Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Two Weeks To Go And Observers Eye Turnout, Plus: Dems Outflanked By Martinez On Public School Cuts 

Let's take a stab at a question that's puzzling some observers. It's this: Early voting this year is soaring compared to the same time four years ago so does that mean we are headed for a record turnout?

Probably not but we're not headed into the cellar, either.

We've been on a a long-term uptrend when it comes to early voting. In 2012 in Bernallio County early votes--in person and absentee--accounted for 68.5 percent of all ballots cast.

Early voting just keeps getting more popular and we don't see the trend ending this year. We could see upwards of 75 percent of the vote cast early. That means there will be fewer voters left to got to the polls  on the actual election day November 8.

In 2012, about 784,000 New Mexicans voted for president. Pollster Brian Sanderoff predicts this year the total vote will be similar. With no major statewide races like Governor or US Senate on the ballot (no, secretary of state does not count) we think that prediction will be in the ballpark. There will be a spike in turnout in the handful of hotly contested legislative races but that is not going to have a major impact on overall turnout. There are far more districts where there is no legislative competition.

Democrats are so far outpacing Republicans in early voters and that has the Dems cautiously optimistic about their bid to take back the state House from the R's. Look at this and ask yourself if it is happening here:

The previous ABC/Post poll found a sharp 12-point decline in enthusiasm for Trump among his supporters, almost exclusively among those who’d preferred a different GOP nominee. Intended participation now has followed: The share of registered Republicans who are likely to vote is down 7 points since mid-October.

It is really the Republican nightmare for R's like Sandoval County state Senate candidate Diego Espinoza who is trying to unseat Dem Senator John Sapien. He can't afford to shun Trump but if he embraces him he loses middle of the road support. That GOP dilemma is also playing out across the other legislative battleground districts.


Reader Del Chavez comments on the Guv's political machine launching that big TV buy to take down Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez:

She's vengeful just like Trump. She has accomplished nothing as governor. All NM neighboring states are out of recession. Instead of doing her job she releases her corrupt little dog. The first female Hispanic Republican governor is missing in action during this presidential race. That speaks volumes. Adios Martinez, your political career is over by your own pendejeras (lack of character). 


She may be missing in action in the presidential race, but Martinez still often gets the best of the Dems. For example, this is why the Dems were urged by their base to not cut public school spending as part of a budget balancing deal at the recent special legislative session:

(Gov. Martinez) used her line-item veto authority to spare $22 million in proposed cuts to K-12 initiatives run by the Public Education Department from the chopping block, saying the cuts would have gutted programs like free meals for students in high-poverty schools and stipends for teachers who perform well on the state’s evaluation system.

The Senate Democratic caucus issued a statement before the special legislative session saying they would not support cuts to the public schools to resolve the budget crisis but they didn't keep that pledge. Now the Governor is making them out to be the bad guys as she poses as the steady, moderate hand protecting poor students.

Dem Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, dean of the austerity hawks, pushed for the school cuts, ignoring pleas that he find other areas to shave. Now he's howling that he has to come up with $22 million in cuts at the January session to make up for Martinez's veto. When will they ever learn?


This isn't the first time we had trouble with this and probably won't be the last. Reader Cliff writes:

Joe: Surely you mean in Monday's column State Senator Peter Wirth of Santa Fe, not the former US Senator from Colorado Tim Wirth.

Correct. And Senator Wirth himself explains:

Tim Wirth is my uncle who served six terms in the US House and one term in the US Senate from Colorado between 1974 and 1992. I have been in the legislature for twelve years, two terms in the state House and two terms in the state House.

Take that for what it's wirth.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Game On: Guv's Second Revenge Campaign Against Dem Majority LeaderSanchez Fully Engaged As Mega Media Attacks Start, Plus: Our "InsidersOnly" Report On State Senate, The Problem Of Richard Priem, And: Joles For Congress? 

The revenge campaign is on. The Governor's political machine, led by her longtime consultant Jay McCleskey, has just plunked down $125,000 for TV time in an effort to take out Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, the arch-enemy of Martinez who has thwarted her agenda in the Democratic-controlled House since she took office in 2011.

The $125k is only for ads on two TV stations, reports data journalist Sandra Fish, so there is surely more to come because Advance NM Now, the PAC run by McCleskey, showed over $1 million in cash-on-hand as of early October. There are also anti-Sanchez radio ads up and flyers in the mailboxes as Martinez goes all out to try to hand the seat to her machine's hand-picked candidate, attorney Greg Baca.

Sanchez was also bombarded with hundreds of thousands of Martinez money in 2012 but scored a relatively easy re-election. This year he is again fighting back, coming with his own $120,000 TV buy plus mailers etc. While McCleskey got much of his cash from oil companies, Sanchez is getting much of his from labor unions opposed to Martinez's agenda.

There is some irony here. If Sanchez were to be defeated his likely replacement as majority leader would be Sen. Peter Wirth of Santa Fe who is even more liberal than Sanchez. That is of little concern to Martinez who relishes nothing more than having the opportunity to take down a political opponent.

The media against Sanchez focuses in a general way on the Governor's "all crime all the time" agenda that Sanchez was key in defeating in the recent special session of the Legislature. The emotional spots show mothers crying over the loss of relatives to crime. An example is here.

The first round of TV from Sanchez worked to soften his image and features his wife Lynn.

Sen. Sanchez
Polling from both sides shows Sanchez started this race below the key 50 percent level so the contest is even of greater interest. The conventional wisdom has Sanchez scoring another win by running an effective campaign with a boost from the Trump candidacy which could dampen GOP turnout.

But there are concerns, chief among them that Sanchez realizes he is not only running against Baca but against Gov. Martinez and not lose sight of that. How he presents that to his voters is his problem but it is a problem.

Despite Martinez's deep drop in popularity--from its peak in the 60's to the low 40's today in the Journal poll and to 36 percent in the SurveyUSA, Democrats have struggled over how to take advantage of that plunge.

