Friday, June 24, 2016

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor 

Golf is not only in its peak season, it's a leading economic predictor--at least in the recession wracked Four Corners. Top prize money for this weekend's 52nd annual Jerry Sandel San Juan Open has been shaved from last year's $15,000 to this year's $10,560. There's no sign that the great bear market that has struck the oil and natural gas fields in the Farmington area is about to end. And it's been going on for nearly a decade. . .

Reader David Hadwiger gives everyone a good laugh as he falls back on Harry Potter to deliver a little essay that won him a pair of tickets to tonight's Vintage ABQ Grand Tasting. It's the city's premier wine and food event which runs through the weekend:

At the end of each school year at Hogwarts, students take one set of Ordinary Wizarding Level exams in June. Passing grades are Outstanding, Exceeds Expectations and Acceptable. Failing grades are Poor, Dreadful and Troll. By contrast, New Mexico high school students complete PAARC exams, End of Course exams and course finals, from March to May. Which system sounds more sensible? I’d grade Hogwarts as Outstanding and the New Mexico system as Troll.

Good one, David. Have an extra dessert tonight. And thank your daughter--Lauren Soherr--for helping you write that. . .

Speaking of dessert, take a look at this sumptuous carrot cake (with a ball of homemade ice cream) courtesy of the famous Compound on Santa Fe's artistic Canyon Road.

We had not been at the fabled dining spot in years, but had the chance to stop in for lunch recently and were not disappointed. Yep, fresh and delectable jumbo crab and lobster salad (with a welcome tangerine vinaigrette dressing) can be found right here in the high desert. And that's apricot--not carrot--decorating the cake. A nice change of pace, just like the restaurant. . .

And while we're at it, let's throw in a plug for Lambert's in Taos, another venerable eatery hitting on all cylinders. For dessert they offered scrumptious and soothing Honey Budino, an Italian pudding made with organic local honey. It's topped with whipped cream and fresh blueberries. Then there's the cookie that accompanies it, made with a dash of local lavender. Go ahead, treat yourself. You've earned it.

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

BernCo DA Surprise: GOP Candidate Drops Out; Cites Soros Money Comingin, Plus: Summer Heat In SOS Race, And: Reader Gun Debate Still FiredUp; Udall Explained 

There's a new development in the race for Bernalillo County district attorney and it's an eyebrow raiser. Complaining that he can't raise the money to compete against Dem DA nominee Raúl Torrez, GOP nominee Simon Kubiak is getting out of the race. He will send a letter to the secretary of state today announcing his withdrawal. Kubiak's campaign manager, former BernCo GOP chairman Rick Abraham, confirmed the withdrawal, saying this is all about the dollar signs:

It's just about money. Torrez raised $400,000 for the June primary and then billionaire liberal George Soros had his super PAC come with over $106,000 in media support for him. We can't compete against what could be a million dollar campaign for DA. Also, we are not getting the donations from Republicans necessary to run this race. The political action committees for the Governor and state House speaker are sucking up the money  for the legislative contests.

Abraham opined that he believes that Soros is helping Torrez because Torrez already has ambitions beyond the district attorney's office:

Soros seems to be setting this guy up for a run for governor or another high office. It would behoove Democrats like Attorney General Hector Balderas to pay attention--not just Republicans.

Abraham said he feared that the unprecedented spending in the DA's race could in the future spread to even more lower ballot races. "Torrez has bought this race. And it could happen in others as the super PACS take control of the process,"Abraham declared.

For his part, Torrez's campaign has argued that it can't tell Soros and his super PAC what to do and that the campaign has not violated the rule that says his campaign can't coordinate with the Soros affiliated super PAC.

It's unlikely that Torrez will run opposed this November. The Bernalillo County Republican Central Committee will soon meet to name a replacement for ABQ attorney Kubiak. The question is whether it will be a token candidate or one who will have  resources to compete.

The DA's office has been run by Dem Kari Brandenburg since 2001. She opted not to run for a fifth, four year term.


And we have more exclusive county GOP news for you. Abraham says the BernCo Central Committee is going to be busy because it's not just Kubiak getting out. He says Kim Hillard, who won the GOP primary for county treasurer this month, is also taking a walk. Hillard beat Chistopher Mario Romero 72 to 28 percent. Maybe Romero is named the nominee by the Central Committee?

And there's still more. Political observers are closely watching GOP congressional nominee Richard Priem. He won the nomination June 7th for the right to take on ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, but health issues have arisen and Priem may or may not go forward, say several GOP insiders. The Central Committee would be charged with naming a replacement, if Priem decides to call it quits. We'll keep you posted.


Oliver and Espinoza
The summer heat wave has nothing on the rivals for secretary of state. Both campaigns are already hotter than a Tucumcari parking lot in July, and that's red hot.

First, GOP hopeful Nora Espinoza blasts Dem hopeful Maggie Toulouse Oliver for being against a voter ID law and now Oliver campaign manager Alan Packman turns up the temp:

There's good reason that Nora is spending so much time giving us the same tired talking points that we heard from  former Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran - because this election is about ethics, reform and ensuring integrity in the Secretary's office - and Nora and Rod Adair know that they can't win on those issues. Maggie is talking to voters in every corner of this state about the tough ethics and campaign finance reforms we need following Duran's resignation and prison sentence. Nora will try anything and everything to distract voters, but we're going to hold Nora and her political cronies accountable every step of the way.

The aforementioned Adair is the former Roswell state senator who is managing Espinoza's campaign and which wants nothing to do with a summer break. Here's their latest blast:

Espinoza increased her fundraising edge. . . now leading Maggie Toulouse Oliver by more than $31,000. Espinoza had $156,423.93 on hand, compared to Oliver’s $124,980.82. Oliver has outraised Espinoza overall, but Oliver has spent more than $162,000 thus far, including more than $111,000 for “consultants,” almost all of it going to progressive campaign guru Alan Packman, who has simultaneously charged George Soros-backed DA candidate Raul Torrez nearly $88,000 for consulting fees thus far. Progressive organizations have pledged to take over the office of Secretary of State in various states, and Toulouse Oliver is their dedicated candidate in New Mexico.

