Thursday, July 27, 2017

Year Of Tragedy For Prominent NM Political Family Culminates With Matriarch's Death, Plus: Who Did Allen Weh Forget? And: How To Pay For A Skybox At The Pit  

It has been a year of tragedy for a prominent political family from the Four Corners. On July 24, 2016 veteran political consultant and pollster Bruce Donisthorpe, 56, died of a heart attack. And now almost exactly a year to that date--on July 23--his mother and the matriarch of the family--85 year old former Republican State Senator Christine Donisthorpe--lost her life to cancer, according to her family. Her death comes amid a sensational scandal involving another of her sons. Paul Donisthorpe, who headed Desert State Life Management, a nonprofit trust company. He is accused of moving millions of dollars belonging to trust accounts for 70 clients, many of them disabled, into his own personal accounts. Reports say Donisthorpe, 61, made an unsuccessful attempt at suicide when the revelations began to surface earlier this year.

Christine Donisthorpe served 17 years in the NM Senate, from 1979-'96. Here is an excerpt from the obituary released by her family:

Christine A. Donisthorpe, 85, of Bloomfield passed away peacefully July 23, 2017 following a brave and extended battle with cancer. Born and reared in Fergus County, Montana. . . She and her husband, Oscar, moved to San Juan County in 1953, where Oscar established a law practice after attaining his law degree at the University of Montana. Together, they farmed 116 acres southwest of Bloomfield. . . She was very “hands-on” in the farming operation, performing any and all tasks required in raising livestock and alfalfa. She was also a Realtor, operating a realty office in Bloomfield for many years.

Christine served her community on the Bloomfield Board of Education and was appointed to a vacancy in Senate District 2. She was re-elected four times and served 17 years representing Bloomfield and San Juan County in the State Senate.

Services for the former lawmaker will be at 11:00 am on Friday, July 28 at Bethel Baptist Church in Aztec, NM. Interment will take place in the Bloomfield Cemetery.


As expected, former GOP State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons has made official his bid for the Republican nomination for Land Commissioner in 2018. Lyons, who is finishing  his second term on the state Public Regulation Commission, is expected to easily win the nomination and may be the only major R running.

Seeking the Dem nomination is another former land commissioner, Ray Powell, Jr. and Garrett VeneKlesen, a political newcomer who is getting backing from Sen. Heinrich.

Current GOP Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, Jr. is not seeking re-election but instead running for the GOP nomination for the southern congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Steve Pearce who is running for Governor.

The Dems are favored to take the land office back next year, but don't forget that Lyons beat Dem Art Trujillo in 2002 to take the office and got re-elected in 2006 when he beat former land commissioner and ABQ Mayor Jim Baca.


Allen Weh, former NM GOP Chairman and owner of CSI Aviation, seems to have forgotten a few folks as he points his finger over the ABQ crime epidemic. Can you guess who?:

. . .The district attorney and the judiciary have no chance but to get tougher with criminals. So, for Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels, Second Judicial District Court Chief Judge Nan Nash, Metropolitan Court Judge Henry Alaniz, District Attorney Raúl Torrez and Bernalillo County Manager Julie Baca, know that you have now taken ownership of Albuquerque’s crime problem. Fix it fast, or you’ll ruin Albuquerque’s struggling economy and we’ll be well on our way to becoming another Detroit!

If you guessed that it was ABQ Mayor Berry, Governor Martinez and APD Chief Eden who were the ones Weh "forgot" to mention as sharing responsibility for current crime conditions, you win the door prize. Today that prize is a plate of enchiladas with no chile to highlight the glaring Weh omission. As for making a "ruin" of ABQ's "struggling economy," Allen must have been flying his airplanes really high while the city and state GOP leadership presided over that ruination.


About that UNM scandal over luxury skyboxes at the famous Pit going unpaid, reader Richard Flores writes rather sensibly:

There is an easy way to avoid problems related to the rental of luxury suites--make them pay in advance just like everybody else. When I want to attend a Lobo game, I pay in advance for that game ticket. People tbat buy season tickets pay in advance for a season pass. A TV interview with a UNM official makes it appear that the ball was dropped by UNM because invoices were not sent out. This is a smokescreen to try to fool the public. For one thing some of those overdue bills are 3-4 years old. What does that say about the money managers at UNM? Somebody must have noticed! It's bad enough that this money mismanagement was discovered by somebody outside of UNM, but UNM keeps getting themselves deeper and deeper into the quagmire of deceit by passing the blame around like an errant basketball pass. Here is a plan: fix the problem through institutional measures, collect the overdue money, and quit currying favor to those that can clearly afford to pay in advance.


