Thursday, May 18, 2017

Is "Being The First" Enough For Haaland To Take 1st CD Seat? Plus: The Econ Beat: Fleeing Skilled Workers Leave Facebook Project Short, And:Gold Mines For Consultants Don't Light Up NM's Future 

Deb Haaland
There's something to be said for being first. In 2010 Gov. Martinez's campaign  constantly reminded the electorate that she would be "the nation's first Hispanic female Governor." No doubt the Republican garnered many Hispanic Democratic voters who wanted to push her into the history books. Now comes a Democratic candidate for Congress who is also touting what would be a first. . .

Deb Haaland, 57, former NM Dem Party chair, attorney and member of Laguna Pueblo would be the first Native American woman to serve in the US House of Representatives,  if she were elected next year to the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and which Haaland officially announced for this week.

Unlike Martinez, Haaland would probably not have the appeal across party lines that Martinez had, but then she really doesn't need it. The ABQ congressional seat has become deep blue and winning the June '18 primary election will be tantamount to winning the seat in November, barring an extraordinary occurrence.

Haaland has seen first hand what being first means. When Gov. Martinez sought re-election in 2014 Haaland was the Democratic lieutenant governor candidate, paired with Guv nominee Gary King. They suffered a severe defeat but it gave Haaland a taste for public office.

Haaland released a solid video along with her announcement. The question now is can she raise enough funds and conduct a smooth, professional campaign? Being first comes with expectations. Among her top opponents for the Dem nomination and who will be ready to take advantage of any Haaland missteps is former US attorney Damon Martinez who is expected to join the race soon, ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis who is already announced and attorney Antoinette Sedillo Lopez.


If Attorney General Hector Balderas has his eyes on Senator Tom Udall's US senate seat now that he has decided not to run for governor, those eyes may get very tired.

Udall, who will be 72 when he is up for re-election in 2020, shows little sign of aging, and the 70's seem to be the new 60's in the world of politics. After all, Trump is over 70 and president. Also, the Alligator betting odds have Udall running again, barring any health issues. By the way, Udall's father, onetime Secretary of Interior Stewart Udall, lived to the ripe old age of 90.

There is rarely a free throw for a US senate seat or a governorship. Hector is finding that out fast.

Meanwhile Senator Martin Heinrich is in the sweet spot when it comes to the news cycle. From his perch on the Senate Intelligence Committee he is making dozens of media appearances about the Trump chaos and in the process shaping his image as as a national defense expert as he prepares for his '18 re-election effort. There is plenty of time for the cycle to turn, but right now it doesn't get much better than this for the state's junior senator. As someone once said: "Enjoy it while it lasts, because it never does."


If you head into one of ABQ's popular restaurants on a Friday night you might think the economy here is booming and that spending is off the charts. But the data doesn't support the conclusion. Take a look:

Albuquerque’s gross receipts tax revenues, which provide 64 percent of the city’s total revenue, will increase only 1 percent overall this year – well short of the 2.3 percent increase anticipated in the city’s current budget. The city’s gross receipt tax revenue for May and June would need to grow more than 12 percent over last year to meet revenue projections for the year, Romero said.

Accounting for inflation, that is negative growth in the GRT which is the biggest contributor to the city budget and a key economic indicator. The fact is ABQ is like much of the nation--the "haves" with good jobs are packing the restaurants and auto dealer lots but the many "have nots" continue to scrape by. The numerous dollar stores and payday lending outlets attest to that new economy here. It has been that way long enough to be called "the new normal."


And here's an interesting note on how the state's seemingly never-ending economic stagnation is impacting even the good news. There's trouble filling good paying jobs at the new Facebook data center being constructed in Los Lunas.

Affordable Solar has signed on to build three solar farms for the data center and is starting construction in July on the $45 million project. It has 54 job openings it is advertising. The problem? They can't find folks to fill them. Kevin Bassalleck, president of Affordable Solar explains:

The majority of the 50+ people we’re adding will be construction positions, specifically installers and electricians. The pay range for installers is $15 - $19 / hr and $24 - $33 / hr for electricians. The biggest challenge is the amount of qualified and experienced electricians. I think the relative lack of construction activity in the NM market in recent years has had an impact on the local labor force, and it has likely driven qualified men and women to other markets in search of steady work. We have a very strong portfolio of projects with the Facebook sites, as well as other regional projects that will keep us busy for quite a long time, so we’re able to establish a robust hiring plan with that certainty. 

The company has even put up a billboard in an effort to attract qualified applicants, but with the out migration of skilled people we've seen in the state in recent years, they may have to put that billboard up in Arizona and Texas.


Beware all these special elections, Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico. The fights over peripheral issues have become fodder for the professional consulting and donor classes that have gobs of cash and are spending it on issues that matter little to the future of the state, but generate much emotion and profit:

Two political action committees that duked it out over a proposed Santa Fe tax on sugary beverages spent more than $4 million on their campaigns, final finance reports showed, shattering fundraising records for a municipal election. The group that worked to defeat the proposed tax, Better Way for Santa Fe & Pre-K, won not only the election but the money war, taking in about $2.18 million in cash and in-kind contributions and spending about $189.31 per vote. All cash donations came from the American Beverage Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group that poured in more than $1.9 million. . .

What will be voting on next? Whatever the political consultants and their big money benefactors want us to?

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