Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor For Thanksgiving '22  

As it is every four years the holiday season will be an extra busy one for the inaugural party planners.  

Governor Lujan Grisham and Lieutenant Governor Howie Morales announced their 2023 Inauguration will be held on New Year’s Day, following tradition. Their inauguration will include an inaugural ceremony and an inaugural ball to launch their second term serving the people of New Mexico. Former Representative Deborah Armstrong and senior political advisor Victor Reyes will serve as the Co-Chairs of the 2023 inaugural committee. John Wertheim will be the committee’s treasurer.

MLG raised nearly $900,000 for her inauguration four years ago and spent over $720,000. With inflation the first $1 million inaugural fund-raising is in sight. Organizations and corporations like Presbyterian and Coca Cola traditionally donate the lion's share of the funds. The media will need extra trackers to monitor how all the money is spent and they need to. 

The Governor took the oath and gave her inaugural address in 2019 at the Santa Fe Convention Center. There were two inaugural balls--one at the Center and the other at the Eldorado Hotel. The sites for this year's events have not been announced. Those wanting to follow the latest inaugural activities can do so here--even Republicans.


Here's something we haven't come across in a very long time--the ratings for the news broadcasts for the ABQ TV market, the 48th largest in the nation. With all that political ad money this year going to the stations we were curious who was leading the pack:

DMA No. 48 is a rare Nielsen market that covers its entire state. Salt Lake City is another. Large, powerful owners make for strong stations and good competition, but KOAT is a ratings powerhouse. The station won the 6 a.m. news battle, in both households and viewers 25-54, in September, and won the 5 and 6 p.m. derbies too, with KOB the runner-up. At 10 p.m., KRQE had the top household score, at 3.7, ahead of KOB’s 3.1 and KOAT’s 2.9, while KASA and KLUZ both had a 0.4. KOAT had the top demo score at 10, its 1.2 just ahead of KRQE at 1.1. KOB scored a 0.8, KLUZ a 0.3 and KASA a 0.1. 

ABQ Media strategist Susan Bradley points out that the article being quoted errs when it says the ABQ DMA covers the entire state. She says: "It does not include the following counties: Dona Ana, Curry, Lea, Union, Quay, or Roosevelt. Our fellow New Mexicans in these counties are included in a variety of Texas DMAs (El Paso, Lubbock, Amarillo) and tend to get their local news from Texas TV stations."  

KRQE's rating at 10 p.m. translates into 3.7 percent of all homes with a TV set are watching. There are 678,000 TV homes in the ABQ market so about 25,000 homes with TV were watching the station's 10 p.m. news. The "demo score" measures views in the coveted 25 to 54 year old age group. 


He was the most powerful opponent of the constitutional amendment to tap the state's over $21 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood education, but in the end his now former constituents disagreed with ex-state Sen. John Arthur Smith. In Luna County, the main one in Smith's district, the amendment passed by a hefty 65 percent. Statewide the amendment won 70 percent approval. Conservative Democrat Smith was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and for years used his position to thwart the amendment from getting to the voters. The Luna County win put an exclamation point on the night for amendment backers who now await final approval for the measure from the US Congress which is expected in early 2023. 


Domingo Martinez
We botched the details on our Tuesday blog of how Hector Balderas became state auditor in 2006. He was not appointed to the position. What happened is that the Dem candidate for auditor was consumed by scandal and Balderas was chosen by the Democrats to replace him--with a big push from Gov. Big Bill. He went on to win the general election in November of that year. 

We covered those events extensively right here on the blog that year but our memory did not serve us. Here's our report from August 30, 2006: 

 New Mexico Democrats let out a sigh of relief that rivaled the force of Hurricane Katrina Tuesday as embattled Dem state auditor candidate Jeff Armijo bowed to the will of Big Bill and ended his candidacy. The mid-afternoon announcement immediately set off a contest to replace him, with ambitious politicos grabbing their phones to lobby members of the Democratic Party Central Committee which will name the new auditor candidate September 9th.

