Thursday, October 07, 2021

More Details On Dramatic Redistricting Plan That Could Cost R's The South, Plus: Ronchetti Redux: Still On The Guv Fence And Feeling Dem Heat, And Our Mayor Watch: Manny Gets On The Tube And Santa Fe Race Gets A New Twist  

The big political news this week was the unveiling here of that proposed redistricting map from progressives before the NM Citizens Redistricting Committee. The new map would dramatically alter the southern congressional district from Republican leaning to Dem friendly and prompted reads to ask how all three districts would be impacted. 

Reporter Jacob Rubashkin of DC's Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales took a dive into the numbers and shows how the new district lines would stack up between the parties:

'18 gov results old→new:
CD1 (Stansbury): 61D-39R→57D-43R
CD2 (Herrell): 47D-53R→54D-46R
CD3 (TLF): 61D-39R→60D-40R

The bottom line is that the new map could easily flip the southern CD to the D's. And Dem Reps. Stansbury and Leger Fernandez would suffer minimal damage to make that flip possible. 

Speaking of the Guv's race, MLG easily beat Steve Pearce in '18 but for '22 there is uncertainty about what Republican she will face.

TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti continues to test the waters for a possible GOP run even though there are already seven others running. That testing is landing him and his employer--KRQE-TV--in some hot water. The DC Dems, not taking his potential candidacy lightly, came with this:

The Democratic Governors Association. . . sent a letter to KRQE-TV warning that Mark Ronchetti’s on-air presence as a meteorologist could subject the station to equal treatment provisions under federal communications law if Ronchetti were to run for governor next year. Ronchetti. . . returned to KRQE-TV after losing the 2020 US Senate election to Democrat Ben Ray Luján. He has not indicated whether he plans to run for governor, but he has been mentioned as a possible candidate.

When Ronchetti ran against Lujan KRQE manager Bill Anderson promised to take him back if he lost. Ronchetti went back on the air soon after the defeat.

Would the station promise to take Ronchetti back again if he and ran and lost for Governor? That's now a high profile question for KRQE and its corporate owner Nexstar. And it's a critical question for Ronchetti whose ego may say go for the gold but whose pocketbook may pull him back. 

We broke the story of Ronchetti considering a '22 Guv run on our September 1 blog. He has yet to comment on his plans. He did say the Dems were out of line and trying to intimidate him by writing the legal letters to the station and that MLG, this year's head of the DGA, was behind the move. 


Back on the mayoral races, BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales has joined Mayor Keller on TV, coming with his first ad. It's a soft bio spot that describes Gonzales, a former Marine, as "a tough on crime county sheriff" with a plan "to turn our city around that starts with fighting crime and ending the homeless epidemic." Says Gonzales: "Noone will fight harder."

The rough stuff will come soon but Keller will be heavily outspending Gonzales who was denied public financing for ethics violations and last reported raising some $200,000 while Keller has over $500,000 in public financing left to spend in the final weeks.

The ad may be soft but that didn't stop the Keller camp from saying that Manny committed a campaign violation. The ad briefly shows the Sheriff holding a news conference in which he appears before a department DWI checkpoint vehicle with deputies in uniform, all of which the Keller camp says is prohibited under a state law that bans the use of county property in political ads. A Keller operative remarked:

It shows he either does not care about breaking the law or does not care about understanding the law. 


In Santa Fe, there's a new twist to the mayoral campaign featuring leading contenders Alan Webber and City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler. She says last year Webber became upset with her during a policy discussion last year and told her "don't get your panties in a twist." 

Vigil Coppler made the comments at a mayoral forum this week, just as early voting was beginning

Webber more or less fessed up to saying something at least akin to what Vigil Coppler charged and said he invited her to file a complaint but she did not. Vigil Coppler's campaign disputes that. 

Who will dare be the first to say "Pantygate?". . . oops, sorry. 

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Wednesday, October 06, 2021

On The Trail: MLG Will Travel Nation To Help Dems Raise Dollars, Plus: What Worries Dems About Redistricting? And: ABQ Council Races Get Going: Sena Vs. Sanchez Is A Hot One, Also: Punishment For A "Chile" Misspeller 

MLG is off and running and not only in New Mexico:

The Democratic Governors Association is pouring more dollars into a fund that supports female Democratic gubernatorial candidates. This year, the Women Governors Fund has a fundraising goal of $5 million — five times what it raised at its inception in 2018 — and will be overseen by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. 

