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Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Florida Gov. DeSantis Sets New Mexico Visit For Herrell And Ronchetti; Trump Heir Apparent To Roswell This Sunday, Plus: Boosters Of "Burque" 

Gov. DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, heir apparent to Donald Trump, will bring his pre-presidential road show to Roswell Sunday, Aug. 14 to embrace GOP US Rep. Yvette Herrell and Republican Guv nominee Mark Ronchetti. 

The appearance will be a boost for Herrell who continues to campaign on a firm conservative platform and is not backing away from her vote against certifying the election of President Biden. 

Her new district remains largely based in the conservative leaning south with the addition of some Dem areas on ABQ's Westside and Downtown.

Herrell's race against Dem Gabe Vasquez is being billed as a toss up but the organizer of the DeSantis rallies says:

Herrell is poised to hold her critical seat in New Mexico's 2nd congressional district.

As for Ronchetti, he's back walking a tightrope. DeSantis recently suspended an elected prosecutor in Florida who pledged not to endorse the state's new and more restrictive abortion laws while Ronchetti has been tied in knots on his position. 

The DeSantis events here and in Ohio, Arizona and Pennsylvania are being billed as "Unite and win" rallies for candidates backed by Trump. 

But Trump has not endorsed Ronchetti and its doubtful he wants that blessing in this Blue state and doubtful Trump would give it to a GOP candidate who has not publicly celebrated him. 

However Ronchetti now more than ever needs to rally his conservative base as he faces a Dem Party freshly energized by the anti-abortion Supreme Court ruling. DeSantis' appearance should aid in that cause. Also, Roswell is in the ABQ media market but the rally won't be squarely in the face of ABQ Dems. 

On question: Is there a good Italian restaurant in Roswell where Ron and Mark can have a private catch-up?

TIGHTROPE TALK

Back on the tightrope, we mentioned how Ronchetti was silent over the weekend about the possibility of a serial killer being responsible for the murders of four Muslim men in the city, even as national and local leaders, including the President, all expressed concern. Monday Ronchetti did come with a statement that carefully voided any racial references:

Crime continues to be out of control and now there appears to be a serial killer in ABQ. Police are looking for the vehicle above in connection with the murders of four men from our Muslim Community. Please call 505-843-Stop or go to http://CrimeStoppersNM.org, if you have any info.

The GOP state Senate Caucus, none of whose members are up for election this year, came with a reaction that was a bit more assertive than that of their favored gubernatorial candidate: 

Alarmed, saddened, and distraught do not begin to express how deeply jarred we are as New Mexicans in response to this news. Our state has become a safe haven for crime and clearly the most despicable among us have become emboldened to carry out these heinous slayings. We are one New Mexico, united to protect our community, and we stand ready to help in whatever way we can.

The Mulsim murders have the city on edge and the longer they go unsolved the mrs rumors and fear will sspeared as is already occurring. 

BURQUE BOOSTERS

There are a considerable number of readers who disagree with our Monday diss of Burque, ABQ's nickname. They let us know in reacting to our critical comments on the hellish crime conditions here:

Blaming a harmless nickname largely rooted in the region's Hispanic identity for the city's out of control poverty and crime rather than taking a long hard look at the broken system built by your generation is just ridiculous and quite frankly lazy thinking. 

Connecting a racist serial killer to statues of fictional characters and the nickname "Burque" is some serious straw grasping at best and disengenous at its worst. 

This isn't about your coverage, I'm a fan of your blog. This is about the nonsensical take that nicknames and statues have anything to do with out of control crime rooted in generational poverty and broken systems. 

Reader Kelley came with this:

The name Albuquerque, origin Alburquerque, a town in Spain named after Spanish Viceroy Francisco Fernandez de La Cueva, 8th Duke of Albuquerque.

Another:

Grandpas mad because he thinks Burque = drugs.

This reader hit more on the point we were trying to make but perhaps not very successfully:

Joe, love your blog. I grew up in Albuquerque during the 1990s and am now considering moving back to be closer to family. The homelessness and crime problems seem to have exploded since I left.

Okay, Grandpa hears you, kids. Now go to bed and brush your teeth. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2022

Monday, August 08, 2022

City That Celebrates Diversity Reels From Muslim Murders; National And Local Leaders Decry Apparent Hate Crimes, Plus: Political Overtones To Tragedy In Guv Race  

Shock and disbelief enveloped Albuquerque as it grappled with the fact that a city with a reputation for welcoming and embracing immigrants from around the world and that celebrates ethnic and cultural diversity like few others has given rise to a possible serial killer or killers targeting Muslims. 