That new Auditor candidate would be Hector Balderas. 

The State Auditor prior to Hector taking the job was Domingo Martinez who "was not consumed in scandal" as our mistaken blog left the impression. And we heard from him about it:

Your comment that Hector Balderas’ predecessor resigned due to scandals is not correct. 

I, Domingo P. Martinez, never resigned but did stand up to corruption and bad accounting practices by government entities

Domingo served two terms from 1999-2006 and was (and is) a well-respected public official. 

And on that note we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Tuesday, November 22, 2022

The Dynasty That Wasn't: Tag Team of AG Balderas And Auditor Colón Nears End 

Early Days: Colón & Balderas
They set out to occupy and dominate the upper echelons of New Mexico public life, hoping to call the shots from a business friendly Democratic perspective. But like so many dreams in La Politica this one ended with a whimper. 

After a good run blessed by serendipity Attorney General Hector Balderas and State Auditor Brian Colón will exit stage right come New Year's Day. 

Hector is off to become the new president of Northern New Mexico Community College in Rio Arriba County and Brian will look at his options when his four year term as Auditor ends.

Balderas fell into the hands of fate when he was serving in the state House in 2006. The then state auditor Democratic candidate was consumed by scandal and forced to end his candidacy. Gov. Big Bill pushed Balderas and he was selected by the Dem Party as their replacement nominee. For a time a star was born. Balderas was elected Auditor and then went on to secure two four year terms as attorney general, along the way becoming one of the most popular vote-getters in Democratic Party history. 

Colón, who started his climb as chairman of the Democratic Party and with the backing of Big Bill, was the epitome of the backslapping, baby kissing politico, and took longer than Hector to find electoral success. He was pushed backed in bids for lieutenant governor and mayor of ABQ. But in 2018 his ship came in and he managed to take the Auditor's post, only to see that ship now docked.

The political tides brought in a more progressive wave of Democrats in recent years and the moderate ways of Balderas and Colón were pushed aside. 


Balderas had a chance to alter the future early on when he sought the Democratic nomination for US Senate against Martin Heinrich in 2012 but backed off from going negative against Heinrich and settled for the name ID that the Senate run brought him and ultimately made him attorney general. 

Similarly, Colón retreated from the vociferous attacks necessary to take out BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez when the two competed for the Dem nomination for attorney general this year and the right to succeed Balderas. Torrez did not hesitate in aggressively taking Colón down.  

Balderas and Colón were never street fighters. They were two pals who wanted to make more pals--and be the backroom negotiators. But advancement requires intense engagement in the often brutal political ring and that was not their thing.

Balderas will continue his public service in his new high-paying job which will eventually pad his state retirement check. The last NNMC president was making $190,000 per year when he left for another job in January. 

Colón could opt to return to the Robles, Rael & Anaya law firm that has shadowed the pair throughout their political careers. Given his gregarious nature, he might make another try for elective office someday. 

As for middle of the road Democrats, they are still out there. State Rep. Patty Lundstorm chairs the important House Appropriations Committee and fellow moderate Dem George Munoz chairs the Senate Finance Committee. 

With the Republicans back benched for the foreseeable future, progressive Dems will face an opposition force from with their own party as a counter balance. But it won't come from Balderas and Colón. They rode the rails well together but found the climb too steep to grasp the highest rungs of political power. 

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Monday, November 21, 2022

Seeking A New BernCo DA; Will The Pick Come From The Inside? DA's Staff Weighs In As Guv Starts Taking Applications 

Diana Garcia
Now it's time to find a new DA.  

With the new normal in the ABQ metro an ongoing crime wave still capable of delivering shocks, there are major challenges for the next BernCo district attorney. An appointee will finish out the term of current Dem DA and soon to be Attorney General Raul Torrez whose term runs through 2024. The Governor will make the appointment and her office is now taking applications. Torrez takes office as AG January 1.

