Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Some Clippings From My Newsroom Floor as We Ring Out the Old And Ring In The New

Let's ring out 2009 with some clippings from our newsroom floor--tidbits that got lost in the shuffle as we blogged our way through another year of New Mexico politics.

We all know that RJ Berry became mayor of ABQ by consolidating the city's Republican vote under his tent. But Berry consultant Jay McCleskey says R's not only supported Berry, they came out in larger numbers than in the 2005 mayoral derby:

One key to this turnout turnaround was the absentee voting swing from 2005 to 2009. Importantly, many of these Republicans who voted absentee had not cast ballots in the previous mayoral election. This boosted the Republican share of the overall electorate and led to Republicans outperforming their registration numbers by almost 10%.

Thirty-two percent of the city's electorate is Republican, but McCleskey said they made up 41.3 percent of the electorate in the October election that gave ABQ its first GOP mayor in nearly 25 years. In 2005, GOP mayoral turnout was 38.5 percent.

TRANSITIONS

From Rio Rancho

Gayland Bryant is calling it a career. The Corrales resident will be retiring as the Sandoval County director of public affairs on Dec. 31. “It’s really been a pleasure and challenge,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to work for and serve the people in what has been one of the fastest growing counties (in the nation) for a number of years.”

INTERESTING RACE

It's a three way race so far for the Democratic nomination to replace Alan Armijo on the Bernalillo County Commission. Businessman Dan Serrano tells us he is off and running. Former NM cabinet secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham has also announced a bid as has retired ABQ city planner Loretta Naranjo Lopez. She challenged Armijo unsuccessfully four years ago. Serrano has made several stabs at elective office. Lujan Grisham sought the ABQ congressional seat in 2008. The Armijo district is heavy Dem. Whoever wins the nomination in June can be expected to take the prize in November.

ALEX ABEYTA, JR. IS DEAD

Alex Abeyta, Jr., a veteran New Mexico power player, is dead at the age of 76. Abeyta served as Bernalillo County manager for nine years during 1979 to '91. He was also elected Bernalillo County Treasurer to a four year term in 2001. He was also in the restaurant business for many years. Alex had a bad back and in his later years was confined to a wheelchair. His spirits remained high. His last job was as a disability liaison to the NM Dept. of Transportation for the Governor's Commission on Disability.

THEY SAID IT


From NM columnist Sherry Robinson:

If you've ever spent $40 to send $10 worth of chile and pinto beans to a loved one overseas, you must be a New Mexican.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Thanks for stopping by here in 2009. We invite you to join us in the new year. It should be fun. We'll elect a new governor, the three NM US Reps will face their first re-election bids and there will surely be some surprises in the campaigns for the 70 state House seats.

Thanks as well to our advertisers for their continued interest and support. They make possible our continued exploration of our beloved La Politica.

Happy New Year, New Mexico!

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Email your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Getting Ethics Right: A Milquetoast Commission Or One With Teeth?, Plus: 2009 Slowly Recedes, And: Our Bottom Lines

Critics have pounced on the Legislature's latest effort to police itself, calling an interim committee's proposed ethics commission an over engineered scheme resembling a Rube Goldberg contraption that will end up being a toothless sham. Their main complaint is the composition of the commission. Eight of the eleven members would be legislators. The Guv would appoint the remaining three members. What would it take to have a really independent ethics panel? A reader with a long background in ethics enforcement and elections comes with this:

Joe, I read the proposed bill and was struck by the same thing you mentioned-- the appointment process. All you have to do is see how the Federal Election Commission has turned into a partisan and toothless entity because of the so-called bipartisan appointment process. What happens is that each party protects their own from any penalties.

What New Mexico needs is along the lines of the
Wisconsin Governmental Accountability Board. That state's Court of Appeals appoints retired judges to the board and these appointees are prohibited from engaging in any political activity. The Board has supervision of ethics and elections as well as some review over state contracts.

I think that those who have endorsed the proposed commission here don't believe they can get anything tough passed and signed by the Governor...The rationale is that something is better than nothing, but I don't really see the composition of this commission as serious...

So what will come out of the January legislative session? A milquetoast commission? A strong Wisconsin type panel? Or nothing? Don't bet a lot of money against the third option.

WHO PAYS?


Now that it appears Congress is about to pass a health care reform bill, supportive lawmakers have started their spin patrol. ABQ Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich came with a twist in a recent newsletter to quiet concerns over the cost of the measure. He said the costs are fully covered:

Half through eliminating waste, fraud and abuse and half through a surcharge on the income of the top 0.3 percent of the wealthiest individuals...which includes 590 households in our district and excludes 99.81 percent of our residents...

You mean all those folks concerned that their Medicare is going to be slashed to pay for the reform have nothing to fear? Look to hear more about that in the 2010 campaign.

NEWS OF NOTE

Veteran NM political reporter John Robertson, now a longtime politics editor for the ABQ Journal, emerges at year's end to pen a remembrance of the big loss of 2009--the death of Bruce King.

And does ABQ Mayor RJ Berry really have any other choice but to sue to overturn a last minute deal that has former Chief Administrative Officer Ed Adams eligible to stay with the city at his $147,000 yearly pay no matter what job he holds? It may take time, but we have plenty of city attorneys on the payroll to game this one out. Ed cut his sweetheart deal with his boss--Mayor Marty Chavez--but Berry seems hesitant to challenge the bizarre contract. He needn't be. An economically suffering public will be with him all the way.

IN MY TIME

New Mexico counts down the end of another year and decade this week, but it is done here with a spirit of nonchalance.

Whether you live in Albuquerque or Animas, your life here is much more in tune with nature's timing, rather than the man made calender--even if your hectic days anchor you closely to that clock on the wall. The spectacular mountains that accompany you everywhere and the early winter, orange-splattered sunsets spanning an endless horizon are constant reminders of eons past and eons to come. You belong, but only as a privileged visitor.

The natural magnificence that is New Mexico does not obviate life's hardships or the need for politics, but through the years it comforts and nourishes, as it will the stream of generations to follow.

THE BOTTOM LINES

We referenced a water dispute on the state's East side Tuesday as "obscure" but one reader took umbrage over that characterization and came with this:

In New Mexico there is nothing obscure about fights over water. The biggest and longest runnin' fights in New Mexico have all been over water. Remember "whiskey is for drinking and water is for fightin'!


Okay, but please refrain from doing so while driving.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Email your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Berry Patch: Walking Down The Middle (So Far), Plus: Another Speeding R, And: Wading Into Water Law (Again)

Mayor Berry
He's only been in a month, but early signs indicate that new ABQ GOP Mayor RJ Berry is going to resist the temptation to try to steer this middle of the road city down a right-wing path. His campaign rhetoric over ABQ being a "sanctuary city" has been toned down and any attempt at changing law enforcement policy toward undocumented residents has been put on the back burner. He says he will study the controversial red light camera program, not move to eliminate it. Also, he will not immediately swing a bloody axe by pushing for layoffs in the city work force and he will have a Democrat or two at his elbow, i.e., chief administrative officer David Campbell.

