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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Who Will Bust The APD Bunker? Latest APD Implosion Gives Mayoral Candidates Wider Berth To Advocate Reforms; Chief Eden Blames Entirety Of Crime Wave On Judges: APD Uses Facebook To Attack Critics 

Berry and Eden
The latest implosion of ABQ Police Chief Gorden Eden and his troubled department should give the Democratic mayoral candidates a wider berth in calling for sweeping reform of the troubled agency including Eden's removal, and perhaps give pause to the GOP contenders who have been more cautious in advocating for an APD revamping.

Eden, in what appears to be a give-up in his final months in office, is now putting complete blame for the city's crime epidemic on area judges and absolving himself of any responsibility. Here's the astounding quote that for Eden could come to define his career:

I know it sounds like I’m blaming it all on the judges,” he said about crime in the city, because I am.”

You wonder how the judges who like to throw the book at the criminal set feel about that blanket statement? And talk about immaturity. We've seen two year olds take more responsibility for their actions than this in-over-his-head police chief.

This comes three years after Eden was named by Mayor Berry to heal the agency and reverse the stats that have propelled the city to its standing as one of the worst places for crime in the USA. But it hasn't happened. It's reported this week that from 2009 to 2015 ABQ's violent crime rate leapt 21.5 percent. That puts us at the fifth most violent in the nation on a per capita basis.

And don't forget the city's newfound stature as the auto theft capital of the country. Let's hear it for the Chief (and mayor) from NAIOP, the Economic Forum, the ABQ Chamber of Commerce and our nine forlorn and forgotten city councilors. He couldn't have done it without them.

Even as Eden swept away any blame for the crime wave from his own doorstep and while APD was using Facebook to attack the media for many of its woes, the cultural rot and corruption continued to play out in lurid headlines.

Most damning of them all continues to be the unshakable Reynaldo Chavez, the former APD records manager, whose allegations that APD altered or deleted police lapel camera video in criminal cases is the subject of a wrongful firing lawsuit he has filed in state court:

Chavez is suing the APD for wrongful termination. He said APD fired him for not going along with the alleged cover-ups. Chavez was in court Tuesday to prove to a judge APD wiped out his city-issued cell phone, computer and hard drive after firing him. He believes APD tried to destroy any evidence he has that may implicate his former employer and he believes the court should sanction APD.

The ongoing cultural rot at APD is another Eden legacy. The latest:

A 10-year veteran officer of the Albuquerque Police Department is under fire for what he did while working a chief’s overtime job at a Walmart, lying about it, and also having an affair with a supervisor at the city’s Real Time Crime Center. The case against Richard Whitten began last summer when Whitten’s then-wife sent an email directly to Police Chief Gorden Eden. The wife lamented about the department’s handling of rampant extra-marital affairs, and said her husband was cheating on her with a supervisor at the RTCC.

It was former APD Chief Schultz who brushed aside APD extramarital affairs as "nature at play." Eden has been unable or unwilling to reverse the anything goes culture that now has the department shunned by prospective recruits and that has kept it dramatically and dangerously understaffed.

One bright spot for the outgoing chief is the drop in the number of fatal police shootings. That's happened since the Justice Department came to town and ordered police reforms.

But the bunker mentality so revealingly displayed in the Facebook controversy and the continuing testimony of Reynaldo Chavez shows no sign of abating. True to form Mayor Berry deferred a media inquiry on the latest APD blow-up to an APD staffer.

It will be up to the new Mayor who will take office December 1 to regain control of the city's police department and curb the crime wave that has so marred the quality of life here and hampered economic development. According to local experts, that will mean a new chief, a new upper command structure and a new approach to recruitment as well as community policing.

Eden, who built a reputation in state and federal government as an able bureaucrat, was outmatched by this crisis. His eruptions of rage and finger-pointing can be attributed to the frustration he must feel over his failures. But that's Eden's personal hell, even if it will be softened by a nice retirement check.

Our city's future is at stake and the mayoral candidates must now present a platform of substantial change that will begin doing the job that Chief Eden and Mayor Berry could not do.

YET AGAIN

Not again! Yes, yet another development that you thought you would never see in once on-the-go New Mexico:

The employment rate for New Mexicans of prime working age has seen the biggest drop in the nation since 2007, according to a new study. The Pew Research Center study looks at the change in employment among 25- to 54-year-olds between 2007 and 2016. It shows the decline in New Mexico amounted to 7.2 percentage points: from 79.1 percent employed in that age group in 2007 to 72 percent in 2016. That means for every 100 New Mexicans in the age group, about seven fewer held jobs by the end of 2016.

The economic transformation of New Mexico is the biggest story of the century. It permeates all others, including crime, stagnant population, poverty and education. And it's going to get bigger before this incredible era finally comes to a close.

OLD DEMS

About the Bernalillo County Democratic Party, an Alligator of the Senior variety opines:

The Bernalillo County Democratic Party had a record turnout at it's meeting on April 8. At that time they elected a Chair and Vice-Chair -- the Chair is 68 and the VC is 72, both Anglos. The committee chairpersons that the chair has now appointed are all over 60 (and mostly 65) and all Anglos. How does this reflect the future of the Democratic Party or even the Present face of NM or the country? is this because no one stepped up from a younger generation, no one cared, no one was recruited to run? How does this cast characters, all well intentioned, passionate folks, attract a new, younger, diverse group of folks to the Democratic party?

Come on. Everyone knows 65 is the new 45.

NY AND NM

Reader Robert Palacioz sends this one:

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced 3-K for All, the most ambitious effort in U.S. history to provide universal, free, full-day, high-quality early childhood education for every three-year-old child regardless of family income. 

3-K for All will build on the success of Pre-K for All - through which New York City has more than tripled the number of four-year-olds enrolled in free, full-day, high-quality Pre-K - and is part of a broader effort to create a continuum of high-quality early care and education programs for New York City children from birth to five years old. Research has found every dollar invested in high-quality early education saves taxpayers as much as $13 long-term.

Well, there you go. Another dumb idea from New York City to pull New Mexico out of the cellar in the education and child well-being rankings. Everyone knows we have much better uses for that more than $15 billion stashed away in the state's Land Grant Permanent School Fund. Those New Yorkers are really something, aren't they?. . .