As the weekend closed the death toll climbed to four men, arousing panic and fear among ABQ Muslims and generating outrage in the city, state, nation and world as word of the murders rippled across the globe.  

The President:

I am angered and saddened by the horrific killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque. While we await a full investigation, my prayers are with the victims’ families, and my Administration stands strongly with the Muslim community. These hateful attacks have no place in America.

The Vice-President:

I am deeply disturbed by the killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque. As law enforcement continues to investigate these heinous attacks, we remain clear that we stand with the Muslim community in New Mexico and around our country. Hate has no place in America. 

Gov. Lujan Grisham:

The targeted killings of Muslim residents of Albuquerque is deeply angering and wholly intolerable. I am sending additional State Police officers to Albuquerque to work in close coordination with APD and the FBI to bring the killer or killers to justice – and they WILL be found. I am incredibly angry about this situation. We will provide justice to the families who have lost everything. My Administration stands strongly with the Muslim community.

ABQ Mayor Keller:

Albuquerque’s commitment to supporting our Muslim community cannot be broken. We remember each of the victims and the family, friends, and community who knew and loved them. We are outraged by these attacks and will not relent in our pursuit of justice for those we have lost.

Ahmed Assad, President of the Islamic Center of New Mexico:

This is not the New Mexico I grew up in and love and cherish. 

Assad's comments hit hard. Here's our take: 

Albuquerque has little resemblance to the city that once was. The never-ending drug epidemic curated by the cartels; the record setting homicides, the constant business burglaries; the recent edification of the drug culture at the Convention Center where TV drug dealers are immortalized in statues; the tolerance of the gangsta culture epitomized by the nauseating nickname of "Burque" and now an international black eye as a still unknown lunatic (or lunatics) who may be targeting Muslims. 

Drugs and violence have steadily destroyed much of the soul of the city that once was, but solace could still be had by rejoicing in our collective tolerance for one another. Now that's being ripped away from us. 

Reclaiming the city of the past is not possible. We are now fighting for a tie with an evil with no boundaries and that lives openly among us. 

THE POLITICS 

To everything there is a season and to every news development in an election year there are political implications. 

As of Sunday night, GOP Guv nominee Mark Ronchetti was noticeably silent on the biggest story of the year and of this campaign. 

He did take time to decry the drunk driver who drove through a crowd of parade spectators at the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial but has had nothing to say about the possible targeting and murdering of innocent Muslims on the streets of the state's largest city, even as the world recoils over the tragedy.

For a candidate who only last week defended his crime fighting prowess when MLG erroneously charged him with wanting to defund the police, his silence was noteworthy.

There is a large strain of Christian nationalism among today's Republicans who mistrust Muslims. Was Ronchetti reckoning with that when he refrained from commenting? Or will he wait and use the murders as a political issue against MLG down the road. Either way it's walking on thin ice. 

POSTSCRIPT

After we published Monday, Ronchetti tweeted this:

Crime continues to be out of control and now there appears to be a serial killer in ABQ. Police are looking for the vehicle above in connection with the murders of four men from our Muslim Community. Please call 505-843-Stop or go to http://CrimeStoppersNM.org, if you have any info.

REMEMBERING 

Reader Michael Sage writes of the recent passing of longtime Democratic consultant and lobbyist Mark Fleisher:

Joe, I attended the Annual Luncheon of the Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments in Gallup. Marty Chavez, former Albuquerque Mayor, served as guest speaker. Among those in attendance were the Mayor of Gallup and Rep. Patricia Lundstrom.

While the lunch was to celebrate COG's 50 years of service, the topic of conversation was the passing of Mark Fleisher. Mark was a true friend and advocate for Northwest New Mexico including Gallup. The recent legislative successes such as increased funding for the Gallup McKinley School District by way of the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit and helping secure funding to bring commercial air passenger service back to Gallup were due in large part to Mark's tireless work.

The luncheon gave thunderous applause in recognition of Mark, an applause so loud, it rivaled the loudest NM monsoon lightning strike. Mark will be truly missed by his friends in Northwest New Mexico.

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Thursday, August 04, 2022

Too Much Info? MLG Says Her Polling Has Her Just Three Points Up; Asks Contributors To Step Up; GOP Takes Heart Over Small Lead, Plus: Strange Bedfellows In Guv Race 

In the first official word from the MLG campaign on where the race for Governor stands, her camp says she leads Republican rival Mark Ronchetti by just three points:

From her Wednesday fund-raising pitch:

We just got the most recent poll numbers – and to be honest, they aren't looking great. Right now, Governor Lujan Grisham is polling JUST 3 POINTS ahead of her far-right extremist opponent, Mark Ronchetti, and we need to lean on this powerful grassroots community once again. These polling numbers are WAY too close for comfort. We urgently need to confirm how much support Governor Lujan Grisham really has. So we have to ask: Will you add your name here to personally endorse the Governor's run?

