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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Women May Score A First In State Treasurer Race, More Shellshock From Stapleton Scandal, Stansbury Doing Her Homework And Our Bottom Lines 

Today's quiz: What two statewide elected offices have never been held by women? Answer: State Treasurer and State Auditor. However, that is highly likely to change next year because the two top contenders for the Dem Treasurer nomination are women--former Sandoval County Treasurer Laura Montoya and former Valencia County Magistrate Heather Benavidez. No Republican has announced yet, but none has been elected to the post in decades. 

As for Auditor, that appears likely to continue in the male column with PRC Commissioner Joseph Maestas and Zack Quintero vying for the Dem nod. No R is announced but this is another position that has not gone to the GOP in decades. 

In that Treasurer contest, the Montoya campaign comes with this:

Bernalillo County Treasurer Nancy M. Bearce, Chief Deputy Kenneth E. Scott and Doña Ana County Treasurer Eric L. Rodriguez, endorse Laura M. Montoya, candidate for New Mexico State Treasurer. 

SHELLSHOCKED

Democrats continue to be shellshocked by the headlines coming from the financial scandal involving former House Majority Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton:

Feds authorized to seize $3M in Stapleton case 

And the law has already taken possession of Stapleton's 2017 Volvo SUV, saying it was bought with ill-gotten gains.

This may turn out to be biggest alleged theft by a politico in state history. Dems can only hope that there aren't more scandals lurking, but there's been a lot of money pouring into the state during Covid. . . 

FIRST BUT NOT LAST

Here's a first but it surely won't be the last given the challenges of climate change:

House Speaker Brian Egolf announced the first-ever New Mexico Climate Summit, to be held at the State Capitol on October 25-26. The two-day event will gather nationwide experts and leaders from across the state to develop bold new policies that address the climate crisis and include a just energy transition for all of New Mexico’s diverse communities.

More info and registration is here

DOING HOMEWORK

The newest member of the state's DC delegation, ABQ Dem Rep. Melanie Stansbury, is still getting acquainted with the people she represents but she seems to have a handle on the issues. Here she is discussing with the Sandoval Signpost newspaper esoteric water issues impacting Placitas:

Because the community is at the northern terminus of the Sandias there’s a sort of unique geography coming out of the Las Huertas Canyon with this community being so dependent on, for example, for water from the snowpack that’s on the mountain,” she continued. “There’s lots of wildlife here, and the land is culturally significant to both the land grant as well as the pueblos as well as the people who’ve moved here who just love the beauty of this place. “It’s a place where people really care for, and love, the land and love the water, and it’s really tied to the mountain itself.” 

Someone's been doing their homework. 

Michelle Garcia Holmes, who lost to Deb Haaland in 2020, has announced she will seek the '22 GOP nomination and the right to face Rep. Stansbury next November. Stansbury won the seat in a landslide in the June special election. 

THE BOTTOM LINES 

We had the ABQ mayoral candidates attending three TV debates in October but the campaigns report that only KOAT and KOB have thus far sent out invitations. KRQE has not. . . 

And we updated the blog Tuesday afternoon with the statement from Dem State Senator Siah Correa Hemphill saying she will not seek the nomination for the southern congressional seat. ICYMI: 

The constituents of Senate District 28 elected me to serve them, and I want them to know that I aim to give them my full attention and commitment right now and not campaign to run for Congress. Representing this amazing district has been an incredible experience and true honor, and in my capacity as a state senator and member of the Legislative and Senate Finance Committees I remain committed to being the best advocate I can for everyone I serve. . . 

We also reported Tuesday Senator Heinrich's endorsement of Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez who at this time is unopposed for the Dem nomination for the seat held by GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell. 

This is the home of New Mexico politics. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2021

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Rep. Karen Bash To Bow Out; Known For Ousting Republican Youngblood In R District, Plus: Joint Appearances By ABQ Mayoral Candidates Are Sparse And SOS Has Warning For Statewide Candidates 

Rep. Karen Bash
Rep. Karen Bash is the third Democratic House member to decide not to seek re-election in 2022, according to top-placed sources. 

Bash, 74, will be remembered for putting the usually Republican House District 68 on ABQ's NW side in the Democratic column in 2018. 

Her election was made easy by the highly publicized aggravated DWI arrest and conviction of GOP Rep. Monica Youngblood who held the seat since 2013 and was known for her tough on crime rhetoric. 

Bash defeated Youngblood 58 to 42 percent. She did so gracefully, not campaigning on Youngblood's self-inflicted wound and letting the damage play out on its own. 

In 2020 R's tried to retake the district but Bash, a retired Christian minister and early childhood education advocate, had bonded sufficiently with the district to score a 52.5 to 47.5 win.

The Dems can be expected to make the district more D friendly when new district lines are drawn at December's special legislative redistricting session for the 70 member House and 42 member Senate.

Bash joins ABQ metro state Reps. Daymon Ely and Debbie Armstrong in retiring from the Roundhouse. On the R side Rep. Rebecca Dow will depart as she runs for Governor.  

(Let us know if we're missing anyone).

In the state Senate no announced departures yet for the '22 cycle but there were many in 2020 when progressive Dems won primaries against conservative Dem Senators Mary Kay Papen and John Arthur Smith, among others. 

