Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: A Very Special History Lesson

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

 As Gov. Susana Martinez heads into her first special session, which seems to be drawing more complaints from legislative Democrats each day, it’s starting to remind me of another governor’s first special session, a bitter time in which it became apparent that the honeymoon between the new governor and the Legislature was way past over.

In fact, if Martinez and her predecessor Bill Richardson were on friendlier terms, the former governor might provide Martinez with some cautionary tales from the not-so-distant past.

Former Gov. Bill Richardson
Back in 2003, Richardson was still an extremely popular governor, both with the public and the Legislature. Even Republicans praised him for getting a tax-cut bill through his first legislative session.

But when he called a special session in the autumn of that year, Richardson backed into a political buzz saw. He received fire from Ds and Rs alike. His massive tax-reform plan, which had been the reason for calling the session in the first place, never even got heard by a single committee.

Though the ill-fated special session didn't hurt Richardson's popularity with the public (he won a landslide re-election in 2006), the rancor the special session created in the Legislature continued to grow and fester. Relations between the governor and the Senate became outright toxic by his final years in office.

Santa Fe Appreciation Day: The grumbling and sniping began the first day of the session, which began in late October. Both chambers recessed in the early afternoon after learning that Richardson's tax bill wouldn’t be ready for introduction until the next day.

“Is this just an 'Appreciate Santa Fe' day?” Sen. Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, asked, noting that without a tax bill to consider there was nothing for legislators to do but visit the capital city's sites.

Then House Republican Leader Ted Hobbs also blasted the governor's office for not having the tax bill ready. “We didn't even get the proclamation until 10 minutes before we convened,” he said. “That's because they keep changing what they want.” Even House Democratic Whip, Rep. James Taylor complained, “The governor's staff has been difficult to deal with for some of my members.”

Former Rep. Max Coll
The introduction of Richardson’s 188-page tax bill didn’t help. As Rep. Max Coll, D-Santa Fe, said of the tax bill after the session. “Neither house would touch it with a 100-foot pole.” Said Coll, “When you've got a special session, you need to build a consensus, especially on tax issues, before you go in. You can't just walk in without it (being) settled.”

Several current observers have said the same thing recently about Martinez and her bill to repeal the law allowing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

Sine Die! By the end of the first week of the 2003 special session, the Senate had had enough.

Eight Democrats, including Senate President Pro-tem Richard Romero of Albuquerque, joined 15 Republicans to call for an end to the session. Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, D-Santa Fe, said after that vote, “The lack of consensus was clearly evident from the very beginning. ... There was confusion, a lot of frustration and a concern about whether this was absolutely necessary at this point in time.”

House Speaker Ben Lujan kept the House in session, and after some arm-twisting by Richardson, Romero agreed to bring the Senate back into session. The Legislature ended up passing Richardson’s ambitious program for highway improvements. (That’s the GRIP program, which would come back to haunt Richardson in later years, though that’s another story.)

The Legislature still didn’t attempt any major tax-code overhaul and haven’t touched it since. The 2003 special session even had some Democrats looking back with nostalgia at Republican Gov. Gary Johnson. “We hardly ever supported Gov. Johnson, but we appreciated his open-door policy,” Sen. Phil Griego, D-Ribera, said at the end of that session.

After the session, Richardson said, “I learned a lot during this session, We will work harder to get legislators involved earlier in the process.”

But some of those wounds in that session never seemed to heal.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Invisible Candidate Johnson Now Leading Some "Serious" Candidates

The bad news for Gary Johnson is that, according to the latest national poll of Republicans, he's only pulling two percent.

However, according to the new CNN/ORC poll, Johnson is beating both ex-Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Sen. Rick Santorum. And he's tied with pizza magnate Herman Cain. In a race in which Sarah Palin and Rudy Giulian are excluded, Johnson remains at 2 percent -- still beating Huntsman and Santorum, but falling one point behind Cain.

However, both Huntsman and Santorum are invited to next week's debate in California, sponsored by NBC and Politico. Johnson is not.

"This poll, conducted by credible organizations and more current than those used by NBC and Politico to choose who will be allowed on the stage in California next week, shows that it is ludicrous to exclude Gary Johnson, while inviting other candidates whose support appears to be no greater than his," said Johnson campaign campaign manager Ron Nielson in a news release. "Drawing arbitrary lines between polling results, when all of those results are within margins of error, and using those lines to determine who gets to take his or her message to the voters on a national stage if fundamentally wrong at this stage of the process."