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

National Pundits Weighing In On NM Guv Race As Another Candidate Announcement Nears And In The War Room With PED And APS  

Jeff Apodaca
The national pundits are starting to take their first look at next year's gubernatorial races and not unexpectedly one of them--"Inside Elections"--ranks New Mexico as lean Democrat":

Democrats believe this is one of their best pickup opportunities anywhere in the country. Republicans recently lost the state Legislature, Clinton carried the state easily, and the state economy has been struggling.

It appears Jeff Apodaca, ABQ businessman and son of former Gov. Jerry Apodaca, will be the next hopeful to jump in. He is excepted to formally announce his candidacy for the Dem nomination in early May. Apodaca is known as a centrist but he has hired political consultant Alan Packman who has handled mostly progressive Dems.

Las Cruces Dem state Senator Joe Cervantes has said he is running but has yet to formally announce. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced last year.

We don't see AG Balderas or Santa Fe Mayor Gonzales as highly likely to get in the Dem Guv race but if Gonzales wins his battle to impose a soda tax at a May election, he may be encouraged to make a go of it.

Supporters of NM Dem Party Chair Debra Haaland are saying she would be the first Native American woman elected to the US House of Representatives, if she were to succeed Grisham in the ABQ congressional seat next year. Haaland's term as chair ends in a matter of days and soon after she is expected to make her congressional candidacy official.

In the campaign for ABQ mayor, backers of Republican businessman Ricardo Chaves are expressing a high level of confidence that he will qualify for the Oct. 3 ballot by submitting 3,000 petition signatures from registered city voters. Friday is the last day to turn in the signatures to the city clerk. If Chaves, 80, does make the ballot he may be the oldest candidate for mayor or city council to ever do so. He has salted his late-starting campaign kitty with $300,000 of personal funds.

WAR ROOM

In the ongoing war between the state Public Education Department (PED) and ABQ Public Schools, PED claims:

APS schools are not producing results. Compared to other schools, APS’ graduation rate is below average while our state is at an all-time high; their school grades are dropping while the rest of the state increases; and students are at a lower achievement while statewide more students are on grade level in reading, math and science.

APS administrator Kizito Wijenje responds:

While APS works diligently to increase the achievement rates of all its 85,000 students, one has to understand that the APS school and student portfolio ranges widely and across the entire microcosm of the NM socio-economical spectrum. APS achievement rates are taken as an average of the whole (as they should be). However, comparing this average to school districts (Los Alamos, Rio Rancho, et al) that do not have the diversity of the Albuquerque area is simplistic and deceptive. 

APS also provides a variety of services for special ed students. 53% of the highest need students are served in APS, which has 29% of all the students in the state. New Mexicans statewide rely on and take advantage of by moving their needy students here.APS does this within its allocated budget and with no special dispensation from the state

SANTA FE SCENE

From a reader email on your government at work. Or not:

Good afternoon, Due to budgetary concerns, the 1st Annual State Purchasing Conference is being postponed. We apologize for the inconvenience. We look forward to rescheduling this important conference at a future date. Thank you for your understanding. Regards, Lawrence Maxwell, State Purchasing Agent

Reader Alan Schwartz writes:

Joe, I don't know if you have noticed but the online version of the ABQ Journal no longer appears to allow reader comments on articles or opinion pages.

We have noticed that, Alan, and often found incisive reader comments on the news articles. Was it cost savings or some other reason for dropping the comment boards that have been a staple for years? We'll let you know what we hear.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Watching For Cracks In House GOP Caucus As Budget Battle Continues, Susana Sustains Political Damage Over Higher Ed Funding Veto, Fake News Alert On State Budget And Rich Says He Is In GOP Senate Race To Stay 

She's hoisted on her own petard now and the Democrats watch and wait for signs that more Republicans will start to flee this governorship, finally leading to a budget deal.

Martinez's veto of the entire state higher education budget is being widely condemned across the state and becoming a defining chapter of her tenure. Former GOP Governor and current NMSU president Garrey Carruthers is, in fact, leading the charge against Martinez's action. The Governor's veto was a political miscalculation of the highest order and combined with her infamous holiday pizza party may very well comprise the bulk of her dour legacy.

State Senate Ds and R's are, for the most part, united in their abandonment of Martinez and agree to a budget deal that includes some tax hikes. It is a radicalized Republican segment of the state House that is hanging tough and refusing to bargain. We say "radicalized" because of their belief that taxes should never, ever be raised--under any circumstance. And if any of the radical R's take umbrage with that definition, we welcome their explanation as to where and when they would vote to increase revenues for the state.

POLITICAL DAMAGE

The political damage being done by their stance and that of the Governor is now palpable. A plunge in her approval rating into the 30's (she's currently at 43%) is a reasonable assumption. Ironically, that would place her where her predecessor Democrat Bill Richardson finished and made possible her 2010 gubernatorial victory and a brief GOP run as the majority party in the state House. Now they are giving it all back.

The radical R's are mainly in safe districts subject to political pain only if they receive primary challenges. An exception is their putative leader--ABQ Rep. Nate Gentry--whose ABQ NE Heights district grows more Blue by the month. If there is to be a big crack in the dam preventing the state from having a budget, it could finally be him wielding the jackhammer behind the scenes.

FEW TAKERS

With the Republican governorship tottering the value of the 2018 Democratic Guv nomination continues to increase, but there don't seem to be many takers. You would think at least a half dozen credible candidates would already be lined up or rumored to be preparing to dive in. So why aren't they? Probably because of the immense amount of cash it takes to run these days. A primary costing upwards of $2 million keeps many wannabe Governors on the sidelines. And then there's the problem of governing this place, faced with limited resources as far as the eye can see and social and economic problems that continue to intensify year after year.

Will an independent business type with plenty of personal wealth be enticed into the race? The ground is fertile for such a play, given the gloomy condition of the state and its politics. Donald Trump did it. Gary Johnson did it here in '94.

FAKE NEWS

Meantime, the Martinez administration seems engaged in its own version of "fake news" as it argues that the current budget year--which ends June 30--is in dire straits and that the Governor may have to furlough state workers to make ends meet. But the real news says:

A revenue forecast for the state indicates that Gov. Martinez is wrong about the need for employee furloughs or a hiring freeze to balance spending for the remaining two months of the fiscal year, according to a top university economist. The budget tracking report from the Legislative Finance Committee indicates “revenues continue to appear on track or exceed expectations from the December forecast.” It projects that the state general fund will close out the 2017 fiscal year at $54 million, or 1 percent, above expectations.

And even more on the busy Susana beat. . .

