Friday, August 17, 2012

From Cruces To Santa Fe, Your Blog Was On The Move This Week, Plus: Readers Continue Memories Of "Little Joe"  

Solimon & King
Our travels this week around the Land of Enchantment ended on the Old Santa Fe Trail at the gala dinner and auction for the Institute of American Indian Arts--the prelude to this week's internationally popular Santa Fe Indian Market.

Wherever we go, politics follows and so it was the case at the Thursday night celebration at the La Fonda. Here's Dem Attorney General Gary King enjoying the evening with Ron Solimon, director of ABQ's Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.

In case you took the summer off and haven't heard, Gary became the first announced Dem Guv candidate for 2014 a couple of weeks ago. He tells us he is already fund-raising and will do some selective campaigning for legislative candidates this fall, including Christine Trujillo, the Dem state House candidate who is seeking an ABQ seat. She is a longtime union executive and unions are going to play a role in deciding the 2014 nominee.

King, not known for being a spendthrift, got into the spirit of the evening, bidding (and winning) the auction for a splendid piece of Native American glassware. Now that ought to help get the state's economy moving.


A reader writes of our southern road trip:

I think it is a very good idea for you to get out into the field for facetime with the people who are grist for your mill. In the future, you should rotate around the state using Public Regulation Commission districts to guide your itinerary.

Good suggestion. And another:

As a reader, I like that you are taking a road trip. It sends the message that you are connected with the whole state and not just Abq./SF.

Let me know if and when you want to make to trip to NW NM (Gallup, Grants, Navajo Nation and Farmington).  I can help get you in touch with the cast of characters in all four venues. 

We'll be sure to take you up on that offer. Indeed, this is the home of New Mexico politics--not just ABQ and Santa Fe.


We recently took to task the Guv's staff for sending her off to Hobbs to announce a scientific "ghost town" that subsequently flopped (at least for now). But a spokesman for Pegasus, the company whose plan Susana was touting, says we were too harsh:

You are being too harsh on the Governor in regards to CITE, a project that is still very much alive in spite of the recent delay resulting from Pegasus Global Holdings’ decision to pull out of Lea County in favor of another New Mexico location...The company’s decision to leave the Hobbs area was based solely on land issues that unfortunately arose after Pegasus’ announcement that it intended to locate there. Governor Martinez graciously attended that announcement at the company’s invitation. She was there to support Pegasus as a private company that is committed to making a significant investment in the state and put thousands of New Mexicans to work, all without government funding or  incentives...To criticize the Governor for what was strictly a business decision made by a private company seems in this case unfair.

Finally, attempts to write off the project as dead are undue. Pegasus remains committed to bringing the CITE project to New Mexico and is actively scouting new potential locations. While healthy skepticism about the project is expected, it’s unfortunate that the cynicism that too often plagues our state is now overshadowing a project that has the potential to provide a major boost to our lagging economy. In these continued  tough economic times, private businesses looking to put people to work deserve our support and the opportunity to prove themselves more than ever. 

Fair enough, but where we come from you don't send the Governor out to the statewide media to announce a project that is not nailed down. As for the cynicism "that plagues our state," we see it more as healthy skepticism. We wish Pegasus luck in getting restarted and maybe the second time around the Guv won't get her feet all muddy.


Hoyt Clifton
Reaction in the political community continues to the death of longtime NM elections bureau director Hoyt Clifton. Matt Grubs of New Mexico PBS weighs in:

Sad to hear of Hoyt Clifton’s passing. I moved here from Florida on the heels of the 2000 election. I thought I knew a thing or two about hanging chads, butterfly ballots and missing ballot boxes. Hoyt gently explained to me that I did not – and proceeded to answer every question I threw at him over the next few years. Either he never lied to the press or he was really good at it.

Clifton, 82, died Tuesday in Lubbock after suffering a fall. He retired in '94 after 25 years at the secretary of state's office. We got the photo from Steve Terrell of the New Mexican whose obit is here.


We want to get a plug in before the week gets away from us for the newspaper's series on a subject we have blogged about often the past decade--the out of control drug addiction in the state. New Mexico journalism has strayed away from in-depth coverage of the state's social and cultural crisis but this series by investigative reporter Mike Gallagher brings it back.

Our state is in a state of perpetual crisis. Because it is chronic, it becomes the norm. But it isn't and this series on drugs points out just how abnormal and points to possible solutions.

When we were in Washington in February we brought the subject up when visiting with northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan. His district is especially hard hit by drug deaths. He has held hearings on the matter since and pledges continued attention.

