Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The 2010 April Fools' Day Headlines Fresh From The Printing Presses Of La Politica

Here they are: Our April Fools' Day headlines fresh from the printing presses of La Politica.

--Guv candidate Diane Denish, worried about securing Democratic votes in the Hispanic North, has decided to become a Catholic, divorce husband Herb and marry Congressman Ben Ray Lujan.

--GOP Guv contender Pete Domenici Jr., concerned that his famous name is not getting the job done, files for a name change. The new name? Gary Johnson.

--R Guv candidate Doug Turner sues Pete Domenici Jr. for having his name changed to Gary Johnson. "There's room for only one clone in this race," declares the ABQ businessman.

--Allen Weh, who has already pledged to take a "baseball bat" to Santa Fe, announces that his new campaign bus will be a Sherman tank.

--The ABQ Chamber of Commerce, a chief supporter of the failed food tax, will now push for a tax on cancer patients to balance the state budget. "How much money will they really need for the future?" asks the biz group.

--State Auditor Hector Balderas surprised the capitol with the announcement that the state's budget has been balanced. "I visited Manny Aragon in prison, and he told me where all the money was. Our problems are over!" Balderas told the AP.

--Declaring he "loves New Mexico too much to leave," Governor Richardson announced that he has turned down a firm offer to become head of the motion picture association at a salary of $14 million a year. Instead, Richardson will run for lieutenant governor. Brian Colon will be his campaign manager.

--PNM, citing the tough economic times, pledges to ask for only 16 electric rate increases in the coming year, rather than the usual 23.

--NM House Speaker Ben Lujan has written to the Vatican, asking that Governor Richardson be considered for sainthood. The letter was not signed by first lady Barbara Richardson.

--The ABQ Public Schools, reacting to severe budget problems, says it will close the entire system for a year. "We want to see if anyone notices," Superintendent Winston Brooks told reporters.

--The University of New Mexico joined APS in closing its doors for a year, with a notable exception. UNM athletics will continue. Department director Paul Krebs will be paid a salary of $8 million a year; basketball coach Alford will get $7 million. UNM President Schmidly will double his salary to over $1 million, but agrees to pay for weekly lunches with the school's soon-to-be laid off janitors.

--New ABQ Mayor RJ Berry has suddenly resigned. "If I knew how screwed up things were, I would never have run in the first place." He said. No city councilor would agree to succeed Berry. He was replaced by Public Safety Director Darren White who immediately placed the city under martial law.

--Congressman Martin Heinrich (D-NM) held a news conference to detail his major accomplishment in his first year in office. "I am pleased to announce that 48 percent of the voters now know how to pronounce my name. If re-elected, I pledge to get that number up to 65 percent." Delcared Heinrich.

--Under growing pressure to balance the budget, Big Bill has agreed to partially repeal the generous 2003 state personal income tax cuts. But Richardson is insisting that anyone who ever gave him a campaign contribution be exempted, and that only taxpayers with income over $600,000 a year pay any additional tax. The LFC estimates 14 taxpayers would be impacted.

--The ABQ Journal is still publishing, according to a statement from the newspaper. In other media news, KRQE-TV confirms that Dick Knipfing is still alive; KOB-TV says Tom Joles is not being preserved with formhaldehyde; the Santa Fe New Mexican is now the official Socialist Workers Party newsletter and TV reporter Stuart Dyson says just about all the 2010 candidates are "either gay, in the mob or on the take." He was quick to add: "Not that there's anything wrong with that."

--This just in: Allen Weh has quit the race for Governor after being told the chief executive does not have the power to organize firing squads.

--More breaking news: Budget cutting state Senator John Arthur Smith has announced his support for that Chamber of Commerce proposal to tax cancer patients to balance the state budget. However, Smith is calling for the tax to be extended to Alzheimer patients, who he says will agree to pay their tax more than once.

--The New Mexico State Police have issued an all points bulletin to locate the following individuals who have not been heard from for several years: Attorney General Gary King, State Treasurer James Lewis and State House Majority Leader Kenny Martinez. A reward is not being offered.

--Roswell State Senator Rod Adair and former state Rep. Dan Foley have divorced. The split was described as amicable. Adair was given custody of the faction of the NM Republican Party that caused its destruction.

--State Democratic Party Chairman Javier Gonzales...Who?

--The State Investment Council tells us the $13 billion in the state's permanent funds has been deposited in offshore banks in the Bahamas and will henceforth be administered by Bill Richardson's campaign manager with assistance from financial advisor Marc Correa. "That's pretty much been the policy the past couple of years. We just wanted to formalize it," said an office spokesman.

And there you have it, but this being New Mexico, we can't guarantee that some of these April Fools' Day headlines won't actually become reality.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Email your news and comments, anonymously if you wish. Interested in advertising here? Drop us a line.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

R's Sending Their First African-American from Big Bernalillo County To Legislature, Plus: More Tales Of The Chile Starved In DC

Conrad James
We think we've already spotted some history being made in the 2010 campaign and we haven't even had the election yet. Conrad James will become the first Republican African-American in memory (maybe ever?) elected to the New Mexico Legislature from Bernalillo County. That's because James, who turns 36 in a couple of weeks, is running unopposed for the GOP nomination for the state House seat (Dist. 24) being vacated by Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones and no Democrat has filed to run.

James tells us he is pleased that he has a free ride to the Roundhouse, but is still going to conduct a full-fledged campaign, raising money for mailings and going door-to-door to introduce himself and address constituent concerns. He describes himself as a "common sense" conservative.

James is an engineer at Sandia Labs focusing on microsystems research. He moved to New Mexico from Ohio eight years ago. His father is African-American and his mother is of German descent. James received his master's and doctorate degrees in applied and engineering physics from Cornell. He and his wife are raising three children. He says education is a chief concern.

James said he was recruited for the House run by state GOP Chairman Harvey Yates, who has scored a coup for the R's by diversifying the party's legislative line-up in a way never before achieved in the state's largest county. The election of James will also continue a long tradition of ABQ community leaders emerging from Sandia Labs.

Other African-Americans serving in the NM Legislature are Republican Jane Powdrell-Culbert, serving Sandoval County, and Sheryl Williams Stapleton, a Democratic state House member from Bernalillo County's SE Heights.


Allen Weh and Doug Turner say they had the best performance against soon-to-be Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish in a recent Rasmussen poll because they are true outsiders. Both of the GOP Guv hopefuls have private business backgrounds and have never held political office. That's a trait, the WaPo reports, that is serving candidates well around the nation.


We didn't catch this but one of our readers emails:

Joe, (NM Senate President Pro Tem) Tim Jennings made it on Jay Leno's "headlines" for complaining about too many Hispanics being on the board of the National Hispanic Cultural Center.


Blog reader Daniel Balke, who grew up in Las Cruces and is now special assistant at the Department of the Treasury in DC, writes us with this:

Joe, I recently began writing what will be a bi-weekly column for the Las Cruces Sun News. My first piece has been published in the paper's print edition. My blog is "The New Mexico Progressive."


Our blogging on chile starved New Mexicans serving time in DC continues to bring in the email as readers recount their own struggles to maintain their stash as they stray far from the Land of Enchantment. Journalist Dan Vukelich has a tale for us from his days in DC as a writer for the Washington Times:

I had returned to ABQ in the fall of 1988 and the aroma of roasted green chile was in the air. I bought a full sack of green chile to take back to Washington. By the time I changed planes in Dallas, I was basically back in D.C., as suits and power ties, and briefcases boarded the plane.

