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Friday, March 31, 2017

Lujan Grisham Snags Early Endorsement From Ex-Senator Bingaman As StateAwaits Balderas Decision, Plus: Very Healthy In Los Alamos, And:Retiring In Cruces 

Sen. Bingaman
An important early endorsement in the 2018 race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination had the eyebrows raised in La Politica as the week ended. Former US Senator Jeff Bingaman gave his blessing to the candidacy of US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the only officially announced candidate, and he did it a full 14 months before the Democratic primary:

In my 30 years in the United Stated Senate, I saw some excellent leadership. It was clear who was in politics for personal gain and who was really there for their constituents. So I can tell you with certainty: Michelle Lujan Grisham is a true leader who fights tooth and nail for New Mexicans in Washington. That is why I proudly support her for Governor. New Mexicans know how important it is to have a Governor who will work with New Mexico legislators to move our state forward. Michelle will be that kind of Governor. She is a fierce advocate for women, kids, working families, underrepresented communities – anybody and everybody who needs a voice.

Quite the development as we await word from Attorney General Hector Balderas, the heavyweight waiting in the wings, on whether he will get in the contest. But the Bingaman endorsement may signal that Hector is going to sit this one out. Dem Senator Martin Heinrich will lead the 2018 ticket when he seeks re-election and one has to think he was consulted and comfortable with Bingaman's move. If Hector gets in now the party will find itself deeply divided.

Bingaman is a former state attorney general who might have been expected to hold his fire if Balderas was seriously weighing a bid, but we'll see soon enough.

The endorsement is sure to help Grisham with her fund-raising and attracting older establishment Dems who have been loyal to Bingaman, 73, for decades. She reacted by saying:

Sen. Bingaman’s endorsement, especially this early in the campaign, means the world to me because he is so respected as a statesman who spent a career putting New Mexico families first.  The Senator is a role model who exemplifies everything I was taught about public service and fighting relentlessly for the people who put their trust in you to be a leader.

Bingaman's endorsement is not going to clear the field. Businessman Jeff Apodaca and State Senator Joe Cervantes say they have decided to take the plunge, but it puts the field on notice that a sitting congresswoman starts this campaign with a strong and perhaps an upper hand.

HEALTHY IN LOS ALAMOS

Northern Congressman Ben Ray Lujan comes with this clip:

Los Alamos County ranks healthiest in New Mexico, according to the 2017 County Health Rankings, released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Do you suppose the immense government spending at Los Alamos National Labs has something to do with all those healthy scientists jogging around up there to their hearts' content--and benefit. The answer is "Duh?" In 2015, Los Alamos was the fifth wealthiest county in the nation:

The median household income was $112,115. Around half the county’s population of 18,000 is employed by the National Laboratory. With the laboratory having an annual budget of $2.2 billion it is not difficult to see why the area is so affluent.

Affluent and healthy. Now if we could just get the rest of the state to catch  up.

Down in Dona Ana County, maybe it will be retirees who add to the affluence. A reader writes from there:

In Las Cruces, the retiree migration appears to be building. This last week I met a retiree from Chicago, loves it here, just made this his home. Biggest draws for him are the weather and bike friendly roads and trails. I randomly met two different retired couples, from Chicago and San Antonio. They are visiting southern New Mexico and Tucson to make a choice. Weather, small city and outdoor activities are the attraction for them. Wasn't there a suggestion on your blog about making NM more retiree friendly?
Bankrate has NM rated at #30, with healthcare and crime rate dragging the state lower.
Looks like a win-win situation to me, increase healthcare education/jobs and more law enforcement.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

We'll see you Tuesday as we begin our Spring/Summer blogging schedule.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Sanchez For Senate? Light Guv's Options Seem Narrow, Plus: NM Senators Play Nice With New Energy Boss 

An Alligator of the Senior variety writes of the political future of GOP Lt. Gov. John Sanchez:

My intuitive sense is that he may well run for the seat in US Senate that will be up in 2018 rather than making a run for Governor that year. That would make a good deal of sense on several levels, including not having to run for Governor in the posture of being perceived as not much more than a continuation of the failed Martinez administration of which he has been a part since its inception.

