Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Johnson Makes it Official. He's Running for Prez as a Libertarian

Johnson announces in Rotunda
Photo by Clyde Mueller for The New Mexican
As anticipated, former Gov. Gary Johnson this morning announced he will seek the Libertarian Party nomination for president of the United States.

At his news conference in the Roundhouse Rotunda, Johnson, who has described himself as a lifelong Republican, announced he is leaving the GOP. Moments later he formally signed a voter registration form declaring himself a Libertarian.

Mark Hinkle, chairman of the national Libertarian Party, traveled from California to speak at Johnson's news conference. Officially Hinkle is neutral in the race, which has nine other declared candidates. But he did note that Johnson is the first two-term governor of any state to join the Libertarian Party.

A spokeswoman for the state GOP said in an e-mail today, "I do not anticipate us having any comment on Johnson's decision to run as a Libertarian."

A spokesman for the current Republican governor of the state, said Gov. Susana Martinez had no comment on Johnson.

Hinkle said that Johnson actually is coming back to the Libertarian Party. He had been a dues paying member back when he was governor, Hinkle said.

Johnson later told reporters that even though he liked President Reagan, in 1984 Johnson voted for the Libertarian candidate because of the debt incurred during Reagan's first term.

He said he supported Ron Paul for president in 2008 and still prefers Paul to the other current Republican presidential candidates. But he said, despite Paul's high poll numbers in Iowa, he doesn't expect Paul to be the GOP nominee.

Asked about the differences between him and Paul, Johnson said, "I am not a social conservative."

Johnson promised to reduce federal spending by 43 percent to balance the national budget; to do away with all current federal taxes to be replaced by a "fair tax" of 23 percent on all goods and services; to "reduce welfare and reduce warfare"; to fight for gun rights as well as gay rights; and to legalize marijuana and change its classification as a "schedule one" drug.

Johnson said it should be easier for Mexican citizens who want to work in the U.S. to get work permits

In today's New Mexican, I quoted UNM political science professor Lonna Atkeson saying that even though the Libertarian Party could be on all state ballots in November, running as a Libertarian will be an extremely uphill battle for Johnson because historically that party -- as well as most third parties in history -- has been handicapped by a lack of resources.

That's not likely to change next year, Atkeson said.

She also noted that Johnson, as a Libertarian, likely would face the same problem he faced while seeking the Republican nomination — being excluded from the televised debates. Not since the 1996 election, when Texas businessman Ross Perot ran on the Reform Party ticket, has a third party been included in a general election debate.

 "The debates have been institutionalized, and it's hard for a third party to be included," Atkeson said.

Asked about that today, Johnson said he believes that there's a "real possibility" that he will be included in next fall's debates.

Updated 2:10 p.m. I added the "no comment" from the state Republican Party.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Could the Libertarians Be a Force in NM in 2012?

With former Gov. Gary Johnson expected to announce tomorrow his bid for the Libertarian Party nomination for president, some wonder whether that could make Johnson a real contender in the contest for New Mexico's five electoral votes.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a PPP poll of New Mexico voters showing Johnson taking more than 20 percent of the vote in the general election in a three-way race with Democrat Barack Obama and either Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich as the Republican nominee. According to that poll, Johnson would take 26-30 percent of the Republican vote in New Mexico and win a plurality of the independent vote.

According to PPP, Obama would win the state by 15-17 percentage points with or without Johnson in the race. (That is, if the election were held a couple of weeks ago when the poll was taken.)

If Johnson becomes the Libertarian nominee, he surely would win far more votes in New Mexico than any previous Libertarian candidate.

According to numbers available on the Secretary of State's website, the most votes a Libertarian ever received in a presidential race here was in 1996, when candidate Harry Browne got 2,996 votes in the general election. That was the year when Bill Clinton was re-elected, beating Republican Bob Dole.

In the years since then, the Libertarian candidate normally gets more than 2,000 votes statewide.

The best year for a Libertarian candidate nationwide was 1980, when candidate Ed Clark received 1.1 percent of the national popular vote. However, in every other election the party's standard bearer received less than 1 percent of the popular vote.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I'm on Christmas break this and won't be back to work until Tuesday Dec. 27. So I won't be posting much on this blog until then.

But I want to wish all you readers a Merry Christmas. And I'm not the only one with that holiday wish.
And a happy New Year!
(Thanks to Rob at New Mexico Watchdog )

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: A More Democratic Nomination Process or Just a Slick Shtick?

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Dec. 18 2011

An organization that says it wants to take the "hyper-partisanship" and "special interests" out of presidential politics and change the way the U.S. nominates presidential candidates is gathering petition signatures in New Mexico in an effort to get on next year's general-election ballot. 

Americans Elect's goal is to get its presidential ticket on the ballots of all 50 states. And who are those candidates? That's to be determined by an online "convention" next summer. Every registered voter in the country is eligible to become a delegate. 

In an interview last week, Americans Elect's chief operating officer, Elliot Akerman, explained that the organization will determine a platform of issues, debated and voted on over the Internet. Delegates will determine which candidate best matches the platform. Finalists then must choose their vice presidents. A running mate cannot be someone who belongs to the same party of the presidential candidate. 

In June delegates will vote online to see who will be the Americans Elect standard bearer. Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer — who like New Mexico's former Gov. Gary Johnson has been running as a Republican but is ignored by the GOP establishment — recently announced he would seek the nomination. And controversial billionaire Donald Trump last week said he might be interested too. 
Is this Buddy's best shot?

So far, the group has won a place on the ballots in 
11 states. Akerman said. Nearly 2.2 million people across the country have signed petitions for Americans Elect. To get on New Mexico's presidential ballot, a "minor party" needs only 6,028 signatures. 

Thomas Friedman in a July New York Times column bubbled, "What did to books, what the blogosphere did to newspapers, what the iPod did to music ... Americans Elect plans to do to the two-party duopoly ..." 

But not all its press has been so glowing. recently ran a critical article under the headline "The slick shtick of Americans Elect," while Politico published a piece saying the group has a "democracy deficit." 

The National Journal noted last week that President Barack Obama's top political strategist David Axelrod criticized the fact that candidates chosen at the online convention must be approved by a Candidate Certification Committee. "It's like uber-democracy meets backroom bosses," Axelrod said. 

Is this The Donald's
best shot?
The members of the committee are Larry Diamond, a Democrat who is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, a conservative think tank; James Thomson, an independent who was president of the RAND Corporation, a global policy think tank; and — here's one for the conspiracy buffs — former CIA and FBI director William Webster, a Republican. 

