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Thursday, September 29, 2022

Ronchetti Promises Gridlock: Pledges To Veto "Everything" Until Dem Legislature Sends Him Anti-Crime Bills, Plus Odds And Ends From The Campaign Trail  

Ronchetti (Moore, Journal)
When it comes to crime go ahead and call GOP gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti "Radical Ronchetti." He won't mind. That's because he is. 

Ronchetti this week announced that, if elected, he would not put his pen to a single piece of legislation until lawmakers gave him his way on crime:

Nothing will get through the Legislature until we protect the people of this state. We'll veto everything until we make sure we protect our citizens.

No funding for public schools? For CYFD? For state police? 

Ronchetti's pledge to "veto everything" is pure hyperbole but it does reveal that when it comes to gridlock he might outdo previous GOP Governors Susana Martinez and even Gary Johnson who earned  the moniker "Governor No" after casting more vetos than any chief executive in state history. 

Governing by veto is neither practical or possible but with the election clock ticking away and Ronchetti still behind MLG, he sees crime as his last best hope to close the gap in crime-ridden and populous Bernalillo County and give himself a shot at a statewide upset. 

The GOP hopeful is also trying to put more meat on the relatively skimpy bones he has offered as solutions to crime. He is now advocating expanding the "three strikes" law that ensures anyone convicted of three violent felonies is sentenced to life in prison with parole. He wants to add more crimes to the list of convictions that would count as a "strike," a proposal that has been rebuffed since the Legislature passed three strikes in 1994. 

The narrative of the final weeks of Campaign '22 is shaping up as crime or abortion choice for many voters. Expect to hear much about each when Ronchetti and MLG face off at the first of two televised debates on KOB tomorrow night at 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, Republicans are going all crime all the time in the competitive state House races and MLG and company are on abortion like white on rice as they see their pro-choice messaging appealing not only to Democratic women but pro-choice Republican women. 

Several consultants we interviewed opined that Ronchetti would be better off dropping his ad calling for a statewide referendum on abortion, with one saying:

The more he talks about the topic, the worse it gets. He should keep crime front and center and address the pro-choice ads by saying outside special interests are trying to make this a one issue campaign, but it is much more than that.

Ronchetti has probably been hearing that a lot and has opted to cast his veto, something he longs to do from the Fourth Floor of the Roundhouse but that continues to look elusive. 

ODDS AND ENDS

ABQ Senator Linda Lopez may not end up empty-handed after being defeated in her bid to unseat Stewart as President Pro Tem at the caucus. Roundhouse analysts say because of her seniority she would be in line to take over the chairmanship of the Senate Rules Committee if Sen. Daniel Ivey Soto is removed because of the sex harassment charges against him. Lopez was majority whip until she decided to take on Stewart for Pro Tem and she was previously a longtime chair of Senate Rules. 

(On Thursday, Ivey-Soto resigned as Rules Committee chairman).

Southern Dem congressional hopeful Gabe Vasquez comes with a new ad that takes on GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell's support of an abortion ban even in cases of rape, incest or when the woman's life is in danger. The ad is accurate but might be more powerful if it also had a female presence in addition to Vasquez's narration. . . Herrell is brining in Sen. Ted Cruz to campaign with her in Las Cruces Monday. She says its part of the Truth and Courage PAC Bus Tour.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Touchy Issue of Race Injected Into State House Campaigns; Dems Decry "Racist" Flyer; GOP Scoffs At Attack, Plus: We Look At ABQ Heights Contest Featuring Black Rep, Also: La Politica's Lenton Malry Has Thoughts On '22 

It's a touchy subject but it's on the table for Democrats working to keep ABQ House District 28 in the city's far NE Heights in their column.  

The subject is race and more specifically whether Dem Pamelya Herndon, appointed to the seat by the Bernalillo County Commission in 2021 when Melanie Stansbury won a special election to fill the ABQ congressional seat, will be hampered by the fact that she would be the first Black woman elected to a predominant Anglo NE Heights district. 