At the baggage claim at National Airport in DC , amid the designer luggage, my burlap sack reinforced with rope finally rolled down the chute, filling the room with the smell of fresh, unroasted green chile. The assemblage of clearly self-important people recoiled in horror. Some looked at me as if I were a homeless person. As I hefted it from the carousel, a guy in Gucci loafers stepped up and whispered, "These people don't realize that what you have there is pure gold."

Thanks for that memory, Dan. We once bought a pair of Gucci's on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. We're pleased to report that, like your friendly stranger, when we wore them, our fondness for green and red did not suffer.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Email your news and comments. Interested in advertising here? Drop us a line.

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Punk Teen Hairstyle

Monday, March 29, 2010

Guv Field Preps For TV Battle; Who Is Ready? Plus: Hot House Race Loses Candidates, And: Tom Udall & Clinton Anderson: Past Meets Present

The 30 second TV spot is not dead despite a world bursting with Internet access and things like Facebook and Twitter. In fact, in this year's GOP Guv primary those brief emotional missives seeking to grab a voter attention will be as important as ever.

The reason is quite simple--the generation gap. Voters in their 50's and above are not addicted to cyberspace. They still get their news and campaign propaganda the old fashioned way--through TV news programs and advertisements and in their mailboxes. Sure, an email blast reaches just about everyone, but to move the polling numbers, the tube still rules.

Our Alligators are now estimating GOP turnout for the June 1 primary at about 105,000. They say direct mail and personal contact will be more important in rural areas of the state than the ABQ metro, where TV remains supreme in swaying voters. That leads us to the GOP field and their media plans for the final two months of Primary Campaign '10.

Doug Turner's heart must have skipped a beat when he glimpsed that Rasmussen poll released Saturday that showed him to be the best performer among the GOP contenders against soon-to-be Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish. Not that Doug was breathing down Di's neck, but his nine point deficit against the Light Guv was the best of the five person field.

Turner, owner of an ABQ PR agency, has already fronted his campaign about $250,000 plus thousands more in "in-kind" contributions from his agency. He told me recently he is not of a mind to put up more personal funds. He believes the campaign must attract outside financial support to be strong in the final stretch. Turner's fourth place finish at the GOP preprimary makes that more difficult, but then there is that poll showing him to be a strong November candidate.

Of course, Turner would not be the first candidate to change his mind and decide to ante up even more personal money in this high-stakes Guv battle. Things like that happen to those with skipping hearts.


Allen Weh is up and running with TV and radio ads and is not expected to come down until Primary Night. He may be the best positioned media wise if he is willing to continue to tap his personal fortune to buy time. Alligators and insiders say there is little doubt that right now Weh is moving GOP numbers. His spot centering on his war record is airing without any competition. As far as the general GOP public is concerned, Weh is the only one running.

Pete Domenici, Jr. is still dark. He has massive name ID, courtesy of his father, retired US Senator Pete Domenici. But if Weh, as expected, commits to a heavy TV buy, it will force Domenici's hand. The senator's son has reported raising about $300,000. Not an overwhelming number. But he needs less because of the name advantage at the starting gate. Still, he will have to spend every cent and more if Weh is to be held in check. If Domenici the Younger goes too light on the tube, he could let Weh surge past him.

Susana Martinez is an interesting case. She had a resounding win at the GOP preprimary convention, but did not have the funds to immediately start a media campaign. She needs to pull the trigger soon. Our analysts think she is going to have to come with a strong personal narrative to get the attention of mainstream GOP voters. She was polling in third place with 17% in Domenici's recent auto dialer poll. Weh was at 20% and Domenici was at 30%.

There's plenty of anger in the GOP among the Anglo, male voters that will dominate the primary. Can Martinez position herself as the repository for that anger? It won't be easy and lots of TV and mail will be needed. She may also need a break. If Domenici and Weh get into it with one another, Martinez would hope to take advantage and run up the middle. But if she is not financially positioned she will falter. She is thought to have raised over $300,000 so far, but the moment of truth for all the hopefuls will come when we see the money reports to be filed April 12.

Janice Arnold-Jones, like Turner and Domenici, failed to get 20% of the delegates at the preprimary to win an automatic spot on the June 1st ballot. Her fund raising has been hampered because of it. With limited funds, she may be advised to go with a hard message that breaks through the clutter. But Arnold-Jones is not that kind of candidate.


So "registered" NM voters give Big Bill an approval rating of only 28% in a February PPP poll, but in the March 24 Rasmussen survey of "likely" voters, the Guv scored an approval rating of 39%. Why is that? We queried veteran NM pollster Brian Sanderoff:

Generally, likely voters are more engaged and pay more attention than registered voters. Typically, likely voters are more likely to have increased favorable and unfavorable numbers since the percentage of “don’t know” and “no opinion” responses usually goes down.


The battle lines for one of the hottest state House races of this election cycle are now more defined. The Secretary of State's office says only one Republican qualified for the June primary ballot for House Dist,. 23 on ABQ's West side and a slice of Sandoval County. That candidate, is retired ABQ police officer Paul Pacheco. Now that his opponents Tom Molitor and David Doyle have been ruled off the ballot, Pacheco will prepare for his November face off with freshman Dem Rep. Ben Rodefer.

The SOS ruled Molitor and Doyle off the ballot on a technical violation. They circulated petitions for voters' signatures that listed the names of both counties. You are allowed to list only one county on the petition forms. The candidates could appeal the SOS ruling to district court, but that's expensive. Rodefer took the seat from a Republican in 2008, so this is a swing district.

Democratic southern Public Regulation Commission candidate Bill McCamley caught a break when the SOS ruled off the ballot his primary foe--Ronald Rees. State Bureau of Elections Director Don Francisco Trujillo tells us the SOS ruled that Rees had not registered in Dona Ana County in time to be a legal candidate.

McCamley was expected to easily defeat the unknown Rees. McCamley is a former Dona Ana County Commissioner and ran for the Dem nod for the southern US House seat in 2008. He dodged another primary bullet when no Hispanic challenged him for the PRC nomination.

There is a six way GOP race to determine who McCamley will face. That GOP nomination is worth having because the seat has gone R before. It is currently held by Dem Sandy Jones who is now running for land commissioner.


Ponzi schemer Doug Vaughan from a 1989 ABQ Journal interview:

All the bells and whistles don't work if the leader is a crook. You have to be innovative, work hard and maintain integrity.

Sens. Anderson & Udall
Some pretty cool stuff here from the WaPo and how Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) has become connected with the late New Mexico Senator Clinton P. Anderson:

(Senator Tom) Udall is the most ambitious of the freshmen, proposing a resolution that would change the way rules are changed. Shortly after winning his 2008 race, Stewart Udall, the interior secretary in the Kennedy administration who died last week, instructed his son to climb into his attic to find a dusty old copy of "Outsider in the Senate," the autobiography of Clinton Anderson, the late senator from New Mexico who led the fight to modify filibuster rules in the 1960s and 1970s.

Anderson argued, as Udall does, that the rules should be changed every two years at the start of a new Congress by a simple majority vote. After more than 15 years, Anderson succeeded in lowering the filibuster threshold from 67 votes to 60.