We can talk about taxes, regulations and stimulus until we are blue in the face, but if New Mexico's human "capital" is not attractive, we are going nowhere economically. Cleaning up the drug scourge is imperative if we are to climb out of the third world.


On Monday we came with memories of our coverage of the 1976 campaign when Dem US Senator Joe "Little Joe" Montoya was defeated for re-election by astronaut and Republican Jack Schmitt. It drew an array of email. Olivia Nevarez-Garcia, retired magistrate and probate judge from Dona Ana County, worked for Montoya and says she was disappointed when we reported that Dem US Senate candidate Martin Heinrich mentions other New Mexico Dem US Senators in his stump speech, but not Montoya:
I feel I need to comment on the fact that Congressman Heinrich did not mention Senator Montoya in his comments. I am very disappointed. I am from Las Cruces and worked for the Senator in D. C. In 1976, the year he was defeated.  Senator worked very hard for the people of New Mexico and was very devoted...I was doing his scheduling and know the long hours he spent working for New Mexico. It was a great disappointment to lose Senator Montoya. He gave many years of dedicated service to New Mexicans. He was followed by a one-term Senator (Jack Schmitt) and you know what happened when Governor Martinez put his name up for confirmation for a cabinet position. I hope that Congressman Heinrich reconsiders his remarks in the future.  Keep up the great work and enjoy all the political info.

Appreciate that email, Olivia. We're glad we are able to rekindle memories of the state's colorful past for you.


Montoya & Justice Lujan
And one more Little Joe note before we leave for the weekend. Here's a cool photo sent to us by the campaign of Dem ABQ congressional candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham. It shows her grandfather--New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Eugene Lujan--administering the oath of office in Santa Fe Court to a youthful Joe Montoya as he becomes the state's lieutenant governor. He was only 31. From 1947 to 1957 Montoya, a native of Pena Blanca north of ABQ, was elected Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico three times.

The photo is from the State Records Center and Archives. We need to get up there soon and look for some more treasures from the never ending book of La Politica.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks to all the folks who helped us out during our blogging road trip.

Reporting to you this this week from Las Cruces, Silver City, Deming, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Paseo Circus At ABQ City Hall, No Ryan Kool-Aid For One R Candidate, A Letter From Deming And Politico Hoyt Clifton Dies 

The ABQ City Hall circus over the rebuild of Paseo del Norte/I-25 interchange continues. Oh, if only Mayor Berry and the nine city councilors had agreed to put Paseo on the ballot as a stand alone measure back in 2011. Instead, they made voters decide on an unwanted sportsplex along with the Paseo and voters rejected both. The mainstream media seems to forget that as they try to place blame for the delay on three Dem councilors who still want $50 million in Paseo bonds approved by the voters.

The attorney general's office says city issues probably can't legally be placed on the November state election ballot, as the council voted to do with Paseo. So why not have the Mayor get a court ruling to see if the AG is right or wrong? Well, that would be too easy. So Berry is looking for a "super majority" of seven councilors to approve Paseo and avoid the need to place it on any ballot. A special September meeting will be held, but so far none of the three Dem councilors have broken ranks and one of them must if there is to be Paseo approval without a public vote.

Berry and this council--dominated by a five to four Republican majority--are to blame for the Paseo mess and for not giving citizens the opportunity for a straight up or down vote in 2011. Now there is talk of a special election that would cost upwards of $750, 000. As much as we would like to see the $50 million in Paseo bonds approved and the work begin, maybe we should wait until October of 2013 and the next city election and let voters have at it then. Why should we give up our right to vote because of the circus at City Hall?  That right is more important than any construction project.

We almost forgot. The conspiracy theory is that Berry and the R's are glad about the AG's ruling because they also do not want a ballot measure increasing the minimum wage to be placed on the November ballot. The theory is that measure would draw more liberal voters to the poll and hurt GOP candidates. Groups backing the wage hike have submitted enough signatures (over 25,000) to get it placed on the ballot. It would raise the minimum wage in the city from $7.50 to $8.50 per hour


Reader Alan Schwartz writes of Intel Rio Rancho's problem in finding enough NM engineers:

Here's a link to some statistical data from NM Higher Education Department. As you can see, only one engineering discipline makes it in the top ten of degrees awarded, and it is last. Other engineering fields obviously rank even lower. Seems to me this is a lose-lose. Not only we don't get the jobs, but what qualified applicants there are here will be moving to Arizona.

Intel is indeed expanding in Arizona and not here, but they tell us the shortage of qualified engineers is a national problem for them.


This one snuck up on us. From a Senior Alligator in Santa Fe:

Joe, For your info, NM has the lowest Internet adoption rate in the country. Seems we are on the very bottom of everything nowadays.

