Thursday, July 11, 2024

The Special Mess: Breakdown In Consensus On Guv's Crime Bills Could Lead To A Vietnam Strategy; Declare Victory And Get Out In A Day  

The special legislative session is still a bust and the Governor continues to insist on having one starting July 18. One may be the key number. 

Our veteran sources report that in the wake of the crumbling of a consensus over MLG's crime bills, legislative leadership is of a mind to have a simple one day session next Thursday, declare victory and get out of town. Said one: 

Joe, it's the Vietnam strategy. The war is lost but declare it won and leave as smoothly as you can.  

Of course the withdrawal from Vietnam (as well as Afghanistan) was anything but pretty. But these are not enemy forces MLG faces, they are fellow Democrats who are trying now to arrange an exit that saves face for everyone and embarrassment for the Governor. 

But another senior source, commenting on the state House Democratic caucus meeting that took place late Wednesday, warned:

If the Governor doesn’t send legislators a package they can all agree on Speaker Martinez promised to gavel the session to order than abruptly adjourn it--sine die. He doesn’t want the Republicans to out message the Democrats on the House floor and make a spectacle.

Maybe the best they can do at this point is the aforementioned--pass a variety of milquetoast bills next Thursday and tell the innkeepers and restaurant owners counting on extra business:

"Sorry. We'll see you next time."


Why MLG insisted on a special session on crime without a prearranged deal--a very rare occurrence--is the subject of speculation throughout the legislative ranks. Some of it:

--She called the special because it's MLG being MLG--shoot from the hip and look for the target later.

--She wanted to make a splash before the Democratic National Convention and speak there as as a freshly credentialed crime-fighting Governor because her hope for a DC gig have not evaporated.

--She is thinking of her post-gubernatorial years and is proposing behavioral health bills to address crime so she can emerge as a leader in the field when she leaves office. 

--She thinks a special session will be helpful to Dem prospects in the November election. 

--She would not have called the special if former Governor Richardson were still alive and who often acted as a Governor on the Governor.

Whatever the reasoning Santa Fe needs to come together and try to act like a serious government because right now they look weak, in disarray and of no comfort to a citizenry wondering when the crime-fighting starts.


Word arrives of the death of longtime conservative radio talk show host Pat Frisch. He held forth on ABQ's KKOB radio for 20 years as both a talk host and program director. He moved to Montana in 2019 and continued his radio career there. Frisch died of colon cancer last month. He was 63. . .

Paul Douglas Ware, another veteran radio personality known on air as Paul Douglas, has also died of cancer. Douglas was another KKOB alumni and more recently was broadcasting in Las Vegas, NM. Douglas died July 2. He was 73.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2024

A Commentary: Ridin' With Biden In New Mexico: A Partnership Of Progress; President's Policies Have Showered Attention And Funding On State; As DC Silly Season Subsides It's Time For All Of State's Delegation To Get On Board 

As the DC summer silly season subsides and the realization sets in that Joe Biden will indeed be the Democratic party's presidential nominee, there's no cause for mourning. Biden has been more than good for New Mexico. Extending his policies as they apply here for another four years would be welcome. Let's take a look:

--Biden adopted moderate energy polices that address environmental concerns without disrupting the most enormous economic boom in state history--the oil drilling in in SE New Mexico. The historic gusher--expected to continue at least through the end of the decade--is providing the state with billions upon billions in surplus--in a state with only 2 million people. It is a boom that will echo down through the generations and defies Biden's Republican critics who accused him of harboring radical views that would lead to reduced oil production. Instead he is the godfather of the boom that hands the state the potential to rise from the bottom of so many lists. 

--Funding for the national labs is always a source of controversy among Democrats who are uneasy with nuclear armaments policy. That's understandable. But there's no ignoring that modern New Mexico's economy was founded on national security, spearheaded by Los Alamos and Sandia laboratories and Kirtland AFB as well as other bases. All of these installations are today operating at record funding levels thanks to Biden's budgets. The explosion in funding at Los Alamos is especially historic, with so many new employees that they are being placed in nearby Santa Fe. The labs and military bases account for tens of billions in annual federal funding and remain the cornerstone of the economy. Under Biden rumors of closure and cutbacks have ended and funding has soared.