By all accounts Herndon has received a warm reception and entered the final weeks with a two one cash advantage over Republican Nicole Chavez, but since Herndon has not been elected in her own right there is concern. 

And race has moved to the fore in the state House races with this development:

One of the major themes in advertisements paid for by the Republican Party of New Mexico is crime, hitting Democratic candidates. . . for past votes on measures which the GOP argues were too soft on crime, hindered law enforcement or "coddled" people convicted of serious offenses. One negative advertisement, in particular, drew denunciations for appearing to darken one of two figures in a stock photograph in a manner one community leader called "blatantly racist." The ads follow a similar provocative style, using somber colors and stark fonts among tinted or filtered images from prison booking photos or featuring obscured and menacing figures. The ad copy alludes to pieces of legislation supported in past sessions by local representatives, often presenting them as favoring criminals over other citizens.

The ad apparently was not sent into the Herndon district, says a Dem consultant, but we're double-checking. 

The GOP scoffed at the notion that the ad (posted here) was racist and said the Dems are trying to divert attention from their "soft on crime agenda."

District 28 runs east of Eubank up to the Sandia Foothills and north to Academy Blvd, once an Anglo GOP district that now leans blue. The district is 67 percent White and 29 percent Hispanic. The partisan performance is put at 42 percent Dem; 36 percent Republican and 22 percent independent. 

The electorate there is ranked 47 percent conservative; 41 percent progressive and 12 percent moderate, report Dem consultants.

FACING THE VOTERS

One veteran Democratic woman operative suggests Herndon, who is campaigning door to door,  occasionally take along White neighbors to introduce herself, saying that could alleviate race-based issues that may lurk. 

One possibility for a tag along would be Rep. Stansbury who has donated $10,000 to Herndon and remains popular in the district she once represented.

We asked Lenton Malry, the first Black to be elected to the NM Legislature back in the 1960's, for his opinion but he demurred, instead urging Herndon to keep up the door knocking because "that's where these races are won."

Conrad James became the first Black male to take a NE Heights seat in 2011 so there is reason to believe that Herndon could indeed become the first Black woman to jump the Heights House hurdle this year. 

MALRY'S TAKE

Lenton Malry 
Back to our old friend Malry, who helped us call elections on KANW 89.1 FM public radio for 30 years starting in 1988 and who turns 91 this week.

Besides the state House, Malry served two terms on the BernCo Commission and has been a Democratic player since winning that SE ABQ House seat nearly 60 years ago. 

We talked him up about today's politics and he informed that he recently fielded a call from Gov. Lujan Grisham, but being the old hand he is he started the conversation by saying he knew she was calling for money. She was and he gave her some.

Malry is confident of an MLG win:

When it comes to Mark Ronchetti I have rarely, if ever, seen a candidate switch his position on such an important issue as abortion so many times. I think it may have shut him down. 

Besides helping Herndon financially, Malry, who holds a Ph.D and whose career was in education, says he has made donations to all the Black US Senate candidates seeking election. 

Those candidates could do well by taking a look at Malry's autobiography titled: Let's Roll This Train: My Life In New Mexico Education. He had quite the run in education and in La Politica.

PRIMARY NUMBERS

On the Guv race a reader wanted to know how the June primary turnout came down for the candidates. Okay. . . 

In the 2018 Republican primary Steve Pearce ran unopposed and the turnout was 75,162. In 2022 Mark Ronchetti, Rebecca Dow and three others ran for the nomination. Turnout was 117,453.

In 2018 in a three way Democratic Guv primary MLG won and the turnout was 175,898. In 2022 the she ran unopposed for her party's nomination turnout was 125,238.

Turnout was about what most analysts predicted so there doesn't seem to be an overly large enthusiasm gap between the two camps. 