About 71 percent of U.S. households were connected to the Internet in 2010, according to Current Population Survey estimates...But strong divides in Internet access remain, with adoption rates varying widely among different regions and demographic groups. In some rural areas, Internet providers offer limited coverage or slow connection speeds. Many low income Americans also opt not to purchase Internet service, citing cost concerns. Data indicates southern states have the nation's lowest household adoption rates. New Mexico recorded a household adoption rate of 64.1 percent – the lowest of any state, likely explained in part by its high Hispanic and American Indian population, groups typically less likely to connect to the Internet....

We can do better--much better than that--can't we?


Jefferson Byrd
Jeff Byrd is not drinking the Paul Ryan Kool-Aid. The northern GOP congressional hopeful and Tucumcari rancher is campaigning on protecting federal spending for the national labs and defense establishment here, and here's a look:

Northern New Mexico must create new jobs, but we must also fight to protect the good paying jobs we already have. Our “ace in the hole” has always been Los Alamos National Laboratory, Cannon Air Force Base, and our energy industry. Northern New Mexico has lost thousands of jobs in these economic sectors because Congressman Lujan’s ideology gets in the way of fighting for New Mexico jobs and fighting for New Mexico families.

Byrd is the decided underdog in his effort to unseat two term northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, but by subtly breaking with the Republican budget cutters--led by VP nominee Payl Ryan--he will get a listen.


The news from Deming and Luna County is familiar. In our tour of the south this week we stopped in Deming and met with locals over enchiladas at the La Fonda restaurant (It's not as fancy as the La Fonda in Santa Fe, but you do get service with smile and some good red). They told us the lack of jobs continues to pummel the area. They are hoping that a proposed casino by an Oklahoma tribe claiming ancestral rights to land near Deming will be the spark plug they need to get things moving.

The county's jobless rate is the highest in the state--breaching the 20% mark--in part because of the seasonality of agricultural work but also because there isn't much else.

The casino remains stalled, awaiting federal approval and also that of Governor Martinez. Her support will likely be needed, but is not in the bag. Normally, we would agree with the casino foes. The state is already over gambled, but this casino would pick off interstate traffic from I-10. That means much out-of-state money would support it. And, frankly, there are no other big ideas on the map to help out the Deming area.

We didn't hear much talk about Susana there, but there was some grumbling about Dem Senator John Arthur Smith who represents the area and is chairman of the powerful Senate finance committee. The grumblers say he hasn't brought much pork home, despite his Santa Fe power. Smith is opposed by a Republican in November but is expected to win easily.


Readers continue to email in memories of the late Dem US Senator Joe Montoya after we recounted some of our own on the Monday blog. ABQ attorney Robert Levy is one of them:

I want to share a recollection of Joe Montoya in the '76 campaign. I did not know the senator; I had only been a New Mexican for  4 years at the time and I was a Legal Services lawyer. Leaving the courthouse one noon I happened upon a Montoya rally in Civic Plaza. I joined the several hundred folks gathered as the senator was introduced and took the lectern. He pulled his speech out of his inside pocket and, of course started from the top.  He loudly orated, "For immediate release.."   Sadly, it seemed that everyone in the crowd got the  message. Your  work is very much the best Robert D. Levy...

Thanks, Robert. Montoya was not at his best that day and that '76 campaign which he lost to Republican Jack Schmitt was rough on him...


He was the symbol of New Mexico elections for the political insiders for a couple of decades. Former three term NM Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron reports in that Hoyt Clifton has died:

Joe, I am sad to report the passing of Hoyt Clifton Tuesday night in Lubbock Texas. He suffered a head injury and did not recover.  He was my Elections Director and my friend and mentor during my three terms in office. He taught me everything I knew. Hoyt also served under Secretaries of State Ernestine Evans, Shirley Hooper, Clara Jones and Stephanie Gonzales. He will be missed and never forgotten. There will be grave site services on Monday August 20 at 10:30 am in Melrose, New Mexico.

Thanks for that sad news, Rebecca. We worked with Hoyt often over the years. He had a slow drawl as well as a slow draw. When we we were all rattled, he was cool. He was with the secretary of state's office for 25 years, 15 of them as elections chief before retiring in 1994. It was a job well done.

Denise Lamb, who came after Hoyt as elections bureau chief emailed us this remembrance:

I started working with Hoyt in 1991 as a legislative analyst for the office and he taught me quite a bit about looking at election bills.  He told me once, “Honey, looking at an election bill is just like peeling an onion.  The closer you get to the center, the more you cry and the stronger it smells”.

