Thursday, September 17, 2020

Ronchetti Trying To Outrun Ben Ray With Negative TV As Campaign Clock Ticks Away, Plus: MLG On The Trail For Biden, And: Big Oil Reacts To Big Demographic Changes 

Lujan and Ronchetti
GOP US Senate candidate Mark Ronchetti is trying to make the most of a rare polling gift he received this month. He has gone full-scale negative in an effort to turn the race his way after Dem US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan came up short of the magic and psychologically important number of 50 percent in the ABQ Journal survey. Never mind that Ronchetti is stranded at 40% compared to Lujan's 49%, the perception of the poll has given him a glimmer of hope.

Lujan is not letting it go unnoticed as the pair plays tit for tat with their negative ads. Ronchetti is vastly underfunded compared to Lujan and he has to make a polling move soon in order to attract the national dollars that would be needed to make a race of it in October.

Meanwhile, it appears the chances of there being three TV debates between the pair is on the rise. Lujan said if Congress is in recess October 5, when KOB-TV has its debate scheduled, he will make the stage. The latest:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) acknowledged that most lawmakers will likely return to their districts when the scheduled session ends on Oct. 2, leaving party leaders seeking to hash out an agreement with the White House. If such a deal emerges, then members would be called back to Washington. In that sense, the dynamics would look very similar to those surrounding the long August recess. . . 

While Ronchetti has harangued Lujan over not doing three broadcast debates (Lujan has agreed to KNME and KOAT-TV debates) political pros caution that he needs to be careful what he wishes for. Lujan has appeared and performed ably for several years on such national news broadcasts as Face the Nation and the rest. For some reason, he continues to be underestimated but is a walking book on what makes government tick and why.  Ronchetti is a political novice who could find himself outplayed in a debate or two, despite his lengthy experience as a seasoned TV performer doing daily weather forecasts.

The October 5 debate would be the first and could be the most important. That's because county clerks will be mailing tens of thousands of absentee ballots to voters the morning of October 6.


MLG is on the campaign trail. The New Mexico Governor has been named a co-chair of the Biden transition committee and was on CNN this week trying to drum up Hispanic support for the Dem nominee. The campaign has been concerned about lagging support among Hispanics in the battleground states.

Meanwhile MLG continues to draw positive attention for her handling of the COVID crisis here. The latest to chime in is Scientific American magazine:

Testing has been a crucial part of New Mexico’s strategy. Tests are available to all the state’s residents, whether they are symptomatic or not, and are processed either at New Mexico’s own laboratory or at TriCore Reference Laboratories, an independent organization based in Albuquerque. Both facilities were switched to 24/7 work schedules very early on to maximize testing output. 

If Biden wins we guess MLG can clip the positive article and put it in her package applying to become Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Also, for the first time in its 175 year history Scientific American has endorsed a presidential candidate--Joe Biden--while criticizing Trump's handling of COVID.


The NYT comes with a secret recording of a meeting over the environment featuring top oil and gas leaders. It's interesting because the oil boys express concern about demographic changes among the public. Here's Ryan Flynn of the NM Oil and Gas Association on the tapes:

“Young voters, female voters, Hispanic voters, really every sector except for older conservative male voters,” Flynn said in the recording of the meeting, “their No. 1 issue when it comes to our industry is always going to be environmental stewardship, and concerns about what we’re doing with the environment.”

This reminds us of early August when oilman and former southern Dem Congressman Harry Teague endorsed Republican Yvette Herrell and the NMOGA's Flynn, a Republican, softened the blow by saying nice things about Dem Hispanic lawmaker Rep. Torres Small who Herrell is trying to unseat. Future profit and survival in the era of climate change are on the minds of the oil crowd and it's sending them down paths previously ignored.

MAYOR 2021

The email brings this:

Joe, this is one of your Republican Alligators reaching out. I work with a lot of Republican leaders and there’s a lot of talk about former ABQ GOP City Councilor Dan Lewis running for Mayor again. He’s actively raising money for county, legislative and federal candidates. He beat 6 other candidates last time and got over 36,000 votes in the runoff. I’ve also heard Public Education Commissioner David Robbins mentioned. . . Please don’t reveal me. :)

Don't worry, Gator, our lips are sealed. But Dan Lewis for Mayor? Sure, he received 36,000 votes in 2017 against Dem Tim Keller but that amounted to only 38 percent of the vote compared to Keller's 62 percent landslide. For now, GOP Gator, you are on training wheels.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Money Chase Highlights Key State Senate Contests In Final Stretch, Plus: Keller And Crime; Administration Pushes Back  

It takes cash to campaign so what do some of those key state Senate races look like in the final stretch now that the money reports have been filed? The reports filed Monday covered June 30 thru Sept. 7 and show where the action is. . .

Among the hotly competitive contests is Dem Katy Duhigg challenging GOP freshman state Senator Candace Gould for a seat centered in the ABQ North Valley. Both contenders are ready for battle. Duhigg raised $85,000 in the period and reports $123,000 in cash. Her contributions included $5000 from the Duhigg law firm, $2500 from Emily's List and a number of big labor union contributions.

Gould raised less than Duhigg--$51,000--but her cash position is solid. She reports $131,000 on hand in this banner contest. Her contributors include $5000 from GOP state Senator Mark Moores and another $5000 from GOP Sen. Cliff Pirtle.

There's been scuttlebutt that the R's might have a chance to take District 30, the western NM Senate seat held by Dem Clemente Sanchez who was defeated in the Dem primary by Pam Cordova, but put that on your longshot list. Cordova, a fixture in Dem politics in Valencia County, raised $88,000 in the reporting period, compared to just $23,000 for R Joshua Sanchez. Cordova reports $75,000 in cash. Sanchez has $31,000. Insiders say conservative Clemente, none too happy about his primary defeat, is supporting the R.

