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


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?


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.


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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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.


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. . . .


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.


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.

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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.


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?


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.


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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