All of this has not gone unnoticed by R's who want a sterner and more conservative Berry. There has been some post-holiday buzz among Republicans over the new GOP mayor's absence from the big Bernalillo County GOP Christmas party. We're told some 150 attended, but not Berry or any of his top Republican aides like Public Safety director Darren White or constituent services head Tito Madrid.

Was Berry sending a message? Maybe. After all, three Republican city councilors were the only ones to vote against his nomination of Campbell as CAO. Or perhaps Berry is just generally wary of being too tightly embraced by the GOP in a city where Democratic registration is 48 percent and the GOP commands only 32 percent. It doesn't take long for that math to have an impact as you weigh the future from the lofty heights of the 11th floor of City Hall.

A SPEEDING CAUCUS?


NM GOP state senators have a good start on forming a "Speeding Caucus." First it was Roswell Senator "Lightning" Rod Adair getting busted this summer for clocking 118 MPH in a 65 mph zone in Guadalupe County. Now, Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle joins the club, according to a Senor Alligator. They report that Ingle was ticketed recently for going 59 mph in a 50 mph zone near the ghost town of Yeso west of Fort Sumner on the state's East side. In years past, the speeding caucus would have included Big Bill whose drivers regularly had heavy feet on the accelerator. But he hasn't had any speeding incidents of late. Maybe that's because he's been spending more time boating.

HE'S GONE--FOR NOW

Former Dem NM State Rep. Bob Perls emails us from bucolic Corrales:

...I will be leaving for DC to join the Department of State as a diplomat. I have accepted an appointment to the US Foreign Service...I will find out in January at which US Embassy I will serve. I served as state representative from 1993-1997 representing southern Sandoval County. I sold my medical technology company in 2008 and have been working on a Masters in Public Administration at UNM...I would hope to come back to New Mexico with newfound skills (and) provide innovative and ethical leadership for our state...

Sounds like fun, Bob. We've been looking into the French Foreign Legion ourselves, or maybe just a long weekend in Chama.

LET'S GET WET
John D'Antonio
We waded into a water controversy over Tucumcari way when we posted Catherine Bugg's complaints over farmers, ranchers and other members of the Arch Hurley Conservancy Disrict not getting what they consider their full allotment of water from Conchas Lake, despite what Catherine said was a large snow pack. State Engineer John D'Antonio read what bugged Bugg and sent this in:

As an avid reader of your blog, I wanted to address Ms. Bugg’s concerns...Most of the surface water rights upstream of the Arch Hurley project are senior water rights that date back to the mid to late 1800’s, whereas Arch Hurley’s water rights only date back to 1938 and therefore are considered junior rights. We have investigated the alleged illegal diversions and have found all diversions are legal with valid senior rights. The claims of 250% snow pack is something that has not happened anywhere in New Mexico in recent memory.

We have been discussing a metering program for the Mora River and its tributaries that would allow future water use to be verified on a real-time basis to eliminate potential upstream over-diversions. Our goal is to have all of New Mexico’s water usage measured and metered in order to protect priority water rights and correctly administer water, especially during times of short supply.


Thanks, John and Catherine. You've reminded us why we're an aficionado of the deliciously obscure disputes that dot the landscape of La Politica.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Email your news, your comments or your existential angst.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Santa Gave, But Does The Taxman Take Some Away? Plus: Gov't Growth: Mostly Bloat Or Not? Also: Getting It Or Not In Old Santa Fe

All 70 state House seats are up for election in 2010, voters in several New Mexico locales recently rejected bond issues and the economy is still flat on its back. Given that backdrop, we're not shocked to hear increasing reluctance from legislators when it comes to tax increases. This is in spite of a gargantuan state deficit that needs to be closed and estimated to be $600 million for the budget year that starts next July 1 and perhaps much more.

A proposal to reinstate the gross receipts tax on food purchases is being greeted with withering criticism as it would hurt low income and unemployed New Mexicans the most. Also, a vote for it could easily be transformed into a hot button campaign issue. House Dems in particular are treading carefully, knowing that primary challenges in this volatile environment can sprout as quickly as dandelions.

That doesn't mean lawmakers will completely skirt "revenue enhancement." There is a sense among veteran political analysts that the myriad of tax credits that are on the books and that cost the state hundreds of millions annually may be the most likely target for revenue raising. Backers of the generous film industry tax credit are especially tense as lawmakers search for revenue options that don't incite the voters or their potential opponents.

TAX RATES AND THE RICH

Big Bill would probably veto any increase in personal income tax rates, but his 2003 tax cuts for the wealthiest New Mexicans are coming under intense scrutiny because of the pronounced inequality between rich and poor households that arose this past decade. From the AP:

New Mexicans with the most money--the top 1 percent of taxpayers, who earn $395,000 or more--paid about 5 percent of their income in state and local taxes in 2007. That compares with almost 11 percent for those in the lowest income group...

But the ABQ Chamber of Commerce remains insistent that the Richardson 2003 tax cuts for the rich should stay. A spokeswoman:

The changes that were made in the income tax are part of a bigger plan to create an environment in New Mexico which brings high-wage jobs to the state for people who live here...As we make decisions about the budget, we ought to do that very carefully or we will roll back any possible progress that we can make to create high-wage jobs here when this economy turns around..

The problem for the Chamber and others continuing to advocate for these historically low tax rates for the rich is that there is no proof that they have spurred the creation of any of those promised high paying jobs and we've had the low rates for six years.

CAP CAPITAL GAINS?

While we're on the subject, lawmakers might also want to finally look at the very generous treatment of capital gains--sales of stocks and bonds and other assets--in NM. From The Institute on Tax and Economic Policy:

New Mexico is one just nine state offering a significant tax break for capital gains income. The state allows an exclusion equal to the greater of $1,000 or 50 percent of net capital gains income. This tax break costs the state as much as $51 million in 2008; repeating it would help ease New Mexico's budget woes, make its tax system fair, and keep valuable dollars in the state economy.

In casual conversation with a wide range of acquaintances, it is clear that there is populism in the air. But in Washington it appears to be drowning in a cascade of special interest influence. Wall Street remains in pleasure while Main Street remains in pain. In New Mexico, the same resistance to this populism---a reaction to a decade of economic imbalance--also is being manifested. But if state lawmakers are looking for tax hikes that would actually enlist popular approval, they may want to consider the tax brackets on the state's upper crust and the generous treatment of profits generated from stock and bond sales.

THE RICHARDSON 59 (Cont.)

One of the questions readers raise about The Richardson 59--the list of the Guv's political appointees being let go--is how the dismissals help the state balance its budget. That's the stated goal of the Legislature in ordering the reduction in "exempt" employees. For example, readers are asking whether some of the appointees let go at Workforce Solutions were paid with federal funds. If they were, they say that doesn't help balance our state budget. And they ask the same about politicals being let go in January from NM Expo. The budget there is largely generated by the state fair and other income, not from general fund. We don't have a firm answers off hand, but we hope to get some.

