Friday, April 29, 2011

The ABQ Flatline: It's Not A New Dance Just The Same Old Economy, Plus: Martin Moves Left And Maybe Hector Moves Right; Now That's A Dance 

  • Javier Gonzales withstood a stiff challenge from attorney Sam Bregman and narrowly won re-election as New Mexico Democratic Party chairman. Incumbent Gonzales beat Bregman by just 11 votes out of 381 cast. It was Gonzales 191, Bregman 180 and Letitia Montoya 9 votes.
Our big city is pretty much flat on its back. and while Mayor Berry talks about what we'll be like in 2035 it is the troubled here and now that cries out for attention. Not that it's easy coming up with ideas on how to get things percolating again, but talking about the grim reality might be a good start.
While 77 of the nation's top 100 metros added jobs between March of 2010 and this March, ABQ lagged, losing some 3,000. That put us at #93 for job growth. Maybe the Mayor can exclaim,"We're ahead of seven others!"

Well, maybe it's better to just let the cobwebs grow at the city's economic development department.

The city's unemployment rate supposedly fell from 9.0 to 8.5 per cent in the latest stats, but that might have been a fluke or the result of people giving up looking for jobs and/or a shrinking work force. Maybe the recovery is right around the Tijeras Canyon corner, but we can't see it yet. The state reports that tax collections have stabilized and we are even running a little surplus. That's the good news--and you know what's coming. That's right--the bad news--which is that every surplus nickel is being gobbled up by Medicaid--the program that provides medical care for needy New Mexicans.

And then there's the city real estate market--if you can call it much of a market. The median price of existing homes here has plunged from over $225,000 at the height of the Great Housing Bubble to a meager $166,000 in the latest reporting month. In other words, there are thousands of homeowners here who are under water and who are going to have to hold their breath an awfully long time to see values restored to the glory years--if they ever are.

But it's not all bad. Rio Rancho--ground zero for the housing excess--is flirting with median home prices below $160,000 and that is finally attracting the bargain hunters and families that can finally afford to tiptoe into the market, even as they battle over-the-top gas and food prices.

But back on the bad beat, add this to the list:

The Albuquerque area’s per capita personal income fell 0.8 percent in 2009, according to statistics released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Per capita income fell to $35,329 from $35,608 in 2008. In 2009, the Albuquerque area ranked 181st in per capita income out of 366 metro areas.

We're not fortune tellers--except when we head out of town with the state fair carnies for a wild weekend--but we see $150,000 staring us in the face when it comes to future median home prices in the Duke City. With a whole lot of folks out of work and nothing much happening to bring any jobs here, that just seems about where things may finally settle.


Then there are the economic geniuses in Santa Fe. The one major project they have on the boards that might produce a bunch of good paying jobs gets treated like an unwanted step-child:

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority’s budget has been slashed by more than half for the next fiscal year and that has at least one board member concerned. Spaceport officials heard about the 57 percent reduction for the first time during a meeting Wednesday. Spaceport director Christine Anderson says the agency had received $1.7 million in the current fiscal year. It’s slated to get about $500,000 next fiscal year. Board member Ben Woods says having less money will be hard to deal with. He says the cut is likely part of those made to agencies across the board to deal with a state budget deficit. Board members have to develop a final spending plan for the spaceport before the end of June.

How many agencies are getting that kind of haircut? Is this part of the "if Bill Richardson had anything to do with it we can't stand it" movement?

Come on Governor Martinez and certain legislators, get a picture of Big Bill, throw some darts at it and get it out of your system. Don't you want to build something for the future?

(P.S. Maybe in the future the southern New Mexico press and legislators there who support the Spaceport will listen a little more carefully when the Alligators warn them.)

(P.S.S. Christine Anderson, you may have to fight like a wet cat to bring this project to fruition. Remember, that it's worth the fight.)


Wasn't it only a day or two ago that we said if we were wearing Hector Balderas' wingtips, we might want to get ahead of Martin Heinrich on the war in Afghanistan--the longest in American history--and go the anti-war route? That's an increasingly popular stance among the American people. Well, too late Hector--if that's what you had in mind. Heinrich, obviously reacting in part to Hector's freshly announced challenge of him for the 2012 Dem US Senate nomination, came with his new view on the war--he now says it's time to wind it down:

“We have spent over $450 billion in Afghanistan since the start of this war. Our youngest soldiers now serving in some of the most dangerous places on earth were just eight years old when our nation was attacked on September 11, 2001. It’s time we start bringing our troops home.”

Is this the same Congressman Heinrich who embraced Obama's December 2009 announcement of sending even more troops over to Afghanistan? The flashback:

President Obama articulated both the necessary resources and a clear strategy to accomplish our goals in Afghanistan and the region. This is a critical step forward, and frankly, it should have taken place years ago.

Well, they were sitting on their hands in the Peoples Republic of the Southeast Heights when they heard that back in '09. But with this "new and improved" position, Martin has got them back again. And it's not just the ponytail crowd tired of the foreign entanglement. The political center is also starting to doubt the involvement. You might say the war is fast becoming as welcome as a Protestant at a Mora County penitente gathering.


Speaking of Mora--Hector's home county--while Martin was doing war maneuvers, Hector was trying to line up troops for his underdog campaign. His pickings seem a bit slim in the early going. He did, however, manage to come with enough signatures to fill a respectable sized letterhead. Let's take a look:

State Senator Phil Griego (D-San Jose), State Senator Cynthia Nava (D-Las Cruces), Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), Taos County Commissioner Larry Sanchez (D), New Mexico Rep. Joseph Cervantes (D-Las Cruces), New Mexico Rep. Miguel Garcia (D-Albuquerque) and Springer Mayor Danny Cruz (D) today announced their support for Hector Balderas' campaign for the United States Senate.