It was a bizarre sometimes contentious, sometimes even rowdy 27 minute news conference by Gov. Martinez in Taos last Tuesday called to explain her budget vetoes. Often it was upset citizens playing the role of reporters and challenging Martinez before an aide returned the event to the reporters. How did Martinez do? Audio is here.

SANCHEZ VS. RICH VS. HEINRICH?

Mick Rich 
If Lt. Gov. John Sanchez enters the GOP race for US Senate he'll have company. So says ABQ contractor Mick Rich who has been on the campaign trail for a year and tells us he is not about to get off it if Sanchez joins the fray. Rich shoots down speculation that he would withdraw from the Senate race if Sanchez gets in and instead seek the GOP Guv nomination:

I set my sights on the Senate race a while ago. . . I am on schedule and on budget and it's looking good to me. I am running for the Senate. If Martin Heinrich was doing his job and helping hard working New Mexicans, I wouldn't be doing this. If I thought there was somebody better than me I would be on their team, but there isn't. . .The Governor's race is not my race...

Rich also took this passive-aggressive stance on the Lt. Governor:

I think the ABQ congressional race would be a great spot for John. He is well-established in ABQ and I think he would do well there. My only business is to represent the state of of New Mexico as a US Senator.

The ABQ US House seat is being vacated by Dem. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham who is running for Governor.

As we reported recently Sanchez is attacking Dem Senator Martin Heinrich publicly and appears poised to get in the Senate contest. Meanwhile, Heinrich has  $2.5 million in the bank in anticipation of an '18 clash. Rich says he has about $200,000 in cash on hand.

This Heinrich supporter says he welcomes a Sanchez Senate bid:

Joe, I am elated to hear that Lt. Gov. John Sanchez from the failed Martinez/Sanchez administration is contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate. I believe that he is a grossly over rated politico because Big Bill wiped the floor with him by nearly 80,000 votes in 2002 when John ran against Bill for Governor. Plus, as you mentioned, Sanchez was forced to dropout of the 2012 U.S. Senate Republican primary. Sen. Heinrich plays hardball politics. Just remember how he ran for the US House and destroyed Darren White and did the same in his Senate run against Heather Wilson. As Sen. Heinrich salivates I say, Run John run!

Back on the congressional seat, former US Attorney Damon Martinez is a new name floating as a possible for a run at the Dem nomination.

THE BOTTOM LINES

We comment on the  budget mess in Santa Fe for Dateline New Mexico and host Tom Trowbridge. The program runs four minutes.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Another Edition Of Vox Populi; Readers Opine On Lack Of Leadership, Mayor's Race And Racist Politics  

Time for another edition of reader Vox Populi where our very informed readers opine on the issues of the day in our beloved Land of Enchantment.

Martinez administration critic Michael Corwin writes with his latest thoughts:

New Mexico lacks leaders and that's the main reason for the dire straights that we are in. At a time when so many other states have managed to not just come out of the Great Recession, but to thrive, we are plummeting to depths never seen.

APS middle school athletics being cut and the number of instruction days being reduced are among detrimental actions to our kids that are now very real possibilities. Yet, no one is challenging how Susana Martinez and Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera have redistributed the way education dollars are spent, siphoning money from school districts to be handed out by PED to entities with connections to Skandera. 

Although always partisan, the ABQ Journal used to take seriously its role of holding public officials accountable. But no more. It has devolved into nothing more than providing cover for Martinez no matter how wrong her actions. The business community, which is supposed to be pushing for a better economy, are lap dogs only.

The Democrats. How many regular New Mexicans can identify by name our Democratic elected officials? Who among them regularly takes their message straight to the public? And where are the ideas? The Republicans. Who among them in the state House voted to override Martinez's veto of teacher sick leave? Staying in office has become the goal, when what we need are those in office using the office to make New Mexico better. The bottom line is that New Mexico needs true leaders. Ones willing to speak out for what is best for our state and our future. We're waiting

HULU DEBATE

Mayoral candidate Brian Colón slammed the Berry administration for losing out when tech giant Hulu chose San Antonio over ABQ for a customer service center. An anonymous reader responded:

Brian Colón may think he's taking a stand by poking the Berry Administration over the loss of the Hulu call center to San Antonio, but what he actually did was admit that he supports the tired old strategy of attracting more call centers as an economic development plan for our City. Those low-benefit, low-paying jobs have never advanced New Mexico's economy as promised. The corporations running those call centers look for the cheapest place to do business and will pack up and move away from your town the moment it gets expensive for them. Hey, Brian, will you grow a spine and fire the city's failed economic development salesman, Gary Oppedahl, when you're mayor or will you sit down with him for tea and cookies like you plan to do with APD Chief Gorden Eden?

This mayoral race is going to be a lot of fun, no?

GUV AND PREZ

Reader Levi Fetty writes of something he's watching when it comes to the '18 Guv race:

I wouldn't count out a wealthy Republican candidate announcing their candidacy for Governor of New Mexico. He or she may look at the Dem front-runner and decide the monies raised to date by Rep. Lujan Grisham are paltry in comparison to their own personal wealth.

Reader Jamie Estrada sends this newspaper clip where former NM Gov. Bill Richardson is said to have his nose under the tent in New Hampshire when it comes to the 2020 presidential race. Not that he's running, but. . .

Democratic State Senator Lou D’Allesandroro said he has also been in contact with former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who ran for president in 2008.


RACIAL POLITICS

We published a reader comment April 13 that argued the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Dem Rep, Michelle Lujan Grisham would best be served by "a person of color." It came in response to the entry into the race of Dem ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis and brought vigorous push back, including from longtime Dem Fred Moran:

Geez Joe, The references to race and gender in that piece is just amazing. No less than 6-7 times in the first paragraph was "person of color" or "woman" touted as the ideal candidate for the CD1 congressional seat being vacated by Michelle Lujan Grisham. These terms have become buzz words in the State's Democratic Party. So now lets throw "progressive" into the mix and run it up the flag pole. In my honest opinion, if you voted for Hillary in the primary, you are neoliberal not progressive.

Since when do Americans choose their leaders based on gender or race? I thought that by now we would have, as a political party, matured and stopped baiting those demographics. We should choose candidates based on their qualifications for the position period. Have we learned nothing from 2016?

