Thursday, May 30, 2024

Cookie-Cutter Senate Ads Clutter The Campaign Mailboxes, Councilor Lewis Dealt An Ethics Loss, And: Ethics Commission And Ethnicity  

Debbie O'Malley ad 

At this stage of the primary voters weary of political ads might say, "you've seen one; you've seen them all."

And in this case we bring to light they would be right on the money.

Posted is an ad for ABQ Dem state senate candidate Debbie O'Malley and another for ABQ Dem senate contender Heather Berghmans. See any difference? That's because there is none. Only the names of the candidates have been changed. (Click to enlarge.)

Heather Berghmans ad

Talk about cookie-cutter ads. Can't the well-paid consultants do better and can't their candidates make sure they do? 

But it is good to know that Debbie and Heather are identical twins. Who would have guessed? 

Berghmans is trying to oust Dem Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto in District 15 but as the campaign draws to a close observers are pointing to the superior effort the embattled but deeply experienced Ivey-Soto has been putting on. 

Berghmans is a first-time candidate and her digital ads are not grabbers. His are. And the fact that she did her KOB-TV interview over the phone and not in person as Ivey-Soto did was a bad look and a rookie error.

That's not a prediction on how the race will end up. We'll know soon enough when we broadcast the Election Night results on pubic radio KANW-FM over the air and on the stream starting at 6:30 Tuesday, June 4. 

Back to the action. . . 

Debbie O'Malley, a former city councilor and county commissioner, is as experienced as Ivey-Soto--if not more so--and it shows. Despite the cookie-cutter ad we chide the candidates over, she is comfortable in her own skin and at home in the newly designed District 13 that includes the ABQ North Valley and downtown where she is seeking to oust Dem Senator Bill O'Neill. 

Did O'Neill take for granted the redistricting that has now put him at risk? To be answered on E Night. 

Speaking of which. . .

We're pleased to welcome back to the KANW microphones ABQ Dem State Reps Day Hochman-Vigil and Joy Garratt. This election is all about the 112 seats in the legislature so who better than two well-informed lawmakers to explain the ins and outs of Primary '24. Be sure to join them and yours truly.


The progressive group OLÉ is flooding the socials with a plethora of ads supporting their favorite progressive candidates and dissing their not so favorite non-progressives. You can view them here.


This is not going to help further the mayoral aspirations of Dan Lewis: 

The State Ethics Commission has entered into a pre-litigation settlement agreement with Albuquerque City Council President Dan Lewis for violation of the Governmental Conduct Act. The agreement addresses allegations that Councilor Lewis acquired a financial interest in employment with the Albuquerque Pavement Association of New Mexico when he had reason to believe that his sponsorship and votes on legislation related to the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Joint Air Quality Control Board would directly affect his employment. The GCA prohibits public officials from acquiring a new financial interest while in office if there is reason to believe the financial interest will be directly impacted by the public official’s governmental acts. Further, the GCA requires that public officials recuse from official acts directly affecting their financial interests. 

Lewis ran for mayor against Tim Keller in 2017 and suffered a landslide loss. Our Alligators are saying it is becoming clear that if Keller's popularity remains low, it is increasingly unlikely that Lewis will be the main challenger to Keller as he seeks a third term next year. They look for a stronger candidate to emerge and probably not a Republican like Lewis. We shall see. . . 


Reaction now to another Ethics Commission action carried here this week. The commission filed a lawsuit against The New Mexico Project led by conservative Dem businessman Jeff Apodaca for failing to disclose its donors and expenditures to the SOS. A reader writes:

Joe, I am having a hard time understanding why the Ethics Commission singled out the NMP and Apodaca, when progressive 501c4's have been doing what the NMP is doing and supporting Democratic candidates for years without disclosing their donors. One can't help but think that the Ethics Commission is being used by powerful state progressives to attack and cripple the NMP, since the NMP is exposing progressives as targeting Hispanic state senators and representatives disproportionately over the past several election cycles. In this election alone, 100% (4/4) of incumbent state senators and 80% (4/5) of incumbent state representatives are Hispanics targeted by progressives. The challenge of Hispanic incumbents by progressives appears to have been an ongoing, coordinated effort and should be exposed. It definitely appears to be another effort aimed at silencing native Hispanics in this state. This is very disturbing to me, as a native Hispanic Democrat. 