Using the apparent closeness of the race to raise money is a proven method, but the downside is that the small lead could energize the Republicans who can continue to argue in their fund-raising missives that the race is a "dead heat." Analyst Greg Payne:

Why release any poll that shows you below the key 50 percent re-elect mark? Why not just characterize the race as "close or "tight?" This specific citing of a mediocre poll for an incumbent governor in a Democratic state when there is no polling to cue the public looks like another unforced error from her campaign. It almost appears as if they are passing the hat for the GOP.

The MLG email does not say who conducted the poll or when but her campaign has signed with DC polling firm GQR

The results are interesting because they presumably come well after the June 24th US Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe and that appears to have energized the Democratic base around the nation. 
According to her own internal numbers, that energy boost has yet to come in any substantial way for MLG. 

In the April/May SurveyUSA MLG had a four point lead over Ronchetti, 47 to 43. 

On the other hand the big abortion push has just begun with Planned Parenthood now up on the New Mexico air with a scathing attack on Ronchetti's abortion stance--scoring him for his conversation with Rev. Steve Smotherman in which Smothermon says Ronchetti told him he is secretly for a total ban on abortion, not only the 15 week limit he claims publicly. 

And the huge referendum win in Kansas this week by pro-choice supporters was accompanied by heavy turnout. If that repeats in Bernalillo County in the fall, it would be deadly for the Republicans. 

Analysts continue to rate the Guv contest "lean Democratic" based on MLG's lead in the surveys. 

Other reasons for the rating include the Democratic lean of big Bernalillo County and the tendency of Democratic voters to firm up their decisions closer to the election while Republicans and conservatives tend to decide earlier.  

A three point GOP deficit--within the margin of error for most polls--about 90 days from the election isn't bad. And it leaves less room for error for MLG and the Dems--errors like this week's over the top video attack on Ronchetti claiming he is for defunding the police. 

INTERESTING TWIST 

Wayne Johnson
MLG appeared in Sandoval County Tuesday to announce a new $14 million public safety complex, $5 million of which will come from her share of capital outlay from this year's legislative session. 

The interesting twist is how she extracted this quote from Sandoval County Manager Wayne Johnson:

We are grateful to the governor for her continued support of first responders and law enforcement in Sandoval County.

Yes, that's the same Wayne Johnson who served as a GOP BernCo Commissioner, ran for Mayor of ABQ as a Republican and was appointed to fill a vacancy as state auditor by Republican Gov. Susan Martinez. 

And lest we forget--he's the husband of of Kurstin Johnson who is the GOP nominee for state House District 30 in the ABQ NE Heights seat held by Dem Rep. Natalie Figueroa.

Johnson made his statement about the safety complex in his capacity as county manager but in case he wants to go all the way, perhaps he can join a Republicans for MLG group. 

That group could include former GOP BernCo Sheriff Darren White, who is in the process of enriching himself in the legal marijuana business, has been a reliable contributor to MLG. And also former GOP House Minority Whip Dan Foley, whose insurance company employer holds major state contracts and along with his wife has donated the maximum $41,000 allowed to the MLG '22 campaign. 

Strange bedfellows, you say? In New Mexico politics you need a room full of bunkbeds to hold all the strangeness. 

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Wednesday, August 03, 2022

A Miss And A Hit For MLG's Latest Campaign Videos Against Ronchetti; Defunding Police Flops But Abortion Scores, Plus: Death Claims Veteran NM Consultant And Lobbyist Mark Fleisher  

There's no question that the Democratic Governor has clean-up to do on her crime fighting record. The ongoing violence in ABQ--the center of her support--is a gateway for Mark Ronchetti, her Republican foe, to make must-needed inroads in the state's largest county. 

But in a new video MLG's camp goes a bridge too far and accuses Ronchetti of the popular charge of wanting to "defund the police."

Never mind that Republicans are pretty much immune to this accusation after decades of advocating for overfunding of law enforcement and more recently facing down the far left on the issue. 

And Ronchetti, as far back as 2020 when he ran for US Senate, opposed the idea, calling it "reckless and irresponsible." 

He has not changed his tune in '22 but the video asserts that because Ronchetti opposed MLG's last budget that raised pay for state police by 16 percent that he is for defunding. 

