Saturday, April 30, 2011

Javier Is Re-elected State Dem Chairman in Close Battle


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 1, 2011

In what turned out to be a much closer race than either of the top candidates had predicted, Javier Gonzales of Santa Fe held on to his job as state Democratic Party chairman, edging out challenger Sam Bregman.

In declaring victory at the meeting of the state Democratic Central Committee, Gonzales said the party was unified and ready to go forward to defeat Republicans in the 2012 elections.

“We’re coming together and moving forward,” Gonzales said as he called Bregman and his other opponent Letitia Montoya to the stage. They hugged and raised each others’ arms in a show of unity.

“Today marked the day we go forward as a unified party,” Gonzales told a reporter after the vote. “Today really showed the energy and commitment of the grassroots.”
Sam Bregman
“We lost fair and square,” Bregman told a reporter after the vote. “I congratulation the chairman and urge all my supporters to get behind Javier Gonzales and go out and kick some Republican tail.”

But only a couple of hours before, both Bregman and Montoya were harshly critical of Gonzales, saying he’d not done enough last year to help the Democratic ticket, which suffered major losses in the November election — and that Gonzales had not done enough to counter Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and her supporters during this year’s legislative session.

“We have leadership who lost the election,” Bregman said during his speech to the Central committee. He said 2010 — in which Democrats lost the governor’s race, a seat in Congress, the Office of Secretary of State and eight seats in the state Legislature — was the worst defeat for New Mexico Democrats in 80 years.
Montoya in her speech said, “I think it’s time for a woman to take over to clean up the mess the men have made.”

Former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, last year’s Democratic candidate for governor, defended Gonzales’ work in the 2010 election. “Javier did everything we asked him to,” Denish said in her speech nominating Gonzales for his new two-year term.

The four-month campaign for the chairmanship often became bitter and personal. Some of Gonzales’ supporters criticized Bregman, an Albuquerque lawyer, for representing several figures who have been central in corruption scandals in the past five years, including former state Treasurer Robert Vigil, who went to prison after being implicated in a kickback scheme.

But Bregman after the vote, downplayed the intensity of the battle, saying Democrats were a family that could fight but in the end unite for a common purpose.

Javier Gonzales
Out of 380 committee members voting, Gonzales won 191 votes — just over 50 percent. Bregman got 180, and Montoya got nine votes. Had Gonzales received one less vote, he would have faced a run-off with Bregman.

Gonzales, 44, is a business consultant, a former Santa Fe County Commissioner and son of former Santa Fe Mayor George Gonzales.

He also serves on the New Mexico State University board of regents. Before he decided to enter the race, Gonzales told The New Mexican that if he got named chairman of the NMSU regents there might be a conflict of interest if he stayed on as Democratic state chairman. He might be in a position of blasting the governor one day and asking for funds for NMSU the next, he said.

However last week in an interview he said he was not going to become chairman of the regents so he wasn’t worried about a conflict of interest.

The central committee meeting attracted most of the candidates and those considering running for U.S. House or Senate seats next year. Both U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich and state Auditor Hector Balderas — both of whom are running for retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s seat — spoke at the event as votes were being counted, as did longshot contender Andres Valdez, an Albuquerque activist.

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, who is seeking re-election in the northern 3rd Congressional District, said he hasn’t decided whether to endorse one of the Senate candidates. Both Heinrich and Balderas mentioned Lujan in their speeches.

Eric Griego decides whether to take this call
In the 1st Congressional District, state Sen. Eric Griego of Albuquerque made it official Saturday, saying he will run for the seat currently held by Heinrich. Griego is one of the most uncompromisingly liberal voices in the Legislature.

Two possible candidates in the southern 2nd Congressional District — currently held by Republican Steve Pearce — emerged Saturday. One was Martin Resendiz, the mayor of Sunland Park, who said he plans to run. Meanwhile, former state Rep. Nate Cote, D-Las Cruces, told The New Mexican that he’s also considering the race. Cote lost his legislative seat to Republican Rick Little last year.

Check out my snapshots of the DEmocratic event today. CLICK HERE

It's On!

Later today the state Democratic Party's Central Committee will choose a chairman.

Incumbent Javier Gonales has been facing a stiff challenge from lawyer Sam Bregman. Letitia Montoay also is in the race. My story about the contest is in today's New Mexican.

I'll be there. I probably won't live-blog it, but follow my tweets from The New Mexican's feed. (And I might make a couple of stray wisecracks on my own Twitter feed.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Wilson Leading Big in Poll of NM GOP

Thirteen months before the U.S. Senate primary, former Congresswoman Heather Wilson has a huge lead in a survey conducted of 801 like Republican voters.
Heather Wilson Supports Lawsuit to Stop Healthcare Bill
Wilson at a Tea Party rally last year

According to the "robo" poll by Magellan Strategies, Wilson leads expected candidate Lt. Gov. John Sanchez 59 percent to 17 percent. Las Cruces businessman Greg Sowards got two percent of the vote, while another 11 percent said they would prefer a candidate other than Wilson, Sanchez or Sowards.

Neither U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce or longshot contender Bill English were included in the poll. In another section of the poll Pearce had a favorable rating by Republicans of 77 percent.

The poll shows that Wilson has an 84 percent favorable rating (55 percent of those polled said "very favorable.") Only 12 percent had unfavorable opinions of Wilson. And two percent said they'd never heard of her! Nice to see that cavemen were included in this sample.

Sanchez showed a 58 percent favorable rating among the Republican respondents and a 13 percent unfavorable rating. Seventeen percent had no opinion of him and 12 percent hadn't heard of him.

Sowards, unsurprisingly, had the highest "huh?" rating. Forty one percent had never heard of him while another 23 percent had no opinion.

