Thursday, November 09, 2023

Oil Boys Have One Of Their Own Seeking To Replace Retiring Senator Ingle But Will Guv Go Along? Plus: In Praise Of Ingle's 39 Years; "Humble And Approachable" 

Rep. Craig Nibert
Big oil has a chance to pick up a big prize now that Republican Stuart Ingle has retired from his Eastside state senate seat after 39 years. Already, Roswell area GOP state Rep. Greg Nibert, an oil industry attorney, is seeking a promotion to the upper chamber and letting it be known to all five county commissions in the sprawling district. 

Each of those commissions--Roosevelt, Lea, Chaves, DeBaca and Curry--will recommend a replacement for Ingle, one of whom will be appointed by the Governor to fill out the rest of Ingle's term. But will MLG be a fly in the oil ointment?

The Governor has not had bad relations with the giant oil industry but she continues to get pressure from well-financed environmentalists who want to rein it in because of climate change. 

That may have been a factor when SE GOP state Senator Gay Kernan resigned her seat in July. Lea County GOP state Rep. Larry Scott, an oilman, was recommended for the appointment by the Lea County Commission but Eddy County commissioners gave their nod to former county commissioner, rancher and businessman Steve McCutcheon. MLG in turn chose him and he will now face Scott in a GOP primary next June as they battle for a four year term. 

Back to the Eastside, the question is will someone other than Nibert get the appointment and perhaps cause another GOP senate primary since Nibert says he will seek the seat whether appointed or not. So far, Nibert is the only name to surface for the appointment but there's plenty of time for others to make their bids. 

UPDATE: A number of other candidates in addition to Nibert have now filed letters with the Curry County Commission seeking the Senate District 27 appointment.They are rancher Pat Boone; entrepreneur Larry Marker; Air Force veteran John Pietsch; Tate Turnbough, administrator of a psychiatric clinic in Portales and Travis Glenn, president of Glenn's Water Well Service;

Nibert has been with the oil and gas department of the Hinkle Shanor Law Firm in Roswell since 1983 and a partner in the firm since 1988. 

Upon retirement, Ingle, a rancher, was praised by the oil industry for "his unwavering support." The oil boys would like to keep it that way with his replacement but whether it will be with one of their very own remains an open question. 


Stuart Ingle
Former Senator Ingle, 75, was never one to blow his own horn but as a fixture in state politics since the 80's he deserves a worthy send-off. We asked GOP political consultant Bob Cornelius, a native of Tatum in Lea County, to do the honors:

I’ve had the honor of knowing Senator Stuart Ingle for over two decades dating from my time serving as Student Body President at Eastern New Mexico University. For someone with Stuart’s stature, he remained humble and approachable throughout his service in the State Senate. The people of his district knew they could reach out to him with their needs and concerns, and trust that he would find a way to solve their problems. 

Much of the success of Eastern New Mexico University can be attributed to his work on the state budgets and his capital outlay appropriations. He was a champion of rural New Mexico, advocating for the agriculture and dairy industries. The fact that southeastern New Mexico leads the country in oil and  natural gas production is a testimony to his work behind the scenes to keep the liberal leadership in Santa Fe from trying to kill it.

Because he served so many years as Minority Leader in the State Senate, he’s probably known more for his ability to work across political party lines to make good bills better and for helping kill the bad bills. His leadership, statesmanship, and institutional knowledge of the way things work in Santa Fe will be sorely missed. New Mexico, and especially Southeastern New Mexico, owe a debt of gratitude to Senator Stuart Ingle for his four decades of service. The void he leaves will be felt for many years to come. 

Well said, Bob. And congratulations to Senator Ingle on his lengthy service to New Mexico. It will be long-remembered. 

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Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Election '23: Bassan Survives An ABQ Squeaker; Councilor Will Return For Second Term; Politico Geno Zamora Falls In Santa Fe Council Race, Plus: More Results And Analysis 

There were no major surprises in the four races for the ABQ City Council as Election Night drew to a close, although the race that promised to be the tightest lived up to its billing and provided the evening with a jolt of adrenaline.  

