Thursday, September 21, 2023

There Was A Better Way Out Of The Corner For Vasquez On The MLG Gun Ban, Plus: Noted NM Historian Passes And At The Movies 

There was a better 
way out of the corner for Dem Rep. Gabe Vasquez who this week announced he would vote in favor of that US House resolution condemning MLG and her gun ban and in the process alienated many Dems and failed to satisfy Republicans who won't support him no matter what. 

Here's that way: 

I firmly disagree with the Governor and have told her so. I believe her gun ban is unconstitutional. But I will not be voting for the resolution because New Mexicans know how to handle their disagreements. They don't need Washington DC meddling in their affairs and trying to run our district and further divide us. 

The Republican majority makes it a habit of going off the rails as they again threaten to shut down the federal government. They need to learn how to do their current jobs before telling New Mexicans how to do theirs. The Governor and I completely disagree but we move forward, and we would appreciate the dysfunctional Republicans minding their own business. 

"God forbid," shout the overpaid DC consultants, "you can't criticize Republicans, Gabe!"

Well, yes you can. The winning margin in the congressional race with Republican Yvette Herrell will be in ABQ and Las Cruces—not Little Texas. And don't say we didn't tell you. 


One of the state's greats passed away recently with little notice but Marc Simmons had a profound impact on the understanding and awareness of the Land of Enchantment, authoring dozens of informative and readable books detailing our storied history. From the New Mexican:

. . . “I gave up everything for history — salary, family, everything. History is my reigning interest and passion.” The historian and prolific author. . . died Thursday evening in a memory care unit at La Vida Llena Retirement Community in Albuquerque, friends said. He was 86. . .  

. . .A 2005 biography of Simmons with a bibliography of his works listed 43 books published. Simmons said. . . he would have to leave some projects unfinished. “I was hoping to get 50 books published by the time I quit, but I didn’t quite get there.” 

Simmons, a Texas native, developed an interest in history as a child. Family trips to Santa Fe and Taos hooked him on New Mexico. 

After receiving a degree in Latin American studies. . . he began graduate studies at the University of New Mexico, focusing on the Southwest’s Spanish colonial period. 

Simmons was highly regarded by other historians for his knowledge of the colonial period, the Santa Fe Trail and historical figures including Kit Carson. 

. . .Tom Chavez, a former state historian, said of Simmons in a 2016 interview: “No one will replace him. He is the dean of New Mexico historians and has been for some time.” 

Here is a list of books by Mark Simmons.


ABQ film buff and reviewer Eric Lucero heads into the weekend with a tip for mystery lovers:

A Haunting In Venice [PG-13] ***1/2 Stars out of 5, directed by and starring Oscar winner Kenneth Branagh again as the intrepid Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. 

This screen outing has Poirot lured out of retirement to reprise his signature sleuthing persona in post-World War II Venice. Mystery genres have established tropes and dictums which Branagh faithfully navigates Poirot through. Yet, the director and screenwriter still deliver a richer ‘back story’ from which radiates a freshness to Poirot’s character amid a mystery/horror show. 

This tale adroitly melds Shakespearian morality with a well-crafted, dark, supernatural and psychological terror. We expect and are rewarded with mayhem and murder in the first act, with a Halloween Eve Séance. And it works! The Gothic Manor where this Who-Done-It takes place is populated with a curious menagerie of characters, all with their own personal baggage that belies their guilty and dark motives. 

As Branagh has done with his earlier Poirot remakes, he purposely, deftly and successfully hones his unique vision of Agatha Christie’s memorable creation--Hercule Poirot. 

‘A Haunting in Venice’ is a special pre-Halloween treat for Christie/Branagh fans and one for all mystery and horror fans alike. 

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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Vasquez Turns On Guv; Will Support Resolution Condemning Her For Gun Ban; Move Brings Scorn To Freshman Lawmaker From Fellow Dems; "What's Next Gabe? A Trump Rally?" MLG Dump Is His Latest Move To Right As Herrell Positions To Take Seat Back; Some Ponder A Vasquez Primary Challenge 

Rep. Vasquez (Potter, Sun-News)
Rep. Gabe Vasquez made a full-blown loan break with Gov. Lujan Grisham and her proposed gun ban by announcing Tuesday that he will join with the majority Republicans in support of a harsh House resolution condemning her actions. 

It was an exceptionally rare move for a Democrat to abandon their Governor, the titular head of the state Democratic Party and spoke to the panic that has now apparently seeped into the Vasquez campaign as they struggle to fend off former GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell who he is expected to face in a rematch for his southern congressional seat next year. 

