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Friday, July 17, 2009

Zanetti Departs GOP Guv Race: Some Analysis And Perspective From Our Alligators And Insiders 

Greg Zanetti
The 2010 race for the GOP nomination for Governor seems even more wide open in the wake of the Friday afternoon announcement from Greg Zanetti that he will pull the plug on his short-lived effort. Zanetti said he was getting out because the campaign was too much of a strain on his family. My inside sources said a key reason for Zanetti's departure from the political scene is that he has apparently been offered a sought after job in the business world or is in the process of securing such a position. Also, fund-raising has not been easy, but his spokesman said the campaign has raised about $100,000, much of which he said will now be refunded. Greg, 51, is a longtime ABQ financial adviser. His wife, Teresa, is a former ABQ GOP State Rep. who lost her seat in 2008. He is familiar to many New Mexicans, not as a political figure but as an experienced financial analyst for ABQ TV news. His spokesman insisted that it was family considerations that was the overriding reason for the decision to call it quits.

ABQ GOP State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, who has formed an exploratory committee for Governor, told me late Friday the development makes the GOP race "even more wide open." But Janice also said that would change rapidly if former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson gets in.

"That's the elephant in the room, but other candidates can't wait. We have to get started now. If she does decide to run, you could see fewer candidates."

Those "fewer candidates" would likely include Janice who cited Wilson's ability to raise money quickly and put together an organization.

One of our Senior Alligators speculated about the Zanetti withdrawal this way:

"This could be read as a sign that Heather may get into this thing. It's been pretty clear the last week or two that Republicans are trying to entice Heather into running. Zanetti probably weighed some of that in his decision. This could be read as an encouraging sign for Heather's supporters. Zanetti was the apparent front-runner in a field of also-rans and it makes you wonder if his getting out isn't related to her position."

But Wilson is in Africa and can take several more months to make up her mind. Party pros say pressure on her to get in or out will not start to mount in R circles until late October. Meantime, the tea leaf readers will be all over the map.

Zanetti was a true-blue conservative and his withdrawal leaves former GOP Chair Allen Weh as a possible beneficiary, but Weh's tumultuous tenure as chair has made it tough for him to make significant inroads as he explores a guv run.

Since Zanetti was an ABQ candidate, I told KOB-TV in a late Friday interview that you might speculate his withdrawal would help ABQ's Arnold-Jones or ABQ public relations executive Doug Turner who is seriously considering a run. Turner agreed with Janice that the GOP race remains a wide open affair, pending a Wilson decision.

Even as Zanetti was getting out, Dona Ana County GOP District Attorney Susana Martinez was getting in, making a formal announcement in Las Cruces Friday afternoon. Insiders are not going to count her or anyone else out as this unsettled enviornment dominates.

The upside of the Zanetti withdrawal and the Wilson uncertainty is that it creates interest in the downtrodden Republican Party. The not so good news is that Dem Diane Denish has $1.9 million in cash and is a strong front runner for her party's nod. Unless the remaining GOP candidates can somehow start raising big money and/or igniting excitement, the Dems will remain the favorites to keep the power that goes with the Fourth Floor of the storied Santa Fe Roundhouse.

Here is Greg Zanetti's complete withdrawal statement:

ALBUQUERQUE — Greg Zanetti announced today he no longer is seeking the Republican nomination for governor. Zanetti cited family concerns as the reason for his decision to withdraw.

“Last year I was deployed with the 75 New Mexico National Guardsmen to Guantanamo Bay. This deployment, as all Guard deployments, was more difficult for families than for the Guard members themselves, Zanetti said.

“I returned to New Mexico and immediately began exploring a run for governor. I traveled our state for the past six months, visiting all four corners and many communities. I met hundreds of New Mexicans and was greeted warmly. These travels only increased my love of New Mexico and my fellow citizens,” Zanetti said.

“But to myself and to my family these travels seemed like another deployment. I missed a number of important family events. I have concluded that another year away from my family is just not acceptable, so today I notified GOP Chairman Harvey Yates and other potential Republican candidates that I will not seek our party’s nomination,” Zanetti said.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Zanetti Leaves Gop Race For Governor; Nomination Battle Still Wide Open; Waiting for Wilson; Details Here Shortly 

Friday Clippings From My Newsroom Floor; Salary Trimming; Harry & Steve Doings & Our Economy Watch 

Time for some of end of the week clippings from my summer newsroom floor. And the newsroom floor was cluttered for a mid-summer week with a bunch of political news making headlines. But we have our broom and have swept up the clippings and here we go...

We are getting the first hints of the restructuring that needs to be done at the top levels of the New Mexican government pay scale as we deal with a more restrictive economic era. The president of the Central NM Community College, Kathy Winogard, has been given a one year contract extension, but her salary of $206,000 will not go up. What? A big government salary not increasing? Egads!

Governor Big Bill took a symbolic step this year and reduced by two percent the salaries of his political appointees. However, there has been no movement on the too-high salaries at the University of New Mexico--the UNM president and the chief operating office pull in well over $1 million a year between them--or the city of ABQ, where some top director salaries are now well over $110,000. But if in the future policy makers are going to be forced to lay off mid-level employees or force them to take unpaid holidays, how will they justify these bloated salaries?

The CNM board action may indicate that the populist argument is starting to resonate. Mayoral candidate Richard Romero has started to rattle the cage over the number of highly-paid city political appointees that were added to the payroll during the record economic run that finally crashed in 2008. Will he get any mileage out if for the October 6 election?

But then there's this. How are we to believe that Santa Fe is serious about cutting the fat when the so-called "hiring freeze" is violated for those with friends in high places? Does Bill really think no one is paying attention? And guess where they are packing the payroll---in questionably needed administrative posts at the Cultural Affairs Department. How can Mr & Mrs. New Mexico take seriously the moaning and gnashing of teeth over the "budget shortfall" when they are treated to such spectacle? And the Legislative oversight on this? What's that? A three martini lunch at the Bull Ring? Governor, don't even think about asking for a tax increase.