Sowards was the first, and so far only, candidate to respond. He put an optimistic spin on it, saying, “This survey is pretty good news to us. The robo-poll shows that a significant majority of primary voters (63%) have yet to definitely commit to former Congresswomen Wilson, while only 9% are ready to commit to Lt. Governor Sanchez who just recently got elected.”

Gov. Susana Martinez enjoys a high approval rating from her party in the survey. Ninety three percent of Republican voters have a favorable opinion of her. (75 percent of Republicans said "very favorable.")

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry scored somewhat lower (59 percent favorable) but I suspect that's because he's less known outside of his city. Sixteen percent hadn't heard of him, while 17 percent said they had no opinion. Only eight percent had an unfavorable opinion.

According to the poll memo, "Magellan Data and Mapping Strategies fielded this survey with their own resources. Magellan does not have a business relationship with any candidate or group interested in the 2012 New Mexico US Senate Republican primary."

The poll was conducted Tuesday and Wednesday and has a margin of error of 3.4 percent.

Here's the poll memo

Magellan New Mexico 2012 US Senate GOP Primary Survey Release 042811

It's the Gary King Cartoon Show!

I stumbled across this while looking for music videos late last night. It actually was tacked on to the beginning of The Village Peoples' "Macho Man" video. The Village People were a band known for its healthy lifestyle.

Someone apparently talked attorneys general across the country into being portrayed as hyper-active, bobble-headed, skateboarding lunatics who break into people's homes, interrupt their dinners and eat their corn.

Hey, it's for the kids.

Bribing a State Official as "Free Speech"

Even if New Mexico title-insurance rates were established as a result of bribes to a state official, the companies involved aren't liable under state anti-trust law and can't be sued by people affected by high rates.

"The Insurer Defendants did not violate the New Mexico Antitrust Act even if they conspired to bribe the superintendent of insurance," the The 10th District Court of Appeals in Denver said in an opinion this week in a case filed five years ago by former state Rep. Max Coll and others.

The defendants claimed certain title-insurance companies conspired with former state Insurance Superintendent Eric Serna to establish unreasonably high premiums. The suit claimed Serna set title-insurance rates high because of nearly $48,000 in contributions in 2003 and 2004 from title-insurance companies to Con Alma Health Foundation Inc., a nonprofit company Serna co-founded. Serna in 2006 called the allegation "ridiculous."

The appeals court justified their rejection of Coll's suit partly with the "Noerr-Pennington" doctrine, which holds that anti-trust laws don't apply to citizens and private companies who are trying to influence laws or government policies.

"The Noerr-Pennington doctrine is based upon the First Amendment," the opinion says. It protects the right to advocate for laws, or, in this case, high title-insurance rates "even if the conduct by which citizens attempted to influence governmental regulation was undertaken for the sole purpose of destroying competition, involved unethical business practices, or was specifically intended to hurt competitors," the court opinion states.

"There is no bribery exception to Noerr-Pennington."

Read more about this HERE

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Senate Race News

Democrat Martin Heinrich has written a letter to President Obama asking him to start beinging the troops home from Afghanistan.

The letter, which is online HERE, says in part

We have spent over $450 billion in Afghanistan since the start of this war. Our youngest soldiers now serving in some of the most dangerous places on earth were just eight years old when our nation was attacked on Septembers 11, 2001. It’s time we start bringing our troops home.”

In his news release, Heinrich points out he's been to Afghanistan "to meet with troops, military and diplomatic leaders, and humanitarian workers in the region to discuss issues pertaining to the war."

It looks like Heinrich is trying to distinguish himself from opponent Hector Balderas, pointing out that he's had at some some foreign policy experience.

On the Republican side, longshot Las Cruces candidate Greg Sowards sent an announcement this morning that he's hired a team of Washington pros for his campaign.

He's retained Tyler Harber and Kurt Luidhardt from the Prosper Group for general consulting, online fundraising, and telephone voter contact. They've helped several Republicans including successful Senate candidates Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Sowards also hired Darcie Johnston of Johnston Consulting, and Paul Hatch of 101 Strategy Partners as finance consultants. They've worked for candidates including Mitt Romney and Utah Sen. Mike Lee.

Photo by MaryEllen Broderick
UPDATED 4:14 pm: I just received a news release from Democrat Hector Balderas touting a bunch of endorsements from Democratic officials.

Among them are state Sens. Phil Griego of San Jose and Cynthia Nava from Las Cruces, Reps. Joe Cervantes of Las Cruces and Miguel Garcia of Albuquerque, and Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham, who ran for Congress in 2008 in the primary Heinrich won.

Remember the Good Old Days of American Politics ....

President Cleveland's bastard son cries for a return to civility
... those days before personal attacks, back when all politics revolved around intelligent, honest, civil debate about the important issues of the day and attacks on a candidate's personal integrity was considered out-of- bounds?

Naw, I don't either.

From day one politics has been a messy, often nasty business. A non-political website called Collector's Weekly took note of this in an illustrated feature whose story is told by way of campaign buttons. (Thanks to Taegan Goddard for linking to it.)

Some are from fairly recent history, with buttons aimed at Bob Dole, Teddy Kennedy, and, of course, Richard Nixon.

And even a candidate's mother isn't considered out-of-bounds, as this vintage anti-Jimmy Carter button proves.

The oldest button shown in this feature concerns FDR's wife Eleanor. But we know political personal attacks go back much further.

Just ask Grover Cleveland, who acknowledged paying child support to a woman, not his wife. Or Abe Lincoln, whose opponents called him the  "ape baboon of the prairie."

And presidential campaign songs, especially in the 1800s, show that the rhetoric rhetoric often went way overboard. As folksinger Oscar Brand documented in his album Presidential Campaign Songs 1789-1996, John Quincy Adams supporters warned about what was comin'  if Quincy wasn't elected

Tears are comin', fears are comin'
Plague and pestiliance is comin'
Hatin's comin', Satan's comin'
If John Quincy not be comin'.

