Thursday, January 07, 2010

Ethnic Angle Surfaces In Dem Light Guv Race: Anglo Vote Up For Grabs? Plus: Readers Weigh In On State Budget Battle, And: A Really Big Matanza 

Rael & Attorney Peacock
There's a race within the race for the Dem nomination for lieutenant governor that is animating the five way contest. Can one of the candidates in this all Hispanic field become a front runner among Anglo Dems and emerge as the favorite?

Lawrence Rael appears to be among the first to make a blatant play. He came with this Web page highlighting early support from ABQ attorney Deborah Peacock. It features a prominent photo of the lawyer and it caught our eye because it reminded us that much of the Anglo vote in this race is still on the fence.

Rael and the othe light guv candidates---Senators Ortiz y Pino and Linda Lopez, former Dem Party chair Brian Colon and Rep. Joe Campos appear to be carving up the Hispanic vote. Another factor is that Diane Denish is set to become the first Anglo woman to become the Dem Guv nominee. That is getting more Anglo Dem women involved in the election and perhaps the crucial March pre-primary convention. If you don't get 20 percent of the delegates there, your candidacy is likely to die.

Dem state Senator Tim Eichenberg toyed with the idea of making a run and many thought as the lone Anglo contender he could take the race for #2. But Denish persuaded Tim to stay out, knowing an all Anglo Dem ticket would be a harder sell.


An ethnic angle is also surfacing in the race for the southern seat on the NM Public Regulation Commission. Former Dona Ana County Commissioner Bill McCamley is the sole official entrant for the Dem nomination for the seat being vacated by Dem Sandy Jones, but Dona Ana County Assessor Gary Perez is making noise about running. That would put this race in play, but McCamley ran a strong second for the '08 Dem congressional nomination, giving him name ID that could help him withstand the challenge--if it develops.


Speaking of Jones, he is seeking the Dem nod for state land commissioner and analysts say he may be the front runner because he is the only candidate from south of I-40 and he is also the only one who sports conservative credentials. He faces former land commissioner Ray Powell and Santa Fe County Commissioners Harry Montoya and Mike Anaya.

On the GOP side, the land office contest is also now drawing four hopefuls. From the state GOP:

Jim Jackson of ABQ has announced his candidacy for Commissioner of Public Lands. Jackson, an attorney and former Catron County rancher, has worked in the State Land Office for four years...first as Assistant Commissioner then as Director of the Surface Division..He worked as a prosecutor for six years. Prior to that, he and his wife ranched in Catron County..He was a Quemado School Board Member for five years...

Jackson joins former Bernalillo County GOP executive director Bob Cornelius, Roosevelt County rancher Matt Rush and retired DEA agent Errol Chavez of Dona Ana County.


Rumors have been flying that attorney Pete Domenici Jr., son of former NM US Senator Pete Domenici, will become the fifth candidate for the GOP Guv nod. He told the ABQ Journal he will make his mind up in a few days. If Peter Jr., 50, goes for it, it will give us plenty to blog about. Stay tuned.


There are 25 R's in the state House, not 28, as we blogged in our first draft Wednesday. That means 10 Dems would have to join with those R's to stop any proposal to reimpose the gross receipts tax on food purchases. And food tax foes say they already have five lined up against it. They are: Reps. Cote, Egolf, Maestas, Rodefer, and Stapleton. If they get five more the food tax would fail in the House on a 35 to 35 tie.


Let's bring the readers in on the battle of the budget. First up is Alan Schwartz who says our backing of an increase in the state capital gains tax is not going to do anything to solve the state's short-term money woes:

Who has capital gains these days? Personally, for the first time in my life (64) I'm dealing with capital losses...so is my 92 year old mother who had a very conservative mutual from which she withdrew funds each month. I would be interested in learning how much additional revenue would be realized by this action....

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy claims the state would have realized over $50 million for 2008 by tweaking an exclusion that NM and nine other states give to profits on stock sales and other assets. Of course, in this bear market capital gains are becoming more limited, reducing the amount of tax collected.

The Institute is nonprofit, getting its funding mainly from foundations. One of them is the Paul Newman Foundation, so they might lean a bit left.


When we advocated that state workers who make $30,000 or less be exempt from any salary reductions, we cited janitors as an example. Reader Bill Taylor jumped on that:

I wish janitors in New Mexico made $30 K per year. Most are under $20,000 with starting pay about $16 K or just over half of the $30,000 you suggest.

And reader Doris went deeper:

You advocate for salary cuts for state employees making over $30K on the basis of “fairness.” But fairness also mandates that salaries should be somewhat in line with private sector salaries, taking other benefits into account. A 2009 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study shows that at or below $30K, state employees generally make more than equivalent private sector employees. Conversely, state employees at $45k plus tend to make much less than their private sector counterparts. The higher the salary, the higher the inequity. For example, private attorneys make 80% more than state attorneys...If NM wants to retain competent employees, it should not exacerbate the inequity.

Another reason not to make under $30k’s exempt from salary cuts is that many people with lower salaries are part of two income families with a much higher total income...


A number of readers picked up on a reader comment we posted Wednesday praising the recent winning performance of the University of New Mexico basketball team. That reader asserted the improvement will mean increased attendance and thus more money for UNM academics. Not so, rebuts UNM biology professor Tim Lowrey:

My heart sank when I saw your quote from the reader pontificating on the financial virtues of UNM Basketball. The reader is sadly mistaken about money generated by athletics supporting the academic mission. There is no relationship between attendance at basketball or other athletic games and hiring faculty.

...UNM enrollment is increasing and the tenure-track faculty is decreasing. Those faculty generated $133 million in research grant and contract dollars for UNM (and the state) in 2009...In fact, monies from student fees and from the Instructional and General Funds (appropriated by the Legislature) subsidize athletics. It's a one-way street. As for (UNM President) Schmidly, he squandered the opportunity to fix the mistakes of the unqualified (former UNM President Louis) Caldera and created even more "bungles" of his own. The readers don't know the half of it.

There was more. Lisa Knudsen, president of the UNM Graduate/Professional Student Association, emailed us this:

UNM Athletics' annual operating budget is around $28M. Many of those millions are being subsidized by taxpayers and student fees. This figure does not include capital improvements which are generously funded by the Legislature meaning taxpayers. The Pit renovations alone cost $60M. Bonded over 20 years the debt service will be $5 to $6M a year.

You often hear UNM administrators saying that Athletics is "revenue-generating," but what they studiously aren't saying is that Athletics is "profit-making." UNM Athletics does not generate one dime--much less one dime to help fund UNM's mission, which is the higher education of New Mexicans.

And to top it all off, the Lobos lost their Mountain West conference opener to San Diego State Wednesday.


Usually you hear about pork barrel politics in relation to the various construction projects that state legislators covet for their individual districts, but we have another pork fest that is sure to draw the interest of politicos as they look for hands to shake in this election year:

The Valencia County Hispano Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce that its 10th annual Matanza will be held January 30 at the Sheriff’s Posse Grounds in Belen. Forty pigs, 25 teams competing in the cooking competitions and more than 10-thousand visitors make this the largest matanza in the world...All proceeds will go to fund college scholarships...The cost is $10 for adults. Children 10 and under get in free

Forty pigs? That ought to satisfy even the most pork-hungry politico.

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