Anderson, a Democrat, served in the US senate from 1949 until 1973. He was succeeded by Republican Pete Domenici.

Like so many others who came to ABQ in the early 20th century, Anderson came here because he contracted TB and the desert climate was helpful to victims of the disease.

A couple of years ago I was at the library, reading old editions of the ABQ Journal on microfilm and stumbled across Anderson's bylines in the newspapers from the early 20's. It was only then that I learned he started out as a newspaper writer and a darn good one at that.

I never met Anderson, having moved to NM as a teenager in '71, although I did work in Washington in the early 80's with Frank DiLuzio, one of the senator's key committee aides who adored him and what he had done for national security and Los Alamos Labs.

And a 1972 TV news report has made an indelible impact on my political memory. It was done by KOAT-TV news reporter Rodger Beimer (now a deputy director at NM Expo) and showed film (no video back then) of Pete Domenici going to pay his respects to Anderson either before or after he won election to Anderson's seat. Anderson, known as "Clint" to friends, was by then quite infirm, but still much revered for what he had done for the state. He died in 1975 at age 79.

Now 38 years later, Udall, as Domenici did when he started in the senate, makes his own connection with Anderson who was by any measure a New Mexico political giant. He served in the US House before he became a senator and was also the Secretary of Agriculture under President Truman.

I confess to not having read Anderson's autobiography, "Outsider in the Senate," but after reading the WaPo article over the weekend and how Stewart Udall had urged his senator son to dust it off, I ordered a used edition from The book is out of print so there were no new copies available. At last check, there were three used editions for sale.

I hope to write to you soon with some tales of the life and times of this man who helped create modern New Mexico.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Email your news and comments. Interested in advertising here? Drop us a line.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nothing Is Sacred: Now Gov't Layoffs; Alarms At APS; Signal Of What's To Come; ABQ And NM Being Reshaped By Historic Downturn, Plus: New Guv Polls

The Great Recession is now charging in a new if not unexpected direction--the first mass layoffs of New Mexico government workers is being planned by the ABQ public schools. Up to 700 APS employees--many of them teachers--may be let go and some 500 positions left unfilled. The news rattled the state's government classes and shook the ground under City Hall where more unemployment means an ever steeper budget crisis.

The apparently unprecedented APS decision (has anything like this ever happened in post WWII ABQ?) shreds the argument that the city will be protected from the long-term damage of this ruthless recession by its huge government employment base.

State and city governments have slapped on hiring freezes; the state has already implemented furloughs and the city appears to be next in line for either furloughs, layoffs or both. The University of New Mexico is also in the recession-ravaged club, shedding employees and wielding the budget axe. The Santa Fe school system joins that crowded club, as it grapples with its own budget crisis.

Only the Federal government, not required to balance its budget, is keeping all the lights on in New Mexico, as the Washington printing presses pour money into the economy to fend off an even deeper sinkhole.


They say to beware the Ides of March, but the entire month has been an economic danger zone in the state's largest city, starting with the layoffs of 100 at the Garduno's restaurant chain, followed by 700 lost jobs at call center Convergys and then the coup de grâce--the 700 APS layoffs and the decision not to fill 500 other positions. All told that's 2,000 jobs gone with the spring wind.

We're still in the middle of this hurricane and can't say with any certainty what this historic reshaping of the city's economy means for the long term. The official ABQ metro jobless rate is now just shy of the unheard of 9 percent mark. With the recession now whipping the government work force, we could easily head to 10 percent, or even head down as people give up hope and stop looking for work.

We are replacing some of the lost jobs. The Rio Rancho Sprint call center will hire 200. Hewlett-Packard, also in Rio Rancho, will add some. But what will replace the government jobs that provide long-term security and good salaries and benefits? Where will the laid off teachers go? Where will the next generation apply for work if there are no jobs with the schools, the city or the state?

The age-old complaint is that many talented people have to leave ABQ and New Mexico to have a decent career. The major exception has always been local government and education careers. No longer, at least not now.


Bernalillo County Commission candidate Dan Serrano, running in a Dem primary against Loretta Naranjo Lopez and Michelle Lujan Grisham, says his door-to-door campaigning reveals the dominance of the jobs issue in the working class West side district he seeks to represent:

If they answer the doors at all, it is all about jobs. Either they lost a job, a relative has or a friend of theirs is out of work. It is by far the number one issue I am hearing...

It's hard to see the population here shrinking, given the quality of life, but you are not going to build a new economy on well-off retirees or low paying service jobs. And if the population is not moving up much, there will be a need for fewer small businesses, the creation of which is seen as the way out of this mess by leading thinkers in economic and political circles here.


The windows of City Hall rattled when the APS announcement came down. The city and Mayor RJ Berry now face a deficit for the budget year starting July 1st of perhaps over $60 million as gross receipts activity crashes in the wake of the consumer pullback.

And what's to come?

APS employs 14,000. The layoffs and hiring freezes would total 1,200 or nine percent of its work force. If you work for APS, you're not going to be shopping the sales at Dillards much, or stopping by Yanni's for souvlaki. That means even less tax money flowing into city coffers.

You can argue that 90 percent of the city is still working. You can argue that, but it is not going to free families from their fear.


While we await a turn in the economy, or a new template for economic development that will bring in jobs to replace those being shed, the issue of fairness arises in the latest sour headlines. For example, the University of New Mexico says it will clean its classrooms less often, saving $268,000 over the next two years. But that means less work for the lowest of the lowest paid--the janitorial staff.

Yet UNM stays behind its wall of silence when it comes to the bloated bureaucracy of 20 vice-presidents costing the state over $4.5 million annually. It is also quiet on the overpayment of the school's executive VP ($428,000 a year and $50k in deferred compensation) and its university president who has taken a pay cut, but is still pulling down well over $500,000 a year.

UNM could eliminate one VP position and save all the money they would by cutting the hours of the janitors and support staff. Or they could trim all those VP salaries to make up the money. Why don't they?

It's the same at APS where questions of a bulging bureaucracy protecting overpaid administrators fall into a black hole, aided by school board members who seem to contract Stockholm Syndrome as soon as they're elected.

Ditto for Santa Fe, where the Legislature met in special session, but did nothing about the hundreds of unnecessary and highly paid political appointees, but instead engaged in the ultimate political disconnect by passing that now vetoed tax on food.

With too few exceptions, the New Mexican political classes remain cocooned in comfort, seemingly concerned only with preserving their small isles of turf or their next campaign contribution. They observe the rampant economic disparity as if it were a night at the Santa Fe Opera, not the real-world, tragic farce it has become.

Doug Turner
Soon-to-be Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish maintains a lead over all five of her potential GOP challengers, but she is below the key 50% level against Doug Turner and Allen Weh, meaning the race for the Fourth Floor remains competitive.

Rasmussen polled the state Wednesday night (Mar. 24) and its findings are similar to a PPP poll conducted in mid-February, but with a few quirks. While PPP had Denish leading Pete Domenici Jr. 45% to 40%, this survey has ABQ businessman Turner doing best against Denish--43% for Denish to Turner's 34%. That's a nine point lead, even though Rasmussen's Web site says the poll shows Denish leading all her challengers by "10 to 22 points."