So let's not wring our hands too hard when the 2012 race starts getting mean-spirited.

Roundhouse Roundup: A Richardson Campaign Mini-Reunion

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 28, 2011

For a second, in a hotel room in downtown Santa Fe one morning this week, I thought I might have stumbled into an organizational meeting of the Bill Richardson 2012 committee.

Contarino in New Hampshire, January 2008
Among those sitting at a table with me were Dave Contarino, who managed Richardson's presidential and gubernatorial campaigns and served as chief of staff for most of his first term as governor; Amanda Cooper, Richardson's former "political director" who also was a major honcho in the Richardson campaigns; and Jim Noel, Cooper's husband and Richardson's last secretary of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

But no, the ex-governor wasn't there. And the meeting wasn't about him. Contarino and crew had arranged interviews for billionaire businessman and former New York gubernatorial candidate Tom Golisan, a leader of an organization called National Popular Vote.

Contarino said he's now doing public relations and political strategy work — as he did for years before hooking up with Richardson.

Flunking the electoral college: Basically, Direct Popular Vote is pushing for a compact among states that agree to cast their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes nationally.

Eight states, plus Washington, D.C., have signed on, representing a total of 77 electoral votes. Golisan said they're working on California, which would bring in another 55 electoral votes. The compact wouldn't take effect until there were enough states signed on to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.

New Mexico, like most other states, uses the winner-take-all system to determine who gets our five electoral votes. So, if a candidate wins the state by one vote — or, say, by 366 votes, which was Al Gore's margin over George W. Bush in 2000 — he or she gets all five electoral votes.

During the past state legislative session, the New Mexico House passed a memorial asking the secretary of state and the attorney general to "study and compare the current electoral college system and the national popular vote system" and to report their findings to the Legislative Council by November.

But, as Barry Massey of The Associated Press pointed out in a story published Wednesday, the proposal to join a compact with other states won't get much traction with the current administration in Santa Fe.

He quoted Scott Darnell, a spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez, as saying, "The current system helps ensure battleground states with independent-minded voters, like New Mexico, play a significant role in electing U.S. presidents. Currently, presidential candidates visit the state frequently and must listen and respond to the unique concerns of the state, from our national labs to our pueblos, and the governor believes that serves New Mexico well."

Though Golisan, a registered Republican, said opposition to the idea has been coming from members of his party, Darnell's argument — that the electoral college guarantees presidential candidates pay more attention to "swing" states like New Mexico — is embraced by members of both parties in battleground states.

Golisan, however, said the perceived value of such attention is exaggerated. "What has it really gotten (New Mexico)?" he said when I asked him about that argument. "That's a fleeting thing," he said, arguing that despite the past several elections, New Mexico might not always be a battleground state. "You could wake up one day and be North Dakota."

That probably sounds worse than it really is.

Another common argument is that under a direct popular-vote system, candidates would only concentrate on areas with large populations. But Golisan contends that candidates still would advertise in small markets like New Mexico because television advertising is cheaper in smaller markets.

Boy, that's a relief. I'd sure hate to have to watch fewer campaign ads on TV.

Here's a video of Golisan talking about the direct election compact.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beast Columnist: Paul Can't Win, Johnson Can

The general consensus among political types, both state and national, is that Ron Paul's announcement of an "exploration" committee this week probably makes former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson's long-shot presidential bid that much longer.

Daily Beast columnist John Avalon, however, argues that libertarians are making a mistake touting Paul while ignoring Johnson.

Given the deepening appeal of libertarianism—and Paul’s established status as an ideas icon but not a winner of broad popular elections—it’s a bit frustrating that the other avowed libertarian in the 2012 presidential race is still fighting to get noticed. After all, Gary Johnson is not some loud-mouthed vanity candidate—he is the former two-term governor of a pivotal swing state. But while his successor, Bill Richardson was taken seriously as a candidate in 2008 and the newly elected Susana Martinez is already fawned over by the conservative press, Johnson is comparatively ignored.

Fomer Gov. Gary JohnsonIn Johnson, however libertarians might have their most accomplished modern advocate—a proven vote getter with demonstrated crossover appeal, a self-made millionaire and iron-man competitor who supports marijuana legalization (and let’s be honest, that libertarian plank has always been a source of the movement’s popularity on college campuses). More importantly, he has actually reined in government spending as an executive—leaving his successor a budget in the black.

Another national commentator, comedian Jay Leno, took notice of the former governor Tuesday night.

“Well folks, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson has announced he will run for president in 2012.," Leno said in his monologue. "Gary Johnston? His campaign slogan --  `Even I never heard of me.' "

A former staffer for Johnson, who alerted me to this pointed out that Johnson was unknown when he first ran for governor too.

Monday, April 25, 2011

It's Official: Ben Ray NOT Running for Senate

Ben Ray Lujan, DemMost people didn't really believe he was going to run for Senate in the first place, but Politico just quoted a statement from a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan saying ....

"I appreciate the outpouring of support I have received while traveling around New Mexico these past few months, and my focus will continue to remain on serving the hard-working men and women of New Mexico — fighting to turn our economy around, put people back to work, and move our state forward. After careful consideration, I have decided that I will not seek the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate race. I look forward to building on my work as Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ BOLD PAC and as a member of the DCCC’s recruiting committee to recruit strong candidates who reflect the growing diversity of our country and who will be a part of our effort to take back the House. With BOLD PAC’s historic first quarter fundraising numbers and Census numbers showing the growth in the Hispanic community across the country, I am excited about the favorable position we will be in to energize Hispanic voters and help elect strong Democratic candidates."

Meanwhile, here's the declaration of candidacy for Hector Balderas I wrote about last week. Balderas is expected to officially announce tomorrow.

Hector for Senate Declaration of Candidacy

Thursday, April 21, 2011

It's a Race

It's true. State Auditor Hector Balderas has filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission for a Senate race, someone familiar with the campaign told me. He's expected to announce his candidacy early next week.

