Thursday, October 10, 2013

Now The Finger-Pointing; Dinelli Debacle Brings Dem Depression; Read What They're Saying About The Berry Blow-out And What Dems Need To Get Back In The Game 

Well, what would the aftermath of a blow-out election like the one we had in ABQ Tuesday night be without finger-pointing, recrimination and the blame game? Why, it wouldn't be much fun at all. So let's go to reader email as they react to the outsized re-election win of Republican Mayor Richard Berry.

Reader Michael Lamb writes:

Joe, this quote is for those Democrats who don't see the Albuquerque mayoral election as signifying trouble for the Dems in 2014 when Governor Martinez will seek re-election:

"There is no danger that Titanic will sink. The boat is unsinkable and nothing but inconvenience will be suffered by the passengers."Phillip Franklin, White Star Line Vice-President

Reader and Mayor Berry supporter Jim McClure weighs in with this:

I'm not sure that a higher voter turnout or earlier campaign launch would have helped Pete Dinelli's campaign sell a faulty product. I had a favorable opinion of Dinelli before the campaign. He impressed me as a conscientious and respected public servant who would be a serious contender for mayor.

My opinion changed when Dinelli started campaigning. His plan to add $1.5 billion in new debt, along with his obvious pandering to the unions, convinced me that the taxpayers would be taken to the cleaners in a Dinelli administration. His proposal to expand a sleepy airport was just plain silly. And his scare-tactic public safety ads were downright sleazy: I found them offensive and it's possible other voters agreed. My impression is that Dinelli ran a mostly negative campaign that failed to lay a glove on Berry and created new negatives for himself.

Reader Richard Flores says the doom and gloom in portions of the Dem camp are not justified:

I disagree that the Berry landslide alone dooms the Dems in the upcoming governor's race. Dinelli was not a strong candidate! Berry is a popular mayor, and the Democratic party is in a "hitting slump." We need candidates that will energize the party, think City Councilor Ken Sanchez or southern congressional candidate Roxanne Lara. A Sanchez/Berry race would have made for a much more interesting competition. The good old days of Democratic control in NM are over, still, having four of five reps at the national level tells me that the party can get out the vote when it counts. The future is not as gloomy as the pundits think.

Reader Kathryn Carroll asks:

What about Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman, who was apparently hiding under a rock during the entire mayoral campaign? When does he show up and lead the Party?


No blame game blog would be complete without Senior Alligator analysis, and here it is:

Pete Dinelli lost because he ran a lousy, uninspired campaign, where he asked for votes solely because he is a Democrat. Dinelli made no effort to inspire the public and did absolutely nothing to fire up the base. 

Dinelli had the chance to raise issues about Berry's judgment, such as handing over so much authority to Darren White as public safety director and his total reliance on a guy like political adviser Jay McCleskey.

 It is no secret that in 2012 Pat Woods, a Republican, successfully ran against McCleskey in his primary race in the Clovis area and defeated ta Martinez handpicked candidate. Yet, Dinelli ignored such a valuable campaign tool.

Beginning with Diane Denish's equally uninspiring 2010 campaign for governor, Democrats seem to run races solely to be in the race, not to win. Where is the raw meat that the Democratic base craves? 

In a Democrat majority state and city, if you don't fire up the base, you lose. Period. Where are the Democrats with the courage of conviction? Stop poll testing positions and sticking your finger up in the wind to see which way the wind blows. Run the race from the heart and fight for what you believe in.

This election should be a wake up call to all Democrats running for or considering running for any office for 2014. You must drive turnout by your actions. The base is tired of Democrats who are afraid of their own shadows let alone those of McCleskey and Martinez.

Like him or not, Jay is getting the job done for his team while his foes flounder. And that's the deciding difference in the world of today's La Politica.

Thanks for the comments and to those who tuned in to our Election Night coverage Tuesday. See you next week.

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Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Behind Berry's Blow-Out; We Peel The Onion On His Huge Win, Ponder Its Impact On The '14 Cycle And Analyze The State Of The City; It's All Next From New Mexico's #1 

Mayor Richard Berry (RosalesABQ Journal)
Call it Berry's blow-out or Dinelli's debacle. Whatever the superlative, it was an historic night.

