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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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