OPERATION SEPARATION

Besides both hailing from Hobbs and being Democrats, Light Guv Diane Denish and southern US Rep. Harry Teague have something else in common--both are conducting an "Operation Separation" as they prepare for 2010. Di is trying to get out from under the ethical shadow cast over Big Bill's administration by numerous state scandals and Harry is doing his best to look like a true conservative Democrat as Republican Steve Pearce chases him around the sprawling district.

Harry was at it again recently. He voted against the $49 billion 2010 foreign affairs budget. It passed the Dem controlled US House 318 to 106. The bill is often a target of vocal conservatives, like those in Chavez and Otero counties. It's a vote that may help Teague narrow his losses in the heavy R counties. And the narrower his losses there, the more the race will be decided in the district's Teague friendly county of Dona Ana and the western counties of the district that lean Dem.

NO TIME TO WASTE

Steve Pearce doesn't have any time to waste so here he comes with campaign kick-offs in Hobbs and Cruces.

"Bring Back Pearce Campaign Kick-off" Please join Steve Pearce as he formally announces his campaign for US Congress! July 21st Hobbs, NM at 8:00 am Republican Headquarters.

Las Cruces, Tuesday July 21st at 5:00 pm, Rawson Builders 2355 Nevada Ave

They get up early in Hobbs, don't they?

Putting pressure on Pearce is the latest finance report from Teague. It shows the incumbent has already stockpiled $574,000. He raised $300,00o in the recent quarter. Everyone knows the guy who spends the most in these US House races usually wins--not always--but usually. Pearce sent out his first fund-raising message this week.

THE NORTHERN FRONT
Adam Kokesh
Congressman Ben Ray Lujan reports he has only about $160,000 cash on hand, but he looks secure. No Dem has announced a primary challenge and 27 year old Adam Kokesh is expected to run for the northern seat as a Republican. Dan East, the '08 GOP nominee, has also expressed interest in making another effort. The district is heavy Dem. Observers await word on whether independent Carol Miller will run again. Meanwhile, Kokesh says he has $50,000 in the bank, so while his challenge to Lujan is steep uphill, Norteños will be hearing more from this new voice and former Marine with a libertarian message. He will make his race official Monday in Santa Fe.

Republican Jon Barela, hoping to become the ABQ GOP congressional nominee and take on Dem Martin Heinrich reports he raised about $73,000 in the third quarter, but he was not a candidate for the entire three months. It's not a bad pace for the attorney, but with Martin already socking away $475,000, Jon is going to have to start sprinting. And still no word on funeral home director Kevin Daniels and whether he will contest Barela for the GOP nod. Daniel was recently in D.C. talking with the national R's.

THE BLOODY ECONOMY


From the Alibi:

Our controller sent out this oozing nugget: “Our regular customer for nearly a decade, ZLB Bioplasma, has to stop running ads with us until December because they have an overstock of plasma. This seems to be due to the economy. Everyone is donating plasma to get some cash in their pocket.

We don't think the politicians can count on any tax increases with that kind of news background, although they have been known to squeeze blood from a stone.

SANTA FE MONEY WATCH

It's not that we had a bunch of unqualified home buyers during the bull market in Santa Fe housing, we simply had people paying way too much. Even the usually rosy Realtors now admit prices still have to come down more. With state government employment flat or declining, tourism depressed and no job creation, the bears still have a firm grip on the capitol city's economy. The good news? The quicker we deal with reality and rid ourselves of the excesses that have distorted the New Mexican economy, the sooner the next bull market can start.

THE BOTTOM LINES

We blogged that Light Guv Denish did not take any contributions over $5,000 in the recent quarter, but reader Alan Schwartz points out that there were three contributions of $10,000.

"There were three contributions of $10,000, two of which came from entities with gambling interests (Pueblo of Sandia and Sun Ray Gaming)."

And the New Mexican's Steve Terrell tells us: 'Her biggest contributors were unions: $25,000 from The Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters and $11,500 from the New Mexico Building and Construction Trades Council.

And I thought Terrell could only read music.

Thanks for tuning in this week.

This is the home of New Mexico Politics.
E-mail your news tips and comments .

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Big Thursday Blog: Di's Latest Dough, Patsy Talks Comeback, Harry Reid To ABQ; Double-Dipper E-Mail, And: Our Coke Contest Winner And Even More Stuff 

Diane Denish came with another strong campaign finance report Wednesday, reminding any potential Dem challengers (Hello, Michael Sanchez) for the 2010 Dem Guv nomination that the window of opportunity is rapidly closing. The news that the lieutenant governor raised $512,000 in the second quarter will also be heard loudly by Heather Wilson, the remaining heavyweight R on the sidelines who insiders see as having the best chance of derailing the Denish express. Wilson has not yet ruled out a run. Five other R's have either formed a committee or expressed serious interest. With this report, Denish has laid down a marker for them when they come with the first required finance reports in October. Denish has been releasing her reports more frequently than the loose state laws require. Dems say its an example her R' challengers should also adopt as the campaign season heats up. The AP's Barry Massey goes long and deep on the numbers. Denish's full report is posted on her Web site. Scroll down the page.

ABQ Dem Martin Heinrich came with his federal finance report Wed. and he flexed some financial muscle, showing he raised $332,000 in the second quarter and now has $474,000 in cash on hand. You've got to like his position and wonder if the national R's will come with money to match him. They need to keep their powder dry for that big southern US House face-off between Rep. Teague and GOP challenger Pearce.