RARE FORUMS

We come up with only eight scheduled joint appearances for the three ABQ mayoral candidates between now and election day. Contrast that with the 2017 mayoral runoff election between Tim Keller and Dan Lewis when the duo made dozens of joint appearances, according to blog records. 

The appearances include October TV debates on KOB and KOAT. The candidates had a joint appearance before an ABQ North Valley neighborhood group in August, so far their only appearance together.

No doubt Covid has played a role in the minimalist in-person campaigning but it seems a general lack of interest in the contest, which is being dominated by Mayor Keller, is also at fault.

Here are two of the upcoming appearances by Keller, Manny Gonzales and Eddy Aragon:

Monday, September 27, 2021 6:00pm-7:30pm, New Mexico Black Voters Collaborative Mayoral Forum, in person at Highland High School (4700 Coal Ave SE) Lecture Hall. 

September 28, 2021 6:00pm-7:00pm, Mayoral Debate sponsored by Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and KKOB Radio.

No paid broadcast media has yet been aired by the candidates. Absentee ballots will be sent to those who have requested them beginning October 5. Early in-person voting throughout the city starts October 15. 

CANDIDATES FOREWARNED

SOS Toulouse Oliver
Attention all candidates and possible candidates for Election '22. Because the redistricting of the congressional and legislative seats won't happen until a special legislative session in December, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver comes with this:

One of the first steps candidates take to get on the ballot is gathering signatures on petition forms from registered voters in their district. This year, however, the petition forms our Office publishes for use by candidates seeking a districted office, which must be used by candidates when gathering signatures, will be delayed due to the delay in Census data being received from the federal government and redistricting. 

Receipt of valid signatures on a petition form are based on the official district boundaries set by the legislature and, by law, our Office cannot publish those forms for districted offices until the legislature has completed its work. Approved nominating petition forms for statewide/non-districted offices, however, will still be made available by our Office on October 1, 2021. These forms can be obtained from our website.

In order to ensure that candidates are collecting valid signatures from the proper district, it is essential that districted office candidates use only the forms published by our Office. . .We anticipate publishing the official nominating petition forms for districted offices during January 2022. 

 This is the home of New Mexico politics. 

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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Heinrich Goes Early For Vasquez In Critical Southern Congressional Contest; Endorses Former Aide For Dem Nomination; Sen. Correa Hemphill Says She Won't Run 

Heinrich and Vasquez
Gabe Vasquez is building up early steam for the Democratic nomination for the southern congressional seat. 

Just days after becoming the first Dem to announce a candidacy, he rolled out a video endorsement from Senator Martin Heinrich that should translate into campaign cash and organization in the sprawling district.

Vasquez, a Las Cruces City Councilor, is a former aide to Heinrich so the endorsement was not a complete surprise but it did seem designed to try to clear the field. And it may have. 

State Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill has been weighing a run but a Dem consultant who has advised Correa Hemphill tells us she "is leaning against" running. We'll await the final call. 

Update: Tuesday afternoon she announced she will not run: 

The constituents of Senate District 28 elected me to serve them, and I want them to know that I aim to give them my full attention and commitment right now and not campaign to run for Congress. Representing this amazing district has been an incredible experience and true honor, and in my capacity as a state senator and member of the Legislative and Senate Finance Committees I remain committed to being the best advocate I can for everyone I serve. I look forward to continuing the work delivering needed improvements in healthcare and education, supporting our local small businesses, and being a strong voice for our rural communities.”

The wording was awkward but we get it.

The endorsement makes Heinrich's interest in the redistricting process even deeper. The boundary changes will take place at an early December legislative session. Majority Dems are primed to make the district more difficult for freshman GOP US Rep. Yvette Herrell who is seeking re-election next year. Heinrich won't be shy in pushing a design that helps his new political protege. 

Still, it is going to take a major district change and a whale of a campaign in an off year election to oust the combative congresswoman who has enthused conservatives in what at heart is a conservative region. The fear for Dems is that Vasquez is too liberal to take the prize. Ditto for Correa Hemphill. 

The other Dem fear is that the Dem-controlled legislature doesn't have the huevos to dramatically redistrict the seat, unlike their GOP colleagues who went all out in the 2010 redistricting and ended up taking over the state House for a time. 

As for the endorsement, Heinrich said:

I’ve known Gabe for a long time. We've worked together to protect the rich cultural heritage and beauty of New Mexico’s lands, like designating the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks a National Monument. I’ve watched him grow as a leader, bringing his experience and passion to the Las Cruces City Council. . .Gabe Vasquez can win this seat. I know he’ll put in the work to get it done. . .That’s why I’m rolling out my endorsement of him now — early in this race, because we have no time to lose.

And progressive Dem Vasquez responded:

I've learned a lot from working with Martin Heinrich. How to listen, learn and create good policy that helps the working class and benefits our environment. 

STATE OF THE RACE

The southern race was the most expensive in the nation two years ago and again will be hotly contested as the R's work to take over the House where they lack just a few seats to get the job done. 

