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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Feds And Us: Campaign Ad Raises Big Picture Question: A "Grand Bargain" To Get NM Moving? Plus: Why Winter Waxed Brooks, And: More On Heinrich And His Island Stay 

Tom Udall comes with a new TV spot about the state's national security complex that seems on firmer ground than his first foray onto that territory. Udall, opposed for re-election by Republican Allen Weh, highlights a small business owner who has a coffee shop across from ABQ's Kirtland Air Force Base. The owner says he is glad Sen. Udall is "keeping our bases strong. We're one of hundreds of New Mexico businesses that rely on them."

Udall's campaign accompanied the ad with a lengthy news release detailing the Dem senator's work on Kirtland funding as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

This ad, unlike that first national security spot, does not mention Los Alamos Labs or Sandia National Labs. Udall's first ad drew raised eyebrows when he said he protected Los Alamos funding even though there have been hundreds of layoffs there in recent years.

Funding for Kirtland and Sandia is steady. Congressional staffers in Washington tell us that Sandia's nuclear weapons mission and budget appears secure looking out over the next eight years. The Los Alamos outlook is more muddled. Still, major budget increases or a hiring sprees do not appear to be in store for the bases or the labs. Just holding the funding steady is a challenge. Udall says he has met that challenge by preventing "tea-party sequestration cuts."

THE FEDS AND US

All this takes us back to the macro issue with NM federal funding. Agencies across the board have been downsized since the Great Recession struck:

Federal spending (in NM) on grants, direct payments, contracts, loans and insurance totaled $18 billion in FY13, down from $22.2 billion the previous year, according to the federal website usaspending.gov. That spending peaked in 2009 at $22.7 billion. . . All federal contracts in the state totaled $6.7 billion in FY13, down from $7.2 billion the previous year, and down from a high of $7.6 billion in FY09.

Can New Mexico reclaim federal funding in the years ahead or is the development of a stronger private sector the only alternative? The answer is both. A congressional delegation with more seniority may have a shot at getting a larger share of the federal pie. The state could not and will not reject that money as a bane of "federal dependency."

A GRAND BARGAIN

As for boosting the private sector,  we see the conversation as being too top down. Innovate ABQ and other well-intentioned efforts hope to woo entrepreneurs who will boost the economy. But the problem is the massive swath of the population that is not prepared for the jobs these entrepreneurs could provide.

New Mexico needs a change in its culture as it pertains to education, child-well being and other markers of the social conditions crisis that has deepened with the ongoing stagnation/recession and  income inequality.

Much of the state has been in a no-growth mode for a long five years or more. Tax cuts, regulation reform and free-market Republican leadership in Santa Fe and ABQ  has not turned us around. That's because our problems are long-term and systemic not short term.

Both the short term and long term require liquidity. Money has to be injected into this laggard economy to make up for the federal bleed and the failure to attract new business. For the short-term, that means building useful things--like bridges, roads, new public buildings and the like. For the long-term it means an ongoing and expensive commitment to early childhood education to change the culture of underachievement that plagues us.

The body politic of New Mexico is stalled. The voting classes recoil from the notion that money can solve our problems and those that believe it can are larelgy disengaged from the political process. As usual, the answer is deal making and compromise. Cutting corporate taxes in exchange for a boost in Hollywood incentives--as the state did in '13--is not going to cut the muster in the 21st century. We're in need of real compromise in which both sides hurt.

If we are to break the gridlock those who don't believe money is the answer may have to forgo that view and those that believe it does may have to give up another equally cherished view. That would be the underpinnings of a Grand Bargain that would finally begin the long process of rebuilding a state at a standstill. Any takers?

BROOKS UNDER THE BUS

ABQ GOP City Councilor and new interim ABQ Public Schools Superintendent Brad Winter says he wants to cut the political drama at APS but then he does a campaign style interview in which he dumps all over Winston Brooks, his predecessor as superintendent. Brooks was an arch-foe of the Martinez political machine. Brad is a machine member in good standing.

What purpose was served by attacking Brooks and sucking up to the Guv? Well, not much in terms of improving education for our kids, but it did keep Brad in good stead with the Guv and Public Education Secretary Skandera who--with the ouster of the troublesome Brooks--can now run APS the way they see fit. Who needs to argue about education policy when things are going so well, right?

HEINRICH'S ISLAND

ABQ reader Vicki Farrar writes of Sen. Heinrich's survival stay on a deserted island with a Republican senator and which is the basis of a reality show

I disagree with your Alligator who said that Heinrich was taking a risk because: “He's a couple years into the Senate, things are at a standstill in DC and he uses his August recess time to fly to a Pacific island to film a reality show instead of spending time in the district.” I was attending the Fundraiser/Meet and Greet for Maggie Toulouse Oliver event in downtown Albuquerque August 27th when Sen. Heinrich showed up to support Maggie for Secretary of State.  I appreciated that he was here in ABQ and supporting such a worthwhile candidate. Well, maybe your alligator just can’t be everywhere that Martin is. . .

Thanks, Vicki. The Alligators are most comfortable in ABQ's South Valley where they are fed chicharrones and read ancient manuscripts on the art of the Movida. Having all they need, they disdain travel and get grumpy when they see politicos partake. . .

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rocky's Soft Punch of Pearce; Too Soft? Plus: The '14 Dems: "Every Man For Himself" Also: Selling Out O'Keeffe 

Pearce & Lara
The Alligators will give Rocky Lara the benefit of the doubt, but not for long. The southern congressional Democratic hopeful comes with her first TV spot that gently jibes GOP Congressman Steve Pearce. That it draws no blood is the immediate complaint from the Gators. But  you might ask if any New Mexico Democrat has drawn blood from the R's lately? 

The Lara ad scores Pearce for voting for congressional "perks" like free health care and first class air travel. You're going to throw an incumbent congressman out of office for that? Well, the benefit of the doubt part is that Lara will start soft and hit harder later. But from the beginning the campaign has had the aura of a set-up for '16 when a higher Dem turnout could give Lara a better shot.

