Thursday, September 23, 2021

Women May Score A First In State Treasurer Race, More Shellshock From Stapleton Scandal, Stansbury Doing Her Homework And Our Bottom Lines 

Today's quiz: What two statewide elected offices have never been held by women? Answer: State Treasurer and State Auditor. However, that is highly likely to change next year because the two top contenders for the Dem Treasurer nomination are women--former Sandoval County Treasurer Laura Montoya and former Valencia County Magistrate Heather Benavidez. No Republican has announced yet, but none has been elected to the post in decades. 

As for Auditor, that appears likely to continue in the male column with PRC Commissioner Joseph Maestas and Zack Quintero vying for the Dem nod. No R is announced but this is another position that has not gone to the GOP in decades. 

In that Treasurer contest, the Montoya campaign comes with this:

Bernalillo County Treasurer Nancy M. Bearce, Chief Deputy Kenneth E. Scott and Doña Ana County Treasurer Eric L. Rodriguez, endorse Laura M. Montoya, candidate for New Mexico State Treasurer. 


Democrats continue to be shellshocked by the headlines coming from the financial scandal involving former House Majority Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton:

Feds authorized to seize $3M in Stapleton case 

And the law has already taken possession of Stapleton's 2017 Volvo SUV, saying it was bought with ill-gotten gains.

This may turn out to be biggest alleged theft by a politico in state history. Dems can only hope that there aren't more scandals lurking, but there's been a lot of money pouring into the state during Covid. . . 


Here's a first but it surely won't be the last given the challenges of climate change:

House Speaker Brian Egolf announced the first-ever New Mexico Climate Summit, to be held at the State Capitol on October 25-26. The two-day event will gather nationwide experts and leaders from across the state to develop bold new policies that address the climate crisis and include a just energy transition for all of New Mexico’s diverse communities.

More info and registration is here


The newest member of the state's DC delegation, ABQ Dem Rep. Melanie Stansbury, is still getting acquainted with the people she represents but she seems to have a handle on the issues. Here she is discussing with the Sandoval Signpost newspaper esoteric water issues impacting Placitas:

Because the community is at the northern terminus of the Sandias there’s a sort of unique geography coming out of the Las Huertas Canyon with this community being so dependent on, for example, for water from the snowpack that’s on the mountain,” she continued. “There’s lots of wildlife here, and the land is culturally significant to both the land grant as well as the pueblos as well as the people who’ve moved here who just love the beauty of this place. “It’s a place where people really care for, and love, the land and love the water, and it’s really tied to the mountain itself.” 

Someone's been doing their homework. 

Michelle Garcia Holmes, who lost to Deb Haaland in 2020, has announced she will seek the '22 GOP nomination and the right to face Rep. Stansbury next November. Stansbury won the seat in a landslide in the June special election. 


We had the ABQ mayoral candidates attending three TV debates in October but the campaigns report that only KOAT and KOB have thus far sent out invitations. KRQE has not. . . 

And we updated the blog Tuesday afternoon with the statement from Dem State Senator Siah Correa Hemphill saying she will not seek the nomination for the southern congressional seat. ICYMI: 

The constituents of Senate District 28 elected me to serve them, and I want them to know that I aim to give them my full attention and commitment right now and not campaign to run for Congress. Representing this amazing district has been an incredible experience and true honor, and in my capacity as a state senator and member of the Legislative and Senate Finance Committees I remain committed to being the best advocate I can for everyone I serve. . . 

We also reported Tuesday Senator Heinrich's endorsement of Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez who at this time is unopposed for the Dem nomination for the seat held by GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell. 

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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Rep. Karen Bash To Bow Out; Known For Ousting Republican Youngblood In R District, Plus: Joint Appearances By ABQ Mayoral Candidates Are Sparse And SOS Has Warning For Statewide Candidates 

Rep. Karen Bash
Rep. Karen Bash is the third Democratic House member to decide not to seek re-election in 2022, according to top-placed sources. 

Bash, 74, will be remembered for putting the usually Republican House District 68 on ABQ's NW side in the Democratic column in 2018. 

