Friday, January 06, 2012

Happy 100th, New Mexico, Plus: Stepping It Up In ABQ US House Race, And: Fighting The Good Fight Down South 

First up, Happy 100th, New Mexico! There will be some fun to be had today when the clock ticks off the final seconds to mark our first century of statehood. From the city of ABQ:

At 11:35 am on January 6, 2012, New Mexicans can do something to honor their state that’s never been done before; wish it a Happy Birthday by honking their horns for about 30 seconds. 11:35 am MST is the approximate time President William Howard Taft signed New Mexico into statehood a century earlier...On that day, ABQ RIDE will hold a birthday ceremony with Mayor Richard Berry at the Alvarado Transportation Center. It will feature a Rail Runner locomotive horn, a whistle from a vintage locomotive, horns from ABQ RIDE buses and air and car horns sounding the approximate moment New Mexico became a state one hundred years ago....

And there will surely be plenty of political hot air to keep those air horns going...


Just when Mayor Berry thought he might be turning the corner on the fatal police shootings...bang. The morning paper hits with a front pager Thursday about how the shootings have subsided, but only a couple of hours after the paper is put to bed, police shoot and kill a burglary suspect. Berry has apparently decided to hang tough with APD Chief Ray Schultz, even as the Department of Justice considers launching a full-scale probe into the police shootings.

Berry is getting more room on this than you might suspect as a low-key (asleep at the switch?) city council puts little heat on him. Berry and Schultz are putting into effect higher educational and other standards in the hope it will put an end to the shootings. But the mayor may have his head under the rug when it comes to getting into Schultz's dirty linen.


It still seems like it's Eric Griego vs. Marty Chavez for the Dem nomination for the open ABQ congressional seat, but Dem Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham is fighting to make it a real three way battle:

Lujan Grisham today announced her..team that includes campaign manager Jason Robert Henry along with other top national Democratic political consultants including Dave Gold, Anna Greenberg, and New Media Firm’s Scott Kozar, Lisa Stanley and Will Robinson. Jason Henry (worked) field for Obama for America in Pittsburgh as well as running campaigns in Pennsylvania for U.S. Senate hopeful Joe Sestak..


News and reaction to the redistricting decision coming down from a district court continue. From Valencia County:

A court decision redrawing boundary lines for New Mexico's three U.S. House districts shifts all but four Valencia County voting precincts into U. S. Rep. Steve Pearce's 2nd Congressional District. Prior to retired District Judge James Hall's decision to adopt what's being called the "least-change" map, the southeast corner of the county was part of the 1st Congressional District, currently represented by Martin Heinrich, a Democrat. The remainder of the county was already in the 2nd Congressional District.


Something to keep in mind if you are thinking about running for something:

Gov. Martinez will issue a Jan. 30 proclamation calling for a primary election to be held in every county and precinct in New Mexico.That proclamation will also require that as of Jan. 30, candidates must be affiliated with the political party for which they seek the nomination, and reside in the district they wish to represent.


When we blogged of the candidacy of Evelyn Madrid Erhard we noted how the odds are long for any Democrat to oust conservative Republican US Rep. Steve Pearce from the southern district this year. According to Dem Stephanie Dubois that makes her candidacy all the more appealing:

Not many of us, both Democrat and Republican are willing it seems to make a commitment of the magnitude that it takes to seek an elected office. I cannot predict with any certainty that Ms. Madrid Erhard will be successful but I applaud her willingness and tenacity to seek the Democratic nomination. Whatever the outcome in this race Erhard is a winner for standing up to the challenge and not letting the incumbent run free. That's true democracy.

And the candidate herself came with this reaction to our write-up:

If you mean that it's a cinch for Steve Pearce to win because he has the Republican Party, Karl Rove, TEA Party/Koch brothers' millions paying for his campaign, then I agree that he has an edge. It would be easy to be complacent. Now is not the time. According to the 2010 Census, NM is the second poorest state, and one out of five people live in poverty. I knocked on doors for the 2010 Election in the South Valley--one of the poorest areas in Dona Ana County. Approximately 100,000 people live in this area. After seeing where and how most folks live, I can say that at least four out of five live in poverty.