Herrell already polled one point ahead of him in the just released SurveyUSA.

While Vasquez is trying to curry favor with conservatives in the district, his break with the Governor was not seen as a brilliant move that will keep the conservatives off his back but a potential political folly that could cause him a new set of difficulties with Democrats.

"What's next for Gabe? A Trump rally"? one disgusted longtime Valencia County Dem opined.

That's not only a a reference to Vasquez dumping the Guv but also for going soft on abortion rights by voting for the national defense authorization act that included  antiabortion amendments. He was one of only four Dems to do so. 

Then there's his ignoring of President Biden whose recent appearance in the state was unattended by Vasquez. And he was also a no-show at Biden's ABQ South Valley campaign rally before the '22 election, again fearful of the political consequences and foregoing a golden opportunity to advance our state's many DC interests.


Other observers pointed out that Vasquez could show his dissatisfaction with MLG's gun ban, already put on hold by a federal court, by simply taking a walk on the vote or issuing a tepid statement in disagreement as Senator Martin Heinrich did. Or, better yet, keeping his mouth closed tight and not saying much of anything. Instead Vasquez made the break

I plan to vote yes on House Res. 684 because, as a responsible gun owner, I support common sense solutions that reduce gun violence. We must produce constitutional, legal, and enforceable solutions that will help protect our children and families.

The resolution was approved by the House Rules Committee Monday but the House adjourned Tuesday without any action. It is not known when or if they will get to it. But Vasquez has already locked himself in. A Senior Alligator analyzed:

He has to be careful. There is still plenty of time for another Democrat to challenge him in next June's primary and this kind of disloyalty--even if Michelle did put her foot in her  mouth--was uncalled for. It speaks to his fear and inexperience and it just might attract a challenger. It's not as though this guy has any real credibility to condemn a sitting Governor. The political pundits have to remember that more than half the vote in the  district now comes from the urban counties of Bernalillo and Las Cruces. 

Others said the national Dems at the DCCC should give up already and encourage a moderate Hispanic woman from either ABQ's Westside or Valencia County to run against Vasquez and push him to the curb. They argue that Herrell is winning the enthusiasm battle and in turn could win the turnout war while Vasquez's political ways could damper enthusiasm among D's. 


Rep. Stansbury
ABQ progressive Dem Rep. Melanie Stansbury Tuesday made a point of announcing that she will not be joining with Vasquez and the Republicans to condemn the Governor:

I will vote NO on the GOP’s efforts to undermine New Mexico’s executive and distract from House Republican’s complete inability to govern and pass a budget as they careen the U.S. government towards a shutdown. As millions face the prospect of not knowing how they’ll pay their bills, extremists in the GOP are pulling political stunts rather than addressing the needs of the American people, including the epidemic of gun violence. New Mexicans understand that and know we must take action.

Dem Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez voted not to advance the resolution from her position on the Rules Committee but it passed 9 to 3. She expressed disappointment with the resolution during the debate but now she’s being closely watched if the resolution comes to a full House vote. Will she stick with her original no vote or switch in order to have it both ways?

Still, Stansbury and the Dems stand with Vasquez and swallow hard as he morphs into a DINO--Democrat in name only--to keep the House seat in his name.

But why should they, if he is going to continually vote against a majority of his own party? Well, there's really only one reason---he will vote for a Democratic Speaker of the House when the time comes.


While Vasquez took plenty of heat on the left, he also received it from the right as the NRCC, fighting to take back the seat for Herrell, unloaded on him:

Gabe Vasquez is a defund the police extremist who is only speaking up to cover his own political hide. Voters see through this transparent calculation from an extreme politician.” – NRCC Spokeswoman Delanie Bomar  

For Republicans and other Vasquez critics that statement gets to the crux of his problem. A Senior GOP Alligator remarked:

He may be the most inauthentic politician we've ever had in New Mexico.

And there is evidence to back that up because before he was in Congress Vasquez was one of the most liberal Las Cruces City Council members ever and was caught on video advocating for the defunding of the police. Now he is setting off to convince voters he is actually some kind of conservative Democrat. It's not the policy that will necessarily hurt him most but the blatant hypocrisy of his actions. 

He's simply not believable. 


The title: 

 H. Res. 684 - Condemning the actions of Governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, for subverting the Second Amendment to the Constitution and depriving the citizens of New Mexico of their right to bear arms. 