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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Two Pro Choice Women Arguing Over Issue In Senate Dem Primary; Heather Balas Mailer Irks Progressive Cindy Nava, Plus: Guv And House Speaker Relationship Eyed As They Hit Campaign Trail In Opposite Directions  

Balas mailer
Can abortion become the defining issue in a Democratic state senate primary featuring two women who are pro-choice? 

That somewhat unusual question hovers over the contest in Senate District 9 that includes the village of Corrales, Placitas and the town of Bernalillo. 

Progressive Democrat Cindy Nava, "a proud immigrant" who served as a senior policy advisor at the Obama Department of Housing and Urban Development, has received the official endorsement from the influential political arm of Planned Parenthood.

Centrist Democrat Heather Balas, who served over a decade as executive director of New Mexico First, a public policy group co-founded by former US Senators Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici, pushes back with an endorsement from former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish. She's a former Planned Parenthood board member who calls the group's backing of Nava the result of Democratic "intra party politics" and says Balas will "fiercely defend reproductive freedom."

Apparently Balas feels her positioning on abortion could be a deciding factor in her race as she came with a mailer (posted here) that Nava said mimicked the the endorsement logo of Planned Parenthood and was busted for it by the Nava camp:

Cindy Nava is the only candidate endorsed by Planned Parenthood Votes NM, because they only trust Cindy Nava to stand up for reproductive choice to ensure women’s healthcare is protected. It seems a bit desperate that Heather Balas would resort to plagiarizing the Planned Parenthood Votes logo in her mail. Don’t be fooled by imitations or people who are obviously misrepresenting themselves. In this race for Senate District 9, there’s only one candidate endorsed by Planned Parenthood Votes NM. 

The Balas response: 

I’m a lifelong champion of reproductive freedom and – unlike my opponent – have actually worked on abortion policy nationally.  So, we created our own reproductive health graphic in a round-badge style that is one of the most commonly used motifs to communicate a position of any nature. No single group or organization can claim exclusive rights to this style of graphic – which is why there are thousands out there. In no way did I claim this graphic represented any organization. . .I accurately illustrated my own commitment to being a protector of reproductive health -- using a pink graphic. . . I’m a proud defender of reproductive health, and I want voters to know it. . .I will always stand up to extremists who want to undermine bodily autonomy.  

Abortion is settled law in New Mexico with one of the most liberal standards in the nation, thanks in part to MLG who has carved out a national reputation on the issue. But arguments still rage across the nation over reproductive rights--including neighboring Arizona and  remains a litmus test issue among many Democrats, including in NM Senate District 9. 


This race is consequential in that a Nava win would keep a progressive Dem in the seat while a Balas win could add strength to the conservative Dem senate wing. 

For example, Nava is endorsed by progressive Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart whose campaign donated $2,500 to Nava and House Speaker Javier Martinez and former House Speaker Brian Egolf.

Balas is receiving support from conservative Dem and former network newsman Sam Donaldson. He and his wife each donated $5,500 to her campaign. Also, former conservative Dem state Senator John Sapien, who once represented District 9, is also a supporter of Balas.

In their individual campaigns, they are pretty evenly matched with Balas starting early May with $61,000 in cash and Nava $69,000$. 

There are two Republicans running in the primary but this district has a Democratic lean and the winner of the Dem primary is likely to take the November election.


Abortion is also having impact in that hotly contested northern state House Dem primary featuring Rep. Ambrose Castellano and progressive challenger Anita Gonzales. 

District 70 Rep. Castellano of Las Vegas cast a vote against repealing a 1969 statute that pro choice advocates said that if kept on the books cold have severely restricted the procedure in the state. That vote, among others, apparently drew the wrath of MLG who gave a somewhat rare primary endorsement to Gonzales. 

The Guv, as seen in this pic, is now on the campaign trail drumming up votes for Gonzales. A victory by Castellano would be a major  embarrassment for MLG. 

With her personal support for Gonzales and progressive PACS jamming the mailboxes, they are doing all they can to ensure her victory. 


Look at this pic of Rep. Castellano shoulder-to-shoulder with progressive House Speaker Javier Martinez and a pack of his House Dem colleagues, 18 of whom have endorsed his candidacy. Clearly, Castellano is not throwing in the towel early. 

The pic also raises the issue of the current relationship between the Speaker and the Governor. 

Martinez has endorsed all incumbent House Dems--whether they be be progressive or conservative. But he has also cut a digital TV ad for Castellano in addition to appearing in his literature. That's not backing away from gubernatorial power. 

