Thursday, April 15, 2021

Scuffling Over ABQ Congress Debates; Independent Dunn Could Be Kept Off Stage, Plus: A Guv Run For John Sanchez?  

For the time being he arguably is the candidate with the highest name ID of any of the contenders seeking the open ABQ congressional seat in the June 1 special election. But former Republican turned independent Aubrey Dunn is having a difficult time convincing local TV stations of his standing. 

Three major network affiliated stations are expected to host debates for the candidates but KOB-TV apparently has already decided to keep Dunn off their stage and keep the debate confined to the three major party nominees--Dem Melanie Stansbury, R Mark Moores and Libertarian Chris Manning. 

This station memo explaining the Dunn exclusion was passed along to us: 

. . . KOB’s executive management decided to offer invitations to our debate to the candidates who earned nominations from their political parties. When it comes to planning live, televised debates, television stations and networks routinely and normally create guidelines and limits on participation. The Federal Communications Commission gives us the flexibility to invite candidates to debate who meet criteria that we set. For this special election, KOB’s criteria limited candidates to those nominated by political parties. KOB also took technical and pandemic concerns in regard. Allowing so many people in our studio presents a public health risk and is technically impossible.

Dunn's camp is obviously not pleased. His son, Blair Dunn, tells us:  

It's obvious they are playing favorites. They know where their bread is buttered--with the ad dollars from the major parties. 

Campaign insiders report KRQE-TV is also preparing to host a debate that also excludes Dunn. 

But the stations appear to be on thin ice in their rationale to include only the three party nominees. And some could see the decision as biased in favor of R Mark Moores. Dunn is widely anticipated to take votes from his fellow conservative. Also. . . 

Independents now make up 23 percent of the electorate in the ABQ congressional district, right behind the 31 percent who are registered R's. Dems have 45 percent. With those numbers, shouldn't the qualified independent have a seat at the table? 

Dunn is not a freak candidate. He narrowly beat an incumbent Democratic state land commissioner in the 2014 race to become commissioner in a Dem dominated state. 

He submitted 6,000 petition signatures to the Secretary of State to qualify for the congressional ballot. Only1,600 were required.

He has raised over $70,000 for his campaign (including a personal loan of $65,000) and has TV spots running on the stations that want to exclude him from their debate airwaves.

And the pandemic excuse seems feeble given the current low virus rate, the commodious studio KOB has and having the option of going remote as a back up. 

Clearly Dunn is a newsworthy contender with a significant public presence. Whatever "criteria" KOB is using seems disconnected from the political reality in the market they are licensed to serve by the FCC.

KOAT-TV is also expected to host a televised debate.


The weak bench the R's have for the 2022 race against Dem Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is a given. So let the debate now begin on whether former Lt. Gov. John Sanchez is a strong or weak member of that bench. 

We say let the debate begin because Sanchez appears to be considering a Guv run. He will be the guest speaker April 21 at the Dona Ana County Republican Party's "Dinner for Conservative Hispanics." 

The appearance comes as the time approaches for announcing a bid for the June 2022 primary.

Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block will become the first '22 GOP Guv candidate when he goes official this Saturday. Financial adviser Greg Zanetti, who ran for the Guv nomination in 2010, is said to be eyeing another run.

Sanchez had eight years under Gov. Martinez whose administration ended deeply unpopular. During that time he made a brief run for the GOP US Senate nomination and ultimately withdrew. In 2002 he was the unsuccessful GOP nominee against Bill Richardson. 

Sanchez runs a successful roofing business and knows his way around La Politica but he's going to have show some impressive bench presses to convince the skeptics.


Former ABQ city councilor and state senator Eric Griego had a big 2020 when he helped spearhead the successful campaign to oust a number of conservative Democratic state senators in the June primary. Now he is leaving his post as state director of the NM Working Families Party:

It is with a heavy heart but one filled with gratitude that I am stepping down as State Director effective April 30. It has been an honor and pleasure working with you all to fight for economic, racial and social justice for New Mexico families. Thanks to your support we have done some amazing work to make our elected officials more representative and accountable, and to pass important legislation to improve the lives of working families. We are currently hiring a new State Lead of NM-WFP.