Her election was made easy by the highly publicized aggravated DWI arrest and conviction of GOP Rep. Monica Youngblood who held the seat since 2013 and was known for her tough on crime rhetoric. 

Bash defeated Youngblood 58 to 42 percent. She did so gracefully, not campaigning on Youngblood's self-inflicted wound and letting the damage play out on its own. 

In 2020 R's tried to retake the district but Bash, a retired Christian minister and early childhood education advocate, had bonded sufficiently with the district to score a 52.5 to 47.5 win.

The Dems can be expected to make the district more D friendly when new district lines are drawn at December's special legislative redistricting session for the 70 member House and 42 member Senate.

Bash joins ABQ metro state Reps. Daymon Ely and Debbie Armstrong in retiring from the Roundhouse. On the R side Rep. Rebecca Dow will depart as she runs for Governor.  

(Let us know if we're missing anyone).

In the state Senate no announced departures yet for the '22 cycle but there were many in 2020 when progressive Dems won primaries against conservative Dem Senators Mary Kay Papen and John Arthur Smith, among others. 


We come up with only eight scheduled joint appearances for the three ABQ mayoral candidates between now and election day. Contrast that with the 2017 mayoral runoff election between Tim Keller and Dan Lewis when the duo made dozens of joint appearances, according to blog records. 

The appearances include October TV debates on KOB and KOAT. The candidates had a joint appearance before an ABQ North Valley neighborhood group in August, so far their only appearance together.

No doubt Covid has played a role in the minimalist in-person campaigning but it seems a general lack of interest in the contest, which is being dominated by Mayor Keller, is also at fault.

Here are two of the upcoming appearances by Keller, Manny Gonzales and Eddy Aragon:

Monday, September 27, 2021 6:00pm-7:30pm, New Mexico Black Voters Collaborative Mayoral Forum, in person at Highland High School (4700 Coal Ave SE) Lecture Hall. 

September 28, 2021 6:00pm-7:00pm, Mayoral Debate sponsored by Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and KKOB Radio.

No paid broadcast media has yet been aired by the candidates. Absentee ballots will be sent to those who have requested them beginning October 5. Early in-person voting throughout the city starts October 15. 


SOS Toulouse Oliver
Attention all candidates and possible candidates for Election '22. Because the redistricting of the congressional and legislative seats won't happen until a special legislative session in December, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver comes with this:

One of the first steps candidates take to get on the ballot is gathering signatures on petition forms from registered voters in their district. This year, however, the petition forms our Office publishes for use by candidates seeking a districted office, which must be used by candidates when gathering signatures, will be delayed due to the delay in Census data being received from the federal government and redistricting. 

Receipt of valid signatures on a petition form are based on the official district boundaries set by the legislature and, by law, our Office cannot publish those forms for districted offices until the legislature has completed its work. Approved nominating petition forms for statewide/non-districted offices, however, will still be made available by our Office on October 1, 2021. These forms can be obtained from our website.

In order to ensure that candidates are collecting valid signatures from the proper district, it is essential that districted office candidates use only the forms published by our Office. . .We anticipate publishing the official nominating petition forms for districted offices during January 2022. 

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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Heinrich Goes Early For Vasquez In Critical Southern Congressional Contest; Endorses Former Aide For Dem Nomination; Sen. Correa Hemphill Says She Won't Run 

Heinrich and Vasquez
Gabe Vasquez is building up early steam for the Democratic nomination for the southern congressional seat. 

Just days after becoming the first Dem to announce a candidacy, he rolled out a video endorsement from Senator Martin Heinrich that should translate into campaign cash and organization in the sprawling district.

Vasquez, a Las Cruces City Councilor, is a former aide to Heinrich so the endorsement was not a complete surprise but it did seem designed to try to clear the field. And it may have. 

State Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill has been weighing a run but a Dem consultant who has advised Correa Hemphill tells us she "is leaning against" running. We'll await the final call. 