HOW MUCH BLOAT?

Blog reader Nat Chakeres weighs in on a recent post here quoting defenders of the 50 percent increase in state spending that has happened under Big Bill since 2003. They argued that a portion of the increase was because of a lack of government spending prior to his term. Nat agrees, and adds:

...One thing that is being overlooked is the state's growth during that time period. A bigger population and a bigger economy require more government spending for services and regulatory oversight. According to UNM's Bureau of Business and Economic Research, New Mexico's economy grew, accounting for inflation, by 39% between 2003 and 2008. That puts the 50% growth in the state budget into some perspective.

Whatever the appropriate rate of spending during the Great Bull Market, the Great Recession has ended the debate. Cutbacks--painful ones--are inevitable.

GOP Guv candidate Susana Martinez isn't one of those buying into the argument outlined above:

Whether it’s rewarding political cronies with ‘soft landings’ or using taxpayer dollars for political activities, Diane Denish and this administration have grown state government by more than 50% and in the process, abused the public trust. As governor, I will end the giveaways and favors, eliminate programs that don’t work, and restore sanity to the budgetary process...


But exactly what programs would Martinez and the other R's eliminate to save hundreds of millions of dollars? They have yet to say. And it is essential to the debate to note that just about every Republican in Santa Fe voted for the growth in the state budget since 2003. Does Martinez also see them as having "abused the public trust?"

DOES HE GET IT OR NOT?
Simon
We recently blogged that Santa Fe City Council candidate Russell Simon, 27, seemed to get it that recession ravaged Santa Fe needs a vigorous discussion of its future economic options in the upcoming March city election. But Simon's call for Santa Fe to have its own electric utility, replacing PNM, drew fire from reader Gary in Taos:

I'm not sure Simon from Santa Fe does get it. Santa Fe needs a diverse economy, one that does not rely so heavily on tourism and the service industry, and certainly one that does not rely on utilities for income. Santa Fe needs new business and new jobs that are less service and retail oriented. This is a terrible idea. So when Santa Fe needs more income they can simply raise electric rates? I suspect as an environmentalist, Simon has other reasons to get his hands on PNM's electric business in Santa Fe.

We did not note Simon's proposal to have the city of Santa Fe take over PNM in our original blog. Like Gary in Taos, it could give many Santa Fe voters reason to pause.

Simon is trying to unseat incumbent Councilor Chris Calvert who also faces a challenge from state tax processor Doug Nava. Here are the other Santa Fe council and mayor candidates.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Email your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas 2009: Many New Mexicans Take A Hit, But Help Is Never Far Away. Plus: Some Holiday Cheer From Us To You

It's Christmas 2009. Thousands of our neighbors have been hammered by the economic downturn, our state budget is in chaos and the future looks mighty uncertain, but the season of hope has a momentum all its own and its arrival promises to soothe the soul and calm the nerves. It also helps to know that those taking a hit in our state are never far from a helping hand.

We ran into our old friend Jeremy Reynalds the other day. He's the longtime director of the ABQ homeless shelter Joy Junction which come rain or shine or Christmas Day is on the front lines in providing assistance to anyone who needs it. He passed this along:

Joy Junction Homeless Shelter’s Lifeline of Hope Mobile Food Wagon will be touring the streets of Albuquerque and the surrounding area on Christmas Eve...the wagon will make stops at locations where the homeless are known to congregate. Reynalds and his crew will distribute a variety of items, including hot soup, stew, coffee, juice and coats...

And the shelter will have its 24rd annual traditional Christmas dinner at Joy Junction's 4500 Second Street Southwest facility from 2 p.m. through 6 p.m. Dec. 25. Call Jeremy at (505) 400-7145 for more information.

CHRISTMAS CHEER


Thanks for coming by here for another year. It's a privilege to have you. Here's our annual Christmas card for you, your friends and family. And here's some swingin' Christmas cheer from Frank.

Merry Christmas, New Mexico!



(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Politicos Exchange Xmas Cheer, Plus: Di On Offense On Campaign Disclosure; Will R's Catch Up? And: Would Ethics Commission Become A Kangaroo Court?

Cargo & Denish
We didn't quite get the cell phone camera to focus how we wanted, but we can't pass up bringing you this photo of former NM Republican Governor Dave Cargo and Lt. Governor Diane Denish who hopes to hold the position Dave had from '67 thru '70.

We caught up with the pair at a Christmas party at the ABQ home of Clara Apodaca, NM first lady from '75 to '79, and it reminded us that bipartisanship is not a ship that all have abandoned--or at least that's the hope this holiday season.

Denish, 60, and Cargo, still going strong at 80, are both tough political actors of their respective times but both have shown a willingness to work with a diverse cast of political characters. New Mexico is like that. We are so diverse that gubernatorial success is usually a bridge over the middle. Cargo is urging his fellow R's seeking to beat Denish to get on that bridge in 2010 or get buried. Denish will seek not to loose her footing in the middle as both left and right start pushing her harder in the year ahead.

DI'S ETHICS OFFENSE

Denish said Tuesday she will follow her past policy and not solicit campaign funds during the legislative session that kicks off next month, even though the law allows a lieutenant governor to do so. The law prohibits legislators and the Governor from fund-raising beginning January 1st, continuing through the session and another 20 days after that for the Guv. It makes sense for Di to refrain because she is involved in lawmaking as the presiding officer of the state Senate and is called upon to vote in the event of a tie. The law allowing a light guv to go on fund-raising during the session seems too light.

She also said she will continue to voluntarily release a campaign finance report every three months, even though that's not required. We previously pointed out that her voluntary October report lumped her paid campaign staff under a payroll company, so the names and salaries of the staff were not readily available to the voters. But that info is now released on that report, although a clerical error has the staff listed as being from 2005. Her next report will come in January and her campaign says it will have full disclosure of all donations and expenditures, including staff. The next required state report isn't due until mid-March.

Denish could be scoring political points for releasing financial reports more often than required. The R candidates, all vociferously attacking Denish on ethics, seem behind the curve. Where, the Denish crowd crows, are the voluntary finance reports from Allen Weh, Susana Martinez, Doug Turner and Janice Arnold-Jones? Where indeed?

HOLIDAY ZINGER


ABQ State Rep. and GOP Guv candidate Janice Arnold-Jones is prohibited by law from raising any campaign money starting January 1 and not ending until the Legislature adjourns, but that isn't stopping some of the snipers in another campaign from taking a shot at her. They say if Janice was really serious about becoming Guv, she would resign her legislative seat and campaign full-time for Guv, including raising money. That way, sniped the sniper, there would be no question that she is fully committed to the campaign and not planning to fall back on a run for her state House seat should her Guv effort falter.

A friend of Janice's reminds the holiday politics watchers that she's the only GOP Guv candidate with legislative experience and huffs that the candidate will give up her House seat when she's elected Governor.

