Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday Clippings From Out Newsroom Floor  

Sen. McSorley
Amid an ongoing and devastating bear market in oil prices, longtime ABQ Dem state Senator Cisco McSorley is now pronouncing the state of New Mexico structurally bankrupt.

That declaration comes after years of erroneous boasting by the Martinez administration about how when it took office in 2011 they resolved the "largest structural deficit in history" and it takes square aim at her performance on the state economy. She's not to blame for the crash in oil prices but when things go good, a Governor gets credit and when they go bad, well. . . .

Is McSorley exaggerating? It doesn't seem so. The legislature must fill a hole of some $200 million left over from the budget year that ended June 30. It faces a possible shortfall of $500 million for the budget year that began July 1. And there's the issue of replenishing the state's exhausted reserves. That could be another $300 million. All in all, that's a billion dollars. Where in the name of Coronado are we going to get that money? Ideas, Susana?. . .

Are you ready for 8,000 words on how the NM Spaceport isn't quite working out? Go for it.

We're sure Brent Eastwood, our avid Spaceport watcher in DC, will read every word. In the wake of the resignation of Spaceport Executive Director Christine Anderson, Eastwood comes with these thoughts;

Now is the time for the legislature to act. They should pass a bill to privatize Spaceport America and look for a new private ownership group to take over from the state. Other options for the Spaceport should be examined and debated, including creating an independent expert commission that would review Virgin Galactic ground and flight testing data to ensure better accountability and oversight regarding Virgin's space tourism plans.


A Democratic reader writes:

About your recent blog on current law allowing guns into the Roundhouse. If lawmakers believe that guns are too dangerous to be allowed into the Capitol, then they must take action to protect all New Mexicans. Legislators who support closing the gun show loophole should attach that amendment to any piece of legislation that bans guns from the Capitol. If guns kill people, pass common sense gun control laws. If guns do not kill people, then lawmakers have nothing to fear if they are brought to the people's house.


Thanks to Senior Pastor Steve Smotherman and his able staff at Legacy Church for doing a fine job in organizing the memorial service Thursday for our fallen friend and noted political consultant and pollster Bruce Donisthorpe. It was a moving tribute and well attended. Among those paying respects were two former NM GOP Chairmen--Edward Lujan and Harvey Yates--and the current chair, Debbie Weh Maestas. There were many others from the world of La Politica on hand---too numerous to mention--but they all contributed in giving Bruce a gracious and memorable send-off.

That's it for this week. Thanks for stopping by.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Wheels Still Coming Off The ABQ Crime Train, Plus: Arguing ART; Prayers To The Judge, And: NM In Philadelphia 

Here in ABQ this sizzling summer of '16 the wheels continue to come off the crime train, with auto theft--a favorite pastime of the thousands of meth heads that populate the city--skyrocketing (up 45% in '15). It's a woeful tale of an understaffed police department patrolling less and making fewer arrests. It also speaks to the high unemployment rate. And. . .

It also speaks to the utter failure to engage the drug problem more directly. Bernalillo County Commissioners continue to sleep at the wheel and sit on $20 million that is generated annually from a tax with the specific purpose of addressing pressing "mental health" and addiction problems.  They are "studying" what to do. But they've apparently done enough studying to know they want to divert some of that money into a program only tangentially connected to mental health. Come on, Commissioners. Shake a leg or else give us free ignition locks. . .

A county employee phoned this week to report the unsavory discovery of human feces on downtown's Civic Plaza and what he described as a "Hooverville" for the homeless sprouting up on grassy areas near the plaza. Well, perhaps when the human excrement starts showing up on the well-manicured lawns of those residing in the wealthy precincts of the city, we'll get something done. . .

Meanwhile, the collective consciousness of the business aristocracy continues to operate under the delusion that the $35 million glorified college dorm known as "Innovate ABQ" is somehow going to resolve a drug-fueled crime epidemic and other deteriorating social conditions that have made us a fly over zone.

Or how about running a rapid bus line down the middle of Central Avenue that promises to wreak havoc with small businesses as Mayor Berry zealously promotes it over their objections? It's a $100 million mayoral joy ride that, if built, will end with a crash and burn.

Even the atheists who own businesses along the ART bus route are praying that Federal Judge Kenneth Gonzales derails it. If he's listening carefully to the testimony in the hearing he is presiding over this week, he shouldn't have much trouble answering those prayers.

The city is as desperate for a favorable decision from Judge Gonzales as the opponents. Look at this. They've set up a "loan fund" for businesses impacted by the construction. Guess the mayor realizes that this project is going to threaten the livelihoods of hundreds of businesses and their employees. Still, Berry insists on railroading it through. His legacy could end up being his stubbornness once the wrongheadedness of ART is fully revealed.


Haaland in Philly
New Mexico has had a nice little run at the national political conventions this summer. A Los Alamos optometrist, Lisa Shin, was a speaker at the Republican confab and Wednesday at the Democratic gathering in Philadelphia, NM Dem congressional reps Ben Ray Lujan and Michelle Lujan Gisham had a chance to speak. Ben Ray is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee so he landed a choicer spot later in the evening and more time to make his point. Video here.

