Friday, December 21, 2018

The 2018 Christmas Gifts Of La Politica Go Under The Tree 

Thanks for joining us to help deliver some Christmas presents to the politicos. We couldn't do it without you so let's get to work and get those presents under the blogging tree.

Governor Martinez--She apparently has been having a hard time finding a job with only days left in her current one so Santa has signed up Susana for free résumé writing classes. Among her instructors will be former Secretary of State Dianna Duran and former Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla.

Lt Governor John Sanchez--John is universally liked in La Politica but he lost his way serving under Gov. Martinez and it appears his political career may be at an end. Santa has sympathy, however, and John will find under his tree the newest GPS equipment. Santa tells us: "That's so he can find his way back home."

Governor-elect Lujan Grisham--Santa was quick to agree to the new Governor's request that he write a letter telling State Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith that she is now the Governor and he has to give up the position. Santa crafted a great letter but mail out of the North Pole is sluggish and he cautioned that it's uncertain whether Senator Smith will get the letter in the next four years.

Lt. Governor to be Howie Morales--This was an easy gift for Santa to pick. Like all incoming lieutenant governors Howie will get from Santa a drawer full of name tags so he can keep reminding everyone who he is. Not that they ever really remember.

Attorney General Hector Balderas. Hector wrote a touching letter to Santa asking him to give him an elective office to run for now that he has been elected to his final AG term. But Santa was sad to tell him he couldn't do that. Instead he is sending Hector a box of cigars to share with his BFF and newly elected State Auditor Brian Colón. But he warns the pair: "Fellas, don't throw them over the balconies at those Santa Fe holiday parties."

Rep. Steve Pearce--Santa is being extra generous to the outgoing southern NM congressman who was recently elected chairman of the NM Republican Party. Santa is giving him a bulldozer, a pile of plywood, a hammer and lots of nails to try to rebuild the GOP which following the midterm election finds itself in one of its weakest states ever. However, Santa did not include instructions on just what kind of party Pearce needs to build.


Rep. Ben Ray Lujan--"A Christmas present for this guy?" Santa guffawed. Ben Ray this year was head of the DCCC that won back the US House for the Democrats; he was then elected to the #4 Democratic leadership position in the House and he scored another landslide re-election win to his northern NM district. Says Santa: "This fella has had Christmas all year long. Who's next on the list, Joe?"

Congresswoman-elect Torres Small--Santa says he has the perfect gift for the new Democratic representative. "I'm giving Xochitl a camouflage kit so she can try to disguise her liberal instincts over the next two years and get re-elected to that conservative seat in 2020. But I can't tell her where or when to use it. That's up to her," declared Santa.

ABQ Mayor Tim Keller--Santa is taking good care of the Mayor. "I'm giving Tim something special--a bus pass good for unlimited rides on any BYD bus in the world." Too bad he won't get to use it in his own city. But for his travels around ABQ, especially the crime battered SE area, Santa is putting a bullet proof vest under Tim's tree.

"If the Mayor is lucky by next Christmas he won't need that particular gift. If he does, he might be looking for my help in finding a new job," jabbed jolly old St. Nick.


Santa has thoughtfully produced Christmas miracles for some of our politicos who did not do so well in 2018. . .

Thanks to Santa and Gov.-elect Lujan Grisham outgoing Las Cruces Dem State Rep. Bill McCamley, after years of struggling, has finally got a real job (as our Alligators predicted). He will make $128,000 a year as the Secretary of the Workforce Solutions Department. That's a huge increase in his yearly income. He reported no income of over $5,000 on his financial disclosure statement during his campaign for state auditor, a report that generated considerable controversy. Truly a Christmas miracle.

Mick Rich, the unsuccessful GOP US Senate nominee who lost in a landslide to Dem Martin Heinrich this year, has landed a talk radio gig. Mick will host a weekly half-hour talk radio show on ABQ's KIVA radio. Only Santa could get a radio gig for a candidate who scored only 31 percent. Yet another miracle of the season.

And there you have the Christmas gifts and miracles of La Politica.

That's a wrap for us as we join you for a holiday break. Frank, take us out of here.

Merry Christmas, New Mexico!

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Photo Contest Settled: Ida Jo Cargo Made Her Mark, Plus: Join Us Tomorrow For A Special Christmas Presents For The Politicos Blog 

Ida Jo Cargo (1970)
Please join us for a special Friday Christmas blog tomorrow and help us place under the blogging tree our presents for the politicos. Now on to today's entry.