The obvious plus side for Mayor Richard Berry was his startling victory margin in a Democratic city. He garnered 67.91% of the vote to Democrat Pete Dinelli's 28.65%. Republican Paul Heh eked out 3.13%.

Before now, no ABQ mayoral candidate had ever exceeded 50% of the vote in first-round balloting since we adopted the modern form of government in 1974.

(Complete election results here.)

The not so pleasant side for Berry was the crash in voter turnout. It dropped to 71,000 from 83,000 when he won his first term in 2009.

 It was the lowest number of votes cast for ABQ Mayor since 1977, according to our records, and was less than 20% of the 364,000 registered ABQ voters.

UNM political scientist Gabe Sanchez was joined by our analyst and pollster Bruce Donisthorpe in pointing out that such a low turnout means the electorate was older, more conservative, more affluent and more Anglo than the average Duke City resident. And that's a recipe for GOP success.

Be that as it may, there was no denying the rout, even if former Lt. Governor Diane Denish and 2010 Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish told our KANW 89.1 FM audience that she doesn't see the election as signifying trouble for the Dems in 2014 when Governor Martinez will seek re-election.

But that was a minority view. Former Democratic City Councilor Miguel Gomez warned that the huge Berry victory is only the prelude to bigger Republican plans to not only re-elect Susana but to take over the state House. In the aftermath of Berry's sweeping victory, that did not seem like an idle threat.

Gomez and other analysts said the crash in turnout played right into the mayor's hands and that the same strategy is on tap for the '14 cycle. Declared Gomez:

The Republicans are taking a pass on fielding strong candidates against Senator Udall and ABQ Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham because they want to keep the turnout down among Democrats. We got a very clear picture in this ABQ mayor's race on what that could mean for Governor Martinez and the key state House races.

In losing, Dinelli rightly cited the turnout collapse as a chief reason for his landslide loss, but his overall strategy was criticised by veteran politico Steve Cabiedes:

The Dinelli campaign tried to cover too many bases at one time. It was difficult for people to latch on to the candidacy. Also, he spent way too much on TV and should have spent more on field operations.

Former BernCo County Commissioner Lenton Malry said Dinelli should have loosened the purse strings earlier and bought some TV time over the summer to let voters know about him. He argued that it could have shrunk Berry's winning margin. Dinelli did not start his media buy until September.


Like Berry, Governor Susana has a big early lead in the polls and Democrats are already discouraged about their chances, just as they were at the start of this mayor's race.

Former ABQ City Councilor Greg Payne, who nailed the outcome of this election with his prediction that Berry would get 67% of the vote, gave credit where credit is due--to Berry's mostly sure-footed campaign presence and to the strategy devised and implemented by his political consultant Jay McCleskey, also known as the "Shadow Governor." Payne opined:

Jay has intimidated and bullied the Democrats. The huge drop off in Democratic turnout in the city election says it all. Until the Dems answer him with a political hit man of their own, they are wandering in the wilderness. Berry, Susana and Jay also have a lot of friendly media behind them. If Democrats don't take a lesson from this disaster for the '14 cycle, then they are brain-dead and the state House will be next to fall into Republican hands.

The recriminations will continue in the weeks ahead, with Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman among those taking hits and perhaps feeling heat to professionalize the Dem operation to make it competitive with the R's.

The Berry blow-out may never be repeated again, but for a beleaguered Democratic Party once is more than enough.


Don't underestimate the likability factor. President Obama had it in 2012 when he faced an economy in trouble but managed to capture the win. Now Berry, also faced with a troubling economic picture, was able to keep it from blemishing his own nice guy, approachable image.

History will remember the Berry win for its totality, but will it remember his first-term mayoralty? Not really. He is a caretaker, taking no bold steps but putting a friendly face on troubled times. As Lenton Malry on KANW put it last night: "There is a large swath of the electorate who want a Mayor who does little. Berry is their man."

An often obsequious press and a disemboweled opposition are other key factors in Berry's political success.


We've re-elected our last two Governors by big margins and Marty Chavez was easily re-elected Mayor of ABQ in 2005. Now Berry has also easily secured a second term. The fund-raising advantage and name ID of the incumbent can't be underestimated. It is harder than ever to oust them. Chavez was seeking a third term in 2009 and that was too much, but second terms? NM and ABQ voters seem more prone to go along.