Now you expect us to get through each and every name and give a reason why they are with Hector and not Martin? Come on, it's almost the weekend. Okay, we'll tackle a couple and then head out.

Senator Griego can be kind of conservative on the social issues. Maybe Hector starts heading to Martin's right on that stuff as he woos Hispanic social conservatives, many of whom are Democrats. He needs to think about it as Heinrich is locking down the liberals.

Guess we have to take Las Cruces State Rep. Cervantes off our possible list of other Dem Senate candidates. We had him on the blog the other day. Cervantes also has a conservative streak on some of the social issues--he favors the death penalty--and is also a bit of a maverick and Hector is the anti-establishment candidate.

Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham fought Heinrich for the 2008 Dem nomination for the US House seat Martin now has. Maybe she still has hard feelings,

The endorsements are a start for Hector, but that he couldn't come up with a lot more right away indicates how steep a hill he has to climb.


Maybe Hector can poke some holes in the many endorsements Heinrich is receiving from various Dem interest groups. He's getting some help from one of our Alligators who is affiliated with AFSCME. They say that big labor endorsement of Heinrich smacks of a wire job for Martin:

The endorsement of Martin over Hector angered a lot of the AFSCME members across the north. It has a real Washington stench to it. The convention to elect new committee members in not until June. Those new members would have endorsed the candidates for the next election cycle. So why was it done 14 months before the primary? I know many members up north that are going against AFSCME's endorsement. My view on it is, Hector could help Obama a lot more than Martin can in the north where Obama will need a strong showing to win this state in 2012.

Aaah, the stench of Washington. Does that smell like enchiladas with old sour cream or something?


Heather Wilson has announced her candidacy for the GOP nod for US Senate and Lt. Governor John Sanchez has said he is looking at the race, but hasn't announced. Nevertheless, the first auto dial poll of GOP voters by a GOP polling firm is out and it's no surprise that Heather is well in the lead:

(The poll was) an autodial survey of 801 likely Republican primary voters. The survey finds former Congresswoman Heather Wilson starting off in a very strong position with....55% having a very favorable opinion of her, and only 12% having an unfavorable opinion..58% have a favorable opinion of John Sanchez, 22% have a very favorable opinion, and 13% have an unfavorable opinion.

Heather Wilson currently leads John Sanchez by a commanding 42 points, 59% to 17%, Greg Sowards has 2% support, 11% support for "some other candidate", and 11% are undecided.

Wilson lost her 2008 Senate primary run against Steve Pearce and she remains unpopular in many conservative circles. National conservatives ran TV ads against her in her race against Pearce.

Her top number against an unannounced candidate is 59%--but a formal announcement by Sanchez would dramatically change the numbers. We don't know if the firm associated with the poll leans Wilson's way (they say they have no business relationships with any of the candidates and did the poll on their own) but they did her a big favor by doing a poll of an announced candidate against one who is isn't. Wilson supporters are hoping these early numbers will discourage Sanchez from getting in, but think about this. If Wilson peaks out at 59% against an unannounced Sanchez that is almost certainly her best number for the campaign. Take her down nine points and you have a tie ball game.

Candidate Sowards also made a good point as he noted that 37 percent of GOP voters said they would "definitely" vote for Wilson. He argued that leaves a big opening to Wilson's right.

The full poll is here and here.


Now for your weekend entertainment, amusement and bemusement we present the following from one Colonel Robert Cunningham in ABQ:


Just another media-hyped communist con-game and cracked within an hour of release
--despite media coverage ever since without mention of the obvious forgery suppression?

While it remains available, download the document from the White House site. Then open it in Adobe Illustrator - the layers are clear and absolute! A pdf file shouldn't have layers and a pristine file shouldn't have evidence of tampering. This phony document has both! Anyone can do it and everyone who does will know the damned thing is a manufactured forgery. Only communist media and politicians will continue to hype this atrocity as valid...

We get it, Colonel. We've really missed the communist conspiracy, too.

Okay, Jay Leno. Finish us up for the week:

The man who invented the teleprompter has died at the age of 91. In fact, when he heard the news, President Obama was speechless.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Thanks for dropping by this week.

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

Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Final Campaign Days For Javier & Sam; We'll Miss You Guys (Okay, Maybe Not) Plus: The Blog Mailbag; Readers Take Over 

Taos (Graves)
Welcome back. Only two days before state Dems pick their party chair for the 2012 election cycle, so let's take a look at the conventional wisdom in this hard-fought battle between current Chairman Javier Gonzales and challengers Sam Bregman and Letitia Montoya. From the email and a Dem Alligator monitoring the action:

I think Javier is on track to be re-elected. Bregman didn’t get the Hail Mary he needed a couple of weeks ago in the last county conventions and now he seems to be spinning his wheels...Gonzales has kept his nose to the grindstone, run a strong phone campaign and focused his communications directly on State Central Committee members. He also is outlining a vision for what the party must do in the next 12-15 months to be successful in November of 2012. Raise money, recruit candidates and defend Democratic values.

That Gator is predisposed to Javier but his analysis mimics that of others we have asked. There are 407 central committee members eligible to vote at Saturday's meeting at the ABQ Convention Center. Gonzales became chairman when Brian Colon left the post to run for lieutenant governor.