Reader Charles Sullivan has a relevant math lesson today:

Hi Joe, On a per capita basis, NM has 7.8 times as many state funded 4 year colleges and universities as does Arizona. NM, with a population of 2.1 million has seven state funded 4 year colleges and universities or one for every 300,000 residents. AZ, with a population of 7 million has three, or one for every 2.33 million. 

Feel free to send your own pithy comments, criticisms and/or existential angst to our inbox.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sanchez Vs. Benavidez Council Contest Goes On The Watchlist, ABQ Takes Another Hit In Livability Rankings And: Is Eight Enough? Another Dem Joins ABQ Congress Chase 

Veteran Dem political analyst and ABQ attorney Greg Payne, who is monitoring city Election '17 for us, says put the Westside city council seat long held by Democrat Ken Sanchez on your watch list. He expects scrappy Dem activist Javier Benavidez to give the 12 year councilor a run for his money.

Payne believes a more populist message is what the electorate is looking for and they may find it in Benavidez. He also says the problematic state of the city makes all incumbents vulnerable--if they have strong challengers.

There are two other candidates in the race--Republican turned independent Johnny Luevano and Sandra Mills. That means it may be difficult for Sanchez to get to 50 percent to secure an outright win October 3. In that event a run-off election would be held November 7 featuring the two top vote-getters. In this case that is likely to be Sanchez and Benavidez.

Sanchez, who has been on the council since 2005 and runs an accounting services firm, prides himself on bringing projects to the district such as a new library and fire station. But Benavidez faults him for not being more adversarial over the policies of Republican Mayor Berry and for being a "corporate Democrat."

Benavidez recently left the SouthWest Organzing Project (SWOP) where he served as director to run for council. That group describes itself as "empowering disenfranchised communities of the Southwest, to realize racial and gender equality and social and economic justice."

Sanchez, Benavidez and Luevano have qualified for public financing and are each receiving $38,000 in city funds to run their campaigns. However, an independent committee financed by the folks behind the proposed Santolina development could form to fight Benavidez. And national progressive money could come in on his behalf.


Reader Bruce Shah writes:

Joe, You wrote: "Those expecting that the still-hidden ABQ mayoral campaign might revive the city's spirits and renew its hopes are still waiting."

Once again, look no further than our wonderful daily newspaper. Why does it not have a tracking column on the race? The campaign is invisible for the same reason Barry and Martinez were able to do so much mischief. No one is covering it.

The newspaper has been giving occasional coverage to the city election and can be expected to wade in deeper as the election draws near. But we hear you. Given the serious plight of ABQ, you would expect more and earlier coverage from both the paper and TV stations. As for who the newspaper will endorse, the smart money is on Republican Dan Lewis.

And as for the plight of the city, it's bad enough for us to be ranked among the 50 worst to live in:

44. Albuquerque, New Mexico
> Population: 559,131
> Median home value: $189,200
> Poverty rate: 20.0%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.6%

Albuquerque is one of most dangerous cities in the country. There were 966 violent crimes reported per 100,000 Albuquerque residents in 2015, far more than double the national rate of 373 incidents per 100,000 Americans and among the most of any city in the country. Albuquerque also has missed out on much of the job growth that most mid-size cities enjoyed over the past few years, and it continues to struggle with high poverty. While total employment in the U.S. grew by 4.0% from 2013 to 2015, the number of jobs in Albuquerque increased by just 0.1% over the same period. The city’s poverty rate of 20.0% is much higher than the nationwide poverty rate of 14.7%.

Circle the wagons or fight to make it better? How this election plays out may tell us what ABQ decides.


And then there were eight. So goes the jam packed race for the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat. Annie Chavez, government relations officer for Sandia National Labs and a former aide to Dem US Senator Jeff Bingaman, will be the next and eighth contender to join the contest.