Joe Monahan on the air (Bralley)
Mayor Berry won a huge victory not only because  of the Democratic forfeit but also because he told people what they wanted to hear--not necessarily what is happening.

We think that even Jay McCleskey would agree with that.

The city has lost its mojo. There are multiple reasons for that and most of tbem can't be blamed on the Mayor.

The chipping away at our federal funding, the failure to diversify our economy, the flight of our bright, young people to greener pastures and the rough-edged city we've become as exemplified by the TV series "Breaking Bad" all remind us that 21st century ABQ is on a much different course than yesteryear.

Berry's optimistic '"the glass is half full" message and his constant encouragement that we believe "things are getting better" is welcome to the sliver of the electorate that showed up Tuesday. And we're sure McCleskey honed in on that in the focus groups he used to craft the Berry message for a low turnout election.

Diane Denish maintained on KANW that we have become victims of our own low expectations, that we rejoice over a call center announcement, even as the city is depopulated of high-paying jobs.

But what's to be done? The national and global forces at play seem to demand too much of anyone--even the most determined. It makes Berry's world view that past glory is soon to return seem as welcome as the return of spring after an especially bitter winter.

Berry's Pollyannish poise and McCleskey's unapologetic, bad-guy anti-intellectualism give desperately needed cover to the shrinking ABQ business and media aristocracy. "We're not Detroit," they exclaim, as if the avoidance of disaster is the definition of success.

The Mayor opted out of an interview with us last night, as did GOP State Rep. Larry Larranaga and GOP City Councilor Brad Winter. Is this a case of puppets not wanting to offend their puppeteer? Or a disdain for honest inquiry? Or both?


Diane Gibson (l) with supporter
There was a glimmer of sunshine for the Dems Election Night. Dem Diane Gibson forced a November 19 election with Republican City Councilor Janice Arnold Jones in District 7 in the mid NE Heights.

Arnold-Jones, appointed by Mayor Berry to fill a council vacancy, slipped just below the magic 50% mark that would have seen her elected. The bean counters said she failed to take the outright win by about 75 votes.

Complicating the picture for her is the proposed referendum on restricting late term abortions. It appears that it will now be an in-person election--not a mail-in--and held the same day as the council run-off.

Pro-choice groups in the Dem dominated district can be expected to put on a full court press--as will anti-abortion activists. That muddles the turnout outlook for Arnold-Jones.

Some wondered out loud if there will be GOP machinations to move that abortion vote to another day or delay it. They noted that GOP Councilor Trudy Jones is already trying to stop the abortion referendum from going on the run-off ballot.

That Gibson was able to hold Arnold-Jones below 50% was largely a result of the ABQ firefighters union and other Dem interest groups choosing to stand and fight.

Analysts Payne and Cabiedes noted that at some District 7 polling places lines formed in the afternoon rush hour--a testament to their devotion. What if that had happened in the Mayor's race? They wondered.


Then there was the tiresome ass kissing of Chris Sanchez, Mayor Berry's flack, congratulating reporters on Twitter (KRQE's Alex Goldsmith, KOAT-TV's Tanya Mendis and the ABQ Journal's Dan McKay among them) on the "thorough" job they had done covering the campaign.

That would have been taken as an insult back in our days on the beat--or at least hidden from public view. Hopefully, this new generation realizes the game being played. If not....

Here's the deal. If you want to be a real reporter and not a star or starlet, you are into ass kicking--not getting your ass kissed.

(Yeah, Chris, nothing personal. Call me for coffee if Jay says it's okay).


Mayor Berry outlined no grand strategy for his second four year term that will commence December 1. Speculation immediately started about his future political plans, but it seemed premature. Meantime, he faces some immediate challenges:

Berry enters a second term in office to face mounting criticism from the city’s police and fire unions. Leaders of both unions campaigned on street corners on Tuesday claiming that public safety is at risk under Berry’s administration. “We haven’t had the leadership in place to say we’re going to take care of public safety first, to its full extent,” Diego Arencon, President of the Albuquerque Area Fighters union said.By next June, he said cost of living allowances will change, which could cause Albuquerque firefighters to seek employment elsewhere.Leaders of the police union said Mayor Berry has failed to adequately address recruitment and retention of officers.