In response, the group issued a news release quoting its chief executive officer Kahlil Byrd saying that voters have lost faith in the government and "Washington is failing the American people and misinformed partisan attacks like these are a key reason why." 

The Salon piece was more harsh than Axelrod. "It's fueled by millions of dollars of secret money, there is a group of wealthy, well-connected board members who have control over Americans Elect's nominating process, and the group has myriad links to Wall Street." 

The organization is classified under the tax code as a 501(c)(4) "social welfare" group, meaning its contributors are not reported publicly. 

Americans Elect adviser Darry Sragow, responding to such criticism, defended keeping contributors secret. "Cross those who hold power and you are banished to political Siberia, or targeted ... by unresponsive or hostile government actions," he wrote. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

PPP: If Johnson Runs as a LIbertarian, He'd Be a Big Factor in Prez Race

Former Gov. Gary Johnson could be a major factor in the race for New Mexico's five electoral votes if he runs for president on the Libertarian ticket, the latest Public Policy Poll of New Mexico voters says.

I just spoke with Johnson here at the Roundhouse a few minutes ago and while he says he hasn't completely made up his mind about seeking the Libertarian nod, he sounds like that's the direction he's heading in.

Former Gov. Gary Johnson
According to the poll, In a race between Johnson, President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Obama would get 44 percent, Romney 27 percent and Johnson would get 23 percent.

If former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the GOP candidate, Obama would get 45 percent, Gingrich 28 percent and Johnson gets 20 percent.

"As a third-party candidate, Johnson would draw 26-30 percent of the Republican votes, 12-16 percent of Democrats, and actually win independents with 31-33 percent," the PPP polling memo says.

Johnson noted that if he actually won the state, he'd be the first Libertarian to win any electoral votes in the state.

Without Johnson in the race, Obama would defeat Romney in New Mexico by 15 percentage points and Gingrich by 17 percentage points.

Obama's approval ratings here are weak. 49 percent approve while 46 percent disapprove, according to the poll. But the Republican candidates poll worse here.

“Barack Obama’s popularity is way down in New Mexico but voters don’t see any of the Republican candidates as serious alternatives,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling in a news release. “It should stay in the Democratic column in 2012.”

The big grain of salt:

PPP is a Democratic polling company. Yesterday, state Republicans, as well as a national GOP pollster, attacked PPP for under-representing GOP voters in the poll.

The breakdown of the poll, taken between Dec. 10 and 12, was 52 percent Democrat, 29 percent Republican and 19 percent independent,  the company's director Tom Jensen said in an email.

According to the Secretary of State's website, the actual registration numbers are 49 percent Dem, 32 percent GOP.

"Our final pre election poll in 2008 that got the result pretty much right on the head was also 52 percent (Democrat)," Jensen said.

Jensen was quoted today by Heath Haussamen saying, "…we had fewer Republicans on today’s poll than the 2008 poll, but we also had a sample of independents that was much more Republican leaning than 2008, as shown by (U.S. Senate candidate Heather) Wilson winning those voters. Party ID shifts over time and people who may have identified as Republican in 2008 are now identifying as independent, but still voting Republican. That’s a product of the Tea Party movement – folks might not want to call themselves Republicans anymore but they’re still supporting GOP candidates under a different label.”

In its news releases, PPP says, "PPP is a Democratic polling company, but polling expert Nate Silver of the New York Times found that its surveys in 2010 actually exhibited a slight bias toward Republican candidates."

For its general election poll, PPP surveyed 500 New Mexico voters through automated telephone interviews. The margin of error for the survey is 4.4 percent. This poll wasn't paid for or authorized by any campaign or political organization.

The Johnson numbers
According to PPP, in New Mexico, "45 percent see (Johnson) favorably and 39 percent unfavorably — not overwhelming numbers, but golden compared to the other Republicans, whose favorability ratings range from 21 percent to 28 percent , and unfavorability figures from 54 percent to 67 percent. Johnson is the only candidate more popular than the president, who has a 49-46 approval spread in the state, down just slightly from 50-44 in June.

"Just because he's doing that in New Mexico doesn't really say anything about his ability to do it on a broader scale," the PPP blog says, "but it shows that with folks who are familiar with his message he has support across the spectrum.
PPP Release NM 1216513

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Stapleton Apologizes for "Mexican" Remark

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
December 16, 2011

A contrite State House Democratic Whip Sheryl Williams Stapleton made an apology to Gov. Susana Martinez Thursday for an outburst at the Capitol this week in which she accused a Republican lawmaker of “carrying the Mexican’s water on the fourth floor.”
Christine Trujillo of the American Federation of Teachers
with Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton Thursday

“I lost it, ladies and gentlemen,” Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, told reporters at a news conference. Stapleton, whose demeanor normally is spirited, spoke softly. At times during the conference her voice sounded as if it were about to break.  “I expect more of myself,” she said. “This is not my character.”

Stapleton, the first black woman elected to the Legislature, was surrounded at the conference by several supporters, all Hispanic, some of whom told reporters Stapleton is no racist.

The incident occurred Wednesday during a break of the Legislative Education Study Committee. Stapleton confronted Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell, who recently had been interviewed on a KRQE-TV investigative report about Stapleton, a school administrator, being paid by Albuquerque Public Schools while she was in Santa Fe at legislative sessions. At the time, that  was a violation of the school district’s policy, thought the policy since has been changed.

Stapleton said she’s written a letter of apology to Martinez and has requested a meeting with her to “clear the air.”

“I’m a Latina, just like her,” Stapleton said. Martinez is of Mexican-American heritage. Stapleton’s roots are in the Caribbean — The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Stapleton said she wasn’t aware until later that sometimes in New Mexico, calling someone a “Mexican” can be taken as a  pejorative. Many Hispanics in Northern New Mexico, especially older people and those who can trace their ancestry to Spain, refer to themselves as “Spanish.”

“I didn’t think the word ‘Mexican’ was a racial slur,” Stapleton said.

But though she apologized to Martinez and most assumed she was talking about the governor as the “Mexican” on the fourth floor (where the Governor’s Office is located in the state Capitol), when asked to verify that, Stapleton wouldn’t admit she was talking about Martinez.

At one point she said, “I wasn’t thinking about anyone in particular.” She also said that there are other “Mexicans” who  work on the fourth floor besides Martinez.

However, not long after the incident on Wednesday, Stapleton told a reporter from Texas-New Mexico Newspapers that  Martinez and her chief of staff were responsible for drumming up criticism of her that from Republican legislators.

Martinez, in a statement via a spokesman, responded to Stapleton’s apology.

