Friday, May 06, 2016

Trump And New Mexico  

Blogging New Mexico 
Here's my latest column for the ABQ Free Press, on newsstands now:

Now that Donald Trump has just about clinched the 2016 GOP presidential nomination the question arises whether the unpredictable billionaire could possibly make a play for New Mexico's five electoral votes this November. The short answer is no.

According to Gallup, The Donald's unfavorable rating among Hispanics in March was a sky high 77 percent. That pretty much takes him out of the running here in any contest with Hillary Clinton. In that same Gallup poll she scored a 59 percent favorable approval rating among Hispanics.

But there is a wrinkle that has political watchers wondering if the race could be closer than assumed. Veteran NM GOP pollster Bruce Donisthorpe, who has polled for both Republicans and Democrats, conducted extensive polling of the state this spring. He says he has never seen such anger and downright hate toward politics and politicians. "It was not unusual for likely voters to tell us that they hate all politicians and to slam down the phone. That goes beyond mere anger and could impact voter turnout this November."

Donisthorpe says the animosity felt toward the political class will translate into a lower vote turnout, not higher. "They are not happy with their choices and rather than hold their noses and vote for someone, we are sensing that many of them will simply stay home."

In response to his findings Donisthorpe has already lowered his voter turnout projection. He forecasts that it will fall below that of the 2012 presidential election when about 772,000 cast ballots for president.  How much of a decline from that point, if any, he says will become more clear later in the year.

That lower turnout is good news for Trump. The most likely people to vote this year remain Anglo conservative Republicans, reports Donisthorpe. "The Republicans remain the most reliable voters and that could mean a closer race between Clinton and Trump but she remains the solid favorite here. The state has voted Democratic in the last two presidential elections and that pattern can be expected to hold."


The most turned off segment of the electorate right now is the independents, a block that continues to grow (19 percent) as more voters turn away from the two major parties. "Our polling shows independent are especially turned of by the tone of politics these days.” Said Donisthorpe.

Turnout could be further hurt by a presidential race that is seen as a runaway. "If Clinton is far ahead in the polls here there will be little to drive voters to the polls. The only statewide race is for secretary of state. There is really nothing else, except the battle for control of the state House which is now in the hands of the Republicans and the uphill battle by the Republicans to try to take control of the state Senate. That is not going to drive turnout."

Donisthorpe says low voter turnout is always best for the reliable Republicans as their percentage of the vote grows as more independents and Democrats stay home. "I think that could be more relevant for the legislative races and help the Republicans, but not so much when it comes to Trump who is a tough fit for our state's demographics."


New Mexico First, a bipartisan public policy organization is hosting a town hall on the state's economy. Help create recommendations for New Mexico's leaders. Click here to register.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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Thursday, May 05, 2016

Martinez Hedges On Trump; Stays On Fence With Endorsement; What's Really Happening Here? Plus: Do Dems Stay Status Quo Because Of The Donald? 

Gov. Martinez is edging toward an endorsement of Donald Trump but still hedging. She is saying she will not vote for Hillary Clinton but wants to know more about where Trump stands on issues impacting New Mexico, including federal funding for the national labs. Funny, for over five years she has ignored the labs and decried the state's dependence on federal spending. In fact, she dismantled the state's lobbying office in DC. Now she wants to know where Trump stands on our federal funding? From her office:

. . . She wants to hear how Mr. Trump plans to address issues that directly affect New Mexicans — like how he plans to protect our labs and military bases and end the dysfunction in Washington that has hurt New Mexico more than any other state in the country. Governor Martinez wants to be sure the needs and concerns of New Mexicans are addressed by the presidential candidates

Martinez will not be the VP candidate with Trump, despite the predictable mentions she's now receiving and has received and that we'll have to endure until the GOP convention in July.

We believe her when she says she is not interested. Indeed. How could she hold up to worldwide scrutiny when she has shown little interest in national issues and has not engaged in any meaningful exchanges with the adversarial national media?

In fact, her most notable national exposure of late has been for the ill-fated holiday staff pizza party she threw at a Santa Fe hotel in December. Part of it was captured on audio tape and appeared to show her drunk and berating a hotel clerk as noise complaints about her party were investigated. That incident, in part, has caused her popularity to drop dramatically in the state--to a 45% approval rating-- according to reliable and recent insider polling conducted for a NM based political action committee that we've been shown and which we blogged about this week.

In other words, our readers are way ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding the true dynamics impacting this governor, her governorship and her real status on the national scene.

Trump says he is most likely to pick as VP someone who can help him get legislation through Congress. That certainly is not Martinez whose legislative cupboard in New Mexico is essentially bare, except for a corporate tax cut and a law on driver's licenses.

Also, Wednesday night on Fox News Trump GOP Convention Manager Paul Manafort was asked directly about Martinez's prospects, with the interviewer wondering if it doesn't have to be a "woman and Latina." Manafort shot that down saying both Trump and he want someone with "Washington experience" and who could help with "foreign policy" and "defense." He said that criteria is more important than gender or race. Obviously, Martinez does not fit that bill. Transcript:

Kelly: Do you believe what people say, that it has to be somebody like Susanna Martinez, a woman, a Latina?

MANAFORT: He said he is looking for somebody who has Washington experience and someone who can help him in dealing with the problems in foreign policy and defense policy. That's more important in my judgment. And that's what he thinks which is even more important.

Trump minions will continue to mention for VP the likes of Martinez, Gov. Nikki Haley and other women and minorities because of Trump's sad status with them. For her part Martinez will drag out her eventual endorsement because of Trump's past bigoted remarks and radical immigration proposals, even as she is used to give him cover.

Martinez could make a real difference by taking the high road and publicly demanding Trump ditch his plans to put a wall across the southern border and to prohibit any Muslim immigration into the USA. But this is politics and these days the high road is the road less traveled.


