Thursday, September 16, 2021

Dow Gets Serious Early; Reports $300K Cash Haul And Campaign Chairs in Every County, Plus: Ronchetti Silent On Any Guv Plans, But His Wife Isn't, And: A Wisecracking Alligator And A New BernCo GOP Chair 

Rep. Rebecca Dow
T or C State Rep. Rebecca Dow is earning her status as the leading GOP Guv contender thus far, announcing that she has raised $300,000 in the early going and has a campaign chair for each of the state's 33 countries. 

In the grand scheme of things that $300K is a trickle since next year's contest featuring incumbent Dem MLG and the Republican nominee will soar into the millions. 

But Dow is first out of the gate with bragging rights in the field of 8 unknown contenders and that counts for something. 

And in crowing over her cash haul, Dow spiked the political punch bowl with this broadside:

In the race for New Mexico governor, there are just two options: continue with MLG, who is drunk on power and will never end her executive orders while she's in office, or support Dow for New Mexico and give people the power to run their own lives again.

Dow's early seriousness will be noted by R's hoping well-known TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti will jump in the race. 

Ronchetti has been silent since we broke the news September 1 that top R's were discussing a candidacy with him but his wife, Kristy Ronchetti has not. Writing in response to a reader comments on  Facebook in reaction to that NM Politics with Joe Monahan report, Kristy Ronchetti said:

We want to help serve the people of this state and we want to see it do better… I’m not sure it will be in a political arena or not - but it won’t stop us for fighting for the people we’ve gotten to know, respect and heard. 

She also expressed discontent that the story was published here but notably her comment does not close the door on her husband running. 

That and other comments from Ronchetti were published on the Facebook page of Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes who highlighted the possibility of his Guv run. Soon after, Garcia Holmes' comments, the reader reactions and those of Kristy Ronchetti were all removed from her page. 

So back to Dow. If she can keep raising early cash and staffing up statewide, R's may start saying: "What's not to like?" Even the Ronchetti's might agree. 


Gabe Vasquez
Southern GOP US Rep. Yvette Herrell didn't waste time launching missiles at Gabe Vasquez, the first Dem to officially announce for the seat. In a Wednesday fund-raising pitch Herrell warned her flock:

The Left will stop at nothing to force their socialist agenda on America, which is why they are directing all their resources towards unseating any Trump-supporting conservative who stands in their way – starting with ME. 

We broke the news September 7 that Las Cruces City Councilor Vasquez was among the possible candidates for the Dem nomination for the Herrell seat. Now he is officially a contender, coming into the race with a 90 second launch video (solidly produced) and a progressive economic pitch: 

Republicans are helping the rich become richer, while hard-working New Mexicans fight for scraps. Our economy is more successful when it is more fair. That means New Mexicans need higher wages, we must ensure that the mega-wealthy are paying their fair share in taxes, and we must invest in social services, infrastructure, and education. I will be unapologetic in fighting for the interests of working families -- they are the heart of this district. 

The early announcement from Vasquez, 37, comes as Silver City State Senator Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill weighs a run. Insiders say she's the pick of the DC Dems for the seat, given the outsized success women Democrats have had here in recent cycles. Vasquez's play is putting heat on her to make up her mind. 

Vasquez is a former aide to US Sen. Martin Heinrich and the pair are pictured together in his announcement video but Heinrich has not yet endorsed him.


A wisecracking AlligAtor comments on this week's endorsement of Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber by US Sen. Ben Ray Lujan:

Ben Ray is polling at 41 percent approval. Webber is in trouble. The Spaniards want his head! 

Lujan's approval was at 41 in an August PPP survey. Sen. Heinrich's was at 42 percent. 


The state GOP informs:

The Bernalillo County Central Committee has elected former businessman John Rockwell as county Party Chairman. About 140 members of the Committee voted. Rockwell, who has lived in New Mexico 42 years, says. . . “I look forward to revitalizing our party and taking part in a massive reorganization effort." 

The BernCo GOP has been stricken by one of its worst outbreaks of internecine warfare in recent years. Rockwell will be picking up the pieces.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

No Public Money For Manny; Is It A Death Blow? Sheriff Will Now Scramble For Private Cash, Plus: MLG's BFF To Depart Roundhouse And Demesia Dodges A Bullet 

Sheriff Gonzales (Journal)
Some are calling it the death blow. 

The latest and final legal loss for BernCo Sheriff Many Gonzales in his desperate effort to win over $600,000 in taxpayer funding for his mayoral campaign leaves him with no other option than to rapidly seek private donations to keep his struggling campaign from complete collapse. 

And with less than a  month to go before heavy in-person early voting begins and just seven weeks until Election Day, the campaign clock is ticking so loudly it sounds like the chimes of Big Ben. 

The scrappy lawman shot himself in the foot by having his campaign go rogue and collecting forged signatures to qualify for the public funds which in turn led to Tuesday's final court ruling that kept him out of the money and on the death watch. 

