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Thursday, May 16, 2024

Ivey-Soto Sex Harrassment Accuser Anaya In Tight Race For ABQ House Seat; Four Way Battle Tests Strength Of Establishment Progressives On Home Turf; House Leader Chasey Reneges On Neutrality As Race Goes To Wire 

Marianna Anaya
Establishment progressives expecting to romp to victory in perhaps the most liberal House seat in the state have been surprised by a stiff challenge from a political newcomer and are now in a down-to-the-wire fight to put one of their own in ABQ House District 18. 

Marianna Anaya, the progressive favorite, is a lobbyist who in 2022 accused ABQ Dem state Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto of sex harassment and in the process became a folk hero of sorts to the far left. She  claimed the harassment occurred in 2015 and demanded that he resign:

As a young staffer for then Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, I attended an NEA reception and you slid your hand across my side and disgustingly groped and pinched my buttocks.

Anjali Taneja
The case was investigated by a legislative ethics panel but the findings were inconclusive and the Senator was never found guilty of any wrongdoing. Ivey-Soto did not resign and is seeking re-election this year. He was, however, stripped of his chairmanship of the Senate Rules Committee.

Now Anaya is trying to ride the fame she acquired from that case into the Roundhouse but has run into a formidable roadblock in Anjali Taneja, a family physician who is getting significant financial support from her medical colleagues and who has nearly kept pace with Anaya in fundraising as well as the sign wars in the SE ABQ Heights district 

Taneja is also a progressive but not an establishment progressive as embodied by Anaya, a former deputy director of ProgressNow NM and the recipient of outside aid from progressive PAC money run by longtime consultant Amanda Cooper and involving media consultant and former Big Bill Chief of Staff Dave Contarino.  

But Taneja has managed to to raise $92,000 to Anaya's $120,000. She inched ahead of her in cash on hand with $70,000 to Anaya's $68,000 going into the final month of the June priumary

Two other candidates are in---nurse Gloria Doherty and community education activist Juan Larranaga—but district observers report they are lagging,

The race has become so heated that outgoing Rep. Gail Chasey, the House Majority Leader who has held the seat since 1997 and promised not to endorse anyone, has reneged on that promise as she tries to rescue Anaya, saying in a constituent letter:

. . .You may have heard me say that I would not support any one candidate unless I heard that another campaign was providing misinformation. . .Unfortunately, that's happened with frequent attempts to disparage Marianna as a "lobbyist." That term can conjure up Washington DC Lobbyists, with wealthy, sometimes unscrupulous, clients. . .In contrast. . . Marianna's advocacy and community organizing experience should be celebrated. She has been a leader in advocating to end the 1969 abortion ban. . . Marianna has advanced work on environmental advocacy, the reduction of homelessness. . . That is why she has the support of 25 Democratic legislators, and is the only non-elected official to be endorsed early by Equality New Mexico, our statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization. . .

But hold on, Gail. The reference to Anaya being a lobbyist is fact. Whether that's disparaging or conjures up unseemly images is another matter--a matter of your opinion. 

Even the progressive press refers to Anaya as a "voting rights lobbyist." And she has been a registered lobbyist with the NM Secretary of State. Any questions?

Well, maybe Gail will have time to read the dictionary once she cleans out her Roundhouse office and not try to rewrite it. 

 REALITY OR PAYBACK?

All of this is critical because Ivey-Soto supporters claim that lobbyist Anaya and other progressives have  accused him of killing their version of a voting rights bill that was in his Senate Rules Committee that he chaired at the time. That's why, they assert, it took Anaya so many years to come forward with her groping accusations and later complained that she felt forced to drink wine with him in his Senate office. 

Were the charges real or political payback? That's the question that hangs in the air. 

In other words, the signature platform of the #MeToo movement--that someone is guilty once they are "credibly charged" has been placed on the trash heap of history.

Critics also blast Anaya and the establishment progressives for staying on the sidelines when it was revealed that married GOP state Senator Cliff Pirtle of Roswell had been having an affair with a teen aged staffer of GOP Senator Crystal Brantley who later gave birth to his child. 

Unlike the Ivey-Soto incident, the Democratic-controlled Senate conducted no investigation into whether  Pirtle had used his position of authority over the staffer to persuade the young woman to have sex. In the Pirtle case there was a complete code of silence at the Roundhouse even as the cries of hypocrisy rattled the old building. 

Taneja has a long list of involvement in healthcare in the public and private arenas, UNM Hospital Board of Trustees the BernCo Treatment Advisory Board and executive director of Casa de Salud "created as a space for fair-priced, affordable, integrative health care."

If elected, she would be the only medical doctor in the 70 member House.