Balderas will face U.S. Rep, Martin Heinrich in the Democratic primary in June 2012.

Albuquerque community activist Andres Valdez also has said he'll run for the seat currently belong to U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman who is retiring.

AFSCME Endorses Heinrich

The state political board of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees has endorsed U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich in the 2012 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

According to an e-mail from the union

“Our members are middle class, hard-working New Mexicans. Martin is one of us, and he has gone to bat for regular working people both here in New Mexico and across the country” said AFSCME’s New Mexico PEOPLE Chair Patty French. “That’s why” French added, “our members on our political committee voted unanimously to do everything we can to ensure that Martin wins the Democratic nomination for Senate”.

The move comes a couple of weeks before state Auditor Hector Balderas is expected to announce his candidacy for the Senate seat, which is open because longtime Sen. Jeff Bingaman isn't seeking re-election.

AFSCME, one of the two largest unions in the state is a major player in state Democratic politics, as well as a major contributor to Democratic campaigns. According to the Institute of Money in State Politics, the union contributed more than $435,000 to candidates in New Mexico.

Gary Johnson Is In: Comes Out Swinging, Quoting The Who

As expected, former Gov. Gary Johnson became the latest New Mexico to run for President of these United States.

Johnson, a Republican, made his announcement in front of the state Capitol in Concord, N.H. New Hampshire. New Hampshire is the home of the nation's first presidential primary.

According to the Associated Press, "... his staff had to hold onto a large sign positioned behind him to keep it from blowing away in a strong wind. He'll likely face worse weather Saturday when he skis Tuckerman Ravine on New Hampshire's Mount Washington, known for its deep snow and high wind."

In a written statement, he said, "I look at the rest of the field running for president, and that song by The Who comes to mind. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss. You know the one. We ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again.’ What’s the definition of insanity? It is to keep doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different outcome."

(Tip for Johnson: Before you go using that song in a campaign ad, talk to Charlie Crist!)

The big question now is whether Ron Paul, who Johnson backed in 2012, will get in the race. If so, that would put Johnson as the number two choice of the Ron Paul wing of the GOP.

One media critic observation: Some national organizations such as CNN are still reporting that Johnson favors "gay marriage." He doesn't. He supports civil unions for same-sex couples but not marriage.

Johnson has launched a new website. He's got a couple of videos there, both of which were posted on Youtube in October.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: Entering the Arena

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 21, 2011

Richardson Meets the PressHe’s not running for anything — that we know of — but former Gov. Bill Richardson is in The Arena.

I’m referring to a section of Politico’s website, where New Mexico’s former governor is one of dozens of politicians, strategists, scholars and others who sound off on issues of the day.

Richardson on Wednesday opined on Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels as a possible Republican presidential candidate.

“I would be more concerned if (former Utah Gov.) Jon Huntsman entered the race because he is a classy moderate with foreign policy experience,” Richardson wrote. “What both have in common is their likely inability to do well in Republican primaries and caucuses even in a crowded field because the extreme right fringe and the tea partiers dominate the Republican (party) and these two candidates don’t drink their kool aid.”

He’s incorporated: In addition to his punditry, Richardson has been filing papers with the state Public Regulation Commission.

On Feb. 16, he incorporated The Richardson Center for Global Engagement, which he has said will focus on hostage negotiations and improving relationships with hostile regimes such as North Korea and Iran.

Richardson is listed as president of this corporation, while his wife, Barbara Richardson, is vice president and treasurer. His spokeswoman, Caitlin Kelleher, is secretary, while former attorney general and longtime political ally Paul Bardecke is on the board. The corporation is in “good standing” until May 2013.

The same day, Richardson, who is earning money by giving high-priced speeches, teaching and sitting on several boards, filed papers for W.B. Richardson LLC, a limited-liability company. The only officer listed is Jay Rosenblum, an Albuquerque lawyer.

Hector Balderas
Hector hopping in?: State Auditor Hector Balderas says he’ll decide by the end of the month whether to jump in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

In a Facebook posting late last week, Balderas wrote, “I’m truly humbled by the outpouring of support encouraging me to run for the United States Senate. I will continue to reflect on this important decision with my family, and will announce my decision within the next two weeks.”

The Senate seat is open because Democrat Jeff Bingaman, who has held it since 1983, announced he won’t seek re-election.

Speaking of Facebook, Balderas already has one prominent supporter. Former state Democratic Chairman Brian Colón, who was the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor last year, voted for Balderas in a Facebook poll.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Balderas was trailing U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich of Albuquerque by 20 votes (147-127). In a distant third, with 22, was U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who hasn’t made any noises about running for Senate. Other usual suspects had a smattering of votes.

On the GOP side: I haven’t seen any recent polls, Facebook or otherwise, for the Republican Senate primary. Lt. Gov. John Sanchez told a local conservative group, Friends of Capitalism, last week that he’s still considering challenging former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson for the nomination. But at least he didn’t denounce Wilson as an “Enemy of Capitalism.”

Wilson continues her strategy of picking up endorsements. Last week, she added state Senate Republican Leader Stuart Ingle of Portales to the lengthy list of GOP bigwigs who are supporting her.

The dunes sagebrush lizard couldn't be reached for comment.
Then there’s U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce of Hobbs. Conventional wisdom is that Pearce, who just last year won back the House seat he gave up to run for Senate in 2008, won’t run again. But reading his steady stream of news releases, I’m not sure about that.

Instead of campaigning against Wilson, lately Pearce has been campaigning against a critter called the dunes sagebrush lizard.

He’s held town meetings in Carlsbad and Artesia to rally support against a move by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to add the lizard to the federal endangered-species list.

Listing the lizard would be bad for the oil and gas industry in Southern New Mexico and could affect the building of a planned nuclear-enrichment facility in Eunice, Pearce says.