I'm a 48 year old native New Mexican. One of 8 kids, my dad was an Air Force mechanical engineer and my mom was a nurse at St. Joseph's hospital. I'm running because I want New Mexicans to see our state as a place with enormous potential to build a life and grow their families. For too long, I've watched family and friends forced to look for opportunities elsewhere. I believe that if we create an environment to provide our kids a great education we will be better able to address crime and help create economic opportunity for all New Mexicans. I will draw on my experiences as a teacher, a lawyer, working for Senator Bingaman, and my time at Sandia National Labs to help address these critical issues, It's also essential that we have a candidate who will stand up with progressive solutions to counter the president and Congressional leaders who encourage a dangerous anti-science agenda based on alternative facts.

Also competing for the GOP nomination in the 1st Congressional District is Michael Hendricks, a 34-year-old immigration lawyer.

The other seven contenders seeking the seat that Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham is giving up to seek the Dem nod for governor are: ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis; former Dem Party Chair Deb Haaland; physicist Dennis Dinge; Edgewood Town Councilor John Abrams; former Dem Party Chair Deb Haaland; lawyer Damian Lara; former NM US attorney Damon Martinez and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, former associate dean of the UNM law school.

On the Republican side former State Rep. Janice Arnold Jones and attorney Michael Hendricks are vying for the nomination.

We rank the seat "likely Democratic." The last Republican to win an election for the seat was in 2006.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Crime Crisis And Spiritual Crisis? Another Rash Of Violence Rocks ABQ, Plus: Pearce Pushback; His Campaign Defends Humble Beginnings Narrative, And: Plan To Shrink NM National Monuments Makes For Big Politics  

We call call it a crime crisis and it is, but now it also feels like a spiritual crisis is engulfing the state's largest city.

In recent days another taxi driver was brutally murdered. This by a suspect who appears to be so far gone on drugs that he thought the driver was working for the Illuminati and was stalking him. Then there was the dispiriting Friday night murder of a 14 year old outside of one of the city's favorite family hangouts--a Dion's Pizza at University and Gibson. You would have thought the mindless violence would have peaked last year with the ghastly dismemberment and murder of 10 year old Victoria Martens, yet another drug-inspired descent into the depths of hell. But our community seems incapable of halting this death spiral.

In a surreal moment that Timothy Leary would have been proud of, the ABQ Chamber of Commerce gave Mayor Berry an award for upholding public safety, only to have it by followed by the aforementioned slayings. And it got even more bizarre when the Mayor devoted his full attention (and PR machine) to an argument about distributing salt at senior citizens centers and bragged of how the salt is back for the "seasoned citizens. Talk about turning tragedy into farce.

This other-worldly contrast with reality seemed to go beyond the usual deflection and fecklessness that has characterized this administration and propelled it into a conscious callousness, a lapse in basic morality that leads to the observation that the city has become a spiritual black hole.

Those expecting that the still-hidden ABQ mayoral campaign might revive the city's spirits and renew its hopes that this will soon end are still waiting. While not insipid, the eight candidates have certainly been uninspiring. And just as troubling is the seeming lack of depth to the platforms of those who would replace Berry. Add a disappointing lack of vigor and passion and you get a recipe for another low turnout election.

The heart of the campaign for the October 3 election lies ahead and perhaps there will be an awakening, but ABQ is slowly losing heart that the next mayor will lead a turnaround. But then our problems are beyond politics. Faced with a plague of crime and drugs that is sucking the soul out of this place, what we may really need is not a mayor but a priest or rabbi.


Reader and longtime Steve Pearce critic Greg Lennes of Las Cruces went to work here last week to debunk the claim from the freshly minted governor candidate that he struggled in poverty during his very young years. That brought pushback from Rep. Pearce's campaign and more from Lennes as well. Here's the Pearce take:

Claim from Lennes:: “It looks like his father and mother struggled but in reality in 1947 (when Pearce was born) that wage of $2.62 in 1947 would be equal to $29.65 in 2017.” (Monahan blog, 7/20/17)

Fact: In 1947, the year Pearce was born, his parents made $200 for the entire year. Using the same calculation, that equates to $2,245 in income for the entire year in 2017 dollars.

Fact: In 1948, after that year’s cotton crop was ruined, Pearce’s parents made $50 for the entire year as sharecroppers – the equivalent of $516 in 2017 dollars.

