Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Mr. & Mrs. New Mexico Start To Tune-In: The Real Campaign Starts Now, Plus: Heinrich's Debate Decision, Malott's Mistake And Valerie's Cat Fight 

You mean you are only now starting to pay close attention to the state political scene? Bully for you. Someone has to show some restraint in this age of around-the-clock minutiae posing as news. Heck, when we were kids they would throw a hot dog at any politician who came around before Labor Day. Nowadays voters just learn to ignore them--until now.

With the last summer holiday in the rear view mirror, Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico are ready to do their duty (albeit reluctantly) and actually start watching some of the already ubiquitous TV ads, read a few articles and maybe even glance at yer little 'ol blog now and again as they prepare to sort out who's who and who should get their vote.

While they'll be looking for info on the major candidates, they won't be wandering all over the map when it comes to the issues. Not this year. Abortion? Save it for next time. Gay marriage and civil unions? Say what? Medical marijuana? Who cares?

No, this election is about nothing less than the future economic security of the nearly two million souls who populate the state. Sure, the candidates may try to make it about something else, but everything will be filtered through a voter lens that is focused sharply on their jobs, their savings accounts, their kids' jobs and educations, their health costs and that of their parents. In other words, the bread and butter issues.

The official jobless rate in the state is averaging a bit below 9 percent, but the experts tell you that when you count those who can only find part-time work or have given up on getting a job all together, the actual rate here is probably in teenage numbers--13 percent or more. Add to that a state budget crisis that looks like a rolling stone storming down a mountain and you have the most challenging economic circumstances of our lifetimes. And that's no hype.

Not that any of this is going to prevent us--and you--from having a whole lot of fun in the next two months. Just drop by here every day from now until November 2. The stuff these candidates do will get your mind off any depression--economic or otherwise. And you don't even have to donate a can of food.


Will the refusal of ABQ Dem US Congressman Martin Heinrich to meet Republican challenger Jon Barela at a mid-October TV debate sponsored by KOAT and the ABQ Journal do him any harm? Probably not, but that doesn't make it a good decision.

Heinrich had a polling scare this summer when the SurveyUSA showed him running behind Barela, but the first ABQ Journal poll straightened that out and gives Heinrich a healthy 47% to 41% lead (Even a conservative group's poll shows Heinrich leading 49% to 42%). We rank the race "likely Dem." Political guru Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia calls it lean Dem. Rothenberg also now has it lean Dem.

But Heinrich is in the "People's House" and it's unusual for an ABQ congressman to not show up to just about everywhere he's invited. It leaves a bad taste that Heinrich is refusing the TV debate and shows that the young politico may be overly cautious. We hope this reticent temperament does not take hold when he is called upon to defend ABQ's interests on Capitol Hill.

Heinrich will do at least one TV debate with Barela--on public television KNME-TV, which won't be as nearly as watched as a face-off on KOAT, but it does prevent Barela from claiming that Heinrich won't debate him. In addition, the congressman is attending various candidate forums where he and Barela will both be in attendance.

KOAT-TV GM Mary Lynn Roper says she can't recall a candidate refusing to debate at the station in its "33 year history" of hosting such events. Well, not quite. Mary Lynn would be correct in saying it is very rare, but we clearly recall, in 1984, when GOP US Senator Pete Domenici, seeking a third term, refused to debate State Rep. Judy Pratt, his Dem opponent, on commercial TV. Like Heinrich, Pete agreed to one debate on KNME-TV so the press could not make it a major issue. (Pete beat Judy that year by garnering 72 percent--his highest ever).


Embattled southern Dem Congressman Harry Teague has a lot more to worry about than Heinrich. He has Republican Steve Pearce breathing down his neck so he's starting to spend. Here's his first TV ad debuting today. It's a 60 second spot that concentrates on his visits to the districts, not his work in Washington. Heinrich did the same. While Teague stays on the high road (they show him driving his truck around) Pearce has been getting beat up by out-of-state interest group money that bought TV time. The spots appear to have helped Teague grab the early polling leading in the Journal survey. At best the race is a toss-up for Teague. DC's Rothenberg says it is "lean R" and he won't get a fight from this corner.