And we received word from readers that Bill McCamley, cabinet secretary for the Department of Workforce Solutions, notified his colleagues via email that he is leaving that position this week. We'll post more here when it comes in. . . Confirmation on McCamley came Friday afternoon.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

MLG Gets Drudge Treatment Over Cash Settlement In Crotchgate Incident, Plus: The Pot Expungement Numbers; How Many Get A Break?  

She craved the national spotlight when she sought an appointment to the Biden cabinet. But that never happened. Now that spotlight is shining on New Mexico's governor in a most unwanted fashion. 

After it was disclosed Tuesday that James Hallinan, a former spokesman for MLG received $62,500 in cash payments from her campaign fund to settle his sexual mistreatment charges, the headlines hit the Drudge Report, the well-known news aggregating site with a bent toward the sensational and that is a popular stop on the Internet.

She got the full Drudge treatment, pictured in a pink "pussy hat" from the 2017 Women's March in DC, and her trouble getting the #MeTo movement turned upside down on her. 

In case you were in a cave, Hallinan accused MLG of throwing a bottle of water on his crotch and then grabbing his crotch through his pants, while she laughed.  He said the incident occurred during a 2018 campaign meeting as she sought the governorship. 

She denied the charge as did other staffers who Hallinan said were at the meeting. MLG's attorneys said the settlement was done to "avoid distraction" and the "cost of litigation." But the settlement delivered a blow to her national image and the national R's took the bait with their Governors Association coming with this blast: 

 $62,500 is a lot of money for a sexual harassment scandal that Lujan Grisham originally called 'bizarre,' 'slanderous' and 'categorically false. The payments certainly suggest that there must be some truth to the story, and Governor Lujan Grisham should publicly apologize to her victim for her behavior.

One unanswered question is whether the $62,500 is the ultimate cost of settling the Hallinan case or whether the Governor has also agreed to pay him personal funds to make the mess go away. 

Politically, MLG may be out of the running in national politics (did the Hallinan incident hurt in that regard? The first payment to him was made last November when she was being vetted for the Biden cabinet). But the Republican bench for the 2022 Governor's race remains weak, giving her something to hang her pussy hat on as she seeks re-election.

Meanwhile, you've been Drudged, Guv. Congrats. . . or something. 

While Drudge was a downer for MLG, she did get a shot in the arm from this positive Politico piece titled:

The Unlikely State Setting the US Vaccination Pace.


How many New Mexicans will have their arrest and conviction records for marijuana related offenses expunged now that the legalization bill that includes such expungements has been signed into law? Let's start with this item that left some readers confused: 

. .  .An initial state Department of Public Safety review has identified roughly 150,000 people who will have their records reviewed for possible expungement.

That does not mean there have been 150,000 folks arrested for pot related offenses. That number, says ABQ Dem State Rep. Moe Maestas, a key player in the cannabis legislation, represents the approximate 150,000 residents who have criminal records. 

Maestas estimates the total marijuana expungements under legalization will total anywhere from 5 to 10 thousand. That straightens that out, but that there are 150,000 New Mexicans who have criminal records is another story.


A self-described ABQ Westside Gator comments on the dust up in the special ABQ congressional election over exempting Social Security from state taxes: 

 Joe, If New Mexico government really wanted to help seniors, or anyone on fixed incomes, they should place a freeze on property tax increases. Don't hear much about that though, why? 

Property taxes are relatively low here compared to the rest of the nation but so are incomes. There is a property tax break for low income seniors 65 and over that freezes the value of a senior's property. From the Sandoval County Treasurer.