But even more than that there is the outcome of the federal Department of Justice civil rights probe of the ABQ police force and the still anemic ABQ economy. What surprises will they deliver?

Mayor Berry, Governor Martinez and McCleskey were spotted hanging out at the ABQ Uptown Sheraton well after the election results were in and the hoopla had died down. They had reason not to relinquish the moment--they had scaled the peak in grand style.

Will there be an effective challenge to their ownership of that land or are there even more mountains for them to conquer in the face of a muted opposition?


Dem City Councilor Ike Benton easily defeated Republican Councilor Roxanna Myers last night in the ABQ North Valley council race. That means the council is now controlled by the R's 5 to 4. If Arnold-Jones were to lose to Gibson the Dems would take control on a 5 to 4...

All 10 bond issues on the ballot passed easily--especially the one for storm sewers. Do you think the wild and wet summer weather season may have had something to do with that?..

Dem consultant Harry Pavlides wins the prediction contest on turnout. He nailed it--nearly exactly--as he predicted 71,000 votes would be cast...

Congratulations to Mayor Berry and the victorious city council candidates. We wish them well as they lead our beloved city into the next four years.

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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Look Out Below? Analysts See Turnout Dropping in Today's City Election, Plus: Join Us At 7 Tonight For Live Election Results, And: The Pope And You 


How low can you go? That seems to be the big question about City Election '13--not who will be elected Mayor.

The air of apathy surrounding the mayoral contest between Republican Mayor Richard Berry, Dem challenger Pete Dinelli and Republican challenger Paul Heh has our election analysts saying "look out below!"

None of them is predicting that turnout will match the 2009 turnout of 83,000 when Berry beat Dem Mayor Marty Chavez and Dem Richard Romero.

On the low end consultant Harry Pavlides comes with a projection of 71,000. On the high end former NM Dem Party Chairman John Wertheim crosses his fingers and hopes for just below 83,000.

Republican consultant and pollster Bruce Donisthorpe says look for 75,000 to 77,000 to cast ballots and former Dem ABQ City Councilor Miguel Gomez says "low 70's."

Not that it matters all that much to Mayor Berry. Each of the aforementioned predictors all said on our KANW-FM radio pre-game show Monday that it is "unlikely" or "very unlikely" that Dinelli will manage to keep Berry below the 50% mark and force a run-off election on November 19.

Dinelli was hearing none of it, saying:

You’re gonna see a few people surprised that there’s gonna be a runoff.

Dinelli's last minute hopes are pinned on this: Dems outnumber R's in the city 46% to 31% so if he can get his party out he feels he has a run-off shot.

A key factor working against Dinelli, say our analysts, is the failure of third party groups to come in and help him in a significant way. He opted for public financing and spent around $360,000. Berry raised over $800,000 and also had some third party media buys as well.

Both major polls conducted in the mayoral race in September--by the ABQ Journal and NM Politics with Joe Monahan--had Berry in a commanding lead--63% in the Journal survey and 61% in ours.


A subplot to the election is that proposal to ban late term abortions.

City Council President Dan Lewis says if the mayoral election or none of the city council races are forced into run-offs, the Nov. 19 referendum on the abortion matter will be conducted by mail.

If, however, there is at least one run-off election, the abortion referendum will be conducted like a regular city election with absentee and in-person voting.


The end of the ABQ mayor's race today will mark the real start of the 2014 Guv contest. Contenders could start collecting the necessary petition signatures on October 1. Gov. Martinez begins as the heavy favorite among local analysts as well as national pundits. The liberal Daily Kos comes with its first ranking of the NM Guv battle and ranks it "likely Republican." The ratings are subject to change as the race takes shape.

Gary King and Linda Lopez are the only announced Dem candidates and Governor Martinez has no primary opposition.