The poll is based on interviews with 467 Republicans on Aug. 24-25. The margin of error is 4.5 percent.

Pelosi in Santa Fe

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who still is the leader of House Democrats in Congress, appeared this morning at Mary Ester Gonzales Senior Center in Santa Fe.

Pelosi was accompanied by Congressman Ben Ray Lujan.

Both spoke about protecting Social Security and Medicare in the ongoing D.C. deficit and budget battles. Referring to the committee of 12 House and Senate members that will make budget recommendations, Pelosi said, "This table of 12 cannot be a chopping block for Medicare and Social Security."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Santa Fe Mayor David Coss at right
She also spoke about her desire to have the meetings of the "Super Congress" open to the public, televised and webcasted.

Asked whether having these negotiations public would turn into predictable recitations of talking points for both sides  instead of producing a real compromise, Pelosi said, "That's called `democracy.' I think the American public will have a slim appetite for that kind of exploitation at that table. We have to succeed at that table."

Both Pelosi and Lujan said the current debate is not really about deficits. "Why didn't (Republicans) say `boo' when (the deficit) was being amassed by President Bush," Pelosi said. She blamed the deficits on tax breaks for the wealthy and "two unfunded wars."

In a written statement e-mailed after the event, Tyler Q. Houlton, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said, "Nancy Pelosi and Ben Ray Lujan should be honest with New Mexico voters and admit to the damage they’ve caused to Medicare. It’s disingenuous for Pelosi and Lujan to claim they have protected Medicare when they voted to gut the program by $500 billion to fund their government takeover of healthcare.”

More in Tuesday's New Mexican.

Preparing for the Special Session?

This is Gov. Susana Martinez requalifying for her concealed carry license.

According to McClesky Media, which posted this on YouTube, the governor got 100 percent scores with both .45 and .38 caliber handguns.

On her Facebook, Martinez wrote, "Chuck will never admit it, but I'm the better shot."

(Yes, I'm back to work.)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Summer Vacation!

That's where I'll be for the next two weeks, so don't expect to see much on Roundhouse Roundup: The Blog during that time -- barring some truly major political event.

Probably goes without sayingI won't be writing my weekly Roundhouse Roundup (the column) while I'm out.

I did write a lengthy look at the struggling Gary Johnson presidential campaign, which was published in Saturday's New Mexican.

Speaking of Johnson, he had some nice words to say about the departing Tim Pawlenty:

"Gov. Pawlenty's decision to end his campaign is his to make, and I respect that decision.  He and his many supporters have put forth a great effort, and should be applauded for it.  As Republicans survey a new list of candidates today, including the departure of a candidate who is credible, experienced and who had a real record to run on, it is appropriate to question the inflated role of an event like the Ames Straw Poll in the process.  That a pay-to-play gathering in Iowa six months before the first real ballots are cast can be such a qualifying -- or disqualifying -- event is something the media and tens of millions of Republican voters need to think about.  A lot of voices have not been heard yet, and it is far too early for the 'system' to be picking winners and losers.

 "If there is a message from Ames, it is that this race is wide open and that the vast majority of Republicans and Independents are still looking for the candidate who can win the White House in 2012."   

Speaking of departing, I'm outta here. See you in a couple of weeks.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Johnson Touts New McClatchy-Marist Poll

Gary Johnson just tweeted about some new poll results.

The good news for Gary: He's tied with Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty, and he's got TWICE the support of Jon Huntsman among Republican voters.

The bad news: Johnson, Newt and T-Paw, as well as former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer are all at 2 percent. Huntsman has 1 percent.

Scroll way down to the bottom of the document below to see those results.

One screwy thing I noticed about some other numbers in the poll: 18 percent of those who say they are "Tea Party Supporters" say they will "definitely vote for President Obama" in 2012.

The Obama wing of the Tea Party. There's a feature story waiting to happen!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Twitter Candidate

Gary Johnson might have been excluded from tonight's Fox News debate on the eve of the Ames, Iowa straw poll. But his voice will not be stopped.

At least not on Twitter.

A news release from the Johnson campaign says the former New Mexico governor will "tweet his reactions" to the debate, which begins 7 p.m. New Mexico time.

You can keep track of his comments during the debate on his Twitter feed, @GovGaryJohnson

Some Non-Block Tidbits

I just realized that all my blog posts this week have been about Jerome Block, Jr. --(who, as expected, was removed as PRC vice chairman this morning. He'll be replaced by Commissioner Theresa Becenti-Aguilar. And no, he hasn't resigned at this writing.)