Let's sum it up this way: If Sanchez were to lose, that infamous holiday pizza party the Governor held and where her staffers were throwing bottles from balconies and where she hounded the cops to back off, would look like a senior citizen tea party compared to the revenge-filled festival that a Sanchez loss would set off.

Never mind that there are upset Republicans who look at all that PAC cash and fret that more off it isn't going into the state House races where the R's are in peril of losing their majority. They know that revenge triumphs over rationality when it comes to the Martinez playbook on one Michael Sanchez.


We aren't going into details on the outcome of the battle for the state Senate in this update so this is for "Insiders Only:"

Based on interviews with a wide assortment of Alligators, insiders and politicos of both good and ill repute, we have Dem Senators Sanchez, Soules and Ivey-Soto winning, Stefanics beating Republican Ted Barela, Steinborn winning over GOP Senator Cotter and the seat held by Dem Senator Sapien a toss-up. We're keeping our eye on the Simon-Gould seat being vacated by an R. If the above holds, you're looking at a Dem pick-up of at least one. But there's two weeks to go and we want to see what tricks Jay has up his sleeve before locking down on any of these forecasts.

Details on these races and more are here.

That concludes our "Insiders Only" portion of today's blog. Now back to our regular programming. . .


Richard Priem
The newspaper this weekend aptly labeled Richard Priem as the "hard-to-find" challenger of ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, but there is a back story. Priem, the GOP nominee for the congressional seat, is very ill.

We sat next to him in late July at the funeral services for our good friend, pollster and consultant Bruce Donisthorpe. Richard, in is late 60's, was in poor shape, suffering from undisclosed ailments that had severely weakened him. We exchanged pleasantries but little else. He was ailing even before he secured the primary nomination in June but chose to go forward.

We've met with Priem on several occasions in recent years to discuss politics as well as national security and the military presence in the state. Those are subjects he is well acquainted with, having served in the army for 21 years and becoming an expert on terrorism.

For whatever reason he has declined to discuss his health with the media but he is running for Congress and the public has the right to know. We wish him well and hope to soon see him fully recovered.


Meanwhile, the newspaper also followed up on the news broken here repeatedly over the last several months that Grisham is likely to give up her congressional seat in 2018 to seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. "Never say never" was her response when asked by the paper about such a bid.

The newshounds might also want to follow up on our report of several months standing that southern GOP NM Congressman Steve Pearce is also thinking about an '18 Guv run.
(If we broke as many dishes as we break news around this place, we'd be knee deep in china.)

And then there's some work to do with Dem Senator Tom Udall and his political ambitions. Opinion has been seesawing on whether Udall would also take a look at the '18 NM Governor's race, with the end of the seesaw stamped "yes" being most recently favored. However, there is one big caveat. If the Dems take control of the US Senate next month, as currently predicted, Udall will not jump and enjoy his role in the majority.

Udall might not have long to bask in that winning sunshine. That's because even if the Dems win it back in '16,  for 2018 there are already heavy odds posted saying they will lose it back:

. . . This could be a very short-lived majority for Senate Democrats, as the 2018 field is remarkably bad for them. The numbers for that year are stunning: 25 Democratic or Democratic-affiliated independents are up for reelection, compared with just eight Republicans. That’s as lopsided an election cycle as you will ever see.


Tom Joles 
Michael  Romero
What's this? KOB-TV anchorman Tom Joles is running for the northern congressional seat against incumbent Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan?

No, but if Michael Romero, the Republican who is actually running against Lujan ever needs a stand-in, we think Joles is his man. That's quite the resemblance there, isn't it? Maybe Tom has relatives he doesn't know about from Embudo where Romero was born and raised? He's probably checking out ancestry.com.

Well, the stand-in status goes for Romero as well. If he doesn't make it to Congress, he could always handle the anchor chores for when Joles is on vacation. Viewers would be sure to be fooled.

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Friday, October 21, 2016

ABQ Mayor Mum On Trump; GOP Leader Will Keep his Ballot Secret, Plus: Pence Plays In ABQ And Early Voting Centers Open Statewide Saturday 

We wondered here the other day where ABQ GOP Mayor Berry was on Trump? Voting for him? Against? Well, he was finally asked but don't expect a clear answer:

I find myself in the same position a lot of mayors around the country are in and that is as a mayor of a major city in America you have to work with the administrations. President Obama is a Democrat, I’m a Republican. We've had opportunities to work on transportation projects and things and you want to keep those lines open,” he said. Berry says this election has been a nasty one and it's better to keep his ballot to himself. "America right now is so overly partisan it's tearing us apart,” he said.

That's not going to go over well with anyone. The Trump supporters are going to accuse him of cowardice as will the anti-Trump contingent. Gov. Martinez sounded more forceful when she said he was withholding her support from Trump, but she did not rule out actually voting for him, a fine point that some may have missed.

The subject could be revisited if Berry seeks higher office when he finishes his second mayoral term in December 2017.

About that political future, one soon-to-be candidate for mayor tells us he asked Berry if he had any intention of seeking a third term next year. He said Berry told him the chances of that are "zero." Berry has previously said that he would only seek two terms. A run for the 2018 GOP Guv nomination remains on the table.


Reader Charles Gregory comes with a salient question in light of Berry's nonanswer. Maybe some of our readers can help in answering it:

Are there any Republicans that will be on the ballot in Bernalillo County who have publicly said they do not endorse and will not vote for Trump? I posted this question to the county GOP, but they are not answering. I'd appreciate knowing. Thank you.

Thanks, Charles. We'll let you know if we hear anything.


GOP VP candidate Mike Pence made A quick ABQ stop Thursday--his second since August. What caught our eye was the venue. The Indiana governor held it at the Embassy Suites near downtown ABQ. This place gets hardly any attention but is a real gem. The Pence rally was timed well, coming in the 6 p.m. hour and garnering live TV coverage. However, NM is ranked likely Dem for the presidential race and expected to stay that way. Neither Clinton or Trump are buying TV time here.

After the Pence event we ran into a group of Republicans who had attended, including NM GOP Chairwoman Debbie Maestas. She beamed when asked how it went. "Great!" she exclaimed, and her company nodded their assent.