Next we hear from a Bregman backer. ABQ attorney Robert Lara rebuts the endorsement of Gonzales by 2010 Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish which was posted on Tuesday's blog:

I served as the Deputy Finance Director on the Denish campaign....I respectfully disagree with the assessment that Chairman Gonzalez was a constant fighter for Democrats in 2010. Chairman Gonzales and his staff left many Democrats out in the wind during the 2010 cycle. We lost 21 Democratic races in 2010. In only six of those races did the state party make any financial contribution to our candidates.

A simple Goggle search failed to find any press releases from Chairman Gonzales or his staff defending these candidates during the 2010 election....The real issue is where was Chairman Gonzalez and the party when Democrats were under attack? We know they weren’t giving money to Democrats, we know they weren’t out defending Democrats. Instead Chairman Gonzalez and the staff where here in Bernalillo County, where we lost the race for Governor but thankfully kept Congressman Heinrich. If that’s how Chairman Gonzalez has been working for Democratic candidates, perhaps its time for a new job.

And a response from Gonzales before we put this race to bed and prepare for Saturday's vote:

Over $400,000 was pumped into direct mail on behalf of the very candidates that Sam Bregman is saying we did nothing to help. Anyone who thinks the only way to help a candidate is by cutting a check directly to the campaign does not understand how the party works--with everyone putting money into the party to support a group of candidates. We also raised an additional $1.3 million that put boots on the ground in every one of those districts. I’d urge my opponents to do their research before they send out a false attack....

Maybe at Saturday's election they can nominate a candidate named "Javier Bregman." He would combine Sam's aggressiveness with Javier's restraint and you might get just the right mix.


These endorsements become more important going forward. They often come with checks:

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Action Fund, which works to elect candidates who will implement sound environmental policies, and Conservation Voters New Mexico jointly announced their endorsement of Martin Heinrich for U.S. Senate.

“Martin Heinrich has been an invaluable leader in championing clean energy jobs and protecting our natural treasures while demonstrating that he’ll stand up to corporate polluters and fight for the interests of New Mexicans,” said LCV Action Fund President Gene Karpinski.

Not to say that Hector throws litter out the window when he visits the Valle Grande....


We turn the blog over now to our always adroit readers.

A reader from ABQ's South Valley writes of the prospect of another Hispanic candidate joining Hector Balderas in the chase for the Dem nod for the US Senate seat:

I do not believe that another Hispanic candidate will get into the race for US Senate. Anyone, including their extended family, foolish enough to get into the race would be held responsible and in contempt by the Hispanic community of New Mexico for the rest of their natural life and beyond.

Reader Kelley DuPont writes:

I've officially signed up to help with the Heinrich for Senate campaign, a first for me. Thanks for your daily reporting on our local/state politics. Thanks to you I'm hooked and inspired to get involved. Take care and have a great day.


A reader writes:

With Balderas' comment about lobbyists in his Senate announcement video, does that mean he won't take lobbyist money?


Reader Javier Martinez writes:

Hi Joe, I enjoyed your analysis on NationalJournal.com regarding the senate race, especially as it relates to New Mexico's demographic make up and how it will impact our senate race. You're political analysis was right on.

Aside from the demographic factor, I think that the Heinrich campaign will have its work cut out for them. They shouldn't underestimate Balderas simply because he has not been in Washington like Heinrich has. If anything, that is a huge plus for Balderas, especially at a time when everything DC is viewed with mistrust.

While the main question is whether Balderas "can raise the money," I can tell you that there is a ground swell that is brewing from all walks of political life who are looking at the Balderas candidacy with great hope. Hector is a pragmatic leader and people identify with that....


Ellen Wedum of Cloudcroft writes:

You blogged Wednesday about the Heinrich-Balderas Democratic Senate primary:

"We're talking statewide, 30 second attack ads that leave no mistake about their intent. Heinrich, who has been brutally battered by two tough Republican opponents and done his own battering in return, doesn't want to go there, but you do what you must when fighting for your life. ..."

Oh, please, Joe, I know that blood and guts on the floor is favorite Alligator food, but I suspect that many voters find all that negativity indigestible. Democrats can celebrate the emergence of two excellent young senate candidates in Balderas and Heinrich, and either of them can blow the Republican opposition out of the water. Our real concern is hanging on to that ABQ congressional seat that Heinrich is giving up....


Reader J. Richard Brown writes from Carlsbad about our blogging of the search for a new University of New Mexico president:

Hey Joe, I know that I am probably stuck in the 60's but how about including the students in the mix of those who have a say so about who will take President Schmidley's place?


An anonymous reader writes:

Heinrich does indeed need to worry about a statewide race with any Hispanic should there be a lone Hispanic in the race. Heinrich does not have an established statewide political network. He barely wins in his home district. How did he win a contested primary in his home district the last time? Well, he recruited the help of former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil- Giron. The challenge from Michelle Lujan Grisham in a one-on-one race could have taken Heinrich out. The split of the Hispanic vote helped position him to be the Democratic nominee. Team Heinrich have almost a year to "recruit" another Hispanic to run to be the thorn in Balderas' side.


Democratic State Senator Steve Fischmann of Las Cruces emailed us a while back with a column filled with tax ideas. With gas prices inching toward $4 a gallon in the state, this part seemed timely:

Most oil and gas companies operating in New Mexico are from out of state. Tax breaks for Oil and Gas Companies have grown from 8% of state oil and gas revenue generated in 2004 to 17% in 2010. Interestingly, history shows no correlation between tax breaks and oil and gas production in the state. There is a strong correlation between market prices and production. Existing tax breaks remain in the proposed budgets.

