Thursday, May 02, 2024

With Top Of Ballot Action Lacking Three DA Battles Take The Primary Spotlight; ABQ, Santa Fe And Las Cruces All Picking Top Prosecutors As Crime Takes Center Stage  

With little or no competition for the state's congressional seats and no statewide offices on the ballot, three battles for District Attorney in three of the state's four largest cities largest cities have taken the primary spotlight. 

Coming in the middle of an ongoing crime crisis and with the Governor calling a special legislative session for July to tackle more crime bills, that seems appropriate. 

In  the DA's race in Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties,  District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies is in a rematch with former DA Marco Serna. He won the office for one term but in 2020  made an unsuccessful bid for the northern congressional seat. 

Carmack-Altwies has been hammered by Serna for hiring outside special counsel to lead the prosecutions  in the high-profile Rust movie set shooting that claimed the life of a cinematographer and whose star--Alec Baldwin--will stand trial on charges this summer. But her office brought home a win in the case when in March movie armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed was was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Serna is also critical of his successor's handling of DWI cases, saying it has resulted in fewer cases being pursued but the incumbent says her conviction rate is 80 percent. 

Serna, 40, is now more seasoned but his running of the office while seeking the congressional set has been a point of contention. Carmack-Altwies, who worked under him, says he was a bungling administrator.

The two faced off in a spirited debate recently that can be seen here. There is is no Republican seeking the office so the primary winner takes the prize.


DA Bregman
Here in Bernalillo County, his polling must show an unabashed tough on crime stance is popular with all types of Democrats from conservative to progressive. 

How else to explain MLG-appointed District Attorney Sam Bregman again showcasing his black hat in his first campaign ad in his contest with former US Attorney Damon Martinez in the Democratic primary for DA?

Bregman's donning of the black cowboy hat, accompanied by his tough crime talk, makes him appear like  a rural county Trump-backing Sheriff but he's betting BernCo is sick and tired of the constant drumbeat of crime. His 60 second spot reads like this: 

In January of 2023 I was appointed district attorney. Since then we've worked around the clock to fight back against Bernalillo County's historic crime wave, taking on the cartels, putting violent gang members behind bars and establishing a zero tolerance policy for guns in our schools. 

Using cutting edge technology to crack down on illegal guns. Unclogging the backlog of open sexual assault cases to get justice for victims. Increasing pretrial detention so instead of violent suspects right back on the streets they remain in custody. 

I took this job to fight crime because our law-abiding residents outnumber the few who are making it unsafe. I am running for district attorney to protect my family and yours. That's why I'll throw the book at career criminals who put our community under siege. Join us, cuz we're just getting started. 

Damon Martinez would like to confront Bregman over his messaging but his campaign says Bregman has turned down a TV debate offered by KRQE-TV as well as one with the progressive group Indivisible ABQ. That could be a signal that Bregman feels he has the lead.

Martinez has raised over $300,000 and Bregman over $400,000 so both have plenty of firepower to make their cases in the final weeks. 

The campaign has been confusing to veteran observers who can't figure out where the large progressive Dem voting block will end up in this race. Maybe both contenders--neither progressive--end up splitting the vote. 

The Dem winner takes the prize. The GOP has been given ten lashes with the blog wet noodle for failing to field a DA candidate even as they assert crime is the top issue here. 


Finally, in Las Cruces, Gerald Byers, one of the few if not the only African-American District Attorney in the state, is seeking re-election after running unopposed in 2020. But this time he has well-known opposition in the Dem primary from Fernando Macias, an attorney, former legislator and outgoing Dona Ana county manager.

Byers says he prides himself on his management of the office now and during the pandemic. Macias pledges to "drastically reduce the rate of dismissals and operate the office with full transparency." But his county contract was ended early by the commission and that could weigh on voters. 

Shaharazad Booth and Ramona Martinez are also seeking the Dem nomination. Michael Cain is the sole GOP primary hopeful.

So while New Mexican voters are not being treated to heated primary contests at the top of the ballot, if they dig a little deeper there's plenty of La Politica to grab their attention and their votes.