Back in ABQ, Harold Pope Jr., vying to become the first African-American state senator, reports raising $51,000 and having $69,000 in cash. He's trying to unseat GOP Senator Sander Rue in the swing westside district. He reports raising just $19,500 but has a healthy cash position of $60,000. NM Democrats kicked in $5000 to Pope and Chevron was there for Rue with $5,000.

ABQ NE Heights Dem State Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto reports more cash than just about any Senator-- $99,000. Big contributors included the oil boys. Chevron gave $7,600 and Occidental Petroleum came with $4,000.

Ivey-Soto does not have a competitive race. His R foe raised only $15,000. But what he does have is a competitive contest to become the next Senate President Pro Tem. That power position is being vacated by Mary Kay Papen and Senate Dems will make their new choice after the election. Certainly the oil boys don't want the Senate to go too far to the left and Ivey-Soto won't take it there. His bulging campaign coffers could come in handy for contributions to fellow senators in tight races as he works to round up votes to advance to the highest rungs in the 42 member chamber.

Finally on the Senate money chase today, from the Journal's Dan Boyd:

Republican Crystal Diamond of Elephant Butte reported Monday having raised $111,810 during the recent reporting period, with contributions from Chevron and several incumbent GOP senators. Her opponent, Democrat Neomi Martinez-Parra of Lordsburg, who defeated Sen. John Arthur Smith in the primary, reported raising more than $95,000, with financial backing from several union groups and incumbent Democrats.

That one looks like a contest for the title of the Senator from Chevron or the Senator from AFSCME.

All the latest state campaign finance reports are here.


Some pushback from the 11th floor of City Hall over criticism on the Monday blog of Mayor Keller and Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair from Tom Grover, a former cop turned attorney who defends many police officers. Grover argued that the troubled APD is due to "micromanaging" by the administration. Keller spokesman Matt Ross with the rebuttal:

One, how could the CAO have been "micro-managing" the Onate protest response when she was sitting in a Council meeting the whole time? The video is public here. It should also have been included in your story that the Council President (Pat Davis) who initiated those claims retracted and apologized in a public meeting.

You're giving space to a lawyer looking for a tax-funded payday, but somehow missed the poll out Sunday that shows Mayor Keller with a 60% approval. That didn't fit your narrative? This isn't an outlier, either: we've seen consistent approval numbers for the Mayor across all three years of his tenure. In crisis after crisis, the Mayor has been a leader people trust to steer the ship. The extremely low disapproval, at 22%, might be even more significant if you're trying to read the tea leaves for an incumbent mayor. Keller's leadership is resonating with real people who don't live and die in the bubble of political intrigue, and that's what matters most.

As for the ABQ Journal poll, we wrote our blog before that poll came out but it actually does "fit our narrative" about Keller which is that ultimately his fate will be decided on the crime issue and that the 60 percent approval hardly tells the full story. We go to pollster Brian Sanderoff for his analysis which dovetails with our own:

Sanderoff. . .said it appears that the public perception of Keller has improved during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that may be partly because the virus has temporarily supplanted crime as voters’ top concern. . .Crime, which was a major issue well before Keller took office, remains a significant problem now. Although Albuquerque’s property crime dipped in 2019, the city recorded the highest number of homicides for any year in recent memory in 2019 and is on pace to break that record this year. The public’s focus may have shifted to COVID-19 for now, but Sanderoff said Keller’s legacy is still tied to the city’s response to crime. “Crime is still lurking as the biggest issue facing the city, and whether people ultimately will continue to approve of the mayor’s performance will ultimately be determined by how he’s perceive as handling crime,” said Sanderoff.

You can call that "political intrigue" or poltical reality. Take your pick.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Early Numbers Point To Record Setting Absentee Ballots For 2020 Election, Plus: ABQ's Long-Running Weekly Alibi Dies; Councilor Davis Deal Falls Through; New Paper Planned  

Early trends confirm that this will be an historic election when it comes to mail-in ballots. Already more than 15,000 of Dona Ana county's 90,000 registered voters--or about 17 percent--have requested absentees. In big Bernalillo County Clerk Linda Stover reports over 83,000 absentee ballots have been requested, or over 19 percent of the county's 435,000 registered voters.

And that's before the county clerks in those counties and 8 others began sending out absentee ballot applications to all registered voters Monday. Voters who have requested absentees will have them sent to them beginning October 6.

A national nonprofit--the Center for Voter Information--blanketed the state in August with absentee applications, helping to explain the already high number of requests.

One intriguing question: will all of this activity mean more votes than normal will be cast well before the Nov. 3 Election Day? Surely more than normal will be, but political pros like veteran Dem consultant Mark Fleisher say voters tend to wait until the final days to vote. That's backed up by the Secretary of State in the state of Washington where all-mail elections have been the norm for a decade:

. . . Sixty per cent of our ballots came in election week. . .You’re getting inundated right at the last minute, and I think that you’re going to see that trend across the country. I’d like to think voters are going to vote early and be really good and helpful on this front, but I’ve done this too long. . . I think you’re going to see election offices across the country swamped by that late surge of mail-in ballots, and it doesn’t matter how good you are. King County elections, where Seattle is, is one of the most efficient and well-run, and I can tell you that the volume still slows down their processing. It’s just the nature of people waiting until the last minute to vote.

New Mexico has bought itself some insurance to protect against a late wave of absentees that would overwhelm the clerks or not reach them because of mail issues. Secretary of State Toulouse Oliver says the deadline for mailing an absentee ballot has been moved up to October 27. However, voters can still drop them off at special drop boxes set up by the clerks or at the polls until 7 p.m. November 3. Clerks here are also allowed to begin processing absentee ballots well before Election Day.