"I believe Rep. Stapleton's words were sad and disappointing. In New Mexico, we pride ourselves on our diversity, and on our ability to be proud of our unique heritage, while remaining united as New Mexicans. I'm pleased that Rep. Stapleton apologized to New Mexicans because the people of our state are the ones who deserve the apology.”

The governor said she would be happy to meet with Stapleton. “I'm certainly not going to allow this unfortunate incident to distract me from accomplishing what the people of New Mexico have elected all of us to achieve on their behalf.”

Earlier in the day, state Republican Party Chairman Monty Newman called upon Stapleton to resign her post as majority whip. “That kind of behavior is beyond the pale and has no place in the New Mexico House of Representatives,” Newman  said in a news release. “Representative Stapleton's rhetoric yesterday was completely unacceptable.”

Stapleton said she would not resign from the position.

After the news conference, at a meeting of the education panel, Stapleton apologized to Espinoza.

Stapleton told reporters at the news conference that she first became upset Wednesday when she arrived at the meeting and a Republican senator chided her for not being at her job.

She said she has been “personally attacked” by Republicans and has been under stress since the KRQE report. Bur she said she takes responsibility for the outburst.

Gingrich, Wilson, Heinrich Top Latest NM Poll

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich leads the presidential race among New Mexico Republicans, while former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson has an even wider lead over her opponents in the U.S. Senate Republican primary race.

However, if the election was this week (instead of 11 months from now), Wilson would lose to Democratic U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich in the general election, 47 percent to 40 percent and, in another scenario, would be tied with Democrat Hector Balderas, the state auditor, at 43 percent each.

That's according to the latest Public Policy Polling surveys of the state published earlier this week.

“Democrats continue to have a modest advantage in the New Mexico Senate contest,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “But it looks unlikely they’ll have the kind of cakewalk race they did in 2008 when Tom Udall was overwhelmingly elected to replace Pete Domenici.”

And that race might actually be tighter. Republican pollster Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies tweeted today that the PPP survey over-represents Democrats in this poll by six percentage points. "Reweighted to current (registration) the race is a toss-up: 45percent Heinrich/42 percent Wilson.
Manuel Lujan, Jr. & Heather Wilson
According to the poll, Wilson has the support of 55 percent of "usual Republican voters." That's compared with only 20 percent for Lt. Gov. John Sanchez. Las Cruces businessman Greg Sowards came in at 6 percent while Bill English, whose campaign has been virtually invisible in recent months, received 3 percent in the poll.

PPP's  poll of state Republicans shows Wilson still leading in a hypothetical match-up including former Gov. Gary Johnson, who currently is running for president. However, Johnson repeatedly has said he has no interest in running for Senate or serving in the Senate -- and I believe him. (PPP, in that scenario shows Wilson with 42 percent, Johnson with 31 percent, Sanchez with 15 percent and the others in single digits.

Martin Heinrich & FirefightersOn the Democratic side, Heinrich has 47 percent to Balderas' 30 percent. Twenty three percent are undecided or back someone else.

New Mexico Republicans apparently don't consider Johnson a favorite son in the presidential race. There, Gingrich leads with 39 percent of the vote. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is in a distant second place with 14 percent, while Johnson comes in third at 11 percent.

Part of Johnson's problem here may be that people don't think he has a chance to be nominated -- Johnson himself has said as much -- so they're leaning toward others. But another thing Johnson has going against him among the GOP is that 37 percent of those interviewed had a negative opinion of him. Forty nine percent had a favorable opinion.

PPP says it will publish results of the general election presidential race tomorrow/

 PPP surveyed 300 usual New Mexico Republican primary voters and 309 usual Democratic primary voters between last Thursday and Saturday. The margin of error for the survey is 5.7 percent The survey wasn't paid for or authorized by any campaign or political organization.

 PPP is a Democratic polling company, but its results in the last election were fairly accurate. Here's a couple of PPP news releases with poll numbers: PPP Release NM Dec. 2011 PPP poll NM 12-15-2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Supreme Court Rules Against Martinez

The state Supreme Court has ruled that Gov. Susana Martinez's line-item veto of bill with a $128 million tax increase on businesses to shore up New Mexico's unemployment compensation fund was unconstitutional and ordered that the bill be reinstated into law.

After the regular session early this year, Martinez vetoed a provision of an unemployment bill that would have increased what businesses pay into the unemployment fund. However, the governor let stand a part of that bill that cut nearly $80 million in unemployment benefits.

 Several Democratic legislators, including House Speaker Ben Luj├ín and Rep. Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque, last May petitioned the high court, asking that the partial veto be declared unconstitutional.

The court in July put off ruling on it, saying it wanted the governor and Legislature to try to resolve differences during the special session, which took place in September. However, that didn't work out so well. No bill dealing with the program was passed.

In the 20-page decision, Justice Edward Chavez concluded that after the governor's veto, "what remained was an unworkable piece of legislation."

Moments ago, Martinez's spokesman, Scott Darnell commented: "Gov. Martinez used her line-item authority in the same way Governor Richardson did in 2010 and disagrees with the Court's decision today. Unfortunately, Democrats will get their wish to raise taxes on small businesses to fund unemployment benefits, even though the unemployment rate in New Mexico has fallen from 8.7 percent in January to 6.6 percent today.

"The Governor remains committed to working across party lines to reform the unemployment insurance system in a way that puts more New Mexicans back to work and keeps unemployment rates fair and stable for New Mexico small businesses by removing politics and basing rates on sound actuarial data," Darnell said.

Below is the Supreme Court's decision:
  NM Supreme Court Unemployment Decision

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Catching Up

I've been so busy lately I haven't blogged some of the stories I've written for The New Mexican in the past few days.
Carlos Jaramillo

First of all, rest in peace Carlos Jaramillo, a former Santa Fe (and Espanola) police chief, who died in Arizona on Sunday at the age of 78.

I first got to know Carlos after he was appointed police chief in 1996 by Mayor Debbie Jaramillo. That appointment was an extremely controversial one because the mayor was his sister-in-law. The appointment was responsible for a voter backlash in the city elections, which took place about a month later. But after the dust had settled, Chief Jaramillo won the confidence and respect of most his troops, including some officers who had called his appointment a "slap in the face" from the mayor.

After his stint as police chief, Jaramillo worked as head of security for the Legislature during sessions. I'd frequently run into him on the first floor near the snack bar and joke with him that I never was afraid anyone would steal my Frito pie if he was around. As the former mayor told me Monday night, "People just took to Carlos. He was a funny, likable guy."

My condolences to Carlos' family, as well as the Capitol workers and old cops who miss him.


Last week I wrote about U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan being touted as a possible replacement for the retiring Charlie Gonzales, D-Texas as chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. I quoted from an article in Roll Call published last month.