But there are a few other things going on.

Some sad news from earlier this week is that Republican "fix-it man" Lou Gallegos died this weekend at the age of 72. He served as chief of staff for Gov. Gary Johnson as well as U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici. I didn't know him well, but the few time I had to deal with Lou I found him very friendly and helpful. My obit for Lou can be found HERE.

Cargo and MeFor some happier news, next week the bronze bust of former Gov. David F. Cargo will be formally unveiled at the Capitol next Thursday (Aug. 18.)

The bust, by artist Storm Townsend was on display briefly at the Capitol a year ago, when Hal Truesdale, a Capitol security guard, snapped this photo. But the Legislature had to approve it for permanent display.

My story on that is HERE.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: If Block Steps Down

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

Breaking news: Nobody new called for Jerome Block Jr.’s resignation on Wednesday.

Well, no one that I know of. I haven’t checked my Twitter feed in a couple of hours.

Bipartisan requests for Block to quit the state Public Regulation Commission began flowing last week when the story broke about an investigation into thousands of dollars in questionable charges to a state gasoline card issued to Block, among other possible misdeeds.

So far, Block hasn’t responded to those urgings, nor the possibility that the Legislature might consider impeaching him.

Gov. Susana Martinez, who is among those who say Block should step down, would have authority to name a replacement for him until the next election. She hasn’t talked with any potential successors, her spokesman said Wednesday. “If the seat does come open, we would go through a swift and thorough process to find the right replacement,” Scott Darnell said in an email.

It’s probably not going out too far on a limb to think that a Republican governor would want to appoint a qualified Republican to the $90,000-a-year job — even though the GOP didn’t even field a candidate in this Democratic-leaning PRC district in 2008, when Block was elected.

If Block departed and Martinez appointed a Republican, it would shift the political balance of the elected regulatory body, giving the R’s a 3-to-2 edge.

That situation likely would be temporary, however, as 57 percent of the registered voters in PRC District 3 are Democrats. Only 26 percent are Republicans, while 17 percent are independent or belong to other parties.

I have heard a couple of names of possible Republican candidates. Neither returned phone calls Wednesday. Whether that means anything, I don’t know. Maybe, after observing Block, they think it’s the duty of a PRC member not to return calls.

No shortage of Democrats: As reported previously, there already are plenty of Democrats who want to take his place.

Even before his latest problems surfaced, it was apparent that many felt Block was politically vulnerable, and some believed he wouldn’t seek re-election. Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza jumped in the race months ago. More recently, activist Martin Suazo of Las Vegas, N.M., and Santa Fe mortgage banker Brad Gallegos — whose father is former Corporation Commissioner Louis Gallegos — announced they will run.

Danny Maki, a former staffer for U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., and son of lobbyist and former Bill Richardson congressional aide Walter “Butch” Maki, said this week that he will announce later this month.

Meanwhile, Santa Fe County Commissioner Virginia Vigil said Wednesday that she has thought about running for the PRC for several years. However, she said she lives very close to the district boundary in southwestern Santa Fe, so she will wait until the Legislature draws new district boundaries next month before she makes a decision.

I’m not sure where all those candidates and possible candidates live, but redistricting certainly does have the potential of creating some havoc in this and other races.

A clue on Facebook? The Rio Grande Sun noticed something peculiar on Block’s Facebook page. His profile says he “Worked at the State of New Mexico (Commissioner).” Worked. As in past tense. As the Española weekly pointed out, that only happens when you enter an end-date in your profile’s employment section.

I’m not sure how long that’s been on Block’s profile and can’t say for sure whether he might have made some mistake when setting up his profile.

But it raises the question: Could a state official these days resign via Facebook?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

An Oldie But Goodie From Jim Terr

Songwriter/parodist Jim Terr did this video back in 2008. There might be enough new material for a sequel.

Dem County Chairs Ask Block to Resign

Below is the text of a letter that several Democratic Party chairmen sent to Jeome Block, Jr. asking him to resign.

I spoke this afternoon with Santa Fe County Democratic Chairman Richard Ellenberg about the letter. He said, "It seems to me that public officials ought to be at a high level of ethics. (Block's) recent behavior is well short of that. The Democratic Party needs to make sure our candidates and public officials are ethical."

