Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Zoom Session:2021 Legislative Meet Begins Today; The Three Most Transformative Measures, Plus: Some Bottom Lines For Session Survival 

There won't be much back slapping, cheek pecking or bear hugs at the opening of today's 60 day legislative session. The pandemic has benched in-person politicking, replacing it with virtual meetings that eliminate the personal touch.

The Senate will meet in person but minus the public and the lobbyists who have helped run the place for over a century. The House will be all Zoom all the time. 

Look for a more businesslike atmosphere as the traditions are put aside in the name of efficiency and social distancing. (e.g. no traditional State of the State address from the Guv today).

Meanwhile, there are three measures that NM Politics with Joe Monahan pegs as potentially the most transformative in the 2021 session.  

NUMBER ONE---Without a doubt the proposed constitutional amendment to tap one percent of the $21 billion Land Grant Permanent School Fund is potentially transformative. The amendment has been making the Roundhouse rounds for nearly a decade. The difference this year is that it will probably pass both chambers. It will again fly though the House and then the question is whether the Senate waters it down. 

The amendment, if passed by the Legislature and approved by voters, would mean $180 million annually would be withdrawn from the Fund for early childhood education--ages zero to five. That's the time science says brain development is most crucial for future success. 

Advocate Stephen Spitz explains why labeling the amendment transformative is not hyperbole:

The Legislative Finance Committee's latest report on the state's home visiting program that science says gets the biggest investment bang for the buck (up to 13 times for each dollar invested) says the state contracted for 3,917 slots for this program for ages prenatal to three years. There are approximately 25,000 births per year in New Mexico; 82% are Medicaid qualified. 3,917 slots represents only 4.5% coverage of prenatal to three babies for home visiting. Thus this program shown to be most effective in increasing educational attainment and executive function in children could hardly be less significant. 

NUMBER 2---Should the Governor's power under the 2003 Public Health Emergency Response Act be amended? This is flying under the radar but if the Act is amended (and not vetoed) future state Governors would have more restraints on them and more input from the Legislature in dealing with health emergencies.

The health order gives a Governor wide discretion in closing down society. But the Act did not foresee lockdowns and other pandemic measures lasting nearly the year  like the ones now in effect. 

The issue is the concentration of so much power in the executive for an unlimited time. Time limits and power sharing with the Legislature are being proposed to have the Act provide more checks and balances. When another unfortunate time comes, whether ten years or a hundred years from now, changes to the Act could transform government responsibility for the public health and for the better.

NUMBER 3--It's a drug and it has consequences. What they would be if New Mexico legalizes recreational marijuana is unknown and that hangs over the chances of this bill winning approval. 

Legalization would be transformative with tens of thousands of marijuana users bolstering state tax collections but also creating negative social consequences as was the case when the state legalized Indian gambling. Both impacts need to be considered.

This is a fragile time for public health--especially mental health--and that may impact the chances of legal pot from passing, along with the complexity of administering the law in a state not known for administrative excellence. We put the chances at 50-50. 

HONORABLE MENTION: How much funding will there be to implement the Yazzie education lawsuit in which a judge ruled the state was violating the Constitution by not providing adequate funding for at-risk students, mostly of color?  The administration has dragged its feet but under increasing pressure seems to be warming to its responsibility. 

Why is this transformative? Because the state's bottom of the barrel public education standing is largely due to underperformance among minorities. As with early childhood education, if the state changes that, it changes its national standing with all the good that brings.


The New Mexican comes with an "A to Z guide on the major bills this session . . .Here's contact info for all 112 legislators. If you're looking for a lobbyist, here's a notable one. . . Not sure what's allowed and what isn't at the Roundhouse? Raúl Burciaga at the LCS is your man. . .

Need a hotel? La Fonda is the best. Want great enchiladas while hanging in the City Different? La Choza has them. 

Staying long? Whole Foods is the place for healthy munchies for your house rental or hotel. (And they have plenty of beer and wine to drown your sorrows when the committee tables your favorite bill.) 

This is the home of New Mexico politics. 

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Monday, January 18, 2021

ABQ Loses Another Big Catch As Space Command Goes Elsewhere; Was It Really All Politics? Plus: Arrest Of Cowboys For Trump Leader Keeps Heat On Herrell 

ABQ has missed out on another big catch. 