Hoping to make inroads in the Republican-controlled US House, Lujan came with this broadside of the GOP and Trump:

For nearly six years, Republicans have held the majority in the people’s House. But clinging to that majority is the only thing they’ve accomplished. . .For nearly six years, they’ve been afraid to stand up to the birthers and bigots and conspiracy theorists – like the one they just nominated for President. Millions of Americans who don’t consider themselves Democrats have now joined us in rejecting Donald Trump’s bullying, his racism, his attempts to divide our American family. Growing up, my grandparents shared with me the age old wisdom: Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres. Tell me who you walk with, and I’ll tell you who you are.

Rep. Lujan Grisham's speech is here. Video of Senator Udall and NM Dem Chair Deb Haaland announcing the presidential votes of the NM delegation is here.

Reader Sybil Wertheim has thoughts on our question about supporters of Bernie Sanders getting more involved in local races for Governor, ABQ Mayor and the Legislature:

I am delighted to see your admonition to Bernie supporters to do more than rail against Hillary. It should be all about local, state and congressional races. The top will take care of itself (my opinion). I saw this first hand when I worked for (then-Congressman) Martin Heinrich in his office in '08 when Obama was amping up the excitement of younger people. On the phone they would tell me (many times) that they voted early for Obama and when I asked about Heinrich etc. they said "who" "what"? It's very demoralizing when folks in a position to do so, only talk about the top of the ticket.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Budget Crunch Has Susana Caving On Special Session; Dems Try To Tighten The Vise As Crisis Deepens; Earlier The Better When It Comes To A Special And The R's 

The Martinez administration has lost the high ground in its fight to avoid having a special legislative session before the November election. GOP Senator Steven Neville of the Four Corners joined with Dem Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith in calling for a special to deal with a ballooning budget crisis as has the pro-Martinez newspaper

The Governor is starting to cave, saying she would like to see a deal worked out before any special convened and do the deed in a one day session. It is up to the governor to call the 112 lawmakers into special session.

That's a reasonable request from Martinez and the right play. Having a special session early in the election cycle--before Labor Day--instead of fighting it through the election campaign would deprive the Dems of some ammo to make the economy the paramount issue in the battle to take back control of the state House.

Fighting the special would only put the spotlight even more on Martinez's economic policies or lack thereof.

Smith put on the table one solution for Martinez who is between a rock and a hard place because of her pledge not to ever, ever, ever raise taxes. No matter what. Even if the sky falls. Even, one supposes if the vicious Bear Market in the oil fields continues to eat away at the state's very foundation.

Smith proposes raiding the $220 million tobacco settlement fund to to resolve the $150 million shortfall left from the budget year that ended June 30. Susana should accept that and look to partially resolve the shortfall--up to $500 million--for the budget year that we are now in--the one that started July.

Senate Dems smell blood and looked to put the Guv's head in a vise Tuesday, saying they will not agree to any cuts in public or higher education to resolve the budget mess. Both have already taken significant cuts as state revenues plummet.

That leaves those "over my dead body" tax increases staring in her face.

Sen. Neville
Predictably, there are calls to balance the budget by reinstating the tax on food, the repeal of which has been of great benefit to lower income families.

The real solution to solving a $600 million deficit (or more) is the aforementioned $220 million in tobacco money, freezing the corporate income tax cut passed a couple of years ago, which the LFC says is costing us far more than anticipated, and passage of a temporary hike in the gas tax.

Do that and then let's figure out what's going to hit us next in these uncharted waters we are entering. The state desperately needs to develop a long term plan to restructure a state government that month by month is becoming a relic of the past.

Back to the current disarray, Martinez is not going to be able to cut her way out of it,  although budget cuts will have to be part of the short-term solution. As much as she dislikes government, layoffs of hundreds of state workers won't stand and neither will further deep cuts in the education budgets.

For now Martinez and the Legislature must legally plug the budget hole from the last year. Her best bet may be to let Smith blow the tobacco fund in a special and then cut a deal to come back in January to tackle the lion's share of the $500 million elephant. Doing that in a special with no tax increases may be impossible. However. . .

Everyone--including Martinez--will have more wiggle room following the election and, boy, are they going to need it.


The Governor lost Senator Neville and Republican Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn in the budget battle. Neville Is calling for the special session and Dunn is saying increased taxes can't be ruled out. Those slaps are not unusual for a Governor now in her sixth year and with lessening leverage with each passing day, but it is still significant. By the time the budget crisis is resolved we could see the Senate up to its old ways--like when Gov. Richardson was a lame duck and members of his own party started going their own way.


Reader Dennis Martinez has a cynical take on all the special session talk:

Joe,  The Administration has deliberately exhausted the reserves. They will never raise taxes for revenue, in an effort to permanently cut back government. An atrophied government is less effective, less assertive, and that is precisely what the Administration has been working towards. They want a government with less money so that it will not grow, and they hope to achieve that for the foreseeable future by exhausting the reserves.


We understand the passion the Bernie Sanders followers bring to the NM delegation to the Democratic National Convention this week and their concern with Hillary, but when are we going to see that passion and heavy voting materialize in the state's races for Governor, ABQ Mayor and the Legislature? The conservatives here have kicked the butts of the stay-at-home Sanders progressives, even though the GOP is outnumbered. The Sanders crowd could make a real, substantial difference here if it would start fielding and backing candidates and participating more in local elections.


