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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Keller Sweeps Away Foes In Journal Poll And Is Positioned To Win Second Term Without A Runoff; Keller 53%, Gonzales 20%, Aragon 13%  

ABQ Mayor Tim Keller has crossed the magic 50 percent mark and then some to position himself to win a second term in office November 2, according to a poll from the ABQ Journal released Sunday. 

To win a first round victory and avoid a runoff election with the second top vote-getter, the winner must get 50 percent of the vote. This poll says Keller is well on his way to that first round win. 

The survey, taken with 536 likely voters October 15-21 and with a 4.3 percent margin of error, has Keller scoring 53%--well above the required 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff election. 

BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales received 20% and Eddy Aragon, the lone Republican in the race, polled at 13%. Twelve percent of voters remain undecided. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2021

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Debate Aftermath: Keller And Gonzales Had "Verbal Altercation" After Sensational Debate Allegations; Gonzales Still Not Offering Evidence of Charges Against Keller; Mayor's Camp Ponders Defamation Action: Readers Weigh In, Plus: Journal Mayor Poll Expected Sunday  

Whether Manny Gonzales survives to fight another day and get in a mayoral run off with Mayor Tim Keller will soon be decided but judging by reaction to the sheriff's over the top performance at the Tuesday night TV debate his reputation may not survive intact. 

In case you were underground at Carlsbad Caverns and haven't heard, the Marine Corp veteran and two term sheriff took the low road and shocked the audience with allegations of personal misconduct by Keller i.e. having an affair and a domestic violence incident with his wife that Gonzales claimed is being covered up. However, the Manny who would be Mayor could not offer even an iota of evidence. 

In fact, another media report has come out that knocks down the domestic violence allegation and another in which Gonzales claims a high ranking City Hall official was driving drunk downtown. 

Not long ago in New Mexico folks shot each other over such accusations. In that regard things today are more peaceful but the sewer of social media has made tongues acidic, anger front and center and even seemingly solid citizens like Gonzales descend into the waste.

By not offering any evidence to support his sensational allegations, Gonzales gives weight to the argument that his actions were the result of being in a rage over Keller's successfully arguing that Gonzales' campaign committed forgery and fraud in trying (unsuccessfully) to qualify for public financing.  

Let's have the readers go at it, starting with Michel Corwin, a longtime New Mexican who is now a Floridian: 

Joe, As someone who spent years chasing down leads to try to turn them into facts so they could be used (therein lies the difference) by political campaigns and interest groups, I’m (almost) speechless at how low Manny Gonzales went. To do so without documentation, and to rely on gossip, instead of an on camera face, from APD folks with an ax to grind over the mayor’s approach to dealing with the agency’s not unsubstantial issues, is even worse than amateur hour. And you would think that with his political consultant, Jay McCleskey, himself having been sued for defamation, would have counseled Gonzales to stick to the facts. 

No voter should reward Gonzales for this garbage with a single vote. Kudos to (analyst) Greg Payne, who knows a thing or two about how to run an aggressive campaign. His analysis of what took place, and what it means for the election is spot on. Thanks for continuing to be the go to read on NM politics, even for those of us no longer there. 

Corwin mentioned that Gonzales political consultant Jay McCleskey is currently defending himself against a defamation lawsuit. It was filed by a Republican state House candidate. 

It is not known if McCleskey advised Gonzales to make the allegations against Keller who called them defamation. But we could find out how those allegations made it before the public because the Keller campaign says it is "pursuing legal options against these defamatory claims."

In the aftermath of the debate at KOB-TV Keller and Gonzales are said to have had a "verbal altercation" as Keller demanded that Gonzales apologize to his wife Gonzales is said to have retorted by saying he has "no respect" for the mayor.  

The Gonzales campaign came with this response to Keller's threat of a lawsuit:

We welcome Keller filing a lawsuit and are ready to start taking depositions under oath tomorrow, starting with the mayor’s. The truth is an absolute defense against slander claims and we look forward to proving the truth through the legal discovery process.

But Gonzales has it backwards. He is expected to produce evidence to back up "the truth" of the allegations as he makes them, not after the act and through the "legal discovery process." 

Reader Roger writes:

Joe, Regarding The “debate.” I hope no business considering moving to Albuquerque was watching. 

Reader Kelley writes: 

Wow, just wow. I’m shocked at how inept, unskilled and unqualified Manny is. I thought I had seen how dumb he is in full already. I was wrong. I’ve never seen a politician lay out personal accusations of domestic violence and infidelity so blatantly, with or without origin or foundation. Bad, tacky and low life. by his doing and/or whoever is advising him. What he did manage to do was help Eddy Aragon by taking the ook the focus off  his extreme talk. After Gonzales leveled the accusations at Keller the focus was off anything else, equivalent of a sucker punch and Aragon managed to sound reasonable.

FAMILY REACT

Mayor Keller's wife came with this on Facebook:
 












DEM MACHINE ROUSED

The fraud finding against Gonzales has now prompted the entire Dem political machine to take it on

BernCo District Attorney Raúl Torrez plans to ask New Mexico State Police to investigate allegations of election-related fraud against Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales’ mayoral campaign, he wrote in a letter last week to Albuquerque’s city attorney. Torrez will refer the allegations to State Police after the city’s Nov. 2 election “to prevent the timing of an investigation or prosecution from having an effect on an election,” Torrez wrote in an Oct. 13 letter to City Attorney Esteban Aguilar Jr. “I will scrupulously adhere to this practice and will not take official action or make any public comment on this matter until the results of the upcoming election have been certified,” Torrez wrote. 

POLLING UNDERWAY

The TV debate took place on on the first day of polling of the ABQ mayoral race by the ABQ Journal, the results of which will be released Sunday. Several readers report they have already been called in connection with the survey and were asked not only about the mayoral contest but how they feel about their personal safety in the city and other issues. The poll is usually taken the Tuesday through Thursday before the Sunday release. The only public mayoral poll of the campaign so far was taken September 23-24 by PPP and showed Mayor Keller at 47, Manny Gonzales at 21 percent, Eddy Aragon at 11 and undecided at 21 percent.

