Thursday, January 07, 2021

STARTLING AND DISTURBING: Trumpism Hits Bottom And May Drag Down More NM Republicans, Plus: How About A Shorter Legislative Session? And: A Hurdle For Legalized Pot 

After the striking and disturbing events at the US Capitol Wednesday will anyone now care when later this year the Democrats inevitably redistrict Republican US Rep. Yvette Herrell out of the southern congressional seat she captured from the D's in November? 

 Herrell's defense of Trump's unfounded claims that his election defeat was fraudulent led her to join other House R's to object to the certification of the election. Then the political world around her exploded. The pictures tell the story.

For now this is the end of Trumpism, a virulent strain of politics that has infected Herrell and other Republicans who should have known better or at least started taking antibiotics once the seriousness of the infection was clear. 

R's tried to seize the moral high ground when NM House Speaker Brian Egolf boldly said shortly after Herrell was elected that "next time it’ll be a different district and we’ll have to see what that means for Republican chances to hold it.” 

Egolf was taken to the woodshed for the impolite comments, but now he is the one occupying high ground and can proceed without fear or threat of reprisal to redistrict Herrell out of office.

No need for him to shout it from the rooftops. The work can now be done quietly and efficiently. For the public it will be like watching surgeons extract a cancerous tumor. Republicanism deserves life. Trumpism no longer does.


Another disciple of Trump's, Dem BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales, who harbors hopes of becoming ABQ"s next mayor, is also on his way to the political guillotine unless he drastically changes his ways. Given the gravity of what has happened it may already be too late. 

State House Minority Leader Jim Townsend of Artesia is another victim. His recent complaining over not getting enough respect from the Dem House leaders is now going to fall on a public's deaf ears--until he and his brethren shed their Trump skins. 

Republicans in New Mexico have lost nearly everything. You thought they couldn't lose anything more. 

And then came Wednesday, January 6, 2021.

60 DAYS?

Does the Legislature really need to meet for 60 days this year amid the COVID crisis that is forcing the entire session--at least on the House side--to be held via zoom. The massive inconvenience and precedent shattering decision to close the Capitol to the public during the session is also raising questions. 

Some Roundhouse watchers point out that the Legislature is not required to meet for two months. That is the maximum amount of time they can meet. After that a special session has to be called. So how about a 30 or 40 day session? Food for thought for the legislative leadership. 


While efforts to legalize recreational marijuana will see a more friendly Legislature, it will not be without major hurdles. Like this one titled: "How state marijuana legalization became a boon for corruption."

15 states have legalized a regulated marijuana market for adults over 21, and another 17 have legalized medical marijuana. But in their rush to limit the numbers of licensed vendors and give local municipalities control of where to locate dispensaries, they created something else: A market for local corruption. Almost all the states that legalized pot either require the approval of local officials – as in Massachusetts -- or impose a statewide limit on the number of licenses, chosen by a politically appointed oversight board, or both. These practices effectively put million-dollar decisions in the hands of relatively small-time political figures – the mayors and councilors of small towns and cities, along with the friends and supporters of politicians who appoint them to boards. . . They have also created a culture in which would-be cannabis entrepreneurs feel obliged to make large campaign contributions or hire politically connected lobbyists. States that have largely avoided corruption controversies either do not have license caps -- like Colorado or Oklahoma -- or dole out a limited number of licenses through a lottery. . . 

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Wednesday, January 06, 2021

What You See Is What You Get: Rules Change For Filling Haaland Seat Seen Unlikely, Plus: A Dan Lewis Comeback? And: More Rating Of The R's 

What you see is what you are very likely to get. That's the word from our top legislative watchers who say despite grumbling about insider baseball and the public being excluded from a most important decision, the rules for filling the expected upcoming ABQ US House vacancy will stay intact. 

Under a 2019 election bill party nominations to fill a vacancy --like the one that would happen when Rep. Deb Haaland is confirmed as Secretary of Interior--were left to the members of the major party Central Committees in whose district the vacancy occurred. No primary elections. The Dem and GOP party nominees go straight on the special election ballot which is held within 91 days of the vacancy. 

ABQ area Dem State Rep. Daymon Ely has told us he will introduce a bill to sidestep the closed door nominating process that is open to just several hundred party faithful and mandate primary elections be held as well as a special election. 

But our Roundhouse spotters say the bill is a longshot and especially for this vacancy. One of them explains:

Joe, in order for the bill to take effect for this vacancy--which is expected sometime in March--both the Senate and House would have to approve it with a two-thirds majority so it could take effect immediately upon the signature of the Governor. Otherwise, it would become law July 1, too late for this vacancy. However, it would change the rules for future vacancies, if passed with a simple majority. 

So the six Dem and GOP candidates so far in the contest to replace Haaland will wage the ultimate insider campaign. Fewer than 100 votes could get you a nomination. Well, at least it saves on fund-raising. But Ely's measure is still worthy even if not in time for this vacancy but for future occurences. 