I also quoted U.S. Sen. Tom Udall and U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich saying that it would be good for the state if Lujan gets the post. "As the Hispanic population grows in the U.S., so does the influence of the (Congressional Hispanic Caucus)," Udall said. "Serving as the chair is a significant responsibility with the ability to influence the national agenda."


Also check out this fun little story I did about a project of the New Mexico Centennial Steering Committee. It's a series of 2-minute radio spots concerning stories from the state's history.

There are 16 posted on line for the next few weeks. You can find them HERE

I especially recommend the one about the Socorro County sheriff encountering a UFO in 1964 and the one about lawman/gunslinger/politician Elfego Baca, one of the most unique characters in this state's history.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: Unequal Application of the Law?

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Dec. 11, 2011

Santa Fe Republicans indisputably are in the minority. This often leads to grumbling about their treatment by the Democratic majority. Like all political beefs, from any side, sometimes the concerns are overblown. Sometimes not. 

Occupy Santa Fe at Railyard
Photo by Luis Sanchez Saturno/The New Mexican
Last week a couple of local GOP activists raised a valid question about basic fairness. Jim and Sheryl Bohlander emailed that they don't think it's fair that they had to pay hundreds of dollars to use the Santa Fe Plaza for tea-party events while members of the Occupy Santa Fe movement camp out at the city's Railyard Park for free. 

"As two of the principal organizers of the 2009 and 2010 tea-party rallies on the Plaza, we can confirm that we had to secure a permit to use the Plaza, $400 for each event, plus we had to secure at liability insurance policy for both events, well over $300 each time," the Bohlanders said in their email. "The permit fee for 2011 was $455. Additionally, we had to state specifically the time frame of the events." 

I realize some readers will be thinking, "What the heck? They're Republicans. They can afford it." 

But setting political prejudices aside — if that's ever possible — one can ask if it's fair to make one group of citizens pay to use a city park for a political gathering while another group gets to use a park for free? 

Location, location, location: I asked that very question of Mayor David Coss last week. The mayor, a Democrat who presides over our nominally nonpartisan municipal governing body, said the main reason is because of where the tea-party rallies took place, as opposed to where the occupiers are occupying. 

"They're at a distant corner of the Railyard Park," Coss said. "They're not really affecting anybody." 

On the other hand, the mayor pointed out, the tea-party events took place on the Plaza, "which is the center for commerce in downtown Santa Fe." 
Santa Fe Tea Party
Tea Party on SF Plaza, 4-15-10

Coss also said he didn't waive any fees for anyone camping out at the Railyard Park because there is no fee schedule in place for that. 

The occupy group is engaging in civil disobedience, Coss asserted — civil disobedience "sort of." Can it really be called disobedience when the participants aren't seeking arrest or confrontation with the law? They have negotiated with city officials, including police. All sides have said there is a good rapport. But Coss said he's made it clear that if there is damage to the park or other problems, he will want the city to remove the protesters. He said he and other city officials are monitoring the situation. 

And so far, so good. There haven't been any more incidents at the Railyard Park since the occupy movement began their stay than were reported before, Coss said. The incidents reported haven't been serious, the mayor said — encounters with drunks, panhandling and such. 

Coss said he's proud that Santa Fe has been able to avoid the kind of violent confrontations between protesters and police seen in other cities. 

Unequal application: When told about the mayor's response, Jim Bohlander wasn't satisfied. "A public park is a public park," he said. "This is an unequal application of the law." 

He pointed out that the city's website specifies fees for using parks starting at $60 a day on weekdays and $95 a day on weekends for most parks for groups of 20 or more. (The Plaza, Cathedral Park and events involving more than 100 people are more expensive.) 

Another difference, Bohlander said, is that the tea-party events were limited to a few hours, while the occupy encampment has lasted more than a month. "I'm not saying there's a conspiracy or anything," Bohlander said. "It just seems to be hypocritical." 

Coss said that as far as he's concerned, in the absence of serious problems, Occupy Santa Fe can stay in the park. At least until next spring when gay pride events are scheduled for Railyard Park. 

"I bet they will have to pay for a permit, too," Bohlander said. 

Richardson Buys Home in Massachusetts

Former Gov. Bill Richardson has bought a "vacation" home in Chatham, Mass., according to a story yesterday in The Cape Cod Times.

LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING According to the article, written by Susan Milton, Richardson and former First Lady Barbara Richardson:

"paid $1.67 million for a house on Fox Pond and Strong Island Road, according to the deed recorded on Sept. 15.

The couple secured a $675,000 mortgage from the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank and purchased the 2,278-square-foot house from Gerald and Stephanie Coughlan of Wellesley. The Coughlans paid $1.6 million for the property on Nickerson Neck in 2004.

Most of the property's value — $1.5 million — is in the 36,200-square-foot pond-front lot, according to Chatham assessing records. The assessed value of the three-bedroom house with 4.5 bathrooms was $297,900.

"Gov. and Mrs. Richardson will use this home as a vacation home," Richardson spokesman Caitlin Wakefield emailed Friday. "Their primary residence will continue to be Santa Fe, N.M. Mrs. Richardson has longstanding ties in the Cape Cod area."
Read the whole story HERE

It's been some time since I've seen Richardson in Santa Fe. Something tells me Richardson sightings around here are going to get even more infrequent.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Trujillo Will Run Again Against Speaker Lujan

A few weeks ago I talked with House Speaker Ben Lujan about whether he planned on running again for the state House seat he's held since the 1970s.

Actually it was a short conversation. He said he'll wait to see what happens in the courts with redistricting issues before making his decision about running again.

I'd tried that day to get a comment from Carl Trujillo, who came within less than 100 votes of defeating Lujan in the 2010 Democratic primary. I wasn't successful then, but today Trujillo's campaign manager Faith McKenna emailed me to say, "Yes, Carl will be running again (as he promised following the 2010 primary)."

McKenna said Trujillo will make it official in January.

Looks like the race is on.

Disappointment of The Day

Not the mayor
I was so excited this morning when I received a press release saying that David Cross would be joining state officials in a public discussion about extending unemployment insurance before it expires on December 31.

These meetings usually are so dry, I thought, the wry comic stylings of Cross should make it a far more interesting event.

My illusions were shattered when I got a follow-up email, explaining they had just misspelled the name of Santa Fe's mayor, David Coss. Nice guy, but not nearly as entertaining as David Cross.

Anyway, the event is Thursday at noon in the Bataan Building.

Monday, December 5, 2011

While I Was Covering the Redistricting Trial, This Happened

Some folks associated with Occupy Santa Fe showed up at a meeting of the Environmental Improvement Board Monday. I don't think they were on the agenda.