The key number to watch is 50 percent. That is what Keller needs to avoid a December 7 runoff between the two top vote-getters. 

REPLACING CANDELARIA

Rep. Maestas
Now that ABQ Dem westside state Senator Jacob Candelaria has made a very early announcement that he will not seek re-election in 2024, the politicos wonder who could be in line to take his seat? They didn't have to wonder long to come up with the name of Dem westside state Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas who has been in the House since 2007 and would be primed to make the change. 

Meanwhile, Maestas will be keeping a close eye on the redistricting of Senate District 26. With the incumbent retiring, he has made it easier for the mapmakers to draw new lines but we'll have to wait to see if the final map map would make it easier for a Maestas senate bid.

Candelaria has $250,000 in his campaign kitty which is restricted in its use but he can donate to other campaigns and candidates. That will keep the Christmas cards coming his way. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2021

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Gonzales Goes In The Gutter: Inflames Mayoral Debate With Unproven Personal Attacks On Keller Who Calls Them "Disgusting;" The "Cringeworthy" Debate Moments Covered In Full On The Wednesday Blog  

Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales stunned the state during a live KOB-TV debate Tuesday night as he shredded one of the few rules of decorum remaining in the political arena, leveling incendiary allegations of personal misconduct by ABQ Mayor Tim Keller without offering  a smidgen of proof. (Full debate here.)

It was a moment that even seasoned political veterans were taken aback by. "Did he really go there?" "I have never seen anything like it." "The mayoral campaign just became a circus."

Those were a few of the reactions from the political class as they absorbed the shock. That shock came about 35 minutes into a live debate that began at 6 p.m. The candidates were given the opportunity to ask a question of each other. Gonzales aimed his at the Mayor. Here's the full transcript of the Gonzales/Keller exchange that will be long remembered:

Gonzales: Mayor Keller, Where is your accountability? There are serious misconduct allegations at City Hall under your watch, allegations of your own domestic violence incident being covered up by high ranking city officials. Another allegation of a high ranking city official who was driving drunk and was involved driving a city vehicle and involved in a crash. And the third is also you having allegations of having an affair with a city subordinate. How can the public trust you to fight crime in ABQ when you can't even fight crime at City Hall?

As you would expect the charges noticeably rattled the incumbent but he came back vigorously

Keller: What a disgusting prepared question you just read. . . I don't even know where to begin. . . I have never been involved in any of the incidents you mentioned and as my family will attest to have never, ever done things like had an affair. Look, if you're going to just make your questions the gossip on Twitter and Facebook. I mean, I hear all sorts of stuff about everyone all the time, I don't dignify it because I don't believe it because there's no evidence or truth behind any of it. And this is coming from a guy who has a litany of myths and mistruths that he says. . .

There is literally nothing behind anything your saying.  You're just saying words you saw on social media. . There was something in there about a co-worker and you know that's defamation and you should know that, Sheriff. You can have a debate. We can talk about policies but unless you have any shred of evidence of any kind then that is actually to be on you. Talk about accountability. Fraud in your own campaign. Literally. And now just blatantly defaming people for a political stunt so that you can raise money off of it which is what you just asked voters to do. It's pathetic. 

Gonzales: All I asked was a simple question. A yes or no answer if you could. How could the public trust you fighting crime when you can't even fight crime at City Hall. That was my question.

Candidate Eddy Aragon, wearing a look of astonishment from the exchange, concluded it by saying: "Real life TV drama here."

Is there a method to Gonzales’s madness? One theory is he threw out the unproven allegations to get Keller to deny them and now will present what he thinks is evidence to show that there is truth to them. 

Following the debate the Gonzales campaign came with a statement saying it was awaiting a response to a records request to substantiate the sensational allegations:

“We have spoken to two high-ranking members of the Albuquerque Police Department with direct knowledge of the domestic incident stemming from the sexual harassment scandal and are awaiting IPRA responses based on that information (which we expect to be intentionally covered up until after election),” she wrote. The statement included the phrase in parentheses. IPRA refers to the state’s public records law.

That's a lot of smoke and mirrors but no hard proof. And then there was this from the newspaper that shot down the Gonzales charges:

Keller has previously denied the allegations in an interview with Journal reporters. A Journal public records request earlier this year seeking police incident reports and dispatch records for Keller’s home address since Jan. 1 yielded only a few calls around Jan. 6 – the date of the U.S. Capitol insurrection – in which there were reported threats to the home. Records show officers kept watch throughout their shift and found the home was secure. There were no other records. 

The Keller campaign came with this post-debate comment:

Manny doubled own on his record of outrageous lies tonight with a disgusting, false attack on the Mayor's family and the integrity of police officers. We're appalled by these tactics but not surprised that Manny is so desperate, with no record to run on, all he has is internet conspiracy theories.

PAYNE'S TAKE

Greg Payne
Let's talk political impact with a fellow who has seen everything in politics--except what he saw last night. That would be attorney and former ABQ City Councilor Greg Payne:

This may have been one of the most cringeworthy debates in ABQ history. Manny Gonzales is, ostensibly, the main rival to Mayor Keller's re-election. But the Bernalillo County Sheriff proved just one thing last night: his "consultant" calls the shots - and Manny's consultant is an idiot. The Sheriff's scripted and highly personal attack against the Mayor was the equivalent of Kryptonite-like voter repellant. The Gonzales campaign is done. If anything, it will be a moral victory if Gonzales beats Eddy Aragon on Election Day. Aragon was on message and actually won the debate. Keller will win without a run-off, but Aragon has a future in GOP politics.

Payne was not alone in pointing to a "consultant" as the source for Manny's maneuver. 

