Thursday, October 29, 2009

Goodbye, Heather: Final 2010 GOP Guv Field Is Set As Wilson Passes; The Impact And Latest Guv Race Analysis, Plus: Campbell Over Top In City CAO Vote?

Goodbye, Heather
The 2010 New Mexico race for Governor sprung a big flat tire when former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson announced she would not seek her party's nomination, and it remains to be seen whether the four Republican candidates on the field can reflate this campaign and make it a marquee event.

It wasn't what you'd call a stunner. Wilson, who turns 49 in December, has now established a life outside of politics, but her Thursday decision will likely be remembered as a race-shaping event. Top Democrats feared her the most. They now see former GOP Chairman Allen Weh as the strongest GOP primary candidate, but the weakest for the general election against presumed Democratic nominee Lt. Governor Diane Denish.

Veteran politico Steve Cabiedes, who is now managing the Dem Light Guv campaign of State Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, put it this way:

This announcement settles down the political landscape. It gets more mundane without Wilson and mundane is good for Denish.

Wilson's departure signals the start of an intense intra-party feud for the state's minority party. Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez, trying to position herself as the alternative to Weh, reacted immediately to the Wilson news by arguing it is she who is the most electable against a potent Denish:

I am the one candidate seeking the Republican Party's nomination who can build the necessary coalition to compete and win next fall. I have a proven track record of bringing people together and winning tough elections in a county where Republicans are outnumbered nearly three to one.

But Martinez is not necessarily the default anti-Weh candidate. ABQ PR executive Doug Turner has loaned himself considerable money and if he shows a willingness to spend it his eclectic message that appeals to what is left of the center of the GOP could catch fire.

Like Turner, ABQ GOP State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones will not join Martinez in challenging Weh for the committed conservatives. Janice's immediate challenge is raising enough money to establish credibility. Heather's departure may ease that some because potential donors can no longer say they are waiting on her.

The problem for all the anti-Weh wannabes is the composition of the Republican Party. It is dominated by Anglo, conservative men. This is a byproduct of its sharp turn to the right under the presidency of Bush and the chairmanship of Weh.

The irony for Weh is that the diminishing of the party he presided over--epic Governor and US Senate losses and fewer numbers in the Legislature--actually positions him nicely for the GOP nomination, but it could spell doom for him if he faces Denish.

Diane Denish
Don't expect to see any tricky moves on the political dance floor from the Light Guv. She won't be a wallflower, but without Heather competing for attention, she will fill her dance card with slow waltzes. No tangos for Di.

She did only some subdued two-stepping during the recent legislative session and her immediate challenge will be to get through what promises to be a very bloody January session in which the mountainous state budget will have to be confronted. But it will be Big Bill's budget--not hers--as long as he still around. In fact, post-session we wouldn't be surprised to see Di start to separate herself some from the boss, but not much until after the June primary.

With no serious challengers for the Dem nomination on her left or right, Denish can parade right up the middle. That's the sweet spot in New Mexico. Until the June primary is over, Republicans are going to be too busy fighting among themselves to move her off of it.

The danger for Denish and the hope for the R's is the state of the economy. There is much material to be mined there and itchy independent-minded voters are open to persuasion. Also, who knows what other shoes will drop from Big Bill that could shake Di's tree?


One of the beneficiaries of Heather's decision is southern Dem Congressman Harry Teague. He already has a premier Republican opponent in former US Rep. Steve Pearce. If Heather was joining Steve on the ticket, it could further excite the GOP base. But if Denish is leading in the polls next summer, that could dampen some of the R enthusiasm and benefit Teague. Perhaps not much, but with Teague's race looking so close, every little bit helps.


Denish just added some muscle and we'll all be watching to see how it's used. For example, that crowded race for the Dem nomination for lieutenant governor suddenly looks less threatening for her. Will she be more prone to push in a certain direction?


For Wilson, the decision not to run is likely her swan song. She will now recede into private life which she said she finds satisfying, not to mention financially lucrative. She makes plenty as a national security consultant.

This was her best and perhaps last chance for statewide political office. Her name ID will now diminish as will her stature in the Republican Party. New faces, like that of ABQ Mayor-elect Berry, are already emerging. She would have an outside shot at running for the US Senate seat held by Jeff Bingaman, but only if Bingaman retires in 2012. Today that seems unlikely. She has ruled out a run for her old congressional seat now held by Dem Martin Heinrich.

Political life has not been a bed of roses for Heather. Even as other congressional reps coasted to easy re-election wins, she never had that luxury. The governor's race would have been another long, bitter and uphill struggle. She must have mused--for what? She would get to Santa Fe with no money to spend and fight for four years with a Democratic Legislature. There were simply more rewarding things to do.

If this is indeed the end game for Wilson, she will be remembered in history as a tenacious and effective political campaigner, but her political record lacks permanence. Both Wilson and her mentor--former Senator Pete Domenici--self-described moderates--chose not to move the state GOP in a truly moderate direction that may have prevented its collapse. They fully embraced the Bush presidency and for that they and their party paid deeply, as witnessed by the total D dominance of the congressional delegation and Santa Fe.


Wilson's exit from the brightly lit stage of La Politica comes as New Mexico decouples somewhat from the national security and military establishments that boosted the R's to prominence in the post World War II era. Budgets for Sandia and Los Alamos national labs have stagnated. The military bases remain robust, but perhaps not quite as much. These institutions brought thousands of outsiders to the state who tilted the political equation.

It was telling that Wilson, an Air Force veteran, pointed out in her announcement that the governorship does not have a national security role. That's her true love and where she was always most effective. Being Governor of New Mexico in 2011 and beyond will mean leading the state in rebuilding the private sector of the economy, or possibly overseeing the downsizing of state aspirations. That's an elegiac prospect and far from the comfort zone of Heather Wilson.


The ABQ Journal's Dan McKay has the fresh nose count on that intense behind-the-scenes-battle by ABQ Mayor-elect Berry to win city council confirmation of attorney David Campbell as his chief administrative officer. He reports that it appears Campbell now has the needed five votes--Dem councilors Sanchez, Benton and O'Malley and R councilors Harris and Jones. In a second article, the Journal reports it appears Campbell has six votes which means they are now putting Rey Garduno in the "yes" column.

Campbell is a Democrat and if he is rejected, the D's could get a real Republican. They may figure it is best to stick with him.

If this vote holds, it is good news for the mayor-to-be, but not good enough. He will want a better than 6 to 3 vote on the city's second most powerful post to kick-off his new administration. We would expect him to keep the heat on to pop those numbers.

As things stand, it is members of Berry's own Republican Party--Councilors Cook, Winter and Lewis--who are weakening the new executive. They are now asking Campbell for certain financial disclosures. Maybe if they get them it will be the hook they use to back off their opposition?

The Campbell battle is another example of how divided the shrunken Republican Party remains. They experience their first significant victory in months by taking over the mayor's office and winning a majority on the council for the first time in nearly 25 years, yet they seem to be trying to give it away.

Good luck, RJ. You're going to need it.


Here's the Journal follow to the story we broke a while back on Roswell GOP State Senator "Lightning Rod" Adair speeding at 118 mph in Guadalupe County. He has entered a no contest plea, and he said he did not want to discuss why he was going so fast...Executives at CDR, the bond firm that got so much attention here in a federal grand jury probe and cost Big Bill a cabinet job with Obama, have been indicted in New York on charges of bid-rigging in a muni bond scheme. For a time, it appeared Bill and some of his top aides could end up indicted for biz deals CDR with NM, but the investigation here ended with no charges...