The two will travel the country and lead fundraisers for the fund. But the fund has limits. It can only be used to support women who make it out of their primaries, and $5 million doesn’t go very far in the campaign finance world, especially as it gets more expensive to run with every cycle. Brown is term limited. 

According to one of our Senior Alligators, the Governor's political team is gearing up to run a "don't rock the boat" '22 campaign, believing the field of GOP contenders does not pose a threat. That may be sound politically but it could also mean a mild--not an aggressive--legislative agenda at the '22 session. 


Maybe you see something in the 7 GOP candidates for Governor that MLG doesn't see? 

You can find out in this video of an in-depth forum held for the candidates by ABQ East Mountain GOP State Rep. Stefani Lord and ably produced by Pablito Herrera. 

(Another service of yer little 'ol blog. Thanks, Pablito and Rep. Lord).


What do Democrats worry about most in the upcoming legislative redistricting? Well, not much since they control the Governor's office as well as the Senate and House. If pressed the D's will admit they are concerned about the R's gaining ground in House District 68 currently held by Dem Rep. Karen Bash who insiders report will not seek re-election next year. The census experts say the NW ABQ district has grown more Republican in the last ten years and it's going to take some imagination (or gerrymandering) to keep the seat Dem. 

Ditto for House District 27 in the far ABQ NE Heights. Growth in that conservative district that only recently went blue will also keep the Dem mapmakers busy. The seat is now held by Dem Rep. Marian Matthews.


How much does TV time for the ABQ mayoral race cost? Sheriff Manny Gonzales knows the answer down to the dime. That's because he is still beating the bushes for campaign money to get his first TV ads on the air. He reports in a fundraising plea:

Let me give you an idea of the commercial time your personal contribution can help fund: $15 for early morning news $105 for the Noon news $250 for Jeopardy $350 for the NFL Sunday Pregame $2,500 for an NFL game on Sunday night.


Sanchez and Sena
Five of the nine ABQ city council seats are on the Nov. 2 ballot and candidates are starting to get busy and disagreeing.

On the city's westside two Dems are in the running for Council District One. Retired APD officer and business owner Louie Sanchez is trying to oust appointed Councilor Lan Sena. They find themselves at odds over that $50 million bond voters are being asked to approve for a soccer stadium for NM United:

Sanchez said he favors the construction of the stadium as long as New Mexico United “has some skin in the game” and signs a long-term contract or lease agreement with the city to help pay off the $50 million bond. 

Sena said she does not favor the large investment in a soccer stadium. “The economics of it, the finances of it, just don’t sit well with me,” she said. “I think that currently, we really need to be focusing in on a lot of the issues that we face, whether it is affordable housing, poverty, addiction and mental health services.” 

On raising taxes the 31 year old Sena, the first Asian to serve on the council and appointed by Mayor Keller to fill the seat left vacant by the death of longtime Councilor Ken Sanchez, came with a novel twist

I would consider supporting a tax on cannabis to pay for housing and water conservation efforts.

Considering cannabis growers use high volumes of water, that's food for thought--or cannabis--if you are so inclined.

But Sena will have to stay on her toes. Her opponent is not related to the late Ken Sanchez but carries the last name of the well-respected councilor and is beating the hometown drum hard

I was born, raised and educated in District 1, not a recent transplant. I know the needs of our neighborhood because I have lived in it for 56 years. I have 26 years’ experience fighting crime, our No. 1 issue. I am the only choice for the West Side. 

This is a good race with two solid candidates that will be at the top of our Election Night coverage list when we broadcast Nov. 2 over KANW 89.1 FM and kanw.com. 


Some readers were sent into circles when Joaquin Baca, a member of the board directors of the Mid Rio Grande Conservancy District said here Tuesday the soccer stadium would mean more taxes for the MGRCD. Carl Baca in Las Cruces writes:

Joe, first of all a real New Mexican would know it's ‘green chile’ not ‘green chili.' Second, I find it ludicrous that a soccer stadium will provide more water to the small farmers the MRGCD serves. I pay my water taxes to the MRGCD but will refuse to subsidize the stadium as we all know the rest of the state will have to pitch in to cover the cost. 

Joaquin Baca argued that a downtown stadium would create spin-off development that would be subjected to property taxes that MGRCD would benefit from instead of having development that harms Valley farmland. We did say it was an "unusual" angle.