Still, we have had recent absentee problems. Dona Ana County was overwhelmed by absentees and could not get them counted for days in the Nov. '18 election. In this year's June primary the Santa Fe County Clerk was unable to complete the absentee count Election Night and it also dragged on. Bernalillo County stopped counting absentees at 11 p.m. primary night because of an exhausted crew, although unlike Dona Ana and Santa Fe no major races were still unresolved.

The ten counties that are sending absentee ballot applications to all registered voters include the most populated ones of Bernalillo, Dona Ana and Santa Fe plus Sandoval, Colfax, Grant, Valencia, Los Alamos, Guadalupe and San Miguel counties.

As for overall turnout in the election, that too could reach historic highs because voting is being made easier by that absentee push. That could favor the Dems who outnumber the R's 45.6 percent to 30.9 percent. As of August there were about 1.311 million registered voters in the state. Pros expect at least 800,000 votes to be cast in the presidential election--and probably more--surpassing the 779,000 from 2016.


The ABQ alternative newspaper Weekly Alibi has ended a nearly thirty year run. A deal being pursued by ABQ Dem City Councilor Pat Davis to purchase the struggling weekly has fallen through. He says:

As you know, I was working to purchase the Alibi and keep it running under that name. Unfortunately, circumstances beyond our control prevented the sale at close and the Alibi has published its last edition. For those (like us!) who believe Albuquerque needs a strong alternative news source, don't despair. Many of the former contributors and key staff alt-weekly readers know and love have joined our team. We're launching a new weekly in early October - stay tuned!


Reader Dave Matthews gets sarcastic about a recent entry from a Senior Alligator of the Dem variety describing one of the state House races:

“Dem Rep. Abbas Akhil, who defeated incumbent Jim Dines in '18 by only 115 votes to serve as the state's first Muslim-American legislator. . . "

Muslim-American?? I guess that means I’m a Christian-American! Or maybe a Lutheran-New Mexican.  What’s next? Agnostic-Democrat? Buddhist-Republican? The identity politics has gotten way out of hand. Sincerely, Dave Mathews, Duffer-Northeast Heightsian.

During these times of turmoil we welcome your thoughts, comments and general existential angst.

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Monday, September 14, 2020

Sen. Udall In Play For Sec. Of Interior, "All The Signals Are There" Plus: Lujan Blinks On TV Debate, Big Endorsements In Southern CD Race And Keller's Crime Problem  

Sen. Udall
Add another New Mexico name that's high on the list of possibles for a Joe Biden cabinet, should the Dem presidential nominee prevail November 3.

Joining MLG in the inside the beltway speculation is Dem Sen. Tom Udall who is being prominently mentioned for Secretary of Interior, the post his late father Stewart Udall held and excelled at under President Kennedy. Energy and Environment News (E&E) comes with details:

Udall is on a short list of possible Interior secretaries if Biden is elected, according to former high-level Interior Department officials working for the former vice president's campaign. And Udall would be interested if asked, sources told E&E News. The Democrat, who announced last year he would not seek a third Senate term, has made it clear he's not retiring from public service. "I intend to find new ways to serve New Mexico and our country after I finish this term," he said. . . No final decisions have been made. . . But Udall is at the top of the list, insiders say, citing his strong conservation track record. . . All the signals are there," one official involved in the insider discussions said. . . 

Udall, 72, joins MLG, 60, in having serious interest in being in a Biden cabinet and winning serious consideration. The NYT reported in July the Governor was on the list to become Secretary of the Health and Human Services Department.

A New Mexican as Sec. of Interior is not unheard of. ABQ GOP Congressman Manuel Lujan, Jr. was named to the slot by President Bush in 1989 and served four years. In the 20's Albert Fall of NM held the position, a tenure stained by the Teapot Dome Scandal.

Udall's ascension to the cabinet would have little impact on state politics. His Senate seat will be filled in November, with Dem Ben Ray Lujan the favorite to prevail over R Mark Ronchetti. But an MLG departure would be an earth shaker. Lt. Gov. Howie Morales would become Governor, naming his own lieutenant governor and igniting a flurry of speculation about what fellow Dems would challenge him for the 2022 Dem Guv nomination. Then there is the question of how Morales would handle the governorship handed off to him in the middle of a pandemic and an economic disaster wrought by the pandemic.


In that US Senate race Rep. Lujan has blinked on his decision to not appear at an Oct. 5 TV debate sponsored by KOB-TV and his hometown newspaper, the Santa Fe New Mexican. He now says if the Congress is not in session he will appear. The debate sponsors had said if he did not show they would place an empty chair on the stage to represent him.

Lujan was slammed in a newspaper editorial for avoiding the debate and rival Ronchetti has been pounding away at Lujan's no debate decision on social media, even though the five term lawmaker has agreed to two debates--on KOAT and KNME TV. Lujan says he needs to be in DC to vote on any coronavirus aid package that comes up but if the Congress has recessed by then he will do the third debate. Now the question is who gets the empty chair?


The latest polling has Lujan running nine points ahead (49-40) and while negative campaigning has sprouted up he also continues to push his softer side. An example is his new TV spot. Ronchetti's latest ad accuses Lujan of sharing "San Francisco values" with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He also announced his endorsement by the NRA.


President Trump made it official and tweeted out his support of southern GOP congressional candidate Yvette Herrell who is locked in an intense battle with Dem US Rep. Xochitl Torres Small.

Trump's backing is welcome but he could use some endorsements of his own in the largely conservative district. The recent ABQ Journal poll had him winning the district by only 4 points, hardly the landslide Herrell wants so she can ride his coattails into office.

Meanwhile, clever XTS continues to come with little surprises that must be irritating the Herrell camp. First, the NM Oil and Gas Assocation said nice things about her. Now the R leaning US Chamber of Commerce has given her an outright endorsement. XTS was one of the House Dems who scored better than 70 percent on the Chamber's scorecard.