That gets you thinking. We'd like to hear a counterpoint from the oil and gas folks


From Tucumcari, reader Jimmy Collins writes:

I’m a professional songwriter from Tucumcari. I own a home in Nashville plus a home in Tucumcari. I have watched in shock tht New Mexico would even consider placing the proposed racino in Raton. Not because Raton isn't beautiful and a nice place,but because Tucumcari is right next door to real money. For example, Amarillo, Lubbock, and even Midland-Odessa.

Tucumcari has two of the three big lakes in New Mexico--Ute Lake & Conchas. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure this out. When chasing after money put the money drawing card next to the money. Texas has money and we need it! Let’s go get it. The eastern side of the state always gets left out of the big deals in our wonderful state. Maybe it would be wise to even things up a little....

Okay, Jimmy. Anyone who wants to take money out of Texas and put it in New Mexico has a friend around here.

Thanks for the comments. Send them and your news tips via the email. Interested in advertising here? Drop us a line.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Heinrich Vs. Hector: Heinrich's Early Edge, Any More Players? Plus: The Money Race, The Ethnic Angle And Much, Much More 

The psychological edge goes to Rep. Martin Heinrich in the now two way race for the 2012 Democratic US Senate nomination. For Heinrich it is all or nothing. If he loses, his political career is likely over. In those circumstances he will do whatever it takes. His only consideration will be winning---right now. State Auditor Hector Balderas, who made his entry official Tuesday, has something to protect--his future political prospects--and that could make a difference in this campaign.

On the surface this looks like a safe play for Balderas who does not have to give up his auditor post to run. And if he loses, it might help him for a race for attorney general in 2014. But that means he will have a two track Senate campaign. If it comes time to attack Heinrich, will he be able to pull the trigger?

The attorney general's race is already crowded with credible contenders. If Balderas and Heinrich shed too much blood on the battlefield and Balderas loses, they will blame Balderas. Heinrich, on the other hand, will most likely not be around to suffer any negative fall out. If he loses, it's more than likely that it is game over.

It's hard to win a contested US Senate primary against a well-funded, incumbent congressman. The rosy scenario for Hector is that Heinrich just doesn't take hold statewide and that he can take this thing without a bloody fight, or that he forces Heinrich to fire the first shot and then Balderas could argue he had to protect himself. That's the rosy scenario, but that's usually not the one that gets you a ticket to the United States Senate.

We're not talking about negative radio or mailers or pokes on some Facebook site. We're talking statewide, 30 second attack ads that leave no mistake about their intent. Heinrich, who has been brutally battered by two tough Republican opponents and done his own battering in return, doesn't want to go there, but you do what you must when fighting for your life. Balderas has never been in a major negative campaign and has had no negative press. Will he be able to turn that key and launch the missiles if and when that time comes?


Several astute readers questioned our description of Congressman Ben Ray Lujan's decision to not seek the Dem US Senate nomination. We described it "as a gift" to Heinrich. It's true, as readers pointed out, that a three way race with Lujan, Balderas and Heinrich would have split up the Hispanic vote and that would be the real gift to Heinrich. But we were writing Monday from the perspective that Lujan had made up his mind very early not to run and only made it official this week. The gift to Heinrich we meant was the initial, but unofficial decision not to get in the contest. As we have said, Congressman Lujan, with the ability to raise major money and with high name ID, would pose a more immediate threat than Balderas.


What about another Hispanic candidate or two getting in? Don't rule it out yet. New Mexico politics is peppered with examples of Hispanic candidates splitting the vote to the benefit of a lone Anglo contender. Hector's announcement could get the juices flowing with other possible Hispanic hopefuls.

For example, Las Cruces area State Rep. Joe Cervantes has eyed higher office for years. He tried to become Speaker of the State House this last session, but that coup failed. There is no southern candidate in the Dem US Senate primary. Cervantes could be a force if he consolidated that southern vote.

It may be now or never for the 50 year old well-liked attorney. There are simply not any visible opportunities for him outside of this Senate race. The southern US House seat is solid R and going to stay that way. A Cervantes-Heinrich-Balderas race would indeed threaten to split the Hispanic vote, but it's not written in a stone that Anglo Heinrich would come out on top. With his career at an ebb in Santa Fe, the thought of reaching higher for 2012 gives Joe Cervantes something to think about.

Let's also put the name of longtime government manager Lawrence Rael on the table. He ran for Light Guv in 2010 and got a taste of the action. And once you get a taste....well...suffice it to say the thought of the Senate race will give Rael some entertainment.


The Balderas announcement done via email positioned the 37 year old as the anti-establishment candidate, inferring that Heinrich, 39, is too tied to the DC crowd. In a two minute campaign video, Balderas said:

In this campaign I won’t have the most connections in Washington. I won’t be the candidate of the lobbyists or the insiders. But I’m not running to be their senator. I’m running to be yours...

Balderas can afford to attack the "lobbyists and insiders." They won't be giving him much campaign money.

On that subject, Alligators insiders and wall-leaners here and in DC are setting the bar for Balderas at around $300,000 for his first campaign report that will be filed in July and will cover April, May and June. Balderas decided to announce with nearly a month of the reporting period already gone, limiting his time to raise the money, but if he comes with an anemic report of $150,000 that excuse won't go over too well. Remember, Heinrich will also be coming with a new report. What if he raises over $300,000--quite likely--and reports $600,000 in cash at the end of June? He already has $350,000 in the bank. How far can Hector fall behind? Maybe a 2 to 1 advantage isn't overwhelming for a Hispanic candidate who will benefit from ethnic voting. But a 4 to 1 or even 5 to 1 advantage? That's a different story

If Balderas comes in with a healthy number, it should give him some momentum into the summer months. Former NM Dem Party Chairman Brian Colon, a close friend of Balderas who managed his first campaign for Auditor, is working the state for the funds. Colon also was a big fund-raiser for Big Bill Richardson. But federal rules prevent him from getting corporate money for his friend and trial attorneys--Balderas is a lawyer--are already flocking to Heinrich.