And we generously corrected Baca's sacrilegious misspelling of chile. Still, he will be subjected to ten lashes with a wet noodle soaked in Rio Grande irrigation water for his serious offense. 

Welcome to the blog, Joaquin. Or something. . .  

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Tuesday, October 05, 2021

As Early Voting Begins Today ABQ Mayor Keller Battles Overconfidence, Sheriff Gonzales Shakes Money Tree And Aragon Hits The Phones, Plus: Odds Of A Runoff Weighed And Clashing Continues Over Soccer Stadium  

On this first day of early voting in City Election '21 ABQ Mayor Tim Keller is fighting overconfidence, Sheriff Manny Gonzales is still fighting for campaign money and Eddy Aragon is fighting a split Republican Party.

"We can't take anything for granted. Help us win outright Nov. 2," warns the Keller campaign message posted here.

Winning outright of course would mean Keller getting 50 percent of the vote and avoiding a potentially perilous runoff with the second place finisher. 

No candidate ever wants to take anything for granted but this mayoral campaign has been a one way street. Veteran political analyst, attorney and former ABQ City Councilor Greg Payne says there are sound reasons to believe the race "is in the bag" for the 43 year old Keller. We asked him what the chances are for a mayoral runoff:

I don't see a chance. The Lobos have a better shot at making it to the Super Bowl than any of Keller's opponents have in forcing a runoff. This election is going to look like a repeat of Mayor Berry's re-election in 2013. That's not to say Keller's re-election should be a slam dunk. But, like 2013, the opposition campaigns don't seem to have a clue of how to knock off an incumbent. 

We reported on our Oct. 9, 2013 blog:

Berry garnered 67.91% of the vote to Democrat Pete Dinelli's 28.65%. Republican Paul Heh eked out 3.13%

It's highly unlikely that Keller will repeat that historic victory margin but he did win the 2017 two man mayoral run off with Republican Dan Lewis with 62 percent of the vote. Various polling--from campaigns and interest groups-- show him over or near the 50 percent mark as he floods the airwaves after qualifying for over $600,000 in public financing. 

On Tuesday, the Paper released a PPP poll conducted September 23-24 that showed Keller getting 47 percent support: 

 The poll. . . surveyed 798 likely Albuquerque voters. .  Results indicate that Mayor Keller is just shy of winning support from a majority of voters with 47 percent ready to give the mayor another 4 years. Of the other two men on the ballot, neither is earning enough support to be a formidable challenge to Keller. Just 21 percent of voters are ready to install Sheriff Manny Gonzales in city hall. Only 11 percent want Republican Eddy Aragon. 

The poll had a margin of error of pros or minus 3.5 percent.

The backdrop of the city's menacing crime gives a glimmer of hope to Gonzales and Aragon that the electorate can somehow be galvanized in these final weeks and turn the race on its head. But it's only a glimmer. 


Sheriff Gonzales, his campaign denied public financing over ethics violations, was still not on TV as of Monday and he continued to plead for cash to get on the tube: 

Keller ran on a promise to hire 1,200 police officers, but there are now less than 400 officers patrolling our streets! It's why Tim Keller's own first police chief has endorsed my campaign! Voters have a right to know the truth about this and other issues. But that will require us getting on the air by purchasing television commercials. Won’t you please consider making a generous contribution today?

Eddy Aragon, the lone R in the race, says he does not expect to be on TV in any significant way and is rounding up volunteers for intensive voter outreach via phone. 


Clerk Stover
As for that early vote, it starts today with voters able to cast ballots in person at the County Clerk's Annex at 1500 Lomas NW from 8 am to 5pm Monday thru Friday. 

Come Oct. 16 numerous voting locations citywide will open and a flood of voting will begin. 

The early voter interest is better than a trickle but Clerk Linda Stover says she is hoping for more. This is the first day she will mail absentee ballots that have been requested by voters and reports she will send out 4,658. 

Voter turnout is forecast by consultants we asked to be around 90,000, lower than the 97,000 who voted in the first round of voting in 2017. If so, the absentee ballots going out today represent 5 percent of the total that will be cast. 

Stover's office says:

For individuals who haven’t requested an absentee ballot and would like to vote absentee, there are three ways to do it. They can fill out an application on BernCo Votes and submit it online, they can download the application, fill it out mail it in, or can call 505-243-VOTE (8683) to request an application. The last day to request an absentee ballot for the regular local election is Oct. 28. 


