Tuesday, October 29, 2013

SF County Commission Nominates Jenkins for Easley's House Seat

Ann Jenkins
The Santa Fe County Commission on Tuesday nominated Ann Jenkins, a retired information manager who worked for a pharmaceutical company for 27 years, to complete the term of the late Rep. Stephen Easley in the state House of Representatives.

Jenkins, also has been nominated for the position by the Bernalillo County Commission. Two other counties in the sprawling District 50 have nominated other candidates. Valencia County nominated former Albuquerque City Councilor Vickie Perea while the Torrance County Commission chose its own chairman, LeRoy Candelaria.

Both Perea and Candelaria are Republicans, as is Gov. Susana Martinez, who will make the final selection. If she picks a Republican to replace Democrat Easley, the political makeup of the House would be 37 Democrats to 33 Republicans.

A spokesman for Martinez said the governor is expected to make a decision by Friday.

Jenkins in an interview Tuesday described herself as a centrist Democrat. "I'm fairly conservative on financial issues but liberal on social issues," she said.

Her husband of 43 years, Jim Jenkins, is a Republican, she said.

More in tomorrow's New Mexican

Another Potshot From Linda to Gary

As my colleague Robert Nott reported in today's New Mexican, it looks like Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera finally will get a confirmation hearing in the Legislature.

AG King
If you're skeptical, you have every right to be. After all, Skandera actually did get a hearing last year -- one that lasted umpteen hours over several days -- but no Senate vote.

One thing I noted about the letter Lopez, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, sent to Skandera, which Nott mentions in his story, is that Lopez takes another subtle shot at Attorney General Gary King, one of her rivals in the Democratic primary for governor.

Lopez said she requested certain information from the AG back in March, but "As of this date I have not received a response from Attorney General Gary King."

Didn't some wise columnist predict this sort of thing only a few days ago?

Here's the letter:

Common Cause's Lobbyist Report

Common Cause New Mexico on Monday released its long-promised report on lobbying in the state Legislature. My story in today's New Mexican can be found HERE.
Where the campaign contributions from oil companies
 to NM politicians come from

With former state Sen. Dede Feldman, D-Albuquerque as one of the researchers, the report looks at lobbying efforts for four bills in the past sessions. (I wrote about two of those in my story.)

Among the findings in the report:

•  Six top lobbyists in the legislature have 20 or more clients

• 26 former legislators are now lobbyists.

• Lobbyist have spent three-quarters of a million dollars feeding, entertaining, and giving gifts to candidates for state office, over the past year and a half.

• Representatives opposing a bill to regulate oil and gas operations received three and one half times more contributions than those voting for it.

• Two thirds of oil and gas contributions to legislators come from companies based outside New Mexico.

• Special interests representing bankers and lawyers spent heavily on key committee members to block legislation over several years.

You can read and/or download the entire report below

Monday, October 28, 2013

Webber is In for Governor

Santa Fe businessman and political newcomer Alan Webber had a simple answer Monday when asked whether he’s really going to run for governor.


Webber, 65, a co-founder of Fast Company magazine who has lived in Santa Fe since 2003, said he had filed his candidacy papers with the Secretary of State’s Office early Monday morning to run in the Democratic primary.

“I started looking at running for governor about a year and a half ago, but I didn’t really make a decision until about three months ago,” he told a reporter.

He said that before he made his decision he traveled throughout the state. “I wasn’t presenting myself as a candidate,” he said. “I was presenting myself as somebody with a lot of experience in business, economic development and issues like public education. … I head the same thing from people everywhere, whether it was Las Cruces or Pecos, and that is, the state’s not doing very well. The state’s in real trouble. The state’s at a standstill. I heard that more than once. And we’ve got to do something to get New Mexico moving again.

“I looked around at the Democratic slate and I felt very candidly that I was the one who could actually do the best job presenting a better vision for the state and could win the election for the governor’s office.”