Dear Commissioner Block,

On behalf of the Democratic Party of the undersigned counties, after much consideration of the public service that you and your family have dedicated to New Mexico for generations, I send this letter and decision to join in the call for your resignation from the PRC- your elected position of New Mexico PRC Commissioner, District III.

The recent allegations of credit card misuse at area gas stations have compounded tangled legal issues already facing you, Commissioner Block. We, the leaders of our county parties feel it is in the best interest of all concerned, especially of your constituents that you step down. We foresee it will be a difficult decision for you to make, but we are hopeful you will make the right, honorable decision. With a heavy heart, but mindful of the people we serve; it is our hope you understand our position.

As always, we Democrats wish you well and offer any help you might need during this difficult transition. We personally wish you all the best and thank you for your service.

Lucia F. Sanchez, Chair, Democratic Party of Rio Arriba County
Richard D. Ellenberg, Chair, Democratic Party of Santa Fe County
Michael Wheeler, Chair, Democratic Party of Los Alamos County
Paula Garcia, Chair, Democratic Party of Mora County
Michael Colangelo, Chair, Democratic Party of Colfax County
Mario A. Gonzales, Jr., Chair, Democratic Party of Harding County
Bill Wertheim, Vice-Chair, Democratic Party of DeBaca County
Thomas Buckner, Chair, Democratic Party of Sandoval County

House Republicans To Ask for Impeachment Committee

State Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, just told me that House Republican leader Tom Taylor will be sending a letter to Speaker Ben Lujan asking for a special committee to investigate the possible impeachment of Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block.

"This is not an isolated incident," Gentry said of recent allegations against the beleaguered Block. "There's a clear pattern of abuse by Commissioner Block that warrants immediate consideration by the House of Representatives."

Gentry said Taylor will ask for a committee similar to the one that investigated former state Treasurer Robert Vigil in 2005. That committee hired a lawyer, former Supreme Court Justice Paul Kennedy and was considering specific charges against Vigil when the treasurer decided to resign.

According to the state constitution, the House votes on charges of impeachment. If the full House votes to impeach, the Senate conducts a trial whether the accused official should be removed from office.

UPDATE: 2:49 pm: I just talked to Speaker Lujan, who is in San Antonio for the National Conference of State Legislatures meeting. He said when he receives the letter, "We'll see what we have to do and check with the Legislative Council Service to see what needs to be done."

PRC to Block: Immediately Resign

All four of Jerome Block Jr's fellow members of the state Public Regulation Commission signed a document this morning saying Block should resign from the PRC.

The commission put off until Thursday a vote of no confidence and a vote to replace Block as vice chairman of the PRC. This was a procedural deal. Commissioners Jason Marks and Theresa Becenti-Aguilar said they believe that the action should be put on the agenda because of the Open Meetings Act.

But both Marks and Becenti-Aguilar, along with Pat Lyons and Ben Hall,  put their names on the following statement. (Thanks to Geoff Grammer, who got the text of of the statement on his blog.)

Each of the PRC Commissioners below are deeply troubled by the recent events surrounding the allegations against Commissioner Jerome Block. We wish the best for Jerome and his family while he deals with these issues and sincerely hope that he receives whatever help he needs to get through this.

As public officials, we are always mindful of the fact that New Mexicans have placed us in a position of maintaining public trust and ensuring that taxpayers dollars are utilized in an appropriate and transparent manner and for the benefit of New Mexico Citizens.

Given the allegations and recent evidence that has surfaced, we encourage and urge Commissioner Block to immediately resign his position as soon as possible.

We will continue to fully cooperate with the appropriate agencies and look forward to putting this unfortunate distraction behind us and focus our efforts on working diligently for the citizens of New Mexico.

So these four PRC members join Gov. Susana Martinez and Democratic Party Chairman Javier Gonzalez in calling for Block's resignation.

Block did not attend Tuesday's meeting. Both Commission Chairman Pat Lyons and chief of staff Johnny Montoya said they had not spoken with Block. "I wanted him to be here," Lyons said.

The story in today's New Mexican about Block being names as a susoect in a car-theft case is HERE.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Block Jr. a Suspect in Stolen Vehicle Case

I have a feeling this week isn't going to be a good one for Jerome Block, Jr. either.

The Santa Fe Police Department has confirmed My colleague Geoff Grammer that the beleaguered Public Regulation commissioner is a suspect in a stolen vehicle case.