Martinez is chair of the Republican Governors Association so her rivals at the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) are wasting no time trying to put her under the Trump train:

The DGA launched a webpage reminding voters in New Mexico where Gov. Martinez stands on supporting Donald Trump for president. The webpage, entitled “Trump Tracker: The Silent 9,” names Martinez as an original member of “The Silent 9” sitting GOP governors who have refused to answer if they would support Donald Trump on the ballot in November. Tuesday night, Trump became the presumptive GOP presidential nominee in 2016. But for months, Republican governors have been have been divided over Trump’s candidacy. Martinez has dodged questions on if she supports Trump for more than two months.

And before the Dems start smirking over Trump and their possible good fortune, here is author Tom Frank to throw some reality their way:


And before the Dems start premature victory celebrations over Trump's nomination author Thomas Frank has a point to make:

. . . Trump is a bigot of such pungent vileness that the victory of the Democratic candidate is virtually assured. Absent some terrorist attack...or some FBI action on the Clinton email scandal... or some outrageous act of reasonableness by Trump himself, the blowhard is going to lose.

This, in turn, frees the Democratic leadership to do whatever they want, to cast themselves in any role they choose. They do not need to move to “the center” this time. They do not need to come up with some ingenious way to get Wall Street off the hook. They do not need to beat up on working people’s organizations.

That they seem to want to do all these things anyway tells us everything we need to know about who they really are: a party of the high-achieving professional class that is always looking for a way to dismiss the economic concerns of ordinary people.

Those "ordinary people" here are working class Hispanics who have abandoned state Democrats in droves, making GOP dominance of state government here possible.


New Mexico First, a bipartisan public policy organization is hosting a  town hall on the state's economy. Help create recommendations for New Mexico's leaders. Click here to register.


In reporting our scoop on the first mayoral candidate announcing for the '17 race--Dem Deanna Archuleta-- we had the location of the announcement as being at the Bow and Arrow Brewery in the North Valley. Fans of the new place inform that it is north of Downtown.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Trump's Indiana Blow Out Sends His Victory Train Our Way; All Aboard? Susana Still On Fence; Analysts Weigh In On NM Prez Race 

The Trump victory train is headed our way for our June 7th primary but will everyone be on board, particularly one Governor named Susana Martinez? She's been unable to find her political footing during this historic contest. First she endorsed loser Rubio, then she attacked Trump behind closed doors and then she finally came to rest in a neutral corner..

Trump's unpopularity among Hispanics (77 percent disapproval in the Gallup poll) is putting the Guv between the proverbial rock and a hard place, providing glee for state Dems who came with this as Trump scored his historic Indiana primary win last night:

. . . Trump perpetuates racism against immigrants, has no realistic plan to improve our economy, is clueless on foreign policy, and continues to spread hatred wherever he goes,” said Debra Haaland, Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico. “The New Mexico GOP’s endorsement should be a warning sign that Republicans in our state plan to follow Trump’s lead. . . Martinez can’t hide from reporters much longer—New Mexicans deserve an honest answer on whether our governor will stand with Donald Trump and his offensive remarks and reckless policy.

Martinez has her work cut our for her in how she comes down on the Trump nomination. State House Democrats are watching with special care as they look for any advantage they can get in their fight to retake control of the state House.

Over at GOP headquarters last night, if they were worried about Trump in New Mexico they weren't letting on:

With Donald Trump's win in Indiana and Ted Cruz dropping out, Trump has functionally secured the nomination," said Republican Party spokesman Tucker Keene. "We look forward to seeing Donald Trump in New Mexico and working with our nominee to defeat Hillary Clinton in November and delivering our five electoral votes for the Republicans.

Veteran political consultant, attorney and Dem politico Greg Payne has been analyzing Campaign '16 for us. He predicted the Trump nomination months ago. Last night he had these thoughts:

There will be a push for Trump to pick a VP nominee - preferably one with Establishment ties that will 'bring the party together'. Trump won't do it. He knows he doesn't have to pick a VP until just before the Cleveland convention. Trump's a showman. He's going to build suspense, float a few names and make a lot of politicians dance between now and then. And don't kid yourself, despite Gov. Martinez's last second endorsement of Rubio, and the nastiness she directed toward Trump, Susana will willingly dance the Trump Tango, if she isn't dancing it already.

Many Dems are thinking that Blue NM is set to hand Hillary Clinton a landslide here, but Payne is more cautious:

Democrats are delusional in thinking Trump is going to be a push-over. They don't want to have to fight--but this is going to be a tight race that Trump could win. And that Hillary wave NM Dems are expecting and counting on? It's going to be very small - if there's a wave at all.

Republican pollster and analyst Bruce Donisthorpe agrees that the Clinton-Trump race could be closer than currently thought, saying his extensive polling in the state shows deep dissatisfaction with presidential politics could lead to a  lower voter turnout than 2012 when about 772,000 New Mexicans cast ballots for the White House, Donisthorpe is already predicting we will not reach that number this year. How much lower we go, he says, will become more clear later in the year.


State Republicans will send 24 delegates to the national GOP convention in Cleveland in July and each of them will have to have fat checkbooks. An insider GOP memo reveals just how much cash those political eager beavers will need to cheer on Trump:

On May 21st the delegates to National will be elected at the Sandia Resort and Casino in Albuquerque. There will be a 30 minute meeting after the convention for those who are elected. That day there will be a $785 fee that will be due payable to reserve your place in Cleveland. You will be responsible for making you own flight arrangements however the RPNM will be making the hotel reservations for you. The total cost may run as high as $5,000, which will include the $785 down payment. 

That isn't scaring away the deep-pocketed R's. Some 150 of them are running for the delegate slots that will be contested.


Reader Ron Nelson writes of the potential 2017 ABQ mayoral field we blogged of Tuesday:

After rattling off your list of Mayoral wannabe’s all I have to say is we’re in deep shit.  Not one seasoned solid leader in the batch.


New Mexico First, a bipartisan public policy organization is hosting a town hall on the state's economy. Help create recommendations for New Mexico's leaders. Click here to register.


