Thursday, December 10, 2020

Saying So Long: Udall Wraps Up Two Decade Congressional Run  

He didn't sound like someone who was going to stay around DC and become the next Secretary of Interior, although he has made his interest in that job known to the Biden team. Rather, NM Democratic Senator Tom Udall, in the final days of his 20 year congressional career, finished his 23 minute swan song on the Senate floor this week with these lines: 

As I return home to the West, I am clear-eyed about – even troubled by – how far away our destination is. But I am optimistic that we will get there. Like we always have before.”

Video here. Transcript here.

We'll soon see if  there's a last minute surprise for Udall at Interior. 

As for his DC decades--10 years in the House and 12 in the Senate--they will likely be appraised by historians in the context of the Udall family and their dedication to preserving and protecting the nation's natural beauty and environment. The Senator's father, Stewart Udall, was a notable Sec. of Interior under John Kennedy; his uncle, Arizona Rep. Mo Udall, was the powerful and effective chairman of the House Interior Committee (now Natural Resources). 

Following in his family's footsteps Udall, 72, added protections for millions of acres of western lands and was a player in keeping the environment near the top of the national agenda. In his farewell, coming in the midst of historic climate change, he remarked:

Protecting nature is about protecting humanity. It's that simple. 

As Vice-Chair of the the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs the tribes were never far from his mind and he delivered for them. However, needed reform of the federal relationship that would put a dent in Native economic and social deprivation was a missed opportunity. Third World living conditions on reservations, so starkly revealed during this pandemic, persist.

Unlike some family political dynasties the Udalls have not been tarnished by scandal and personal failings. They are comfortable in their own skin and have a sense of mission that has served them and the nation well. As Udall told his colleagues in saying goodbye, that mission is a long continuum that runs through good times and bad: 

 I look at the young people across this country – who are calling for change. For climate action, for voting rights and immigrant rights, for economic and environmental and racial justice. They’ve held sit-ins in my office. Probably in yours too. They are demanding that we do better. And their determination gives me hope.”

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan will take over Udall's seat January 3, 2021. 

Hasta la vista, Senator. 


The Discoverer blog has picked their "coolest buildings" in each of the 50 states. In our enchanted land Taos Pueblo tops the list:

Located on the Rio Pueblo, Pueblo de Taos is a living Native American community that was built in terraced tiers. It contains a multi-storied complex of adobe dwellings and ceremonial buildings. Before the first Spanish arrives in 1540, Pueblo de Taos was a center of trade. This cool traditional community was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. 

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Wednesday, December 09, 2020

NM Polling Held Up In Troubled Year, Plus: Downsizing UNM Sports As Deficits Mount And Roswell Digs In  

Not a few polling outfits had trouble getting the 2020 cycle right, but New Mexico's Research and Polling was not among them. For that, company executive and pollster Brian Sanderoff is breathing a sigh of relief. Here's how the firm, polling the state for the ABQ Journal since 1986, did this year. 

The final R & P poll was released a mere two days before Election Day. That was after the vast majority of votes had already been cast, so that improved the accuracy of the final survey which was one of two the firm conducted during the cycle. 

In the presidential contest in NM, the final poll had it 54 to 42 for Biden. The final result was Biden 54 and Trump 43. In the US Senate race the final Journal poll had Ben Ray Lujan at 52 and 44 for Republican Mark Ronchetti. The final result was Lujan 52 and Ronchetti 46. 

In the closely watched southern congressional district R & P recovered from its 2018 call when it had Republican Yvette Herrell on top by one point in their final survey. Dem Xochtil Torrres Small won that race 50.9 to 49.1.

In this year's rematch the final survey had Herrell getting 48 and XTS 46. The actual election results were 54 for Herrell and 46 for XTS. That was a much larger margin than the public polls predicted but R & P counts it a win when they have the winning candidate in the lead in their final survey and that they did.


As the UNM athletic department confirms it will run another multi-million dollar deficit this year and as the Lobo football team struggles, we get this from UNM Regent Robert Schwartz that could catch the eye of lawmakers at the next legislative session: 

. . . We are either going to have to cut the athletic budget. . . or we are going to cut the academic budget, because there are not enough resources to cover everything. . . ” Schwartz said.  Schwartz suggested cutting NCAA football and converting the program into a club team, which would eliminate the costs of scholarships and expensive coaching while still allowing the team to continue to operate. . . Schwartz said this would be “the best compromise for UNM that allows us to participate appropriately in intercollegiate sports in a way that doesn’t cost us nearly as much. . .”   

