Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Johnson on Immigration, the 2010 Governor's Race, 2012 -- and of Course, Marijuana

Interviewing former Gov. Gary Johnson is always fun. He dropped by my Roundhouse office this afternoon to talk about his new immigration proposal and other things.

My story in Wednesday's New Mexican is HERE.

Here's the recent Daily Caller interview with Ron Paul in which Paul says Johnson would be the best candidate besides himself. HERE

Among the things Johnson told me:

On illegal immigration: “Secure our borders. What’s the cost? What’s the benefit? ... I just don’t think it’s practical to put the National Guard arm-in-arm across 1,600 miles of border. ... (Deporting all Illegal immigrants) is just going to add to the insanity of spending and it’s not gong to have any positive impact.”

On why he’s traveling around the country speaking out on issues. (He won’t confirm or deny he’s running for president):

“I’m trying to give another voice to Republicans out there who don’t have that voice being spoken for. That would include marijuana reform, the state of war we’re in with Afghanistan and Iraq. I think we’re all pretty much on the same page when it comes to spending money, but when you listen to the rhetoric they all seem to say engage on the war on terror at an unlimited cost and they’re all now talking about securing the borders when they don’t seem to have any idea how much that would actually cost. Although the rhetoric sounds good, the reality of what they’re saying really isn’t going to reduce spending.”

On whether he’s endorsed this year’s Republican gubernatorial ticket:
“I haven’t. Not that I won’t. But I just think it’s a shame that we have this incredible negative campaign right out of the chute instead of a campaign on merits. I thought Susana Martinez really had the opportunity to take the high road here and talk about what she’s planning to do for New Mexico as opposed to hanging stuff around Diane Denish’s neck.”

On marijuana legalization and home cultivation: “I predict that marijuana’s going to get legalized. And I predict that growing your own — even though it’s going to be a big phenomenon to begin with, keeping markets in check — 20 years down the line, nobody will be growing their own. It would be like making bathtub gin. Why would you make bathtub gin when you can buy Tanqueray because of the quality and you know what you’re getting.”

Monday, June 28, 2010

Petraeus Cancels Albuquerque Speech

This in from the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce:

The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce was notified today that General David Petraeus has cancelled his speech at the Chamber's Annual Meeting scheduled for July 21, 2010. "We are disappointed but completely understand that General Petraeus must leave for Afghanistan immediately following his confirmation,” said Terri Cole, President and CEO of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. “We will begin immediately to find an equally exciting and dynamic speaker for our annual meeting."

An equally dynamic speaker? I understand General McChrystal isn't doing anything.

Johnson Calls for Higher Taxes

On marijuana that is.

Former Gov. Gary Johnson is getting behind the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, which is on the California ballot this year.

(Thanks to Capitol Report New Mexico for spotting this)

Weirdest -- and Grossest -- Commentary on the Governor's Race Yet

A Web site called "" published the text what looks like KOAT TV's day-after-the-primary story about Susana Martinez and Diane Denish.

We can let the television station worry about copyright issues. What's striking about the site is the photo illustrating it.

No, I won't use it here. Check it HERE, but warning, it's not for the queasy. Maybe the Lemon Detox Diet -- another story linked at the bottom of the article -- is what's needed.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Taking on the Cartels

When you first saw those early Susana Martinez ads that talked about Martinez taking on “members of the most violent Mexican drug cartels,” did images of heavily guarded courtrooms and cold-eyed defendants with blood on their hands and many notches on their guns dance in your head?

Well, it turns out that nearly all drug cases that Martinez -- or any other district attorney in the state -- handles are relatively small fish.

Martinez has an excellent reputation as a prosecutor according to the director of New Mexico's High Intensity Drug Traffic Area, a multi-agency anti drug organization under the umbrella of the White House Drug Czar. But the feds normally get the big drug cases.

My story on this is in today's New Mexican. CLICK HERE.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Factcheck Drills Into New Mexico Mud

After taking Diane Denish for an ad slamming Susana Martinez's record on crime, is taking on both candidates over their "child molester ads."

And they even quote last week's Roundhouse Roundup column by yours truly.

The early, ugly nature of the campaign led a reporter with the Santa Fe New Mexican to quip that Willie Horton would be brought in to referee the ad war. Horton, convicted as an accomplice to murder, was the subject of an infamous 1988 ad by an independent group, attacking Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, a Democrat. There are several similarities with this case; the Horton ad said that Dukakis "opposes the death penalty," and with racial overtones implied his policies had led to recidivism of violent crime.

Basically Factcheck concludes that both candidates are stretching the facts in these ads.

On a lighter note, I also was quoted earlier this week in The Thicket, a blog of the National Council of State Legislatures. The article, by Karl Kurtz is about political malapropisms, and it quotes something I wrote last year about one of New Mexico's political giants.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bruce King, whom "New Mexican" reporter Steve Terrell calls the "Yogi Berra of New Mexico politics," once said of a legislative proposal, "That will open a whole box of pandoras." Once this image gets in your head, you'll never think of Pandora's box in the same way (or a box of cigars, for that matter).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
June 24, 2010

I’m kicking myself for already using in this column, just a couple of weeks ago, Mark Twain’s quote about “lies, damned lies and statistics” in connection with the governor’s race.