In the ad that she narrates she rolls the "r" in Lara signaling to those who may not have known that she is a Hispanic candidate. Pearce comes with an ad anticipating the ethnic play and showcases Hispanic constituents touting his attentiveness to them--if not his very conservative voting record that may be starting to wear just a wee bit thin.

It's the soft-center nature of the Lara spot that falls flat in an environment where the electorate is looking for some spunk. She has a million bucks in the bank. Why didn't they first come with a bio spot of Lara and then get heavy on the negative in the second wave? Because it does not appear they are going for the gold this year. But if Rocky ever wants to go to Congress she can't avoid putting on the boxing gloves of her famous movie namesake.

The Pearce seat remains ranked likely R.

UDALL VS. WEH

A low projected turnout that will tilt the electorate more conservative and the general disgust with the performance of Congress seems to be preventing Senator Tom Udall from running away with his re-election bid. He remains in reasonably solid shape, polling at 51% to Republican Alen Weh's 38%. But long gone are the days when NM US Senators commanded 60% approval. You might say 50% is the new 60%. That's how far in esteem the DC crowd has fallen as well as the faith the public places in the political process.

Udall has slipped with independents, according to the Journal survey, and that has him down from his 53% polling level in mid-August. We would expect Udall's TV message--all softball up to this point--to get edgier in order to maintain his lead.

Weh--independently wealthy--is running a pretty good campaign and keeping Udall on high alert, but his profile (older Anglo male) holds him back. Weh is now demanding TV debates with Udall. No TV debates have been scheduled that we are aware of.

The Martinez machine decided to give Udall a free ride because it did not want to arouse the Democratic base and increase Dem turnout to save Udall. But the race has turned from cakewalk into a fast stroll and that could get the Udall forces spending more and working harder--just what the machine was hoping to avoid when it gave Udall a pass.

The Udall seat remains ranked likely Dem.

EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF

The gnashing of teeth and painful bellowing continues over the Dem state of affairs in the '14 Guv race. Here's a Senior Alligator commenting on the ABQ Journal survey showing King falling further behind Martinez--54% to 38%--and arguing that we are in the middle of a systemic failure of the party: 

This poll is a yet another wake up call for the Democratic Party, its elected officials and affiliated interest groups: Martinez is on the verge of running up the scoreboard enough to move her machine's focus towards the Dems in statewide races and the vulnerable Dems in the state House. Everything is running as planned for Martinez and King is completely laying down.

Dems need not look farther than Pete Dinelli versus Richard Berry in the '13 ABQ mayoral race to know where this election is headed. (Republican Berry won with 68% of the vote). Democrats will concede the major race and declare victory when they hold on to the minor races.

My Lord, someone needs to shake some sense into King and (Dem Party Chairman Sam) Bregman--whether it's Rep. Lujan Grisham, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, Sen. Martin Heinrich, House Speaker Ken Martinez or someone. One of those younger, up-and-comer politicians can fill a void here, show some leadership and take the reins of the party. Perhaps they can help King and the ticket make a respectable showing. But Lujan Grisham was holding her 1st annual a ping-pong tournament last week and Heinrich was on an island in the south seas holding his own kind of competition. 

This election and the last Albuquerque mayoral election says a lot about the Democratic Party. It's run by a small group of central committee members that have no idea how to get people elected and the politicians don't care about the Party until they need it to win an election. It's every man/woman for 
themselves.

SELLING OUT O'KEEFFE

2014 O'Keeffe Musuem 
Off the political beat for a moment and to Greg Lennes in Las Cruces who calls out the keepers of the flame for Georgia O'Keeffe, the most important artist in state history, for selling off some of her most significant works:

This is not politics, but I am mad. The financially stable Georgia O'Keeffe Museum is irresponsibly selling three iconic paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe to supposedly benefit its acquisition fund. These paintings should remain in the museum with the other O'Keeffe artwork. Museums are entrusted to be guardians of our cultural patrimony. Selling off parts of that legacy should be done only in extraordinary situations. It should not be used for a crap shoot to buy more paintings. The paintings will probably will end up in private hands, where the public will not benefit from it.

New Mexicans should be outraged by this sale. The shortsighted Board of Directors should reconsider their actions in this matter to sell the three O'Keeffe works to the highest bidder. 

With or without the three paintings, the museum in Santa Fe is well worth a visit.

LATINO HEART

NPR tackles the question: Who Determines Whether Someone Has A 'Latino Heart'?

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Monday, September 15, 2014

King Chaos As Latest Campaign Manager Jumps Ship And He Plunges In Poll, And: Pollster Pushes Back Against Dem Critics, Plus: Is It Susana's Underwear Or Her Underhandedness?  

The chaos that is the Gary King campaign is plumbing new lows and the worst may not be over. News comes to us that his second campaign manager since the June primary and third in total has just headed for the exits and the latest ABQ Journal poll shows a comfortable win developing for Gov. Martinez in what has been a virtually uncontested gubernatorial contest.

Keith Breitbach was brought in from California in July to run the King effort after the first campaign manager resigned after only weeks on the job because of comments he had made on social media before he worked for King. Breitbach's departure was confirmed by other campaign staff.

Breitbach--like many Democrats--is frustrated by the state of the race and their inability to get through to King, a two term attorney general who is running the most underfunded Dem campaign in memory and doing it his way.

King reported having only $157,000 in cash at the end of August but says he will return $30,000 he received from two companies affiliated with a wealthy Florida businessman who is a convicted sex offender. Factor that in and you have Martinez, who is reporting $3.8 million in cash, holding a ridiculous cash advantage of 30 to 1.

King plunged to a rock bottom low of 36% in the Sunday ABQ Journal poll as Martinez grew to 54%. In the late August Journal survey Martinez was checked at 50% and King had 41%. Since then she has hammered him with negative TV ads that he has not answered.

King is like a cornered boxer getting pummeled, but he doesn't even seem to have the strength to put his hands up to cover his face.

The analysts, Alligators and pundits had Martinez trending toward a 53% win based on the August Journal poll. But now--unless King gets some smelling salts--she is approaching the 55% mark that GOP Guv Johnson scored in '98. And if you have a virtually uncontested media campaign in October we will be in uncharted waters with an historic win in the high 50's not out of question.