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Wednesday, May 01, 2024

Heinrich Household Back On Legislative Trail With Endorsement in Key Senate Race, Plus: Alligator Strike On A Complaining State Rep, And: NM Ppoject PAC Chided For Ethnic Politics  

The Heinrich household is back on the legislative campaign trail. This time it's Sen. Martin Heinrich's wife, Julie Heinrich, doing the endorsement honors. 

She comes with a pitch for progressive Dem Heather Berghmans who is trying to take out Dem state Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto in District 15 in the ABQ NE Heights. 

Around here the Senator has earned the moniker "First Endorser" for his numerous endorsements, including quite a few in contested primaries and where the state's US Senators rarely went in the past.

Julie Heinrich is also backing progressive Dem Angel Charley in her District 30 primary race against former conservative Senator Clemente Sanchez. There is no R running there so the winner of the primary takes the prize. 

Progressive women will be key in that Ivey-Soto contest. The lower the turnout goes the better it will be for Berghmans, say our legislative watchers, who believe the progressive vote is most committed and will turn out. 

Julie Heinrich will try to raise some badly needed funds for Berghmans. Ivey-Soto srtarted the month with a nearly 2 to 1 cash on hand edge. ($128,000 to $65,000 with both expected to get outside PAC support this month.)
Team Heinrich had a mixed April. The New Yorker hit with an in-depth piece that gave Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland some of the best press she's received in years as friends say she is weighing a run for the '26 Dem nomination for Governor. Sen. Heinrich is also weighing such a bid but his path is more complicated.
Meow Wolf, where Julie Heinrich is an executive, is suffering financial problems and announced layoffs in April. Her job was not among them but watching those around you fall to the sword is never pleasant. 
Say what, Miguel?
It was this past Monday when we reported on State Rep. Miguel Garcia dissing Las Cruces Rep. Joanne Ferrary for endorsing the primary foe of state Rep. Willie Madrid in Cruces. Garcia hit the ceiling over that with this: 

Representative Ferrary is blatantly supporting Willie’s primary opponent. Being a Chair of a committee is an honorable position. It denotes leadership in our Caucus. Blatantly supporting the primary opponent of Representative Madrid is malfeasance at its worst. I urge Speaker Martinez to put a tourniquet on the unethical breach by Representative Joanne Ferrary and strip her of her three chair positions. 
But what's this? An announcement of a fund-raiser in support of District 70 Democrat Anita Gonzales who is challenging incumbent Dem Ambrose Castellano? And it shows Rep. Miguel Garcia as a member of the host committee for the party to help kick Ambrose down the road? Indeed it is.

Nice try, Miguel, but are you now going to give up your chairmanship (if he had one) as punishment for your wayward ways? Not that you're not a nice guy, but you're hypocrisy just earned you an Alligator Strike. Enjoy that. . .or something. 

Staying in the north, here's progressive Dem Rep. Susan Herrera of Rio Arriba who is sore over the conservative "New Mexico Project" for encouraging support of candidates based on their ethnicity: 
As a Hispana legislator who beat a 25 year incumbent who was also a Hispanic woman, I think that Hispanics in the North are more concerned about issues than racial identity. Are people proud of their heritageOf course, but they vote on the issues. I have clearly stated in a recent letter to the House Democratic Caucus that I will support all members of my caucus in the primary and general elections this yearI’ve reminded the Caucus that we vote together 90% of the timeDoes that mean I vote for every bill a Democrat introducesNo. I enact legislation that serves my district and my New Mexico constituencyI vote with and for my district and I continue to be elected in the North.

Rep. Herrera
Not so with The New Mexico Project, they’ve carved out a very careful list of challengers and incumbents stating that the Hispanic community will support these members. As a former Director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, I can assure readers that the Hispanic vote is not monolithic and there is no one who can claim the Hispanic vote, including Jeff Apodaca and his followers. I was more than pleased to see three Hispanic candidates vy for the Gubernatorial election in 2018Jeff lost with 22% of the vote.   