Allen Weh gets 35% to Denish's 45%. Domenici polls 35% to Di's 52%. Susana Martinez gets 32% to the Light Guv's 51% and Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones scores 30% to Denish's 52%.

Denish was below 50% against all her potential rivals in the PPP poll.

While Denish is below the 50% mark against two of the GOP contenders in Rasmussen, her overall approval rating is above the crucial 50% level, coming in at 53%. That's pretty good for an incumbent in this climate and much better than Gov. Bill (his numbers follow).


So what else does the poll mean? Well, at first blush we'd point out that GOP polling leaders Weh and Turner have done paid media, especially in the important ABQ media market. Maybe it paid off. Turner did some TV late last year and followed it with billboards that are still up and radio ads that are still running. Weh started a flight of TV and radio ads the week before the Rasmussen poll. The other three challengers have been dark.

Turner said his outsider status was the reason for his good showing against Di:

Republicans and conservative Democrats are looking for a Governor from the private sector with real world experience, not decades in government. I've never run for elective office, I’m not a lawyer, I’ve never held a job in state government, and I’ve never been in the party machinery.

That Domenici did not keep Denish below 50% as he did in that PPP poll is interesting. Did his last place preprimary finish and other stumbles have an impact on his performance? He does have the best known name in the field.

The GOP pack will be separated even further as we see who has enough money to run major media campaigns leading up to the June 1 primary.

Some other notes from that poll conducted a few days after Obama's health care victory. His approval rating in this key swing state is at 54%, a healthy number and one that is being closely watched by all three of the state's congressmen who face re-election this year.

And while the February PPP poll had Big Bill's approval rating at only 28% among registered voters, Rasmussen polled "likely" voters and said he scored 39% approval. But it's clear that Richardson is being hurt by the economy and budget crisis, the corruption stories and the general anti-incumbent mood.


According to an auto dialer poll from Pete Domenici Jr., his dismal showing at the GOP preprimary convention--he finished with less than five percent of the delegates--did him no harm. He said the March 22 survey of 2,250 of likely GOP primary voters puts him on top with 30 percent; Allen Weh is at 21%. Susana Martinez gets 17%; Doug Turner 8.5% and Janice Arnold-Jones 4.5%.

While the numbers say the GOP primary is still being driven by Domenici's name ID from his famous father, in actuality the race is changing. Domenici now has to fight to get more money after his poor preprimary showing and other disappointing performances on the campaign trail. If the money doesn't come, his campaign may peak early. If the cash comes, that high name ID is going to be a factor until the end.

Doug Vaughan
There's nothing like a big bear market to force from under the rocks all kinds of slithery creatures. Speaking of which, a reader asks:

Are the authorities able to prevent Doug Vaughn from leaving the country?

Good question. Vaughn, the longtime real estate operator charged with running a Ponzi scheme that lifted millions from the wallets of hundreds of New Mexicans, is not yet under indictment for criminal actions. He's appeared in court in relation to his various bankruptcies.

Vaughan, either shameless or oblivious, even spent some time in Las Vegas recently, comped by the Bellagio hotel where he apparently lost some of the millions he ripped off from investors.

Someone might want to check on Doug's passport status.


We've received word of the death of Marshall Plummer, the first-ever Navao Nation vice president. He died Thursday of recently diagnosed lung disease. Blog reader and Plummer friend Matthew Tso wrote to us February 1 and said Plummer would be running for a seat on the NM Public Regulation Commission this year, but then he was felled by ill health. Marshall Plummer was 62...

GOP Guv candidate Allen Weh says he has has narrowed down to four the list of names for his new campaign bus: The Common Sense Express, The Politically Incorrect Express, The Weh Forward, and The Tour of Duty.

Or maybe Weh should name his bus after the 2006 GOP Guv candidate who lost in a landslide and who the Dems claim Weh resembles. How about: "The Not John Dendahl Express."

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Email your news and comments. Interested in advertising here? Drop us a line.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Friday Clippings From My Newsroom Floor: Tasty Scraps Left Over From The Week That Was

Time for some clippings from our newsroom floor--tasty scraps left over from another colorful week in La Politica.

We don't have a particular story to go with this photo of Big Bill. But we thought it captured the Governor in the moment as he explained his veto of the food tax this week.

Richardson is 62. He now has nine months left on the eight years of his governorship, unless he leaves early for that lobbying job with the motion picture industry.

Luis Sánchez Saturno of The New Mexican took the portrait.


On that GOP primary for the state House seat being vacated by Rep. Kathy McCoy. Our first take was that Dan Salzwedel, former director of the NM Activities Association, might have the edge over rival Jim Smith. But insiders in the East Mountain district say when the pair challenged McCoy two years ago it was Smith narrowly beating Salzwedel 16% to 15%. McCoy got 69% in the district which includes portions of Bernalillo, Santa Fe and Sandoval counties. No matter who wins this primary, they are headed to the Roundhouse. No Democrat filed for the seat.


They're laying off nearly 700 call center workers at ABQ's Convergys. That's the bad news. The good news is Sprint in Rio Rancho says it is going to hire 200.


We'd almost feel sorry for those emailing us from DC this week, bemoaning our occasional posting of New Mexican food photos on the blog, saying it amounts to long-distance torture. But that's before we think of their paycheck stubs. Still, we do have some sympathy and let John Alejandro join Alberto Morales and Jim Richards in sharing the final thought on this topic:

Joe, I'm a native Santa Fean living in Washington for the past 12 years (I work for APCO Worldwide, a communications firm). Please feel free to tell Alberto and Jim that I have a stash of red Bueno chile (HOT!) and roasted green chile (frozen) from Hatch, and that they have an open ended invitation to come over if they need a fix (I make a mean Frito Pie). I will also ensure that Sen. Bingaman gets a bit, so he can take it over to the senate cafeteria to show them how it’s done!

Heck, John, since it's Hatch chile even southern chile chauvinist Richards might take you up on that invite. Meanwhile, the posting of pics of New Mexican delicacies will continue here, but with a new appreciation for the emotional pain such images can inflict on our friends living in food purgatory far from the banks of the Rio Grande.


Some of the media cry in their beer over the fresh aggressiveness of the feds when it comes to monitoring what loans are on the books of local banks. They claim it is stifling lending activity. But New Mexico banks and thrifts saw their losses go up by more than $100 million in the fourth quarter of '09--to a total of $119 million. That helps explain the tougher standards. The feds don't want to again get caught with their pants down as they did with the national banking crisis.

Wouldn't the same critics wailing over the tougher federal regulation that led to the January shuttering of Charter Bank here, be the first to cry foul if we were to get more bank failures that cost taxpayers millions to bail out? You bet they would.


What? You missed National Puppy Day? Well, make up for it and give that doggie some ice cream.

Thanks for your company this week. Email your news and comments.

From Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan reporting.

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Teen Hair

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Di & Weh: Strange Bedfellows, Plus: Food Tax Post Mortems, Also: Mary Herrera: R's Have Ammo But No Gun, And: Even More On The DC Chile Circuit

It seems what's good for Allen Weh right now is good for Diane Denish. The soon-to-be Dem Guv nominee wasted no time elevating Weh when he announced he was filing a lawsuit against Di over the release of records dealing with her spending of federal funds. She sent out an email blast condemning Weh by name and asking supporters for campaign cash. And why not give him some attention? Di and the Dems see Weh as the R candidate easiest to beat in November. If they can give him some gravitas in the five way GOP Guv primary and also raise some money off his attacks, they will. From the blast:

In one of the most shameful political stunts in recent memory, one of Diane's Republican opponents announced that he planned to file a frivolous lawsuit against her office that will cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars...Not only has Diane's office provided Weh with hundreds of documents and fully complied with public records laws, she recently signed the Sunshine Portal bill into law to ensure that the state's checkbook will be online...