Of course, Ronchetti could and would very likely propose paring back the state budget but not law enforcement funding. His funding plan highlights adequate police budgets as a key plank

Ronchetti will "slash budgets for police and law enforcement agencies," warns the narrator of the MLG video. 

All of this was easy pickings for the Ronchetti camp as they dismissed the video as filled with "distortions so severe, they're laughable." They also brought out Robert Parra, the NM FOP President: 

 The New Mexico Fraternal Order of Police is surprised to hear fabrications that Mr. Ronchetti is anti-law enforcement or is planning to Defund the Police. On the contrary, according to his crime plan and our numerous discussions with him personally, Mr. Ronchetti is a strong supporter of law enforcement.

FIRMER GROUND

While standing on quicksand on the defunding charge, MLG's campaign finds more solid ground in a 40 second video that scores points against her GOP rival on perhaps his chief weakness in ABQ--his stand on abortion. The video says: 

He supported (Supreme Court ) judges Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, who all lied to the American people about their intent to overthrow Roe. Ronchetti promises New Mexicans that he won't ban abortion but behind closed doors he tells a different story. New Mexicans know that re-electing Gov. MLG this November is the only way to assure a woman's access to abortion. 

The video flashes headlines of Ronchetti's now infamous meeting with the Rev. Steve Smothermon at which he said Ronchetti told him he is not only for banning abortion after 15 weeks but wants to eventually ban the procedure entirely. 

Ronchetti's campaign had no response to the ad which is accurate, but there's certainly more to come. The video of Smothermon describing his controversial meeting with Ronchetti has yet to be shown in an MLG ad. 

The MLG videos are not for broadcast but for "engagement" on social media. 

MARK FLEISHER 

Mark Fleisher 
Veteran New Mexico political consultant and lobbyist Mark Fleisher, whose clients included prominent legislators, statewide officeholders, mayors and major corporations and who once served as chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, has died. 

His wife, Toni, confirmed his passing, saying he died Monday night while on a family vacation in Puerto Vallarta. 

He returned to our room from the pool where he had been playing with family and passed away right after lying down. 

Fleisher, 68, had a history of heart problems. 

Word of Mark's passing circulated rapidly in New Mexico's political community with Dem Party official David Montoya calling it a "huge loss."

Fleisher was a dyed in the wool Democrat but he was a confirmed moderate who believed deeply in economic development and who most recently worked closely with House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Patrica Lundstrom to advance the state's interests. The pair successfully fought for a better funding formula for McKinley County schools. 

He was also a key political and policy advisor to State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg, state Senate Finance Committee Chairman George Munoz, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Cervantes, former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez and innumerable other officeholders and business professionals.

Former Mayor Chavez, who grew up with Fleisher in the city's Four Hills neighborhood and attended middle school, high school and college with him, offered this eulogy last night:

The thing about Mark was his good nature. Everything was positive with him. You could disagree, take a loss and come back smiling, just very good natured. But he had an edge and wasn't afraid to use it as you often must in politics. If you didn't listen to him you were missing an important voice at the table. It's a little known but fun fact that Mark was a professional card-counter and it caused him some trouble in Vegas, another skill that played into his political profession. He always had a joke. Last week at lunch he said, 'For all the medical advances in science the death rate is still 100 percent.' That's the last time I saw him. 

Mark was a loyal and dear friend of this blog, offering support, news tips that always proved right on target and even assisted in recruiting advertising clients. 

There was not a "Senior Alligator" more productive and who helped shed more light on key policy and political events from an inside, behind the scenes perch and who always was close to the levers of political power. 

Fleisher was also a well-known pollster who relished the horse race aspect of politics. His polls were relied on by campaigns for years and were often cited here as guidance for major political races. 

We offer our deep condolences to his wife Toni and family and express our gratitude for his long years of friendship, loyalty and, of course, for always picking up the tab. 

Mark Fleisher was a man who touched many lives, always carried the Zia Symbol in his heart and gave his all to his beloved La Politica. 

No funeral service is planned. There will be a celebration of his life at the family home in ABQ at a date to be announced. 

Rest in Peace, Mark.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Vasquez Camp Pushes Back Against Negative Narrative; New Polling And Grassroots Action Cited, Plus: Readers Talk Pump Prices 

Vasquez
Advocates for congressional hopeful Gabe Vasquez are pushing back against the narrative that his race against Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell is turning sour as the national Dems seem to be shying away from backing him with heavy artillery.

In our July 27 blog political pros anonymously questioned the viability of Vasquez who has not yet received the national support they expected to be see by now. 