(I don't know whether this was an official action of OSF or just individuals. But toward the end of their presentation, they said "We are Occupy Santa Fe. We are unstoppable. "

Former Gov's Mom Dies

The mother of former Gov. Bill Richardson died in Mexico today, according to identical posts on Richardson’s website and Facebook page.

“Maria Luisa Lopez Collada, 97, passed away peacefully today in Cuernavaca, Mexico,” the message said. “She was surrounded by family, including her son, Gov. Bill Richardson and his wife, Barbara Richardson; and her daughter Dr. Vesta Richardson.”

No further details were available Monday night.

Lopez Collada was a native of Mexico. She was the secretary of Richardson’s father, William Blaine Richardson, an American banker in Mexico City, before she married him. She traveled to Pasadena, Calif. to give birth to her son in 1947 so he would be an American citizen. The former governor spent his first 13 years in Mexico before going to a boarding school in Massachusetts.

Her husband, Richardson’s father, died in 1972.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: More Tales from the PedoBear Front

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Dec. 4, 2011

Last week in this column  I wrote about the “menace” of PedoBear, that cute little Internet cartoon bear that most Web denizens consider to be a tongue-in-cheek symbol of pedophilia but who some in law enforcement — including apparently Attorney General Gary King — say is a sinister mark of real live child molesters.

And apparently at least one police department in the state is confronting purveyors of PedoBear.

King’s office on the day before Thanksgiving issued a news release warning that the evil PedoBear had been spotted — in the form of car decals — in this Enchanted Land.

I compared this news release with past instances of New Mexico law enforcement spreading urban legends as true crime. Are there any actual arrests or prosecutions of actual child molesters who displayed the wicked bear? If so, I haven’t found any.

The latest favorite of "PedoBear Sympathizers"
But even more embarrassing than the attorney general seizing on this Internet joke were the number of news organizations that reported this nonsense as an actual menace. At least one Albuquerque TV anchor even advised viewers to write down the license plates of any vehicle they see sporting the PedoBear symbol and call the police.

The irreverent news site The Gawker, a leading debunker of PedoBear paranoia, had some laughs last week about this latest outbreak of PedoBear paranoia. “New Mexico Attorney General Warns Against the Molesty Charms of PedoBear,” the headline said.

But one Las Cruces business owner isn’t laughing.

C.W. Ward’s business House of Grafix, sells PedoBear decals. His latest features the bear with the logo of the Penn State football team.

Ward is a husband, a father and a soccer coach. “I sell decals of anything funny or famous from the Internet,” he said in a phone interview.

He rattled off a bunch of names — Troll Face, Mr. Pinkshirt ... I had to admit I wasn’t aware of most the names he mentioned. (When I was a lad, the only cartoon characters on car decals were wholesome icons like Mr. Natural, Rat Fink and an angry cigar-smoking woodpecker named Mr. Horsepower.)

Although he’d done nothing illegal, a few days before Thanksgiving, a Las Cruces police detective and a forensic computer examiner came by Ward’s store to talk to him about his relationship with PedoBear.

“She told me I was promoting child pornography,” Ward said of the detective. She told him that child molesters were using the symbol, he said. But the only example she gave was a guy in a PedoBear suit who was kicked out of a comics convention in San Diego last year. “She told me that he was a sex offender,” Ward said. “I said, ‘No, he wasn’t.’ ”

Indeed, last year a Tulsa, Okla., television station had to retract a statement that the ComicCon bear was a sex offender. And even if some stray pedophiles have adopted the symbol, Ward asked whether a rapist wearing a blue shirt made everyone in a blue shirt a rapist.

The police computer expert seemed to understand what PedoBear was all about, Ward said, and even told him that it was his First Amendment right to display and sell the symbol. But the detective, he said, treated him like he was a child molester himself.
House of Grafix sells this sticker too

He wasn’t arrested or charged. Still, Ward said, he felt intimidated. “With child porn, even an accusation is the death penalty.” Perhaps a slight overstatement, but having the law accuse you of promoting kiddy porn could be pretty devastating to your reputation.

But it hasn’t hurt his business, at least not yet. After an Albuquerque station showed footage of his website in its PedoBear report Monday night, Ward said he was swamped with hundreds of dollars in PedoBear orders, including an Albuquerque store that intends to give away the decals.

Note: Because I was off work most of last  week because of periodontal surgery, I wrote this column early in the week. Therefore it  didn't mention anything about the Attorney General's infamous blog doubling down on the PedoBear "threat."

When I first saw the email alert Wednesday, I thought, "Uh oh, they've come up with a case of a real Pedophile using the Pedobear symbol to hurt a real child."


Just more the same. If anyone with a PedobBear decal has ever molested a child in New Mexico (or elsewhere), we still don't know about it.

As one of my Twitter friends said, the AG doubled down on zero Pedobear evidence and came up with twice as much evidence -- zero.

Last week's column is referred to in the post, though I'm not named. If this week's column prompts another post on the AG's blog, I'll get a certificate from the International Brotherhood of PedoBear Skeptics.

My favorite line in the blog post: "... yes, we know that anyone who has the bad taste to display a Pedobear symbol is not necessarily a pedophile...emphasis on the word `necessarily.' If you are a parent of a three year old, can you really take a chance?"

No. Like I said in last week's column, make sure your kids know enough not to get in any stranger's car, no matter what decals they might be displaying.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Judge Hall Says GOP Lawyers Can Get Sanderoff eMails, etc.

Judge Jim Hall ruled today that Republican lawyers in the upcoming redistricting court battle can ask for email, notes and other communications between legislators and pollster Brian Sanderoff, who was hired to help draw up redistricting maps during September's special session.

The redistricting cases are scheduled to begin next week.

Lawyers for Democrats argued that such communications between Sanderoff and legislators should be considered confidential.

Not so, said the judge. He ruled there was no privilege of confidentiality because Sanderoff was identified as an expert witness to testify in redistricting trials.

Hall's order is below:

Protective Order - Order Denying Motion

You can find all sorts of redistricting trials documents HERE.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: Bears in Them Woods

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Nov. 27, 2011

Fifteen years ago, Santa Fe’s municipal judge sent a dire warning to local newspapers and radio stations about the dreaded Blue Star acid “a small piece of paper containing a blue star. They are the size of a pencil eraser, and each star is soaked with LSD.”
Does showing this on my blog make me one?

A few years before that, the Santa Fe Police Department put a warning about a possible “gang initiation” in which prospective gang members cruise around in the dark on city streets with their headlights off, then murder the first hapless boob who flashes his lights to alert them.

