Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Sedillo Lopez And Stansbury Head To Runoff To Decide Dem Nominee For ABQ Congress Special Election; Cannabis Chaos: Republicans Bolt On Special Session; Call for Delay; Sen. Candelaria Uncut; Rips Guv; She Bites Back;  

Breaking Tuesday night. Results are in from the first round of voting by Dem Party Central Committee members to nominate a candidate for the vacant ABQ US House seat for the June 1 special election. There will be a runoff election tomorrow between Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and Melanie Stansbury. From the Dems: 

 199 Democratic State Central Committee (SCC) members in CD-1 cast their first votes today to determine who will be the Democratic nominee for the first Congressional District seat recently vacated by Secretary Deb Haaland. Candidates must receive 50% plus 1 vote in order to secure the nomination. The results are as follows: 

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez - 74 votes Melanie Stansbury - 43 votes Randi McGinn - 34 votes Victor Reyes - 18 votes Selinda Guerrero - 13 votes Georgene Louis - 13 votes Francisco Fern├índez - 2 votes Patricia Roybal Caballero - 1 vote In addition, one person wrote in "ABSTAIN." 

Therefore, no candidate has reached the 50% +1 threshold. In accordance with DPNM Rules, the smallest number of candidates whose vote totals exceed 50% will move on to a runoff. In this case Antoinette Sedillo Lopez received 37.19% of the vote and State Representative Melanie Stansbury received 21.61% of the vote. These candidates will move on to a runoff to be held tomorrow, March 31st, from 7:00am to 7:00pm, via remote balloting. 

State Sen. Mark Moores has been nominated by the R's for the special election to fill the seat left vacant by Rep. Deb Haaland who she became Sec. of Interior.

Cannabis chaos wrapped itself around the proposal to legalize recreational marijuana Monday and like a boa constrictor started to squeeze the life out of its prey. 

Senate Republicans essentially walked out of the session before it even begins at noon today. The caucus said they are sick of the closed door dealmaking going on over one of the most important bills in state history. They called for delaying the session.

The R's are important because one of them, Sen. Cliff Pirtle, was poised to vote for a bill as were a couple more of his colleagues. Now that block of 15 in the 42 member Senate seems aligned against MLG. If seven Dem Senators defect with them, cannabis goes down.

But it could be a filibuster that dooms legal weed, if history is any guide. The R's would have 8 hours to filibuster the bill once it hit the Senate floor and that could be enough to crack support. 

On the other hand, the Governor has her prestige and future leadership on the line. She will push with all she's got but if she goes over the line into bullying and too many threats over legislators bills sitting on her desk and their capital outlay money, she risks a backfire. 

And not releasing the bill to all the lawmakers before the session is a power play that is hard for many of them to swallow. 

(The House is like the old Soviet style Politburo and will rubber stamp whatever is sent them.)

MLG is popular in her party but this once in a generation vote is already tearing the Senate apart. 


ABQ Dem Senator Jacob Candelaria, now a constant critic of MLG, lashed out at her again on the eve of the session, predicting it is headed for a "complete meltdown" because of the failure to reach an agreement before lawmakers convene. Like the R's, he called for the session to be called off. 

The Fourth Floor bit back, noting Candelaria's employment as an attorney for a leading medical marijuana company, Ultra Health:

 It's hard sometimes to tell where the senator ends and the attorney for the state's largest medical cannabis company begins. He is welcome to his criticism and certainly his own vote but not his own facts about the legislation that will be introduced and what the governor does and does not support. 

Behind the scenes lawmakers were telling close associates that they were flabbergasted that they were being called back without a firm deal

But there was a bill circulating, our sources said, but according to them did not advance the ball much, but does turn over a lot of power to determine what to do to the state's regulation and licensing department. But most Senators want more than that and that's where we stand. 

As for the whip count, how can there be one when there is no bill yet to discuss? Stay tuned.


So what about those 11,000 jobs that optimistic projections say New Mexico will get from legalization in five to ten years time? Will they truly diversify our economy as backers claim or simply add more low wage employment as happened when Indian gambling was approved 25 years ago? 

The evidence is on the side of low wage employment which is not to be knocked but that does not diversify the economy into high wage or even middle wage employment.

In Denver, budtenders at legal marijuana dispensaries make about $13.80 an hour. Statewide the average is $13.57 an hour. In Trinidad, a rural area similar to those in our state, the budtenders average just $12.70 an hour. 

New Mexico's minimum wage will go to $11.50 January 1, 2022 and to $12 per hour in 2023. 

There will be big money made by many licensees and cannabis growers and that money could trickle down, but the promotion of legal cannabis as an economic revival act for good paying employment doesn't cut the mustard.

How about including a collective bargaining clause in the marijuana bill so New Mexico can lead and start these jobs at good pay and include a health care and retirement package? It's not just about social justice. Santa Fe can do better than replicating the pay for call center jobs, can't it?


The conventional wisdom now believes State Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and State Rep. Melanie Stansbury will emerge as the top two contenders tonight when the first round of votes by some 200 Dem Central Committee members are counted in the contest for the Dem nomination for the June 1 special election to fill the vacant US House seat of Deb Haaland who was named Sec. of Interior.

Sedillo Lopez, 63, has heavy backing from Bernie Sanders supporters who are well represented on the committee. Stansbury, 40, has secured support from allies like the Sierra Club and more younger members of the committee could be her natural allies. 

In a clever move, the campaigns of Sedillo Lopez and Stansbury rolled out on social media a series of endorsements from actual voting members of the committee who begin casting ballots this morning. They included a statement and photo of the member.

It would take 50 percent of the vote for a candidate to win the nomination outright, and in an eight way race that is unlikely to happen. What is more probable is that Sedillo Lopez and Stansbury will face each other in a run-off election. If so, the suspense could mount. The runoff won't be held until Wednesday.

Of course, the conventional wisdom is not always on the mark and with so few votes being cast the chances of an upset are real. However, if one candidate separates themselves from the pack by a double digit win, it's difficult to see that candidate losing the runoff. 

As for dark horses, there are six other candidates including Native American State Rep. Georgene Louis and Victor Reyes who have waged intensive campaigns as has attorney Randi McGinn.

Today's voting is by email and runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The party expects a vote tally around 9 p.m. The runoff would be held Wedneday with the same voting hours. Follow us here and on Twitter for the latest.

Freshly picked Republican nominee Sen. Mark Moores can't start campaigning because he's at the special legislative session. It's a tricky time for him. Moores is one of the few R lawmakers who supports legalizing recreational use of cannabis, a position that is at odds with many in his conservative party. 

In the final moments of the regular 60 day session where marijuana legalization died, Moores withdrew his co-sponsorship of a legalization bill. He is expected to vote against legalization at the special session. 

Looking at all of this is Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block who says he will announce his candidacy for the 2022 GOP gubernatorial nomination next month. Moores faces an uphill battle for the congressional seat--no matter who the Dems nominate--but could use the contest to build momentum for his own run at the '22 GOP nod. 


We misstated the name of the Libertarian Party nominee for the June 1 special election to fill the ABQ area congressional seat. The nominee is Chris Manning from the Four Corners region. 

It's commonly assumed that a member of the US House must be a resident of the district they represent but only residency of the state is required. There are political implications for not living in the district so expect the residency and home ownership histories of the nominated candidates to be scrutinized. 

This is the home of New Mexico politics. 

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