Thursday, December 01, 2022

Thursday Photo Blogging Plus The Last Of The Election Leftovers; New State Rep Won Race That Divided NM's Most Prominent Democrats 

Here's a pic you don't see everyday. It's 25 of the 27 Democratic members of the state Senate posing at their recent caucus where they picked leadership for the next legislative session.

The caucus looks a lot like New Mexico. Dem senators of color are a majority including the state's first Black senator, ABQ's Harold Pope. Ten are women.

All senators stood for election in 2020 and will do so again in 2024. However there is a new freshman senator. Dem Moe Maestas was appointed by the BernCo Commission in November to replace independent Senator Jacob Candelaria who resigned. He is not pictured here nor is Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces. 

Meanwhile, the lawmakers are prepping for a 60 day legislative session that begins January 17 and will have one of the largest surpluses in state history to appropriate--some $2.5 billion.

The senate has often been a roadblock in a Governor's second term. This caucus doesn't have as many conservative D's as in the past so MLG has a head start in her second four years. Whether it lasts is the question. 

The 42 member Senate has 15 Republican members. 


Rep.-elect Anyanonu
We have what we think are the last of the election leftovers to serve up (you never know around here). They are the details of the race in state House District 19 in ABQ's SE Heights that divided the state's most prominent Democrats. Reader Brandon Cummings checks in with the interesting backstory:

The Representative-elect in District 19 is Janelle Anyanonu. It is a strongly Democratic district. Janelle beat Colton Dean in the primary (77% to 23%) and then bested the Republican candidate while also facing an independent on the left, Enrique Cardiel. Janelle won with 63% of the vote in the general election. 

The interesting and lesser known story is that the independent was supported by many disaffected old guard Democrats, including none other than ABQ Mayor Tim Keller who endorsed Cardiel against the Democratic candidate, donated money, attended fundraisers and knocked on doors. BernCo Commissioner Adriann Barboa, BernCo Treasurer Nancy Bearce, state Senators Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Linda Lopez, state Reps. Debbie Sarinana, Christine Trujillo and Patricia Caballero also endorsed Cardiel and raised money for him.

Janelle is an Emerge graduate (2020) who campaigned heavily on the abortion issue. She is a member of the NM Black Central Organizing Committee. She was endorsed by Senator Martin Heinrich, House Speaker Brian Egolf, Majority Leader Javier Martinez, state Senators Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, Katy Duhigg, Joseph Cervantes, Harold Pope, Siah Correa Hemphill, and Bill O'Neill, as well as State Representatives Gail Chasey, Christine Chandler, Joanne Ferrary and others. She was the candidate supported by Planned Parenthood, Equality New Mexico, Conservation Voters of New Mexico, AFSCME, NM Emily’s List and more. 

That all sounds like an easy race, but it was not. The Democrats and volunteers supporting Mr. Cardiel were in the district every day. So, of course, was Janelle. I am 100% biased but I thought the hard work she put in deserved a mention. She clearly got under the skin of some of the old guard in District 19. It will be interesting to see if they come around or stay on the sidelines. 

We’re informed that Enrique hosted Janelle at a post election community event. Well, the season of peace is right around the corner. 

Good stuff. And another reason why. . . 

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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

It's Official: State Certifies 2022 Election Results; No Protests Or Election Denying Activity As Canvassing Board Sends Results To The History Books 

2022 State Canvassing Board
The state Canvassing Board meeting to certify the results following a statewide election is an obscurity to most New Mexicans but with democratic elections under attack, each step of the process now draws intense scrutiny--as it should. 

There were no election deniers protesting outside at Tuesday's meeting of the Board comprised of Gov. Lujan Grisham, Sec. of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and NM Supreme Court Chief Justice Shannon Bacon. Nor were there any disruptions as the trio did their business inside the Capitol. (Complete official 2022 election results here.)

The certification of the November 8 results went off without a hitch at the largely ceremonial session but there was much hard work and due diligence brought to bear before the Board approved the results for the history books. From the SOS:

The “canvass" is the process of reconciling and confirming the accuracy of the election results and reporting those results to the county and then to the state. The State Canvass Board meeting comes after all thirty-three New Mexico counties canvassed their own results and had those results certified at the county-level by county boards of canvass. The Secretary of State’s office then canvassed the county results as an additional check to ensure the accuracy of the results. An independent audit of the results was also performed by Santa Fe-based CPA firm Zlotnick & Sandoval and no discrepancies were found.

Santa Fe County Clerk Katherine Clark adds:
Clerk Clark

The results we upload on election night are the unofficial results and the canvass process at the local and state level with auditor oversight is a triple check on the ballots cast during every election. The canvass process at each level checks every tabulator tape, every provisional and hand tally ballot to ensure that the results are accurate. 

The auditing firm randomly selected precincts last week for counties across the state to recheck the closest statewide races, thus proving the veracity of the tabulated results. The formula for randomization and number of precincts ensures robust statistical power. This is a further step beyond canvass that ensures results are accurate in one of the best if not the best system in the country.