As Dan Rather might say, this SOS race is hotter than a Times Square Rolex.


Lots of action on gun control on the blog this week. Reader Ron Nelson was adamant in his opposition to Congress banning assault weapons, but several readers say his facts need scrutiny. From Clovis Steve Aikens, a NRA certified instructor, writes:

Your reader Ron Nelson is incorrect in what "AR" in AR-15 stands for - and most certainly "the media" consistently misrepresent it to stand for "Assault" Rifle".

For the record, an "Assault Rifle" is not a semi-automatic rifle like the AR-15. The automatic or "select-fire" version used by the military is an "assault rifle." AR-15-platform rifles are among the most popular firearms being sold. They are today's modern sporting rifle. The AR in "AR-15" rifle stands for ArmaLite rifle, after the company that developed it in the 1950s. "AR" does not stand for "assault rifle" or "automatic rifle."

And another reader wrote of Nelson's contentions:

A good shooter can easily squeeze off 180 rounds a minute on a semi-automatic weapon. This is known as rate-of-fire (ROF), not "capacity." Typical rates of fire for an automatic weapon are 600-900 rounds per minute.

Nelson's comment about the faster rate of fire for his pistol-shooting friends than for a semi-automatic rifle is puzzling. Whether it's a long gun (rifle) or a short one (pistol) does not matter. It is the firing mechanism on either that determines rate of firing.

Sorry, Ron, you wandered into the Alligator pit on gun control--and you got bit.


Sen. Udall
NM Senator Tom Udall was dunned by a reader for being "tone deaf" when it came to the gun control debtae because Udall was celebrating the passage of his chemical regulation bill this week. The reader pointed out that Udall does not support a ban on assault weapons, but he does have a plan. From his office:

He supports universal background checks and a ban on high capacity magazines —the key feature that makes any semi-automatic firearm so deadly. He supports closing the loophole so that law enforcement can prevent the sale of weapons to suspected terrorists — a measure Republicans voted down last year. He believes these are commonsense steps that will help prevent gun violence and keep all guns out of the wrong hands, including suspected terrorists, criminals and those who are a danger to themselves or others because of mental illness. As you say, he has voted against an assault weapon ban before. The measure has not been introduced this Congress, but he has not changed his position on that proposal. He is focused on preventing dangerous people from purchasing any firearm and limiting the damage the any type of firearm can cause in a mass shooting event.


We're still taking entries for you to win a pair of tickets to this Friday's Grand Tasting sponsored by Vintage ABQ, the city's premier food and wine event. We have a total of four tickets to give away. They cost $85 a piece so you have to give us a little essay on a NM issue near and dear to your heart in order to qualify for them. 75 words tops. The best restaurants in the city await you. Proceeds of Vintage ABQ events go to arts education in the public schools. Email your entry today.


Reader Emilio Sanchez says he has a history lesson and a correction:

In Tuesday's post, you quoted a reader who misspoke: When Onate came, the Franciscan Order came. There was no “Arizona” only “the Kingdom of New Mexico” which included what is now Arizona and parts of Colorado. Arizona was the result of the US Congress dividing up New Mexico for various reasons including discrimination, slavery and business interests.

Indeed, Emilio. Arizona got the better end of the stick over a century ago and we've been paying the price ever since.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Bad Timing? GOP State Senate Candidate In Battle For Swing Seat Revels In NRA Backing, Plus: More On Guns And Our DC Reps And Our Contest For Free ABQ Vintage Tickets 

Diego Espinoza
Is this really the time--only days after the Orlando nightclub massacre--for Sandoval County area GOP State Senate candidate Diego Espinoza to be boasting of an endorsement from the National Rifle Association?

The National Rifle Association's (NRA) Political Victory Fund and its members in Senate District 9, announce their endorsement of Diego Espinoza. "I am committed to protecting our Second Amendment rights," Espinoza said. "As your next senator, I will fight endlessly to ensure our fundamental liberties remain intact and law abiding citizens do not have their freedoms taken away."

Coming on the heels of the Orlando massacre, Diego reveling in the NRA's endorsement seems particularly insensitive and in your face, even if ultimately the endorsement is politically helpful.

The pundits are now saying the Trump presidential nomination could make the state senate races more difficult for GOP senate hopefuls in the state's urban areas. The Espinoza vs. Dem Sen. John Sapien contest is one of them. In the past Sapien has won by razor thin margins. Will Trump be the reason for another such win? And how will Espinoza handle the Donald dilemma?


Meantime, Senator Martin Heinrich says he is no longer a member of the NRA, but exactly when he opted out is unclear. The news:

Common sense solutions require an ability to work across the aisle,” Heinrich said. . . about his NRA membership status. . . “As someone who has a true passion for hunting, I’ve found partnering with sportsmen’s groups to be a better fit in protecting the Second Amendment and the outdoor traditions I want to pass on to future generations.”
Sen. Heinrich

. . . The NRA gave Heinrich’s voting record on gun rights an A grade when he sought re-election to the U.S. House in 2010 and a “B” grade in 2012, when he ran for the Senate. Heinrich’s statement said he gave up his NRA membership “years ago.” His spokeswoman said that no one is sure when but that he could have left the group as long as five years ago.

This is very tricky territory for Heinrich who is up for re-election in 2018. Not saying when you left the NRA doesn't make it any less so.

We recall former US Senator Bingaman, another liberal Democrat, voting against a ban on assault weapons in 1993. But in 2012, in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre and not seeking re-election, Bingaman switched sides and supported the ban.

Heinrich is trying. He's been a key player this week in the coalition that moderate GOP Senator Susan Collins is trying to put together to restrict suspected terrorists from getting guns. (Heinrich/Collins video here.)

Is it enough for the freshman senator? It's a question that we have a feeling keeps him up at night.