Weh's campaign is starting to click after that setback at the GOP preprimary where Susana Martinez cleaned up. He is on TV and radio promoting his military service, scored free media in the ABQ Journal on his lawsuit against Di and got her to respond to him. He needs the momentum after the Martinez drubbing.

Weh's foes don't have his kind of personal money and are going to hold their fire until they have enough cash to stay on the air. Weh can be expected to stay positive with his ads for a couple of weeks, but then start to unload on Pete Domenici Jr. Despite a humbling fifth place showing at the preprimary, Pete Jr. is still assumed to command the polling lead for the June 1 primary while Martinez has to raise more money.

Meanwhile, anytime Di can help Allen Weh in his cause, expect her to do so. Of course, she may want to keep in mind that old saying "be careful what you wish for..."


Denish is the chief beneficiary of Big Bill's veto of the food tax Wednesday. The R's are deprived of an emotional punch that could have hurt. The Light Guv's statement:

With so many New Mexicans struggling to put food on the table, a new tax on food is absolutely the last thing our families need...The Legislature should have done everything possible to cut costs and make government more efficient before even considering regressive taxes that target working families. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen...

Denish continues to be enamored with the center-right. In recent days she has come out against a state cap and trade measure, repeated her support for reforming the "pit rule" that oil and gas companies loathe and she has unveiled a plan to trim an average of $90 million in state spending for five years.


Ultimately, Big Bill's political instincts prevailed on this. If he had not vetoed the food tax, the governorship could very well have been lost to the R's over it and his personal popularity could have plummeted even more. Richardson has been stubborn in defending his tax cuts for the wealthy, but unlike those, the food tax could have been packaged in hard-hitting, easily understood 30 second campaign commercials.


Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez was steamed that Richardson did not fight the food tax when the legislature was in special session last month to balance the state budget and is only now against the controversial levy:

Had he indicated three weeks ago that he would not support the legislation we would have taken a different approach. He was involved every step of the way. The governor’s veto puts the state’s financial future at even greater peril. His approach to balancing the budget relies heavily on general fund reserves and federal stimulus money. While this may work in the short-term and carry him through the end of his term, these are one-time revenue sources...

You can understand Sanchez being miffed at Bill for hiding out on the food tax, but what's with the conservative rhetoric? That's straight out of the GOP playbook.

Sanchez does say that if Bill had given the go ahead, the senate would have considered a personal income tax increase for the wealthy and a boost in taxes for out-of-state corporations (Not that Sanchez could round up the votes for those measures).

We all know what happened here. Richardson has gone too far to the right, clinging to the paradigm of tax cuts for the wealthy, even as the economy crashes and a Democratic President takes the opposite tack. The Governor's failure to kill the food tax early on was either borne of arrogance or a misreading of the current climate or both.

But Richardson did have the savvy to see the error of his ways and cast the veto. Sanchez had a chance to surf the populist wave with the Guv. Instead he chose to heckle from the beach.

Santa Fe has become so consumed with personal animosities that the players have become feral, marking their territory and digging in until the end. The object is not to advance philosophy, but merely to survive and attack whatever gets in the way.

The AP came with this on the ethics controversy playing out at the office of NM Secretary of State Mary Herrera. Pollster Brian Sanderoff notes that the level of the charges against Herrera--that she asked employees to solicit "sponsorships or donations" from businesses that contract with the state to support training seminars for county clerk staff and that she ordered employees to gather petition signatures for her re-election campaign--are nowhere near as serious as those that came in the state treasurer scandals--but they could be used for political ammunition.

That leads us to make a couple of points. No Republican has been elected Secretary of State since 1928. These down ballot races are notoriously difficult to extract from the majority party. Which leads to the next point. Will GOP State Senator and soon-to-be GOP Secretary of State nominee Dianna Duran have the money to mount an effective challenge? She will likely need on the order of $400,000.

Even in the wake of two Democratic state treasurers being tossed into the pokey on felony convictions, the R's in '08 were unable to take the office. Do the R's have the resources to take on the SOS office even as they devote much time and attention to the crucial governor's race? Remember, the GOP pumped hundreds of thousands into an effort to defeat Herrera with R Vicki Perea in 2006, and it came up well short.

You need more than an incumbent getting battered in the free media to pull an upset. You need a fully functioning and resource ready minority party. Right now, the R's may have ammunition, but they have no gun to shoot.

Sens. Bingaman & Corker
After DC denizens Alberto Morales and Jim Richards complained this week that we were torturing them by posting pics of New Mexican food on the blog, several readers pointed out that there is relief for the pained duo--and right where they live.

They reminded us that this is "Green Chile Month" at the US Senate cafeteria, courtesy of NM Senator Jeff Bingaman who worked with the Agriculture Department to bring the NM staple to the plates of his fellow senators.

Bingaman is pictured here with GOP Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee enjoying green chile cauliflower soup and green chile chicken enchiladas. For dessert they sampled green chile chocolate gelato. They need a health care bill after that repast. And try to smile, Senators. That chile isn't too hot, is it?


We fouled up on a post we had running for a while. Attorney Mark Fidel came with the correction:

From Tuesday's blog: The (census) bureau came with the stark numbers on just how much tax revenues have crashed in the state. They say tax collections in 2009 totaled $715.2 billion, down 8.6 percent--or $66.9 billion--from 2008."

These numbers are for all states, not just New Mexico. Your source (NM Business Weekly) does go on to say that NM experienced a decrease of 23.2% for revenue from personal income taxes and a decrease of 42.6% for corporate net income tax.

To your defense, their headline reads: "New Mexico tax revenues down big in 2009" and then the first line of their story starts out: "State government tax collections in 2009 totaled $715.2 billion, down 8.6 percent — or $66.9 billion — from 2008."

Given that NM's budget is only in the $5.5 Billion dollar range, if we were to experience a $66.9 Billion decrease in taxes....well, it just doesn't make sense.

Thanks for that blogging, Mark. Don't know how we let that one slip. Is it Spring Fever?

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Scene Girls Shoe Wear Tips - Neon Shoelaces

Scene girls wear shoes that are bright such as vans, ballet flats, Converse, or high heels which are eye-catching. To make your shoes look great, you can add things like neon shoelaces with signatures of your friends on your shoes but make sure they look personalized.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Guv Food Tax Veto Appears To Loom, Plus: More Flare-Ups On Pearce Social Security Stance, And: Making Big Money In Hobbs, Also: DC Chile Pangs

  • The Governor vetoed the food tax today.

  • “I am not willing to put this burden on working families in the form of an unfair tax on food. I agree with those who call this a cruel tax. It is especially cruel during the worst financial crisis New Mexico has ever experienced."

