Thursday, January 03, 2013

Big Names Still Shy Away From Mayor Race Despite Gloomy News Backdrop For Berry, Plus: The Gary Smith Case: Are Consultants To Blame? And: Monahan & Villanucci Talk Politics '13 On Radio At 4  

There it is--like a big juicy steak that hardly anyone wants to bite into. We speak of the enticing possibilities of the '13 ABQ mayoral race as federal investigators land in town to probe a police department riddled with serious problems and the continued drumbeat of the worst economic news in modern city history. The latest:

The Albuquerque metropolitan area lost 3,900 jobs in the 12 months that ended Nov. 30 for a negative 1 percent growth rate and the largest year-over-year jobs loss since September 2010, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions said. New Mexico lost 4,800 jobs over the year, making it the only state in a nine-state region that had negative growth during the year. The Albuquerque area’s private sector lost 2,900 jobs over the year...

A sidebar here. We wondered recently if federally-funded Sandia Labs was laying off government contractors and if that was adding to ABQ's job woes. The newspaper said it has checked and the Labs are spending as much on contractors as they did the previous year.

Despite this jobs news that would take the smile off the face of a teddy bear, Republican incumbent Mayor RJ Berry continues to draw very solid approval numbers as he gears up for an apparent re-election bid and, most important, he still has few big name foes.

Insiders say former Lt. Governor Diane Denish and current State Treasurer James Lewis--both who told us they might have a go at the mayor's chair this year---will take a pass. For the record, Denish is still saying she has not made a decision:

Just for the record, I have made no decision  to pass or to play in the Mayor's race for 2013, so whoever your insiders are must have their own candidate. 

In fact, you hear some Dems desperately hoping out loud that at the last minute Berry will decide not to seek re-election. Don't bet the Xmas stocking cash on that one.


Among politicos with some name ID,  former ABQ Public Safety Director Pete Dinelli and current west side Councilor Ken Sanchez seem interested. Dinelli very much. Sanchez not quite as much.

Dinelli is hoping the Dems will unite behind him, but his service under former Mayor Chavez hurts him with the party's progressive wing. Sanchez is the lone major Hispanic candidate to surface so far, but questions arise about his appeal outside of his council district. (Dinelli will officially enter the race for mayor with an announcement at his ABQ NE Heights home this Sunday).

Other names pop up as we approach the time when candidates must gather petitions and qualify for public financing. They include long shot possibilities like Terry Brunner, the NM Director for Rural Development at the USDA.

If a proposed city charter amendment were to pass this spring it would force a mayor to win 50 percent of the vote instead of the current 40%. That new math could hurt Berry. He became the first ABQ GOP mayor since the 80's in 2009 when he won 43% of the vote against two Dems. If he got in a run-off with the top finishing Democrat this year, he could find himself in a real dog fight in the Dem dominated city.

However, the first order of business for prospective challengers is to get people interested in city politics. That federal probe of APD and the still worsening economy here may look like a steak dinner possibility for candidates, but the public still seems to see it as only so much hamburger.


There's been some media spin lately that the numbers showing the deepening jobless problem here may not be wholly accurate. We're not entirely unsympathetic to the problem the Feds and state have in getting an accurate sample. But we also look at tax collections. In ABQ we are taking in gross receipts taxes at a rate that would leave us $10 million short of projections when the budget year ends June 30. That tells you the city economy is stagnant and the gloomy jobless numbers may not be perfect but they've got the trend.


Gary Smith was a mere blip on the state political radar when he sought the ABQ GOP congressional nomination against Janice Arnold-Jones. But that "blip" has morphed into a political blimp. 

Smith's bizarre tire slashing (allegedly) of Janice's car tires and that of his former campaign manager has given Smith much more than his 15 minutes of fame. 

Janice won the GOP nod when Smith failed to make the June primary ballot. She then lost the November race to Dem Michelle Lujan Grisham. She seems to be getting more TV face time over it than she did in her face-off with Michelle.

But what drove Smith to this? One of our Republican Alligators has some interesting food for thought: 

Joe, It's clear that this guy was so bitter about losing, especially after spending around $250,000 of his own money, that he took revenge on all those who were involved, not just Janice. One has to ask how he even became a candidate for CD-1 in the first place. 

It seems that a crop of GOP political consultants have capitalized on the emergence of the Tea Party, preying on candidates like Smith who are willing to self-fund by telling them that they can win when they clearly can't. I met Smith once and within 2 minutes of talking to him it was painfully obvious this man was out of his league and wouldn't have a chance in hell. So to prop him up, "The Prosper Group" and others sent out press releases like this one to convince people that he somehow is the real deal. Pretty disgusting of these guys if you ask me!  By taking this man's money and lying to him, they are probably responsible for pushing an unstable person over the edge. 

As they say, politics ain't bean bag and all sorts of unstable personalities are attracted to it...but you already knew that. 


Longtime ABQ attorney Ray Twohig was among those pointing out that on the Wednesday blog we did not make it clear enough that the Governor does not have the power to veto a Constitutional Amendment passed by both houses of the Legislature and then sent to the voters for their approval or disapproval:

You pointed out the Governor’s opposition to a constitutional amendment concerning the permanent fund. The Gov. has no veto power over a resolution to amend the constitution. See the recent public defender commission amendment, which was made a constitutional amendment to avoid the governor’s veto. Remember, Governor Richardson had vetoed the legislation earlier, thus the shift to the constitutional amendment was necessary.

That's right, Ray. We were speaking of a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to tap a portion of the multibillion dollar state Land Grant Permanent Fund. The measure will be introduced at the 60 day legislative session that begins January 15.

By the way, opposition to the amendment from Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith has been key in stopping it in its tracks. Even though we disagree with "Dr. No" on his stance, we didn't mean to take it out on his age. In a first draft we blogged that he was 74. He is actually 71 years of age--and still in fighting shape it seems. 


This should be fun. Today at 4 p.m. we'll take to the ABQ airwaves of 50,000 watt radio powerhouse KKOB-AM with the always entertaining--if sometimes enigmatic--Jim Villanucci. He's been hosting the afternoon program since 1999. The conservative talk station is managed by veteran broadcaster Milt McConnell. You can call in to the program today, but Villanucci won't answer anything he doesn't want to.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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