They say they are pro-healthcare, business, education and public safetyWell, who isn’t for healthcare, business, education and public safety?  Since I’ve been in office the Legislature has passed, and the Governor has signed, bills to make the salaries of New Mexico’s teachers the highest in our region, bring universal early childhood education programs to New Mexico families, and stop the practice of predatory lenders lowering interest rates from 175% to 36%Do these bills sound like an ultra-liberal progressive agenda that has neglected the needs of the Hispanic community? I would soundly disagree. If it’s an early campaign call for action, so be itBut don’t pretend that New Mexico Hispanic voters will fall in line.

Rep. Herrera was first elected in 2019. She is being challenged in the Dem primary by Margaret Cecila Campos.  Cecila Campos. The NM Project has not endorsed in the race.  

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Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Holding Up Haaland: Major Magazine Piece Portrays Cabinet Secretary In Full And Favorable Light As Guv Talk Continues To Surround Her And Heinrich; How And Why It Could Impact '26 Contest  

Haaland (New Yorker)
If Deb Haaland has any plans to run for governor--and all signs say she does--an encyclopedic profile from the liberal but authoritative New Yorker Magazine on her life, times and trials and tribulations will only ramp up the pressure on Sen. Martin Heinrich to publicly put aside any '26 gubernatorial aspirations he harbors.

The over 9,000 word piece (you read that number right) is a gift for Haaland, 63, the first Native American Secretary of the Interior in the nation's history who remains noncommittal about her future even as her friends and operatives here appear to be laying the groundwork for her to seek the Democratic Guv nomination in 2026. Ditto for Heinrich.

The powerfully written profile of Haaland comes close to canonizing her as it details her difficult early life, her jagged path up the power ladder and the milestones achieved as the overseer of a department with sweeping powers over the American West.

Unfortunately, Haaland was not asked directly about the governorship or, if she was, it was not included. Here's what did come out: 

Haaland is committed to staying at Interior through the election in November, but she is circumspect about her plans after that, even if Biden is reëlected. A few months after her term began, she married her boyfriend, Skip Sayre, a widowed gaming-and-hospitality executive who was then the marketing director for the Laguna Development Corporation. They own a condo not far from Haaland’s office, along with an adobe home outside Albuquerque, where they have two rescue dogs, Winchester and Remington. Haaland, now sixty-three, still runs marathons, and the pair enjoy hiking together. It is harder, these days, for Haaland to return to her ancestral home in Mesita, but she was there after her mother died, during her first year at Interior, and she sees her family often. She still hopes to get her ­master’s degree from U.C.L.A. and recently finished her thesis. She has spent more than three hundred and sixty-five days on the road during her time as Secretary.

The New Yorker finds her tenure as Interior Secretary as vindication of long-ignored Native American rights and as instrumental in redefining its mission to include social justice for Natives--most of whom live on federal lands controlled by Interior.

In taking over the department, Haaland, like all her predecessors, was tasked with overseeing one of the most diverse and unruly agencies in the federal government, so sprawling that it is sometimes called the Department of Everything Else. She has also embraced a possibly impossible challenge: not only running the Department of the Interior but redeeming it. 

That redemption includes Haaland establishing a Missing and Murdered Unit in the BIA, pursuing justice by forming the Federal Indian Boarding School initiative to investigate horrible wrongdoing against  Native youths and being "an integral player in a conservation plan pushed by Biden, called “30 by 30”—an attempt to conserve thirty per cent of the country’s land and water by 2030."


