Thursday, July 20, 2017

Following The Money Leads To A Gator Strike On Steve, TV Stations Prep For Windfall, Pushback On Higher Ed Consolidation, And: Joe Carraro; Remember Him? He's Making Noise Again 

We hear you. Follow the money. . . which leads the Alligators to this statement by US Rep Steve Pearce who is also a freshly minted candidate for the 2018 GOP gubernatorial nomination:

Steve grew up south of Hobbs as one of six kids. His parents did everything possible to provide for him and his siblings while earning a $2.62 hourly wage.

And the Gator push back:

It looks like his father and mother struggled but in reality in1947 (when Pearce was born) that wage of $2.62 in 1947 would be equal to $29.65 in 2017. This is a good wage for the period that works out to about $4,700 a month based on a 40 hour work week. 

Hey, when you're worth millions as Steve is today, that probably looks like chump change. Nice try, Steve, but you're the victim of an Alligator strike, no doubt the first of many to come for both sides in the months ahead. Congrats, or something. . .

Martin Heinrich reports $3.1 million in cash on hand in his latest finance filing. New Mexico is not a targeted seat for the national R's. The waiting game on this one still centers on Lt. Gov. John Sanchez who has been flirting with a run against the freshman senator. . .

We can already declare one winner in the '18 campaign--the TV stations. They're finally going to get some contested races that will draw major league advertising. The open races for Governor and the congressional seats in ABQ and the south will bolster their bottom lines--although all three major network stations in the city are owned by out of state companies. The payday will be good but not as stupendous as it was in 2008 when NM was a swing presidential state, had an open race for US Senate as well as the ABQ and southern congressional seats.


One of our longtime blog sponsors checks in with this news:

Albuquerque Area Fire Fighters, Local 244 of the International Association endorsed Tim Keller for Mayor of Albuquerque. Diego Arencon, President of IAFF Local 244 said, "Tim understands that public safety is our priority, with his accountability and proven leadership he will ensure a safe future for the city of Albuquerque. He knows we must invest in fire and police staffing, operations and infrastructure to protect our community; taking direction from the voters to provide the necessary revenue to get the job done!”

This is the latest in a long line of union endorsements for Keller. The election is October 3.


Attention policy wonks. The 2017 Annual Social and Economic Indicators for New Mexico is out, courtesy of the economists at the state Dept. of Workforce Solutions. Here's just one sample from the swarm of data contained in the review:

New Mexico’s growth between 2010 and 2016 was solely driven by a natural increase in population from births. During the period, the natural increase of the population equaled 59,585 people (or 0.5 percent of the population), while net migration reached -37,780 people (an average annual rate of -0.3 percent of the population). This ranked the state twenty-first in the nation for rate of natural increase but forty-ninth in the nation for rate of net migration. Alaska and Illinois reported larger rates of net outmigration than New Mexico.

Good stuff for those inclined to delight in data.


Democrat Ray Powell was defeated by Republican Aubrey Dunn for state land commissioner in 2014. Not the other way around as we had it in the first blog draft Wednesday. Thanks to the readers who pointed that out.


Reader Brian Borchers thoughtfully writes that the hue and cry for consolidation of New Mexico's over built higher education system heard here and elsewhere may not be the answer to the right sizing question:

Both Georgia and New Jersey have been attempting to save money by consolidating institutions. So far, they haven't achieved much in the way of savings. The reason for this is simply that the consolidations have only managed to save administrative salaries, which are a small part of the overall budget. Facilities costs are sunk costs (you can't easily sell off an unneeded campus and even with leased space you might be on the hook for years of rent) and the cost of instructors is basically proportional to the number of students. Consolidation of institutions didn't result in decreases in enrollment (which Georgia didn't want to happen anyway.) The Chronicle of Higher Ed recently reported on this, and the actual savings achieved by consolidation in George were about 1%. 

My take on the politics of higher education in New Mexico is that the legislature would rather keep cutting every institution's budget by the same amount then take steps to shut down the weaker institutions or even to force a consolidation of the smaller community colleges with UNM and NMSU. 

For New Mexico, Improving retention and ultimately graduation rates is probably a more important and approachable task than consolidating institutions and eliminating campuses. These rates are low at our community colleges and regional universities. They're also low at the three research institutions. This is an area where we should be doing better. Another issue is that NM ranks among the worst states in terms of community college students transferring to 4-year institutions and graduating with bachelors degrees. The ongoing effort to improve articulation between the 2- and 4-year institutions is an important effort that deserves more coverage. 

Now that's what you call food for thought. Have some of your own? Dish it up to our email and we'll serve it to the state.


