Monday, July 23, 2012

Senate Leader Sanchez Back On Trail After Heart Scare; How's He Doin'? Plus: The New Mexico Jobs Drain; How Bad? And: Out Of The Shadows: How Pat Rogers Grabbed Power From Susana 

Sen. Sanchez
State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez is back on the campaign trail, looking fit and ready for the battle to come after undergoing an emergency procedure to avoid a heart attack. He was released from the hospital last Friday and is pictured here on Thursday visiting the Pueblo of Isleta Elderly Center on the 19th.

Sanchez, who turns 62 August 3, has become the major nemesis of GOP Governor Martinez, repeatedly blocking her key initiatives in the 42 member Senate. So much so that Martinez has had her political team target him in the November election. He will be challenged by GOP State Rep. David Chavez who had announced he was leaving the Legislature, but changed his mind after being recruited for the Senate run by Martinez.

Sanchez, a native of Belen, has been in the Senate since '93. He shows a healthy cash balance of $73,000 in his campaign account as of July 5. But he will need that and more if, as expected, SusanaPAC comes with an ad blitz against him. Chavez reports having $46,000 in cash as of July 5, evidence that the R's are serious about seeking an upset of the powerful Senate leader.

A factor weighing in Sanchez's favor is the new shape of his district. It now includes the aforementioned Isleta Pueblo in Bernalillo County, improving its Democratic performance rating. Also, a presidential election year is expected to attract more Dems to the polls than an off-year election.

Martinez chose to confront Sanchez, rather than try to schmooze him and work some compromises through the Legislature. She has drawn a line in the sand on key initiatives like the repeal of driver's licences for undocumented workers and social promotion for third graders. The result has been  legislative gridlock. R's argue that by blockading Susana, Sanchez is thwarting the will of the people as expressed in her election and public opinion polls on key issues.

But Sanchez, a trial attorney based in Los Lunas, and his fellow powerhouse Senators were treated poorly by Dem Guv Big Bill. That left a foul taste in their mouths and they were not about to be run over by yet another Governor.

Sanchez has been majority leader since 2005, elected by a slim plurality in an eclectic Senate Dem caucus. His hold on power is a balancing act with conservatives and liberals. The Senate remains under the control of a coalition, composed of a handful of conservative Dems and all the Senate Republicans.

Sanchez, brother of former House Speaker Raymond Sanchez, is sometimes criticized as quirky and aloof. But opinion is nearly universal that he has grown in the job and that after seven years as majority leader and 19 in the Senate, he no longer labors under the shadow of his politically astute brother and has come into his own as a major player.

Sanchez has been hamstrung by the divided Dems, half who lean conservative and the other half who lean liberal. He can blockade the Guv's major bills, but he can't get much through. He has been criticized for not being more forceful and breaking up the conservative coalition and asserting Dem control of the chamber, but his supporters argue the votes simply are not there.

Gov. Martinez in the next 100 days will try to convince Sanchez's constituents that his ouster is the only way to break the logjam in Santa Fe and to improve education and the economy. Sanchez will argue that it is he who stands first in line in keeping the Republican Governor in check and forcing her to either compromise with the state's majority party or walk away each year with an empty legislative basket.

And now that we see that Senator Sanchez is up and about we are ending The Great Chicharrone Fast that we instituted in his honor upon hearing the news of his illness. We do, however, urge moderation if you choose to indulge...


Governor Martinez, Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith and Department of Finance and Administration Secretary Ton Clifford have a decision to make. Are they going to step up and allow some of the hundreds of vacant state government positions to be filled, or is this New Mexico jobs recession going to get even worse under their watch? The latest

The collapse in public sector employment has New Mexico again leading the country in job losses. Federal statistics for June show a loss of 5,200 jobs in the government sector compared with a year ago...Compared with May 2012, the loss in government jobs is even higher -6,800 positions. New Mexico led the United States in the percentage of month-over-month job losses for June 2012 (-0.5 percent)... The biggest drop is in state education jobs, which declined 3,200 positions from May to June 2012...In the 12 months ended June 30, the state lost 1,700 jobs for a negative 0.2 percent growth rate.

In the private sector, things are not quite as bad

Seven industry sectors saw job increases, five had declines and one remained unchanged. Educational and health services added 4,300 jobs; leisure and hospitality, 2,100; mining, 1,600; and manufacturing, 1,100 over the year. The government sector lost 5,200 jobs; professional and business services, 4,100; and information and miscellaneous services, 1,200 each. New Mexico’s labor force totaled 928,360 in June, down from 932,370 in May, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The state’s labor force peaked at 947,911 in August 2008...

The state labor force--including educators--appears to have been slashed by over 20% in the last four years. Combine that with downsized city and county governments and flat lined federal spending and you have the story--the backbone of this state's economy--the government sector--is getting hammered and there is no way the private sector can make up for that kind of slack.

And while government jobs are good jobs--decent pay and benefits with retirement--many of the private sector jobs being created are low-paying. Look at the decline in professional and business sector. That's where the good paying private enterprise jobs are and we are losing them in droves. A bright spot is the growth in the educational and health services sector, but health services is very dependent on federal health spending. It is being threatened with spending cuts.

Santa Fe can put people back to work right now in state agencies that are finding themselves operating under tight labor conditions after years of budget constrains. The Governor, Smith and Clifford need to find out where. We have an extra $250 million from oil and gas revenues. Can't we use some of it to stimulate the economy in the best way possible--by putting New Mexicans back to work?