It's the unarguably compelling personal history of Haaland that has the most political punch in the magazine's elongated narrative as it unpacks that background with a simplistic force sure to resonate on any campaign trail Haaland chooses to step onto:

Mary and John were married in 1958, and the third of their four children, Debra Anne, was born in 1960, while her father was stationed in Okinawa. He went on to earn two Purple Hearts and a Silver Star in Vietnam. During his deployments and temporary duty assignments, Haaland’s mother would bring the children back to her parents—at first to a house in Arizona, but soon to her mother’s ancestral homeland, in Mesita, where they all lived together in a one-room stone dwelling. That house, which is smaller than the office where Haaland and I were talking, is one of the few places she has ever thought of as home. Throughout her extremely peripatetic childhood—she attended thirteen public schools in as many years—she spent summers and other long spells getting a different kind of education from her grandmother on the Pueblo of Laguna. She and her siblings helped chop firewood, bake bread in a mud oven, cook huge pots of beef posole and deer stew, and pluck worms from the stalks of corn in the fields during the summertime. Whatever the season, they bathed in a galvanized washtub with water they heated on the stove after carrying buckets from the only well in the village, and they sometimes slept together on the floor. Before bedtime, their mother would do last call for the outhouse. Once they were ready for bed, their grandmother would turn out the only light in the house.

Heinrich has already come under pressure from his GOP opponent, Nella Domenici, for not knocking down rumors that, if re-elected, he will turn right around and run for Governor. And if he wins, he would then appoint Gov. Lujan Grisham to his vacant Senate seat. 

That meme is menacing for Heinrich as he faces Domenici's unanticipated and well-funded challenge. Now there's this glowing article giving Haaland's halo extra luster that may have his own party applying pressure on him to back off from any Guv run. 

The 9,000 plus words take much weight from Haaland's shoulders not by glossing over her foibles but by effectively placing them in the context of her entire life's journey. The mountain of verbiage is easily translated into political language and thus places much weight on the shoulders of the state's senior senator. Stay tuned.

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Monday, April 29, 2024

Progressives Strike Back Against The NM Project; Candidates Use Conservative Fund-Raising Threat To Raise Their Own Funds For June Primary, Plus: More Dem Ethnic Divide As Rep. Madrid Dumped By Fellow Dem Rep Ferrary 

Progressive legislative candidates are striking back against the new kid on block--the self-described anti-progressive PAC The NM Project--that seeks to elect conservative and moderate legislative Democrats and that is headed up by businessman and Dem politico Jeff Apodaca. 

He announced here last week that the group has raised "close to" $1 million to battle the left of his party but donors remain anonymous and that amount can't be confirmed. 

Our sources say the group may not be all that close to the $1 million but the coffers are ample and could pose a threat to progressives on the June 4 primary ballot. 

But the PAC is also presenting opportunity to progressives to rally their troops and raise more money of their own. 

In District 30, comprised of four counties, Acoma Pueblo resident and progressive Dem Angel Charley, faces the NM Project endorsed Clemente Sanchez, a former conservative Dem senator. He was ousted in the '20 Dem primary and is now trying to get back to the Roundhouse. Charley aims to slow his stride with this fund-raising message:  

Dear Neighbors, There’s a new corporate PAC. . .and our opponent is one of their top candidates. We’re really going to need your help to push back against this special interest PA. . . This is exactly what happened four years ago when Chevron formed a PAC to help then-Senator Clemente Sanchez keep his seat. Now, some of those same interests are yet again working to get him back to the Senate. And why are the oil and gas industry, Big Pharma, payday loan companies, and insurance companies so invested in Clemente Sanchez winning? For them, they like his record. As a state Senator, Clemente Sanchez voted against increasing oil and gas royalty rates, and he voted for keeping payday loan interest rates high for people in dire financial straits. 


In the ABQ metro former BernCo Commissioner Debbie O'Malley is glad to have The NM Project as her money-raising foil. She is taking on District 13 incumbent Dem Senator Bill' ONeill in the primary who was endorsed by group. O'Malley came with this:

Dear Neighbors, . . .I have made the list of candidates that a corporate PAC led by failed gubernatorial Democratic candidate Jeff Apodaca has targeted for defeat. The PAC. . .laughably says they are defending Hispanic traditional values… and for that reason, they are somehow backing my opponent, Bill O’Neill.  We don’t exactly know who the donors to this new PAC are. . . After the election, we will undoubtedly come to find out this new PAC is being funded by the oil and gas industry, insurance companies, NAIOP, and the realtors. That’s no surprise. Let's be clear: this new PAC targeting me is not about race or defending Hispanic values, but about corporate special interests not liking my record. If this were about race, why would they target me, a Hispanic, native New Mexican, over an Anglo candidate originally from Ohio? I am a committed progressive Democrat who sides with families and neighborhoods over corporate special interests. Please give. . . whatever you can to help me fight back against this dark money PAC.  