Controversial Republican consultant Jay McCleskey, known for his slash and burn tactics and who hired on as a media consultant with Gonzales, was immediately tagged as the man behind the curtain as he was for Gov. Susana Martinez. 

But for a number of consultants the verbal bomb drop did not seem to have any strategy behind it other than desperation and perhaps personal pique by Gonzales who is set to lose this race. 

Gonzales recently imported a campaign manager from California and is also being "consulted" by some of the sheriff's staff who are not known for the art of gentle persuasion. Maybe one of them was the "mastermind" behind the misfire. 

However the defining moment arose it was made by Gonzales and he owns it. As we weigh our bewilderment all we can add is: "Manny, we hardly knew ye."

GETTING GUIDANCE

The voter guides are up and running with less than two weeks before the November 2 election and steady early voting underway citywide since Saturday. The KRQE-TV guide is here. Another from the League of Women Voters of Central NM is here and here is another from the ABQ Journal. That's enough political reading to satisfy the diet of the hungriest political junkie. 

MISSING OUT 

Renee Grout
Most political candidates tend to be avid newspaper readers but not all of them, including GOP city council candidate Renee Grout, seeking the District 9 seat held by GOP Councilor Don Harris who is retiring. 

One of our readers from the district reports that Grout told him she was unaware that to get considered (or seriously considered) for the endorsement of the ABQ Journal she had to call the paper and set up an appointment to be interviewed. She never did and the paper ended up endorsing Democrat Byron Powdrell when it usually endorse the Republican candidate. Dem Rob Grilley is the other hopeful in the race. 

The paper publishes a notice on the editorial page several times during the campaign season reminding candidates it is up to them to call for an endorsement interview. Maybe they should move that notice to the TV pages. . . or something. 

This is the home of New Mexico politics. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2021

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Manny Finally Hits His Stride In Crime Attack Ad; Wife Of Shot Officer Delivers Powerful Message; Too Little, Too Late? Plus: As Predicted Here Anti-Herrell Congressional Map Advances To Roundhouse  

Tryna Verbeck
BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales has finally hit his stride in the ABQ mayoral race. He comes with a powerful TV spot on the crime wave featuring Tryna Verbeck, the wife of APD officer Mario Verbeck who was seriously wounded August 19 responding to a robbery call at a coffee shop in the far NE Heights. Three other officers were also shot at the scene.

Too little, too late or enough to move numbers to Gonzales? 

Any TV ad attacking Mayor Tim Keller over ABQ's crime crisis is bound to be effective but this one has the emotional impact that the crime debate has often lacked. 

The spot is narrated by Verbeck which includes photos and news video of the shooting. There is a startling black and white photo of officer Verbeck on life support as he fights for his life from a bullet wound to the base of the neck. He has since recovered. 

Tryna Verbeck, who publicly lashed out at Keller and Chief Medina shortly after her husband was shot, appears heartfelt if slightly rehearsed during the portion of the narration she appears on camera. She places her hand over her heart when she says: "I trust Manny to be a crime fighting mayor." 

The transcript:

My husband was shot in the line of duty and he barely survived. Mayor Keller is not telling the truth. Crime is up because the Mayor puts criminals first and that's why hundreds of officers have left APD. There were only five officers in my husband's area that day and four of them were shot. We need new leadership. Manny Gonzales knows how to fight crime. He's an honest man and a veteran. I trust Manny to be a crime fighting mayor. 

Former ABQ city councilor, state legislator and attorney Greg Payne has been helping us analyze the political ads this season: 

It's a good ad--and one the Gonzales campaign should have been running weeks ago. Great emotional appeal and humanizes the crime issue. The real questions are: how much is the ad buy and what took them so long? 

As I've said previously, the biggest issues for Manny are a) until recently, his campaign message has been defined by the public financing debacle (going after Eddy Aragon with an ethics complaint only resurrected that screw-up) and b) Aragon running a campaign that's strong enough to siphon off GOP votes that might have otherwise gone to Manny. 

Payne added that he still sees Gonzales finishing second and beating Aragon, the lone Republican candidate in the race but believes Keller remains positioned for a 50 percent win Nov. 2 that would have him avoid a runoff election December 7. 

A Democratic consultant who remained anonymous said of Gonzales' first venture into negative campaigning: 

That’s a very good ad. If it had a decent 4 week buy it might move numbers. If they also had a good ad telling people who Manny is and why he’s not a crook that might help too. 

FACT CHECK

Here's a deeper dive into the ad with this fact check: 

"Mayor Keller is not telling the truth. Crime is up because the Mayor puts criminals first."

Violent crime is up--way up--but other categories such as auto theft and property crime have experienced drops but we are still in the top ten rankings in the nation in those categories. Whether Keller "puts criminals first" is an emotional and subjective statement, not a fact. 

"That's why hundreds of officers have left APD. 

APD has experienced poor morale and in exit interviews many departing officers have cited that as a factor in their leaving but not specifically because "Keller puts criminals first." Some said they do not feel supported by the 11th Floor. The DOJ consent decree monitoring police conduct is another primary reason for departures, says Chief Medina. Medina also says a change that positively impacted the retirement pay of officers has been a leading cause of APD departures.

There were only five officers in my husband's area that day and four of them were shot. 

That's true and illustrates the depth of the shortage at APD. 

"Manny Gonzales knows how to fight crime." 

Well, the Sheriff has had his own problems thwarting crime that occurs in the county areas where he is solely responsible. Updated stats show that in 2020 there was an increase in crime in the unincorporated areas of the county.

He is a honest man. 

Keller's camp is asking voters to find Gonzales dishonest and use as evidence the forgeries of signatures by the Sheriff's campaign in order to qualify for over $600,000 in public financing. Gonzales' multiple legal appeals of his loss of the public money by the city clerk because of the fraud were repeatedly denied. Gonzales blames the forgeries on staff and said they were relieved of their duties. If that is believed, his reputation as honest stays intact. If voters believe he knew of the forgeries then he is not the honest man the ad claims. 

