Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Final Numbers Show How Trump Paved The Way For Herrell, Plus: Merry Christmas, New Mexico  

The take on this year's southern congressional race was the same from beginning to end--if Donald Trump carried the district by double digits then Republican Yvette Herrell would be poised to defeat Dem US Rep. Xochitl Torres Small. And that's what happened. 

Herrell whomped XTS 54-46 and thanks to the trackers at the Daily Kos we have the final numbers behind that win. They report that Trump carried the district by 12 points--55 to 43:

That actually represented a small increase from (Trump's) 50-40 win four years earlier, though the 2016 numbers were skewed somewhat by former Gov. Gary Johnson, who took a sizable 9% running on the Libertarian ticket. Torres Small won a huge upset in the 2018 blue wave when she defeated Republican Yvette Herrell 51-49. . . 

For the first time in a presidential race since New Mexico added a third congressional seat following the 1980 census, the 1st (ABQ) District gave a higher share of its vote to the Democrat than the (northern) 3rd. . .This year, the 1st went for Biden 60-37 while the 3rd supported him 58-40; the strong result in the 1st was powered by Biden's 61-37 win in Bernalillo County, the second-best showing by a Democrat of all time, trailing only FDR's massive 1936 romp. 

Herrell's victory, however, may be short-lived. The Legislature will meet later this year to redistrict the state. With Dems controlling the Governor's office and the House and Senate, the expectation is that the southern district will be turned blue beginning with the 2022 election.


2020 will never be a year skipped over by history and for all the wrong reasons. But it's almost over now and we look to the future with reason for hope. 

With the help of a vaccine the pandemic is on the way to burning out, the state's financial condition is better than expected and no matter the year or century the ancient allure of New Mexico is as close as a step out your front door. That can never be taken from us. 

In this space on the cusp of Christmas 2006 I wrote this of our state: 

We live in a wonderful, almost fantasy-like environment in this Land of Enchantment. It is a gift that gives year round--the sunsets that make hearts soar; the mountains that inspire dreams; the never-ending landscapes that give a spiritual dimension to daily life. The contrast of this earthly perfection with our crazed, but beloved La Politica makes us that more inscrutable to the outside world. 

New Mexico politics is also special because ancient customs collide with the contemporary. It's what makes our state so deliciously baffling and delightful and so pleasurable to talk with you about through this blog. 

Thanks for joining me today and all the days of 2006 (and 2020). I look forward to more special times with you when we return in the new year. 

Merry Christmas, New Mexico! 

Frank, that's your cue. . .


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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Reaching For The Stars: GOP Looks For Longshot Win in Special Congress Election; How About Judge Judy? Plus: Two Dems Announce For Haaland Seat 

Judge Nakamura
It's a long shot but a lower turnout special election to fill the seat of ABQ Dem Rep. Deb Haaland would offer the Republicans a better chance than a regular general election.

Nostalgic R's fondly recall 1997. That's when they scored one of the great upsets of La Politica by winning the heavily Democratic northern congressional seat in a special election to fill the seat of Rep. Bill Richardson who had been appointed United Nations Ambassador. The story of that race is here.

Our Republican Alligators are digging to come up with plausible candidates who--with the help of some big mistakes by the Dems--might manage to pull off an upset that would equal that of '97.

A possibility that's intriguing is Judge Judy Nakamura. This month she retired from the NM Supreme Court and was replaced by MLG with Court of Appeals Judge Julie Vargas.

Nakamura 60, stunned the state in 2016 when she became the first R to win a high court seat since 1980 and the first Republican woman in state history to win one. She defeated Dem Michael Vigil 52 to 48, largely because of her strong showing in Bernalillo County where she was a longtime and popular Metro Court and District Court judge.

Could she make similar work of the Dems in the special election for the ABQ congressional seat, if Haaland is confirmed as Sec. of Interior? This GOP Gator sizes it up:

. . . Having a great reputation in Bernalillo county, Nakamura would bring some healthy competition to this race. Her common-sense rulings, notably the recent COVID-related issues in front of the supreme court, may have hurt her chances with the "all Trump, all the time" contingent of the party, but could be a chance to bring the GOP back towards the center. It is clear that she appeals to both sides of the aisle, with awards galore for her accomplishments on and off the bench. Her experience as being a previous Political Director for the GOPNM definitely helps her street cred. Her commitment to the rule of law, and having a been a long-serving jurist would ensure having an honest, ethical, and principled candidate on the ballot. As a woman of color, she definitely checks some boxes. 

Nakamura has said she is looking forward to retirement to spend time with family and engage in her passion for hot air ballooning. For those reasons we don't see her answering the call. Still, Nakamura's shadow over any contest should keep the Dems on their toes and remind them that this is no free ride and mistakes made will matter. 


The official announcements for the Haaland seat are taking shape. State Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez came with a 10 minute video of her candidacy on Facebook and State Rep. Melanie Stansbury came with a statement of candidacy. Both women will be wooing just 200 or so Democratic Party Central Committee members from the ABQ district who will decide the nominee. 