The income cap to qualify for the limitation on property tax valuation, also called the “Property Valuation Freeze” (is) $35,000. . .  The value freeze is for a single-family dwelling occupied by a person who is sixty-five years of age or older or disabled, and whose modified gross income for the prior taxable year did not exceed $35,000.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Medical Marijuana Use Continues To Soar; Over 112,000 Now Taking Part As Guv Signs Legal Pot Bill, Plus: The Politics of NM's One And Only Billionaire 

There are now over 112,000 New Mexico medical marijuana patients, making one wonder how many customers there will be for legal recreational use which the Governor signed into law Monday. Perhaps fewer than anticipated.

The medical marijuana program grew by 32 percent from March 2020 thru March 2021. If that growth was replicated in the next year--before legal weed takes full effect in April of 2022--the state would have nearly 150,000 patients.

And it may grow even more. After all, medical marijuana will not be subjected to the 12 percent excise tax (that eventually goes to 18 percent) as recreational pot will, so why not get to the doctor and get medical marijuana while the getting is good?

Well over half of those prescribed medical marijuana are diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. There's plenty of that to go around in New Mexico. 

As for legal weed, the rhetoric upon the Governor's signing of recreational legalization was typically over wrought, replete with promises of an economic transformation. But we've reported extensively on the mostly low wage jobs (about $13 an hour) that will dominate the new industry. And the 11,000 jobs that supporters say would result from the industry would take a decade to come on line. That’s under the rosy scenario.

And with medical marijuana use soaring and the black market expected to continue to operate, the economic boost the boosters pledge may come in on the low end of expectations. (Estimates for tax collections have repeatedly been lowered.)

Cannabis is going legal mainly because it has become what a martini was (or still is) to your parents or grandparents--a way of taking the edge off, and a majority of the population now supports legalizing.

But the political class couldn't help from throwing a pot party rooted in a disconnected reality as the Governor gleefully signed the new law. The real reality will be on their doorsteps soon enough. Don’t say we didn’t tell you. 


Ron Curio
So is Is New Mexico's new one and only billionaire a Democrat, Republican or something else?

Thanks to our Alligators we learn that 59 year old Ron Corio (net worth $1.1 billion) belongs to that growing group of voters registered as "decline to state" or independent for short. 

According to voter info from official files, Corio voted in all NM general elections from 2004 through 2020, with one big exception. In 2016 when Trump was elected, Corio did not cast a ballot. 

Corio may be the richest man in New Mexico but when it comes to housing he appears to live below his means. On Zillow the value of his 5,800 square foot ABQ home is put at $1.4 million. 

Corio made his fortune in solar (Array Technologies) and when the ABQ-based company's stock was listed on the NASDAQ he reaped millions. 

With the impending sale of PNM, New Mexico will soon lose its only company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, but we're picking up a billionaire. If there's anything the state needs it is more capital circulating. So spend and invest liberally in the community right here, Mr. Corio, and watch out for those Alligators trying to make you sign up as a D or R. 

By the way, Corio may get to be a billionaire a couple of times over. His father, Phil Curio, lived to the ripe old age of 109. 


We continue to get comments on that spat between Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart and ABQ Dem Senator Daniel Ivey Soto that took place in the final hours of the recent legislative session. Our last commenter favored Stewart. This one goes with Ivey Soto: 

I have been in the political realm for over two decades. The entire scenario and media behind Senator Mimi Stewart is completely blown out of proportion. Stewart’s comments are taking the entire women’s moment backwards. We have overcome unequal pay, no access to credit, second class citizens, and sexual harassment. Stewart was treated like an equal, a colleague. The fact that she could not answer the questions or did not like Ivey Soto's questions is not the same as abuse, and it is certainly not the same as abuse from a family member. As a survivor myself, her comparison to abuse trivializes what I have endured and survived. She is taking us backwards. Women deserve more. We have prevailed in this society and in no way do I want a man to refrain from treating me like an equal or with kit gloves. A woman on leadership should portray herself strong and not an a victim.       