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Breaking: Heather Wilson Will Not Run For Governor In 2010: Makes Announcement on Facebook Page

Former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson says she will not run for Governor in 2010. She made the announcement late Friday morning in an email to supporters that was also posted on her Facebook page. Here is the note she wrote:

Over the last ten months a lot of New Mexicans have encouraged me to run for Governor in 2010. I understand why New Mexicans want a strong leader to restore fiscal responsibility and integrity in Santa Fe and I deeply appreciate the confidence so many New Mexicans have expressed in me.

At the same time, I am well aware of the demands and limitations of elected office. My work in the private sector is satisfying, I do volunteer work that matters, and I am enjoying having more personal time to spend with family and friends. The Governor of New Mexico has no significant national security role -- an issue area that continues to be an important part of my life. Running for office and being Governor means setting these things aside.

To every thing there is a season. I will probably return to public life at some point, but I have decided that I will not run for Governor or any other office in 2010.

GOP Guv candidate Susana Martinez reacts:

"Heather Wilson is an accomplished leader who is admired and respected by New Mexicans regardless of their political persuasion. I would first and foremost like to thank her for the years of service to New Mexico...I am certain Heather will continue to have a profound and positive impact on the state she so deeply cares about. With Heather's announcement that she will not seek the governorship in 2010, it has become more clear than ever that I am the one candidate seeking the Republican Party's nomination who can build the necessary coalition to compete and win next fall. I have a proven track record of bringing people together and winning tough elections in a county where Republicans are outnumbered nearly three to one. In the weeks and months to come, I will continue to travel the state communicating my vision for New Mexico based on my conservative principles and values."

GOP Guv candidate Allen Weh reacts:

“Heather Wilson has been a distinguished public servant for this state and nation,” Weh said. “I am quite confident she is not done with public service regardless of this decision.

NM Democratic Party reacts:

Heather Wilson, sensing the strength of Lt. Governor Diane Denish, today decided she would not seek the Governor’s office. The Republican Party, decimated after the 2008 election, is left with a nothing more than a handful of second-tier candidates for the state’s top office.

"Regardless of who emerges from the Republican primary, the lack of experience in their entire slate of Republican candidates should deeply concern New Mexicans. Now is not the time for on-the-job training. We need a proven leader to help New Mexico families’ weather these tough times, and none of the Republicans running come close to meeting that challenge."

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

State Budget: Reality Denied? Plus: Sex Scandal Roils Sheriff's Race, And: Bill's Plane Vs. The Newspaper's Plane; Where They Headed?

Even as his counterparts around the nation bow to the inevitable and trim their budgets, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson remains impervious to arguments that he should do the same. Instead, he has launched a full-scale offensive against trimming state agency budgets under his control and that the Legislature mandated at its recent special session. He appears to be laying the groundwork for a veto of the budget fix by the Nov. 12 deadline. If he does, it will again put the executive and legislative branches back on a collision course.

Bill has trotted out his secretary of human services as well as his corrections secretary to warn that health services will suffer and prison closures will be needed to meet the Legislature's required 7.6 percent reductions in their budgets by June 30, the end of the current budget year.

But is that really spooking the public this Halloween week? They are already contending with a record 8 percent unemployment rate in ABQ, a statewide rate nearing 8 percent; a crash in housing and commercial real estate; a slashing of credit available to them and a plunge in the value of their retirement accounts. Furloughs--in which government employees are forced to take unpaid time off--may seem downright gentle to the thousands of New Mexicans ravaged by the most unforgiving economic breakdown of their lifetimes.

Still, the Governor does not budge. Of course, he is correct that in an ideal world the Legislature would give up $150 million of their pork projects, transfer that money to the General Fund and use that to make the 7.6 percent cuts. Maybe he even says that in his veto message, but it still does not address the fundamental crisis the New Mexican government faces.

The budget shortfall for the year that begins July 1, 2010 is estimated to approach as much as $1 billion, when you include the drying up of federal stimulus money. And the $150 million in cut capital outlay would only solve this year's budget woes. The argument is that we need permanent savings. What about next year and the year after that?


The Guv isn't the only one drawing lines in the sand. Republicans insist on no tax increases--not realistic--and liberals insist on nothing but taxes--also unrealistic.

The middle ground, as usual, is where the answer lies. The executive needs to come with a mix of permanent spending cuts and tax increases--now. It's too late to kick the can into the next administration. When the Legislature meets in January it will be charged with filling the budget hole still remaining for this budget year, and to draft a budget for the next year as well.

The media is reporting unchallenged the claims of the human services and corrections secretaries that the 7.6 percent budget cuts will result in calamity. But would it? Haven't these secretaries considered selective employee furloughs? Oops. Forgot. That word has been banned by Big Bill. Maybe someone will call in Auditor Balderas for a reality check to see just where these budgets can be cut without the dramatic consequences alleged by these political appointees?

What is clear that someone needs to prepare the state workforce for the pain that is to come in the ensuing years. That pain has already come in spades to Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico who we think will generously share their morphine drips.


Legislative insiders say the Guv does not need to force legislators to disgorge their capital outlay projects (although many of them need to be) to meet that 7.6 percent budget cut to agencies under his control. They say Big Bill still has most of the $58 million in federal stimulus money he was allotted and can divert that money to make up for the cuts. Some of it has been appropriated for local government use, but has not left the treasury. They say he could re-target those funds.


The Guv's political acumen is his strong suit. We're sure the dog and pony show he is orchestrating about the impact of the budget cuts will probably meet with public approval. But the party will soon be over. The state Constitution mandates a balanced budget, and unless the Governor gets another job and is gone in January, he will have to face the budget crisis head-on.

The relationship between the branches of government is so poisonous now, we would not rule out a stalemate and a constitutional crisis that could endanger the state's standing in the financial markets.

Usually, these things have a way of working out before the breaking point is reached, but these are not usual times. During the special legislative session neither the Governor or the Legislature could force themselves to administer the necessary pain. Until you see signs that both sides are willing to deal, don't rule out the worst case scenario.

Kristy Sanchez-Trujillo
One of the leading contenders to replace Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White may take himself out of the running. Cris Sanchez told us Wednesday night he will make a deicsion soon. Sanchez's daughter, Kristy Sanchez-Trujillo, 33, an Albuquerque Public Schools mid-school teacher has been fired over accusations she had sex with a 13-year-old boy. She taught 7th grade social studies at Jimmy Carter Middle School, and the boy was a student at the school.

We mentioned Sanchez this week, a retired sheriff's lieutenant, as a favorite of Bernalillo County Commissioner Art De La Cruz. The commission will name someone to fill out the remainder of White's term. He is going to work for the city.

At least 20 persons have applied for the $68,000 a year job. Another name thought to be near the top of the list is that of ABQ police commander Conrad Candelaria. The commission says it plans to make a decision at its Nov. 24 meeting.

Sanchez-Trujillo is presumed innocent, but the charges are so sensational that Cris may be knocked out of the game.


So what did Doug Turner say during his six stop tour making official his entry into the 2010 GOP Guv race Wednesday? Well, stuff that sounded as much aimed at independent voters as those in the ever-shrinking GOP:

We can no longer allow the divide of party lines to rule the Roundhouse. It’s time to come together as New Mexicans, not politicians, finding common sense solutions to turn our education system around, keep and grow companies in New Mexico, and enhance transparency in government. Voters should be the only influence over government, not special interests.