Perhaps the post will go to someone already in the office and already up to their neck in the caseload. Deputy District Attorney Diana Garcia says she's applying. Garcia has been with the office over 16 years and has 25 years experience in the criminal justice system. If appointed, she would be the first female Hispanic woman to be BernCo DA. Meanwhile, a letter signed by 49 of the 55 non-supervising attorneys within the DA's office has been sent to the Governor asking her to appoint either Garcia or two other DA employees--Deputy DA Joshua Boone and John Duran.

Josh Boone
In regards to Boone, in a 2018 blog we questioned why a DWI charge against former Republican Gov. Martinez cabinet secretary Ryan Flynn was being pleaded out by the DA's office instead of prosecuted. That led other news media to investigate and they found:

. . . Additionally, because Boone’s direct supervisor, Metro Division Chief Jason Greenlee, was “really good friends” with lawyers on Flynn’s defense team, Boone told Torrez prosecutors had removed Greenlee from making any decisions about the case. But the Santa Fe Reporter and New Mexico In Depth have found that Greenlee was intimately involved with assessing evidence and negotiating Flynn’s plea throughout the case. Further, Boone, Greenlee and others misled SFR and NMID about the strength of Flynn’s case.

Outgoing District Attorney Torrez worked closely with the Martinez administration to successfully pressure the state Senate Finance Committee to secure more funding for his office.

John Duran
Duran is a former BernCo Metro Court Judge who has been associated with Martinez. She appointed him to the bench in 2013. In 2014 he ran for the seat as a Republican and was defeated. Martinez reappointed him soon after. In 2016 he ran as a Democrat in that year's primary but was defeated. 

Whoever gets the appointment can be expected to seek a full four year term beginning with the Democratic primary in 2024, assuming the Democratic Governor will appoint a Democratic DA--and one with little political baggage. 

Here are excepts from the letter to the Guv from attorneys in the DA's office: 

Those of us signing this letter are line attorneys from various divisions within the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office. We all want to do everything in our power to keep Bernalillo County safe, and we need a leader who will enable us to do exactly that. In light of Raul Torrez’s recent election as the Attorney General, we are respectfully writing you to request that Joshua Boone, John Duran or Diana Garcia be appointed as the next District Attorney of the Second Judicial District. . . 

Under (Torrez')leadership, our office cleared out an extensive back log of cases that. . .Now, we are facing a backlog of cases that accumulated under the delays caused by the pandemic. In the first half of 2023 alone, the next District Attorney will have to deal with over a thousand cases that have been set for trial in the District Court. It will be imperative to the success of this office, and therefore the safety and welfare of our community, to have a District Attorney that can hit the ground running, that already understands how this office has been run and the systems that are already in place. . . 

The herculean job of the next District Attorney will require someone who already has considerable, and recent experience managing the people of this office specifically. As our caseloads continue to skyrocket and we struggle to fight the crime of the past and present simultaneously, we are asking for a leader who knows what we are up against, because they have been in the same position themselves. We are asking for someone who already knows the strengths and weaknesses of the individual employees, and already has a team in place that can immediately continue where DA Torrez left off. We believe that leader is already in our office. 


The state GOP House caucus has dumped two of its leaders following disappointing election results. 40 year old Rep. Ryan Lane of Aztec, just elected to his second term, is the new minority leader after Rep. James Townsend decided not to run again. GOP Whip Rod Montoya is also a goner. The new whip is Rep. Jason Harper of Rio Rancho and the caucus chair will be Rep. Gail Armstrong of Magdalena. The Dems are expected to have a 45 to 25 majority going into the 2023 session, so the GOP leadership change commanded little attention. . . 

In a first draft Thursday we blogged that the southern Second Congressional District originated in 1970. It actually was 1968. That's when that November Republican Ed Foreman was elected the first congressman from the district. 

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