Early voting also begins today in Santa Fe where Mayor Alan Webber is seeking reelection against two opponents--City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler and Alexis Martinez Johnson. 

A sense of jitteriness has entered the campaign as it often does at this point, with the opposition preparing to fire their most potent shots at the incumbent. There is no public polling and Vigil Coppler, Webber's main threat, is using that to her advantage and keeping the psychology of an upset in the air.

She has saved almost all of her campaign cash for the final weeks. As in ABQ, the issue is exciting the opposition electorate. She'll need something stronger than cries of "fiscal accountability" to make a go of it, but voters will give her one more listen before this one is closed out.


Candidate Eddy Aragon believes a poll conducted Sept. 23-24 by the national firm PPP for ABQ's The Paper could help him. 

That poll shows 59 percent of 793 likely voters opposed a $50 million bond for building a downtown stadium for the NM United Soccer team. Only 30 percent of Dems polled supported the bond. 76 percent of R’s opposed the measure. 

Aragon has been an adamant opponent of the stadium which, according to city consultants, could cost upwards of $80 million.

The PPP poll was taken well before an expensive TV and mail campaign was launched in support of the stadium, but the ads--from this corner's viewpoint--don't pack much of a punch. They center on jobs that would be created by stadium construction, hardly a top of mind concern for mostly employed or retired voters who are the vast majority (although NM United's push polling probably concluded differently).

Keller is pushing for the stadium bond that will be decided by voters Nov. 2. But after a burst of initial enthusiasm the mayor has quietly backed away from talking about the proposal. Aragon hopes to engage stadium foes while Keller hopes that soccer fans turn out to vote for the stadium bond as well as him.

Let's give the soccer fans the final kick today. Here's one with an unusual line of reasoning for voting for the stadium
 bond. From Joaquin Baca, a board member of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MGRCD):

Most people don’t realize that MRGCD is largely funded by property taxes from the 5 counties it serves. Of the 5 counties, Bernalillo provides over 60% of that, with downtown being one of the largest contributors. The Hyatt hotel alone has regularly provided more in tax revenue than the county of Socorro. 

Joaquin Baca
When there is development anywhere in the Valley, it will often come with taking farmlands out of production or separating water rights from the land. But any downtown development--including a new stadium--won't do that and will in fact, create revenue for MRGCD. This past legislative session, the MRGCD Board of Directors provided a letter of support to NM United as they sought stadium funds. 

A few of the reasons the Board provided support include: a commitment to using local supply chains (think green chile from the Middle Rio Grande Valley) as well as new economic activity that will benefit irrigators, the Bosque, recreational users and flood control.

If you support the MRGCD and our efforts to protect New Mexico's water, culture, and keeping the valley green then please support the stadium bond.


The blog headline Monday said parts of ABQ would be placed in the three congressional districts under a sweeping redistricting plan unveiled last week. Actually it would be two districts. Under the proposal the ABQ area 1st CD and the southern 2nd CD would contain parts of the city. The northern congressional district (CD3) would not have ABQ precincts.

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Monday, October 04, 2021

Sweeping Congressional Redistricting Plan Emerges; ABQ Divided Among Two Districts; South Would Lean Dem; Is This The One? Plus: Heinrich with Rare Attack On Fellow Delegation Member 

Melanie Stansbury, get your new cowgirl boots ordered and Teresa Leger Fernandez polish yours up because both you gals may be headed south. And Yvette Herrell, get your worry beads out.

That's the picture rapidly developing in the crucial 2021 redistricting of the state's three US House seats. 

The newest plan--believed by informed insiders to be in the running as a top pick--would take a major step toward turning the southern congressional district from a conservative leaning district currently represented by GOP Rep. Herrell into a full fledged Democratic bastion. 

The ABQ Congressional District One represented by Rep. Stansbury and the northern Congressional District Two represented by Rep. Leger Fernandez are already reliably Dem. The proposed plan would keep their clear Dem advantage intact but dramatically change the face of New Mexican politics as it divvys up Albuquerque in a way never seen before.

As you can see, the plan (closer view and demographic info here) sends a large slice of the southern Second Congressional District into ABQ's Hispanic Democratic South Valley and Westside, precincts that would present a problem for Herrell who is seeking re-election to a second term next year.  