His campaign comes with a poll that shows the race is still in play and a grassroots group is holding the Vasquez banner high as it works to reach voters in the district--that is mainly in the south but includes parts of westside and downtown ABQ.

The poll was conducted July 19-25 among 500 likely voters (MOE +/-4.9%) by the Democratic Global Strategy Group and shows Vasquez leading Herrell 45% to 44% in the new district which has moved from Trump +12 to Biden +6.

Herrell has a commanding lead in name ID, according to the survey, with Vasquez at 31% while Herrell’s name ID is at 71%.

The polling methodology and questions asked were not released. 

Vasquez is amping up his attacks on the first term lawmaker and now calling her out for her anti-abortion stance that national Dems believe could play a vital role in key races:

I will always put working New Mexico families first, while Yvette Herrell's priorities are pushing a national abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest and palling around with January 6th insurrectionists.

Herrell's vote refusing to certify the 2020 presidential election result will also be an important line of attack for Vasquez, a former Las Cruces city councilor and aide to Sen. Martin Heinrich.

The problem? The campaign remains quiet as we enter August with no softening of Herrell on the airwaves by the DCCC. 

ON THE GROUND

A grassroots group, BlueCD2NM, who calls Vasquez "a young, energetic and passionate conservationist, public servant and entrepreneur" is reaching voters via mail. They've raised $85,000 for the cause, explains the group's Rochelle Williams from Otero County:

In addition to the redistricting boost, we have a plan to turn out 20,000 low-frequency registered Democratic women in CD2 for Gabe, following the successful model of Sisters United Alliance in Texas. We have raised more than $85,000, about half of that for postage for 90,000 postcards to register new voters in the district. We are now doing postcards to the registered voters we plan to turn out. Postcards have been proven to increase voter participation by 2.5 to 4%--a small but very significant number in a tight race. 

The Herrell camp is counting on a mild turnout, nothing like the historic one the district had in 2018 when she was trounced by Dem Xochitl Torres Small.

While some insiders are starting to describe this battle as Lean R the Vasquez camp is saying hold your horses when assessing this horse race. They argue there is still enough time and plenty of action to come before the contest--ranked a toss-up by the national pundits--is put out to pasture.

WINDFALL BLOWBACK

Reader Mike from oil-rich Houston took us to task for bringing up the prospect of New Mexico enacting a windfall profits tax given the enormous gains big oil is getting from the price hike caused by the war in the Ukraine: 

Joe! If you're going to windfall tax profits, it would only be fair to do the opposite for losses! Chevron made $11.6 billion this quarter, but from Q2 2020 - Q1 2021 they lost $33.496 billion! Let 'em make some money back.

The oil industry gave $5.3 billion to NM in 2021. So, everyone in NM should have high speed internet, education programs should be skyrocketing, the homeless should have shelters under construction, and water pipelines should be almost finished running over to Las Vegas, NM. Instead, the state still hasdial up Internet accounts, ranks last in the nation for education and moves homeless people from park to park and have cities running out of water.

Reader Derrik Garcia comments on our observation that gas prices have been coming down across the state:

Joe, I was in Farmington this weekend and was shocked at how expensive prices still were. I gassed up for $3.54 a gallon in Albuquerque and the lowest price I could find in Farmington was $4.54. Mayor Duckett of Farmington has reached out to the Attorney General to investigate the high prices and makes price gouging claims. In a heavily conservative area, these high prices are angering people when major news outlets report lower prices from gas stations in ABQ and make the claim that the pain at the pump is over. 

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Monday, August 01, 2022

Gas Price Boomerang: GOP Inflation Argument Takes Hit As Area Prices Ease, Plus: Oil And Gas Dominated '22 Primary Money Chase  

Basing a campaign on the price of gas can be as risky as using the stock market as a guide. Both can have wild price swings that change the mood of voters on a dime.  

For New Mexico Republicans that lesson is hitting home as the calendar turns to August today, marking less than 100 days before the November 8 election. 

Only weeks ago gas was flirting with $5 buck a gallon and causing angst across the political spectrum. But this weekend it was going for $3.29 at the Santo Domingo Pueblo (which doesn't pay state gas taxes) and was well below the $4 mark at stations elsewhere across the state. 

That's still higher than when Biden took office when gas was cheap at $2.39 a gallon but memories are short and the memory of that $5 flirtation is much fresher in voters' minds. If the price continues to fall back toward that $3 level, the impact of inflation as an argument to oust incumbents could weaken dramatically.