We blogged Tuesday that of the four Dems in the state's congressional delegation only ABQ Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham is supportive of a ban on assault weapons. Northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan's office asked that his full statement on the matter be run:

The Congressman supports a comprehensive approach to addressing gun violence including background checks, closing the loophole that allows suspected terrorists to legally buy guns, and limits on magazine size. If a comprehensive plan includes a ban on assault weapons, he would consider that as well, especially in light of the recent tragedy in Orlando, where an individual with suspected terrorist ties was able to purchase an assault weapon.


Lots of reader input on the assault weapons issue. Here's Ron Nelson arguing against a ban which another reader made the case for on the Tuesday blog;

---“assault rifle” is a pundit made up term and not used in the gun industry or the military.
---180 rounds a minute? That’s the capacity of a fully automatic weapon, which by the way is already banned for sale
---“AR” is not an acronym for automatic rifle. It’s in reference to the model for the civilian semi-automatic model related to the “M” fully automatic military series. Perhaps they should change it to SAR, to help clarify any misunderstanding ?
---I know of people in this town, including myself that can fire a pistol, with multiple reloads faster than most can with a semiautomatic rifle.


We're pleased again this year to to promote Vintage ABQ, the city's premier food and wine event. It benefits arts education for area school children.

One of this week's special events is the Grand Tasting Friday evening at the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum. Talk about a roster of great restaurants. Artichoke Cafe, Scalo, and Prairie Star are just three of the standouts presenting their best culinary efforts accompanied by fine wines from around the world. Tickets for the tasting are $85 a pop and well worth it. but four of our lucky readers are going for free. but there is a price. . .

We'll award two readers a set of tickets who write the best 75 words on an issue making the latest NM political news. So get your thinking caps on and email us your entries today only. You're hard work will be amply rewarded. Good Luck.


Larry Morgan
We learned with sadness of the passing of Larry Morgan, 78, a behind-the-scenes political player who made New Mexico a better place in which to live. Here's part of his outstanding resume:

In 1969, Larry and the family moved to the Washington, DC area to begin his political career as Press Secretary for U.S. Congressman Ed Foreman (R-NM). From 1972 to 1981 he was Press Secretary/Legislative Assistant and ultimately Chief of Staff for U.S. Congressman Harold Runnels (D-NM). 1981 saw Larry serving as Legislative Assistant and ultimately, Chief of Staff for U.S. Senator Harrison Schmitt (R-NM). From 1983 until his retirement in 1994, Larry was Director, Legislative & Public Affairs, Office of Territorial and International Affairs, U. S. Department of Interior.

Well, he did it all and without the vitriol so prevalent in modern day politics, says Manny Gonzales a veteran GOP politico who is today a top aide to Lt.Governor John Sanchez:

"Larry was a real gentleman. The hallmark of his career was that he never made any enemies. He brought people together," recalled Gonzales.

Morgan was afflicted with Alzheimer's disease and died at his Alamogordo home June 12.

And we receive word of the passing of longtime attorney and  Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Chris Lackmann. His friend and fellow lawyer Steve Suttle says:

Joe, I  note the passing of Chris Lackmann. Solo practitioner, defense attorney, prosecutor. A true gentleman and a true scholar. A worthy adversary and a worthy friend. One of the last of the largely unsung "lawyers lawyer." Chris was the sort of yeoman public servant whose contributions generally go unsung. Many will miss him greatly.

Lackmann also worked for the NM attorney general's office. He was in his early 60's and suffered a heart attack. BernCo DA Kari Brandenburg said:

Chris was a true connoisseur of the law. He was looked to for his wisdom and keen intellect. We have lost a brilliant colleague and a genuinely good guy. 

On the gun debate, we blogged this week that Sen. Bingaman was up for reelection in 2014. Actually, he finished his term at the end of 2012 and Martin Heinrich had been elected in November of that year to succeed him. There was no 2014 election for his seat. 

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

State Budget Mess Gets Sloppier And Politicos Backs Will Soon Be Against The Wall, Plus: NM DC Dems And The Assault Weapons Ban, Also: NM's Economy And The Dominicans And Jesuits 

The state government budget outlook continues to collapse and will soon put the backs of the Governor and legislators against the wall. Revenues are now down an estimated 10 percent from last year--not the five percent that the bean counters predicted when lawmakers last met in February

“We’re on fumes,” Legislative Finance Committee Director David Abbey (said). The legislators will have to deal with revenue that is down ten percent from last year, Abbey said. The state predicted a five percent drop in revenue. Abbey said a special session may be needed to address any shortfall.

Great, a special session in the middle of an election year. That ought to bring everyone together on how to solve the fiscal crisis brought on by the crash in oil and gas prices, over zealous tax cutting and exemption-giving and the seemingly forever no growth New Mexican economy.

When Donald Trump was in ABQ he said Gov. Martinez was doing such a poor job that maybe he should run for Governor. With the budget mess ongoing and no agreement on how to solve it, maybe a Gov. Trump is the way to go.

One other note. With the state coming up short tens of millions, you're not going to be able to dig out of the hole by laying off hundreds of state workers. Unacceptable. That leads to revenue enhancement, or as it is known in more direct circles, tax increases. As we said the politicians backs are going to be up against that wall.


How about reinstating the expired ban on assault weapons in the wake of the Orlando massacre? Well, it would have little chance of winning congressional approval and by avoiding bringing it up, Democrats don't have to talk about it. That applies to NM US Senators Heinrich and Udall. They are not supportive of the ban, even though such weapons have been used to mow down hundreds in terrorist-like attacks including Orlando.

New Mexico is still pretty gun friendly and not only is that keeping the state's liberal senators on the bench on assault weapons but also liberal Dem northern Congressman Ben Ray Lujan. He does hedge a bit, saying if an assault weapons ban was part of a "comprehensive pacakge" on gun control, he "would consider it."

ABQ Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham is the only D in the congressional delegation all in on an assault weapons ban. She repeated the position in the wake of Orlando:

Even as it becomes clearer that AR-15s and comparable styles of guns are becoming the gun of choice for mass shootings, states like Florida do not require any special regulation on assault weapons, or limits on the number of firearms that can be bought at one time. It is time we take a stand to tell Congress we will not accept “thoughts and prayers” in place of real policy change to prevent these tragedies from repeating themselves. Join us in telling Congress that we must renew the assault weapons ban that was allowed to expire in 2014.