Anaya runs her own consulting firm from which she lobbies from and also has a record of community service, including the NM Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network and NM Latino Education Task Force, Board of Directors.

This district is all Dem all the time. No R's need apply and none have. 

THE BOTTOM LINES 

Reader David Luna reacts to our blog where BernCo Dem County Clerk candidate Karen Montoya says her campaign signs have "gone missing" or been "tampered" with:

Hey Joe! RE: Candidate Karen Montoya's crying foul about damage to campaign signs, I wonder if she took the 60 MPH winds we've experienced in the past few weeks into consideration? Seems interesting that she'd immediately blame vandals.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Farmington Fracas: GOP House Leader Faces Upstart "Gaining Traction" In Hot Primary; Newcomer Neil Vs. Rod Montoya, Plus: State's Progressive Mayors Continue To Feel The Heat  

The Alligators are stirring in the Four Corners. 

Those insider sources of ours are sounding an alert for the GOP primary contest featuring state House Minority Leader Rod Montoya and educator and political upstart Keith Neil

This is a David and Goliath narrative with Montoya, first elected in 2014, counting $52,000 in cash on hand for the final weeks of the primary and Neil, dean of students for Navajo Prep School in Farmington, with only $2,300.

The ouster of Montoya, a real estate broker, would have statewide implications since it would mean the House Republicans--greatly outnumbered by the Dems--would have to pick a new leader.  

Neil is getting third party dark money support, says Montoya, who cites a push poll that attacks him for allegedly voting to raise taxes, supporting critical race theory and giving himself a pay raise all of which Montoya says he voted against. 

Montoya is known for his hard-right tactics and Neil, a Four Corners native like Montoya, is talking up a milder approach, although he stands by a "pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-police" platform:

I believe to get anything done you have to work with people who think different than you. It takes commonsense to be able to find the things that we have in common, the things that we do have that are different and finding that middle ground that we can agree that this is what moves us forward despite where it comes from.

A kinder, gentler tone was taken when another Four Corners lawmaker--GOP Rep. Ryan Lane--was called on to be the House GOP leader following the resignations of then-Minority Whip Montoya and Leader Jim Townsend. But he was in over his head and Montoya was returned to leadership last month after Lane resigned. 

Big oil is by far Montoya's biggest financial patron with the legendary Yates oil family in the forefront.  

Neil's largest contribution of $5,500 came from moderate GOP Rio Rancho State Rep. Jason Harper who was ousted from his House leadership post by Montoya and company. Harper is not seeking re-election this year. 

SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW?

Rep. Montoya
Neil is young, educated and articulate. Montoya, 57, is well-spoken and a known quantity in the Farmington area and with the GOP establishment. The question is are rank and file GOP voters tired of Montoya and his style and ready for something new. Neil supporters say they are and his campaign is "gaining traction."

If Neil beats Montoya in the primary he will be going to Santa Fe in this all R all the time district and open the doors yet again for another leadership change in the topsy-turvy world of state Republicans.

It's a race that will be at the top of our list when we gather of public radio KANW-FM on June 4 for our traditional wall-to-wall Election Night coverage. 

ELECTION SHOCK

Speaking of election night ABQ Dem state Rep. Joy Garratt will be at the table to assist in analysis of the  results and it looks like she wants to get an early start.

Garratt, like many Dems, is upset with The New Mexico Project, the new political committee working to elect moderate Dems this cycle. She comes to the defense of one of them that the Project says should be retired early: 

I was shocked to see that this project is not supporting Rep. Yanira Gurrola. Rep. Gurrola is a moderate Hispanic Democrat. . . Rep. Gurrola, an immigrant, is a trained engineer who worked for several years in the maquiladoras (large factories) on the border of New Mexico and Mexico. As such, she is deeply familiar with border issues, crossings and economic development and cooperation. She transitioned to teaching in Albuquerque. As a teacher for more than 15 years with APS, she specialized in math and bilingual education at the middle school level, becoming a nationally recognized expert in both. In the Legislature she has been a major advocate for STEM education, equity, and health among many other issues. When unnamed individuals and groups sponsor organizations and websites I question their integrity and motivations, particularly when their support ignores the tremendous qualifications and expertise of people like Rep. Gurrola. 

Gurrola is viewed as the progressive in the District 16 Dem primary race. Her opponent, Marsella Duarte, who the NM Project supports, is viewed as the moderate in the district that covers NW ABQ .

Gurrola is running for the first time. She was appointed to the seat to fill the vacancy created when Rep. Moe Maestas was named to the state Senate. 

No R's need apply. This one is all D all the time although Republican Leland Bohannon is a candidate and we wish him well.