But questionable use of statistics seems to be part of what we’re getting in the contest between Democrat Diane Denish and Republican Susana Martinez, along with all the television ads about child molesters.

The latest statistical scuffle comes after an article this week in the venerable, nonpartisan with the headline “Denish Distorts DA’s Record.” (Martinez is district attorney in Doña Ana County, which is why there’s been so much talk about crime from both sides in this campaign.)

FactCheck writer Melissa Siegel looked at Denish’s first television ad, which said Martinez had the worst conviction record in the state for homicides and that she had plea-bargained more than 800 felony drunken-driving cases in the past six years.

Siegel quoted Artie Pepin, director of the New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts, who said the number of murder cases in Martinez’s district might have been high — thus making a lower conviction rate — because most cases start out in Magistrate Court before being transferred to District Court. So, Pepin told FactCheck, many of them could have been counted twice.

As for the DWIs, FactCheck said records show all but 46 of the plea deals in the felony cases resulted in guilty pleas to felony DWI. The “bargain” in the plea bargain was that some lesser charges were dropped.

Of the 46 cases that were pleaded down to misdemeanors: “The Martinez campaign claimed that those plea agreements were necessary,” Siegel wrote. “In order to charge someone with a felony DWI, prosecutors need proof of prior convictions, and they sometimes run into problems obtaining the information on out-of-state DWI convictions.”

The Dems respond: James Hallinan, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said in a written statement Wednesday: “It is disconcerting when, a site the public relies on to provide fair, unbiased information, produces an article with so many factual inaccuracies.”

Hallinan said that in calculating the murder-conviction rate, “The Denish campaign calculated only District Court numbers” and not the cases from Magistrate Court.

In the claim about DWIs, Hallinan said, “The Denish campaign never claimed that Martinez pled felony drunk drivers down to misdemeanors. Martinez’s statement (in the Las Cruces Sun News in 2004) is ‘We will not plea bargain a DWI case.’ ”

The facts on FactCheck: The Web site is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The “About Us” page says the site does not seek or accept funds from corporations, unions, partisan organizations or advocacy groups.

“We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics,” the site says.

Good luck with that.

Save the Porcupine: Former Gov. Gary Johnson — who looks more and more like a 2012 presidential candidate with every news release — is going back to New Hampshire.

This time he’s the keynote speaker at something called the Annual Porcupine Freedom Festival. I don’t think this is an event to honor the little prickly critters. It’s organized by a “Liberty Movement” group called the Free State Project.

Besides giving the closing speech, Johnson is scheduled to moderate a debate on “ending marijuana prohibition” between “civil disobedience marijuana activist” Rich Paul, and “working within the system” Matt Simon of the Coalition for Common Sense Drug Policy.

UPDATE: today published a "correction" on the Denish/Martinez article. But as you see, it doesn't actually change much:

Correction, June 23: This article has been corrected to reflect that the Denish campaign used district court cases when calculating the homicide conviction rate for the 3rd Judicial District Court, not both district and magistrate court cases. However, that does not change the fact AOC figures cannot be used to calculate conviction rates, because double counting can occur. We contacted Pepin again and he confirmed that a case may be dismissed from district court, but the same or related conduct results in the same person being charged in a new case. The AOC would open a new case and therefore count the case twice in its figures.

Update on Child Molester Wars

The Susana Martinez campaign this morning released this statement by Joe Novak, father of the victim in the Hector Montes case, which is the subject of a recent attack ad by the Diane Denish campaign. (Montes was the Las Cruces High janitor convicted of molesting a girl.)

Here's the statement;

“My daughter was the victim in the Montes case. I was contacted yesterday by the Denish campaign and asked to say that I felt I was done wrong by the Dona Ana County DA’s office. I told the Denish campaign that is not true and that the prosecutor did what was in the best interest of my daughter. In that case, I had moved my daughter to Nevada to a rehabilitation school to help her recover from her issues. I did not want to take her back to New Mexico and drag her through a trial and communicated that to the DA’s office when we discussed how to proceed. The plea agreement was in my daughter’s best interest.”

UPDATE: A spokesman for the state Democratic Party said it was the party, not the Denish campaign that contacted Novak.

In a written statement, James Hallinan said:

"Over the past few weeks, the Democratic Party has been contacted by, and has contacted, individuals in Dona Ana County who have been on the wrong side of Ms. Martinez’s 3rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Ms. Martinez opened the door by putting victims on TV. It is only fair that individuals who have been failed by Ms. Martinez have the same opportunity to tell their story. We will certainly respect everyone’s privacy and we expect the same from Ms. Martinez.”

Payday Loan Company Countersues AG

Fastbucks payday loans is hoping a Roswell judge will stop Attorney General Gary King's lawsuit against the company before it gets to the court of Santa Fe District Judge Michael Vigil.

Fastbucks on Friday filed a countersuit in District Court in Roswell asking a judge to stop what they call King's "malicious abuse of process."

The AG is suing Fastbucks and another payday loan company for making "unconscionable" loans. The Fastbucks suit, filed last year, lists several examples of exorbitant interest rates. Among those are a Crownpoint woman whose $800 Fastbucks loan called for her to pay nearly $4,200 and a Rio Rancho woman who took out a loan for $934 that ended up costing nearly $4,700.