And former Dem State Rep. Bob Perls chimed in:

Joe, I found the e-mail you posted regarding CD-1 to be not only offensive, but so wrong on so many levels. The reader seems to believe that a white male is inherently unable to represent CD-1. I don’t know Pat Davis and this is not about him, this is about racist politics in its worst form. How about we nominate and elect a smart, honest person who grew up and spent most of their life in the Albuquerque area? Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell are so hyper-partisan that they have come to be the poster children for all that is wrong in DC. And we are supposed to nominate a person who will fit in with and be a supplicant for Nancy Pelosi? How did that work out for all the Bernie supporters? The Democratic Party is for diversity only when it suits leadership’s needs. They are about power, not equal representation. Same goes for the Republican Party.

How about a really thoughtful, independent-minded New Mexican who will simply do the right thing all the time for all of New Mexico? Being mired in partisan politics in DC seems to make that all but impossible. That is what progressives and all New Mexicans should be fighting for. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Some PR Tips For APS As They Battle With Guv Over Education Cuts And Our Report On Damron Eyeing UNM Presidency Is Confirmed 

If the ABQ Public Schools want to prevail in its bitter political battle with the Martinez administration over school funding, it might want to head to the sacrificial altar. That's the takeaway after an extensive viewing of social media and conversations with political observers.

In the wake of the controversial decision by APS that all middle school sports will be eliminated in anticipation of state budget cuts that would take effect July 1, both sides have been pedaling fast to win the public opinion battle. APS points to Gov. Martinez and her fervor for budget cutting--and zero revenue enhancement--that is causing the funding crisis. The Governor and her education department take the populist route and decry high APS administrator salaries and the money spent on lobbying and PR.

APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy says administrators who are paid six figures have already taken a hit:

For starters, there was a furlough day for executive management in January, a hiring freeze for non-school personnel, and a close review of all administrative funding. 

But that doesn't seem to be enough to quiet the populist outcry and keep the attention squarely on Martinez and her budget cutting. Comments like these from Howard Glen Martinez on Facebook are widespread:

35 administrators make $100,000.00 or more a year which adds up to more than $4,000,000.00 a year. APS is very top heavy. The only person who should be making this kind of money is the APS Superintendent.

If Reedy wants to keep the focus on where it needs to be--the Governor and Legislature adequately funding public schools--she may want to consider these steps:

--A one year 10 percent salary cut for those making over six figures
--A similar cut in the lobbying and legal affairs budgets
--A pledge to reduce the number of administrators from 35
--A 10 percent cut in Reedy's own $240,000 salary and a challenge to the Governor and her staff to do the same.

The cuts would be symbolic, saving only several hundred thousand in a budget Reedy says could be as much as $29 million short when the Legislature finalizes the numbers at a soon-to-be called special session.

But the symbolic cuts would mean real pain for the highly paid administrators and could put APS on higher moral ground with a public outraged that their kids are being deprived of school sports and perhaps facing even more cuts that will spark even more emotion.

Most important, the austerity steps would take away the demagogic argument being used against APS by the administration and its public education department as it desperately labors to deflect the heat their years of budget cutting have generated.

GETTING NERVOUS

Meanwhile, the Governor appears to be getting nervous over the intense criticism of her veto of the entire $750 million higher education budget. By her own admission it was a political move to get the Legislature to give her a budget with no tax increases and was not intended to actually take effect.

But tell that to those impacted and to a public that does not pay attention to process arguments. What they hear is that the universities and colleges could shut down--and there's a good chance that's going to send Martinez's approval rating below its already anemic 42 percent. More seriously, it makes New Mexico appear politically unstable and further pushes away talent and business. But you already knew that. . . .

DAMRON WATCHING

Damron
Our exclusive report from a Senior Alligator back in December that NM Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron was going to be in the running to become the next president of UNM has been confirmed:

New Mexico Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron said she has submitted her curriculum vitae and cover letter to Isaacson, Miller, the search firm the University of New Mexico has hired to help find its 22nd president.

Damron's interest raises political questions: How beholden would she be to the Martinez administration if she were head of UNM? The administration's meddling in the UNM Health Sciences Center--with the help of the Board of Regents--has left a bad taste.

What about UNM executive vice-president David Harris, the Svengali-like presidential adviser who has exercised political power at UNM through several administrations by warming to whoever has the power in Santa Fe? Would Damron end the Harris reign? Or embrace it?

Damron follows Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera in moving to get out of the Martinez administration as it nears its end. A Senior Alligator broke the Skandera story which was later confirmed by Politico. However, her move was thwarted by conservative US Senators who reportedly blocked her from a high level position in the US Education Department. As a result Hanna is still here and mired in one of the most unpleasant and divisive fights over public education funding in state history.

THE BOTTOM LINES

NM political consultant Brian Miller has passed away at the age of 36. His friends send this:

Its been said that political operatives come to New Mexico to get their Ph.D. in the art of politics, and that was true for Brian. Brian headed to NM in 2004 to take charge of congressional candidate Richard Romero's field operations. He marshaled the resources he could in that nationally targeted CD1 race, but of course the challenge came up short. 

He went on to establish himself as a go-to operative in ABQ politics. From mayor to city council to state senate to Hector Balderas' re-election as State Auditor, Brian was there, running the numbers and bringing resources to bear. He'll be remembered by the many friends he made along the way as loyal, hilarious and possessing a keen and sharp mind Brian wanted to make the world a better place. For those who knew him, the world certainly is.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Lt. Gov. Sanchez Publicly Attacks Sen. Heinrich And Appears Poised For A Senate Bid, Plus: First Mayoral Money Reports Out; Where Does The Race Stand Now? We Have Analysis And Answers  

John Sanchez
Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez is publicly attacking Democratic US Senator Martin Heinrich and appears poised to enter the 2018 US Senate race.

Heinrich is on guard, already raising $2.5 million in campaign funds for his re-election bid while Sanchez's fellow R's are scurrying to find an '18 gubernatorial nominee now that Sanchez appears out of the running.

Speaking to a Rio Rancho Republican group last week, Sanchez, according to one of our Alligators at the meeting, scored Heinrich for voting against the nomination of former Texas Governor Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy, criticized the Senator's support of the SunZia solar transmission project in southern NM for interfering with the mission of White Sands Missile Range and accused the freshman lawmaker of being out of touch with the state he represents because he now lives in Washington.

This would not be the first time Sanchez, 54, launched an uphill battle for the Senate. In 2012 he had a short-lived run for the GOP Senate nomination, only to withdraw and let Heather Wilson have the prize. She went on to lose to Heinrich. Sanchez's campaign was criticized for being unprepared and amateurish.