When the Air Force chose Huntsville, Alabama for the new US Space Command Headquarters that will employ thousands and generate billions in payroll, immediately the state's two US Senators, the ABQ Mayor and some business leaders cried foul. They asserted the decision was President Trump's way of paying back members of Alabama's congressional delegation who voted against certifying the Electoral College results.

That these decisions often stray into the political is well-known. That's why state's push their congressional delegations to accumulate seniority and committee power. 

There seems little question that the Space Command decision was partly Trump payback. But let's look at the reasons the Air Force gives for picking Huntsville before joining with our upset Senators who are demanding an investigation of the decision. The Air Force says:

Huntsville compared favorably across more of these factors than any other community, providing a large, qualified workforce, quality schools, superior infrastructure capacity, and low initial and recurring costs,” Additionally, Redstone Arsenal offered a facility to support the headquarters, at no cost, while the permanent facility is being constructed.

Does ABQ have a "large qualified workforce?" At a recent economic forum there were complaints that hundreds of highly skilled technical jobs remain vacant in the metro area because there are few qualified applicants. Clearly, we fail that test. 

Does ABQ have "quality schools?" That's debatable. We have some, however, we also have an abundance of poor performing public schools and a low high school graduation rate to show for it. So ABQ again fails a key test.

Does ABQ have "superior infrastructure capacity?" If the Air Force means electricity supply, telecommunications, water supply, roads and a solid health sector, we do pretty well. But superior? ABQ doesn't fail this test but it doesn't ace it either.

Does ABQ have "low initial and recurring costs?" Yes, compared to many cities ABQ offers reasonable construction costs and does not have an outlandishly high cost of living. We pass that test. 

So, for four key factors the Air Force considered it appears that ABQ failed two, was neutral in one and passed one. 

Until the congressional delegation and other Space Command cheerleaders recognize the difficult realities of 21st ABQ and lay better plans to alter them, we will suffer more "big catch" disappointments like this one and the Tesla rebuff--even with a Democrat in the White House. 


Couy Griffin
Fallout for the R's in the wake of Sunday's federal arrest of Cowboys for Trump founder and Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. 
(Criminal complaint here.)
State Dems are keeping the heat on. They come with this on southern GOP US Rep. Yvette Herrell, an avid support of the Cowboys:

Republicans who have worked closely with or openly embraced Cowboys for Trump have remained silent. Herrell, GOP Chair Steve Pearce, and Minority Leader Jim Townsend have all refused to issue statements.   . . Herrell and Minority Leader Jim Townsend have both praised Cowboys for Trump in the past, with Representative Herrell saying the endorsement of Cowboys for Trump is one she is the "most proud of.”

But former Dem congressional aide and econ consultant Terry Brunner says the Dems have themselves to blame in part for Griffin's dangerous rise:  

I suggested to NM Dem officials that they spend to defeat Griffin in 2018. He had an arrest record and was not fit to serve. We had a good candidate and Dems could have beat him. Now look what a cancer this person has become. Lesson to Party leaders: Grow your party beyond the Rio Grande corridor and spend more time focusing on local races. That’s where crazies like this guy are incubated.

AG Balderas says if Griffin doesn't resign, he will seek his removal from the Otero County Commission for participating in the "violent insurrectionist attack" on the Capitol. Balderas says that action violates Griffin's oath of public office.

If there's a NM congressional representative who has gotten off to a worse start than Yvette Herrell, we don't know about it. And with Trump set to hover even after he leaves office, the worst could lie ahead.

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Thursday, January 14, 2021

"She's Out" Shout The Analysts As Herrell Sides With Trump On Impeachment Vote; "Damned If She Did, Damned If She Didn't," Plus: Lujan's Heavy Hitter And ABQ's Murder Meter 

Rep. Herrell
"She's out." 

That was the flat declaration from longtime political analyst Greg Payne and others as southern GOP Congresswoman Yvette Herrell voted against impeaching President Trump Wednesday and with no regrets. Opined Payne, a Dem who was an ABQ GOP City Councilor:

Her votes to decertify the election already had her in the redistricting doghouse. Now this vote gives the Democrats even more motivation to redistrict her out of office when they carve out new boundaries this year. And I don't believe there will be much blowback against the Dems for doing it. But if Yvette had voted to impeach, she would have drawn a primary challenge from the Trump wing. She was damned if she did and damned if she didn't.

