Thursday, August 26, 2021

Look Who’s Got A Job--Sort Of; Latest Move Of Ex-Guv Martinez Is Filled With Politics And Rich Irony  

Look who’s finally got a job--sort of. 

Former Gov. Susana Martinez, on the unemployment line since leaving the Guv's office in 2019, has landed a slot on the board of directors of The Daniels Fund, a charitable foundation known most notably for its scholarship program in four western states, including New Mexico.

The board post comes with a stipend in the neighborhood of $50,000 a year, according to a Senior Alligator who checked the Fund's IRS paperwork. Such boards generally meet four or five times a year so there's not much heavy lifting for directors. 

Previously Republican Martinez was named to the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, established by former Florida GOP Governor Jeb Bush. However, that position did not command any compensation.

How did the former two term governor, who left office amid plummeting polls, sensational lawsuits revolving around her personal life and who has been anything but a hit on the job market come up with the Daniels deal? Pretty easily. 

Hanna Skandera, who was appointed public education secretary by Martinez, was named president of The Daniels Fund in late 2020. She also serves on the board of directors. Voilà! Susana ends up on the board. (Skandera served in the Jeb Bush administration before being brought to NM by Martinez.)

Never mind that Skandera and Martinez, 62, were notorious for fighting with the public schools and teachers unions and favoring charter and private schools over their public counterparts. 

The politics is blatant and the irony is rich. 

The Daniels Fund, now valued at $1.7 billion, was established upon the death of cable TV pioneer and conservative Democrat Bill Daniels, who was born in Colorado but spent his early years in SE NM. Bill was the uncle of former Lt. Governor Diane Denish who ran and lost the governorship to new board member and Republican Martinez in 2010. 

Daniels died in 2000 and Denish, whose father Jack Daniels of Hobbs was Bill's brother, held major influence with the Fund for a number of years but no longer. Now she gets to watch Martinez and company divvy up the prized scholarships and other charitable donations. That's a big ouch.

As for Bill Daniels, his legacy of helping his fellow man is secure. But if you hear about a bunch of money from the Fund going for "public school reform" and the like, well, that could be Hanna and Susana playing around in their new gilded cage.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

BernCo Commission Makes A First And Names Asian American Kay Bounkeua to Replace Stapleton In State House; Calls Herself "A New Voice" But Redistricting Could Be Challenge, Plus: Political Entertainment As Grants Mayor Goes Off The Rails  

Rep. Kay Bounkeua
It's one of the most diverse and progressive of the state's 70 legislative districts and House District 19 in ABQ's SE Heights will be represented on both counts with the appointment of Democrat and community activist Kay Bounkeua as the area's new state representative. 

The Bernalillo County Commission Tuesday appointed Bounkeua to fill out the term of former African-American State Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton who held the seat since 1995 but was forced to resign this month amid a financial scandal

The four Democratic commissioners voted for Bounkeua. Republican Commissioner Walt Benson did not attend.

She was nominated by Commissioner Adriann Barboa whose district includes House District 19. Lan Sena, the Asian American ABQ city councilor who represents a Westside district, spoke in support of her appointment. Following the vote the new representative immediately took the oath of office from BernCo Clerk Linda Stover. 

Bounkeua, who was born and raised in ABQ, is the daughter of Lao-Chinese immigrants who she says came here in the 70's from a refugee camp in Thailand. 

She is now deputy director of the NM Wilderness Society but has a long background in advocating for Asians in the district which has the most immigrant residents of any section of the city.  She previously served as Executive Director for the NM Asian Family Center and as the first board chair for Albuquerque’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.

Bounkeua, who has a Masters in Public Health from the University of Michigan, was one of ten candidates who sought the appointment, including businessman and Dem Party First CD Vice-Chair David Montoya

Bounkeua will fill out Stapleton's term that expires at the end of 2022 and is expected to seek election in her own right beginning with the 2022 June Democratic primary. 

A Dem consultant had this:

She seems a strong candidate and the appointment could give her the edge but expect multiple candidates in the primary. This is a coveted seat that Stapleton held since 1995. Some of those who also sought the commission's appointment can be expected to launch campaigns.

No R's need to apply in the district. It's all D all the time. 