The first three years of Governor Martinez's term have been dominated by her insistence that New Mexico repeal driver's license for undocumented workers. Each legislative session she has fought for the measure--unsuccessfully--and repeatedly used it is a political weapon on the campaign trail  against legislators who support the licenses. It has been a good wedge issue for her, but those days may be behind us. The news:

California (last week) joined the growing list of states that allow immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally to obtain driver's licenses—a measure supported not only by Latino activists but by police chiefs and insurance authorities. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill...predicting other parts of the country will follow the example set by the nation's most populous state. The licenses, which are expected to become available no later than January 2015, will carry a special designation on the front and a notice stating that the document is not official federal identification and cannot be used to prove eligibility for employment or public benefits.

No word yet on whether Martinez will again ask the Legislature in January to repeal the licenses here.

Sidebar: You wonder if the tide is turning enough so that it will help out Los Alamos Dem State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard. She got tied up in knots over the issue, leaving analysts to predict that the driver's licenses could pose a threat to her re-election next year. Governor Martinez attacked Garcia Richard over the issue in a March radio appearance;


The new Pope rocked the world when he declared the Catholic church has become "obsessed" with gays and abortion. A new poll says American Catholics believe he's right.

We asked Allen Sanchez, CEO of St Joseph Community Health, (one of our sponsors) how he sees that playing out on the state political landscape:

Pope Francis didn't say that those traditional issues aren't important but that other issues are also important and that is why the Bishops of New Mexico have made the Constitutional Amendment for early childhood a priority.

Passage of this funding is a moral and ethical issue. We can not leave our children on a track for a life time in poverty when an investment in early programs can have a huge effect on our little ones' future.

...Pope Francis is challenging all of us to find new ways to take care of each other. New Mexico's challenge is evident in our ranking of 50th in children's well-being. Hoarding the amount of money generated by gas and oil royalties, and accumulating it into the second largest Permanent Fund in the nation is immoral when the need grows and grows.

 As the Executive Director of the New Mexico Conference of Bishops I can tell you the Bishops recognize what Pope Francis is saying and will continue to lead the efforts to find new ways to address the poverty our children are living in.

The early childhood Constitutional Amendment would be subject to voter approval. The issue is expected to surface again in the 2014 legislative session.


A furloughed Federal employee in ABQ--awaiting the reopening of the partially shut government--writes:

This is the first time in 12 years I've had this much time off. I hear we might go back on the 17th, but who knows? Until then I am living out the life of the unemployed--growing a beard and hanging out in bars. Speaker John Boehner did this to me!

Hanging out in bars and growing beards? Heck, that's a New Mexico vacation tradition.

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Monday, October 07, 2013

Join Us For Our City Election Pre-Game Show At 5 Today, Plus: Pearce's Problems Mount Amid Shutdown, And: The Witty Entries And Winners In Our Photo Caption Contest 

Who will win the race for ABQ Mayor? By what percentage? How about the council contests?

Who's up and who's down? And just how many of us will vote in Tuesday's city election?

Those are some of  the topics we'll cover today as we kick-off two days of election coverage. Our pre-game show is this afternoon at 5 p.m. on KANW 89.1 FM and KANW.COM.

We welcome your company today and again Tuesday night at 7 p.m. for our traditional wall-to-wall public radio Election Night coverage.

Now to the latest La Politica...


For Republican Steve Pearce there will be no winning from this Federal government shutdown. In fact, it is now about cutting his losses--losses that are accumulating daily for the southern New Mexico congressman.

While conservatism runs deep through the southern soil, it is not enough to offset the economic pain that is raining down on the district as a result of the shutdown. Here's an editorial from the Carlsbad Current-Argus that is among the first signs that Pearce confronts a no-win situation:

This is a last-ditch effort by Pearce and other House Republicans to force changes to existing law that they could not accomplish through the legislative process, through the judicial process or through the election process...The economic impact that a lengthy shutdown would have on our community would be damaging. The impact it would have on those going weeks or longer without a paycheck would be devastating...(Obamacare) will not be overturned by this misguided effort. The only question now is how much damage will be done to our local and national economies before Pearce and other House Republicans come to that realization.

The shutdown could have not have at a worst time for Pearce. His district votes reliably conservative, but it is slowly changing. That has led the Dems to recruit former Eddy County Commissioner  Roxanne Lara to run against him next year. She reports raising $100,000 in September, a bullish kick-off for her embryonic campaign.