The family of noted political consultant and pollster Bruce Donisthorpe have announced the time and date for his memorial:

Services will be held on Thursday July 28 at 3:00 pm at the Legacy Church East Campus, 4701 Wyoming NE, Albuquerque. A reception will follow in the Legacy Church gymnasium. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in his name to the N.M. Coalition for Literacy or the UNM Foundation.

Bruce passed away Sunday from apparent heart failure at the age of 56. We did an obit about him on the Tuesday blog and we closed it with a Spanish phrase, but the spelling in the first draft got botched as several readers pointed out. The corrected version is: Hasta luego or "So long."

The ABQ Journal obituary is here.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Bruce Donisthorpe: A Pillar Of La Politica Is Claimed By Death At 56; Veteran Consultant, Pollster Won Respect And Friends On Both Sides Of Aisle 

Bruce Donisthorpe
Bruce Donisthorpe was a pillar of La Politica. A big man with a big heart, he had a deep and abiding love for his home state of New Mexico. Although a lifelong and loyal Republican, he was known and respected for working across the aisle if it meant advancing the state's interests.

The 56 year old Donisthorpe, a native of Bloomfield in the Four Corners, served as communications director for Republican Governor Garrey Carruthers (1987-91) and then became a top aide to southern NM GOP Congressman Joe Skeen (1981-'03).

In 2001, after leaving Capitol Hill, he founded his consulting business, BWD Global, and embarked on an accomplished career as a political and business consultant and pollster.

Readers of this blog since its beginning in 2003 have been familiar with the high impact polling he conducted for us as well as his many years of insightful analysis of the state's political campaigns.

He had a wide circle of friends and his death from apparent heart failure Sunday evening at his ABQ home prompted an outpouring of grief on social media. Democratic political consultant Brian Morris aptly summed up Donisthorpe's political philosophy:

He was personally a Republican, but he always believed in helping the best person regardless of party labels.

Republican political consultant Reb Wayne of Austin, who was working with Donisthorpe on NM legislative races at the time of his death, added:

I'm so humbled to see that both Democrats and Republicans are equal in their genuine praise of Bruce. It speaks volumes. I know Bruce is somewhere smiling right now knowing this fact.

Donisthorpe, a UNM graduate with a Masters in speech communications, was a powerful presence on Capitol Hill during his tenure with Congressman Skeen, watch-guarding the state's military bases as Skeen accumulated power and seniority. ABQ businessman Sherman McCorkle, a longtime advocate for the state's labs and bases, reflected on Bruce's contribution:

When he worked for Joe Skeen, Bruce was the go to guy for New Mexico for all of the military bases. When it came to understanding those bases he had a Ph.D. His working knowledge was second to none.

It was Bruce's encyclopedic knowledge combined with a special personality that won so many over, said McCorkle:

He had the most pleasant, approachable and friendliest personality of any congressional staffer I ever met. Bruce remained involved in what is good for New Mexico long after he left the Hill. He served on the board of NM Literacy and was a founding member of the board of directors of the Sandia Science and Technology Park Development Corporation. I am saddened and stunned by his passing. 

Bruce w/ Gov. Carruthers
Congressman Steve Pearce, who now holds the southern US House seat once occupied by Skeen, was both a client and friend of Donisthorpe's:

 I am deeply saddened to hear about the loss of my good friend, Bruce Donisthorpe. Bruce was a brilliant New Mexico political mind, a great pollster, and his passing is a huge loss for our state. He will be greatly missed.  

Veteran NM pollster Brian Sanderoff and Donisthorpe shared a mutual professional respect as well as friendship. Sanderoff said: 

 Bruce knew more about state politics, government and elections than anyone I’ve ever encountered and to his credit he didn’t look at the dark side or try to tear people down. 

Bruce was born with politics in his blood. He was the son of former GOP State Senator Christine Donisthorpe (1979-'96) and the late attorney, farmer and steadfast politics watcher Oscar Donisthorpe. His brother Paul served as a New Mexico delegate to this year's Republican National Convention. 

The NM GOP released this statement: 

We are deeply saddened to learn of Bruce's passing," said Republican Party of New Mexico Chairman Debbie Maestas. "He has worked extensively with RPNM, as well as several candidates statewide for many years, and he and his valuable insight on the political environment in New Mexico will be dearly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones in this difficult time." 

And former Gov. Carruthers said: 

Bruce involved himself in many projects that have been of benefit to the people of our state, but I particularly remember his involvement in literacy efforts. He was a lifelong student of the body politic in which he has been a central figure for many years. I am proud to have known him and very sorry to hear of his untimely passing. 

For Bruce and many in his generation politics was serious but also meant to be a pleasure. Not long ago, when the NM House was seeing droves of members choosing not to run for re-election, we asked him for his thoughts on the departures. "Well, it just isn't fun anymore," he said of the nasty turn the modern political era had taken. 

Bruce Donisthorpe had plenty of fun in a life he lived fully and well. He certainly earned his chapter in the never ending book of La Politica. We were happy and proud to ride the rails with him. Along with his many friends and family, we will miss him deeply even as we remember him fondly.

Hasta luego, dear friend. 

(The New Mexican's obituary is here.) 

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Monday, July 25, 2016

New Mexico's Presidential Blue Streak Seems Likely To Continue As Dems Gather In Philly To Nominate Clinton; Three Big Counties Here Are Key For D's; Possible Turnout Drop Would Give R's A Ray Of Hope 

Here's the map of the 2012 New Mexico presidential results and as Democrats gather today in Philadelphia for their national convention it's hard to see how it will change significantly in 2016.