A Fastbucks lawyer told me that more than 100,000 people use their service -- and that few have complained about the interest rates. I talked to one of those satisfied customers for my story in today's New Mexican. You can find that HERE.

The initial case is scheduled to begin next month, with jury selection starting July 6.

Here's a copy of Fastbuck's countersuit. Keep scrolling down to Page 11 and you'll find King's complaint against Fastbucks, list as "Exhibit 1."


Tuesday, June 22, 2010


This just in from the PRC. Looks like the Blue Cross/Blue Shield rate increase will get a PRC hearing. Here's the news release:

New Mexico’s acting Superintendent of Insurance Johnny L. Montoya today ... signed an order suspending the recently-approved Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico (BCBSNM) health insurance premium rate increase settlement agreement.

The order suspends the April 26 agreement – which saw rates for an estimated 40,000 New Mexicans increase by an average of 21.3 percent – and establishes a public evidentiary hearing, to be held at 9 a.m. Wednesday, August 25 in Apodaca Hall (on the 2nd floor of the PERA Building, 1120 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe).

During the evidentiary hearing, NMPRC staff will present an overview of how it reached its decision to approve the original settlement, while BCBSNM representatives are expected to provide evidence and testimony to justify the double-digit rate increases. Additionally, public comment – both written and oral – will be taken during the hearing.

Montoya said he opted to sign the order to ensure that the rates are justified and to bring transparency to the rate approval process.

Tuesday’s order also includes a provision that allows BCBSNM to collect the agreed and increased fees pending the Aug. 25 hearing and any related decision.

“Because this increase coincides with very challenging financial times for nearly every New Mexican, it’s prudent for the Insurance Division and the citizens of this state to know exactly why such rates are warranted,” Montoya said. “My office is tasked with ensuring that the corporate solvency and consumer interests are balanced and I firmly believe that suspending the settlement and going ahead with the evidentiary hearing is in everyone’s best interest.”

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mullins Says Ben Ray Too Harsh on BP

Republican Congressional candidate Tom Mullins will not join the piling on on U.S. Rep. Joe Barton for saying President Obama had engaged in a "shake-down" of BP, by securing $20 billion to help pay for damages from the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

In fact even before Barton's controversial apology to BP, Mullins was criticizing his Democratic opponent, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, for beating up the giant oil company. It's on Mullins' campaign blog.

Yesterday Mullins told me he thought Barton had some valid points and reiterated his belief that Lujan was "beating up" on BP, which is the third largest producer of natural gas in this state.

My story on this is in today's New Mexican.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Stateline On Immigration & The NM Governor's Race

Stateline's Dan Vock was New Mexico last week talking to the gubernatorial candidates as well as the current governor about how the immigration issue is playing in the governor's race.
For me, the most interesting part was Gov. Bill Richardson talking about his interactions with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. He talks about doing a helicopter tour of the border with Brewer and later urging her not to sign the controversial immigration bill.

“I remember telling her, I said, ‘Don’t sign this bill. This is going to be a big problem for you. There’s going to be all this national attention. You’re going to have boycotts.’ And she basically said she had no options. She had a political problem with it in her own primary and her two senators. I said to myself, ‘She’s going to sign this thing.’”

Richardson also talks about the gubernatorial race, acknowledging that Lt. Gov. Diane Denish is "going to have to separate herself from me ."

“The most important dynamic is going to be, can the Republicans take advantage of having two Hispanics at the top of the ticket? That’s probably never happened anywhere in the country.”

“For Democrats, I think the lieutenant governor is well-positioned… She’s going to have to separate herself from me but define herself as a Democrat moving the state forward on the traditional Democratic issues of job creation, health care and education reform.”

And the governor talked about negative campaigning:

“All races are negative. Name me one positive race in the country. This one started the day after, because they started in on some of the law enforcement issues of Martinez. Denish was hitting right after. That’s the nature of politics right now. Negative campaigning is used extensively. And unfortunately, it works.”

You can find the Richardson interview HERE

And the story on the immigration issue HERE

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Your Child Molester is Worse Than Mine

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
June 17, 2010

In this corner, wearing the red trunks, Juan Gonzales, accused child molester and illegal immigrant. And in this corner, wearing the blue trunks, the Doña Ana tag team of convicted sex offenders Shawn Bohannon and Hector Montes.

And introducing our special guest referee, all the way from Massachusetts, Willie “The Furlough” Horton!

This is what the New Mexico gubernatorial race seems to have become — a battle in which Democrat Diane Denish and Republican Susana Martinez try to associate each other with people charged or convicted of ugly crimes against juveniles.

What’s next? “Your child molester is worse than my child molester”?

Meet the surrogates: This started last week when Martinez responded to a Denish campaign TV ad slamming her conviction rate as district attorney of the 3rd Judicial District in Doña Ana County.

So Martinez introduced us to Gonzales, who faces charges of molesting a 6-year-old girl in Albuquerque.

Gonzales had been accused of other sex crimes before he turned 18. Martinez’s ad says he was allowed to stay in the country because the state Children, Youth and Families Department had a policy against reporting juvenile criminals who are illegal immigrants to federal immigration authorities. The ad connects Gonzales to Denish because CYFD is part of the lieutenant governor’s “Children Cabinet.” This cabinet doesn’t actually have direct jurisdiction over CYFD policies, but what the heck?