At that GOP meeting Sanchez said that he recently visited in DC with Senators Rubio, McCain and Cruz, all of whom ran against Trump in the GOP presidential primaries. He also said he consulted with White House aide and pollster Kellyanne Conway. She has done political work for Sanchez in the past.

Considering New Mexico voters have not defeated an incumbent Senator since Jeff Bingaman accomplished the feat against GOP Senator Jack Schmitt in 1982, Sanchez can ill-afford any false starts this time around. National pundits appear unanimous in ranking the Heinrich seat "safe Democratic."

The Sanchez camp sees Heinrich, 45, as vulnerable because his approval rating is at 48 percent in the recent Morning Consult poll and also below 50 in other surveys. Heinrich supporters are confident of his chances for another six year term but some have told us they want to see more of him on local TV news.

Sanchez's foremost problem would be his ties to unpopular Gov. Susana Martinez who is polling at 42 percent approval in PPP and at 43 percent in Morning Consult. The state Democratic Party is now labeling the current chaos in Santa Fe a result of the "Martinez-Sanchez administration."

Sen. Heinrich
Separating himself from Martinez and launching an effective attack on Heinrich at the same time is a tall order indeed. But Sanchez's confidantes say his high name ID and Hispanic heritage help him to at least get out of the starting gate.

ABQ businessman Mick Rich has been an announced GOP Senate candidate for the past year. He has kept a low profile and a Sanchez entry would appear to doom his hopes. Maybe Rich can take a look at running for Governor as it appears the R's need someone and fast.

Rep. Steve Pearce is expected to forego a GOP Guv run and ABQ Mayor Richard Berry, who's popularity has sunk in the wake of the ART project, a lousy city economy and a deeply troubled APD, is staying quiet about his intentions. So far the Dems have the momentum for the '18 race with Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham actively campaigning and a couple of other Dems expected to join the fray in the weeks ahead.

RICARDO WHO?

Who is Ricardo (Richard) Chaves and why did he put up $300,000 in personal cash in his just opened ABQ mayoral campaign account? And what impact will the political unknown have on the race? That's the question that went viral over the smart phones of the city's political operatives this weekend as they devoured the first campaign finance reports for the mayoral candidates. We have some answers.

(All mayoral campaign reports are here.)

Chaves, 81, is a Republican whose family accumulated significant wealth in the parking business. They own a large lot near the ABQ Sunport and other parking facilities around the nation. Here's more from the Chaves PR arm:

Parking Company of America Management. . . While you travel by plane, Parking Company of America Management (PCA) will be glad to look after your car. PCA owns and manages parking facilities at more than 15 US airports, including several of the nation's largest. The company manages another 200 parking lots and garages at hotels, medical facilities, shopping centers, and other facilities throughout the US. . . The company, which began in 1960s is run by Chaves children today.

Chaves operatives, who include veteran campaign consultant Steve Cabiedes, say Chaves is especially upset with the fiscal policies of Mayor Berry, citing his plans to build a multi-million downtown parking structure that Chaves, an expert in such matters, sees as a taxpayer ripoff. He also has good reason to make crime a top priority. He was also a recent victim of the city's car theft crime wave when thieves took off with his upscale Bentley.

Chaves, getting a late start, is working furiously to get the necessary 3,000 petition signatures of registered voters by the April 28 deadline that would win him a spot on the October 3 ballot. If he makes it the question will be how much of that $300,000 will he start spending and will he add even more? Or will the cash deposit turn out to be a head fake and go unspent?

GOP SPLIT

Whether Chaves is in the final field or not, there is no question that the GOP is in for  bloodletting that could hurt its chances to retain the mayoral digs on the 11th floor of Government Center.

In their first finance reports GOP City Councilor Dan Lewis shows a cash balance of $146,000 compared to $88,000 for GOP County Commissioner Wayne Johnson. Lewis has raised about $250,000 since the start of his effort. The Lewis forces desperately tried to persuade Johnson not to run but their failure to do so could now hurt his chances.

With no candidate expected to capture the 50 percent of the vote necessary to win the mayor's office outright on October 3, the two top vote-getters will head to a run-off election a month later. Which two candidates will get in that run-off? Lewis would be a no-brainer if he were the only solid R in the race, but with Johnson and possibly Ricardo Chaves on his tail, the GOP outcome is much more unpredictable.

DEM DOINGS

Brian Colón  
Former NM Democratic Party Chair Brian Colón has a reputation as a solid fundraiser so it was no shock that he led the list of mayoral hopefuls in the cash derby. He has raised $389,000 since the start of his campaign and showed $308,000 cash on hand.

Former Dem BernCo Commissioner Deanna Archuleta announced her candidacy last May but showed a perhaps disappointing fund-raising total of $141,000 with $93,000 in cash on hand.

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham tried to give Archuleta a needed boost in the wake of her money report, endorsing her candidacy and saying:

Deanna Archuleta is without question the most-qualified candidate to be our next mayor. . .  From a single mom and PTA president to two-term county commissioner and chair of the Albuquerque Bernalillo Water Utility Authority, Deanna has never backed away from a problem. She’s gotten into the fight and won big for our community.

Technically, the mayor's race is nonpartisan. No party labels appear on the ballot. Grisham can argue that she is not deserting the other Dem candidates, even if that might not erase their ire over her involvement in their race as she seeks the '18 Dem Guv nod.

Grisham is the lone female contender in that Guv contest and probably figures an endorsement of Archuleta will help her with the Guv run and is worth any alienation it might cause among Archuleta's rivals. The congresswoman also came with $4,100 in personal funds for Archuleta.

Independent candidate Michelle Garcia Holmes managed to get the necessary petition signatures to get on the ballot but she is still in danger of falling off the mayoral radar, showing only $5,500 in cash on hand. Her mother is Rosemary Garcia, who served decades ago as chief of staff to Dem Gov. Bruce King. Gary King, son of Bruce, and Gary's wife Yolanda, both came with small donations for Garcia Holmes.

Watching all this from the sidelines is Dem State Auditor Tim Keller, the only hopeful to successfully pursue publicly financing and who will have about $380,000 (minus seed money he raised) to run his campaign.