MORE RICHARDSON 59


We've revealed a total of 19 of the 59 political appointees who are being let go by the Guv to help balance the state budget. We've done it with our Alligators who have a stellar record, but one got by them and us. Rick Silva of the property tax division of the NM Taxation and Revenue Department was apparently targeted for a pink slip, as our Gators reported in our first blog draft Tuesday, but he has since been given a reprieve. He is still on the job which we personally confirmed. Also, former ABQ State Rep. Delano Garcia was working with the NM National Guard as a legislative liaison, not the Dept. of Veterans' Affairs as we first blogged.

There's going to be a mistake or two along the line when you try to bust the government for a lack of transparency in how they spend your money, especially when it refuses to release the names of those in question. Traditional journalistic tools may or may not get the info for us when reams of records are released later. That's where our senior sources come in. We're still trying to compile names so email us with any fresh info.

Other questions about the Richardson 59 for the watchdogs to watch for: How many of those being let go are double-dippers, already drawing a retirement check plus their full-time government salary? And will any of The Richardson 59 be rehired in other government positions? Stay with us...

THE KANGAROO COMMISSION?

We just got done blogging above about the need for full disclosure from the Guv candidates, but that doesn't mean we are going to buy hook, line and sinker anything with "ethics" stamped on it. Some things are just a bad buy this holiday season. Like this....

The more we hear about the proposed state ethics commission, the more we fear it will end up resembling a Kangaroo court. New Mexico politics is crazy enough without unleashing the politicians to look at each other's dirty laundry, but that's what this commission--or carnival--would appear to do if given life in the January legislative session. Look at the proposed membership as described by assistant attorney general Stuart Bluestone:

It provides for 11 members, with two appointed by the House Democratic Caucus, two by the House Republican Caucus, two by the Senate Democratic Caucus, two by the Senate Republican Caucus, and the governor appoints three members--a Democrat, a Republican and someone who is neither a Democrat nor a Republican. The 11 members can only act if there is a quorum of eight, and at least eight of the 11 members must agree on every action the commission takes.

This thing is looking as unwieldy as Tiger Woods' date book. Hey, Stu. Why not throw in eight maids a milking and a couple of partridges in a pear tree?

Call us naive, but we happen to think Attorney General Gary King, State Auditor Hector Balderas, US Attorney Fouratt (and his successor) are more than capable of performing their ethical watchdog roles if given proper funding and if pushed hard to do so by the press and public. (Haven't the feds in recent years put behind bars two state treasurers and the former leader of the state Senate? Isn't a former secretary of state under indictment?)

But this is New Mexico where we like to complicate the uncomplicated. And don't forget those nice, juicy staff jobs for the ethics commission. That matter could be the first case before the new panel--the hiring of cronies to administer the new ethics commission!

WHERE'S THE WATER?


Tucumcari reader Catherine Bugg wanted to use our blog to send a message to the state engineer who presides over all things water. But it wasn't a Christmas card Catherine wanted to convey:

Dear Mr. Monahan, I am writing you as a landowner in the Arch Hurley Conservancy District. For the past three years we have not had our allotment of water from Conchas Lake. This has created a great hardship on farmers, ranchers, business owners and economic development in general in Quay County, Eastern New Mexico. To the tune of $40 million per year to the economy.

We have worked with our board of directors and discovered some illegal diversions upstream on the Canadian River. We, landowners, board members and the Executive Director Franklin McCasland have made attempts to contact the State Engineer's office, our local state representative, the governor and anyone else we can think of to no avail.

One of our questions is if there is a 250% snow pack and yet there is no run-off into Conchas, what is the problem? We would like some help with publicity in this matter, to get our message across the state.

You've got our help, Catherine. John D'Antonio is the state engineer. Tis' the season, John, so why not give Catherine a ring?

This is the home of New Mexico politics.Email your news and comments.


(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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Monday, December 21, 2009

Making A List And Checking It Twice; "The Richardson 59" Continued, Plus: The Adams Chronicles; Readers Join High Pay Dispute, And: My Bottom Lines

Checking the list
We're making a list and we're checking it twice, but it's not the one we're sending to Santa. This list reveals one of the best kept secrets in New Mexico--but fast becoming one of the worst kept: Who are the 59 political appointees Big Bill let go as part of the state's effort to balance the deficit choked budget? The Guv has refused to release the names saying it would not be dignified to do so. Media efforts to get the names released have been met with a legal stiff arm, but our reliable readers and Alligators have so far pegged 15 of the 59. We asked them to keep the names coming (email in any you have) and they delivered. Here's the latest from our exclusive list:

One of the highest paid exempts to be given the axe is Stephen Easley. He earns about $95,000 a year as the chief information officer for the Department of Public Safety. One Republican legislator told us on background that Easley's departure is a "big loss." This legislator also complained that most of the exempt employees they are hearing about losing their jobs are mid-level state workers, not the big kahunas making over $85,000 a year and whose jobs are not "mission" critical.

Attorney Pilar Vaile, deputy director of the Public Employee Relations Board, is another exempt losing their job. She made about $62,000 a year. Our insider says Vaile has been an independent director and wonders if the Guv's list targets exempt employees who have not been as loyal to him and his minions as he would like. It's reasonable speculation because by not releasing the list, the Guv is acting as if the state has something to hide.

Shanon Riley makes the hit list. She's is a lawyer for the NM National Guard, paid about $70,000 a year. Riley is a former prosecutor in the Bernalillo County District Attorney's office. She didn't have much longevity in her current post which may have made her vulnerable to the axe.

Darla Aiken an administrative assistant in the ABQ office of the NM Commission on the Status of Women is another of the exempt employees who will receive their last paycheck at the end of the month. She was making about $39,000 a year.

We blogged Monday that former ABQ State Rep. Delano Garcia was one of those taken out, but we did not know his position. Now we do. Garcia was a $61,000 a year military liaison with the NM National Guard.

That now gives us 19 of "The Richardson 59." If you can help us fill out the the list, feel free to email . A complete list of current exempt state employees and their salaries and agency affiliation is available here.

THE ADAMS CHRONICLES

Speaking of salaries, that $147,000 former ABQ chief administrative officer Ed Adams continues to pull down, despite being reassigned to a lower level position in the city, is bringing reaction. KOB-TV and the Journal hit the story this week, reporting that Mayor Berry asked Ed to take a $10,000 salary cut in his new position at the municipal development department, but Ed refused. He produced a contract he had inked with the Chavez administrative prohibiting the city from cutting his pay if and when he left his post as CAO.

Reader Rob on ABQ's Nob Hill comes with this:

Adams typifies why people look suspiciously at anyone who works within government... Adams' $147,000 could be used to help hire younger, smarter, and harder-working professionals who would improve the city. There is a very fine line between experience and stagnation, and someone who refuses to help the new administration by taking a pay cut should be shown the door. Thousands of New Mexicans have lost their jobs and Mr. Adams' lack of courtesy or decency should earn him a place in the unemployment line with all the New Mexicans who pay his salary.