The full resolution is here

Here in a nutshell is the debate over the resolution:

Congressman Tom Tiffany, a Republican representing Wisconsin, brought the resolution forward to the House committee on rules on Monday. "It condemns the unconstitutional order of New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham that bans New Mexico citizens from carrying firearms in the city of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County," Tiffany said. But Democrats like New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler question how much the resolution will accomplish. "It does nothing to promote health and safety," Nadler said. "It will not make a single American safer from gun violence, nor does it have any effect on the rights of responsible gun owners." 

We’ll pick up the story if and when the full House votes. There was much dysfunction there Tuesday and lawmakers ended the day entangled in budget battles. 

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Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Poll: Herrell Starts In Strong Position In Rematch With Vasquez; Race In A Dead Heat, Plus: GOP Gets On The Playing Field In Northern CD And US Senate Contest  

Herrell & Vasquez (KUNM)
Republicans are starting to get on the Election '24 playing field with Sen. Martin Heinrich drawing a conservative rival and northern US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez getting a prominent Native American Republican chasing her. 

Those races still appear far out of reach of the GOP next year (see below) but not the southern congressional district where former GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell is off to a fast start in her challenge of Dem Rep. Gabe Vasquez.

The first public poll of the 2nd CD comes from SurveyUSA for KOB-TV and shows Herrell beating Vasquez 46 to 45 percent, but with a margin of error of 4.8 percent this contest is a dead heat. The poll was done September 6-12 among 541 likely voters. 

The Herrell camp has to be pleased that Rep. Vasquez has not pulled away after nine months on the job while the Vasquez camp has been resigned to a down-to-the-wire battle and the poll confirms that's what's coming. 

The undecided is only 9 percent between these two fairly well-known warriors and that means the race will turn more on getting out the vote than persuading the small pool of undecideds. From SurveyUSA:

SurveyUSA' polling. . .shows a dead heat, 46% to 45%, with Herrell. . . atop Vasquez, and 9% of likely voters saying they are undecided. . .Among men, Herrell leads by 13 points; among women, Vasquez leads by 9, a 22-point gender gap. White voters back the Republican by an 11-point margin; non-white voters support Vasquez by 7. Herrell is up by 12 points among likely voters with high school educations and by 7 among those who have some college; Vasquez leads by 11 among those with 4-year college degrees. Regionally, Vasquez leads by 12 points in urban parts of the district and has a very slight 3-point edge in the suburbs; Herrell leads by 18 points in the rural plurality of the district. 

Herrell's favorable rating in the poll is 38 with 32 unfavorable. Vasquez is 33 percent favorable and 32 unfavorable.

The partisan lean of the 2nd CD has gone to plus 4 percent for the Dems from plus 14 for the Republicans following redistricting that took effect in the 2022 election when Vasquez beat Herrell by 1,350 votes. But Hispanic defections from the Democrats and the possibility that Biden will underperform in the district has buoyed GOP hopes. 

In a fund-raising pitch Monday night Vasquez resorted to off-color language to rouse his supporters as he fretted over the poll:

. . . Because of you, I won with less than one percent of the vote. That pissed off (Speaker) Kevin McCarthy and the right-wing extremists. Now, he’s throwing as much money as he can behind my opponent, and we’re already facing even slimmer margins in the first days of my reelection campaign.

Okay, you're freaking out Gabe, but can't you watch the potty mouth stuff? You are a congressman, right? Geez. . . 

We pointed out Monday that when making his re-election announcement this weekend Vasquez concentrated on the Hispanic ABQ South Valley, Socorro and Las Cruces. With good reason. That seven percent lead he has among nonwhite voters is weak and needs to be shored up. 

Vasquez vs. Herrell will likely be the only competitive race for the state's three US House seats. ABQ Dem Rep. Melanie Stansbury has yet to draw a Republican opponent. Elsewhere. . .


Sharon Clahchischilliage
A familiar Republican name is going to try for the northern congressional seat. Former state Rep. Sharon Clahchischillage has announced her candidacy for the GOP nomination and if successful will face Dem Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez who is seeking a third term next year. 

Clahchischilliage, 74, a Navajo born in Farmington, served in the state House from District 4 in the Four Corners for six years ('13-'19). She ousted a Dem in her first race and lost to Dem Anthony Allison in '18. She made a run for Secretary of State in 2002 and for president of the Navajo Nation in 2010. She is a former teacher, has a Masters Degree in social work and has long been a fave of the GOP who need more faces like her. 

