Thursday, May 26, 2022

Torrez And Colón Clash Escalates As Dem AG Race Stays Tight And Gets Personal: Intense TV Debate Ends With No Hand Shake; We've Got The Expert Analysis, Plus: Parodying Herrell And: An Appeal To Heaven  

Colón and Torrez
It's the last major primary race with major suspense still attached to it and that showed Wednesday night when BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez and State Auditor Brian Colón repeatedly clashed in debate as they pursued the coveted Democratic nomination for attorney general. 

The campaign has turned into a slugfest and gotten personal. At the conclusion of the thirty minute debate on KOAT the two candidates did not engage in the tradition of shaking hands and at least pretending to be cordial. How often do you see that? Not very. 

Former ABQ city councilor, state legislator, attorney and veteran campaign consultant Greg Payne is helping with our Campaign '22 analysis. We asked him for an objective take on who won and who lost:

The candidates and their differing debate strategies were clear from the outset: Colón’s clearly was to not lose while Torrez's was to win--at any and all costs. Which is why Torrez walked away with a win, albeit on points. This debate wasn't a game-changer, but it did accentuate the differences between the two.

One  example was Colón failing to mention the murder of Victoria Martens or other specific high-profile violent crime cases that have damaged Torrez and undermined his claim that he has been a highly successful prosecutor. 

In an exchange on gun violence. Torrez stated we need to "hold parents accountable" for minors who use a parent's gun to commit a crime. That was a slow pitch waiting for Colón to hammer Torrez with. The DA failed to charge the parent of the 13 year old who shot and killed another 13 year old at ABQ's Washington Middle School last year--a parent who also has a history of gun violence himself. But Colón, for whatever reason, didn't go there. Why? 

The main takeaway was how relentless and aggressive Torrez was in his attacks (and some were personal), accusing Colón of engaging in "pay to play" politics with big, out of state law firms and mocking Colón for boasting that he prosecuted a case as a "law clerk." 

Then there was the not so subtle attack on Colón‘s BFF, incumbent Dem AG Hector Balderas, with a direct attack on the law firm Robles, Rael and Anaya. Balderas and Colón have long been associated with the firm that has received many lucrative contracts from AG Balderas' office. 

The good news for Colón? Only the insiders watched this debate. The bad news? Torrez had a lean and hungry look that Colón lacked. Torrez doesn't care if you like him. He just wants to win.

Attorney Jeremy Gay will be the GOP nominee, but the Dem primary has produced the general election winner for nearly 40 years. A loss for either Colón or Torrez is likely to end their political career. 


Dems aren't waiting for their nominee to be selected to start their campaign against GOP US Rep. Yvette Herrell. They've formed a group called BLUECD2NM and launched a parody site poking fun at the conservative congresswoman from the south whose district now includes part of ABQ. Their opening stingers will be relished by the Dems and induce frowns from the Rs.

They call me “Hard Hearted Herrell.” I don’t take any crap from the Left. I give lip service to veterans, but then I vote against their interests in Congress. I complain about the sanctity of life, but then vote against helping babies get infant formula during a crisis.

 I voted against certifying the election on January 6th. My good friend Couy Griffin was convicted for his part in the January 6th insurrection. Establishing a commission to investigate January 6th was one of the votes I skipped. I voted against the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2022. 

I voted against capping outrageous insulin prices. I also voted against legislation funding wildfire management and fire suppression. If it’s good for my constituents, for New Mexico, for America, or for Democracy, I’m probably against it. If you don’t like me, I guess it sucks to be a whimpering snowflake libtard! I love Trump, Guns, God and Babies. Don’t get pregnant unless you mean it, I’m against letting you control your own medical decisions!

Don't worry GOP. When Dems pick their primary nominee June 7th, you'll have plenty of time for payback. 


Ethel Maharg
Viewers who watched the Channel 7 GOP gubernatorial debate probably noticed the banner displayed behind candidate Ethel Maharg that read "Appeal to Heaven" and wondered why she chose that.