Can Turner get enough Republicans to respond to that message which has strong appeal to independents? He has to secure 20 percent of the delegate vote at the party's March pre-primary convention to win a place on the June 2010 ballot. With four candidates in the race so far, that is far from a done deal.

With no Heather Wilson in the race, Allen Weh has taken the lead position for the GOP Guv nod. He has the most money, is best-known in party circles and as an Anglo Republican with extensive military experience, he best matches the prevailing party demographic.

Supporters of candidates Turner, Susana Martinez and Janice Arnold-Jones are all starting to chant the "Weh Can't Win in November" argument, as they sense that the lone Anglo, conservative male in the race is poised to break out.

The Diane Denish club agrees with their Republican counterparts that Weh is likely the weakest GOP nominee, but the presumed Dem Guv contender faces a more hostile environment than she did only three months ago. With a very unsettled electorate, the Denish camp can't discount the possibility that even Weh, seen as too hard-right for moderate NM, could not somehow make a race of this.


The state Democratic Party has been quick to welcome all the GOP Guv candidates as they make their runs official. Doug Turner has now received his Democratic love note.

We wish Doug Turner luck as he begins his transformation from political operative and special interest lobbyist to candidate. However, while Turner may have an impressive track record helping politicians and special interests get ahead, New Mexicans deserve a Governor with an impressive record of helping families get ahead. New Mexico families need a Governor who is prepared to make our state a leader in the 21st century economy and...that’s not Doug Turner.

But haven't we had eight years of Democratic rule to "make our state a leader in the 21st century economy?" Just asking.


The state's $5.5 million Cessna Jet has been a longtime lightning rod for Big Bill's administration. A September column from the ABQ Journal's Thom Cole renewed interest in the use of the aircraft when he reported it was difficult for the public to track its flights. He reported that Public Safety Secretary John Denko, citing "security concerns" blocked the release of the info. Now from the email comes this provocative retort to Cole from a friend of Bill:

I'm sure you saw Thom Cole’s ridiculous column and the even more ridiculous editorial about the state blocking the public from being able to monitor the status of the state’s aircraft in real time on the Internet. They worried that the public won’t be able to monitor the flying habits of “fat cats.” Ironically, the “fat cat” publisher of the Journal doesn’t see a need for the public to know when and where the Journal’s plush Falcon 200 is flying.

Go to FlightAware and plug in the tail number (N999TH) for the plane owned by Journal Enterprises Inc. and you get the following message: Journal Enterprises Inc.---This aircraft (N999TH) is not available for tracking per request from the owner/operator.

Despite the fact that the Journal is privately owned, I would think the ownership would hold itself to higher standards if they are going to take shots at public officials. I mean, how is the public going to know whether the Journal plane is or is not flying around some of the very same public officials it covers--officials like former (Republican) Sen. Pete Domenici?

Fun stuff, but we didn't see anything in there about the Guv unblocking the flight info so the public can see where their jet is going. Also, taxpayers don't pay for the expensive maintenance or the fuel pumped into the Journal jet.


An update on the Kirtland Air Force Base fighter wing known as the "Tacos," a story we have been following for months because of its potential economic impact on ABQ. From US Rep. Martin Heinrich:

President Obama signed into law Wednesday the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, which included language secured by (Heinrich) that prohibits the retirement of the 150th Fighter Wing from Kirtland Air Force Base until the Secretary of the Air Force has submitted a detailed plan that includes the identification and description of a follow up mission for the Fighter Wing (commonly referred to as the “Tacos”).

That's an annual payroll of $15 million, according to Senator Bingaman's office. There's no guarantee for future years, but for the next one it appears the Tacos will not be crunched.

Earl Potter
Former NM Democratic Party chairman and Santa Fe attorney Earl Potter thinks we overreached when we blogged Wednesday that all of those on the search committee to pick a new state investment officer had given sizable donations to Big Bill's presidential campaign. In light of the scandals shaking the State Investment Council, forcing the resignation of investment officer Gary Bland, we thought the contributions highlighted how politics remains wedded to investment policy, but Potter sees it differently:

Joe, You’ve gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. It’s appropriate to suggest that those receiving government contracts or subsidies should not be permitted to make contributions to those officials in charge of conferring those benefits. But you take this impulse in an absurd direction by suggesting that those State Investment Council members who make campaign contributions to the Governor should be disqualified from making recommendations for State Investment Officer. Exactly what corruption are you trying to prevent here?

Just how are Steve Feinberg and Andrew Davis, whose businesses have nothing to do with state government or any state investments, compromised in their recommendations for State Investment officer by the fact they have made political contributions?

Thanks, Earl. We did not mention the State Investment Council members, but we would include them in our concerns. We think there needs to be thicker walls around our state's permanent funds. What is so absurd about wanting some members on a search committee for the state's chief investment officer to have no political connections? It strikes us as a commonsense to have at least one party who can be called truly disinterested in whether the investment officer is viewed favorably by the sitting Governor.

Let's not forget that we've got a "placement agent" who shared in $22 million in fees for securing state investments with hedge funds and other entities. Investigators want to know whether the investments were directed based on political connections. The chief investment officer resigned in disgrace amid the federal investigation.

What seems "ridiculous" and "absurd" to us is defending the status quo.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Politically Connected Loom In Search For Investment Chief, Plus: Turner Guv Bid In Six Cities, And: Woman Made Widow By Cookie Bandit May Seek Office

What do all of the persons chosen by Big Bill to seek a new State Investment Officer have in common? According to records we checked, all donated--most at least $2,300 each--to the Guv's ill-fated presidential campaign. Even after scandalous headlines that forced the resignation of investment officer Gary Bland, getting the politics out--completely out--of the investment of our state's multi-billion dollar permanent funds is going to be a challenge.

The search committee members chosen by the Guv seem like a competent bunch. Certainly, Doug Brown, who will head the search is a well-respected finance man, who is currently Dean of the University of New Mexico's Anderson School of Management. And the rest of the committee is well-credentialed and respected in their respective fields.

But we are dealing with this:

New Mexico’s chief investment officer resigned after the state was drawn into a nationwide investigation of the fees paid to politically connected agents by those seeking to win investment-management work.

State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons, a member of the investment council, said the Paul Hastings law firm of Los Angeles collected information that Bland pressured money managers doing business with the state to hire certain middlemen. The investment council hired Hastings to help it respond to a joint investigation by the SEC and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Marc Correra, the son of a political supporter of Richardson, shared in more than $16 million, about half of fees paid to middlemen for New Mexico investments. Correra’s father, Anthony, served on the board of political action committee Richardson set up to register Hispanic and American Indian voters.

So can't we have at least some members on the search committee for a new investment officer who are apolitical--who haven't given any campaign donations to anyone and are simply competent businessmen and women, or is that an extinct species?

We did not find any presidential campaign donations to Big Bill from Bob Jacksha, who currently serves as Chief Investment Officer for the Education Retirement Board, and who has been picked to serve as interim State Investment Officer during the search. We haven't checked whether Jacksha gave to the Guv's state campaigns or PAC's.

Here are the investment officer search committee members. Click on their names to see their donations.