Our Wednesday photo contest stumped quite a few readers but a number of them were right on the mark and accurately named the striking photo as that of Ida Jo Cargo, New Mexico's first lady from 1967-70. She was married to Republican Governor David Cargo.

Ida Jo was a feisty and independent woman in an era when political wives were expected to be more servile. As NM Deputy Historian Rob Martinez remarked in "Lonesome Dave and the Tiger of the North" for the fall 2018 NM Historical Review:

(Cargo) seems to blame her for some of the episodes that presented challenges in his political life. (To him) Ida Jo appeared to lack the discipline, sacrifice, subordination, and silence required of the traditional politician's wife.

She was only 25 when she became first lady, the youngest in state history. The mother of five, she was the only first lady to give birth while in office. She met Cargo in 1960 when he was a partner in an ABQ law firm and where she worked as a legal assistant. Six months later they were married.

She was born into a prominent Belen family and Belen reader Jose Campos wrote of her photo:

Joe, she was often described as the "Jackie Kennedy of New Mexico." (Former NM House Speaker) Raymond Sanchez remembers Cargo hanging out at Gil's Bakery in Belen (owned by Raymond's father) to see his future bride. What took her popularity down with the public was when Reis Lopez Tijerana's list of Alianza members came out and she was on it.
Ida Jo (1968)

The Alianza was a group that sought "to organize and acquaint the heirs of all Spanish land-grants covered by the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty" with their rights.

The Alianza staged the historic raid on the Tierra Amarilla Courthouse in Rio Arriba County in 1967. When a list of dues paying members was discovered by law enforcement Ida Jo's name was on it. She was soon portrayed as a wild-eyed revolutionary while her Governor husband continued to deal with the thorny problems presented by the Alianza and Tijerana, the "Tiger of the North."

Gov. Cargo later told friends she signed up for the Alianza only to get rid of the person soliciting paid memberships, not because she was an adherent of the group.

Historian Martinez and I looked up the church records of Ida Jo from Belen and found her given name was Josefina Adelaida Anaya.

As first lady she opened the Governor's mansion to the public each Friday, continued her education at the College of Santa Fe and not surprisingly was often in demand as a model. NM political junkie Patrick Killen adds:

Joe, she was also known as the “Hispanic Jackie Kennedy.” Hailing from Belen, Ida Jo was credited with bolstering Cargo’s crossover appeal to Hispanic Democratic voters and crucial to his subsequent election as Governor in 1966 and re-election in 1968. 

Today's photo of her wearing a pillbox hat certainly conjures up memories of Jackie.

Reader Jim Maddox adds:

Ida Jo no doubt was a big part of Dave Cargo being elected Governor. Campaigning in Northern New Mexico with his wife in a pickup truck was simple and masterful.

Ida Jo and Cargo divorced in 1985. He passed away at 84 in 2013. She died in Midland TX. in 1996 from cancer at 55.

Ida Jo Cargo earned her chapter in the never ending book of La Politica as a history making first lady and an independent spirit who was of her time but also ahead of it in important ways.

Thanks to all who entered the contest. The winner of the Christmas Lunch is James Cooke of ABQ.


The contest picture was taken by veteran NM photographer Mark Bralley who tells us he shot it at a 1970 Santa Fe meeting of Republican Governors and their wives.

The picture with Ida Jo in sunglasses was taken by Bralley in 1968 at ABQ's Roosevelt Park where Cargo was campaigning for the GOP gubernatorial nomination that year. Good stuff, Mark.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Pushback On Virgin's Test Flight To Space; Prominent Critic Pans It As "Dead-end Technology," Plus: Herrell Pushback On Alligator Speculation, And: Our Photo Contest; Win A Xmas Lunch  

Before New Mexico gets too carried away with the recent successful test flight of Virgin Galactia’s SpaceshipTwo, here's a brutal counterpoint:

Andy Thomas, Australia's pre-eminent NASA astronaut, condemned the Virgin Galactic mission, describing it as, "go nowhere, dead-end technology." 

Dr. Thomas said:  "It's true that he will fly to the edge of space but he can't stay there. He falls right back down. It's really just a high altitude aeroplane flight and a dangerous one at that."