Here's what I'm getting from Geoff and New Mexican reporter Staci Matlock:

Block allegedly test drove a used Honda from Capitol City Auto. The dealership agreed to let Block keep the car overnight. But he failed to return it for 3 weeks. As he normally does with reporters, he did not return phone calls from the dealership. So the owner filed police report.

Santa Fe Police apparently located the Honda in downtown Santa Fe last week. It wasn't damaged.

Keep in mind: Block's driver's license has been suspended since last year.

A few minutes ago  asked state House Republican Leader Tom Taylor whether there's any talk of impeaching Block among legislators. Taylor said he's "heard rumors" but said this is something that the Legislative Council might be discussing at it's next meeting.

Keep your ears on. The Block saga is snowballing.

UPDATE: 4 pm Public Regulation Commissioner Pat Lyons told me that the PRC will consider a couple of resolutions pertaining to Block at tomorrow morning's meeting.

One will be a vote of no confidence, which Lyons expects to pass. The other will be a resolution saying that it would be in the best interest of Block's constituents for him to resign.

Neither action would have any legal effect as the PRC does not have the power to remove its own members.

Friday, August 5, 2011

"Hey, Jerome, RESIGN!" Party Says

From the New Mexico Democratic Party website:

August 5, 2011 

Chairman Javier Gonzales Requests Commissioner Jerome Block Jr.’s Resignation

Albuquerque, NM - Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairman Javier Gonzales released the following statement in light of the search of a state vehicle used by PRC Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr. and the reinstatement of charges that he misused public campaign funds:

"Today I am asking PRC Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr. to step down from his position as PRC Commissioner in light of the newest allegations of misuse of public dollars. The constant controversy from the Commissioner has become a distraction for New Mexicans. The Democratic Party strives to be a voice for transparency and integrity, and the resignation of Commissioner Block will help to usher in a way forward for New Mexico that is consistent with those ideals. "


Below is the full text of the letter sent to Jerome Block, Jr.:

August 5, 2011

Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr.
(address deleted by swt)
Espanola, NM 87532

Commissioner Block:

In light of the newest allegations regarding your conduct in office, and on behalf of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, I ask you to resign your position as PRC District 3 Commissioner.

The continued distraction created by your conduct is a black eye to all Democratic officeholders and a disservice to your constituents.

The Democratic Party strives to be a voice for transparency, honesty and integrity, and your resignation will help to move forward for New Mexico in a way that is consistent with those ideals.

Again, I ask you to serve your Party in this last request and initiate the healing process which can begin immediately upon your resignation.


Javier Gonzales

UPDATE: 5:30 pm: My colleague Kate Nash is reporting that Gov. Susana Martinez also is calling on Block to step down. Through a spokesman, Martinez said Block "continues to exhibit what appears to be a serious pattern of misconduct. Abusing taxpayer money and betraying the public trust raises real questions about his ability to serve the people of New Mexico."

Udall Sponsors Bill to Crack Down on Smuggling in Aircraft

From a news release:

This week Sen. Tom Udall introduced bi-partisan legislation that would improve border security by cracking down on smugglers who use ultralight aircraft to bring drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border.

The legislation would give law enforcement agencies additional tools to combat this type of drug trafficking by closing a loophole in current law that allows smugglers who use ULAs to receive a lesser penalty than those who use airplanes or cars.

A news release is HERE

A musical response from opponents:

(For those unfamiliar, that's Peter Rowan singing.)

Sierra Club Endorses Heinrich

Martin Heinrich just picked up an endorsement that's not going to hurt him in the Democratic Senate primary.

The Sierra Club emailed this message this morning:

"Throughout his career, Martin Heinrich has been an indispensable ally to those who champion the preservation of our natural environment and has proven time and again that he won’t back down to the polluters who wish to tear down decades of sound environmental policy,” said John Buchser, chair of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club.

As head of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, Heinrich brought ranchers, Native American leaders and environmentalists together to win federal protection for more than 11,000 acres in the Ojito Wilderness. He served the state as Natural Resources Trustee, working to restore contaminated public lands using funds seized from environmental polluters.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Politico On Susana's "Softer Touch"

Gov. Susana MartinezGov. Susana Martinez shares the spotlight with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval in a Politico article about Republican governors "who have accomplished some of the same conservative policy goals as their higher-profile counterparts with a fraction of the backlash."

Martinez and Sandoval, the piece says, "have fought to keep their heads down and the ideological stakes low. In a nation clamoring for compromise and political civility, theirs is a model to watch."