A King debacle could pose problems for the Dems as they work to avert a takeover of the state House by the Republicans--either through outright control or through a conservative coalition they could form if they pick up a couple of key seats. If Martinez puts King away early--and we're headed there--her campaign could then shift more resources to the House battle. Dems are praying now for more than an October surprise, they need a bombshell.

And the news may get worse for King before it gets better. His answers to a soon-to-be released ABQ Journal questionnaire on early childhood education and gun control are going to upset scores of liberal Dems, say our Alligators. It will be another foot to drop on a campaign that's getting kicked harder  than the bad guy in a Bruce Lee movie.

BITCHING AND MOANING

Sanderoff
Dems immediately began bitching and moaning over the Journal poll conducted by longtime pollster Brian Sanderoff, asserting their own pollsters have the race much closer and besides, they claimed,  King's demise won't damage other Dem candidates.

They charged that Sanderoff's turnout model was too low and that he polled too many Anglos.  Of course, these are the same pollsters and consultants who have helped lead the state into the current era of GOP gubernatorial, legislative and ABQ mayoral dominance.

It's true that the ABQ Journal is in the tank for Martinez. That's no news flash, but Sanderoff has shot it down the middle for over thirty years and he comes with this convincing explanation of his latest survey:

For decades, non-presidential general elections in New Mexico have had much lower turnouts than presidential elections. In non-presidential elections the majority of voters are always over 50 years old. The 2010 General Election in New Mexico had a record turnout of votes cast for a non-presidential election. There were 3 heavy contested races that year.

Using 2010 as a turnout model is not conservative. In fact it is realistic if not slightly liberal since New Mexico will not achieve the same turnout rates in 2014 compared to 2010 since we do not have a lot of competitive races in which candidates on both sides of the aisle are evenly matched.

Also, now that Susana Martinez has pulled ahead among all age groups, even if we weighted the results more heavily toward young people the results would not change that dramatically.

The biggest reason to explain the difference in results between the Journal Poll and the NY Times/CBS News poll is that the NY Times poll (that showed Martinez beating King only 48% to 43%) is generated from a convenience sample of adults who opted into an Internet Panel while the Journal Poll is a random sample of proven voters in 2010 and 2012. Also the NY Times Poll had a starting field date of August 18, which was nearly a month ago, when Gary King had higher support levels.

The salient point is this: Gary King just got hit with hundreds of thousands of negative and unanswered TV ads and we're supposed to believe the spin from the handsomely paid DC pie-in-the-sky pollsters? That's fine for their paying clients who they don't want to upset, but not for the Alligators of La Politica.

UNDERHANDEDNESS NOT UNDERWEAR

Who knows if Martinez's negative TV ads are very good. She's shooting fish in a barrel as King stays dark. The whole thing is upside down.

For example, Martinez takes Attorney General King to task in this ad for revealing private emails that included personal bank statements and her underwear order. That's titillating, but the big story was not the underwear, it was the underhandedness that was disclosed. Those same batch of emails made known that the administration and her political operatives were conducting state government business via private email to keep their dealings secret--especially on the controversial lease for the ABQ Downs racino. A Senior Alligator picks it up from there:

I love how the discovery that Gov. Martinez and her political adviser Jay McCleskey were running a shadow government through private emails that was put in place to dodge public records laws has now been turned into the sanctity of the Governor's underwear orders. Only with the media dupes that we have in this state could you pull that off.

Yep, we was duped.

THE BOTTOM LINES

We blogged Friday that King and Martinez would have their first public encounter this Friday. Not so. That will happen Sept. 22 at the ABQ development group NAIOP. The pair will answer questions that they were given in advance. How's that for a tension filled face-off?

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor  

Senator Heinrich says he recently headed for a deserted island to do a reality TV show in which he tested his survival skills. Actually, that sounds a lot like modern day New Mexico. The reality show challenge was probably a breeze. It airs Oct. 29. . .

Most but not everyone we asked thought the Heinrich move was no big deal. Here's the but from one of our Alligators:

I take the side of it being a little risky. He's a couple years into the Senate, things are at a standstill in DC and he uses his August recess time to fly to a Pacific island to film a reality show instead of spending time in the district.

Maybe when he runs for re-election, Heinrich's foe will urge the electorate to send him back to the island. . .

That was some interview ABQ police chief Gorden Eden gave to USA Today this week in which he asserted he was helpless to get rid of the bad apples at the department. Retired APD Seargent Dan Klein is one of many calling out Eden for pleading impotence:

The article should have been titled: "Why I will Fail by Gordon Eden."  He placed all blame on the police union. This is a perfect example of deflecting blame. This is a perfect example of vacating his authority. What did Mayor Berry have to say? So far the same thing he said when Chief Schultz was in charge. Zilch.

Cultural change for APD starts at the top, not the bottom. Mayor Berry never held Chief Schultz accountable for the millions lost and now he says nothing when his new police chief says he can't make any changes. Gordon Eden could have started making the changes necessary by not promoting officers who have abused citizens and lost the city money in lawsuits. He promoted anyway. He could have given discipline to SWAT officers and their Command Staff who seem unable to either turn on their cameras or keep them running. He has not. Now Chief Eden goes national and blames the police union and Mayor Berry says nothing. Since Chief Eden is abdicating his authority over APD to the union it is probably time for Chief Eden to abdicate altogether and step down. Change begins at the top, I see nothing more than excuses from the Berry / Eden administration for the next 3 years.

And a long three years it is going to be. . .

HEART AND HEAD

A number of readers commented that they think Dem Guv hopeful Gary King was fully aware of what he was doing when he said at a public event that Gov. Martinez did not have a "Latino heart."
It was portrayed as controversial by the Martinez campaign and her allies in the mainstream media, but it did serve to get King a ton of free media and finally get this campaign on the front pages. And when you aren't on TV because your fundraising lags, that's where you need to be.

Reader Bob Gurule writes:

I have no clue what is in Gary King's head, and I can only speculate what he meant when he said Governor Martinez didn't have a "Latino (sic) heart." A better description would have been 'the governor no es plebe or no es gente.' The Latino community would have clearly understood what he meant!

