Thursday, October 21, 2021

Debate Aftermath: Keller And Gonzales Had "Verbal Altercation" After Sensational Debate Allegations; Gonzales Still Not Offering Evidence of Charges Against Keller; Mayor's Camp Ponders Defamation Action: Readers Weigh In, Plus: Journal Mayor Poll Expected Sunday  

Whether Manny Gonzales survives to fight another day and get in a mayoral run off with Mayor Tim Keller will soon be decided but judging by reaction to the sheriff's over the top performance at the Tuesday night TV debate his reputation may not survive intact. 

In case you were underground at Carlsbad Caverns and haven't heard, the Marine Corp veteran and two term sheriff took the low road and shocked the audience with allegations of personal misconduct by Keller i.e. having an affair and a domestic violence incident with his wife that Gonzales claimed is being covered up. However, the Manny who would be Mayor could not offer even an iota of evidence. 

In fact, another media report has come out that knocks down the domestic violence allegation and another in which Gonzales claims a high ranking City Hall official was driving drunk downtown. 

Not long ago in New Mexico folks shot each other over such accusations. In that regard things today are more peaceful but the sewer of social media has made tongues acidic, anger front and center and even seemingly solid citizens like Gonzales descend into the waste.

By not offering any evidence to support his sensational allegations, Gonzales gives weight to the argument that his actions were the result of being in a rage over Keller's successfully arguing that Gonzales' campaign committed forgery and fraud in trying (unsuccessfully) to qualify for public financing.  

Let's have the readers go at it, starting with Michel Corwin, a longtime New Mexican who is now a Floridian: 

Joe, As someone who spent years chasing down leads to try to turn them into facts so they could be used (therein lies the difference) by political campaigns and interest groups, I’m (almost) speechless at how low Manny Gonzales went. To do so without documentation, and to rely on gossip, instead of an on camera face, from APD folks with an ax to grind over the mayor’s approach to dealing with the agency’s not unsubstantial issues, is even worse than amateur hour. And you would think that with his political consultant, Jay McCleskey, himself having been sued for defamation, would have counseled Gonzales to stick to the facts. 

No voter should reward Gonzales for this garbage with a single vote. Kudos to (analyst) Greg Payne, who knows a thing or two about how to run an aggressive campaign. His analysis of what took place, and what it means for the election is spot on. Thanks for continuing to be the go to read on NM politics, even for those of us no longer there. 

Corwin mentioned that Gonzales political consultant Jay McCleskey is currently defending himself against a defamation lawsuit. It was filed by a Republican state House candidate. 

It is not known if McCleskey advised Gonzales to make the allegations against Keller who called them defamation. But we could find out how those allegations made it before the public because the Keller campaign says it is "pursuing legal options against these defamatory claims."

In the aftermath of the debate at KOB-TV Keller and Gonzales are said to have had a "verbal altercation" as Keller demanded that Gonzales apologize to his wife Gonzales is said to have retorted by saying he has "no respect" for the mayor.  

The Gonzales campaign came with this response to Keller's threat of a lawsuit:

We welcome Keller filing a lawsuit and are ready to start taking depositions under oath tomorrow, starting with the mayor’s. The truth is an absolute defense against slander claims and we look forward to proving the truth through the legal discovery process.

But Gonzales has it backwards. He is expected to produce evidence to back up "the truth" of the allegations as he makes them, not after the act and through the "legal discovery process." 

Reader Roger writes:

Joe, Regarding The “debate.” I hope no business considering moving to Albuquerque was watching. 

Reader Kelley writes: 

Wow, just wow. I’m shocked at how inept, unskilled and unqualified Manny is. I thought I had seen how dumb he is in full already. I was wrong. I’ve never seen a politician lay out personal accusations of domestic violence and infidelity so blatantly, with or without origin or foundation. Bad, tacky and low life. by his doing and/or whoever is advising him. What he did manage to do was help Eddy Aragon by taking the ook the focus off  his extreme talk. After Gonzales leveled the accusations at Keller the focus was off anything else, equivalent of a sucker punch and Aragon managed to sound reasonable.


Mayor Keller's wife came with this on Facebook:


The fraud finding against Gonzales has now prompted the entire Dem political machine to take it on

BernCo District Attorney Raúl Torrez plans to ask New Mexico State Police to investigate allegations of election-related fraud against Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales’ mayoral campaign, he wrote in a letter last week to Albuquerque’s city attorney. Torrez will refer the allegations to State Police after the city’s Nov. 2 election “to prevent the timing of an investigation or prosecution from having an effect on an election,” Torrez wrote in an Oct. 13 letter to City Attorney Esteban Aguilar Jr. “I will scrupulously adhere to this practice and will not take official action or make any public comment on this matter until the results of the upcoming election have been certified,” Torrez wrote. 