But hold on. Sen. O'Neill--"The Fighting Irishman"--not known for being either a conservative or a Hispanic--is firmly rejecting the Apodaca group's endorsement as he battles to survive. He says of The NM Project endorsement:

I just want  say no thank you. . . I am proud of my progressive track record. I'm proud to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood. Conservation Voters and Equality New Mexico. 

O'Neill's problem isn't that he's not progressive enough. It's that his district has radically changed in redistricting and no longer includes many of the enclaves he could count on. Large new portions are near downtown ABQ and surrounding areas that favor O'Malley because she has represented them on the commission and ABQ City Council. 

O'Malley says after the election donors to The NM Project will become known. Perhaps. But contributions to such 501(c)4 groups are not required do disclose them. However, the assumption that oil and gas is a large donor is not without reason. 


Now down to Las Cruces and House District 53 where ethnic politics is also flaring. Anglo Dem state Rep. Joanne Ferrary turned away from fellow Dem Rep. Willie Madrid and endorsed his primary opponent, Jon Hill, and held a fund-raiser for him over the weekend. She says: 

I look forward to working with Jon on so many shared visions for a better New Mexico! His experiences and Doctorate as an educator and Superintendent in rural schools is invaluable! I appreciate his great concerns for the environment and his dedication to protect women’s right to choose!

So what's the deal with Madrid and abortion? There's an implication in Ferrary's letter that he is on the wrong side of the choice question. But Madrid secured the '22 endorsement of Planned Parenthood and voted to repeal an outdated abortion law that was the chief worry of abortion proponents.   

But the anti-progressive The NM Project found Madrid to their liking and have endorsed him which denotes his conservative approach to business legislation.

Ferrary's backing of Hill over Madrid drew a scalding response from ABQ Dem Rep. Miguel Garcia, first elected in 1996, and now the senior Democratic member of the House:

Willie Madrid is one of our most dedicated and hardest working legislators. . .Willie is a loyal Democrat and unlike some conservative Democrats in the House, he has never engaged in coalition politics with the Republicans. House District 53 is the most vulnerable of all swing seats. Willie’s past victories over Republican candidates were in the single digits. Willie Madrid is currently under attack by Chairperson Joanne Ferrary (chair of Consumer and Public Affairs and two interim committees). Representative Ferrary is blatantly supporting Willie’s primary opponent. Being a Chair of a committee is an honorable position. It denotes leadership in our Caucus. Blatantly supporting the primary opponent of Representative Madrid is malfeasance at its worst. I urge Speaker Martinez to put a tourniquet on the unethical breach by Representative Joanne Ferrary and strip her of her three chair positions. 

Garcia is a progressive but he also happens to be a leader of the native Hispanic community. Hispanic men of all political stripes are feeling left out of the Democratic tent and resentful of primary challenges to their candidates. This resentment is seen in the polling in the presidential race and now a point of contention in the NM June primary.

Rep. Madrid
Hill can use Ferrary's help. His latest campaign report showed just $4,500 in cash and he has loaned himself over $5,000. Madrid had a cash balance of $39,000.

Madrid is seeking a fourth House term. As Rep. Garcia noted, the  Dem primary isn't the only obstacle he has to overcome. He won in '22 in a close 51-49 race in this swing district. The GOP will be back again against the Dem primary winner with Elizabeth Lee Winterowd who opposed Madrid in that nail-biter. 

District 37 Rep. Ferrary used to run tight races in her own District 37 but broke away as the area became more progressive and is now seeking her fourth term. She has no primary challenge but faces Republican Ronnie Sisneros in November.

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