That total is looking somewhat more credible because the early fund-raising reveals the top campaigns may fall short of the nearly $1 million raised by Mayor Berry when he sought re-election in 2013. That means Keller's $380k will not look like a bump on a log. Combined with any PAC that emerges to support him, that should be enough to keep him competitive with the privately financed hopefuls. And, he doesn't have to answer any tough questions about how his campaign money would influence his City Hall decision-making.

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Price Of A Dem Guv Run Just Went Up, Berry Starts Coming Under Fire In Mayoral Campaign, Some Congress Watching And Readers Opine On The Economy, Eden And More 

The price is going up, Joe. We speak of Las Cruces area Dem state Senator Joe Cervantes who says he's "all in" for the '18 Dem Guv nomination, but with Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham posting a cash haul of $900,000 and $741,000 in cash on hand in her first fund-raising report, attorney Cervantes is going to have to dig deep--quite deep--into his own ample wallet.

Cervantes is starting off with $190,000 in personal money, bringing his campaign kitty to $245,000. Political pros are saying the 56 year old, whose family has long ties to the agricultural and real estate biz in Dona Ana County, will now need at least $1.5 million to give Grisham a run for the money.

He may be encouraged to do so by the lack of players on the field. Only Grisham has officially announced, certainly leaving room for one strong alternative. With AG Balderas perhaps looking less likely to jump in, that challenge may fall to Cervantes. To meet it, he will need to keep his check book handy.

The Republicans still don't have an announced '18 gubernatorial candidate on the field. GOP southern Rep. Steve Pearce is telling those interested he will make up his mind  around Memorial Day. The betting money is against Pearce giving up the congressional seat he cherishes for a long-shot Guv bid in a year when the cycle appears to favor the Dems.

WINDS SHIFT

The political winds are indeed shifting when mayoral candidate Brian Colón--who has been trying to appeal to both Dems and R's--begins attacking GOP Mayor Berry:

The current leadership in the Mayor’s Office has let down the people of Albuquerque once more. It was announced that Hulu, a streaming service expected to generate $2.4 billion in 2017, has selected San Antonio (over ABQ) as the location for its new customer service center. Now more than ever, we need a Mayor that will commit to taking Albuquerque to new levels in economic development, public safety and education to create an environment for growth. It's time the City's elected public servants dedicate attention to attracting company investment in our beautiful city

In other mayoral news, congrats are due to candidate Michelle Garcia Holmes who says she has made the October ballot by gathering 3,000 valid petition signatures from registered ABQ voters and getting them certified by the city clerk. Candidate petition signatures are due April 28. We expect six or seven contenders to make the final field.

CONGRESS WATCHING

Pat Davis
ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis has made official his candidacy for the '18 Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham who is seeking the '18 gubernatorial nomination. That immediately sent flares up. From the email:

In DC, the Congressional Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus carry a lot of weight in the Democratic Caucus. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi wants to see more people of color and women in positions of leadership, and she walks the walk. Electing a person of color in NM CD1 will help New Mexico advance our agenda in the U.S. House. Progressives need to fight for diversity, and they have the opportunity to nominate a progressive person of color for CD1 to increase the odds that a progressive wins that seat. In addition, we need members of Congress in those Caucuses to act as surrogates for minority communities and get people of color out to vote in 2020 to remove Trump from office.  Nominating a person of color for CD1 will drive turnout in the South and North Valley in 2018 general election. That will increase the chances of keeping the state House in Democratic hands and electing a Democratic Governor.

Dem Chairwoman Deb Haaland and attorney Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez are among those also expected to run for the seat. Our Dem insiders say BernCo Commissioner Maggie Stebbins is a no-go. No R's have announced yet. The ABQ congressional seat is rated safe Dem, all the more reason for the Dems to fight vigorously among themselves for that nomination.

READER VIEWS

That photo we posted Wednesday of APD Chief Gorden Eden at the New Beginnings Church raising his hands in prayer while wearing his uniform and armed with a pistol holstered to his side, brought this from  reader Bruce Thomson:

The photo of police chief Eden speaking from the pulpit at Albuquerque's New Beginnings Church in uniform and wearing a gun is deeply offensive on many levels. Being in uniform implies he's there on official business. Carrying a gun makes one question the safety of the event. And the image of a senior politically appointed official in uniform with hand raised, head bowed, and speaking into a microphone from the pulpit raises fundamental questions regarding separation of church and state. I find that picture frightening.

In our Wednesday blog we incorrectly said Eden made his appearance at Legacy Church.

Our satire on Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales over cancelling a taco giveaway for folks voting for the sugary drink tax he's proposing to finance early childhood programs, brought this rib-tickling video in the email. It's titled:"When You Look White But You're Really Mexican."

By the way, early voting has begun in the soda and sugary drink vote. Election Day is May 2. In a first draft yesterday, we had another date.

Reader Stan Fitch says this state needs to disembark from the "Austerity Train:"

My great-grandfather Asa Fitch was cofounder of the New Mexico School of Mines (now New Mexico Tech). . . My wife is a scientist and I am a nuclear engineer. . . New Mexico is flat on its back with high crime and the nation's worst economy. There will always be political wrangling, nonetheless the best course of action would be for Governor Martinez and Senator John Arthur Smith (Chairman of Senate Finance) to loosen the purse strings so that the state can leverage itself out of the hole. We will not have a knight-in-shining-armor come save us. Funding for public works, increased funds for schools and colleges, and hiring more police to appropriate staffing levels would be a start. Yes, increasing taxes and using the state's $15 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund will have to be a part of the mix. It will take a few years but New Mexico can eventually improve its status and look more appealing to external investors. Let’s get New Mexico off of this stalled political austerity train and start moving forward again.

Thanks, Stan. That reminds us of the great jazz standard "The A Train" sung by the indomitable Anita O'Day. Yeah, now we're bloggin'. . . and boogieing.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Praying For APD, Susana Sinks In Another Poll, And: Bribery By Taco? Santa Fe Mayor Cancels Giveaway; We've Got Expert Advice For Him  

APD Chief Garden Eden
It's down to prayer for the ABQ Police Department and its beleaguered Chief Gorden Eden. Here he is recently asking for divine guidance before the congregation at ABQ's New Beginnings Church. And, boy, could he use some.

There's that Federal grand jury looking at whether APD illegally tampered with police lapel camera video; the continued severe under-staffing of the department; the ongoing Dept. of Justice consent decree mandating reforms and the department's continued sparring with the civilian oversight board and last but not least the crime wave that has seen the city rank among the worst in the nation for both violent crime and property crime.