He also gave me an invaluable piece of advice:  “Never lie to your boss, the legislature or the press.”

Hoyt had the respect and confidence of the legislature, the council service and the many, many people who worked with him over the years.  He will be terribly missed by many county clerks who worked with him over his long tenure at the state and I will miss him terribly.

Thanks, Denise.


That's quite the pic of an August sunrise taken by one of our readers.  We spent the start of the week in Las Cruces, Silver City and Deming where the warm summer air--even in the early morning hours--reminds you that this season is not quite ready to let go.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fast Friends: First Susana PAC Hit Is Against Susana's DA Friend; Not A Legislator, Plus: We're On Duty In Dona Ana With More Southern Politics, Also: Heinrich And The Magic 50; Is He There? 

Susana PAC hit piece
Governor Martinez has come with one of her first campaign attacks of the fall election, but it's not a state legislator she's after--it's the opponent of one of her best friends in Las Cruces--Amy Orlando, the Dona Ana County District attorney. That was the job Susana held for 14 years before she became Governor and Orlando succeeded her. But politicos here in Las Cruces tell me Susana is still deeply interested in the DA's office as well as three judge contests here--perhaps even more interested in them than the scattered legislative races around the state in which her Susana PAC is expected to pump significant money.

Martinez is not known for having many close personal friends but Orlando is one. Susana PAC punches hard on her behalf in the piece we posted here (click to enlarge) and that recently hit the mailboxes.

The target is Democrat and retired federal prosecutor Mark D'Antonio--Orlando's challenger. In the process of slamming D'Antonio, Susana gets some hits in on a potential 2014 Dem Guv rival in 2014--noted ABQ trial attorney Sam Bregman. The piece picks at Bregman, calling him the "go to lawyer for Democrats in trouble" and for defending former State Treasurer Robert Vigil in a "kickback scheme." The hit piece asks: "Why are criminal defense lawyers who defended corrupt politicians lining up to support Mark D'Antonio?"

Bregman has emerged as a major thorn in the side of Martinez, becoming a player in emailgate and forming a political action committee to counter Susana PAC. No wonder Sam is now in the sights of Jay McCleskey, the Guv's chief political adviser who runs her PAC (and much of her government).

D'Antonio is now in private practice and not well-known in the county, say Dem insiders. But those same Dems would relish a chance to pull off a repeat of Clovis. That's where Susana PAC and the Governor were punished in the June primary for backing one Republican state Senate candidate over another. Susana and Jay's candidate got clobbered, handing the Guv's political machine their first major campaign loss since she took power in 2011.

Martinez's chances of prevailing in the Orlando-D'Antonio contest may be better than they were in Clovis, but her backing of her friend who worked under her in the DA's office again places the influence of her governorship on the line.


The Dems are trying to push back against the big purse held by Susana PAC and have started their own legislative PACS to combat Jay and the gang. They won't have as much cash as Susana's, but it will help them shore up weakness as they look to expand their majority in the House by up to three seats and limit their losses in the state Senate to just a single seat.


On The Dona Ana Trail
Here we are with Dona Ana County Democratic Party Chairwoman Christy French at party headquarters in Cruces this week. They are fortunate to have a very large building (over 10,000 square feet) and are beginning to fill it with offices for all the county candidates. Already a small phone bank is buzzing where calls for Dem US Senate candidate Martin Heinrich and President Obama are made from.

In addition to that too hot to handle DA showdown, French and her team have a variety of races to keep their eyes on, with the contest featuring newly independent State Rep. Andy Nunez high on the list. He used to be a Democrat. If the R's stick with their candidate, will the Dems and independents split between Nunez and the Democratic contender?

Another tough one for French to bring home Election Night is the Little-Cote race. GOP State Rep. Rick Little is being challenged by Dem Nate Cote who lost his legislative seat in the last election. Republicans tell us Little is looking tough.

But the Dems are going to have no problem holding on to the seat being vacated by State Rep. Joe Cervantes who is expected to easily win his state senate bid. And neither State Senator Mary Jane Garcia nor Rep. Mary Helen Garcia--Cervantes' cousin--is on the endangered list.

President Obama and Heinrich should carry Dona Ana, but by how much? Former NM Dem Party Chairman Art Trujillo, touring the area with us, pointed to a long row of adobe houses and said: "They are all Hispanic households and they support us, but they don't register to vote."

And that's why the nights will soon start to get longer for Chairwoman French as she works to boost  turnout in a county that continues to add population and is increasingly important to New Mexico's Democrats.