The TV debate took place on on the first day of polling of the ABQ mayoral race by the ABQ Journal, the results of which will be released Sunday. Several readers report they have already been called in connection with the survey and were asked not only about the mayoral contest but how they feel about their personal safety in the city and other issues. The poll is usually taken the Tuesday through Thursday before the Sunday release. The only public mayoral poll of the campaign so far was taken September 23-24 by PPP and showed Mayor Keller at 47, Manny Gonzales at 21 percent, Eddy Aragon at 11 and undecided at 21 percent.

The key number to watch is 50 percent. That is what Keller needs to avoid a December 7 runoff between the two top vote-getters. 


Rep. Maestas
Now that ABQ Dem westside state Senator Jacob Candelaria has made a very early announcement that he will not seek re-election in 2024, the politicos wonder who could be in line to take his seat? They didn't have to wonder long to come up with the name of Dem westside state Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas who has been in the House since 2007 and would be primed to make the change. 

Meanwhile, Maestas will be keeping a close eye on the redistricting of Senate District 26. With the incumbent retiring, he has made it easier for the mapmakers to draw new lines but we'll have to wait to see if the final map map would make it easier for a Maestas senate bid.

Candelaria has $250,000 in his campaign kitty which is restricted in its use but he can donate to other campaigns and candidates. That will keep the Christmas cards coming his way. 

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Gonzales Goes In The Gutter: Inflames Mayoral Debate With Unproven Personal Attacks On Keller Who Calls Them "Disgusting;" The "Cringeworthy" Debate Moments Covered In Full On The Wednesday Blog  

Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales stunned the state during a live KOB-TV debate Tuesday night as he shredded one of the few rules of decorum remaining in the political arena, leveling incendiary allegations of personal misconduct by ABQ Mayor Tim Keller without offering  a smidgen of proof. (Full debate here.)

It was a moment that even seasoned political veterans were taken aback by. "Did he really go there?" "I have never seen anything like it." "The mayoral campaign just became a circus."

Those were a few of the reactions from the political class as they absorbed the shock. That shock came about 35 minutes into a live debate that began at 6 p.m. The candidates were given the opportunity to ask a question of each other. Gonzales aimed his at the Mayor. Here's the full transcript of the Gonzales/Keller exchange that will be long remembered:

Gonzales: Mayor Keller, Where is your accountability? There are serious misconduct allegations at City Hall under your watch, allegations of your own domestic violence incident being covered up by high ranking city officials. Another allegation of a high ranking city official who was driving drunk and was involved driving a city vehicle and involved in a crash. And the third is also you having allegations of having an affair with a city subordinate. How can the public trust you to fight crime in ABQ when you can't even fight crime at City Hall?

As you would expect the charges noticeably rattled the incumbent but he came back vigorously

Keller: What a disgusting prepared question you just read. . . I don't even know where to begin. . . I have never been involved in any of the incidents you mentioned and as my family will attest to have never, ever done things like had an affair. Look, if you're going to just make your questions the gossip on Twitter and Facebook. I mean, I hear all sorts of stuff about everyone all the time, I don't dignify it because I don't believe it because there's no evidence or truth behind any of it. And this is coming from a guy who has a litany of myths and mistruths that he says. . .

There is literally nothing behind anything your saying.  You're just saying words you saw on social media. . There was something in there about a co-worker and you know that's defamation and you should know that, Sheriff. You can have a debate. We can talk about policies but unless you have any shred of evidence of any kind then that is actually to be on you. Talk about accountability. Fraud in your own campaign. Literally. And now just blatantly defaming people for a political stunt so that you can raise money off of it which is what you just asked voters to do. It's pathetic. 

Gonzales: All I asked was a simple question. A yes or no answer if you could. How could the public trust you fighting crime when you can't even fight crime at City Hall. That was my question.

Candidate Eddy Aragon, wearing a look of astonishment from the exchange, concluded it by saying: "Real life TV drama here."

Is there a method to Gonzales’s madness? One theory is he threw out the unproven allegations to get Keller to deny them and now will present what he thinks is evidence to show that there is truth to them. 

Following the debate the Gonzales campaign came with a statement saying it was awaiting a response to a records request to substantiate the sensational allegations:

“We have spoken to two high-ranking members of the Albuquerque Police Department with direct knowledge of the domestic incident stemming from the sexual harassment scandal and are awaiting IPRA responses based on that information (which we expect to be intentionally covered up until after election),” she wrote. The statement included the phrase in parentheses. IPRA refers to the state’s public records law.