Many of you will go to an early voting center Saturday to cast your vote. To help you with that here is in-depth election info from the League of Women Voters election guide and from the ABQ Journal's voter guide. Both are comprehensive and do not take sides. On the other hand, this year there is a different kind of voter guide--the Progressive Voter Guide is unabashed in its support of liberal candidates.


Had enough La Politica for now? There are plenty of places to escape to in the Land of Enchantment. Here's the Tourism Department's "14 Stunning Places to Visit (and photograph). How many have you visited?

Thanks for stopping by this week. Reporting to you from ABQ, I'm Joe Monahan.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Final Debate: He Could Have Said It Different, Plus: NM Polling For Clinton Still Solid, We're Walking Back That Thomson Polling Lead In Key House Race, Our Odds On Dems Tying House Or Takeover Shift Slightly And NM Newspaper Decides No Candidate Endorsements  

Trump could have said it another way at last night's debate--that he would accept the election results once he was assured there was nothing illegal about them, but he didn't and we get this extraordinary paragraph:

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Threatening to upend a fundamental pillar of American democracy, Donald Trump refused to say Wednesday night that he will accept the results of next month's election if he loses to Hillary Clinton. The Democratic nominee declared Trump's resistance "horrifying."

It's true that back in the day a number of elections were stolen through stuffing the ballot box and other nefarious methods. Those days are gone, although the cynics among us would say the elections are still being stolen, but it's done legally with millions of dollars of unregulated and anonymous cash. . .

Okay, here's more for all you Bad Hombres this Thursday. . .

More presidential polling here continues to show Democrats coming home to Hillary Clinton. The latest WaPo survey conducted October 8-16 puts Clinton at 41%, Trump at 33, Libertarian Gary Johnson at 18 and the Green Party's Jill Stein at 5%.

An eight point lead in a NM presidential race is large. Will it hold and if it does will it have a big impact on the battle for the state House and the state Senate?

History says Johnson will fade in the final weeks, but he seems on track for a finish of 10 to 12 percent. Stein probably drops a couple points to settle at 3%.

The insider BernCo polling we reported on this week and that was conducted Oct. 14 had Clinton performing at 47% with Trump at 32 and Johnson at 12.


Meanwhile, we're walking back our insider polling report showing former Dem State Rep. Elizabeth Thomson sporting a "double digit" lead over her Republican opponent Christina Hall in a key swing district in ABQ's NE Heights.

While we received a bunch of polling numbers from across the state, the Thomson-Hall race was not one of them. This is not a district that historically is won by double-digits. The mix-up came while other results were being relayed to us. Meanwhile, Republicans are saying their polling is showing the race is still in play. However, in a presidential year this seat is lean Dem.


A round of consulting with our Alligators, insider-leaners and assorted hangers-on has us adjusting our odds on who will will control the state House after this election. The odds of the Dems tying it up or taking it over outright now go to 52 to 48 from 51 to 49.

That's mainly because a pick up of only two seats would give the Dems a a 35 to 35 tie. The consensus of our insiders is that the Trump implosion--if not reversed in the final weeks--will help the D's pick up at least two.

The Dems still seem somewhat unfocused to many of our observers and not providing a clear rationale as to why they should take the House back. Meantime, the tough on crime pitch from the R's seems to be falling a bit flat.


Republicans have to be worried that the Democratic trend this year will jeopardize  Judy Nakamura's chances of keeping the seat on the NM Supreme Court that she was appointed to by Gov. Martinez. She's being challenged by Dem Court of Appeals Judge Michael Vigil. It has always been a tough race for Nakamura. No R has been elected to the high court since the 80's. But her long judge service in BernCo has given R's hope that there will be ticket splitting and she could slide in on her strength in BernCo. But a big Clinton win in the county--say 8 points or more--could doom her. Meantime, the judge candidates are on the TV airwaves. Here's Vigil's ad and here is Nakumara's ad.


With trust in the media continuing to plummet--even before Trump went to town on them--some observers are saying it's time for newspapers to get out of the endorsement game. They say it would help rebuild trust with skeptical readers. Whether it would or wouldn't is up for debate but the Roswell Daily Record may be a test case. It has decided not to issue any candidate endorsements this year:

. . . This newspaper has declared itself an independent publication that won’t kowtow to either political party. Our move to the independent center is a result of changes in newspaper management more than a year ago in response to a perception that we’d become a right wing newspaper, beholden to a Republican Party that dominates Roswell’s politics and government. Our intent is not to suppress conservative voices but to encourage more liberal and libertarian viewpoints by welcoming them to the op-ed pages of the RDR. And on our news pages, we seek to be more inclusive of the viewpoints and lifestyles that make up Roswell. We seek to be a neutral observer, and to supplement our reporting with thought-provoking editorials from time to time. 


In our first draft Wednesday we said that Bernie Sanders drew a crowd of about 1,000 to his Tuesday UNM rally. That was based on the initial newspaper estimate. The paper later changed its estimate to 2,000. . . .

And it's the time of year when we give you monster blogs to keep you up on the action and that inevitably leads to some errors. Fortunately, we have reader/editors who keep the blog on the straight and narrow. . .

We said Arizona had not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964 but that was way off the mark. First off, in 1964 Arizona voted for Republican favorite son Barry Goldwater and in 1996 Arizona voted for Democrat Bill Clinton. . .And we had the wrong year for the next election for NM secretary of state. It's 2018 that the office will again be on the ballot for a full four year term. The winner this year will serve two years to fill out the term of ex-SOS Duran.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Latest: Less Than 3 Weeks To Go; Pence To ABQ Thursday But Why? Leader Egolf Feeling Pressure In State House Battle And Insider Polling Has SOS Race Going Dem In BernCo And Heinrich Gets On Clinton VP List 

Less than three weeks to go. We're on it like a wet blanket.

GOP VP candidate Mike Pence returns to ABQ for a Thursday rally at 6 p.m. at the Embassy Suites Hotel and the question is why?  New Mexico is colored blue on all the presidential maps and there seems little that could change that after the Trump implosion. That led us to query our Alligators about why the Indiana Governor is spending precious campaign time in a non swing state.