In our first draft Tuesday, we blogged that former Martinez fund-raiser Andrea Goff "testified" before the federal grand jury investigating Martinez political consultant Jay McCleskey for alleged campaign finance violations. She was a cooperating witness and gave her evidence to the Justice Department but did not testify. . .

The actual title of potential ABQ mayoral candidate Terry Brunner is USDA Rural Development State Director for New Mexico. We had it otherwise. . .

Democrat Pete Dinelli, a 2013 mayoral candidate, said his name should have been included on our Tuesday list of potential 2017 mayoral candidates. . .

95 year old Gene Lindsay, one of the state's most admired progressive Democrats with a long history of activism along with her late husband Bert, passed away recently. Ollie Reed gives her a fond farewell. .

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

A PR Campaign On Child Abuse; Is It A Campaign For The Election, Too? Plus: Our Exclusives: First Candidate Enters ABQ Mayoral Race And Rep. Pearce Backs Yates Over Rogers In GOP Battle 

Can a website solve New Mexico's child abuse problem? Yeah, we agree with you on that one. But that's what the Martinez administration rolled out this week--a website listing state resources on child abuse accompanied by a $2.7 million PR campaign to spread the word that we need to "Pull Together." The cynics immediately cried: "Election Time" and they have a point. . .

The state has plumbed new lows in a wide array of social well-being rankings since Martinez took over but she has largely ignored them, or inflicted more harm than good when she did act by causing chaos in the state's behavioral health system.

But now with the November election fast approaching and with the GOP worried about keeping control of the state House that it captured in 2014, the administration rolls out the PR campaign. (It was also interesting that it came just a day after the newspaper did a big front page spread reporting child abuse here is "off the charts".)

Reliable insider polling shows the Governor's approval rating sinking below the 50% level for the first time in her over five yea tenure.  Let me repeat that. Below 50 percent.

We can't give the source for that polling--yet. But it is reliable and recent and it has her at 45% approval. That's following the December holiday staff pizza party disaster and a continued weak economy around the state.

The R's plan is for "an all crime all the time" campaign similar to what they did in the last legislative session, but there is vulnerability in that and that's why we are probably seeing a PR campaign on a key social issue.

But where's the beef--the resources actually needed to address child abuse? That was the question being asked by Archbishop John Wester of the Santa Fe Archdiocese. In his first venture on to the field of La Politica since taking over his post a year ago, Wester was forceful. He called a news conference to comment on the administration's sudden embrace of the child welfare problem, saying:

We agree with the government’s call to pull together. This is truly an important step. It is important to remember, however, that when we pull together, we need to pull resources together. For example, programs for children need to be funded. The “PullTogether” campaign underestimates the lack of access to the Internet for the people in poverty. An online directory is not a silver bullet. These problems need a large-scale effort to create systemic change. These decades’ old problems, which have recently boiled to a heating point of tragedy, can no longer be ignored. A resource directory is wonderful, if it is directing people to fully-funded programs, which has not been the case in New Mexico.

The Archbishop's full comments are here and in them he urges the Governor to support a constitutional amendment that would let voters decide if they wish to devote a portion of the state's $15 billion Land Grant Permanent School Fund to early childhood education. That's the kind of  resources he says are needed to reverse the state's descent to the bottom of the barrel in child-well being rankings.

And what about that $2.7 million for the PR blitz that raised eyebrows since the Children Youth and Families Department seems chronically understaffed and short of funds. A group of parents came with this:

Parents of the OLÉ Working Parents Association criticized CYFD's plan to spend $2.7 million on an ad campaign to inform parents about child care assistance availability, saying that it isn't awareness that stops parents from enrolling; it's the way in which CYFD caseworkers treat parents. “CYFD would not have $2.7 million in reverted child care funds to spend on advertising if they hadn't turned away so many eligible parents or charged them co-pays that they can't afford,” said Diana Maze, a parent and leader of the OLÉ Working Parents Association said.


Former Democratic Bernallio County Commissioner Deanna Archuleta put up this Twitter account this week with the logo you see here and for us that means she's the first candidate to enter the 2017 ABQ mayoral race. Our Alligators report she will have a gathering of friends today at the Bow and Arrow Brewery to tell them she is running.

Archuleta would be the first woman elected mayor of the city. In 2009 she was named an Assistant Secretary of Interior under President Obama, leaving the county commission shortly after getting elected to her second term in 2008. Previously she was the regional director for the Southwestern Wilderness Society. With that resume she would seem to have a base with progressive Democrats, especially environmentalists.

Here's a tip: Insiders report ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham is a player behind the scenes on this one. She is looking seriously at an '18 run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

Archuleta is married to pediatrician Tom Rothfeld and lives in the North Valley. She has a teenaged son from a previous marriage.

She is the first in what could be a crowded field. Among others being mentioned as possible contenders are former NM Democratic Party Chairman and attorney Brian Colon who is already openly campaigning; State Auditor Tim Keller, USDA Rural Development State Director Terry Brunner, City Councilors Ken Sanchez and Dan Lewis, Republican businessman Steve McKee and R Celina Bussey, cabinet secretary for the state Workforce Solutions Department. Mayor Berry says he won't seek a third term and is obviously eyeing the '18 GOP Guv nomination but if that doesn't work out he could always change his mind.


The blog exclusives roll on (Hey, kids, we're working it for ya)

The split in the New Mexico Republican Party just got more open and wider. Southern NM Congressman Steve Pearce says it's time for controversial NM GOP National Committeeman Pat Rogers to hit the road. Pearce formally endorsed Harvey Yates, former chairman of the state GOP, in his bid to oust Rogers who has held the post for eight years and is very closely associated with the Governor's political machine, led by Martinez consultant Jay McCleskey. Says Pearce to the delegates to the state GOP convention in May where the race will be decided:

Pearce & Martinez
The National Republican Party has failed to live up to its promise. Just as I was one of the first people in the Congress to say it was time for a change in the Speaker of the House, even with my high regard for Pat Rogers, I think it is time for a change.