No, this isn't about GOP Clovis area district attorney Matt Chandler. It's about Chandler, Arizona and why they are getting all the goodies and not Intel at Rio Rancho:

Intel Corp. unveiled plans Tuesday to build a $300 million research and development facility at its Chandler, Ariz., campus, the Phoenix Business Journal reported. The facility is expected to employ several hundred workers. Construction on the 285,000-square-foot structure will be finished in the second half of 2013.

Intel recently had to give back some cash to Sandoval County because it could not meet local hiring goals for the positions it does have open. Intel tells us there is a lack of qualified workers with an engineering background. They said:

As our technology becomes more complex, our need for highly skilled individuals with a Masters or Doctorate in engineering increases. We are experiencing a shortage of highly skilled engineers...

There are now about 3,000 workers at Intel here, down from a peak of some 5,500 during the great bull market.


Martin Heinrich has hit the magic 50% mark in the first major poll of the season--but there is a catch. The survey was commissioned by a coalition of environmental groups who have been supporting the Dem US Senate nominee. Still, the poll is getting national attention. It shows Heinrich at 50% and GOP challenger Heather Wilson at 41%. That's a whopping nine point lead and four points more than Heinrich had over Heather when the group last polled the race in late June.

It does seem time for Wilson to crack the whip and shake things up. She has not been ahead in a single poll all year long. Her campaign commercials accusing Heinrich of being "extreme" are not connecting and the selection of budget slasher Paul Ryan as the GOP VP nominee is putting her under the gun.

But what to do? Sharper political minds than ours are befuddled. The state's changing demographics--more Hispanic voters--and the turn of the independents this cycle toward the Dems--leaves them scratching their heads.

Heather has those three TV debates in October where she gets a chance to make Heinrich fumble, but R's now have to fear that the race may be too solidified by then.

Hey, anyone looking for a media advisor job? Call Heather. She may have an opening.

Reporting today from Las Cruces and Silver City....

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On The Trail With Ben Ray And Janice, Plus: Santa Fe Leadership Struggle Taking Shape, And: News Veterans Come With "Little Joe" Memories 

Rep. Lujan & Arnold-Jones
Ben Ray Lujan and Janice Arnold-Jones? We snapped this pic of the political odd couple at a recent dinner in our never ending quest for a glimpse of bipartisanship in the rough and tumble world of La Politica. And finding it this close to an election isn't easy.

Lujan, of course, is the Democratic congressman representing northern New Mexico and Arnold-Jones is the GOP nominee for the ABQ congressional seat and is opposed by Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham--no relation to Ben Ray.

However, Michelle, an attorney and a cabinet secretary under Big Bill, is a cousin of former ABQ GOP Congressman Manuel Lujan who represented the district for 20 years and his brother Edward, a prominent GOP businessman and former GOP chairman who donated to a previous Lujan Grisham campagn. Michelle's grandfather Eugene Lujan was the first Hispanic Chief Justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court.

To clear up any confusion, Janice has posted on her web site a photo of her with former Congressman Lujan. We take that as an endorsement of Janice. As for Edward, well, we'll have to check where he stands...

Janice is going to need the support of Manuel Lujan and more. The ABQ congressional seat is ranked "likely Dem" by the pundits. Also, she has a reputation for being a moderate Republican, as her party has gone increasingly conservative. 

Meanwhile, Janice is trying to recover from her first big campaign gaffe. When it comes to her remark that GOP VP nominee Paul Ryan's budget plan is "frightening" for New Mexico's national labs, she tells a conservative web site: “I do not recall saying that.”

The comments were carried on the KOB-TV web site and demonstrate the predicament the Ryan pick has placed her in. We explored that topic on Monday's blog. (Even Susana is running for cover on the impact of the Ryan budget on NM:

I disagree with parts. I certainly want our labs to be strong here in New Mexico. I will communicate that should Romney and Ryan win. I want New Mexico’s labs to remain just as they are.”

As for Ben Ray, he was more than willing to have his photo taken with Janice and said he stands ready to work with whoever is elected to the ABQ seat, although he is endorsing Dem Michelle.

All these Lujan's can be confusing to even New Mexicans, so we were not too surprised when Ben Ray told us an elderly congressman he introduced himself to in DC thought he was the son of Manuel Lujan. No, Ben's dad isn't Manuel, but is the equally prominent Ben Lujan of Santa Fe, speaker of the state House.

Our pic was snapped at a dinner and celebration hosted by Las Amigas de Nuevo Mexico that included a special tribute to Sister Marianella Domenici, U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Speaker of the House Ben Lujan and Manuel Lujan. And speaking of the Speaker....