Happy 4-20

In honor of 4-20, which basically is national marijuana day, Mother Jones has listed current, likely and possible Republican presidential candidates, their views on drug legalization and their history, at least their admitted history of drug use.

Gary Johnson, who is expected to announce his candidacy tomorrow in New Hampshire, is included, of course. He's the only candidate who has made marijuana legalization a major plank of his platform, although Ron Paul, who still is considered a possible candidate, did introduce a bill in Congress to decriminalize it.

Johnson's the only candidate to admit to smoking marijuana in recent years, but his drug use sounds small potatoes compared with potential rival Mitch Daniels' past:

As a student in Princeton, the Indiana governor was arrested in a police sting that netted two size-12 shoeboxes worth of marijuana, along with LSD and drug paraphernalia. Daniels was cited for pot possession but got off with a $350 fine for "maintaining a common nuisance." He told the Daily Princetonian in 1988 that because of the arrest "any goal I might have had for competing for public office were shot," and later called the incident an "unfortunate confluence of my wild oats period and America's libertine apogee"

The article doesn't mention the likely Democratic nominee, President Obama. He's admitted to smoking marijuana and using cocaine as a teen.

So in honor of the day, here's the first part of a drug "education" film they made me watch in high school starring that hip youth-culture icon, Sonny Bono. The other three parts of the film also are on Youtube. If you're not too stoned to find 'em.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Keller to Seek Re-election to State Senate, Not Run for Congress

State Sen. Tim Keller in my chairState Sen. Tim Keller, D-Albuquerque, told Capitol Reports earlier this month that he was thinking of making a run for U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich's seat because Heinrich is running for retiring Jeff Bingaman's U.S. Senate seat.

However, in a Facebook post this morning, Keller announced he wants to stay put.

Many thanks to all of you that have been encouraging me to run for Congress. I greatly appreciate your enthusiasm! Liz and I remain passionate about local public service, but instead of congress I will be running for re-election to the NM senate next year. Thank you again for your continued support.
(Liz is Keller's fiancée.)

So, on the Democratic side, that leaves state Sen. Eric Griego and state Rep. Moe Maestas as possible contenders. Both have announced they are considering such a run.

On the Republican side, former state Rep. Janice Arnold Jones is considering the CD1 race, while Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis has already thrown his hat in the GOP primary.

Just yesterday I saw a  article in The Hill, a Washington, D.C. publication about the CD 1 race that opines Arnold-Jones would likely have the edge to get the Republican nomination.

The Hill also quotes an anonymous observer saying  Griego's announcement last month about forming an exploratory committee was "sloppy" because it was the day before Heinrich announced his Senate run.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Javier's Campaign Says He's Doing Fine in Poll

When I asked Sam Bregman yesterday about Sen. Jeff Bingaman's endorsement of Javier Gonzales in the state chairman's race, Bregman said Gonzales was publicizing the endorsement to counteract a recent poll Gonzales commissioned of state Democratic Central Committee members showing Bregman winning the contest.

"They're losing," Bregman said. "The train has left the station."

But today, Gonzales' spokesman shot me an e-mail saying that there indeed was a poll, but it showed Gonzales doing better than 54 percent. Bregman was pulling just over 37 percent, while Letitia Montoya had about 8.5 percent.

According to spokesman Matt Ross the call, which went out to all 400-plus Central Committee members, went as follows:

"Hello, tonight we are conducting a short survey on the upcoming State Democratic Party Chair's race. If the election were held today, who would you vote for:
Press 1 for Javier Gonzales
Press 2 for Sam Bregman
Press 3 for Letitia Montoya
Thank you for your time this evening."
But before Gonzales supporters start popping the champagne corks, a look at the poll shows that only 101 people responded. That's just under a fourth of the number of total members. So nobody really knows yet how the other 75 percent are going to vote.

The actual voting will take place on April 30.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: Bingaman Endorse Javier

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 14, 2011

Javier Gonzales' effort to win another term as state Democratic Party chairman received a huge boost Wednesday when he was endorsed by retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman.

At Democratic Party election night gathering Hotel Andaluz, Albuquerque"I will cast my vote for Javier Gonzales for state party chair," Bingaman said in a statement emailed by a spokesman. "Javier has the state party on the right track, laying the groundwork for candidate recruitment, fundraising and party building to make sure New Mexico helps re-elect President Obama, elects great Democratic candidates in both open U.S. Senate and House seats, and equally capable Democrats up and down the ballot in 2012."

Gonzales, a former Santa Fe County commissioner, is seeking a second term despite huge Democratic losses in last year's general election. He's facing an aggressive challenge from lawyer and former Albuquerque City Councilor Sam Bregman. Letitia Montoya of Santa Fe also is running for the position.

Endorsements don't always mean a whole lot in political races, but this one's a big deal.

The low-key Bingaman probably is the most respected Democratic leader in the state. When he announced earlier this year that he wouldn't be seeking a sixth term, Democrats from all factions showered him with praise.

Not surprisingly, Gonzales was ecstatic about the endorsement.

"Jeff Bingaman set the bar high for public service in New Mexico with more than 30 years of dignified, honorable and ethical leadership," Gonzales said in a statement. "Working with him to build a stronger Democratic Party has been a privilege and I am honored to have his support. With Sen. Bingaman's wise counsel, I remain focused on Democratic victory across New Mexico in 2012 and on taking the fight to Governor Martinez and her anti-working-families agenda."

Bregman, in a telephone interview Wednesday, admitted he was disappointed in not getting Bingaman's support. "I certainly respect the senator," he said. "But I'm more excited about the 406 state Central Committee members," he said.

The challenger said he's known for some time that Bingaman is supporting Gonzales. "What's interesting is the timing," he said. According to Bregman, Gonzales recently conducted a "robo poll" of Central Committee members. "They're losing. The train has left the station."