The most frequent answer was that the Pence visit is designed was to get out the base Republican vote in order to keep the state House under GOP control. Another reason for the visit? To possibly pave the way for Pence's own run for the presidential nomination in 2020. Besides, Pence will be in Durango, Colorado on Wednesday, a short hop to the Duke City where the TV time he gets will be beamed back to Durango and a lot of other southern Colorado towns that are in the ABQ TV market (so is a slice of eastern Arizona and the Navajo Reservation).

The state House battle is fully joined with a path for a Dem takeover more clearly defined than several months ago, but it is no done deal. Pence firing up the R's to go vote is time well spent in that regard. Maybe Gov. Martinez, chair of the Republican Governors Association, had a hand in bringing him in here? (He was also here in August). She has a lot to lose if the House reverts back to the Dems.

Bernie Sanders held an ABQ rally at UNM Tuesday that drew a crowd of some 2,000 so Pence's event will serve to counterbalance Bernies's bounce. And maybe Pence picks up some campaign money while at the Embassy suites?

Even though Trump and Pence are barnstorming Colorado this week the state is now tipping to the Dems and losing its swing state status. Worse for the GOP pair is Arizona. The state has rarely gone for  the Dem presidential candidate. Now that is in doubt with the Dems making a move there. Whatever his reasons for stopping in ABQ, the best advice to Mike Pence is to get back on the plane ASAP and head over to Phoenix.


State House Minority Leader Brian Egolf seems to be getting nervous. That's natural. With polling numbers circulating showing his Democrats in a better position to pick up three seats and retake control of the House from the GOP, the fretting has begun about turnout. But Egolf takes it one step further. He asserts that the polling is not as good as it should be:

Our Democratic candidates for the state House should be leading by wide margins. Donald Trump’s campaign is in total meltdown. But his implosion hasn’t seemed to impact down-ballot races. In fact, most of our Democratic candidates are still neck and neck with their Republican opponents. As hard as it is to believe, there is a real possibility that candidates who share Trump’s extreme agenda could be elected to the state House.

Egolf made that statement in a fund-raising missive as he works to generate enthusiasm among base voters. There is maximum pressure on Egolf who could very well be selected the next House speaker if the Dems win.

If Egolf and his team can't put the House under Blue control with Trump at the head of the GOP ticket and with good starting polling numbers in many of the key legislative districts, when can they take it back?


Oliver And Espinoza
There's more from the polling front today. . .

It would be a surprise if Democrat and Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver failed to win back the secretary of state's office in a presidential year when turnout increases. According to insider polling conducted late last week Oliver is indeed on her way to Santa Fe. She is pulling about 54 percent in big Bernalillo County and if that holds on Election Night, she will be elected statewide. Oliver launched her TV ads in early October and that's paying off, along with the high name ID she has earned in BernCo due to her eight years of public service.

The R's took the SOS office for the first time since the 30's in 2014 in a stunning victory for Dianna Duran who beat Oliver in a low turnout off year election. But Duran blew it and ended up serving a month in jail for campaign corruption charges This time Oliver faces former GOP Roswell State Rep. Nora Espinoza who this week joined Oliver on the TV airwaves.

Espinoza needs to get ABQ in play but her conservative brand of politics makes that an uphill prospect, and having Trump serving as a statewide drag doesn't help.


Okay, it's not exactly making the short list, but freshman Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich still has to have his chest out after WikiLeaks discloses Clinton campaign emails had him as one of 39 prospective VP picks for the Dem prez nominee:

The list of 39 names. . . was sent to Clinton by Campaign Chairman John Podesta on March 17. The email was part of a trove of 50,000 purported messages stolen from Podesta’s Gmail account. The email was sent on the heels of Clinton’s sweep of five primaries. . . on March 15. . . The list of potential veeps was compiled by Podesta and top Clinton aides. .  .

Heinrich is up for re-election in 2018 and we already have hard news for you on that front. ABQ contractor and political newcomer Mick Rich is the first Republican surfacing as a possible foe.

Mick Rich is owner and CEO of Mick Rich Contractors in Albuquerque, But because of Mick’s commitment to improving New Mexico’s communities, his story extends far beyond business ownership. Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Mick earned his civil engineering degree from Oregon State University and began his contracting career in California and several other states before coming to New Mexico, where his roots stretch back almost a century. His grandfather worked as a mining engineer in deep shaft, hard rock mining in Silver City and Magdalena in the 1920s and 1930s. So when Mick moved here in 1980, he was seeking more than opportunity, he was seeking community.

Governor Susana has also been mentioned as a possible '18 Heinrich foe but with her popularity numbers in the cellar and the antipathy toward her in a large portion of her own  Party, the prospects look dim. Meanwhile, we're told by our GOP alligators that Rich is already spending money on consultants. That's rich.


There's plenty of time to absorb the history on historic Route 66 in ABQ, these days. The ART rapid bus construction project is underway this week, with torn up streets slowing traffic to a crawl during rush hours. That was expected but reader Dan Klein has some ideas to make the Central Avenue commute shorter and smoother during the year long project:

The contractors and the city seemed unprepared for traffic issues. I recommend two things the contractors do immediately. First, from Old Town all the way up west Central, greatly increase the green light for east/west traffic from 6 am to 9 am every morning and from 4 pm to 7 pm every night. With Central being cut down to one lane we need to keep that traffic moving as much as possible. Second, consider stopping work and reopening a second lane on westbound Central from Old Town to Atrisco during the evening (4 pm to 7 pm) rush hour. I know Berry wants ART and since we are getting it he needs to tell the contractors to make life as easy on the citizen commuter as they can. I think these two ideas, at least for the Westside folks trying to cross the river, should help them get home without sitting for hours in traffic jams.

The city says it will not extend the time of the green lights along the ART route until the project is completed. And that's a flashing red light to motorists thinking of getting their kicks on ABQ's Route 66.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Prez Polling In BernCo Has Clinton Far Ahead, And: Lobo Louie Blues As Athletic Department Faces New Reality 

Here's the latest for you. . .