Such a proposal would have been immediately shot down just a couple of years ago but the earth under UNM is rapidly moving as it faces declining enrollment and a fan base that is not as large or as enthusiastic as it once was

A "club team" that Schwartz proposes would keep the pigskin flying, but. . . 

College club sports are any sports offered at a university or college that compete competitively with other universities, or colleges, but are not regulated by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) or National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and do not have varsity status. . . Many times, club sports are student-run and receive little financial aid from the school. An estimated 2 million student athletes compete in club sports.

So far Schwartz is the lone Regent cozying up to the club concept. 


The city of Roswell, sporting one of the highest per capita rates of Covid in the nation, saw its City Council last week vote to open all city facilites to the public in violation of the state's Public Health Order. That brought this from reader Richard Flores: 

Roswell has made a name for itself over the years, for notable events, notable people, etc. From the alien landing, to the 1956 little league world champs, to Roger Staubach, Robert O. Anderson, Nancy Lopez, Robert Goddard, Peter Hurd, among others. But today, Roswell stands tall in open defiance to the New Mexico Public Health Order in the midst of a devastating worldwide pandemic in a county with a positivity rate in excess of 20%. Que verguenza! (What a shame!). 

A spokesman says city facilities have not reopened yet as the city manager is trying to figure out how to implement the order.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Underwhelming Win: Pearce Re-elected As Party Chair But Not Convincingly And Counting Error Mars Election, Plus: State Grants For Small Business  

At first it appeared NM GOP Chairman Steve Pearce had barely survived a three way challenge for his job last night, winning re-election to a two year term by only one vote over radio talk show host Eddy Aragon. That's how the outcome was initially reported by the GOP.

But in a great irony the party that has been claiming voter fraud and mischief by their foes had to fess up to a major and embarrassing mistake in counting the votes for its own party chair election. From the NMGOP: 

Pearce won re-election with 76 votes. Eddy Aragon, CEO of Rock of Talk radio, received 47. Geoffrey Snider, an Albuquerque businessman, got 41 and Eric Lucero, a GOP consultant received 8. At first, Pearce appeared to have won by a single vote, but a coding error by election software company TXT2VOTE revealed the Chairman had won by 29 votes. The tallying error happened because the company had mistakenly failed to include CD3 votes for Pearce, while adding CD3 votes twice for Aragon and Snider. TXT2VOTE, a well-respected company that's done virtual elections in other states, admitted the mistake, and it was immediately corrected. 

Hey, maybe TXT2VOTE should call Dominion for some advice? 

Talk about getting a taste of your own medicine. Pearce has been on the warpath making baseless claims about New Mexico voter fraud and errors only to see the biggest accounting error in the 2020 cycle in his own election for party chair.

Pearce, a former southern NM congressman, was expected to coast to victory, but Aragon, one of the most ardent Trump supporters in the state, hammered away at the party's lack of results in the November election, noting that the R's under Pearce had lost a seat in the state Senate, did not make up any ground in the Dem dominated House and failed to capture the open US Senate seat. And, most important, Trump lost here. 

Pearce, 73, who is said to be exploring another run for Governor in 2022--he lost big to MLG in 2018--was given reason to rethink those plans by his underwhelming victory to a group of largely unknown opponents. He carried 44 percent of the vote to Aragon's 27 and Snider's 24 percent, far from the blow-out that was anticipated.

A GOP Alligator came with this analysis:

Pearce managed to get another term, but the arguments that Aragon and Lucero made were valid. The GOP had no big wins in November. They only reclaimed the southern congressional seat. Republicans are ready for new faces. They know that Aragon, who can at times be over the top, will fight for GOP values and Trump because he does so on his daily talk show. And he also offered a plan to grow the GOP vote. Pearce retains control for now--but the footsteps behind him are loud.

Aragon blasted a GOP/Pearce plan unveiled in the final days of the election called Respect New Mexico, with the slogan: "Something we can all say yes to." The Trumpsters criticized the party for being milquetoast and fearful and for not going all in for Trump who lost the state to Biden 54-43.

Pearce has the party reins again but the horses are bucking. 