We need people setting the national direction of the party who understand what it takes to create jobs. Harvey is a successful business guy. He knows what it takes. That’s why I am proud to support Harvey Yates for National Committeeman.

We need people speaking nationally for us as Republicans to take stances that are based on principle, people who will speak out against corruption. Harvey is a man of principle and integrity. He wrote and published a book about the crony capitalism corruption of the Bill Richardson Administration. That’s why I am proud to support Harvey Yates for National Committeeman.

And here's the topper from Pearce.

I sincerely hope you will join me in supporting Harvey Yates for National Committeeman. If you would like to speak to me personally, please call Andrea Goff at 575-390-8050 and she will arrange a call for us.

You mean the Andrea Goff who presented evidence to the US Attorney about McCleskey's alleged campaign finance wrongdoing? A federal grand jury investigated McCleskey but did not indict him. Goff issued a letter that said she feels she is being threatened by Jay. Yep, that Andrea Goff. She's been a longtime fund-raiser for Pearce and him putting her name out there now was a clear signal that Pearce's split with Gov. Martinez, known in closed circles, is public and pronounced.

You don't have civil war in the GOP yet, but you are headed for it if the gubernatorial contest features Machine favorite Mayor Berry against Lt. Governor Sanchez who is the Pearce-Yates fave. The first round in the fight for the future of the GOP is May 21 when state Republicans decide the Yates-Rogers contest.


New Mexico First, a bipartisan public policy organization is hosting a  town hall on the state's economy. Help create recommendations for New Mexico's leaders. Click here to register.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.


Monday, May 02, 2016

State's Social Conditions Crisis Grows As Economy Slows: Child Abuse, Graduation Rates And Medicaid In The Spotlight, Plus: State Scandal Brews Over Denial Of Welfare Benefits  

To put it bluntly: New Mexico is having a hard time getting off its collective ass as the social conditions crisis accelerates and as the economy continues to stagnate. The latest:

The history of many young New Mexicans who ended up in juvenile detention shows a brutal betrayal of their innocence and youth. According to a recent groundbreaking study, the amount of trauma some of these New Mexico juvenile offenders experienced – when compared to their peers across the country – was “off the charts.” Many were victims of neglect, abandonment, beatings or rape, and were exposed to family violence, mental illness, drug abuse and more. They had patterns of early childhood abuse and neglect that was seven times higher than similar teens in other national studies. 

Most of these youth were no doubt born to low-income and minority households. It's almost as if we need the Peace Corp here to reverse the directions of these families.  But a solid alternative is a constitutional amendment that would ask voters to put aside a portion of the state's $15 billion Land Grant Permanent School Fund and devote it to very early childhood education, ages zero to five.

Then there's the latest high school graduation rates. Again, it's the disparity between the rich and poor and the Brown and White that's killing us:

La Cueva High School had the best graduation rate at 81.4 percent, though that is down from 2014, when it was 84.2 percent. The lowest rates in the district were at Highland High School, 49.2 percent, and Del Norte High School, 52.4 percent. The APS statistics highlight a perennial concern: the large gap in achievement based on race and socioeconomic status.

That little island of success at La Cueva, representing one of the most affluent and Anglo school districts in the city, is only going to shrink along with the economy as the minority population continues to grow and steps are not taken to reverse the slide. Duh.

Then there's that other crisis over Medicaid funding in which the state can't come up with $86 million that would be matched by at least three to one by the Feds. If it isn't, forecasts say we lose $300 to $500 million. Like the childhood trauma dilemma mentioned above in which the Permanent Fund offers a solution, Medicaid is also soluble, if we only had brave and bold leadership. The news:

Hospital executives. . . are backing a new provider fee imposed on clinics, hospitals, nursing homes and diagnostic services such as radiology that would pump more (Medicaid) money into direct care rather than cutting dollars. They see the fee as an investment that will allow the state to leverage more federal funds. But Gov. Martinez, who has pledged that she won’t increase taxes, has been slow to move forward with such a plan. It may be unthinkable that business leaders would voluntarily step up to assess themselves a provider fee to support Medicaid services. But that what’s happening all over the country. The vast majority of states now impose a range of fees that scoop up added federal dollars to support the growing Medicaid population.

Martinez and the Republicans have locked themselves into a strait jacket of no tax increases or fee increases of any kind ever--no matter what. They can't be blamed entirely for the worsening social conditions crisis that's been decades in the making but their obstinacy in seeking any solutions places the political blame squarely at their doorstep, along with their Democratic cohorts who join with them.

Meantime, if cutbacks are the order of the day, the quality of health care provided by Medicaid is going to suffer, doctors will flee and the state's huge underclass will be even more stuck.


More angles on this from the readers. Dr. Randy Brown writes:

Here’s an interesting fact. Physicians must pay gross receipts tax on Medicaid payments. Let’s see, seems like the state could recapture $24 million in gross receipts if they took the federal money. Not to mention paying physicians a reasonable fee for Medicaid patients. I can’t believe they can’t see this.

Felicia Salazar writes:

It would also be beneficial to point out the misuse this administration demonstrated when it falsely accused 15 behavioral health care providers of fraud and cost New Mexico more than 1,600 jobs. The state spent $28.8 million dollars to chase what ultimately was found to be $1.16 million in billing irregularities.  This is particularly devastating given that we must close an $86 million Medicaid shortfall or risk losing $417 million in services when counting the federal match. At a time when we need every cent invested in the state, more than $28 million was wasted on closing down behavioral health services in the state, putting New Mexicans out of work and bringing in Arizona companies to replace them - who have now since left because they did not find the work profitable enough.

Norman Gagne writes:

Your April 28 blog about the Medicaid Mess is spot on and in more ways than first meet the eye. The March New Mexico Labor Market Review lists "Education & Health Services" next to "Leisure & Hospitality" as one of the fastest growing jobs segments (4.4% of the Albuquerque market year over year and 5.1% statewide) of the New Mexico economy. . . To let over $400,000,000 in Federal matching funds slip away this year for what seem to be political reasons not only denies care to needy New Mexicans but also strikes at one of the most vigorous segments of the state's anemic economy. 