ABQ Mayor Tim Keller isn't up for re-election until November of next year but he can hear the footsteps of potential rivals, one reason crime-ridden ABQ is getting a new police chief. Keller made the announcement of APD Chief Mike Geier's departure at an uncharacteristically somber news conference. The weight of the crime epidemic and State Auditor Brian Colon's investigation of alleged wrongdoing at the agency appears to have fully settled on the Mayor's shoulders. Dem BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales has all but announced a mayoral bid and Republicans are starting to make noise about possible challengers.

Keller named Harold Medina as acting chief, a move immediately decried by APD critics as presenting the same old wine in a brand new bottle. They say Medina is a product of an aggressive APD culture that brought the Feds to town to reform the troubled department. Keller says he will launch a national search for a permanent chief but with the election so close he could be hard-pressed to persuade anyone to come here.

Medina, Geier and Keller (Pierre-Louis, Journal)
Ineffectively micromanaging APD. That’s the accusation Keller and his Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair have had to deal with as crime continues to soar. Under questioning from freshman GOP City Councilor Brook Bassan Nair denied the charge and became upset and frosty toward Bassan when she asked about the administration's support of Chief Geier before his departure was later announced. Pretty messy.

Tom Grover, a former APD officer and now an attorney who has had many officers and others associated with APD as clients, fired back at the CAO's denial of micromanagement:

“Let me be clear: To the extent you’re suggesting that the 11th floor is making operational or tactical decisions about the Police Department, we are not,” said Sarita Nair to Brook Bassan. But this doesn’t appear to be true. A memo from Paulette Diaz (Geier’s secretary) is evidence that they do micromanage. Geier getting pushed out when he tries to control his office is also evidence that they do. The administration choosing Medina as interim chief when he’s been their snitch and has even been looking for other jobs is evidence that they totally do micromanage. So please spare us the continued lies. (Like Sarita wasn’t micromanaging during the Oñate protest).

Handling APD has been like juggling porcupines and has left visible political wounds on Mayor Keller. Never mind that the epic mismanagement by his predecessor, Mayor Berry, set him up for a fall. He owns it now and he can't return it to the sender.

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Thursday, September 10, 2020

NM R's Unveil "Fair Deal" But Is It A Desperate Deal? Plus: More Key State House Races Analyzed, And: Conspiracy Free Voting 

Top state Republicans are calling it their "Fair Deal" but others might label it a desperate deal because the on-the-ropes Grand Old Party is starting to sense another tidal wave forming that could wash away even more of their legislative seats.

The "Fair Deal" is a title taken directly from President Harry Truman, not President Trump. That says it all. The NM R's are trying to separate themselves from the Prez as he faces a substantial loss here to Dem Joe Biden and could take with him a number of GOP House and Senate seats.

But the ninth inning Hail Mary the R's are throwing is light on specifics. How do you separate yourself from the man who is your party? Not easily.

(The) news conference was light on the specifics of the Republican agenda, with legislators instead directing reporters to Respect New Mexico’s website. Legislators and candidates did say they favored “sensible criminal justice reform,” “comprehensive education reform” and retooling the state’s tax system, but they did not provide more specific proposals in those areas.

Some Trump supporters are none too happy with the Fair Deal. Trumper and ABQ radio talker Eddy Aragon says:

Republicans need to dance with the gal that brought them to the prom--that's Trump. They need to get into the grassroots and get out the GOP vote in the many Republican districts they lost for the first time in 2018. You don't do that by abandoning the one person who can light a fire under Republican voters. 

But are there enough Trump voters left to activate in those districts? Either way they go--with Trump or without him---GOP legislative leaders face a daunting task. Here's reader Kelley DuPont anguishing about her vote in her ABQ westside state Senate district:

(Republican) Sander Rue is my Senator. He’s nice, he’s visited our home in the past while campaigning. I think he’s done a good job. Sad to say I’ll probably vote for the Democrat whom I know nothing about. I’m so turned off by Donald Trump and (NMGOP Chairman) Steve Pearce that I’ll most likely never vote for a Republican in my lifetime.

The Dem candidate in that race is retired Air Force officer Harold Pope, Jr.


Speaking of legislative seats, let's pick up where we left off yesterday and examine the remainder of the key state House races with our Senior Alligator of a Dem variety. Here's their take on contests outside of the ABQ metro that merit watching:

In 2018 in central New Mexico, Democrats narrowly lost House Districts 22 and 57 by 140 votes and 217 votes, respectively. In both cases, the Democratic candidates are running again. With more money and greater name recognition, these challengers may have a better opportunity to flip these seats than they did last cycle.

House District 57 in Rio Rancho features a rematch of teacher Billie Helean against incumbent Republican Jason Harper, a Sandia scientist who has represented the district since 2013.

Jessica Velasquez is running again in the East Mountains/Placitas district of HD22. But instead of facing Republican Greg Schmedes, who left his House seat to run for the Senate—successfully defeating Jim White in the SD19 primary—Velasquez is facing conservative activist and gun rights advocate Stefani Lord.

Three rural House districts could shape up to be nail-biters in November. In eastern NM’s HD63, Republicans defeated Democratic incumbent George Dodge by a mere 27 votes in 2018. Now, first-term Representative Martin Zamora is facing an elite challenger in Dr. Randal Brown. A long-time family doctor in Santa Rosa, Dr. Brown would bring valuable medical expertise to the Roundhouse, a strong selling point during a pandemic.

In House District 53 in Doña Ana and Otero counties, Rep. Willie Madrid is once again facing former GOP Rep. Ricky Little for the third time. Little won in 2016 by 138 votes, and then Madrid prevailed in 2018 by a healthier, but not overwhelming, margin of 291 votes.