That's a lot of smoke and mirrors but no hard proof. And then there was this from the newspaper that shot down the Gonzales charges:

Keller has previously denied the allegations in an interview with Journal reporters. A Journal public records request earlier this year seeking police incident reports and dispatch records for Keller’s home address since Jan. 1 yielded only a few calls around Jan. 6 – the date of the U.S. Capitol insurrection – in which there were reported threats to the home. Records show officers kept watch throughout their shift and found the home was secure. There were no other records. 

The Keller campaign came with this post-debate comment:

Manny doubled own on his record of outrageous lies tonight with a disgusting, false attack on the Mayor's family and the integrity of police officers. We're appalled by these tactics but not surprised that Manny is so desperate, with no record to run on, all he has is internet conspiracy theories.


Greg Payne
Let's talk political impact with a fellow who has seen everything in politics--except what he saw last night. That would be attorney and former ABQ City Councilor Greg Payne:

This may have been one of the most cringeworthy debates in ABQ history. Manny Gonzales is, ostensibly, the main rival to Mayor Keller's re-election. But the Bernalillo County Sheriff proved just one thing last night: his "consultant" calls the shots - and Manny's consultant is an idiot. The Sheriff's scripted and highly personal attack against the Mayor was the equivalent of Kryptonite-like voter repellant. The Gonzales campaign is done. If anything, it will be a moral victory if Gonzales beats Eddy Aragon on Election Day. Aragon was on message and actually won the debate. Keller will win without a run-off, but Aragon has a future in GOP politics.

Payne was not alone in pointing to a "consultant" as the source for Manny's maneuver. 

Controversial Republican consultant Jay McCleskey, known for his slash and burn tactics and who hired on as a media consultant with Gonzales, was immediately tagged as the man behind the curtain as he was for Gov. Susana Martinez. 

But for a number of consultants the verbal bomb drop did not seem to have any strategy behind it other than desperation and perhaps personal pique by Gonzales who is set to lose this race. 

Gonzales recently imported a campaign manager from California and is also being "consulted" by some of the sheriff's staff who are not known for the art of gentle persuasion. Maybe one of them was the "mastermind" behind the misfire. 

However the defining moment arose it was made by Gonzales and he owns it. As we weigh our bewilderment all we can add is: "Manny, we hardly knew ye."


The voter guides are up and running with less than two weeks before the November 2 election and steady early voting underway citywide since Saturday. The KRQE-TV guide is here. Another from the League of Women Voters of Central NM is here and here is another from the ABQ Journal. That's enough political reading to satisfy the diet of the hungriest political junkie. 


Renee Grout
Most political candidates tend to be avid newspaper readers but not all of them, including GOP city council candidate Renee Grout, seeking the District 9 seat held by GOP Councilor Don Harris who is retiring. 

One of our readers from the district reports that Grout told him she was unaware that to get considered (or seriously considered) for the endorsement of the ABQ Journal she had to call the paper and set up an appointment to be interviewed. She never did and the paper ended up endorsing Democrat Byron Powdrell when it usually endorse the Republican candidate. Dem Rob Grilley is the other hopeful in the race. 

The paper publishes a notice on the editorial page several times during the campaign season reminding candidates it is up to them to call for an endorsement interview. Maybe they should move that notice to the TV pages. . . or something. 

This is the home of New Mexico politics. 

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Manny Finally Hits His Stride In Crime Attack Ad; Wife Of Shot Officer Delivers Powerful Message; Too Little, Too Late? Plus: As Predicted Here Anti-Herrell Congressional Map Advances To Roundhouse  

Tryna Verbeck
BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales has finally hit his stride in the ABQ mayoral race. He comes with a powerful TV spot on the crime wave featuring Tryna Verbeck, the wife of APD officer Mario Verbeck who was seriously wounded August 19 responding to a robbery call at a coffee shop in the far NE Heights. Three other officers were also shot at the scene.

Too little, too late or enough to move numbers to Gonzales? 

Any TV ad attacking Mayor Tim Keller over ABQ's crime crisis is bound to be effective but this one has the emotional impact that the crime debate has often lacked. 

The spot is narrated by Verbeck which includes photos and news video of the shooting. There is a startling black and white photo of officer Verbeck on life support as he fights for his life from a bullet wound to the base of the neck. He has since recovered. 

Tryna Verbeck, who publicly lashed out at Keller and Chief Medina shortly after her husband was shot, appears heartfelt if slightly rehearsed during the portion of the narration she appears on camera. She places her hand over her heart when she says: "I trust Manny to be a crime fighting mayor." 