There's also political intrigue over what the district will look like following the redistricting of all the legislative seats that will take place at the Legislature later this year.

Some community leaders want the map redrawn to have it include more minorities. They would have the district--much of which is known as the International District--begin at San Mateo and go east dropping the west end of the district. 

The current district goes through the SE Heights up to Wyoming. It also includes Nob Hill and other wealthier Anglo neighborhoods west of San Mateo. The district ends at Girard Blvd near UNM.

Rep. Buonkeua, who lives west of San Mateo which could be dropped from the district under that one plan circulating, told us following her appointment that her first priority as a lawmaker will be to keep the present district intact.

I want to be in on the groundwork of redistricting because I know the nuances and the way the district today truly represents the community and its rich culture. 

Bounkeua, 36, described herself as a "new voice" and her appointment as "an opportunity to kick open the door" at the Roundhouse. Her formal statement is here.

She is married and the mother of a two and half year old daughter. 


Nearly one in ten New Mexico residents is an immigrant, while one in nine residents is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent. In 2018, 198,522 immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 9 percent of the population. The top countries of origin for immigrants were Mexico (72 percent of immigrants), the Philippines (3 percent), India (2 percent), Germany (1 percent), and Cuba (1 percent)


Mayor Hicks
For those looking for some bizarre political entertainment the recent meeting of the Grants, NM City Council comes highly recommended. Grants Mayor Martin "Modey" Hicks comes unglued during a discussion of the city charter and the meeting is abruptly adjourned after only 7 minutes. 

(Yes, Hicks is the same mayor who was fined $5,000 last year for violating the state's public health order.)

Hicks cajoles, bullies and yells as he tries to corral the five member council to his side. The action starts at the 3:30 mark on the replay. Enjoy. . .or something.  

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Tuesday, August 24, 2021

MLG Approval Rating Below 50 Tantalizes the R's But No Big Name Contender Yet Surfaces, Plus: NM US Senators Approval Anemic 

MLG's approval rating continues to bobble a bit below the key 50 percent mark, tantalizing Republicans but not yet enough to draw a big name opponent into the race to try unseat her in 2022.

In the latest survey conducted Aug. 16-17 among registered voters by PPP the Governor sports an approval rating of 46 percent with 45 percent disapproving. It is independent voters who are holding her back. Only 33 percent approve of her job performance while 54 percent disapprove. But she remains popular with Hispanics who give her a 53 percent approval rating. 

The poll was taken just days after the shocking August 13 murder of a 13 year old student at ABQ's Washington Middle School. His killing by a fellow student shook the state and dominated the news. 

A mid-June SurveyUSA poll showed only 40 percent of those polled approved of MLG's handling of the crime issue but 50 percent of those surveyed gave her a positive job approval rating.

While MLG gets high marks for her coronavirus policies (59 percent approval in SurveyUSA) the continued negative impact of the virus on the economy and lifestyles have made for a decidedly more grumpy electorate. The virus resurgence in the form of the Delta variant hasn't helped her. Ditto for President Biden's recent polling struggles that began with that resurgence. 

Looking back for perspective, in October 2020 MLG's approval rating was at 47 percent in a poll conducted by a group of universities so her numbers have been relatively steady. 

The June landlslide by Democrat Melanie Stansbury over Republican Mark Moores for the vacant ABQ congressional seat heartened Dems as the crime attacks Moores pushed failed to take hold. However, another test looms as ABQ Dem Mayor Keller faces intense scrutiny of his crime fighting record as he seeks a second term in the Nov. 2 election. 

The Governor was careful not to immediately swat down a recent call for a special session of the legislature on the crime crisis made by Republican leaders. With an electorate made more unpredictable by the unprecedented events during her administration, treading carefully could be her chosen modus operandi for the next year and half. 


While MLG's numbers may be "just okay" as her campaign ream reportedly told legislative leaders recently, she has bragging rights over the state's two US Senators. That PPP survey gives Dem Martin Heinrich an anemic approval score of 42 percent with 34 percent disapproval. But he's a tower of strength compared to fellow Dem Senator Ben Ray Lujan who gets an approval rating of 41 percent but a disapproval rating nearly equal that of 40 percent. 