This week, Denish responded with an ad introducing us to Bohannon and Montes, two baddies who Martinez prosecuted.

Bohannon was a Hatch Valley High School assistant football coach charged in 2005 with having sex with two high-school girls. He faced multiple counts of rape and criminal sexual contact with a minor. He eventually pleaded to one count of child abuse and 14 counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and was sentenced to five years probation. A Martinez assistant told The Albuquerque Journal at the time that the plea agreement was acceptable because of difficulties in pinning down exact dates and locations of some of the alleged incidents.

Montes was a 22-year-old custodian at Las Cruces High School who was indicted on one count of criminal sexual contact of a minor and a count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor by a school employee after a school official found him fondling a 15-year-old student in an office in 2005. According to court records, a plea deal ended the criminal sexual contact charge. Montes received an 18-month sentence, but all but 119 days in the county jail was suspended.

The Denish spot notes that neither Montes nor Bohannon were put on the state registry of sex offenders.

Tough on crime: Despite the Police Gazette tone of the campaigns, preliminary numbers indicate that violent crime in the United States dropped dramatically in 2009, the FBI reported last month. That’s the third straight year for falling statistics in murder, forcible rape, aggravated assault and robbery.

That trend also appears to be the case in New Mexico.

According to statistics on the state Public Safety Department website, the numbers in all four of those violent-crime categories fell statewide between 2008 and 2009, and, if statistics available so far this year are any indication, those numbers could fall again this year.

(One enormous caveat on these state figures, however: They don’t include statistics from the Albuquerque Police Department, the largest police agency in the state.)

A little ray of sunshine: Both Martinez and Denish actually did release some positive ads this week. Martinez has a new Spanish-language ad. It’s another crime spot, in which Martinez talks about prosecuting a high-profile child murder case. She doesn’t even mention Denish.

Likewise, Denish has an ad about supporting small businesses. And there’s not a word about any child molester.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mullins "Worser Person in the World" Says Olbermann

CD3 Republican candidate Tom Mullins made Keith Olbermann's "Worst Persons in the World" countdown for -- you guessed it -- his discussion of putting land mines along the Mexican border (an idea he's already disavowed.)

Mullins, according to Olbermann, isn't the WORST person in the world today. That would be the force of nature (I chose to call him "Thor") that used lightning to destroy the statue of Jesus at that church in Ohio.

But, hey Mullins did beat frequent Olbermann whipping boy Glenn Beck.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Another Richardson Cabinet Secretary Leaving

The fourth cabinet secretary for Gov. Bill Richardson in less than a week is bailing.

Rick Homans, secretary of Taxation and Revenue is leaving to become executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority -- a job Homans held briefly in 2007.

Duffy Rodriguez, who has served as deputy secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration, will serve as Tax & Rev secretary.

Homans was one of Richardson's original cabinet members, having served first as Economic Development secretary.

Last week the administration announced that Department of Education Secretary Veronica Garcia and Children, Youth and Families Department Secretary Dorian Dodson were retiring.

Richardson has less than six months before the end of his second term.

The "Crime War" Still on in Governor's Race

I guess the Denish camp was serious last when they wouldn't agree to an ad truce. And, in one of two new ads, Denish is still pounding the "soft on criminals" drum.

Here's the new attack ad:

The other Denish ad is kinda corny:

Monday, June 14, 2010

How About Putting Piranhas in the Rio Grande?

Republican Congressional candidate Tom Mullins apparently discussed in a recent radio interview the idea of securing the U.S. border with Mexico by placing line mines along the border. However, Mullins apparently is backing away from the concept.

According to a story today in the Associated Press, Mullins he Republican opponent of Rep. Ben Ray Lujan said in a May 18 interview with KNMX radio in Las Vegas, N.M., that "the U.S. could mine the border, install barbed wire and post signs directing would-be border jumpers to cross legally at designated checkpoints."

Mullins told the wire service that "it was a suggestion he'd heard while campaigning."

The link has been updated to a more complete Associated Press story

New Martinez Ad Sin Lodo

It's been almost a week since the last attack ad in the Diane Denish/Susana Martinez slugfest.

And now comes a new Martinez ad and there's no attack on Denish. It is in Spanish. Kate Nash, who understands Spanish far better than I do, confirmed there's no mud thrown at Denish here.


Susana Martinez: Me dediqué a servir como procuradora para poder pelear en defensa de losinocentes.

SM: Por ejemplo, “Baby Brianna” solo tenía seis meses cuando fué asesinada por su propia familia.

SM: Su fotografía permanece en mi oficina para recordarme que debemos trabajar día tras día para asegurar nuestra comunidad.

SM: Me presento como candidata a gobernadora: para que Nuevo México sea un mejor estado para cada niño.

SM: Soy Susana Martinez. Únase a esta lucha conmigo.


Susana Martinez: I became a prosecutor to fight in defense of the most innocent among us.

SM: For example, “Baby Brianna” was six months old when she was murdered by members of her own family.

SM: Her picture hangs in my office to remind me why we must work to improve our community each and every day.

SM: I’m running for Governor to make New Mexico a better state for every child.

SM: I’m Susana Martinez. Join me in this fight.

And People Complain About Richardson's Head Butts?