Both the Blue Star LSD and the “gang initiation” are urban legends that have been taken seriously by those involved in the criminal justice system in Santa Fe and elsewhere. I was reminded of these warnings last week when the Attorney General’s Office emailed reporters with a warning about a new menace called “PedoBear.”

The news release quoted Attorney General Gary King saying that his Internet Crimes Against Children unit “has received reports that the PedoBear window sticker has been sighted in Albuquerque on at least two vehicles recently. We are very concerned about the potential link between the PedoBear symbol and pedophiles; we also want to increase public awareness of the potential danger to children, especially young girls.”

Images of this cartoon bear
have been associated with
picnic basket thieves
The news release included a flier and a photo of a Jeep in Albuquerque sporting a decal of the sinister cartoon bear.

A wolf in bear’s clothing: PedoBear started out as a Japanese anime cartoon character. Apparently some anime fans began posting his image on online forums if they thought someone was saying something inappropriate about children. It was a joke. Black humor.

But last year in California, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department issued warning about actual pedophiles adopting the symbol as a way to attract children. It’s almost identical to the one sent out by King’s office. Both contain the following text:

“At the San Diego Comic Con 2010 in July of this year, law enforcement discovered an individual dressed in a PedoBear costume, handing out candy and being photographed in contact with attendees, including multiple children. Once identified, the young man and his costume were excluded from the family-friendly event.”

Last year the flier made it to Tulsa, Okla., where police told a TV reporter that the guy at Comic Con was a convicted sex offender. He wasn’t. The TV station had to retract it.

Why do I get the sinking feeling that this also may be the story of that Albuquerque Jeep driver whose vehicle is in the attorney general’s press release? If there have been actual arrests of actual pedophiles using this symbol, it sure hasn’t shown up in any of these law enforcement warnings.

Protect the children: King spokesman Phil Sisneros said his office is aware that PedoBear started out as a joke. “... unfortunately, our investigators here and others around the country have found that pedophiles indeed have adopted the joke symbol and use it to identify each other. ... I guess we figure if we can prevent one child from being molested it is worth any ridicule we might get for publicizing this.”

I wish I had a buck for every bad piece of legislation passed or policy implemented based on “if we can prevent just one child from being harmed ... ”

Sisneros said that a sticker alone would never be the sole reason a suspected pedophile is investigated. “Just displaying the sticker is not against the law,” he said. “But it could draw the interest of law enforcement.”

Or maybe vigilantes.

Here’s an idea: Watch your kids. Tell them not to take candy or rides from strangers. But don’t get hysterical about every weird warning issued by well-meaning government officials.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Johnson Ponders Bid as Libertarian

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson told me this week that he's well aware he’s not going to win the New Hampshire presidential primary and that he won’t be the 2012 Republican presidential candidate.

But, he said he’s seriously considering running for the Libertarian Party nomination for president.

“I feel abandoned by the Republican Party,” Johnson said in a phone interview. “The Republican Party has left me by the wayside.”

He’s been left out of all but two of the seemingly endless Republican presidential debates. His fundraising is low and his poll numbers are below radar level.

“If I’d have been included in 16 of the last debates we wouldn’t even be having this conversation,” Johnson said.

Johnson said there have been “overtures made” by the Libertarian Party. While there’s no guarantee he’d win the nomination, Johnson believes he’d have a fair chance.

See more in today's New Mexican.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

No Debate Invites, But Gary Finds Some Sympathy

Gov. Gary Johnson's exclusion from the Republican debates -- including last night'sas aroused  foreign policy/national security debate -- has aroused sympathy for the former New Mexico governor in at least a couple of national media outlets.

In Slate, Dave Weigel wrote:

The rules that allowed no-hopers like Tommy Thompson, Jim Gilmore, and Tom Tancredo into the 2007 debates would have let Johnson and Buddy Roemer in. So we're spared the presence of governors who last won elections in 1989 and 1998, and gifted with a senator who last won election in 2000 and a businessman who has never won anything. In the public interest. Or something like that.

Even Comedy Central's Indecision website is weighing in. Referring to the letter that Johnson sent to the Republican National Committee asking them to help open the debates, Indecision sarcastically wrote, "Whoa, settle down there Gary! Are you seriously suggesting that the RNC would allow certain voices within their party to be silenced by massive, wealthy media conglomerates?"

As for the RNC's contention that you have to have some thresholds to get into the debates or otherwise you'd have "utter chaos," the comedy website said:

Exactly. This isn't about excluding politicians who have unpopular views on social issues or who aren't rich enough. It's about making sure the debates are coherent events that allow voters to make reasonable judgments about who the best candidates are.

These candidates are poised and knowledgeable, and aren't into bickering or shouting matches. Gary Johnson just doesn't understand.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

RNC: No Help for Gary Johnson

It probably wasn't unexpected, but former Gov. Gary Johnson's recent appeal to the Republican National Committee for help in getting included in televised GOP debates (in his words, to  "exert some leadership and reclaim the nominating process from the national news media who are today pre-ordaining the viability and success of candidates.") didn't get very far.

The Johnson campaign, in an email today, published the reply from the RNC. In it, chief counsel John R. Phillippe, Jr. points out that there are 21 Republicans who have filed in the New Hampshire primary.

"We simply have to have some minimum criteria in order for candidates to participate in these debates. Otherwise, the debates would be utter chaos and unhelpful to Republican voters as we select our nominee," Phillippe wrote.

He said the threshold for getting into RNC-sanctioned debates are $1 million in third-quarter fundraising or having an average of 3 percent in polls (as averaged by the Real Clear Politics site.)

Johnson's campaign manager, Ron Nielson, responded: “It is not surprising to us that the RNC feels it is not in a position to become involved in the presidential debate selection process in demanding that fairness be observed. Frankly, that is our concern. There is something wrong when CNN or CBS or the Washington Post can decide to exclude a successful two-term Republican governor from the field, and the RNC is powerless to do anything about it. Our only demand is fairness, and fairness isn’t happening.

“There is also something fundamentally wrong when one of the criterion for participation in the process -- embraced by the national party -- is a fundraising threshold. Since when does the size of one’s contributor list have anything to do with qualifications to lead the nation, and how is a candidate to be expected to raise millions of dollars when he is denied the opportunity to even appear on the debate stage?"

The old chicken and egg deal.

Here's the RNC letter, copied from Johnson's email:

Dear Governor Johnson:
Thank you for your letter to Chairman Priebus of October 20, 2011. As you know the Republican National Committee does not decide which candidates are invited to participate in every one of the presidential debates. Those decisions generally are made by the debate sponsors.