Senate may be the play, if there is a future for the Light Guv. Down in Alamogordo he was still tying himself to the apron strings of outgoing and unpopular Gov. Martinez. Sanchez was reduced arguing that the administration has left the state in lousy condition but it would be even lousier if the Democrats were in charge:

Sanchez said if there hadn't been fiscal responsibility in New Mexico's finances for the last six years or if Democrats had been in charge of the state government, the budget situation would've been extreme. "Some predicted New Mexico would be facing insolvency," Sanchez said. "I think it's important New Mexicans understand that because of a very disciplined responsible approach to how we spend New Mexico tax dollars in Santa Fe, we're in a better place."

You mean "avoiding insolvency" is the standard? A pretty low bar indeed. As for being in a "better place," that place is pretty wretched as the state's rankings across the board have plunged even further since Martinez and Sanchez took power. Maybe John believes he can run for Senate against Martin Heinrich and that Heinrich will forget all that. Good luck with that.

TIME FOR NICE

Sen. Heinrich voted against his nomination of Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy but now with billions in federal DOE funding on the line, it's time for him and Senator Udall (who voted for Perry) to play nice. The news:

Senators Udall and Heinrich sent a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry inviting him to visit Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories.

“The work at Los Alamos and Sandia is critical to meeting DOE’s mission of assuring national security through stewardship of the nuclear weapons stockpile, nuclear non-proliferation, and homeland security. . . In addition, both laboratories are leaders in the development of advanced energy technologies, including renewable energy. . . 

We don't know how far the senators will get in a climate change discussion with a member of the Trump administration, but they may find it heartening that Secretary Perry, the former Governor Texas, has finally figured out just what the Department of Energy does.

WEH'S WAYS

That strange story of former NM GOP party chairman and 2010 Guv candidate Allen Weh hashing his unlocked vehicle robbed of a gun four--count 'em--four separate times--had the readers writing--and not very favorably:

Where are the charges against him? Leaving a gun unsecured is a crime many people have been charged with. Allen, you are the perfect example of irresponsible gun ownership. How did you have the balls to give an interview after being so stupid? Now you know why you did not get elected. . .

POKING GRISHAM

Conservative reader Jim McClure has a dig for Dem US Rep. and '18 Guv candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham:

Lujan-Grisham has been particularly visible in the Dems anti-Trump resistance movement, participating in a sit-in on the floor of Congress and a costumed sit-down at a presidential speech. But because New Mexico is a ward of the federal government, our next governor will need to get along with the Trump administration to keep those military and welfare dollars flowing. So Michelle’s political theatrics could hurt the state’s access to the Washington trough.

Okay, but first there's all those anti-Trump votes needed for the nomination, and after that is the federal dollars.

HOW'S THE HOUSE?

The latest on BernCo property values from Assessor Tanya Giddings:

The 2017 Residential properties saw favorable growth at 4.13% overall. The largest amount of new construction was primarily in the NW quadrant of the County. Non-Residential properties are still relatively flat as values increased in that sector at 1.25%. The overall assessed value of Bernalillo County is $56.4 billion, which is a 3.2% increase from last year.

SPRING/SUMMER BLOG SCHEDULE

With the arrival of the warm weather months and no general election this year, the political news will slow some and we'll adapt to those months by bringing you NM Politics with Joe Monahan Tuesday through Thursday rather than the current five days a week schedule. Of course, if big news breaks out we'll break in no matter the time or day. And you can always find us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest on La Politica. Our new schedule is effective next week when we'll look forward to starting the blogging week with you Tuesday, April 4.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Will One Man Pave The Way For A New And Improved APD? Plus: Burning Up Over BernCo Tax Increase And Close Race Developing For NM Dem Party Chair 

Reynaldo Chavez
Sometimes it's just one brave and determined individual who brings down an institution rife with corruption and puts it on the path to true reform.  Think John Dean and Watergate. Here in River City, the Alligators are getting the vibe that former APD records custodian Reynaldo Chavez may be the one man who makes the big difference. His steadfastness under enormous pressure is holding and that could mean the house of cover-up cards finally comes tumbling down.