Former Dem Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (who Herrell defeated in 2020) is watching intently. She is high on the list of Dems who may make a run for the seat in two years. Meantime, the pundits see no path for Yvette except the one leading to the exits.

So how about a path for the New Mexico Republican Party? Payne says somehow the party "must find its way back to the middle" with new personalities not associated with Trump. "I don't see anyone raising their hand," he declared.


Commenting on rebuilding the NM GOP, one of our readers maintained that the party could be encouraged by their 2020 showing in Dona Ana county, home of Democratic Las Cruces. But writing from DC Mike Bocian of GBAO Strategies says, No Way, Jose: 

Take a look at the Dona Ana County numbers for yourself.  In 2020: Lujan and Biden won the county by +19 %. In 2016 it was Hillary Clinton +18. In 2012 Obama carried it +15 and in 2008 Obama won  +18 percent. How are those encouraging numbers for Republicans--either on their face or as a trend line? 


Reader reaction now to our blogging about former GOP US Senate candidate Mark Ronchetti who has returned to his old job of weather forecasting for ABQ CBS affiliate KRQE-TV. Mark Rosebrough says:

Joe, I am dismayed by the efforts of some to undermine Mark Ronchetti's ability to engage in gainful employment. As an independent voter, I gave his candidacy for the Senate due consideration. Any chances of me voting for him ended the moment he embraced President Trump. Trumpism is toxic, and I cannot understand how anyone could support its tenets. But the proper recourse against Mr. Ronchetti's embrace of Trumpism was at the ballot box, not his ability to obtain employment. Such vendettas are unnecessarily divisive and will not help our nation to engage in the healing that it so desperately needs. Let the man feed his family.

 Larry Verr Bruggge writes:

I am very disappointed in KRQE manager Bill Anderson for having an agreement with Mark Ronchetti which is basically a golden parachute--a cash contract if all else fails. This leads me to believe that Mr. Anderson has some of the same political beliefs as Ronchetti and maybe Trump. Since this is a cash guarantee for Ronchetti, could this not be construed as a political contribution? 


Carlos Sanchez
Sen. Ben Ray Lujan has tapped a heavy hitter for his DC chief of staff, reports one of our Alligators. Carlos Sanchez had already been Lujan’s chief of staff when he was Assistant House Speaker and now has that role in the Senate office. 

Sanchez, a Texas product, is a former chief to Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio and served in 2016 as Hillary Clinton's Deputy National Political Director. Sanchez also had a stint as press secretary for Nancy Pelosi and put in time with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Just a reminder, Carlos, ABQ lost the competition for the US Space Command headquarters this week so whatever political acumen you bring to the table, use it to bring us some badly needed pork. We're waiting.


ABQ closed out 2020 with 76 murders, four shy of the 80 committed in 2019. That brought this rant from the reader mailbag: 

What if we weren't in lockdown? What would the murder rate look like then? And this self-congratulatory BS that because it's four lower than the record? The heads at City Hall are so far up their collective a##es they'd need abdomens of glass to see any semblance of the real world! 

We welcome your well-organized rants, comments, criticism, and existential angst. 

 This is the home of New Mexico politics. 

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Ronchetti Redux; More On His TV Move, A Little Gloating For SOS And Dem Chair Race Starts 

Reader Frank Aranda did some legwork and says he discovered that KRQE-TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti had a deal with station management before he announced his Republican candidacy for the US Senate seat that he eventually lost to Dem Ben Ray Lujan. First, Aranda sent management an email critical of Ronchetti's rehiring:

I watch CBS news for its integrity but if you keep this mouthpiece on your staff you will only tarnish the CBS legacy as well as that of your local news staff and I will seek out an alternate station and purposely contact every one of your sponsors to inform that I will do no business with them and encourage my friends to do likewise. . 

Aranda reports he then had a phone conversation with manager Bill Anderson: 

Mr Anderson said Ronchetti was his guy and that last January he said Ronchetti could return if he lost election and that in essence Ronchetti was here to stay. 

