Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Vax Cards And No Guns For The Next Rounds At Roundhouse, Plus: Former Senate Powerhouse Jennings Looks For Comeback, And: Happy Thanksgiving, New Mexico  

Bring your vax card and leave your gun at home. Those are the marching orders for attending the special redistricting session that kicks off at the Roundhouse December 6 and for the regular legislative session that begins January 18. 

From the Legislative Council Service: 

The Roundhouse will remain open to members of the public for the special and regular sessions. Proof of full vaccination will be required. The Rotunda will not be used for displays, booths, presentations, special days, etc. Pages will not be used by the House or Senate. No tours will be conducted. Masks will continue to be required throughout the Capitol Complex. In addition, carrying weapons into the Roundhouse is prohibited effective December 6. All members of the public will be subject to magnetometer screening (or bag search) when entering the building. 

But don't expect to see all your favorite committee meetings in person. Speaker Egolf adds:

Virtual participation in the legislative process will continue while the policies announced allow for the safe reopening of our state’s Capitol to all New Mexicans.

Senate Republicans don't like it much:

This is not a COVID driven policy. If it was, the clear evidence of vaccinated individual’s ability to spread the virus would negate the reasoning for the rule. Instead, COVID has proven to be an effective means by which the political elites can justify their power grabs and limit public access.


The final official vote counts from the November 2 municipal elections have been certified by the State Canvassing Board. SOS Maggie Toulouse Oliver once again disappointed conspiracy theorists:

(Tuesday's) State Canvassing Board meeting reinforced that every New Mexican voter should have the highest level of confidence in these official election results and in the conduct of our state’s second-ever consolidated statewide local election. I want to thank all the election administrators who ran this election with efficiency and integrity, and I want to thank all the voters who turned out.

All the final returns are posted here.


There won't be much of a post-Thanksgiving political lull in Roswell or Rio Rancho as candidates there begin prepping for the March 1, 2022 city elections. Those locales and others did not adopt the new consolidated elections held in November. 

The mayoral race in Roswell is one that will get statewide attention. Former Dem State Senator Tim Jennings is trying to stage a comeback and defeat incumbent GOP Mayor and former State Rep. Dennis Kintigh

Jennings, 71, has major donors, despite losing the senate seat in 2012 that he held for 34 years to Republican Cliff Pirtle. Kintigh, 69, is going for his third, four year term and the Jennings forces believe the electorate is primed for a change. Even though Roswell leans Republican they say Jennings' conservative Dem credentials will stand the test. 

Somehow the Roswell newspaper managed to cover Jennings' mayoral announcement without once mentioning the current mayor. Well, it is the city known for unidentified objects.

That's it for now. Happy Thanksgiving, New Mexico. 

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan and. . . 

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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Lewis Camp Preps For Battle; Demanding "Accountability" From Keller Administration; Predict GOP Takeover Of Council; Says Current Council "Has Been A Joke," Plus: Leading Las Cruces: Miyagishima Becomes City's Longest Serving Mayor 

Lewis and Keller 
Supporters of ABQ City Councilor-elect Dan Lewis unloaded on the administration and the current council following our Monday blog about his opposition to a $110 million bond package being pushed by the Keller administration and Republican City Councilor Brook Bassan.

Republican Lewis predicts the package, which would require seven affirmative votes, will be defeated before he joins the council January 1.  

Backers of Lewis who have spoken with him said he "will demand accountability" from the administration and shake up the council which they say "has been a joke."

Lewis previously served on the council for two terms and ran unsuccessfully for Mayor against Keller in 2017. His backers are now predicting that Republicans will prevail in the two city council run-off elections set for December 7 and where early voting is currently underway. They say the national environment has a big influence on the election and that Renee Grout will win in District 9 and Lori Robertson will take District 7.

Critics of the council following the Lewis line also blasted the council's Zoom meetings held since the start of the pandemic, calling them disorganized and unproductive. They believe Lewis will be the next council president, end the Zoom sessions and that the ABQ police chief, department directors and the mayor's representatives will be questioned rigorously at council meetings--in person. 

Lewis himself did not go on the record with the retorts to the Monday blog but neither did he disagree with them.

The promise from the Lewis camp to flex political muscle comes as no surprise to Keller and company who are working overtime in those council runoff elections to prevent a GOP takeover which would occur if both seats went into the GOP column. However, Councilor Bassan's warm relationship with Keller calls into question whether the GOP would operate in lockstep against the Mayor. 

Lewis allies now say they expect Louie Sanchez, a conservative Democrat who will take his council seat along with Lewis January 1, will be a Lewis ally. 

No matter the politics, Lewis, 51, appears determined to rock the boat.

With progressive Councilors Benton and Davis having independent streaks there is plenty of unpredictability to contemplate, even though Keller was re-elected in a November 2 landslide.


A reader writes:

Joe, if political consultant Jay McCleskey has indeed settled his defamation suit with former GOP state House candidate Scott Chandler it is a big relief for former Gov. Martinez. Imagine if she was included in the lawsuit as Chandler has requested. She would be subjected to being deposed which could mean a wide range of questions shot her way. The risk of perjury or other embarrassment would be very high. That’s why I think McCleskey rushed to announce this supposed agreement with Chandler. Let’s see if a final deal is announced.