Rep. Lewis
That big stir over Dem State Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton drawing a paycheck from ABQ Public Schools while attending legislative sessions in Santa Fe has turned up the heat on another lawmaker who toils for the school system. Rio Rancho GOP State Rep. Tim Lewis comes with this:

Although current APS policy allows teachers who serve in the state legislature to receive paid leave during the session, moving forward I have decided not to take my salary from APS while I am serving as a citizen legislator so that I can freely serve and avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest...

Meanwhile, the brother of Lewis--ABQ GOP City Councilor and ABQ congressional candidate Dan Lewis could use some spare cash. He reports raising $64,000 in the fourth quarter, confirming our earlier report. This is another anemic fund-raising report for Lewis and the narrative remains familiar. 2010 GOP congressional nominee continues to straddle the fence on whether he will seek the nomination again and is keeping big money on the sidelines.

How long can Barela keep a chokehold on Lewis? Well, the filing deadline for the pre-primary convention is Feb. 14. Also seeking the GOP nod to fill the seat being left vacant by Dem Rep. Martin Heinrich who is seeking the Dem nod for the US Senate seat are former GOP State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones and retired Army Seargent Gary Smith.


In a first draft in the Thursday blog we wrote that Judge James Hall who is handling the redistricting cases is a retired Republican. He is a Democrat. And we blogged the wrong religious affiliation of appointed ABQ District Court Judge Sam Winder. He says he is an Evangelical Christian. And finally, attorney Hilary Noskin reminds us she is a Republican--not a Dem.

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Thursday, January 05, 2012

New Political Year Bursts Into View As We Make The Rounds In ABQ Valley; The Gang Was All There, Plus: Redistricting Blues And Hispanic History 

GOP Judges Alaniz, Hanisee & Winder
The political year to come burst into view as we made the rounds at the Barelas Coffee House this week. You know it's going to be a bombastic 10 months until Election Day when even the Republicans are hanging out in the overwhelmingly Democratic ABQ South Valley. The trio of Republican judges pictured here looked like something on a politically endangered list as they made their way about the fabled restaurant in search of chicharrones and votes. They need to be intrepid in a Democratic state like ours. And who knows? They could turn themselves into upset winners if they keep up the pace.

On the left (in the photo, not philosophically) is Bernalillo County Metro Court Judge Henry Alaniz, appointed by the Guv in April and now running for the seat on his own. The Roswell native is seen chumming it up with J. Miles Hanisee, a Susana appointee to the state Court of Appeals and Sam Winder (on the right) the first Native American Republican District Court judge who she named this year to the ABQ court.

Miles is campaigning statewide and jokes that his slogan is "Miles Per Hour" as he makes his way to the far reaches of New Mexico. He will face either Monica Zamora or Victor Lopez, the two Dems vying for their party's Court of Appeals nod in the June primary. Judge Hanisee recently came under scrutiny for donating $750 to Susana before he was appointed to the bench (Like all judges he was recommended to the Guv by the bipartisan judicial nomination commission). Unfortunately, we ran into him after lunch was over so he wasn't around to pick up our check.

Winder, a UNM School of Law grad ('88) is half African-American, half Native American and a Republican. Talk about diversity. Winder is loving his new job, but it looks as though he will have a tough fight keeping it. Paul Barber will challenge him for the GOP nomination. Also, Metro Court Judge Ben Chavez is expected to be the Dem nominee for the judgeship and that's a name that packs political punch. Sam has a fine sense of humor and he's going to need to keep it handy.

Also kicking off their new year with some Barelas red and green was noted federal prosecutor Greg Fouratt, a Roswell native and Republican who made major waves as the NM US Attorney. He remains a top level prosecutor under new US Attorney and Democrat Ken Gonzalez.