She says of her candidacy:

It’s time for Congress to hear a voice like mine, someone who has served our country, taught in the classroom, raised on the family farm, and fought against the radicals in Santa Fe.

She says high inflation and high crime are two reasons she should be elected. 

In 2022 she won a seat on the state Public Education Commission. 

Leger Fernandez, 64, an attorney and liberal Dem, won  her 2020 election in the old district 59 to 41. But she didn't slow down in the new district when she won with 58 percent in '22. 

In the old northern CD Biden won elected by 17 points. Under the new map that goes down to 10. The district sprawls across the north and now also takes in some conservative SE NM territory. 

The district has a large percentage of Native voters but they vote heavy Dem. 

TLF's main work in this term has been to steer fire relief for those impacted by the historic Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon blaze


Ben Luna
In the US Senate race Dem Martin Heinrich has yet to draw a high-profile and/or a well-financed challenger but he does have an opponent now in Ben Luna, a former chair of the Otero County GOP, perhaps the most conservative county in the state. Ne told the conservative Pinon Post he is running. Luna's website describes him as an:

Entrepreneur, independent citizen journalist, and American patriot who aims to return America to the founding principles which created the greatest and freest nation. Aside from experiencing the restriction of liberties during the Covid pandemic, Ben has witnessed the widespread devastation of authoritarian policies and social degradation by woke progressive activism. Ben is determined to safeguard American rights, freedoms, and opportunity for hardworking Americans and the rising generation.  

Heinrich is seeking a third term. 


In a first draft Monday we said newly appointed GOP state Senator Steve McCutcheon had worked as City Administrator for the city of Carlsbad. Actually, it was the senator's father who had that job. 

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Monday, September 18, 2023

MLG Leaves Her "Vietnam" Behind Her and Heads To Taiwan; Dilutes Gun Order Before Take-Off; No Special Session As Cooling Off Begins, Plus: Big Bill Gets Adieu From Other Big Bill, Rep. Vasquez Wants Another Term, And: MLG Senate Pick May Set Up Hot GOP Primary 

After a week in which one of our Senior Alligators cleverly described MLG's gun control imbroglio as her personal "Vietnam" with no easy way out, she did find a temporary reprieve. She's in Taiwan for a trade mission this week, 7,200 miles away from the embers remaining from the firestorm she ignited with a public health order that banned carrying guns in public in Bernalillo County. 

What a week. It included armed men milling about ABQ Civic Plaza (ala the Taliban) in defiance of her order, a federal judge issuing his own order that stayed enforcement of the gun ban, a public dust-up between the Governor and Attorney General over the ban and finally her Friday news conference where she watered down her order making it apply to only playgrounds and parks. (Mayor Keller responded that the city banned guns in most city parks in 2020. He added: "It is being challenged in court.") 

Full update of order here. Full MLG news conference here. AP report here

The Guv also announced--to the relief of most of the state--that there will be no special session of the legislature to tackle gun laws, a road to nowhere if there ever was one--and she will prepare for the regular 30 day session scheduled for January. 

A special would mean only chaos as there is is nothing close to a consensus after MLG's shocker. Republicans would love nothing better than to prolong the pain of MLG and the Dems with a special session. But the point of such a session would be to get something done not extract political retribution. 

ABQ Mayor Keller and APD Chief Medina were also all in for a special session as the beleaguered duo continue to look for ways to shift the burden of proof for the historic crime wave to the state and away from them. 

But the now out of the country Governor was not about to go there and neither was House Speaker Javier Martinez whose caucus contains a handful of conservative Dems who could cause mischief if they joined with the Republicans at a special.

Meantime ABQ is again an island unto itself. The rest of the state did not have high enough crime rates to be covered by the gun ban. 


After all the recent drama the poignant funeral service for former Gov. Bill Richardson was assurance that long-standing rituals can still provide the steadiness needed to keep this democracy dancing. 

No-one rises to the occasion of such rituals as former President Bill Clinton and he did so again in eulogizing Richardson whose career he advanced with an appointment as UN Ambassador as well as Sec. of Energy. 

Clinton also appeared to solve one of the mysteries Big Bill took with him. Had he ever apologized for turning his back on the Clintons in the 2008 presidential race when Richardson endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton for the Dem nomination? He may have. As the former President told those at the services Thursday:

He told mourners they had two big fights during their long friendship, though he did not say what they were about. “In one, I’m proud to say I was able to apologize to him and tell him I thought he was right,” Clinton recalled “And in one, I’m grateful he mustered the courage to ask me to forgive him. That’s what real people try to do with their lives.”