GOP Guv hopeful Mark Ronchetti is airing a spot that tries to blame MLG for the inflation spike. The two Dem congressional incumbents--Stansbury and Leger Fernandez--who are probably more vulnerable to an attack on a national issue like inflation--have underfunded foes and have been spared. 

In his ad Ronchetti claims that home energy costs have risen since the enactment of the MLG-backed Energy Transition Act (ETA) of 2019 that calls for NM to adopt renewable energy to become a carbon free energy state by 2045.

Electric utility PNM was a key player in the ETA and the ad hits the company for their heavy donations to her campaign. 

Ronchetti (as mentioned in the report below) is a favorite of the oil and gas industry which opposed the ETA and is receiving substantial campaign cash from them. 

But right now its the daily gas price--not the monthly electric bill--that tops the list of consumer irritants and that is trending toward the incumbent. 

(If MLG is bothered by the Ronchetti inflation hit, she isn't showing it. Her latest ad is a soft, 60 second bio spot featuring one of her daughters who praises MLG's mothering skills.) 

BIG OIL BUCKS

Oil and gas dominated the money chase in the '22 primary campaign. NM Ethics Watch comes with a recap: 

The oil and gas industry contributed more than $2.5 million from October 2021 until early July. Republican Mark Ronchetti was the top recipient, pulling in more than a half million dollars. The House Republican Campaign Committee took in more than $216,000. Lujan Grisham received more than $137,000. House candidates received nearly 29 percent while PAC's received about 26 percent. Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, chair of House Appropriations, reported the most contributions at $44,000. The top oil and gas contributor was Chevron, handing out more than $250,000. Environmentalists reported about $160,000 in contributions during the primary cycle--less than 7 percent of the oil and gas total. 

Chevron didn't have to take out any loans to make those contributions. Amid high oil prices the company recorded $11.6 billion in earnings in the second quarter--a new quarterly record. 

If anyone in Santa Fe has the notion to start talking about a state windfall profits tax on big oil, the time would appear ripe--at least among those who have not been on the receiving end of Big Oil's munificence. 

By the way, PNM and its PAC gave nearly $584,000 in state elections from 2014 to 2020. Only Chevron and Devon Energy gave more.

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Thursday, July 28, 2022

In Praise Of Small Town New Mexico  

One of the outstanding things about New Mexico that you miss living in Albuquerque is the tremendous community spirit and the joy of people pulling together for a common cause that are defining features of our state's smaller cities and towns. 

In Albuquerque it's always a fight--about everything. Our factionalism too often leads to gridlock and holds the city back. Modern ABQ has become more separated economically, geographically and ethnically. We are more alienated from one another than we once were. 

Then there's those other places. Like Carlsbad--conservative but tolerant. Las Cruces, where the public debate is spirited but lacks the harshness one might expect in an area of over 200,000; in Socorro where they've had the same mayor for over 30 years; in Bernalillo where their mayor has also served for decades and in Clovis where keeping their military base and protecting their water keeps them bonded. 

All this comes to mind especially during a gubernatorial election. The news becomes a bit less ABQ centric as the candidates traverse vast expanses, giving the city folk watching a welcome glimpse of a different tone and attitude toward public life. 

Unlike ABQ and Santa Fe where urban problems continue to pile up and defy solutions, there is much celebration over political accomplishments out there. 

In Carlsbad they rejoice over improved roads to the oil fields; in T or C they toast a rebuild of the State Veterans' Home; in Las Cruces they're excited over a new branch of the state's Film Academy; in Clovis the long delayed Ute Water Project is nearing reality and cause for celebration; in fire-scared Mora and vicinity they are in touch with the simple things--gratitude, friendship and hope--even as they despair over their losses. 

It's not easy being a small place in New Mexico. The ruins of towns brought to their knees by war, depression and booms gone bust still dot the landscape. To survive you have to work together. And that's a lesson for their big city brethren in these most tumultuous times.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Second CD Race Fizzling Fast; National Dems Nowhere In Sight As Vasquez Fights For Oxygen And Herrell Gets A Committee Boost; Southern Race Now Being Billed "Lean R" By Insiders, Not A Toss-Up 

Rep. Herrell
Since we last checked in on the southern congressional district in late June things have gone from bad to worse for the Democrats. 

Consultants, insiders and Alligators are all flagging us that large-scale national Democratic involvement in the contest between GOP freshman Rep. Yvette Herrell and Democrat Gabe Vasquez is exceedingly unlikely and the seat is starting to look "lean Republican" rather than the "toss-up" that the Potomac pundits assign to the race. 