There's early positioning in the race for one of five ABQ City Council seats up for election in November. Former councilor and 2017 mayoral hopeful Dan Lewis tells us that he is giving serious consideration to a run for his old Westside council seat (District 5) now held by Democrat Cynthia Borrego. 

Republican Lewis won the district in 2009, defeating incumbent D Michael Cadigan. He left it in '17 for the mayoral run but was defeated in a run-off election by Tim Keller who is seeking re-election this year. 

The district was Lewis-friendly when new boundaries took effect in 2011 but it has grown increasingly Democratic in recent years. Besides Dem Borrego, the two state senators who represent the area are now Democrats.

Lewis, director of operations for Davidson Oil Company, a fuel supplier based in Amarillo, does have name ID and, he says, a record of delivering for the district. Republicans can be expected to consolidate behind him.

Borrego is a retired city employee who this week was named President of the City Council for a one year term, a post that will boost her profile as she begins re-election campaign. City Hall insiders say she needs to not only keep an eye on Lewis but be alert for any challenge from a Dem progressive. 


Readers react to the Tuesday blog where a Senior Alligator lamented the wasting away of the GOP and pined for a competitive two party state. Gordon Solberg of Radium Springs came with this:

Joe, Your Alligator asked the question: "Can we all agree that New Mexico is better off with a competitive two party system?" 

My answer is: As long as the Republican Party remains the party of lies and treason, then we are better off with no Republican Party. We are fortunate that the Republican Party in New Mexico is so weak. However, the November election results from Dona Ana County (a supposed progressive stronghold) show that the Dems won by a significantly smaller margin than in 2018. Statewide, Ben Ray Lujan won the Senate seat by a smaller margin than I had expected. If I were a Republican, I would be encouraged by this trend. 

The Republican Party is always dangerous, and never gives up. We need a strong, reality-based Democratic Party. The Dems are far from perfect, but they’re the best we’ve got. I hope they’re up to the task. 

Conservative reader Jim McClure has this: 

Joe, another factor that has hurt New Mexico Republicans is the purging of moderates by both parties. Our state's most electable Republicans in the past — Pete Domenici and Heather Wilson — were relatively moderate. Mark Ronchetti did better than most R's in last year's US Senate race because he appears to be cut from the same cloth. Most statewide contests in recent years have been a dismal choice between progressives and conservatives.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Four Dem Women Now Chasing Rep. Haaland Seat; Where Are The Guys? Plus: Rescuing The R's; How They Get Back In The Game 

State Rep. Louis
Now there are four women officially seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat of Rep. Deb Haaland--and still no men. 

ABQ westside State Rep. Georgene Louis is the latest entrant in the now crowded contest that will only take place when and if Haaland is confirmed as Biden's Secretary of Interior. The current timeline puts the special election to replace her in the US House sometime in June.

Haaland was the first Native American elected to the Congress from NM. Louis, an attorney who was born and raised at Acoma Publeo and first elected to the NM House in 2012, would follow in those footsteps.

In appealing to the several hundred ABQ area Dem Party Central Committee members who will decide the nomination, Louis, chair of the House committee dealing with Indian affairs, said: 

 To continue Deb’s momentum - addressing the inequities in our economy - would be a dream realized. I grew up on the reservation. I know the struggles our New Mexico families face because I’ve lived it. I represent working families that have trouble paying bills, keeping a roof over their heads, and struggle with childcare and food insecurity, especially during this pandemic.”

The others seeking the Dem nod are State Senator Antionette Sedillo Lopez, State Rep. Melanie Stansbury and trial attorney Randi McGuinn. 

So where are the guys? The ABQ seat has been held by a woman since 2012 and would be vacated by one. Dems often define seats by gender and ethnicity and a woman may have the advantage in the Democratic race. 

On the R side there is not much interest in the early going--at least publicly. Radio talk show host Eddy Aragon has announced a formal run for his party's nomination. Michelle Garcia Holmes, who is becoming a perennial candidate,  has also indicated interest. 


Contrary to the spin coming out of the NMGOP, the party is in its worst shape since the 70's. They are bordering on irrelevance. That is not something to rejoice over for those who believe a two party system is better than one. A Senior Santa Fe Alligator analyzing the state of the R's tries to come to the rescue:

Can we all agree that New Mexico is better off with a competitive two party system? Unfortunately New Mexico has only one statewide party. They are called the Democrats. And then New Mexico has a regional party which represents part of rural New Mexico. They are called Republicans. The Republicans could be a competitive statewide party but they keep getting in their own way. 

What works for them is running younger Anglo candidates from urban New Mexico like Gary Johnson, Garrey Carruthers, Pete Domenici and recently Mark Ronchetti who ran a good race for US Senate. Likewise, Republican women of color do especially well.

What doesn't work is running older Anglo males from rural New Mexico. That demographic is the base of the GOP.  They get that vote just for showing up. So the recent re-election by Republican insiders of Steve Pearce as NMGOP chairman is like flunking an IQ test. Pearce has already endured two double digit statewide defeats for elective offices. 