Bregman has won the endorsements of a couple of unions: the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, as well as the International Association of Firefighters and Paramedics. "I think more will be coming," he said.

The green chile revolution: That's what some Rio Arriba County Democrats are calling the big win of the Democrats for Progress faction of the county Democratic Party last week in electing its officers. As a result of the elections, the old guard associated with the late political jefe Emilio Naranjo is out and a new crew is in.

Lucia Sanchez, who works in the Rio Arriba County Planning Department, was elected county Democratic chairwoman. She replaces state Sen. Richard Martinez, who didn't run for another term. Martinez, who considered Naranjo a mentor, was first elected to the party post in 2009, succeeding his ex-wife Theresa Martinez.

Richard Martinez has hardly lost all his political power. Earlier this year, he became chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Rio Grande Sun pointed out this week that Democrats for Progress has controlled major positions in Rio Arriba County for the last couple of decades, though the faction has stayed out of county party contests.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sanchez: "We Still Haven't Decided" on Senate Seat.

Is Lt.Gov. John Sanchez really going to challenge former Congresswoman Heather Wilson in the upcoming race for U.S. Senate?

Sanchez, who just spoke to The Friends of Capitalism, a conservative pro-business Santa Fe group, at the Rio Chama Steakhouse a few minutes ago, still isn't saying.

Sanchez's short speech to the group dealt mainly with the 2010 election and the recent Legislative session, although he did stress his belief that New Mexico should elect strong fiscal conservatives to federal positions.

When asked about a possible run for the Senate, Sanchez. as he's told others before, said he's considering running for the retiring Jeff Bingaman's seat. He said he's spoken with groups of people both from in the state and outside who have encouraged him to run.

The Republicans, he said, need a candidate who not only can win the primary but the general election as well. Pointing out that he and Gov. Susana Martinez won nearly 40 percent of the state's Hispanic vote last November, Sanchez said conservative Republicans can appeal to independent and Hispanic voters in the state.

"I like to call conservative Hispanics `closet Republicans,' " he said.

He pointed out that that he's won two Republican primaries: Last year's contest for lieutenant governor and the 2002 gubernatorial race against Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley.

He declined to say when he'd make a final decision. "It's still 14 months before the primary," he said.

What would prevent him from running? "It's a personal decision," he told reporters after his speech. He said he'd have to weight the effect of a campaign -- and assumedly, the possibility of moving to Washington, D.C. -- on his marriage and his two young daughters, as well as his business. Sanchez owns an Albuquerque roofing business.

Is the $300,000-plus that Wilson raised in 24 days last month daunting to a possible opponent? No, said Sanchez. "It's still very early." He said he's proven in past races that he can raise campaign funds.

Asked about the importance of avoiding a bloody primary like Wilson's senatorial primary against Steve Pearce in 2008, Sanchez said a primary doesn't have to be destructive. He noted the three-man GOP primary for lieutenant governor, in which Sanchez bested state Sen. Kent Cravens and former state Rep. Brian Moore never got acrimonious.

However, he didn't mention his 2002 primary against Bradley, which left so many hard feelings that both Bradley and then Gov. Gary Johnson waited weeks before endorsing Sanchez in his race against Bill Richardson.

When asked to name differences between himself and Wilson, Sanchez declined.

Warning to Politicians: Don't Steal the Rock 'n'' Roll

Or you might end up having to make an apology like this one.

Ever since the day when both Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale were trying to ride on Bruce Springsteen's coattails, candidates have been using rock 'n' roll to try to carry their messages. Sometimes it backfires, as it did when former Talking Head David Byrne sued ex-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for using his song "Road to Nowhere" in his doomed Senate campaign last year.

Wow, Tom Petty could mop up if he sued every politician who played "I Won't Back Down" at a political rally. (Are you listening Bill Richardson and Tom Udall?)

Actually, I liked it better when politicians still considered rock 'n' roll to be evil.

This video by Crist wasn't done out of the kindness of his heart. It's part of a settlement of a law suit by Byrne.

Here's the song. (Confession, I don't know whether it's authorized. But nobody's yanked it off YouTube yet.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

R.I.P. Rep. Jeannette Wallace

State Rep. Jeannete Wallace, R-Los Alamos, who has been in the state House of Representatives for 20 years, has died.

Wallace, who won her 11th term in the House last year at the age of 76, has had health problems in recent months. She was seen around the Capitol using a portable oxygen tank. At this point, I don't know the cause of death.

Wallace was known as a moderate Republican who had a close working relationship with House Speaker Ben Lujan, who represents a neighboring district.

She was a a member of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, as well as the interim Legislative Finance Committee.

She previously served on the Los Alamos County Council.

She faced a serious challenge from Democrat Stephanie Richard in her last election -- her first serious challenge in more than a decade. But she ended up winning by 190 votes.

Gov. Susana Martinez released a statement about Wallace's death:

"Jeannette dedicated two decades of her life to serving New Mexico in the state legislature. She was a tireless advocate for the people of Los Alamos, Sandoval, and Santa Fe Counties - committed to public service even as her health was fading over the past few months. Chuck and I offer our deepest condolences to Jeannette's family and friends, and we will keep them in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time," said Governor Martinez. "Representative Wallace's passing is a loss for all of us who have had the pleasure to work with her. She will be deeply missed."

Heather Wilson, a former Congresswoman and currently a candidate for U.S. Senate also praised Wallace:

"Jeanette Wallace was a dear friend and a wonderful public servant. She was an example to others of how citizens can serve the community with unfailing decency, selflessness and integrity. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and many friends. We will all miss her warmth and wisdom very much."

Friday, April 8, 2011

State Police Are Investigating Alleged Voter-Fraud

According to a March 25 letter from Secretary of State Dianna Duran to Bill Hubbard, director of the State Police Special Investigations Division, the State Police have started an investigation of the 37 foreign nationals who Duran last month alleged voted in New Mexico elections.