THE PROGRESSIVE MAYORS

The state's top progressive mayors find themselves under increasing attack.

In ABQ the City Council is trying to lower to 40 percent the number of votes needed to win a mayoral election, a proposal that would have to be approved by voters and that could hamper Mayor Keller's effort to win a third term next year.

In Santa Fe, there is also a mayoral election next year. Mayor Alan Webber is not running but his progressive brand of politics has soured a segment of voters. 

This ad attack on the two term Mayor ran in the newspaper. Chances of recalling Webber are slim to none but the dissent sets the stage for next year's election when Santa Fe progressives could be staring down a formidable middle of the road Democrat (or Democrats)--yet o be determined. 

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Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Primary Mail Attacks Ramp Up; Rep. Castellano Targeted By Enviros And GOP Senate Candidate Fends Off Anti-Pearce Republicans In Roswell 

At this time in an election cycle your blog likes to provide a sample of what's hitting the mailboxes, still the main method of campaign communications in legislative races. All 112 of them are up for election this year so there's plenty of paper jamming those boxes. 

Let's start with this negative hit in what may be the hottest contested House primary race--Dem Rep. Ambrose Castellano of Las Vegas in District 70 versus progressive challenger Anita Gonzales who is running against him for the third time

Progressive groups are throwing money and mail at the race as seen in this piece attacking moderate Dem Castellano over his enviro record. 

Castellano, who beat Gonzales 51 to 49 percent in the 2022 primary, came with this defense of his record:

It is unfortunate that the smear tactics will continue till election day. The group putting this out is a progressive group who endorsed my opponent--Conservation Voters NM. . .These are people that don’t want me there because I stand up for you the constituents of District 70, and I will continue to do so as long as you the constituents want me there. So please get out and vote on June 4 and vote for me to continue being your representative. 

MODERATES HIT BACK

The progressives are hitting the moderate Dems hard and many of the attacks center on the Paid Family Leave Act which was defeated in the House last legislative session when 11 Dems joined with Republicans to defeat the measure. 

Those  moderate Dems are fighting back, including ABQ Dem Rep. Marian Matthews in District 31 in the far NE Heights. She faces progressive challenger Greg Seeley. Matthews ripped the progressives over their hits against her in this op-ed:

I did the unthinkable. I voted against a bill – Senate Bill 3, Paid Family Medical Leave, the far-left progressive wing of my party considered perfect. Twice. I support a sustainable PFML bill that works for all New Mexicans. In 2024, I introduced a PFML bill. When I raised the caregiver issues with the House sponsors of SB 3, they said PFML would be insolvent if we carved out caregivers from the payroll taxes that would fund their program. So, no carveout. PFML would be paid for on the backs of the most vulnerable.

SNAKE ATTACK?

Heading down to Roswell, we find state Rep. Candy Ezzell favored to win the GOP state senate primary in District 32 against challenger Chad Hamill but not without taking some hits

The anti-Steve Pearce wing of the NMGOP is fielding PAC 22 to attack Ezzell and other R's. Ezzell being one of them.

The PAC is headed by outgoing GOP Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca. Ordinarily such a PAC is deployed to support incumbent senators and candidates in primaries that are uncontested but that tradition has been thrown out as the deep division in the GOP continues.

Ezzell is seeking the seat being vacated by disgraced GOP Senator Cliff Pirtle who is supporting Hamill. She responds to a flurry of attacks:

There are four accusations: 1) I enriched myself at the expense of taxpayers, 2) raised your taxes, 3) voted for healthcare for illegal immigrants, and 4) voted for Critical Race Theory. Each of these are 100%, absolutely, provably false. On my website I address each. . .Who is running PAC22, and why are they attacking me? They are a group of moderate and liberal Republicans, petty and desperate for attention. This group includes the former senator (Cliff Pirtle) for this district, who has left this seat in disgrace, and who does not want to see me elected. This is an ugly, personal attack, and it speaks to the character of both my opponent and the people supporting him. You know that I am someone who always speaks the truth, especially when folks don’t want to hear it. . . These people are snakes. They do not have your interests in mind. They only think about themselves. This race should be about issues that concern the folks of District 32.  

Pirtle gave $25,000 of his campaign funds to PAC 22. Sen. Crystal Brantley of the ex-Guv Susana Martinez wing of the GOP, as is Leader Baca, gave $10,000. 

The PAC reports $291,000 in cash on hand for the closing weeks to support GOP candidates of their choosing. 

Ezzell, a rancher, has served in the House from Roswell since 2005. No Dems are running for the seat which is all R all the time. 

