Thursday, April 04, 2024

Progressive Senator Fiercely Defends Sen. Ivey Soto From Progressive Attacks; Plus: Commentary Corner: Flap Over Denish And Park Playground Arouses Ageist Reaction; Thoughts On A Tempest In A Teapot 

Sen. Ortiz y Pino
The progressive onslaught against centrist ABQ Dem. Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, the latest of which was carried on the Wednesday blog from a fund-raising letter from consultants urging that Ivey-Soto be defeated at the June 4 primary, has been met with fierce pushback--and by a progressive Senator. 

ABQ Dem District 12 Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, whose liberal credentials are unquestioned, comes to the defense of Ivey-Soto who has been under siege over sex harassment charges and his voting record. He is begin challenged in the primary by progressive Heather Berghmans

Oritz y Pino writes: 

 Joe, I’m furious after reading the letter from Amanda Cooper, Nick Voges, and Jim Gollum you reprinted in yesterday's blog. Three separate, major falsehoods in what they said about Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto cannot go unchallenged. I have known Amanda and Nick for many years and am shocked that they could have penned such an effort at misinformation. Potential donors need to know they are resorting to fabrication in trying to defeat Daniel. 

When Amanda, Nick, and Jim allege that Senator Ivey-Soto “refused to support the legalization of abortion after the fall of Roe v. Wade,” I have no idea what they are talking about. The truth is that not only did he vote to legalize abortion rights in both 2019 and 2021, he was part of the Senate presentation on this issue, speaking on the Senate floor in favor of it as part of the coordinated presentation of these bills. As long as I have known Senator Ivey-Soto (including his service on the committee I chair), Daniel has been a stalwart ally supporting the fight for abortion rights. 

Their letter said that the Senator “voted against paid family and medical leave.” Senator Ivey-Soto, whom all his colleagues in the senate know is a stickler when it comes to reading the details of bills, may have voted against the 2023 version of the bill, but voted for the bill in 2024. I was there when he told our Democratic caucus that his change in vote came as a result of changes in the language in the bill that satisfied his concerns the previous year. So their claim does not tell the truth: he supported the measure when the bill matured from one year to the next. To me that attention to detail in getting it right is a quality we should all want in our legislators. 

Finally, the PAC operatives repeat the allegation that Daniel Ivey-Soto is a "disgraced incumbent" one who has faced "multiple credible claims of sexual harassment, bullying, and ethics violations." When did so-called "progressives" begin equating allegations with guilt? Daniel has not been found guilty of any of those allegations. He has demonstrated great character in the face of unproven claims. It would be a great loss if the Democratic voters of his district fall for this package of falsehoods and fail to re-nominate him to the Senate. His work there has set high standards for diligence, attention and transparency. I certainly count him among the legislators New Mexico has benefitted from in the past—and now I hope for four more years. 

Shame on Amanda Cooper, Nick Voges, and Jim Gollum for these lies and deceptions. They may prefer another candidate, but they shouldn't be permitted to resort to falsehoods to try to promote someone without half the background and independence that Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto has. 

Yep. The Dem primary battle in Ivey-Soto's District 15 is going to be a brass knuckles, take no prisoners brawl.  And you're going to see it all right here. But you already knew that.


Netherwood Park
Talk about the crime not fitting the punishment. 

Former Lt. Governor Diane Denish used her influence with MLG to have her veto $200,000 targeted for a playground at Netherwood Park in ABQ neighborhood and Denish took plenty of heat for it. But this ageist rant from the ABQ newspaper sounds like a verbal lynching, not reasoned opposition.

We get that Democrat Denish hates the Journal and has for years and that the Journal despises her. But is taking her bait and talking about her and seniors like their irrelevant rag dolls a mature response? 

Some samples from the rant:

You don’t have to be a man to be part of the Ole Boys Club in New Mexico politics. You can be a 70s-something female, too.

Is there ever consensus in a neighborhood on anything? Isn’t two-thirds support enough to override a grumpy old woman’s opposition?

As for Denish, she should focus her golden years at yelling at kids to get off her lawn

And if the sound of kids having fun outdoors bothers Denish and other Scroogies in her neighborhood, they can close their windows and mumble themselves to sleep. 

"Mumble themselves to sleep?" The average newspaper reader is probably near 70 these days so beating up on seniors doesn't seem to be the most persuasive tool.

More to the point. Denish lobbied the Governor. Contrary to the implication of the news story and the editorial and the claim of the sponsor of the vetoed appropriations, that is done all the time. And we mean all the time.

It's fair to ask whether Denish's influence outweighed those of her neighbors but was it unethical for her to call the Governor to express her opinion as a private citizen? Certainly not. 

