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Thursday, March 14, 2024

Post Filing Day Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor, Plus: On The Media Beat; Santa Fe Paper Goes Up For Sale 

We came with a monster blog on candidate filing day Wednesday but even that was like chipping away at an iceberg. Many political stories fell to our newsroom floor as we pulled together the drama of the GOP's top legislative leaders announcing they have had enough and will leave the Roundhouse. 

That said, lets take our broom and sweep up clippings left behind from a hectic day. . . 

It's not just the R's with leadership changes in store. On the Dem side of the aisle in the state House Majority Leader Gail Chasey ends her tenure this year so the race is on to replace her in the #2 leadership spot. Santa Fe Rep. Linda Serrato and ABQ Rep. Day Hochman-Vigil are the two major contenders. The post will be filled following the November election.

Meanwhile in ABQ SE Heights District 18, where  for decades Chasey held forth, four Dem candidates have filed for the seat, including progressive lobbyist Marianne Anaya whose claim to fame is her accusations of sex harassment by ABQ Dem state Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto. Yet after nearly two years there still has been no complete resolution of the charges, other than Dems kicking Ivey-Soto out of his Rules Committee chairmanship. 

The other Dem hopefuls for the Chasey seat in the June 4 primary are Anjali Taneja, Juan Larranaga and Gloria Doherty. No R filed for this all Dem all the time district.

 In ABQ NE Heights House District 31, which is solidly Republican, Nicole Chavez, who announced earlier she would seek the GOP nomination to replace outgoing Rep. Bill Rehm, has company. 

Leadership trainer and NRA advocate Patrick Huested and Sarah Jane Allen, who once sought the state GOP chairmanship, have also filed for the seat. Winning the primary there is tantamount to winning th election in this district, the only remaining one in the city with a GOP rep. But Dem Vicky Estrada-Bustillo filed her candidacy and will give it a shot. 

House Minority Leader Ryan Lane will shed that title today. After announcing he will not seek re-election to his Farmington are state House seat, Lane Wednesday said he will resign the seat effective today. That means the San Juan County Commission will recommend a replacement to fill out the remainder of his term which runs until the end of the year retired FBI agent William Hall filed for the seat this week. We'll watch to see if that's the name the Commission sends to MLG who ultimately makes the appointment. 

THE MEDIA BEAT

The 50 year old Santa Fe Reporter is the latest media outlet facing an existential crisis as the weekly paper's longtime owners have put it up for sale and are seeking a local buyer:

(As owners) Richard Meeker and Mark Zusman. . . embark on a new project in Oregon, they are actively seeking a New Mexico buyer to become the fourth generation of SFR stewards. . . the Santa Fe Reporter is in good health, both journalistically and financially,” Meeker says. . . Today local, independent ownership is the real key to success in the newspaper business. We are making this public announcement in the hopes it will attract interest from residents of Santa Fe.”

The first hint that the Reporter, founded in 1974, was reassessing its model was when they began soliciting financial support from readers even as the paper continued to attract a stable of advertisers. That the Reporter is publicly seeking a buyer suggests private efforts to sell it have not been successful. 

That's not to say the product has diminished but public interest has waned in local news and when it is in demand, readers are on the internet. Publishing in ink is expensive and nearly an anachronism.

Last year a group of conservative NM investors including former NM GOP chairman Harvey Yates, Jr. purchased the Rio Grande Sun and the Artesia Daily Press. Perhaps the Reporter will follow the same path, although not with conservative ownership. There are still things in Santa Fe that don't change. 

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Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Filing Day Drama: Top Two GOP Legislative Leaders Announce They Will Not Seek Re-election; On The Way Out Sen. Baca Slams Dems Over Redistricting; Hands Off Seat And Draws Criticism; House Minority Leader Lane Also Bows Out, And: BernCo Oldtimers Vie For Treasurer And Clerk Posts 

Sen. Baca
The official filing day for the state's 112 legislative seats turned dramatic Tuesday as the top two Republican legislative leaders decided not to seek re-election, throwing open both their leadership positions and their legislative seats and stunning the long-suffering GOP rank and file.  