The transcript:

My husband was shot in the line of duty and he barely survived. Mayor Keller is not telling the truth. Crime is up because the Mayor puts criminals first and that's why hundreds of officers have left APD. There were only five officers in my husband's area that day and four of them were shot. We need new leadership. Manny Gonzales knows how to fight crime. He's an honest man and a veteran. I trust Manny to be a crime fighting mayor. 

Former ABQ city councilor, state legislator and attorney Greg Payne has been helping us analyze the political ads this season: 

It's a good ad--and one the Gonzales campaign should have been running weeks ago. Great emotional appeal and humanizes the crime issue. The real questions are: how much is the ad buy and what took them so long? 

As I've said previously, the biggest issues for Manny are a) until recently, his campaign message has been defined by the public financing debacle (going after Eddy Aragon with an ethics complaint only resurrected that screw-up) and b) Aragon running a campaign that's strong enough to siphon off GOP votes that might have otherwise gone to Manny. 

Payne added that he still sees Gonzales finishing second and beating Aragon, the lone Republican candidate in the race but believes Keller remains positioned for a 50 percent win Nov. 2 that would have him avoid a runoff election December 7. 

A Democratic consultant who remained anonymous said of Gonzales' first venture into negative campaigning: 

That’s a very good ad. If it had a decent 4 week buy it might move numbers. If they also had a good ad telling people who Manny is and why he’s not a crook that might help too. 


Here's a deeper dive into the ad with this fact check: 

"Mayor Keller is not telling the truth. Crime is up because the Mayor puts criminals first."

Violent crime is up--way up--but other categories such as auto theft and property crime have experienced drops but we are still in the top ten rankings in the nation in those categories. Whether Keller "puts criminals first" is an emotional and subjective statement, not a fact. 

"That's why hundreds of officers have left APD. 

APD has experienced poor morale and in exit interviews many departing officers have cited that as a factor in their leaving but not specifically because "Keller puts criminals first." Some said they do not feel supported by the 11th Floor. The DOJ consent decree monitoring police conduct is another primary reason for departures, says Chief Medina. Medina also says a change that positively impacted the retirement pay of officers has been a leading cause of APD departures.

There were only five officers in my husband's area that day and four of them were shot. 

That's true and illustrates the depth of the shortage at APD. 

"Manny Gonzales knows how to fight crime." 

Well, the Sheriff has had his own problems thwarting crime that occurs in the county areas where he is solely responsible. Updated stats show that in 2020 there was an increase in crime in the unincorporated areas of the county.

He is a honest man. 

Keller's camp is asking voters to find Gonzales dishonest and use as evidence the forgeries of signatures by the Sheriff's campaign in order to qualify for over $600,000 in public financing. Gonzales' multiple legal appeals of his loss of the public money by the city clerk because of the fraud were repeatedly denied. Gonzales blames the forgeries on staff and said they were relieved of their duties. If that is believed, his reputation as honest stays intact. If voters believe he knew of the forgeries then he is not the honest man the ad claims. 


The Alligators told you so. Yes, the slithery sources have an enviable record for getting it right and when they saw that proposed redistricting map of the state's three congressional districts that sent a big chunk of ABQ into the southern district they predicted that it would be similar to the final plan adopted by the legislature when it does redistricting in early December. 

Now the news comes that the map is one of three congressional maps that the NM Citizens Redistricting Committee has sent to lawmakers for consideration. The plan would effectively unseat Republican US Rep. Yvette Herrell and replace her with a Democrat. (Not definitely but darn close.)

The map is the brainchild of various progressive interest groups many of which are funded with "dark money," complain state House Republicans who are trying to stop the anti-Herrell map.

One of those groups is NM's Center for Civic Policy, a 501 (c)(3). The latest required IRS filing for the group is for tax year 2018 and shows it had income of about $3 million and 10 employees.

Proposed map
The R's (and others) would like to know exactly who is giving the group money but that's where things get dark, according to IRS rules:

As a 501(c)(3) public charity, it has to disclose the names of significant donors to the IRS on Schedule B, but those names are confidential and need not be disclosed to the public. 

The group and their funding is not a new issue. Way back in 2008 your blog covered their involvement in state legislative races when dark money spending first got underway in earnest in an effort to oust several GOP legislators. 

In the political money game it's the Super PACs and interest groups on both sides--like Center for Civic Policy--that bring the big money to the table and and often the big decisions as seen in that congressional redistricting map. While educated guesses can be made about who is writing the checks, the public remains mostly in the dark when it comes to dark dollars. 

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