And like us reader James Rivera ponders the hundreds of millions of capital outlay money that goes unspent in the face of the Medicaid debacle:

Capital Outlay for many years has been a kettle over the fire brewing. However, millions sit in the pot with no action year after year. There was a reversion of Capital Outlay monies by the Legislature in 2010 after the economic crash at the end of 2008 and it garnered tens of millions of dollars back from local governments. The problem with tens of millions sitting around is that legislators continue to give extensions year after year to Municipalities, Counties, Tribal governments etc., for that unspent Capital Outlay.


Like the econ beat, the social conditions crisis beat goes on and on, Now comes this shocker. Is it a scandal that will widen?:

Five state employees testified in federal court that they falsified income information on emergency applications for people seeking welfare benefits, resulting in wrongly denied food assistance to the poorest citizens in the state. . . The state workers said they sometimes entered false asset information on emergency requests for food assistance as a part of a state policy created just as Gov. Martinez’s administration came under federal scrutiny for its high rates of denying emergency requests for aid. The Human Services Department is required to fulfill emergency food requests within seven days of receiving an application for such assistance. Yet the employees, testifying under oath, said they sometimes altered the requests to reflect that those applying for the assistance had up to $400 in assets that did not exist, leading to the applications being denied or delayed.

How far up the chain of state government command does this one go? Stay tuned.


New Mexico First, a bipartisan public policy organization is hosting a  town hall on the state's economy. Help create recommendations for New Mexico's leaders. Click here to register.


Blogging NM
Jean Bernstein, an owner of the ABQ Flying Star restaurant chain, writes of the federal lawsuit she is party to that seeks to stop Mayor Berry's controversial ART project that would run rapid buses down a large stretch of Central Avenue and reduce traffic to one lane: She says:

Joe, The City has hired a high-powered law firm from Washington, D. C. to defend itself against little Concerned Citizens. They have five lawyers on the case.  This lawsuit has an excellent chance but more funds are necessary so we are having an "Make ART Smart Fundraiser" ad the Nob Hill Bar and Grill May 4th at 6:00 PM/ Complimentary beer, wine and appetizer. . . 

Thanks to the NM Public Relations Society for having us for lunch and a panel discussion on social media, along with ABQ Journal editor Kent Walz and ABQ First Amendment attorney Chuck Peifer. It went well, with no punches being thrown. 

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor 

There's a lot of discontent over the presidential choices being offered up this year by both political parties. It's captured nicely in this political cartoon from Derrick Lee, a student at the ABQ branch of the the Southwest University of Visual Arts.

Derrick's caption is "We picked them?" as he wonders how voters could have picked this Final Four.

The cartoon also reminds us that the choices offered this presidential cycle could mean lower turnout from dissatisfied voters. ABQ pollster Bruce Donisthorpe is already predicting that NM turnout in November is likely to fall below the level of the 2012 election. How much lower he says will become more clear closer to the election.

Thanks for sending that in, Derrick. We have a feeling we'll be seeing more of your work in the future.


Is it possible that NM has more payday loan stores than it does fast food chain restaurants? We have plenty of both but a group arguing for a rate cap on loans the payday industry can charge says payday loaners do indeed outnumber McDonalds and the rest of them. They say the interest rates charged--mainly to low income consumers--can soar to as much as 2,700 percent. That doesn't leave much left over for a Big Mac. Rate cap legislation has yet to take hold in Santa Fe.


New Mexico First, a bipartisan public policy organization is hosting a  town hall on the state's economy. Help create recommendations for New Mexico's leaders. Click here to register.


The June 7th NM primary is sneaking up on us and activity is starting to pick up. From Los Lunas:

On Friday, April 29th at 3:00PM, the NM Federation of Labor’s 2nd Annual Gracias Bus Tour will make its third stop, in Los Lunas, for a 2016 Election Public Forum. The goal of the five day, five city tour is to host thank you events for legislators who stopped bad bills for working families and educate voters on the importance of the 2016 election. Attendees will be able to register to vote, talk about issues and meet local political leaders. The Community Ice Cream Social and Election Forum will be at Smith’s Grocery, 2580 Main Street, Los Lunas. More information can be found at NM Working Families.


House Majority Leader Nate Gentry is off and running--but not just for re-election to his ABQ NE Heights State House seat:

Gentry swapped loafers for running shoes earlier this month when he took part in the prestigious Boston Marathon. Gentry finished the 26.2-mile race on April 18 with a time of just over 3 hours and 16 minutes. He said Tuesday hot and humid conditions weren’t ideal for him and other New Mexico-based runners. “I didn’t run as quickly as I’d hoped, but it was a cool experience,” Gentry said.

Republican Gentry's Boston Marathon run remained us of 1978 when then-NM Democratic Gov. Jerry Apodaca entered and finished the grueling race. Like Nate, Jerry was not happy with his performance and said he "barely" finished. Gentry is about 40 and Apodaca was about 43 when he made the run,

We don't know how this year's election will turn out, but when it comes to the Boston Marathon, it took a while but the state's R's have finally tied the D's.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Why NM Doesn't Swing Anymore, Susana Bringing GOP Governors Here For "Summit," And A Look At The Medicaid Mess 

We wish we were but we aren't--a swing state, that is. The NM GOP seems to be longing for the good old days in a recent news release:

. . .We believe that every campaign should fight to win in New Mexico, because whoever our nominee is, the experience of campaigning in and organizing in a swing state like New Mexico would help defeat Hillary Clinton here in November.

The last time NM went R in the prez race was in 2004, we haven't selected a Republican US Senator since Saint Pete was re-elected in 2002 and after 40 years under R control, the  ABQ congressional seat went Dem in 2008 and hasn't looked back.

 If you want some swinging around here, your best bet is the dance floor--not national politics.


New Mexico First, a bipartisan public policy organization is hosting a  town hall on the state's economy. Help create recommendations for New Mexico's leaders. Click here to register.


