Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Behavioral Health Drama Goes Political; Radio Ads Supporting Guv Pop Up, Plus: '14 SOS Race Could Put Post Back In Dem Column, And: The NM Supremes And Gay Marriage 

The heated battle over behavioral health in New Mexico has gone political. Our readers in ABQ and Roswell report a radio ad is airing that supports the controversial decision by Governor Martinez to suspend 15 NM providers of mental health services and replace them with Arizona companies.

The ad defends the decision, saying Martinez is rooting out fraud and abuse in the Medicaid program and attacks the amount of pay CEO's for the NM firms were getting.

The ad is sponsored by a political action committee calling itself "NM Competes."

Word is "NM Competes" is registered as a nonprofit 501 (c)4 which do not have to disclose their donors.

When the administration suspended the NM firms based on an out-of-state audit alleging possible fraud but refused to release the audit (as did Attorney General King) it raised a hue and cry--especially among Democrats.

But even Republicans have been wary of throwing too much support the Guv's way on this one. Maybe that's why this radio ad is popping up in SE NM---a key GOP region for her?


Meanwhile, Martinez is all over the place raising money for her 2014 re-election, so much so that it seems like her full-time job:

Martinez has traveled to the East Coast to raise money in New York and Pennsylvania for her re-election next year. Martinez political adviser Jay McCleskey said fundraising is scheduled Monday in Philadelphia. Campaign events are planned Tuesday and Wednesday in New York City. On the return trip to New Mexico, the Republican governor will stop in the oil patch community of Midland, Texas for fundraising on Thursday.

Maybe Lt. Governor Sanchez can come up with a jobs program while Susana is busy raising money and he is acting Guv? Or is that corporate tax cut kicking in yet?


Talk about killing one of your own. Here's Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appearing with ABQ Republican Mayor Richard Berry in ABQ Monday--even though we are in full election cycle with early voting underway and with Democrat Pete Dinelli trying to avoid a blow-out Oct. 8.

It's the latest in a series of blows from the Obama administration to Dinelli. In June Berry was invited to the White House for a conference on the mentally ill and homeless. Then there was the picture last week of Berry touring Sandia Labs with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

It's almost as if the White House is going out of its way to dump on Dinelli. Two cabinet secretaries in two weeks for Berry. What's next? A love letter from Michelle Obama? And why aren't local Dems pushing back against DC?

But then this is the President who seems very tone deaf lately. For evidence just look at the mess he's created over Syria.

Like they say, Dinelli is not a member of an organized political party--he's a Democrat.


You still have a shot at voting in the ABQ mayoral election, even if you are not yet registered, but the window is closing. Today is the last day to register for the October 8 election.  For questions about voter registration call the County Clerk's office at 243-VOTE (8683). More info on ABQ early voting is here.


The bear market continues to savage ABQ, but you would hardly know it from the mayoral campaign, but we're tracking it for you:

A local grocery store is closed Monday, without any warning to customers or employees. Now, dozens of people could be out of a job at the John Brooks Supermarket on San Mateo and Zuni...A controller for the company says they were forced to close because the store never bounced back after the recession. She said they actually kept it open longer then they should have to keep people employed. 

"Dozens" of lost jobs in a city that saw thousands line up for low-wage jobs at a new Target this year is bitter news for the ABQ labor force. Unfortunately, with nothing coming into town, local businesses doing little if any expansion and the continued loss of government and government contracting jobs we are still in the embrace of the Great Bear....


Freshman Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich is doing his best to please his President and his constituents when it comes to the touch issue of US military intervention in Syria. He now says he will support authorizing Obama to use military force in Syria, but will not support an American troop presence or the U.S. arming the Syrian rebels. That contrasts with Dem NM US Senator Tom Udall who is voting against authorizing military force. That's the position that is winning overwhelmingly in opinion polls. NM conservatives are taking Heinrich to task for supporating the President when he campaign so strongly against American involvement in Iraq when he first ran for Congress in 2008. 

SOS '14

Toulouse Oliver
Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver has formally entered the race for the Democratic nomination for NM Secretary of State:

As Secretary of State Maggie will carry out the duties of her office impartially and will never make decisions driven by partisanship – only by what's best for the people of New Mexico.

That's a mild swipe at Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran. She was a well-liked Alamogordo state Senator when, in 2010, she became the first GOP secretary of state since the1930's. She won as the result of a backlash to the tenure of SOS Mary Herrera who had numerous ethics charges hanging over her at the time.

But Duran soon veered to the hard right and took up the GOP cause of voter fraud--an issue that has never borne fruit for them but rallies the GOP base. She was unable to prove her allegations and that alienated Duran from Democrats and independents. She never recovered and was cast in the role of partisan.

Why Duran did not move to the middle--as GOP Governor Martinez has on a number of key issues--Medicaid and education funding among them--is the question.

But it's too late for Duran to change now and Toulouse--popular in populous Bernalillo County--will start the race against Duran next year as the front-runner. That's assuming she will get the Dem nomination--a pretty good assumption since no one else has announced for the race.

The Republicans will have to spend a lot of cash to prop up Duran and they may do it. The battle they face is holding Toulouse down in Bernalillo where she has received solid job reviews. A big win here for her and the race will slide quickly into the Dem column.


The debate over gay marriage in New Mexico may be headed to the extinct issues list. It's hard to see how the NM Supreme Court--which has set an Oct. 23 hearing on the matter--is going to block same sex couples from tying the knot after a series of lower court rulings affirmed the right. For example:
On September 3, Judge Alan Malot of  Albuquerque issued a declaratory judgment against all 33 county clerks, ruling that the New Mexico Constitution requires issuance of marriage licenses to otherwise-qualified same-sex couples. 

It will be gutsy Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins who will be going down in history as the public official who led one of the most dramatic civil rights breakthroughs in state history. His decision to go it alone and issue same sex licenses forced the courts and the rest of the body politic to react.

It reminds us of  another down ballot public official who made similar civil rights history for our state.

It was then-ABQ GOP State Rep. Dave Cargo who "sued to force redistricting of the state House based on population, rather than having members elected at large from counties, a system he said led to conservative white Democrats controlling the Legislature and state government."

Cargo went on to become Governor. Ellins is nearly 80 and won't be pursuing higher office but if, as expected, the Supreme Court upholds same sex marriage, his name will be written large in the book of La Politica. Not bad for a "lowly" county clerk from a sleepy county in southern New Mexico and a lesson to up and comers that one man or woman can still make a difference--if they're willing to stand up and be counted.

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