Up in the Four Corners in District 4, first-term Democratic Rep. Anthony Allison, a Navajo, is facing Mark Duncan, the Mayor of Kirtland and the termed-out San Juan County Treasurer. Campaigns in swing House District 4 are always hard-fought and victories are often narrow, but will the Navajo-majority district elect a non-Native state representative? To our knowledge, that would be a first.


If you are being charged NM gross receipts tax on groceries ordered delivered to your door, you shouldn't be, says Fred Nathan of Think NM:

. . . We learned that some grocery stores were taxing food that people order for delivery even though the sale of food has been tax-exempt in New Mexico since 2005. Being able to have groceries delivered without paying taxes that can run at high as 9% is especially important for elderly . . . and immunocompromised New Mexicans during the current pandemic. . .Now we have good news: Governor Lujan Grisham's Secretary of Taxation and Revenue has issued a directive clarifying that food should not be taxed when New Mexicans order it from a grocery store online and have it delivered.


Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has her hands full trying to combat the conspiracy theories and fear over absentee voting that could grow if left unchecked. She reports:

Registered voters in New Mexico can now begin using the Secretary of State’s online absentee ballot request portal to apply for an absentee ballot for the November 3rd General Election. New Mexico is a “no-excuse” absentee ballot state, meaning that any registered voter is able to apply for, receive, and vote with an absentee ballot.

“Voting by absentee ballot is a safe and secure way to make your voice heard in November while also protecting your health and the health of your community. . .New Mexico’s election administrators are prepared and are providing a number of ways for voters to cast their ballot, whether by mailing an absentee ballot, dropping your completed absentee ballot off with your County Clerk or designated drop location, or by voting in-person during Early Voting or on Election Day.”

Voters should also know that if their absentee ballot is not completed correctly, a notification with the reason why the absentee ballot was not accepted will be sent by the County Clerk to that voter within 24 hours of receiving it. That notification will include instructions on how the voter can remedy whatever discrepancy led to their ballot not being accepted.

For those who can't get over the Black Helicopters flying over head or the Russians behind a tree, the best bet may be to drop off your ballot at a designated drop location. Here in Bernalillo County, Clerk Linda Stover says they will be ready for hand delivered ballots at these locations.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Gaming The State House; Dems Try For Repeat Of '18 Metro Blue Wave; R's Mount Defense; Expert Senior Alligator Analysis, Plus: Crazy South Valley La Politica But What Else Is New?  

Monahan And Senior Alligator
Was it a fluke or a permanent reset? That's the big question hovering over the key races for the 70 member state House of Representatives this year.

In a stunning reversal of fortune for the GOP, Democrats picked up seven House seats in the ABQ metro in the Blue wave of 2018. It left the Rs gasping for air as their ranks in big Bernalillo County were reduced to a last man standing--Rep. Bill Rehm. When the wave receded the NM House had 46 Dems and 24 R's--the biggest D majority in years.

But will the Dems hold on in 2020 or give back some seats that perhaps came too easily? Or is Republican Red a color that is as out of style as handwritten letters?  House R's are trying to get back in the game, saying this week they are advocating a "moderate agenda" which seems aimed at toning down their Trumpian ties.

We now take a look at every key race in the ABQ metro with a Senior Alligator of the Dem variety. It's insider info you will only get here.  And we're off. . .

Joe, the metro area will be the center of the battle for the House. Many of the tightest races will involve these first-term incumbents defending their seats against a new crop of Republican challengers.

1) House District 27 in the NE Heights will be the most watched House race in the metro area. It features incumbent Dem Marian Matthews and GOP challenger Robert Godshall, who lost to Bill Pratt by only 193 votes in 2018. Matthews was appointed to serve out the term of Rep. Pratt, who passed in December 2019. Godshall was nominated to replace GOP Rep. Larry Larrañaga on the ballot after he withdrew because of illness and later died.

Our comment: If the Dem blue wave for the metro House seats is going to continue in 2020 the Matthews-Goodshall race will provide an early clue Election Night. The area has been a GOP stronghold for decades.

2) DISTRICT 68--Most observers believe the only reason that Democrats captured this district on ABQ's westside in 2018 is because GOP incumbent Monica Youngblood got busted for DWI, and the police video from the event revealed her efforts to parlay her elected office into a get-out-of-jail-free card. But Hillary Clinton narrowly edged out Trump in the district, so the House Democrats had their eye on it before Youngblood’s legal issues. The DWI certainly helped Karen Bash run up a 16 point victory, but the Democrats might have pulled off the win regardless. It does, however, make it interesting that the GOP recruited Giovanni Coppola this cycle, given that he has a DWI arrest of his own.

Our comment: Okay, but that little swipe at Giovanni will upset the R's who think they have a winner with the 29 year old entrepreneur. 

3) DISTRICT 28--Melanie Stansbury, a water and natural resources consultant, is facing Republican Thomas Stull in this NE Heights district. Stansbury defeated long-time GOP incumbent Jimmie Hall by more than 1,000 votes in 2018. Like other suburban Albuquerque districts, this is trending more blue. Although Republicans are making a strong play the partisan shift is working against them, as evidenced by the presidential polling numbers from the Journal.

Our comment: No question the R's need Trump to perform in these newly Dem House seats, a tall order given his bad numbers in the metro where he trailed Biden 61-33 in the Journal survey.


4) DISTRICT 15--in the North Valley/NE Heights, aerospace attorney Rep. Day Hochman-Vigil is defending her seat against Ali Ennenga, a conservative activist and former staffer for Americans for Prosperity. After GOP attorney Sarah Maestas Barnes opted against running for re-election in 2018, Republicans had hoped to hold on to this swing district by recruiting popular long-time City Councilor Brad Winter to run. Hochman-Vigil prevailed 52-48, however, and now faces a weaker opponent in Ennenga.

Our comment: If the well-known Winter couldn't do it, can any R?