If former Las Cruces City Councilor Vasquez is on his own, the chance of the Dems flipping the seat are slim. He did boast that his second quarter fund-raising beat out Herrell by $54,000 but she maintains a huge cash on hand advantage of $1.695 million to Vasquez's $623,000.

To oust Herrell would take millions and with August beckoning time is running out, if it hasn't already. 

In 2020 the southern race was the most expensive in the nation with spending from all sources soaring over $37 million. What a difference two years make. 

As we reported in June, the national Dems are reluctant to pony up the needed cash this year because of the steep challenges they face in districts where they are trying to hold off charging Republicans. 

Also, Vasquez's profile as a progressive Dem has left a sour taste among the DC Dems who believe a moderate or conservative is a better fit.

Vasquez was hand-picked for the seat by his former boss, Sen. Martin Heinrich, and there's already finger-pointing over that decision. 

The newly drawn district has a four point "partisan lean" for the Democrats, but many of those are conservative and voter turnout for those who are not can be a problem.

Herrell is hewing to a stern conservative line on cultural issues issues such as abortion and gay marriage, betting that turnout for her in rural areas outside of Las Cruces will carry the day. 

Also, the new Democrats in the district in the ABQ South Valley and Westside lean moderate, making it more difficult for Vasquez to score a landslide win there that he needs to win. 

There have been no TV ads from either side yet and no public polling. But you don't need a microscope to see the handwriting on this wall. 

HERRELL'S PROMOTION

Meanwhile, if Herrell is re-elected and the House, as widely expected, is put back in the GOP corner, she will find herself chairman of a subcommittee, specifically the Environment Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. 

She is warming up in the bullpen as the newly named Ranking Member of that subcommittee. As usual she is on offense:

I am excited for the opportunity to stand up for my constituents who have been railroaded by reckless, one-size-fits all executive actions by this administration. I will work to provide oversight over executive actions that have increased energy prices, harmed American agriculture, and ignored the expertise of local families and businesses. I am proud to champion New Mexico’s legacy of environmental stewardship and lead Republican members on the Environment Subcommittee. 

While Herrell relishes a chance to needle the opposition party, our sources say don't look for her to spread her wings in state politics, if she captures a second two year term. Offered one:

Herrell will not get deeply involved with the state GOP and try to steer it or start recruiting candidates. Thats not her thing. She's happy with what she has and what may be coming her way.

A "happy" Republican in Dem-dominated New Mexico? Oh my.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2022


Tuesday, July 26, 2022

At Wits End: ABQ Mayor Keller Tries Confronting Confounding Homeless Problem; City To Shutter Coronado Park; New Park Nearby Could Spell More Trouble 

Coronado Park (Journal)
Public impatience over the homeless crisis first cropped up in California and now has breezed into ABQ as Mayor Tim Keller went before a conservative business group Monday and announced the closure of Coronado Park near Downtown.

The park near Second Street and I-40 has become the permanent home for an estimated 100+ homeless and a blight on the community, riddled as it is with drug and alcohol abuse, unsanitary conditions and periodic violence.

That Keller is at wits end over Coronado and the homeless problem in general was evident when he admitted he does not know what the future holds:

That situation is absolutely unacceptable, so we’re going to stop it. In August, we’re closing Coronado Park. It doesn’t matter if we know exactly what we’re doing next. It doesn’t matter exactly what the timing is or how we’re going to do it, but we have to do better than what’s happening at Coronado Park.

The announcement came before NAIOP, the commercial real estate development group dominated by Republicans, and was an abrupt rejection of the progressive philosophy to live and let live when it comes to the homeless, a rejection also seen recently by liberal politicians in San Francisco and elsewhere. 

(Keller did say the city would "revisit" its homeless policies at his early July state of the city speech.) 

But Keller's acquiescence on Coronado--some called it a surrender--did not go all the way to the right. Keller said nothing about increased law enforcement to deal with the homeless as conservative Dem City Councilor Louie Sanchez and GOP Councilor Dan Lewis have been urging. 

Keller is a a creature of the city's progressive base, much of which will be infuriated with his sudden action. Bringing up law enforcement would be a bridge too far for this Mayor who is probably already suffering polling damage in the traditionally cursed second term.

What the city did bring up--confusingly--was the simultaneous announcement that a new park near Wells Park Community Center between Fifth and Sixth streets will soon open to serve the downtown area communities. 

Does that mean the homeless from Coronado will simply migrate to the new park? With the Mayor admitting he doesn't know "what we're doing next" the possibility seemed distinct.

DUAL CRISES

Mayor Keller 
Events have overtaken the administration on both homelessness and the crime crisis and they now appear to be grasping at straws. 