More than a few of you will recall former NM GOP state Senator Joe Carraro, the brash, forthright and entertaining lawmaker who represented ABQ's west side in the senate for some 20 years. He also made a run for the ABQ congressional seat, later became an independent and then retired from politics. But Carraro, now 72, and living again in his native New York City, hasn't retired from controversy. One of our Alligators visiting NYC recently spotted this item in the NY Post:

A retired NM state senator who came to the Big Apple to pursue a career as a playwright is suing his Manhattan building, saying his Hell's Kitchen apartment is too noisy.  Joseph Carraro's high-rise rental faces West 42nd Street and overlooks the Lincoln tunnel entrance.  

Carraro moved cross-country in June to write the next great Broadway play but the noise  outside his apartment has caused his blood pressure to soar, his suit alleges. He also cites construction noise inside the building, according to the suit in Manhattan Supreme Court. He's suing build manager George Laitsas and accuses the leasing company of a bait-and-switch by putting him in the 42nd Street side of the building instead of the 43rd Street side that had allegedly been agreed upon. Neither Carraro nor Laitsas returned calls

We wonder if New Mexico will get a mention in Joe's "great Broadway play?" Whatever it's about it will be hard to top the shenanigans that go on in real life in the Santa Fe Roundhouse and where Carraro earned his chapter in the never ending book of La Politica.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Another Political Domino Pushed; Dunn Will Seek Southern Congress Seat Leaving Land Office Race Open, Plus: Should Pearce Resign To Make His Seat Safer For The R's? And: "Anti-Alcohol" Guv Candidate Pushes Back Against That Label 

The politicos are seriously cutting into our summer hammock time but duty calls so once again we're off to the early but crowded campaign trail. . .

State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, Jr. is the latest to set off a domino effect. He will leave the Land Office rather than seek re-election next year and instead seek the GOP nomination for the southern congressional district that Rep. Steve Pearce is leaving to make a run for Governor. Here's what that means:

--Former GOP Land Commissioner Pat Lyons, now on the Public Regulation Commission but term limited, is the most likely major name to seek the GOP nomination for the Land Office, according to GOP Alligators.

--The Dunn decision can be seen as a boost for former Dem Land Commissioner Ray Powell, Jr. who is in a testy Democratic primary battle with political newcomer Garrett VeneKlasen. Dunn beat Powell four years ago and Dems have been nervous about again making Powell their nominee. The Dunn jump will ease that concern but with an aggressive challenge from VeneKlasen, who is getting support from Sen. Heinrich, Powell is not out of the woods.

--Lyons would be an easier candidate for the Dems to beat than Dunn who had the power of an incumbent. The race goes from toss-up to "lean Dem."

--Dunn is now the clear frontrunner for the GOP nod for the southern district. Not that Alamogordo state Rep. Yvette Harrell, who got in the race last week, is a lightweight. She is well respected in her conservative area but Dunn has the district wide name ID and a better ability to raise the funds needed for the race. But Dunn did run and lose a previous bid for the GOP nomination so the race will remain on the watch list.

--If Dunn is the eventual nominee, it will be a difficult ride for the Dems. Dunn a native of Alamogordo, has proven his statewide electability by already beating a Democrat. And his cowboy image fits well with the district. And he doesn't shy away from negative campaigns. He was already on the attack against Powell as he announced his candidacy

“As New Mexico’s Land Commissioner, I have ‘drained the swamp’ that Ray Powell and his Santa Fe cronies left behind at the Land Office,” Dunn said. “By setting the right tone at the top, I’ve worked hand-in-hand with exemplary staff to enhance customer service, direct more money to education and the Land Grant Permanent Fund, and bring a common-sense approach to the conservation of our public lands.”

--There are vulnerabilities for a Dunn candidacy and reader Greg Lennes was quick to focus on a couple of them:

Dunn says he supports private landowners’ rights and is an anti-Federal government advocate. However, Mr. Dunn should applaud the federal government for his own farm subsidies over the years - $542,478.  Now he questions our Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument near Las Cruces. He is the ultimate political hypocrite. When Pearce says "jump" to him, Mr. Dunn is hopping in a frenzy. Their goal is strictly to carve up our National Monument for the benefit of a few political contributors.


There is more than idle chatter about Rep. Steve Pearce making life easier for his party by resigning his congressional seat and devoting his full-time energies to his Guv run. Why?

Well, first, if Pearce were to resign, the Governor would need to call a special election within 90 days to fill out the unexpired portion of Pearce's term which runs until the end of '18. Such a hastily called election is seen benefiting the Republicans who already have an edge in the district.

If Pearce were to resign--and no one is saying he is about to--the central committees of the state Dem and GOP would name nominees who would face-off in the special.

The Dems don't have an obvious front runner, plus the truncated campaign would give them little time to make the case the district needs a big change.