And what of Bruce Malott? Bruce, what were you thinking? Taking a loan from a guy (the now infamous Anthony Correra) whose son Marc was making millions on placement fees from state investments made by the Educational Retirement Board on which you served as chairman? And it was a loan to pay your taxes? Heavens to Betsy, Bruce!

In the end Bruce is a civilian (He has resigned from the board). It is his ties to Big Bill, and more important, to Lt. Governor and Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish that are of interest. Malott gave sizable campaign donations to Denish and now, like she's done during past donor ethical mishaps, she has been forced to donate the cash to charity.

GOP Guv nominee Susana Martinez got on Di over this like a case of bad fleas. And she should. The Santa Fe mud pit where politicos splashed with players has splattered all over the body politic. It's a key issue for the Dona Ana County DA.

But Susana has already taken that mud pile on a guided tour of all four corners of our beloved state. Unless Denish is directly implicated in a pay-to-play or "hand-in-the-till" scheme, Martinez is going to have to seek harder ground. She has run it to 45% in the Journal poll, but for a Republican to get that final five points is like, well, getting traction in quicksand. She can do it, but it may take more novelty than the diminutive DA has planned for.

Earlier we promised you that the candidates would get your mind off your troubles, and that's no idle promise. Here we go. Take Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza and Santa Fe City Manager Robert Romero. They apparently took each other and that caused a cat fight of near-legendary status. Frank's ex-wife saw the two hangin' at a northern NM casino and that was enough to set her off on a hair-pulling, face-scratching and we assume an obscenity laced rampage. Just our kind of gal.

Well, this whole thing is in the courts where some lucky judge will have to separate the warring parties. Valerie now says she only has an "official relationship" with Romero. Right. And Lady Gaga is a virgin.

Anyway, all of this was met with envy at the office of Secretary of State Mary Herrera who heretofore had the corner on Santa Fe political soap operas. But there was also time for some gloating seeing how Valerie has very publicly revealed her distaste for Mary and even thought of running against her in this year's Democratic primary.

What a break for Mary. She can now tell voters that as crazy as she sometimes gets up there, just think if they had Valerie. But maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea if Mary started wearing those old-fashioned hair curlers. You never know when you're going to need some extra protection when trying your luck at the slot machines.

In case you're thinking we are giving Valerie too hard of a time, let's bring in Joe Barela of Rio Rancho who informs:

Wow! All of this makes you wonder if the Secretary of State will single-handedly bring down the Democrats in November. I mean it can't be making the voters too happy! This is just from Thursday, Sept. 2: Rio Grande Sun, Steve Terrell and KUNM-FM


SOS Mary Herrera said late Monday that Administrator Manny Vildasol and Public Information Officer James Flores have been fired. She said the duo were let go after an investigation by a private investigator for state risk management. She said fellow employees of the pair complained that they were being tape recorded and video recorded and that the investigation resulted in the dismissal. She said she is confident the firings will hold up in court where she expects them to be challenged.

Herrera put Vildasol on paid administrative leave after he spoke publicly about turning over information to the FBI. Flores also talked to the FBI and was put on leave Aug. 25. Herrera says there has been no wrongdoing at the office and that the charges are politically motivated.


When we wrote of the land commission office last week we said the two previous Dem nominees were "ethically tainted." But it was Art Trujillo in 2002 who had the ethical baggage in the form of his drunk driving record. Jim Baca, the 2006 Dem land commission nominee and former ABQ mayor, did not have ethical baggage but had become deeply unpopular in the city as a result of his mayoralty. That paved the way for the re-election of Republican Pat Lyons who had beaten Trujillo in 2002.

The last GOP land commissioner before Lyons was Bill Humphries who was elected in 1986. By the way, in 1982, we recall that Baca was elected land commissioner with a stunning winning margin of over 100,000 votes. Bet he wants that in his obit.