5) DISTRICT 29--In fast-growing northwest ABQ, another first-time incumbent, retired educator Joy Garratt, is facing challenger Adelious Stith. Stith’s campaign happens to be managed by the man Garratt ousted in 2018: David Adkins. The margin in that race was more than 8 points after Democrats lost it by only 9 votes in 2016.

6) DISTRICT 30--In one of the few rematches from 2018, Natalie Figueroa once again faces John Jones, who she defeated by a hefty 16 points in 2018. Few people expect Jones to close that 16 point gap this time, so Figueroa should be sleeping just fine.

7) DISTRICT 20--Dem Rep. Abbas Akhil, who defeated incumbent Jim Dines in '18 by only 115 votes to serve as the state's first Muslim-American legislator, opted against re-election. Meredith Dixon, a small business owner and fundraising consultant for Sen. Udall, is the Democratic candidate. She’s facing Michael Hendricks—the GOP nominee for Attorney-General in 2018. This SE Albuquerque/Four Hills district is another trending blue so Dixon has the edge and has plenty of cash in the bank.

Our comment: Hendricks is a strong offering. He was the only big name R to call for the resignation of then-GOP Rep. Monica Youngblood after her DWI arrest. He's conservative but showed he could cross party lines but Dixon's money advantage may be too much to overcome.

The Alligators are out in force for the final stretch of Campaign 2020. They won't miss a trick which means neither will you. And that’s how you become New Mexico’s top political news source. 


De la Cruz
Remember him? Sure, you do he is the former two term BernCo Commissioner from the Dem South Valley and now. . .

(The BernCo Commission has) chosen (Democrat) Art de la Cruz to fill the vacant District 12 seat of the NM  House. . .De la Cruz replaces (Dem) Rep. Patricio Ruiloba who resigned his seat in August. District 12 is located in the southwest quadrant of Bernalillo County. . .The commission approved the appointment of De la Cruz on a 3 to 2 vote. (Dem) Commissioners Debbie O’Malley and James Collie dissented.

But Art may never get to step into the Roundhouse as a lawmaker. He was appointed to serve the remainder of Ruiloba's term which runs until the end of the year.

It would take a thousand words to describe this convoluted mess. Suffice it to say that De la Cruz is running as a write-in candidate in the November election. Independent candidate Brittany Barreras is the only hopeful on the ballot. The Republicans ran no one. Can Art beat Brittany as a write-in? Maybe. Will ABQ South Valley politics continue to be batshit crazy? Definitely. How do we know? Because Ruiloba is now running for Bernalillo County Sheriff in 2022.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Poll Reveals Warning Signs For R's In Southern CD, Plus: In Senate Race Lujan One Point Shy Of Magic Number And R's Strategize State Senate 

There are warning signs for the R's in the latest polling as they fight to oust Dem US Rep. Xochitl Torres Small in the state's southern congressional district.

The ABQ Journal survey conducted Aug 26-Sept. 2 has XTS carrying a two point lead--47-45--over Republican Yvette Herrell into the final critical weeks of Campaign 2020. That places the race well within the survey's 4.8 percent margin of error. But there could be an enthusaism gap developing between the two contenders that left unchecked could give the Dems the edge.

First is the anemic performance of President Trump in the mostly conservative district. He aced Hillary Clinton by a ten point margin in 2016 but this survey shows he is beating Biden by only 4 points. That confirms insider polling we reported on weeks ago that showed Trump carrying the district by only one point.

A sagging Trump could have a profound impact on Herrell. Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff points out his studies show that what happens at the top of the ticket has significant impact on what happens below. Herrell needs a Trump rebound.

The other part of the enthusiasm gap is Herrell's support from 81 percent of Republican respondents. That sounds high, but political pros will tell you that number should be pushing 90 percent. The R's are much smaller than the Dems and must show unity to score the upset. The fear is that the ongoing infighting among GOP factions in the district will again dampen turnout for Herrell as it did when she lost to XTS by 3,700 votes in 2016.


In the Journal polling of the US Senate race, veteran political analyst Greg Payne pronounced himself "a little surprised" that US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan came up one point short of the magic 50 percent mark that signals victory is near. Lujan scored 49 percent to Republican Mark Ronchetti's 40 percent. (Libertarian Bob Walsh had 4 percent).

Payne does not believe that Lujan is in serious jeopardy at this juncture. He says the northern congressman's name ID statewide is only now being developed via TV ads.

There is also the matter of the intense dislike of Washington DC these days. The Journal poll gives Congress a ludicrously low approval rating of 12 percent. That could also be holding back BRL from getting an early "all clear" signal from voters. Ronchetti and the R's have been hanging liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi around his neck. She's unpopular with conservatives but also many in the Dems progressive wing.

Lujan has only just begun to put Ronchetti's neck in the Trump noose. Trump is running about where Ronchetti is--39 percent against Biden's 54. How can Ronchetti break through the wall of negativity surrounding Trump in the ABQ metro area where the poll says he is already behind 20 points? Without that breakthrough, he can't win. His 40 percent polling  represents a consolidation of the Republican base vote, not a breakthrough with needed Dems and indys.

Lujan's first wave of general election ads left him about where he was in the June PPP poll which had him leading Ronchetti 48 to 34. There are still no signs that national R's are interested in targeting the race but Lujan will want to close that door as quickly as he can. That means going negative.

Only the southern congressional race is competitive. The other two are snoozers. ABQ Dem freshman Rep. Deb Haaland has an enormous 58-31 lead over R Michelle Garcia Holmes.

Haaland’s politics may be a bit far left for the district but voters take pride in her overcoming her personal struggles to become one of the first Native American women to serve in the Congress and serving with dedication.

The lesser known Teresa Leger Fernandez, the Dem nominee for the northern seat, is also way ahead of her GOP foe, Alexis Johnson, 50 to 35. Leger will need time to win the hearts of voters but she possesses a calm competence that has been well received in the north.