Fact: A 2011 study places the average income for the middle fifth of American families in 1947 at $26,548 in 2011 dollars. Using rough estimations, that means the Pearce family made about 8 percent of what the average family made the year Steve Pearce was born. (Source: Economic Policy Institute)

Fact: In 1947, the bottom fifth of American families made an average income of $7,808 in 2011 dollars. Using the same rough calculations, the Pearce family made about a quarter of the yearly income of the average low-income family the year he was born. (Source: Economic Policy Institute)

Fact: After finding themselves unable to provide for their family while working as sharecroppers, the Pearces moved to New Mexico. Steve’s father began working as an oil field day laborer, making about 75 cents per hour when he could find work.

Fact: After several years of hard work and moving around Southeast New Mexico chasing jobs and opportunity, the Pearce family found itself in the late 1950's on a five-acre farm and his father secure in a job with a major oil company earning $2.62 an hour.

And the Lennes response:

Pearce was born in 1947. So he had no idea about his father and sharecropping. When He was 2 years old, his father was already working in the oilfields in 1949 and had the money to purchase a farm in 1954 when Pearce was 7. His father, Melvin Pearce, had a good job with the Humble Oil & Refining Company/Exxon as a technician where he worked from 1951 until his retirement in 1984, plus he owned a farm.

It seems Mr. Pearce is inspired by his so-called poverty. However, he has been fueled by corporate money, scorns compromise and leaves New Mexico "house divided." Now this "humble" millionaire wants to be Governor?

Fact: Congressman Pearce is stretching the truth again. "After the war, Melvin returned to the farm, but continued to play ball for the Oil Belt League. In 1951 he began working for Humble Oil $ Refining Company/Exxon as an Instrument Technician where he worked until his retirement in 1984." Here is the obituary of Congressman Pearce's father.

Well, those may not be the final words on the subject but for today here is a final word from Anne Batson, chair of the Lea County Republican Party:

Joe. . . I did a good deal of research on Steve a number of years ago before I asked him to run for the State House of Representatives. He was born on a hardscrabble farm. His mother had to put cardboard up in the windows to keep the sand out. They started out with very little. His dad was a sharecropper when Steve was born, but that could not support the family. He found a job here in New Mexico and his mother worked her way from the fields to the classroom and eventually became a school teacher. Yes, they made $2.62 an hour – it took years for them to get there, and they supported a family of seven on that wage. Look at the picture of Steve’s childhood home in his announcement video. Does that look like anything but humble beginnings? Steve Pearce is a New Mexico success story. He worked hard, raised a family and built a business. It is sad that people want to tear that down. We should be talking about how to create that opportunity for more people.


Pearce is suing the secretary of state so he can use $1 million in his congressional campaign fund for his gubernatorial run. The reports on that have not brought up a possibility that we blogged about a while back and now reiterate from one of our finance Alligators:

Congressman Pearce can either give it to the GOAL West superPAC, which he has close ties to. That might look shady but is totally legit. Or he can transfer all of it to the State Republican Party and they can spend that money on his race. Federal law allows for unlimited transfers from Federal candidates to State Party federal committees.

So if Pearce were to lose in court, the $1 million could go to one of the above mentioned entities which could spend the money on behalf of Pearce. The catch? The PAC or the party would not be permitted to coordinate its activity with Pearce's campaign, although that prohibition has been only loosely enforced.


Hey, what is GOP state representative and southern congressional district candidate Yvette Herrell doing in DC with Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke? Do you think they're talking about Zinke's talk of downsizing two major national monuments in the state--the Organ Mountains Desert Peak National Monument near Las Cruces and the Rio Grande del Norte Monument near Taos? That's a pretty safe assumption.

Herrell and Pearce both support shrinking the monuments approved under Present Obama. But the state's two US Senators are lobbying furiously to keep them as they are. Herrell confirmed on Facebook that the monuments were a topic for her and the Secretary:

In Washington meeting with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke about issues like Energy, Industry, Monuments and Parks that are specifically impacting New Mexico.

Zinke has said he will visit NM before he recommends any action to President Trump who will have the final say on the monument.s but no date has yet been set for that visit. Meantime, Herrell is gearing up for a tough '18 GOP primary in the battle to replace Pearce. She faces state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, Jr. The Dems have four candidates duking it out for their party's nomination.


Martin Heinrich has $3.1 million cash on hand for his US Senate re-election campaign not the $2.5 million we blogged in an early first take. The FEC report we linked to was the latest one posted but covered only until the end of March not to the end of June.

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