All legislative and county candidate filings here

The unexpected decision of state Senator and Minority Leader Greg Baca of Valencia County and state Rep. and House Minority Leader Ryan Lane of Farmington added to what was already a lengthy list of voluntary departures from the Roundhouse. 

Dem consultant Sisto Abeyta reports 13 of the 42 senators have decided not to seek re-election and 9 of the 70 House members are also leaving, making for one of the largest departing groups in recent history. 

There are many individual reasons for those leaving and a couple of House members are now running for Senate but Abeyta said increased polarization of politics is extracting a toll. He says the state GOP has a lot in common with their brethren in the US House where Trump and anti-Trump factions continually battle.

Baca and Lane have been at the center of that polarization not only with the Democrats but within their own party. 

The Republicans have suffered some of their worst electoral results in their history in the last decade. All statewide offices and the entire Legislature are controlled by the Democrats. The R's have been reduced to bystanders at the Roundhouse with the Dems dominating the Senate 27-15 and the House 45 to 25. 

Sanchez said the outcome of legislative redistricting--controlled by the Dems--was behind his decision

It is clear to me that the greatest good I can do for the people of my community and the State of New Mexico does not lie in seeking another term in the legislature. Though this announcement may come as a shock to some, careful observers of the progressive plan to pit two Hispanic Republicans against each other through redistricting may have seen this coming. In short, I refuse to allow the radical left to pit brother against brother.

THE SANCHEZ-BACA PLAY

Sanchez and Baca

Soon after Baca announced he was out, GOP Senator Josh Sanchez of District 30 announced he would switch districts and seek the Baca District 29 seat. In the redistricting Sanchez, also from Valencia County, was placed in Baca's District 29.  

Baca endorsed Sanchez on social media Tuesday night.

Sanchez will be unopposed in the GOP primary and will face Democrat Tina Garcia, a former Valencia County Magistrate Judge in November. 

Our Senior Republicans say the race leans Republican but does have swing characteristics that make a Dem win possible. 

In District 30 that Sanchez has represented, former Dem state Senator Clemente Sanchez will be in a primary with Angel Charly of Acoma Pueblo, endorsed by Sen. Heinrich. 

With no Republican running the Dem primary winner will be on their way to the Senate. Some R's were critical of Baca and Sanchez for the lateness of their switcheroo, saying it did not leave time for a GOP candidate to gather signatures to compete in District 30 and unnecessarily handed the Dems the seat. 

One Dem consultant called the hand-off a "sleazy move" that demonstrates the "incompetence" of the Senate Republicans who now give up a coveted seat without a fight. That's probably a story line Sanchez will endure from Dem rival Garcia. 

While Baca cited redistricting for his surprise, our sources noted that his decision was abrupt. They report just prior to his decision to not seek a third term he quarreled with prominent and wealthy Republicans over candidate recruitment and fund-raising. 

We're told those party powers were especially irked over Baca's support for having disgraced GOP Senator Cliff Pirtle run for a vacant Roswell state House seat after bowing out of his Senate seat. 

After the scandal broke over the married lawmaker's affair with a Senate staffer, Pirtle said he would not seek another term but later said he might reverse that decision. He ended up not running for anything.

Roswell State Rep. Candy Ezzell made her candidacy for the Pirtle seat in the Roswell area official Tuesday and is expected to have few problems winning the primary and general elections. 

Baca, an attorney, had a glorious start to his political career in 2016 when he won election by ousting Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez with the help of GOP Gov. Susana Martinez, an arch-enemy of  Sanchez's. Now the tables have been turned as they so often are on the treacherous terrain of La Politica.

CHANGING LANES

The double dose of GOP chaos continued with GOP House Minority Leader Ryan Lane who, our sources report, held a virtual meeting of the House Republican caucus last night to officially inform them that he was not seeking re-election and cited family considerations. However, his status as leader was left unresolved.

Lane announced Wednesday he will resign from his seat which means an appointment to replace him for the rest of this term will be made by the San Juan County Commission.

The leadership position for the Farmington attorney has been trying. When chosen in November of '22 he was seen as a possible force for bringing the House Republicans together. But that was not to be and the pressure of fund-raising also hung over his head

 A Senior Alligator opined that he expected Lane to be replaced as Leader "sooner rather than later." Former Minority Leader James Townsend could be placeholder. He's running for state Senate and has an easy race. 