Heinrich's endorsement of Vasquez is a big boost but doesn't guarantee anything. Heinrich has been endorsing candidates left and right as he tries to build a political machine now that he is the state's senior senator. But many have fallen flat. Remember Garrett VeneKlasen?

But the Vasquez candidacy has merit for some Dems independent of Heinrich. For one, he is an Hispanic male in a Dem party that has been bleeding their support. (He was born in El Paso and raised in Juárez before moving to Las Cruces). It has been progressive women who have exercised near complete domination in state Democratic politics. Hispanic men have been getting the cold shoulder and it has shown in the polling data. 

It's still early but other potential contenders will have to decide soon whether to get in the race. Heinrich is already sending out fund-raising pitches for Vasquez. 

REFORM IT

ABQ Attorney Armand Armand Huertaz is among the many calling for reform of the city of ABQs campaign public finance system after this year's fiasco:

The public financing process that has unfolded before the Albuquerque City Clerk’s office--to a hearing officer’s zoom call on a boat somewhere in New England, to a District Court, to the NM Supreme Court and back to District Court, has totally shot the trust in the entire process and is terrible for the public political discourse.

How in the world was any of this healthy when you have the campaigns filing lawsuits and ethics complaints against each other rather than presenting their cases before ABQ. Reform is needed immediately starting with clear procedural rules including due process protections to avoid another Kangaroo Court situation:

--An independent panel of 3 to certify applications for public financing with a direct appeal to district court 

--Conflict rules for rival campaigns to file complaints in order to avoid the gamesmanship that is obviously at play and better verification for contributions and signatures. 

--Also, if a donor’s candidate doesn’t qualify, they should get their 5 bucks back. 

After what’s happened this year, I worry that public financing is only going to get more litigious and nastier which is not good for our already broken political process.

The City Council and Mayor can be expected to entertain reform proposals next year. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2021

Monday, September 20, 2021

Manny's Mad Money Scramble As Mayoral Race Conjurs Memories Of '09, Plus: More Candidates Line Up For '22 And MLG's "Singular Focus" 

Manny's mad money scramble is on. 

BernCo Sheriff and mayoral candidate Manny Gonzales says he picked up $90,000 in private donations in the days after he finally ran out of courtrooms to appeal the city's denial of over $600,000 in public financing for his campaign.

That's a start but as the song says he has a long way to go and a short time to get there. Gonzales is going for the quick, big money reminding supporters they can give the maximum donation allowed of $6,250.

Mayor Keller successfully qualifying for the taxpayer money looms even larger over the Nov. 2 contest. 

Republican Eddy Aragon also has a steep climb. He reports raising over $30,000 in his first fundraising forays but just one week of high profile TV ads costs more than double that. 

The '21 contest is starting to look something like 2009. That's when two Dems--Mayor Chavez and Richard Romero--battled each other only to see the lone Republican, Richard Berry, consolidate the non Democratic vote and take the prize. This time it is two conservatives--Gonzales and Aragon that are giving Democrat Keller that middle path. But if Keller is unable to get 50 percent of the vote Nov. 2 there will be a runoff election in mid-December between the two top vote-getters. 

And this year could also remind old timers of '77 when David Rusk, son of former Sec. of State Dean Rusk consolidated the Dem/liberal vote against three more conservative opponents including GOP Mayor Kinney. In that election only 40 percent of the vote was required to avoid a run-off.

An example of today's conservative divide is the announcement from longtime ABQ GOP City Councilor Trudy Jones that she is endorsing Gonzales over Aragon who she says will "help us rein in wasteful government spending. . .and focus on basic services." She also backs him for pledging to fight crime and homelessness. 

Former GOP Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson has also endorsed Democrat Gonzales.

Aragon says the Republicans are split down the middle over his candidacy and he faults controversial Republican political consultant Jay McCleskey who is now consulting Democrat Gonzales. He says McCleskey is trying to hold onto power in the GOP and is behind these endorsements.

JAMPACKED

In the Santa Fe mayor's race, Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler jams in a lot of info in a new 30 second social media video, including her qualifications, a major union endorsement and her governing philosophy. The only thing she left out is why she would be a better mayor than incumbent Alan Webber. Hmmm. 

AGAIN?

That's what the campaign watchers were asking this weekend when Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes announced yet another campaign--this time for a second run for the ABQ congressional seat held by Dem Melanie Stansbury. She uses the unease over Covid as her launching pad: 

We need to get past pandemic shutdowns. Let’s focus on addressing our state’s economic needs; let’s fight the crime wave that has overwhelmed us. Let’s embrace the value of a hard day’s work, just like our parents did. I will work hard to make New Mexico safe and economically strong.”

Besides the ABQ congress seat she lost to Stansbury in 2020, Garcia Holmes has also sought the ABQ mayor's office and the lieutenant governor's office.

The Dems see the 2022 ABQ contest as dead money. Stansbury took the seat in a 60 percent plus landslide at the June special election and this December's redistricting is not expected to have any appreciable impact on the heavy D district.

ANT'S ARMY

Ant Thornton
The 2022 candidates continue to line up. Here's an announcement for the GOP nod for lieutenant governor from Anthony "Ant" Thornton of ABQ's East Mountains. He says he is a Black Republican who was a Dem but grew disillusioned with President Obama and became a "walkaway Democrat."