But Barry Bitzer, who served s ABQ Mayor Chavez's chief of staff and worked closely with Adams comes with a different take:

I've worked with Ed Adams. I don't like his call to take no pay cut, but I also remember Ed's unique ability to make major projects come in on time, on budget, look good and work right. Think Isotopes Park or Montano Bridge. If Ed had also been in charge of the Courthouse or county jail projects, taxpayers would be millions better off for it.


BYE TO BACA

Former ABQ Mayor Jim Baca is retiring from his $90,000 a year state job. The Guv's office says:

...New Mexico’s Natural Resources Trustee Jim Baca is retiring effective December 31st...Governor Richardson announced he has appointed Environment Secretary Ron Curry to serve as interim Trustee...Richardson is asking Secretary Curry to take on this responsibility, in addition to his duties as Secretary of the NM Environment Department, in order to save taxpayer dollars...Richardson will consider appointing a full time trustee when state revenues improve.

Baca has been a fixture in NM government since the 1970's. He plans to be even more of a curmudgeon in retirement.

MY BOTTOM LINES


Will the bankruptcy of Citadel Broadcasting, owner of 50,000 watt radio talker KKOB-AM, have an impact on the on-air staff? Not for now, says one of our radio insiders:

Morning host Bob Clark, afternoon host Jim Villanucci, and everyone in the news department is safe--for now--despite the Citadel bankruptcy.


And from KRQE-TV news comes word that reporter Dave Bohman will head out to take a job in the Scranton, PA market.

No new cars for new Mayor Berry or chief administrative officer Dave Campbell. RJ's city fleet car has over 40,000 miles on it and Dave's Tahoe is nearing the 100,000 mile mark. But they are still doing better than thousands of unemployed Duke City residents and they know it...

Former ABQ Dem State Rep. Dan Silva tells us he has opened an Italian restaurant at the site of the old Gruet restaurant on Montgomery--not to be confused with the also recently closed Gruet Steakhouse on Nob Hill. We can tell you Dan will dole out the food in a nonpartisan manner--he did the catering for a recent party for GOP Governor candidate Doug Turner.

This is indeed the home of New Mexico politics. Email your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Who Are "The Richardson 59?" Guv Won't Say, But We Come With List Of Laid Off Politicals, Plus: US Attorney Intrigue; Is There A New One Or Not?

Who are the "Richardson 59?" That's become the question du jour as a battle breaks out between the press and the Guv's office over releasing the names of 59 political appointees who have been given their walking papers as part of the state's effort to balance the budget.

Bill's office says it would not be "dignified" to release the names; the press says it has a right to know, and the Alligators say: Why wait? Let's get those names.

Two have previously been revealed, former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron lost her job at Workforce Solutions and Bruce Kohl was given the axe from his post as head of the state's securities division.

Now the Gators come with this exclusive list of more politicals dismissed from Workforce Solutions--the old Labor Department. But keep in mind some of those heading for the exits are retiring or have agreed to move up their retirement dates to January. That will lessen the sting for them. Here's the Workforce Solutions list:

Lloyd Garley of the fiscal division, Francis Ray, Priscilla Martinez, who once was secretary to NM House Speaker Raymond Sanchez, Jim Moran in the workers comp division, Nick Nieto and Randy Romero, brother of political heavyweight Ed Romero.

Former ABQ State Rep. Delano Garcia is also one of the Richardson 59, but we're unclear what agency he worked for.

At NM Expo the hit list, according to our Senior Alligators, includes:

Attorney Nasha Torrez, who took maternity leave and will not return, former ABQ State Rep Al Otero who only recently came to Expo from another state agency, Bob Cooper, who was with the art department, Leo Pacheco, Harry Pavlides who did special projects and is also a longtime NM pollster, and John Hooker, a former mayor of Los Ranchos and an architect who was involved with Expo construction.


So we now appear to know 15 of the 59. The papers should have all of them when they get a chance to look at payroll records early next year, but if reliable readers will email names from other state agencies, we'll release them to the public. Don't worry, Guv. It will be "dignified."

US ATTORNEY: CONTINUING COVERAGE

There's fall out from that little bomb Republican US Attorney Greg Fouratt dropped last week. He indicated a new US Attorney has finally been picked by the Democratic White House and that he and New Mexicans generally would be pleased with the pick. But sources here and in Washington insist there has been no one selected yet for the high-profile post.

It's interesting to note that the ABQ Journal picked up on Fouratt's declaration about a new US Attorney and published a report on its Web site. However, the paper did not put anything in its print editions about the speech or the US Attorney prediction Fouratt made before the ABQ Economic Forum.

The selection of a new US Attorney has been shrouded in even more secrecy than usual because Fouratt's investigations into Big Bill and other Dems has made the White House and NM senior Senator Jeff Bingaman, who has a major say in who will get the job, sensitive to allegations that they would want to remove Fouratt to lower the heat on fellow Dems.

DEEP BACKGROUND FOR YOU

We are told the major contenders for the post have been interviewed by Bingaman and Senator Udall and that there is a short list of five names. My Legal Beagles inform that several of them will be flown to Washington for interviews with representatives from the White House and Justice Department. A final choice will be forwarded to Attorney General Holder. He will interview that person and then give his recommendation to the President. The President decides, with the input of Bingaman, who announces the selection. The US Senate then confirms or rejects the choice.

Insiders say that the short list includes a couple of names that Fouratt likes, including one current assistant US Attorney. If no final selection has indeed been made, was Fouratt, by speaking out, putting pressure on the White House to come with one of his favorites? And if he doesn't actually know who the choice is, was the implication that he would publicly object if it was not a name to his liking? Or does Fouratt actually have it right and the deal for a new US Attorney is done and he is happy as a clam because he is getting someone he wants?

Insiders say Fouratt is likely to stay on with the office when the new US Attorney is named and that means he would also likely be continuing his role as the prosecutor in the corruption cases. Fouratt was a prosecutor with the office before being named to the top job. There is also talk in elite legal circles that Fouratt might be angling for the position of 1st assistant US Attorney, a position akin to a chief deputy.

How much influence, if any, will Fouratt have under the new and presumably Democratic US Attorney? That's the question that Fouratt, the White House and Bingaman appear to be gaming out as this intriguing power play unfolds.

LIGHT GUV DOINGS

It's unlikely that all the Dem candidates for Lt. Governor will be around for the June 1 primary, and it appears ABQ State Senator Linda Lopez could be one to falter early. First, she finished in fifth place at a recent Democratic Party straw poll in Sandoval County, and now she is taking heat for appearing to have had political strings pulled on her behalf to get a part-time job with benefits with Bernalillo County.