Clerk Clark is correct that the state election system has proven to be resilient and one of the "best" in the nation thanks to several generations of election officials, state legislators and governors. 

Students of La Politica well know it wasn't always that way. Bitter accusations of voter fraud and bad ballot counting haunted numerous statewide elections, including the US Senate elections of 1934 and 1952 featuring Democrat Dennis Chavez (1935-'62).

In the early part of this century it was new computer technology--not nefarious activity--that nearly destroyed confidence in the Bernalillo County voting process. 

And in 2000, the Dona Ana County Clerk's office was in the national spotlight over their inability to properly track ballots in the hotly contested presidential race between Al Gore and George W. Bush. (Gore ended up carrying the state by 366 votes.)

We've come a long way. 


Because of their closeness two state House races were ordered by the Board to undergo automatic recounts. They are District 32 in the SW where Democrat Candie Sweetser of Deming is behind Republican Jenifer Jones by 36 votes and in District 68 in the NW ABQ metro where Democrat Charlotte Little leads Republican Robert Moss by 36 votes. 

Those are close but it is very rare for margins of those sizes to be changed during a recount. If that is the case the state House will start its business in January with a 45 to 25 Democratic majority. 

The Canvassing Board will meet December 13 to certify the final outcome of those contests.


MLG beat Republican Mark Ronchetti by 6.39 percentage points to win a second gubernatorial term, according to the final official numbers. She took 51.97% to his 45.58% with Libertarian Karen Bedonie getting 2.44 percent. 

In 2020 Ronchetti ran against Democrat Ben Ray Lujan for an open US Senate seat. In that race Ronchetti lost by 6.1 percent or 51.7% to 45.6% with a Libertarian getting 2.6 percent. 

The MLG '22 win was solid but not overwhelming and historically it was close. In fact, it was the closest NM governor contest since 1978 when Democrat Bruce King edged out Republican Joe Skeen by a mere 1.1 percent. In 2010 Susana Martinez defeated Democrat Diane Denish by 6.8 percent.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Already? Herrell Preps For Rematch With Dem Vasquez; Files With FEC Even Before Gabe Takes Oath  

Gabe Vasquez won't be sworn into office as the new southern congressional representative until January 3 but outgoing GOP Yvette Herrell is already dreading her loss of power and has essentially announced she will seek to unseat Gabe in 2024. 

The one term rep, who lost this month by a razor thin margin to Vasquez (50.34% to 49.66% or 1,342 votes), has filed  a Statement of Candidacy with the Federal Election Commission that will allow her to keep raising campaign funds and also puts on notice other Republicans who might be angling for the chance of being the GOP nominee.  

Even though the district now has a Democratic lean with about a third of the votes coming from new Dem precincts in Bernalillo County,  Herrell sees a silver lining in the election results, telling supporters in a fund-raising email before Thanksgiving:

. . . We lost this seat by less than 1% in a district that was intentionally re-drawn to take me out of office. . . In fact, we had amazing gains in every Democrat county – including Dona Ana where we took 43% of the vote--which was a five point gain from just two years ago!. . .We can see by our data that voter turnout, by both parties, was lower than anticipated, but sadly, lower in some of the large Republican counties that could possibly have tipped the scale. We know our work in Washington was not completed, and hundreds of people from all over the District and colleagues in Washington have asked me to stay in the fight. All options will be on the table--so stay tuned. 

Vasquez isn't doing any second guessing, telling his supporters a "rematch" is indeed in the cards: 

Gabe is preparing to serve New Mexico’s working families in Washington this January, but in the meantime, we need to rebuild our campaign’s funds to prepare for the rematch ahead.  

This has to be some sort of record for an early start to a campaign. Vasquez has barely had time to switch from blue jeans to blue ties. But the district will again be a national target and Herrell knows the ropes. In 2018 she narrowly lost a bid to Dem Xochitl Torres Small but came back in 2020 and defeated her. The big difference this time, however, is the redistricting that left the door open for Vasquez. 


Blog reader Kathryn Carroll comes with several questions about the early southern scramble: 

Herrell will be running for the next two years to win her old seat back. She's now lost two elections. Do you think she'll be primaried by some Republican in the newer part of the district in Bernalillo County? 

She could. An Hispanic Republican might be a better fit for the new district than Herrell whose association with Trump is also a major negative. She, of course, is hoping a legal challenge to the redistricting will prevail and the old borders will be restored. That's a long shot.

I wonder what she'll do the next two years? I wondered if she'd become a Republican House staffer and stay in Washington. 

She will likely raise money most of the time. Her family does have real estate interests that need tending, but we would expect Herrell to make campaigning and criticism of Vasquez nearly a full-time endeavor. As for becoming a staffer, that is a step too far down the ladder. 

The equally important question is what Vasquez will do in the next two years. He certainly does not look like a dud, pulling off a surprise upset and already showing convincing knowledge of the issues of the day. The Dems will be there for him. 