BernCo results here. Statewide results here

ABQ GOP Councilor Brook Bassan, battered by late breaking developments over her ethics, squeaked by Democratic attorney Abby Foster in District 4 in the NE Heights. And it was the far northern precincts of that district with their Republican majorities that bailed out Bassan at the very end. Until then Foster had led all night. Bassan won with 5,158 votes to Foster's 5,000 or 50.78% to 49.22%

The race was rated a toss-up late in the campaign when bad news for Bassan dominated. Foster trounced her in the absentee vote and stayed close to her in the in-person early vote. But on Election Day, which has now turned into a heavy voting day for the GOP, Bassan carried the day and the race. 

Democrats were not counting on a win there and City Council President Pat Davis told our KANW Election Night audience the party will be encouraged to make further inroads into the once reliably conservative district in the next election cycle. 

Bassan's win has less impact than if she had lost. A loss would have strengthened Mayor Keller's hand. A Bassan win keeps the Council status quo where the Mayor occasionally suffers setbacks on a 5 to 4 vote. 

In an interview Keller played it low-key and pointed out that the Council in January will have a number of new faces that he will be working with. He made his comments from the home of one of those new councilors. Democrat Joaquin Baca garnered 51 percent of the vote in a three way race for the Downtown/North Valley District 2. Going over 50 percent meant he avoided a run-off election and will take Councilor Benton's place in the new year. 

Monahan on KANW (Mark Bralley)
Not unexpectedly, there will be a run off in Council District 6 in the SE Heights, the most liberal of  the nine districts. Nichole Rogers was shadowed by ethics charges in the final days but progressives rallied to her side to help push her to 40 percent of the vote against Jeff Hoehn who received 33 percent. Kristin Greene had 18 percent and Abel Otero 10.

There will be a run-off election next month between Rogers and Hoehn but her substantial win and the liberal lean of the district--she was endorsed by US Rep. Melanie Stansbury--makes that run off a lean Rogers affair. She would be the first Black elected to the Council. 

Republicans are happy to hold on to anything in the city these days. In addition to the narrow win by Bassan they were heartened that Republican and retired APD officer Don Champine defeated Dem Idalia Lechuga Tena 54 to 46 in District 8 in the far NE Heights. Champine will replace outgoing Councilor Trudy Jones. 

The City Council will remain five Democrats and four Republicans but Dem Councilor Louie Sanchez often caucuses with the GOP giving them a Council majority of 5, still one short of six--the number needed to override a mayoral veto. 


All the ABQ bonds--$200 million--won overwhelming approval as did the mill levy extension for the ABQ public schools that will take in $265 million over the next five years. The CNM bond also won widespread support. 

But conservative Republican APS board member Peggy Muller-Aragon was defeated in her freshly redrawn district. She lost by 3 points to Ronalda Tome. 

In another closely watched APS board race in the ABQ Valley, 26 year old Janelle Jamie Astorga, a progressive Dem, defeated Robert Trujillo who ran into ethics issues early in the campaign. 


Mayor-elect Craig
In the village of Los Ranchos in Bernalillo County, the much talked about race for Mayor went to Joe Craig who ran a fiery campaign opposing recent housing developments in the village. He beat three others including incumbent Mayor Donald Lopez who finished last. 

In Santa Fe the District 1 City Council race drew a lot of attention because of Geono Zamora, an attorney who has a lot of political connections in high places. But he could not get over the finish line, running a close second to Alma Castro. Zamora had been endorsed by Sen. Heinrich and spent some $80,000. Our analysts said his ties with Mayor Webber may have hurt him.

The Santa Fe "Mansion Tax" that would kick in on homes that sell for more than $1 million won in a landslide but real estate interests think they can stop it in court. 

That tax and hot city council races led to record voter turnout in Santa Fe of 30 percent of the registered. In BernCo turnout was less than 20 percent, on par with previous off-year elections that don't feature a mayoral contest. Statewide turnout was 20 percent of registered voters.

In Las Cruces late Tuesday the race for mayor was still undecided with Kassandra Gandara, who would be the city's first woman to hold the office, holding  a lead over Eric Enriquez. Final ranked choice vote-counting should produce a winner today. 

UPDATE: Eric Enriquez took 52.32% of the vote in the sixth round of ranked choice voting to defeat current District 1 City Councilor Kasandra Gandara (47.68%), according to unofficial results around midnight on Wednesday.  

Thanks to our KANW-FM Election Night team for their great coverage  and thanks to all who tuned in. 