Also, floating a flimsy survey where people emailed City Hall and implying it is scientific proof that the neighborhood was dying for the playground is plain old phooey. (Oops, we're aging our self with that word). 

It's the ageist vilification that is the worst part of this tempest in a teapot. There hasn't been a playground at Netherwood Park for 75 years which is known for its expansive and unobstructed views. Not everyone wants to be around noisy kids. That's no crime and it is a weak peg for an all-out investigative report and an even weaker excuse for a diatribe that condemns an entire class of people for the sake of getting revenge on an old enemy. 

Now get off our lawn!


We recently blogged that Republican Jay Block is a former Sandoval county commissioner. He is a current commissioner whose term expires at the end of the year.

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Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Progressive Primary Election Targets Revealed; Their Lead PAC Takes Aim At Conservative Dems Including Reps Lundstrom, Matthews and Sen. Ivey-Soto, Plus: The PAC Letter that Seeks To Shape The State's Election Narrative  

The leading progressive election PAC in the state is back in business and conservative legislative Democrats are on notice. 

Better Future For NM, a committee that relies heavily on labor and environmental funding to the tune of hundreds of thousands, if not more, reveals in a fund-raising letter the key races they will be targeting in the June 4 primary in an effort to keep progressive power intact at the Roundhouse and break up a small group of conservative Dems who sometimes put sand in the the progressives' gas tank. 

As in the past, longtime NM consultant Amanda Cooper is heading up the effort along with veteran consultant Nick Voges, a NMSU product, and Jim Gollin of Santa Fe, a "former investment fund executive and current Democratic donor who is active in a number of left-of-center political causes." Former Gov. Richardson chief of staff and political consultant Dave Contarino has worked a number of election cycles with Cooper. 

The PAC fund-raising letter explains the fine details of their strategy and comes on the heels of a legislative session where 11 conservative and centrist House Dems bolted from their party to kill the progressive-backed Paid Family Medical Leave Act. Abortion rights also played a role in who got a target on their back. 

Rep. Patty Lundstrom of Gallup, the putative leader of the conservative Dems and a thorn in the side of House Speaker Javier Martinez, is the most well-known and powerful Dem who will now have a progressive fight on her hands. 

Somewhat surprising is ABQ NE Heights Dem Marian Matthews making the list. She represents an area that used to be solid GOP and has kept a conservative edge in representing the district in order to keep the seat. But the progressive PAC believes she has strayed too far and will work to take her out after two terms. 

The PAC says its heavy spending will replicate what the wealthy energy industry will be doing to protect their conservative presence in Santa Fe. Soon the money will be rolling out from both sides. For now let's get to that PAC strategy letter exclusively for our blog readers and which we have edited for length. 


Dear. . . 

Consultant Voges
While every seat in both the NM House and Senate will be up in November, many general election races will not be competitive. So in many cases the most important election date will be primary day, June 4th.

While the Democratic majority is expected to hold in November, the June primary will decide whether our state can continue to advance on progressive issues from reproductive rights, climate and clean energy, payday lending reform, early childhood education, modernizing the legislature, paid family and medical leave, LGBTQ+ rights and more. 

Recall that the effort to give New Mexican workers a right to paid family and medical leave failed this year by one vote, as 11 centrist and conservative Democrats defected to join the Republicans. We have some of the best reproductive rights in the nation, but the reproductive health majority is a slim 3 votes. Similarly, there is a razor thin majority in favor of continuing the transition to a clean energy future. 

As in the last cycle, there is a well-funded, organized effort by oil and gas, conservative, corporate, and Republican funders to unseat our incumbent progressive champions and install “Democrats in Name Only” in numerous open seats. Our aim is to counter that threat with broad-based support for the champions of climate, women, early childhood education and more.

In addition to protecting and advancing policy goals, we seek a state legislature that is more reflective of our New Mexican citizenry. For example, only 26% of our Senators are women, though over half of our voters are female. And while our state is roughly 11% Native American, only 6% of our legislators are Native American.

It is critical for us all to support both the groups and the candidates. The limit per individual is $5,500 per race, and contributions are part of the public record. 


Heather Berghmans (SD 15) ABQ

Replace disgraced incumbent Democrat Ivey-Soto. Heather is an ABQ native and has worked as a policy analyst as well as a fundraiser for the NM Democratic State House Caucus. At 35, she would be the youngest woman serving in the Senate, but already has a long history working in the NM legislature under Speakers Egolf and Martinez. She is challenging disgraced incumbent Daniel Ivey Soto, who has faced multiple credible claims of sexual harassment, bullying, and ethics violations, which resulted in his removal from leadership positions. But only the voters can remove him from the Senate. Ivey-Soto is supported by high-profile corporate lobbyists and special interests, voted against paid family and medical leave, refused to support the legalization of abortion after the fall of Roe v. Wade, and has been disavowed by the Democratic Party of New Mexico. This is a safe Democratic seat.

