Thursday, March 25, 2021

First Major Party Congressional Nominee To Be Picked This Weekend; Final Candidate Forums Happening, Plus: The Trapping Ban Debate Heats Up, And: Women's History Month and NM Politics 

ABQ GOP State Sen. Mark Moores, 51, will be his party's nominee for the June 1 special election to fill the vacant seat of former Dem Rep. Deb Haaland. Moores captured 40 percent of the 121 votes at a GOP central committee meeting Saturday to take the nomination. Dems will meet Tuesday to name their nominee.

Final vote tally: Mark Moores: 49 votes (40 percent) Eddy Aragon: 34 votes (28 percent) Elisa Martinez: 20 Jared Vander Dussen: 7 Ronnie Lucero: 6 Michaela Chavez: 5 
It hasn't been easy for the public to get to know the candidates seeking the major party nominations for the ABQ congressional seat left vacant by Deb Haaland who was named Secretary of Interior. But the system where the central committee members for the major parties select the nominees for the vacancy isn't meant to deal the public in. So here we are, just days away from getting our first nominee for the June 1 special election to fill Haaland's unexpired term that runs until the end of 2022. 

That will happen this Saturday morning at a meeting of some 135 GOP central committee members from the ABQ district who will decide which of eight candidates gets their party's nomination. Whoever it is will face the steepest of climbs. Big Bernalillo County, which encompasses the vast majority the district, voted for Joe Biden 61 to 36 in last November's presidential election. 

The central committee members and others interested are hearing final pleadings from the contenders. R hopefuls State Senator Mark Moores and talk show host Eddy Aragon faced off before the Rio Grande Federation of GOP Women this week. Here is video of that.

State Dems, who choose their nominee March 30 will host a more anticipated forum, more anticipated because their nominee is highly likely to be the district's next congressional representative. The party says:

This event will be an opportunity for all candidates to put their best foot forward by answering questions submitted by the public. The candidate forum will take place Sunday, March 28 at 3:00 p.m. Here is the link to register to take part. 

The less than 200 central committee members who will decide the nominee will be given preference for admission to the Zoom forum.


Kerrie Romero, executive director of the NM Council of Outfitters and Guides, blasted the trapping ban for public places put in place at the recent legislative session and urged the Guv to veto the bill. And the debate continues. Eddie Estrada, NM Field Representative for the Endangered Species Coalition comes with the counterpoint: 

 Yes, traps have been a tool used in the reintroduction of endangered species like Mexican gray wolves and river otters—but importantly, they have been used by wildlife professionals as part of carefully crafted reintroduction plans. Why was this conservation effort needed in the first place? Because the species were exploited and decimated by private recreational and commercial trappers. It is the damage—both indiscriminate and intentional—caused by the latter group that Senate Bill 32 targets, on public lands, where these important species live and belong. 

 Further, the desire to conserve native wildlife species and to feel like it’s safe for our families to enjoy our public lands is no more “emotional” than the baseless arguments that Ms. Romero offers in her note to you. These are simply my values, and they are shared by the vast majority of New Mexicans, including those in rural and urban communities. We have surveyed the harms caused by traps, snares, and poisons. We have seen neighboring Colorado and Arizona ban these devices years ago and maintain healthy agriculture industries. And we have arrived at a very logical conclusion: for the greater good, and for New Mexico’s economic and ecological future, it is time to get these devices off of our public lands.                                        


In honor of Women's History Month northern Dem US Rep Teresa Leger Fernandez comes with this: 

 Adelina "Nina" Otero-Warren (1881-1965) was the New Mexican suffragist that many credit with our state’s passage of the 19th amendment {which gave women the right to vote}. After her success as an activist and organizer, many encouraged Nina to run for office, and in 1922 she became the first Latina ever to run for Congress.

Otero-Warren's nomination as the GOP congressional candidate shocked the state but she lost the general election to Democrat John Morrow. She was born near Los Lunas and named María Adelina Isabel Emilia Otero.

It wasn't until 1946 that the state's first female congressional representative was elected. Educator Georgia Lusk (1893-1971) upset the Democratic field that year to win the nomination and then the general election. However, she only served one term, losing in the 1948 Democratic primary. It seems she had made too many enemies, a common occurrence for both women and men in the competitive battlefield known as La Politica. 

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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Still Complicated And Politically Treacherous; Conflciting Whip Counts As Special Session On Legal Pot Nears, Plus: Too Flippant On Trapping? And: A Morale(s) Boost  

It would be a humiliating and costly defeat for the Governor to call a special session and fail in her primary goal. But that is an outside possibility as the behind-the-scenes bargaining continues over MLG's call for a special legislative session at month's end to legalize recreational marijuana.