TALL ORDER 

Former APD sergeant and now private investigator Dan Klein has a very tall order for federal law enforcement in New Mexico following raids that seized one million fentanyl pills in ABQ:

What will cause the cartels real problems and make them consider going to other states is if the Department of Justice starts seizing their businesses and property where they launder illegal drug money. This hits them where it hurts most. The FBI must start seizing businesses and strip malls that are owned by the cartels,  inhibiting their ability to launder their drug money. It’s just like when Walter White bought the carwash in Breaking Bad, once the feds seized it, that made for TV criminal enterprise came to an end. 

THE BOTTOM LINES 

We listed ABQ Dem Sen. Katy Duhigg as vice chair of the Senate Rules Committee last week based on info from an apparently outdated legislative web page. She is no longer in that post as an alert reader points out: 

Sen. Duhigg is not the Vice Chair of Rules. She was previously and remains on the Rules Committee. Beginning last session, she became the Vice Chair of Judiciary.

 If Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto is removed as chair from the committee over sexual harassment charges, as is being contemplated, there would be a new chair. Roundhouse watchers inform that based on seniority Sen. Linda Lopez, if she wants it, would be the new chair if Ivey-Soto is ousted, a return to a position she once had. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2022

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Campaign '22 Gets Some Star Power; Pence to Roswell; Pelosi Stops In ABQ And Jane Fonda Lights Up The Santa Fe Trail  

The state is seeing some star power as the campaign gets into high gear. Former Vice-President Mike Pence is the latest big name to make plans to visit, setting an October 6 fund-raising stop in Roswell on behalf of GOP gubernatorial nominee Mark Ronchetti, according to our Roswell sources. 

They report the Pence fund-raiser at the SE NM hub will cost $5,000 a pop, a high price for regular folk but a yawner for the deep-pocketed oil boys who populate the city of 48,000.

Ronchetti previously had Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis campaign for him at a Carlsbad rally and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, a rising national GOP star, is reportedly including a NM stop for Ronchetti on his mid-term tour. 

The visits put Ronchetti in the limelight but his opponents are taking him to task for the events, pointing out that he campaigns as a political "outsider" but is surrounding himself with the ultimate insiders. 

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, no stranger to the Land of Enchantment, was on the trail Monday for northern Dem US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, stopping at the ABQ Indian Cultural Center to discuss the northern fires that recently ravaged historic amounts of acreage. The fires also left big bills in their wake and Pelosi pledged continued federal support for those impacted. 

Fernandez's latest TV spot steers away from the controversies of the day and touts her work on northern water issues. The ad connects her with the land and people of the north even as her new district dips into several conservative southern counties. That's where her GOP opponent, Alexis Martinez Johnson, will score points, but the heart of the district is still El Norte. 

STARS AND SUPERSTARS

Jane Fonda
There are stars and superstars and Jane Fonda is in the latter category or very close to it. 

The legendary actress and activist is in Santa Fe Wednesday and Thursday conducting two fund-raisers at local homes on behalf of Dem Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard who was starstruck in announcing the visits: 

They had to pinch me when we learned Jane Fonda was coming to New Mexico to support our campaign for re-election and all the work we've done around climate the last four years. Jane will be visiting the land office, talking public lands and climate action but she is also graciously attending two of our Santa Fe events."

Garcia Richard, seeking a second four year term against Republican Jefferson Byrd, has had a low-key tenure as commissioner. While pursing renewable energy she has avoided loud clashes with the oil and gas industry whose exploration on state lands the land office supervises and which has been so financially beneficial to taxpayers.

As for Fonda, she would easily make a list of the "World's Most Interesting People."

Over the summer we ran across her autobiography from 2005. Its frankness about her life--including her real and imagined shortcomings--made for a real page turner as she delved into her multiple roles---two time Academy Award winning movie star, workout queen, pioneer feminist, political activist and wife and mother.

Locals will note her write-up of her visit to the UNM campus in 1970 following the Kent State Shootings to protest the Vietnam war. She also covers without hesitation her hyper-controversial trip to North Vietnam in '72.