And reader Rich Talley comes with this:.

You wrote: "Well, it's not what's in her heart, it's what's in her head."

Shouldn't it be both? A well-balanced, mature individual (including political leaders, if there are any that are actually mature and well-balanced rather than narcissistic sociopaths) should be right in the head and the heart. Neurologists like Oliver Sacks tell us that people with flat affects show poor judgement. We need our emotions as much as our reasoning and knowledge.

The campaign will start getting more intense next week. We'll be along with you for the ride. . .

Reporting this week from Midtown Manhattan, New York City, I'm Joe Monahan.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

New York Lessons For APD? Plus: It's What's In Susana's Head Not Her Heart That Matters, And: Satire Corner: Reader Wants To Replace ABQ Councilor 

On this the 13th anniversary of the notorious September 11 attacks we're writing to you just miles from where the Twin Towers once stood. New York City still deals with the lingering effects of the trauma which include serious health issues for the first responders. Of late, the NYPD--like APD--has been dealing with a new menace--a department culture that has led to some very high profile police brutality cases.

The difference between here and our city is the swiftness and forcefulness that the authorities are dealing with the matter. There will be no need for a Justice Department civil rights probe as there as in ABQ. The police commissioner is calling for a top to bottom retraining of the force. In recent years the number of fatal police shooting has plummeted (far fewer than ABQ) and now it's about the use of force in making arrests.

ABQ has dithered when it comes to cleaning up its backyard. Maybe the difference is that there is so much on the line here--a global reputation, a thriving business community and a culture that has high expectations.

Mayor Berry and assorted officials have been in Las Vegas, NV this week seeking ideas on APD reform.  A similar visit to New York might be in order.

HEAD NOT HEART

A UNM professor argues that when Gov. Martinez garnered 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2010, it was a vote of confidence in her polices. But was it that or largely a ratification of her ethnicity and her personal appeal? We think the latter. . .

The matter arose when video surfaced this week of Dem Guv candidate Gary King asserting that Martinez does not have a "Latino heart." Well, it's not what's in her heart, it's what's in her head.

The minimalist austerity government she has presided over and that has seen New Mexico continue to languish is set for another four year run--and with hardly any debate. Does the state want another four years of the same? Now that's a heartfelt query. . .

READY TO SERVE

Silvio Dell'Angela, a longtime community activist and severe critic of APD and ABQ Mayor Berry comes with a satirical take on the recent appointment of GOP ABQ City Councilor Brad Winter as the interim Superintendent of the ABQ Public Schools. Some excerpts:

Mayor Berry, In the event Brad resigns his seat, I am a volunteer to replace him.  Be assured that as a registered Republican, I will care only for my District 4 and no longer think or vote independently in the best interests of the citizens of the entire city. I will also continue his practice of sustaining every one of your vetoes of legislation passed by those five evil Democrats.

If appointed, I will abandon my efforts to reform APD and do whatever you wish while deeming my loyalty to the Republican Party as the sole basis for my decisions.  I will also support your and Mr. Perry’s efforts to discredit news sources like the Eye on Albuquerque, Joe Monahan, La Jicarita, the weekly ABQ Free Press and Alibi and other news sources where good APD officers and others dare to tell them what’s really going on downtown.

Further be assured that that I will also abandon my former friends/activists, those “rabble rousers” as an ABQ Journal columnist properly called them, who would dare hold protests demanding change. Again, please consider me seriously for the District 4 position should Councilor Winter choose to resign. You can be assured of my loyalty to you and the Republican Party.

Councilor Winter says he will not resign. His council term ends in December 2015. He is not expected to seek re-election.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What's Gary King Thinking? How He May Believe He Can Pull Off The Upset, Plus: A Readers' View: Building Up New Mexico; Not Leaving Her  

The political community is still absorbing the semi-shocker that Gov. Martinez has 25 times more cash on hand than Gary King--her $3.8 million to his $157,000--but the Democratic gubernatorial hopeful probably isn't shocked or even all that much worried. Candidates have a way of convincing themselves that no matter how gloomy things appear, in the end they will emerge to take the prize. Which leads to the question: Just what is going on in Gary King's head? For that we turn to the armchair psychologists and Alligators.

What's going on is this: King realizes he is far, far behind in the important money chase which finances the media message that sways the undecided voters, but in his mind the King name is so well known that he will only need a month of media or so to catapult him in the polls and start bringing Martinez down. His father Bruce was a three term Governor--the longest in state history--and Gary tells himself the goodwill from those years will be a major factor in enabling him to pull off the upset.

That's how King likely sees it, but it should be noted that Bruce was defeated in his effort to secure a fourth year term. As for the King legacy, there is one, but it is not universally known. King was defeated by Gary Johnson way back in 1994--20 years ago. Scores of voter have only a faint memory or none of the avuncular rancher known for his effective one-on-one campaigning.

King's thinking--at least what we believe to be his thinking--comes across as long shot thinking but this is now a long shot race. Former Governor Richardson and national labor unions held a fund-raiser for King (only $100 bucks  head?) and there will be more in the days ahead as King works to raise the October TV money. That's money he must have and that even he can't rationalize away.

BUILDING UP NM

NM native Michael Montoya, a corporate VP for a cybersecurity firm headquartered in Asia, is so dismayed with the outlook for his home state that he urged young people here to leave. We carried his thoughts on the blog and ABQ attorney Miguel Suazo comes with this counterpoint:

We need to stop calling for leadership and collectively start to show it. Political leaders are only a small segment of the leadership needed to change the fabric of our state. As a 10th generation New Mexican, I know that my ancestors made the life that they wanted by making, for example, their own soap, clothes, and raising and selling livestock. That time has past but that approach can still work. It is incumbent upon each generation to stop making excuses and make the life they want out of what’s available. 

