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Monday, December 30, 2019

"Crotchgate" Grabs The La Politica Spotlight; Guv And Ex-Staffer Exchange Barbs Over Alleged Sex Abuse; A Story With Legs Or One And Done?  

Hallinan & MLG
Will the squabble between the Governor and a former campaign staffer over charges that she sexually assaulted him remain unresolved or will James Hallinan produce a witness that keeps this story alive? Let's do a deep dive into what one of the Gators calls "Crotchgate."

The political community barely had time to unwrap their presents Christmas morning when their phones began buzzing over the unfolding of a bizarre series of events.

'Twas the night before Christmas when Hallinan took to Twitter to make his allegations. The story grew legs as he gave interviews in the following days. He did this while on an island in the Dutch West Indies where he said he went because he feared for his life for attacking the Governor. Like we said, bizarre.

As for corroborating the alleged abuse, that could be a difficult task, analyzes this Alligator:

If there were only three people in the room besides Hallinan, presumably those people were MLG, Rep. Armstrong, (Campaign Manager) Gabello and/or another staffer. None of those folks are likely to turn on Hallinan and substantiate his story.

Hallinan claims that MLG poured a bottle of water on his crotch (thus Crotchgate) and then grabbed his genitals at a 2018 campaign staff meeting at the home of ABQ Dem Rep. Deborah Armstrong. Hallinan said the incident came after he offered suggestions for the campaign that MLG apparently felt were weak.

The Governor's office first said of Hallinan's allegations that "no such incidents" occurred, but then came with another statement that said of the meeting:

We’re a rambunctious bunch. I think they were playing around with water. Three other people who were in the room attest to the fact that what he says happened did not happen. It’s not a he-said, she-said situation.

From nothing happened to "playing around with water?" A Senior Alligator pounced:

Hallinan’s story does reveal some cracks. It weakens the attempt by the Governor's office to portray their operation as thoughtful, balanced and organized. The spokesperson confirmed that they were “playing around with water” at the meeting and had a “rambunctious group.” That’s a definite walk-back from “nothing happened” and definitely not the image they want to sell of a serious gubernatorial operation.

Hallinan never did file a police report but says that's because senior MLG staff convinced him not to. He now says the trauma of the attack is catching up with him emotionally and has resulted in extreme distress, and that's why he has gone public. He calls MLG an extreme "bully" and says he will contact a detective about the matter.

THE HALLINAN FACTOR

Hallinan's PR clients read like a who's who of New Mexico politicians, including AG Balderas, Auditor Colón and BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales. He is known for his aggressive representation.

He told us recently he had a falling out with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, including ABQ Mayor Tim Keller and liberal City Councilor Pat Davis. He just opened a PR firm that focuses on the private sector not the political and accuses Davis of trying to hurt his business. He also asserts that money has nothing to do with his decision to surface the allegations against MLG.

The Governor's office painted a picture of a volatile and unpredictable Hallinan in the message dismissing his claims. Her defenders on social media said MLG has a well-earned reputation as a prankster, but is no predator. Others claimed the charges were "sour grapes" because Hallinan did not get a state position after MLG was elected.

Hallinan has not yet named anyone who would corroborate his story and without that corroboration--under oath--it's hard to see where we go from here, unless additional allegations surface. The Guv's office says those at the now storied staff meeting say they did not see sex abuse that Hallinan alleges, including Rep. Armstrong.

TAKING A HIT 

MLG is taking a hit. The allegations tarnish her governorship, shifting it into the muck where Gov. Martinez left hers. The now revealed scandal involved Martinez's personal relationship with one of her state police body guards, the attempted cover-up of which cost the state millions in lawsuit settlements paid out during Martinez's final weeks in office.

There is no equivalency between the two incidents, but the Governor forced to defend herself against charges that she grabbed a staffer's genitals certainly doesn't spark thoughts about education or health care. That the allegations concern her behavior as a candidate and not as Governor, is small consolation.

SOCIALLY SPEAKING

Predictably, there was a boatload of social media commentary on Crotchgate.

Prominent ABQ Democrat Kathy Meeks Duffy recalled how MLG pressured ABQ Dem state Senator Michael Padilla out of the '18 race for lieutenant governor because of past allegations of sexual misconduct:

Please say it isn't true, it would be terrible if she called out our State Senator for harassment and then she were guilty of such a thing as well. 

Ralph Arellanes, Jr. said Hallinan is not to be believed:

I’m not buying this BS. Why didn’t he go through the proper channels like the EEOC? This guy launches a big splash on Christmas Day and says “I’m leaving the country and I’ll have a lot more to say when I return” Come on. Who is this, “Secret Agent 007!?”

Ironically, what MLG needs now is PR advice on how to change the conversation from the path it's been put on by her own onetime PR man.

Happy New Year, Fourth Floor. . .or something.

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