Thursday, July 08, 2021

Latest Stats: Three Big Counties Have Majority Of State Voters; R's Fret Over Future, Plus: Dow Guv Run 

Our Sunshine State
The latest voter stats from the SOS show that a majority of New Mexico's registered voters continue to reside in the three most urbanized counties--Bernalillo, Dona Ana and Santa Fe. About 51 percent of the 1.344 million registered live in those locales, slightly higher than the June 2020 figures.

Those three counties also happen to be among the most liberal and show the uphill climb Republicans have in reestablishing themselves or face a lost decade. 

But R's actually fear something more sinister--a permanent Californication of New Mexican politics that leaves them in the desert for the foreseeable future as has happened on the West Coast. 

There is no sign at all of a moderate Republican strain emerging that in the past has made possible GOP victories in this Democratic state. 

The major candidates for the 2022 GOP Guv nomination are cemented on the right wing and the shadow of Trump is making it nearly impossible for a breakaway faction to emerge and reignite the party. 

Activists such as radio talk show host Eddy Aragon believe the party is in trouble because it has not gone all in for Trumpism but the evidence points to the opposite. The party of Trump has little appeal to most minorities in a state that is now decidedly majority-minority and his lopsided defeat by Biden here proves the point. 

R's fretting over their fate dread the upcoming redistricting of legislative and congressional boundaries but wonder how much worse it can get. 

Well, history says it can get worse. Back in the 70's and 80's when the Dems had another period of ultra-dominance, the state went 16 years without a GOP Governor--from 1971 to 1987. 

The GOP must change or face a continued withering but a needed debate about that may be stalled until the shadow of Trump is gone.


As of June, 682,925 of the state's 1.344 registered voters were in the three aforementioned urban counties. Big BernCo continues to hold about 33 percent of the total registered.


The number today is five. That’s how many GOP gubernatorial candidates are now seeking the party’s  nomination  in the 2022 primary. 

Number five is Truth or Consequences State Rep.  Rebecca Dow. She tossed her hat into the ring this week, saying a major campaign theme will focus on reducing regulations to kickstart New Mexico’s economy. 

She’ll need a lot more imagination than that if she is going to pose a serious threat to Gov. Lujan Grisham. But one supposes in a five way or more primary Dow can get away with it. However, it will be interesting to see when the infighting breaks out over which R backs Trump more or doesn’t back him.

Dow is well-spoken and a respected voice in Santa Fe with an expertise in early childhood care, a niche that is vitally important to the state’s future. As the only woman candidate and with over $100,000 to start her governor campaign by using her legislative funds, Dow could be dubbed an early front runner.

The question looming over all the contenders is who can raise $1 million or more for the primary. 

The Journal’s pollster calls the GOP field “strong.” That is way too charitable. None of the hopefuls is known statewide and none has a track record of raising  considerable sums of campaign money. 

It’s unlikely that we get a major GOP challenge to this Democratic Governor unless her polling starts dropping below 50%. That’s the number to watch as we count to five today.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Poll Waves Cautionary Flag Over MLG Hispanic Support, And: More Barker Beat; 4th Floor Weighs In 

The latest polling on MLG waves a cautionary flag over her support among state Hispanics, a key constituency. The SurveyUSA taken June 17-21 gives the Guv an anemic 47 percent approval rating among Hispanics. Thirty percent disapproved and 23 percent were not sure. 

Her overall job approval rating was 50 percent, disapproval 32% and not sure 18%. 

That mediocre performance among Hispanics may be weighing on her. Longtime Dem political consultant Sisto Abeyta thinks the issue is mainly Hispanic men. He comments:

The Governor needs to be communicating more with Hispanics, especially Hispanic men who are small business owners and blue collar workers. The progressive agenda has left many of them cold. That in itself is not disastrous but when combined with economic troubles it hurts.

Abeyta said MLG could also help her cause with the Hispanic electorate if the state could move faster in getting out the massive federal assistance dollars that have flowed into Santa Fe.

Dem BernCo Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada is an example of the problem. He recently tweeted that his requests to meet with MLG have fallen on dead ears: 

"(She) has denied every request for a meeting with me as well," he tweeted in response to a TV reporter's complaint that he could not get an interview with the Governor. MLG favored Quezada's Dem opponent in his last primary election. 

That SurveyUSA poll also had MLG getting 49 percent approval in her handling the economy but only 40% approve of her handling of crime. 


So what was KRQE-TV investigative reporter Larry Barker covering when he got into that spat with the governor’s spokeswoman that made headlines. Turns out the story he was seeking comment on from the governor dealt with the state medical cannabis program. An MLG spokesman:

Though the Dept. of Health had answered his questions, he didn't feel they had given him the access he usually wants, so he took it to the governor. Now, my only issue with that is he did it the literal moment before she was about to be introduced to give a speech, so he knew full well he would get denied and he'd get the dramatic footage of that denial that he wanted. . . The governor spoke to him directly after the fact and the interviews he wanted with DOH were arranged, so hopefully his story can proceed the way he wants to tell it.