And our table-hopping continued as we ran into former GOP Bernalillo County Commissioner and KANW-FM radio general manager Michael Brasher lunching it up with wife Jorja, a department head for the city of ABQ. We joshed Brasher that he is now known as "Michael Tinnin" in recognition of Governor Martinez appointing him to the state Board of Finance. He replaces fellow Republican Tom Tinnin who resigned because of the wheeling and dealing over the state racino lease for the Downs at ABQ at NM Expo. Brasher smiled over his new nickname (Well...sort of).

Before we got out the door we spotted Agnes Maldonado, sister to Dem State Sen. Bernadette Sanchez. Agnes was an ardent supporter of Governor Susana and now works as director of administration at the state run NM Expo. We steered clear of any talk of that Downs deal, not wanting to cause any indigestion. Not that Agnes is uncomfortable with dissent. Sitting with her and chewing the political tortillas was Theresa Trujeque, a longtime Dem activist currently assisting Dem US Senate contender Hector Balderas. Also on hand was attorney Hilary Noskin and mom Mary Noskin, both Republicans. Mary informed that former NM GOP Governor Dave Cargo remains in an ABQ rehabilitation facility after suffering a stroke late last year. Cargo turns 83 January 13 and his many friends everywhere are wishing him the best.

And that wasn't the only bipartisan table.
National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation President and former Democratic First Lady ('75-79) Clara Apodaca was dishing it up with Edward Lujan, former NM GOP chairman, leading businessman and one of the founding fathers of the center. Edward's brother, former Congressman Manuel Lujan, will be 84 this May and Edward reports he is going strong.

So who says the Dems and R's can't get along--at least when they're not in Santa Fe. Hey, maybe we should move the Roundhouse to Barelas.

(P.S. All of our lunchers report being daily readers of the blog. Heck, there may even be an Alligator or two in the bunch, but we'll never tell.)


The political waves over that controversial state House redistricting decision from retired Judge James Hall continue to crash ashore. Here in a nutshell is what happened with the 70 House districts:

Tuesday’s decision increases the number of “swing districts” from five to eight and alters a sizeable number of districts for sitting House members so that the power of incumbency is reduced while increasing the overall competitiveness of statewide races. That’s bad news for Democrats, who saw their plan...rejected. Rep. Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) said he was distressed that Judge Hall bought “into the governor’s crass effort to achieve a radical Republican gerrymander.” Rep. Tom Taylor, who is the House minority leader, sent out an e-mail to Republican members immediately after Hall’s ruling saying, “Whoopee!”...

The Dems could appeal the ruling. Taylor may be overly optimistic. Under the court-approved plan, the odds makers don't see a GOP takeover of the House which is narrowly divided 36 to 33 with one independent. But it may make it harder for the Dems to pick up the two or three seats they were counting on in this big turnout presidential year.

ABQ Dem Rep. Bill O'Neill checks in to tell us he was surprised by the ruling. We blogged earlier how it appeared his district was going to get more Dem. That is still the case, but much less so than under the plan that was approved by the Legislature, vetoed by the Governor and rejected by Judge Hall.

Insiders say 40 year State Rep. Nick Salazar will hang up his spurs if he has to face off with fellow northern Dem Rep. Tomas Garcia as is called for under the judge's ruling.

A sidebar: Any appeal of the plan would go before the State Supreme Court--controlled by the Dems, but the Supremes appointed the retired Hall to do the redistricting. How prone would they be to reverse him?


A state budget that actually calls for spending more? Yep. After three years of the scalpel, the Legislative Finance Committee calls for spending $5.7 billion for the budget year that begins July 1. That's a 4.6 percent increase. The projected surplus is $250 million, The state budget peaked during the bull market at about $6.2 billion, so we are still a long way from those glory days.

The still skittish and scattered economic recovery is generating a bit more tax revenue. High oil prices also add to state coffers. The state gets about a quarter of its revenue from royalties on oil and natural gas.