At an event for Young Professionals in Energy New Mexico (YPE-NM), I heard from David Gonzales from Aztec. He's built a $200M company, Logos Resources, with hard work, risk, and discipline. He is not even 35. David understands that to make NM vibrant you have to look within and sacrifice in order to achieve. He hasn’t called for leadership he has shown it. He hasn’t looked at NM and said, “there’s no opportunity,” he’s created opportunity. He left but he returned and now he’s creating jobs. 

There’s nothing wrong with leaving but much wrong with forgetting. We should call upon those who are out of state but who still have ties here to give back. I encourage Mr. Montoya to help us. Maybe he could work with local universities to offer massive open online courses (MOOCs) in cybersecurity? On November 14 YPE-NM will be holding an energy issues roundtable. A component of this will be a panel on economic development opportunities for New Mexicans. I invite Mr. Montoya to participate.

What do you say, Mr. Montoya? You want in on this?

BANKING ON IT

Reader Laura Stokes writes of an interesting idea for New Mexico's forlorn economy--a public bank that would help stimulate business and jobs:

Joe, I am impressed more and more every day with your reporting of important actual news in the cities and state. I wish you had your own newspaper--bring back the Trib! In a recent column, you talk of investing in people. Well there is a  grassroots movement to do that by getting public banking in NM. There is a growing interest in this in the legislature and other organizations. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales is hosting a symposium in Santa Fe in September  27. Here is  the website for the event. which is titled "Banking on NM."

Thanks, Laura. NM may be hearing a lot more about this public banking concept to stimulate the economy here. It first took hold in North Dakota nearly a century ago.

WORD FROM A SPONSOR

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Dems Seem To Be Writing Off Guv Race But Laser-Focused On State House Battle, Plus: Don't Call It The "War Zone," And: Explaining "Hold Harmless"  

We low-balled it a wee bit with what Dem Guv hopeful Gary King would report in his latest finance report but it's still pathetic. He reports having $157,000 in cash compared to Gov. Martinez's $3.8 million. The Dems are doing a laydown on a race that was not completely out if reach, but it could soon be because of what appears to be a near total capitulation. . .

But organized labor and the Dems are serious as a heart attack when it comes to the threat of the Rs taking over the state House for the first time in over 60 years. Patriot  Majority, the super PAC that is helping the Dems lead the charge against the R's, reports having about $575,000 in cash on hand. That will likely be competitive with the R's super PAC.

All of the down ballot races appear to be in pretty good shape to go into the Dem column, according to the finance reports and historical election trends. . .

And why is the Bernalillo County Commission trying to put "nonbinding" measures on the already crowded November ballot? One would ask voters for their "opinion" on decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The other would ask their views on raising the gross receipts tax to fund mental health programs. What, did the commission forget that elections are for decisions--not polling?

Reader Lawrence Trujillo writes of the gubernatorial campaign:

The one TV spot that really infuriates me is the one in which former Taos Democratic Mayor Darren Cordova talks about how the Governor has helped northern New Mexico. The spot is filmed in Las Vegas and not Taos. The fact that the ad represents a former Mayor praising the Governor's record cannot be filmed in his own community shows the great lengths her campaign takes to continually mislead the people of our great state.

The Guv's campaign does not respond to our inquires so we'll take your word on the location. If we hear differently we'll let you know. This past March Cordova lost his mayoral re-election bid in a landslide. That same TV spot Trujillo cites also features a Martinez endorsement from the Democratic mayor of Las Vegas.

NOT A WAR ZONE

Stop calling the battered neighborhoods in the ABQ SE Heights "the war zone," Joe. That's the word from several readers who favor the nickname International District. including ABQ Dem State Rep. Mimi Stewart who represents the area:

I take umbrage with your statement in Friday's post: "the ever expanding SE Heights war zone." Nothing could be further from the truth. That area is our International District and the community organizing among many cultures is transforming our neighborhoods. The past year has been a celebration of our stories on Route 66, with LittleGlobe helping us set up little free libraries, a photo gallery, art sculptures, walkable trails, and music events. We have new green building senior housing and access to health services are expanding. Come visit at our annual International Festival on Sept. 27 at Vietnam Memorial Park.Keep up with the changing times, Joe!

Thanks, Mimi, but we think we are keeping up with the times by using the old nickname "war zone." Much of the area is seeing more deterioration, more crime and more empty buildings. True, there are many fine neighborhoods there, but ABQ can't paper over that large swaths of the SE Heights have become more dangerous and economically challenged since it became politically incorrect to say "war zone." But we'll try to be more international in our thinking. .

CHINESE IN SPACE

Did you know that Chinese citizens can't be among the space tourists using the NM Spaceport?

Now, well-to-do Chinese business people are lining up for one-hour voyages to the cosmos, and tour operators say China is set to become the world’s largest market for the incipient space tourism industry.

Already, more than 30 mainland Chinese have purchased or made down payments of 50 percent on tickets for journeys offered by XCOR Aerospace, a company based in Mojave, Calif., that plans to begin operating suborbital flights late next year. The tours went on sale in China in December, two years after the company began selling them elsewhere, and one in 10 of all bookings have been by Chinese citizens. After long delays caused by technical and safety issues, XCOR Aerospace and Virgin Galactic, founded by the British entrepreneur Richard Branson, say they are planning flights next year.

Because Virgin Galactic spacecraft are powered by rocket engines manufactured in the United States that use technology considered to have potential military applications, citizens from 22 countries, including China, are barred from traveling on them, the company has said. Virgin Galactic said it hoped that future United States government rulings would enable it to offer spaceflights to an expanded roster of nations.

HOLD HARMLESS

We've been talking about the tax hit cities and counties will soon take because of how the Governor and the Legislature approved a corporate income tax cut in 2013. Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts--an independent--is one of those speaking out against the tax package and so is Otero Dem County Commission candidate Stephanie DuBois:

Mayors, city councilors and county commissioners are now having to impose a "Hold Harmless tax" in order to make up for the shortfall that the legislature will no longer pay. The Governor's corporate tax cuts were really a tax on the people least able to afford it.

Our County Commission passed a a tax allowable under the rule and then tied it to a $20 million bond. The tax will garner about $1.7 million which will make the payment on the bond. The counties will still receive the legislative money until July of 2015  but will decrease as we get closer to the cut off date.