Secretary of the state Department of Finance Administration Katherine Miller ($2,300); Andrew Davis, a portfolio manager with Davis Advisors; Stephen L. Feinberg, Chairman and CEO of Dorsar Investment Company and corporate director for continental Transmission Corporation; and Peter Frank, who retired as Executive Vice President and chief Financial Officer from Daymon Worldwide Inc. and Doug Brown who is leading the committee.

Doug Turner
ABQ PR executive Doug Turner will clock some serious air miles today as he embarks on a six city tour to make a formal announcement of his 2010 candidacy for the GOP Guv nomination. (Hasn't he done that already?) He'll start in Cruces, then head to Roswell, Clovis, Farmington and Taos. He'll end the day with a public reception in ABQ at 7 p.m. at the Sunrise Bank Building at 3rd and Central Avenue. The candidate is now also up on Facebook, somewhat de riguer for any serious politico.

Turner, 40, recently kick-started his campaign with a loan of $243,000 and in-kind contributions mainly from his PR company of $86,000, but his problem is not necessarily money; it's whether an increasingly conservative state GOP has room for a moderate candidacy such as his.

As Turner prepared to go formal today, his old boss, former two-term GOP NM Governor Gary Johnson, was also announcing political plans of a sort. He said he will soon launch a Web site to discuss "the issues of the day." Also, a group of Libertarians is working to persuade Johnson, 56, to run for president in 2012. Turner managed one of Johnson's successful Guv campaigns. Looks like he is back sharing space with the boss, whether intended or not.

Tonia Harris
There could be an interesting and maybe even controversial state House race shaping up in Rio Rancho. The question is can the widow of a sheriff's deputy killed in the line of duty secure the GOP nomination and then go on to oust freshman Democratic Rep. Jack Thomas?

Rio Rancho teacher Tonia Harris
, the widow of Sandoval County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Joe Harris, who lost his life in the line of duty earlier this year, is weighing a bid for the GOP nod for the state House seat held by Democrat Jack Thomas who won it in 2008.

Harris was gunned down by "Cookie Bandit" Joseph Burgess in an incident at Jemez Springs in July.

Tonia Harris says of her late husband:

Joe always believed that it was important to get involved in our community and stand up for what we believe in. I am concerned about the direction of our state and have been encouraged by friends, family and neighbors to consider doing something about it by running for the legislature.

Harris is a native New Mexican from Roswell. She is on leave as a literacy specialist at Enchanted Hills Elementary School in Rio Rancho. She is expected to formally announce in January.

Thomas is a popular former Sandoval County Commissioner. The district is evenly divided between Dems and R's, making it one of the few swing districts in the state.


We aren't holding our breath for anything to come of it, but Big Bill's meeting this month with GE Chairman and CEO in Connecticut does put those 400 ABQ GE jobs we are slated to lose next year in front of Jeff Immelt. New Mexico has enjoyed a long relationship with GE. The Guv proposed that the blue chip company, which announced it is closing its jet engine manufacturing facility in SE ABQ in July, build windmills and solar equipment--instead of shutting up shop.

We received several e-mails when GE announced the closing. Several of them, including one from New Mexico Magazine associate publisher Jon Bowman, told of how their dads had started working at the plant in the 60's and made a living good enough to put their kids through college. These are the type of manufacturing jobs that we are going to sorely miss because of the Great Recession,. Perhaps Bill can get CEO Jeff to visit here so he can be lobbied more vigorously. Maybe take him for a horseback ride and ply him with green chile, margaritas and mariachi music.


State R's are sending out periodic updates on their candidates for Guv and the three congressional seats. Here they are.


A reader who calls himself "The Valencia Observer," has an interesting take on how the battle for the 2010 Dem nomination for lieutenant governor is breaking down in that central NM county:

Brian Colon is a Los Lunas High School grad raised in Bosque Farms. He seemed to have the inside track in the race here. However, Lawrence Rael has decided to compete and has landed some useful support. Julian Luna, state racing commission executive director, has begun to actively campaign for Lawrence. One would think that it wouldn’t make sense for Luna to get involved since he might be on the ballot himself in June 2010 if he goes through with a primary challenge against State Representative Elias Barela...However, Arnold Rael, chairman of the Racing Commission and Luna’s long-time boss, is Lawrence Rael’s cousin.

Sounds like hand-to-hand combat out there.


We talked Tuesday about the behind-the-scenes action as the Bernalillo County Commission considers a replacement for Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White who is resigning to become ABQ's public safety director. And we continued the discussion with KOB-TV's Antoinette Antonio.

We omitted the link yesterday to the obituary of the mother of attorney David Campbell who has been nominated by Mayor-elect Berry to become ABQ's chief administrative officer.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Leading Sheriff Candidates Emerge, But Can Dems Do Deal? Plus: Bill's Pork Freeze: Prelude To Budget Veto? And: Dump The Double-Dippers?

De La Cruz & Armijo--A deal?
Leading candidates have emerged to replace Darren White as Bernalillo County Sheriff, but it remains uncertain whether majority Democrats on the Bernalillo County Commission can overcome disagreement among themselves and put the office in the Dem column after nearly eight years of Republican rule.

Interviews with a variety of key players reveal that Cris Sanchez, a retired 23 year sheriff's lieutenant who narrowly lost the post to White in 2002, and 25 year ABQ police department veteran Conrad Candelaria, are at the top of the crowded heap, but neither has secured the votes to be appointed.

South Valley Commissioner Art De La Cruz has strong ties to fellow Valley resident Sanchez, but County Commission Chairman Alan Armijo is not sold. Maggie Hart-Stebbins is the third Dem on the panel. She may be poised to go along with her two fellow Dems if they can agree on either Sanchez or Candelaria.

Candelaria has now said he is abandoning plans to become the next NM US Marshal, a post he confirms he has interviewed for. He is now asking commissioners to appoint him sheriff to replace White who is resigning to become ABQ's public safety director. If he does not win the appointment, Candelaria says he will immediately begin a campaign for the Dem nomination in the June 2010 primary. White's second four year term runs out next year.


If Sanchez or Candelaria can't get the votes, there is talk that a "place holder" could be named. That would be a sheriff who would agree to finish out White's term but not seek election to a four year term in 2010.

But Democrats outside the commission, already stinging from their recent loss of the ABQ mayor's office, don't like the place holder concept. They argue--and with good reason--that the commission needs to appoint a top candidate who can immediately take command of the office and also launch an election campaign. With no Democratic incumbent, they reason, the Republicans will stand a decent chance of retaining the office.

Several R's have applied for the position, but since there are only two R's on the five member commission--Michael Wiener and Michael Brasher--an R contender would also have to have a Dem supporter. That is unlikely.

The commission is looking at November 24th as the date to make the appointment.

Candelaria & Sanchez
While there may be over 20 applicants, analysts point out that in order to have your name voted on you must be nominated by one commissioner and another commissioner must then second the motion. That restriction will probably limit the choices.

But hungry Dems want a deal cut beforehand and are hoping Armijo and De La Cruz can do one. Sanchez supporters argue it is his turn--that he was the '02 Dem nominee and has the requisite law experience. But Candelaria supporters think Sanchez is a weak candidate, pointing out that he ultimately lost to Republican White. They say police department commander Candelaria, at 43 and used to dealing with the public, will make a stronger candidate with more appeal than Sanchez in city precincts.

There is plenty of time for jockeying for all the possibles, including potential placeholders. But Democratic Party pressure will mount on Armijo and De la Cruz.
With 280 deputies and 100 civilian employees, this is one of the state's major law enforcement outposts. You don't often get a head start in trying to take it over.