The House is on board with the pot plan but there continues to be conflicting whip counts on where the 42 member state Senate stands and where legal weed died last week at the close of the regular sixty day session. 

Much of the count going forward would seem to hinge on the Guv's dealmaking acumen. That could include veiled threats to veto capital outlay money awarded this session to each state legislator for use in their districts. It could also include bunches of carrots not just sticks.

Besides the bargaining there is the apparent yawn the special is being greeted with by the public. They aren't exactly beating down the doors of the Roundhouse (even if they could get through the fence) clamoring for more pot. 

The clamor is coming more from special interest groups--those who would benefit from the increased sales, the national legalization advocates and this Governor who for reasons not entirely clear believes legal weed will mark a turning point in state economic development.

But with well over 100,000 New Mexicans already getting easy-to-get medical marijuana cards and the black market taking care of the rest of the demand, many pot users are pacified and fine with the status quo.

The pot legislation is complex and its ramifications uncertain. That's why it did not pass a Democratic legislature. If the Guv does run into trouble after a week of arm twisting, a fall back position could be to increase from a half ounce to one ounce the amount of marijuana possession that is decriminalized and also pass an expungement bill that removes the records of those convicted under current possession laws. 

That will be dismissed out of hand by the Governor and her staff and the pro-pot groups but it all comes back to that crucial whip count. Whose bluffing and who isn't? What do you have to give to get? It's treacherous territory with only a short time to navigate. Back up plans, no matter how much they may puncture egos, are in order for all sides involved.


Kerrie Romero, executive director of the NM Council of Outfitters and Guides, writes from Stanley:

I am disappointed with your flippant statement "ditto for a ban on animal trapping" which insinuated that the act of trapping animals is somehow on equal status to the "outdated (and mainly symbolic) abortion law." Through this statement you have exposed yourself as an urbanite who is completely unfamiliar with how wildlife conservation is actually accomplished. 

Trapping is a tool that is used by every single wildlife management agency in the country. Trapping continues to be used in the reintroduction efforts of the Mexican Gray Wolf. And trapping is the only reason New Mexico has a healthy population of river otters. Just like the NMDGF uses hunters and anglers to manage game and fish populations, recreational trapping is used to manage furbearer populations. A ban on recreational trapping does not mean trapping stops. It only means the full cost burden of wildlife management will fall on the shoulders of the Game and Fish rather than the furbearer license holder. 

The only reason this bill cleared both chambers is because NM has a high amount of urban legislators who are more susceptible to persuasion through emotional arguments than they are to scientific facts. The passage of this bill was just another glaring example of the growing rural vs urban divide in our state. And I, for one, hope the governor vetoes this attack on agriculture, real life wildlife conservation, and NM's outdoor recreation economy of which recreational trappers are included. 


Lt. Gov. Howie Morales gave a morale boost (or is that a Morales boost) to the NM National Guardsmen who were charged with guarding the Capitol during the recent legislative session. 

Fortunately, their fighting abilities were not needed as the Roundhouse was quiet with most lawmakers conducting business virtually. There was also a fence erected to keep out unwanted visitors that drew its share of critics. 

As Lt. Governor, Morales presides over the state Senate during legislative sessions. This year one of the highlights was a heavily publicized spat between Dem Senators Daniel Ivey Soto and Mimi Stewart. Morales took some heat for letting the confrontation go on too long. If it happens again, maybe they'll have to call in the Guard to keep the peace. 

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Tuesday, March 23, 2021

After Legislative Session Focus Switches to Elections; Final Campaign Days Here For Candidates for Vacant ABQ House Seat And ABQ Mayor Contest Sees A Love Tap And Official Announcement 

Now that the legislative session is history (at least the regular session) attention turns to the rapidly approaching decisions on who will be the major party nominees for the June 1 special election for the vacant ABQ congressional seat and the contest for ABQ Mayor.

On the congressional front ABQ State Rep. Georgene Louis, a member of Acoma Pueblo, would seem to be a natural nominee for the Dems. If she won the seat she would be replacing Deb Haaland who became the first Native American to be elected to a NM congressional seat. But the long legislative session may have zapped momentum from Louis who is now making a final push before the March 30 Central Committee meeting where the Dem nominee will be selected. 