Chavez is not backing down from his assertion that APD lapel camera footage was illegally altered, even as City Attorney Hernandez trots out a report that says original footage could not be altered. However, that report does not address whether copies of the footage distributed to the press and public were illegally altered.

Well, never mind what Hernandez is telling us, it's what she's telling that federal grand jury investigating the question that really matters. Yes, in case you missed it, in a rare move the feds have confirmed the grand jury has started a criminal probe into the altering allegations. Mayor Berry and Hernandez have just eight months to go before they are done. That's plenty of time for sleepless nights on what may be coming their way in their closing act. Don't say we didn't tell you.

MYOPIC TAXATION

Get ready for a BernCo gross receipts tax nearing 8 percent. Last night the BernCo Commission approved on a three to two vote a three-sixteenths increase in the GRT, pushing it to 7.5 percent in the ABQ city limits. The tax was opposed from both the left and right but the three Dems got it through, over strenuous objection from GOP Commissioner and ABQ mayoral candidate Wayne Johnson. He pointed out the tax is expected to raise $30 million a year while county officials report a deficit of only $8 million for the next budget year.

The wrong move at the wrong time, the commission was told by opponents, who noted it comes as the population and economy stagnate. And the commission just raised the gross receipts tax in 2015. The county manager was unconvincing that enough consolidation and spending cuts have been made to the bloated county bureaucracy that sprang up during the go-go years. She and the commissioners continue to live in the past but taxpayers will be paying for that myopia well into the future.

ANALYZING SUSANA

The armchair political analysts were busy on social media in the wake of Gov. Martinez's threat to start furloughing state workers next month to resolve what she said is a budget shortfall for the final three months of the current year. Harold Martinez was one of those who said the Guv was engaging in a cynical maneuver:

Do you really believe furloughs will occur? You should know better, amigo. This is all political posturing, merely an effort to have state employees contact their legislators to accept Martinez's budget and avoid a furlough. I say call her bluff. (Most state employees would love a vacation, even an unpaid one.)

CLOSE RACE DEVELOPING

Our insiders and Alligators reported some new energy and new faces at last weekend's Dem Party precinct and ward meetings. The advent of Trump has brought more participation and there's also a close race developing in the election for a new state party chair, according to this longtime Dem participant and observer:

Joe, It seems as though the race for chair of the NM Democratic Party is between former Santa Fe County Chairman Richard Ellenberg and Juan Sanchez III, the party's current vice-chair under outgoing chairwoman Deb Haaland. It will be a close race. Candidate Rusty Pearce of Las Cruces has some votes but Ellenberg and Sanchez are the front-runners.

Ellenberg is closely aligned with the forces of Sen. Bernie Sanders while Haaland and Sanchez are seen as having a higher comfort level with the Clinton wing of the party. State Central Committee members will meet April 29 to select the new chair.

SPRING/SUMMER BLOG SCHEDULE

With the arrival of the warm weather months and no general election this year, the political news will slow some and we'll adapt to those months by bringing you NM Politics with Joe Monahan Tuesday through Thursday rather than the current five days a week schedule. Of course, if big news breaks out we'll break in no matter the time or day. And you can always find us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest on La Politica. Our new schedule is effective next week when we'll look forward to starting the blogging week with you Tuesday, April 4.