Here's a real hands-on politician, Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-NC.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ortiz y Pino Reflects

Jerry Ortiz y Pino at a DEM LT. GOV. FORUM State Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino writes in the Weekly Alibi about his unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor. It's a honest assessment of his candidacy.

"A 33-county strategy trumps a 10-county one. Without the money (or the time) to hit every hamlet in this big state, we focused on the 10 counties with the most recognizable (and reachable) cadre of progressives. We dealt with the other 23 by mail and the Internet. In the past, those 10 accounted for almost 75 percent of the turnout, so we concentrated our efforts there. ... precincts where we knocked on doors voted for me. Those we mailed stuff to (and even more so, those we weren’t able to contact at all) didn’t."

You can read the whole piece HERE

Ben Ray Targeted by "Men's Rights" Group.

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan is one of 20 members of Congress targeted by Abusegate Investigate for defeat in the upcoming election because of their support for domestic violence legislation.

The Lujan campaign calls the group "radical domestic violence deniers."

The news release doesn't mention Lujan's Republican opponent Tom Mullins. I've put in the question whether he'd accept the support of Abusegate. I haven't heard back yet, but will add his response when I receive it.

Here's the release:
WASHINGTON / June 9, 2010 – Twenty national lawmakers, known for their advocacy of policies that promote false allegations and serve to break-up families, have been targeted for electoral defeat in November.

The 20 lawmakers are supporters of discriminatory laws such as the International Violence Against Women Act that are known to violate fundamental civil rights and escalate partner tensions. The 20 Democratic and Republican lawmakers are listed at the end of this press release.

“Domestic violence laws that promote ‘false allegations’ of domestic violence contribute to the destruction of families. Such laws remove the right of many children to know one of their parents, and often their grandparents,” explains Sheryle Hutter of Colorado. “Thanks to such laws, my son hasn’t seen his daughter for 10 years, and I have not seen my grandchild for more than 3 years.”

The use of false abuse allegations to gain a tactical edge in child custody cases has been extensively documented:

A growing number of civil rights organizations are questioning “get-tough” domestic violence laws. The Washington Civil Rights Council has described the Violence Against Women Act as the “biggest civil rights roll-back since the Jim Crow era.” Last year the Connecticut chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union successfully challenged a case in which a man falsely-accused of domestic violence was denied the right to a hearing.

Women’s groups such as Concerned Women for America have also expressed concerns with what it calls violence against women “misinformation.” In May 5, 2010 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Concerned Women for America warned that abuse-reduction programs need to “take the ‘gender’ politics and ‘politically-correct’ agenda out of the public policy solutions.”

The effectiveness of domestic violence programs is likewise being challenged. According to Department of Justice official Angela Moore Parmley, “We have no evidence to date that VAWA [Violence Against Women Act] has led to a decrease in the overall levels of violence against women.”

Research shows women are as likely as men to initiate physical abuse against their intimate partners: But VAWA-funded programs may present misleading statistics.

The list of those targeted is below. Note the name of Sen. Arlen Specter. He actually was defeated in the Democratic primary a couple of weeks ago, but I don't think his support of the Violence Against Women Act was the main factor in his loss.

Barbara Boxer - California
Mark Kirk - Illinois
Russ Carnahan - Missouri
Arlen Specter - Pennsylvania
Patty Murray - Washington

Vic Snyder – Arkansas
Lucille Roybal-Allard - California
Jeff Miller – Florida
Jim Marshall - Georgia
Walt Minnick - Georgia
John Tierney - Massachusetts
Donna Edwards - Maryland
Larry Kissel – North Carolina
Paul Hodes – New Hampshire
Rush Holt – New Jersey
Ben Luján – New Mexico
Mary Joe Kilroy - Ohio
David Wu – Oregon
Ted Poe - Texas
Steve Kagen - Wisconsin

UPDATE 8:30 pm:
Lujan's Republican opponent Tom Mullins responded:

"I've never heard of this group at all. It sounds like it is possibly a democrat group creating an issue to benefit Lujan ?"

In fairness, I probably should have included in the original version of this post the fact that I did verify the press release today with Paul Elam, editor of an online publication called Men's News Daily. If it is a hoax, it's pretty elaborate.

An Olive Branch in the Governor's Race?

The Susana Martinez campaign just sent this email to Diane Denish's campaign manager, Oren Shur regarding the negative ads that have marked the first days of the campaign:


With so much at stake, Susana Martinez believes that New Mexicans deserve a substantive debate about the most important issues confronting our state and voters have earned the opportunity to review and analyze the visions and plans each candidate offers.

Unfortunately, your campaign began attacking Susana the day after the primary election concluded with a negative ad, which has been proven to be false. We are setting the record straight on the crime issue and will never allow false attacks to go unanswered. But, we believe voters deserve an opportunity to hear from each candidate concerning their visions and we propose that both campaigns commit to only positive advertising through at least the end of July. There will be plenty of time to have a healthy debate about the differences between the candidates this fall.

We ask that you give serious consideration to this proposal. I look forward to your response, so we can change the tone of this campaign. Following this agreement, I look forward to meeting with you to build a mutually agreeable general election debate schedule.
I'll blog it when and if the Denish camp responds.

UPDATE 3:32 p.m.

The Denish campaign responds. Ceasefire outlook ... not so good.