Obama won here four years ago, garnering 53% to Romney's 43%, with Liberation nominee Gary Johnson scoring 3.55%. Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who is again on the ballot this year, managed only a fraction--0.34%.

The three big prizes in state politics--Bernalillo, Dona Ana and Santa Fe counties, are all solidly blue when it comes to national elections. Combined with die-hard Northern Dem Hispanic counties, that's where Hillary Clinton should win the state's five electoral votes.

The Trump candidacy is volatile and difficult to predict. Winning here is very much an uphill climb, but Trump (and Johnson) could keep Clinton from reaching Obama's 53 percent 2012 performance. She does not generate the enthusiasm Obama did and she also has to deal with a disappointed progressive wing who supported Bernie Sanders in the primary. 

Another factor is turnout. For us the first clue that turnout could drop below the 2012 presidential mark of 783,756 was the TV ratings for Trump's acceptance speech. Many of us expected them to soar but:

Trump's acceptance speech averaged 32.2 million viewers. . . Mitt Romney's GOP acceptance speech in 2012 averaged 30.3 million viewers. Eight years ago, John McCain's speech averaged almost 39 million viewers, "about 8.6 million more people than last night's viewership," Nielsen said,

To us that signals some Trump fatigue. The ratings for Clinton's acceptance speech could also see a similar ho-hum pattern as both candidates are unpopular with a majority of likely voters.

Trump would benefit from any dip in turnout but it would have to drop dramatically for him to get the race anywhere near in play.


So what about former NM Governor Johnson? Could he make a difference here? It's doubtful.

That 3.55% of the vote he received here four years ago was his strongest statewide performance in the nation. If history is true to form Johnson is headed toward another low single digit finish here. Early polls usually show the strongest support for third party candidates but that support fades as the election nears.

Rather than a rush to third party candidates, we lean toward the view that many voters fed up with both Clinton and Trump will opt out of voting, leading to at least a slight dip in turnout. Still, there will be more third party power this year.

If Johnson doubled his 2012 NM performance he would get 7.1 percent. If you're betting the "over-under" on him, we would put the early line at 6 percent and most of that would come from conservatives which will hurt Trump more than Clinton.

Will he average 15% in the national polls leading up to the presidential debates and be allowed on the TV stage? The short answer? No.


Here in a in a nutshell is why Clinton will have a harder time driving turnout than Obama:

What is it about this brilliant and accomplished woman. . .that makes so many people certain she is an incurable liar? More than anything else about Clinton – her occasional tin ear for politics, her seeming inability to connect with large crowds, her ultra-cautiousness – it is the trust issue that could yet cost her a general election she should otherwise win, given her opponent’s vulnerabilities.

How much we see of Hillary, if any of her, is uncertain, given that the state does not have swing status anymore. But her newly minted running mate, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, might be a natural for a New Mexico stop or two:

The son of a welder who owned a small metalworking shop, Mr. Kaine, a Roman Catholic, grew up around Kansas City, Mo. He attended a Jesuit school and took a break from law school at Harvard to spend time as a Catholic missionary in Honduras, an experience that his family has said shaped him and helped him become fluent in Spanish.


Expect to see the Dems try to exploit Trump's unpopular stances with their brethren in every race possible. In fact, it's Dem Linda Stover, running for the way down ballot race of Bernalillo County clerk, who is among the first out of the gate and playing the anti-Trump card in a fund-raising letter:

Thank all of you for your support during a very contentious primary. . . It's such an honor to be our party's nominee. . . Now it's time to turn our attention to the party of Trump. This Fall, we are absolutely going to sweep New Mexico's swing races, but it's not going to happen without your continued help and support.

No R has been elected county clerk in decades but Dem candidates are going to trot out Trump not jut for votes, but for cash. Mary Ellen Ortega-Saenz is the GOP BernCo clerk candidate.


The Lujans
NM is sending 43 delegates to the national convention this week, with 18 pledged to Clinton and 16 to Sanders based on the June primary results that Clinton won 51 to 48.  The other 9 are the super delegates, comprised of the state's congressional delegation and party leaders. They are all backing Hillary.

Here are the biographies of all 43 delegates.

Both Lujans in the congressional delegation--Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and ABQ's Michelle Lujan Grisham--have been given speaking slots at this week's convention, a nod to the importance the Hispanic vote will play nationally this fall.

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Friday, July 22, 2016

The Party Is Over In Cleveland And A NM Hangover Will Greet Guv's Return, Plus: Our Take On The Trump Speech 

The party is over in Cleveland and you can say the same about the state that Gov. Martinez will be returning to.

Just this week the executive director of the NM Spaceport resigned as the project totters on the brink of extinction. Rail Runner ridership has crashed but the big bills to finance it roll on and the state budget crisis is threatening to become even more ominous.

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee is now calling for a summer special legislative session to deal with ballooning revenue shortfalls brought on by the crash in oil and gas prices, an overall anemic state economy and a decade of ineffective tax cutting.

The first two disappointments--the Spaceport and Rail Runner--can be traced to the term of Gov. Richardson when big spending and big ideas were all the rage. But then the Great Recession struck and along came the Republicans and their small government and small ideas. While Richardson over reached, the R's under reached and have done little of consequence to halt the state's drift, only manage it.