Haaland, now Sec. of Interior, has remained publicly quiet about who she would like to see replace her. That may have been a lost opportunity for Louis who might have been able to have Haaland at least give her a nudge, similar to what US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did for hopeful Randi McGinn. 

Louis, an attorney, is now in her fifth term at the Roundhouse representing the city's westside. She chairs the House Elections and Indian Affairs Committee.

The meeting of less than two hundred committee members from the ABQ district is turning out to be suspenseful. Guesses are plentiful but even at this late hour there isn't much certitude from the predictors. 

Meanwhile the Dem Party says the March 30 nominating meeting is not exactly that: 

DPNM absentee balloting rules means that the SCC won’t actually meet to choose the nominee, they’ll just vote over a period of 12 hours. Those ballots are nonsecret and available to the public (upon request) and any SCC meeting that takes place in the future is open to the public. 


GOP Central Committee members will meet March 27 via zoom to nominate their candidate. Elisa Martinez, Mark Moores and Eddy Aragon appear to be the leading contenders but less than 150 committee members make the decision so this is another hard to predict race. 

Aragon has attacked those candidates who have not registered with the FEC, saying they are not legitimate. But Martinez and Moores have now registered and the party says there are no legal violations. 

Aragon says the GOP, led by Chairman Steve Pearce, is in chaos and that Nike Kern, named executive GOP director only in December, resigned this week. The NMGOP website was down Monday except for a home page that says:

 We're building a New Republican Party Sign up to be the first to know when we launch. 

Aragon, a radio talk show host, is running an insurgent campaign against Pearce and the party while Moores and Martinez are party establishment figures. 


A reader informs that our blog saying the special election being set by the SOS for June 1 falls in line with the dates of regular primary elections. Not so fast, Joe: 

Ordinarily, a Primary Election is between June 2-8. It can't be June 1, because at least one Monday must have past in June before you get to the Tuesday. 


In the embryonic mayoral race, the major event thus far is that love tap Dem BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales received from the ABQ Journal Sunday. Gonzales is setting himself up as the main challenger to Dem Mayor Tim Keller and counting on GOP votes to help him.

The newspaper circulates prominently among GOP households and their front page embrace of Gonzales could attract those R's. Now if only Manny could figure out how to not alienate Democrats while working to round up GOP votes. 

Gonzales has filed paperwork but not officially announced a mayoral bid for the November election.


Keller has made his reelection run official, not that he hasn't had his campaign shoes on for months. At his formal announcement Monday outside of City Hall, he declared:

I believe our city is finally going in the right direction, and we must keep the course. It’s time we hit the accelerator and we do not go backwards.

The Mayor says his handling of the Covid crisis is his main achievement in his first term. But with the virus fading the city's high crime rate will soon take center stage in the campaign.

There are two newcomers in the running, progressive Nicholas Bevins and unknown Patrick Ben Sais. But they could have a tough time qualifying for the ballot. If it stayed a Keller vs. Gonzales race our Alligators believe Keller starts off with about a ten point lead, 55 to 45, solid but not overwhelming. 

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Monday, March 22, 2021

'21 Legislative Session Gave Birth To A Dramatic Shift In State's Political Direction; Long Stalled Legislation Freed From Floodgates And Overflows At The Virtual Roundhouse; Complete Coverage And Analysis Is Up Next  

Sens. Hamblen and Lopez 
After laboring under the scrutiny of fiscal hawks for a decade, the 2021 New Mexico Legislature made a dramatic shift, redefining the state's political narrative and opening the floodgates for legislation that had been gathering dust in the musty corners of the fabled Roundhouse. Watching the majority lawmakers was like seeing hostages finally freed and ready to get busy.

And for the first time in a very long time most of the 112 legislators actually reflected the thinking of the vast majority of New Mexicans. 

Change had been stifled during the long and often dreary eight Gov. Martinez years and even the first two of Lujan Grisham's tenure, but two words changed everything: Elections Matter.

The ouster of old bull conservative Dem senators in the June 2020 election made the difference. Long sought measures usually left for dead were reborn and passed with gusto. Chief among them was the constitutional amendment to tap the state's $22 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood education. The potentially game-changing legislation was "the big deal" of the 2021 session, declared Gov. Lujan Grisham. 


The amendment won't go before voters until November 2022, but polling suggests easy approval. After that, hundreds of millions of dollars will be devoted to curbing the disabling dysfunction in New Mexico families that has fostered epic cases of child abuse, educational under achievement and higher crime rates. If it works as supporters say, it will be the biggest of deals. And it was finally made possible because of that fateful primary election.