Joe Monahan
The fact that the state workforce peaked at about 948,000 four years ago and is now down to 932,000--despite population growth--is just deadly. People are throwing in the towel and getting out of here. True, a number of them are in nomadic professions like construction, but we are also losing our brain trust of young professionals who can't make it here. This "dumbing down" is going to mean a future lopsided with low-paying and unchallenging jobs that pay the rent and little else.

Martinez gets it that improved education is the way out of the mess--for the future. But the massive jobs drain in the here and now has left the administration looking like passengers in a car slowing down to view an accident, but doing little else. The mantra of cutting taxes and regulations is not getting the job it done.

Okay, somebody grab that broken record over there because here we go again:

--Start with filling vacant government positions as mentioned above. Not padding the payroll, but jobs that are really needed to deliver efficient service and have gone unfilled.

--Increase the state promotional budget to beef up tourism that will then lead to the creation of more small businesses and jobs

-- Form a bipartisan task force to loudly fight in Washington for our federal funding for the military bases and national laboratories, Not only that--have the task force fight for an additional federal presence here. (Los Alamos leaders have started the process).

--Build a dental school at UNM to complement the medical and law schools

--Pass a capital outlay bill for bridge, road repair etc, in the vicinity of $400 million to get this state's construction industry moving again

--Use the Gubernatorial bully pulpit to increase use of the state Spaceport and out maneuver the growing competition the Spaceport faces from around the globe

--Propose to reduce the jobs-killing gross receipts tax and make up the revenue, in part, through an increase in the extremely low tax on capital gains.

This latest jobs report signals anew that New Mexico is adrift economically. There is plenty of blame to go around for both Democrats and Republicans. Our greatest threat is not the lack of ideas, but  the seeming apathy that has infected Santa Fe.


Sure, she's ready to campaign hard and effectively, she's just not ready to aim the big guns at Dem Martin Heinrich. That's evident in her latest TV ad. Behind in the polls and with August just around the corner, you know Wilson is chomping at the bit to unload on Heinrich, but she can't. Her unfavorable rating in the latest PPP poll of 49% continues to hinder her. When she starts to go negative, she knows that unfavorable rating could go even higher, so she has to bide her time.

Positive image ads have been run trying to bring that unfavorable rating down, but with not much effect. So here is Heather's latest ad, discussing the top issue--jobs and the economy--but not laying blame at Heinrich's doorstep--at least not yet.

The campaign does slam Heinrich in the news release announcing the ad:  

Martin Heinrich supports growing government, growing debt and growing government control over our lives. Wilson believes the way to create jobs is by keeping taxes low, energy costs low and freezing job-killing regulations.

The clock is ticking. Wilson needs to get her negatives down and start hitting Heinrich.  That the first round of soft ads on her behalf did not do the job is worrisome. That Heinrich is making no mistakes in the early stages adds to the Republican worry.


In case you missed it, lawyer/lobbyist and GOP national committeeman Pat Rogers has resigned from the board of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (FOG), the first victim of emailgate.

The dust-up began when it was revealed that Rogers, serving as attorney for the Downs at ABQ, emailed high level staffers for Governor Martinez about the pending state lease for the Downs racino. He and they used private email accounts to do so, raising questions as to whether the awarding of the lease was done properly, an issue that State Auditor Hector Balderas has been asked to investigate.

But it wasn't the racino emails alone that pushed Rogers off the political cliff. It was another round of emails in which he wisecracked about a gay Public Regulation Commissioner and wrote a number of other eye-browsing missives.

When asked about those emails by the Santa Fe Reporter, he called into question the journalistic ethics of the paper and refused to comment. When confronted by KOB-TV news cameras, he briskly walked away and refused comment. (Readers have asked us for a link to the KOB video which ran on the station's 10 p.m. news last week, but it has not been posted on the station's web site). After that, his resignation from the FOG board--charged with advocating for open government--became inevitable.

The embarrassing emails were made public by the Independent Source Fund PAC. It is union-funded and has emerged as a leading critic of the Martinez administration.

In resigning, Rogers said even his most staunch critics say he did nothing to break the law in the second round of emails. That appears to be true, but that does not mean there are no legal implications for Rogers in his wheeling and dealing over the racino lease. The issues to be resolved there are possible bid-rigging and collusion.


A reader writes:

Thanks for your post  about lobbyist Pat Rogers. I worked in both the Johnson/Bradley Governor Administration and for Republican Senator Pete Domenici for 7 years in the 90's. Pat is no stranger to playing behind the scenes GOP politics at the highest levels. However, there was always someone with more stature and experience to keep him in check (i.e. Lou Gallegos and Steve Bell, Chiefs of Staff for both Johnson and Domenici). Comparatively speaking, Susana's handlers are younger, less experienced and lack the stature Lou and Steve commanded back in the day. Therefore, with this administration, it's been easier for Pat to slither in and, with his legal pedigree and GOP street cred, overwhelm and influence the younger staff. This comment should elevate me to senior alligator status. Why? Simple. Like you, I've lived it.

That's good stuff that you are not going to get anywhere else--not in the papers, on TV or from any other blog. It's what keeps us on top and our readers the best informed in the state. So....

We checked with this reader to make sure he was over the age of 45 (a requirement for a Senior Alligator) and he wrote back that he turns 46 in a couple of weeks. Welcome aboard, Senior Gator.

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