REDISTRICTING IN THE DARK

The Alligators told you so. Yes, the slithery sources have an enviable record for getting it right and when they saw that proposed redistricting map of the state's three congressional districts that sent a big chunk of ABQ into the southern district they predicted that it would be similar to the final plan adopted by the legislature when it does redistricting in early December. 

Now the news comes that the map is one of three congressional maps that the NM Citizens Redistricting Committee has sent to lawmakers for consideration. The plan would effectively unseat Republican US Rep. Yvette Herrell and replace her with a Democrat. (Not definitely but darn close.)

The map is the brainchild of various progressive interest groups many of which are funded with "dark money," complain state House Republicans who are trying to stop the anti-Herrell map.

One of those groups is NM's Center for Civic Policy, a 501 (c)(3). The latest required IRS filing for the group is for tax year 2018 and shows it had income of about $3 million and 10 employees.

Proposed map
The R's (and others) would like to know exactly who is giving the group money but that's where things get dark, according to IRS rules:

As a 501(c)(3) public charity, it has to disclose the names of significant donors to the IRS on Schedule B, but those names are confidential and need not be disclosed to the public. 

The group and their funding is not a new issue. Way back in 2008 your blog covered their involvement in state legislative races when dark money spending first got underway in earnest in an effort to oust several GOP legislators. 

In the political money game it's the Super PACs and interest groups on both sides--like Center for Civic Policy--that bring the big money to the table and and often the big decisions as seen in that congressional redistricting map. While educated guesses can be made about who is writing the checks, the public remains mostly in the dark when it comes to dark dollars. 

This is the home of New Mexico politics. 

E-mail your news and comments. (newsguy@yahoo.com)

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2021

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Baghdad Or Burque? Downtown Crime Delivers More Stunners Amid Mayoral Campaign, Plus: PAC Supporting Manny Fires At Eddy And APS Keeps Big Money Election Quiet  

Here's video of the the latest ABQ mayoral debate aired on KOAT-TV Thursday night and here's a report on what happened.

Widespread early voting for the ABQ election begins Saturday. From BernCo Clerk Linda Stover:

Twenty early voting convenience centers will be open Oct. 16 – 30. Most locations are open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is not too late to register to vote and cast a ballot in the 2021 election. Same day registration is available at the 20 early voting convenience centers. Same day registration will not be available on election day. Voters may cast a ballot in-person or hand deliver their completed absentee ballot to any voting convenience center. There are also two outdoor drop boxes where completed absentee ballots can be dropped off; Alvarado Square, 415 Silver Ave. SW, 87102 or the Voting Machine Warehouse, 2400 Broadway Blvd SE, Building H, 87102. 

Is this a photo of a street in Baghdad or Albuquerque? 

The striking lawlessness occurred on downtown Central Ave. early Sunday morning where the bad guy was so emboldened he armed up with a semi-automatic rifle, waved it outside the car window and began shooting in the air. That's in downtown ABQ--not Baghdad. (Video and report here.)

The ongoing violent crime crisis may have desensitized much of the city but then bizarre incidents such as this pop up and the reality again sets in that ABQ has changed in fundamental ways. 

This latest crime shocker in the downtown area follows the August murder of a 13 year old at Washington Middle School by a fellow student, a road rage killing last Wednesday outside of the Central Grill near Old Town and windows of the downtown Bernalillo County government building being shot out. Authorities have arrested a 20 year old who they believe was responsible for both the downtown automatic gun fire and the window incident. They are seeking other suspects. 

All of this mayhem comes in the middle of a mayoral campaign, but with yearly homicides headed for triple digits and property and violent crime still among the worst in the nation, it's hard to see how this will change anytime soon--no matter who is elected. 

TAPE DELAYED DEBATE

Voters will get another look at the three mayoral contenders tonight at 7 p.m. when KOAT-TV airs a one hour debate. Actually the debate already occurred. It was pre-taped via Zoom Tuesday night and there's an interesting backstory why. The ABQ Journal is a co-sponsor and editor-in-chief Karen Moses explains: 

The debate is being done virtually through Zoom rather than live and in person because one of the candidates has not been vaccinated. The process for this debate will be the same as was done for other "remote" debates, such as for the congressional races. The debate is conducted and then aired a couple days later. There is no editing of the debate or candidates' answers. KOAT prepares its intro and ending, which is added to the program. One reason for taping it ahead of time is to protect it from issues that can occur when conducting a Zoom event such as a candidate's internet being interrupted -- it obviously would not be fair if one candidate's internet went out in the middle of a live debate.

The candidate who is not vaccinated is Republican Aragon and he grumbled over the decision to move the debate to zoom because of his vax status. Mayor Keller and Sheriff Manny Gonzlaes have taken their shots. 

WRONG TARGET? 

Gonzales has had a wheelbarrow full of chances to undermine Keller on crime. Just look at our lead story on the blog today. But he has failed to pick up the spear. Now the outside PAC that supports the Sheriff--Save Our City--may have gotten sidetracked. Rather than take the fight to Keller they are taking it to Republican Eddy Aragon. 

The PAC has filed a a complaint over Republican Aragon remaining on his afternoon KIVA-AM radio talk show, claiming he is violating city and federal rules. Aragon says he consulted with his lawyers before continuing the program and is doing nothing wrong.

What is wrong, says veteran political analyst and attorney Greg Payne, is the Gonzales supporters turning their guns on Aragon and not Keller:

This complaint is not going to convince anyone to vote for Gonzales over Aragon. This is an eyes glaze over issue for voters. Their campaign needs to be all about keeping Keller under 50 percent and forcing a run off. The Gonzales PAC and the Gonzales campaign need to focus on the real target--the incumbent mayor. Keller remains poised to get over 50 percent Election Night and take a second term. 

What's next? A Keller tsunami of money from his own campaign and probably from a number of outside groups. Manny and Eddy will have trouble being heard as those waves crash over the city. 