Update: Tuesday afternoon she announced she will not run: 

The constituents of Senate District 28 elected me to serve them, and I want them to know that I aim to give them my full attention and commitment right now and not campaign to run for Congress. Representing this amazing district has been an incredible experience and true honor, and in my capacity as a state senator and member of the Legislative and Senate Finance Committees I remain committed to being the best advocate I can for everyone I serve. I look forward to continuing the work delivering needed improvements in healthcare and education, supporting our local small businesses, and being a strong voice for our rural communities.”

The wording was awkward but we get it.

The endorsement makes Heinrich's interest in the redistricting process even deeper. The boundary changes will take place at an early December legislative session. Majority Dems are primed to make the district more difficult for freshman GOP US Rep. Yvette Herrell who is seeking re-election next year. Heinrich won't be shy in pushing a design that helps his new political protege. 

Still, it is going to take a major district change and a whale of a campaign in an off year election to oust the combative congresswoman who has enthused conservatives in what at heart is a conservative region. The fear for Dems is that Vasquez is too liberal to take the prize. Ditto for Correa Hemphill. 

The other Dem fear is that the Dem-controlled legislature doesn't have the huevos to dramatically redistrict the seat, unlike their GOP colleagues who went all out in the 2010 redistricting and ended up taking over the state House for a time. 

As for the endorsement, Heinrich said:

I’ve known Gabe for a long time. We've worked together to protect the rich cultural heritage and beauty of New Mexico’s lands, like designating the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks a National Monument. I’ve watched him grow as a leader, bringing his experience and passion to the Las Cruces City Council. . .Gabe Vasquez can win this seat. I know he’ll put in the work to get it done. . .That’s why I’m rolling out my endorsement of him now — early in this race, because we have no time to lose.

And progressive Dem Vasquez responded:

I've learned a lot from working with Martin Heinrich. How to listen, learn and create good policy that helps the working class and benefits our environment. 


The southern race was the most expensive in the nation two years ago and again will be hotly contested as the R's work to take over the House where they lack just a few seats to get the job done. 

Heinrich's endorsement of Vasquez is a big boost but doesn't guarantee anything. Heinrich has been endorsing candidates left and right as he tries to build a political machine now that he is the state's senior senator. But many have fallen flat. Remember Garrett VeneKlasen?

But the Vasquez candidacy has merit for some Dems independent of Heinrich. For one, he is an Hispanic male in a Dem party that has been bleeding their support. (He was born in El Paso and raised in Juárez before moving to Las Cruces). It has been progressive women who have exercised near complete domination in state Democratic politics. Hispanic men have been getting the cold shoulder and it has shown in the polling data. 

It's still early but other potential contenders will have to decide soon whether to get in the race. Heinrich is already sending out fund-raising pitches for Vasquez. 


ABQ Attorney Armand Armand Huertaz is among the many calling for reform of the city of ABQs campaign public finance system after this year's fiasco:

The public financing process that has unfolded before the Albuquerque City Clerk’s office--to a hearing officer’s zoom call on a boat somewhere in New England, to a District Court, to the NM Supreme Court and back to District Court, has totally shot the trust in the entire process and is terrible for the public political discourse.

How in the world was any of this healthy when you have the campaigns filing lawsuits and ethics complaints against each other rather than presenting their cases before ABQ. Reform is needed immediately starting with clear procedural rules including due process protections to avoid another Kangaroo Court situation:

--An independent panel of 3 to certify applications for public financing with a direct appeal to district court 

--Conflict rules for rival campaigns to file complaints in order to avoid the gamesmanship that is obviously at play and better verification for contributions and signatures. 

--Also, if a donor’s candidate doesn’t qualify, they should get their 5 bucks back. 

After what’s happened this year, I worry that public financing is only going to get more litigious and nastier which is not good for our already broken political process.

The City Council and Mayor can be expected to entertain reform proposals next year. 

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Monday, September 20, 2021

Manny's Mad Money Scramble As Mayoral Race Conjurs Memories Of '09, Plus: More Candidates Line Up For '22 And MLG's "Singular Focus" 

Manny's mad money scramble is on. 

BernCo Sheriff and mayoral candidate Manny Gonzales says he picked up $90,000 in private donations in the days after he finally ran out of courtrooms to appeal the city's denial of over $600,000 in public financing for his campaign.