So it's a campaign before there's a congressman. That's a new one but campaigns are now like CNN. The news never ends. 


In a first draft Monday we had Republican Robert Aragon running against Dem Tim Keller for State Auditor in the wrong year. They faced each other in 2014. 

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Monday, November 28, 2022

NMGOP Chair Race: Pearce Appears In Driver's Seat But Getting Strongest Challenge From Newcomer Allen; Aragon Runs Too, But In Martinez Shadow  

Despite a disappointing performance in the '22 election and calls for his head because of it, Steve Pearce may yet become one of the longest tenured chairs of the NM Republican Party.

First chosen for the post in 2018, this Saturday delegates from the GOP Central Committee will gather at the NM Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces to select a chair for the '24 cycle and the evidence points to a third two year win for the 75 year old former southern NM congressman. 

Lets take a look at his foes and handicap the race with the help of our insightful Alligators who have the inside scoop you get only here: 

Sarah Jane Allen, 48, vice-chair of the Bernalillo County GOP, appears to be offering the most robust plan for change of the candidates running against Pearce. She has offered numerous details for turning around the beleaguered state GOP, including better recruitment and coaching of candidates, helping the county organizations more and "rebranding" the GOP, although on that she is light on details. 

In a zing at Pearce she also argues the party is in need of "fresh leadership" and notes that in Pearce's home county of Lea in SE NM only 38 percent of registered voters cast ballots this month, far below the state average of about 52 percent.

Allen, a mother of six, whose husband is in real estate, also has some street cred, pointing out that. . . 

She founded the first Moms for Liberty chapter in New Mexico to organize parents and combat leftwing indoctrination in schools. In 2021, she successfully helped school board candidates win election to the Albuquerque Public School Board. The school board is now more conservative than it has been in 25 years.

On the downside, Allen's critics site this video being circulated by Pearce supporters that says Allen has failed to vote in four of the recent statewide primary elections dating back to 2012, as well as the 2021 special ABQ congressional election and has not been a donor to the party. 

They also assert that delegates won't be comfortable to learn that Allen has dual American and Canadian citizenship. She says she grew up on a "small farm" in Alberta, Canada and settled in ABQ 26 years ago, (Allen's campaign video is here.)


Robert Aragon is a well-known Republican, although he started out as a Democrat in his younger days in the early 80's when he won a seat in the state House from ABQ's Westside. Aragon, 65, an attorney who has served as chair of the BernCo GOP and as a vice-chair of the state party, was the R nominee for state auditor against Dem Tim Keller in 2014. .

Aragon is best known for his deep association with former GOP Gov. Susana Martinez and her controversial political consultant Jay McCleskey who also was the lead consultant for failed '22 GOP Guv candidate Mark Ronchetti. It is that association in a party divided between the Martinez and Pearce factions that makes his run for chair problematic. 

Jay Block, a Republican Sandoval county commissioner who ran against Ronchetti for the GOP Guv nomination, has put up this video, stating that "Jay McCleskey has divided and ruined this Republican Party. . . We need new blood, new vision. This party is in tatters." Block nudged his supporters toward Allen. (His commentary on the party chair election starts at 5:50.)

The anti-Aragon camp also frets that his chairmanship could be a stalking horse for a possible 2024 US senate candidacy by Martinez, consulted once again by McCleskey, that would be destined to lose but perhaps provide another big payday for the consultant who they say has become the de facto head of the GOP. 

(Yes, you read that right.)

Aragon's supporters argue that he is smart, has the organizational ability to get the party moving and knows how to raise money. Aragon says he wants a GOP "built on the Republican values of faith and family" and pledges to appeal to more working-class and rural voters, if elected chair. 

Other candidates are radio talk show host Eddy Aragon, who ran against Pearce two years ago, and Rodney Tahe from Gallup. Neither is garnering significant support. 

Aragon's website is here along with a video of support from conservative Pastor Steve Smothermon. 


Senior Republican Alligators point out that three of Pearce's four challengers are from ABQ and could split the anti-Pearce vote. Also, the convention is being held in Las Cruces and that could attract more Pearce supporters. About 500 delegates from across the state are eligible to vote. 

For his part Pearce has blamed Democratic "gerrymandering" for the party's failure to increase its representation in the state House this cycle. But the wipeout of the party's statewide executive candidates--attorney general, treasurer etc.--continued under Pearce. Not to mention the re-election of Democrat MLG.

But Pearce can raise funds and he retains a reservoir of support in oil country that is important to the GOP. Pearce comes from the industry. He sold his oil related services company for $12 million in 2003 and presumably has added to that fortune in the years since. That goes a long way in a party that is dominated by business and respects wealth. 

Most important, the GOP here (and elsewhere) seem to be waiting for Trump to eventually exit which will make healing divisions and envisioning a party that appeals to newer generations more plausible. 

For now that puts Pearce in the driver's seat with great unknowns ahead for a state GOP struggling to cling to relevancy. 

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