As indicated, the slogan is rooted in religion but it is quite political as well, having been coined by the 17th century philosopher John Locke who was expressing frustration for those not getting justice for wrongs done to them in the here and now. He wrote:

The people have no other remedy in this, as in all other cases where they have no judge on earth, but to appeal to heaven. . .

The Locke appeal is a justification for violent revolution and was emblazoned on the Continental Army flag in 1775 by order of George Washington. Today it is associated with Christian Nationalism and far-right activists who have become a segment of the Republican Party, including Maharg who is mainly an anti-abortion candidate. 

An Appeal to Heaven website says

ATH exists to honor the Lord by networking elected officials who are believers in Jesus Christ, who regularly attend and display a commitment to an evangelical, Gospel-centered church and who will commit to live and govern based on biblical, constitutional and Federalist principles. "The people have no other remedy in this, as in all other cases where they have no judge on earth, but to appeal to heaven."

Maharg polled at just 1 percent in the recent Journal poll so the ATH movement here does not appear widespread but it did have its moment on statewide TV. The New Yorker recently wrote of how the new GOP Pennsylvania GOP Guv nominee and other politicians have become associated with the ATH movement.  

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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Fasten Your Seat Belts: More On That Heated Dem Race For State Treasurer; Possible Conflict For Benavidez Explored; Eichenberg Doubles Down On Charges Against Montoya  

Heather Benavidez
Perhaps against our better judgment and at risk to our mental health we once again wade into the frightfully contentious race for the Democratic nomination for State Treasurer featuring combatants Heather Benavidez, who has worked as an executive to current Treasurer Tim Eichenberg, and former two term Sandoval County Treasurer Laura Montoya. Fasten your seat belts. We're off. . .

Our Legal Beagles inform that there does not appear to be any legal issue with Heather Benavidez serving on the state Board of Finance if she is elected State Treasurer but there are ethical concerns.

MLG appointed former state Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez to serve on that powerful board that oversees state fiscal practices and has the authority to issue general obligation and severance tax revenue bonds. As Treasurer, Benavidez, who is married to Sanchez's son, would automatically serve on the board. According to the BOF website

The State Board of Finance. . . Members are the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State Treasurer and four members appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the senate.  No more than two appointed members may be from the same political party and each appointed member serves a two-year term.  The Governor is the president of the Board. . . The Board of Finance Division provides operational, analytical, and administrative support to the State Board of Finance in accordance with statutory mandates. The Board has broad statutory responsibilities for general supervision of the fiscal affairs of the State, in addition to other regulatory and oversight functions. . . 

Having two close relatives voting on important and costly financial matters on one of the state's most influential boards would obviously not be a "good look" and could present more serious issues. 

We asked Benavidez of Valencia County for her thoughts on this possible conflict of interest. She replied:

After I’m sworn in, I will address any perceived conflict that you think might exist.

Oh, we get it. The blog is the only place in the entire state that looks askance at the situation and voting Democrats should just not bother with these silly matters and vote for you now and worry later? Nice try, Tim.

How soon they forget that not that long ago we had two state treasurers forced out of office and jailed because of massive corruption charges. 

Well, it will be interesting to see what MLG or possibly a Gov. Ronchetti think of the situation since the Governor appoints the four board members that are not placed there under statute. 

Laura Montoya said of the situation:

Morally and ethically, it's concerning.

Former Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya, the sole candidate seeking the Republican nomination for Treasurer, commented:

I think it would be inappropriate for two close relatives to serve on the Board of Finance. It's possible one could have undue influence over the other on matters before the Board. If elected, I would urge the Governor to reshape the board to avoid any potential conflict of interest. 

Look at that. Someone else other than your blogger sees a possible conflict. For a minute there we were worried about our mental health but, as usual, it's the politicos mental well-being that is the issue. 

(The initial report on this subject Tuesday incorrectly identified the state board Sanchez sits on as the State Investment Council which the state Treasurer also automatically serves on.)