SCHOOL DAYS

If approved, two ballot measures would bring in $630 million over several years but hardly anyone is talking about them, including the ABQ Public Schools that would receive the largesse if the mill levy and property tax is decided in their favor Nov. 2. 

There's a good reason for APD wanting to fly this package under the radar--the scandal that engulfed former State House Majority leader and APS administrator Sheryl Williams Stapleton. It was only recently that Stapleton was indicted on 26 felony charges. She is accused of stealing nearly $1 million from APS. The story was a real stunner and damaged the APS reputation. 

So there has been little or no paid media for the big money measures with APS apparently believing they will pass without much hype, and if there is hype it could break against them. 

Not a bad strategy. APS has lost on bond issues before and has learned. 

The biggest projects for that $630 million money would be replacing older schools. There would be no tax increase if the propositions are approved. An APS 
bond expert explains:

This will continue to slowly chip away at a whopping $7 billion capital infrastructure need of an aging school system where 40% of the buildings are 50 years or older. This coupled with burgeoning technology requirements and a progressively warmer climate (hvac) makes it hard to do more with a set revenue. 

NEW SHERIFF

So who will be the new sheriff in town? Former Dem state rep and retired APD detective Pat Ruiloba hopes it will be him. His announced he is running for the seat held by Sheriff Gonzales who will give it up later this year if he wins election as mayor or when his second term expires at the end of next year. In the event Gonzales left early the BernCo Commission would name a replacement. Otherwise, the sheriff position will be on next year's primary and general election ballots.

 This is the home of New Mexico politics. 

E-mail your news and comments. (newsguy@yahoo.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.  

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2021

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

A Pricey Competition For Dem Nod For Attorney General As Colón and Torrez File Money Reports, Plus: New Keller TV Launches First Negative Volleys At Gonzales; Blog Fact Check  

Brian Colón
It appears to be a highly competitive race for the Dem nomination for attorney general and the price tag to win it could very well go over the $1 million mark. 

Campaign reports filed with the SOS this week by State Auditor Brian Colón  and Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez show Colon with $1.002 million in cash already on hand and Torres had $555,000. 

Colón has the cash lead, but Torres' first DA campaign for the Dem nomination received $107,000 in support from a Super PAC funded by liberal financier George Soros. Other progressive money could also come in to close the gap so there is more wait and see to play out.

Colón reported raising $1.060 million from April thru October 4. $367,000 of that was transferred from his auditor campaign fund. He also donated $5,000 to his own campaign. He reported spending $58,000 with his biggest expenditure $36,000 for polling by Lake Research in DC. 

Among Colon's well-known donors was PNM CEO Patricia Vincent Collawn who gave $5,000. 

Approval of Avangrid's merger with PNM is currently pending before the state and current Attorney General Hector Balderas has recommended the merger go through. 

ABQ trial attorney Randi McGinn gave $1,500 each to Colon and Torrez; restaurant owner Nick Kapnison gave Colón $5,000 as did Fresquez Concessions. Heritage Hotels owner Jim Long and spouse Rebecca Long donated a hefty $20,000. Contributions are limited to $5,400 but donors can give for both the primary and general election. 

Other donors to Colón's campaign include Tobacco giant Altria, $1,500 and former AG Gary King who gave $1,000. 

Raul Torrez
Torrez, serving his second four year term as DA, reported raising $637,000, including the transfer of $323,000 from his campaign DA account. His prominent donors include ABQ trial attorney Bert Parnall of TV fame who gave $4,000 and his law firm came with another $5,200 that we counted. 

Auto dealer Bob Pitre donated $5,000; former US Attorney John Kelly, $1,000 and ABQ trial lawyer Lisa Curtis, $1,500. 

Torrez reported spending $82,000 with over half of that going to out-of-state campaign consultants. 

There is no announced Republican candidate for AG. The office rarely goes R with the last Republican winning the post in 1986. 

While Colón and Torrez are already being tested for their ability to finance a campaign, their first voter test isn't too far off. In March of '22 the Dems will hold their pre-primary convention where delegates will vote on the candidates who will need at least 20 percent support to get an official spot on the June primary ballot. The winner of that convention will gain significant momentum. 

MESSING WITH MANNY 

After a couple of weeks of playing Mr. Nice Guy, ABQ Mayor Tim Keller's TV ads took a decided turn to the negative with this 30 second message. The spot extolls Keller's crime fighting abilities--his chief political weakness-- and calls out Sheriff Gonzales on several fronts. The transcript:

How do we fight crime? 

Mayor Keller. He tripled the homicide unit. 400 new police officers. The Gateway Center will fight addiction and homelessness and Tim Keller is fighting for new laws to detain gun crime suspects and end the revolving door. And Manny Gonzales? Caught committing campaign fraud. Says no to body cameras and murders go unreported. Manny Gonzales, dangerously wrong for Mayor. 

The fact check:

It's true the Keller administration hired 400 new cops but the target set by the mayor of having 1,100 officers still eludes him because of the many police retiring from APD. At last count there were only 920. 

It seems as if Keller is doing a preemptive attack on the lack of police which combined with the record homicide rate leave him vulnerable to the expected counterattack by Gonzales. 

The Gateway Center may indeed "fight addiction and homelessness" but that doesn't necessarily mean those sticky problems will get any better. 

"Fighting for new laws to detain gun crime suspects and end the revolving door" will have to consist largely of the Mayor lobbying the Legislature which has the authority over those matters, not him. 

As for Gonzales "committing fraud," his campaign did so by using forged signatures to try to qualify for public financing. The City Ethics Board slapped Gonzales with a $2,000 fine and reprimand. 

The City Clerk's charge that fraud was committed and denied Gonzales $600,000 in public financing also went before various courts where Gonzales lost. 

As for the Sheriff saying "no to body cameras," he did--for years. But in February before he undertook his mayoral bid, Gonzales gave in and began to deploy the cameras he so vigorously resisted.  