But don't read too much into that. At the end of December 2019 Heinrich had an approval rating of 39 percent. But just a year before, in 2018, he was re-elected with 54% of the vote in a three way race. 

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Monday, August 23, 2021

Here Comes The Judge: Gonzales' Final Plea To Garner Public Financing For Mayor's Race To Be Heard Friday; Sheriff Appealing City Ruling Of Campaign Fraud; Over $600K At Stake  

Judge Biedscheid
The ABQ mayoral campaign will be shaken up one way or the other this Friday when District Court Judge Bryan Biedscheid decides whether BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales will qualify for over $600,000 in public financing for his mayoral campaign or whether the decision of the ABQ city clerk to deny him those funds will stand.

If Gonzales fails to get the taxpayer money he will have to immediately pivot to raising campaign funds privately and he will have a steep hill to climb in a short of amount of time. 

Mayor Keller has qualified for public financing and is resting easy with $602,000 in cash for the November 2 election. Candidate Eddy Aragon will raise money privately.

The clerk found that the Gonzales campaign committed fraud when it submitted $5 individual donations to qualify for the public financing that were not authorized by the voters the campaign claimed. Gonzales' team argues the clerk is a political hack appointed by Keller who is going out of his way to deny Gonzales the money.

In a statement upon his appointment by the NM Supreme Court to hear the case, Biedscheid indicated he is not going to entertain any political arguments at the Friday hearing:

There is a fair amount of argument about motivations, biases and things related to parties in the matter, and frankly, I don't see those as being key to my decision. I am mindful of my role and that it is limited. I am not out to rewrite regulations or election codes, but I am here to see they are properly complied with.

Looking at that code--the 2021 Regulations of the ABQ City Clerk for the Open and Ethical Election Code-- there is this:

Upon receipt of a final Qualifying Contribution report from an Applicant Candidate, the Clerk shall determine whether the Applicant Candidate has. . .been found to have submitted any fraudulent Qualifying Contributions or any falsified acknowledgement forms for Qualifying Contributions or Seed Money Contributions, where the Applicant Candidate knew or should have known of the fraudulence or falsification. If the Clerk makes any of the findings above, the Clerk shall not certify the Applicant Candidate as a Participating Candidate.

The fraud claim is not contested. The Gonzales campaign admits there were forgeries but claim that Gonzales was not responsible. They will argue that Gonzales did not know about the fraud and that even when the bad donations and signatures are accounted for he still has enough to meet the requirement to get taxpayer money and should get it. 

A ruling by Biedscheid upholding denial of the funds will likely renew claims by the Gonzales camp that the clerk and now a Democratic judge are partisan and aligned against the conservative Democrat who is running as a quasi-Republican.

The Judge is not a rookie and should be able to craft a concise ruling--no matter how he sees it. Legal reasoning for the denial was previously laid out by a city hearing officer, an attorney, who rejected Gonzales' appeal of the city clerk's ruling, a ruling now being appealed to the district court level. 

This will be the highest profile case for the Judge, about 52 and a 1996 graduate of the UNM School of Law. When MLG appointed him to fill a vacancy in the northern First Judicial District in March of 2019 he was a shareholder and vice-president at the Santa Fe law firm of Sawtell Wirth & Biedscheid. The Wirth is Dem State Senator Peter Wirth, Senate Majority Leader.

Biedscheid was appointed to hear the case by the all Dem, five member NM Supreme Court when all ABQ district judges recused themselves from the case because they deal with Gonzales in his role as Sheriff.

Because of the pandemic the hearing will be held via Zoom.

Biedscheid was elected to the bench for a six year term in 2020 when he ran unopposed in the heavy Dem counties of Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos that make up the First Judicial District. More Judge Biedscheid bio here.


When four APD officers suffered injuries when an armed robber shot them Friday morning in the ABQ NE Heights Chief Harold Medina and Mayor Keller were quick to publicly thank the many law enforcement agencies who responded to the shocking incident, including agencies in Sandoval and Valencia counties and the FBI. 

Noticeably absent from their thank you list was the Bernalillo County Sheriff's office which also responded to the shootings but whose leader Sheriff Manny Gonzales is running against Keller who is seeking a second term. 

Get used to it, Manny. If you win in November you'll be rewarded with the most thankless job of them all. 

This is the home of New Mexico politics. 

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