Laura Montoya
Meanwhile current Treasurer Tim Eichenberg is defending himself against a letter of condemnation from a group of Democratic Party county chairpersons for the negative campaign he has personally been conducting against Montoya and that we carried here Tuesday. He wrote this to the chairs:

I’m surprised. . . that Democratic Party Chairs would take such an aggressive position in support of a candidate in a competitive primary race. Perhaps I’m old fashioned but it’s always been my belief that  Party officials don’t take sides in a competitive Democratic Primary. As State Treasurer I have no such legal or ethical prohibition.

I intend to protect the integrity of the State Treasurer’s office and that’s why I’ve been active in this primary. Primaries are to vet candidates and I believe it is important for voters to have information on our candidates that may negatively affect the result in the General Election. 

The list of why I believe Laura Montoya should not be the next State Treasurer goes on and on and I will continue to put a light on her past. I think Democratic Primary voters have a right to know Laura Montoya’s background as it impacts her ability to be a successful State Treasurer. If we can’t look ourselves honestly in the mirror during a primary, I assure you that our Republican opponents will seize the opportunity, as you pointed out, to besmirch whomever we nominate. The Republicans will use any weak link to demonize the entire ticket. So, I categorically reject your threats. 

Eichenberg listed a number of allegations against Montoya including this one:

Sandoval County’s financial consultant documented many times to the Board of Commissioners Laura Montoya’s counter-productive investment program resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenues to the County. 

Montoya responded:

I let go the county financial adviser (in 2014) after researching that the county's investment portfolio had investments such as junk bonds that are not permissible and that the adviser was making three times the national average. Had I stayed with that portfolio I would have had severe losses and could have been in trouble for investing in instruments that were not permissible under the law. 

Without a doubt the combative race for state Treasurer will be high on our watch list Primary Election Night June 7th when we broadcast all the statewide results on KANW 89.1 FM and kanw.com.


Colón and Torrez
Another too hot to handle race is that contest for the Dem nomination for attorney general with State Auditor Brian Colón and BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez in all-out negative mode in what is one of the most grueling campaigns for the position in recent history. Tonight the pair will debate in person at 6:30 p.m. on KOAT-TV. We're glad they're not having it on Zoom but maybe there ought to be a big bouncer sitting between the two--just in case. . . 

The race appears tight and according to a poll conducted by the Colón campaign, it is. They have it at 35 percent for their guy and Torrez at 31 with a still high 28 percent of Dem voters undecided. The survey was taken May 12-15 so already it's a bit long in the tooth considering how both sides have amped up their TV onslaughts since then. 

The survey was conducted by DC's Lake Research which ha a long track record in the state. They say Colón is leading in all geographic areas including Torrez's home base of BernCo. There's s a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent so Torrez is not out of position. The poll used in-person phone calls to 500 likely voters.

A SurveyUSA poll conducted April 29 thru May 7 had Torrez leading Colón 38 to 34 with 28 percent undecided. In that poll Torrez was leading in BernCo.


GOP Guv candidate Jay Block comes with a 60 second spot that takes on the homeless problem but in not a typical GOP way. Standing outside a crowded homeless camp near downtown ABQ, he declares that as Governor he would devote significant resources to treating mental issues of the homeless. He recently said:

"I look at a lot of things through the lens of a kid and an adult who’s gone through a lot with drugs, alcohol and mental health,” Block said. Like many veterans, he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, he said, after serving in Afghanistan. As a child, his parents were arrested on drug charges and school was more challenging because he had dyslexia.

Block says MLG has "turned her back" on mental health and addiction issues. He adds that he also could find common ground with Democrats on education and crime.

MLG continues her early reelection ad blitz with more of those 15 second spots touting programs advanced by her administration. This one is on tuition free college and this one on streamlining state regulations for business. 
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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Nasty Treasurer Battle Draws Condemnation For Eichenberg From Dem Party County Chairs, Plus: New Political Odd Couple; Stansbury And Herrell, And: Block Rips GOP Guv Polling Leaders 

The battle for the Democratic nomination for state treasurer has turned into one of the nastiest ever for a down ballot statewide office. 