Eden's tenure as APD chief is likely to end December 1 when a new mayor takes over. Several of the major candidates say they intend to replace him. The rumor mill has Eden, a Republican and former US Marshal for NM, perhaps again applying for that position in the Trump administration. After his troubled tenure at APD that seems a stretch--even if he has the good Lord on his side.

SINKING SUSANA

Another poll confirms what others have shown in recent months: Gov. Martinez is no longer a popular Governor. In fact, she ranks 42nd in popularity among the nation's governors in a Morning Consult poll conducted over a multi-month period and released this week. Martinez's approval rating is 43 percent and 48 percent disapprove.

Meanwhile, Sen. Martin Heinrich's approval rating remains slightly below the important 50 percent mark as he embarks on his '18 re-election bid. He scored a 48 percent positive rating. Sen. Udall's approval rating was 53 percent. In days of yore New Mexico senators routinely won approval ratings of 60 percent or more. The public of today is more cynical about politics and politicians of all stripes. Still, Heinrich's campaign reports:

Martin is on track to file record-breaking fundraising numbers this quarter, reporting more than $1.3 million raised and $2.5 million cash on hand in his re-election bid for the U.S. Senate.

A NEW TINGLEY?

There's a glimmer of hope that we might get a new arena for the 21st century at the NM State Fairgrounds (Expo NM). Expo Manager Dan Mourning says a study has been commissioned from arena designer Populous to finally look at replacing dilapidated Tingley Coliseum which can no longer host major concerts like Garth Brooks and the like.

Mourning says the study will be under $100,000 and look at building a multi-purpose arena for a wide array of events including concerts, sports and more. He expects it to be completed by summer. Financing a new arena is an expensive proposition but if the city, BernCo and the state come with bonding capacity and Mourning is able to attract private investors, as he says he hopes to, it might have a shot. Tingley is over 60 years old, ancient by building standards, particularly in the digital age.

"The cities in our region are passing us by and I'm getting tired of it. We deserve this, especially the next generation that we want to keep here," declared Mourning.

Chief Eden and I will pray over it, Dan.

TACOS FOR VOTES

What do you mean you can't buy New Mexico votes with tacos? Who made that one up? The news:

A political action committee offering tacos for votes during an early-voting event Wednesday with Mayor Javier Gonzales have quashed the idea. The decision to stop the taco giveaway comes amid bribery accusations against Pre-K for Santa Fe by the spokesman of another political group that has called the mayor's proposed tax on sodas and other sugary drinks to fund pre-K unfair.

Bribery? Ye Gads! New Mexico voters have been lining up for free political chow since Coronado bit into his first Navajo Taco. So how will the taking of the tacos impact the May 2 vote on the sugary drinks tax? Only analysis from the top experts can provide the answers.. . .

Veteran Democratic political consultants Alan Packman and Scott Forrester report that their in-depth study of taco consumption patterns in the City Different--gathered through in-person surveys at various taco stands and smart phone users ordering take-out--say the cancellation of the taco giveaway has several shadings:

Joe, it's important what kind of tacos we're talking about and how the Mayor explains this. If we're talking top-of-the-line steak tacos in a soft shell, our study shows the sugar tax would lose approximately 274 votes because of the taking of the tacos. Folks really go for those.

Now if we look at chicken taco vote buying, the impact is slightly less for Mayor Gonzales. Voters denied free chicken tacos (with a nice homemade, hot salsa) are put off by the cancellation, but not as bad as the steak taco eaters. We estimate the loss at 149 votes.

Then there's the lowly Taco Bell taco. You know, the one with the kind of low-rent meat that Santa Feans only eat in a pinch. If the tacos being served by the mayor were to be similar to Taco Bell tacos, then he'll lose only about 42 votes for the sugary tax.

After digesting the Dem consultants taco report, we turned to Gov. Martinez's longtime political operative Jay McCleskey and asked him what advice he would offer Mayor Gonzales:

If I were him I would immediately produce TV spots suggesting the tacos were poisoned and the giveaway had to be canceled to save lives. Of course, the inference being that the nefarious opposition was behind the poisoning. This would shore up the shell-shattered taco vote. 

McCleskey has sent his advice to the Dem consultants along with his standard fee of $16,844 per paragraph.

Steve Fitzer, a consultant to Sen. Heinrich who says he fears all could be lost for Mayor Gonzales, came with a Hail Mary plan:

Joe, in order to reverse this Mayor Gonzales needs to push forward and hold a free chicharrones giveaway on the downtown Plaza the Sunday before the election. Get away from the tacos and really put some buying power on voters' plates. He could recoup the lost taco voters and the event would be so close to the election that bad PR would be too late to force him to cancel. You can never go wrong with chicharrones. 

It was near fatal mistake for the mayor, but thanks to New Mexico's top political consultants--and chicharrones--he may still pull this one out.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

State Budget Wrangling Comes Amid More Damning Economic News. Plus: Lujan Grisham And Balderas Eye Each Other's Fresh Money Reports 

Amid the budget chaos in Santa Fe comes news that illustrates the slow and painful economic death spiral that has enveloped the state. Intel in Rio Rancho has finally confirmed that the plant shed 700 workers in 2016 and employment there now stands at only 1,200, compared to 7,000 in its heyday. It was little solace that rumors had current employment levels there even lower. The bottom line is, like so many others, Intel is pulling out of here.

The state suffers the highest jobless rate in the nation as well as a long-term stagnant economy. Bekin's moving company remains one of ABQ's larger advertisers and the state's largest city, its "economic engine," looks increasingly like a low-end border town, checkered with payday loan and dollar stores and afflicted by a maddening crime wave that authorities refuse to take responsibility for.

Compared to all that, the wrangling over a $6.1 billion state budget (the same amount as it was 10 years ago) is small potatoes. Gov. Martinez's over-the-top veto of the entire higher education budget in an effort to get her way with the Legislature is only going to worsen the perception that New Mexico is a place best left to its own devices.

While ABQ takes on border town status, Santa Fe looks more and more like a banana republic, with a Governor who seems to be reciting lines from The Madness of King George.

Martinez's approval rating is an anemic 42 percent and probably sinking further as we speak. The doors to any political future for her closed long ago. But she refuses to march quietly or cooperatively into her political oblivion that will begin January 1, 2019.