That's going to warm the heart of the Democratic base, as this reader writes:

I do not understand why people want a weapon that can fire up to 180 rounds in a minute. They might be fun to shoot but serve no purpose other than having fun and to massacre people. Instead of talking about what he will do to reduce the number of mass shootings after the Orlando massacre, Senator Udall wants to talk about chemicals. Is he tone-deaf?

Of course, there is a price for a politico parting ways with the NRA. If Lujan Girsham is looking at an '18 Guv run her strong stance will come back to bite her. But with the casualty count from the mass slaughters mounting you wonder if in the not to distant future New Mexicans might see her position as ahead of its time.


Reader Tom Miles wants to join the discussion about Arizona's on the move economy as New Mexico treads water. Here's his Tuesday history lesson:

When Spain came north, the Dominicans came into NM while the Jesuits came into AZ. Dominicans were founded in 1216 as a mendicant order; "mendicant," derived from the Latin mendicare, meaning "to beg.” Mendicants renounced ownership of property and embraced the poor and itinerant lifestyle, preaching the Gospel and opposing “heresy.”  Its members included popes, cardinals, bishops, legates, inquisitors, confessors of princes, ambassadors, and Paciari (enforcers of the peace decreed by popes or councils). The order was appointed by Pope Gregory IX the duty to carry out the Inquisition. The first Grand Inquisitor of Spain, Tomas de Torquemada, would be drawn from the Dominican Order.

Jesuits were created in the Renaissance (1540) and were considered “God’s soldiers.” Jesuits owned much land and refused to pay the 10% tax on their land to the church. The Franciscans and Dominicans were envious of the Jesuits economic power. They integrated operation of their holdings and directed funding to their colegios. Jesuit priesthood requires more time in training than any other order.

I believe it is arguable that 250 years of Spanish monarchical/colonial rule cemented in place cultures that persisted and are evident even today - and can also contribute to “differences” between Dominican New Mexico and Jesuit Arizona. Interesting?

Quite interesting, Tom, and a subject that will be passionately debated by this and coming generations of La Politica.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Mayor Berry And An ART Attack, Lots Of Space For The SOS Race, Brian's Bad Optics And On The Fire Line  

Mayor Berry, you're giving us an ART attack. The news:

Mayor Berry’s $119 million bus rapid transit project down ABQ's Central Avenue will create traffic congestion where none exists and will have to be junked in 19 years to alleviate the congestion it created. That’s not a line from a satirist or comedian, it’s the city’s own assessment of the project submitted in the application it made to get $69 million in federal grant money for ART. And, it’s one of many claims in the city’s 2015 application to the Federal Transit Administration for the grant that don’t make sense, are contradictory or are just plain false, ART critics said during a recent meeting to discuss the project.

Business owners up and down the line--many of them fellow Republicans of Berry--have lined up in opposition to the bus plan, saying it's a business killer and traffic jam creator. Berry is not listening and charging forward. However, a federal lawsuit may stop him.


It's the only statewide executive office on this year's ballot so there's plenty of ink to spare (or digits) for covering the race for secretary of state between Dem Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Roswell Republican Nora Espinoza. The Roswell Record gives it the treatment, coming with 1,600 words on the contest featuring their hometown state representative. Espinoza spends a good portion of her space attacking Oliver over voter ID. Espinoza is for it, Oliver is against it and the public--according to the polls--overwhelmingly agrees with Espinoza.


Rep. Egolf
State House Minority Leader Brian Egolf of Santa Fe is leading the charge this year for the Dems to take back control of the state House which the Republicans took over in 2014. If they do, he stands to become Speaker of the House. So why, in his role as a private attorney, is he defending the controversial practice of fracking which is so offensive to the Democratic base? The news:

Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn and lawyer Brian Egolf are locked in a legal dispute over a company’s plan to draw potable water from wells in SE NM that could be used for fracking. Ironically, the conflict has inverted traditional positions promoted by Dunn--a Republican who generally supports oil and gas activities--and Egolf, a House Democrat known for his efforts to limit environmental damage from hydraulic fracturing. Dunn is now opposing plans by the private company to drill into the aquifer in Lea County that generally holds potable water that could be used for oil and gas operations. The Land Office says it wants the company to dig deeper into more brackish layers of the aquifer. Egolf, who is defending the company, said the Land Office is trampling on the rights of a small company that deserves legal protection independent of Egolf’s environmental positions as a state legislator.

"Independent of Egolf's environmental positions?" What? Dems are supposed to make that distinction? You mean the same way they did when then NM Dem Party Chairman and attorney Sam Bregman took the case of two APD officers accused of killing a homeless camper?

Serving two masters is never a good idea and in the heat of a historic campaign to take back the House it seems especially ill-advised. But, hey, a guy has to make a living.


Fernanada Santos
As the Dog Head fire east of ABQ raged on Friday, the visit to the city by Fernanda Santos, author of a new book on one of the deadliest wildfires in US history, was particularly timely.

Santos, the Phoenix bureau chief of the New York Times who immigrated to the US from Brazil, stopped by Bookworks in ABQ's North Valley to read passages from and field questions about "The Fire Line."  It's the story of the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire in neighboring Arizona that claimed the lives of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots, members of the Prescott, AZ fire department. It was one of the deadliest days in American firefighting.

One reviewer described the book as a "riveting, pulse pounding account of an American tragedy. . ."  It's available at Bookworks and will resonate with New Mexicans who in recent years have been witness to a number of spectacular wildfires.


Brian Tierney of he ABQ Tea Party writes:

The Albuquerque Tea Party will host a legislative candidate forum Tuesday, June 21, at 7 p.m. at the UNM Continuing Ed. Center, 1634 University Dr. NE.  We are expecting three state Senate candidates to attend: Democratic Sen. John Sapien, his Republican challenger Diego Espinoza, and Republican Eric Burton who is challenging ABQ  Democratic State Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Friday Vox Populi 

The readers write and quite a bit, too. . .