As for not reporting murders, the newspaper had to file an IPRA to find out the latest crime stats stats for BernCo because Gonzales refused to release them. However, Keller has had his own crime stat issue. In 2019 he announced the numbers showed a substantial drop in ABQ crime which turned out to be untrue when the stats were corrected.

The negative part of this ad is the most effective because it basically does little to veer from the truth. The positive part is more tricky for Keller as it indicates to viewers that crime will go down at some unknown point in the future, but the crime of today is so rampant persuading voters of that is a tougher sell then the takedown of Gonzales. This is the home of New Mexico politics. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2021

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Manny Mo: Raises $338K After Public Finance Fiasco; Ties Tim With Cash On Hand, Plus: City Council Money Surprise, Also: MLG Campaign Coffers Bulge As She Pays Off Crotchgate; Dow Leads GOP Money Race  

Aragon, Keller And Gonzales
There's a flood of campaign money reports to follow this week--from local elections to the '22 contests. We take a first bite out of the apple with looks at the ABQ mayoral race and what MLG has been up to. 

The most crucial campaign finance reports of ABQ Election '21 were filed Monday revealing the resources candidates have for the final weeks leading up to the Nov. 2 election. 

ABQ Mayor Tim Keller has been the money leader since the start, qualifying for over $600,000 in public financing.

In the campaign report covering September 7 through Oct. 4, Keller reports spending $114,000 on a TV buy, paying the progressive consulting firm of Neri Holguin $32,000 and receiving a $5,000 in-kind office rental contribution from Ed Garcia of the Garcia automotive family.

That family is major investor in downtown real estate. Ed Garcia is also a co-owner of the NM United soccer team that is backing a $50 million bond to build a downtown area soccer stadium which Keller supports. 

The PAC supporting Keller, Build back 'Burque, reports raising $61,000 for the roughly one month reporting period, spending $24,000 and having $89,000 in cash on hand for the final weeks. 

Major PAC contributors include retired Dem Judge Ann Kass giving $1,000; two teacher PACS gave a total of $5,000 and Heritage Hotels owner Jim Long gave $5,000.

The PAC reports paying over $22,000 for out of state political consultants. 

One of the Alligators said the PAC supporting Keller has been “taking a nap” and “they really need to step it up now that Gonzales has showed some money muscle. They should have double what they’re reporting.”

MANNY MONEY

Keller reported $314,000 in cash on hand October 4 so Manny Gonzales finally beat Keller in one category. He had more cash on hand--$333,000 vs. Keller's $314,000. 

Gonzales raised $338,000 and spent only $26,000. That gives him the fuel to get on the air and press his attack against Keller and hope it is enough to keep the Mayor under 50 percent and force a December run-off.

After a long unsuccessful legal battle to secure public financing the BernCo sheriff was forced to switch to private financing. He had a solid go of it, although his reports do not yet include any legal bills from his court fights (or in-kind legal donations).

The PAC supporting Gonzales, Save Our City, reported raising $46,000 spending $81,000 and having $57,000 in cash on hand. 

Major contributors included $10,000 from real estate heavy Daskalos investments. (The outside PACs have no restrictions on amounts donated). The PAC reported spending $27,000 on digital ads. 

Gonzales' campaign received backing from numerous ABQ owned businesses. Payam Ghoreishi of the construction biz gave the maximum allowable contribution of $6,250. $6250 also came in from from F & R Tafoya Painting and another $6,250 from company owner James Tafoya individually. 

Other major donors included $6,250 from Rodgers Plumbing and Heating; four members of the Melloy auto family kicked in $8,000; Alejandro Lara and Jason Nash of Argus private security each donated $6,250. 

The Dem Sheriff's GOP consultant Jay McCleskey received $6,800 for producing mailers and fundraising and his campaign manager from California was paid $13,300 in the period. 

The debate in this mayoral election is the magic number of 50 percent--not whether Keller will come in first. Gonzales helped himself in bringing that target a little closer in sight by recovering somewhat from his lengthy public financing fiasco. But all that wasted time will cost him. How much is the question. 

ARAGON NUMBERS

Eddy Aragon, the lone Republican in the mayoral race, raised $63,800 in the period, spent $51,718 and had cash on hand of $25,455. 

Big Republican money is staying on the sidelines but Aragon, via his weekday radio broadcast and a social media surge, came with strong grassroots donations of less than $100.

There were notable large donations, including $6,250 from the candidate's father; $5,000 from Asgard LLC, an information technology firm and a $5,000 individual donation from Roxanne Baltz of Rio Rancho who is affiliated with Asgard. 

Aragon has spent $26,000 on billboards, $14,000 for T-shirts, hats and other campaign paraphernalia. He says he is looking at doing cable TV ads for the final stretch. The radio talker reports raising a total of $96,000 since his campaign started in mid-August. 

CITY COUNCIL CHASE

Lori Robertson
The Alligators are splashing over an unusual sighting in the city election--a well-financed Republican city council candidate in heavily Democratic Council District 7 in the near NE Heights and Uptown. 

She is Lori Lee Robertson, 48, a commercial real estate agent with Colliers who has tapped the real estate community and GOP donors for about $41,000. Two Democratic candidates--Tammy Fiebelkorn and Travis Kellerman--each qualified for about $44,000 in public financing so Robertson has kept pace with them. 

There are six candidates in the race to succeed retiring Dem Councilor Diane Gibson so a run-off seems inevitable with no candidate expected to reach 50 percent.

Could one of those run-off contenders be Robertson whose donations include $1,499 from real estate group NAIOP and $1,500 from former NM GOP chairman Harvey Yates?

She has the campaign group Majority Strategies handling her effort and with about $23,000 in cash on hand will be a presence in the district's mailboxes.

Robertson has not been shouting her Republicanism, going with a generalized platform with few specifics. That's not surprising. The district is 49 percent Dem and only 25 percent GOP. Even if she manages to get into a run-off the odds of victory are slim. 