We calculated that 57% of this state budget proposal goes to education--$2.9 billion for the public schools and $756 million for higher education. The Guv will come with her own budget before the start of the legislative session.


One portion of the higher ed budget that won't be increased is the salary for the new University of New Mexico president. Robert Frank will earn $355,000 plus benefits. The current president pulls down nearly $600,000 in what amounts to one of the most overpaid state jobs ever. Frank is being brought in by the UNM Regents from Kent State University. He faces a campus that has been in turmoil for several years and a university that has a hazy identity. Will he bring in his own management team? He ought to.

Farmington's Tom Mullins, the oil engineer who impressed observers with a strong Republican run against Ben Ray Lujan for the Northern congressional seat in 2010, won't be worrying about any 2012 election deadlines. He's opted out of the action:

I am unable to fully commit myself to the effort necessary to win this challenging seat. I have family and business obligations that preclude me from serving New Mexicans in this important position, should I succeed.

Mullins scored 43% of the vote against Lujan running as a true-blue conservative. His withdrawal leaves businessman Rick Newton as the GOP challenger to Ben Ray who is a heavy favorite in the district where Hispanics and Native Americans make up a majority. As for Mullins, his air of authenticity may position him for a future run. But he might want to drop any notion of putting land mines on the US-Mexico border.


Speaking of Hispanics and the population of the state, reader Bill Hume noted that the blog reported Wednesday that by 2035 New Mexico will be majority Hispanic. He writes:

They were the majority at the start 100 years ago. This is why Hispanics have always had a significant voice in New Mexico political matters, to a degree not matched in any other state, to my knowledge. We haven't been free of prejudice, to be sure -- but our Hispanics haven't been bereft of political influence either.

Thanks for that, Bill. Hispanics are well-represented at the political table. We have a Hispanic Governor, Senate Majority Leader, state House Speaker, and three members of the five member State Supreme Court. It might be argued that the congressional delegation is light with Hispanic representation. Of the five members only Rep. Ben Ray Lujan is of Hispanic descent.


Goodbye to Mike Cerletti. It was a job well done by New Mexico's first tourism secretary. He was claimed by brain cancer this week at the age of 72.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Framing The 2012 Republican Race For The US Senate: The Troubles Of Wilson And Sanchez; We Peel The Onion, Plus: New Mexico's Next 100 Years 

Wilson Vs. Sanchez
For her entire political career former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson has sported the label "moderate" but in today's Republican Party that can be deadly. So as Heather battles Lt. Governor John Sanchez for the GOP US Senate nomination, she has dropped the "M word" and constantly describes herself as a conservative. The switch is not going unnoticed among the wall-leaners:

Liberal Use of Conservative Award: This conservative award goes to the conservative Heather Wilson, who is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate — as a conservative. It seems that every one of her conservative news releases uses the word "conservative" about a dozen times. And that's a conservative estimate.

Not only is it the prospect of Sanchez securing support on her right that has Heather running scared from her moderate past, she remembers all too well the pasting she took from Rep. Steve Pearce when she sought the 2008 Senate nomination.

And just where is the GOP contest for Senate as we rapidly approach the key mid-March pre-primary convention?

Well, Sanchez is quietly working the rural areas--and we mean quietly. His low-key approach has supporters fretting that Heather, who has raised a million bucks and is waxing him in the polls (she's over 50% against him), is walking away with the nomination in the early going. Gadfly contenders Greg Sowards and Bill English are also on the trail touting conservative credentials but so far this is a Wilson-Sanchez contest.

Over the decades we've seen "waterfall" events in state politics. That's where a candidate like Sanchez launches an attack against a foe and they begin a rapid collapse. That is now Sanchez's hope. That Wilson has a glass jaw--that conservative Republicans will start bolting from her en masse as soon as she is convincingly labeled a "moderate."