Denish appears to be making a conscious decision to not to go for outlandish sized contributions. She did not take any over $10,000. There are no limits on donations--those don't take effect until 2011--but the $50,000 and $75,000 donations that drew so much attention (and trouble) for Governor Bill could also spell trouble for Di in a recessionary environment. Such largesse would not only raise suspicions of pay to play, but also appear out of kilter with the stark economic reality many voters face.

Di spent around $240,000 in the April quarter, netting her about $260,000. She said she started the quarter with $1.6 million cash on hand. That cash is now $1.9 million. While she is raising considerable funds, she is also now in a heavier spending cycle. Since she started raising money for the Guv's race, Denish has brought in a total of $2.215 million from about 3,000 donors. Only her most fierce detractors would naysay that performance.

ETHICS EYE

In past finance reports, Denish has listed her paid campaign staffers and the amounts of their salaries. Here's an example from a past report she filed with the Sec. of State. But in this most recent report no staffers or salaries are listed. All payroll is now administered by "The Payroll Company" a firm that specializes in such matters. We asked the campaign why the switch? A spokesman said state law does not require such disclosure, only federal law, but, he added, if the GOP Guv candidates release the names and salaries of their staffers, the Denish campaign will do the same. After we asked, the campaign did release the names of the current staffers, but not their salaries. They are:

Robert Lara, Megan Dawson, Andrew Marshal, J. R. Starrett, Tomas Talamante, Joe Casados and Steve Fitzer.

As for the state law not requiring the salary info, it is another example of the state's disclosure laws falling behind those on the books elsewhere. But you already knew that.

Perhaps the issue is a bit subterranean but the onus is on Denish and the Dems to go the extra mile on the transparency front. By voluntarily releasing more frequent campaign reports, she has done so and won deserved credit. Considering that the myriad of current pay to play investigations involve campaign fund-raising and campaign personnel, full disclosure in this particular election cycle would seem more than prudent and a point of more than idle interest to the public.

GOP Guv candidate Allen Weh said he will release on his October money report the names and salaries of his campaign staff.

We are not using a payroll company. We are just getting started, so we don't have a lot to report, but I have no problem disclosing who is working for us and what they are getting paid.

We would expect the other GOP Guv candidates to go with Weh on this one and that Denish would then follow suit. The candidates and those who work in the campaigns ought to know that this information is going to be in the public arena. If not, they don't belong in the arena.

PATSY FOR LAND COMMISSIONER?

Did we just hear someone say: "Whatever happened to Patsy Madrid?" Well, she is still alive and well. And guess what? She's entertaining a re-entry into the bright lights of La Politica by weighing a run for---drumroll, please---the Democratic nomination for State Land Commissioner. Several of her friends passed the word to us. We haven't spoken to the former two-term attorney general, but it wouldn't surprise us if she tossed her hat in the ring. There was much talk about her running for governor, but her 2006 ABQ congressional defeat took the bloom off of that rose.

Years ago Patsy battled with Diane Denish for the Dem Light Guv nod. If she won the land office primary she would finally be running with Di, not against her. But what, you ask, about former Dem Land Commissioner Ray Powell, Jr. who is already off and running for the nomination. Poor Ray. He was bushwhacked by Jim Baca for the 2006 Dem land nod when the Spanish North came thru for Jim. He went on to lose the general election to Republican Pat Lyons. It looked as if the coast was all clear for Ray this time, and it still may be--if he can get Patsy on the horn and talk her down. But with Madrid's political pedigree, that may be like asking the bee to stay away from the honey. Oh yeah, stay tuned.

BREAKING POLITICAL NEWS
Sen. Reid
These Alligators are keeping us busier than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Now they break the exclusive news that US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will be in ABQ August 12 for a fund-raising lunch. And he won't be raising money for New Mexico candidates. Harry is locked in a tight battle of his own as he seeks re-election to his Nevada seat. The lunch at ABQ's Embassy Suites will be hosted by NM US Senators Bingaman and Udall with a suggested donation of $500. That really doesn't sound that high for a sitting majority leader, does it? Sign of the times.

With Di and the Guv gang out there sucking up all the money they can and the recession shutting the purses, Harry better get into our town pronto if he wants to score his share. And Harry, while you're here don't forget that funding for Sandia and Los Alamos. And also the Tacos, and also the...well, you get the idea. Heck, we ran a nice pic of you, didn't we?

Thanks to one of our Senior Alligators for that late-night breaker. So what if we had to delay watching re-runs of Boston Legal.

DOUBLE-DIPPERS SPIKE E-MAIL

Maybe we should hire on Larry Barker because his KRQE-TV news report on double-dipping that we posted here yesterday drew a bunch of comments. Double-dippers are state employees who briefly retire from their jobs, start collecting retirement checks only to get rehired to their government jobs and then collect both a retirement and a regular paycheck. The Governor vetoed a bill to stop the practice. We blogged that it hurts the retirement fund for state employees--PERA. But the e-mail had different takes. Doug Crandall wrote:

The major misconception is that the return to work employees hurt the fund. From everything I know, that is simply untrue and, in fact, totally counterintuitive. The salary of the return to work employee is charged with both the full employee and employer contribution, just like a regular employee. The difference is that both contributions remain with the PERA or ERA fund forever, subsidizing the retirement plan, not draining it.

But according to Dem State Rep. Lucky Varela in the
New Mexican, the double-dippers do pose a risk to PERA:

Double-dippers no longer have to contribute to PERA, which has solvency problems and has lost millions of dollars from its investments, he said.


The KRQE news report said Attorney General King would investigative the double-dipping, but Arcy Baca was not impressed:

What credibility does Gary King have? He was behind the Governor vetoing the bill to put a stop to the double dippers. If you remember, he stated it was because of a friend or family friend that he took the position.