R's focused on the state Senate seats say that they have two possible pick-ups to offset a potential Dem rampage in the ABQ metro. They point to Crystal Dimond who is running against Neomi Martinez for the seat of Sen. John Arthur Smith in the SW. He was defeated by Martinez in the Dem primary but the district does have conservative inclinations. They also think that the seat being left vacant by conservative Dem John Sapien of Corrales could tip Republican with able GOP contender John Clark. Onetime Deb Haaland aide Brenda McKenna is the Dem hopeful and women are getting elected in droves on the D side.

The four R seats on the line include those of Senators Rue and Gould and the open seat of GOP Senator Bill Payne, all in big Bernalillo County. Another R problem is the challenge Republican freshman Sen. Greg Baca is getting in Valencia County.

The R's would like the seat of Sen. Clemente Sanchez of Grants who was ousted in the Dem primary by Pam Cordova but that is a tall order with Trump leading the ticket and her deep roots in the district.

If the GOP could pick up the Smith or Sapien seats or both it would balance out potential losses or even lead to a pick up, if all their incumbents could hold on. One thing is certain--the R's are again playing defense just as in '18.

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Monday, September 07, 2020

Trump Hits The Blue Wall; Biden Trounces Him In Key State Poll: Impact On Legislative Races Eyed 

Barring an event of unimaginable consequence, New Mexico is poised to go blue for the fourth consecutive time in a presidential contest.

The ABQ Journal poll released Sunday essentially puts the race out of reach of Republican President Donald Trump who won the backing of only 39 percent of likely voters compared to Dem challenger Joe Biden's 54 percent.

Making a Trump comeback even less likely, just 7 percent of those polled said they were undecided or that they would not be voting for either candidate.

Given the exceptionally low undecided less than two months from Election Day only an event of seismic proportion that shakes the entire nation would appear to be able to alter the inevitability of a Biden win here. 

In the know R's are circling the wagons, acknowledging that with a Biden blue wave the state's five member congressional delegation will likely stay blue and that the party's best hope is to vigorously campaign to protect and add to their legislative numbers.

A Trump win is not in the cards but they see a shot at reducing his losing margin in which Trump breaks free from the Republican base vote of 42 percent. That could benefit their legislative candidates as well as southern congressional hopeful Yvette Herrell.

At NMGOP headquarters they tried to put a brave face on the dismal numbers. They questioned the survey's demographics, wondering about the number of Dems polled vs. R's, noting that the information was not released. They added:

Polls conducted in the summer often fail to be reflective of November elections. Campaigns don’t start until after Labor Day. There will be nationally televised presidential debates, and candidates will spend millions in media advertising. To conduct a poll during late summer may be useful, but in New Mexico there are more than 283,000 unaffiliated voters who were not involved in the Primary Election.

Still, this makes for some very wishful thinking. Trump lost to Hillary Clinton here in 2016 by 48 to 40 with Libertarian Gary Johnson garnering 9 percent. Pollster Brian Sanderoff sounded a four alarm fire for the White House, pointing out that Hispanic voters were supporting Biden 64 percent to Trump's 28 percent and that just about all the Hispanics who supported Johnson were now supporting Biden. That undercut a key argument of the Trump campaign on why the state could be brought into play. The President would need  40 percent Hispanic support to be anywhere near competitive.

There were tidbits of good news for Trump in the survey conducted August 26 to September 2 among 1,123 likely voters and that sports a margin error of 2.9 percent. In the Northwest region he manages a 55 to 43 margin over Biden and on the conservative eastside Trump won landslide numbers, 65 percent to 30 percent over Biden. And while Trump is behind here it is not a surprise and not a commentary on what the ultimate result of the national election will be.

But it was the ABQ Metro that delivered what could be the death knell, giving him just 33 percent support to Biden's landslide number of 61 percent. The Metro is the most populous region of the state and turnout could be off the charts this year.

In 2018--an off year election with lower turnout than a presidential year---a Dem Blue Wave washed over the usually moderate/conservative ABQ NE Heights. When it was done only one GOP state House member was left standing in Bernalillo County. R's challenging the Dem freshman winners from that year have to face the dilemma of watching many of their voters going for Biden and then trying to persuade them to vote Republican for the House seats.

Then there's the four metro area GOP state senate seats that could be crucial in determining how liberal state policy could be in the election's aftermath. The R's seeking those slots are in need of chicken soup and valium to help them recover from the body blow this poll represents.

One poll does not an election make but it often defines what is and what isn't possible. Could we see some Republicans separate themselves from Trump in hope of surviving? Well, a hungry man will do most anything to see the sun rise another day.

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Thursday, September 03, 2020

Labor Day 2020 Sees Appreciation For Front Line Workers But Union Membership Remains Slight, Plus: First Nonpartisan Polling Coming In Key NM Races, And: Seeking Younger Poll Workers. 

Labor Day 2020 is celebrated Monday but there won't be that much celebrating at union halls around the state. That's because there aren't many such halls left. Neither are there many members of labor unions.

The latest stats are from 2019 and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They put NM union membership at only 7.1 percent of the workforce of 813,000. Colorado is at 9 percent and Arizona just 5.7 percent.

Overall in the USA union membership was 10.3 percent of the workforce in 2019, down 0.2 percent from 2018, say the Feds.

While the unions lack big numbers they still have muscle, especially those for government workers such as teachers and also in the construction trades. Right in time for this Labor Day Bernalillo County proposed. . .

Unions could play a guaranteed role on the next major Bernalillo County construction project under proposed legislation going soon before the County Commission. Supporters say the “Community Workforce Ordinance” could mean more local workers on job sites and ensure they have health benefits, while opponents dispute that. 

Whether a member of a labor union or not the public has rediscovered the value of working men and women during the pandemic. Grocery store clerks, nurses and other front line workers are celebrated for their bravery and service. As they should be.


