Thursday, December 23, 2021

Roswell New Hot Spot For State Dems, Speaker Egolf And Ben Ray Tussle Over Land Grant Committee Future And Merry Christmas, New Mexico  

It appears Roswell is the new in spot for New Mexico Democrats.

First, they shoved the conservative bastion into the liberal northern congressional district at the special legislative session this month. Now the Dems say they will hold their '22 March pre-primary convention in Roswell

. . . Gearing up for the competitive midterm election year, New Mexico Democrats are expanding their message and outreach. . . That’s why the party is holding its convention in Roswell, a traditionally more conservative area of the state, to drum up support and get voters from every community excited about the inspiring Democratic candidates running for office this year.

Well, good luck. In 2020 Chaves County gave Trump 70 percent of the vote. And the chair of the county party is none other than Claire Chase, a possible name-brand GOP contender for that newly crafted northern congressional seat held by Dem Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez. But if Dems want credit for going into the lion's den, noone is going to argue with them.


Did NM House Speaker Brian Egolf overreach when he dissolved the New Mexico Local Government, Land Grants & Cultural Affairs Committee? It was chaired by ABQ Dem Rep. Miguel Garcia, a longtime thorn in Egolf's side who resigned from the committee in a fit of pique. None other than Egolf's fellow high-ranking Dem, US Senator Ben Ray Lujan, thinks it was a step too far to abolish the panel:

I am deeply disappointed by the decision. . . The representation of land grants, acequias, traditional, and rural communities must always be at the forefront of New Mexico public policy. They are a critical part of the heart, soul, and history of our state. . . My father (House Speaker Ben Ray Lujan) created an interim
 committee to work on these issues when he was Speaker. I was thrilled when Speaker Egolf made it a standing committee, which is why I am so disappointed to see this decision. . . After communicating with Speaker Egolf, I’m encouraged that he’ll be sitting down and meeting with leaders from land grant and acequia communities on how best to move forward.

Soon after that hit the wires, Egolf came with this: 

The importance and contributions of our state's land grants and acequia communities goes back through the history of our state and reflect many of our cherished values and proud traditions. It is important we elevate the needs and visibility of these groups in our state government which was not being accomplished through the Committee in its current form. A final change will be made in the upcoming 30-day legislative session and I as well as House leadership will be meeting with leaders from our land grant and acequia communities prior to any final decision.

The issue is especially thorny for the Anglo Dem Speaker because of the weaker loyalty Hispanic Dems have demonstrated toward the Dems, according to recent polling. We'll surely be hearing more about that in the upcoming election year.


Weatherman Mark Ronchetti left KRQE-TV in 2020 to run unsuccessfully for the US Senate but after the loss he was welcomed backed by station management who got plenty of grief for the move. Now it appears Ronchetti has worn out his welcome and will not be returning to the CBS affiliate if his 2022 Guv run also fails. 

Forecaster Grant Tosterud, who took Ronchetti's place in 2020 and was unceremoniously bumped out of primetime upon his return, now apparently has the top weather job all to himself. He posted on Facebook

I could not be more excited to finally announce that I am the new Chief Meteorologist at KRQE!. . . Weather is my passion, and I am beyond thrilled to continue forecasting and telling the weather in the most beautiful state in the country. I look forward to continuing my career here in New Mexico.

Okay, Grant, just don't run for mayor or something.


That's a wrap for 2021. Blogging will be light the remainder of the year. Thanks for stopping by today and all year long and for making us the state's #1 political website. 

Here's one of our holiday faves for your enjoyment. Kick it, Ronnie. . . 

And Frank, as usual you get the last word. Take us out of here, pal.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, New Mexico!

Reporting from Albuquerque, I am Joe Monahan and. . . 

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The Oil Boom: The Gift That Keeps On Giving; Record Production Forecast For January, Plus: In The MLG "Coop" And More About Moe's Senate Chances  

It's been a Christmas gift for all of 2021 when it comes to the oil boom in SE NM that has flooded state coffers with historically high surplus dollars. And as we head to 2022 it will be the gift that keeps on giving. The latest:

According to the (latest Federal) Report, oil output in the Permian Basin will surpass 5 million barrels per day in January. The agency forecasts that crude volumes from the western part of Texas and the southeastern part of New Mexico will go up from 4,960 million barrels in December to 5,031 million next month. 