Also, his unease at the Guv calling a special July session of the legislature to tackle crime is an open secret.

Then there's the more subtle matter of the growing rift between the Hispanic men of La Politica and Anglo progressive women who have become such a force and may even be eying one of their own for the House speakership down the road. 

Well, all the angles and very latest results and expert analysis will be on the table when we gather for Election Night at KANW. The broadcast kicks off at 6:30 Tuesday. 

Among our experts will be Republican consultant Bob Cornelius and Dem consultant Sisto Abeyta so be sure to join us for the state's best coverage.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Two Races Dominate As Primary '24 Goes Into Final Week; Predictions On Ivey-Soto Battle As He Fights Off Progressive Charge, Also: DA Bregman Gets Glowing Endorsement While Martinez Supporters Push Back, Plus: Complaint Seeks To Disclose Apodaca PAC Donors 

Ivey-Soto mailer (click to enlarge)
A furious final week of campaigning is underway in Primary '24 with the most attention centered on two Democratic races--the drama-filled contest between ABQ state Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto and challenger Heather Berghmans and the clash between BernCo District Attorney San Bregman and former US Attorney Damon Martinez.

In the District 15 race Ivey-Soto, on the defense for several years over sex harassment charges that have already cost him the chairmanship of the powerful Rules Committee, has run a sprightly campaign and is back on higher ground in these final fateful hours.

But opinion remains divided on whether the three term senator in the ABQ Mid-Heights can beat newcomer Berghmans, also a a Santa Fe player who has worked as a consultant for the House Democrats campaign finance committee. 

Consultant David Alcon, son of Dem state Rep. Eliseo Alcon, believes that the bread was baked long ago in this race and that Ivey-Soto will be unable to overcome antipathy from female voters:

The allegations have stung and have been in the news long enough to be fatal. Progressives have mounted an all-out campaign to get rid of him and while he may bounce some I think his campaign was lost before it began.

But consultant Sisto Abeyta, who has worked with Ivey-Soto, declared:

This race has voters confused because the charges are just charges with nothing proven. Also, there are the endorsements of Ivey-Soto from prominent progressive senators such as Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Sedillo-Lopez. They are urging voters to stick with him because of his support for abortion rights and paid family medical leave--key issues in the party. The race is now winnable.

Ivey-Soto has been courting women voters who will make up the majority of votes cast and who are seen as most prone to go against him because of the allegations. 

As seen in the mailer at the top of the blog, he touts his "strong record" on domestic violence and sexual assault. That qualifies as an in-the-face response to the progressive left trying to take him out. 

Berghmans campaign complains that a lobbyist who accused Ivey-Soto of screaming and cursing at her at the Roundhouse in 2017 is pictured in one of the mailer's photos and should not have been shown. But, as one would expect, that fell on deaf ears at the Ivey-Soto campaign as they battle against far more vicious and personal attacks from progressives.

Sen. Ortiz y Pino, a liberal lion who is retiring this year, has gone all in for Ivey-Soto, cutting videos that tout Ivey-Soto's support of progressive issues. Those ads and others are here

In the final days Berghmans and the progressives continue to hammer him over the sex harassment charges that were never resolved--as seen in ads here in which she states that she will "stand up to anyone" who "mistreats women" and "flip-flops" on paid family medical leave. 


Last week we pointed out the break Ivey-Soto received on certain charges when the State Ethics Commission dismissed the allegations.At the time we did not have a link to that report, but we do now:

 A hearing officer for the commission closed the case after the agency’s general counsel found no probable cause related to allegations that the Albuquerque legislator violated the state Governmental Conduct Act by engaging in “harassing, hostile and retaliatory conduct” against women and that he took various legislative actions too personally. . . Commission general counsel Walker Boyd concluded that three of the five alleged violations fell outside of the two-year statute of limitations, or were privileged under the New Mexico state constitution. In a 27-page decision he determined the other two, involving Ivey-Soto’s business contracts with county clerks in the state, weren’t “supported by probable cause.”. . . “I thought this was specious and frivolous. And the fact that they couldn’t even meet the low standard of probable cause is a vindication of that,” said Ivey-Soto. 