So it seems Ronchetti did not take the major risk of losing his well-paying weather gig but was given a safety net for his long shot US Senate campaign. Aranda quotes Anderson as saying Ronchetti is here to stay, which seems to rule out another political bid with the station providing that unusually generous safety net. But if we see a Ronchetti for Governor banner hung outside of KRQE, we'll be sure to let you know.  


Commenting on rebuilding the NM GOP, one of our readers maintained that the party could be encouraged by their showing in Dona Ana county, home of Democratic Las Cruces but writing from DC Mike Bocian of GBAO Strategies says no way, Jose: 

Take a look at the Dona Ana County numbers for yourself.  In 2020: Lujan and Biden won the county by +19 %. In 2016 it was Hillary Clinton +18. In 2012 Obama carried it +15 and in 2008 Obama won  +18 percent. How are those encouraging numbers for Republicans - either on their face or as a trend line?  


Maybe a little gloating is in order after you've been called a dishonest, election-rigging Secretary of State:

The Trump campaign (has withdrawn) their lawsuit against my Office attempting to invalidate New Mexico’s secure and lawful 2020 General Election and withdrew their overly burdensome public records requests motivated by an outlandish conspiracy theory involving Dominion Voting Systems. As no new facts have come to light since they filed this lawsuit, except the anti-democratic horror show that played out as the U.S. Capitol, this withdrawal suggests that the Trump campaign knew from the very beginning that their lawsuit was baseless. . . Let me be clear: New Mexican election officials ran one of the safest and most secure elections in our state’s history and yet this lawsuit attempted to throw out the votes of every New Mexico voter . . .

Biden won New Mexico by nearly 100,000 votes. 

And here's something for R's involved in the election conspiracy nonsense to make them even more depressed. Because she was elected in 2016 to fill out two years of the unexpired term of the previous SOS, Maggie Toulouse Oliver is eligible for two full terms of her own. The second of which she could seek in 2022 and, if successful, would keep her in office until 2027.  


Jessica Velasquez is the first announced candidate for Dem Party chair, a position that Marg Elliston announced she will leave. State Central Committee members will chose the new chair in April. In '20 Velasquez was a candidate for a state House in the East Mountains of ABQ. 

Meanwhile, Elliston and GOP Party Chairman Steve Pearce did TV interviews About the capitol riots and what motivated them. You can read that here. But R readers be forewarned: Elliston took Steve to the cleaners on this one. 


Dem BernCo District 5 Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty is the new chair of the Bernalillo County Commission for 2021 and District 2 Dem Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada is the new vice chair. They were elected unanimously. The commission has 4 Dems and one R.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

One And Done: Ronchetti Back On TV, Plus NM Dem Party Chair Elliston Calls It A Day After Three Year Run, And: Polling And Tussling Over Early Childhood Amendment 

And that is that. The political career of TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti turns out to be a very brief one. 

Viewers of KRQE-TV Monday night were surprised to see Ronchetti back before the cameras--not delivering pointed campaign ads against Ben Ray Lujan--but returning to his old perch as TV meteorologist. 

Ronchetti, who lost the 2020 US Senate race to Democrat Lujan by six points, had been rumored to be a possible future GOP Guv candidate, but that no longer appears to be in the offing.

As could be expected, his image as a happy, go lucky weather guy with a sense of humor took a battering when he entered the political arena. How that impacts his ratings with KRQE remains to be seen. 

Apparently the station isn’t worried about the returning Ronchetti bringing a perception of bias or that many Democratic viewers will not be comforted by seeing him on their TV screens. They can argue he is not officially in the news department. Still independent Ryan Stark was quick to strike:

Bringing back Mark "I stand with President Trump" Ronchetti after last week's events? That's terminal tone-deafness. The "bust potential" for KRQE's ratings should be 100 percent. Pay whatever is left on his contract to make him go away. . . 

Ronchetti’s resurfacing was not trumpeted (get that?) and he was introduced by the news anchor as someone who had simply come back. Did he have a pre-arranged deal with the station?

Whatever the case, the weatherman who had his head in the clouds has returned to earth. 