Political consultant Stephen Clermont says Balderas can't count on a "cheap win," meaning ethnic voting. He will need the money for the TV time to make his case.


How did Balderas perform in his first major video? Well, he hugged his mom. That never hurts.

The video was well done, stressing his rural family roots and "Wagon Mound" values. It will be among older Hispanic voters in rural New Mexico where Balderas hopes to overwhelm Heinrich and overcome the congressman's big advantage in vote rich ABQ.

Balderas spoke on camera sparingly, his voice light and not yet showing the ease of a politician comfortable with himself. But one sensed sincerity and authenticity. Good stuff.

Balderas has an appealing personal bio and the candidacy has emotional appeal which contrasts with the more mechanical Heinrich. (The congressman also used a family video in announcing his candidacy).


Hector was raised by a single mother. He says his father was a "foreign born immigrant" from Mexico. His mother's maiden name is Betty Vigil and his grandfather--Juan Vigil--was a sheepherder and native of Wagon Mound where Hector was also born. Anthony Martinez, author of the website, HispanoNewMexico.com, tells us:

The name Balderas...is not among the Spanish surnames of the founding Hispano/Spanish families of NM. Because of this, it is not a common family name in NM and is not very familiar to the Hispano community in our state....As far as Balderas as a candidate for Senate, my opinion is that his name will not be much of a factor against him. NM Hispanos are not so picky about surnames as much as the candidates themselves. And since Hector's mother is a Hispana from a NM family, he does have the roots here to help him....

Thanks for that, Anthony. Certainly it will be recalled in the forthcoming campaign that New Mexico has not had a Hispanic US Senator since Joe Montoya was defeated for re-election in 1976.

Not that Martin is about to cede any territory to Hector. Is it a coincidence that the first stop on his first state tour as a senate candidate is right in Hector's backyard--in Las Vegas:

Friday, May 6, Las Vegas Meet & Greet Breakfast; Charlie's Spic & Span Bakery & Cafe 715 Douglas Ave, Las Vegas; 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.


As far as major issue differences between the two contenders, both will appeal to the liberals who make up the nominating wing of the Democratic Party. Balderas is trying to make Heinrich sound like the consummate political insider, tapped into the corrupt world of DC. But Heinrich is only in his third year on the Hill and does not have an image of being tied to the fat cats of K Street.

We would look to the wars in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq to see if Balderas will try to run to Heinrich's left. Heinrich has been supportive of administration policies. Will Balderas break with war policy? It might be one way of distinguishing himself from the front runner.


We convened a meeting of the Alligators last night, knowing they would surely come up with some interesting angles. And they certainly did as they tore into the Senate race with the same relish they had for their rib-eyes.

Their most salient point: Where does Balderas stand on key social issues like abortion and gay marriage? Does he have a conservative streak--he is a Catholic from the North--that could put him at odds with urban Dems in ABQ, Santa Fe and Las Cruces?

The Alligators don't usually raise such questions without already knowing the answers.

Another Gator asked if Hector is in this for the duration--until June 2012. He pointed out that federal law would allow any money Balderas collected for a Senate race to be transferred to a state race like attorney general.

Abortion, gay rights, and your commitment to the race. Well, welcome to the big Alligator pond, Hector. And they are just getting started.


We asked Stephen Clermont, a blog reader and head of the Washington consulting group Third Eye Strategies, to give our readers his analysis of the Heinrich-Balderas contest:

It might sound trite, but it will come down to who does the most things right tactically in their campaign....A Democratic primary electorate is usually older, and thus slightly more conservative, than general election Democratic voters. The successful candidate will be the one who best identifies and turns out supporters, particularly first-time primary voters. If one can motivate younger voters to turn out, they will have a real advantage.

Unless a third candidate gets in the race, it won't be in
either's interest to attack and drive up their unfavorable ratings. How Heinrich organizes in CD#2 (the south) and CD#3 (the north) will be key. While the easiest way to look at the difference between them is ethnicity, Hispanics have voted for Anglos and Anglos have voted for Hispanics. For example, Heinrich won heavily Hispanic Valencia County in the 2008 primary narrowly over Rebecca Vigil-Giron and Michelle Lujan-Grisham. CD#1 (ABQ) is less Hispanic overall than the other two, but both candidates have a long road ahead in introducing themselves statewide in a top of the ticket race...


We also quizzed veteran NM Dem politico and pollster Harry Pavlides for his initial thoughts on the Senate race. On Balderas he said:

If he can raise a little money and there is a low turnout in the primary he stands a chance. He needs to make inroads into ABQ where Heinrich has such a strong base.

On Heinrich, Pavlides analyzed:

This is Heinrich's race to lose. The problem for Heinrich is that he has never run in the heavy Hispanic Democratic north. He's run in metropolitan Hispanic neighborhoods in ABQ. He has been sheltered he is going to face some challenges outside of the city. He has grown up a lot in his last three years. I see him rising to the challenge.