--The 2022 Hermits Peak-Canyon Calf Fire was the largest in state history and the result of bungling by the US Forest Service. In the aftermath Biden and the congressional delegation pushed through a $4 billion appropriation to compensate victims of the blaze. Biden personally visited the state, collaborated with the Governor and did not hesitate in responding.The very generous bill has already meant $850 million being distributed to those impacted, despite a slow start-up. In the next four years climate change promises more disasters that will impact the wilds of New Mexico. Biden has proven that he will have the state's back when the need arises.

---The Inflation Reduction ACT pumped billions into New Mexico for health, environment and other concerns in the wake of the Covid crisis. This has provided even more stimulus for our economically challenged state. The immense amount--which merits overuse of the word "historic"--is also rebuilding infrastructure for the 21st century. It is not an overstatement to say that the measure will extend the life of some rural communities in addition to lowering prescription drug costs

 --Biden appointed New Mexico's Deb Haaland as the first Native American Secretary of the Interior, a post critical to the interests of western states. This was another historic leap for a state where over 10 percent of the population identifies as Native American, giving voice to indigenous citizens. Her attention to past and current wrongs including abusive boarding schools and missing Native women while pursuing a balanced energy policy has vindicated Biden's decision to name her to his cabinet which gives the state a powerful voice at the policy table. 

 --Over his decades of public service Biden has been able to move in a more progressive direction on social issues that Americans have demanded. His firm support of the LGBTQ+ community and his embrace of Hispanics, Native Americans and African-Americans has led to an administration with unprecedented diversity. Add on his staunch support of women's rights (including their right to choose) and you have one of the more progressive leaders in national history. 

Of course, there have been failures but the successes are ubiquitous and meaningful for a state often treated as a "flyover" since losing its swing state status in the Electoral College. That has not been the case with Biden and bodes well if he stays on another four years. 

Representative Stansbury and Senator Lujan have not flinched in their support of the president during the DC feeding frenzy over his ability to perform. It's now past time for Senator Heinrich and Representatives Vasquez and Leger Fernandez to get off the ledge and join them in pushing forward the best interests of New Mexico at our national capital.

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Tuesday, July 09, 2024

State’s DC Reps Speak Out On Biden Future; Two Forcefully And One Indecisively; Rep. Vasquez Declines Comment For Second Time; Leger Also Stays Dark On President 

Heinrich, MLG and Biden
Three members of the state's congressional delegation are speaking out on the uproar over President Biden's debate performance and the future of his candidacy. 

Two do so forcefully and one indecisively.

On the indecisive side is Sen. Martin Heinrich, seeking a third term in November and facing a challenge from Republican Nella Domenici. 

Sounding more like a back-bencher than the state's senior senator, Heinrich backed away from either giving Biden a clear vote of confidence or rebuking his candidacy:

I love Joe Biden. He’s the most accomplished President of my lifetime and he’s a genuinely wonderful human being. However, what I care most about is the preservation of our democracy. President Biden needs to continue to demonstrate that his debate performance was just a bad night, and that he has a clear path to defeating Donald Trump. Our democracy hangs in the balance.

The statement staked out both sides of the issue in preparation to go whichever way the wind blows. One Dem operative said:  

Heinrich makes it sounds like he has a tough re-election race.  

The ambiguity of Heinrich's statement was an easy lay up for the NMGOP. They hit hard Monday night:

Senator Heinrich's vague statement reveals the havoc that has descended upon the Democratic Party. Heinrich's previous blind loyalty to Biden and his special interest groups now makes it difficult for him to answer honestly about the President's mental and physical ability to lead the country, New Mexicans deserve leadership with the courage to say it like it is and put the best interests of our state and nation first.

Heinrich's race with Domenici is ranked "solid" or "likely" Democrat but his party is now divided over Biden's fate and it appears he fears alienating either side. 

That's not exactly a profile in courage but to the senator and his consultants, it's the safe if not the brave road to travel.