All won't be lost, however, if Lopez does indeed retreat from the light guv battle. She remains chair of the powerful state Senate Rules Committee.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Email your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

John Sanchez: Stepping Up Or Stepping Down? He Launches Bid For #2, Plus: Fouratt Stunner: Says He Knows Who Will Replace Him As U.S. Attorney

Some may view it as a step down and perhaps a lost opportunity but John Sanchez, the 2002 GOP nominee for governor, thinks a run for the 2010 GOP nod for lieutenant governor is just the right fit. He tossed his hat into the ring for the #2 spot on the GOP ticket Thursday, making it a four way race with ABQ State Senator Kent Cravens, former Clayton area state Rep. Brian Moore and Santa Fe radiologist J.R. Damron. (ABQ nurse Bea Sheridan earlier announced a run, but has since dropped it, say party insiders.)

But it was another guv run, the prospect of which was first raised here, that the state's political community was most anxious about when it came to Sanchez, a successful roofing contractor who created a splash in 2000 when he upset NM House Speaker Raymond Sanchez for his ABQ North Valley legislative seat. John Sanchez served just one term before securing the 2002 GOP guv nomination. He faced off with an unbeatable Bill Richardson and third party candidate David Bacon. Sanchez scored 39 percent to Bill's 55 percent. Bacon came in with 5 percent.

Sanchez was a political greenhorn then, but he gained valuable campaign experience and name ID from the 2002 fray. He says his decision to seek the second banana spot is motivated largely by a desire to avoid more divisiveness in the GOP than already exists. There are currently four candidates seeking the GOP Guv nod. From our phone conversation with Sanchez:

Joe, this is all about winning. We have a culture of corruption and state spending out of control. We thought it would be in the best interest of the party and the state that I seek the lieutenant governor nomination...My getting in the governor's race would make it even more divisive.

Still, it is Sanchez's private enterprise success--apparently done with not much in the way of government contracts--that give him Guv appeal as the state faces the prospect of rebuilding its jobs base after a brutal recession. But running for Guv would subject Sanchez and his business interests to an intense negative campaign by the Dems. The heat is not as hot when seeking the light guv nod.

Sanchez, who will turn 47 next month, will be formidable. He told us he is prepared to self-finance his light guv effort, but quickly added that he also has a list of 3,000 past supporters to call on. Sen. Cravens and Moore are also high quality contenders so this is going to be a fun race to monitor.

For the Dems, they can be seen as dodging a bullet because Sanchez decided to shoot low.

Are there any more potential surprises before they wave the flag to formally start this 2010 Guv race? It doesn't seem likely on the Dem side as Diane Denish is putting all the pieces together, but there is still some rumbling going on in the R camp about yet another possible late entry. We'll keep you posted.

STILL AROUND

Gary Johnson, the governor John Sanchez was hoping to succeed in 2002, is back in the 2009 headlines. The Politico wonders if Johnson will emerge as a 2012 libertarian type presidential candidate.

NEW US ATTORNEY

Greg Fouratt
It was a real eyebrow raiser of a speech from US Attorney Greg Fouratt Thursday at the ABQ Economic Forum. Fouratt indicated that he knew who President Obama was going to name to replace him, that he and New Mexicans in general would be pleased with the choice and that the new US Attorney would be on the job in February or March, assuming US Senate confirmation by then.

All this raised the question of how Fouratt, 44, apparently knows who will be his replacement. That announcement is traditionally reserved for the senior senator of the president's party. In this case, that would be Sen. Jeff Bingaman Did Jeff let the cat out of the bag, or is Fouratt speaking out of school?

Fouratt has been at the center of a political storm. The Dems have feared replacing him because of the ongoing federal investigations he has launched into pay to play corruption. Appointing a US Attorney in the middle of these probes is seen as politically sensitive, but now that the White House is ready to move--insiders tell me they have five names on a short list to pick from---are they seeking approval from Fouratt to avoid criticism from him? As weird as that may seem, if Fouratt does indeed already know who will be the next US Attorney, it is not an illogical assumption.

Fouratt is a Republican and one assumes that his replacement will be a Democrat. Whatever the case, Senator Bingaman may want to check his business cards to see that they still say that he's the Senior Senator. After Mr. Fouratt's speech, filled with exclusive info, one wonders who is in charge of announcing what when it comes to the federal establishment around here.

ALLIGATOR INSIGHT


From a Senior Alligator at the Fouratt speech at the Economic Forum:

(ABQ Mayor) RJ Berry was there and so was (Chief Administrative Officer) David Campbell. Berry sauntered in alone, comfortable and sat in the back of the room. No entourage, no body guard. It is a big change.

That unpretentiousness may turn out to be one of the mayor's best assets, especially in sour economic times. But that doesn't mean Berry is without security all together. From yet another Alligator:

Hey Joe, Don't be mislead by your senior alligator re: no security detail for the mayor. Just because they don't walk in with him doesn't mean they aren't lurking in the bushes outside...

NICE WORK, IF YOU CAN GET IT

Former ABQ Chief Administrative Officer Ed Adams was making $147,000 per year when he left the city's top job. With the ouster of Mayor Chavez, he was reassigned back into the work force. So why is he still making that boffo salary in a lower ranked position? That was the question at the center of this report.

A NEW CITY?

Advocates of carving out a new city from a portion of ABQ's South Valley are hoping for a very low turnout election. And they may get it because the balloting is slated for January 5 and early voting is already under way. Foes of the plan to form a new city say it will mean higher taxes and poorer services. Former Bernalillo County Commissioners who have represented the area joined with current valley Commissioner Art De La Cruz to rally support against the proposal. Supporters of the new city say it will give the generally low-income area more political clout.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Email your news and comments.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Campos Surprises In Light Guv Straw Poll, Plus: The Most Challenged Cabinet Secretary And Why, And: Putting The Heat On Harvey; What GOP Turnaround?

Rep. Campos
Don't call Joe Campos a giant killer, but his second place showing in a straw poll in Sandoval County Thursday night did recast the crowded race for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor and got the Santa Rosa state representative right in the thick of things.

The straw vote, taken among the Democratic Women of Sandoval County and the Sandoval County Democratic Club, had Brian Colon winning with 39 votes, but Campos' second place showing with 30 ballots was the surprise. Lawrence Rael, who is second in raising money behind Colon came in third with 27 votes, followed in fourth by State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino with 25. State Senator Linda Lopez claimed 11 straw vote ballots. Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano did not compete.

Insiders have been framing the light guv contest as a two tier battle with Colon and Rael in the top tier, but the straw vote results had Campos campaign manager Carlos Trujillo spinning a new tale.

"This is going to make people take a second look at Joe Campos," Trujillo declared. And newly emboldened by his candidate's victory, he fired a shot at Colon and Rael who have never held elective office. The lieutenant governor's position is "no place for on the job training," zinged the operative.

Campos is chairman of the House Voters and Elections Committee. He has close ties to House Speaker Ben Lujan. Carlos Trujillo was the campaign manager for Ben Ray Lujan's 2008 congressional campaign. Ben Ray, of course, is Ben Lujan's son.