A Pearce resignation would also give the new GOP congressman for the district--assuming that is the outcome--a leg up in the important seniority rankings, if, as expected, he or she were to seek re-election to a full term in 2020.

Pearce has taken fire from GOP loyalists over the Guv run who say as the only R and conservative in the state's congressional delegation he should stay put and not risk an all blue NM congressional delegation.


Sometimes we get under the skin of the politicos (who would have thunk?). Our recent blogging of Dem Guv candidate Pete DeBennedettis is a case in point, and we give him equal time to make it:

Hi Joe, You recently wrote: 

"As for anti-alcohol Guv candidate Peter DeBenedettis, who is not expected to raise significant money, Peter, you may need a stiff belt of bourbon before this one is over."

I get that you don’t take my candidacy seriously, but do you have to make stuff up about me — calling me “Anti-Alcohol?” Since when is working to keep kids from drinking being anti-alcohol?. . . And exactly how is standing up for NM tax-payers who shell out $400 each per year to pay for the costs our state bears because alcohol taxes are so low being anti-alcohol? I think the 50% of New Mexicans who don’t drink call it being fiscally prudent.

You’re missing a couple of things staring most New Mexican’s in the face when you give my candidacy short-shift. I’m the only bonafide progressive in the race. Do you honestly think the 48.5% of the Democratic primary voters who supported Bernie are going to jump behind the other moderate to conservative choices in the race?

And about not raising big money. Every poll for the past 10 years . . .report that money’s influence in politics is a big problem. Over 70% of voters in both parties think politicians are more interested in paying off their donors and taking care of themselves than about really helping everyday people. The fact that the other candidates have raised so much is my biggest advantage. Old school politicians and analysts who can’t see the handwriting on the wall are going to be in for a big surprise when the primary results don’t match their poll numbers and pundit proclamations.

Gees, Peter, we haven't had our ears boxed like that since we were caught smoking in high school. But you're going to have spread your love around because we are far from the only one reporting in the Governor's race who is calling you the "anti-alcohol" candidate. Why, just Sunday, Dan McKay, writing in the ABQ Journal, used the exact same phrase  to describe you:

and Peter DeBenedittis, an anti-alcohol activist from Santa Fe. . . 

Cover your ears, Dan, Peter is on his way over. (Well, at least he's not hitting us with an empty bottle of Smirnoff.)

And, Peter, are you really helping your cause by now advocating legalization of marijuna in the state? What about keeping kids from smoking pot, not just boozing their brains?


The annual jobs fair held by Dem ABQ South Valley state Senator Michael Padilla has become a draw in job needy ABQ. The latest edition is today:

"This year's job fair will feature 93 employers with over 2,100 jobs available" said Padilla. Last year's job fair drew over 4,000 job seekers. All registered employers are hiring right now. Click here for the current list of registered employers. The job fair is today--Wednesday, July 19, from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, at Harrison Middle School, located at 3912 Isleta SW, located just behind the South Valley Library. 

On a political note, we broke the news here earlier this year that Padilla would seek the Dem nomination for Lt. Governor in '18. He now says he is ready and will make his bid official next week. . .

We said in a first blog draft that a $1000 donation that ABQ Dem congressional nominee received from Rep, Deborah Armstrong, a close ally of Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham,  a Dem candidate for Governor, night reveal Grisham's own leanings in that crowded congressional contest. But Dem Alligators remind us that it was Grisham who urged attorney Antoinette Sedillo Lopez to get in the race so the Armstrong donation isn't necessarily a tell on Grisham supporting Haaland.

Grisham has not endorsed anyone in the race as she did in the ABQ mayoral race when she threw her support behind Deanna Archuleta who later withdrew. With all that in the background it's probably best Michelle not poke her nose under any more political tents other than her own. It gets the Gators going. . .

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Hot Summer On The Campaign Trail: Fundraising Surprises In ABQ Mayoral And Congressional Contests Rattle Contestants  

It's a hot summer on the campaign trail. Let's start with that growing hotter-by-the-day ABQ mayoral race. . .

Bad news for Dan Lewis. The GOP city councilor can't shake fellow R mayoral hopeful and BernCo Commissioner Wayne Johnson who surprised with a campaign report showing he raised $122,000 in the last three month reporting period and now has $187,000 in cash on hand. That pretty much ensures Johnson will have a TV buy and mail campaign for the final stretch leading to the October 3 election.

(All mayoral campaign finance reports here).

In his personal appearances Johnson has been running an aggressive attack campaign against Lewis. The latest insider polling still has Lewis holding on to second place. His chances to make a two person run-off--which will happen if no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote--still seem good. But Lewis will have to look behind him as he runs, keeping track of Johnson's position.

Lewis has $192,000 in the bank, only a few thousand more than Republican rival Johnson. But Lewis is thought to have a better shot at raising more. He paid longtime fund-raiser Terri Baird nearly $30,000 in the latest reporting period.

