Friday, November 18, 2016

Campaign '16 Aftermath: One For The Road 

Here's our latest for the ABQ Free Press.

More than a few voters treated this election's outcome like an unwanted Christmas gift. They moved quickly to try to return it, pass it down to a friend or put it up in the attic to be forgotten. But as the old saying goes: "Elections have consequences" and they can't be ignored, no matter how disconsolate one is over the outcome. Here are some of those consequences for our fair New Mexico. 

The state Legislature is about to take a step toward the left as it adds two Democrats to the state senate and five Democrats to the House. The means the 2014 historic Republican takeover of the House is kept at two years. But will the deeper blue shading of the Roundhouse mean big policy changes? It's not likely. Remember, Republican Gov. Martinez still has two years left and is now unwrapping her veto pen for use if the Democrats start sending her legislation that makes her frown. 

Given the likelihood of more Santa Fe gridlock the impact of the election is mainly on the narrative. That means much less talk about the conservative agenda of Right to Work, cutting regulations and taxes and much more about education, poverty and the state's depopulation. In other words, all that fun stuff the Republicans tried to sweep under the rug with an all-crime-all-the-time agenda that failed to keep voters from straying from them.

The most visceral fear of the Trump presidency in New Mexico is among those who may be here illegally. He is pledging to quickly deport millions of undocumented immigrants who he determines to be criminals. How that's defined is what is sending shivers up the spines of the state's large immigrant community. 

Trump did not triumph here as New Mexico handed a resounding 48 to 40 percent win to Clinton. But that does not mean for the next four years the state will always get the short end of the stick. It's a mixed bag.

Trump has pledged to "rebuild" the military and rescind defense cuts. That's a big deal for the state's four military bases as well as Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories which are deeply entwined with the defense industry. He is also saying that a federal hiring freeze he plans will not apply to the military. Since federal funding remains the principal driver of the state's economy, that's a bit of good news. 

On the other hand, a Trump presidency, combined with Republican control of both houses of Congress, could mean a  hit to the social safety net programs that so much of the state is dependent upon in the form of Medicaid and food stamps. These programs are exploding with recipients as the state's economic stagnation makes more residents eligible. 

The individual fortunes of a slew of state politicians were reshaped by Election '16. Gov. Martinez's refusal to endorse Trump cost her dearly with the Republican base. Don't look for Trump to plot revenge against her but do look for her to be ignored by the White House. 

Southern GOP conservative Congressman Steve Pearce was the only prominent state office holder to go all in for Trump. That could mean more power (and pressure) for him as the state looks to Peace to hold off any especially damaging fallout from Washington. He will also have a big say in the passing out of plum federal jobs here. 

Democrat US Senator Tim Udall may have had it with DC. His party failed to take back the Senate and Udall is now publicly acknowledging that he is looking at running for the 2018 Dem nomination for Governor. He is a big foot in a small pond and if he gets in, it could end the nomination hopes of ABQ US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Up next? The October 2017 Albuquerque mayoral election but after the tumult of this year we're all permitted to take a break from La Politica but only until the Christmas trees come down.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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