From DC, the National Journal's Josh Kraushaar weighs in on the Heinrich-Balderas face-off. An excerpt:

Democratic officials are comfortable with Heinrich, especially given his 2010 reelection in an otherwise dismal year for the party. He was endorsed by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees as a show of support just as Balderas was jumping into the primary. Balderas is a largely unproven political figure and hasn’t demonstrated he can raise funds at the levels necessary to run a big-league campaign. And Heinrich has a record of winning over Hispanics in a plurality-Hispanic seat, including defeating Republican Jon Barela (who is Latino) last year.

But the nature of the New Mexico Democratic electorate presents obstacles for Heinrich. More than half of Democratic primary voters in New Mexico are Hispanic, giving any credible Hispanic candidate an important advantage in a head-to-head campaign.


And what about the bald factor that some half-jokingly comment about? Well, Balderas is the first major candidate we've had for statewide office that we can recall who is completely bald. Heck, he even has the word in his last name. We'll check with the image pros and get some comments on the pros and cons of the cue ball look. As always, your email is also invited.

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Looking For Big Mo: Gonzales & Bregman Fire Big Guns As Dem Chair Vote Nears, Plus: UNM Power Playing As Prez Search Starts, And: Tweeting By Heather 

Gonzales, Padilla & Canales
Both Javier Gonzales and Sam Bregman are trying to get some "Big Mo" in the final hours of their race for the chairmanship of the state's majority party. Come with us as we take you into the thick of the action....

Gonzales, seeking that momentum for Saturday's meeting of the Democratic Party state central committee where he will work to overcome a stiff challenge from ABQ attorney Bregman, has made the peace with Ana Canales, chairman of the Bernalillo County Democratic Party. He also announced that a former head of the nation's Dems will appear at an event for the party the night before Gonzales asks some 400 plus committee members to give him another two year term.

Gonzales is pictured here at a peacemaking session with ABQ South Valley politico Michael Padilla, the self-described "peacemaker," and Canales, who recently sent out an email indicating Gonzales operatives were spreading rumors that she would get a paid job with the state party if Bregman were elected. But now all appears peaceful between Javier and Ana.

Also, 2010 Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish is endorsing Gonzales for re-election. For some, that may be a sour reminder of the party's defeats, but Di tried her best to make it a winning gesture:

No one is more disappointed in the outcome of the 2010 election than I am. But make no mistake, I saw first hand that Javier was a constant fighter for Democrats up and down the ballot, and he did everything he could to make the best of a tough year for Democrats.

As for peacemaker Padilla, you wonder if he will try to apply his diplomatic skills to his relationship with ABQ Dem State Senator Linda Lopez. She beat him in the 2008 primary election.

Well, let's not take this peace thing too far.

As for that other Gonzales play....

The night before some 400 plus central committee members start their Saturday confab to decide on a chairman for the next two years, Gonzales will show some muscle by hosting a party fund-raiser featuring former Virgina Governor Tim Kaine who is running for the Senate in Virginia and who recently gave up the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee to do so. Details:

April 29, Hotel Andaluz, Albuquerque; VIP Reception--6:30--7:00 pm;Hors d'oeuvres--7:00 to 8:30 pm Tickets: VIP and Hors d'oeuvres $250; Hors d'oeuvres $100

But get this. If you are a member of the state central committee, you get into the party for free. Not that Javier wants those members to thank him for the freebie by voting for him. Really. We would never be so cynical. However, we understand Sam's father is a central committee member. How about if he gets there early and scarfs up the goodies?

Kaine served as co-chair of Obama's '08 campaign. Senator Udall is hosting a Friday lunch at Yanni's to raise money for Kaine's campaign. Senator Bingaman will also attend. Ticket info at (505) 401-8339. (Everyone has to pay except Sam Bregman's father).


Bregman by Dana Millen
Challenger Bregman is hoping to twist enough arms in the final week to pull off what would be considered a major upset. He's fighting for this thing like a Pit Bull, always charging. Here's Sam saying what he would do in his first 100 days as party chair:

...Raise $300,000; Form a rapid response team to challenge Susana Martinez and Republican lies; Get planning underway for five regional state conventions to be held by December 2011; Analyze all local races where state party can target and make a difference, plus transparency and openness with contributions; Ensure that professional staff are competent and understand their responsibilities; The current leadership had the worst losses in 2010 in 80 years for the state party...

Bregman has shown muscle with a key Democratic constituency:

18 local labor unions, representing over 13,000 members have endorsed my candidacy for Chair of the New Mexico Democratic Party.

And Sam puts a cherry on his dessert with this list of fresh endorsements:

Senator Tim Eichenberg, Representative Mimi Stewart, Representative Marie Gutierrez, Representative Ernest Chavez and Bernailillo County Assessor Karen Montoya

This has been an interesting race, being played out in the larger public arena even though only some 400 insiders get to vote. But with Facebook, Twitter and the blogs, this is the new world order.


Here's the statement northern Congressman Ben Ray Lujan came with in the wake of the news we broke here Monday that he will not seek the 2012 Dem US Senate nomination:

....After careful consideration, I have decided that I will not seek the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. I look forward to building on my work as Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ BOLD PAC and as a member of the DCCC’s recruiting committee to recruit strong candidates who reflect the growing diversity of our country and who will be a part of our effort to take back the House. With BOLD PAC’s historic first quarter fundraising numbers and Census numbers showing the growth in the Hispanic community across the country, I am excited about the favorable position we will be in to energize Hispanic voters and help elect strong Democratic candidates.