She's getting out while the getting is good. NM Democratic Party Chair Marg Eliston will end her three year tenure and a replacement will be selected in April. Her time was marked by a run of Democratic dominance that had not been seen since the 70's:

Under her leadership New Mexico has elected strong leaders up-and-down the ballot and become a solidly blue state. In 2018 our party launched our New Mexico for All coordinated campaign, flipping the governor’s mansion and sweeping every statewide and federal office. In the recent 2020 elections, we delivered our electoral votes for President-elect Biden and continued to expand our lead in the Roundhouse. 

Elliston, wife of legendary US Senator Fred Harris, will be leaving the post at a historic low point for the R's, who not only have been kept out of all significant offices but face the mammoth undertaking of rebuilding the party in the wake of the Trump wreckage.

As for the next chair, don't be surprised if competition develops between the moderate Hillary Clinton forces and the left, who will want a Bernie Sanders type in the post. 


Nothing has changed. That's the result of the latest polling of registered voters on whether they support a constitutional amendment that would allow a small portion of the state's nearly $21 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to be tapped for very early childhood education. 

Dr. Gabe Sánchez of LD Insights reports a poll conducted January 3-9 for CHI St. Joseph's Children shows 72 percent support for the proposal, with even 63 percent of the R's now backing the amendment.

The amendment has gained support over a decade when New Mexico remained last or near last in public educational achievement.

The amendment, sponsored for years by ABQ Dem state Reps Moe Maestas and Javier Martinez, has passed the House several times but been thwarted in the Senate Finance Committee. But with the Senate's swing left as a result of the 2020 election, the amendment's chances are seen as much stronger this year.

MLG, in a conference call with lawmakers and amendment backers, called the House sponsors "stalwarts" and added, "I feel very good about getting this resolution over the finish line.”

Constitutional amendments don't require the signature of the Governor but a majority of the House and Senate. After that, they go to the voters.

Here is the zoom conference call with MLG, lawmakers and amendment backers. Passcode is WJc&c9pS.


There is still a bit of a tussle in the Senate over the amendment which would generate some $180 million annually for early childhood ed. Public school unions are pushing to share any new money. 

The longtime chair of Senate Finance--John Arthur Smith--was defeated last year. A new chair, who would likely be more supportive of the amendment, has yet to be named but many are lining up for the power post. 

Speaking of money and such, MLG's proposed budget for the year starting July 1 is out. It proposes spending $7.3 billion, 3 percent more than the current budget. The eyebrow raiser is the proposed 25 percent reserve or about $1.8 billion. (Complete budget here).

MLG calls that huge reserve "fiscally responsible" and that could be a problem. The argument being that she is overprotecting against a future economic crash while we already have one on our hands that needs ever bolder measures to address. NMSU economist Jim Peach is among those advocating for a near zero reserve as we confront depression-like conditions in a number of industries as well as many families. 

It's easy to stuff money under the mattress but harder to come up with imaginative ways to relieve the economic pain inflicted by the pandemic. But more imagination--not more mattress stuffing--is what's need at our historic capitol. More on that coming soon to a blog near you. . . 

Thanks for the company. 

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Monday, January 11, 2021

Trump Spasms Cause More NM Fallout; Redistricting Herrell; Easier Confirmation Path For Haaland, And: Reader Vox Populi Is Back 

Pearce and Herrell
Welcome back. The wreckage of Trumpism is creating more fallout in La Politica. Here's the deal. . . 

Chatter in Dem circles has the Legislature redistricting GOP Trump ally Rep. Yvette Herrell out of office by moving heavily Native American precincts in McKinley county into her southern congressional district from the northern district

Redistricting--set for later this year for congressional and legislative seats--could also see precincts in BernCo's South Valley go into the southern district to help pave the way for the Dems to take the seat back in 2022. 

Herrell's maiden speech on the House floor in the wee morning hours Friday was an objection to certifying the Electoral College votes from Pennsylvania. 

That further inflamed those already seeking her ouster citing her as the prime symbol and a chief actor in the radicalization of a large swath of the New Mexican Republican party. A GOP consultant choosing anonymity, opined of the speech:

Honestly I thought it was an embarrassment, I can see that speech being used in an attack ad against her with unforgettable images of the rioters. The country saw something unthinkable that day and here she is trying to please her shrinking base in CD-2. She’s going to need more than her base in 2022. 