Thornton is an aerospace engineer with a Ph.D who had a long career at Sandia Labs. He wants to form "Ant's Army" to "propel the state forward." (Is that anything like Arnie's Army?)

So we've got a possible army of Ants and an engineer who favors cowboy hats. Folks, there's blogging potential there. 

By the way, we're not hearing of any movement to dump current Dem Lt. Governor Howie Morales from the 2022 Dem ticket--in case you were wondering. 

MLG'S "SINGULAR FOCUS"

Interesting that Governor Lujan Grisham has issued no statements (at least none we've seen) on President Biden's mandate for Covid vaccinations for all employees of businesses with 100 or more workers. We asked a Dem operative for analysis:

It has been MLG's singular focus on Covid that has caused her approval rating to drop below 50 percent. It has been a rallying cry for the opposition and while a plurality support her, voters may want to see more from her governorship besides the constant Covid narrative which is mostly negative. 

MLG has been getting out and about more in recent days and has an opportunity to redefine the narrative as the state accumulates historic surpluses in the billions from oil and gas. But a flare up in Covid could again demand the "singular focus" that our operative complains is keeping her voter approval on the cool side. 

This is the home of New Mexico politics. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2021

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Dow Gets Serious Early; Reports $300K Cash Haul And Campaign Chairs in Every County, Plus: Ronchetti Silent On Any Guv Plans, But His Wife Isn't, And: A Wisecracking Alligator And A New BernCo GOP Chair 

Rep. Rebecca Dow
T or C State Rep. Rebecca Dow is earning her status as the leading GOP Guv contender thus far, announcing that she has raised $300,000 in the early going and has a campaign chair for each of the state's 33 countries. 

In the grand scheme of things that $300K is a trickle since next year's contest featuring incumbent Dem MLG and the Republican nominee will soar into the millions. 

But Dow is first out of the gate with bragging rights in the field of 8 unknown contenders and that counts for something. 

And in crowing over her cash haul, Dow spiked the political punch bowl with this broadside:

In the race for New Mexico governor, there are just two options: continue with MLG, who is drunk on power and will never end her executive orders while she's in office, or support Dow for New Mexico and give people the power to run their own lives again.

Dow's early seriousness will be noted by R's hoping well-known TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti will jump in the race. 

Ronchetti has been silent since we broke the news September 1 that top R's were discussing a candidacy with him but his wife, Kristy Ronchetti has not. Writing in response to a reader comments on  Facebook in reaction to that NM Politics with Joe Monahan report, Kristy Ronchetti said:

We want to help serve the people of this state and we want to see it do better… I’m not sure it will be in a political arena or not - but it won’t stop us for fighting for the people we’ve gotten to know, respect and heard. 

She also expressed discontent that the story was published here but notably her comment does not close the door on her husband running. 

That and other comments from Ronchetti were published on the Facebook page of Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes who highlighted the possibility of his Guv run. Soon after, Garcia Holmes' comments, the reader reactions and those of Kristy Ronchetti were all removed from her page. 

So back to Dow. If she can keep raising early cash and staffing up statewide, R's may start saying: "What's not to like?" Even the Ronchetti's might agree. 

SOUTHERN RACE

Gabe Vasquez
Southern GOP US Rep. Yvette Herrell didn't waste time launching missiles at Gabe Vasquez, the first Dem to officially announce for the seat. In a Wednesday fund-raising pitch Herrell warned her flock:

The Left will stop at nothing to force their socialist agenda on America, which is why they are directing all their resources towards unseating any Trump-supporting conservative who stands in their way – starting with ME. 

We broke the news September 7 that Las Cruces City Councilor Vasquez was among the possible candidates for the Dem nomination for the Herrell seat. Now he is officially a contender, coming into the race with a 90 second launch video (solidly produced) and a progressive economic pitch: 

Republicans are helping the rich become richer, while hard-working New Mexicans fight for scraps. Our economy is more successful when it is more fair. That means New Mexicans need higher wages, we must ensure that the mega-wealthy are paying their fair share in taxes, and we must invest in social services, infrastructure, and education. I will be unapologetic in fighting for the interests of working families -- they are the heart of this district. 

The early announcement from Vasquez, 37, comes as Silver City State Senator Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill weighs a run. Insiders say she's the pick of the DC Dems for the seat, given the outsized success women Democrats have had here in recent cycles. Vasquez's play is putting heat on her to make up her mind. 

Vasquez is a former aide to US Sen. Martin Heinrich and the pair are pictured together in his announcement video but Heinrich has not yet endorsed him.

WISEGUY GATOR

A wisecracking AlligAtor comments on this week's endorsement of Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber by US Sen. Ben Ray Lujan:

Ben Ray is polling at 41 percent approval. Webber is in trouble. The Spaniards want his head! 

Lujan's approval was at 41 in an August PPP survey. Sen. Heinrich's was at 42 percent. 

NEW CHAIR

The state GOP informs:

The Bernalillo County Central Committee has elected former businessman John Rockwell as county Party Chairman. About 140 members of the Committee voted. Rockwell, who has lived in New Mexico 42 years, says. . . “I look forward to revitalizing our party and taking part in a massive reorganization effort." 