Thanks for your continued interest and support.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Martinez Raises Stakes In Tug Of War With Legislature; Threatens Worker Furloughs; Our Analysis And Comment, Plus: Grisham Sets Kick-Off Guv Fundraiser With Targeted Message, And: Our New Blog Schedule For The Spring/Summer Months 

For someone who steadfastly refused to endorse Donald Trump, Gov. Martinez sure sounds like him. She told a business group in ABQ Monday that at the recent legislative session she "went big and they (legislators) went small." What's next? The governor accusing her legislative foes of having little hands?

Rather than a "crisis" the Governor insists we have for the final months of the current budget year and which has driven her to threaten employee furloughs and shorter school days because of that imaginary circumstance, it seems what we really have is some kind of Trumpian penis envy driving state policy.

The Governor's assertion that the state doesn't have money to pay its bills flies in the face of not only Democratic logic but Republican as well. Together they passed a solvency package (which she signed) at the recently concluded legislative session. It provides the money to see us through for the budget year that ends June 30. But admitting that would deprive Martinez of the leverage she is exerting on lawmakers as she prepares to call them back into special session.

That session will be over the budget for the year starting July 1 and which the Governor refuses to sign because it contains some $350 million in tax increases to bring it into balance and build cash reserves. But as Democratic House Speaker Egolf and GOP Senate Leader Ingle have ably pointed out, the Governor could veto the tax increases, accept the rest of the budget and still have a balanced budget. State cash reserves would be well below par if she chose to do that, but we would have a budget and no need for a special session.

This is last stand time for the lame duck chief executive who sports an anemic 42 percent approval rating. She appears to be trying to claim some kind of legacy after seven years of pettiness and trifling. Her scheme is to force lawmakers to approve a conservative tax reform bill that stormed to life only to find death in the killing fields of the Senate when the mish-mash was discovered to be more ambiguous than the Mona Lisa's smile.

After all these years it's hard to deny that what this Governor really enjoys and what she really sees as her legacy--as twisted as it may be--is to continue to get rid of as many government workers as she can and shrink the budget to the size of a handful of pinto beans. That's going "big" all right--with small-mindedness.

MAKING A PITCH

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham will hold a "kick-off fundraiser" this Saturday for her campaign for the '18 Dem gubernatorial nomination. Let's do some analysis of her messaging that accompanies the pitch for cash:

The pitch says: Grisham is running for Governor because she believes that we can make quality healthcare more accessible for women, seniors and veterans.

That hits key groups important to her winning the nomination but is "quality healthcare" really not accessible here? Perhaps in some of the more remote rural areas, but healthcare facilities generally abound and are accessible, especially with the expansion of Medicaid.

For example, on Monday we blogged of how NM leads the nation in the number of births financed by the federal/state Medicaid program. And the percentage of the New Mexico population currently uninsured (thanks largely to Medicaid expansion) has reached a modern low.

As for seniors, those 65 and older qualify for Medicare and low income New Mexicans of all ages qualify for the aforementioned Medicaid. The candidate's pitch resonates better when it mentions veterans. Even though they are covered by government insurance and have access to veterans' hospitals, quality healthcare at those facilities has long been a sore spot and one that Grisham has been working to resolve.

Grisham is the only female candidate (so far) for the nomination and more women will vote in the Dem primary than men. Also, the primary electorate skews older than a general election. As for the veterans, that gets you into a more conservative slice of the Democratic electorate and also one populated with many Hispanic male veterans.

SIDEBAR

Former Lt. Governor Diane Denish, who endorsed Hector Balderas in his 2012 US Senate primary against Martin Heinrich, will not be there for him if the attorney general decides to get in the Guv fray. Denish has signed up as a co-host for the Grisham fundraiser. Heinrich bested Balderas for the Senate nomination in '12 and went on to get elected.

SPRING/SUMMER BLOG SCHEDULE

With the arrival of the warm weather months and no general election this year, the political news will slow some and we'll adapt to those months by bringing you NM Politics with Joe Monahan Tuesday through Thursday rather than the current five days a week schedule. Of course, if big news breaks out we'll break in no matter the time or day. And you can always find us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest on La Politica. Our new schedule is effective next week when we'll look forward to starting the blogging week with you Tuesday, April 4.