First, this stunt is blatantly disingenuous given that Susana Martinez has been attacking Diane Denish’s record and character nearly every day for the past six months. In addition, the timing is ironic given that just yesterday you launched a negative ad that a reporter has appropriately called “misleading” and “quite a leap.”

We agree this campaign needs to focus on the issues most important to New Mexico families. While Susana Martinez was busy launching negative ads against her primary opponent, Diane Denish put forward substantive proposals to create jobs at New Mexico’s small businesses and to save the taxpayers $450 million through cost-saving reforms. For the better part of this campaign, Diane has been the only candidate talking about the issues.

New Mexicans deserve a thoughtful debate on the issues, but it’s remarkably hypocritical for you to suggest that voters don’t also deserve to know about the candidates’ records. Ms. Martinez may not want New Mexicans to know the truth about her record, but that hasn’t stopped her from attacking Diane Denish each and every day.

I’ve now sent you three emails asking for a date when we can discuss a debate schedule. I hope we can have that meeting soon.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Gov Fight Getting Nasty Fast

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
June 10, 2010

It’s just a little more than a week since the primary and already we’re ankle-deep in negative campaign ads in the governor’s race.

It’s going to be a long election.

I’m not going to wring my hands and tsk tsk too dramatically here. Like most political junkies, I take a perverse pleasure in negative ads — just like pro-wrestling fans love seeing the bad guy sneak up and smash a metal folding chair over the referee’s head.

But besides the sheer vitriol, the thing that stands out for me in the initial round of Diane Denish and Susana Martinez ads is that the major concern of both campaigns appears to be crime.

I haven’t been a crime reporter for several years, but did I miss the big story about a huge leap in the state’s crime rate? Did I miss the poll showing that crime — not jobs, not the economy — was the major issue on New Mexico voters’ minds?

Considering that Republican Martinez is a district attorney, a focus on crime probably is to be expected. Denish, jumping in just two days after the primary, accused Martinez of putting “criminals back on the street.”
NM Legislature 2010
That first Denish attack ad, which contended that state Administrative Office of the Courts statistics show Martinez has the worst conviction rate of all district attorneys with regard to homicide, immediately was contested by Martinez, who said the AOC statistics weren’t an accurate measure of conviction rates.

This quickly devolved into a hissing match over statistics, which might have led some observers to recall the adage popularized by Mark Twain about “lies, damned lies and statistics.”

Painting Martinez as soft on crime, by the way, could be risky. Earlier this week, she was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the state’s largest law-enforcement organization. One law-enforcement officer who is not a Republican recently told me that Martinez is popular among some Democratic sheriffs around the state.

Martinez on Wednesday fired back with an ad that in a mere 30 seconds linked Denish to illegal immigrants, child molesters and (gulp) Bill Richardson. Wow! Triple score!

The current governor appeared in the final moments of the ad along with a Denish quote that she’s been a “loyal soldier” in the current administration.

Most of the rest dealt with an illegal immigrant named Juan Gonzales, who is accused of molesting a 6-year-old girl in Albuquerque. Gonzales had been accused of sex crimes before he turned 18. Martinez’s ad says he was allowed to stay in the country because the state Children, Youth and Families Department had a policy against reporting juvenile criminals who are illegal immigrants to federal immigration authorities.

The Denish connection? CFYD is part of “Denish’s Cabinet,” i.e. the Children’s Cabinet. Denish’s campaign, in its official rebuttal to the ad, points out that the lieutenant governor doesn’t really have authority over the departments in the Children’s Cabinet and says she hadn’t been aware of the policy in question.

It’s doubtful that many television viewers are going to look into the actual facts behind such ads. First time I watched it on YouTube, I thought they were implying that Denish had appointed an illegal immigrant/child molester to the Children’s Cabinet.

“At a time when most New Mexicans are worried about their jobs and paying the bills, Susana Martinez would rather scare them with far-fetched and ludicrous attacks,” a Denish spokesman declared in a statement Wednesday. “... Diane Denish remains focused not only on keeping New Mexico’s families safe, but also on turning this economy around.”

Martinez, meanwhile, said this week in an interview with the Alamogordo Daily News that “Denish is doing it to avoid discussing the issues that are important to New Mexicans. We’ve got to start talking about what’s important to them.”

So I guess the next ads from both camps will be about those important issues. What do you bet?

The Future of Newspapers

This is from The Onion If we're going down, let's go down laughing.

Boston Globe Tailors Print Edition For Three Remaining Subscribers

Did Someone Say It Was Going to Get Nasty?

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish started the negative ads right after last week's primary. So far she's run two against Susana Martinez.

But now the Las Cruces district attorney has struck back.

Amazingly, crime is emerging as the major issue of the campaign, at least on the tv ad front.

Here's the new Republican ad.

And here's Denish's latest, released earlier this week:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cops for Susana

While Diane Denish is attacking her for being a "failed prosecutor" who has been quick to plea bargain evil-doers, Susana Martinez just picked up the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police.

From a FOP news release:

“I am proud to announce that this year’s delegation voted overwhelmingly to endorse Martinez,” said FOP State President Bob Martinez. Mrs. Martinez’s views on issues important to our membership made her the obvious choice. Susana takes a no-nonsense approach to prosecuting those who commit crimes and has a reputation as a strong leader. She will take this no-nonsense approach as she guides our state in the appropriate direction.”