Barker was upset about initially being denied a gubernatorial interview. KOB -TV investigative reporter Chris Ramirez also recently complained about access, but the Fourth Floor says MLG has been forthcoming with the media:

To suggest we routinely refuse to answer basic questions is a real leap that I don't believe would be supported by the vast majority of reporters. . .Staff answer questions; cabinet secretaries and staff get on the phone and conduct interviews whenever possible. If you want to make it about "access," well, just last week, the governor spoke directly with at least three different local reporters. Is every request for access granted? Of course not. That's true for any public office. How quickly it seems to have been forgotten that last year the governor held twice-weekly and monthly briefings on every subject under the sun…

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Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Barker Breaking Bad: Confrontation With MLG Spokeswoman Raises Multiple Questions About Journalism, Generations And Access 

Just what story was KRQE-TV investigative reporter Larry Barker pursuing when he set off widespread condemnation by his aggressive finger-pointing and cornering of MLG spokeswoman Nora Myers Sackett?

Barker last week was demanding and being refused an interview with the Governor at the ABQ Convention Center where MLG was attending a cannabis conference, but what exactly he was covering got lost in the heat of the moment. We'll have to find out when the dust settles.

Barker is the second TV investigative reporter to recently be denied access to the chief executive. KOB-TV's Chris Ramirez took to Twitter two days before the Convention Center incident to complain that MLG "has denied every interview request I've made this year." (Lujan Grisham did sit for an interview of over 20 minutes with a colleague of Ramirez's.) 

So the roots of Barker's frustration were real and they were clear, even if his rude behavior crossed the line. 

Strangely, none of this was covered by most of the journalism junkies who pounced on Barker, demanding he apologize (which he did) and focused on his misbehavior but not what led up to it which is the limited access to the Governor. (The Journal did provide a smidgen of background.) 

The journalists, largely unknown to the public, did not want to know about Barker's story. It seemed to be about being politically correct and on the "right" side of the current political spectrum. 

There were also errors in the emotional and overwrought "coverage" of Barker's misbehavior. The spokeswoman was not literally backed up against the wall as reported. Her shadow is clearly visible against the wall where she is being confronted. And the allegation that the seventysomething Barker "physically assaulted" Sackett has yet to be documented but was reported as fact. 

Barker is an old school reporter in the style of the late CBS 60 Minutes investigative reporter Mike Wallace, a founder of "ambush journalism" and often known for shoving microphones in the faces of his investigative targets. Barker learned his craft in that era and when his interview request was denied he appeared to fall back on that instinct. His employer KRQE-TV said:

We expect employees to demonstrate high standards of business conduct in their relationships, to be exemplary citizens in the communities in which they live and work, and to treat everyone with respect. Larry violated these policies, and we are addressing his actions directly with him.

Longtime politics watcher Steve Cabiedes is 54 and has experience that crosses the generation gaps of the Boomers, Generation X and the Millennials. He opined:

The rules of engagement have changed since Barker started. Back then there was often no other way to get to a reluctant politician but through confrontation. Now there are a myriad of ways via social media and other outlets to demand that public officials answer the tough questions. That confrontational style which can lead to over the top actions like Larry's is dated and unknown to this generation of journalists. That's why their reaction was over the top.

As for Barker and Ramirez being denied gubernatorial access, the backstory there is that Ramirez is seen in Dem circles (fairly or not) as more a GOP operative than a journalist. He was the spokesman for ABQ Republican Mayor Richard Berry and has close ties to Republican operatives. 

Barker has been on the beat for nearly 50 years, starting in radio in the 70's and advancing to TV. His heyday was at KOAT-TV in the 80's and 90's. Democrats have been suspicious of him since GOP Gov. Martinez took office in 2011 and for eight years Barker rarely--if ever--confronted her or her administration. That was also noted in the aftermath of his confrontation with MLG's spokeswoman. 

Still, the administration has been cooped up for a year and a half and is not shy about refusing to answer inquires. That could use reassessing, and the unfortunate incident with Barker is an opportunity to do so. 

As for Barker, he lost his cool in the line of duty. Maybe he has stayed too long at the party but his infraction in trying to serve the public's right to know was rude manners. Nothing more. KRQE might want to slap him on the wrist but to buy into the cancel culture over a minor incident would be a blow to press freedom.


Sparkle Plenty
File this one under "for old-timers only" but reader Hal Hensley is not going to let it pass without notice:

I am stunned, nay, overwhelmed with disappointment. How the go-to political columnist of New Mexico can fail to give even a brief mention of the passing of a New Mexico political legend is beyond me. The recent passing of Sparkle Plenty brought back all kinds of memories from the 1972 primaries and the multitude of candidates for office (amazing what no filing requirements can do to the field), not to mention afternoons and evenings at the Bull Ring, where so many candidacies have been launched. I trust this was a simple error brought on by your desire to get out and get on with the open Fourth holiday, but do know tears were shed. 

Sparkle plenty died last month in Santa Fe. She was 77.

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