He said the technology for the spacecraft had little room to grow, adding: "You can't grow it, you can't make it big enough." Yet despite slamming the Virgin Galactic plan, he still broadly supports the Virgin Galactic project, because of the technological by-products it creates. He said: ”What he is spinning-off is the capability to launch satellites, small satellites from under the wing of an aircraft on a small booster."

The NM Spaceport will be back before the legislature in January seeking another  subsidy to keep the place going as it waits for Branson's dream of launching paying tourists into space is realized. And waits.


John Garcia, a cabinet secretary under Governor Gary Johnson, got his licks in on Big Bill here when he said Johnson deserves credit for initially getting the concept of a NM Spaceport going, even though a tax for it and its construction was done while Gov. Richardson was in office. Reader Cheryl Haaker gets in on the fun:

John Garcia stated, per your excellent blog "I’m waiting for the report that it was Big Bill Richardson who finally tracked down Billy the Kid…legend has it!" Well,  it was Big Bill who pardoned The Kid, though.


Conservative reader James McClure comments on our Tuesday blog in which we wondered if the state's two US Senators could prod the White House into filling two long vacant federal judgeships in the state:

Joe, you gave me my morning a chuckle when you suggested Senators Udall and Heinrich use their “influence" to get two federal judges nominated for New Mexico. What influence? Our two senators have voted against nearly every Trump appointee and have slandered many of them in their role as partisan attack dogs. Their actions probably have placed judges for New Mexico at the bottom of the President’s list. Unless they promise to vote for the border wall.

Well, Senators can and do work across the aisle to get things done with the opposing party. Having said that, it's hard to recall a time when the state's congressional delegation will be more out of position in DC. In 2019 not one of the five members of the delegation will be a member of the party controlling the White House and Senate.


After our GOP insiders were quoted here that they do not expect Yvette Herrell to mount a legal challenge over her loss of the southern congressional district seat to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small, the Herrell campaign (or what's left if it) raced to shoot that notion down, repeating that she is still weighing "legal action" as her campaign examines the absentee ballots from Dona Ana County.

Maybe she will find something that she thinks could overturn her 3,000 vote loss and will make some kind of case, however doubtful that may be. Anyway, the Gators take note of her pushback.

One thing she is not commenting on is the GOP Alligator declaration that she is going to make a second try for the seat in 2020. What about that, Yvette? No pushback there?


Who is this beautiful lady who once was near the pinnacle of political power in New Mexico?

This ranks among our favorite historical pics because for someone so young and glamorous there are few media photos of her and few articles. An air of mystery.

Since this is the season of giving, we'll put a gift card for lunch under the Christmas tree of a reader who gets it right. To level the playing field the Senior Alligators (you know who you are) are automatically disqualified.

This woman's life was deeply woven into the fabric of the state. The answer may surprise you.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Here Come The Judges, But When? Two Fed Vacancies Still Unfilled; Our Legal Beagles Are On The Case  

Here comes the judge(s) but when? New Mexico is short two federal judges and that's a lot in a state that deals with pressing federal issues like immigration. Our Legal Beagles are on the case. First, one of them comes with an update on why two federal bench seats are gathering dust:

Joe, Senators Udall and Heinrich and Rep. Pearce sent a letter to the President in May to recommend candidates for the two vacancies on the U.S. District Court for New Mexico. The White House moved forward with vetting two candidates - Mark Baker for the Albuquerque vacancy and Greg Wormuth for the Las Cruces vacancy. The vetting has been complete for a couple of months, but the president hasn't nominated either candidate.

There are only seven district court judges in New Mexico, so two vacancies is significant. And there's soon to be a third vacancy as Judge Judy Herrera submitted her intent to retire in mid-2019. The home state senators have a significant role in who the President nominates for these seats, as they have the power to block any nominee from Senate confirmation. Udall and Heinrich need to use their influence to get these vacancies filled. 

Okay, so maybe Udall, Heinrich and Pearce can speed up the process but another of our Legal Beagles points to the Trump White House as the main problem:

My guess for the continued vacancies is that the Trump White House is truly dysfunctional – White House Counsel Don McGahn recently left, his replacement is not yet in place, and multiple people in the WH are heading for the exits. It is difficult to get work done when everyone is looking over his shoulder and consumed with gossip.