The presidential race looks pretty much like a done deal here. Insider polling of Bernalillo County shows Clinton sporting a big double digit lead over Trump. She is pulling about 47 percent in the state's largest county in polling conducted late last week. Trump is about 32 and Johnson is coming in at about 12 percent. Even if the Hillary number is off a couple of points (it was conducted via robocalls to landlines but no cell phones) she is still in the winner's circle.

The race will probably narrow a bit but unless there is a humongous October surprise, this cake is baked. You don't need polling to know that Clinton will carry the North in a big way. So, as expected, it appears Clinton will secure New Mexico's five electoral votes and on November 8 put the state in the Democratic column for the third presidential election in a row.

Bernie Sanders today works to make sure the deal for Clinton is indeed sealed here as he rallies youthful voters who have been reluctant to join the Hillary bandwagon. Here's what the Sanders campaign told  supporters on the eve of the 11 a.m. UNM rally:

Let's raise the minimum wage to a living wage, let's combat climate change and move to sustainable energy, let's make public colleges and universities tuition free, let's end a broken criminal justice system. Let's defeat Donald Trump and make Hillary Clinton our next president.


Now more exclusive Campaign '16 news from NM Politics with Joe Monahan: 

GOP state Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes holds a modest single digit lead over Dem Ane Romero, according to the insider numbers which we have relied on with success in years past. Freshman Barnes has positioned herself as a "moderate" Republican in this contest.

The Dems need a pick up of two seats to tie up the 70 member House and three to take outright control. With Trump imploding, Dem chances have improved.

We didn't mention the ABQ North Valley, Westside and Rio Rancho Senate seat up for grabs in our Monday list of districts in play. Dems are expressing hope that Dem David Simon may have a shot against Republican Candace Gould in this battle to replace retiring GOP Senator John Ryan. Reader Mark Michel writes that Simon, a former state parks director, is "running a vigorous grass roots campaign and has strong support in the tech and environmental communities."

This is a 50-50 performing district. Pollster Brian Sanderoff adds his two cents worth, saying in a presidential year this could be a close one.


Longtime fans are sad to see the long, slow decline of UNM athletics after it provided the community with so many thrills over the decades. The Lobos, especially the basketball team, have long been a point of pride and the Pit, packed with rowdy fans whose roars seemed to move the building, earned a reputation nationally as a must see venue. Those days appear to be over for good as New Mexico deals with a long term economic stagnation that eats away at the state's foundation. At the annual Lobo Howl Friday, it had come to this:

Fourth-year head coach Craig Neal, who rode his Harley Davidson motorcycle onto the court in 2013, shaved his head for charity in 2014 and dressed up in the Lobo Louie mascot uniform in 2015, did not address fans for the first half of the men’s hour on the court Friday night. He would not talk to media afterward or allow his players to do so.

Neal follows in the footsteps of UNM executive vice president David Harris who recently stormed out of a TV news interview when asked about athletic department expenses. (It really is coming undone at UNM, folks, and we fear you haven't see anything yet.)

Resistance by Athletic Director Krebs to resolve his department's big deficit ($1.5 million) by restructuring and downsizing the department continues. He is now warning that student fees may have to be hiked yet again to support a department that is no longer the center of the universe for today's students and which is looking too fat with 24 of its employees making over $100,000 a year.

NMSU in Las Cruces this year gave an example of how to get the job done, shaving the athletic department budget and beginning the downsizing process. The UNM athletic department begs for new leadership that understands the new dynamic.

What in the name of Tom Popejoy are the UNM Regents waiting for?

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Shift In The Political Winds Has Dems Looking At Optimistic State Senate Scenario; Trump Card Soon To Be Played In Mailboxes in Key Legislatve Races; R's On Defense; "Creepy" GOP Flyer Freaks Voters: Plus: Bernie To ABQ For Hillary And SOS Candidates Clash At Their Only Debate  

The most perplexing puzzle of 2016 has been over turnout. Would the wild and wooly presidential campaign drive voters to the polls in droves or keep them on their couches? The question is of paramount importance as a dip in turnout would favor the R's and put the Dems on defense. So where do we stand with early voting centers opening this Saturday and when thousands of New Mexicans will cast their ballots?

Veteran NM pollster Brian Sanderoff says look for neither a spike or a retreat in turnout. He forecasts that the total vote cast this year will be about 800,000. That's right in the neighborhood of 2012 and if it turns out to be accurate it will cause a sigh of relief for the Dems. Trump's final weeks strategy is to depress turnout through constant negativity.

There's little question that the Dems have the wind at their back this cycle. Insider polling and news coverage shows that. Sanderoff and other experts note that the party winning at the top of the ticket usually sees that victory trickle into legislative races.


The GOP's precarious hold on the state House has the insiders and wall-leaners turning their attention to the state Senate. The Guv's political machine, on a years-long winning streak that has decimated state Democrats, has been beating its chest about strengthening its hand in the Senate, but Dems are starting to speculate that it is they who could actually gain strength in the 42 member chamber. How?

The Dems most optimistic scenario gets them a pick up of two seats. They hold on to the ABQ area seats of Senators Sapien (narrowly) and Ivey-Soto (with room to spare) and Senate Majority Leader Sanchez fends off a challenge in his Belen area seat.

(We are watching the Sanchez challenge closely and our sources in the district say Republican Greg Baca has the race in play in the early going. Look for major money on both sides to explode soon.)

In Las Cruces, Jeff Steinborn beats GOP Senator Lee Cotter and Sen. Soules hangs on to defeat Cel Levitano. Steinborn gives them one pick up and if Liz Stefanics of Santa Fe beats appointed incumbent GOP Senator Ted Barela they net two seats. That covers the seats in play and it would put the Senate in the Dems hands with a 26-16 majority, up from the current 24-18.

There's still time for the wind to shift but the current political weather calls for dusting off scenarios where the down on their luck Dems finally get a break.


Now that the polling shows it will have an impact, expect mailboxes in the key legislative races to be flooded with an anti-Trump message as Dems work to drive a wedge between him and the GOP legislative candidates.