Furthermore, the plan would swallow up some GOP friendly conservative Eastside territory and place it in the northern congressional district which would then run all the way down to Hobbs. 

That SE NM oil city, which now has a majority Hispanic population, would be split between the northern and southern congressional districts, causing further headaches for Herrell. 

The dramatic change to the southern district, the last bastion of GOP power in the state, is the most important consequence of this proposed map. It was conceived by progressive interest groups and presented to the eight member NM Citizens Redistricting Committee chaired by former NM Supreme Court Justice Edward Chávez and which will make recommendations to the Legislature for the special redistricting session expected to start December 6. 

Supporters of the reshaped southern district say it would have 56 percent Hispanic residents compared to today's 49 percent. Given the state's majority-minority status they argue the change is natural and fair. 

As for placing a large swath of the ABQ South Valley in the southern district, the argument is that it is largely rural as is the southern district. More commentary from the group submitting the map is here.

The map to the right shows in greater detail how parts of ABQ would fall into the southern congressional district. (Click to enlarge). 

As for Rep. Stansbury, first elected at a June special election, her district would still be largely concentrated in the ABQ area but the plan does significantly expand its geography. Notably, she would pick up the Republican dominated counties of Chaves and Lincoln but would also add Dem dominated Guadalupe county. 

Under the plan, each district would have about 705,000 residents, an even split of the state's 2020 Census  population of 2.115 million. 

There has been speculation that the Dems might hold back on a sweeping remake of the state's congressional districts and do only minor tinkering. Some of the plans before the commission do only that. But if this sweeping plan makes the commission's final list of recommendations, as seems likely, it will be the one to watch in December. 

The map to the right shows in greater detail how parts of ABQ would fall into the southern congressional district. (Click to enlarge). 


A major political development in redistricting was the recent endorsement by Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich of Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez for the '22 Dem nomination for the southern congressional seat. Heinrich, now the state's senior senator and taking a more active role in state politics, would seem sure to lobby the Dem legislative leadership to go all in for a district that could increase Vasquez's chances against Herrell. No other Dems have announced for the nomination.

Our Alligators at the redistricting committee meeting where the plan came down noted the shocked look of Republican member and former GOP Chairman Ryan Cangliosi:

"He looked like a neck artery was ready to pop as he reviewed the plan," said one of the Gators. 

There will be much debate to come and no proposed plan will go unamended. However, redistricting has now entered an aggressive phase with the pieces of the puzzle on the move and the fight for political power about to be fully engaged.


In an highly unusual statement Dem Sen. Martin Heinrich has lashed out by name at a fellow member of the congressional delegation, southern GOP Congresswoman Yvette Herrell. 

Determined to push his favored candidate to eject Herrell from her southern seat next year, Heinrich unloaded on Herrell in a fund-raising message: 

. . . The New Mexico GOP proudly supports Representative Yvette Herrell, a Trump Republican who has doubled down on irresponsible claims that the horse dewormer Ivermectin is a viable treatment for COVID-19. Her claim isn’t just false — it’s outright dangerous. Two New Mexicans have died and many more have been hospitalized due to misuse of this drug, yet Republicans continue to push misinformation to score political points. That’s why it’s so important to support the New Mexico Democratic Party’s efforts to replace anti-science politicians like Yvette Harrell (sic) with strong Democrats. A Democrat recently held the seat Rep. Herrell is in, and we can take it back again with enough momentum and resources — and a great candidate in Gabe Vasquez.  

Or is that now Gabe Heinrich?

It is rare for one member of the delegation to attack by name another member unless, of course, they are running against each other for another office. This direct volley reveals how the DC polarization has upended long-standing protocols. 

And Herrell may be getting somewhat of a bum wrap from Heinrich and the DC Dems. The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports on Ivermectin for humans:

Ivermectin is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved antiparasitic drug that is used to treat several neglected tropical diseases, including onchocerciasis, helminthiases, and scabies. It is also being evaluated for its potential to reduce the rate of malaria transmission by killing mosquitoes that feed on treated humans and livestock. . .No clinical trials have reported a clinical benefit for ivermectin in patients with (coronaviruses) Some studies of ivermectin have also reported potential anti-inflammatory properties, which have been postulated to be beneficial in people with COVID-19. There is insufficient evidence for the COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel (the Panel) to recommend either for or against the use of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19. 

Yeah, and don't mix it with your green chile, either.

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