The BernCo GOP has been stricken by one of its worst outbreaks of internecine warfare in recent years. Rockwell will be picking up the pieces.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2021

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

No Public Money For Manny; Is It A Death Blow? Sheriff Will Now Scramble For Private Cash, Plus: MLG's BFF To Depart Roundhouse And Demesia Dodges A Bullet 

Sheriff Gonzales (Journal)
Some are calling it the death blow. 

The latest and final legal loss for BernCo Sheriff Many Gonzales in his desperate effort to win over $600,000 in taxpayer funding for his mayoral campaign leaves him with no other option than to rapidly seek private donations to keep his struggling campaign from complete collapse. 

And with less than a  month to go before heavy in-person early voting begins and just seven weeks until Election Day, the campaign clock is ticking so loudly it sounds like the chimes of Big Ben. 

The scrappy lawman shot himself in the foot by having his campaign go rogue and collecting forged signatures to qualify for the public funds which in turn led to Tuesday's final court ruling that kept him out of the money and on the death watch. 

Besides that court ruling there is another ominous sign. Donations to the outside PAC supporting Gonzales--Save Our City--had been coming in fairly strong but started to dry up in the latest reporting period when Gonzales was embroiled in legal imbroglios and not pounding away at the city's crime that had been motivating the big money.

Mayor Keller has over $500,000 in public financing still in his kitty and will soon be swamping the TV airwaves. At a minimum Gonzales would seem to need half that much to come even close to competing. 

Gonzales, who remains a nominal Democrat, immediately blamed the "liberal establishment" for his loss in the courts. 

In an email blast he called himself "a strong fiscal conservative," pointing out that he was attacked when he accepted federal law enforcement help from Trump. 

He added what used to be an oldie but goodie in city politics but now looks soggy and saggy--repealing ABQ's status as a Sanctuary City. 

Manny's urgent hard-right campaign missive might have made sense a month ago when Republican talk show host Eddy Aragon wasn't on the ballot, but Eddy and a cash-starved Manny are now eating from the same trough while Keller has the middle and left essentially to himself. That and Keller's cash are enough to bring this thing home with an outright 50 percent win and no run off. Stay tuned.

DODGING A BULLET

Talk about dodging a bullet. Demesia Padilla, state taxation secretary under GOP Gov. Martinez, was quietly sentenced to five years probation last week. No jail time for her embezzlement convictions, even though she faced up to 18 years in prison on the felony charges. That led one reader to exclaim:

If anyone needed a sentence as an example this woman was it!

The Padilla sentencing came amid sensational charges against former Dem State Rep. Sheryl Wiliams Stapleton who faces charges of stealing nearly $1 million from the ABQ Public Schools. She's probably hoping to get the same judge as Demesia. 

MLG BFF BIDS BYE

Rep. Armstrong
Dem State Rep. Debbie Armstrong joins the list of House members who won't seek re-election next year. Its a pretty short list with ABQ Dem Rep. Daymon Ely the only other entry. 

Armstrong is an expert in health care and a BFF of MLG who put out a statement praising the ABQ North Valley lawmaker. Armstrong says she wants to focus on family and other projects. 

Armstrong is serving her fourth term from District 17 which will now see a major primary battle to replace her in the Dem heavy area which could also see more redistricting because of her departure. 

Armstrong's legacy will be her medical expertise which was leaned on when the legislature adopted legal cannabis and approved an end of life options bill. 

She will also be remembered for a major campaign controversy with MLG in 2018. Armstrong founded Delta Consulting with her which did most of its business with the state's high risk insurance program. Republicans called that into question. 

And Armstrong was one of the few people in the room when MLG campaign aide James Hallinan alleged that the gubernatorial candidate threw a bottle of water on his crotch and made derogatory remarks. Hallinan received a legal settlement from Lujan Grisham's campaign of $62,500.

The retiring Armstrong may miss the Roundhouse but her future friendship with MLG should be an easier ride. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2021

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Early December Eyed For Start Of Legislature's Redistricting Session And Santa Fe's Mayor Gets Needed Endorsement In Racially Tinged Campaign  

No final date has been set but Roundhouse sources report the New Mexico legislative leadership is looking at Monday, December 6 for the start of the once in a decade redistricting session. Optimistic projections have the 112 lawmakers completing their work in a week and presenting it to the Govenror.

Since the governor's office and legislature are controlled by the Democrats no one is expecting a major fight or a veto of what goes up to her. 

That's the opposite of what what happened when GOP Gov. Susana Martinez was in charge at the last redistricting in 2010. She vetoed a Dem plan and the courts settled on a redistricting that was ultimately favorable to the R's. In 2014 they took over the state House for the first time since 1953. However, the Dems recaptured the majority in 2016. 

One of the more far reaching proposals circulating for the state's three congressional seats would split ABQ into three, giving each district a big piece of the big city. That would make it easier to turn the southern district toward the Dems. The district is currently represented by GOP US Rep. Yvette Herrell, the only R in the congressional delegation. 

With the US House so narrowly divided between the parties national groups are taking a keen interest in what happens to her seat.