The RNC has, however, become involved in a limited fashion through the sanctioning of certain debates. Acting through the Committee on Presidential Debates, the RNC has set objective criteria to guide our decision as to which debates to sanction. Such criteria are necessary given how many individuals have declared candidacies for president. For example, 21 Republican candidates have filed in New Hampshire.

We simply have to have some minimum criteria in order for candidates to participate in these debates. Otherwise, the debates would be utter chaos and unhelpful to Republican voters as we select our nominee. The criteria chosen were aimed primarily at ensuring that only candidates exhibiting minimum indicia of viability would be allowed to participate. A candidate can establish that he or she has met this threshold by hitting certain fundraising targets or achieving a minimum level of support in public polling. The latter would allow candidates whose campaigns are more grassroots-oriented to still demonstrate viability even if they had not raised substantial money.

The third quarter threshold for fundraising was one million dollars, and the polling threshold, based on the RealClearPolitics average, was three percent. Eight candidates met at least one of these criteria. We will strongly encourage the debate sponsors to allow those candidates that meet that requirement to be included. With respect to non-RNC-sanctioned debates, you have to meet the criteria of the debate sponsors.

I understand the problem you and others have had with respect to being excluded from certain public polls. The RNC will work with various pollsters to encourage them to include as many candidates as possible in the polling.

We do not take your concerns lightly, and we appreciate your contacting us to raise the issues. Please let me know if you have any questions.

John R. Phillippe, Jr. Chief Counsel

Will Ben Run or Not?

HOUSE SPEAKER BEN LUJANI wrote a story in today's New Mexican about the fact that House Speaker Ben Lujan says he hasn't decided whether he'll seek re-election to his House seat.

"That's for me to decide," he said.

Well, that's true.

I pointed out that it's only four months until filing day. I also noted that there have been no stirrings from Carl Trujillo -- who lost to Lujan by 80-some votes last year -- or any other potential opponents.

But I also should point out that last election, hardly anyone had heard about Trujillo until filing day.

So, all I can say is stay tuned.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: A Turkish Friendship Dinner

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Nov. 20, 2011

At first glance, it looked as though it might be some kind of political dinner. The room was crawling with politicians, especially legislators.

But it was a bi-partisan affair. There were Democrats, such as state Reps. Henry “Kiki” Saavedra, Rick Miera, Al Park and Moe Maestas, and Republicans, such as state Sen. Bill Payne, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and Reps. Jimmie Hall and Jim White.

The event, which took place at Marriott Pyramid hotel in Albuquerque last week, was The Annual Dialogue and Friendship Dinner for the local chapter of the Institute of Interfaith Dialogue. The institute is associated with the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians, a Texas-based organization with chapters in Oklahoma, Kansas, Mississippi and several other states. It’s mainly made up of Turkish-Americans and Turkish people who live the United States. There are an estimated 500 Turks in New Mexico.

Tolerance and dialogue were the main themes of the dinner. The Democrats, Republicans and others seemed to have no trouble tolerating each other. They even tolerated a few news dogs among them.

Fethullah Gulen
The Turquoise Council and the Interfaith Dialogue Institute are associated with the Gulen movement, inspired by the teachings of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish-born Muslim theologian known for a moderate brand of Islam that stresses education and tolerance for other religions and cultures. Gulen, for the past several years, has lived in Pennsylvania.

A few months ago, I wrote about this group sponsoring trips to Turkey for several legislators. As both the Attorney General’s Office and the Legislative Council explained, there is nothing illegal about these trips. The organization does not lobby the Legislature. There has been no legislation affecting the Turkish groups except a couple of innocuous and nonbinding memorials giving lip service to friendship between New Mexico and Turkey, etc. There is a Gulen charter school in Albuquerque, but nobody has asked the Legislature for any special favors for the school.

As I’ve said before, my problem with the trips is not with the Turkish organizations, but with New Mexico state law. There’s no mechanism to report the trips — which consist of about 10 days of lodging and food and, in at least some cases, airfare from Albuquerque and Istanbul. They aren’t campaign contributions and they aren’t gifts from lobbyists, so there’s no way to know whether someone is paying for an overseas trip for your legislator.

Politicians, for some reason, never issue press releases about such things.

But I also was interested in attending this dinner because of some rather rabid reaction I got from the previous stories about the Turkish trips. According to several emails I received and comments on my blog, there’s something very sinister about these guys. One gentle reader asked in a blog comment , “... are you really defending a ‘religion’ that idolizes a murdering warlord and his violent exploits against unbelievers????”

I can see how a group that espouses friendship, tolerance, education and finding common ground might make this guy uncomfortable.

So are the politicians who go to Turkey on the dime of the Turquoise Council dupes of an extremist Muslim movement? Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think I’m going to question the patriotism of Rear Admiral Bill Payne, a former Navy SEAL.

As a Gulen-movement paper in Turkey pointed out, U.S. critics of Gulen claim that an extreme Islamic fundamentalist lies beneath his public statements and that he is someone who wants to bring Sharia law to both Turkey and the United States. In Turkey, though, his enemies portray him as a Zionist puppet of the CIA and Israel.

I can relate to that. Here in the U.S., reporters have a saying, which I’ll clean up a little for the Sunday paper: If you’ve got both sides (angry) at you, you must be doing your job.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ben Ray Gets Dem Challenger

Sean Closson
A 25-year-old Santa Fe artist and hotel worker is challenging incumbent Democrat Ben Ray Lujan in next year’s Democratic primary.

Sean Closson, a political novice is challenging Lujan, currently serving his second term in Congress, announced his candidacy in a column published in the well-known national liberal website The Daily Kos.

“I'm here to represent the people who don't have lobbyists,” he said in the Nov. 5 column. “People who are struggling just to make rent and feed their families. People who get foreclosed on, even when they did everything right. People who's job gets sent overseas, or can't afford gas to heat their homes, or who have to hide in the shadows of society because they don't have the right paperwork. The people who, up to this point, have borne all the consequences of the recession, while those who are the best off reap record profits and enjoy unparalleled freedom to buy our elections.”

On his website he wrote, “They’ll try to smear me, destroy me personally, convince people I’m a bad person, a socialist, a hippy, a nut job, whatever will stick. Come at me, bro. I don’t care.”

Closson, who now works at a local hotel, was unemployed for several months after his temporary job with the U.S. Census ended.

He says that his experience being unemployed gives him a good perspective for representing the district. “I'm not someone who at some vague point in the distant past experienced some economic hardship. I'm someone who was on unemployment in 2010,” he said in the column.

Closson also criticizes Lujan for co-sponsoring the Stop Online Piracy Act. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, would give the U.S. Justice Department and copyright holders more power in fighting intellectual property theft. Supporters say it’s needed to stop theft. Critics say the bill could lead to censorship of the Internet.