It worked for a while but now New Mexico has run out of gas. A massive injection of new federal money to revive the economy is unlikely no matter who is elected president. The ABQ metro is is holding on but seems only one blow away from reeling again. Another national recession is a real danger here.

The Governor will try to avoid an election year special session and kick the budget can into the regular session in January. What hat tricks the administration will come up with to plug the hole left for the budget year that ended June 30 remains to be seen.

Look at the scope of the mess as outlined in this release from State Sen. John Arthur Smith, chairman of Senate Finance:

In the fiscal year that ended on June 30th, New Mexico has a $150 million funding shortfall. . . Smith said he believes that a State fund containing up to $230 million from a settlement with tobacco companies could be used to cover the $150 million shortfall from Fiscal Year ’16. All other State reserve funds were essentially exhausted earlier this year.

The outlook for Fiscal Year ’17, which began on July 1st, appears to be even worse, and could see a shortfall of between $300 - $500 million. Smith indicated that program cuts and new revenue sources would be needed to address it.

And what about the budget for the year that begins July 1, 2017 and that lawmakers must craft in their next session? Santa Fe will need to put antidepressants in the water before it tackles that one.

ABQ Republican House Appropriations Committee Chairman Larry Larrañaga is dragging his feet in agreeing with Sen. Smith on the urgency of this crisis, but his capitulation is inevitable, no matter how much fealty he wishes to show to the Fourth and Fifth Floors. He must rise above politics and in his waning legislative years do what is right for New Mexico.

Chairman Larrañaga arguing that Richardson and Gov. Johnson also faced a big deficit or two has nothing to do with the problem at hand. Those were completely different times--a different era. Smith, Larrañaga et al. must buckle down and formulate a long-term strategy to dig the state out of the hole that years of mismanagement have put it into.

The subject that Martinez has assiduously avoided throughout her tenure--the economy--will now be front and center her final two years, with knock down, drag out fights developing over tax increases and spending cuts.

The convention party in Cleveland is indeed over and a whale of a hangover awaits her in the embattled Land of Enchantment.


More on the budget crisis from a Senior Alligator of the Democratic variety:

Remember this from Gov. Martinez?"

"I inherited the largest structural deficit in state history," she said. "And our legislature is controlled by Democrats. We don't always agree. But we came together — in a bi-partisan manner — and turned that deficit into a surplus. All without raising taxes."

Well, that was sleight of hand since it was not the "largest structural deficit in state history" when she took office. But not to worry. Looks like Susana is now staring the real deal right in the face. Show us your stuff, Guv.


He threw a bone to the Hispanic audience early on by citing their high rate of unemployment but soon he was back to where it all began--a war on immigration and a war on a lot of other matters that irritate him to no end. The GOP presidential nominee is sticking with the gal he came to the party with. That wall near El Paso is still going up in Trump world.

The speech was criticized as being too dark but with a huge majority of Americans believing the country is headed in the wrong direction, it's bound to resonate more than the chattering classes would like to admit.

Presidential in tone? No. But we are in different times and the caustic tone of social media has seeped into the public arena. Trump was angry and relentless in attacking his opponent. Kind of like what you get on much of Twitter and Facebook.

Too long? The longest acceptance speech in modern history, but this is a nominee who has rewritten the rule book in unimaginable ways. He wasn't about to stop last night. And the difference is Trump, unlike other politicians, gets ratings. He was playing it for all it was worth.

Trump remains the underdog in a country that is rapidly changing, but he showed again last night that he is a dog with a bite and who knows how to hunt. Democrats have every reason to be on guard.


The widow of former southern NM GOP Congressman Joe Skeen, Mary Skeen, has died. Besides supporting her husband in his political endeavors, Mary Skeen, a native of Roswell, was appointed to the state House to fill a vacancy, served on the Hondo Valley School Board and was a member of the New Mexico Wool Growers Association and the National Federation of Republican Women.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. today (Friday) at Grace Community Church in Roswell.  Memorial contributions may be made to the Assurance Home for Children in Roswell. Mary Skeen was 89.


In blogging of the judicial contests this week we did not make it clear that Judith Nakamura is currently on the state Supreme Court--appointed to the post by Gov. Martinez She is a former ABQ district court judge, not a current one. The judicial election year juggling turned into our story from hell but it does make us look forward to the weekend. Have a good one. . .and thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

VP Plotting: Trump Camp Phoned Susana But She Didn't Return The Calls,Plus: A "Worried" Media? TV News Coverage And Advertising 

Who knows how serious he was or wasn't but according to this NYT report, Governor Martinez had a shot at being interviewed by Donald Trump for the VP slot:

Five on the list were women — among them, former Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina. Before the list was drawn up, Trump also expressed interest in Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico, but after Martinez did not return repeated phone calls from Lewandowski, Trump said that he was done with her — and then bashed the governor on a campaign stop in Albuquerque in late May. (Haley’s overt lack of interest in the job made her an early scratch as well.)"

"Did not return repeated phone calls?" Didn't Susana say that she wanted to hear from Trump about where he stood on federal funding for the energy and military complex here before she made an endorsement? Then why didn't she at least use the opportunity to call his campaign back to take up that topic?