Clinton was a class act act at the Santa Fe funeral of some 1,000. He gave comfort and support to Richardson's widow Barbara who he sat next to. He drew effusive praise for his eulogy from the Archbishop and others. Afterwards he stopped at the Shed restaurant, a favorite hang-out of Richardson's and shared memories with his friends. 

Full funeral mass and Clinton eulogy here

Clinton has long been a special friend of New Mexico. The ex-president also eulogized former Gov. Bruce King at his 2009 funeral. The pair formed a deep bond when Clinton was Governor of Arkansas, another state that faces major economic and social challenges. He also befriended then-ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez when he spent a week in ABQ in the 90's preparing for the presidential debates. 

During his two terms Clinton's friendship with the state strengthened defense and energy spending here and lifted up Hispanics (including Richardson and Chavez) as they were becoming an important Dem constituency. 

Bill Clinton still shows up for New Mexico--in good times and bad. It's what friends do. 


We're not going to again berate southern US Dem Rep. Gabe Vasquez for not showing up for the Joe Biden presidential visits but the Clinton visit is a reminder that New Mexico needs friends in Washington and it's his responsibility as a congressman to make them. 

Over the weekend Vasquez announced his bid for a second term in the southern congressional district and he did so by currying favor with Hispanic voters who are now the crucial factor in his expected rematch with Republican Yvette Herrell whom he ousted by just 1,350 votes in 2022. 

Vasquez made his re-election announcements in Hispanic strongholds up and down the Rio Grande. He hit the South Valley, Socorro and Mesilla which is in his home county of Dona Ana. 

The new district is more unfriendly toward Republicans but the recent bleeding of Hispanic support by Biden and the Democratic Party is a major concern and is keeping this race firmly in the toss-up column. 

The problem for Vasquez is the same problem Dems Xochitl Torres Small and Harry Teague had when they both lost the seat after just one term to their GOP opponents--they appeared soft and weak as they worked overtime to please all points on the political spectrum.

At his re-election announcements Vasquez called this positioning a demonstration of his "independence" and "bipartisan" approach to the job he has held for just nine months. But in facing Herrell--a down the line hardcore conservative--he risks losing the character argument as Torres Small and Teague did. 

As we said the district is more friendly toward the Democrats now, but Vasquez still has to prove to those conservative Dem Hispanics he is courting that he's got the guts to show real independence--and not just pander. 


Sen. McCutcheon
MLG may have set up a potentially exciting GOP state senate primary when she appointed Republican Eddy County rancher and businessman Steve McCutcheon II to the vacancy created by the resignation of GOP Senator Gay Kernan in SE NM District 42. 

The county commissions of Lea and Chaves had recommend that GOP state Rep. Larry Scott of Hobbs get the appointment but the Eddy County Commission gave the nod to McCutcheon and MLG went with him. 

McCutcheon served a four year term on the Eddy commission (2019-'23).  so while a rancher and businessman he has plenty of political connections that helped him snag the coveted appointment, 

One reason MLG may have gone with him and not Scott is because of Scott's deep professional and ideological ties to the oil and gas industry. This at a time when the Guv is coming under pressure from climate change advocates who publicly dissed her performance on the issue after the last legislative session. 

Scott, a nine year House veteran, says he's not backing down and will still run for the seat even though he was passed over. McCutcheon has not yet said whether he will seek election next year but it's hard to see why he would not. 

Scott's higher name ID and ability to raise cash may make him the early favorite in any primary but he was also the fave to get the Guv's appointment. Stay tuned.


An old friend of the blog and a legendary Dem political consultant--Chris Brown in Santa Fe--takes time to report on the funeral of Big Bill who was among his many clients:

Bill Clinton gave a 30 minute plus tribute to Richardson after the traditional Catholic mass and homily by the Archbishop, who likened Richardson to the Good Samaritan for showing love of neighbor, especially those passed by, ignored, looked down upon and languishing unjustly in prisons. 

Then Clinton noted “most of us grew up learning that parable”and proceeded to expound upon the Greek word for love, agape (the English gospels having been translated from Greek). The Archbishop thanked Clinton for coming to Santa Fe and for his eulogy and asked, to the laughter of the mourners, “Sir, are you available for homilies?" 

Aah, good stuff for sure.  

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