Former state Rep. Rebecca Dow left the House to run for Governor and is running again for the House in the south with a good chance of winning. Her name as a possible Lane replacement came up because the rules allow her to keep the seniority she previously accumulated and she is seen as politically savvy.  

Unless the Governor calls a special session there are no legislative session scheduled until January of next year. But there is the matter of distributing and raising funds for House Republicans that the Minority Leader is traditionally involved in. That does add a note of urgency to replace Lane. 

Republican retired FBI Agent William Hall has filed for the Lane seat and is running unopposed.

BERNCO ACTION

Eichenberg
Some veteran politicos turned up Tuesday in an effort to renew their careers in the state's largest county.

Former Bernalillo County and State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg filed for county treasurer and former BernCo Assessor and PRC Commissioner Karen Montoya filed for County Clerk. The two are longtime political allies and well-known moderate Democrats. 

Eichenberg, now in his 70's, also served a stint as an ABQ state Senator and has widespread name ID and personal wealth to spend on another campaign. Deputy County Treasurer Ken Scott also filed for the Dem primary setting up a two way race. The seat has not gone Republican for years. Current Treasurer Nancy Bearce is term limited after eight years in office.

In the Clerks race Deputy County Clerk Michelle Kavanaugh will be in a Dem primary battle with Montoya. Current Clerk Linda Stover is term limited. She is said to be eyeing a possible run for ABQ mayor in 2025.

Two Republicans are also running for Clerk--Clayton Pryor and Robert Kwasny--but no R has won the seat in years.

In the BernCo race for district attorney, we earlier reported that progressive Dem Mathias Swonger was ending his campaign but he filed for the position Tuesday along with fellow Dems Sam Bregman and Damon Martinez. However a spokesman for Martinez tells us Martinez has met with Swonger who told him he was indeed suspending his effort because of a lack of valid petition signatures. 

Whoever wins the Dem DA primary wins it all. No Republican filed for the seat despite the party's emphasis on crime as a key issue.   

BernCo Commissioner Adriann Barboa will be busy for the June 4 primary. The Democrat from ABQ's SE Heights District 3 drew two foes--Robert Padilla and Laura Chavez.

In South Valley District 2 being vacated by term limited Michael Quezada, Frank Baca, who was defeated by Quezada in the 2020 Dem primary and William Walker are seeking the Dem nomination. 

 Republican Commissioner Walt Benson of NE Heights District 4 won a free ride on filing day. He was the only one to file for his position and will be getting a second four year term. 

Just think, Walt, now you can read the blog in peace.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Heinrich Wades Into Fiery State Senate Primary; Endorses Foe Of Embattled Incumbent Ivey-Soto; He Snaps Back As He Combats Progressive Challenge; Analysis And Context Of This Top Tier Contest 

Senator Martin Heinrich has waded into the emotionally charged Democratic primary in ABQ state senate District 15 with an endorsement for Heather Berghmans, a challenger of Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto. But unlike most of Heinrich's dozens of other endorsements this one is anything but routine and he's getting blow-back from the embattled incumbent: 

I wasn't aware that Senator Heinrich lived in my district, in fact I'm pretty sure he doesn't. Still, I wish him well trying to vote for her. 

That sniping is not something the senior senator--who is not a resident of that district--is used to but he did step step on the cat's tail.

Heinrich's endorsement does nothing to improve his standing with Hispanic men--a weak polling spot--so  seeking re-election in his own right this year, he isn't about to get into a direct fight with the wily Ivey-Soto. 

The state senator is an attorney with decades of La Politica experience now in combat with Dem Party progressives over sexual harassment charges and also because of his moderate politics that have repeatedly thwarted the hard left of the party.

For Heinrich it is imperative that he hold his large progressive base in Bernalillo County against Republican Nella Domenici so even if he didn't want to endorse Berghmans he had little choice. He is known as the First Endorser and must go where those votes are.