The 2013 legislative session may not kick off until January, but the jockeying for power is well under way. It's a given in Dem circles that if the party retains control of the state House after the November elections--and they are expected to--that the new House speaker will be Rep. Kenny Martinez of Grants. He would replace retiring Speaker Ben Lujan. But who would replace Kenny as majority leader in the 70 member House? That's where there is intrigue.

The behind the scenes battle is said by the Santa Fe wall-leaners to feature ABQ State Rep. Rick Miera, chair of the House Education Committee, and House Business and Industry Committee Chair Debbie Rodella of Rio Arriba County.

The speaker rules supreme in the House, but being majority leader isn't chopped liver. We'll be watching this one. (By the way, Rep. Eliseo Alcon of Milan would love to be chair of business if Debbie gets majority leader. ABQ Dem State Rep. Moe Maestas is expected to make a play for the chairmanship of House Judiciary that will be vacated by retiring Rep. Al Park but keep and eye out for ABQ Rep. Gail Chasey for that spot).


Will the Dems or Dem affiliated PACS come out and support former ABQ GOP State Senator Joe Carraror who is now running as an independent against GOP State Senator John Ryan? It's an important question because Carraro has high name ID and is seen as a major threat to Ryan who is expected to be better financed than Carraro and launch an attack campign against the colorful Carraro. Dems have to be mulling over the notion of backing Carraro. Ryan is a a hard-core conservative. His wife Veronica Gonzales is the secretary of cultural affairs under Governor Martinez. Who would Carraro caucus with if he were to be elected as an independent?


Third party US Senate hopeful Jon Barrie isn't quite out of the game yet. We blogged Monday of how the Secretary of State had said Barrie can't be on the ballot, but Barrie's lawyer got busy Monday:

The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case brought by a third-party candidate who wants to run for U.S. Senate but claims he was wrongfully kept off the ballot. Jon Ross Barrie of Albuquerque said in his petition today to the high court that Secretary of State Dianna Duran was wrong when she refused to certify him for the Nov. 6 general election ballot. Duran’s office said Barrie did not submit enough valid voters’ signatures on nominating petitions. And the secretary of state said he did not meet the required deadline for being a member of the Independent American Party. The court will hear arguments in the case on Wednesday, Aug. 22.

Barrie is running as a conservative, posing more of a threat to Republican Heather Wilson than Dem Martin Heinrich.


Monahan & Miyagishima
We're in southern New Mexico for a couple of days so we stopped by Las Cruces City Hall to catch up with recently re-elected Democratic Mayor Ken Miyagishima. He's rejoicing over a big increase in tax collections--up 12 percent this July compared to last year. ABQ Mayor Berry would like to have those numbers. The big Duke City recently reported basically flat revenues--up 1.9% for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

But both mayors share downtowns that are somewhat troubled.We left Las Cruces City Hall in search of a coffee shop or restaurant and ended up walking over a mile to find one that was open. Downtown revitalization remains a challenge for Cruces as it does for ABQ.

Las Cruceans made a wise investment in their new City Hall. It is now two years old, hyper-modern and staffed with polite staff and security. 

There is a lot of interesting La Politica this cycle in Dona Ana County--like Governor Martinez's efforts to get her old friend Amy Orlando elected district attorney--the job Susana had before she became Governor. And then there's Andy Nunez, the Dona Ana Dem state rep who switched to independent and is seeking re-election. Will he prevail? More on those and other Dona Ana doings in the days ahead. We're on our way now to Silver City and Deming.

By the way, Miyagishima, 49, did not get shy when we asked the popular executive if he had any statewide political ambitions.


Our Monday reminisces about our campaign travels with the late US Senator Joe Montoya brought  email from a couple of New Mexico's longtime TV news reporters. Rodger Beimer held forth on KOAT-TV in the 70's. He says our memory may have suffered when we said we flew with Montoya in the '76 campaign in a single engine plane:

If you were on the same plane with Sen. Montoya that I was, it was a Piper Aztec – twin engine – flown and I think owned by “Tiger” Boyer – the Senator’s press secretary and former Albuquerque Tribune political reporter Jim Boyer.

Right you are Rodger and thankfully Boyer was a careful pilot who could not be forced to fly in foul weather.

And from KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson who we worked with back in the 70's we get this:

Nice memory of Little Joe! You and I were working at KRKE-AM radio when Joe lost to Jack Schmitt in '76. I remember that Election Night you cut a report for the morning broadcast about Montoya's career and its apparent end. I recall telling you it was a fine piece of work and you said the real story was that Little Joe would be dead within a year or two. The defeat breaking his body as well as his spirit.