“That’s where we sort of lost our way,” said Martinez, asked about the confrontational, ideological conservatism of the new wave of Republican leaders. “I am a conservative but we shouldn’t allow single words to really define us.”
Politico points out that while new GOP governors like Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Rick Scott of Florida and John Kaisich of Ohio have their poll numbers in the toilet, Martinez and Sandoval are still popular in their respective states.

There's some familiar names quoted in the story. Rep. Al Park, D-Albuquerque, is named as a Democrat who has fought Martinez on some issues but worked with her on ohters.

“Governor Martinez is very good at appealing to a broad spectrum of New Mexicans, and while she is conservative, her demeanor and her tone don’t connote someone who is a die-hard ideologue ,” said Al Park, the Chairman of the New Mexico House judiciary committee and a Democrat who fought Martinez on the state budget and on her successful push to slash the state’s generous film subsidies, but worked with her on anti-corruption legislation.

“While you can disagree on policy,” he said, Martinez’s outreach “tempers the vitriol.”
It reminds me of something AFSCME's Carter Bundy told me after a labor rally during the regular session this year when I asked him whether New Mexico would be "the next Wisconsin" as some speakers said. "She's more moderate," Bundy said of Martinez. "And you don't have the same kind of politics in New Mexico where everyone tries to nuke the other side. There's serious debate here, but there's something to be said about a place where people don't to personally destroy each other.""

One issue Politico didn't mention, however, was Martinez's push to repeal the law that allows illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses. That's a very emotional, highly divisive issue and it's going to rise again during the special session.

Martinez frequently refers to polls showing the public backs her position on this issue. Time will tell whether it damages her national reputation as a moderate.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Court of Appeals Reinstates Charges Against Block

The state Court of Appeals has reinstated the criminal charges against Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr. that previously had been dismissed by a state district judge. The appeals court also reinstated charges against Jerome Block, Sr., a former PRC member.

Block Jr. was indicted on charges related to misusing public campaign funds in his 2008 campaign. But state District Judge Michael Vigil last year ruled that that the secretary of state could either impose a fine for violations or refer a case to the attorney general for criminal prosecution -- but not both.

The appeals court ruled otherwise. "The (law) does not limit the attorney general's authority to prosecute," Judge Cynthia Fry said in the ruling. Judges Rod Kennedy and Jonathan Sutin concurred.

Block Jr. is up for re-election next year but hasn't said whether he'll run. Two challengers, Valerie Espinoza and Martin Suazo have announced they are running.

Below is the ruling:
Block Ruling

AFSCME Endorses Griego

Eric Griego Running for CongressAs happened in the U.S. Senate race when they endorsed Rep. Martin Heinrich, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees' political committee wasted no time in making an endorsement in the contested CD1 primary. They're going with state Sen. Eric Griego over former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez.

"Eric is a true believer," said Paul Linville, a member of AFSCME's political committee in a news release. "He has never been afraid to stand up for those that do not have a voice, for hard-working, middle class families who are struggling every day. Eric is exactly what we need."

AFSCME is one of the largest unions in the state. Their endorsement normally equates to large campaign contributions.

CD 1 consists mostly of the city of Albuquerque.

The Special Session Agenda So Far

My story is today's New Mexican looks at the items Gov. Susana Martinez says will be on the agenda for next month's special session.

They include bills dealing with:

* The unemployment tax paid by businesses.
* The procurement code's preference for in-state bidders.
* Greater authority for government officials to restrict fireworks, and
* A repeal of the law authorizing driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.

And, of course there's the small matter of redistricting -- drawing up new boundaries for congressional, legislative and PRC districts.

Martinez still hasn't set a date for the session. But her spokesman, Scott Darnell said yesterday she's looking at "early" September.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Martin Suazo Runs for Block's PRC Seat

Martin Suazo
Martin Suazo, a longtime Democratic Party activist and chairman of the State Land Trust Advisory Board, announced today that he'll seek the Democratic nomination for the Public Regulation Commission seat currently held by Jerome Block, Jr.

Suazo, who just dropped by my office a few minutes ago, said his priority would be to create "green-collar" jobs. He also said he wants to help bring broadband internet to more rural New Mexico areas.

Suazo, 51, owns a wood-stove business in Las Vegas, N.M., the town where he was born.

Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza is the only other announced candidate in the PRC race. Block, who is under criminal indictment in a long-delayed election violation case, has not said whether he'll seek re-election.