Fonda is no carpetbagger in New Mexico. She lived for years on a ranch east of Santa Fe where she says she recovered from her divorce from media mogul Ted Turner who today is the largest landowner in the state. Fonda sold her 2,300 acre estate in 2015 that had a list price of $19.5 million. 

In recent years she has continued her indefatigable work habit through acting but has been just as focused on climate change, engaging in civil disobedience to drive home its urgency and authoring a book on the pressing topic. 

Fonda at UNM 1970
She had three marriages, one of which was to Tom Hayden (from '73-'90), the intellectual and social and political activist who rose to prominence in the 60's. She writes that they connected very much politically but in the end not emotionally. 

Her brother, the late Peter Fonda, also an accomplished actor, had a breakthrough role in Easy Rider, the counterculture film he co-wrote and much of which was filmed in the Taos area.

The father of Jane and Peter, Henry Fonda, an FDR Democrat, was a major film star who planted the acting seed with his children.

Earlier this month Fonda, soon to be 85, announced she has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma-- a highly treatable cancer. 

Critics of Fonda often get lost in disagreement over her politics--especially Vietnam--but if viewed in totality you discover a fascinating life almost too fully lived, often magnificently and sometimes desperately, but always with passion and a self-correcting compass.

Despite age and illness her journey remains one in progress and still lived vicariously by students of both politics and life. 

THE BOTTOM LINES 

On last Thursday's blog we mistakenly said that the abortion issue was breaking for the "nonwhitehouse party" which would mean the Republicans. We meant to say that the issue was breaking to the Dems--the party currently controlling the White House. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2022

Monday, September 26, 2022

Cries Of Hypocrisy After Saturday's Senate Democratic Caucus; Ivey-Soto Punished Over Sex Harassment Charges With More Set To Come This Week, But Another Senator Previously Charged Is Picked By Caucus For Top Leadership Post 

Sen. Stewart
Not surprisingly cries of hypocrisy filled the air following Saturday's caucus of state senate Democrats. 

Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, charged with sexual harassment, was stripped of an interim committee chairmanship by Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart while another, Michael Padilla, who settled harassment claims for subjecting women to a "sexually hostile work environment" was chosen by the caucus as the new majority whip. Here's the deal. 

ABQ's Ivey-Soto is under fire for alleged harassment, putting tremendous pressure on Stewart and the Dems from well-funded interest groups who not only revile Ivey-Soto personally but also despise him for his often moderate/conservative stands on their pet issues. 

Stewart Saturday stripped him of his chairmanship of the NM Finance Authority Oversight Committee. However, she did not have the power to do the same with Ivey-Soto's important position as chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee which the interest groups are clamoring for. 

Late Sunday Stewart, obviously feeling more heat from the progressive interest groups planning a protest outside the Roundhouse today over Ivey-Soto, ratcheted up her attack on him:

Pro Tem Mimi Stewart announced that the Senate Committees’ Committee will be meeting on Thursday, September 29 to discuss her recommendation that Senator Ivey-Soto be removed from his position as chair of the Senate Rules Committee.“As I stated when announcing the removal of Senator Ivey-Soto as chair of the NMFA Oversight interim committee, it is inappropriate for him to remain in a position of authority until the allegations against him are truly resolved,” said Senator Stewart. “We must send a clear signal that inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated, and the Roundhouse will be a welcoming, safe environment for all people who engage in the legislative process.”

So the takedown of Ivey-Soto appears on the fast track with the progressive interest groups that now essentially run the party giving Stewart her marching orders, although she has tried to drag her feet as some fellow senators reminded her of the constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. That fell on deaf ears. 

The full Senate in January would  have to approve any recommendation to remove Ivey-Soto as chair. 

The charges against Ivey-Soto went before a senate subcommittee which decided (controversially so) not to advance them but not before his allegedly aberrant conduct was major news and calls for his head were everywhere. 

But that didn't stop the caucus (including Sen. Stewart) from placing ABQ Senator Michael Padilla back in the position of majority whip, despite the city of ABQ paying out $250,000 over sex harassment charges leveled against him in 2006. 

