Thursday, April 21, 2011

Obama Hispanic Support Sinks; Impact On Our Senate Race? Plus: Sounds Of Silence As Symphony Dies; Why It Matters, And: Is Eric Greigo Too Liberal? 

The spring time machinations of La Politica continue and New Mexico's #1 political blog has you covered. To the action....

Obama's popularity among Hispanics is crashing. His approval rating with them in the Gallup Poll has sunk to an all-time low of 47%. Obama's overall Gallup approval is at a five month low of 42%. No New Mexico numbers are available but an educated guess would put his Hispanic approval here at around 50%. Pollsters will tell you that New Mexico Hispanics are more liberal than their national counterparts so Obama's ranking here among them is also a little higher--but not much.

Analysts on both sides of the political aisle think Obama's popularity will have a major impact on the race for the state's open US Senate seat next year. Fortunately for the Dems, the election is months and months away--a political eternity.

In '64, Democrat Joe Montoya claimed an open Senate seat as President Johnson won here in a landslide. In '72, Nixon was highly popular and an open NM Senate seat went to Republican Pete Domenici. In '08 Democrat Tom Udall went into an open Senate seat as Democrat Obama swept the state.


Why are Hispanics, a group in which Obama's approval was routinely in the 70 percent range, abandoned him? The easy and right explanation is the lack of jobs and high food and gas prices that are hitting home. Hispanic incomes are lower than that of Anglos. Many of them are working class and on the front lines of the economic pain that is still being inflicted. They may like Obama personally, but when it comes to their votes it's about them and their future.


As we have been blogging here the past several weeks, in New Mexico, it isn't only the working classes getting hurt. That's evident with the announcement of the collapse of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra. The nearly 80 year old symphony is declaring bankruptcy and putting away its instruments--for good.

It is the doctors, lawyers and accountants who have kept the symphony going, even as it has struggled mightily in this recession. But many of their businesses are not what they were. Combine that with changing public tastes when it comes to classical music and you have an institution gone bust.

A lot of memories will go with NMSO--especially its annual Mother's Day concert at the ABQ Zoo and the occasions when it backed up big entertainment names when they hit town. (The symphony will continue for four months so that apparently means one last Mother's Day concert).


In Albuquerque and New Mexico it isn't the same old tune anymore. It's the new sound of a life-changing recession and our economic and political leadership needs to step up. The symphony is a symbol of a civilized and forward-looking city. Mayor Berry, the city council, the Chamber of Commerce, our congressional delegation, key business leaders and the very wealthy among us need to do some long navel-gazing over this bankruptcy. This is a death that needs to be mourned, not ignored.

How ironic that a symphony that has boomed Beethoven across this state for eight decades is dying with such silence. Large metro areas like Philadelphia or Detroit have had similar problems but they have a variety of cultural attractions and services. Albuquerque does not. The loss of the symphony is a blow to musicians, music lovers and our students who hope to have a life in music. But it is an even mightier blow to to our cultural and social fabric as well as our economic development plans.

Most citizens don't attend the symphony, but neither do most go to museums, art shows or the zoo. But they are always there--if only in the background--tutoring even the disinterested in the art of living, learning and appreciating.

Right now, I miss former Senator Domenici, ex-Mayor Chavez, and former Governor Richardson. I don't think their generation of leaders would have stood by silently as the symphony stood on death's door. They may not have succeeded in resuscitating it, but they would have tried. What does the quiescence of our current leadership mean to our collective future if the recession goes on? Will we let other petals of the flower die off with a whimper, with no recognition of what is being lost?

What we are losing matters, but no one seems to want to say it out loud.

Juan Vigil
We don't know if any of those soon-to-be laid off musicians have any political management experience, but if they do there's an opening in Sandoval County. Juan Vigil has been canned from his $120,000 a year job. Juan has been around forever and a day. We remember him managing Bernalillo County back when Jimmy Carter was president.

So what happened? It seems Vigil's aggressive efforts to collect taxes from Intel got him into trouble with three of the five Sandoval County commissioners and he was given the axe. How about that? Only this week Intel reported blockbuster profits of $3.2 billion for the first three months of 2011. And they need Sandoval County commissioners to run interference for them on a tax bill that for them amounts to chicken feed?

By the way, Intel has been expanding big time in Arizona and elsewhere. But not here. Employment has sunk at Intel's Rio Rancho plant from a high of 5,500 to about 3,200.

How about some goodies for us, Intel? Maybe then managers like Vigil would have a little more leeway when they go looking for badly needed tax revenues.


The embryonic congressional candidacy of Dem Senator Eric Griego has run into a buzz saw of criticism centered around the contention that he is way too liberal to take the historically moderate ABQ US House seat. We say a buzz saw because you hear it all over town. But Griego's supporters are pushing back as he gears up to try to replace Dem Martin Heinrich who is vacating the seat to run for Senate. From the email and Lissa Knudsen:

I think the assessment of the ABQ House seat as a moderate district needs to be expanded. If the Republicans choose a conservative who aligns himself with the tea party, and the Dems choose a progressive like Eric Griego, then the voters will have a real choice. In that type of race, the progressive candidate has an excellent chance of winning the ABQ seat. A recent example of this was the 2008 race of Heinrich vs. Republican Darren White. A Dan Lewis vs. Griego contest would also be a conservative versus a progressive and Griego is native New Mexican and Hispanic...

Who is pushing for a middle of the road Democrat as the ABQ congressional standard bearer? Maybe one of the middle-of-the-roaders who is running? What Democrats need is someone who is strong to take on the right wingers running the Congress. Not someone who will try to appease them.

Lissa has some good points, but it is a hard sell to national Dems who will help finance the multi-million dollar contest. They will want the voluble Griego to tone it down.

And we don't know if it will be Lewis as the GOP nominee. Jon Barela, who was the GOP nominee for the seat two years ago and was narrowly defeated, is waiting in the wings and may make another run. He would give the R's a native Hispanic face. Then there's former GOP State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones. She has a moderate reputation and is also considering a US House run.

ABQ has a huge military-industrial complex that is key to the area economy. Even as he wooed the progressive vote in 2008, Heinrich also embraced the role of the city's congressman in defending and enhancing that federal presence. Will liberal Griego be able to do the same? We'll see.


It has been all Hanna all the time when it comes to education news in the state. That would be Hanna Skandera, head of the public education department. But what about Dr. Jose Garcia, the Secretary for Higher Education? We haven't heard much from him. Reader Barton Bond says Jose will have an ABQ coming out party of sorts:

The CNM Faculty Senate is hosting a public forum with New Mexico Secretary of Higher Education Dr. Jose Garcia on Wednesday, April 27, from 1-3 p.m. in the Smith Brasher Hall on Main Campus, which is located at Coal Ave. and University Blvd. The event will provide an opportunity for Dr. Garcia to present his vision regarding the future of higher education and particularly community colleges in New Mexico.

And over at UNM a self-proclaimed "Junior Alligator," drops some news:

Hi Joe- looks like another UNM vice-president bites the dust! Carmen Brown, VP for enrollment is headed to Cleveland State University
. Wonder if (UNM President) Schmidly knew she was looking around for another job? Maybe he should join her.

We don't know if she knew she was leaving, but the number of veeps at UNM being paid in the $200,000 a year area has been a sore point. Maybe this is an opportunity for some budget savings. As for Schmidly leaving, we are now voting against any imminent departure. We doubt we could withstand such a serious blogging drought.

This news broke Thursday morning: University of New Mexico President David Schmidly announced today he will not seek a contract extension and plans to step down in June 2012.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. Interested in advertising here? Drop us a line.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author
website design by limwebdesign