Democrats across New Mexico are getting ready to exhale as Big Bill today is expected to veto the hyper-controversial food tax that if allowed to take effect could give Republicans an unexpected gift and potentially change the calculus of the 2010 race for governor. The AP reported late Tuesday that all signs pointed to a veto, but until the Guv makes it official, the Dems will continue to hold their breath.

A key aide to Bill said he thinks he can veto the food tax, part of a package of tax increases approved by the recent special session of the Legislature, without running into legal challenges. A veto would mean the administration would have to find $68 million in revenue elsewhere.

Richardson was the one who originally proposed repeal of the food tax in his first term, but has been taking hits for not fighting hard enough to keep the partial reinstatement from reaching his desk.

The food tax is especially lightning in a bottle now because it is lower and middle class New Mexicans who are on the front lines of the Great Recession, losing their jobs in record numbers, while the professional classes take hits to their bottom lines, but mostly retain their positions.

Supporters of the food tax argue the working poor would not be hurt by it because they get food stamps. The elitism of that argument--not to mention its shaky credibility-- is putting fear into the hearts of Dem politicos across the board, as it reminds them of 1994 when an increase in the gas tax played a key role in the defeat of Governor Bruce King by Republican Gary Johnson.

The food tax is also causing an identity crisis in the self-described party of "working families." If Democrats are not against this tax that hurts those families the most, what are their core principles and why should those families continue to vote for them?

The Senate, House and Governor's office are all controlled by the Democrats.

Soon-to-be Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish, who initially demurred when asked if she would veto the tax if she were Governor, had her campaign tell us last week she would cast a veto if it could be done legally. Alligators and analysts questioned her political judgment on this hottest of issues when she failed to immediately and loudly renounce the tax upon its approval by the Legislature.

If Richardson, as expected, does cast a veto it will be a monkey off of Di's back--a monkey that has been growing heavier by the day.

The Guv will announce his decision about 11:30 a.m. We'll update the action.


Fallout from our blogging this week on congressional candidate Steve Pearce's position on partially privatizing Social Security. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, citing Pearce's assertion here that it is not "factually correct" to say he supports privatization, came with this headline:

Steve Pearce vs. Steve Pearce: Pledged To Privatize Social Security ; Medicare, Now Trying to Pretend Like It Didn't Happen..

We blogged this week that Dems were getting ready to unload the Social Security bomb on Pearce who is seeking to win back the congressional seat he held for three terms and which was won by Dem Harry Teague in 2008 when Pearce gave it up to run for the US senate.

But Pearce's campaign manager gave us a statement disputing Pearce's past support for privatization, so we went back and checked the February 6, 2005 ABQ Journal article where Pearce's stance was discussed:

Pearce...said he agrees with the president's call to partially privatize the system but not as drastically as has been proposed. He suggested a plan that would allow workers to divert into a private account a portion of their 6.2 percent Social Security tax--but only on the first $50,000 of income. Social Security tax drawn from income between $50,001 and $90,000, at which point Social Security taxes are no longer imposed, would still go to the trust fund under Pearce's proposal.

It seems pretty clear that Pearce favored partial privatization. Pearce's campaign did not respond to an inquiry for comment on the Journal article. It was also made an issue when Dem Tom Udall defeated Pearce in the '08 US Senate contest.

The surfacing of the Social Security issue signals that while the R's have had Teague playing defense on healthcare and cap and trade, Teague and the D's have some offensive plays of their own. Stay tuned.

Eric Honeyfield
We didn't realize running the city of Hobbs (pop. 30,000) was so complicated. But it must be because the city council there has just rehired its city manager at a cool price tag of $145,000. That's nearly what ABQ's equivalent of a city manager--chief administrative officer David Campbell--pulls down. Campbell gets $155,000 a year.

But that's not all. Hobbs city manager Eric Honeyfield has won approval from the Hobbs council to "double-dip." He will also draw a state retirement check of $90,o00 a year for 25 years of government service (he's a former city manager for Raton and Gallup) on top of the $145,000 for running the small SE NM city. That's $235,000 a year. Never mind that Hobbs is cutting projects and leaving vacant positions unfilled as it copes with a big revenue shortfall.

Somehow we don't think that represents the "small town values" that Hobbs native daughter and Lt. Governor Diane Denish trumpets in her Guv campaign.


That's how many of us there are in the ABQ metro, according to the US Census Bureau. We now rank 57th in population among all metros in the USA.


We don't think this mega bear market is going to end in New Mexico until the government classes feel more pain. That means actual layoffs and/or furloughs that go deep. In Santa Fe, the day of reckoning appears to be nearing. The city is projecting a deficit of $6.5 million for the budget year that starts July 1st. That brings front and center the prospect of layoffs in a city where the word is so rare you probably can't translate it into Spanish. But lots of things we never heard of are happening, and they are going to continue to happen until the excess of the Bubble Era is gradually and completely wrung out.


Ray Powell, frontrunner for the Dem land commissioner nomination, picked up the endorsement of rival and Santa Fe County Commissioner Mike Anaya Tuesday. Anaya failed to win 20 percent of the delegates' support at the party's preprimary convention and decided not to file addtional petition signatures that would get him on the June 1 ballot.

That means the field will be former land commissioner Powell, Sandy Jones from the south and Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya.

Powell blew the doors off at the preprimary. He received 44 percent support from the delegates. None of his rivals received the needed 20% to win an automatic ballot spot.

Anaya getting out of the land race drew a sigh of relief from top Dems. They worried about charges made against him by the husband of a woman who worked for him when he was with the NM Associaton of Countes. The husband charged Anaya engaged in "illicit sexual conduct against my wife." Insiders say the issue has since been settled and there is no court action.

Since they did not get the 20 percent at the preprimary, insider Dems say Jones and Montoya will have to spend heavily to turn the tide against Powell who previously held the office for 10 years.


Another chile starved New Mexican and east coast refugee weighs in on our posting of photos of New Mexicans delicacies to illustrate a story. First, it was Alberto Morales of Cassidy and Associates in DC, saying we were torturing him (We probably compounded that by posting a taco photo next to Alberto's comments). Now comes reaction from Jim Richards, Southern NM native with Cornerstone Government Affairs in the nation's capitol. We found his remarks especially controversial for you Norteños.

As far as the picture that accompanied your post Tuesday, it appears the tacos are either of Taco Bell or Northern NM origin. As a native of Southern NM, where the true Green/Red Chile is grown, umbrage is taken--especially because I share Alberto Morales’ problem of being a New Mexican stranded in DC with little to no real options for Mexican food of our type and flavor. Which, by the way, is the only true type.

For future reference, please don’t torture us stranded folks by writing of the hallowed Green and Red without proper citation and photos.

Well, Jim, we are busted on the taco photo. We grabbed it off of Google and it looked a little cheesy--to use a bad pun--but it was late and we went with it. It looks as much like a New Mexican taco as a Texan skiing at Angel Fire.

There's no argument, Jim, that southern NM grows the very best chile. But you have to travel a hundred miles north to find anyone who really knows how to cook it!

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Ex-GOP House Leader Foley Files Suit Against Cops For '07 Bust, Plus: Ex-Councilor Hired By ABQ Mayor, And: Remembering Ida Jo Cargo

Foley '07 mug shot
The news never seems to run dry when it comes to Dan Foley. Never mind that he was defeated in 2008 for re-election to his Roswell area state House seat and slipped away to live in Rio Rancho, Foley continues to make for blogging merriment.