The endorsement was made over the weekend at the FOP's annual state conference in Las Vegas, N.M.

Expect a campaign ad shortly.

Monday, June 7, 2010

BP Campaign Cash Washes Ashore in NM

In Tuesday's New Mexican looked at campaign contributions from BP to New Mexico politicians. You can find that HERE.

No huge revelations here -- and, in the big picture of the unlimited amounts of contributions currently allowed in state campaigns, the amounts given are relatively low. It's just something that a few people have been wondering about, exactly how much BP campaign money has been contributed to New Mexico candidates.

The biggest amount from BP for a state campaign went to Gov. Richardson in 2002. But that was only $2,000 -- not even walking-around money for Richardson during a campaign. In fact, as I point out in the story, BP is far less active in state politics than other major oil companies.

Some New Mexico Congress members have received more from BP during the years.

Former Sen. Pete Domenici still is on the list of Top 20 BP beneficiaries in the past 20 years -- getting more than $20,000 from the company and its executives. But that's over an 18-year period.

Domenici, who left office last year, chaired the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, as Sen. Jeff Bingaman does now. BP has given Bingaman $14,000 since 1994.

Provisional Ballots Help Ben Lujan

The provisional ballots in the tight Ben Lujan / Carl Trujillo race in House District 26 broke slightly for House Speaker Lujan. (These figures were just verified by Santa Fe County Elections Director Denise Lamb)

Out of the original 37 ballots cast, only 10 were counted.

23 were thrown out for being from voters who are not registered in District 46.

4 were thrown out for being from voters who were not registered Democrat

3 were for for Carl Trujillo

7 were for Ben Lujan

This means the Speaker expanded his lead by four votes. But his margin over Trujillo still remains under 100 votes.

My Favorite Campaign Ad of the Day (So Far)

Please, Write Jim Terr and tell him to call off the dogs!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bastards, Drunks and Thieves

Right after the elections last week I got a little reprieve from contemporary politics at work because a long-planned massive historical piece for The New Mexican's 400th Anniversary of Santa series was due. You can read that HERE.

So I got to write about scoundrels, con men, and other evil-doers in Santa Fe's proud history. Hmmmm. Some reprieve. One reader commented on my story, "Only to 1980? No mention of the rash of DWI's, drug-fueled crime and politicians stealing investment fund monies from taxpayers??"

A flippant answer to that is that there were so many in recent times we didn't want to hurt anybody's feelings by leaving them out.

One character I did get to include was Hyman G. Neill, aka "Hoodoo Brown," the legendary leader of The Dodge City Gang in Las Vegas, N.M. circa 1880.

Hoodoo became something of an obsession for me about 29 years ago. I started looking into his colorful career when a short item appeared in The New Mexican's "100 Years Ago" feature. This was published the same week my daughter was born. At the time I had very little experience as a journalist, not to mention zero experience as a historical researcher, but I did gather as much information as I could at the state archives about Hoodoo.

One problem you run into while researching Hyman Neill is there was another Hoodoo Brown, a George "Hoodoo" Brown who, like Neill was born in Missouri and spent time in Kansas. Different guys.

Several online sources say that after the murder of Michael Kelliher in Las Vegas, Neill went to Houston. I'm not sure what the source of this is. During my research I could never trace him beyond his release from the Muskogee jail. (There were some reports of Neill getting shot to death in a card game, but nothing I could confirm.)

One weird twist in the Hoodoo story is that in 2005 there appeared a video game called "Gun." One of the characters is a corrupt mayor of a fictional New Mexico town. His name is, you guessed it, Hoodoo Brown. His voice is done by actor Ron Perlman. (The image of the video Hoodoo graces this blog post.) Interestly, the video Hoodoo has deputies including Dave Rudabaugh and J.J. Webb -- just like the real Hoodoo did in Las Vegas.

Below is "The Outcast," the Tom Russell song I quoted in the article, (Your promised land was settled by bastards, drunks and thieves.") sung by Dave Van Ronk

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Modest Proposal: Eliminate the Office of Lt. Gov.

My new office-mate in the Capitol press room, Rob Nikolewski of Capitol Reports, just wrote a thought-provoking piece about eliminating the entire office of lieutenant governor. You can read it HERE.

As Nikolewski notes, the office budget is nearly half a million. Nobody's saying that Diane Denish hasn't worked hard and has taken on several roles trying to expand the responsibilities of the office. But in times of government belt-tightening, is this post really necessary? Something to think about. (Some states are considering eliminating the job.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Aren't You Glad You No Longer Have to Watch Those Primary Attack Ads

Guess what... The General election has started.

Diane Denish's campaign just unveiled this new attack ad on Susana Martinez

By the way, Larry Sabato, an oft-quoted national pundit and director of the University of Virginia center for Politics today rated the New Mexico governor's race as a "toss-up."