There was much more done in this 60 day session that allowed one to believe a new New Mexico could be contemplated, one that begins to inch its way ahead in those dismal 50th in everything rankings. 

--A modest paid sick leave measure will empower service workers who are at the bottom of the food chain, eliminating the choice of staying at home sick and losing pay or going to work regardless.

--A bill providing $600 rebates for lower income workers will also lift them up and boost the economy. So will a cleaned up $500 million loan fund for business and an expansion of two low income tax breaks.

--The huge influx of $1.62 billion in federal Covid relief is another high impact development that should lift the moribund economy. ($600 million will be used to shore up the state's unemployment fund).

--A $7.4 billion state budget was approved that includes a considerable increase for public education to extend the school year. And while heavy on the reserves, it does represent a 5 percent increase as the state enters pandemic recovery mode.

And there were less transformational but still important bills that will touch everyday lives.

--Reform of state liquor laws will allow home delivery of alcohol, possibly leading to a decrease in the state's dismal DWI standing. 

--Repeal of an outdated (and mainly symbolic) abortion law sent a message that lawmakers were catching up with a more socially liberal electorate. 

--Ditto for a ban on animal trapping on public land which again revealed the continued shift of political power from rural to urban. 


Lawmakers handled landmark legislation like it was run of the mill because it had been around so long and had already been subjected to intense debate at committee hearings, but when it came to a new big idea, they found it too big. 

Legalizing recreational marijuana polls well, but is fraught with potholes when it comes to actually enacting that into law. The complexity was demonstrated in legalization bill HB 12 which ran some 200 pages. 

The groundwork simply had not been laid by key lawmakers and the Fourth Floor and legal weed died in the final hours. Not the end of the world but for MLG, who has made it a banner item in her agenda, the defeat forced her to call a special session

But that session could also be fraught with potholes unless she gets a deal before convening the $50,000 a day confab which she plans to do at month's end. The event, already dubbed "The Stoner Session" by some Alligators, is not going to be greeted with a great deal of patience by Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico. Not when there are already over 104,000 medical marijuana users and possession of small amounts have already been decriminalized.

One name that seemed to be censored in the marijuana mess by legislators and the press was that of NM medical marijuana tycoon Duke Rodriguez. But his presence loomed large over the fractious pot debate as he and his team worked tirelessly for a bill that would make Duke the King of Legal Pot. 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Cervantes came closest to acknowledging that when he commented at a hearing, "Come on, we all know who wrote this bill." 

How about more about pot power player Duke's role in this session from the so far silent press?

The Governor and other state politicos, ravenous for marijuana campaign contributions,  engaged in exaggeration when discussing the importance of legal pot as they tried to justify the special session. MLG argued:

I believe legalization will be one of the largest job-creation programs in state history, driving entrepreneurial opportunities statewide for decades to come. I look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers to get the job done and done right.

We heard something similar back in 1997 when the state legalized Indian gaming. Some jobs were added but also cost some in other recreational venues. Today such gambling contributes several thousand jobs, mostly at the minimum wage or slightly above. The state takes in a relatively meager $60 million or so annually in tax revenue. Legal marijuana is estimated to result in even fewer tax dollars.

If MLG needs to channel Bill Richardson to broker a deal before the session, so be it. To not have a deal and fail would besmirch the success she and lawmakers had in the regular session and set back that new political narrative being celebrated.


Broadband funding was anemic this session. There was a bill approved to establish an office to come up with a comprehensive plan, but most of the need is already known, especially after the failures during the pandemic. Despite giant surpluses the Guv and lawmakers did not come up with much broadband funding. How about using some of that Covid relief money now stuffed in state coffers?


Beware the dangers of Zoom. A lobbyist was caught fretting over a hot microphone at a Senate Finance hearing that "these bitches are trying to throw taxes on us." A Senator retorted: "Speaking as one of the bitches, that was super inappropriate. . ." 

ABQ Dem Sen. Daniel Ivey Soto argued so vociferously with Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart over her sick leave bill that he was called out as a misogynist and a bully. But it took 40 minutes of wrenching debate for the Senate to finally recess to turn down the heat. Where was leadership? Maybe it was like watching an auto wreck and the senators couldn't look away. . . 

We haven't confirmed this but one of our Roundhouse watchers reports that a lobbyist who successfully helped to kill a bill that would have lowered the interest rate on payday loans from 175 percent to 99 percent won a "kill bonus" from their client. Hmm. Is there a bounty on him now?

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