Just what is the message of the NM Democratic Party in 2010? In a fund-raising letter for the party US Senator Jeff Bingaman says it's this:

Our message of creating jobs, improving education and healthcare for our children and protecting our vast natural wonders must resonate throughout our State. Your continued support of our Party is crucial in this time.


It's been a blast but it really must end soon, this Great Reader Debate over Spanish identity in New Mexico and the controversial remarks of Dr. Estevan Rael-Galvez, executive director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center. But we've been taken with the caliber of the e-mail and the audience seems to like the show, so here we go again...

Michael Corwin of Corwin Research & Investigations:

...Dr. Stanley Hordes, formerly the NM state historian, did extensive research (his book is called To the Ends of the Earth) on the conversos/ hidden Jews of New Mexico (most 100% catholic by now including many, many priests) and how they came here from Spain (via Portugal where no blood oath was required as it was required to leave Spain) to the Canary Islands, from the Canary Islands to Mexico City, from Mexico City to Nuevo De Leon (when the Inquisition reached Mexico City) and finally up the Rio Grande into what is now New Mexico.

Ironically, New Amsterdam (NY), Rhode Island, South Carolina and Georgia were very early on populated by jews from Portugal as well. In fact the merchant ships used by the newly created US navy in the revolutionary war were provided by the Seixas family who were the ancestors of the first US Supreme Court justice with Hispanic blood (long predating Justice Sotomayor). The difference was that there was no need to hide their heritage or religion in the places that did not fall under the Inquisition as did those who came here.

Perhaps a part of this issue of identity and "pure blood" stems from those who came here that were not fleeing the Inquisition? Remember no blood oath from Portugal but a blood oath required from Spain. (Names like Sais, Chaves are considered Portuguese in origin while Saiz and Chavez are Spanish)

By the way, the two parts of NM thought to have been settled heavily by conversos are Espanola Valley (highest level of circumcision in the state) and in Tome. Ironically, also the two areas with the highest concentration of drug addiction. Perhaps the Hispanic Cultural Center might be willing to launch a genetic/public health study to see if hundreds of years of burying your identity plays a role in such high levels of addiction?

And Kevin Wenderoth comes with a "can't we all get along" plea:

As an Anglo obsessed with the Spanish language and all of the cultures whose major tongue is Spanish, this debate is of particular interest. One writer mentioned that we need to make the distinction between Spanish heritage and Spanish influence. I couldn’t agree more.

Sure, Hispanic people in New Mexico have surnames that could have only originated from Spain--but we don’t share their culture, food, or general way of life. Being born and growing up in Albuquerque my experience is that New Mexican culture is much more closely related to that of Mexico. And, after 400 years, it seems fairly inevitable that bloods from Native-Americans, Mexicans, Spaniards, and other Anglo Europeans would have mixed...

New Mexicans should be proud of the influence Spain has had on our culture, but I think there are very few people in New Mexico who can claim to be only of Spanish-European descent. Can’t we all just be happy with being New Mexicans?

We also received an insightful email from Laura Gómez, a professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law who wrote a book about the origin of the Mexican-American race. However, we were traveling and somehow lost the email. If she resends it we will put it up for you.


We've enjoyed the back and forth and the stimulating comments the controversy over the remarks made by Rael-Galvez, but if you think that means we're going to wade into another similar debate, fuggedaboutit! But we are being tempted. Here's a news release from a group that can't handle the Santa Fe Fiesta:

Diocese of Santa Fe Leads Annual Celebration of the Conquest and Subjugation of Native Americans in New Mexico

Santa Fe--For the 298th time, citizens of northern New Mexico will gather to celebrate the conquest and subjugation of local Native Americans. Under the guidance of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Fiesta Council, Fiesta Santa Fe is a four month celebration culminating on September 10th, when a young Hispanic male imitating Spanish Conquistador Don Diego de Vargas and a young Hispanic female ‘Queen’ ride triumphant through, Santa Fe. On September 12th a Pontifical Mass is held at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi to bring this cultural travesty to a close.

Maybe we should ask
Rael-Gálvez about all this. On second thought....

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