This will take excellent timing and lots of TV money. Sanchez has shown in the past that he is capable of both, but this race has plodded along for months with little movement away from Wilson. Is it too late? Is the race over? No. But by being so far behind in the early going, Sanchez will have little margin of error to start a waterfall towards him. If he doesn't attack, he will stay stuck. And if he does attack, the hits will have to be spot on. Otherwise, he drowns.

As for Wilson, she does not have the strength that her mentor--former Senator Pete Domenici-- had to whip the party in line and make it take a moderate tack. She is being forced to the right to secure the party's nomination, but she is crafty and giving herself wiggle room to move back to the center for a general election contest. But her electability remains a major concern, even as some Republicans are in denial. They've trotted out a platoon of media and party spinners sympathetic to Heather to beat back the early numbers, but the Alligators remain unconvinced. They smell blood in the water.


That Democratic poll showing Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich beating Wilson by seven points is ominous. Even if the poll is off and his lead is much less or the race is a dead-heat as Wilson says it is, she appears to have a cap on her support somewhere around 45 to 48 percent. Her negatives are high from the many pitched battles she waged to retain her ABQ congressional seat. She is also saddled with baggage from the Bush years, a presidency she supported, but is now held in disrepute. And she is an old face during a time when the electorate is restless with politics as usual.

With her name ID nearly universal, Wilson is not going to have much luck changing perceptions about herself. If she is the nominee, her only path to victory will be a relentless attack on the Dem nominee. That's why there is still murmuring over Sanchez being a viable alternative--a candidate who does not carry the heavy sack of negatives Wilson does, is a native Hispanic New Mexican who can appeal to Independents and Dems and who has a strong TV presence. But Sanchez's semi-slumber has kept these arguments confined to the political parlors and not bouncing around yet among rank and file Republicans.

History shows that whoever wins the Senate seat has a good chance of holding it for decades. The elite in the political parties may want to avoid spirited nomination battles, but for New Mexicans the more the mettle of the next Senator is tested, the better. It may sound like a cliche but in the decades ahead this federally dependent state is going to need a fighter. Nomination contests featuring some body blows is as good a way as any to determine who can really go the distance for us in the halls of the US Capitol.


Our state is 100 years old this Friday. What of the next 100?

New Mexico's Hispanic population over the next 100 years will grow to be the majority ethnic group, regardless of federal immigration policy, a local researcher and pollster predicts. At the same time, the number of senior citizens in the state who depend on government services will increase, as budgets for programs to help them will shrink.

The major challenge for New Mexico as it sets off on its second century of statehood is to better educate its populace, For generations, Hispanic and Native American students have lagged behind. Changing the culture of low expectations is key. A measure to dedicate a portion of the state's Permanent Fund to reach the very youngest--from birth to age five--will be considered in the upcoming legislative session. It deserves bipartisan consideration.


The century of statehood ahead, like the one just past, is going to be laden with scientific advances and the New Mexico Spaceport is poised to help lead the way. But what exactly will those sub-orbital space travelers launched from the Spaceport get for their $200,000 tickets? The wrap on that is here.

So far, 500 wannabe space travelers have plunked down the $200k. Virgin Galactic isn't saying exactly when launches will occur. There is a long test period ahead so don't expect anything this year.

The Spaceport is expected to provide an ongoing economic boost to southern New Mexico, but the economy there remains flat. Here is the latest on how things shape up in El Paso, just a short trip from Las Cruces:

...Economic output hardly grew last year compared to a strong 2010, and the economy is projected to continue to be sluggish in 2012, slightly slower than projections for the national economy, according to a UTEP forecast released last week.


The district judge handling redistricting chores has come with his decision on the state House boundaries for the next ten years:

A state district judge has approved a plan for drawing new boundaries of state House of Representative districts that will pair two Republican incumbents in southeastern Mexico and two Democrats in the north-central part of the state.

The plan approved was the one submitted by the Guv. Some Dems were grumbling over that. What to watch for now is whether minority groups appeal the case to a higher court.


