turning the powerful five member regulatory panel into a three member panel appointed by the governor has the momentum--and the big money--behind them. 

Look at this piece (click to enlarge) that the New York based Environmental Defense Fund spent over $260,000 on to persuade voters. The EDF and other national enviro groups have been livid over the PRC ever since several of its members questioned the Energy Transition Act (ETA) that ultimately passed the legislature and was signed into law by Gov. MLG. The ETA mandates more renewable energy.

Our PRC watchers say the enviros have another $250,000 ready to go for TV ads in support of the constitutional amendment that would make the switch. So far there has been no major campaign to save the elected commission. That's fine with MLG who has been pushing for the change from behind the scenes. 

And there's just a few examples of the hundreds of candidate and issue mail pieces jamming the mailboxes this month. How persuasive is it? That's questionable but in the no contact coronavirus era it's a reliable way to reach the voters. 


Two years out is the traditional time when we start to see potential Guv candidates coming out of their foxholes and looking around to see if opportunity is knocking. One of the first this time is ABQ financial consultant Greg Zanetti. Hee was the featured speaker over the weekend at the annual Dona Ana County GOP Lincoln-Reagan Dinner. Our Alligators report about 200 were in attendance. Zanetti made a play for the 2010 GOP Guv nod but ended that campaign early. Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block is also among the R's taking an early look at the 2022 race. If MLG doesn't get an appointment to Washington, she is expected to run again. If she goes the Dems could have some Guv primary action of their own. 


The US Senate candidates conduct their first debate tonight at 6 p.m. on KOB-TV. Democrat Ben Ray Lujan and Republican Mark Ronchetti will be joined by Libertarian candidate Bob Walsh. 

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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