Thursday, September 17, 2009

Campaign '09: Romero To Marty: We'll Always Have Paris, Plus: Poll Shows Transit Tax Passing, And: Senior Alligators Bite Hand That Feeds Them--Me 

The somnolent mayor's race is coming to life as the final stretch approaches. We give you a taste of it with the panel posted today from a mailer from Dem Richard Romero that hit the mailboxes this week. He lambastes the travel habits of three term incumbent Mayor Martin Chavez, hoping to capitalize on Marty's globetrotting to Paris and other exotic points, saying it is especially out of sync in tough economic times. The mayor's camp says Richard's slick mailer fails to get it right:

The Mayor was invited by the French government. They paid his airfare and hotel. The City paid his per diem for meals and incidentals. The total the City paid was $979.

Republican RJ Berry and Romero can expect to furiously pile on in the final weeks. Polling shows Mayor Chavez is not popular with about 40 percent of the electorate. That's known as having "high negatives." His foes will try to awaken that sentiment and build on it as they try to force a run-off election. They appear to be too far behind to knock the mayor out of the first pole position.


While the mayoral derby heats up, the campaign to renew a quarter cent gross receipts tax to finance city transportation projects is low-key. We have insider polling info on the tax that is opposed by Berry but supported by Chavez and Romero. It appears the proposal to renew that quarter cent tax will pass October 6.

Polling numbers making the rounds show support for it at around 42%, with a surprising number of R's in favor. We didn't get the exact numbers of R's favoring, but a majority of Dems in the poll taken a couple of weeks ago did approve of the tax. It was approved for ten years in 1999 and generates around $36 million a year. Critics say transit funding should be paid out of the general fund, not by a special tax.

And a new development to make the tax more palatable: City Council President Ike Benton is saying if voters approve the tax again, the council will vote to have it expire after 10 years.

Analysts we asked said voters are amenable to keeping the tax because they are already paying it and that they would be more adverse if it were a new tax levy.


You can now vote early in the Oct. 6 ABQ election at four locations.


It is "legacy" projects like the streetcar or downtown sports arena that are drawing the attention of Romero and Berry as they try to paint Chavez as a patrón run amok with tax dollars. Chavez is still saying an arena is needed and he wants a streetcar, too. But he won't go for tax dollars to pay for them without voter approval, and the odds of that happening in the next four years appear to be zilch. The era of extravagance is over, and with it multi-million dollar streetcars and arenas. The arena polls miserably and the streetcar is not far behind. Whoever is the next mayor is going to be boxed in by a shrinking or flat city budget. Trying to get more federal funds into the city could be a major hobby of our next His Honor.


On the endorsement front, Animal Protection Voters gave their nod to Chavez:

Chávez has demonstrated his commitment to the welfare of animals...He has made animal welfare an integral part of the improvements sought across city government...The mayor’s focus has been on efforts to reduce pet overpopulation and improve the care and treatment animals receive in the city’s shelters...

Interestingly, we have yet to see an official endorsement of the mayor from his dog "Dukes." We are following Dukes on Twitter (yes, he writes as well as barks) and awaiting his word. Is he holding out on that endorsement for extra walks?


The trio of mayoral candidates faced off in a debate last night that will air Friday at 7 p.m. on KNME-TV. The best question of the night was why women in Albuquerque do not feel safe and what can be done about it. That's a topic of discussion at the coffee shops, but not much in the media. Romero and Berry got some jabs in, but Chavez made no mistakes that are going to continue into the news cycle. Video of the debate is posted here


From the e-mail and our Senior Alligator in Belen which he fondly calls "The Kingdom of Valencia":

Joe, let me vent, I know that Cuba, Big Bill and the national economy and other grand issues dominate your thoughts, but here's two items:

You don't care that Congressman Teague voted no on a weak, a very weak, reprimand of Rep. Joe Wilson for his conduct on the House floor. I was personally affronted that Congressman Teague would stand with the crowd that he did. To condone that conduct was cowardly and will not go unnoted.