This was supposed to be the year when Republicans were able to peel off large chunks of support from President Obama, but it isn't working out that way--at least not yet:

Polling has consistently shown Latinos falling out of love with Obama, but so far, the GOP just hasn’t made itself into a viable alternative. And for now, it appears Obama could match his 2008 advantage among Latinos, which went a long way toward securing his victory among this growing demographic.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

2012 Starts With 2011 Leftovers: Susana & Licenses, ABQ GOP Congress? More Jobless Recovery? That & More As We Blog In A New Year Of La Politica 

Welcome back. We pick up with this first blog of 2012 where we left off in 2011. Will Governor Martinez finally sway the Legislature and win a repeal of the controversial law that allows undocumented immigrants to have driver's licenses? Will Jon Barela, 2010 GOP nominee for the ABQ US House seat, dive into the 2012 contest? Will New Mexico rid itself of this jobless economic recovery?

On the first matter there's been a crack in the Democratic dam. Las Cruces area State Sen. Steve Fischmann says he's going with Susana on the licenses. And not coincidentally, he also announces he is a candidate for re-election. That prompted veteran Las Cruces newsman Walt Rubel to make the first bold political prediction of the new year--that the third repeal effort will indeed be the charm for Susana:

This has been the primary issue for Gov. Susana Martinez for the past year. Democrats in the Legislature were narrowly able to beat back the bill last year, but that wasn't an election year. This year is....The bottom line on this one is New Mexico is out of step with the rest of the nation, and the vast majority of residents want to see the law changed.

All 112 members of the Legislature (70 state representatives and 42 senators) are up for election this year. If Martinez is ever going to win on this one, you have to believe the time is now. But we're much less certain than Walt that her political team is scaring the pants off the lawmakers and not making the Dem leadership hunker down even more. The answer will come soon enough as the Legislature begins its 30 day session January 17.


On the ABQ congressional race, the hottest topic remains whether Jon Barela, economic development secretary-designate, will give a run another try. Dem congressional hopeful Marty Chavez told a Friday night fund-raiser he believes Barela is a go based on phone calls he has heard that Barela is making. Also, the Alligators report yet another anemic quarter of fund-raising for GOP contenders Dan Lewis and Janice Arnold-Jones. They say political newcomer and retired Army Sergeant Gary Smith will out raise them both by giving himself over $100,000. These fourth quarter reports will become public at mid-month but my insiders say it is clear that big GOP money remains on the sidelines as it awaits Barela's decision.

If Barela gets in he will be a major player for the nomination. The Martinez machine controls much of the party apparatus. However, his loss to Dem Martin Heinrich in 2010 hurt. Dems also think he is weakened by news of his personal financial problems and by the overall tarnishing of the GOP brand the past year. We have to agree with them that the seat appears "Lean Dem," in a year when the presidential campaign will draw more moderate voters to the polls, but a strong GOP candidacy remains a potential threat.


In the race for the US Senate we begin 2012 wondering if Democrat Hector Balderas will go the distance in his duel with Rep. Martin Heinrich.

Insiders are watching every hair on Hector's head (Hold on. He's bald). Well, then let's say they're watching every step he takes as they assess whether he will take his campaign up to the March pre-primary convention and then get out and endorse Heinrich. The two term congressman--playing it like a steady Eddie--is the establishment favorite with the big money lead, but with soft support from Hispanics who are so important to taking the Dem nomination. Remember, Hector could use any money he has left from his Senate race for a 2014 contest for attorney general or even Governor.

Not much has changed in Hector's world since our initial analysis of the Hector-Heinrich battle way back when. He is behind and is faced with the unpleasant prospect of having to attack Heinrich to win. That is a major gamble for him in this race and for his future political career. Heinrich wants it so bad it brings to mind the line that he would run over his grandmother to get it. (Well, at least he wouldn't smile doing it). Hector wants it too, but unlike Heinrich he has future options. It's quite the balancing act for the youthful State Auditor who has bitten off a big branch from the tree of La Politica. His moment of truth is fast approaching.