Mayor Miyagishima
While ABQ mayors quickly learn that a second term in the state's largest city is fraught with political peril, in  Las Cruces--New Mexico's second most populous city (111,000)--the mayoralty has been a sea of calm. So much so that many were surprised to recently learn that on November 20 Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima, serving his fourth, four year term, became the longest-serving mayor in that city's history: 

Miyagishima, then a member of the Las Cruces City Council, won the 2007 mayor’s race, defeating incumbent Bill Mattiace by about 80 votes. . . Martin Lohman, elected in 1907, was the city’s first mayor. . . Through 1990, mayors were elected by city council members from among the council. Only Miyagishima and predecessors Mattiace and Ruben Smith have been popularly elected. . .He was tops among 10 mayoral candidates in (the 2019) race, as the city used ranked choice voting for the first time.

Miyagishima and Cruces have chemistry. That's probably the best explanation for his success. He has appeal across the political spectrum and it has helped him make progress in building up the downtown and expanding recreational opportunities in addition to attending to the cites growing infrastructure needs. 

Importantly, there has been no major scandal in city government in all the years Miyagishima, 58, has served. He prides himself on running an open and transparent government.

With all of that the Dem Mayor would appear to have statewide appeal, and he has been prodded to reach higher on the political ladder. But leading Las Cruces with such deep support is tough to beat. And if he seeks a record setting fifth term in 2023 Miyagishima will be tough to beat. 

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Monday, November 22, 2021

Returning GOP Councilor Lewis Balks At Eye Opening Welcome To City Council; Republican Bassan Teams With Mayor Keller For $110 Million Bond Investment, Plus: McCleskey Settles Defamation Lawsuit 

Councilor-elect Dan Lewis
Dan Lewis
 hasn't even been sworn in for the ABQ city council term he was elected to November 2 and already hurdles are going up in front of the onetime mayoral candidate--and they are coming from his own side of the aisle. 

GOP Councilor Brook Bassan has formed an alliance with Mayor Tim Keller for a $110 million bond package for citywide improvements that could be approved before Lewis and other new councilors take office January 1. Lewis is steaming: 

Four city councilors who would make a decision on this won’t even be here in January. For that reason alone we need to deal with this with a new council in January.” 

To which Bassan says: 

I think right now is a really good time to recognize the continued priorities that were in the council before we have a new turnover of the council, at which point priorities could change. 

Lewis, who served two terms on the council (2009-'17) and lost in a landslide (62-38) to Dem Keller in the '17 mayoral runoff, is widely seen as using the council as a springboard for another shot at the city's top job. But he probably wasn't counting on Bassan to be the oil slick on his pavement. 

Bassan started her council term in 2019 with firm conservative rhetoric but since has floated toward the middle while Lewis has stayed on the right. In addition to her non-austerity position on the proposed bonds, she also advocated at the recent election for the APS bonds and mill levy, the latter of which is a tax and won only narrow approval with conservatives voting against. Given that backdrop her clash with Lewis is not going to be a one and done deal.  

Councilor Bassan
The council is currently divided 6 to 3 with Dems in control. However, the offices are officially nonpartisan and that DNA sometimes runs through the council's bloodstream with Bassan the latest example. 

The new bond issue would not require voter approval if it won backing of seven of the nine councilors. Progressive Dems Ike Benton and Pat Davis are already opposed so it will be a tight squeeze.

It's odd to see the council's two most "progressives" oppose the $110 million investment in the city's infrastructure after they loudly backed the unpopular and ill-fated proposed $50 million bond giveaway for a soccer stadium. It's that money rejected by voters that the new bond package would deploy for housing, public safety, parks and other needs. 

Pat and Ike represent two of the oldest and most in need districts. Why not get with Keller and Bassan and help roll out this needed investment instead of suddenly transforming into budget hawks?

But it's the GOP split developing that is the news. Without a unified Republican block the City Council is not going to take a conservative turn on social or budgetary issues. And odds are that following the December 7 runoff elections in two city council districts the Dems will still maintain the majority. 

Actually, Bassan's middle of the road approach ala Pete Domenci and Manuel Lujan from the old days may be the R's way out of the wilderness in a liberal ABQ. For now she has no problem schooling Lewis in the new order. 

Welcome back, Dan. . .or something.


Martinez and McCleskey
Both Lewis and Bassan employed controversial political consultant Jay McCleskey in their campaigns and once again McCleskey is making news of his own. The latest is the settlement of that defamation lawsuit against him that we reported on earlier this month.

McCleskey was anxious to announce the settlement and did so by contacting the newspaper. Scott Chandler, the GOP state House candidate who filed the suit against McCleskey and recently sought to include Gov Martinez in it, said it's true that a settlement has been reached but he wants to see the payout check before he drops the matter. 

With the settlement Martinez is out of danger of being included in the defamation case.

The Martinez/McCleskey governmental attacks on Chandler's youth ranch near Deming (separate from the campaign flier hits from their PAC) have already cost the state $1 million in lawsuit payouts.

McCleskey sued his insurance company when it refused to cover his legal expenses for the defamation suit but now a compromise has been reached and Chandler will get damages for the attack mailers used against him by McCleskey in his 2016 state House run in SW NM. How much is still not public.

This also matters because McCleskey is back on the scene, consulting GOP Guv candidate Mark Ronchetti who is shaking the money tree hard. A defamation lawsuit by a fellow Republican against his lead consultant doesn't help that cause. No wonder McCleskey was anxious to report the "good news."

The cash settlement is not a finding of guilt but implies that McCleskey and his legal team did not want to withstand the risk of a trial. 

McCleskey, who led Susana Martinez's two Guv campaigns, remains a well-known and divisive figure in the GOP (his recent consulting for Dem mayoral candidate Manny Gonzales didn't help). That's an issue Ronchetti will have to grapple with as he faces state Rep. Rebecca Dow and financial consultant Greg Zanetti in fighting for the '22 nomination, along with several others. 

Uh, Joe, that's background you won't get anywhere else. Well, that's why. . . 

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