Ben Ray mentioned "taking back the House" but said nothing about Hispanic candidates for the US Senate. State Auditor Hector Balderas is about to announce he will challenge Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich for the nomination.

And Martin Heinrich just isn't for ABQ anymore. He is taking his first major across the state trip as a US Senate candidate:

On Friday, May 6, 2011, I will hit the road to travel across New Mexico to listen to you in your hometown. I want to know what's most important to you and your family, and engage and mobilize our communities in my campaign for the United States Senate.

Heinrich's stops May 6, 7 & 9 include Las Vegas, Española, Santa Fe, Silver City, Las Cruces, Roswell and Gallup. He will finish with a rally in Albuquerque.


GOP US Senate candidate Heather Wilson would like you to know she has picked up the endorsement of Rio Rancho GOP State Rep. Tim Lewis. She tweets:

Rep. Tim Lewis of Rio Rancho says, “We need someone in the Senate with the experience and leadership ability Heather Wilson has.”

A point of interest here is that Tim Lewis is the brother of Dan Lewis, the ABQ GOP city councilor who is running for the ABQ US House seat. Dan and Tim are both from the tea party oriented segment of the GOP, a wing that has given Heather a hard time.

Still lurking, but not yet announcing he will challenge Wilson for the nomination, is Lt. Governor John Sanchez. While Heather is picking up a lot of endorsements from GOP office holders, Sanchez boosters say they are unconcerned because they believe Sanchez will have widespread support among the conservative grassroots who helped deny Heather the Senate nomination in 2008.

Still, Sanchez has to actually get in the race, raise good money, and not make any major screw-ups. Not that we're setting the bar high for you or anything like that, John.

The power struggle over the power of picking the next president of the University of New Mexico is under way. A search committee to replace the resigning David Schmidly will soon be formed and the composition of that panel is being closely watched. University insiders say some top faculty reps are talking about wanting a search committee where half the membership is faculty members. But that's drawing opposition from others with a stake in the game who say no one group--faculty, regents or alumni should dominate the selection process.

UNM Board of Regents President Jack Fortner, one of the Republicans on the seven member panel and freshly elected as board president, has the task of naming the search committee. Procedure calls for having three regents on the search committee. Fortner will appoint them as well as faculty, alumin and community reps. Fortner, a Farmington attorney with close ties to the Martinez administration. How much will she play in this one?


Reader David Oakley sent us this a while back and it's about time we got to it. We speak of the shake-up in the Democratic Party in Rio Arriba County, one of the heaviest Dem counties in the state:

The besieged walls of the old guard political fortress came tumbling down at the Rio Arriba County Democratic Convention April 6 as the Democrats for Progress faction of the party dominated turnout and took control of all major internal party positions.

The mainline faction of the County’s Democratic party, which traces its roots back to late political boss Emilio Naranjo, has maintained control over the inner workings of the party since Naranjo’s ascent, despite the Progress faction of the party having controlled most of the major posts in County government for the past 20 years....

That “coup” was completed, with Progress-backed County Assistant Community Development Director Lucia Sanchez deposing State Sen. Richard Martinez (D-Española), Naranjo’s political heir, as the leader of the County party in an uncontested nomination. Planning and Zoning Committee member Pablo Manzanares took over for Christine Quintana as party vice chairman, also with Progress’ blessing and in an uncontested nomination.

Narano died in 2008 at the age of 92 and after establishing his legendary reputation for playing the power game of La Politica.


A reader writes:

Joe, I attended an ABQ Chamber of Commerce luncheon featuring the South Korean ambassador to the U.S. He's on a U.S. tour to promote the passage of the U.S./Korea Free Trade Agreement. Anyway, upon landing in ABQ, they shuttled him to Santa Fe, and then brought him back to ABQ to speak. The ambassador was talking to the lunch crowd about meeting with "the Governor" in Santa Fe about a wide variety of issues, including the trade agreement. Then I realized that "the Governor" he was talking about was not Susana Martinez, but Bill Richardson! I guess they couldn't nail down Susana for a meeting...

We hear Susana likes meetings with people she doesn't see eye to eye with about as much as Big Bill likes dieting...

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

Monday, April 25, 2011

Breakfast At Bernie's: Ben Ray Says No Senate Bid In Cards, Plus: We're Deep Inside This Senate Race Plotting The Next Moves 

We start the week with news from Chef Bernie's in Farmington. Why there? Well, we have a report from one of our Alligators who says Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan has now said out loud what the political community has presumed--he will not get into the battle for the Democratic nomination for the US Senate:

At a breakfast meeting in Farmington with local Dems, Congressman Lujan went on the record to say that he is running for re-election to his northern US House seat and is NOT going to enter the Democratic US Senate primary. Obviously, part of the reason for this is that (Rep. Martin) Heinrich has already tied up a lot of the $$$, but the Dems are also learning from the Pearce-Wilson Senate debacle of '08, when the R's gave up two seats in the House to battle for retiring Senator Domenici's seat in the Senate, and lost all.

True enough. And then there's the timing issue. Lujan, 38, is serving his second two year term in the US House. There will be other Senate opportunities for him before his career is over. Leaving his very safe congressional seat is too big a gamble. Besides, even though the Dems no longer have the majority in the House, Washington watchers say Lujan finds his work there satisfying. Also, he is already 2nd vice-chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus which taps him into the national political scene.

Lujan has carved out a reputation as politically astute and as a hard worker. He has no major missteps on his record since taking office in 2009. He regularly tends to the needs of his district through constant visits and constituent service.