EVEN MORE DOUBLE DIPPING


Syndicated columnist Jay Miller came with this:

If the Guv wouldn't have vetoed the legislation (on advice from the AG) this wouldn't be happening...Cities throughout the state are doing this... Temp agencies are lining their pockets on the deal too by placing these folks on contract enabling them to have no break in service. Even the small towns are doing it, saying that they have no other way to fill those positions. This cries out for another legislative effort to tighten the screws even more than the vetoed legislation did...


We're crying out with you, Jay.

"Retired" government workers drawing large retirement checks along with government salaries often pushes their total take to over $150,000 a year. Clearly, that is not what taxpayers intended. The other obvious argument is that these double dippers stay around forever, preventing new blood from coming into government. Our final e-mail on the subject makes the point:

Joe, this double dipping is another way the baby boomers continue to take more than their share. When they retire and go back to the same job, they fill a job that should be going to a younger generation. It seems appropriate only when no one else has the skills to fill the job or the retiree comes back to train someone...

SUSANA AND THE TUBE

We blogged Wednesday that we don't recall seeing Dona Ana County District Attorney and soon to be 2010 GOP Guv candidate Susana Martinez on ABQ TV, despite being DA since 1997. But the media mavens with long memories say that's not so. While Martinez has hardly been a regular presence and certainly not in recent years, she has made some news here--long ago. Bruce Daniels of the ABQ Journal notes:

Martinez and her prosecutors were all over Albuquerque television and the papers when she prosecuted Jesse Avalos Jr. and Jason Desnoyers for the 1998 rape, beating and murder of NMSU freshman Carly Martinez (no relation) in a trial that was moved to Albuquerque on a change of venue from Las Cruces.

And former TV reporter and ABQ Metro Court spokeswoman Janet Blair reminds us:

I covered Martinez here in ABQ back in around 2004 when she successfully prosecuted five defendants at once in the hideous death of Baby Briana. The trial was moved here on a change of venue due to too much publicity in LC. She was on the air daily in connection with that trial for a period of maybe ten days or two weeks. Still pretty minimal exposure in this market.

Maybe we didn't recall Susana being on ABQ TV because it has been so long. Still, our point stands. She comes to the race with little statewide name ID. Not that she can't change that.

Another e-mailer, GOP D.C. political consultant Joshua Baca, says he often disagrees with us, but not on the Martinez analysis:

...You are dead on about your analysis of Susana Martinez. Impressive lady--I agree. Game changer? Definitely not..When I read the headline on the NM Independent of "Game Changer" and before reading the full article, I thought "Wow! Is Pete Domenici coming out of retirement to run for Gov?"

No, Pete is not running, but the R's would draft him if they could.

EVEN MORE E-MAIL BLOGGING

Even more e-mail action on this mid-July day as your blog reaches far and wide. One of our sources said here Wednesday the Secretary of State's office launched an investigation of its Web employee, Brad Allen, because he refused to release certain passwords. Allen denies that is the case:

The Secretary of State's office has never informed me as to what I am being investigated for nor have they informed me as to who is conducting the investigation. I provided the SOS office with every password they requested. The SOS has five other IT Staff members all of whom should have had there own Administrative Accounts (passwords).

Brad is on paid administrative leave while the "unknown" investigation goes on:

I call into the office every work day morning at 8:30 AM.


We'll see who has the story right when it all plays out, but right now no one is talking on the record. It all seems sort of Kafkaesque. There is an investigation going on, but no one will say what is being investigated.

AND THE WINNER IS.....

We may have ventured too deeply into obscure corners when coming up with two questions for our free Coca-Cola contest. But it seems nothing is that obscure for our readers, many of whom live and breathe La Politica.

Liz Gallegos of ABQ came with the fifth correct answer to the questions: Who was chief of staff to NM Governor Toney Anaya ('83-'87) and who was the newspaper editor who dubbed a famous group of early 1970's liberal state representatives "The Mama Lucy Gang?" The answers are Shirley Scarfiotti and Mark Acuff, the editor of the New Mexico Independent--a sharply edited weekly paper of New Mexico politics and opinion. It was the Acuff answer that tripped up many of the entrants. Mark is now deceased, but old timers like former State Sen. Tom Rutherford and TV news anchor Rodger Beimer were quick to recall him.

As for Liz, how did she know the answers, considering they could not be found by a quick Google, but required personal knowledge? Her background was key:

I am a lifelong ABQ resident and lifelong Democrat and was an aide to Governors Apodaca and King (Constituent Services), an aide to Senator Jeff Bingaman and an aide to then State Corporation Commissioner Gloria Tristani . I ran for Secretary of State in 1998 and served two years as President of the Democratic Women of Bernalillo County. I currently serve as a precinct chair...I am now employed with the federal government at USDA-Rural Development. Over the years I have worked on numerous campaigns and also ran several campaign offices.

Pretty impressive background. With readers like Liz, maybe we should worry about making the contest questions even more obscure, not less.

Liz wins a free six month supply of Coca-Cola products. For you bean counters, that's eight cases of 12 ounce cans of the winner's choice of Coca-Cola Classic, Diet Coke, Coke Zero or Sprite. Says Coke Vice-President Edward Lopez:

Congratulations to Liz. Sounds like even the old timers had to think about these questions. All we ask the winner is that they please recycle the containers when they're done…just like the people in the Coke advertisement your site links to.

We'll soon have another free Coke contest for you as we do our best to help you beat the summer heat. As for the blogging, how the heck did we allow ourselves to go this long on a beautiful summer's day. Is it Friday yet? Somebody hand me an eight iron....