Thanks for your continued interest and support.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Monday, March 27, 2017

NM's Close Call On Medicaid, A Worry For The Film Industry, New StateDem Energy At Weekend Meetings, And: Allen Weh Gets Weird 

Whew! That was close. The GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare would have pulled the carpet out from underneath Medicaid and left the New Mexico state budget even more in tatters than it already is. While the news was breaking that Obamacare  remains the "law of the land" this tidbit crossed the blogging desk:

New Mexico led all states with 72 percent of the babies born there in 2015 having their births covered by Medicaid....In this 2010 CDC data for 33 states, New Mexico also led with the highest percentage of births on Medicaid—with 57.5 percent of all babies born there that year having their births covered by Medicaid.

The good news is that a lot more healthy babies are being born because of Medicaid availability. The bad news is that our low paying jobs and semi-welfare state status make us too dependent on government assistance at all levels.

Medicaid and its nearly $6 billion a year budget has been a major driver of job creation here. But it's not enough to get us out of the cellar. Our jobless rate is the worst in the USA.

Medicaid and food stamp rolls swelling, the lack of good paying jobs and a seemingly no end-in-sight crime epidemic call out for big ideas from those seeking to lead the state. We are not seeing very many from the Governor or the Legislature who are busy trying to apply patches to the leaking state budget. If we don't get some from the gubernatorial candidates, the state's drift could continue into the next decade to come.

It's uh, oh time for the state's film industry:

Moving to slow the exodus of filming to other states and countries, California lawmakers are poised to quadruple tax subsidies for location shooting to $400 million a year. Legislation approved on a 5-0 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee also would eliminate a controversial system in which film and TV productions won tax credits based on a lottery system, regardless of the economic effect of the production.

Well, the big dog has to eat. We can only hope he leaves something for the pups.

DEM ENERGY

It seems the alarm over Trump and the fired up supporters of Sen Bernie Sanders had Democrats in the metro and Santa Fe reporting larger than usual turnouts for ward and precinct meetings that were held over the weekend to pick party leaders. Here in ABQ we get this report from a ward chair.

A fairly large turnover of the Bernalillo County Democratic Party occurred Saturday during the Ward and Precinct elections. Many old line Dems have got to be wondering what just happened to them. In my Ward every precinct has a chair and there are Wards and Precincts in Bernalillo County today that now have ward and precinct chairs that frankly haven't had them for years. Bernie's call to his supporters to get involved in the Democratic Party has been heeded and the Party will be changed by it. 

Certainly the rules of the game have changed. These folks have no qualms about calling a Dem politician to account for their votes - just ask Senator Martin Heinrich about his vote against importing Canadian drugs and how he got raked over the coals for it by the Progressive Dems of Central New Mexico. Martin and even (Senator Udall) are being watched and Martin now knows it.

WEIRD WEH NEWS

This one is just downright weird:

On four separate occasions, a man allegedly entered the same unlocked vehicle at the same business office on Rio Grande Boulevard and stole a handgun each time. The victim in the case is Allen Weh, former gubernatorial candidate, U.S. senate candidate and NM Republican Party chairman.

Weh, 74, says he leaves his SUV unlocked and with a gun in it. And the same guy stole a gun from his vehicle four times? Okay, we're officially arming up the black helicopters and hovering over Allen Weh's parking lot. Conspiracy theories are welcome.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Reader Jon Lee in Texas has a note for the keepers of the state's license plates:

NM may have the worst quality automobile license plates perhaps in the country. So many of ours are faded and peeling. Have you noticed that? Even the newer turquoise ones are peeling. Whereas I travel around a lot and have not this same situation in other states.

Is our brilliant sun causing the new, lighter colored turquoise plates to peel? Or is it just Jon imagining that our plates are fading along with our standing in all those rankings of the states?

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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