House Speaker Brian Egolf has already expressed his interest in turning the district Democratic and took heat for his frankness. But that's unlikely to change his mind. The only question is how much more influence the Dems will have in the new district. 

A Citizens Redistricting Committee is drafting several plans for the legislature to choose from but lawmakers still make the final decision. You can submit your own redistricting plans for the congressional and legislative seats at the commission's website.

RESIDENCY RULING 

Here's the complete ruling of ABQ District Court Judge Joshua Allison that kept GOP ABQ mayoral candidate Eddy Aragon on the November 2 ballot. Allison rejected a petition that sought to remove Aragon because he lives in a commercially zoned property near the airport. Allison said: 

The only residency requirement is that which is set out in Article V, Section 13 of our State Constitution, which provides that candidates for Mayor of the City of Albuquerque be “residents” of the City of Albuquerque.

We covered the impact of that ruling on the race on our Monday blog.

SANTA FE MAYOR

Sen. Lujan
In the mostly sleepy Santa Fe mayoral race Mayor Alan Webber scores a strike with the formal endorsement of Dem Senator Ben Ray Lujan as he battles charges of being out of touch with the city's Hispanic community. Says Lujan: 

Alan also understands that Santa Fe is an ever-expanding city with important needs like affordable housing, economic diversity, educational opportunity, and environmental sustainability. I deeply share his progressive values. Alan believes in doing what's right, and I trust him to do everything necessary to unite Santa Fe and improve quality of life." 

Lujan is a resident of nearby Nambé and his father, the late House Speaker Ben Lujan, was a longtime Santa Fe county representative. His endorsement should help Webber cool the heated racial overtones of the campaign. "Unite" is the key word in Ben Ray's slap on the back for Webber.

And Sen. Martin Heinrich, who has earned the nickname "First Endorser" for his many nods of support these days, has also endorsed Webber, saying: 

Alan will continue to responsibly manage Santa Fe's growth. His new comprehensive plan covers everything from water use, to protection of traditional neighborhoods, more walkable communities, and affordable housing throughout the city.

Meanwhile, the Santa Fe Hispanic Chamber of Commerce sponsored a mayoral forum Monday night. The stream is here

Santa Fe City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler is Webber's main rival in the November election. If she can find the gas pedal, she needs to step on it hard. 
                   
This is the home of New Mexico politics. 

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Monday, September 13, 2021

ABQ Mayor '21: Aragon Survives Ballot Challenge And Then Wins Endorsement Of Divided GOP; Gonzales Still Tied In Legal Knots As Keller Preps Crucial TV Ads  

He's nothing if not resilient. First, radio talk show host Eddy Aragon defied expectations by getting over 3,000 petition signatures in just two weeks to qualify for the November 2 mayoral ballot and now he's survived a residency challenge to his candidacy in district court that could have tossed him off the ballot. 

Aragon is the only Republican among the three mayoral candidates but BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales is campaigning as a conservative Democrat against Dem Mayor Tim Keller so Aragon's survival is a direct blow to him. And there's a new angle. The NMGOP, deeply divided over the voluble Aragon, threw in the towel following the Friday court ruling and embraced the outsider as one of their own: 

This means Republicans. . . have. . . a strong conservative seeking the top job at Albuquerque City Hall. RPNM supports all Republican candidates, and now there's a GOP candidate for mayor. . .Albuquerque is a city in crisis: crime is out of control and the city is in desperate need of new leadership to steer it on a better course. Republicans now have a mayoral candidate who will fight for conservative values and make Albuquerque the great city it can be.

That official endorsement will mean money and votes for the ABQ native. How much and how many are the questions to be answered

Technically city elections are nonpartisan but partisanship has always been the major factor.

MANNY'S LEGAL KNOTS

While Aragon was untying the legal shackles that kept his candidacy hostage, Manny Gonzales was still tied in legal knots, scheduled to be back in court tomorrow in a final bid to secure over $600,000 in public financing crucial to his effort. 

Gonzales has been losing left and right in that fight--from the city clerk, a city hearing officer, a second time before the clerk and the NM Supreme court which refused hear an appeal. Tomorrow Gonzales will again ask the judge who ordered a second hearing from the city clerk--which he lost--to tell the clerk to release the funds. 

If he loses Gonzales will have to raise money privately and quickly. Not an easy task when the R's are falling behind Aragon and the legal process may have irrevocably stained the reputation of the longtime lawman. 

MURDER AND MAYHEM

Aragon
The murder and mayhem that has become part of ABQ life continues but Gonzales has not laid a glove on Keller who is now poised to flood TV with hundreds of thousands in taxpayer financed ads. Insiders say he was shooting those ads over the weekend. 

He will be on the air in plenty of time to influence early absentee votes when ballots are sent out October 5 and in full battle mode when critical in-person voting starts Oct. 15. Will Gonzales and Aragon?

More troubling news for the challengers. There has been only one joint appearance between the three candidates thus far and according to Keller's website the next one isn't slated until the end of the month. That is depriving Keller's foes of desperately needed opportunities to confront him directly and personally over the crime wave. The TV debates won't come until late October and with early voting so prevalent that could be too late. 