The Republicans in the state Senate have figured this out. They eased out Sen. Stu Ingle of Portales as their Minority Leader and replaced him with Greg Baca of Valencia County and also gave leadership slots to Sens. Craig Brandt and Mark Moores from the ABQ area. 

House Republicans chose three rural New Mexicans for leadership positions! Again they were content to cede the urban and suburban areas to Democrats. 

Republicans can get back in the game but they they need to think carefully about who to make their messengers. Do they want to continue to be a regional party or do they have statewide aspirations? Given the leaders of the NMGOP and the NM House, I am guessing they are happy remaining a regional party and the kings of Rural New Mexico. 

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Monday, January 04, 2021

2021 Won't Be A Sleeper; Plenty of Political Action Awaits, Plus: In The Shadow Of Trump: Beleaguered NMGOP Grapples With Uncertain Future 

Joe Monahan
Welcome back and Happy New Year. 

This is not a general election year but it won't be a sleeper. Already we have a special congressional election on tap--probably for June--to replace Rep. Deb Haaland if, as expected, she is confirmed by the US Senate as the new Secretary of Interior.

Then there's the possibility of a special statewide election sometime this year if the legislature approves a constitutional amendment allowing a portion of the the state's $20 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to be tapped for early childhood education, 

Then there are mayoral elections in November in ABQ and Santa Fe, a new schedule prompted by a 2019 election reform law.

While it isn't an election it is a major political event that comes along only once a decade--the redistricting of all 112 legislative seats and three US House seats. Those new boundaries will be decided by the legislature later this year and impact state politics for at least a decade if not more. 

That's plenty for the plates of the political junkies who are not sit back and relax types. 


It's nearly a sure bet that the Dems will keep the Haaland ABQ seat in their column in that special election. That's why the battle for the Dem nomination will be intense. About 200 party insiders--members of the State Central Committee--will get to make that choice, unless the legislature does a quick rewrite of election law. There are already three announced Dem hopefuls while only one R has announced. 

If there is a statewide election on devoting Permanent Fund money to early childhood education the easy bet is for passage. Polling shows the public heavily in favor and any opposition that comes with major ad dollars is unlikely.

In the mayoral contests, Santa Fe Mayor Allan Webber will have the inside track for re-election, as long as his progressive base holds. Ditto for ABQ Dem Mayor Tim Keller. Crime remains Keller's Achilles Heel but he's surprising the skeptics and announcing that he hopes to have a new police chief on board in the first quarter of the new year. He's buffing up his crime fighting credentials in the face of a possible challenge from conservative Dem Sheriff Manny Gonzales. 

As for redistricting, look for the southern congressional seat to be redrawn to favor the Dems, meaning Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell--elected in 2020--will likely be a one termer. 

With control of the House, Senate and Governor's office the D's may tone down partisanship as they ease Herrell out, but a quiet ouster has the same effect as a loud one. 

Redistricting is also expected to strengthen the hands of three freshman state senate Dems who took GOP seats in BernCo in 2020. The D's will safeguard Senators Pope, Duhigg and Hickey and ensure they are not one term wonders. 


Rep. Herrell isn't doing herself any favors as she contemplates redistricting. In a little noticed December Fox News interview she went off the rails and argued that her 2018 defeat by Dem Xochitl Torres Small was without question the result of fraud, a baseless charge that has been completely debunked.

Now she is embracing similar baseless charges raised by Trump and will join with other House Republicans and vote against counting the electoral college votes for President this Wednesday.

As the only elected Republican of statewide stature, Herrell is the de facto leader of the NMGOP but she and GOP Chairman Steve Pearce are tightening their embrace of Trump, even as his presidency decays and offers an opportunity for them to pivot and ease the party onto more broad-based footing. 

Trump in exile will remain powerful in the GOP, able to stage rallies to promote his favorite candidates and raise major money to support them. Herrell and Pearce are caught in a trap and can't get out or don't have the political will to do so. Or to them it's no trap but a comforting home.

These circumstances mean in the immediate years ahead New Mexico could become even more of a one party state. In essence the moderate wing of the Dems would be the substitute for Republicanism on economic issues.

Republicanism, currently defined as Trumpism, is a losing formula in New Mexico, except for a swath in the SE. That is fact based on actual election results. 

A faint sign of hope exists with Generation Z Republicans (aged 18-34) trying to steer the party to address issues such as racial justice and gay rights with more tolerance and expand its appeal.  

Meanwhile, the shadow of Trump is the shadow of a dead man walking. In that shadow walk Yvette Herrell and Steve Pearce. 


Ben Ray Lujan Sworn in as US Senator Sunday
Finally, some pearls of wisdom for the new year from Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber who writes to his city: 

As we move into 2021 together I am full of gratitude. Brother David, a wise Benedictine monk, once said, “It is not happiness that makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy.” 

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