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Tuesday, November 07, 2023

Election Day '23 Arrives; Cities And Towns Across The State To Decide on An Array Of Candidates And Issues; Our Live Election Night Coverage Begins at 6:45 On KANW 89.1 FM; Plus: Some Questions To Be Answered Tonight, And: This Year's Most Annoying Race  

Election Day arrived across new Mexico today with cities, towns and villages deciding a plethora of political offices in this off-year election. 

We'll start our exclusive, continuous Election Night coverage on KANW 891. FM at 6:45. (LIVE STREAM HERE).  

The polls close at 7 p.m. and results of the big early vote in ABQ and Santa Fe should be released shortly after. 

The Secretary of State's website will report unofficial results from across the state tonight. Unofficial results for Bernalillo County will be posted here by County Clerk Linda Stover's office. Santa Fe County results here.

Those early returns alone will likely decide many of the contests. with Election Day voting now representing a minority of the votes cast. 

These off year elections feature low turnout but they make up for it in the volume of decision making. Here's just a partial list of what's to be decided in Bernalilo County today: 

Albuquerque City Council; Mayor--Village of Los Rancho de Albuquerque; Village of Tijeras Mayor and Councilors; Albuquerque Public School  Board; Moriarty-Edgewood Public School Board; Central New Mexico Community College; Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA); Ciudad Soil & Water Conservation District; Edgewood Soil & Water Conservation District; Valencia Soil & Water Conservation District; Paradise Hills Special Zoning District

Now that's a mouthful. But our panel of experts won't be intimidated. They include ABQ state Sen. Moe Maestas, City Councilor Pat Davis, former City Councilor and County Commissioner Debbie O'Malley, attorney David Buchholtz and consultant Sisto Abeyta.

Debbie O'Malley
We profiled our radio team members Monday with the exception of community leader Debbie O'Malley. She has been a fixture in city politics and a popular one, serving nine years on the City Council and 10 years on the BernCo Commission representing downtown and the North Valley. An ABQ native, she now works for the city administration as the Associate Chief of Staff for Policy. That's experience we will lean on.


Among the questions to be answered tonight: 

Will ABQ Mayor Tim Keller bolster his veto power He very likely will if Dem Abby Foster pulls off an upset and beats GOP Councilor Brook Bassan in NE Heights District 4. The race is expected to be close as is Keller's margin for error at the Council. It takes six votes to override him and the Council has tried but has been unable to get there. With Foster on the panel an override would be even more difficult. But it won't be easy for her to bring home the win. Defeating a city councilor seeking re-election is a rare event.

Will Las Cruces gets its first woman mayor in City Councilor Kassandra Gandara?
She appears to be at the top of the heap in the seven way race to succeed 16 year Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima who is stepping down. (Congrats, Ken.) 

Gandara, 55, is a longtime social worker retired from state government. She's getting some astute political help from her husband, Dem state Senator Bill Soules.

Will Santa Fe attorney and former Big Bill aide Geno Zamora re-enter politics as a City Councilor? He's spent some $80,000 and secured the backing of First Endorser and US Sen. Martin Heinrich and kept his distance from Mayor Webber who is enduring a popularity slump. If all that doesn't do the trick in this four way race to be settled by ranked-choice voting, Geno is in for some serious navel-gazing.


We don't call Sen. Martin Heinrich the First Endorser for nothing, a title that may irritate his backers but seems quite appropriate when you look at the sheer number of candidates and issues he publicly backs. No previous US Senator for New Mexico has gone there. 

While his endorsements can upset the losers in races he endorses--especially Dem primaries--Heinrich's supporters say he is exercising badly needed leadership within the Democratic Party. 

He did not back off this cycle as you can see by clicking on the graphic listing all of Heinrich's favorites. Meanwhile, the Senator remains the heavy favorite to secure a third term for himself next year. With less than a year to go until that election Heinrich still has no major Republican opponent.


There's already a winner for the most annoying race on the ballot this year. That would be the four way contest for mayor of the affluent village of Los Ranchos in the northern part of BernCo. The candidates have ceaselessly whined about a big apartment building being constructed on 4th street that has drawn controversy in the village and has the four candidates blaming one another, including current Mayor Don Lopez. And guess what? Nothing can be done to stop the building from being completed--no matter who is elected. Now that's what is known as much ado about nothing. . .

See you on the radio tonight. 

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Monday, November 06, 2023

Character Not Crime Emerges As A Top Issue In Final Hours; Three Of Four ABQ City Council Races Wrestle With Ethics Charges, Plus: Our Exclusive Election Night Coverage is Set For KANW 89.1 FM 

Candidate character has emerged as a major issue in three of the four ABQ City Council races voters will decide tomorrow, often pushing aside the marquee issues of crime and homelessness. 