WEARY VOTERS

TJ Trout
Radio talker TJ Trout of ABQ's KKOB, coming at the race from a neutral corner, says the lack of forums is another indication that we are headed for a low voter turnout Nov 2:

People seem tired of politics after the raging battles of 2020 as well as this year. Covid fatigue has translated into political fatigue. The issues in ABQ couldn't be bigger but the crowd needs to be warmed up, big time. 

The late start of his opponents puts Keller way ahead right now. His reelection would be a given if it were not for the historic murder rate, the continued high rate of property and other crimes and the chaotic management of the city's police department. That leaves the door ajar, if only a smidgen, for something unexpected but from this point on the Keller challengers will need killer TV ads and near perfect campaigns. 

And Gonzales and Aragon have more than Keller to take on. They are now running against the toughest foe of all--Father Time. 

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Thursday, September 09, 2021

MLG Gets Nod From State's "First Endorser," Stansbury And Herrell Surprise As They Get Chummy And Some Positive Thoughts For Beleaguered ABQ 

Sen. Heinrich
It was a tough sell and the negotiation went down to the wire but finally Dem US Sen. Martin Heinrich agreed to endorse MLG in her bid for re-election. Just kidding, of course. 

Heinrich is carving out a reputation as the "first endorser," issuing dozens of then in recent cycles and true to form he is the first big name endorser for fellow Dem Lujan Grisham.

She has work to do nailing down and exciting the Democratic base as her approval rating in recent polling has sunk below 50 percent She hopes Heinrich's strong appeal with environmentalists will help and also discourage any out of the blue Dem primary challenge. From Heinrich:

. . .Lujan Grisham has set bold statewide renewable energy standards -- putting New Mexico at the forefront of the clean energy industry that will produce good jobs. . .She has aggressively pursued polluters and established nation-leading rules that will reduce harmful emissions and create even more jobs through detecting and capping gas leaks that harm our air. Governor Lujan Grisham has made New Mexico a national leader in the fight against climate change. I am pleased to endorse Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham so she can continue delivering for. . .New Mexico.” 

And there you have it direct from the First Endorser. 

Other titles held by New Mexico politicos include State Auditor Brian Colón as "Most Photographed Man in New Mexico" (just check out Facebook) and "Most Recognizable Politician" held by AG Hector Balderas. Yes, it has something to do with not having to go to the barber. 

Nominations are always open to fill additional categories. 

SOUTHERN STRATEGY

Will this race be the next to get a Heinrich endorsement?

Some Alligator follow-up to our blog this week pointing out that state Senator Siah Correa Hemphill and Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez are two prominent Dems taking a look at running for Rep. Yvette's southern congressional seat next year. We get this:

Siah is the one who has had real discussions with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Gabe is just toying with it and even though he's a former Senator Heinrich staffer, she is also close to him.

Neither of the possible candidates has made an official announcement. Herrell will be seeking her second term. 

OLD SCHOOL

Herrell & Stansbury
Some old school bipartisanship this week caused a stir in La Politica. Polar opposites--Dem US Rep. Melanie Stansbury and Rep. Herrell joined together to visit Afghan refugees and their temporary housing at Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo. That's in Herrell's district and some refugees will later make their way to ABQ so both lawmakers have an interest in the matter.

The visit was not open so there are no smiling photos of the pair happily working away. Don't expect Melanie and Yvette to become besties but publicly breaking the ice is a good start to bringing some longed for civility to the scene.

Meanwhile, there has been an outpouring of support for the refugees from the Alamogordo area. So many essential goods have been donated for the 5,000 refugees who will eventually arrive at the Base that officials had to stop accepting more. Good stuff. . . 

POSITIVITY CORNER

The ABQ mayoral election is about to hit full stride (if Manny Gonzales can get out of the courts and get campaigning) and with it will come a storm of criticism of how things are going around here and what's wrong with the place. Fair enough. But before that deluge of damnation begins let's pause for a note of appreciation for our town courtesy of Melanie Meleski Trujillo writing on the ABQ Memories Facebook page:  

 I love the mountains to the mesa skies. I love the city’s sense of community. I love that we can still see some stars at night. I love our undying loyalty to the UNM Lobos and our AAA baseball and newer United. I love being the balloon capital of the world with our unusual box winds. Of course I love the Sandias turning purple, pink, red, and gold in the course of a ten minute sunset. I love a full moon rise. I love that you can travel through history as easily as a drive through various neighborhoods. I love our devotion to luminarias. I love it when I explain to someone not from here that it does snow. I love it when the cotton flies and everyone is complaining about it. I love it when the Bosque cottonwoods show that faint green in early Spring and then give us their bright yellow show in the Fall. Geez, I could keep going, but I am late to a breakfast meeting at Duran’s.

Thanks, Melanie. We're going to need some more of that positivity before this campaign is over (and those comforting enchiladas from Duran's).

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Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Readers Ask: Who is Brent Eastwood? Man Who Scorched Ex-Gov. Martinez Over Board Appointment To Daniels Fund Explained, Plus: Inside The Fund: Diane Denish Throws Some Light 

Who is Brent Eastwood? That's the question we received from readers after Eastwood scorched Susan Martinez's performance as governor on the Aug. 26 blog in reaction to her appointment to the Board of Directors of the $1.6 billion charitable Daniels Fund. The fund, according to IRS filings, pays directors around $50,000 a year.