Heinrich did not make reference to Ivey Soto's ethics issues with progressive lobbyist Marianne Anaya, who has accused the state senator of harrassment dating from 2017, but Ivey Soto points out he has been found guilty of nothing--not by a court of law and not by the Ethics Commission.

But progressives have lowered the bar for such accusations and say Ivey Soto's behavior with women at the Roundhouse has often crossed the line. Berghmans says :

I am challenging incumbent Daniel Ivey-Soto in the Democratic Primary who has has been credibly accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and other forms of abuse over the last two years. 

The stakes are high. A Berghmans win in the primary and general would add to the progressive ranks of the Senate.

CENTRAL ISSUE

Berghmans
This will be a central issue in the June 4 primary: Is Ivey Soto so damaged by the charges that he has already lost the race or will voters scrutinize more fully the charges and determine they are an overreach?

Berghman's candidacy is further tied to that judgement because her life and work experience is light. If elected, she would be the youngest senator. 

A third candidate, animal rights activist Marcy Britton, has previously said she would also run for the Dem nod. Filing day for all legislative candidates is today.

Heinrich leaned into identity politics to give his favored candidate a boost: 

Heather has experience working with many of our Democratic elected officials to pass key legislation on workers’ rights, environmental protection, reproductive care, and common-sense gun safety. Her experience, enthusiasm, and solid understanding of the issues will serve her well in representing State Senate District 15. . . There are only 11 women in the State Senate, and even fewer in her generation. If elected, she’ll be the youngest woman in the State Senate. We need folks like Heather stepping up to run.

Berghman's primary work experience has been as a political aide to the House Dem campaign committee and policy aide to House Speakers Brian Egolf and Javier Martinez. 

She will rely on the well-oiled progressive machine (and unions) to see her through as Ivey-Soto has banked over $100,000 for the contest.

Ivey Soto, first elected in 2012, was a Senate powerhouse, chairing the Senate Rules Committee and presiding over election law legislation like a czar. He was toppled from that chairmanship after the harassment charges and voters will have to decide whether he is still effective going forward. 

There's no question Ivey-Soto is on the ropes and the primary will tilt progressive. But this is a district with a lot of working class Dems, a fair number of Hispanics and perhaps a political atmosphere that may not be quite as punitive for Ivey Soto as last year. We'll keep an eye on it.

As for the Republicans, this is not a district where they will get blown-out. It's 46 percent Dem 27 R and 25 independent but it's close to being "all D all the time" which makes the Ivey-Soto-Berghmans face off all the more critical.  

GOOD START BUT. . .

Reader Michal Hays comments on the Monday blog highlighting Sec. of Education Arsenio Romero:

Secretary Romero is off to a good start, but the finish line is a long way ahead. Once the length of the school day and absenteeism are addressed, the two really big problems will present themselves. One is a state curriculum which, reflective of Common Core, is a demonstration of mediocrity which ensures continued mediocrity. The other is the capabilities of teachers, particularly elementary school teachers. . .The fact is that the majority of their students are not proficient in reading or math by the end of 4th grade. 

Richard Eeds of Santa Fe's KTRC radio sends along this interview he conducted recently with Romero.

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Monday, March 11, 2024

Telling It Like It Is: Education Secretary Again Calls Out State's Last In Nation Ranking As 180 Day School Year Is Enacted, Plus: Heinrich's Biden Moment At SOTU; Nervous Over Nella? 

Sec. Romero
They say the first rule of being a good teacher is to set a good example. So it is with Secretary of Education Arsenio Romero. He barreled through withering criticism to enact a rule that mandates public school kids attend classes 180 days a year, a plan already in effect for ABQ and Santa Fe schools but that could eliminate the four day a week schedule in some rural areas, although PED is providing a variety of exemptions.

Romero's perseverance, while notable, was not his stand-out moment. That has been his repeated insistence on doing something few--if any--political leaders here do. He continues to cite the state's last in the nation standing in public school performance, laying down a marker for his department and the state to improve on that dismal ranking, saying:

We've had it with being the last and the worst performing state in the union. We know that this isn't reflective of who we are, and we're going to do everything we can to challenge us and change that.This is about doing what's right for kids, even if it's hard.