This is the home of New Mexico politics. E-mail your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More Taco Crunching: Debating How To Save Big Air Wing, Plus: Dona Ana DA Sets Guv Run, And: See it Now: PERA Chair Dodges Questions 

Tacos
How best to save the Tacos? With 1,100 jobs at stake and $25 million a year coming into the ABQ economy because of the 150th NM Air National Guard Fighter Wing stationed at Kirtland Air Force base, it's an argument worth having. And we've been having it right here on this blog. We don't think an ABQ with flat population growth and few job opportunities is the best vision for our future and we fear losing the Tacos could open up more raids on KAFB jobs.

Some of the Alligators have been urging ABQ Dem Congressman Martin Heinrich, who has taken a leadership role in trying to keep the Tacos here, to not rule out going after other Air Force missions that don't involve fighter jets. But they're getting push back to that notion. The 21 aging F-16's the Tacos fly are being put out to pasture in seven years and KAFB is not slated to get the new fighter jets that will replace them. But Sherman McCorkle, who leads the Kirtland Partnership Committee that saved Kirtland and its thousands of jobs from near-extinction back in 1995, maintains there is no realistic alternative to a fighting mission. He told me over a recent cup of Starbucks:

"Alternative missions, such as UAV's are not available and even if they were, they would employ only a fraction of the guardsmen and civilians we now have. The F-16's the Air Force wants to move out of here are not being sent to the bone yard. They will still be flying over the next seven years, but at other air bases, We don't see how this saves any money or makes any sense.
Our best bet is to keep pushing the Air Force and Pentagon to back off and to keep the Tacos flying here with an eye toward getting the new fighters when the F-16's are finally phased out.

But getting the Pentagon to back off may not be so easy. Defense Secretary Gates is a determined downsizer and it appears he believes that having the F-16's operate at other bases--not KAFB--until the new fighter comes on line will indeed save significant funds.

We agreed with our e-mailers that Rep. Heinrich should pursue whatever mission he can to save the jobs, but if McCorkle is right and there are no other available non-fighter missions, what can he do? Do you Taco watchers agree with Sherman's view? Let us know.

RELATED NEWS ON THIS

Rep. Heinrich
While we were putting this story together, this came over the wires from Governor Bill and the congressional delegation:

SANTA FE –...Richardson applauded the U.S. Air Force’s announcement that it will permanently locate two unmanned vehicle training operations at Holloman Air Force Base in southern New Mexico. Holloman has been chosen as the new location for an additional MQ-1/9 formal training unit and will soon be home to the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper.

That's 600 jobs, including 150 contractors, according to Sen. Bingaman's office. Should KAFB and the Tacos been working in previous years for a non-fighter mission to replace the Tacos? Well, that's water under the bridge, but one Taco who e-mailed us was not ready to turn the page:

As a Taco I was really not very happy to see new hardware being announced for Holloman today! Even more UAV's are on the way. Good for them but a tremendous mistake by the Tacos for once again not going after the missions that are available. With the F-22 mission alone, Holloman is going to be safe for decades. I would be very curious as to what Rep. Heinrich has to say about this. The folks in the Guard leadership have some explaining to do.

Meantime, we await further Congressional action on Rep. Heinrich's House-passed legislation that would delay the demise of the Taco's--at least for one budget year. If we get that win, Heinrich will deserve at least a couple of free taco plates at the restaurant of his choice.

SUSANA'S STORY
Susana Martinez
We think they're hometowning it just a bit in Las Cruces when they call the expected entry of Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez into the 2010 GOP race for governor a "game-changer." But having a Hispanic woman run for the job can't hurt the marginalized R's. We think it may be a first and can understand the local pride. (The ABQ congressional candidacy of Jon Barela is also a step toward renewal for the GOP). Martinez is a regional candidate, unknown outside of her home area. In fact, in her many years as DA, we don't recall ever seeing her on ABQ TV news. But it will take only 20 percent of the delegates at the March 2010 pre-primary convention to get a spot on the June primary ballot, so maybe her hometown energy will give her a solid launch.

The 50 year old who was first elected DA in 1996 will bring some corruption fighting credentials to the table in what is now a crowded race to become the GOP standard-bearer. However, fresh and extensive Republican polling being leaked to me indicates that ethics and corruption have yet to be established as the paramount issues in the race for the Fourth Floor. In fact, education and the economy, according to those supplying the info, rank higher. That may surprise the newspaper editorial writers but not the political insiders. Still, continued ethics explosions (indictments) and perhaps ethics becomes the really big deal. And for DA Martinez, the issue is probably more important in a Republican primary than a general election.

R's have nominated a Hispanic contender before--John Sanchez in 2004. And while her ethnicity could be a hurdle in a very Anglo party, the more pressing concern to some observers is whether she has the gravitas for the position she seeks. Why after 12 years on the job has she not established more of a statewide reputation, especially if she harbors ambitions for the state's highest office? But Martinez's impressive personal narrative has long had appeal to GOP professionals seeking to broaden their party. This is their chance to make something of it.

MORE SUSANA ANALYSIS


Martinez's entry forces the hand of the other possible female GOP Guv contender--ABQ State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones. She has formed an "exploratory committee" while Susana is going all in. Neither woman is well-funded yet, with Martinez said to have about $10,000 to get her candidacy off the ground. Arnold-Jones just recently had her first fund-raiser.

The geographic disadvantage faced by the Dona Ana DA is evident in the way she will apparently announce her candidacy--at 5:30 this Friday afternoon at Roberto's restaurant in Las Cruces. That is a regional play, not a statewide one. But others will argue as the only non-ABQ candidate (so far) Martinez's appeal will go beyond her county's borders.

In one of those "only in New Mexico" moments, on the day that Martinez's candidacy leaked, Roberto's restaurant was downgraded to unsatisfactory by the NM Environment Dept. because of cleanliness issues. Welcome, to La Politica, Susana. (Should we check those frozen tamales from Roberto's we have tucked away?)