Meanwhile, the R's continue to pound the Dems over the death penalty, sex offender laws and the like. GOP legislative candidates will be on the hot spot in the final weeks, deciding if and how they distance themselves from Trump but do not alienate their base voters. That's a defensive posture and why the voting models are now pointing more toward a Dem takeover of the House and no losses in the Senate and maybe even a gain.

For example, Republican Diego Espinoza, fighting incumbent Dem Senator John Sapien  in the swing district that includes parts of Rio Rancho and Corrales, has found himself tangled in the Trump trap:

“I’m not here to endorse anyone for president,” Espinoza said. “Whoever I’m voting for, that is up to me." Espinoza also would not comment on recently leaked audio of Trump saying women let him “grab them by the pussy” because he is famous. This didn’t stop Sapien from linking his opponent to the controversial Republican presidential nominee.
“I find it interesting that everywhere you see a Trump/Pence sign, you see a Diego Espinoza sign,” Sapien said. “The fact that he didn’t denounce Trump for his comments on Latinos and women is quite telling.”

Will Espinoza's neutral Trump stance make the difference for Sapien? It's an open question but one Espinoza surely does not need and did not anticipate when he entered the contest.

Hey, has anyone asked Republican ABQ Mayor Richard Berry if he is voting for Trump? Just wondering.


Not all Republicans are having a hard time dealing with Trump. Rosie Tripp, the longtime NM GOP National Committeewoman and wife of NM House Speaker Don Tripp, is still waving the Trump banner high:

While some Republican donors and elected officials have had it with Mr. Trump, another constituency. . . remains committed to the nominee: the 168 members of the national committee. In emails with The New York Times, some Republican state chairmen and chairwomen and national committee members affirmed their support for Mr. Trump and saluted (GOP Chairman) Mr. Priebus for standing by him.

“He is our candidate,” Rosie Tripp, the Republican committeewoman from New Mexico, wrote to other members of the committee. “I am dismayed by our own Republicans who are bailing like rats off a ship. He who is without sin can cast the first stone. I am sure they are not as pure as the driven snow, either.”


New Mexico finally got the attention of the Clinton campaign or should we say Gary Johnson got their attention. The former NM Governor and Libertarian Party presidential candidate has been polling well into the double digits here and much of that support is coming from the younger crowd, aged 18 to 34. The early October SurveyUSA gives Johnson 29 percent support in that demographic, compared to Trumps' 25% and Clinton's 37%.

That may be eating into Hillary's numbers and the campaign may be compensating for it by sending in Senator Bernie Sanders, a favorite of the younger set and who almost beat Hillary in the June presidential primary here. Sanders will host a rally at 11 a.m. Tuesday morning at Mesa Vista Hall on the UNM campus. (To RSVP for that event go here.)

Johnson was again campaigning in the state Sunday. He's spending a lot of time in his home state while he fades to 7 percent or so in the national polls. He scored 14% in the statewide vote in the recent SurveyUSA poll but the Clinton machine--with help from Bernie and other surrogates--can probably push that down some.


You may have seen this one. A flyer widely described on social media as "creepy" and put out by the NM GOP is freaking out some voters.

It's a bizarre Orwellian pitch warning Republicans that if they don't vote and vote for Republicans "your neighbors will know" you didn't "do your part" to stop the Democrats.  Pretty crazy even in a crazy year, don't you think?

It was mailed out by the state GOP and when the spokesman for the party was asked about it by a reporter, he hung up the phone. Even he seems embarrassed over this big misstep that reflects poorly on NM GOP Chairwoman Debbie Maestas.  How did she let this one out the door? And what's next? A flyer telling voters that if they watch a porno flick or something, the GOP is going to tell the neighbors?

As we've said for many a year, the Republicans and the Guv's political machine hold aces when it comes to playing offense, but not so much on defense. And for them this is a defensive year.


The race for secretary of state is probably getting more attention than usual because it's the only statewide executive office on the ballot this cycle, but that's probably good, considering the last Secretary of State, Dianna Duran, went to jail on campaign corruption charges.

At their one and only debate of the season held Sunday at Congregation Albert in ABQ Dem Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Republican Nora Espinoza clashed over photo ID for voters, with Espziona favoring it and Oliver not so much. The issue polls well for the Republicans but doesn't seem to motivate voters much. That's probably because with all the talk of voter fraud hardly any is ever discovered.

Oliver is on the TV airwaves blasting Espinoza on abortion, not exactly an issue of concern to the SOS but it shoves Espinoza to the right. Her campaign says Espinoza has bought $200,000 of TV for the final weeks of the campaign and they expect her to hit back.

One problem for Espinoza is transparency. She and Oliver both pledge it, but Espinoza refused to be interviewed for the New Mexican's campaign profile and yesterday after the debate at Congregation Albert she had campaign manager Rod Adair answer reporters questions instead of doing the task herself.  That left the impression that Adair, a former state senator and key player in the Duran SOS administration, is going to have an oversized say in any Espinoza administration.

This race is fast moving toward the Dems, with the latest insider polling showing Oliver on the move. Espinoza needs to spend that $200k wisely.

The hour long SOS debate can be seen here. Who won? Both candidates were well-prepared. Espinoza was constantly on the attack, but she had to be because she trails. Oliver was steady in her defense and landed some blows of her own. You wonder why ther tis only one debate between them.


We joked on the Friday blog that maybe Gov. Martinez--who has not ruled in or ruled out voting for Trump--might write in her own name for president, but a number of readers, including Ken Long of ABQ, pointed out there is no way to do that:

I contacted the state about how to write in a presidential candidate on the ballot for the general election. I was informed that all candidates need to register to be on the ballot before the deadline. There's no way to "write-in" a name in the voting booth.