In District Four in the NE Heights, City Councilor Brook Bassan has been embroiled in allegations of voter fraud and misrepresenting her educational credentials.

In District 6 in the SE Heights a leading contender, Nichole Rogers, is fighting off last hour reports that she badly mishandled a charitable nonprofit she founded. Previously in District 6 candidate Abel Otero had to suspend his campaign because he lied about his background. And Dem Jeff Hoehn is being attacked for hypocrisy for not rejecting support from the conservative commercial real estate HELP ABQ PAC even as he bills himself as a progressive Democrat. 

In District 8 in the far NE Heights Idalia Lechuga-Tena is getting boxed in by past transgressions for voting when she was not eligible and for a controversy over living outside of a state House district she represented. 

City Council District 2 in the Downtown/North Valley is the only race not dealing with ethics accusations. 

In addition to the Council races, a major ethics flap involving District 2 APS School Board candidate Robert Trujillo dominated that contest--not education policy.  

Ethics is prime territory for campaign opposition research and perhaps more so today as voters appear  less moved by sensational attacks over the crime crisis and the unhoused. 

An ethics allegation can quickly distinguish you from your opponent. How many of the candidates don't believe the city should have more police or devote more attention to drug addiction? None. They all agree.

The city is now transitioning to an era where higher rates of crime and homelessness are seen as secular (long term) issues. That doesn't mean they are accepted as normal but they are becoming depersonalized. 

That means ABQ voters realize no individual candidate--conservative or liberal--can convincingly offer a program that will lead to a drastic and quick reversal in our social ills. It is a slow and lengthy process that will require management expertise and innovation. 

Meanwhile the ethics of those pursuing city office will play an unusually prominent role in tomorrow's election.


Election Night 2006 (KANW)
We look forward to joining you on KANW 89.1 FM (stream here) tomorrow starting at 6:45 p.m. as we anchor exclusive, continuous coverage of Election '23. 

We've figured this is our 35th consecutive year of Election Night coverage for public radio. That is surely some kind of record but only relevant as a personal remembrance. What will be recalled about this election--as the others--is the results. And we've got you covered. 

With us Election Night to explain how it all came down in the City Council races will be none other than current Council President Pat Davis of District 6. 

Davis, who is leaving the Council this year after two terms, is also in the newspaper publishing and cannabis consulting businesses, so he's prepared to cover a lot of territory. But we'll keep him laser-focused on those Council races and what they mean for our city's future. 

Councilor Davis
ABQ westside Dem state Senator and attorney Antonio "Moe" Maestas from District 26 is back for another Election Night on KANW. He's one of the Legislature's brighter bulbs and tomorrow he will be shining light on the state of city politics. 

Moe's New Mexican connections are far and wide so we'll also ask him to keep an eye on results from the many cities and towns in addition to ABQ that are going to the polls Tuesday. 

We've called on longtime political consultant Sisto Abeyta to scrutinize those APS School Board races which have grown more controversial in recent cycles as parents and administrators debate the role of public education. Three of the seven seats will be decided and now that the Board election is not held in February but at a regular city election, turnout and interest have risen. 

And we won't forget the important extension of the mill levy that is on the ballot that is projected to raise $264 million over a six year period for APS capital improvements. (No tax increase required.) We'll also track the $80 million CNM bond for infrastructure improvements. 

Election Night is not complete without having a lawyer. Yes, we have Moe. But Lord knows there are enough election rules and twists to trip up even our Senior Alligators so having two of them can't hurt. 

We'll again enlist attorney David Buchholtz, one of the state's leading experts on municipal finance. That's good because there are $200 million in ABQ bond issues on the ballot. (Synopsis here and specifics here.)

Sen. Maestas
Buchholtz will also have his usual all-encompassing political analysis which he'll apply to the elections here as well as those being held around the nation. 

And just in case, we'll have ABQ attorney, state senator and election expert Daniel Ivey-Soto on standby at an undisclosed location known only to our KANW producer Kevin Otero. 

Thanks for your support of public radio and yours truly through decades of Election Night broadcasts. We do hope you can drop by again tomorrow night at 6:45 for another visit and the exciting sounds of democracy at work.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan and this is. . .

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