I also recall--earlier in the campaign--covering Democratic vice-presidential candidate Walter "Fritz" Mondale a a rally with Montoya at the Convention Center. Little Joe opened up by shouting at the crowd that under the Republican regime of Nixon and Ford here in New Mexico "we can't even afford pinto beans!" A good portion of the Democratic crowd actually booed Joe and when Fritz came up he made a joke about the whole thing - wondering when was the last time that Joe Montoya ate pinto beans. That night I predicted Montoya would lose to Schmitt. Like your death prediction it never made the air. But weren't we a couple of smart guys back then? 

I remember that rally well, Stu, and used some of Montoya's speech from it when I did his radio obituary . Somewhere I have the tape of it--I hope.

Yes, we were a couple of smart guys back then, and we still have a few laps left in us. Onward to Campaign 2012...

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Heather's Ryan Riddle: How Much Separation? Plus: Heinrich Pounces; Says Ryan Budget Slashes Labs, Also: Readers Write On Santa Fe Audit Scandal And Memories Of "Little Joe" 

The joyous reaction of Dems to the selection of Paul Ryan as Romney's running mate--one NM Dem consultant called it a "glorious day"--may be overstated but it certainly is not the political elixir Heather Wilson needs to overtake Martin Heinrich in the race for the state's open US Senate seat.

Heather has made Heinrich's alleged "extremism" her lead message, but now the hard-right GOP agenda--the one that Heather has been running from all year--moves front and center. Not good when you are running up to five points behind in a Democratic dominated state.

Ryan's controversial stands on modifying Social Security and Medicare are well-known and are stands that Wilson has been hazy about. The Wisconsin Republican also calls for scaling back the entire federal government. The impact that would have on federally dependent New Mexico was the part of Heinrich's reaction to Romney's selection that grabbed our attention.

...The cuts imposed by the Ryan budget would not stop with Medicare. New Mexico’s national laboratories would be forced to accept decreased funding that would impede their essential missions and harm local economies. Funding for the Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories would be reduced by 10 percent and 17 percent, respectively. The effects would be detrimental to thousands of middle class families that rely on the laboratories as economic drivers.       

Support of the national defense and energy establishment here has been a mainstay for Heather, but Heinrich will work to make the Ryan budget the Wilson budget, giving him an opportunity to eat away at her base. Wilson's backing of the state's mammoth defense and nuclear energy establishments has been unquestioned--until now. She will now be playing defense on the one major issue she has been on the offense.

Wilson's image as a moderate Republican was the reason the GOP intellegentsia settled on her--and not Lt. Gov. John Sanchez--as the GOP Senate choice this year, but the radical Republicans keep pushing--and they are helping to push Heather Wilson over the cliff.


Heather had this to say about Ryan's selection as VP:

I admire his willingness to put forth bold ideas on the biggest issues facing our nation, even if I don’t always agree with him. I look forward to seeing Gov. Romney’s plan to address these very important issues....

Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. If Wilson separates herself too much from Ryan, she takes a hit with her own party. If she snuggles up to him, the election will be lost as she is branded a radical Republican budget cutter. It's like trying to dance on the head of a needle.

ABQ GOP congressional candidate Janice Arnold-Jones was also engaging in operation separation when it came to Ryan. She said:

I believe that this will be a good thing for the state of New Mexico. A little frightening on the lab side, but I intend to go and advocate for the state of New Mexico."

Say what, Janice? Ryan will be a "good thing" for New Mexico, but his selection as VP for Romney is "frightening" when it comes to funding the national labs?

Well, it seems Heather and Janice are sharing space between that rock and a hard place.


The situation remains urgent for Heather, who must keep the race on the national radar in order to keep momentum from slipping too far toward Heinrich and to keep her money machine moving. It's getting more difficult. In DC, analyst Stu Rothenberg says this state's Senate race could be slip, sliding away:

Right now, control of the Senate appears to rest on the outcomes in five states--four of them held by Democrats--Montana, North Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin--and one of them by a Republican-- Massachusetts. Assuming that Republicans take the Nebraska and Missouri Senate seats and Democrats finally win back a Senate seat in Maine, the GOP will need to win four of the five seats that will decide control of the Senate for two more years. Other seats certainly could be in the mix - Florida and Nevada look the most likely--but the five states now seem to be the most likely to determine control. And strategists on both sides of the aisle have a harder time imagining Ohio, New Mexico, Hawaii, Indiana or Arizona flipping parties...


Heather gets a little break from the news that conservative independent US Senate candidate Jon Barrie, who we recently wrote up here, will apparently not be on the November ballot after all:

A “data error” in the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office disqualified two minor party candidates from the ballot this week...Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran disqualified...Independent American Party US Senate Candidate Jon Barrie earlier this month...

