Thursday, November 29, 2012

Blog Headlines: Coalition or Not? State GOP Chair Candidates Flee Jay, Darnell Says Not Planning On Leaving Susana, And: Dem Munoz Defends Pact With Barela 

Working the Beat
Welcome back. Here's what we're hearing..Behind the scenes maneuvering continues, but top Dems are increasingly confident that the state Senate coalition of Republicans and a handful of Dems is dead. They say 5 Dems would have to break ranks to continue the existing coalition and they just can't see it happening--at least not now. The 25 Senate Dems caucus December 9 and that's when we'll know for sure....

On December 8th state Republicans decide who will be the new state party chair and the early betting line is on Lincoln County GOP Chairman John Billingsley. He is facing off with John Rockwell, owner of an ABQ engineering company.

Rockwell is playing defense, He sent out a letter in which he worked to separate himself from Jay McCleskey, the Governor's powerful and controversial political adviser:

Many times I have been asked what involvement I had in some of the nastier races during the last election.  I have had no involvement.  I have met the Governors political advisor and talked to him prior to this campaign.  The state party Chairman and the Governor have different roles.  The state party will support the Governor and all Republican office holders.  We would not serve as anyone's puppet.

Billingsley made it clear he is not in the McCleskey camp and has been picking up steam in the split GOP because of it. Kinda interesting that the candidate seen as the most anti-Jay is perceived as the front-runner...

Another key point of contention: Who would do the best job raising money for the party?

Dona Ana County theatre owner Russell Allen, mentioned as another possible chair contender, now tells friends he is not running. Whoever wins will replace current GOP chairman Monty Newman.


In Santa Fe...Spectators wonder about ABQ Dem State Rep. and House Majority Whip Sheryl Williams-Stapleton. She had a rough year, but survived her re-election bid. So what about her leadership post? Is that also safe when House Dems caucus? From a Senior Alligator:

Stapleton would by now be positioned for logical move up the ladder to majority leader from whip, but she has, of course, had many troubles and so will be happy to hold on as Whip. In the last two elections she has narrowly won that position over Thomas Garcia, but he is now gone. House Speaker Lujan worked  against Stapleton in the past but is also now gone.

So does that mean Sheryl goes unchallenged for whip when the Dems caucus? Not necessarily, but it means she is favored to keep the post.


Staying or leaving? Alligators reported with confidence here that Guv communications aide Scott Darnell and his wife Alex Valdez Darnell, director of operations for Martinez, will soon leave the Fourth Floor, but the Santa Fe Reporter comes with this:

Blogs have reported that Darnell and his wife, Alexis Valdez Darnell, the administration’s operations director, are also departing. He writes in an email to SFR that the two are not, in fact, planning to leave...

Okay, we'll see what that means. "Not planning to leave..." Hmm. The Fourth Floor also said Deputy Chief of Staff Ryan Cangiolosi had no plans to leave but soon after he left for a job at the University of New Mexico Hospital. And, of course, we would have asked Darnell directly about his plans but the communications aide doesn't care to communicate. Go figure...

Attorney John Blair--a key aide to US Rep. Martin Heinrich--now Senator-elect Heinrich--will not be making the walk across the Capitol to join Heinrich. Blair confirms he has taken the chief of staff post with Representative-Elect Dan Kildee of Michigan. Blair served as legislative director for Heinrich who was elected to the House in 2008. Blair is well-known in ABQ. He once ran for state Senate and is a longtime Dem activist. Also from Capitol Hill in DC....

Insiders say a native of Havana, Cuba will be the new chief of staff for ABQ Dem US Rep-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham who is replacing Heinrich in the House. Leticia Mederos was previously chief of staff for Rep. Rose DeLauro of Connecticut. Lujan Grisham is the first Hispanic female to serve in Congress from New Mexico.


Sen. Munoz
We wondered recently why Dem State Senator George Munoz of Gallup would sign off on a series of economic development proposals touted by the Martinez administration. He did so in an op-ed piece he co-authored with Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela. Munoz tells us:

I  am a businessman and understand the needs of small business. When I ran for re-election my focus was on the economy and education. My concern is for my constituents not politics. I told my constituents that I do not want to  be 49th in jobs or education ever again. While I am not an educator, I am married to one, and having two children in the public education system I get my lessons at home. I know my children’s teachers personally and they are some of the greatest teachers but I want to see our state do better in educating all students. When it comes to passing a balanced approach to job creation, it is not  about me as a Democrat...It is about putting people back to work and being competitive with our neighboring states...New  Mexicans didn’t elect us to fight; they elected us to work to solve the hard issues...

Barela and Munoz are calling their proposals the "New Century Jobs Agenda." However, while Munoz says education policy was a reason he signed up with Barela, the op-ed piece does not offer any education proposals. It does suggest cutting corporate income taxes as a way of spurring job creation.

The pair say that their agenda evolved from the New Century Economy Summit convened by the Economic Development Department and facilitated by New Mexico First, a nonprofit policy group.

One assertion we are going to pick a bone with. The duo say that, "In less than two years, the state’s $500 million deficit has been converted into a projected $270 million surplus without raising taxes on job creators and workers...

First, the state did not face a $500 million single year deficit if that's what Munoz and Barela are saying. Second, the budget shortfall in state government was indeed solved in part with a tax increase. The 2010 Legislature approved a quarter cent increase in the gross receipts tax that brings in millions.


A reader wonders how we could blog that Governor Martinez has asked three times that the law allowing undocumented immigrants to get a state driver's license be repealed when she has had only  two legislative sessions. The answer is because she also asked for the repeal in a special legislative session. Come January she will make her fourth official effort to get the licenses repealed.

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