Or will they decide?

Insiders are talking of a possible lawsuit against the D's that would force them to shelve the central committee process and go to a primary election to select their nominee. That scuttlebutt comes on the heels of Rep. Daymon Ely saying here Monday that he will introduce legislation in the next session to take the central committee out of the process and give it to the voters. We''ll see how it pans out. 


One of our Senior Alligators, a true mischief maker, comes with a scenario for the R's to pull off an upset and whip the Dems in a special congressional election:

Joe, there is no rule that says the GOP State Central Committee needs to pick a Republican to run. How about a moderate Democrat like former US Attorney Damon Martinez? He finished second to Haaland in the 2018 primary and would be more acceptable to middle of the road Dems than any progressive. Martinez would have to run as a Republican, but think of what this could mean in the special election.

That's a whole of mischief making but this is the week for miracles isn't it?


Rep. Ben Ray Lujan has given his farewell speech to the US House. He will be sworn in as a Senator January 3, replacing Tom Udall. 

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Monday, December 21, 2020

Wild Chase For ABQ Congressional Seat Gets New Wrinkles: Lawmaker Proposes To Bypass Party Insiders And Give Voters The Say In Election, Plus: First Big Surprise: Maggie Is Out  

Rep. Ely 
Intense competition is underway among a pack of ambitious politicos in the embryonic race for the soon-to-be vacant ABQ congressional seat but the rules they will play by are not set in stone. 

The current process of picking the nominees--akin to modern smoke-filled rooms--is under attack and there could be a major change in the way the special election to fill the shoes of Dem Rep. Deb Haaland is conducted.

ABQ area Dem State Rep. Daymon Ely confirms to NM Politics with Joe Monahan that he will introduce a bill next month at the legislative session that would take the decision of who will be on the ballot away from a small group of Democratic and Republican Party State Central Committee members.

Says Ely, an attorney starting his third term:

I really like all the candidates mentioned so far but we should have an inclusive, democratic process.

Haaland was tapped last week by President-elect Biden for Secretary of Interior. She will resign her seat when and if she is given Senate confirmation. 

The procedures to replace her are foreign to most voters but Mr. and Mrs. Albuquerque understand that the election door is largely closed on them. They have no say on the nominees, only that they will vote on them at a special election. 

Rep. Ely's legislation would strip the central committees of their nominating roles. There would be a single election--no primaries--where qualified candidates of all parties would be placed on the ballot. 

It's called a "jungle" election because it includes the Dem, R and Libertarian candidates. 

California uses the jungle method for their primary elections. All candidates are on the ballot and the two top vote-getters face off in the general election--regardless of party affiliation.

Ely is proposing a variation, awarding the ABQ congressional seat (and future vacancies) in one election using ranked choice voting. That's the system where voters rank their favorite candidates and currently used in Santa Fe city elections. Here's the explainer from Ballotpedia:

A ranked-choice voting system (RCV) is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

The election heavy in the Senate is ABQ's Daniel Ivey-Soto. And it could take heavy lifting to get the Ely bill passed as it makes new and dramatic changes.

Haaland is now not expected to vacate her seat until March or later because the Dems have a slim majority in the US House and they need her vote in the early months. Here's an explainer

This means the election to fill Haaland's seat would occur at the earliest in mid-May and more likely June or later. Once a vacancy is declared the election would be held 77 to 91 days later.


Toulouse Oliver
The first big surprise in filling the Haaland seat is the no go from Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver

Toulouse Oliver, 44, who last year sought the Dem Senate nomination against Ben Ray Lujan before withdrawing, is nothing if not ambitious so her decision raised eyebrows. In a Facebook posting Sunday she said:

. . . We have the responsibility for choosing a new U.S. Representative when Deb Haaland takes on her next historic role. I look forward to a robust campaign, but I will not be a candidate. I value my work as your secretary of state too much to consider heading to D.C. at this time. Thanks for your support over the years. And please remember to vote in the CD1 special election, if you are eligible. . . 

MTO is eligible to stay on as SOS through 2026. Her departure from the race leaves Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, 63, who is expected to make an official announcement today, State Rep. Melanie Stansbury, 41, and trial attorney Randi McGinn, 64, as the three major female contenders.


Rep. Haaland appeared Saturday with Biden and other members of his environmental team and made remarks broadcast nationally. Her comments begin at 33:00. . . GOP Alligators say Peggy Aragon, ABQ westside school board member, is weighing a run for the Haaland congressional seat. . . 

Radio talker Eddy Aragon says he will seek the GOP nomination for the seat. He came in second to Steve Pearce in the recent race for GOP party chairman. . . GOP Alligators report that attorney Jared Vander Dussen, 27, who sought the 2020 GOP US House nomination, is looking at running in the special and that R Mark Ronchetti will not run.

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