Foley, who served in the legislature for ten years, is now trying to turn the tables on the Roswell cops who in effect ended his political career when they arrested him for disorderly conduct, obstructing an officer and resisting arrest during a 2007 basketball game his son was playing in. Foley was also accused of spitting tobacco on a cop.

A special prosecutor decided that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Foley and the misdemeanors were all dismissed.

Foley, who achieved the rank of House Minority Whip, is now suing the cops who made the arrest, charging in a Federal lawsuit that they violated his civil and constitutional rights.

On June 24 2007, Plaintiff, (Dan Foley) was watching his son play basketball at a public tournament in Roswell...During the course of the game, Plaintiff's son became involved in an altercation on the court. Plaintiff perceived that his son was in danger, and rushed onto the Court to protect him. Without cause, and without any provocation, Defendants physically assaulted the plaintiff. Plaintiff was wrongfully arrested...

Foley is asking for money for the "anguish" he suffered, but he doesn't say how much. The full suit is posted here.

The mug shot of Foley taken after his arrest (posted here today) was used in TV commercials and mail pieces in the '08 GOP primary that Foley lost to Dennis Kintigh.

The other news Foley has made since leaving the Roundhouse includes a run-in with the law for sporting an official state license plate on his private vehicle that should have been turned in when he left office. He also tried to file in January for a Rio Rancho city council seat but did not have proof that he was registered to vote in Rio Rancho. He was denied a ballot slot.

Now the rumor mill has Foley, an insurance agent, making a play for the position of executive director of the NM Oil and Gas Association. We can only imagine the blogging joy that would result if he were to land in that slot.


The congressional campaign of Steve Pearce says "it is factually untrue" to state that Steve Pearce supports privatizing Social Security. We blogged Monday that Dems are starting to unload on Pearce for supporting privatization as they did when he was the 2008 US Senate nominee. They think that's powerful ammo for Dem US Rep. Harry Teague who is being challenged by Pearce. Pearce's camp says:

Pearce...strongly believes that we must fulfill our promises to our seniors and make it solvent for current and future generations. Fixes do not include privatization.

But when Pearce served in Congress, he supported President Bush's proposal to partially privatize Social Security. Dems cite a February 2005 ABQ Journal article to back their contention. The Pearce campaign did not comment on that.


My mind wandered to the Teague-Pearce race again late Monday night while perusing national news on Obama's healthcare win. Teague voted no, but he did it without any swagger that would alienate Democrats who support Obama. They will stick with him.


The bear market is alive and thriving in Rio Rancho. The City of Vision was elated when housing construction boomed in the bull market, but that's a distant memory. That dependency on construction means city tax collections are going to be less than projected spending for at least the next five years.

Newly re-elected Mayor Tom Swisstack keeps saying the turnaround is coming, but what probably needs to be turned around is the structure of the city government so it is leaner and meaner.


When she gave up her ABQ city council seat Republican Sally Mayer said she would be moving to Chicago to help baby-sit her daughter's children. Instead she will be doing some political baby-sitting for ABQ Mayor RJ Berry. City hall insiders say Mayer has been hired to help out with constituent services at a salary of about $45,000 a year.

Mayer, a onetime real estate agent, said she was having trouble finding a job here which she gave as one of the reasons for the planned Chicago move. But that was before ABQ elected a Republican mayor.


The Roswell Daily Record editorializes about the recent special session of the Legislature:

Legislators gave the governor the authority to make additional cuts if budget gaps should surface. Which, of course, they will. And be assured lawmakers will alternately condemn the governor for cuts they don’t like and praise their decision to give the governor more power when he makes cuts they support.

Making tough decisions is what legislators are elected to do. In our view, they largely side-stepped this responsibility...Rather than letting legislators wash their hands of the problem, New Mexicans should take note of what they did, or rather, didn’t do. Walking away from a problem is not going to fix it.


From Washington, reader Albert Morales, VP at Cassidy and Associates, writes:

Mr. Monahan, Please refrain from posting pictures of enchiladas or any delicious New Mexican dishes on your site. It makes me hungry and homesick for the Land of Enchantment...

Sorry, Albert. That is indeed a form of political torture that should be as illegal as waterboarding. We may have to issue a warning before we put up those food pics.


We should have said Monday that Allen Weh is the first GOP Guv candidate to air TV ads since the important pre-primary convention. Candidate Doug Turner ran ads late last year and was the first GOP candidate to be on the air. Weh is currently the only GOP Guv candidate on TV. Meanwhile, Weh has launched another radio ad.


Reader Julia Dendinger writes:

Hello, Joe. All the remembering of former Governor "Lonesome Dave" Cargo and his wife Ida Jo made me remember something that ran in the Valencia County News-Bulletin. It is the story of Ida Jo's adventure on Belen's west mesa. Also mixed in is her contribution to Cargo's campaign for governor. Here's a link if your readers are interested. Love the blog - it's the first thing I read in the morning.

Not only does the News-Bulletin column recount the the story of Ida Jo's harrowing adventure on the mesa with her two small children, but Dr. Richard Melzer weaves in the biography of Ida Jo Anaya of Belen who at the age of 25 became New Mexico's youngest first lady in 1967.

We--and others--mildly chastised Dave Cargo for not including more details about Ida Jo in his recently released autobiography, "Lonesome Dave," especially since the bio included striking photos of her. Some admirers dubbed Ida Jo the "Hispanic Jacqueline Kennedy."

Ida Jo bore five children. The Cargos divorced in 1985. She remarried and died of cancer at the age of 55 in 1996 in Midland, Texas.

Thanks to Dr. Melzer for his contribution to state history, and thanks to Julia for bringing it to us.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Harry's Health: He Votes No On Health Care; Turn Around Time? Plus: Weh First With GOP Guv TV, And: Food Tax Challenge For Di

Teague vs. Pearce
Insider Dems, refusing to throw in the towel on southern Dem Congressman Harry Teague, are now pounding the table, saying the end of the healthcare debate this week could end up saving the Democratic lawmaker's neck from the hangman's noose in November.

As they tell it, the passions that burn so deeply over healthcare in March will dim by the fall, giving Teague needed time out of the hot seat (he voted no on the plan that was approved by the House Sunday) and a chance to get on the offensive against his GOP challenger--former US Rep. Steve Pearce.

Pearce leads freshman Teague 43-41 in a February PPP poll, but the psychology of the race may be cooling a smidgen. The Washington Post's leading pundit now has the race ranked as the 10th most likely to change hands. That's down several notches. And all signs point to Teague being able to outspend Pearce--one of the most critical clues to the outcome of any US House race.

And then there's the press narrative that says "Teague is through." Dem analysts argue that could change as the media look for a horse race and when Teague hits with paid TV, flexing his money and incumbent muscle.

Then there's Pearce's Social Security and Medicare problem. Teague may have had his hands full with health care, but the Dems are starting to hammer Pearce for his support for privatizing the popular entitlement programs for the elderly. They think that might especially resonate in a year when voters' financial fears are paramount.

The R's say the Dems passage of healthcare will be their premier issue in November and the one that will lead them to a majority in the House, but Teague's vote against it buys him an insurance policy. With Teague down in the low 40's, the R's have Teague walking toward the gallows, but they have a way to go before they get that noose around his neck.