The behind-the-scenes battle over naming a new sheriff is somewhat similar to the power playing going on over the nomination of attorney David Campbell for the post of ABQ's chief administrative officer. Campbell needs five of the nine city councilors to approve his nomination. The voters for him are not there yet, although Mayor-elect Berry says he is rounding them up.

Campbell's efforts to garner council support were slowed last Wednesday when his mother passed away in Phoenix. Here is the ABQ Journal obituary. It's been a month of wild swings for the 55 year old land use and corporate lawyer. He says he had accepted a US Foreign Service post when Berry won the mayor's job and offered him the CAO post.

Porky Pig
Is Big Bill's freezing of up to $150 million in capital outlay projects--commonly known as pork--a prelude to a veto of a big portion of the state budget shortfall measure approved by the Legislature last week? That was the question insiders were asking as they gamed out this latest poke in the ribs of the state's solons.

Richardson is complaining that agencies under his control have been ordered to cut their budgets by 7.6 percent for the budget year that ends June 30. Could he veto that order and ask that the Legislature use the pork savings to make it up?

He could. But the 7 percent cuts lawmakers want are "recurring." They would also help solve the next year's fiscal crisis. Canceling capital outlay projects, as Bill is requesting, would be one time savings.

Many of these projects are near and dear to legislators' hearts who use them as examples of why they should be re-elected. But we have over $1 billion in capital outlay money that has been allocated but not spent. The $150 million the Guv is asking to be cut is a tempting target. But legislators will argue their 7.6 percent cut to Guv-controlled agencies is equally compelling at a time when the state shortfall is in the hundreds of millions. Richardson's "freeze" will only have real-world impact if the Legislature agrees. Don't count on it.

Meanwhile, the Guv continues to make his case that he has cut enough on his resurrected blog.

Sen. Griego
We suggested in our October 20th blog that if progressive legislators concerned about cuts to education wanted to score some points they could take up the "pupils before pork" mantle. And one of them did. ABQ Dem State Senator Eric Griego managed to get a measure approved--"people before pork"-- that has the Legislature identifying $150 million in dormant projects that could be cut. But Big Bill argues that identifying them isn't good enough and slapped on the capital outlay freeze. But it might not last long. The Legislature will have review power when it goes back into session in January.

This latest volley in the budget predicament again highlights the need for the Legislature and Governor to make more changes in how we do capital outlay so dollars are not needlessly put in a lock box and stay there for years. The Guv's poking over pork also shows his relationship with lawmakers remains polarized, with less than 90 days to go before the most significant legislative session in several generations.


If furloughs or layoffs have to come to state government because of the budget crisis, reader Daniel Klein has an idea that could have some legs. He says those notorious "double-dippers"--state workers who are receiving a retirement check, but go back to work for the state and draw two paychecks--should be the first to take the hit.

Lay off the double-dippers first. Don't take a job from a person who has no other source of income. The double-dippers are already receiving their pensions and many are in very high paying positions. They got back in due to "connections," but they should not be allowed to stay in when a entry level person, struggling to support their family, might be laid off instead...

So will Governor Richardson go through the agencies under his control and look for the double dippers so he can meet that 7 percent cut legislators mandated? Heck, will he do it even if he vetoes the 7 percent cut? Or will he insist that folks making well north of $100,000 from two government checks must be exempted from any economic pain, even as the state budget deficit defies easy solutions?


We've found much of the analysis of the southern congressional race somewhat manic, with R's claiming the race between incumbent Dem US Rep. Harry Teague and Republican Steve Pearce is effectively over, and even some Dems looking to throw in the towel on Teague.

The Alligators have been calling this race a toss-up, and that is also the conclusion of Congressional Quarterly in their fresh look at the contest. CQ notes that both candidates are well-financed.

We think Teague probably reached his nadir in recent months with climate change and health care dominating the debate, but as we move on to other issues next year he should recover some. Pearce is still thought of as the congressman by many residents in the district, even though Teague won the seat in 2008. All of that is a sure-fire recipe for a heated contest.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Speaker & Dr. No Make The Peace, Plus: Statewide Reaction to Special Session, And: The Transition: Marty's Lame-Duck Moves & Berry Growing Pains

Peace Made--Lujan & Smith
The 2009 special legislative session may have ended amid ambiguity and frustration, but that was an improvement over the finish of the last session in March when the wheels came off. And the key players in that spring wreck made a point of showing that bygones are truly bygones. As the clock ticked down late Friday, the PR mavens had House Speaker Ben Lujan and Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur "Dr. No" Smith, who nearly came to blows in March, hang out together, providing the perfect picture. If not exactly looking lovey-dovey, they at least looked like two guys who could peacefully watch the end of a Lobos game together. (Come to think of it this session kind of ended like recent Lobo football tests.)

In March, you may recall, it was a far different story. Within minutes of the session skidding to a close, Lujan unloaded a diatribe on Smith that shocked the state. He approached Smith on the Senate floor, hopping mad over Smith killing a House amendment, telling him:

You are full of shit. If you have anything to accuse me of, why didn't you come and tell me to my face or at least make a phone call. You are not worth a shit. I have absolutely no interest there. (You are) a racist S.O.B.

Smith played down that outburst, saying:

You'd like for people to have better control in public but I understand when you're tired and spend a lot of time (working).


Lujan confronts Smith
The impromptu confrontation was a low-point in New Mexican politics where ethnic and cultural diversity is one of the joys of the state. Lujan rapidly apologized for his error.

We don't know if there is much bonding between Lujan and Smith going on, but the news pictures of them at session's end were more about healing the wounds their incident inflicted on the state, rather than them personally. From this corner, it appeared to do the trick.

The upcoming January session--the mother of all sessions--is going to test the temperament and stamina of all involved. In fact, leaders Lujan and Smith might be hugging each other in relief when that one is over.

(Both pics today are from the New Mexican.)


The special session may be over, but the final chapter is still to be written. Governor Big Bill may veto key sections of the budget shortfall bill that lawmakers sent him. He says it's too tough on certain state agencies. He has 20 days to decide whether he will exercise his veto power. The Guv won big on education--hardly any cuts--but is still critical of legislators for asking for some agencies to trim their budgets by over 7 percent for the rest of the budget year.

Bill, if you think that's tough, you ain't see nothing yet. We are going to have to raise taxes a gazillion dollars or take some real budget pain. Or we could do the rational thing and do some of both. Whatever the case, there are no more big kicks left to send the can down the road. The denial of economic reality ends in January. Don't say we didn't tell you.


We've gathered lawmaker reaction to the special session for you from news sources across the Land of Enchantment. Here it is--in their own words:

Sen. Gay Kernan (R-Hobbs): I know we didn’t do as much with recurring funds as we needed to and I think in January we’re going to find ourselves in a mess.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez (D-Belen): It isn’t pretty. It doesn’t solve the problem; we know that. But it’s a step forward.

Rep. Jimmie Hall (R-ABQ): It's going to have to be looked at from the standpoint that what are our essential services- that the state has to have to continue going forward.

Rep. Dennis Kintigh (R-Roswell): I continue to worry that we have not addressed the problem and all we’ve done is kicked the can further down the road and it’s not a solution. We’re going to be facing a very difficult and demanding session in January.

Senate Finance Chairman John Arthur Smith (D-Deming): We’re trying to Band-Aid something together to keep state government moving along as best we can under dire, dire circumstances.