Fiebelkorn, an environmental and business consultant, is being handled by progressive consultant Eli Lee and is seen as a leading contender along with fellow Dem Travis Kellerman, a founder of the Lavu tech company.

More on the District 7 race here.

FRAMING THE COUNCIL

Even though ABQ elections are nonpartisan, party affiliation counts. There are six Dems currently on the nine member council and that could go to seven--a historic high. 

In District 9 in the far NE Heights, Democrat Rob Grilley Jr. is running an aggressive campaign against GOP contender and business owner Renee Grout who is fighting to keep the seat in the R column as longtime GOP Councilor Don Harris retires. Dems point out the once conservative district has become increasingly blue. Grilley is running as a Dem moderate, cautioning against defunding the police. 

More on that contest here.

The R's would like to pick up the seat of Dem Northwest Councilor Cynthia Borrego. Former GOP Councilor Dan Lewis is running in that District 5 race but the area has also drifted more blue since Lewis left office. Political newcomer Phil Ramirez is also running. More on the contest here.

GUV NUMBERS

Hallinan and MLG
There are a number of numbers in play in the '22 Guv race:

Two of them are the impressive $2.5 million MLG reports raising from April to October (and with $2.1 million in cash on hand) and her mediocre approval number of 46% in an August PPP poll.

Oh, and there's another number--$150,000. That's the new and higher amount MLG's campaign reports paying to former campaign staffer James Hallinan who accused her of sex harassment by throwing a bottle of water on his crotch and having a laugh over it. The case was settled out of court and the $150K appears to be the final hit for the Guv. Well, at least financially:

 Lujan Grisham originally called the alleged crotch grab ‘bizarre,’ 'slanderous’ and ‘categorically false' when trying to discredit her victim -- just like the disgraced Andrew Cuomo," said RGA spokesman Will Reinert. "Now she has doled out $150k in settlement money. Michelle Lujan Grisham must treat this issue with the seriousness that comes with a 6-figure settlement and apologize to the victim and the people of New Mexico for her behavior."

MLG has strongly denied the allegations and campaign spokeswoman Kendall Witmer says they settled the case to avoid legal expenses and "prevent any distraction" as Covid raged. But the R's know paydirt when they see it and will continue digging. 

As for Hallinan, besides having plenty of money to pay the mortgage, he is the consultant for the Save Our City PAC working to take out Mayor Keller and is also consulting westside city council candidate Louie Sanchez. 

DOW’S DOLLARS 

Meanwhile, T or C State Rep. Rebecca Dow leads the GOP Guv candidates in the money race. She raised about $440,000 from April to October but $105,000 of that was a transfer from her state representative account. 

Contender Greg Zanetti ponied up $185,000 of his own cash to kick-start his effort, according to reports filed with the SOS this week.

Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block said he was pleased with the $86,000 he raised in the six month period covered. 

The problem? These numbers are minuscule in comparison to the towering amounts that the Dem Guv is compiling. 

Where it's at:

Dow is clearly the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, absent an entry by weather watcher Ronchetti who may have been iced for good by MLG’s money machine. R's may now start talking about Dow having Block as her Lt. Gov. to form an urban/rural, female/male ticket. They could do worse. 

OVERDOING IT?

Finally, on the crowded money front today:

(The PAC) New Mexico United for All, spent $422,665 last month filling mailboxes and TV airwaves with pro-stadium messaging. The committee is funded exclusively by New Mexico United, the second-tier professional soccer team slated to become the proposed stadium’s anchor tenant. United poured $525,000 into the committee in the last month. 

Hey boys, if you have that kind of money you don't need any from Mr. and Mrs. Albuquerque. Just sayin'.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2021

Monday, October 11, 2021

Keller Foes Getting Around To Crime Crisis; Mail Attack Opens Negative Phase Of Mayoral Campaign, Plus: The Candidates On "Encampments" And Soccer Team Owners Trying To Turn Anti-Stadium Tide. 

It's getting late in the game but ABQ's record homicide rate has finally arrived in paid media as foes of front-running ABQ Mayor Tim Keller begin the drive to drive him down in the polls. 

The entire summer went by with BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales mired in controversy over  public campaign financing (he didn't get any) and with Republican Eddy Aragon not emerging until August as an official candidate.

The months squandered will have to be made up with a high-powered, laser-focused attack on the incumbent and even then the best the opponents can expect is to stop him from reaching 50 percent of the vote on Nov. 2 which would force a runoff election with the runner up.  

Veteran political analyst Greg Payne has predicted here that there will be no runoff with Keller topping 50 percent. A consultant who has worked against Keller in the past asserts:

Crime is such an overwhelming issue and penetrating the community so much that I believe the misgivings about his administration are enough to force a runoff election.

The mail hit on Keller posted here come from the Save Our City PAC that is supporting Gonzales and as of early September had $92,000 in cash on hand. 

The PAC attack is money well spent given that the murder spree is Keller's chief weakness, calling into question his leadership of APD and reminding voters of the anguish and trauma that the ceaseless crime crisis has caused. 

Gonzales and Aragon have strived to take Keller down in the mayoral forums without much success. They get another chance this Thursday when the only prime time mayoral debate airs at 7 pm on KOAT-TV.

KELLER LEADS BECAUSE. . . 

This letter from reader Kelley Vigil helps explain why in the face of a crime wave Keller continues to lead:

I've watched all three forums of the candidates with the hope of learning exactly what Keller has done wrong on crime. Aragon and Gonzales have failed to make that case. My take is Gonzales doesn’t have the skill set to run a city and makes things up. He would be in over his head and the Republicans who put him in office would be running the city. Manny would be their little Trojan Horse. 

Aragon is grandiose and scary. “Encampments” for the homeless, really? Aragon, in the NM Black Voters Collaborative was ignorantly offensive to the moderator, calling her by the wrong name and thanking her for a “colorful” debate. 