Earlier this month Keller announced an unusual plan to have downtown businesses pay extra for law enforcement in their district--on top of the taxes they are already paying. The plan promptly backfired

Now the closure of Coronado whose occupiers will again be offered resources to get off the street. 

One option, however, will not be offered--the once highly-touted Gateway Center (aka Gibson Health Hub.) That SE Heights facility on Gibson Blvd., site of the old Lovelace Hospital, was originally envisioned as a place for 300 beds for the homeless. In light of neighborhood opposition that capacity has for now shrunk to 50 and only for homeless women. Other services will still be offered. 

But it is a bitter pill for the city to swallow after voters approved a $14 million bond issue in 2019 to acquire the Center property, plus millions more from state, county and city coffers for start-up costs. The city council shares the blame. 

If he could, the frustrated Keller would probably give bus tickets to the homeless. Instead they are being given walking directions to their next pit stop. 

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Monday, July 25, 2022

MLG's Take On Ronchetti's Abortion "Compromise", Plus: Deciding Abortion Policy; How and Why It Still Matters Who Is Governor 

An abortion compromise?

MLG was asked that question for the first time in a New Yorker podcast where it was pointed out that her GOP Guv foe Mark Ronchetti wants abortion in NM limited to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy while MLG does not believe in any government imposed limits. As for a compromise, she said: 

"No. If you. . . are protecting women's privacy rights and the relationship between their medical providers, my attitude and my personal decisions and the government's have no bearing on those personal decisions. . .

I believe like many Americans that abortion should be rare and the reason I believe that is because we should be doing more (about) violence, rape, domestic abuse, incest, underage sexual activity--all of it. 

If we did better family planning and comprehensive sex education and made contraceptives more available and we were better at primary care access, then you get to the place where we should all be--preventing unwanted, unexpected pregnancies. But to say I can make a personal decision for women who do not currently have those options, particularly in states where they don't have access to contraceptives, that is outrageous to me. 

On MLG's point about contraceptives, according to CNBC:

At least eight states banned all forms of abortion, including the abortion pill mifepristone, within hours of the Supreme Court’s decision. Many women in states with bans on abortion will likely turn to websites to order mifepristone, which is taken with misoprostol, and self manage abortions at home.

The Governor was also asked if she worried that Hispanics, often socially conservative and anti-abortion, would vote against her because of her abortion stance:

No. I don't think so. Most Hispanic families and women, most Hispanic men today--the majority of those voters--do not want the government in this space. 

Abortion rights have emerged as a top issue in the '22 Governor's race in the aftermath of the US Supreme Court ruling repealing Roe and after ABQ Legacy Church Pastor Steve Smotherman told his congregation that Ronchetti told him personally that he is for banning all abortions not just those up to 15 weeks. 

WHY IT MATTERS

Regardless of who is the next Governor the NM Legislature's pro-choice tilt is demonstrable and no anti-abortion measures would be expected to pass. That has led some to argue that who is occupying the Fourth Floor doesn't really matter and abortion should not be an issue. But that reasoning doesn't match reality. Here's why. 

---MLG has issued an executive order "protecting medical providers from attempts at legal retribution and establishing that New Mexico will not entertain extradition attempts from other states relating to receiving or performing reproductive services."

That action could not be expected from a pro-life Governor. Without it, conceivably the Texas Rangers could ride in here to arrest abortion violators. With the order, they are turned back.

---In thirty day sessions of the Legislature, which occur in even numbered years, the state Constitution limits subjects for discussion to the budget, revenue and taxation measures and proposals placed on the agenda by the Governor.  So a Governor can interject abortion into such sessions. A pro-life governor could test the limits of the Legislature by introducing restrictive measures and using the power of their office to twist arms. 

---There is also the issue of legislative appropriations regarding abortion rights. Recently the ABQ City Council approved $250,000 in funding for Planned Parenthood. The funding was approved on a 6 to 3 vote. A mayor opposed to abortion could have vetoed such funding. That would also be the case if the state had an anti-abortion Governor and lawmakers approved a similar appropriation.

---The sitting Governor also appoints the 11 members of the NM Medical Board that issues license to physicians and disciplines incompetent providers. In 2013 pro-life activists accused the board of trying to shut them out of the complaint procedure involving physicians who perform abortions. Obviously, a Governor's position on abortion can greatly influence the membership of that board and in turn how the board regulates abortion in the state. 

So the argument that it makes no difference who is Governor because New Mexico is already a pro-choice state doesn't hold up. Regardless of your political persuasion, these examples show that it matters very much who is Governor in the aftermath of the historic Roe ruling. 

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