Gov. Bill Richardson (who could veto parts of the budget bill): The drastic cuts to state agencies will likely lead to dramatically reduced critical services, such as Medicaid funding for behavioral health care, children's health care and programs for the elderly. Layoffs are also likely under the Legislature's plan.

Rep. Al Park (D-ABQ): From last year to this year, it was a billion dollar shrinkage of state government, so state employees are going to have to bear an unfortunate brunt on that.

Senator Richard Martinez (D-EspaƱola): Jesus Christ, what have my colleagues in this body become? (commenting on legislative tactics).

Sen. Rod Adair (R-Roswell): We put some Band-Aids on a grossly over-bloated budget and went home. We did it with one-time accounting maneuvers that do nothing to correct the deficit we face in the 2010 or 2011 budgets.

House Majority Leader Ken Martinez (D-Grants): One of the most emotional sessions we've ever had...Things that are very dear to us--children, schools, services, basic needs.

Rep. Bill Gray (R-Artesia): It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a big sore. Come January everybody will take more of a haircutt.

House Speaker Ben Lujan (D-Santa Fe): Our actions in this session provide the breathing room we need for now before we come back in January. This is part of our job as lawmakers to make the hard decisions.

House Minority Floor Whip Keith Gardner (R-Roswell): I’m disappointed. We still have not managed to fix the problems that we came here to fix. We put a Band-Aid on the problem and patted ourselves on the back and then walked out. We’re going to come back in January and face the same problems that we faced when we showed up here a week ago.

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings (D-Roswell): It helps us get going, but it is going to leave us with a huge nut to crack in January. We’re going to have to work really hard and it’s going to be difficult. We can get it all done in January, we’re just going to have to fight real hard to make it work. We’re going to be all right, we’ll take care of it.

Governor Bill will hear public input before deciding what to do with the budget measure. His office said: New Mexicans can contact the Governor’s Office with their thoughts about the budget bills by email: or by phone: 505-476-2210.

A lame duck

You need to look no further than the lame-duck pay raises outgoing ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez gave to select employees at City Hall to know you will probably never see his name again on a New Mexico ballot. The raises drew a scathing newspaper editorial and derision all around. But Chavez, who has not yet said what his plans are for after he completes his term November 30, is leaving Government Center like Santa Claus after a chimney dump. Besides the raises to Chavez favorites, an insider points out some other developments in these last days of Marty World:

Reporters should look into these items:
The mayor has bumped some department directors down to their previous jobs, but at the same pay scale. Jay Evans was head of the Parks and Recreation Department, but has moved back to Open Space, from whence he came. His director’s salary went with this long-time friend of the Mayor. Michael Riordan has moved down in the ranks of the Department of Municipal Development, keeping his $100,000+ director’s salary.

These “soft landings” happen all the time, but not usually with such hefty price tags.
The kicker is the new associate director position that was recently created in the Aviation department. Will (Chief Administrative Officer) Ed Adams fill this position, which just happens to be salaried at his current pay rate of $145,000. Sound fishy?

Well, we don't know if it sounds fishy. But it does sound like the outgoing His Honor is pushing to the max the time honored tradition of protecting your friends at the end.

It will be interesting to see how many, if any, high-ranking plum positions new Mayor Berry eliminates. He has plenty of financial reasons to do so, which leads us to...


We appear to be right on the bubble when it comes to furloughs or layoffs of ABQ city government employees. The budget deficit for the budget year that started July 1st is running at about $10 million, according to Councilor Ken Sanchez. That means the city council and new administration will have to trim at least that much from the budget following a December review. That only gives them about six months to do it--until the end of the budget year June 30.

Sanchez and Mayor-elect RJ Berry are saying layoffs are a last resort, but Sanchez is talking increasingly of furloughs as a possible puzzle solver. That's when employees stay home for a week or two without pay but don't lose their jobs. It's happening at budget strapped governments across the country.

Much like state government, Berry needs to review the salary structure. While those holding the nice jobs often tell us that $100,000 a year isn't that much, in the real recession-plagued world those government salaries are seeming quite out sized.


RJ Berry
Meanwhile, Alligators and insiders are questioning why an op-ed piece from Berry's camp popped up in the ABQ Journal Sunday. It extolled the virtues of Berry's first appointments--attorney and Democrat David Campbell as chief administrative officer and Darren White as public safety director. Campbell's nomination to the city's second most powerful position has ignited a behind-the-scenes battle with the nine member city council, which is currently split over the nomination. Berry takes office Dec. 1 and the CAO confirmation hearing will follow.

The drama is being played out on the phone lines (and on this blog) but aside from one Journal story quoting Councilor Brad Winter's opposition to Campbell, this has been an insider baseball game. But with the op-ed piece authored by transition chair Sherman McCorkle, the Berry camp may have given the Campbell foes an opportunity to respond and to make their case against him on a wider platform. That would raise the stakes even higher for the mayor-elect.

Advisers from varied political persuasions are telling us that Berry needs to save the Campbell nomination by good old-fashioned, out-of-the-limelight arm twisting. They point out that former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson endorsed Berry and might be able to play a role in assisting the new mayor to get council R's Dan Lewis, Mike Cook and Brad Winter to support his pick. As we've written earlier, they are saying the same of Darren White who has deep ties to the party. Also, Lewis and Cook shared the same political consultant for their council campaigns, Doug Antoon, who is one of the more vehement opponents of Campbell. Is Berry working that angle with the state GOP?

And what of Brad Winter, once positioned to be the leader of moderate Republicans, but with no flock to lead he went hard-right? There appears to be no compromise left in Winter, once touted as a possible mayor or congressman. The bitterness is palpable; the "what could have beens" stinging like cactus needles. His vote appears gone.

One more thing. Ryan Cangliosi, the acting executive director of the NM GOP, is close to Berry. Will he and GOP Chairman Harvey Yates lend quiet support to the nomination of Dem Campbell or will hard-right R's, shedding no tears over moderate Berry's troubles, rule the day?

Berry is a babe in the political woods when it comes to governing and he may have jumped the gun by not consulting with the council before making the Campbell pick. A failed nomination could cripple the new administration even before it takes its first steps. Now Berry is being forced to find his sea legs early. But he showed keen political instincts in his election bid and with city tradition on his side, insiders think he should be able to pull this nomination out.

(Berry gave his first in-depth interview since becoming mayor-elect. The broadcast aired Sunday on KOB-TV's "Eye on "New Mexico." Video is here.)

After eight years of continous power playing under Mayor Chavez, Albuquerque is ready for executive leadership to be dialed down, but does the city want mayoral drift and lopsided council dominance in its stead? Stay tuned...

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lord, You Gave Us A Mountain: The Autumn Wind Comes Roaring In; Jobless Jump; Energy Tax Collapse; State Investment Officer Out; Special Session Pain

  • The New Mexico Legislature adjourned its special session at 7 p.m. Friday after approving a measure to shore up the state's $650 million projected deficit. Governor Richardson is indicating he may be veto portions of the bill. He has 20 days in which to decide.

The winds of historic economic change roared against the storied walls of the Santa Fe Roundhouse Thursday, promising even more pain as lawmakers grappled with the state's most vexing budget crisis since The Great Depression.

First came the new jobless numbers revealing that unemployment had spiked to the unheard level of 8 percent in the government-dominated economy of the ABQ metro. The official statewide rate jumped to a new high of 7.7 percent, although experts warned the actual rates are likely in the double-digits.