Campos, who also serves as mayor of Santa Rosa, made his first move to prove he was serious when he loaned his campaign $100,000. Now the results of the straw poll could help his fund-raising and also quiet talk that Campos would get out of the race in time to run for his state House seat.

For Colon and Rael is was the proverbial wake-up call. Stay tuned.

THE SANTA FE CUTS

Before she left to begin a new job in D.C., Human Services Secretary Pamela Hyde warned beneficiaries of Medicaid--the medical insurance plan for the state's poor--that serious cutbacks may be coming in services because of state budget woes.

If you live in ABQ or Santa Fe the face of New Mexican poverty is not as evident, but travel around this state and you are going to see real need. Some emailers ask if Sec. Hyde has been aggressive enough in cutting administrative expenses and whether State Auditor Hector Balderas and Attorney General Gary King are being aggressive enough in going after Medicaid fraud.

We know Gary and Hector aren't great fans of one another, but working together (joint task force?) they might be able to find millions in Medicaid fraud--money wrongfully going out the door and that could go directly to medical services and avoid some of these cuts. (The AG's office already has a Medicaid fraud division.)

AVOIDING THE PITFALLS

Falls
We can't think of a cabinet secretary who is going to be more challenged in the new year than Katie Falls, who takes over from Secretary Hyde.

Falls had been HSD deputy secretary before Bill elevated her to secretary. She has been with the department since 2003. She worked for the Department of Health from 1995 to 2000 and before that with Navajo Indian Health Services. The North Carolina native comes to the cabinet with a Master's in social work from Smith College.

While Falls has a long background in delivering health care and welfare services, is she able to crack the budget whip on vendors and her own agency heads? Can she embrace efforts to clamp down on fraud? She will not only be expected to find ways to lessen the impact of Medicaid cuts in poverty-ridden New Mexico, but to ensure that private companies are delivering what the state is paying for.

There's not much room for error and not much coasting to be done in some of these top government jobs anymore, not when the standard of health for thousands of people is at risk. With that said, welcome aboard, Secretary Falls.

WHAT TURNAROUND?

We blogged recently of how the NM GOP has yet to put up any candidates against Democrats Balderas, King or State Treasurer Lewis. That does not build a competitive, two party system in a state the R's chronically complain has been controlled by the Dems for over 70 years.

A political party is in the business of fielding candidates, not deciding which candidates of the opposing party do or don't deserve to be challenged. If GOP chairman Harvey Yates, Jr. and company pass on giving our state at least the fig leaf of competition, why should voters listen to their whining over Democrats controlling the government decade after decade?

Put another way, how is not fielding candidates a "180 Turnaround Campaign?" Look what happened with RJ Berry, Harvey. We and others raised Cain about the R's not having anyone in the mayoral contest. You helped recruit then-state Rep. Berry and voilĂ ! You had yourself a GOP mayor for the first time in 24 years. It's really no different for other elected offices, is it?

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Email your news and comments.


(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Lobbyists Of Santa Fe: Who's On The "A" List? Plus: On The Scene In Historic Old Town

Don't expect New Mexico's top lobbyists to be front and center in next month's legislative session. The state faces a severe fiscal crisis and Roundhouse veterans say a good lobbyist knows when to be seen, and this is not one of those times.

The lobbyists will be on hand, of course. They are part of the Santa Fe furniture. Lawmakers come and go but year after year and session after session, the lobbying corps returns. Those around for decades are part of the institutional memory of the place. The best ones don't like to see their names bandied about much, so some of them will cringe to see themselves listed here as we today update the list of key Roundhouse wall-leaners.

Business has been good, but not booming for the lobbying contingent. We're told that most are holding on to the clients they've got, but adding new ones is a challenge as all companies appraise their bottom lines in a tough economy. A top level lobbyist in New Mexico can gross over $250,000 a year. It is a lucrative, but often maddening job, dealing with often hard to handle personalities and new ethics rules, that, if violated, can quickly damage a career.

There's also the significant down time between sessions. There are interim committee meetings to attend, but if you're an action junkie, the lobbyist life, while lucrative, can also be filled with weeks of monotony.

THE A LIST

The dean of the lobbying corps is attorney Bob McBride, longtime lobbyist for tobacco company Altria, and a former district court judge and state senator who has been lobbying for decades. Another former state senator and attorney, Tom Rutherford, also makes the list of lobbying notables with clients like Chevron Mining. Former state rep and attorney Dick Minzner is another key player with the University of New Mexico is among his clients. Former Santa Fe state Senator Roman Maes is a familiar sight at the Roundhouse, representing Qwest and others.

Former ABQ State Rep. Tom Horan followed his father into the lobbying game and continues to maintain a lengthy list of clients, including Presbyterian Hospital and Sandia Pueblo. Domonic Silva, son of former ABQ State Rep. Dan Silva, is based in Las Cruces. His clients include NM State University.

It's true that being a former lawmaker gives a lobbyist unique understanding, but it's not a requirement. Also on the list of leading wall-leaners is Dan Weaks who with wife Marla Shoats represents clients like the NM Hospital Association and Bernalillo County. Scott Scanland once sought a seat in the Legislature and today counts Sunland Park Racetrack and Pfizer among his long list of clients.

MORE LOBBYIST A LIST
Lobbyist Mahr
Robert Rivera handles lobbying chores for Ruidoso Downs, and is another Roundhouse denizen insiders point out as being politically savvy. Dan Najar, rarely quoted in public, is another longtime lobbyist who has built a thriving lobbying business that includes clients Intel and Lovelace Healthy Systems. Ed Mahr, 70, is on retainer for the Downs at ABQ and General Electric, among others. He also knows how the media works, having long ago served as the managing editor of the ABQ Journal.

Butch Maki worked for Big Bill before he became governor. His lobbying firm has been high profile at the Roundhouse during the Richardson years with lobbyists like Mark Fleisher representing SunCal and others also playing prominent roles.

Other names that have achieved longevity and results in the lobbying game include attorney John Lee Thompson, Joe Menapace who reps AT&T and J.D. Bullington, who reps numerous clients, including Laguna Development Corp.

Single issue lobbyists of note include Vanessa Alarid, a former executive director of the NM Dem Party, spearheads SunCal's lobbying efforts. Leanne Leith and Sandy Buffet of Conservation Voters NM are leading liberal lobbyists.

Lobbying has grown much more professional in Santa Fe in recent years, and perhaps not quite as much fun. Back in days of yore, leading legislators would hold forth at their favorite bar rooms, fueled by endless rounds of expensive liquor gladly paid for by whatever lobbyist was handy. Today campaign contributions to fund the ever more expensive legislative campaigns is the most common way lobbyists show support. And with a more demanding public and ever more complicated legislation facing state legislators, lobbying is a much more sober undertaking than those days of long ago.