Domenici can't do much about Heinrich's vacillation as she is a closet anti-Trumper who won't say whether she will vote for Trump, but seeing Heinrich and the Dems twist in the wind as the situation remains unresolved so close to the election has to bring her joy. 


Rep. Stansbury
Meanwhile, progressive Dem US Rep. Melanie Stansbury is on firm re-election ground with only token GOP opposition in her ABQ-centered district. She came with unapologetic support for the incumbent:

I stand with our President and the Biden-Harris Campaign. Donald Trump is the greatest threat to our democracy and must be defeated in November. He is a liar, felon, and con man. He lies about the pandemic which led to millions of deaths. He lies about his treatment of veterans, who he called ‘suckers’ and ‘losers’. He lies about the economy and his jobs record. He lies about project 2025 which will gut Social Security and Medicare and ban abortions nationwide. This November I’m committed to doing everything in my power to reelect Joe Biden and defend our democracy at the ballot box.” 

It is notable that Stansbury mentions "Biden-Harris." VP Harris' progressive credentials top those of Scranton Joe's and her fans anticipate her someday succeeding her boss. 

Stansbury is well on her way to becoming the most dynamic member of the five member DC delegation, repeatedly pitching the progressive line and with credibility earned through knowledge.

Her friendly district makes that easier but there are signs of leadership there that were not expected when  the then mostly unknown state legislator unexpectedly took the ABQ seat after a vacancy occurred in 2021.  


Rep. Vasquez
Republicans continue to hammer away at southern NM US Rep. Gabe Vasquez for refusing for a second time to address the Dem party division. Politico reported:  

A spokesperson for battleground House Democrat Gabe Vasquez (D-N.M.) said ‘no comment’ when asked if Biden should stay in the race and what Vasquez is hearing from his constituents about the matter.” National Republican Congressional Committee’s (NRCC) spokeswoman, Delanie Bomar, wrote following the Democrat’s uncertainty on his support for Biden, “It is unacceptable that Vasquez is trying to run a basement campaign. He must make his position clear, and he must do it today.” 

Vasquez is the weak link in the delegation having been elevated to a position he was not ready for and not doing his best to fill. But he has fallen into the trap of trying to please everyone all the time.

Rather than seeming hapless and helpless, Vasquez might be better off going all-in for the president and working to get re-elected by winning larger margins in Las Cruces and ABQ's South Valley. (Biden carried the district in 2020 that Vasquez is now running in). Otherwise, he appears headed down the path of former Dem Rep. Xochitl Torres Small who held the seat for one term and was defeated by Yvette Herrell who in turn was defeated by Vasquez in '22 but is back again as the GOP nominee in '24.  


Freshman US Senator Ben Ray Lujan came on strong for Biden. He said he would be doing "everything possible" to help Biden's re-election and that: 

Donald Trump is a failed former president and a threat to our democracy.


Like Vasquez, northern US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez is declining media comment on Biden. That's strange since her re-election bid is on easy street with a weak GOP foe. 

But then TLF is known to panic on political questions, like when she freaked out over the new boundaries for her district which were more than generous for her re-election. She couldn't see it that way. 

This time fear of the southern Republicans in her district as well as the radical left in Santa Fe--both who want Biden out--may have taken hold of the congresswoman.

Biden easily carried Leger's Dem-heavy northern congressional district in 2020. 

He has repeatedly stated he will not end his candidacy.  

All five members of the NM DC delegation are Democrats. 


That White House meeting with Governors and President Biden that MLG attended and that we mentioned on Monday's blog was held in-person and virtually. MLG took part virtually. 

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Monday, July 08, 2024

Sticking With Joe: State's Dem Establishment Still Supportive In Wake Of Debate Debacle; Senate President And House Speaker Offer Encouragement; MLG Reportedly Wavers But No Public Comment  

Talk about fireworks. The political variety gave stiff competition to the real deal this Fourth of July as the fate of President Biden fueled a frenzy of speculation that spread from DC to the hinterlands like one of those giant summer heat waves. 