Unfortunately, our standing is reflective of who we are. Otherwise, Romero gets an A for his frankness. 

New Mexico ranks last or near last in other critical standings (child well-being, child poverty etc.) but the political class has for years shied away from that truth. When was the last time we heard a legislator take to the floor and cite what Romero is citing or any other category we lag in and declaring it must be reversed?

Few have wanted to assume that political risk but accepting and condemning that truth is essential for positive change.

Romero's insistence on reciting the truth awakened a status quo culture of teachers, parents, unions and legislators who rose up in full fury to defend the current indefensible public school culture--the one that has us last in the nation. 

MLG AND ROMERO  

Romero is MLG's fourth Secretary of Education in five years but at the risk of jinxing him, she seems to have finally found one she can stay in the same room with. She was steadfast in her support for the 180 days rule even vetoing a bill that would have prohibited the PED from doing so.

Why not? Isn't this the Governor that has been funding the public schools and teacher pay at record levels? If  anyone has the right for an ask from the educational complex, it is her. 

As for Romero he is going to have to reconcile himself to making new enemies and even friends unhappy. But you don't go from the worst to even mediocre without breaking some glass along the way.

Now that that the length of the school year is out of the way Romero and MLG can go after chronic absenteeism. Without kids attending school, having those extra school days will be for naught. Then there's the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit, an improved school curriculum and. . . well. . . let's not get ahead of ourselves. Just be happy for this 180 day a year moment. 

ON THE SOCIALS

The 180 day school rule had them talking on the socials. Here's Jerri Lily

New Mexico will be joining 29 states that currently have 180 days of school. All are ranked above us. We are dead last in education rankings. Status quo is not the solution. Additionally, New Mexico has laws on the books relating to chronic absenteeism that are not being enforced. 

Yes, school subjects need to be more compelling and relevant to students. We need to focus on the basics and college readiness, but also provide more offerings that appeal to students who are choosing a different path such as wood working, sewing, car mechanics as well as develop more apprentice partnerships with trades people. Offer credits for our students with part time jobs based upon employer feedback and training for successful employment.

 NERVOUS OVER NELLA?

Our state's usually reserved senior US senator was anything but at Thursday evening's State of the Union speech from President Biden. 

Favored for re-election to a third term this year but facing an unexpected name challenger in Nella Domenci, Heinrich maneuvered his way to the House aisle where the President walks down on his way to the podium and made sure to grab his hand for a quick shake. 

Network microphones picked up Heinrich telling Biden, "it's good to see you, Mr. President." Biden was looking at him but we did not hear any audible response.

Heinrich's relationship with the White House appears solid and that will help with fund-raising that he may need if Domenici, who is independently wealthy, decides to tap her own fortune in a big way or has success raising private money. 

Heinrich's pursuit of the president hasn't always been so ardent. There was one occasion when Biden came to ABQ where Heinrich failed to show up to greet him at the Sunport. (Yes, those darn Alligators have long--very long--memories. 

SOTU REACT

Heinrich on Biden:

Democrats have delivered monumental wins for working Americans. Under President Biden, we secured the largest expansion of health care for our nation’s veterans in generations. We created an American manufacturing boom by making historic investments in our workforce and in our infrastructure. And we've taken unprecedented strides toward lowering costs and accelerating a clean energy future. Meanwhile, Republicans were consumed by chaos, dysfunction, and extremism—bent on taking away freedoms, diminishing our democracy, and giving tax breaks out to their billionaire friends and ultrawealthy hedge fund executives.  

Domenici:

Rather than offer real solutions in his speech, Biden tried to rewrite history and shift blame for policies that have let us down on the cost of living, the border, and crime in our streets. These are policies Senator Heinrich has supported 100% of the time. The two of them have failed New Mexicans. It is time for new leadership. I‘m dedicated to building consensus, delivering results, and fighting for New Mexicans - that's why I'm running for the U.S. Senate.

THE BOTTOM LINES

In a first draft Thursday we mistakenly had retiring ABQ Dem state Rep. Gail Chasey as chair of the House Judiciary Committee. She is the House Majority Leader.

This is the Home of New Mexico Politics.  

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2024

 
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