One of our Gators reports in with this:

Did you know that Gov. Martinez is hosting her fellow governors at the Corporate Policy Summit #1 on May 17th and 18th at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort in Bernalillo? Corporate Policy Summit #2 will be held in Boston on September 13-14. She's going to be busy lady and out of state most of the year until after the election. Here's part of her schedule which doesn't include campaigning for GOP governors up for re-election.

Martinez is chair of the Republican Governors Association and some of her schedule was posted on the RGA site.


How mismanaged is state government? Try this one on for size. The state may let well over $300 million in Medicaid money slip from its fingers, even though it only has to find $86 million to get the $300 million from the Feds:

Faced with limited dollars and skyrocketing Medicaid enrollment, the New Mexico Human Services Department. . . plans to generate as much as $33.5 million in savings by cutting provider rates for doctors, hospitals and dentists around the state. . .

New Mexico is seeking to close an $86 million state funding gap for Medicaid services between now and mid-2017, under budget restrictions linked to a downturn in energy markets and other spending priorities. The state budget shortfall means New Mexico is likely to forgo well over $300 million in federal matching funds for Medicaid.

The twist here is that the Martinez administration is putting the screws to the UNM Health Sciences Center to try and pry loose at least $50 million in cash for Medicaid from a stockpile of $220 million set aside mainly for a new hospital, says ABQ Dem State Senator Jerry Oriz Y Pino. He points out the administration's Medicaid cuts would be most severe for UNM Health.

The administration previously asked UNM Heath Sciences for that money but were rebuffed. Soon after the UNM Regents restructured the goverance of Health Sciences make it more answerable to the main campus. This latest move seems aimed at getting that $50 million back on the table.

The administration is not misguided in going after more UNM money for Medicaid (UNM Health contributes each year) and UNM Health is not amiss in wanting it eventually paid back like it has been in the past when the Federal matching funds come in. But the administration would not give the payback pledge when it went for the $50 million. The adults in the room need to craft a compromise and secure the hundreds of millions in federal funding rather than posturing. Or how about this. . .

Tens of millions in dollars of capital outlay funds just sit there unspent. That could be a source of onetime money to plug the $86 million hole that would then turn into well over $300 million, thanks to the federal match.

If we do see Medicaid payments slashed, one reader says look for this:

Under paid doctors will flee the state for more lucrative grounds, especially the high income medical specialists.

The doctors better not leave too soon. Thousands of New Mexicans getting sick to their stomachs over the lack of leadership around here are going to need them.


UNM Health stockpiled its $220 million so it can pay cash for a new UNM hospital. But is that really wise? Interest rates are at historic lows. We could build that hospital by floating bonds at these great rates and free up cash for Medicaid and other needs.

UNM Health also gets $90 million in taxes for its indigent fund, even in the aftermath of Obamacare which is aimed at providing everyone with private health insurance or through Medicaid.

From this perch it looks as if Bernalillo County property owners may be over taxed when it comes to the health complex.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Intel Layoffs Get Political As Dems Push Them In The Lap Of GOP, Plus: Yates Vs. Rogers And Another Letter Bomb: GOP Infighting Features Some Media Bashing 

The layoffs at Intel are coming with political recriminations this time around and the Democrats are hoping that leads to political consequences.

Reports Tuesday pegged the number of layoffs at the Rio Rancho chip plant at 215, shrinking the workforce from 1,900 to 1,685 and delivering another body blow to the metro economy. Soon, it seems, there will be little more than a skeleton crew out there, barring a surprise.

The layoffs here are part of 12,000 the company is making worldwide.

Perhaps the layoffs will finally spark a long overdue debate about the dreary area job market, especially about good paying jobs like those being lost and not being created. From the state Dems:

The job cuts at Intel just add to a long history of lost jobs under (Gov, Martinez's) watch. Democrats have been working to invest in early childhood education, job training programs, and college education in an effort to build long-term economic security in our state and ensure New Mexicans have the skills needed to get ahead in this economy, while Martinez and state Republicans continue to focus on their all-crime, all the time agenda. 

The lack of focus from Governor Martinez and Republicans in the state is having a damaging effect on New Mexico’s economic future.

Dem attorney Daymon Ely, seeking the state House seat where Intel is located and currently held by GOP State Rep. Paul Pacheco, joined in the hit. He called on Pacheco to address the "job crisis."

I challenge my opponent, Paul Pacheco, who represents this district and has done nothing to address these critical issues, to meet with me in an open forum so that we can hear his plans on how to save our community.

A call to Pacheco for a response was not returned. He was in the fore at the last legislative session in the effort to repeal driver's licenses for undocumented workers which finally passed with a compromise. But Pacheco has been quiet on the jobs and economy front as a portion of his district is devastated by the Intel retreat. The seat leans R but Ely has raised a lot of money.

The Dems will have to pound hard and consistently to switch the political agenda from  the "all crime all the time" campaign that is coming from the R's and that was their central focus in the recent legislative session. One news release won't do it.


Current Senior Alligator odds on control of the House next year: The odds currently favor the R's keeping the House but it's close--6 to 5 in favor of the R's. The odds on the R's taking control of the state Senate are 20 to 1. We'll revisit the odds as develops warrant.


There was some media talk circulating that the loss of the Intel workers is actually an opportunity because many of them are highly trained and creative. That went over like a lead balloon with many of our readers, including reader Kathryn Carrol:

The real brain power now working at the plant will be moved to other Intel locations - those remaining are beyond their prime and will be interested only in a buyout or an enhancement to boost their pension. Went through that with a then-60-year old husband with 30 years of service when IBM devastated the manufacturing plant in Tucson back in the late '80s. The enhanced pension and free medical coverage for life for both employee and spouse was a nice sweetener.

There was a good job growth report released about the ABQ metro Tuesday but it appears most of the jobs being created remain on the low-paying side and not the kind that are going to keep talented younger people from fleeing for greener pastures.