Angel Charley (SD 30) - Cibola, McKinley, Socorro & Valencia - open/pickup seat. 

Angel is a Native American (Laguna/Zuni/Diné) woman and first time candidate running for the Senate in rural and tribal west/central New Mexico. Angel is the former Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, and now heads a national native group. Redistricting dramatically changed this district so that a Native American can win and hold this seat. She is running against former State Senator Clemente Sanchez in the Primary. Clemente Sanchez was a bad vote on key issues like abortion, education, healthcare and workers when he was defeated in 2020. There is no Republican in this race, so the primary winner heads straight to the Senate.


Rep. Lundstrom
Christopher Hudson (HD 9) - McKinley County - Replace a conservative Democrat.  

Christopher is Navajo, born and raised in HD 9, and has worked on the McKinley county health council to invest in better health outcomes for his community. HD 9 is a largely Native American District, but has long been represented by conservative Democrat Rep. Patty Lundstrom. Lundstrom has worked with Republicans and oil and gas funders to recruit and fund conservative candidates to primary progressive incumbent champions, primarily targeting young women of color. She is anti-repro health, an entrenched ally of the extractive industries, payday lenders, and other corporate interests. Conservative Democrat Arval McCabe is also running. House District 9 is primarily Navajo, and includes a significant portion of Gallup. There is no Republican running in this district.

Rep. Yanira Gurrola (HD 16) - ABQ Westside - Protect

This is a key incumbent protection seat. Yanira is an immigrant and engineer who has worked in education, first as a math teacher active in the teacher’s union, and now works as a national consultant in bilingual education. Yanira is being challenged by conservative Democrat Marsella Duarte, who was recruited and is supported by high-profile corporate lobbyists. There is no Republican running in this district.

Rep. Susan Herrera (HD 41) - Rio Arriba, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Taos - Protect. 

This is a key incumbent protection seat. Susan has an impressive background as the former ED of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and President and CEO of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation. Under her leadership, the foundation's endowment grew from $8 million to $80 million, providing key scholarships to New Mexican students. While in the House, Susan led the fight to end predatory lending in New Mexico, worked to modernize New Mexico’s antiquated water laws, and supported rural communities. She faces a stiff challenge from primary challenger Margaret Campos, who will be well-funded by oil and gas and other special interests. There is no Republican running in this district.

Michelle “Paulene” Abeyta (HD 69) - Bernalillo, Cibola, McKinley, San Juan, Socorro, Valencia - Replace conservative Democrat

Paulene is a member of the Navajo Nation and is from To’hajiilee, NM. Paulene serves on the To’hajiilee Community School Board of Education and the National Native American Bar Association Board. She is an attorney and first-time candidate for the Legislature. This largely Native American district covers sparsely populated Western, Central and even Southern NM. She is running against conservative incumbent Democrat Harry Garcia. Garcia has repeatedly voted against reproductive rights, advancing climate and clean energy policies, capping predatory lending, and expanding paid family and medical leave. This is a Democratic Primary only. 

Greg Seeley (HD 27) - ABQ NE Heights - Replace conservative Democrat. 

Rep. Matthews
Greg is a retired US Air Force Veteran, who most recently served as the Federal Funding Coordinator for the City of Albuquerque and previously worked as a legislative aide for both Rep. Deb Haaland and Sen. Ben Ray Lujan. Greg has a long history as a champion for reproductive health, climate and clean energy, and paid family and medical leave. Greg is running against incumbent Representative Marian Matthews, a conservative Democrat who was instrumental in killing family and medical leave legislation over the past two legislative sessions. This will be a highly competitive general election race as well.

Anita Gonzales (HD 70) - San Miguel and Torrance - Replace conservative Democrat. 

Anita is challenging conservative Democrat Ambrose Castellano for the third time after losing by less than 80 votes in both the 2020 and 2022 primaries, which were impacted by COVID and then the wildfires. She is the Deputy Director for NM MESA which prepares middle and high school students for careers in STEM related fields, and serves on the board of the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter. Incumbent Rep. Castellano is anti-choice, votes against climate change/enviro legislation, against gun safety bills, and against protecting consumers from payday loan companies. He is almost exclusively funded by corporate interests--especially the state's powerful oil and gas industry. This year, Anita's campaign is being professionally managed to meet strong fundraising and field goals and is supported by numerous community organizations. This is a Democratic Primary race only.