I do not think there is a movement against Baker or Wormuth. I think the simplest explanation is the correct one – Trump is focused on Mueller, and the Senate is focused on getting home for the holidays.

The best strategy to get these two confirmed is for NM Chief Federal Judge Chip Johnson to start yelling that the NM District is on the verge of implosion (it has the busiest criminal docket in the country because of Indian Country [the name which the feds use to describe the sovereign nations], and because of the border [drug trafficking and immigration]. If Chip wants to play a card which will resonate with the President, he should say that national security is being adversely affected because of the judge vacancies.

Good explanations on what's going on. Now we wait and see if the caseload becomes an issue and Chief Judge Johnson starts waving the warning flags.


We called it Big Bill's NM Spaceport Monday and we still think he is the one who deserves the lion's share of the credit (or blame) for the facility near T or C. But John Garcia, who served in the cabinet of GOP Governor Gary Johnson, differs:

Joe, Maybe I read this wrong, but it was Gary Johnson who started the “Inland Spaceport” project when NASA put out bids for an inland spaceport, not Big Bill! I was at an event this weekend and from the podium they announced that Richardson started the Film incentives; not true, again it was Johnson. I’m waiting for the report that it was Big Bill Richardson who finally tracked down Billy the Kid…legend has it!

Both Bill and Gary are not known for their shyness in touting their accomplishments. Right now, though, they are waiting like the rest of us to see if the Spaceport will ultimately go in the accomplishment column or the one filled with duds.

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Monday, December 17, 2018

GOP Insiders Say Herrell Set To Make Second Run For 2nd Congressional District, And: Big Bill's Spaceport Suddenly Not Looking So Bad 

Herrell And Torres Small
Our GOP insiders report that Yvette Herrell will not challenge her loss to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small for the southern congressional and is instead already preparing to make a second run for the position.

Herrell's campaign successfully sued to have a district court impound the absentee ballots from Dona Ana County where Torres Small scored a large victory that made possible her 3,000 vote win over Herrell in the mainly conservative southern CD.

The Herrell camp has completed its examination of those absentee ballots but has yet to  report any mischief and is not expected to. Herrell has yet to concede the election.

Her decision to make a second run appears to rule out a campaign by Rep. Steve Pearce who gave up the seat to make an unsuccessful bid for Governor and has since been elected chairman of the NM Republican Party. Pearce has taken heat for not ruling out another congressional run even as he serves as party chair.

Pearce was a firm supporter of Herrell who faced a rough primary challenge from former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman. And she can't expect any free ride in the 2020 GOP primary when Newman could be among the other R's who will vie for the seat.

Torres Small doesn't take office until January 3 but she can't be surprised that she will not only be a full time congresswoman but a full time candidate. The R's are upset that they allowed her to take a seat that Dems have rarely held. They think that the higher turnout in the 2020 presidential year could tip the scales back to Herrell. They say Dona Ana County midterm turnout nearly matched that a presidential year and Torres Small can't expect to get much more out of there next time. But that was not the case in the conservative SE areas of the district where Herrell outperformed but turnout was more modest.

Dems argue that Torres Small will have the advantage of the incumbency in 2020 and that could reduce her losing margins in the SE while she does more than hold her own again in her home county of Dona Ana, making her re-election likely.

No word on when Herrell, who gave up her Alamogordo state House seat to make the congressional bid, will make her announcement regarding a second shot but it may not be far off.


Following her selection by Governor-elect Lujan Grisham for the position of Secretary  of the Department of Finance and Administration, Secretary-designate Olivia Padilla-Jackson said the immense state surplus the state is accumulating represents an. . .

unprecedented opportunity to do some amazing things. But we need to be cautious.

We don't know how you get "amazing things" without taking some risk but we will closely watch the state budget Padilla-Jackson drafts with Lujan Grisham.


Will Big Bill's NM Spaceport be finally pay off? A test flight from California into space by Virgin Galactic last week raised hopes that the dream of ex-Governor Richardson and Virgin's Richard Branson could be about to finally be realized. The NM Spaceport was announced by the pair 14 years ago but ever since Bill and Branson have been ridiculed for the often delayed project. But if this breakthrough development is followed by a couple more, in the next few years paying tourists could  be launched into space from the NM Spaceport. That would be a major boost to the legacy of the former two term Democratic governor. Now, if they could only get Bill's RailRunner on track

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