Monday, June 13, 2011

Line Forms For Plum Court Slot, Plus: State Gov't Layoffs, Why Now? And: Fresh Insights On Sanchez Vs. Wilson 

NM Court of Appeals
Attention, all you lawyers out there. How about a nice $118,000 a year job without all the worry of rainmaking for new clients, bill collections and those pesky court appearances? Well, we've got just the gig for you--a slot on the NM Court of Appeals.

Get your bids in soon, though, because the line is already getting long with those who want to replace Judge Robert Robles who was forced to resign after getting busted on a DWI charge. Oh yeah, it might help if you are a Republican since the ultimate decision on who will will get the slot belongs to Gov. Martinez.

Maybe we should put Republican Ned Fuller at the front of the line. After all, Ned was
the GOP nominee when Robles won in 2010, but barely. Ned turned the race into a cliffhanger, garnering 49.2% of the vote to Robles' 50.8% in a year when it seemed the R's could do no wrong.

So who else are the mentioners mentioning as possible occupants of those spiffy Court of Appeals digs over at UNM? From a Legal Beagle:

Here are the folks I've heard are applying: Ned Fuller (R), Paul Barber (R), District Court Judge Denise Barela Sheppard (R), Santa Fe attorney John Polk (R), Santa Fe attorney Jane Yohalem (D), District Court Judge Monica Zamora (D), ABQ attorney Kerry Kiernan (D) & Metro Court Judge Frank Sedillo (D).

And another Beagle chimes in that Art Pepin, a Democrat, former prosecutor and director of the administrative office of the state court system, can be expected to make a play for the coveted court spot.

There are eight Dems and two R's on the appeals court. The new judge will be nominated by a state judicial commission and his or her name sent to the Guv. Public interviews will be held June 29. The new judge will have to run in a partisan election in 2012 to finish out all of the Robles term. If they win that, they serve all the way until 2019. After that, they only have to stand in a retention election.

So this deal is tantamount to a lifetime appointment--unless you decide to get slammed at the local saloon and then go for a drive. Nice work, if you can get it. And just think. If special prosecutor Matt Chandler can prove the innuendo that a bunch of judges bribed their way onto the bench during Big Bill's Guv term, there will be a whole lot more openings. Just don't be on it, Gators....


Not all state jobs are as secure as that judgeship. Here we go.....

The Governor's office issued a slight caveat on the 44 layoffs that hit the Public Education and other departments on a quiet news Friday. They said:

While certain positions will be eliminated, those employees involved in the reorganization will be offered lateral positions that are currently vacant and we are optimistic they will all have an opportunity to maintain their employment in state government.

Martinez and the Legislature signaled their intent to avoid layoffs when they presented their respective budget plans at the beginning of the year. The announcement of 44 jobs being lost had some sting. So what happened?

We've already reduced total state government employment by 13 percent during this Great Recession. Its been done mainly by leaving jobs vacant. Laying off employees into a state economy that is still experiencing negative job growth is counterproductive. Laid off workers aren't going to buy houses, or spend at local restaurants or shops.

The New Mexican economy remains precarious. We need Martinez and the Legislature in the September special redistricting session to pass the $225 million capital outlay bill that was gridlocked in the last session. She and the legislative leadership say they will get it done. That will create more jobs, but if we start trimming the state payroll through layoffs--and not attrition--it's going to cancel the benefit we gain from the stimulus.

Other options available to deal with personnel costs, if necessary, include the current policy of not filling vacant positions, reducing salaries, furloughs and early retirements.

That the targeted 44 may be able to find other state positions mollifys some concern, but the administration needs to get a yellow flag here, so here it is:

Susana, laying off employees in a recessionary economy is not a jobs program.


Gov. Martinez deplaned in L.A. Sunday night for some California politicking. Maybe she saw this story on the news racks of the LA Times which profiled her along with other new and prominent Republican Hispanic faces. We blogged May 31 of Martinez's Orange County GOP Flag day speech which will take place tonight in Irvine. A California Alligator adds that Sunday night the Guv went to a "private dinner with a group of GOP Latinos."

We take you now to Alamogordo where Light Guv and GOP US Senate candidate John Sanchez
made the rounds and did we detect a note of populism?

We have to create an environment on the federal level that encourages the private sector--not just big businesses, like the oil and gas industry to grow. The economic engine that drives the economy is the small businessman the guy who owns a hardware store or the guy who owns a small restaurant...

And Sanchez came with his first hit on the issue that the Alligators see as perhaps the most damaging to former Rep. Heather Wilson who Sanchez is battling for the nomination:

"Unfortunately, one of the last things she did when she lost (the 2008 GOP) primary was she went out and voted for the bank bailouts.

Yep, the bank bailout vote is back. That's the "Wall Street vs. Main Street" argument that resonates so well these days among rank and file voters. If the economy is the centerpiece issue in 2012 (and who doesn't think it won't be?) you're going to see Sanchez hanging this around Heather's neck every chance he gets.


D.C. Democratic political consultant Stephen Clermont has been helping us game the US Senate action. Here's his latest from the swampy banks of the Potomac and this non-anonymous Alligator:

Joe, Interesting post on May 30 about Wilson and Sanchez not coming out on the Ryan budget plan to phase out the current Medicare system. It is not that surprising given the makeup of the Republican primary electorate. Yes, it is conservative and there are lots of Tea Party supporters, but it is also disproportionately made up of seniors.

Looking at the numbers, among Republicans who voted in either the 2008 or 2010 primary, 35% are over 65 and 71% are over 50. Only 15% of Republicans who have not participated in a recent primary are over 65 and 60% of these registrants are under 50. Wilson or Sanchez could try to compete for the younger Republicans who don’t receive Social Security and/or Medicare and support significant changes to those programs, but they face the difficult task of turning them out to vote in an election they have not participated in.

On the other hand, they can go after those they know who will vote but many of those voters receive the benefits the national party voted to change. Intriguing balancing act they have to perform, but they can’t dodge the question over the next year, especially as Congress takes even tougher votes to deal with the debt ceiling this summer....

Thanks, Stephen. You're way ahead of the curve. But this is the place for that kind of thing. The Alligators predicted Sanchez running for the Senate seat only days after Senator Bingaman announced his retirement; they said weeks ago the bank bailout vote would be a major issue and here it is today. And they predicted the Sanchez-Wilson race that they envisaged so early would be--contrary to conventional wisdom--no run away for Wilson but one of the premier GOP nomination battles in the USA. And guess what? It is. That's why they say.....

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