The three congressional seats will be redistricted by the Legislature this fall, but Lujan's heavily Hispanic and Native American seat is not expected to change substantially. Also, there are no signs that he will draw any Democratic primary opposition--the main threat to his tenure in a district where a Republican is almost dead on arrival in a general election.


Lujan has given attention to a wide assortment of issues in his largely rural district which includes that island of prosperity--Los Alamos. A major focus has been on alternative energy sources. More recently, he has been more outspoken on economic issues as high unemployment remains a major problem in the north--especially in natural gas rich Farmington---an area of the district that is decidedly conservative and where Tom Mullins, his last Republican opponent hails from.

Lujan's political foes have snickered at his background as a blackjack dealer and assigned his political success to the fact that his father is NM House Speaker Ben Lujan. But the younger Lujan has not rested on his father's laurels, garnering a reputation as serious-minded and a worker bee.

One criticism is that he tries to do much and can sometimes give short shrift to issues on his plate. But his working class roots (that casino job), the struggle he had earning a college degree and his determination to succeed on his own--he won election to the PRC before Congress--have resonated in the Spanish North. He has won respect that is not easy coming when you are the son of a father who casts such a long shadow.

Lujan now enters a phase of a career where patience will be paramount. How long it will take the Dems to regain control of the US House is anyone's guess. Your interest can stray when you have less power and responsibility. Then there is the perilous political standing of his legendary father. He was nearly ousted from his Santa Fe area House seat in the 2010 Dem primary. Some analysts think that the younger Lujan's polling numbers would be stronger if not for some of the father's recent negatives brushing up against him. It will be up to the senior Lujan to decide when the time for retirement has come, casting the younger Lujan in the role of patient son.

Lujan opting to stay out of the Senate race is a gift to Rep. Heinrich who has gone all in and given up his House seat to make the run. Lujan would be a major threat for the Dem nomination, more so than State Auditor Hector Balderas who will announce this week that he will take on Heinrich.

There is no sense that Lujan will try to derail Heinrich and side with Balderas. In fact, the opposite may be in the offing. Lujan and Heinrich do not have a close relationship but there is a mutual respect. We would guess that a Senator Heinrich would be a better fit for Lujan than a Senator Balderas which would put in place a much more complicated rivalry.

A quiet Lujan push in the north for Heinrich could have major consequences. The ABQ congressman remains unknown--if not mistrusted--in Hispanic precincts far away from ABQ. Lujan's assent to Martin's candidacy--blatant or otherwise--could go a long way in quelling any ground swell for Hector. In turn, Heinrich would be deeply--and gladly--indebted to Ben Ray. On the other hand, Lujan's prospective role as a power broker for Balderas is hard to see. Hector positions himself as an independent Democrat, fighting the establishment which Lujan now represents. Like Lujan, he is a northern Hispanic (from Wagon Mound) who will be able to cater to the Hispanic vote on his own.

Washington insiders say one thing to keep our eye on is the role of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus where Lujan has that prominent position. Will the group be pressured to support Balderas. If so, how does Lujan play it?


When Senator Bingaman leaves next year, New Mexico will be a like a child among adults in Washington. Our congressional delegation will be at its most immature in terms of experience since the early 70's. Both of our Senators will be first-termers and our three congressmen will languish deep down the seniority list. But it won't be that way forever. Out of similar circumstances arose Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman. New Mexicans awarded them with repeated re-election wins and they gradually assumed the roles of their powerful senatorial forefathers. The federal government's historic role in the state was protected and advanced.

It's a good bet that one Senate torch will eventually be passed to either Heinrich or Lujan. Gambler Heinrich is doubling down--giving up his House seat and running now. He awaits the final flip of the cards. Lujan is in the game, but the one time blackjack dealer is sitting out this hand. For him, there will be many more to play.


The WaPo ranks the top ten Senate seats most likely to switch parties in 2012 and New Mexico's open slot is currently #10 on the list.

New Mexico (Democratic controlled): Rep. Heinrich’s entry into the Democratic primary gives his party a big boost. Heinrich is considered one of the bright young stars in the party, and many see him as the party’s top recruit...But, state Auditor Hector Balderas is also about to announce a run, which means a competitive Democratic primary. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray notably declined to endorse Heinrich last week....


The Senate seat Jeff Bingaman is retiring from next year has a long history of Democratic control. Dennis Chavez took it over in 1935 and held it until he died in 1962. Since then Republicans have managed to elect only one of their own to the seat---Jack Schmitt in 1976 who beat Senator Joe Montoya. Bingaman beat Schmitt in 1982 and has held the seat since. Republican Governor Ed Mechem appointed himself to the seat when Chavez died, but he failed in his election bid, losing to Montoya in 1964.

The seat came into being with statehood in 1912. We were more Republican back then and two R's--Thomas Catron and Albert Fall--were elected by the NM Legislature as our first US Senators. That was a year before the US approved the direct election of Senators. Today the Fall seat is occupied by Democrat Tom Udall.


We had a good time moderating the "reverse press conference" sponsored by the NM branch of Women in Communications. The group had plenty of questions for the ABQ Journal's Donn Friedman, KUNM-FM radio's Tristan Clum and Paulette Mastio of KRQE-TV. All of them are engaged in the digital side of journalism. The reverse press conference has been going strong for 25 years....

And thanks to the ABQ chapter of Executive Women International (EWI) for having us to dinner where we spoke about New Mexico politics. We talked a lot about education. The group is involved in literacy efforts in the local schools and we thank them for that as well....This weekend had us talking over the presidential candidacy of former NM GOP Governor Gary Johnson with Katie Kim of KRQE-TV.

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