Below is the letter, which the Secretary of State's office sent me today. Read tomorrow's New Mexican for more information. (I'll post the link here later when it's up.)

Duran Letter to Dps

A Dog & Pony Show -- Without the Ponies

New Mexico's First Dog Riggs an Alaskan Malamute, with First Gentleman Chuck Franco
There's going to be a whole lot of news about bill signings and vetoes today, but let's start off with a fun one.

Gov. Susana Martinez signed Senate Bill 11 at an informal cememony at Louie's Corner Cafe. When the bill goes into effect on July 1, restaurants with outdoor eating areas, such as Louie's, will be permitted to allow dogs to accompany their owners in patios where food is served.

On hand for the signing were several dog owners and their pets, including Martinez's husband Chuck Franco and First Dog Riggs, an Alaskan Malamute; bill sponsor Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe and his yellow Labrador Cuate; and Louie's owners Robin Hardy and Alea Jenson who were accompanied by the cafe's namesake Louie, a Shih Tzu.

But the biggest dog there was Rory, an Irish wolfhound, owned by former Rep. Max Coll and his wife, Catherine Joyce-Coll. The Colls also brought Keeley, a Norwich terrier.

And, oh yeah, the gov signed the budget bill -- though she line-item vetoed the unemployment tax increase -- the film tax credit bill and the pension-swap bill.

UPDATE: 12:56 pm

Here's some of the other bills Martinez signed and vetoed.

SB 196 which will expand hunting opportunities for state residents by increasing the number of licenses available for big-game hunts on public lands.
HB 052, Tobacco Fund Investment Practices
HB 059, Unemployment Contribution Temporary Schedule, with line-item veto
HB 093, Police Training for Mental Impairments
HB 137, Continued Educational Assistance Debt Service
HB 160, Public Records Availability and Procedures
HB 167, Fire Prevention Ordinances and Code Changes
HB 215, Implementation of Utility Rate Without Hearing
HB 220, Time Period for Right of Redemption
HB 234, Animal Sheltering Board Sunset Date Extension
HB 417, Local Government Corrections Fee and Fund
HB 428, Raise Organization Income Subject to Audit
HB 429, Compensating Tax Transaction Requirements
HB 536, Games of Chance at Liquor Control Premises
SB 014, Health Care Work Force Data Collection
SB 044, Film Production Tax Credit Tracking & Review, with message
SB 045, Actions Against Cities Statute of Limitations
SB 052, Electronic Copies of Public Records
SB 145, Clarify School Year and Day Length
SB 209, Adjust Water Utility Rates Without Notice
SB 250, Surplus Lines Insurance Multistate Compact
SB 269, Educational Retirement Board Bank and Attorneys
SB 275, Increase Deposit into Govt Investment Fund
SB 284, Amend Uniform Interstate Family Support Act
SB 329, ERB Members to Appoint Designees
SB 330, Family, Infant, Toddler Program Enrollment
SB 360, Student Assessment Requirements Suspension
SB 373, Capital Outlay Reauthorization
SB 408, Create Interim Redistricting Committee, with message
SB 505, Expand Fire Protection Fund Uses
SB 626, Fire Fund Distribution Increase Delay

HB 058, Judicial Retirement Contributions
HB 161, Tax Expenditure Budget Development and Report
HB 166, Review Certain Tax Credits
HB 241, Teacher Loan Repayment Act
HB 347, Juvenile Detention Requirement Modifications
HB 653, Remedies for Real Property False Documents
SB 017, Remove Governor from State Investment Council
SB 019, In-State Business Procurement Advantage
SB 038, New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange Act
SB 040, Livestock Crime Stoppers Act
SB 047, Tax and Rev Dept Tax Expenditure Budget
SB 124, 5 Feet for Cars to Pass Bicycles
SB 277, Increase Magistrate Courts’ Operations Fee
SB 314, Autism Education Plan Development
SB 321, Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act
SB 509, No Car Interlock for Certain Convictions

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: SOS Won't Release Alleged Voter-Fraud Documents

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 7, 2011

Secretary of State Dianna Duran made a startling announcement last month during a legislative hearing on whether voters should be required to show photo identification at the polls.

SOS Dianna Duran
Duran said in cross-checking voter registrations with a state Motor Vehicle Division database, her office had found 117 foreign nationals who had registered to vote. All listed Social Security numbers on their voter registrations that didn’t match up with their names. What’s more, Duran said, at least 37 of those people had actually voted in state elections.

So who are these people who might have committed voter fraud?

The secretary of state won’t say.

The day after that hearing, I submitted a request to Duran’s office under the state Inspection of Public Records Act for copies of the 117 voter registrations, plus any records she had that indicated 37 of those people had voted.

After the 15-day response deadline allowed under the law, I was notified last week that my request was denied.

Citing state and federal privacy laws relating to MVD records, Secretary of State’s Office records custodian Christiana Sanchez wrote, “Based upon advisement of our legal counsel, the records are prohibited from release.

“Moreover, the Secretary of State’s Office does not maintain the original voter registration forms for registered voters,” the denial letter stated. “The original forms are maintained by the county clerks in each county. There are approximately 1.16 million registered voters in the state of New Mexico. Therefore, while we anticipate a future comprehensive review of voter registration forms, we cannot provide copies of any voter registration forms that meet your requested criteria at this time.”

Of course I hadn’t asked to see all 1.16 million forms, just the 117 she talked about at the legislative hearing. And I would have settled for only those for the 37 apparently illicit voters.

Out of the FOG: As I often do in such situations, I sought advice from the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government. Executive Director Sarah Welsh told me, “The SOS may not maintain the original voter registration forms, but if they received copies of forms (or the same information in some other format) from the county clerks, those records would now be SOS records subject to IPRA.”