One of the big "what ifs?" in state politics is what if at the end of the election season the state House of Representatives--currently controlled by the R's with a 37 to 33 majority--ended up in a 35 to 35 tie? Some of the Legal Beagles and state legislators say the state Constitution provides for the Secretary of State to preside over the House until a speaker is agreed upon. and even appoint committee chairs. But ABQ Dem State Senator Daniel- Ivey-Soto an attorney and former NM elections director doesn't see it that way. Here's his take.

Joe, Regarding the powers of the Secretary of State at the beginning of a new legislative session. Article IV, Section 8 as it relates to the House says: “The house of representatives shall be called to order in the hall of said house by the secretary of state. He shall preside until the election of a speaker, who shall be the member receiving the highest number of votes for that office.”

In 1953, the Secretary of State asked if she may cast the deciding vote to break a tie if the House deadlocked on the election of Speaker. In Attorney General Opinion 53-5633, it was opined that since she is not a member of the House, the Secretary of State cannot break the tie unless the House – by its own rules – decides to give the Secretary of State that power (Article IV, Section 11 of the Constitution permits each chamber to set its own rules). The House has declines to amend its rules to give the Secretary of State any additional power or authority. If there is a tie, there is no election and the House must re-ballot until the tie is broken.

Then-Attorney General Robinson went on specifically to opine that the Secretary of State’s “duties, however, are confined to the election of a Speaker of the House and only such motions as are incident to the election of such speaker would be in order.”

I note that the rules of the House Rule 9-1 is clear that the “Speaker” appoints committee members and Rule 9-1-2 is clear that “The speaker shall designate the chairmen when the committee is appointed.” Because the rule is specific to the “Speaker” and not to the “Presiding Officer,” the Secretary of State lacks this authority. (Link to the House Rules here.)

At the end of the day, an Attorney General Opinion is presumed to be the law, but only a Court decision is the law, so if we end up at 35-35, we may end up in Court over this, as each political party will be looking for whatever advantage they can get. However, I fear the more likely outcome is that the House could spend 60 days balloting and re-balloting to elect a Speaker. If they fail to break the tie, that may end being the only business they conduct in 2017…

Interesting stuff, but we remember the early 80's when conservative Dems joined with House R's to form a coalition and choose a speaker. Something of that order could be in the cards in the event of a tied House next year. (Not necessarily a conservative coalition but a coalition of some sorts).


Silvio Dell'Angela
Maybe you missed this rant from a Texas congressman about Donald Trump. It drew some sharp responses and we'll run one of them after revisiting the congressman's comments;

 U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville, TX) took a poison pen to the Republican presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump. "Mr. Trump, you’re a racist and you can take your border wall and shove it up your ass," the Brownsville Democrat wrote in a lengthy missive to the real estate magnate. . . He added: "Before you dismiss me as just another 'Mexican,' let me point out that my great-great grandfather came to this country in 1857, well before your own grandfather," His grandchildren (my grandfather and his brothers) all served our country in World War I and World War II. His great-grandson, my father, served in the U.S. Army and, coincidentally, was one of the first 'Mexican' federal judges ever appointed to the federal bench."

That struck in the craw of ABQ activist Silvio Dell'Angela who wrote:

Joe, I don’t know why you even printed this inane and insulting rant by Texas Congressman Filemon Vela to all those of Mexican heritage here who consider themselves to be only Americans. Many of these still poor are having jobs taken away from them from the illegals entering this country. I guess the Congressman wants open borders to even allow those loyal to ISIS to enter.

This poor excuse for a US legislator insults all of Mexican heritage by claiming somehow they are traitors to “their people” if they don’t demonize Trump. I wonder whether this man also would also bring and wave his Mexican flag at any Trump protest rally and possibly also burn our American flag. . .

This Texas embarrassment to Congress who thinks he speaks for all those of Mexican heritage never served. The question is why not? Instead he takes credit for the military service of other family members.

Our Governor Martinez like Congressman Vela wears her Latina background on her sleeve as if this too somehow justifies not supporting Trump. . .


Brent Eastwood, Ph.D
We took issue with a newspaper report citing an assistant professor of economics at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh that said New Mexico fell behind Arizona decades ago when it let federal spending become the dominant part of its economy, instead of nurturing a private sector. Republican political scientist Brent Eastwood in DC responded:

Joe: I can’t agree with you on your latest analysis of a recent study comparing the economies of New Mexico and Arizona.

First, on your point about the author’s connection to Charles G. Koch. You are correct that this Koch brother chairs the board of the Institute for Human Studies (HIS) and Koch is a major funder of the organization. Yes, Learn Liberty is also an IHS project.

But Joe, come on. This is a bunch of libertarian PhDs who throw seminars for college students. . .They are just running a marketplace of ideas based on Aristotle, Plato, Thomas Jefferson, Friedrich Hayek and others.

It is true that sponsored research is a problem in academia, especially when the funding source is not disclosed by the researcher. It should have been revealed that the study’s author, Matt E. Ryan, has outside affiliations beyond his academic position. So you are correct to bring that up. Also, social scientists do not usually discuss draft papers with the media. Papers should be published first to allow readers to find the original document. I was not able to find Ryan’s paper on the web and that is problematic.

But you must agree that the comparison between Arizona and New Mexico is an excellent research question. It’s a question I have often pondered, I’ve only heard one good answer over the years and that is Albuquerque could not grow in the same way as Phoenix because it is hemmed in geographically by mountains and federal lands.

Ryan’s assertion that New Mexico relies too much on the government sector is not new as you know. Government spending, government transfers and entitlements, and government jobs will always be important in New Mexico. Many New Mexicans could not make it without government assistance. Ryan is not saying that the state should cut public welfare programs.

Government employment will perpetually be huge in the state and it should remain so in my opinion. New Mexicans generally enjoy working in government and are quite good at it. New Mexicans also tend to have a high level of civic duty and civic involvement. 