“Under this act, sites like Google, YouTube, and Twitter could all be shut down by the Department of Justice for linking to infringing content,” Closson said in a statement. “... It's too broad, it's draconian, and it would destroy the Internet as we know it today.”

Defeating an incumbent is rarely easy. Lujan, who faced no primary opposition in 2010, already has amassed more than $280,000 in campaign contributions, according to his latest report filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Closson said he comes from a military family that moved several times during his youth. He went to high school in North Carolina and college in Florida, where he  graduated from the Ringling College of Art & Design.

He moved to Santa Fe in the summer of 2008. He said he chose this town because it's the second largest art market in the country.

While Closson is attacking from the left, Lujan also got a Republican challenger recently Businessman Rick Newton of Taos, whose career has included high-profile deep-sea recovery projects, announced his candidacy late last month.

SOS Duran's Car Involved in Fatal Accident

Here's some sad news. Secretary of State  Dianna Duran's car was one of several vehicles that struck a pedestrian on Santa Fe's bypass (NM 599) last night.

Apparently she driving was one of the cars that hit the man after he initially was struck on the road.

New Mexican crime reporter Geoff Grammer has the story HERE.

Duran issued a statement this morning:

My thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim who lost his life Thursday evening on Highway 599 and Camino La Tierra.

This past evening at approximately 7:30 while driving home from work, my car was apparently one of multiple vehicles to pass over what appeared to be an animal that had been struck in the middle of the right lane of Highway 599.

We later learned that what I believed to have been an animal was in fact the body of someone who had been hit a few minutes before while crossing the highway.

I am sure other drivers have been just as shocked and saddened as I have been to learn what had actually taken place in this tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with the family for this tragic loss of life.

Police Capt. Aric Wheeler told Grammer, "We aren't sure how many vehicles may have hit the man or maybe drove through the scene collecting evidence without even realizing it."

UPDATE 3:45 pm: Geoff Grammer has more details on The New Mexican site.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

SOS to Send 104 Cases to Attorney General

Secretary of State Dianna Duran will be sending the Attorney General’s Office the names of 104 non-citizens who have registered to vote in New Mexico.

Of these, 19 have actually cast ballots in elections in the state, according to a report Duran submitted this week to legislators and county clerks.

The 18-page report, called “Interim Progress Report: Ongoing Efforts by the Secretary of State’s Office to Improve the Accuracy and Integrity of the Statewide Voter File.” doesn’t accuse anyone of consciously committing voter fraud. But the report says the possibility of fraud is there.

More in tomorrow's New Mexican.

The report is below:

SOS Interim Report 11 17 11 Final

Text Books for Religious Schools

An interesting constitutional question is being raised by a petition to the state Supreme Court. A Santa Fe woman and a Las Cruces man are challenging the constitutionality of a 40-year-old state law that permits the state to distribute free text books to private schools, including church-run schools.

The state Public Education Department says, correctly, that they're just following the law. But does the law itself pass constitutional muster?

Attorney Gary King, who along with Gov. Susana Martinez, is a defendant in the case, gave some powerful suggestions that the law indeed may be unconstitutional.

My story about this is HERE. The AG's opinion, written last December, is HERE.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: Extremists, Fascists, Terrorists & Libyan Agents Ru Amok in NM Politics

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Nov. 13, 2011

Political rhetoric by its very nature tends to be overheated, over-reaching and hyperbolic. You can’t really blame the people who write it. You’re not going to fire up your crowd by saying, “There are several technical issues over which we don’t see eye-to-eye with our opponents.”

But in recent days there have been several cases here in which the political rhetoric, accusations and insinuations have gone overboard.

I’m tempted to say that it’s the worst hyperbole in the history of the world!
Extremist Teddy Bears' Picnic

On Wednesday, the state Republican Party sent out a news release bashing the Bernalillo County Commission for nominating a Democrat, Lisa Curtis, to take the place of longtime State Sen. Kent Cravens, an Albuquerque Republican who is stepping down to become a lobbyist for the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association.

I can see why the GOP would be upset. It’s a heavily Republican district that Cravens has represented for more than a decade, and commissioners selected Curtis on a party-line vote. But the party’s press release cried that the commission appointed a “Liberal Extremist.”

There was a time not so long ago when the word “extremist” was reserved for wild-eyed maniacs with bombs strapped across their chests or jackboots on their feet.

Reading on, I learned the “extremist” was Lisa Curtis, president of the state Trail Lawyers Association. Granted, Republicans don’t like trial lawyers, but “extremist”? (The basis for this charge is that Curtis doesn’t support repealing the law that allows illegal immigrants to have driver’s licenses and is against Gov. Susana Martinez’s proposal to stop “social promotion” in elementary schools.)

Then there was the case of Christopher Monkton, a global-warming skeptic who recently spoke in Santa Fe. His use of — and defense of — the word “eco-fascists” to describe his critics even raised an eyebrow at the conservative Capitol Report New Mexico news site.

But not all the hyperbole is on the right end of the spectrum.

Last week the pro Democratic Party group Progress New Mexico sent an alarming news release: “Did Martinez Hand-Pick a Quaddafi Advisor to Join PRC?!” screamed the subject line.

The email went on to point out that Doug Howe, who Gov. Susana Martinez appointed to take the place of disgraced former commissioner Jerome Block Jr. on the Public Regulation Commission, had “served as an advisor to former Libyan dictator Muammar Quaddafi’s government from 2005-2007 while working for the Cambridge Energy Research Group ... If Howe was the best fit to design a system to serve Moammar Quaddafi why in the world would Susana Martinez allow him to regulate New Mexico?”

Oh no! Susana plans to murder her own citizens to stay in power using her Libyan puppets on the PRC!

Or something.

Howe told the Associated Press that his firm was hired by the Libyan electric company to help upgrade its management and operating practices to provide a more reliable supply of electricity. He said he only dealt with management of the utility during his work there. This was after the U.S. had resumed diplomatic relations with Libya and lifted terrorism-related sanctions against the country. He said he never met with any government official or member of the dictator’s family.

But it’s not just the political pros who engage in this rhetorical overkill. There were photos in this week’s Santa Fe Reporter of a guy who hates living near the Rail Runner tracks so much he goes out with a protest sign when a train passes.

The picture that caught my eye featured the man with a sign that read, “Rail Runner: State Sponsored Terrorists.”

That’s right. Some terrorists blow up school buses. Others operate commuter trains.

Some might say that, a year before the 2012 election, the “silly season” has started. But the beauty of the world of New Mexico politics is that silly season lasts year-round.