Barrie's attorney emails in that he is appealing the denial to the State Supreme Court.


Reader reaction comes to the auditing scandal at the New Mexico Finance Authority that has rocked the Martinez administration:

Amazing to see Rick May put on leave at the New Mexico Finance Authority (NMFA).  He was an experienced DC hand and really one of the few seemingly stable, knowledgeable people on the Martinez team. Also, he was a favorite of (GOP US Senate candidate) Heather and (former GOP US Senator) Pete Domenici.

The story at NMFA, I think, is that the Legislature keeps expanding their mission way beyond their capabilities. They're handling millions without the checks and balances that are required of, for instance, a federal agency.

That we are getting constant national headlines about our failures can't be helping our economic development, tourism, convention business, etc..

Also, it's fun to imagine what people (especially Governor Martinez) would be saying about this scandal if Bill Richardson was still around. They don't seem to be too upset about it these days...

Reader Bob Anderson gets in these jabs over the NMFA scandal:

During many elections--both local and statewide--we are told that the GOP will run "Government like a Business." Now this old clinker really rattles around with the NMFA fiasco. Because that's exactly what Gov. Martinez and crew have done--they are running government like a business! Just like those banks that are too big to fail. Creative accounting comes to New Mexico thanks to the GOP.

But reader Mark Valenzuela, Vice-President of George K. Baum & Company, an investment banking firm, says the state needs to get NMFA out of the banking business and look to the private sector:

Your Senior Alligator suggested that the construction industry will be further stymied by the NMFA's inability to finance larger bond deals. There is a competitive private sector market In New Mexico that will absorb those bond deals easily, and despite the statements that the interest costs will prevent the deal from getting done, those deals will likely price right where NMFA would have priced them. And frankly, if the interest cost is the obstacle, then there is something fundamentally wrong with that construction project.

NMFA is a government bank, supported with taxpayer dollars. The low interest rates offered to NM communities that your reference are artificially set low by NMFA, and are lower than what it costs them to borrow money from the capital markets. To make this all work, this Government Bank (NMFA) collects $25 million of taxpayer dollars to cover the difference....

The policy conversation I would appreciate you having with your Alligators is "why is NMFA participating in a competitive private market"? Everyone in New Mexico talks about expanding our private sector, but then they say nothing when a Government Bank ($8 million operations budget) lures infrastructure financing away from private sector bankers with the promise of low interest rates, without explaining how they are able to offer below market rates. 

That's some meaty food for an Alligator discussion, Mark....


We're back on the campaign trail for another of those frenetic three month runs until Election Night, covering the 2012 race to fill the US Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Bingaman.

We took this pic Friday night at a backyard party for Dem Senate contender Martin Heinrich hosted by former Attorney General Partricia Madrid and husband Mike Messina. In the background is special guest and New York Democratic US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She went to the Senate from the US House via gubernatorial appointment in 2009. She is running for the seat this year and is heavily favored to win.

The political crowds these days seem to feature as many candidates as "civilians." Among those attending Madrid's Friday night soiree were ABQ District Court Judge candidates Ben Chavez and Brianna Zamora. Both are current ABQ Metro Court judges. Former Mayor Jim Baca was also on hand, snapping pics for his blog as was blogger and architect Mary Ellen Broderick, a Democrat running against Rep. Nate Gentry for the state House in the NE Heights of ABQ.

As for Heinrich's mood at this point, he's touting the polls that show him ahead, but nervously looking in the rearview mirror. One big mistake and he knows this campaign could reverse course. For him, the eightysomething days until the election must seem like 80 years.


In his stump speech Heinrich mentions that he hopes to follow in a long line of legendary New Mexico Democratic US Senators, including Bingaman, Clinton P. Anderson and Dennis Chavez. He does not mention Joe Montoya, the Democratic Senator who was defeated in his bid for re-election in 1976 by astronaut Harrison "Jack" Schmitt.

 "Little Joe," as he was known, served from 1964 until that '76 loss. He does not make the "best" list of NM US Senators, but we remember him well. The '76 US Senate campaign was the first US Senate race we covered and it made quite the impression. It was the first time we flew in an airplane, a single engine job, buffeted by high winds as we made our way to Roswell.

At the end of each campaign day spent with Joe there were ample glasses of Jack Daniels to accompany the tales of New Mexico politics he told to legendary Associated Press reporter Bill Feather. 

Montoya was a political prodigy who was elected to the state House in 1936 at the age of 21 and climbed rapidly to the top of the political ladder. But he loved his wine, women and song as much as his politics. It was a meteoric rise and a steep descent. We announced his death from liver disease on June 8, 1978. He was only 62.

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