Pearce is also busted in that Carlsbad editorial for trying to have it both ways. They quote him as saying he is standing on principle in supporting the shutdown. But they cite another quote where he turns around and blames the shutdown on the Senate Democrats. (And then there was Pearce's tortured explanation to the ABQ newspaper on just where he stood on the shutdown. We covered that here.)

That double-talk strikes at the very heart of Pearce's image--as an authentic, straight shooting conservative you might not always agree with, but who always calls them as he sees them. It is the kind of inconsistency that makes for good negative TV ads.

The thinking has been that Lara may be in this for a "twofer." She runs respectable in the low turnout year of '14, but comes back in the higher turnout presidential year of 2016 to run again and take Pearce out.That path is still littered with obstacles but it seems less so in the wake of the DC dysfunction.

Pearce is like a wounded cowboy, shot in the arm and leaving drops of blood in the sand as he searches for help. Each day the shutdown continues, his wound grows deeper.


Paul Heh has  been described as the "hell-raiser" of Campaign '13 and today we hear the argument for supporting him as we wrap up our reader letters backing each of the three mayoral candidates. Here's reader Mathew Blanchfield:

...A lot of people have scoffed at the notion of Paul Heh as mayor, but who else is better qualified?...He knows better than the other two candidates what moves regular citizens because he is one and has served them as a police officer before the APD stigmatization. By being such an outspoken and aggressive candidate, and personally direct in his challenges to RJ Berry (whom he supported in '09), I'm persuaded that he will carry the same passion to city hall on behalf of all Albuquerqueans.

Of all the candidates, his ideas of using what we naturally have resonated the most. From our resources, our institutions, our geography, our history, and our citizens, only Mr. Heh says "we have it" instead of Mr. Berry's "we're gonna."

Mr. Heh represents what our system of democracy is all about: that our political process is not dependent on a candidate's resources but reliant on their passion and their ideas. Mr. Heh eclipses both the other candidates in both these regards. I and my family support and have voted for Mr. Heh. Maybe just this once we can be represented by somebody in city hall who not only knows what the rest of us are going through in this city but is not indebted to people who funded his campaign.

Here are the websites for Heh, Berry and Dinelli.

Here are the voting locations for Tuesday's election.

Here is the League of Women Voters in-depth guide to the election.


When photog Mark Bralley sent this pic of Governor Martinez we knew we had the makings of a good photo caption contest. Here are some of the witty entries, two of which win $25 prizes:

"Mmmm good. More of that Koch brothers Juice." Fred Gallegos 

"Mmmm, that's nice... I can't feel their pain..." Anonymous

"John Sanchez will never be Governor, not even for one day. Ha! " Anonymous

"Thank God for free shots under Obamacare! Paul Sandman

"Breaking Bad never felt so good" Ben Fletcher

"The Koch brothers told me when I get my shot I should think about how they shut down the government!" Karen Summers

“Okay. Legalize it.” Scortt Beckman

“If I get this shot, Jay (McCleskey) says I can go to dance practice!” Ed Lopez

"I love mainlining Koch, it gives me such a Rush."  Joe Craig

"After the sodium pentothal kicks in, we'll know the truth about the emails, the Koch brothers meeting, the racino, the behavioral audit---everything!" Alan Petit

"Get that camera out of here. I'm trying to catch a buzz." Jack Torres

"That feels good. No, it doesn't." (the truth serum is working!) Thumper Eaton

"Oh, so sweet. Another million from the Koch brothers, Jay, you are a godsend." Tony Griego

"I'm already ahead in my race for the White House against Hillary in 2016, and almost no Democrats even know I'm running." Dan Davis

"I smell alcohol from the swab--or is it those Koch brothers dollars that smell so good?" J.S.

Fun stuff. So who are the winners? Well, we laughed out loud at Joe Craig's double pun so he's in the winner's circle. And we liked the ironic note and topical tie-in struck by Paul Sandman about Obamacare so he's also a $25 winner.

Were you surprised by the many references readers made to the Koch brothers? That secret August meeting Susana had with the wealthy conservatives in Bernalillo really struck a nerve. Well, we hope it doesn't get under the Guv's skin. (Get it, she's getting a needle in the picture...Oh, never mind..)

See you on the radio today at 5 p.m.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.      

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2013. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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