Besides that court ruling there is another ominous sign. Donations to the outside PAC supporting Gonzales--Save Our City--had been coming in fairly strong but started to dry up in the latest reporting period when Gonzales was embroiled in legal imbroglios and not pounding away at the city's crime that had been motivating the big money.

Mayor Keller has over $500,000 in public financing still in his kitty and will soon be swamping the TV airwaves. At a minimum Gonzales would seem to need half that much to come even close to competing. 

Gonzales, who remains a nominal Democrat, immediately blamed the "liberal establishment" for his loss in the courts. 

In an email blast he called himself "a strong fiscal conservative," pointing out that he was attacked when he accepted federal law enforcement help from Trump. 

He added what used to be an oldie but goodie in city politics but now looks soggy and saggy--repealing ABQ's status as a Sanctuary City. 

Manny's urgent hard-right campaign missive might have made sense a month ago when Republican talk show host Eddy Aragon wasn't on the ballot, but Eddy and a cash-starved Manny are now eating from the same trough while Keller has the middle and left essentially to himself. That and Keller's cash are enough to bring this thing home with an outright 50 percent win and no run off. Stay tuned.


Talk about dodging a bullet. Demesia Padilla, state taxation secretary under GOP Gov. Martinez, was quietly sentenced to five years probation last week. No jail time for her embezzlement convictions, even though she faced up to 18 years in prison on the felony charges. That led one reader to exclaim:

If anyone needed a sentence as an example this woman was it!

The Padilla sentencing came amid sensational charges against former Dem State Rep. Sheryl Wiliams Stapleton who faces charges of stealing nearly $1 million from the ABQ Public Schools. She's probably hoping to get the same judge as Demesia. 


Rep. Armstrong
Dem State Rep. Debbie Armstrong joins the list of House members who won't seek re-election next year. Its a pretty short list with ABQ Dem Rep. Daymon Ely the only other entry. 

Armstrong is an expert in health care and a BFF of MLG who put out a statement praising the ABQ North Valley lawmaker. Armstrong says she wants to focus on family and other projects. 

Armstrong is serving her fourth term from District 17 which will now see a major primary battle to replace her in the Dem heavy area which could also see more redistricting because of her departure. 

Armstrong's legacy will be her medical expertise which was leaned on when the legislature adopted legal cannabis and approved an end of life options bill. 

She will also be remembered for a major campaign controversy with MLG in 2018. Armstrong founded Delta Consulting with her which did most of its business with the state's high risk insurance program. Republicans called that into question. 

And Armstrong was one of the few people in the room when MLG campaign aide James Hallinan alleged that the gubernatorial candidate threw a bottle of water on his crotch and made derogatory remarks. Hallinan received a legal settlement from Lujan Grisham's campaign of $62,500.

The retiring Armstrong may miss the Roundhouse but her future friendship with MLG should be an easier ride. 

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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Early December Eyed For Start Of Legislature's Redistricting Session And Santa Fe's Mayor Gets Needed Endorsement In Racially Tinged Campaign  

No final date has been set but Roundhouse sources report the New Mexico legislative leadership is looking at Monday, December 6 for the start of the once in a decade redistricting session. Optimistic projections have the 112 lawmakers completing their work in a week and presenting it to the Govenror.

Since the governor's office and legislature are controlled by the Democrats no one is expecting a major fight or a veto of what goes up to her. 

That's the opposite of what what happened when GOP Gov. Susana Martinez was in charge at the last redistricting in 2010. She vetoed a Dem plan and the courts settled on a redistricting that was ultimately favorable to the R's. In 2014 they took over the state House for the first time since 1953. However, the Dems recaptured the majority in 2016. 

One of the more far reaching proposals circulating for the state's three congressional seats would split ABQ into three, giving each district a big piece of the big city. That would make it easier to turn the southern district toward the Dems. The district is currently represented by GOP US Rep. Yvette Herrell, the only R in the congressional delegation. 

With the US House so narrowly divided between the parties national groups are taking a keen interest in what happens to her seat.

House Speaker Brian Egolf has already expressed his interest in turning the district Democratic and took heat for his frankness. But that's unlikely to change his mind. The only question is how much more influence the Dems will have in the new district. 

A Citizens Redistricting Committee is drafting several plans for the legislature to choose from but lawmakers still make the final decision. You can submit your own redistricting plans for the congressional and legislative seats at the commission's website.


Here's the complete ruling of ABQ District Court Judge Joshua Allison that kept GOP ABQ mayoral candidate Eddy Aragon on the November 2 ballot. Allison rejected a petition that sought to remove Aragon because he lives in a commercially zoned property near the airport. Allison said: 

The only residency requirement is that which is set out in Article V, Section 13 of our State Constitution, which provides that candidates for Mayor of the City of Albuquerque be “residents” of the City of Albuquerque.

We covered the impact of that ruling on the race on our Monday blog.