Heather Benavidez and Laura Montoya are facing off for that nomination but it's almost as though current term limited State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg is also on the ballot. He is pulling out all the stops for Benavidez and conducting a scorched earth campaign against former Sandoval County Treasurer Montoya that includes hits on conduct in her personal life. 

A group of Democratic Party county chairmen and two high ranking Democratic officials have had enough. They've issued a letter of condemnation of Eichenberg who has previously endorsed Montoya for political office and who has long been one of the most popular elected Dems in the state: 

Tim Eichenberg has launched one of the most horrific, vitriolic, deceitful, mudslinging media campaigns ever witnessed against a well-qualified Democratic candidate. . .Eichenberg has misused the Treasurer Seal in an unethical attempt to promote his favored candidate. Eichenberg has ignored the increasing choir of colleagues who have respectfully pleaded with him to stop this destructive campaign. These unsavory tactics have been designed to ruin the reputation of a good and decent candidate, just because Eichenberg didn’t hand pick her. . .Our primaries must not descend into schoolyard spectacles where baseless accusations, half-truth distortions, and character assassinations are accepted. . .Ethical Democrats must stamp out inappropriate actions within our own ranks. The following individuals stand united in condemning sitting Treasurer Eichenberg salacious and egregious campaign tactics.

Among those signing the letter were Bernalillo County Chair Flora Lucero; Santa Fe County Chair Bernadette Vadurro; San Juan County Chair Mark Lewis; Sandoval County Chair Alexandria Piland; Socorro County Chair Juanita Gordon and McKinley County Chair Mary Ann Armijo, among others.

Eichenberg say he was motivated to do the attacks simply because of Montoya's character. And it should be noted that there are 33 counties in the state each with a party chairman. 

There is a red flag here. Former Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez sits on the state Board of Finance, appointed to the panel by MLG. Heather Benavidez is the daughter in law of Sanchez and would automatically sit on that board if elected Treasurer. According to the BOF website

The Board of Finance Division provides operational, analytical, and administrative support to the State Board of Finance in accordance with statutory mandates. The Board has broad statutory responsibilities for general supervision of the fiscal affairs of the State, in addition to other regulatory and oversight functions. . . The State Board of Finance is created in Section 6-1-1 NMSA 1978.  Members are the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State Treasurer and four members appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the senate.  No more than two appointed members may be from the same political party and each appointed member serves a two-year term.  The Governor is the president of the Board.

The Board has the authority to issue general obligation bonds and severance tax revenue bonds.

(An earlier version of this report incorrectly said Sanchez sits on the State Investment Council which the Treasurer also automatically serves on.)


Rep. Herrell
You might call them the new odd couple. Progressive Dem ABQ US Rep. Melanie Stansbury and very conservative GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell are becoming if not fast friends--much better acquainted--as they both seek re-election this year.

Herrell's steadfast support of Donald Trump has made her a kind of black sheep in the five member state congressional delegation but that underwent an abrupt change when Stansbury announced in an apparent first that she and Herrell will actually co-sponsor a bill together. 

Stansbury's office says the Water Data Act is. . . 

Designed to transform and modernize water management across the United States by putting the power of data and science into the hands of communities, farmers, and water managers. The Act will create a national framework to unleash the power of water data, address longstanding technical challenges in water data and science and create a national Water Data Council/ 

Herrell chimed in: 

Rep. Stansbury
Ensuring that federal agencies adopt coordinated standards for reporting water data will enable states, tribes, and local communities to more easily access this information, which is vital during the severe drought conditions in New Mexico is currently experiencing.

There's good reason for these political opposites to find common ground. Stansbury's new district extends into rural counties that once belonged to Herrell and Herrell's new district includes parts of Albuquerque that were once in Stansbury's district. 