ON THE SCENE

We crashed the gate at Dem light guv candidate Brian Colon's fund-raiser last night. We couldn't wait to see what the historic Armijo House (most recently the Maria Teresa restaurant) on the edge of ABQ's Old Town looked like now that it was renovated, reopened and renamed Casa Esencia. We weren't disappointed. It's a meandering hacienda with wonderful hardwood floors and restored adobe walls that invite you to linger far longer than you intend.

Party goers distributed themselves in cozy rooms in two wings of the Casa which began life in 1783 as the home of Salvador Armijo and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976. Sadly, the property sat vacant for five years after the restaurant went bust in 2004, but Heritage Hotels and Resorts which operates the Hotel ABQ next door has brought it back to to life, not as a museum, but as a a home to be enjoyed and shared. A tip of the hat to them.

It was appropriate that we ran into Clara Apodaca, foundation director for the National Hispanic Cultural Center, another building that has breathed new life into a ABQ neighborhood. We told the former first lady (75-79) we'd like a tour to get updated. She agreed and said lunch at the center's La Fonda del Bosque would also be on the agenda.

At Casa Esencia there was no shortage of history to breathe in or food to accompany the festivities. Brian's wife, Aleli, told us there were five food stations set up throughout the home. No, we did not visit all five. But properly sated, we headed into the Old Town night and thought of the fast approaching Christmas season, much like Salvador Armijo may have done on the same spot and on a similar evening over two centuries ago...

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Email your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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Monday, December 14, 2009

Di's Vid Debut: Just A Small Town Girl, Plus: More On R Guv Rivalry, And: The Education Beat: Readers Have Got The Goods

Diane Denish unveils her dialed down style in a three and a half minute personally narrated biographical video her campaign posted on the Web Monday, marking the beginning of a nearly year long and expensive branding effort that she hopes ends next November with her becoming the state's first female governor.

Old hands will tell you the path to the New Mexican governorship is less bumpy when you start it outside of Albuquerque and work your way in. So it is with Denish. Despite living and working in the Duke City for many years, for the purpose of this political campaign she will reclaim her roots in Hobbs where she was born and raised. She comes at it this way:

In a small town like Hobbs, people keep an eye on each other. You can bet if you're up to no good, you're neighbors will know it and then your parents will hear about it.

Being from a town like Hobbs is a good way to learn something else--every community matters
.

Another key point of the video--dissociate Di with the mess in Santa Fe. The two term Light Guv says:

As lieutenant governor I've made it a priority to get out of Santa Fe and focus on what happens in all of our communities.

Her references to open government are now routine as she continues Operation Separation and this video is no exception. Pay to play? Why, Di can't even spell it.

Big Bill is the player who largely made possible this Denish run, which she begins as the odds-on favorite in the face of an unknown Republican field. However, he is not mentioned in her inaugural video. Not that he minds. He knows how the R's are tyring to hang his dark side around her neck.

The video, produced by the national firm Laguens Kuny Klose, does not try to dress up Di. She approaches her narration chores in workmanlike fashion, using her flat, but conversational tone to tell her audience who she is.

This video is her first defense against what the R's see as their most potent argument--that electing Denish is simply giving Richardson a third term. Denish may not be radically different than Bill when it comes to policy, but their personalities are night and day. That may be among the deciding factors for many undecided voters and Denish has begun to spend her $2 million cash kitty to drive the point home.

FROM THE EAST

The Politico's Josh Kraushaar will cover the New Mexico Guv race for the national audience from D.C. His latest report updates those readers about Di's efforts to avoid being pegged as Big Bill's little sister.

ON THE OTHER BENCH...

The dig that GOP Guv contender Susana Martinez made at fellow R contender Allen Weh---she said he could not beat Denish--is livening things up a bit in the GOP primary. Even the Dems are getting in on the fun. Here's the take of a top Dem political operative:

(Martinez) is basing her electability argument on the fact that she’s won in Dona Ana County (for district attorney). I am not sure that argument carries a lot of weight, considering that (a) she was often up against nominal opposition (b) in this race, she’ll be up against a better-funded opponent (presumably either in primary or general) (c) she’s appealing to a completely different electorate...

And it also makes you wonder, does a Martinez message of “Democrats like me” doom her in the primary? After all, she’s talking to the same voters who just picked conservative Steve Pearce over Heather Wilson in a US Senate primary. And this time it’s an off-year election with an even more conservative turnout. She’s putting a lot of stock in the voters being pragmatic this time around.

Keep in mind that the Dems, including our emailing operative, would love nothing more than to have Allen Weh as Di's November rival. They think he is way too conservative to get elected. Martinez is unknown and would be the first Hispanic woman nominated for Guv by a major party and is perceived as a little trickier for the Dems to handle.

Meanwhile, ABQ PR executive Doug Turner may turn his guns on Martinez soon, according to Alligators who take an interest in such things, but he's not pulling the trigger yet. Monday he came with another in his series of TV spots which you can see here.

The bottom line to all of this is that while Denish is steaming ahead toward the Dem nomination, the R's are entering a long infighting phase that will keep their guns trained on each other, not the Light Guv.

MONEY OR CULTURE OR BOTH?

When we warmed to the idea of Big Bill's Hispanic Education Act, readers like Peter Ives wanted answers. Specifically, is the lagging high school graduation rates of Hispanic and Native American students a cultural issue or an income issue? We said we would look for the info with the state, but blog reader Craig Smith beat us to it and has some answers culled from a recent Legislative Finance Committee report:

The bottom line is that socioeconomic status appears to have a more consistent impact on student achievement levels, regardless of race/ethnicity. The achievement gap between all low income students and their peers is larger than any socio-economic gaps within racial/ethnic groups.

For example, for all students the achievement gap is about 28 percent between low income students and their peers. The achievement gap between low income Hispanic students and their Hispanic peers was about 22 percentage points for 4th grade reading. Likewise, the achievement gap between Anglo (White) low income students and their Anglo peers was about 21 percentage points.

Further analysis reveals that the overall gap in performance between all Anglo students and all Hispanic students is about 24 percentage points. However, after controlling for economic status, the gap is much narrower among low income Anglos and low income Hispanic students at about 15 percentage points.

Perhaps inquiring minds like Mr. Ives would have been more supportive of a “Low Income Student Education Act”?

Good stuff, Craig. New Mexico's permanently high rate of poverty takes its toll. Kids from these low-income homes can achieve, but it appears they need more targeted attention and early intervention than we've been giving them.

AROUND OUR TOWN

We noticed the over-the-top prices and so-so quality of the Gruet Steakhouse on ABQ's Nob Hill has finally played out. The restaurant has closed its doors. This is not an economy for $40 entrees accompanied by iffy service...

New ABQ Mayor Richard Berry may want to change a number of things, but we doubt if he will target the maintenance and support staff at the ABQ Sunport. A recent visit there showed the place spic and span, more so than other Western USA airports you travel through. A long line of city administrations has made the airport into a living greeting card and that is especially so this time of year. The great art, the aforementioned neatness and the overall ambiance continue to impress and demonstrate that government can sometimes do more than just deliver the basics....

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Email your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author