For the professional political class campaigns are now multi-year events but the general public doesn't really start paying attention until about now, on Labor Day. What that public is thinking as Campaign 2020 comes into focus will be better known Sunday when the ABQ Journal unveils its first poll of the season looking at key races and issues.

The Journal, facing financial challenges like most papers, took a pass on polling in the June primary for the first time since they started their surveys 25 years ago. But the paper appears to be back full strength for the fall cycle and will do not just one but several surveys, says longtime pollster Brian Sanderoff.

The race most watched is that featuring Dem US Rep. Xochitl Torres Small and Republican Yvette Herrell who is trying to unseat XTS after losing to her in 2018. The only public poll conducted of the  the contest was for the GOP and showed the race tied in early July. Will it stay that way? The Journal's scientific surveys employ live interviews with likely NM voters so the poll should give us a good idea where that contest stands and then we are really off to the races.


It's no secret that most poll workers on Election Day are well into their 60's or older. Normally that's not a big deal, but this year with older folks more susceptible to COVID the Secretary of State is asking younger people to take on the job of poll workers to further public safety. The gig lasts for some 12 hours on election day and minimum pay is $7.25 an hour, but it's a public service and afterwards you can hook up with coworkers at a favorite brewpub and watch the election returns. The form to apply is here.


It may have been a while since you have flown out of the ABQ International Sunport and it could still be awhile before the pandemic relents and the coast is clear for cautious travelers. But when things do get back to normal a new airport website could make that trip easier. The site features. . .

. . . a streamlined menu, increased functionality and an attractive, cutting-edge design. These improvements help create a better user-experience and allow travelers to get the information they need, when they need it.

The site is indeed an improvement. If you don't plan on any travel but still yearn for a look at your favorite airport, there's a webpage highlighting the outstanding and unique art that greets locals and visitors alike at the state's welcoming gateway.

That's it for now. Homebound or away, have a Happy Labor Day.

Frank, take us out of here and into the air.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan and. . . .

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Wednesday, September 02, 2020

What Happened To ABQ? Few Dare Say It's Name But It's Chief Cause Of Ongoing Crime Wave, Plus: ABQ's Alibi Gets Reprieve; Paper Bought By City Councilor  

Record murders. Record or near auto theft and break-ins. Year after year. What gives?  Few dare say its name but a new reality has changed the very nature and character of the state's largest city:

The drug battle on the border is shifting and authorities say New Mexico’s growing meth problem is being fueled by criminal operations in Mexico. U.S. Attorney for New Mexico John Anderson credits the rise in cheap and available meth for driving Albuquerque’s crime crisis. “. . . I see meth as being the number one public safety threat in that respect as a driver of violent crime,” Anderson said. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, New Mexico’s meth problem is getting worse, with 2020 on track to surpass 2019 and 2018 for total meth seizures coming from Mexico. Federal authorities are seizing larger amounts of drugs in the state, and Anderson said there are a few reasons why.

“I think it's the cost and it's also a function that the fact that tremendously greater amounts of it are being produced in what we call the super labs in Mexico. I think for many years our meth was made locally, was made in much smaller quantities. That has largely been eclipsed by the mass production and cheap production that we're seeing coming from Mexico.” Anderson said his office is working closely with the DEA to intercept drugs being funneled into the country. They’re also working with Mexican authorities to shut down superlabs.

That's one of the more cogent and important explanations of what has happened to our city and why.

Meth heads kill people and steal cars, giving much of ABQ a more menacing and sinister atmosphere. Failed educational outcomes and low incomes exacerbate poverty thus the addiction and crime. Drug interdiction to decrease the supply and more drug treatment are just two of the ongoing challenges. The relatively benign days when crime in ABQ was bad but not supported by drug cartels are gone. Is crime now out of our control or not? That question will begin to hover over ABQ as the 2021 mayoral campaign approaches.


Like so many other newspapers it found itself on its death bed. But at least for now it has been saved and by a somewhat unlikely savior. ABQ City Council President Pat Davis and his business partner Abby Lewis have purchased the Weekly Alibi, the city's alternative newspaper that has had a nearly 30 year run.

The news received limited coverage, another sign of the decline of the once muscular weekly which suspended print public during the pandemic. Davis says he wants to revive the Alibi's once robust local reporting but that will take money and advertising. The latter has dried up as the city's entertainment venues--the major supporters of the paper--remain mostly shuttered. The manger of a prominent downtown bar tells us he does not expect his bar or others to reopen until there is a vaccine found for COVID.

Davis, a Democrat, says he has no plans to use the paper as a personal promotional tool and that news articles will adhere to traditional journalistic standards.

The prospects for the Alibi in this changed environment remain highly uncertain. What Davis paid for the financially ailing paper has not been disclosed. It couldn't have been much. That will give him and the city time to decide if the Alibi is a nostalgic relic or can be rebooted for a future still clouded by COVID and its immense consequences.


Jousha Hernandez, 34, who works at the ABQ branch of the Agenda PR agency as a digital marketing manager and who has dabbled in political consulting, has been named to replace Rio Rancho GOP State Rep Tim Lewis on the November ballot. The Sandoval County GOP Central Committee took that action after Lewis resigned the seat to spend more time with family. No Democrats or Libertarians filed for the navy Republican District 60 seat so Hernandez will be seated at the Roundhouse in January.

Former state Senator and banker Don Kidd, a pillar of the Carlsbad business scene, has succumbed to cancer. He served from 1993-2005 and represented Eddy, Lea and Otero counties in District 34. Kidd was 82. . . Old-timers will remember Fran Langholf who served as the longtime office manager for GOP US Senator Pete Domenici and who was deep involved in GOP politics. Langholf died Aug. 20 at the age of 96. Domenici was NM's longest ever serving US Senator and passed away in 2017 at the age of 85.

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