Susana was born in El Paso and moved to Cruces in 1986 after graduating from Oklahoma University Law School. Her husband, Las Cruces native Chuck Franco, is also in law enforcement, serving as Dona Ana County Undersheriff. Here is her complete resume.

Martinez, Allen Weh, Greg Zanetti, Doug Turner, Janice Arnold-Jones. All are talented in their own way, but none are top-tier names. That's keeping Democratic front-runner Diane Denish off the anti-depressants and all eyes glued on the lone top-tier Republican candidate still on the fence--Heather Wilson.

DODGING THE CAMERAS

If you've been with us this week, you've heard the back and forth over "viewer advocacy journalism" and what role it played in the firing of the news director at KRQE-TV. Well, whatever the case, longtime investigative reporter Larry Barker trudges on with what might be called his own version of VAJ. Here he is with a six minute piece on double-dipping by "retired" government employees. PERA Board Chair Cynthia Borrego grimaces and protests as do a bunch of other government functionaries caught in the spotlight, but all of them fail to give an answer on why some folks are "retiring" for a month, only to go back to their government jobs and continue to collect both a retirement check and their work paycheck. The abuse, reports Barker, will finally get the attention of Attorney General King. ABQ Dem. State Rep. Al Park is looking at it from the legislative angle.

The unions moaning mightily about the increased percentage of their paychecks that has been mandated to go into the state retirement kitty might want to pay special attention. This double-dipping is a major drain on the retirement funds which have already suffered hits because of the decline in the stock market.

PASSWORD PROBLEM?
Sec. Herrera
Our Alligators are working the angle on that employee at the Secretary of State's office who the office says is the subject of an investigation but neither the employee or the SOS's office will say why he is being investigated. First, Dan Boyd of the ABQ Journal lays out the key point.

Secretary of State Mary Herrera said the assessment (of her Web site) has uncovered potential criminal violations committed...That employee, Brad Allen, is the same one who raised the possibility the agency's network isn't secure as currently configured. He has denied any wrongdoing and said he doesn't know what the investigation is focusing on. The repairs that forced the Web site to be shut down for nearly a week have drawn criticism from the public and legislators, who have said a backup system should have been in place and notification given about the decision to take the site off-line.

Now from our tech Alligator:

What I heard is that their techie changed all of the access (i.e. passwords) and refused to release them prompting them (the SOS office) to contract with Mark Fidel's company--Caanes--and Andrew Baca's ABBA Technologies to rebuild the web site and servers from the ground up. The talk is of federal charges, but you didn’t hear this from me.

With the bad press the SOS is getting, she should enjoy her appearance today on Capitol Hill:

A Congressional Subcommittee has chosen New Mexico as model of efficient provisional and overseas balloting. Secretary of State Herrera has been invited to testify about New Mexico’s provisional balloting process and overseas voting process by the Committee on House Administration...New Mexico’s laws have been recognized as the standard for the development of Federal voting-related laws and guidelines...

THE BOTTOM LINES

We have a winner of the six month free supply of Coca-Cola products, and we'll tell you about it tomorrow. We'll also have another contest soon for free Coke, and we promise to make it a bit easier.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. E-mail your news tips and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Labs: Where We Stand Now Direct From The No-Spin Zone, Plus: TV News Reacts To Blog Firing Report, And: Our Free Coke Contest Continues 

There will be no jobs boom because of funding for Sandia Labs. The same for Los Alamos. But recent action in D.C. also appears to spare the national defense Labs from drastic spending cuts. The budget making its way through the Congressional maze appears to fund the labs within a percent or so of what they are now getting. We won't be sure until late September. But the money paragraph in the ABQ Journal news article that described the long-term outlook for the labs was buried. And that's the story that needs to be highlighted:

While the current spending plans appear to offer stability for the labs, the following year's budget might not be as good for them, said David Culp, a lobbyist for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, an arms control group. "The big battle will be next year," Culp said. "Success is never permanent in Washington," Senator Jeff Bingaman pointed out.

Fast forward to the summer of 2010 and we'll probably be in the midst of a major budget battle over the labs, just as the campaigns for the state's three US House seats heat up.

PEELING THE NUCLEAR ONION

While funding for the budget year starting October 1 appears relatively stable (Senator Bingaman gets some kudos) it still represents a long term, downward trend in overall lab funding.

Because of their importance, let's repeat some numbers and analysis of figures released by Bingaman's office in May. In fiscal year 2008, he says DOE funding for Sandia was $1.40 billion. In FY 2009 it went down to $1.322 billion. The President has requested $1.342 billion for DOE Sandia funding for the fiscal year starting this October--FY 2010. Throw in some onetime federal stimulus money and you soften the blow for the coming budget year.

Sandia gets more than DOE money. It's total revenue, according to its Web site, for FY '08 was $2.294 billion. The estimate for this fiscal year was $2.249 billion, a reduction of $45 million.

Bingaman says the overall DOE appropriation for the state two years ago-- in FY 2008--was $4.54 billion. The president's request for the upcoming year is $4.0 billion, a reduction of $500 million or about 11 percent.

Maybe we tick up from that $4.0 billion when the budget is finalized, but the trend from FY 2008 is down and likely to continue. We know this can be hard to follow, but there is an historic and deep seated bias among policy makers and the press here to see lab funding thru rose-colored glasses. And why not? We've had a great 60 year run. But even a small reduction in funding has a large ripple effect. All the more reason to be seeking other federal programs as well as new industry. Barring unforeseen developments or large, onetime projects the national labs have seen their peak budget years. Why? Because, in a nutshell, nuclear weapons ain't what they used to be.

FOLLOW THE PEOPLE

The population of Los Alamos County in 2000 was 18,344. In 2008, the estimate was down to 18,150. The labs and their future size---it's the really big story of the second decade of this new century in New Mexico.