Most of the counties are in economic trouble with the exception of Dona Ana. In your piece you write that Susana thinks counties and cities can re-negotiate their budgets and avoid raising taxes. The budgets in most counties have already been cut to the bone while still being able to provide basic services that are mandated. The governor's plan to cut corporate taxes was in fact a tax on the rest of us while giving big corporations tax breaks. 

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Monday, September 08, 2014

The September Fizzle: King Still Cash Starved; Goes Dark On TV As Martinez Continues Hits, Plus Readers On The Tesla Tease, And: The Golfing President 

Gary King remains cash starved. He is expected to report today that at the end of August he had a cash balance hovering around $150,000--not nearly enough to get up on the airwaves in a sustained manner and sending message that his is a serious candidacy. (King reported Monday he had $157,000 in cash on hand.)

At the end of June King reported having only $116,000 in cash. Gov. Martinez reported having $4 million. She's expected today to report a similar end of August number.

The campaign is shaping up as one of the most financially mismatched contests in state gubernatorial history, rivaling the 2006 contest when Gov. Richardson trounced Republican John Dendahl.

Today's fund-raising report could turn out to be the major story of this campaign. It means it is possible that King will not be on TV in any significant way for the entire month of September. King has been dark since a brief ad run in August.

Absentee balloting begins in early October with early in-person voting starting October 18. As much as half the electorate can be expected to cast votes before the official Nov. 4 Election Day. That makes King's situation more urgent than it might have been in the days of minimal early voting.

King spent $500,000 of his own money in winning the Democratic Guv nod in June. He has since grown reticent about digging into his own wallet and fund-raising has not made up the slack. The race has always been tough for the Dems with Martinez seen as having a significant chance of re-election. That has hurt King's fund-raising. But a recent ABQ Journal poll that put Martinez at 50% and King at 41% gave Dems hope that some money would start to flow to King. It hasn't happened.

It was widely expected that King would gear up following the Labor Day holiday but in addition to being dark on TV he has not made much of a dent in the free media. He did get a break when the campaign conversation finally shifted to jobs--a key issue in the state--when Tesla rejected NM and chose Nevada for its giant battery factory. But Martinez--who is up on the air with two new ads--one positive about her and one negative on King--can easily switch the conversation back to where she wants by simply tapping her ample campaign coffers.

Politics can be fast moving in this modern era and never discount the possibility of an "October surprise" but with King tapped out this Governors race is in the midst of a "September Fizzle."

THE TESLA TEASE (CONT.)

Reader reaction continues to come in over the Great Tesla Tease. Jason Fejer writes:

We are at the bottom of nearly every list and every measurable category. New Mexico has lagged behind every other state in job growth and qualified workers are seeking opportunities in expanding markets in other states. This has much more to do with the deep seated social problems and lack of leadership than organized labor. . An educated and qualified work force is a much higher priority to attracting Tesla than "right to work" laws. So Tesla might consider unions a risk factor but there are much higher priorities that need to be addressed. By focusing on a smoke screen, wedge issue like organized labor, the real issues get ignored.

From Santa Fe, Gretchen writes:

What is of concern is how ineffective any administration has been in improving the economy and general welfare of the state. It seems like most in a position of power are more interested in preening their feathers and pacifying the pockets that got them to where they are rather than addressing the long-standing problems. And there are many who seem content to just ride it out at the bottom and say “that’s just the way things work in NM.” 

Territorial Governor Lew Wallace’s observation about what works elsewhere not working in NM is still so painfully true even after over 130 years, and I have to wonder if there are those that would rather perpetuate that idea instead of changing it. Being insular is almost an honorable way for some. That is a huge root of our problems here in NM.

Well said, readers. . . .

CORWIN ON DOWNS

A federal jury last week found former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, guilty of public corruption. They await sentencing in January. The case brought out NM private investigator Michael Corwin who for a time ran the Independent Source PAC which was highly critical of Governor Martinez and her administration's controversial handling of a lucrative racino lease for the Downs at ABQ. It's a lease that has has drawn the attention of FBI investigators. Here's Corwin:

For almost three years the New Mexico US Attorney's office has been aware of issues surrounding the  racino lease for the Downs at Albuquerque. Unlike in Virginia, Susana Martinez and her administration engaged in dozens of "official acts" whose sole purpose was to ensure that the Downs was awarded the contract. Internal communications came to light showing a member of the Downs bidding team violating the RFP by communicating directly with members of state government in a way that defines collusion. Members of the Downs bidding team also gave large amounts of money to Martinez, more so than was involved in the Virginia corruption, and intentionally concealed their identity thereby making it difficult to trace the source of the funds given to Martinez

Seemingly, that is where the parallels end. Word of the FBI conducting an investigation trickled out, but no subpoenas, search warrants, or grand jury summonses seem to have been issued by the New Mexico US Attorney's office--an office previously known for convening grand juries to investigate Martinez's predecessor. So does the prosecution and conviction of Governor McDonnell create a new dynamic? After all, the federal government is supposed to treat all public corruption the same. 

THE GOLFING PRESIDENT

A Senior Alligator who purports to have a keen sense of humor comes with this on President Obama. You be the judge:

Who says the President has no strategy for ISIS?  “Joe, on the 8th hole at Congressional Country Club—the Blue Course (of course)—the President will tee off with the 3 wood rather than the driver. It’s a short 354 yard hole so he is hoping to hit his 3 wood 200 yards or so which will leave him with a smooth 8 iron shot of about 150 yards. That should give him every opportunity to go for the birdie putt if the hole location is back and left.” There’s the strategy laid out for the American people.

Hmm. We're only going to give that one a five out of ten on our rib tickler scale. Maybe because it reminds us of how our own golf game has gone down hill. . . .

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Friday, September 05, 2014

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor 

What world is this fella talking about?:

We appreciated the opportunity to pitch Albuquerque to Tesla," said Gilbert Montano, the city's deputy chief administrative officer. "We wish them well with their future endeavors. We put together a world-class proposal and believe we're a world-class city.