Rogers (Bralley)
Pat Rogers is using some media bashing to try to prevent a loss in his race for NM GOP National Committeeman to former NM GOP Chairman Harvey Yates. He released his response to Yates' recent delegate letter that said its time for Rogers to go, saying the Republican Governor and state House have squandered their years in power by doing little to create jobs.

The Rogers letter (here) runs 1,700 words and contains a lengthy passage about "Democrat dominated newspapers and bloggers." Said Rogers of Yates:

We also have very different means of communicating. That is why I am writing to you and other Republican delegates and leaders directly, personally, and privately. I would never choose to communicate with you about Republican Party internal debates through the statewide media or through Democrat-dominated newspapers and bloggers’ so that our discussion becomes, as Harvey has chosen to try to make it, a public airing of perceived
injuries and grievances. I don’t see that as effective in moving our Party or our Country forward.

Actually, it's this "blogger" Pat is talking about since we're the only one covering the race. The notorious Rogers has given us great copy for 13 years and his thin skin regarding us is legendary.

He did not mention that the liberal New Mexican actually endorsed Governor Martinez for re-election in 2014.

Rogers accuses Yates of making his announcement for committeeman in the New Mexican which he says in the bag for the D's. The story was actually first reported here (yeah, we still chase an ambulance once in a while) and did not come from Yates--but from readers who informed us of his candidate letter. He also formally announced--with Rogers present--at the recent BernCo GOP County Convention.

Rogers, long a fixer for the Martinez political Machine (remember the state racino lease for the Downs at ABQ?), has had the committeeman slot for eight years, but this contest to be decided at the state GOP convention in May looks close as we draw nearer to the post-Martinez era. Maybe that's why he spent 1,700 words on the attack.


The CNN political analysis team said last night that it expects Donald Trump to get "a few more delegates" than Cruz and Kasich from the NM June 7th GOP presidential primary. We take that as a prediction that Trump will carry the state which would surprise no one, given the momentum Trump picked up from the primaries back East last night.


We mentioned that Bernie Sanders plans to put several staffers on the ground here for the Dem presidential primary. And so is Hillary:

Hillary for New Mexico campaign will be led by State Director Scott Forrester. Rich Thuma will serve as Organizing Director and Victor Reyes will serve as Communications Director. . .Hillary for New Mexico will open offices throughout the state in the coming weeks. . .Forrester served as political director for her 2008 New Mexico operation. From 2009-2013, he served as the Executive Director of the state Democratic Party. Scott is the co-founder of Bosque Strategies, a political consulting firm. Supporters in New Mexico who want to get involved and join Hillary for New Mexico should visit.


New Mexico First, a bipartisan public policy organization is hosting a  town hall on the state's economy. Help create recommendations for New Mexico's leaders. Click here to register.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How Will Cruz-Kasich Pact Play Out? Cruz Walks To Let Kasich Trot But Trump Holds The High Cards, Plus: The Daze Of Darren; From Painkillers To Pot  

The anti-Trump forces want it to be Kasich vs. Trump in the New Mexico June 7th GOP presidential primary as Cruz and Kasich form a pact to stop Trump from getting the magic number of national GOP delegates and capturing the party's  nomination. That has Cruz taking a pass on active campaigning in the state and Kasich having the field to himself and The Donald.

But Texas Senator Cruz is a much better fit for the state and was ahead of Trump by one point in the February ABQ Journal poll. Veteran pollster Brian Sanderoff tells me it's a good bet that Cruz will still finish ahead of Kasich here, pact or no pact:

This pact seems to help Cruz the most since if he peels off some Kasich supporters in Indiana he could possibly win the state and get all the delegates. Kasich stands no chance in Indiana, so it's OK for him to say he will stop focusing there. In New Mexico where Trump and Cruz are doing well, it doesn't matter if Cruz deemphasizes NM thereby losing NM by a few points because he will still get some delegates due to our proportional allocation of delegates at both the state and congressional district level.

The pact was already in danger of unraveling soon after it was announced. It also sounded desperate. From the WaPo:

If Donald Trump could have engineered a scenario that would fire up his anti-establishment base any more than it already is, the public announcement of a Cruz-Kasich alliance would be how he would have done it. Now it's not just hard-to-understand delegate math where the GOP establishment is plotting against Trump but a high-profile handshake agreement between a sitting senator and governor.

New Mexico has only 24 delegates to the national convention. New Mexico will decide 21 delegates on June 7th. Three others go to party insiders. A candidate has to get at least 15% of the statewide vote to qualify for delegates. The state GOP has put out a delegate primer here.

Kasich should run his best in ABQ and its suburbs and maybe make a move in the Hispanic North. Trump will fight it out with Cruz in the conservative south and southeast. Trump will be the favorite for the overall win. There are simply not enough "moderate R's" like Kasich who will be voting in the NM primary to propel him into the victory circle or close to it and conservative Cruz supporters will be loathe to cross over and vote for Kasich.

Maybe Gov. Martinez can help fellow Governor Kasich here, but after her problems in this contest (endorsing Rubio who shortly after dropped out and bad mouthing Trump at a private lunch which was leaked to the press) she might want to do it on the down low.

As it stands New Mexico won't matte much, but that it matters at all is welcome. At least we get some national publicity that for a change isn't negative.


Darren White, former Bernalillo County Sheriff, former director of the public safety divisions for the state and ABQ and a longtime Gov. Martinez political operative, continues to get scorched on social media for his flip on marijuana.

After years of opposing legalizing use of the weed White is now cashing in on the medical marijuana business. And new details have emerged about the once outspoken anti-drug crusader.

White, his son Darren Jr.  and two other investors are reported to be investing $1 million in the medical marijuana business PurLife. White is the company's CEO and security director. Of course, that business was given a license to operate by. . . drum roll please. . . the Department of Health of the state of New Mexico that is controlled by. . .second drum roll. . . Gov. Martinez (and her powerful political consultant and Darren BFF Jay McCleskey.)