ETHICS DUST

Lt. Gov Denish is calling for more regular reporting of campaign contributions, but why not call for instant reporting on the Internet? We know the SOS Web site has been nothing but trouble lately, but still this is the Web age and requiring the reporting of donations and expenditures by the Major statewide candidates within 72 hours of any activity seems reasonable, especially if you put a 2012 start date on it. But then again high tech is not the state's cup of tea, is it?

ALWAYS THE MONEY


It seems these modern campaigns just never stop with the money raising. If the R's thought that negative TV spot they hit with this week accusing Di of "pay to play" for her support of expanding casino hours at the state's racinos, would cause her to spend money to defend herself, they can forget it. In fact, she is using the attack to raise money. Here's part of her new money pitch:

I can't let this attack go unchallenged. And I won't. But I need your help to fight back. Republicans are scared by my strong standing in the polls and our sound policies for New Mexico. This ad shows how far they are they are willing to go and that we are going to have to fight to set the record straight and win in 2010.

Denish may "fight back" but not against this particular ad buy. State Dems came with the news that the GOP has only purchased $4,000 of air time for the hit ad, and only on cable outlets--not over-the-air networks. A GOP spokesman would not say how much is being spent on the ad.

And if you think it's all glamor and high-level political action when you run for Governor, take a look at Di's opening line in her e-mail missive:

It started as a pretty standard Sunday night around the Denish household. I was getting a little laundry done.

What about all that "dirty laundry" in Santa Fe. Does Di have enough Tide to clean that up?

DICK AND FOREST


KRQE-TV general manager Bill Anderson disputes a quote from Monday's blog from one of our media sources that said anchorman Dick Knipfing went to him and demanded that news director Forrest Carr get the axe or else he was headed for the exits. Anderson told us Knipfing expressed concerns about the direction of the newsroom and Viewer Advocacy Journalism (VAJ), but did not demand Carr's firing. Carr was let go from the station last week. Anderson added:

"VAJ is an editorial strategy that Michelle Donaldson and I targeted back in May 2008. When she announced her departure I interviewed candidates according to that objective. Forrest has made his bones in the industry doing VAJ, so it is understandable that since we launched it under his leadership it would be identified so closely with him. But, it was in the works already when he arrived.

The story struck a nerve. News legend Knipfing rebuffed the report that he had said it was either Carr or him with this terse statement: "Joe, it didn't happen."

We've been believing Dick since 1971 and we have no reason to doubt him now. But he did not refute Anderson's statement that he had expressed concerns about the direction Carr was taking.

Then there was this from a Carr defender using the moniker "TV Decisions:"

I have worked with Forrest for many years. At no time have I heard him want to be confrontational just for the sake of confrontation. Now, if the politician does not want to answer the question, Forrest would always say be polite, but be insistent. Isn't that was journalism is? No, this has nothing to do with VAJ. New ways of doing things? Forgetabout it. Stuck in the 50's. You betcha! This station will soon find that times have changed. We will see how it plays out for them.

So it goes when you wander into the Machiavellian hallways of the TV newsroom. But wander the Alligators will...

THE CONTEST IS ON


Our contest to give away a free, six month supply of Coca-Cola is tough, real tough. You can't easily find the answers by a Google or other search. But we have had some correct answers. We are looking for the fifth correct entry. Take a look at Monday's blog for the questions and get your answer (or guess) in via email. If you're right, it could be you're coolest July ever.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.
E-mail your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Monday, July 13, 2009

Axe Falls On ABQ TV News Boss In Newsroom Showdown; Insider Details, Plus: R's Hit Di In TV Spot, And: Summer Thirst? We Have Free Coke For You! 

Knipfing vs. Carr
A newsroom showdown has them talking in TV land. The news director for the top-rated ABQ TV news operation, Forrest Carr, was abruptly given the axe last week after serving in the post for less than a year at CBS affiliate KRQE-TV. One of our media Alligators has the back story--the one you won't get anywhere else:

Insiders say (KRQE-TV anchorman) Dick Knipfing met with station manager Bill Anderson and told him: "He goes or I go." Carr brought into the market "Viewer Advocacy Journalism." "VAJ" consists of putting microphones on reporters and requiring them to ask aggressive questions in a belligerent way--baiting public officials like the Governor--as if the reporter has cornered the guy and is beating up on him on behalf of viewers...It requires a bad guy and requires the reporter to go after the designated bad guy...Needless to say, most reporters know that most of the time there isn't any bad guy and they're not the knight in shining armor...That's the journalism side. On the business side, KRQE news at 10 p.m.--although #1--should be a more dominant #1. CBS hauls in huge prime time ratings but KRQE loses a big chunk of them to KOAT and KOB. Carr and "VAJ" failed to reverse the trend...

VAJ might be offensive, but in defending it some might equate it to traditional investigative reporting tactics. (KRQE station manager Anderson called in Monday to dispute the contention that Knipfing demanded that Carr be fired. He said Dick expressed "concerns" about Carr's leadership, but did not say it was either Carr or him.)

July marked the beginning of another TV news rating period, but it is the least important one because of traditional low viewing in the summer months. The next big "ratings sweep" is in November. KRQE-TV assistant news director Iain Munro has been named to replace Carr. Knipfing, dean of NM TV news, last year signed a new three year contract with KRQE. He has worked in the ABQ TV market for over 45 years.

KNIPFING AND HISTORY

In 2000, while serving as anchor at KOAT-TV, Knipfing, 66, tangled with another news director--Pahl Shipley--who later became a communications aide to Governor Richardson and recently took the PR post with the state film agency. Insiders report Knipfing disputed an assignment Shipley wanted to give him during the huge and destructive Los Alamos fire. Shortly after, Knipfing departed the station for KRQE-TV. Besides the anchor turmoil, KOAT was unable to get its news helicopter into the air space near the fire, while KOB-TV's helicopter did and provided mostly exclusive and startling live video of the event. Not only did it turn out to be one of the biggest news stories in state history, it was one of the biggest stories in the history of TV news here. KOAT never regained its past ratings glory.

