Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Jobs Enter Martinez Vocabulary As She Visits Laid Off Questa Miners, Plus: Dunn Starts Dunning Powell In Land Office Race, And: On The Road In The North 

It took her a while but Gov. Martinez finally acknowledged the economic calamity that struck Taos County with the announcement of the shuttering of the  Chevron-operated molybdenum mine. It means 300 layoffs in a region that is historically job challenged. Following in Dem Senator Udall's steps, Martinez this week met with laid off miners and community leaders.

"When you lose, in a small town, the number of employees that have been lost here, sure, it hurts," Martinez said in an interview. "There has to be a whole new re-training, because that mine's not opening up again."

Acknowledging the state's most severe economic problem--the loss of jobs and the difficulty creating them--has not been on Martinez's list of things to do. In fact, she has shied away from the issue, even as the state plunges to the bottom in the national rankings. She's been able to do it in part because her opposition has been feeble in hanging that yoke around her neck.

Chevron announced the closure over two months ago and at that time Martinez's office put out a brief statement. But with Udall and the Dems showing empathy for the laid off maybe Martinez--hoping to run strong in the North in November--decided she could not longer afford to drag her feet....


Only twice in recent history--in 1986 and 2010--have the Republicans taken control of the office of State Land Commissioner, but 2014 GOP nominee Aubrey Dunn is giving it more than a pro forma try in his effort to oust incumbent Ray Powell, the state's longest ever serving land commissioner who served from 1993-2010 and was elected again in 2010.

Dunn, who ranches between Capitan and Roswell, is going up early and on the attack against Powell, sporting quite a comprehensive web site that spells out his differences with Powell and provides in-depth info about his own stands on the issues. He is also running Google ads that target NM voters. And Dunn has the cash on hand to take the battle against Powell to a higher level. The AP reports that at the end of June. . .

Dunn had a balance of $132,277. Incumbent Democrat Ray Powell had $86,030. Dunn raised $18,375, including $2,575 from the governor’s PAC. Powell collected $34,998, including $5,000 from International Potash Corp., which leases state land for potash mining. Powell spent $2,089; Dunn, $20,901.

The land commission contest and the battle for secretary of state are the two down ballot races on the watch list of the political pros. The Dems are almost always favored, but turnout is critical. If it tumbles the chances of the R's scoring the upset increases.

Democratic dominance of the statewide down ballot offices began in 1930, shortly after the start of the Great Depression.


We're hanging in the North this week and may take a drive over to Questa to hear what's happening and to also take in the beauty of the Enchanted Circle on which the village nestles.

Deep shades of green paint the landscape north of Santa Fe and Española. It is an unfamiliar site but welcome and a testament to the epic rainfall that graced New Mexico in July. The Rio Grande runs swiftly and the rafters bobble along with delight as they steer through the rapids and feeling more alive for it. You can see that the drought is history in these parts--at least for now. . . 

Española remains an odd mix of decades-old boarded up buildings and gas stations and the like while in their midst the giant Lowe's and Wal-Mart supercenter speak to the new economy. Most telling perhaps is the newest construction project we spotted--it's for one of those stores that loan money on your car title. . .

In Velarde we stopped for a lunch of fresh peaches at one of the many fruit stands. We bit into the first one warily, hoping it was not of the dry, mealy variety. As the peach burst forth with sweet juice we gazed toward the valley and were grateful that some things in New Mexico never change. . .

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