That's a start but as the song says he has a long way to go and a short time to get there. Gonzales is going for the quick, big money reminding supporters they can give the maximum donation allowed of $6,250.

Mayor Keller successfully qualifying for the taxpayer money looms even larger over the Nov. 2 contest. 

Republican Eddy Aragon also has a steep climb. He reports raising over $30,000 in his first fundraising forays but just one week of high profile TV ads costs more than double that. 

The '21 contest is starting to look something like 2009. That's when two Dems--Mayor Chavez and Richard Romero--battled each other only to see the lone Republican, Richard Berry, consolidate the non Democratic vote and take the prize. This time it is two conservatives--Gonzales and Aragon that are giving Democrat Keller that middle path. But if Keller is unable to get 50 percent of the vote Nov. 2 there will be a runoff election in mid-December between the two top vote-getters. 

And this year could also remind old timers of '77 when David Rusk, son of former Sec. of State Dean Rusk consolidated the Dem/liberal vote against three more conservative opponents including GOP Mayor Kinney. In that election only 40 percent of the vote was required to avoid a run-off.

An example of today's conservative divide is the announcement from longtime ABQ GOP City Councilor Trudy Jones that she is endorsing Gonzales over Aragon who she says will "help us rein in wasteful government spending. . .and focus on basic services." She also backs him for pledging to fight crime and homelessness. 

Former GOP Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson has also endorsed Democrat Gonzales.

Aragon says the Republicans are split down the middle over his candidacy and he faults controversial Republican political consultant Jay McCleskey who is now consulting Democrat Gonzales. He says McCleskey is trying to hold onto power in the GOP and is behind these endorsements.


In the Santa Fe mayor's race, Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler jams in a lot of info in a new 30 second social media video, including her qualifications, a major union endorsement and her governing philosophy. The only thing she left out is why she would be a better mayor than incumbent Alan Webber. Hmmm. 


That's what the campaign watchers were asking this weekend when Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes announced yet another campaign--this time for a second run for the ABQ congressional seat held by Dem Melanie Stansbury. She uses the unease over Covid as her launching pad: 

We need to get past pandemic shutdowns. Let’s focus on addressing our state’s economic needs; let’s fight the crime wave that has overwhelmed us. Let’s embrace the value of a hard day’s work, just like our parents did. I will work hard to make New Mexico safe and economically strong.”

Besides the ABQ congress seat she lost to Stansbury in 2020, Garcia Holmes has also sought the ABQ mayor's office and the lieutenant governor's office.

The Dems see the 2022 ABQ contest as dead money. Stansbury took the seat in a 60 percent plus landslide at the June special election and this December's redistricting is not expected to have any appreciable impact on the heavy D district.


Ant Thornton
The 2022 candidates continue to line up. Here's an announcement for the GOP nod for lieutenant governor from Anthony "Ant" Thornton of ABQ's East Mountains. He says he is a Black Republican who was a Dem but grew disillusioned with President Obama and became a "walkaway Democrat."

Thornton is an aerospace engineer with a Ph.D who had a long career at Sandia Labs. He wants to form "Ant's Army" to "propel the state forward." (Is that anything like Arnie's Army?)

So we've got a possible army of Ants and an engineer who favors cowboy hats. Folks, there's blogging potential there. 

By the way, we're not hearing of any movement to dump current Dem Lt. Governor Howie Morales from the 2022 Dem ticket--in case you were wondering. 


Interesting that Governor Lujan Grisham has issued no statements (at least none we've seen) on President Biden's mandate for Covid vaccinations for all employees of businesses with 100 or more workers. We asked a Dem operative for analysis:

It has been MLG's singular focus on Covid that has caused her approval rating to drop below 50 percent. It has been a rallying cry for the opposition and while a plurality support her, voters may want to see more from her governorship besides the constant Covid narrative which is mostly negative. 

MLG has been getting out and about more in recent days and has an opportunity to redefine the narrative as the state accumulates historic surpluses in the billions from oil and gas. But a flare up in Covid could again demand the "singular focus" that our operative complains is keeping her voter approval on the cool side. 

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