THE BOTTOM LINES

In a first draft Monday we omitted the name of Clayton Pryor, a GOP candidate for Bernalillo County Clerk. 

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Monday, May 13, 2024

"Amateur Hour Is Over": Martinez Slams Bregman In Debut TV As DA Race Is Fully Joined; Chides Opponent For "Playing Cowboy"; Contest In Crime-Heavy ABQ Seems Close 

Damon Martinez
Will BernCo District Attorney Sam Bregman's black hat earn him a black eye from Democratic primary votes and vault Damon Martinez into the winner's circle? 

Martinez seems to think so. 

His debut TV ad portrays Bregman as a frivolous "amateur" who has been "playing cowboy" while ABQ streets have become the "Wild West."

The thirty second spot gets a lot done. It effectively ridicules Bregman's signature cowboy hat meant to convey a tough on crime image. 

It makes the case for Martinez by reminding Dem voters of his service as a US attorney ('14-'17), appointed by President Obama.

The ad takes note of his military service--and in a contention that will surely be disputed by Bregman--claims Martinez took on violent criminals and the drug cartels.

Bregman, appointed DA by MLG in January '23 to fill the vacancy created when Raul Torrez was elected attorney general, immediately donned his black hat causing analysts to wonder if he was going too far for a Dem primary by appealing to Republicans and hard-line conservatives as he turned off center and left Dems.

That is now easy pickings for Martinez who is trying to appeal to Dems across the board. His spot leads off with footage from Bregman's first ad that shows him strolling down an alley in his black hat. The script:

While Sam Bregman has been playing cowboy our streets have become the Wild West. He's left murderers off the hook and given sweetheart deals to big time drug dealers. Amateur hour is over. Damon Martinez is a former US Attorney appointed by President Obama. He took on violent criminals and cartels. As DA he'll do it again. He'll put criminals in jail and make sure our streets are safe for the ones we care about the most.... 

That last line of the narration--"the ones we care about the most"--shows a young boy wearing a cowboy hat and a lasso around his shoulder walking with his back to camera, making for a final dig at what Martinez believes is Bregman's inauthenticity accented by his showy head gear.

DA Bregman
Martinez backs up his accusations on Bregman's prosecutorial record by citing the dates that media outlets published articles about them. But there is more heat than light when any public official around here claims to have made a dent in the historic crime rate.

The line "amateur hour is over" is punctuated with vintage black and white film of a cowboy actor swirling a lasso for a throw while a country western band fiddles away, another effort to make Bregman appear whimsical.

The Obama mention is complemented by a photo of Martinez talking with President Obama, a clear signal to a large segment of the Democratic primary electorate that may be confused about this race. The Obama reference could point them in the direction Martinez desires.

On the other end of the spectrum there is a shot of Martinez in his uniform serving in the US Army Reserves as a Colonel and a JAG officer in the NM National Guard.

SEEMS CLOSE

The Martinez-Bregman contest in big BernCo is the state's most expensive this primary because there are no statewide contests on the ballot. Bregman has raised over $400,000 and Martinez over $300,000 with over half of his from personal loans.

Neither candidate has a sterling election record. Martinez has never been elected and in his only previous effort he lost the 2018 ABQ Dem US House primary to Deb Haaland. Bregman has run numerous times for various public offices the past 30 years but has only won once--for a single term on the ABQ City Council. 

The race seems close with Bregman's superior name ID putting him in the driver's seat in the early going but now Martinez joining the fray with this effective TV ad and starting to chip away at Bregman, a former criminal defense attorney and onetime chair of the NM Dem Party.  

Neither seems a comfortable fit with the voting public because neither has been convincing that they have credible crime-fighting credentials. That makes their paid media all the more vital.

One of them will win the primary and the four year term up for grabs. No Republican is running.

SIGN TIME

What would a campaign be if candidates were not complaining about their signs being stolen or vandalized? They are off and running with that theme. This is from Dem Bernalillo County Clerk candidate Karen Montoya: 

We've noticed a few of our campaign signs have gone missing or been tampered with recently. As we work hard to represent you in Bernalillo County, we're asking for your help in keeping an eye out for any suspicious activity around our signs. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. Your assistance in safeguarding our campaign materials is greatly appreciated. 

Montoya is competing with Deputy County Clerk Michelle Kavanaugh for the Dem Clerk nomination. County Clerk Linda Stover is term limited. Robert Kwasny and Clayton Pryor are the GOP candidates but the Dem primary winner is heavily favored in November. A Republican hasn't been elected to the post since. . .well. . .we'd have to look that one up.

By the way, Clerk Linda was toying with a run for ABQ Mayor in 2025 but has now told friends she will not be a candidate.

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