Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tale Of Two Dems: A Blue Dog Dem Crushes Minimum Wage Hopes While Another Stands Toe-To-Toe With Guv, Plus: The Bernalillo County BLue Wave; Latest Figures Show Extent Of Dem Dominance, And: Privatizing Economic Development; The Readers Speak  

A stunner of a story broke Wednesday that former NM GOP US Senator Pete Domenici fathered a son outside of his marriage. The son was born in 1978--toward the end of Domenici's first US Senate term. The mother is Michelle Laxalt, a GOP consultant and daughter of former GOP Nevada US Senator Paul Laxlat. She was 24 at the time of her affair with Domenici. He was 46. More here. Domenici did not seek-re-election in 2008.

Glad to have you aboard this Wednesday. Let's check out the political scene....

When Dem State Rep. Mary Helen Garcia of Las Cruces cast the key vote Tuesday in killing a proposed state constitutional amendment that would increase New Mexico's minimum wage for inflation she started the Alligators biting--especial the ones of the labor variety.

They question why Garcia, chair of the House Voters and Elections Committee where the measure was buried, is not being reined in by Speaker Martinez.

Rep. Garcia was also the main and loud sponsor of Guv Martinez's "social promotion" bill that House Education Committee Chair Mimi Stewart made sure was killed this week. Was she extracting revenge by killing the minimum wage measure? Duh.

Garcia was known for giving headaches to former Speaker Ben Lujan. Looks like Kenny has inherited them. Mary Helen, a retired school principal, has been in the Legislature since 1997...

The aforementioned Rep. Stewart is not known as one of the more likable reps in the Roundhouse and after years in which she seem somewhat sidelined, the veteran rep is now back in her element and making waves. An unapologetic liberal, the tide of blue that washed over the state in the last two general elections has put Stewart squarely in the mainstream in Bernalillo County and much of the rest of the state.

When she led her committee Tuesday in spiking the Governor's favored social promotion bill, she was hit hard by the Guv's office and other supporters who called her a tool of the teachers' unions. But she hit back equally hard, giving the Dems an example of the backbone that party observers here say has been sorely missing. In the game since '95, Stewart has the political wind at her back and is standing toe-to-toe against the Guv. In Santa Fe these days, that's news...

P.S. The death of the minimum wage and the social promotion bill again reveal the Dem dilemma--they have the votes to scuttle legislation not to their liking, but not to advance their own major bills because of Blue Dog Dems like Garcia in the House and the conservative Dem-GOP coalition in the Senate.


As we said, Rep. Stewart's hand has been strengthened by the blue tide. Perhaps she is more aware of that than other Democrats. It's surprising exactly how blue the state's largest city has gotten in the past several years. Veteran Dem pollster and analyst Harry Pavlides compiled data from all 393 city precincts for us. He reports:

290 precincts or 73.8% of all precincts are now over 50% Democratic performance. 192 precincts or 48.9% of the precincts are now 60% or more Democratic performing and 102 precincts or 36.2% of the total are now 70% Democratic performing...

If Dems can get high voter turnout in those precincts it becomes very difficult for Republicans to make up those votes elsewhere in the state. The R's have a shot at the conservative Dems here are fewer of them. In other words, "liberal" is hardly a dirty word for the Dems in the big Duke City. That's why some of our Dem analysts and Alligators have been pounding the table for a more activist Dem economic agenda in Santa Fe that outlines clear differences with the Republican Governor.


Could this finally be the time for Santa Fe attorney and Dem political activist John Pound? His name has surfaced again as a possible US attorney for New Mexico. He would replace Ken Gonzales who awaits Senate confirmation for a federal judgeship.

Pound, who was a co-chair of the Obama campaign here, applied for the post when it last opened up, but then-Senator Bingaman pushed Gonzales who used to work in Bingaman's office. Now it's Senator Tom Udall who is the go-to guy for the White House in naming the next US attorney for the state. Udall is accepting applications..in case you're interested...


TV blogging
Reader Bill Hume now with some reaction to our thoughts that the city and state economic development departments have fallen behind the curve and it;s time to consider letting the private sector take them over:

In response to your comment that perhaps the business community should privatize economic development in Albuquerque, perhaps they already have--and perhaps they are as much a failure as government. I refer to Albuquerque Economic Development, the private nonprofit entity still in operation here, though I haven't seen them in the news for some time. They used to at least make news--and I think make economic activity--back in the days when Bob Hoffman was their executive director. He died in 2011. I don't know that this is an exact parallel to taking over the city's operation, but if it is believed that private initiative could do the job where the public entity has failed, an examination of AED might be appropriate.

Reader Jim McClure also came with comments:

I'm glad you mentioned privatizing economic development and hope the idea gains traction. I became a big fan of public-private partnerships in the 1980s, when I served on the board of the Oak Park Development Corporation  in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. The group was sponsored by local banks and businesses (who made annual contributions) and operated under a contract for services from the municipal government.

OPDC had a slender staff and active board:  The bank presidents attended the meetings instead of sending subordinates. One of the group's most successful initiatives was a business loan program in which the banks leveraged federal community development grants 3:1 to write and service below-market-rate loans. OPDC also was effective in working with local government to recommend business-friendly legislation and fast-track new business permits. The development corporation measured its results in terms of tax revenues gained and jobs created. Something like this could work in Albuquerque if local businesses, especially the banks, participate actively and have skin in the game. 

Thanks, Jim. This being a mayoral election year, maybe one of the candidates will pick up our spear on this one.


On Tuesday we picked up from the Journal's John Robertson the categories the bills introduced in this year's Legislature fall under. A reader says we left out a key category from that report:

Taxation is another biggie: I see roughly 130 bills falling into that category. Education is always on the minds of New Mexico legislators. More than half the state budget deals with education funding, and there are more than 100 separate bills on education issues as well.”

Our reader also reports that the total number of bills introduced is much smaller than usual for a 60 day session, according to ABQ Dem Rep. Rep. Rick Miera, He told a legislative forum: “New Mexico lawmakers have introduced roughly 1,300 bills and as of Monday morning had passed and sent to Gov. Susana Martinez a grand total of two.”

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