Critics of the decision responded that the allegations were dismissed for technical reasons not on the merits:

Daniel Yohalem, a Santa Fe attorney who filed the complaint, said he was disappointed in the dismissal, “because it doesn’t seem to me that the decision determined that any of the facts that I alleged in hundreds of pages of documents were inaccurate. It just determined that they couldn’t do anything about them. So what kind of ethics protections do the citizens and taxpayers of this state have?”

This race is down to the wire and we'll have the finish when we take to the KANW radio microphones Tuesday, June 4 at 6:30 to bring you all of the primary election results and expert analysis.


While Ivey-Soto was pushing out that favorable Ethics Commission decision, Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman was doing the same with his own favorable news. 
The Democratic DA, appointed to the post by MLG to fill a vacancy and now seeking a four year term in his own right, received a glowing endorsement from the Republican-oriented editorial pages of the ABQ Journal. The backing of Bregman over challenger Martinez was made to order for the final campaign week:

Bregman is a tremendous presence in the DA’s Office. . . As one of most well-known attorneys in New Mexico history, he is able to recruit young, talented prosecutors fresh out of law school and proven prosecutors from across the country. . . While other government agencies struggle to hire staff, Bregman is expanding his force of attorneys and support staff, up to nearly 330 total people currently. . . In 2023, the DA’s Office prosecuted 111 felony trials — nearly double the number of felony trials from the prior year. And a conviction rate of nearly 70% for felony trials and more than an 80% on misdemeanor cases also isn’t bad. DWI prosecutors in Metropolitan Court are also seeing improvements, with a DWI conviction rate of nearly 80%.

That endorsement of Bregman by the paper is in notable contrast to the intense criticism he received from them when he was chairman of the state Democratic party and during the tenure of GOP Governor Susana Martinez. But times change, don't they?

ABQ attorney Jeffrey Paul carries the water for the Martinez campaign in pushing back against the editorial love note to Bregman:

. . . The endorsement states, “Bregman says he’s fallen in love with being District Attorney and that he has a lot more work to do to restore a sense of public safety in Bernalillo County. That’s good enough for us.” And, “Bregman also has a tremendous presence outside the courtroom.” Well, that’s not good enough for me. Yes, Bregman has a presence in the community; never turning down a chance for a photo op. He can talk all he wants to about hiring lots of new prosecutors but he will not tell you that many are just filling positions that others have vacated. And his lack of good judgement is not good enough for me. His announcement letting us know he dropped hundreds of DWI cases due to a confidential federal investigation just opened the door for those under investigation to potentially conceal or destroy evidence. Loving his job is just not good enough for me. Good judgement and dedication to solving problems is more important than photo oping in a cowboy hat. 

Has Martinez raised Bregman's negatives enough to score an upset next Tuesday or is "Showboat Sam" going to show him who's boss


Jeff Apodaca tells us he will not have any comment on this Ethics Commission action until he's "officially notified." The latest:

The State Ethics Commission filed a lawsuit against The New Mexico Project and Jeff Apodaca to enforce the disclosure provisions of the Campaign Reporting Act.  TNMP or Apodaca spent thousands of dollars on  a website and purchased radio and social media advertisements to influence the outcome of elections for at least 15 legislative districts in the House of Representatives and Senate. 

The CRA requires those who have made aggregate independent expenditures in excess of $1,000 dollars in a non-statewide election to disclose to whom those expenditures were made and the source of the contributions that funded the expenditures. 

TNMP has made more than $1,000 dollars in independent expenditures in support of specific “pro-moderate” and “pro-business” candidates but has failed to register as a political committee or make any disclosures related to those independent expenditures. Accordingly, the Commission filed suit to enforce the CRA’s disclosure requirements. 

 In 2019, the Legislature amended the CRA to shine light on “dark money” in New Mexico’s elections, requiring groups that pay for advertisements or advocacy in support of candidates to be minimally transparent about who funded those efforts. The CRA allows New Mexicans to know who funds efforts to influence their votes. The State Ethics Commission has authority to enforce the CRA and has pursued civil enforcement actions to bring greater transparency to New Mexicans regarding who is funding and coordinating election advertisements. 

This is a case that La Politica will be following closely. Businessman Apodaca started the PAC this year with a heap of help of from oil and gas interests in an effort to move state politics to a more centrist mode. The NM Project is supporting conservative House Dems like Patty Lundstrom, Ambrose Castellano and Marian Matthews. Ads for all their candidates are here.  

Apodaca earlier told us that his attorneys believe The NM Project is not required to disclose their donors or spending to the SOS. Now that will be put to the test.

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