The projected production figure for January would be a new record for America’s biggest oil field and reflects the steady addition of rigs. . . The rig count in the Permian Basin has risen to 288 from an all-time low of 116 in August 2020 . . .Crude production in the Permian Basin — the lowest-cost shale region — seems to have taken off with commodity prices stabilizing at around $70-a-barrel. 

So what happened to Scranton Joe supposedly ruining the oil biz in New Mexico?

It's now becoming obvious that the challenge for New Mexico is to spend the riches effectively in attacking long standing social and economic issues or perhaps miss the best chance since statehood. 

It's not a good sign when a key lawmaker throws his hands in the air and exclaims: "We've got more money than we know what to do with!" Uh, please read the papers and the blog to figure that out, sir.


Our reference to MLG being "cooped up" at the Capitol brings this:

Re: The Gov being cooped up. Very clever. It is reported she raises real live chickens, in a chicken coop, at the gov’s residence. If the past week is any indication, there’s a hole in the coop fence. There have been online postings of her meeting folks in Peñasco, Dixon, Chama, Raton, Clayton among other population centers of northern New Mexico.  

That's the right direction but you gotta do more than make a ripple on Facebook. The rollout of a new Valencia County hospital Tuesday (and subsequent media coverage) is an example of where the gravy is. 

MLG's presence has faded since she dropped the Covid briefings. It's not only about getting out of "the coop," it's about sharing the bottomless pit of goodies available to her and starting to loudly ring the cash register. Her State of the State address next month is a prime opportunity for a reset to expansive election year economics and to leaving the austerity crowd in the dust. 


The Guv received an early Xmas present from the US Supreme Court as it rejected a challenge to the state's requirement that many of its health workers be vaccinated. 


But the Fourth Floor still isn't singing in the right key. A tax increase now, in the midst of billions? Really?

Lujan Grisham’s administration plans to push a new funding source for conservation projects– a $50 million general obligation bond. If approved by legislators, and then by voters next year, the proposed “Land of Enchantment Bond” would provide funding for forest thinning, land acquisitions, watershed restoration and other projects around New Mexico, top state environment officials said. It would be funded by a modest increase in state property tax rates – about $2 per New Mexico household over the next 25 years. 

House Appropriations Chair Patricia Lundstrom is already signaling she will make quick work of nixing the bond proposal. And dig that line about a "modest tax increase." In this environment an increase of a penny on a hundred bucks would be political heresy. 


The back and forth over ABQ Dem Westside State Rep. Moe Maestas getting out of the House and into the Senate seat that Jacob Candelaria is leaving brings this from a Roundhouse Wall-Leaner:

Joe, Senator Candelaria, during floor debate on the Senate redistricting map on December 16, announced that he intends to resign from his Senate seat by December 31, 2022. If so, the Bernalillo County Commission would appoint his replacement, who would serve until the next election in 2024. Rep. Maestas just needs to find an address in District 26 and get himself appointed. 

Okay, but watch out for those housing prices, Moe, and the progressive competition you could have for a coveted Senate appointment. 

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Tuesday, December 21, 2021

MLG's Not So Secret Re-elect Weapon, Plus: Guv Top Spokesman Exits, And: Debating Progressives And the Economy And More Santolina And The BernCo Commission  

What is MLG's not so secret weapon in her 2022 bid for re-election? That would be the enormous state surplus (in the billions when you include the reserve) plus the $3.7 billion in federal infrastructure pandemic aid and another $1.1 billion in federal pandemic money. 

The historic pile of dollars offers the incumbent the opportunity to showcase an unending list of improvements coming to a town near you.

Today the Guv is signing legislation that will appropriate $50 million to build a hospital in Valencia county. Healthcare is at or near the top of voters list of concerns so it doesn't get better than that.

The pandemic, however, has kept this Governor cooped up at the Capitol and her approval ratings may have suffered as a result. Worried Dems say she will have to pack her travel bags next year--barring a major virus surge--and tell the voters exactly what they will be getting and why she (and federal and state legislators tagging along) deserve the credit. In other words, when a voter asks, "what have you done for me lately?" Show them the money. And there's plenty to show. 

The "worried" Dems can fret that pundit Larry Sabato has moved the NM Guv race from "likely Dem" to "leans Dem." Take a look

Republicans do appear to have a solid challenger to Lujan Grisham in 2020 U.S. Senate nominee Mark Ronchetti, a former television weather forecaster who got within half a dozen points of now-Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) last year (there are other candidates, although he is the most notable). Lujan Grisham also has some vulnerabilities that Ronchetti may be able to exploit, although Democrats argue that Ronchetti may very well have peaked as an under-the-radar candidate in last year’s open-seat Senate race. 