Sen. Lujan
In the mostly sleepy Santa Fe mayoral race Mayor Alan Webber scores a strike with the formal endorsement of Dem Senator Ben Ray Lujan as he battles charges of being out of touch with the city's Hispanic community. Says Lujan: 

Alan also understands that Santa Fe is an ever-expanding city with important needs like affordable housing, economic diversity, educational opportunity, and environmental sustainability. I deeply share his progressive values. Alan believes in doing what's right, and I trust him to do everything necessary to unite Santa Fe and improve quality of life." 

Lujan is a resident of nearby Nambé and his father, the late House Speaker Ben Lujan, was a longtime Santa Fe county representative. His endorsement should help Webber cool the heated racial overtones of the campaign. "Unite" is the key word in Ben Ray's slap on the back for Webber.

And Sen. Martin Heinrich, who has earned the nickname "First Endorser" for his many nods of support these days, has also endorsed Webber, saying: 

Alan will continue to responsibly manage Santa Fe's growth. His new comprehensive plan covers everything from water use, to protection of traditional neighborhoods, more walkable communities, and affordable housing throughout the city.

Meanwhile, the Santa Fe Hispanic Chamber of Commerce sponsored a mayoral forum Monday night. The stream is here

Santa Fe City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler is Webber's main rival in the November election. If she can find the gas pedal, she needs to step on it hard. 
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Monday, September 13, 2021

ABQ Mayor '21: Aragon Survives Ballot Challenge And Then Wins Endorsement Of Divided GOP; Gonzales Still Tied In Legal Knots As Keller Preps Crucial TV Ads  

He's nothing if not resilient. First, radio talk show host Eddy Aragon defied expectations by getting over 3,000 petition signatures in just two weeks to qualify for the November 2 mayoral ballot and now he's survived a residency challenge to his candidacy in district court that could have tossed him off the ballot. 

Aragon is the only Republican among the three mayoral candidates but BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales is campaigning as a conservative Democrat against Dem Mayor Tim Keller so Aragon's survival is a direct blow to him. And there's a new angle. The NMGOP, deeply divided over the voluble Aragon, threw in the towel following the Friday court ruling and embraced the outsider as one of their own: 

This means Republicans. . . have. . . a strong conservative seeking the top job at Albuquerque City Hall. RPNM supports all Republican candidates, and now there's a GOP candidate for mayor. . .Albuquerque is a city in crisis: crime is out of control and the city is in desperate need of new leadership to steer it on a better course. Republicans now have a mayoral candidate who will fight for conservative values and make Albuquerque the great city it can be.

That official endorsement will mean money and votes for the ABQ native. How much and how many are the questions to be answered

Technically city elections are nonpartisan but partisanship has always been the major factor.


While Aragon was untying the legal shackles that kept his candidacy hostage, Manny Gonzales was still tied in legal knots, scheduled to be back in court tomorrow in a final bid to secure over $600,000 in public financing crucial to his effort. 

Gonzales has been losing left and right in that fight--from the city clerk, a city hearing officer, a second time before the clerk and the NM Supreme court which refused hear an appeal. Tomorrow Gonzales will again ask the judge who ordered a second hearing from the city clerk--which he lost--to tell the clerk to release the funds. 

If he loses Gonzales will have to raise money privately and quickly. Not an easy task when the R's are falling behind Aragon and the legal process may have irrevocably stained the reputation of the longtime lawman. 


The murder and mayhem that has become part of ABQ life continues but Gonzales has not laid a glove on Keller who is now poised to flood TV with hundreds of thousands in taxpayer financed ads. Insiders say he was shooting those ads over the weekend. 

He will be on the air in plenty of time to influence early absentee votes when ballots are sent out October 5 and in full battle mode when critical in-person voting starts Oct. 15. Will Gonzales and Aragon?

More troubling news for the challengers. There has been only one joint appearance between the three candidates thus far and according to Keller's website the next one isn't slated until the end of the month. That is depriving Keller's foes of desperately needed opportunities to confront him directly and personally over the crime wave. The TV debates won't come until late October and with early voting so prevalent that could be too late. 


TJ Trout
Radio talker TJ Trout of ABQ's KKOB, coming at the race from a neutral corner, says the lack of forums is another indication that we are headed for a low voter turnout Nov 2:

People seem tired of politics after the raging battles of 2020 as well as this year. Covid fatigue has translated into political fatigue. The issues in ABQ couldn't be bigger but the crowd needs to be warmed up, big time. 

The late start of his opponents puts Keller way ahead right now. His reelection would be a given if it were not for the historic murder rate, the continued high rate of property and other crimes and the chaotic management of the city's police department. That leaves the door ajar, if only a smidgen, for something unexpected but from this point on the Keller challengers will need killer TV ads and near perfect campaigns. 

And Gonzales and Aragon have more than Keller to take on. They are now running against the toughest foe of all--Father Time. 

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