None of that is the problem.

Ryan makes an important distinction between beneficial government activity and adverse political activity. It’s the adverse political activity in New Mexico that is harmful and unproductive. Adverse political activity is difficult to define and measure, but we know it when we see it. It is associated with political shenanigans, pay-to-play, scheming, scamming, flimflamming, illegal lobbying, campaign finance abuse, endless negative ads, message coordinating between PACs, unethical backscratching and deal making, log rolling, unlawful campaigning, brow beating, intimidating, retaliating and other wasteful and unproductive actions.

Adverse political activity leads to economic dysfunction and stagnant growth. 

All states have adverse political activity and Arizona is no stranger to it. But in New Mexico, the level of adverse political activity is acute, even though most of its beneficial government participation is admirable.

Therefore, it is time to examine some of the root causes of Arizona’s economic leap forward to better understand why New Mexico fell so far behind. This study is a start in that direction, even if it may be connected in some way to Charles Koch.

Thanks for those insights, Brent, but we would offer another reason, perhaps a controversial one, on why decades ago NM did not follow the private sector path of Arizona. This state has had and still has a civil rights issues.

Hispanic New Mexicans were not as prepared for the 1960's workforce that Associate Professor Ryan pointed to. Many Hispanics as well as our Native Americans were struggling for full civil, education and economic rights. The government sector economy that developed here was largely populated by outsiders while the indigenous population was left to find its way.

We could not have "imported" thousands of scientists and other workers to build a private sector.  They came here for the government jobs. We had to build a free market with the population we had and that population was not as ready as Arizona's. And still isn't. And it won't be until we really take on the systemic and generational disadvantages that continue to haunt the state's development.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sanderoff Says: Veteran NM Pollster Weighs In On Topsy-Turvy Political Year; Trump Vs Clinton And The Battle For The Legislature 

Brian Sanderoff
In this topsy-turvy, utterly unpredictable and anything goes election year who better to turn to for calm guidance than Brian Sanderoff, the veteran pollster who approaches even the most emotional of elections with a sedate demeanor and armed with an arsenal of facts.  

Sanderoff, who heads Research and Polling, is in his 30th year of conducting highly accurate surveys for the Albuquerque Journal. Since there are no banner statewide races like US senate or governor on the ballot this year, it will be the battle for control of the New Mexico House and Senate that will be most prominent, with the obvious exception of the Clinton-Trump showdown. That's where we started our conversation with Sanderoff.

The pollster does not break ranks with his fellow pundits in predicting that New Mexico appears "safe" for Clinton. 

"With two large Obama victories in 2008 and 2012 and with Hispanics--who lean Democratic--making up an increasing share of the electorate, Clinton is the clear favorite to take the state's five electoral votes." He declared.

Sanderoff does leave the door open a crack for Trump, saying if there was an anomaly, such as a crash in voter turnout, there could be a more competitive race here.

The presidential race led Sanderoff into comments about the battle for the legislature.

"Our studies have shown the national mood plays a very big role in determining the outcome of legislative races. In 2009, the Democrats held a 45-25 advantage in the state House. Then came the 2010 mid-term and and the rise of the Tea Party. Republicans picked up eight state House seats. In the  2014 mid-term when Obama was unpopular the R's picked up the House seats they needed to take control for the first time since the early 50's."

But there's more than the national mood to consider, Sanderoff said. Republicans will be "playing defense" in the effort to keep control. "In some ways they are victims of their own success. They have to hold on to all those seats they picked up in the non-presidential cycle plus they have to worry about Trump."

That doesn't mean they can't succeed, he reasoned, but this time the wind is not at their backs. That leads us back to Trump (doesn't everything?).

Republican Governor Susana Martinez and Republican Albuquerque Mayor Berry have been like cats on a hot tin roof when it comes to Trump. They keep jumping away from their party's presumptive nominee, refusing to formally endorse him as his campaign rhetoric about Hispanics has grown increasingly strident. Sanderoff says such caution (or fear) will likely find its way into the legislative races.

"In House districts where Republicans need Democratic votes to win, I suspect you will see the Republican candidates refusing to endorse Trump." He said.

Not that there is any safe play for the R's when it comes to The Donald. If they refuse to back him the Democratic candidates will keep up the pressure for GOP endorsements as they work to make their races a referendum on Trump.

As for the Republican dream of taking over the state Senate, currently controlled 24 to 18 by the Democrats, Sanderoff puts that in the "longshot" category.

"The Republicans would have to pick up six senate districts to gain outright control, assuming the Democrats regain two Democratic leaning districts that they lost due to special circumstances. All of this would need to happen in a Presidential election cycle in which turnout increases, thereby typically helping Democrats."

When it comes to the proliferation of virtually unregulated millions of dollars flooding into the political process as a result of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, Sanderoff likes to see the glass as half full.

"The biggest change in politics in my lifetime is the downsizing of the political parties and the rise of the super PACs and other fund-raising vehicles. But this year we saw Jeb Bush, who was financed by millions in PAC dollars, go down to defeat and Bernie Sanders managed to bypass mega-donations and super PACs by raising millions in grassroots donations."

Sanderoff delivers his big picture analysis with his trademark tranquility and an even-tempered manner that has weathered the decades. That's especially welcome in these current days of political tumult. 


In a first blog draft Wednesday we had Hillary Clinton carrying Curry County. The story reported correctly that it was Sanders who carried Curry. We corrected the headline. 

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Why Curry Went For Sanders, Sapien's Big Primary Win; Big Enough? Handicapping The State House, Heat On Heinrich, All Koched Up, And: A Letter To Trump 

You're not seeing double and your screen is fine. Our blog was bought out for today by an advertising sponsor. Now on to the latest action in La Politica. . .

What the heck was Bernie Sanders doing beating Hillary Clinton in conservative Dem territory in Curry County in the June 7th NM primary? The county, which shares a border with Texas, is reliably GOP in the general election so it was expected that democratic socialist Sanders would lose the county to the more moderate Clinton. Veteran pollster Brian Sanderoff says there's more to the story:

Don't forget that Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU) has a large presence in the area as well as many young Air Force personnel stationed at Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis. The younger the voters the better Sanders performs and that appears to be why he won Curry.