R's will use such kindling to light up the fundraising circuit. 


And they will also use what is a disturbingly high rate of turnover in the administration’s key positions that now includes Communications Director Tripp Stelnicki who is leaving after three years to attend to his mental health. 

That the Governor needs a staffing reboot headed into the election year is a given. But her penchant for micromanagement and personal control is also a given. Is there anybody on her staff who can go into her office and speak to her as a near equal and challenge her? 

The leading candidates for the GOP nomination are former weatherman Ronchetti, State Rep. Rebecca Dow and investment advisor Greg Zanetti. It may seem a long way off  but the June primary is now less than six months from now. 


The economy and Covid (if it's still around and serious) will be banner issues in the next election Reader Mitchell Freedman comes with this:

Joe, you wrote Monday : "The more Democrats stray into the progressive weeds--often ushered there by wealthy out of state backers--the more they risk alienating a traditionally important (Hispanic) demographic that could indeed present a challenge for them in the northern and southern districts."

A more precise way to phrase that: "The more Democrats stray into culturally progressive weeds--and don't deliver on economic progressive or populist policies, particularly due to money coming from wealthy out of state backers--the more they risk...". . .  If one looks at polling data of working class people of all skin colors, one sees they, too, most value economic populism and progressivism. There is the disconnect that the nonprogressive DNC and Dem leaders in general don't want to see or strategize from. 

Your phrasing obscures the fact that it is progressive Dems who wanted the $1.6 trillion Build Back Better legislation which was about those economic issues Hispanic and all working class voters wanted. If what Dems are going to deliver is mostly symbolic stuff, and cultural liberal/left issues (with a few slender reeds of economic public policies), then the Republican siren call for cultural resentments will be very effective in 2022, and again in 2024. 


Vanessa Alarid, who lobbies for Santolina, the developer planning a huge development on the far westside of BernCo, says the recent county commission meeting over redistricting where a possible westside commission district was discussed was not prompted by Santolina:

The West Side deserves a County Commissioner solely dedicated to the West Side. . . We could have had a Hispanic majority seat, that upheld the principles of redistricting. Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, however, fought for each and every precinct, and moved the district up to Academy. The folks living in the NE Heights have very different infrastructure problems than folks living on the West Side! The bottom line is -for 10 years not a single BernCo Commissioner has lived west of the river and north of Central. Over 135,000 people have no representation. Thanks to O’Malley’s anti-democratic agenda, that injustice may last another 10 years. 

Alarid'a full op-ed is here.

Meantime, Dem state Rep. Moe Maestas, husband of Alarid, will have a tough time trying to succeed westside Dem state Senator Jacob Candelaria who has announced he will not seek re-election in 2024. 

Maestas' hope that redistricting would place the Candelaria district in his House district did not pan out. The new boundaries bypass his current residence by just a block or so, report our redistricting watchers. 

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Monday, December 20, 2021

The Debate Goes On Over Those New NM Congressional Maps; Vulnerable Dems or Not? Plus: Odds And Ends From Around La Politica  

The debate goes on. . .
Do the new NM congressional maps favor the Dems? Or do they open the door to a GOP takeover in the northern District and give then a solid chance of keeping southern District 2? The answer? It probably depends on how the national political winds blow in the years ahead.

In the north, Dems say the sour grapes over the new map coming from Dem Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez 
is borne out of her fear of being a potentially weak candidate against a strong Republican--not from the map itself. She is a newcomer to elective office, having run and won her first election only two years ago. 

TLF supporters argue meshing a swath of oil country with acequia and Indian Country is a hare-brained scheme that exposes her to the danger of big conservative oil money.

TLF has now made her first public comment on the new district:

New Mexicans in the new parts of [the district] are hungry to have representation that delivers healthcare, infrastructure, and lowers costs for working families — that’s what I have done, and what I will continue to do. 

What does she really think? Well, her brother, Martin, a  Dem heavy in San Miguel County, testified against the new district at the legislative redistricting special session. 

Here are the takeaways of the other two US House members on their new districts, starting with Dem Rep. Melanie Stansbury of the 1st District in the ABQ metro and beyond:

I am excited about the opportunity to serve even more communities. I am running for reelection to continue to grow our economy and jobs, and to address the health and well-being of our people. I look forward to spending time in our new district and amazing communities. 