Then there's 81 year old businessman and Republican Ricardo Chaves. Can he catch fire? He has the kindling. Chavez has stoked his campaign kitty with another $200,000. That's on top of the initial $300,000 he anted up. He reports $374,000 in cash on hand, second only to Brian Colon.

Chaves is the first mayor wannabe to do a mass mailing. It hit last week and we have it posted here today.


There are no signs yet that the Governor's political machine is in on the Johnson effort, according to the finance reports filed last week with the city. He has been using veteran GOP fundraiser Ann Ekern to help him raise his cash. She has not been associated with Martinez machine leader Jay McCleskey.


Brian Colón's reputation for being an able fund-raiser was enhanced when he again zipped past the field by raising $263,000 in the past three months. The other good news for Colón--who polling shows running a distant third behind Dem Tim Keller and Lewis--is that he has hardly spent any of that cash. He has $513, 000 cash on hand. If he can come with a message that resonates--something that has eluded him thus far--his supporters believe that money could help him quickly close the gap.


Keller opted for public financing and he hasn't been shy about spending it. He has already burned through $132,000 of the $342,000 the city deposited into his account. The state auditor has coughed up over $100,000 of that for consulting and campaign salaries. He is being consulted by Alan Packman's firm which has emerged in recent years as a near ubiquitous presence on Democratic campaigns.

Keller is going to need every penny that independent committee being formed on his behalf plans on raising. Right now it has a paltry $2,000 in its account. But that is expected to change. If for some reason the committee falls short or its media is ineffective, early frontrunner Keller could find himself threatened by Colón and Lewis because his own campaign account is headed lower.


Chaves mailer (click to read)
Some entertaining entries from the finance reports. Former NM Democratic Party Chairman and attorney Sam Bregman donated $250 to none other than Republican Dan Lewis. Bregman is also a former ABQ city councilor. . .

Another lawyer and A former GOP state senator--Lisa Torraco--came with $1,000 for Republican Wayne Johnson. . .

Former GOP US Senator Jack Schmitt ponied up $2,000 for Johnson who is more conservative than Lewis. . . And who says the news media is a bunch of liberals? Former TV news anchor Carla Aragon raised the flag for Johnson with a $350 donation. . .

He may know something you and me don't because what money Brian Colón spent went largely for a $28,000 poll. Do tell, Brian. . . Lewis is paying the campaign manager he brought in from out of state--Stewart Bragg--$6,000 a month, according to the reports. . .

And here's one of the eyebrow raisers from the reports. Former Dem state Senator and now lobbyist Richard Romero gave $150 to Wayne Johnson. Romero has been scorned in some Democratic circles ever since 2009 when Romero, then-Dem Mayor Martin Chavez and R Richard Berry duked it out for the mayoral chair. Berry went on to win handily and many Dems hold Romero accountable for the loss, saying he split the Democratic vote. . .


There will be major mayoral action in ABQ tonight as all the candidates are expected at a League of Women Voters/ABQ Tea Party sponsored forum. It will be at the UNM Continuing Education Center from 7 to 8:30 p.m.


An early shake-up in the seven way Dem race for the ABQ congressional seat. The most "progressive" candidate in the bunch came with a surprisingly weak money report.

ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis, who heads the advocacy group ProgressNowNM and who is thought to have access to national political support, only raised $68,000 in the most recent quarter. That was far surpassed by attorney Antoinette Sedillo Lopez who came with $201,000 and former Dem Party Chair Deb Haaland who raised $150,000 but says she only solicited funds for two of the three months,

The early knockdown of Davis raises the question of whether he can get off the canvass. His next report will be watched for signs of recovery and if the well-known progressive doesn't show progress, his foes will pounce.

For Sedillo Lopez the question going forward is whether she can keep up her fundraising pace. Her first quarter is dominated by contributions from fellow law professors and attorneys from here and across the nation. Former NM AG Patrica Madrid came with $1,000 as did Cynthia Hall, an attorney who serves on the state Public Regulation Commission. Lopez loaned herself $8,400 and her son donated $5,400.


Something a bit historic is happening in the early going in the Dem race for Congress. Large sums of money from Native America tribes and pueblos here and outside the state is starting to flow to Haaland, who would be the first Native American woman ever elected to the US House.

There have been questions about the tribes coming through for her, but that seems put to rest based on an examaination of her first finance report. Take a look:

NM's Santo Domingo Pueblo made one of the many $2,700 Indian Country primary contributions that flowed to Haaland, the maximum allowed by law. Matching that amount were the Washginton state tribes Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottowa And Chippewa Indians and the Swinomiosh Tribal Community. Back here, Isleta Pueblo gave her $2,700 as did the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in Claifornia.

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