The charges forced Padilla out of the 2018 primary for lieutenant governor as well as his position of majority whip that the Senate Dem caucus stripped from him in Dec. 2017 but on Saturday reappointed him to.

One of our Senior Alligators Alligators comes with the hypocrisy hit: 

How quickly the senators forget. They want to punish one of their own charged with sexual harassment  but promote another with the same charges in the very same meeting. This looks so bad to the public. No court has ruled on the charges against Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto but the city of ABQ did pay out over $250,000 to settle lawsuits accusing Sen. Padilla of harassment. This will all come back to bite Mimi. The silver lining in this cloud is that it gives the House more space to shine. The Senate has demonstrated they are no longer the upper house but the dog house. The House of Representatives now has a chance to lead with integrity.

More background on Padilla's problems when he was placed in charge of overhauling ABQ's 911 dispatch center:

The city settled one lawsuit for $149,000. A jury sided with one of Padilla’s accusers in a second lawsuit, finding the city liable for subjecting the woman to a “sexually hostile work environment.” The city paid $1,200 to the woman and more than $101,000 in legal fees. 

Should Padilla's errant ways follow him all his life? No. He has paid a stiff price. But should the senate have consistency in applying ethical standards? Yes. 
And politically, should Senate Dems have reinstalled him to power in the middle of a contested gubernatorial campaign? No. They could have at least waited before they shoved the voters' face in it. 

That the monied interest groups powering the anti-Ivey-Soto movement simply stood by and had their silence stand as their assent to the Padilla promotion also showed that their drive to oust him is in no small part ideological. For Ivey-Soto they want the death sentence but for Padilla? Well, let bygones be bygones. 

That the harassment charges against Ivey-Soto arose soon after he helped kill a voting reform bill in the senate had already revealed that this is not only a war against Ivey Soto's allegedly boorish behavior but an attempt to change the policy framework of the New Mexican senate. 

That's politics, for sure. But the background needs to be reported. (More on that below.)

Would a senator facing the same allegations who was politically acceptable to the interest groups get as much grief from them? We got our answer to that loud and clear Saturday on the hypocrisy watch.  

GOP AND STEWART

At the caucus Stewart was again the pick for the important Pro Tem position that influences committee assignments and the direction of the senate. Afterward she declared the 26 Senate Dems "unified." But ABQ Sen. Linda Lopez again challenged her for the post and other Hispanic senators remain unhappy with her leadership, even as they voted to retain her.

The pro tem is selected by the entire Senate which means the Republicans will have a say when the full senate votes but Stewart is expected to prevail. 

WIRTH AGAIN

Despite constant mumbling that Santa Fe Senator Peter Wirth is one of the weakest majority leaders in memory, his ability to go along, get along and do a good job as a traffic cop won him another two years at the Saturday caucus. But his inability to corral the senate and enforce discipline (why didn’t he stop Ivey-Soto’s behavior from going too far as well as halt the Saturday hypocrisy?) will continue to shadow his leadership and the senate. 

OTHER VOICES 

St. Cyr 
Longtime NM journalist and open government advocate Peter St. Cyr was moved to react to the Ivey-Soto-Stewart-Padilla imbroglio, saying he was writing from a voter's perspective:

Ivey-Soto was duly re-elected for a four year term in 2020. Two years into that term these interest groups who knew about some of the claims had said nothing to inform voters. Only after their voting reform legislation stalled out did they blare their horns. That seems like they are serving their own special interests more than the public’s interest after already voting to re-elect the senator. 

As for Ivey-Soto, he needs to be intellectually honest and consider the public’s interest. Has he served with integrity? Can he continue to serve in a leadership role? Does a rehab program fit the bill and allow him to serve the remaining two years he committed to serve?

These groups appear to be the ones playing games. They didn’t get what they wanted and then speak up. They should have informed voters in 2020. They did not and so they can wait two years for the next election. Then Ivey-Soto can make his case or ride off into the sunset.

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