We'll have more nuggets from Sanderoff in the coming days, the result of a post primary sit-down.

(In our initial blog headline we had Clinton carrying Curry. That has been corrected.)


When is a big primary win really not that big? Well, there's a debate about that. Dem State Senator John Sapien scored a 62% to 38% primary victory over challenger Jodilynn Ortiz and he immediately labeled it "a decisive victory," adding:

Anything over 55 percent is going to get you a nod that your constituents want you back.

Maybe, but others closely watching this Sandoval County area district which is being targeted by the Republicans point out that Ortiz only spent $193.39 to Sapien's $34,000 in primary expenditures. They think a more robust victory in the high 60's or low 70's would be in order.

So, does the 62% win tell us something new? Not really. Republicans have fielded Diego Espinoza to run against Sapien in what has always been expected to be a heated race. The results may show Sapien has a bit of weakness in his own party to overcome as well as the Republican challenger. In the cash battle, the duo is about even. Sapien starts the general election campaign with $66,000 to Espinoza's $64,000.

Not that Sapien, the chairman of the Senate education Committee, isn't used to a close battle. In 2012 he was re-elected by a tiny margin of 161 votes in a contest that saw some 23,000 ballots cast. And in 2008 Sapien won the seat from a Republican incumbent by an even smaller margin of 121 votes.

Sapien sharply disagreed that there was any weakness in his primary victory when we interviewed him on our KANW FM Election Night broadcast. He said anyone who disagreed would need to sit down with him for a cup of coffee and learn why.

Well, he seems ready for the coming confrontation and maybe even more than his opponent. Diego Espinoza refused several offers to appear on the air Election Night, never mind extending a coffee invite.


That Sapien-Espinoza battle will be intense but no political pundit worth his crystal ball is predicting that the GOP will take over the state Senate. And there seems to be a consensus beginning to form that the odds have gone from 50-50 to something a bit better for Democratic prospects to take back control of the state House from the R's which they lost in 2014. Dem State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino comes with the reasoning that is making the rounds:

It looks difficult for the Republicans to hold on to their majority, currently 37-33. In that body 27 Democrats and only 15 Republicans are running unopposed. And of the 28 districts where there will be a contest, 13 are so traditionally won by one or another party that it would be a genuine long-shot victory if it were to flip. 

Eight of those virtually "safe" seats are held by Republicans and five by Democrats. Thus the Democrats likely start the electoral outcome with 32 seats while the GOP begins with 23. To reach a 36 vote majority the Democrats need win only four of the remaining 15, hotly-contested battleground districts while the Republicans would need to win 13 of them.

And what if it ends in a 35 to 35 tie? The Legal Beagles (and several legislators) say the state Constitution dictates that the Secretary of State presides over the House if members can't break the tie and elect a speaker with votes from both parties. They say she would also get to name the chairs of the powerful standing committees. Another reason to keep your eye on that race for SOS between Dem Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Republican Nora Espinoza.


In the wake of the Orlando terror attack that claimed 50 lives, Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich's stance on assault weapons could subject him to some political heat:

A spokeswoman for Democratic Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, who voted against the 2013 Assault Weapons Ban, declined to say whether he would shift his stance, but noted that the senator did vote in favor of Senator Dianne Feinstein's bill to stop terrorists from buying guns last year.

Heinrich is an avid hunter whose somewhat conservative views on gun control have held him in good stead with many rural New Mexicans, but that could be put to the test in the urban areas in the wake of horrid attacks like Orlando. Heinrich is up for re-election in 2018. Senator Udall has also voted against a ban on assault weapons of the type used in the Orlando attack.


The economic opinions about New Mexico expressed by Matt Ryan, the associate professor of economics at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, struck us as so bizarre that it led us to wonder about his affiliation. Well, it's no surprise that Ryan, who told the newspaper NM made a  mistake by establishing its modern day economy based in large part on the federal government, has ties to one of the Koch Brothers, the far right, free market duo who also chip in to finance off-the-grid economic ideas about New Mexico via the Rio Grande Foundation.

For his part Ryan is affiliated with Learn Liberty, a think tank that describes itself as
"your resource for exploring the ideas of a free society. We tackle big questions about what makes a society free or prosperous and how we can improve the world we live in."

Learn Liberty is a project of the Institute For Humane Studies (IHS) which is supported by private donations:

In recognition of the long-time support of businessman Charles G. Koch, the Institute for Humane Studies makes an annual award, named in his honor, for outstanding achievement by an alumnus of IHS programs.  IHS supports the achievement of a freer society by discovering and facilitating the development of talented students, scholars, and other intellectuals who share an interest in liberty and in advancing the principles and practice of freedom. We now celebrate thousands of IHS programs alumni working in the world of ideas as professors, policy experts, journalists, filmmakers, and more. 

Ryan's connection to the Koch brothers is vital to note since his economic analysis called into question the efficacy of government spending in the state while his benefactors are ardent small government advocates.


In the category of "tell us what you really think," we offer this:

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville, TX) took a poison pen to the Republican presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump, in an open letter Monday. "Mr. Trump, you’re a racist and you can take your border wall and shove it up your ass," the Brownsville Democrat wrote in a lengthy missive to the real estate magnate. . .

He added: "Before you dismiss me as just another 'Mexican,' let me point out that my great-great grandfather came to this country in 1857, well before your own grandfather," His grandchildren (my grandfather and his brothers) all served our country in World War I and World War II. His great-grandson, my father, served in the U.S. Army and, coincidentally, was one of the first 'Mexican' federal judges ever appointed to the federal bench."

It's increasingly difficult to see how Gov. Martinez, the nation's first female Hispanic governor, can endorse Trump.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Split At The Top: House Majority Leader Gentry Parts Ways With Gov. Martinez And Her Top Adviser Jay McCleskey; Drops Jay And Hires Own Campaign Consultant; The Anti-Jay?  