Of course, there are still more primary races, but we have focused this list on races where there is a strong contrast between conservatives and progressives, or where our allied partners have prioritized, and where our candidate has a meaningful chance of winning both the primary and the general election.

Sincerely, Jim Gollin, Amanda Cooper, and Nick Voges 

That's quite the roadmap for the progressives and with major league dollars behind it. Conservatives can be grateful that the price of oil remains strong so they have the funds to keep up. Now they need a strategy.

Exclusive coverage of Primary 2024. Another reason why. . .

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Tuesday, April 02, 2024

A Special Session? Doesn't Look Special As MLG Mulls Possibility, Plus: Thanking Big Oil; Cabinet Secretary With Rare Pat On Back, And: GOP State Senate Race Poll 

MLG & Speaker (Moore, Journal)
You be the judge. Does any of this stuff demand immediate action at a special session of of the New Mexico Legislature?

--Address unsafe panhandling 
--Increase penalties for felons with firearms
--Rework criminal competency process
--Establish civil competency process 

That's the agenda that MLG is pushing for at a possible special session that she now assigns an 80 percent chance of calling--if and when she can get agreement with legislative leadership on the above-mentioned items. 

Republicans would relish a special session on crime in an election year since it is their top polling issue. MLG's fellow Dems don't sound enthused and with good reason. They just came off a regular session where they passed some crime bills and put the issue behind them--or so they thought--as they headed out for the '24 campaign in which all 112 senators and representatives face voters. 

Reading between the lines, House Speaker Javier Martinez seems filled with dread or even horrified over having the Governor call everyone back to Santa Fe. 

The measures mentioned by the Guv have stalled at the Roundhouse and MLG is savvy enough to know that she can't call lawmakers back unless she has a done deal for every bill on her call. Otherwise, the R's would take advantage of any chaos.

Just why the Governor wants to call a special over smallball crime bills like panhandling and competency hearings is baffling. She can't run for Governor again. Is she running for something else? 
Each year in her State of the State speech MLG is urged by conservatives to acknowledge oil and gas drilling as a huge economic driver for the state. She doesn't. So while the oil boosters again wait for a mention in next year's annual speech, they will have to do with this rare nod of support from a member of MLG's cabinet. 
Mark Roper, Acting Secretary of the Economic Development Department, comes with this:
I think New Mexico in itself is in a really key place in life, where we have some economic opportunities, thanks to the oil and gas industry, to put us in a position to diversify and continue our economic prosperity into the future.
Roper's compliment of the industry comes on the heels of a lambasting given to the oil boys by Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard who is asking for an increase in the royalty rate for drilling on prime state lands. It seems there's something for everyone in Santa Fe.

Jay Block
Friends of Sandoval County Commissioner and GOP state Senate hopeful Jay Block tell us their Trump-touting candidate is dong well in the early going. They are floating a poll--with no details provided--that puts Block up by double digits (20 points) over his primary rival and former GOP state Senator Candace Gould.
The GOP is mostly owned by the Trumpers and Block, who ran unsuccessfully for the GOP Guv nomination in '22, is an unabashed Trumper. Gould is affiliated with what's left of the nontrump wing of the party but she is no slouch politically. 
But here's the big reason the Block poll may be worth more than spin:

District 12, under a new district map, now consists of much of Rio Rancho and Paradise Hills neighborhoods in Bernalillo County. Approximately 51,700 people live in the newly drawn Senate district, which lies generally west of Corrales. Block won his election in a nearly identical district in 2016 when he ran for Sandoval County commissioner and won re-election in 2020.

Gould represented a different district for one term and was defeated by Dem Katy Duhigg in 2020. 
Democrat Phil Ramirez will face the primary winner in November.
A reader writes of the Monday blog where we dived into the first media interview given by GOP US Senate candidate Nella Domenici:

Joe, In reading your article my feeling is that Ms. Domenici can’t win in today’s Republican Party. She likely is more like her dad (former GOP US Sen. Pete Domenici)--someone who would work across the aisle and compromise. That Republican Party doesn’t exist anymore. Even Pete would have a hard time winning today. Also, I think the Supreme Court decision on Roe and the votes of women will deliver the the 2024 election to the Democrats.

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Monday, April 01, 2024

In First Media Interview GOP Senate Hopeful Domenici Defers On Hot-Button Abortion Issue And Tries Staying Neutral On Trump; The Tricky Road That Lies Ahead For The Newcomer With A Family Legacy 

Nella Domenici
Nella Domenici is trying to buy time on what could be a deciding issue in her contest with Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich.