Only a radicalized pocket of state House Republicans prevent a total repudiation of this governorship. Most Senate Republicans have already abandoned her as shown by the recent override of one of her vetoes. And even many House R's are stunned by her refusal to sign portions of the budget that even they supported.

In 2002, both Republicans and Democrats banded together to pull the state back from the brink when GOP Governor Johnson's stubborn authoritarianism had him performing his version of the aforementioned King George. They did so by calling an "extraordinary session" of the Legislature for the first time in state history and passing a veto proof budget and going home.

Johnson, never one to take governing too seriously, laughed off the historic rebuke and went on to enjoy the fortune he made in his pre-gubernatorial years from doing deals with Intel. Back then the wreckage of a governorship stood out. Today's repeat performance by Martinez just seems like another piece of litter on a battered economic and social landscape.

PLUG THE ABYSS

Here's a sign that Martinez is sensing that she is looking into the abyss after her veto party, including that tax hike package:

Martinez told reporters Monday she could support extending the state’s gross receipts tax to Internet sales — closing a loophole, not raising taxes, per se — but would not support other proposals increasing taxes on sales of gas, or new or used vehicles.

THE MONEY RACE

If the race for the '18 Dem nomination for Governor were between ABQ US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Attorney General Hector Balderas it would already be pretty close--at least when in it comes to the money race. In the first finance reports of the Guv contest in reports covering mid-December through early April, Grisham reports $741,000 in cash on hand and Balderas reports $683,000 in the bank. Grisham announced her candidacy in December. Balderas is on the fence, contemplating whether seek re-election as AG or make the Guv run. He could use his money for either bid.

Grisham raised $892,000 in the reporting period and spent $151,000. Her big donors included ABQ's Marble Brewery which came with $5,500; ABQ's Radiology Associates came with $5,500 for the '18 primary and another maximum donation of $5,500 for the '18 general. The Ft. Sill Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, which hopes someday to open a casino in southern NM, gave $5,500. ABQ Dem state Sen. Bill O'Neill, a possible Dem Lt Governor candidate, donated $1,000. Grisham's big expense was for online communications and consulting to Ann Lewis Strategies in DC.

Balderas raised the lion's share of his money from major law firms and attorneys, including $5,500 for the primary and $5,500 for the general from Baron and Budd out of Dallas. The AG had expenditures of only $20,000 for the period. His campaign manager said:

If the Attorney General decides to run for Governor he is confident he will have the resources to secure the Democratic nomination. Attorney General Balderas remains focused on protecting the health and safety of New Mexico's families, businesses and environment.


Grisham said of her fund-raising:

We have tapped into a groundswell of support from New Mexicans who want real leadership in the Governor’s Office. I was the first to jump in the race because I recognized the energy and hunger for change in our state.

The Grisham camp also pointed out that she raised all her $892k in the three month period, while Balderas started the period with $400,000 and added $211k during that time.

Whatever the spin, if the race included both Balderas and Grisham neither would have to go to the local payday loan store to make campaign ends meet.

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Thursday, April 06, 2017

A "What If" Question Surfaces For State GOP As Pearce And Sanchez Weigh Guv Bids; On Dem Side It's Grisham Vs. Balderas Jockeying In Spotlight, And: Angst In The Lobo Lair 

How about this for a jaw dropper making the rounds? What if Rep. Steve Pearce and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez both decide to forgo bids for the '18 GOP gubernatorial nomination? Does that mean ABQ Mayor Richard Berry, not exactly the most popular fella within his own party, would become the default nominee? The Dems probably wouldn't mind that.

And what if Berry joined Sanchez and Pearce in passing on a Guv run? Who would the R's turn to then? Beats us. . .

HEINRICH VS. SANCHEZ?

And the chatter about John Sanchez perhaps challenging Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich next year instead of seeking the Guv slot continues to grow. And with reason. For the second time in recent days the state Democratic Party has included Sanchez in its criticism of Gov. Martinez. That's new.

In their latest attack the Dems score Martinez for taking a trip to Tennessee this week while the state budget and a bundle of other legislation is on her desk and she still has not told the state what she will do. Lt. Gov. Sanchez was Governor when Martinez was in Tennessee and the Dems said he could have acted on legislation in her absence. Fat chance of that. (Martinez never did make it to Tennessee to speak to a law enforcement conference because she was delayed by weather in Dallas).

But the attack on Sanchez underscores the point that the state Dem Party these days is largely under the wing of Sen. Heinrich and the attacks on Sanchez could signal that Heinrich's forces think Sanchez is looking their way.

GRISHAM VS. BALDERAS?

The early positioning can be treated as a pastime of sorts when assessing Heinrich's race since he is heavily favored no matter who runs against him, but the early jockeying in the Dem Guv race is very critical. ABQ Dem Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham is working furiously to clear the field of major challengers--mostly any challenge by Attorney General Hector Balderas. Her latest effort is to roll out an endorsement from the New Mexico Professional Firefighters Association. The Association represents affiliates of the International Fire Fighters Association in the state. That endorsement comes on the heels of former Senator Jeff Bingaman giving Grisham his blessing and an earlier endorsement from Emily's List, an advocacy group for women candidates.

The next phase of the psychological warfare will be the state finance reports due this month. The Balderas camp will closely watch how much Grisham has raised and she will be watching his report just as closely.

TALK OF THE TOWN

The talk of the town has been yet another expensive buyout of a UNM Lobo basketball coach. Reader Michael Lamb shows how the controversy has put the spotlight as much on the athletic director as the now former coach:

Joe, regarding the $1 million buyout for UNM basketball coach Craig Neal. The media states: "This is the fourth big payout during University of New Mexico Athletic Director Paul Krebs’ 11 years on the job. He has sent basketball coach Ritchie McKay packing, along with football coaches Rocky Long and Mike Locksley, who was a Krebs hire. They cost more than $2 million combined to buy out.”

As of 2014 UNM Athletics VP Paul Krebs had the highest salary of any vice president, at $319,262. what’s he making these days? Krebs has been UNM's AD for 11 years. Is it time someone bought him out--or to state is less elegantly--kick him out?"

THE BOTTOM LINES

In our first take Wednesday, we said the public schools bill introduced in the Territorial Legislature happened in 1892. The correct date is 1882. And we blogged that a flight into space courtesy of Virgin Galactic from the NM Spaceport is going for $200,000 but it's actually 200,000 British Pounds. That translates to about $250,000. We wouldn't want you making any mistakes when you're writing your check to Sir Richard. . . .

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