Martinez's office says the NYT report is wrong:

Gov. Martinez had no interest in being considered for vice president, but the claim that Mr. Lewandowski – or anyone else from the Trump campaign – called her before the Albuquerque rally is completely false. a Martinez spokesman said.

One supposes the follow up question is, If she wasn't called "before the ABQ rally" was she called at another time and did not return the call or calls?

Martinez was never vetted for the VP position which is an entirely different story, given the infamous holiday pizza party debacle and other matters.

And look at what Republican elder statesman, former US Senate leader and 1996 GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole has to say about Martinez and Trump:

I want him to go to New Mexico and meet with the governor and apologize for anything that may have been said...we need Latinos in our party, we need more women in the party, and I've raised it with him over the phone that I felt this is something that never should have happened and ought to be taken care of, and I had the feeling that he was working on it."

That's pretty heady stuff for the Guv from Dole who turns 93 this Friday, but as we've blogged before she faces some deep muck in Santa Fe in January after the glamour of national politics disappears in November. She will be officially a lame duck with a legislature that will start to look past her. Then there is the ongoing budget crisis to deal with.

Previous talk of Martinez challenging Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich for re-election in 2018 has petered out since the pizza party and her subsequent decline in the polls. That raises the question of whether Heinrich will face a serious GOP opponent. There has been little buzz about possible foes.


This reader writes of local TV journalism:

A federal magistrate has recommended that the secretary of the state Human Services Department be held in contempt of court and wants to appoint a special master to correct the fraud with the food assistance program that serves more than 527,000 New Mexicans. This very important story was covered by the major newspapers in New Mexico but missed, or intentionally forgotten, by the three TV stations. Are the stations worried that Gov. Martinez's crew will stop sending advertising dollars from the New Mexico True tourist campaign, the Pull Together
campaign, the ENDWI campaign as well as Susana PAC to their stations if they report on this administration's failures? 

Businesses are not spending as much money on TV ads, so why else would there be an almost total blackout of this story if it has nothing to do with the Martinez machine picking up the ad tab?

We're not going to go into that conspiracy theory on this particular story, but will remark that TV news coverage of Gov. Martinez and Mayor Berry has been of the kid gloves variety for many years now. Also, advertisers indeed have more leverage over the TV stations as this market's population and sales growth has slowed to a crawl.

And there was this recent apparent breach of journalistic ethics at one of the TV stations that could be used as circumstantial evidence that the Martinez administration's heavy advertising may be having undue influence:

A directive from a New Mexico TV station to its employees about news coverage involving advertisers raises questions. . .In a memo on Nov. 18 of last year, news staff were instructed that any story involving advertisers must first be approved by the news director before moving forward. KRQE-TV News Director Iain Munro sent the memo.

“If you are doing a story that may involve a client, that is good or bad, I need to be notified before any calls are made on the story,” Munro’s memo read. “No exceptions.”

Of course, the state of New Mexico and Gov. Martinez are major "clients" of that station and the others.

This is not media bashing or some kind of vendetta against Martinez or the stations. This is legitimate inquiry on how the news here is being covered. And when it comes to the political scene it appears it is being covered differently than the past. That memo from the TV station news director certainly points in that direction.

We've said it before and we'll say it again. By the time the remaking of this state is completed by the Great Recession/Stagnation, you're going to see and hear things you thought you never would. Don't say we didn't tell you.


Maybe it was national convention overload because in our first draft Wednesday on the coming shakeup at the NM Court of Appeals we somehow incorrectly had former ABQ District Judge Judith Nakamura (now on the Supreme Court)  and Court of Appeals Judge Michael Vigil facing off in November for an appeals court seat. The two, of course, are running for a seat on the state Supreme Court.

The number of judges on the appeals court (10) can be dizzying to monitor and we know Donald Trump had our head spinning this week, but that's no excuse. Our analysis that the court might get to five Republicans this year was also wrong.  Sorry about the errors. We will leave further calculations on this crowded court to certified Legal Beagles.

Also, retiring Appeals Court Judge Michael Bustamante says his retirement is not based on any changes to the state pension system but says it was "simply time for me to go."

And one more: This is the correct spelling of NM GOP National Convention delegate Sam LeDoux. We had it with a small "d".

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

NM Court Of Appeals Shakeup Could Give R's A Boost, Plus: Susana's Fancy Footwork On Trump Presidential Vote 

We start this Wednesday with breaking political news-- a coming shake-up at the New Mexico Court of Appeals that could mean for the first time in years the Republicans could have nearly as many judges on the panel as the Democrats.

Two of  the court's ten judges are set to resign this fall, leaving Republican Gov. Martinez  to appoint their replacements to fill out the remaining years on their terms.

Republican Judge Rod Kennedy confirms his departure date is set for mid-November. Also set to to resign is Democratic Judge Michael Bustamante. His departure is expected at the end of October.

Kennedy says his departure and that of Bustamante's are in part due to changes in the state pension system. Both have had long runs on the court.

Kennedy was appointed by GOP Governor Gary Johnson in 1999 and reappointed in 2001. He was retained by voters in 2004 and 2012. His current term ends at the end of 2020. Bustamante was appointed by Democratic Governor Bruce King in December 1994, elected in 1996, and retained in 2002 and 2010. His current term expires in 2018.

The court is not known for partisan politics, but its judges do run for eight year terms under party labels. Right now there are 6 Democrats and 4 Republicans.