Allen Weh is running on his war record. No, not the war he was involved in while serving as NM GOP chairman. That other war--Vietnam. Weh became the first of the GOP guv contender to air broadcast and cable TV for the June 1 primary, coming with a 30 second spot over the weekend that highlights the strongest part of his resume--his service in the Marine Corps and being awarded the Silver Star for bravery.

Insiders say Weh did not make a big media buy, but that shouldn't last long. Weh is expected to tap his personal fortune to finance the remainder of his run.

The TV spot is slickly produced and features two veterans who served under Lieutenant Weh, attesting to the combat dangers they faced. One of them flatly states: "He saved our lives."

Weh, wounded in combat, went on to achieve the rank of Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve (Ret.) and collected a number of other medals in addition to the Silver Star.

Weh's appeal will be strongest among Anglo men--the primary GOP constituency--and this spot reinforces that. Republican turnout will skew older and conservative as well. Weh is both.

Weh's tenure as state party chairman ended badly. The Dems now have more power than ever, and the R's are still bedeviled by factionalism i.e. the Bushies vs. those looking for something different. He is also seen as probably the weakest GOP nominee to go against presumed Dem nominee Diane Denish. He is perceived as strident and too conservative to appeal to moderates who will decide the November election,

But Weh's chances in the GOP primary are still good, despite an important setback at the GOP preprimary convention where Weh was beaten for first place on the ballot by Susana Martinez.

Weh may not have broad appeal electoral appeal, but if 30 percent or so will get you the nomination in this five way duel, his TV keeps him in the thick of it.


Weh's military record provides a compelling personal narrative that GOP voters can connect with. That's something Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez is going to have to go for, too. She is more familiar to El Paso voters than those in ABQ and Santa Fe. That should change in the weeks ahead as the race for the GOP guv nomination heats up.

Martinez sat down with KRQE-TV for one of her first long-form TV interviews following her victory at the GOP preprimary convention. Her interview was serviceable, but she did not weave into her answers any personal biography that would give voters an idea of who she is.

Domenici also answered the round of TV questions competently, but neither did he provide much in the way of background about himself or what he has done that would make him effective as governor.

We'll watch with interest as the R hopefuls compete not only on who has the better campaign platform, but who bests connects with likely primary voters on a personal level.

The Doug Turner TV interview is here. Janice Arnold-Jones here and Allen Weh here.

Secretary of State Mary Herrera threw the Alligators a curve ball when she named her controversial #2 as the new director of the Bureau of Elections. Don Francisco Trujillo will retain his title of deputy secretary of state, will get a pay raise (to $95,000) and apparently further consolidate power in the office that has been in the headlines lately for all the wrong reasons.

The Gators had Kelly Fulgenzi, an administrator in the bureau, becoming the new director. That was based on an email going around that they said originated with Herrera. But Fulgenzi will stay in her classified position, even though Trujillo and Herrera were the subjects of ethics allegations made by former bureau of elections director AJ Salazar who resigned. (Fulgenzi seems always the bridesmaid and never the bride. She also lost out when then-ABQ Mayor Chavez bypassed her for the position of city clerk).

The Trujillo move is not surprising in one regard. We've written how the charges against Herrera, while serious, are unlikely to threaten her re-election, so she feels free to continue the management style that has provoked so much angst. But she is playing with fire and if Trujillo makes any more messes, the political calculus could change.

As for Salazar, he made his case against Herrera in emails now released to the public. His intent was clearly to topple Trujillo from power and injure Herrera. But it hasn't worked. For him we have this age-old advice: Don't bring a knife to a gun fight.


More on the hyper-controversial food tax and the position of soon-to-be Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish. We blogged Thursday that Denish "refused" to say whether, if as Governor, she would veto the reinstatement of the food tax approved by the recent special session of the legislature. We based that on reporting from the New Mexican's Steve Terrell:

On the matter of the food tax, she told reporters at a news conference last week that she was against reinstating the tax on food because, she said, it's regressive. But, when asked by reporters, she wouldn't say whether she'd veto the food tax if she were governor.

But the Denish camp says it is not refusing to say whether she would veto the food tax:

We’re saying she’s against the food tax. She’s been vocally against it from day one. If it can be vetoed, she’d support that veto. If she were Governor, she would not have negotiated a budget that included a sales tax and a food tax. She’s been clear and consistent: no taxes on middle class New Mexicans.

The key line is "if it can be vetoed." There is a question of whether Gov. Big Bill can line item the food tax. If not, to get rid of it he would have to veto the entire $230 million tax increase package approved by lawmakers.

Denish is saying she would not be put in that position because she would not have allowed such a package to reach her desk. Still, If Richardson does not veto the tax citing constitutional questions Republicans will ask her what she would have done as Governor if she was unable to veto---let the tax stand? Or veto the entire tax package and call the legislators back into session?

Of course, if Bill is able to veto the food tax she's off the hook. His decision will come this week.

The light guv did not call a news conference immediately following the session to clearly announce her position on the food tax or other taxes approved. Nor did she seek out TV or press interviews to condemn the tax. Her stance trickled out a meeting with reporters called for another subject. Her campaign may be under the impression that her position on this one is loud and clear, but we don't think we've heard the last of the shouting.


Denish has been practicing her stump speech and style in preparation for the rigorous campaign months ahead. You can get a sense of it from this video of her speech at the recent Democratic Party preprimary convention.


We made an easy prediction when we blogged that the behind-the-scenes battle between Court of Appeals Judge Linda Vanzi and Dennis Montoya, her Dem primary challenger, would soon surface in the papers. It did just that Sunday, as the ethics complaint Vanzi filed against Montoya when she was a district court judge got the full treatment. It's been making the rounds in the email for several weeks.

Montoya was beat up pretty bad in the piece, which included reports on sanctions he's received from federal judges. But the race remains unpredictable. The dynamics of a Dem primary featuring an Hispanic male vs. an Anglo woman keep Montoya in the running, even as the legal community continues to sour on him. Vanzi is going to have to spend some money to change that equation.

The complete legal documents about Montoya are here and here.


It was about the time we graduated from a tricycle to a bicycle that we heard for the first time the word "conservationist." Stewart Udall's name was in the same sentence. It was the early 60's and Udall was Jack Kennedy's Secretary of Interior, a post from which the Arizonan, and later New Mexican, would help launch the modern environmental protection movement.

Udall, father of NM junior Senator Tom Udall, was called "a great American" by just about everyone who eulogized him. He died Saturday at his home in Santa Fe. The New York Times obit is here. The AP take is here.

We also remember Udall, who served in the US House from Arizona in the 1950's, as a wily politician. We think northern Democratic Congressman Ben Ray Lujan would agree.

In May of 2008 Stewart Udall came with a critical public endorsement of Ben Ray who was locked in an intense fight for the Dem nomination with Santa Fe green developer Don Wiviott. Wiviott was laying claim to the environmental vote in the six way Dem primary during which Lujan, son of NM House Speaker Ben Lujan, was under attack from all sides.

That endorsement in a contested primary signaled Lujan's acceptance by one of the nation's original environmentalists, helping to halt momentum for Wiviott among liberal Dems. And the Udalls benefitted as well. Tom Udall was running for US senate that year and the endorsement of the young Lujan may have helped him with the Hispanic vote up north.

Stewart Udall was 90.

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