Then came another whip of wind. The land commissioner reported revenue flowing into state coffers from oil and gas royalties--so important to the state budget--had plunged in the July quarter by a startling $100 million, compared to one year ago.

And the hurricane force wind of change that will permanently alter the political landscape of the New Mexican government--and perhaps the culture of the state--blew yet again. The state investment officer--responsible for investing billions from the state's permanent funds--resigned amid yet another pay to play scandal, prompting a war of public words and the specter of a long legal battle.

The jocularity and knowing cynicism that dominates political conversation here has been replaced by a stony sobriety. At the Capitol late Thursday, as a final budget deal was being hammered out, KOB-TV veteran political reporter Stuart Dyson, in the game since '74, told us that only in recent hours had citizen legislators really begun to come to grips with the enormity of the crisis they face.

"The old hands knew, but these guys--regular guys from around the state--are frazzled. They're stunned. They are hearing deficit numbers that simply can't be comprehended when it is your task to deal with them..They are life-changing numbers, Joe, and the talk has already shifted to the next session when reality must be dealt with..." said the newsman.

The late, great country singer Marty Robbins made famous the song, "Lord, This Time You Gave Me A Mountain," and last night--a historic night in our Capitol--our mountain was finally confronted.

The volunteer politicians took to the floor to debate the budget compromise in what sometimes seemed like group therapy. They uttered the unutterable numbers; shook their fists at the fates; confessed their love for their state and mourned the end of an economic era the likes of which will not be see again in our lifetimes. It brought to mind that timeless phrase: "To be Irish is to know that in the end the world will break your heart."

The 70 House solons were all of the Irish persuasion last night, all with broken hearts for the place we and they call home.

House Speaker Lujan
The post-traumatic stress disorder that reporter Dyson described as afflicting many of the lawmakers had them constructing a budget deal about as permanent as a sand castle. They kicked the can way down the road. The final House bill that will go to the Senate for approval today cuts public education by less than one percent. The revenue it uses to plug the gargantuan $650 million shortfall for the budget year that began July 1 and ends in June of 2010, is mainly one-time money, including hundreds of millions of Obama stimulus. That means for the budget year that starts July 1, 2010 we will start with a deficit of at least $700 million and possibly much, much more.

You can smell the fear and loathing even before you reach the Santa Fe city limits.

But legislative leaders, helpless in the face of deep divisions and prohibited by the Governor's proclamation from raising any taxes, will be pleased to get the Band-Aid and send it up to the Fourth Floor today. There, Governor Richardson is expected to give it his approval but not before he probably vetoes a provision that would force him to trim some 80 political positions. (Are those jobs like cockroaches after a nuclear war--the only things to survive?)

The state will be in dire need of statesmanship come January. There will be no escape from reality then. There will have to be spending cuts, tax increases and sacrifice from our political leaders, chief among them the Governor. Like many of our citizen legislators he has been hesitant to confront the deficit mountain. But faced with unions storming the capitol, lawmakers divided among themselves and a populace that feels both fearful and betrayed, Richardson must rise to the occasion for this, his final major political act on the state stage.

History will probably neither condemn or praise the Special Session now concluding. It will pass it off as shell shock. When the Governor and the legislators reconvene in the dead of winter, they will have one last chance to give a final, painful, bipartisan burial to a bygone era and set us on course for a new one.

They can climb that mountain, but to get to the top they will have to climb it together.

The changing of the guard at ABQ's City Hall is going to pick up steam as we get closer to Mayor-elect Berry officially taking over December 1st. Among the high profile names who won't be around to serve in the new Republican administration is Republican Greg Payne, head of the city's transit department under Mayor Chavez. Payne, who is is a former state rep as well as a former city councilor, says he has tendered his resignation and will leave Nov. 30, one day before Berry takes over.

Payne, 42, points to the upgrading of the city bus fleet and the Rapid Ride bus program as two of his major achievements. He is also pleased that voters approved continuing a quarter cent sales tax for transit at the recent city election.

Payne was a member of the mayor's inner circle of advisers in the recent campaign, so it's no surprise that he won't be one of the department directors staying around. As for what he will do after leaving his $109,000 a year job, Payne is not ruling out a return to politics, but says he has no immediate political or employment plans. Look for him on the ski slopes.


Our use this week of the time-worn phrase "country club Republicans" got the goat of former ABQ GOP State Rep. Rory Ogle who vented via email:

I can assure you that 1) I am a die hard right wing conservative Republican and 2) There are probably 10 times more Democrats that belong to country clubs that I will never see the inside of. If I played golf and could afford to belong to a country club I would not be out here in the middle of nowhere at White Sands Missile Range doing the 5PM to 3 AM shift. Having said that I will also remind you that when I was up in Santa Fe I never voted for one of Big Bills budgets and did not care if my capital outlay got vetoed...


Attention fellow conspirators. Republican Guv candidate Allen Weh has his offices in the same ABQ NE Heights strip mall where for years former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson headquartered her campaigns. From the email:

Dear Volunteer: Just to let you know, Allen Weh needs help with mailing, phone calls, etc. His office is located in the strip mall where Heather Wilson's office was and also Laffs Comedy Club.

So if Heather decides to get in the Guv's race, will Weh move over and Heather move in? She likes the neighborhood, doesn't she? (Do you think anyone will mistake Laffs Comedy Club for Allen Weh's headquarters?)


The office of ABQ DEM US Congressman Martin Heinrich was excited by this development late Thursday:

Heinrich announced that he was able to secure language to reauthorize the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) in the House version of the health insurance reform bill.

“Our country desperately needs health insurance reform—but our pursuit of reform cannot leave Native Americans behind. I represent tens of thousands of Native Americans in central New Mexico, and my constituents have made it clear that they cannot wait any longer for health care reform in Indian Country.The first step is reauthorizing IHCIA, which governs the Indian Health Care System (IHS). IHS is the provider for many Native American patients. Unfortunately, IHCIA was last reauthorized in 1992, and that reauthorization expired eight years ago....

Heinrich was helped in this effort by the House leadership which is doing all it can to give the freshman lawmaker a boost as he faces his first crucial re-election test in 2010.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Deal In Sight; Can They Bring It Home? State Watches Final Act Of Special Session, Plus: The Memo: Last Hours Of Mayor Marty Campaign

  • 2:30 p.m. Update: First budget fix goes to Guv's desk. It cuts $117 million from $650 million shortfall. House and Senate continued debate on more budget savings today. Now in recess. House slated to come back between 5 and 6 p.m. Committee and caucus meetings until then.
The Democratic-controlled NM Legislature may have avoided political disaster late Wednesday by finally taking some action on the immense $650 million deficit facing the state this budget year, but the long-term fiscal imbroglio remains far from solved and legislators need to do more today if they are to justify this session to voters.
Both House and Senate picked some low lying fruit by transferring to the General Fund about $100 million of cash laying around in various accounts. Why the state has that kind of money sloshing around was questioned by Roswell GOP Senator "Lightning" Rod Adair, but no one was much interested in finding out. That lawmakers could agree on anything to solve the epic financial conundrum was greeted as a major breakthrough after nearly five days of a standstill.

Just how important was it to the Dems that the ball started to roll in Santa Fe and that we will likely see some more cuts today to remedy our fiscal ills? Well, within minutes of that $100 million bill winning approval, Light Guv and 2010 Guv candidate Diane Denish rushed out a news release hailing it like they had won the war in Afghanistan up there. Well, if you had former GOP ABQ Congresswoman Heather Wilson conducting a death watch over you, you'd celebrate too.