In addition to Kennedy the other R's on the bench are Judges Miles Hanisee, Jonathan Sutin and Judge Stephen French who earlier this year was appointed by Gov. Martinez to fill a vacancy.

Our Legal Beagles speculate on one possible scenario. French, who is being challenged by Democrat Julie Vargas in the November election to fill out the term of resigned judge Cynthia Fry and who is expected to lose that election, could be reappointed by Gov. Martinez to fill the Bustamante seat, extending his time on the court until the 2020 election.

As we said, the Court of Appeals is professional, not a partisan panel and is not known for judicial activism. But the changing political dynamic on the panel shows how a two term Governor can cast a long shadow when it comes to judicial appointments.


LeDoux and Martinez
Those who predicted that Gov. Martinez would not cast New Mexico's 24 national GOP convention delegates for Donald Trump had it right, but she did some fancy footwork to keep her foot in the Trump door.

When it came time last night at the national GOP convention for the state to cast its votes for president, Martinez took to the microphone to proclaim the state "amazing" and then turned the mike over to delegate Sam LeDoux who uttered the crucial words "the next president of the United States" as he made the official announcement of how the state voted. (Full video of the NM vote is here.)

Martinez has been between a rock and a hard place, not endorsing Trump but not wanting to be shut out completely either. His blistering attack on her at an ABQ campaign rally have kept the two at bay. The Martinez play to have her cake and eat it too when it comes to Trump had the state Dems blasting away:

 Instead of casting New Mexico's 24 delegate votes to Donald Trump, she moved aside while another Republican delegate from New Mexico made the announcement.

Governor Martinez is playing games. It's disingenuous and disrespectful to New Mexico that she won't denounce Donald Trump and instead continues to stay on the sidelines, while Trump pushes dangerous policy ideas that risk the safety and economic future of our country.

NM GOP delegates in Cleveland
Still, it was a pretty clever threading of the needle by the Governor who has had her share of setbacks of late.

Insider polling shows Martinez took a hit from fellow Republicans following Trump's criticism of her and that was after a PPP poll already showed her approval rating plunging below 50% (47%) before the Trump attack.

This election season is probably Martinez's final moments in the national political spotlight. A crashing state budget awaits here when she returns home for her final two years as well as that increasingly restless electorate over the job she is doing here.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

New Mexican Slated For Thursday Night Convention Speech; A Message From Trump To Susana? Plus: Pearce Power; His Star Rises with Trump And Pence, Also: Innovate ABQ: A Glorified Dorm Room? 

Lisa Shin
Is the Donald Trump camp sending Gov. Martinez a message? While Martinez has refused to endorse the soon-to-be presidential nominee and unlike 2012 will not be a featured speaker at the convention, look at this Thursday night speech scheduled for another New Mexican and member of the state's convention delegation:

Dr. Lisa Shin, National Diversity Coalition for Trump
Dr. Lisa Shin, OD, is the owner of Los Alamos Family Eyecare, P.C. in Los Alamos, New Mexico. She is known and trusted as an authority on eye care and vision protection. Dr. Shin is a vocal supporter of Donald Trump. As a member of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump as well as a Trump delegate to the Republican National Convention, she has worked to support Donald Trump’s candidacy from New Mexico all the way to Cleveland, Ohio.

So did Susana get kicked in the "Shins" as Trump reached out to a New Mexican and Asian-American optometrist to perhaps fill the void left by Martinez's refusal to endorse? Well, let’s just say these things rarely happen by accident. 

Shin's speech is smack in the middle of prime-time and will come just before the speech from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. 

Enjoy Lisa's speech, Guv. It could be eye opening.


Susana is probably assuming she will get the last laugh and that Trump, as most pundits expect, comes up short in November. But if he should pull it off, it seems southern conservative GOP Congressman Steve Pearce is the state politico best positioned to deal with the new president and his team. 

Through her chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association Martinez has a relationship with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the soon-to-be VP nominee. However, Pearce actually served side-by-side with Pence in the US House. Both are social conservatives of an evangelical bent and insiders say they get along well. Also, unlike Susana, Pearce has been careful not to alienate Trump.

Pearce and his allies enter the convention coming off a win at the state GOP convention where they banded together to oust attorney Pat Rogers, a key Martinez ally, from his long-held position as NM GOP National Committeeman. With that win under his belt and with Pence on the ticket, it seems it's the stock of Pearce rising in the NM GOP, not Susana's.


Rep. Lujan
Meanwhile, another member of the state's congressional delegation is piling up positive press notices. Northern Democratic Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), is in the spotlight as the nation wonders if a Trump candidacy could spell trouble for US House Republicans. Lujan has been sitting for interviews--like this one.:

Lujan is careful not to predict that Democrats, who hold the party’s smallest minority in almost a century, will win back the House. That feat would require flipping 30 seats from away from Republicans, an extremely tall order.

“I think it’s too early to tell what the ultimate end number will be with the number of wins we as Democrats have, but it’s not too early to say that Democrats are on offense and we will win seats across the country,” Lujan said .

The 44 year old Lujan is expected to easily win re-election to his fifth, two year term this year, giving him plenty of time to strategize over the national outlook for the House of Representatives.