Quiet with the media for the over two months since announcing her bid for the GOP Senate nod, Domenici broke her silence last week in a newspaper interview in which she lived up to the "No Answer Nella" nickname pinned on her by state Dems. 

Unopposed in the June 4 primary and unmoved by the early attacks, Domenici refused to give a direct answer on the hottest of hot button issues: 

Asked her stance on abortion, Domenici responds. . .“I very, very much want to focus on how to reduce abortions.” Citing this as an example of her independent thinking, she said she has examined what she calls the root issues of the subject, and her focus will be on “unintended pregnancies.” “One out of every three unintended pregnancy resulted in abortions,” she said referring to statistics she has studied. Asked if her answer was pro-choice or anti-abortion, she said her answer is to “reduce abortions,” through more efforts on birth control.

Domenici was only mildly pressed in follow-up questions by the publisher of the Republican-owned Rio Grande Sun who conducted the first print interview with the candidate. 

In her first campaign radio interview videotaped with KSVP in Artesia abortion did not come up. (See March 27 entry). However, she did slam Heinrich for "arrogance"and repeated rumors that Heinrich, if re-elected, would then run for Governor and if he were to win in '26 would appoint MLG to his Senate vacancy.

(Here is more video of Domenici from five years ago when she spoke at a behavioral health meeting. Her appearance begins at 4:35)

Domenici's mum is the word act will serve her for the primary where friendly voters will look the other way. But post-June 4 the summer heat generated by the Dems and the GOP hard-right will be like a blast from a furnace and force her hand.

The complex web of question she faces are all potential minefields for a Republican running in a Dem state. Mifepristone ? IVF? The high court Dobbs ruling overturning Roe? Abortion up to six weeks? 20 weeks? 


It was abortion that upended '22 GOP Gov nominee Mark Ronchetti who held a disastrous summer meeting with ABQ evangelical leader and Pastor Steve Smotherman who revealed from his pulpit that Ronchetti promised behind closed doors that he was committed to ending abortion in the state. 

That revelation came after Ronchetti publicly proposed allowing abortion up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. He later also proposed a public referendum on abortion which fell like a lead balloon. 

The Ronchetti flip-flop helped decimate his candidacy on both the left and right. He went on to lose to MLG by 6.4 points.

How much wiggle room, if any, will pro-life advocates allow Domenici so they can capture the prize of a US Senate seat, something the Republicans have not had since Sen. Pete Domenici--Nella Deomenici's father--left the Senate in 2009? 

History says Domenici is between a rock and a hard place with a softer abortion stance risking her GOP base and a lack of movement to the center making it nearly impossible for her to break though in big Bernalillo County which is essential for having any shot at the upset. 

Further complicating Domenici's path forward is her ambiguity about Donald Trump. In that interview she said: 

. . .She was not “looking for his endorsement… and “not anticipating giving him an endorsement.” She said she has both agreed and disagreed with Trump. “The only endorsement I care deeply about is the endorsement of the voters of the state.”

That's not going to please either side. She can only hope the race is not nationalized by Trump's presence or abortion--a truly high hope.

Domenici is a new face with a lot of name ID and the cash to go the distance but so was TV weathercaster Ronchetti who faced the exact same problems now confronting Domenici.

In the 2024 US Senate race the names have changed but the game is the same. 


Meanwhile Heinrich, seeking a third, six year term and fully aware of the predicament of his opponent, is bolstering his pro-choice credentials in preparation for the fall face-off:

A group of U.S. Senate Democrats, including Sen. Martin Heinrich, is pitching a plan to establish a grant program to expand the availability of abortion and other reproductive health care services in states where it remains legal.


Sen. Pete Domenici was the longest-serving US senator in state history. His legacy is centered on his ability to bring back to the state billions in federal funding and his appeal to Democrats and independents. 

But Domenici's moral lapse in fathering a child out of wedlock with a young DC lobbyist while serving in the Senate and today's politics, where moderate political figures are not as prized as they once were, has cast a shadow over that legacy. In her interview Nella Domenici commented: 

When I announced there was a series of articles that came out the day after saying his legacy was weak and maybe his legacy doesn't exist. . . I really feel with me running it's almost like I am reigniting his spirit in this way I never, never imagined because people come up to me all the time. They don't only come up to me to hug me and say thank you, they print off old black and white photos they have with my father with their children or my father with their mother and they show me these photos and they almost cry. . . So his legacy I think is stronger than I ever imagined and actually growing as we talk about how I want to be a moderate, bipartisan senator. . . There is just a huge overlap.

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