With an uncertain national environment, Stansbury needs to tone down her "wokeness" and Herrell needs more street cred on policy not politics. Working together gets Stansbury entree to conservatives and Herrell to liberals so stay tuned for the next episode of the odd couple.


That Sunday Journal poll showing Mark Ronchetti trouncing his four foes for the GOP Guv nomination a real morale buster, but Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block isn't giving up and  after the debate made his case this way:

The political insider candidates have gone negative on each other and now they are unelectable. Mark Ronchetti lost to Ben Ray Lujan for U.S. Senate in 2020 by almost 60,000 votes. Lujan was a much weaker candidate than our current Governor and if we nominate the weatherman, history will repeat itself and a Lujan will reign victorious once more. (State Rep.) Rebecca Dow has even more baggage than a career politician in Washington. Once MLG grabs this baggage she will make her unelectable. Both of these candidates cannot defeat our current Governor, I can. A vote for Ronchetti or Dow is a vote for a second Michelle Lujan Grisham term. 


One of Ronchetti's favorite lines on the campaign trail is how he is proud "not to be a politician." But he is, according to the dictionary:

A person who is professionally involved in politics, especially as a holder of or a candidate for an elected office.

Politician or not, Dems are now worried about Ronchetti winning the GOP nomination in a landslide and coming into the general election with added momentum. 

Reader Steve Crespin writes of a divided NMGOP:

Joe: Regarding your May 19 blog “GOP Heavy Hitters Sit On The Bench In NM Guv. Race." If you go back to my comment on June 3, 2021, I blame Susana Martinez and her inner circle of jack asses for the huge divide in the Republican Party. I also said it would take a minimum of two election cycles (8 years)for the NM Republican Party to begin to recover from her disastrous administration. Unless the Republican Party can completely separate itself from Susana and the idiots she surrounded herself with, my June 3, 2021 prediction will come true.

From the city of Espanola May 3 police blotter:

1:58 p.m. A caller said a man is going crazy, yelling at the sky and jumping up and down.

Wonder which primary candidate that was?

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Monday, May 23, 2022

Big Ronchetti Lead Confirmed In GOP Guv Contest; Dow Distant Second In Latest Poll, Plus: Candidate TV Debate Fizzles, And: Affairs Of The Heart; MLG Wedding Update 

The ABQ Journal poll Sunday showing Mark Ronchetti running away with the '22 GOP gubernatorial nomination proved anti-climatic, confirming the commanding lead that the former TV weatherman demonstrated in the early May SurveyUSA poll. 

However the authoritative Journal poll did remedy an apparent misread from SurveyUSA. State Rep. Rebecca Dow placed second in the Journal poll, while SurveyUSA had her in fourth, even though she is the only candidate besides Ronchetti spending heavily on statewide TV ads.

The Journal poll had Ronchetti at 45 percent and Dow running second at 17 percent. Greg Zanetti received 9; Jay Block garnered 8 percent and Ethel Maharg one percent. 
The poll was conducted May 15-19 among 560 likely GOP voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percent.

SurveyUSA had Ronchetti at 44 percent and Dow at 9 percent. Dow nearly doubled her support in the Journal survey.

SurveyUSA methodology gets the big picture right but the Journal had Dow with a healthy lead in the Las Cruces/SW section of the state in her home territory. That was the major difference.

The Journal uses in-person interviews with tightly screened voters and over 80 percent of responses are from cell phone users. No robo calls. No Internet panels. It's not cheap but that's what it takes to get the most accurate and useful results. 

The relatively high undecided of 21 percent in the Journal poll bothered some Republicans who read it as a lack of enthusiasm for either Ronchetti or Dow, signaling that the primary winner may have work to do to bring them home in November. 


Ronchetti has had only one scare in the primary. That's when Dow came with her winning TV ad on border security, but that was her peak. 

Next she came with an ad questioning Ronchetti's loyalty to Trump. His campaign then pummeled Dow in a relentless wave of negative ads, including one about her voting for a state budget bill that allowed undocumented immigrants to collect Covid relief money. 