A reader writes of  the controversial "Innovate Albuquerque" project spearheaded by Mayor Berry with the intent of sparking "entrepreneurial" energy which in turn would lead to business creation and jobs: 

The promoters of Innovate Albuquerque, including the Mayor, the county, UNM and private partners, say that the new six story $35 million building paid for with taxpayer dollars at Central and Broadway, will be used for an Innovation District “academy” for budding “entrepreneurs." But five of the floors will be for UNM student housing and the bottom floor will be for “classrooms.” In other words, the building is for “college students” who have no capital but plenty of student debt owed upon graduation. 

 When I went to college such a building was called a dormitory, with the bottom floor the “rec room” and student services. A student is quoted as saying of the buildingL “Some of the best ideas happen at 3 in the morning and you can just walk down to one of the labs in the building.” Right. Turning “entrepreneurial” ideas into reality and creating jobs takes venture capital, not dorm rooms. The students who will be living in the Innovate Albuquerque building will be getting a sweet deal in accommodations.  One supposes if the Innovate Albuquerque Academy fails, at least the city could convert it into a high end condo complex which will be a far better use of such valuable property.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Conspiracy Buffs Fill Summer Of '16 With Speculation On An '18 Udall Guv Run, Plus: Will Susana Say It? Who Will Announce NM Delegate Vote For Trump? And: Guns At The Roundhouse; On The Way Out? 

Sen. Tom Udall
 Speculation over the theory that Dem NM US Senator Tom Udall will run for the 2018 Dem gubernatorial nomination is one of the the more popular summer pastimes as politicos await the start of the fall campaign action.

The theory, already batted around for a year or so, postulates that the 68 year old second term senator will opt to stay along the banks of the Potomac if the Democrats take control of the Senate from the R's this November, but perhaps look to the Fourth Floor of the Merry Roundhouse for his next residence if the R's keep a lock on the 100 member chamber.

Udall stands to benefit if the Dems do wrest control of the senate from the GOP. He's already a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee and his standing on that panel would be enhanced if his party came back to power.

Udall will turn 70 in '18 and those who label the Guv run theory hogwash point to that as one reason he would take a pass on running. They also doubt whether he would relish the polarized political combat that is now inherent to the Santa Fe scene (although there's plenty of that in DC). Also, the state's anemic financial condition is going to mean the next Governor--like this one--is going to face more lean times. That's not exactly a fun filled scenario for a liberal politician of Udall's sort.

Still, the opportunities in New Mexico are as great as its challenges. It has hit bottom in so many economic and social conditions rankings that a Governor willing to take some political risk could turn out to be one of the most influential in the state's history.

Udall, a former two term attorney general and a ten year member of the US House, was re-elected to the senate in 2014 and his term expires in 2020. If he were to run he would not have to give up his seat. If he won Udall would get to name his own replacement to the senate. That has the conspiracy purveyors offering another theory--that Attorney General Hector Balderas would stay out of the '18 Dem Guv nomination race with the hope that once Udall won he would appoint him to his vacant US Senate seat. (Hey, somebody warm up the Black Helicopters).

ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham has already circulated word among friends that she is a likely '18 Dem Guv candidate. Would she move aside if Udall were to move in or would we have two congressional reps as well as a bevy of other hopefuls battling it out?

It all sounds pretty wild and perhaps far-fetched enough for some to say that the summer conspiracy theorists and their theories are half-baked. But this is a state in dire shape on many fronts and it is not only the laid-back summer providing fertile ground for the conspiracy buffs. There's a thirst for action-oriented leadership. Udall's critics argue that is not an apt description of the easygoing Udall . Will that argument get put to the test? Stay tuned, or better yet, stay cool.


What's the question on the minds of state political observers as the GOP National Convention opens in Cleveland with Gov. Martinez heading up the state's 24 member delegation? Reader Kathryn Carroll has it:

Since she heads the NM delegation as well as the Republican Governors Association, it would be expected that during the roll call delegate vote on the presidential nominee, Gov. Martinez would announce with great thunder: "The Great State of New Mexico proudly casts all of its 24 votes for Donald Trump."

Is that what will happen, or will she relegate that public announcement to someone else, maybe State House Speaker Don Tripp or Lt. Governor John Sanchez, who will make the announcement and she will hope that no one will figure out that the 24 votes includes her vote as a delegate? Or does she stay off the convention floor at that time and hope no one notices her absence?

What's a Governor to do if she doesn't support her party's presidential nominee? How does she pull this off in Cleveland so no one will suspect that in the end she really did endorse Trump is my question? 

Kathryn, NM House Speaker Don Tripp would be a good guess or maybe Congressman Pearce who has been tolerant toward the Trump candidacy. As you point out it could be very awkward and expose Martinez to unneeded political peril for her to make the announcement before the national TV cameras. 

As for Martinez's vote, we see her casting it for Trump, arguing it is the will of the primary voters.

At least that's the betting line in this corner. (It doesn't seem anyone in the media has put her on the spot and asked her these questions.)


Will the outbreak of violence this summer---terroist attacks, the killing of police officers etc.--give momentum to a nascent movement to ban visitors to the Santa Fe Roundhouse from carrying loaded guns? NM is a concealed carry and an open carry state so folks can walk around the place with firearms loaded. Will this tradition undergo increased scrutiny at the next legislative session given lawmakers genuine concern for their safety and that of the public? And if they do decide to ban guns from the Roundhouse, you can hardly blame them.

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