For all the intensity of the debate in the aftermath of Biden's woeful June 27 performance, as the smoke clears things look similar to what they were before his doomed date with Trump.

To wit, Biden remains on track to become the Democratic nominee for the 2024 presidential election and he is still positioned to carry New Mexico in November. 

The collapse in political and popular support that would be necessary to convince Biden to give up his grip on the nomination--earned as it was with the votes of millions of primary voters--has not occurred, apart perhaps from the DC media where the usual sense of proportionality was hastily abandoned in the wake of the shock waves reverberating from that debate stage.

Even MLG was momentarily caught up in the panic while attending a White House meeting via Zoom with other Dem Governors and Biden:

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico jumped in and said Mr. Biden was at risk of losing her state, according to another person briefed on what had taken place.

Her fear was apparently sparked by a progressive group's poll taken in the immediate aftermath of the debate that showed Biden tied with Trump in New Mexico or maybe it was a hat tip to her good friend and Vice-President Kamala Harris who as President might be more prone than Biden has to giving MLG a juicy appointment. Or maybe the Guv's jumping of the shark was simply the result of her love affair with caffeine. She has not offered any public comment on the debate.

Whatever the case, MLG's fear was not shared--at least not publicly--by the state Democratic party establishment. In fact, while MLG went to radio silence after her White House declaration, her compadres had Scranton Joe's back on social media, signaling that a retreat by Biden is as improbable as it is impractical. 


Sen. Stewart
One of the more relevant tweeters was state Senate President Mimi Stewart, a leader in the national and local progressive movement, a wing of the party sometimes at odds with centrist Biden. 

But there was no hint of any degree of separation as the ABQ lawmaker unleashed a tweet storm in support of Biden, reposting dozens of tweets including this from the President's own account:

I beat Trump in 2020. I’m going to beat him again in 2024. 

The ABQ lawmaker also reposted this missive in praise of Biden from African-American US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee:

The party has spoken! Millions of Democrats voted for Pres. Biden to be our nominee. Further, new polls how the vast majority of Democrats still support him as our nominee. The conversation is over — the focus is beating Trump and delivering for America! Enough is enough! 

Stewart had plenty of company from the Dem political class with House Speaker Javier Martinez also sticking by the President in his hour of need, saying:

Bad debate nights happen. Trust me, I know. But this election is still a choice between someone who has fought for ordinary folks his entire life and someone who only cares about himself. Between someone who tells the truth; who knows right from wrong and will give it to the American people straight — and someone who lies through his teeth for his own benefit. Last night didn’t change that, and it’s why so much is at stake in November.

For good measure, Martinez's predecessor, Speaker Brian Egolf, another progressive Dem, reposted this supportive Biden tweet:

1. I can’t tell you how much of a disconnect it is on the outside world. Literally zero people have told me Biden should drop out. The opposite. People keep telling me he needs to stay. Even if they think he’s old.


The state's congressional delegation has been silent when it comes to direct comment on the debate.

US Sen. Martin Heinrich, facing a re-election challenge from Republican Nella Domenici had no statement but there were no signs that he was about to turn against the White House. 

As for Domenici, she was boxed in and unable to take advantage of the Biden mishap. She has publicly stated she is not pursuing an endorsement from Trump and has not said whether she will vote for him. 

Progressive US Rep. Melanie Stansbury, facing only token GOP opposition this cycle, did not issue any statement but did put up a tweet praising Biden's energy policies:

@POTUS clean energy plan, companies have announced more than 300,000 NEW clean energy jobs, including 16,625 new jobs right here in NM! The future is here, and it's electric! 

All of this is not to say that those who support Biden today could not turn against him in the wake of more unanticipated events surrounding his mental acuity but it does say for now his political base here remains solid.

Biden beat Trump in NM by 100,000 votes and over 10 percent of the total vote in 2020. Hillary Clinton's margin of victory here over Trump was 8.2 percent in 2016. 
Cut those margins by more than half and Biden still wins the state. 
When Biden's electoral track record is put up against a single "bad night" it's easy to see why the Democratic powers here are sticking with the guy who brought them to the dance.
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