Let's go to a Senior Alligator for a somewhat contrary view on the Hector-Heinrich match-up. He says it is balderdash to be talking about Balderas getting out of this race:

Balderas is now too strong for Heinrich to put away and his climb in the polls will accelerate after the legislative session. He is sweeping legislative endorsements and boots on the ground will turn the tide his way. And the polling--A stagnant 47.0 for Heinrich to a rising 30.0% for Balderas with 23.0% undecided is showing Heinrich as having support that is a mile wide and a foot deep.


Governor Martinez held her nose and buried the news, but in the end she had no choice but to appoint ABQ Dem attorney Linda Curtis to fill a very Republican state senate seat. This was the one left vacant in the ABQ NE Heights by Kent Cravens who resigned to take a job with the energy industry. For many it symbolized much of what is wrong with today's politics.

The Guv made the forced appointment late Friday heading into the long holiday weekend. That deprived Curtis of much publicity. Not that it would help her and not that Curtis isn't capable and qualified. But she will have to run for election to the seat this year and if she does, her chances of winning in this Demless area are about as good as finding enchiladas at a Chinese restaurant.

When she was sworn in Monday, R's turned up the temperature. The state party said:

Several dozen residents showing up to the swearing-in Monday to demand Curtis represent the needs of the district on the issue of repealing the law that gives driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

Since the seat contains portions of both Bernalillo and Sandoval counties, the county commissions there were charged with sending replacement names to the Guv. The long standing tradition has been for the commissions to recommend a replacement who comes from the dominant party in the district. But not in today's toxic political atmosphere.

Martinez doesn't get off the hook, either. Her political team has played the hardest of hardball when it comes to the Dem-controlled Legislature and that made it easier for the Dem-controlled commissions to give Curtis the nod and ignore precedent. Still, someone in politics has to take the high road or else it will soon be like old Route 66--a relic of the past.


Our unstinting coverage these past several years of the long term economic recession/depression afflicting New Mexico has won reader praise. We don't take any pleasure in imparting the usually dreary news, but we do believe in facing reality. And here's where we begin this first week of 2012:

New Mexico's employment base decreased 3.89 percent--32,600 nonfarm jobs--during the five year period (between November 2006 and November 2011. The drop ranks the Land of Enchantment No. 23 out of the 50 states and D.C....

The construction depression is a major culprit. And then there's the slowdown in government employment--the vertebrae of the New Mexican economy. The feds aren't hiring and neither are the state or ABQ governments.

And although you may have a good-paying job, this slowdown is hitting you in the pocketbook if you own your home. The latest median price for an ABQ home is a historically meager $160,000. Why? Because jobs drive housing and until we get the jobs, the housing market is going to languish and the value of your humble abode is likely to stagnate or drop further.

The good news is that we appear to have stabilized in terms of the revenue that is coming into the state and ABQ governments, but our economic recovery is snail-like and we don't see it becoming hare-like in 2012.


In 2011, our readers offered a wheelbarrow full of suggestions for the Legislature and Governor to get the economic wheels here spinning faster. And we continue to hear from them as we turn the calender in the new year. Jim McClure comes with this take on our calls for increasing state spending on promoting the state:

I'd like to see the state invest more in tourism because it's one of the few opportunities to build an economy on something other than government spending. Tourism is a natural for New Mexico because it does not require an educated workforce or business-friendly regulatory policies...What's needed is a comprehensive focus on tourism by multiple state agencies and private business groups.

One easy step would be to promote the RailRunner to tourists and and adjust its schedule during peak tourism periods. Last week my out-of-town guests decided not to take the train to Santa Fe because they would have had to leave early in the morning and return in the evening. (Where's Fred Harvey when we need him?). More advertising would certainly help, but we also need better coordination among government agencies and business groups to connect the dots on tourism.

Thanks, Jim. We're sure this is the first of what will be many ideas from our readers on how to make New Mexico an even better place in which to live and work.

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