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Monday, April 12, 2021

ABQ Congress Battle Quickly Goes Negative; Moores And Stansbury Spar Over Taxing Social Security, Plus: First Legislative Retirement of '22 Cycle, And: NM Labs Boom But Threat Is Out There 

GOP congressional candidate Mark Moores is wasting no time in trying to define Dem nominee and front-runner Melanie Stansbury. After opening with a positive spot about his UNM football playing days, Moores unveiled his first hit on the ABQ lawmaker.

The 30 second spot, not posted on the net, accuses state Rep. Stansbury of doing "very little" to abolish the state tax on Social Security benefits while he, a GOP state senator, has been a leader on the issue and supports doing away with the  tax. He says seniors have been among the groups most hurt by the pandemic and deserve the break. 

The spot is filled with plenty of gray hairs as Moores aims his sights squarely at the 60 plus crowd that is expected to have one of the highest turnouts in the June 1 special election. 

But Stansbury isn't buying it as her campaign responds with this: 

This attack is false and laughable considering Moores plans to go to Washington to vote with the Republicans to privatize Social Security. Rep. Stansbury has sponsored bipartisan legislation to provide a Social Security income tax exemption. . . She has been there for seniors throughout the pandemic, and even helped shop for her senior constituents when they couldn’t. On the other hand, Mark Moores has not sponsored a single bill with the sole purpose of exempting Social Security income from income taxation. 

New Mexico is one of 13 states that taxes Social Security. A bill to repeal the tax was tabled in the House tax committee in the last legislative session. 

The secretary of state said Friday that six candidates, including two write-ins, have officially qualified for the June 1 ballot. 

Independent Aubrey Dunn and Libertarian Chris Manning will be on the ballot with Stansbury and Moores. 


Rep. Ely 
One of the first election announcements from a state legislator for the next election cycle comes to us. Dem Rep. Daymon Ely of Bernalillo and Sandoval counties says he will not seek re-election in 2022. The 63 year old attorney, who specializes in legal malpractice, say family considerations are the reason. 

Ely of Corrales is a former Sandoval County Commissioner who was first elected in 2016 to House District 23 which was then a swing district. Since then, the district has become more Democratic and will likely remain so when the once a decade redistricting is completed later this year.  

Ely has been tight with House Speaker Brian Egolf who relied on him for advice and rulings as the House parliamentarian. It was often at late night sessions where tempers sometimes flared where you could see Ely doing his legal footwork. 

Ely most recently made blog news when he announced that he would introduce a bill requiring political parties to conduct primary elections to pick candidates for congressional seats that become vacant in between regular elections, instead of having their central committee members do the task. The bill was not approved and the central committees selected the nominees for the vacant ABQ congressional seat on the June 1 special election ballot. 

Ely was a key player in implementing the state ethics commission approved by voters in 2018

He still has the redistricting session as well as a regular legislative session before his term expires at the end of 2022. 


Sandia and Los Alamos nuclear weapons labs have been firing on all cylinders, financed with record appropriations and bursting with record employment. But a threat to that growth spike is surfacing in DC as a spending brawl is pending:

Nuclear weapons are emerging as one of the top political brawls in the brewing battle over next year's defense budget. Democrats have been introducing bills to curtail costly nuclear modernization programs, as well as writing letters urging President Biden to support their efforts. But Republicans are shooting back with their own letters and op-eds calling on Biden to stay the course on programs that largely originated during the Obama administration. They’re also working to pin down Pentagon nominees on where they stand. 

Los Alamos is so overflowing with new employees that they're moving 500 of them with an annual payroll of $64 million to Santa Fe offices. How would you like to own a restaurant next to that? But the modernization of nukes is seen as wasteful and unneeded in some quarters and that's what the legislative battle will be over. (Better take only a one year lease on that new lunch spot you're opening.)  

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