On another note, there is a primary race brewing between incumbent Democratic State Rep. Elias Barela and Julian Luna, of Director of Racing Commission lineage. There's no discernible grudges, just ambitions.

Thanks to that Senior Alligator for dragging us back into the deep portions of the swamp of La Politica. We really need to be careful not to suck up too much of that rarefied air Big Bill breathes. By the way, a Barela-Luna face-off sounds like the makings for a good race. We briefly chatted up Elias in ABQ's Valley the other day as he was having lunch with House Speaker Lujan. Obviously, they had a lot to talk about.

Rail Runner
These Gators are restless. Another one of the Senior variety in ABQ bares his teeth:

Joe, you are always dissing the Rail Runner. You are full of merde. If it takes an extra four minutes to get to Santa Fe that is a small price to pay for not running the gauntlet of speeding lunatics, bouncing gravel from trucks, crummy weather and a gasoline bill that would choke your horse. In fact, get off your high horse and at least try the Rail Runner...

We aren't dissing the Rail Runner. We just pointed out that the trip from ABQ to Santa Fe is getting longer and longer and has come to the attention of the press and public. Rail Runner El Jeffe Lawrence Rael is running for the Dem nod for Lt. Governor, so it could become a political issue.

We do plead guilty to not yet having been on the Rail Runner. However, one day we raced it in our six-cylinder Honda and beat it to the capitol by 18 minutes. (Kidding). Aah, the smell of gasoline wafting through her raven-colored hair. It's a New Mexico romance...


We also heard directly from Lawrence Rael on this. He e-mailed:

...We are adding more scheduled stops, thus the need for express trains to keep our times competitive with trips made by automobiles...We will also look at cutting station dwell times, skipping some stops, along with improving track speeds through capital projects. These measures are all designed to get commuters to their destinations as quickly as possible. This practice is customary with train systems all over the country. As systems mature and add stations, they are adjusted accordingly. Another important point to keep in mind is that while trains adjust by implementing express measures, vehicle commute times will grow longer...

The rap on the Rail Runner from the get-go is that, unlike European rail where the trains rip through the countryside at well over 100 mph, ours is simply too slow. But where in these lean times will the money come from to make those capital improvements that would speed up the train? And will traffic between Santa Fe and ABQ really slow down that much to make the longer train trip competitive?

Will Rael's rail be an issue in the Light Guv race? Most Dems in the ABQ area support the train, but the further you travel away from the city, the more scepticism you hear. So, yes, the Rail Runner and Rael's role as its director could be an issue and he appears prepared for it.


But that isn't stopping the first gathering of the Dem Light Guv candidates. It happened in Santa Fe last night. With no contested Dem Guv race, the junkies have to look for a fix somewhere.

Adam Kokesh
The heavily Democratic northern congressional district is safely in the hands of US Rep, Ben Ray Lujan. Because of the long odds of taking it back, you would think the R's would be giving it little attention. But Republican Adam Kokesh has tapped into national libertarian money and is off to the races. From his campaign:

...Michael Lebowitz, a Washington, D.C. attorney... has joined the Kokesh for Congress team. "As a fellow Iraq Veteran, I am honored to assist the Kokesh campaign as its legal counsel." Mr. Lebowitz stated...

...The Kokesh Campaign has also recently contracted with a political C.P.A. firm and electoral strategists, Revolution Consultants...They have also brought on four new campaign staffers which include a communications director, volunteer coordinator, events director & fundraising coordinator.

Kokesh, 27, a Marine who served in Iraq, has reported raising $70,000. He protested the war upon his return. He is being supported by Texas GOP Congressman Ron Paul, a onetime Libertarian Party nominee for president who in 2008 ran for Prez as an R.

Kokesh will be able to make a lot of noise with the early money he is raising, and if it keeps coming in, he could be one of the first congressional challenges for 2010 to hit the airwaves.

I bumped into Congressman Lujan at the coffee shop the other day and asked him about Kokesh, prefacing my comments with the aside that his district is heavy Dem.

"I worry about anyone who is running." Said Lujan of the Kokesh candidacy.

In politics, worrying about the other guy is a good thing.

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