More lockdowns mean more pain for small business. The state comes with this relief:

The grant application for CARES Relief Grants for New Mexico businesses opened December 7 and will close at noon on Friday, December 18. The grant application is available hereEligible businesses of 100 or fewer employees include businesses that are at least 51% owned by New Mexico residents. Small businesses experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic are eligible to receive up to $50,000. The grants were authorized at November special legislative session and are funded by $100 million in Federal funds. 


 MLG supporter Theresa Trujeque doesn't agree with the blog description that last week was a "bleak week" for the Guv:  

 I think the Biden team made a huge mistake in not nominating her for Health & Human Services Secretary. There is not another political leader with her background in public health. It is a loss for the country because she would have been a great Health & Human Services Secretary as her strong background in public health issues makes her the most qualified person for the job . She would have been a huge asset to the Biden administration. It is their loss and a win for New Mexico because she remains our Governor. I don't think her week was bleak at all as she will continue to do a job for the citizens of a state she loves.

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Monday, December 07, 2020

Bleak Week For MLG Finally Over; New HHS Secretary Picked; How It Went Wrong? Plus: Covid Decisions Get Even Tougher 

It could have been the most triumphant week of her political career but it turned into one of the bleakest as MLG's pursuit of a cabinet seat in the Biden administration came to a close. But at least it's finally over. 

The Biden camp says California Attorney General Xavier Becerra will be be named to the post that Lujan Grisham coveted, Secretary of Health and Human Services. That will put an end to the damaging back and forth over MLG and also put a Hispanic in the slot, satisfying a key Dem interest group. 

It was made clear Sunday by the Biden camp and MLG that she will not be joining the Biden cabinet in any capacity. For New Mexico that means the Governor is in place for the next two years and Lt. Gov. Howie Morales can quit measuring the drapes on the Fourth Floor. 

A New Mexican in the Biden cabinet is still a possibility. The hope of retiring Sen. Tom Udall to snag Interior remains alive, if diminished. The boomlet to place ABQ Congresswoman Deb Haaland at Interior has deflated.


MLG's foray into national politics will come with a price, opined one veteran Dem leigslator. 

This will embolden some legislators who have kept quiet so as to not damage her chances in DC. Now criticism will flow more freely and she could see the progressive Democratic wing try to push her further to the left. 


National media of a variety of persuasions reported that the key moment came when MLG was offered the position of Secretary of Interior instead of the HHS spot she wanted and she rejected the offer. 

In an interview Friday the Governor did not exactly shoot that down. Asked if she was offered Interior, she replied:

I have not had a conversation with the president elect about any of these (cabinet posts) and primarily  because it would interfere in the work I am doing to help the transition team identify all the different talent in the country. . . I can tell you unequivocally I have not had a personal conversation with the president-elect about any of these cabinet posts.

But media reports were careful to say their sources informed that it was the Biden staff--not Biden--who made the Interior offer. 

Staff discontent in dealing with MLG--a forceful executive but known for not always playing well with others--appeared to close the door on her. 

As many have said the Interior offer seems bizarre since New Mexicans Tom Udall and Deb Haaland have been prominently mentioned as possibles. But the insistence of the media reports and MLG opting not to shoot down the speculation, indicates an Interior offer was indeed made. 

Speculation that the offer may have been a loyalty test to see if she would take a job she did not prefer is not to be discounted. Nor is the speculation that Biden staffers hoped and anticipated her rejecting the Interior offer so they could then throw her overboard.

Machiavellian politics are a well-practiced art along the banks of the Potomac. The full story perhaps when someone writes a book. 


It's not all bad news for the Governor. In fact, there is some very good news for her making the rumor mill rounds. Insiders report that GOP Chairman Steve Pearce, who is expected to easily win another term as chairman today when GOP Central Committee delegates meet, is now testing the waters for another Guv run in 2022. "He's been putting out feelers in oil country," said one of our Alligators. MLG will surely root for Pearce's nomination. She trounced him 57 to 43 percent in 2018.   


The decisions only get tougher from here. From the WaPo:

New Mexico shut down nearly everything to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed by covid. It wasn't enough.

And locally

 Gov. Lujan Grisham is expected to allow hospitals to begin rationing care based on how likely a patient will survive, a move many physicians had hoped to avoid but say is necessary given New Mexico’s spiraling number of hospitalizations amid the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The New Mexico doctors, nurses and associated medical personnel fighting this pandemic are rendering heroic service. They will not be forgotten.

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