DEFINING DI

The R's like the feedback they're getting for their ethics hits on Light Guv Diane Denish, so they have come with very early 2010 TV to try to define the early front-runner for the Dem Guv nod. The 30 second spot from the state GOP comes on the heels of an ABQ Journal op-ed piece from NM GOP Chairman Harvey Yates knocking Denish for not being forceful enough in condemning the various scandals plaguing Big Bill's administration. This new ad tries to associate Denish directly with "pay-to-play," the buzz phrase that haunts Richardson.

As Lt. Gov. the R' says Denish cast two tie-breaking votes in 2005 in the state Senate to allow state racinos to extend the hours they operate their slot machines. The R's are asserting the votes were later bought by campaign contributions she received from the industry. They are circulating a list of over $55,000 in contributions she received in the months after those votes.

Denish held a news conference to unveil an ethics package after the first Republican hit. But for now Di stays directly out of the fray and Dem Party Chairman (and possible lt. gov. candidate) Brian Colon is assigned attack dog chores:

More than a year and half before the general election the Republican Party of New Mexico is already desperately beginning the negative attacks that often come from a party running scared. They know that their group of candidates can’t compete with Lieutenant Governor Denish. These dishonest attack ads are more about their desperation than anything else.


Rather than again directly engage Harvey and company, Di also marched out her campaign chairman and old political war horse, Ted Martinez:

All across New Mexico, families are working hard to get through the national recession. This is a time for our leaders to come together and find solutions, which is exactly what Lt. Gov. Denish has been doing. It's sad that the GOP has nothing to offer but dishonest, negative attacks...

The R's aren't saying how much they are spending on the negative ad. Whatever it is, they will get some mileage in the free media. The ad is not a knock-out, but a competent zinger that is meant to keep Di on the defensive as she embarks on building her name ID for the Guv run. No doubt the R's are also trying to get her to tap into some of that $1.7 million in cash she has on hand. If the TV buy is cursory, don't expect her to take the bait. If it is more than that, she may have to take a bite out of her tormentors, or at least shred what is left of Colon's leash and let him and his surrogates hit even harder.

THE FOURTH TIME AROUND

Back in '98, Denish teamed with Marty Chavez to form that year's Dem Guv ticket. They lost to R Gary Johnson, but Di lives to fight another day. For Marty, the intervening years have been about being mayor of ABQ, but nothing higher on the political scale. Sunday he came with his official announcement for a fourth term. Judging from the media coverage, it came off well. We haven't seen Chavez's polling data, but we suspect his campaign believes women are the swing voters in the Oct.6 election. That's why former NM first lady Clara Apodaca and disability activist Cody Unser were probably featured on the stage with the mayor when he announced at a Taylor Ranch community center. (Marty came with a five minute YouTube video outlining the message of his candidacy. You can view it here.)

Chavez's campaign slogan is "Now More Than Ever," a reference to the tough economic times being felt. He does not want to fall behind the curve on that crucial issue, so applying his experience in difficult times is brought to the fore.

And former Mayor Baca predicted correctly---cops and public safety are going to be the most prominent issue, even if it is a bit over the top. Chavez foe Richard Romero scored points on it after the sensational Denny's murder and he was back on that tack in reacting Sunday to Chavez's announcement. As for the Mayor, he is not going to be outgunned on public safety. He is, as he has in campaigns past, talking about hiring more police. This time about 100 more of them. Where the money will come from is a good question, but right now he's more concerned about where the votes are coming from.

CAN WE BUY YOU A COKE?

We know you're thirsty as we enter the dog days of summer and so do the folks at Coca-Cola, one of our blog sponsors. What to do about it? How about a contest in which two winners get themselves cooled off with a six month supply of America's favorite beverage? No problem, Coke is ready to play and so are we. So, on with the contest. Our first winner of a free six month supply of Coke will have to correctly answer two questions from the realm of La Politica and be the fifth entrant to do so. We don't think you can easily "Google" the answers for these, but then we're giving away a pretty cool prize.

Question #1: Who was the chief of staff to NM Governor Toney Anaya (1983-87)?

Question #2: Which newspaper editor, in the 1970's, dubbed NM House liberal legislators the "Mama Lucy's"?

We'll let this run for a couple of days and announce the first winner Wednesday. There's an e-mail link on the right side of the blog and one posted at the bottom of this entry. And if you don't win this one, you get a second chance in our next Coke contest. Click on Coca-Cola's ad icon to check out all the cool commercials from the past and present for this iconic American brand. And thanks to Coke and all of our sponsors for making this blog possible.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Several astute readers pointed out that Rep. Harry Teague pumped nearly $1.8 million of personal money into his '08 campaign, not the $800,000 we initially blogged on Friday. How much will he put up this time? Probably not that amount. After all, he is an incumbent who will draw heavy support from national Dems. His GOP foe, Steve Pearce, will also draw national support, but he is still the challenger and not a few of his backers are telling us they think he needs to prepare himself to get his checkbook out.

And what will be the biggest issue in the biggest county--Dona Ana--in the southern congressional district? Last we looked there were no oilfields there for these two oilmen to argue about. And they don't have very high heating bills in warm Las Cruces so the argument that a new climate law, if passed, will raise energy bills loses some of its wallop in the key county. The R's would like the contest to be concentrated on energy because they rule the conservative and oil rich SE. But but the folks in Cruces, Silver City and other non-oil and gas counties are going to have a lot to say about that. Don't say those Alligators didn't tell you so.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. E-mail in your news tips, comments and political gossip.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

 

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