Meanwhile, Dem fears that Rep. Deb Haaland could have rough going with Senate R's when she appears for confirmation as Secretary of Interior have been muted now that D victories in Georgia have given the party a Senate majority. 

The contest for Haaland's seat, which would become vacant upon her joining the Biden cabinet, is getting more crowded. Victor Reyes, legislative director for MLG, announces he will become the first Dem male to seek the seat, joining four women in the race. (Video here.)

Reyes, who would be the first openly gay member of Congress from NM, says:

I’ll fight for racial justice, reproductive justice, and LGBTQ and transgender rights. Together, with the support of the voters of the district, we’ll prioritize criminal justice reform and provide real support for our families and small businesses amid this pandemic. Just like I’ve done here in New Mexico, I’ll never back down to the NRA. . . 

Members of the D and R Central Committees will choose nominees for a special election to fill the ABQ seat, probably to occur in June.

And former Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, Jr., a onetime Republican who enjoys stirring the waters, says he'll run for Haaland's seat as an independent. Not a bad idea as the R's are on the ropes after the mob attack in DC.

2022 is a long way off but T or C State Rep. Rebecca Dow is toying with a run for the GOP gubernatorial nomination as scuttlebutt grows louder that GOP chairman Steve Pearce will seek the nod. 

The Pearce possibility is raising concern because he lost the last Governor's race in a landslide and has also suffered a landslide defeat for US Senate. 


Former NM Environment Secretary and Dem Judith Espinosa comments on Rep. Herrell and the GOP:

What was Rep. Herrell's first order of business? Was it to stand to assist New Mexicans who have lost their livelihoods, health and family members because of the pandemic? Herrell’s first action was to prostrate herself before Trump and object to certifying Joe Biden’s victory. Steve Pearce, Yvette Herrell and the GOP have assisted Trump in turning our country into a state of homegrown insurrection whose chief sponsor promotes the ruination of our great Democracy. It will be decades before we regain our democratic standing in the world thanks to the pandering to Trump from people like them who hold influential positions. No, Joe, there is no rescue for the NM GOP or the US GOP and frankly I’m not shedding any tears. Salud y Paz.

Former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez writes:

Joe; I caught your headline Thursday, saying, “Trumpism hits bottom. . . ”. While this may be a new low for Trump, his tenure has taught us repeatedly that with him, there is no bottom. Heaven help us between now and the 20th. 


Reader Doug Chilson, retired from the Air Force and living near Lovington, writes of his unwavering support for Trump:

Trump is not going away. I voted Trump twice. Will gladly do so again with zero hesitation, hopefully in 2024. We saw Black Lives Matter and ANTIFA riot and loot last summer. Peaceful protests? Horse kaka. I note they were not called domestic terrorists. Are Democrats even aware of how hypocritical they sound?  

Former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish writes of the events of the day: 

With the Dems securing the majority in the Senate the confirmation of Deb Haaland will likely be accelerated and the race for CD1 will pick up speed. The Republicans will continue to be irrelevant and irresponsible (note the tweets of  Michelle Garcia Homes supporting the insurrection).   

Yvette Herrell will try to slink into oblivion after her miscalculation of objecting to certifying the election not realizing that even the voters of CD2 are horrified at what happened at the Capitol. All the enablers/hoodlums will be remembered and she is one of them. Such a bad start to her stint as a congressperson. We promise to make it a short one. 


Conservative intellectual Andrew Sullivan on last week's Capitol upheaval:

The week was, in many ways, the essence of American “conservatism” in 2021. It has morphed from a politics to a theological movement to a personality cult. It is a threat to the very foundations of liberal democracy. It is nihilist, performative, incoherent and bristling with the certainty of fundamentalists and the corruption of grifters. It has destroyed this country’s fiscal standing, wrecked this country’s international reputation, trashed the norms and practices of liberal democracy, perverted the rule of law, accelerated climate change, and now physically vandalized the most sacred civil place in America.  

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Thursday, January 07, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

And then came Wednesday, January 6, 2021.

60 DAYS?

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

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


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

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

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Wednesday, January 06, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Conservative reader Jim McClure has this: 

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

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Tuesday, January 05, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, January 04, 2021

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

Joe Monahan
Welcome back and Happy New Year. 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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