If the Dems can keep their feet from getting cold and their razors sharp they will probably report more chipping away of the huge deficit by the time they adjourn, which Senate Majority Leader Sanchez is hoping is by sundown tonight. That timeline was encouraged as news swept through the Roundhouse that progressive Dems might agree to public education cuts of 1.5 percent as proposed by Governor Big Bill. That would pave the way for a measure to chop a higher percentage from all other state agencies.

Veteran Santa Fe Representative Lucky Varela authored a measure that made it through House Appropriations 11-6 that has $54 million in public education cuts, up from the $40 million Big Bill proposed. The Varela bill also includes a $35 million hit to higher education and a $102 million trim for other state agencies. If it can get through the House, it will serve as the template for the Senate.

The problem, as any Republican worth his country club membership will tell you, is that we are looking to solve much of this shortfall with "one time money." That means for the budget year that starts July 1, 2010, there will need to be even more pain administered. For example, in addition to that one-time $100 million found in cash accounts, we have Varela's bill that would use $79 million in federal stimulus money that would keep some programs running at current levels through June. After that there's no money for them unless new money (like new taxes) is found to support them.

Senator John "Dr. No" Smith and fellow fiscal surgeons, Varela and Roswell's Tim Jennings, have badgered, cajoled, begged and browbeat to get their fellow Dems to do what their DNA says they can't--cut a government budget in a big way. If they succeed, Jennings and Smith may have to do something their DNA says they can't--support some form of tax increases when the Legislature reconvenes for a 30 day session in January.

Progress today is also contingent upon House Speaker Ben Lujan bringing together his increasingly fractured Dem caucus, but if the progressives can swallow the small education cut, he is closing in. Big Bill is watching over it all, but he's already given the lawmakers enough heartburn to cause a shortage of Rolaids. He needs to give them plenty of room in what appears to be the final hours.


We'll update the blog today as the Legislature may head toward a final deal and adjournment. You can catch the Senate web cast and the House audio stream here.


He let his Senate Dems bitch and moan about Big Bill, demand tax increases that were not to be, indulged their humor and even made time for silly memorials. Majority Leader Sanchez has had a good run since Saturday, but it won't mean a damn thing if he can't get this train into the station on time--and with some hefty budget cargo aboard.


From the Senior Alligator file and why so many legislators--both D and R--failed to oppose Big Bill's big budgets during the boom years:

Have you forgotten Bill's vetoes of capital outlay allocations of legislators who displeased him? He strong-armed a lot of votes for his profligate spending proposals. Many legislators feared retaliation. So they voted to spend what he proposed. Should they have shown more courage? Yes, but many are too weak-kneed to face off against a vindictive governor.


Another Bill cabinet secretary is headed up the political food chain:

Governor Richardson announced that New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department Secretary Cindy Padilla has accepted a position with the federal Administration on Aging in Washington, D.C. Padilla will serve as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary.

Earlier this month Pamela Hyde, cabinet secretary for the Human Services Department, was appointed Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

Could Secretary Hyde give New Mexico's abhorrent, but under covered drug overdose rate some attention in her new post? A total of 148 New Mexicans died from heroin or some drug combination that included heroin in 2008. That's up from 108 in 2007. And ground zero for addiction continues to be Rio Arriba County. We are losing generations here. We've asked northern Congressman Ben Ray Lujan to give it his attention. Perhaps he and Hyde can work together.

We are also hearing ABQ's Bryon Paez, a lobbyist and Marine veteran, is in line for a high-level slot at the Department of Defense in Washington. Nothing official yet.

And then there's this from the email:

Joe, the next time you do a "New Mexicans in Washington" piece you might want to mention that Max Minzner is Senior Counsel to the Director of Enforcement at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Norman Bay, also from New Mexico, is the Director, and Max is his lawyer. At least one of the versions of "cap and trade" legislation gives enforcement responsibility to FERC.

Okay, we mentioned it and it comes from lawyer/lobbyist Dick Minzner, father of Max.


One of the state's leading lobbyists is absent from the Legislature, and he misses the action. James "Bud" Mulcock notifies friends in a public letter that he has been stricken with pancreatic cancer is awaiting surgery and thus is not occupying his usual haunts at the Roundhouse:

Louise's and my spirits are good, although admittedly this is not the kind of message one ever wants to get. I have been blessed with a wonderful family and many wonderful friends such as yourself-all backed up by my Calvinistic, predestination Presbyterian upbringing and belief. Who could ask for anything more?

Bud, a native of Artesia, has the NM Coalition of School Administrators as his chief client and they're missing him in this special session that is focusing so much on education. Many remember his tenure at PNM where he served as the utility's government relations chief. We wish him a rapid recovery. His email address is:


ABQ Mayor-elect Richard Berry is hoping he keeps his friends at the Roundhouse now that he has left his state representative position to lead the state's largest city. He is seen here at the Capitol with GOP Senators Sue Wilson-Beffort, Bill Payne and Democrat Tim Eichenberg. Those are all ABQ Senators. Berry will also need to work over rural legislators who are not always the most trusting of ABQ and its big city ways. Some ABQ councilors are already complaining about lost capital outlay money for city projects, but who isn't?


We now bring you courtesy of our top political sources the final-hours drama deep inside the camp of ABQ Mayor Martin Chavez as the curtain began to fall on his hopes for a fourth term. This internal memo to the mayor and his inner circle came from a top advisor and was circulated in the wee hours of the Sunday morning before the Tuesday election. It shows you the high drama and tension that makes close elections so compelling.

It is apparent to me that we are in serious trouble of not making the run-off, with Berry winning 40% on the first round. I believe he will get approximately 34,000 votes with about an 87,000 vote turnout which takes him very close to 40%. If the total vote is 85,000--34,000 votes is 40%.

We need to do something to take 2- 3% of Berry's vote (approximately 1,000 votes) to keep him from winning and force a run-off. Apparently nothing we have done has stopped his unifying solid Republican support behind him. He is very strong in solid Republican households (households with 2 or more Republicans and pure Republican households). I think we need to hit him as hard as we can with solid Republican households on Monday to shake their confidence in someone they really don't know. We will need some well known Republicans who are willing to step up.

It appears we are winning Democrats that don't vote in City elections by over 2 - 1 (2008 general election voters that have not voted in a city election). We will need to motivate them to vote and increase the total pool of voters to over 85,000. Please read the attached so we can discuss the concept on Sunday. This is a first draft written at 2:30 in the morning so I may wake up and realize I am way off base but I want your opinions....

Turnout for the Oct. 6 election plunged to around 83,000 making for an even more conservative, Republican-oriented electorate. Also, history will note that one Anglo candidate--Berry--faced two Hispanics--Chavez and Richard Romero--giving the R additional strength among Anglo Dems and independents of a more conservative bent than in a large turnout election.

One other note. The Berry camp says its polling on the "Sanctuary City" policy Berry promulgated during the campaign is very popular across the board, including with the Hispanic community and that it is race-baiting to claim otherwise. We guess then that one of the new mayor's first actions upon taking office will be to have a well-promoted news conference on the steps of Government Center, immediately announcing a new and tougher policy by the Albuquerque Police Department when it comes to questioning possible illegal immigrants. Or will a new policy be announced in a more quiet fashion? Or might there be no policy change at all? We'll see.

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