No write-ins for president? That one got by us. Remember how we would add up the votes for Mickey Mouse and the like? Come to think of it, Mickey is looking mighty appealing this year.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor  

With Gov. Martinez this week not ruling in or ruling out voting for Donald Trump, we thought we'd give her a little help in deciding by listing the other presidential candidates on the state ballot she could choose from. Here they are:

Gloria Estela La Riva/Dennis J. Banks (Socialism and Liberation); Darrell Lane Castle/Scott Bradley (Constitution); Jill Stein/Ajamu Baraka (Green); Rocky De La Fuente/Michael Steinberg (American Delta); Evan McMullin/Nathan Johnson (Better for America)

Martinez has already said she won't be voting for Hillary or former Gov. Gary Johnson. We don't think she's philosophically compatible with Jill Stein of the Green Party or Gloria Estela La Riva of the Socialism and Liberation Party. She may be tempted to vote for Mexican-American millionaire businessman Rocky De La Fuente, but beware Susana. Rocky identifies himself as a "progressive Democrat."

There is one candidate on the list that the Guv might find a viable option. He's Evan McMullan, a conservative and ally of 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. But if he doesn't fit the bill, she can always write in a candidate. How about herself? Hmm. Maybe that's her secret plan and why she won't say whether the Donald has her vote.

(After we published this, informed readers wrote that there is no provision to write in a presidential candidate.)


NM Dems are growing increasingly confident that they can take back the state House by picking up three seats, but before they start dancing in the aisles don't forget that  Gov. Martinez would still have the veto. And then there's that conservative coalition in the state Senate that often acts like an arm of the GOP.  In other words, if the Dems do take back the House in November, Roundhouse gridlock is not going to disappear.


The ABQ Journal's Dan Boyd writes in from Santa Fe on where the state budget stands:

Joe, I. . . wanted to let you know where things stand after the special session. The solvency package approved by the Legislature authorizes the $220-million plus tobacco settlement fund to be used to essentially close the $131 million deficit for FY16. The remaining amount would be available as cash reserves for the current year, FY17. After enacting the budget cuts, budget sweeps and capital outlay reversions that are also part of the solvency package, there would be an estimated $56.1 million left over in reserves at the end of this year -- or less than 1 percent of state spending. Whether that's sufficient to avoid a bond rating downgrade is unclear. Also, Gov. Martinez could still line-item veto portions of the budget-balancing bills, which would affect the bottom line. Thought this might help make things a little less hazy for your readers about where things are at.

The Legislature comes back in January for a 60 day session at which the budget crisis will again dominate.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Campaign Chatter: Now Or Never For House Dems, Dems Seen Coming Home Here For Clinton, R's Fret Over Martinez-Sanchez Feud, Nora Blasts Back At Maggie And Mayor Berry's Time Machine 

Here's what they're talking about on the '16 campaign trail. . .

 If Dems don't take full advantage of the Trump implosion and take back control of the state House from the R's next month, it will only be eveh tougher in 2018. Hillary will likely be president then and the '18 election will have the anti-Clinton crowd fired up. Combined with the lower turnout for an off year election, that would mean an uphill climb for the Dems. Right now it looks like an easy downhill ski slope, with the pick up of the three seats needed for the Dem to take control appearing quite realistic. But if they come up short, they'll be wandering in the wilderness for at least another couple of years. . .

With the election less than a month away political strategists say NM Dems "are starting to come home." They see no threat from Johnson or Trump and look for Clinton to come in with 42 to 46 percent of the statewide vote Nov. 8 and Trump somewhere between 35 and 39. Johnson remains a question mark, but he is fading from his peak as third party candidates do. His range is put at 10 to 15 percent. The Green Party's Jill Stein should pull 2 to 3 percent, say the strategists with the rest going to other minor party candidates.

R's who have never been fans of Gov. Martinez political adviser Jay McCleskey are wondering about that $1 million in cash on hand his Advance NM Now PAC reports having in the bank. Their concern is that too much of the cash will be pumped into a revenge campaign against Dem Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez when it should be going to defend the state House which now looks in peril of falling to the Dems. Martinez would like the political plum of picking off arch-enemy Sanchez but that shot is growing longer with the Trump meltdown.

With the US Senate now poised to return to Dem control, look for the rumor mill over Dem US Senator Tom Udall running for Governor in 2018 to quiet down, if and when Senate control is re-established. That will be abreak for ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham who is exploring a Guv bid of her own but knows that Udall would be a formidable problem to overcome.


GOP Secretary of State candidate Nora Espinoza is hitting back over that TV ad being run by Dem contender Maggie Toulouse Oliver that links Espinoza to Trump on the issue of abortion.

. . . Long before either major party was even close to deciding its nominee for president or any other office. . . Nora Espinoza has repeatedly stated her position regarding all candidacies and ballot questions. . . The only office she is campaigning for is secretary of state, and the only candidate or ballot question she discusses is her own race for secretary of state. . .Toulouse-Oliver has attempted to turn the race for secretary of state into a referendum on the presidential election—repeatedly trying to link Espinoza with Trump. “A candidate for secretary of state should never say anything about other races, candidates or ballot questions,” said Espinoza, “that politicizes the office.”


What does the rate of crime in ABQ 30 years ago have to do with the skyrocketing rate we have today? Not a darn thing, unless your ABQ Mayor Richard Berry and  looking to cover your butt on an explosive social issue that calls into question your stewardship and more specifically your management of APD. Here's why the Mayor says we should all feel good in the face of the city's highest crime rate in a decade and that is much higher than that of neighboring cities:

“I hear people in the community talk about crime being the worst it’s ever been, when that’s simply not the fact,” Berry said. “I think it’s important from an economic development standpoint and a citizen’s standpoint to have some data on that.”

Violent crime rose 9.2 percent in 2015 compared with 2014, and the property crime rate rose by 11.5 percent, according to crime data. But Berry said historical data shows the rates as measured by population remain much lower than some years during the 1980s and ’90s.

Thanks for that, Mayor. We're sure all the 30 year olds who weren't even born back then feel much better as they find their cars broken into and their homes ransacked by the rampaging meth heads who are looking more and more like our own zombie army.

Yet this nonsense and passing of the buck gets no reaction from the ABQ city council, the soon-to-be candidates for the '17 mayoral race or what passes for leadership in the business community. In Berry World it is always someone else's fault and there's not much he can do about it. Sadly, that seems just fine with everyone. It's like the the famous last line from the movie: "Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown."