And from southern NM GOP Congresswoman Yvette Herrell in District 2:

The gerrymandered map New Mexico Democrats have proposed shows how desperate they are to try to save Nancy Pelosi’s majority. I look forward to running and winning in 2022 and providing New Mexico voters the conservative representation they deserve. 


The ABC news site FiveThirtyEight has been quoted as a bible of sorts when it says the new maps make the TLF and Herrell districts "highly competitive" for the R's, but the Republican Party doesn't agree and other redistricting sites are rather sanguine about the Dems and their standing with the new congressional maps. 

Daily Kos has perhaps the most cogent analysis, or at least the one we tend to favor: 

The new map is a gerrymander that aims to allow Democrats to sweep all three districts and oust hardline conservative GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell in the 2nd District by turning it from strongly Republican into a light-blue swing district that Joe Biden won by 52-46 last year. . . However, since New Mexico itself isn't overwhelmingly blue, Democrats settled for giving themselves substantial but not wave-proof advantages in the other two districts in order to make the 2nd winnable, and it's possible that one or more districts could still elect Republicans in a strongly GOP-favoring year.

"Wave-proof" is the key word and that is not what is shaping up nationally. The GOP says they are riding the wave into 2022. Against that backdrop "538" is right to call districts one and three "highly competitive" but not in years when there is no wave election.


Perhaps the most salient point in this is the past voting behavior of NM Hispanics as a strong Dem voting bloc. That behavior has been easing in recent cycles and is a red flag for the dominant progressive wing. Many Hispanics no longer fear voting R and many don't care for the Biden presidency. 

Their top lines issues are not climate change, methane leaks or national forests, their issues are of the bread and butter variety--jobs, wages, health and child care; public education and the ravages of crime and drugs. 

The more Democrats stray into the progressive weeds--often ushered there by wealthy out of state backers--the more they risk alienating a traditionally important demographic that could indeed present a challenge for them in the northern and southern districts. Don't say we didn't tell you. 


That proposal to tap the $25 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood education is expected to win approval at next November's election but first Congress must okay the proposed changes to the fund. NM's senior senator, Martin Heinrich, says he expects no problem winning such approval and has introduced legislation to that end. Fellow NM Dems, Sen. Lujan and Reps Stansbury and Leger Fernandez, are also working on the legislation. Rep. Herrell has not signed up. 


Reader Paul Stokes writes:

Your reader, Stan Fitch, is a little bit confused about progressives pushing the PNM/Avangrid merger. The progressives I know opposed the merger. Sure, there were some progressives who supported it, presumably on the grounds that it would advance renewable energy. From what he says, he seems to have some other beef about progressives. 


The hit and run killing of a 7 year old boy in the crosswalks neat ABQ's popular River of Lights holiday exhibit has former APD Sergeant and anti-crime advocate Dan Klein on the warpath:

Where is Mayor Keller? A seven year old boy is dead, killed while he legally crossed Central Ave with his parents after visiting the River of Lights. This is probably the second largest attraction (after the Balloon Fiesta) that Albuquerque puts on every year. It is nationally recognized. Why have Mayor Keller and APD Chief Medina not appeared publicly to speak about this tragedy? Where are the members of the city council? Why haven’t they made any public appearance regarding the death of this child and demanded that APD find resources to assign officers outside the River of Lights? If our public officials can’t get outraged about a 7-year-old child being killed, what does that say about our city?

City Councilor Ike Benton did comment about the death of the seven-year-old who was killed in his district. 


The town of Bernalillo doesn't make much news and that's just fine with Mayor Jack Torres who, according to the Sandoval Signpost, is quietly seeking a fourth, four year term: 

Mayor Jack Torres has announced his candidacy for a fourth term. Torres, a Bernalillo native, unseated incumbent Mayor Patricia Chavez in 2010 and was reelected in 2014 and 2018 without opposition. He is a graduate of Harvard University and has a family heritage of public service with his father, an uncle, and a cousin serving as mayor at various times since 1958. Whether Torres draws opposition in the March 1 election won’t be known until candidate filing day on January 4.

Now that's what you call keeping it All in the Family.


Robert McCallum writes:

My bad Joe. Your reporting as usual was right on. Your pieces on the PNM/AVANGRID  merger were great. Great energy and great writing.

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