Of the New Mexico contest, Sabato writes:

Gov. Bill Richardson (D) is term limited. With his luster dimmed after an unsuccessful run for president in 2008 and a brush with a lobbying scandal, Richardson may not have much influence on the choice of his successor. Yet his lieutenant governor, Diane Denish, is in a decent position to win. Denish nearly became governor when Richardson agreed to become the Obama Commerce Secretary before withdrawing, and was actually preparing her “administration.” Finally, she hopes she will get to put those plans in motion. Partly because of a growing Hispanic voting population, New Mexico has become an increasingly Democratic state after decades as one of America’s most competitive bellwethers. (People forget that New Mexico was even closer in absolute terms than Florida in 2000; Gore won it by a mere 366 votes compared to Bush’s 537-vote squeaker in the Sunshine State.) Obama captured New Mexico by 15% in 2008, and Democrats control the entire congressional delegation, though the GOP is going to make a comeback in a couple of districts this year. Could the pendulum be swinging back in the Land of Enchantment? The greatest obstacle standing between Denish and the governor’s office seemed to be former Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R), and she chose not to run. However, a new threat to Denish, another Republican woman, is on the horizon. The new GOP nominee for governor is Dona Ana County district attorney Susana Martinez, who easily defeated former state party chair Allen Weh and four others, with the help of a Sarah Palin endorsement and a tough stance on immigration. Martinez has led Denish in one poll, and she’s undeniably on the rise, though Denish still has the advantage of a deeper pool of potential party voters. This all-female contest—only the third in U.S. history—will be fun to watch. TOSS UP.

Roundhouse Roundup: Primary Tidbits

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
June 3, 2010

Republicans did a big favor for three incumbent Democratic legislators right before the election.

New Mexico Turnaround, a conservative political committee run by leaders in the state GOP, contributed $4,000 each to the campaigns of three Democrats who were running against incumbents Richard Vigil of Las Vegas and Miguel Garcia and Eleanor Chavez of Albuquerque.

OK, the group isn't officially Republican. But Ryan Cangiolosi, executive director of the state GOP, is the executive director of Turnaround. State Republican Party Chairman Harvey Yates was on its board when Turnaround was founded in 2001.

All three incumbents handily won their primaries. Chances are that all three would have won anyway, but it seems to me that a contribution from a Republican group likely is the kiss of death in a Democratic primary — and indeed it caused a big stink in the liberal blogosphere right before the election. Were these Democrats and their GOP benefactors just hoping that nobody would notice?

Garcia and Chavez have no general election opponents. Vigil still has to get by Republican Mel Root in November. Had Vigil's opponent, Barbara Case, won, who would Turnaround have supported in the fall?

Roundhouse Changes: Assuming House Speaker Ben Luján hangs on to his slim lead over challenger Carl Trujillo (which was up to a whopping 80-vote margin last time I checked the Secretary of State's Office website), despite all the talk about a great anti-incumbent wave, only two incumbents went down in Tuesday's primary.

Down in Valencia County, Democrat Elias Barela of Belen, a two-term lawmaker, lost to challenger Julian Luna, who is executive director of the state Racing Commission. Luna will face Republican Alonzo Baldonado in the general election.

And in Alamogordo, 15-year state Rep. Gloria Vaughn lost in the Republican primary to Yvette Herrell. Democrat Susan Medina is running for the seat in the general election.

More conventional wisdom down the drain. Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith, a former Democrat who switched to the Republican Party, was defeated for re-election in the GOP primary down in the Heart of Dixie on Tuesday.

This followed the saga of U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, a former Republican who switched to the Dems, only to be rejected last month by Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters.

"By golly, a trend!" the pundits exclaimed collectively Tuesday morning.

However, as often happens in Northern New Mexico, that trend has already been bucked.

Former Republican Glenn Ellington, who has worked as a district judge, court of appeals judge and secretary of Taxation and Revenue under former Gov. Gary Johnson, won in the Democratic primary, unseating incumbent David Thomson, who recently had been appointed to the bench by Gov. Bill Richardson.

Just wondering ... Do you think Don Wiviott is sending a sympathy card to Allen Weh? Weh spent at least $1.6 million of his own money only to come in a distant second to Susana Martinez in the Republican primary. In 2008, Wiviott spent nearly that much in his unsuccessful Democratic primary run for Congress against Ben Ray Luján.

Similarly, I wonder if former President George W. Bush feels any special kinship for Gov. Bill Richardson. If Tuesday night is any indication, the governor is keeping as low a profile in this campaign as Bush did in 2008. Of course, nobody will forget Richardson's name. The Republicans will see to that.

A little history: My old boss Larry Calloway commented on his website Wednesday about the significance of New Mexico Republicans nominating an all-Hispanic governor ticket, Susana Martinez and John Sanchez.

"The last time New Mexico had a 'two-taco ticket' as it was called without rancor was 1968. Democrat Fabian Chavez and his running mate Michael Alarid came within about 3,000 votes of defeating incumbent Gov. David F. Cargo, a Republican who was popular among Hispanic voters."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Early Voting in Santa Fe County

Slightly less than 5,500 people in Santa Fe County cast ballots at early voting polling places.

57,041 Democrats and 14,852 Republicans are registered in the county, for a total of 71,893 voters eligible to vote in the primary.

Clerk’s Office – 1,579
El Dorado – 611
Edgewood - 465
Fairgrounds – 2,043
Pojoaque – 572
Santa Cruz – 228

Total: 5,498

Election Live Blog -- All Day Long!

The New Mexican is running a live blog for the election throughtout the day (and night). You can find it on the paper's Web site or right here, below. Join the fun!