Rep. Gentry
Continued exclusive coverage now on the split in the NM Republican Party that could reshape the coming campaigns for the legislature as well as legislative policy.

It appears the rumored split between House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, Governor Martinez and her influential political consultant Jay McCleskey is grounded in reality. In fact, Gentry appears to have hired an "anti-Jay" to lead his efforts to keep the state House under GOP control. Gentry's Republican Leadership PAC reports spending over $27,000 in the recent primary election with Triumph Campaigns, a Mississippi based political consulting firm run by Justin Brassell who has considerable campaign experience. We get details from a senior Republican:

Recent finance reports show that Nate's Republican Leadership PAC spent big money with the firm Triumph Campaigns out of Jackson MS. The principal, Justin Brassell, has a serious Republican pedigree, having managed Mitch McConnell's 2008 US Senate campaign and Tom Cotton's successful 2014 US Senate run. This is a significant change from previous cycles when the bulk of Nate's campaign cash went to McCleskey Media Strategies and Red Tag Strategies headed up by Adam Feldman, a McCleskey loyalist.

And not only that. Roswell oilman Mark Murphy and Congressman Pearce's campaign committee, both arch-enemies of McCleskey,  are now back in the Gentry fold, making donations to Gentry's committees.

Gentry, who represents an ABQ NE Heights district, is also collecting hundreds of thousands for his personal re-election fund and dispersing much of it to GOP state House candidates. It currently has over $287,000 cash on hand. Gentry's Republican Leadership PAC currently has about $34,000 in cash, but that is soon expected to bulge with much more.

Justin Brassell
The squeeze play on Jay comes after he has had the GOP playing field almost exclusively to himself since Martinez's 2010 first Guv campaign in 2010. He has raked in millions and is probably the most influential gubernatorial adviser in the modern era, but second gubernatorial terms are when the cracks start appearing. And this crack could cost.

There will still be state GOP House campaigns for McCleskey to consult. Not all will go with Gentry. And then there is Susana PAC and the Advance New Mexico super PAC, all under the control of McCleskey. But if Gentry has his own hotshot to call the shots he could lure away money that would have gone to the Guv and Jay. The fact that McCleskey was subjected to a  federal investigation over his campaign financing techniques doesn't help. (The investigation did not result in any indictments.)

More important is the future direction of the GOP. With Gentry parting ways with Martinez and McCleskey and the state GOP under control of the Harvey Yates-Steve Pearce faction doing the same, we could see the ideological framework in Santa Fe shift away from the Governor in still undetermined ways.

Here's a 2011 TV interview with Brassell who is currently working a US Senate campaign in Louisiana. Here's a bio of Brassell, a 1998 graduate of the University of Mississippi.

Sidebar: Brassell doesn't seem too crazy about Trump. The last tweet he put up on his Twitter account was on March 5 when he celebrated a poll showing Kasich ahead of Trump in Michigan.


Rep. Pacheco
Those state House Republicans Gentry and Brassell are coaching are starting to hear and feel the pain. They are getting off the "all crime all the time" rant and starting to talk about jobs and the lousy economy. The GOP's Paul Pacheco, a former cop seeking re-election, is facing pressure on the jobs issue from Dem Daymon Ely. In an op-ed Pacheco starts to play catch-up:

I have heard from countless chambers and business groups that a high rate of violent crime is a major deterrent to companies looking to expand. New Mexico’s ranking as second in the nation for violent crimes is a huge problem for so many reasons.

That looks like the right play for Pacheco, arguing that concentrating on reducing crime can actually help attract business, an argument that many of our readers have been making.

Ely has been hammering Pacheco on jobs in the Sandoval County area district where Rio Rancho's Intel is located and laying off hundreds. Speaking of which. . . Take a look at this news from the ABQ congresswoman that appears to be another move to pave the way for an '18 Dem Guv run:

Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham called on Intel Corporation to contribute tax savings to a fund that would help local communities in New Mexico recover from the economic impact of recent lay-offs. “Intel stands to benefit the most from Governor Martinez’s corporate tax breaks that were supposed to create manufacturing jobs,” Rep. Lujan Grisham said. “Unfortunately, New Mexico is losing jobs, and Intel has reduced its workforce in Rio Rancho by hundreds of employees since the tax breaks went into effect..

Lujan Grisham adds that the Governor pushed for the corporate tax breaks in 2013, while promising they would lead to more jobs, particularly at Intel. Since then, Intel has dramatically reduced its workforce.

Oops. There's one thing Michelle forgot. It was the House Democrats who had the majority in 2013 and made possible the Martinez corporate tax cut.


Meanwhile, Gov, Martinez is celebrating the addition of  jobs--possibly over 200--by the technology sales outfit PCM. She says the company is coming to Rio Rancho and she says the jobs will pay between $45,000 and $65,000 a year.

PCM may come with about the same number of jobs as Intel in Rio Rancho is in the process of laying off--if not more---and no one is kidding themselves that the PCM marketing jobs have the economic impact of the Intel positions.

Martinez says in her release:

We've made a lot of progress since 2011, adding thousands of jobs and cutting taxes 37 times.

Sure, you've added thousands of jobs Governor, but you've lost more than you've gained. And as for cutting taxes 37 times, you must mean letting previously approved tax credits renew?

Like Rep. Pacheco the Governor seems to be getting a whiff of a new smell in the political wind. Jobs, jobs, jobs. But it's still one step forward and two steps back in New Mexico:

Hastings Entertainment Inc., a retailer that sells movies, music, books, comics and games, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. . . Hastings has a big presence in Albuquerque's metro. . . There are four locations in Albuquerque—one on the Westside, one on Lomas Boulevard near the fairgrounds, in a shopping center at Montgomery and Wyoming boulevards, and another at Lomas and Juan Tabo boulevards. It has one location each in Los Lunas and Rio Rancho. There are also eight other locations across the state.

Unless Hastings finds a buyer, that cancels out those 224 jobs Susana announced--and then some.

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