A runaway freight train of a police department, a no-growth, jobless economy, a violent streak that would freak out Wyatt Earp and an education system that scares away anyone with the initials "CEO" in front of their name. And don't forget our lovely downtown and ever expanding SE Heights War Zone. That's "world-class?"  Sounds like City Hall is enjoying some "world-class" psychedelics. . .

You would need some mind-altering substance to find anything of much interest thus far in the 2014 Guv campaign. It's so colorless it would turn an LSD trip black and white. Here's journalist Sherry Robinson with the monochrome reality:

Instead of displaying any cleverness, the Martinez campaign is spending its cash on lackluster ads like the one where she claims she balanced the budget and "sold the state's luxury jet." The Legislature balances the budget, and sale of the jet had no practical impact on budget balancing. And she's still campaigning against former Gov. Bill Richardson, who wasn't running in 2010 when she first trotted out those slogans. He's still not running.  King's latest ad attempts to strum the heart strings with a reference to his well known parents before making a muddled attack on Martinez's education policies and the economy.

You want cleverness and imagination, Sherry? We've got some tickets to David Copperfield for you. We urge you to use them when the TV spots hit in which the candidates accuse each other of being overweight. . .

SPACING OUT

The NM Spaceport was another big economic development idea for the state and unlike Tesla it became reality. So far, it has not lived up to its promise but this Alligator has a reason not to give up on it:

Land Rover launched their new 2015 vehicle at the New Mexico Spaceport and they feature the Spaceport prominently in their advertising. This is the part of the value-added proposition of big ideas like the Spaceport. Folks need to keep this in mind as we look at economic development in the state of New Mexico. Big ideas like the Spaceport don’t always stand alone, they can spin off other ideas and projects that can bring attention to the state. The vast stretches of land around the Spaceport may seem desolate to some, but to others they speak of opportunity and that’s what New Mexico needs to capitalize on. Here’s the link to the ad.

Thanks for checking in here this week.

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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Polling Has Pearce Sitting High On His Perch; Reps Grisham And Lujan Coasting, Plus: The Great Tesla Tease Ends Predictably; Blaming Susana Or Not 

Steve Pearce is going to be difficult to knock off his congressional perch. That's no surprise but the stiffness of the challenge the Dems face in unseating the southern NM Republican may be an eye-opener. Insider polling--not affiliated with the Pearce campaign or that of his Democratic opponent Rocky Lara--shows Pearce hovering around the 60% mark in his match-up with Lara, an attorney and former Eddy County Commissioner.

The national Dems have pounded the table over Lara arguing that a Hispanic candidate is poised to take back the conservative leaning district. They've helped raise a boatload of cash for Lara who at last report had nearly a million dollars. However, over the summer she did no media and gained no ground on Pearce.

A consultant familiar with the race says Lara should start climbing once her media campaign kicks in, but being so far out means the Dems are now looking for a close call on Pearce and the hope that Lara could come back in '16 and take him out in the high turnout presidential year.  That same consultant says voters in the district who have been polled may not realize Lara is Hispanic and once they do she will benefit.

That Lara is getting all the attention from DC Dems has not gone without grumbling. The argument being that national Dems were quick to write off Dem Gary King in his battle against GOP Governor Susana Martinez, but now you have Pearce polling at 60% and Martinez at 50%. Why not send some cash King's way and see if he can get the incumbent down to 49% and the Dem juices flowing?

For Lara election night will be a nail-biter, but not in the traditional sense. She will be anxiously waiting to see if she can keep Pearce's victory in single digits. If she can't, there may be no second chance.

Real Clear Politics recently went in-depth on the Pearce-Lara match-up.

IN THE HOUSE

We've seen no polling on the other two NM US House seats. That's because incumbent ABQ Dem Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and northern Dem Rep. Ben Ray Lujan are not receiving serious challenges.

One of the biggest political events in our 40 years of covering New Mexican politics has been seeing the ABQ congressional seat no longer defined as a "swing" seat. It is now seen as lean Dem or even safe Dem.

The R's held the seat exclusively from 1969 until Martin Heinrich took it from them in 2008. He went to the US Senate in 2012 and Grisham took his congressional spot, garnering just over 59% of the vote. In the lower turnout year of 2014, she will be pressed to repeat that performance, but a double digit win is easily in her sights. Engineer Mike Frese is her foe, but getting no national support. He is, however, a happy warrior, coming with a 60 second spot that pokes fun at the spelling of his last name.

As for the North, nothing much has changed there in the past 40 years. The Lujan seat is labeled "safe Dem" without hesitation. He took the seat in 2008 when Tom Udall left it for the US Senate. In 2012, Lujan scored a 63% victory. In the nonpresidential year of 2010 he commanded 57%. In '14 his win can be expected to equal that 2010 number. His foe this cycle is rancher Jefferson Byrd who also ran against Lujan in 2012.

JOB APPLICANTS

The NM Business Coalition did its candidate "job interviews" with the contenders for secretary of state, auditor and land commissioner at a forum recently in Santa Fe. You can see video of the event here.

THE TESLA TEASE

The Great Tesla Tease is over for New Mexico. There will no second date. Nevada gets the girl--or in this case the coveted battery "gigafactory." It will be remembered as a bizarre adventure, with the electric car maker essentially trying to blackmail five states--including ours--into offering incentives bordering on the ludicrous. The 6,500 good-paying jobs were more than enough to make the politicos drool and start opening the cookie jar. The price tag for the incentives (corporate welfare?) was officially set at $500 million but could end up well north of that mark.

Are there political ramifications for Gov. Martinez in not attracting Tesla? Gary King did put out a news release blaming the loss for her "failure of leadership." Well, it was always a very long shot--as repeatedly noted by our Senior Alligators--but the business press played it more seriously than it deserved so some will be genuinely disappointed that Tesla ditched us in favor of Harry Reid's Nevada.

The Governor is definitely vulnerable on jobs and business conditions--if her opposition would package it--but Tesla is a ripple in a much larger pond of stagnating water that is today's NM economy.

Hasta la Vista, Tesla. Nice meeting you, but gold-diggers really are better off in the Silver State.