As Welsh explained it, the Inspection of Public Records Act defines “public records” as materials that are “used, created, received, maintained or held by or on behalf of any public body and relate to public business.”
Therefore, Welsh said, if Duran’s office received and is holding voter-registration forms, and the forms aren’t subject to other confidentiality provisions, the documents should be released.

I asked the secretary of state about that but hadn’t gotten a response as of Wednesday evening.

I’m not the Lone Ranger: I’m not the only one who requested documents pertaining to Duran’s voter-fraud allegations. The American Civil Liberties Union made a far more sweeping request for documents from both the Secretary of State’s Office and the Governor’s Office the same day I made my request.

But according to the Clearly New Mexico blog — which is a project of the left-leaning Center for Civic Policy — the ACLU didn’t get much more than I did.

ACLU Executive Director Peter Simonson told the blog that he got a packet of documents from the SOS but nothing so far from the governor. The documents he received from Duran were so heavily redacted, he said, “they don’t allow us to make any determination.”

A March 15 news release from the Secretary of State’s Office about the alleged 37 vote-fraud perpetrators said, “These are still under investigation to verify the accuracy of the information.”

At this point, it’s still unknown whether any of that information has been verified.

Governor Signs Wine Shipment Bill

Gov. Susana Martinez today signed a bill that I wrote about in this morning's paper, SB 445, which is designed to help the state's wine industry.

Some supporters of the bill were worried about a possible veto because the bill had been opposed by one of the governor's biggest campaign contributors, Mack Energy of Artesia. Apparently, however, those fears were for naught.

Martinez also signed House Bill 172, which will end the practice of corporal punishment in public schools. To paraphrase Patti Smith, the governor decided "to spare the child and spoil the rod."

And to absolutely nobody's surprised, she signed SB 365, which will expand Katie's Law, requiring law enforcement to collect DNA samples from anyone arrested on a felony charge. Martinez worked hard for this  one during the session.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Don't Bully a County Surveyor Wearing a Squash Blossom

With the deadline for bill signings approaching (it's on Friday), Gov. Susana Martinez has stepped up the pace on bill signings.

According to her most recent press release, she's signed another 19 bills today, including legislation to require police to train in handling child abuse cases, (SB 77); SB 78, which requires local schools districts to establish anti-bullying policies; and SB 109, which establishes the squash blossom as the state necklace.

Not only that, but the governor shattered my political dreams of running for county surveyor by signing SB 429, which eliminates surveyor as an elected position.

My story on some of the bills that remain to be signed can be found in today's New Mexican. None of the ones I mentioned there were signed in this last batch.

A couple of updates though:

The number of Martinez vetoes was correct when I filed the piece on Friday evening, but she vetoed a few more on Saturday. These include HB 11, which would have allowed adults to ride motor scooters without a license; HB 35, which would have established a county health demonstration project in Hidalgo County; and HB 469, which would have directed each judicial district to establish sanctions for probationers who violate conditions of their probation. (She said the judicial districts already have that power)

Also, one of the bills I mentioned in the story, SB 9, needs some clarification. I said in the story that the bill "would require an extra six months of driving — and a cleaner driving record — before a teen could get a full license."

But Sen. Peter Wirth, the sponsor, told me that the extra six months was amended out of the bill. "... but an extra thirty days is added for a whole string of offenses including the new one of texting or using a cell phone," Wirth said. It still awaits Martinez's signature.

To keep up with the various bill signings and vetoes, check the governor's website.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Heinrich In

As expected, U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich of Albuquerque announced today he's running for retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman's Senate seat.

Here's the video.

The Decision from Martin Heinrich on Vimeo.

Heinrich's news release stressed his working class origins.

I was raised in a working-class family. My father was an electrician and my mom worked in a factory. My parents taught me the values that I still hold dear today, and that I believe can help anyone get ahead—hard work, honesty, responsibility, and self-reliance.

My wife Julie and I are raising our two sons in New Mexico with those same values. Like many families across our state, Julie and I sit at the kitchen table and talk about our children’s future and how tough the path is for too many of our neighbors and friends. The fact is, a lot of middle class families in New Mexico are struggling to get by as costs continue to rise and the deck seems stacked against them. It doesn’t take long in Washington to see that things there just aren’t working. Big corporations and special interests seem to get all of the breaks while regular New Mexico families are left holding the bill. New Mexico families deserve better.

Almost immediately, state Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas announced he's "closely considering" running for Heinrich's CD1 seat. I guess that means he won't be joining Sen. Eric Griego's  exploratory committee.

One of Heinrich's colleagues in the New Mexico delegation shared some love this morning.

Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce said in a news release, ""Martin Heinrich's extreme agenda would cripple America and throw tens of thousands of New Mexicans out of work. ... New Mexico families deserve a Senator who will go to Washington to fight on their behalf to create jobs and get our economy moving again. In Heinrich, they will only get someone fighting for special interests and the extreme agendas of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid."

Pearce, who was the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in 2008, hasn't ruled out another try for Senate himself.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Eric Griego Forms Exploratory Committee

Anticipating that incumbent CD1 Congressman Martin Heinrich will soon jump into the U.S. Senate race, (the talk is as early as tomorrow) state Sen. Eric Griego of Albuquerque announced he's starting an exploratory committee to look at running for Heinrich's seat in the Democratic primary.

In a news release, Griego said:
"We need a Democratic Congressional candidate who will unapologetically stand up for working families and take on those who would put large corporate interests ahead of our children, our environment and our local businesses. ... I am seriously considering entering the Congressional race, but need to discuss my final decision with my family, my employer, and of course my supporters. This is an important decision not just for me and my family, but for our whole community and it warrants serious soul searching and a sober review of what kind of Democrat we want fighting for us in Washington”

Griego is a former Albuquerque city councilor who three years ago ousted incumbent Democrat James Taylor for his state Senate seat. He quickly became known as one of the most liberal voices in the Senate.

He currently works as executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, a non-profit group based in Albuquerque.