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

With Wheels Coming Off National GOP Local Dems Look To Capitalize; Impact On State House Battle Weighed, Plus: Martinez Does Not Rule Out Voting For Trump, And: 3 Million Reasons To Leave ABQ 

With the wheels coming off the Republican Party and the very real possibility that the impact could spread to down ballot races like those for the NM Legislature, this missive from the state GOP might give you a chuckle:

We look forward to celebrating taking the State Senate and electing the first Republican majority in 85 years, retaining the State House and electing Donald Trump as our next president! The Victory Party will be held at the Albuquerque Convention Center and will start at 7:00 pm after polls close here in NM. We look forward to seeing you and celebrating turning New Mexico RED!

Well, the state senate has never been in play for the GOP this cycle. Now, in the wake of Trump becoming "unshackled" and turning on his own party, the odds of a takeover of the state House by the Dems are growing. As for Trump being "our next president" that's about as likely as that GOP victory party being packed to the rafters.

In fact, in the wake of the Trump meltdown Dems here are being urged to broaden their playing field and set their sights on the two Valencia County state House seats held by Republicans Kelly Fajardo and Alonzo Baldonado. Those seats by all rights are swing seats that have stayed R in recent years.

Can the Dems effectively use the Trump implosion against the pair? That's a fair question as the Dems here have presided over Democratic disaster after disaster. But the tarnishing of the entire Republican brand that is taking place with Trump is a gift even they should be able to unwrap.

The big problem here as elsewhere for the GOP is women voters. Most are Democrats and the R's need some of them to cross over in the key state House districts. If they don't, the House will easily go Democratic.

We're not sure how the death penalty is going to play in the final weeks of the campaign. That's the message the Guv's political machine is betting on to keep the House under GOP control. But with an increasing number of voters seeing Trump as the dark, menacing force in this campaign, we have our doubts.


Oliver & Espinoza
Dem Secretary of State candidate Maggie Toulouse Oliver is wasting no time in taking advantage of the Trump upheaval. She comes with a spot using him against her Republican foe, Nora Espinoza:

Donald Trump would punish women who've had an abortion.
Trump: "There has to be some form of punishment."
Anncr: "For the woman?"
Trump: "Yea, there has to be some form."
In New Mexico, Nora Espinoza supports Trump's extreme agenda. Nora wrote a bill requiring doctors to falsely tell patients that abortion increased chances of cancer. And Nora wanted to criminally charge doctors who wouldn't tell that lie. It's that bad. Nora Espinoza. Too extreme for New Mexico.

There are those women voters we talked about. You would expect to see something similar in the key legislative races as the Dems move to establish Trump firmly into the political narrative.

Oliver lost the SOS race two years ago after failing to go on the attack. But this time around she is getting in front of an expected hit campaign to be launched against her by Espinoza who is going to have a healthy sum in which to wage her war. The latest campaign reports say:

(Oliver)  held a campaign balance of about $188,000. Espinoza added nearly $40,000 in contributions to a campaign war chest totaling $265,000.


We and much of the other media may have been suckered in by the Trump campaign when it put NM on a list of states that would soon be seeing Trump TV ads. As far as we can tell, there have been no local buys yet by the Trump campaign. We'll keep checking.


We've been pounding the table around here asking why no one is asking Gov. Martinez who she is voting for after she issued a weekend statement reiterating her decision to withhold "support" from Donald Trump. But withdrawing support could mean not raising money or making an appearance for a candidate. KOAT-TV heard the table pounding and asked Martinez, who earlier ruled out voting for Clinton or Johnson, who she would be voting for. And guess what? As we suspected Martinez appears to be trying to have it both ways. She condemns Trump's behavior on the sex tape but refuses to say that she will not vote for him. Her quote:

I am really not talking about the presidential election. I have made my stance very clear... I can tell you I am not going to vote for Hillary Clinton. . . I don't believe he (Trump) has  the qualities to lead the country. 

As KOAT-TV's David Carl pointed out that is not answering the question, affirming what many of us speculated when we read her initial statement. Martinez is keeping the door open to the Trump brigades ever so slightly by refusing to say who she will vote for. Why? Because, in part, if she sees any future at all for herself in the party, they can certainly ruin it. And they still may because the fig leaf she is putting on over how she will vote is small indeed. Meantime, she hopes her message of withholding support from Trump holds water with Dems and independents in key legislative races.


Should APD officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez be retried in the James Boyd murder case now that their trial has ended in a hung jury? Incoming BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez will make that decision but former Chief Deputy District Attorney Pete Dinelli sees another trial as unlikely:

No, because the vote was 3-9 for acquittal if it had voted 10 to 2 for conviction I would say yesAfter almost 3 weeks of trial and a jury of 12 hearing and seeing all the evidence, the jury voted 3 to find the Defendants guilty and 9 to find them not guilty. A verdict requires a unanimous verdict of 12 for guilt or innocence, hence a mistrial. Neither side in this case should take any comfort with the verdict. The jurors essentially said the prosecution did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and the defense did not convince the entire jury that the shooting was justified. The City admitted liability in the civil case when it paid $5 million in taxpayer money to the Boyd family to settle the wrongful death lawsuit filed for the killing. Now a decision must be made if there should be another criminal trial.


There's probably about three million reasons that Jim Hinton, the longtime head of Presbyterian Healthcare in ABQ, is taking a new position in Dallas as chief of Baylor Scott White Health in Dallas:

(The Dallas CEO) made more than $3 million in fiscal 2014 after adding up salary, bonuses and other forms of compensation, according to Baylor Scott & White's most recent tax forms. His total compensation from 2012 to 2014, the height of the merger talks and integration, totaled almost $8.7 million.

Hinton will now head the largest not-for-profit health care system in Texas.

And that's just more of the biz news you won't get anywhere else. . .


Former NM Public Regulation Commissioner Tony Schaefer is a Republican, not a Democrat as we identified him on Tuesday's blog.

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