GOP analysts said that hit appeared to be the most damaging, proving yet again that when done right negative campaigning is a powerful tool.

Then there's the critical money difference. Ronchetti has raised $2.5 million and had $1.495 million in cash on hand as of May 2. Dow reported $495,000 in cash and raising $1.3 million. 

As her campaign stalled under the rain of negative attacks Dow was left airing just a single ad for several weeks. That spelled the end long before the official election day of June 7.

Dow has now gone positive with this latest ad that labels her the "proven conservative" in the race. 

As for the general election outlook, the first job for the GOP is to get the race fully in play. As of May 18 the consensus forecast of the Cook Political Report, Inside Elections and Sabato's Crystal Ball rank the race "likely Democratic" and Real Clear Politics does not list NM among their "Top 2022" Governor Races.


The five GOP contenders conducted their one and only TV debate that aired Friday night on KOAT-TV but it was not very illuminating. 

Because the station policy does not allow anyone unvaccinated into the building, the debate was pre-recorded and conducted via Zoom, always an annoying prospect but especially so in this case. 

Candidates Zanetti and Block were plagued with significant technical issues, demonstrating that the station should have moved the one and only debate to a remote location and held it live. That would have solved the Zoom problem and also promoted a more vigorous exchange among the candidates. 

As it was a few sparks flew but none of any major consequence, leaving Ronchetti accomplishing his goal of leaving unharmed.

All the candidates, however, acquitted themselves when it came to understanding the key issues they were asked about including the state's wildfires, border security and crime. 


Pity Jay Block. He tried to score points when he asked Ronchetti why he had hired controversial political consultant Jay McCleskey who last year settled a defamation lawsuit brought by a GOP state House candidate whom he had attacked. McCleskey also was the subject of a federal grand jury investigation regarding campaign finances when he worked for  Gov. Susana Martinez. That probe ended with no charges. 

But Block's maneuver backfired badly when Ronchetti shot back that Block had tried to hire McCleskey for his own Guv campaign. There was much guffawing over that. 

Dow, Zanetti and Block continued to cast doubt on the legitimacy of Biden's election but Ronchetti did not, positioning himself in the center for his now expected face-off with MLG.


The Republican leaning editorial pages of the ABQ Journal have endorsed Ronchetti as have the liberal leaning editorial pages of the Santa Fe New Mexican. In the race for the Dem nomination for attorney general the Journal went with Raul Torrez and the New Mexican endorsed Brian Colón. 


The publicity surrounding MLG's Saturday wedding to longtime boyfriend Manny Cordova was so low-key (nonexistent in fact) that one could assume they ran off to Vegas and eloped, not tying the knot at the DC home of the Vice-President of the USA who conducted  the ceremony. 

But the raging wildfires burning so many homes and ruining so many lives and requiring gubernatorial attention made the spectacle of a joyous MLG wedding a touchy political situation and the event did appear touch and go for a while.

Last Tuesday we blogged that a reliable source was told directly by MLG that the wedding would be postponed because of the fires that have received worldwide attention. The newspapers asked the Fourth Floor about that report but were deflected and were told there would be no comment until Friday. Odd for sure. Then it was announced that MLG would be traveling to Washington to meet with top federal officials about the fires. That gave her the PR cover she sought to quietly get married the following day. 

But Saturday and Sunday came with still no official release about the wedding, no photos of VP Kamala Harris officiating and no pics of a smiling and freshly hitched couple. But a spokesman did confirm to us that "the wedding occurred as planned." In fact, the only pictures of the governor that surfaced were of her visit Sunday to fire stricken areas in the north. 

With the blacked out wedding taking place, it turns out our initial report was incorrect or perhaps temporarily correct. It just goes to show that affairs of the heart are often unpredictable and subject to change without notice. In any event, congrats to the newlyweds. We'll keep it as quiet as possible. 


It’s peak season for La Politica and we’ll run down all the action today at 5 PM on KKOB with radio veteran TJ Trout. As usual, this will be a no spin zone.

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