ALLIGATORS ARISE

The Tesla decision brought forth the Alligators, their jaws snapping at the latest offering of red meat One of the Senior Gators (at least 20 years experience in La Politica; minimum age of 45 and a reliable source for exclusive political news) thrashed about and came with this:

It's time for the state to get serious about the challenges we face and stop heading off on one fool's errand after another, like the latest Tesla fiasco. Our leadership class--both Republican and Democratic--needs to either try a different approach , or they need to go. New Mexico cannot endure their collective failures much longer.

An Alligator of the Dem variety says Martinez owns the Tesla loss:

The Governor got out of the Tesla project what she put in--nothing. The Governor failed to mobilize a team of community leaders, agencies, elected officials as other states did to bid for the deal. Her "my way or the highway" approach and inability to get along with anyone who is not completely on her side is what's going to make this loss stick to her. Her economic development secretary lacks the sophistication and knowledge to drive a deal like this. She and her administration own this loss. We are playing single A ball and the rest of the states are playing in the major leagues. She can continue to pick on Bill Richardson but at least he had the gravitas and knowledge to understand that you don't approach a deal as big as this one as a solo effort. Remember when it was Richardson and Domenici that introduced the New Mexico partnership? That's called bipartisanship, Governor. 

Feel feel to email us your take on the events of our time, or thoughts about your restless, existential angst that has yet to be resolved.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Why Are They Leaving? Thoughts From One Who Has, Plus: Handicapping The House; GOP Takeover Could Be Thwarted In ABQ; Cruces Is Dem Challenge; Uncertainty Still Abounds 

How in the name of Heaven can a town that is 58% Republican not have a Republican mayor? Well, it can happen as we found Tuesday when we erred in blogging that Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts is an R. Actually, he is a former Democrat and now an independent. We had bum info that he was an R and it shaded our analysis of Roberts' disagreement with the GOP Governor who he disagrees with on tax policy. Turns out the political implications of Roberts' split with Susana were not as meaningful as we first thought, but still an important bellwether of what's to come. Roberts probably didn't mind being thrown in with what is the majority party in Farmington. Not that he needs much help. He was re-elected this year with a stunning 84% of the vote. . .

Why are they leaving? We mean the many educated professionals embarking for greener pastures outside of New Mexico? NM native Michael Montoya is an international businessman, the VP  for a California-based cybersecurity firm in Asia. He's one of those who left. Let's give him the floor:

We can debate a number of observations across the tax code, education, security, economic disparity that are hindering New Mexico. Truth is, it is all about leadership, and New Mexico lacks leadership, which is why the state is at the bottom of this economic recovery. . . I was concerned that New Mexico did not have enough [of a] private sector to provide me the opportunities to develop my skills and support my personal growth. My goals were to enrich my skills across global economies, and there didn’t seem to be any growth [opportunities] for me in the state.

It seems the prevailing wisdom [in New Mexico] is to manage a budget. Smart budgeting is definitely a good operating principle, but not a vision. . . The growth in Denver, Dallas and Phoenix isn’t matched in Albuquerque. {Those cities} seem to be emerging with industry, talent and resources to support entrepreneurship. Their airports are filled with many flights and they are all importing talent. In New Mexico, I struggle to get a simple flight from San Francisco. How can a location attract talent and industry when access is a challenge?  With a lack of opportunity for our young, talented people to achieve personal greatness and growth, the only opportunity will be for them to look elsewhere.

Political operative and PR pro Chris Cervini caused a bit of a stir when he authored a pointed missive on why he was leaving the state. He checks in with reaction to Dem Senator Martin Heinrich's decision to support a constitutional amendment that would allow the stat to use a portion of the $14 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund on very early childhood education:

Enough can't be said about Heinrich's early childhood speech. It's a big deal. And to do it in front of a business group (the ABQ Chamber of Commerce) is impressive. All across the country--Republicans and Democrats and business are making investments in early education. Yet in New Mexico, we've hemmed and hawed for a decade, nibbling at the edges. We need to fundamentally rethink how we do everything and it seems like Heinrich gets it.

Another reader joins in with this on Gov. Martinez touting job creation on the border:

There she goes again. Susana credits her shrinking state government for the good economic news down  at Santa Teresa. Guess what? The Union Pacific Railroad made a business decision at least 10 years ago to deal with major congestion problems in El Paso by consolidating operations in the New Mexico desert. Credit that decision for the current boom at the Santa Teresa industrial parks. And the tax break that made it happen? It was the Legislature and Gov. Bill Richardson who in 2007 first approved the crucial fuel-tax deduction the railroad wanted. The recession stalled the project, and a sunset clause repealed the deduction, so the Legislature passed it a second time when UP was ready to go. That's when Martinez signed on and began taking credit for a coincidence of big business and geography well beyond her control. . . 

Well, she wouldn't be a politician if she didn't try to take credit. We should add that former Dem US Senator Jeff Bingaman also had a major role in the Santa Teresa project.

HOUSE HANDICAPPING

Let's get back on some critical state House races as the R's try for an historic takeover of the 70 member chamber in the Nov. election.

Alligators, insiders, wall-leaners and wannabes inform that the Dems chances of keeping the seats of Dem State Reps Emily Kane and Liz Thomson in their corner are looking up. However, down in Las Cruces they fret over the possibility of losing two seats--one held by Dem Nate Cote who is retiring and Rep. Phil Archuleta who is being challenged by Republican and former Rep. Andy Nunez. Republican Rick Little is favored to win the Cote seat which he held before Cote ousted him in '12.

The House currently has 37 Dems and 33 R's. State Rep. Vickie Perea is quite likely to lose the seat she was appointed to so call it 38 to 32 as we join the battle. That means the R's will have to pick up 4 seats for outright control, a long-odds proposition say the chattering classes at the Roundhouse. They say a good GOP night would be a pick up of two seats, making the House 36 Dems and 34 R's. Then the fun would begin. Could the GOP pick off a couple of Dems to form a coalition that would control the House? What promises would they make to get those votes? Could Dem Speaker Martinez use his gavel power to keep his D's in line? There are so many angles on this one you could keep the Bull Ring open all night and still not finish. . .

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