Brent Eastwood is not a Democrat, but a conservative Republican who ran afoul of the Martinez administration while supervising international trade in Martinez's Economic Development Department. He joined with another employee to file this whistleblower lawsuit in 2014:

A whistleblower lawsuit filed in state court makes a series of explosive allegations against appointees of Gov. Martinez, accusing high-ranking officials in her administration of public corruption, mismanagement, and intimidation. It claims that officials at the state’s economic development agency engaged in extramarital affairs that could expose the state to sexual harassment charges and that officials tried to silence employees who reported contracting violations and other wrongdoing. . .

Eastwood says the lawsuit was settled for an "undisclosed" amount of money,

Eastwood is a former Army infantry officer, RAND Corporation analyst and book author with a Ph.D in political science who now lives out of state. Eastwood’s wife, Melanie Sanchez-Eastwood, worked as a scheduler on Martinez’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

INSIDE THE FUND

So what about the Daniels Fund, the legacy of Colorado cable billionaire Bill Daniels, brother of prominent NM Democrat Jack Daniels who was the father of Diane Denish, the 2010 Dem Guv nominee defeated by Martinez. How did the fund become dominated by highly partisan Republicans, including Martinez and Hanna Skandera, who is now President of the Fund and who was the controversial Secretary of Public Education under Martinez.

Bill Daniels was a Republican (not a conservative Dem as we labeled him in our initial blog) but as Diane Denish explains he never meant for the fund to veer to the right: 

 Joe, It is an independent and not a family foundation. The original Board members were all designated by Bill--my dad and I were two of them and my dad was chairman until shortly before his death. I left in 2010 as I began my run for Governor. Today, there are only 4 of the original Board members on the 13 member Board that knew Bill. (One of those is Jim Nicholson who is former national RNC Chair). 

The fund has been steering away from Bill's mission for at least 10 years with some Board members steering to the far right and frankly not caring about or adhering to best practices for philanthropy. Highly paid Board members in philanthropy are a glaring example. (I got board fees too and donated all of them to non-profits in NM). 

Bill intentionally created a balance of his Republican and Democratic friends (and relatives) in the original board. In my conversations with him the day before his death in March 2000, he said he didn't intend it to be "political" in nature. At the same time he told me he didn't plan for the money to be used to buy "any damn symphony tickets."

Linda Childears who preceded Skandera as CEO for 15 years left abruptly in March of 2020 after high profile criticism in Colorado and New Mexico of a politically slanted Scholarship Application. Skandera, then a board member, appeared to be waiting in the wings to grab the CEO spot. I wrote about the debacle in the New Mexican. 

The bottom line is not about Martinez -- the bottom line is about continued drift from Bill's original intent and legacy. He was generous, he was kind, he was the epitome of drive by giving. He was a Republican in the sense of the old GOP. Some past and current Board members have steered grants to multiple Catholic causes (Bill was not a Catholic) and the Boy Scouts -- their pet projects along with others. One member had even suggested they partner with (far right radio host) Glen Beck. You get the drift. 

Martinez and Denish 2010
The lesson is this to anyone who has enough money to make a difference: give it away before you go. Don't leave it in the hands of others and hope that they will follow your directive. Sooner rather than later, the money becomes their money not the donor/founder's money. They will try to put a square peg in a round hole and disguise it as donor intent. This is what has happened at Daniels Fund - allowing Skandera to put Martinez on the Board -someone who knows little about philanthropy and needs the Board fees. Am I disappointed? Embarassed for the fund? Yes, but confident I can carry on Uncle Bill's standard of giving and caring without worrying about the dancing duo of Martinez/Skandera. 

Diane Daniels Denish  

Denish was Lt. Governor from 2003-2011. 

CANDELARIA RESPONDS

ABQ Dem Senator Jacob Candelaria, who came under criticism on the Tuesday blog, came with this response to the reference that he received profanity-laced phone calls at his home and criticism of his job performance by Dem Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino:

 . .The state police were called to my home for a death threat. . .You have published. . . that my family received "profanity laden" phone calls with respect to this incident, or other factual allegations to that effect. This factual allegation is demonstrably false. I attach for your reference a copy of the District Court order granting a three year injunction against the white supremicist that made one of the death threats against my husband and I in October/November of last year. . .You have a right to have your own opinions which lead you to dismiss and mimimize a death threat, motivated by racial and homophobic hate, against my family. You do not however have the right to publish false or deliberately misleading factual allegations about the events of that evening. 

It sounds like the senator’s problem is with the New Mexico Human Rights Act which prohibits Senator Stewart from taking any retaliatory action against me or anyone else who has demanded that she be held accountable for her mismanagement of the Rachel Gudgel situation. If Senator Ortiz y Pino does not think that Senator Stewart’s actions to further institutionalize racism and homophobia at the Legislature in that case are acceptable that is fine, but they are not acceptable to me. Way to be a progressive champion, Jerry. 

The ABQ Journal reported that Candelaria received "profanity-laced threatening" phone calls. A link to the court order Candelaria mentions is here

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