The report also has White disclosing being on a steady diet of narcotic pain killers for back and knee jury pain. That's how he says he came across medical marijuana whose side effects are not as powerful. He is now a medical marijuana user. Here's his quote:

A steady diet of consuming painkillers is not quality of life. The narcotic painkillers, they knock you out.

You mean Darren apparently was under the influence of narcotics during his erratic episodes in state and ABQ government and while posting numerous hate tweets on social media against Martinez critics in and outside of the media? Hmm...that explains things.

What really kills the pain of injury--or of plain old life--for Darren and company is cold hard cash. Another of his BFF's--House Majority Leader Nate Gentry--is scooping up campaign cash from medical marijuana producers as the tea leaves predict eventual legalization or decriminalization of the drug in New Mexico.

(The "nonprofit" label that has been assigned to the medical marijuana producers in the state was proven to be a sham by investigate reporter Peter St. Cyr.)

Who else deeply connected to the Martinez administration is investing in the marijuana business (with the help of the Department of Health?) And did Darren and his son really invest as much as the others in their medical marijuana business? Or were their shares of the investment much, much lower because of White's "experience with state government?"

As they say, you cant make this stuff up--well, not unless you're popping pain killers, smoking dope or getting smashed at a pizza party.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Warning For John Sanchez: Don't Mess With The Machine; Light Guv Hit On Use Of Campaign Cash And Intel's Reprieve May Not Be Much Of One  

Lt. Gov. Sanchez
Hey, John Sanchez. Don't mess with the Machine! That seems to be the none too subtle message the lieutenant governor  is getting as he grapples with headlines accusing him of possibly unethical behavior. Here's the gist:

. . . Sanchez is under fire for using more than $40,000 in campaign funds during the 2014 election to pay himself rent for an office in an Albuquerque warehouse that he owns. The building. . . is also used by Sanchez’s Right Way Roofing company. Beginning in January 2013, Sanchez used the office as headquarters for his campaign as he ran unopposed for re-election in the 2014 Republican primary and in the general election on a ticket with Gov. Martinez, who won. . . over Democrat Gary King. “If I was trying to hide something, I wouldn’t have reported it,” Sanchez said. . . Democrats as well as a group that has pushed campaign reforms in the state blasted Sanchez.

The rent story was dug up from Sanchez's recent campaign finance report. You can't prove that it was the Governor's political Machine that was behind this one, but it was eerily similar to an attack leveled by Martinez against Dem foe King in the '14 Guv race. Here's the TV ad from then:

Politician Gary King. Insider deals. While in the statehouse, Gary King wrote legislation for the state to lease an office building in Moriarty. But King never mentioned who owned that building he was asking the state to lease — Gary King. He used his elected position to push a state contract to himself. Gary King pocketed $192,000 from taxpayers. Politician Gary King: insider deals for him, a bad deal for us.

The context of all this is simple: Sanchez is seeking the '18 GOP gubernatorial nomination. ABQ Mayor Richard Berry is expected to seek the same nomination. Berry is backed by Martinez political consultant and Machine leader Jay McCleskey. Sanchez is their enemy.

But why now? Wouldn't the Sanchez rent story be more effective closer to that still far off Guv campaign? Probably. But as readers of this space know, Sanchez has been conducting an "Operation Separation" when it comes to fellow Republican and Governor Martinez.

He has twice taken to Facebook in recent weeks. First, on March 21 he questioned the Governor-appointed UNM Regents on how they revamped the governing structure of the UNM Health Sciences Center.  Second, on April 1 he veered further to the right on abortion than Martinez, questioning UNM's role in a fetal tissue controversy. This, in part, because he does not want to be strangled by Martinez's possible unpopularity as happened to Diane Denish, Light Guv under Dem Guv Richardson, who was defeated by Martinez in 2010. And Sanchez also wants to keep social conservatives disgruntled with Martinez and Berry under his roof. They are important in a GOP nominating contest.


Naughty John appears to have gotten the Guv's goat so it was payback time now. Not later. And never mind that the story might be better used down the road. That's how the Machine rolls.

As for the political impact of the report, Sanchez handled it well in his on camera interview and it will strike some as a campaign process story. But it did have some sting and reminded you of how the Machine has poisoned so many Hispanic Dems over the years over ethical issues. Berry could move to lump Sanchez in with that crowd as he faces an uphill battle to take the Guv nomination away from Sanchez. Sanchez is not naive and blamed the rent report, if vaguely, on his "political opponents."

Sanchez has tried to soften his separation operation by dumping his breaks with the Fourth and Fifth Floors on Friday afternoons on Facebook. Now he's finding out that you can't negotiate with machines. You either fight or die.


It's not certain how much of a reprieve it will be, but for now Intel says--contrary to speculation--it will not close its giant computer chip plant in Rio Rancho. But that doesn't mean it will ever return to being the once robust operation it was. The new speculation has Intel laying off employees there again this week--along with thousands of others worldwide--but keeping the plant open on a caretaker basis. If that's the case the current 1,900 workforce could shrink into the hundreds over the next few years.

The slow and agonizing downsizing of one of the state's major employers has given rise to discussion about the hundreds of millions in ongoing tax breaks and incentives Intel received for locating here over 30 years ago.

Tom Cafcas of Good Jobs First (an outfit that tracks the impact of tax subsides) says companies are increasingly focusing on education and infrastructure, and if New Mexico wants a takeaway from Intel, it is to spend money not on tax incentives, but on investments in public amenities.

“Focus on basic investments in workforce training or transportation assets or education … in this case. . .Those are the things driving where companies locate,” he said. “This is an important moment to step back and notice.”

Once again it appears an expert is anyone from out of town. Santa Fe, operating under an umbrella of austerity for the entirety of this decade, isn't listening.

It makes you wonder what Gov. Martinez and the traveling Amigos--a high-roller group that each year travels to different cities to promote business in the state--is telling New Yorkers and South Carolinians--this year's destinations. Maybe they're trying to sell them a plant in Rio Rancho.

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