Both would undo any progress Keller has made the last 4 years in areas other than crime. Keller, although a failure on crime, is still the safer bet for me. He knows the issues and is a manager and executive. Now he needs to figure out in the next four years how to rein in crime. Where he’s failed and what can be done different is a conversation I’d like to see. For now, Keller is the least unpleasant of three choices. 

ENCAMPMENT DEBATE

On encampments for the homeless that Vigil mentioned, Aragon says: 

We can use it as a temporary measure where we establish connection with them, give them 30 days, we can figure out where we can transport them, if we can get them back home. If there’s something that’s broken there, we can figure out something else we can do. 

 Keller says: 

. . . He would want the authorized camps to be small, scattered and controlled to mitigate issues like substance abuse, but that he’s open to the concept if faith-based organizations or other agencies want to try it. 

Gonzales says he is against sanctioned camps for the homeless and would like to see more homeless people arrested for criminal activity.

MISSING THE NET

The pro-soccer stadium crowd is hitting the mailboxes heavy after a late September PPP poll showed 59 percent of ABQ's likely voters are against the proposed $50 million bond issue to get the stadium built (city consultants say it it could cost upwards of $80 million with land and other expenses). 

One of the latest mailers from NM United is posted here as they try to pull off an upset. They have plenty of money for mailers, but not much momentum or excitement. The best reason they can muster for the stadium is a promise of 780 temporary construction jobs. 

NM United has done a fine job of creating enthusiasm for their game on the soccer field but their play on the campaign trail can't find the net. Not that it's an easy target. ABQ voters have weightier items on their plates than building a soccer stadium and placing it near the forlorn downtown.  

It's not only fiscal conservatives opposing the stadium. Many progressives are joining the bandwagon--like Lissa Knudsen who has already voted and writes on Twitter

I voted against (the stadium) because I believe public bond money should be used for affordable housing, athletic spaces we can all participate in not just watch, more and better public transportation, and accessible high quality substance use treatment facilities. 

This is the home of New Mexico politics. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2021

Thursday, October 07, 2021

More Details On Dramatic Redistricting Plan That Could Cost R's The South, Plus: Ronchetti Redux: Still On The Guv Fence And Feeling Dem Heat, And Our Mayor Watch: Manny Gets On The Tube And Santa Fe Race Gets A New Twist  

The big political news this week was the unveiling here of that proposed redistricting map from progressives before the NM Citizens Redistricting Committee. The new map would dramatically alter the southern congressional district from Republican leaning to Dem friendly and prompted reads to ask how all three districts would be impacted. 

Reporter Jacob Rubashkin of DC's Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales took a dive into the numbers and shows how the new district lines would stack up between the parties:

'18 gov results old→new:
CD1 (Stansbury): 61D-39R→57D-43R
CD2 (Herrell): 47D-53R→54D-46R
CD3 (TLF): 61D-39R→60D-40R

The bottom line is that the new map could easily flip the southern CD to the D's. And Dem Reps. Stansbury and Leger Fernandez would suffer minimal damage to make that flip possible. 

Speaking of the Guv's race, MLG easily beat Steve Pearce in '18 but for '22 there is uncertainty about what Republican she will face.

TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti continues to test the waters for a possible GOP run even though there are already seven others running. That testing is landing him and his employer--KRQE-TV--in some hot water. The DC Dems, not taking his potential candidacy lightly, came with this:

The Democratic Governors Association. . . sent a letter to KRQE-TV warning that Mark Ronchetti’s on-air presence as a meteorologist could subject the station to equal treatment provisions under federal communications law if Ronchetti were to run for governor next year. Ronchetti. . . returned to KRQE-TV after losing the 2020 US Senate election to Democrat Ben Ray Luján. He has not indicated whether he plans to run for governor, but he has been mentioned as a possible candidate.

When Ronchetti ran against Lujan KRQE manager Bill Anderson promised to take him back if he lost. Ronchetti went back on the air soon after the defeat.

Would the station promise to take Ronchetti back again if he and ran and lost for Governor? That's now a high profile question for KRQE and its corporate owner Nexstar. And it's a critical question for Ronchetti whose ego may say go for the gold but whose pocketbook may pull him back. 

We broke the story of Ronchetti considering a '22 Guv run on our September 1 blog. He has yet to comment on his plans. He did say the Dems were out of line and trying to intimidate him by writing the legal letters to the station and that MLG, this year's head of the DGA, was behind the move. 

MAYOR WATCH

Back on the mayoral races, BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales has joined Mayor Keller on TV, coming with his first ad. It's a soft bio spot that describes Gonzales, a former Marine, as "a tough on crime county sheriff" with a plan "to turn our city around that starts with fighting crime and ending the homeless epidemic." Says Gonzales: "Noone will fight harder."

The rough stuff will come soon but Keller will be heavily outspending Gonzales who was denied public financing for ethics violations and last reported raising some $200,000 while Keller has over $500,000 in public financing left to spend in the final weeks.

The ad may be soft but that didn't stop the Keller camp from saying that Manny committed a campaign violation. The ad briefly shows the Sheriff holding a news conference in which he appears before a department DWI checkpoint vehicle with deputies in uniform, all of which the Keller camp says is prohibited under a state law that bans the use of county property in political ads. A Keller operative remarked:

It shows he either does not care about breaking the law or does not care about understanding the law. 

 OH, BOY

In Santa Fe, there's a new twist to the mayoral campaign featuring leading contenders Alan Webber and City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler. She says last year Webber became upset with her during a policy discussion last year and told her "don't get your panties in a twist." 

Vigil Coppler made the comments at a mayoral forum this week, just as early voting was beginning

Webber more or less fessed up to saying something at least akin to what Vigil Coppler charged and said he invited her to file a complaint but she did not. Vigil Coppler's campaign disputes that. 

Who will dare be the first to say "Pantygate?". . . oops, sorry. 

This is the home of New Mexico politics. 

E-mail your news and comments. (newsguy@yahoo.com)

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2021

 
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