Asked whether the fact that he’s a relative newcomer to the state will be a problem in the campaign, Webber said, “In New Mexico, questions will always come up: ‘How long have you lived here? Who are your people? How well do you know us?’ The flip side of that is everyone I’ve met in that period of time I was exploring the idea [of running] was incredibly generous. They didn’t ask me, `Who are you to be interested in New Mexico’s future?’ They said, `We’re really interested in New Mexico’s future, too, and if you are, welcome to the conversation.’ I’m sure it’ll come up. But I have to tell you, when I lived in Boston, people were really concerned that I didn’t come over on the Mayflower.”

Webber moved to New Mexico from Boston, where he edited Fast Company for 10 years. Previous jobs for Webber include editing the Harvard Business Review and writing speeches for Michael Dukakis when he was governor of Massachusetts.

The Martinez campaign was quick to respond to Webber's entry into the race: “Alan Webber represents the extreme fringe of the Democratic Party and his radical ideology, which has even included attempts to eliminate car use, is way out of step with mainstream New Mexicans," said Martinez spokesman Danny Diaz. He was referring to a memo Webber wrote in 1971 -- when he was in his early 20s and an assistant to the mayor of Portland, Ore.

Webber joins fellow Democrats Attorney General Gary King and state senators Linda Lopez of Albuquerque and Howie Morales of Albuquerque. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez is seeking re-election and is not expected to have any serious primary opposition.

Read more in tomorrow’s New Mexican. For more background on Webber, here's a story I wrote Friday.

Susana Seeks Southern Hospitality

Last week, Gov. Susana Martinez spent time politicking in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Wisconsin.

She's starting off this week, however, in Dixieland, where she's raising money for her re-election.

According to the Associated Press, quoting Martinez's political advisor Jay McCleskey, the gov flew to North Carolina on Saturday. She had fundraisers there and in Georgia on Sunday.

Today, Martinez is raising the campaign bucks in Georgia and Mississippi.

Tomorrow she'll be in Arkansas before she heads back home to New Mexico.

McCleskey told AP that Martinez's campaign is paying all the travel expenses.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDHOUSE: Rumbles Beginning in Dem Primary

Two of the three Democratic candidates for governor were in the same room at the Roundhouse last week. But neither seemed to be in campaign mode.

Attorney General Gary King, the first Democrat to declare he wants to be the party’s nominee to take on incumbent Gov. Susana Martinez, was testifying, along with State Auditor Hector Balderas, before the Legislative Finance Committee about the investigation into 15 mental health providers under investigation for possible fraud. State Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, who just last week joined the gubernatorial race, was there because he’s a member of the LFC.

No, there weren’t any obvious tensions showing between King and Morales. In fact, Morales wasn’t in the room very much during King’s presentation.

Knowing what I do about these two candidates, I rather doubt that it gets very nasty between them.

If there are any fireworks in the Democratic primary, my guess is that it will come from the third candidate, Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque. In fact, just last week, Lopez took a swipe at King in a news release dealing with the behavioral health controversy.

For more on this, plus a sneak peak at U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce's upcoming autobiography CLICK HERE 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Heinrich & Udall Want to Delay Obamacare Enrollment Deadline

U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall have signed on to a letter from several Democratic senators asking President Obama to extend open enrollment for individuals trying to sign on for health insurance as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

This, of course, is due to the well-documented problems with the federal website www.healthcare.com.

In a statement, Heinrich said he joined the effort led by New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen:

"These technical glitches delay thousands of New Mexicans from enrolling in affordable health care coverage, which is unacceptable. An extension would give families time to properly evaluate plans and select a choice that is right for them. The Affordable Care Act has already yielded numerous benefits, and I'll continue working with my colleagues to ensure every family in New Mexico has access to quality and affordable health care." 

The full letter can be found HERE.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Supreme Court Hearing Podcast

Waiting for the hearing Wednesday
I normally only plug my own music podcast (oops, I did it again), but for those who missed yesterday's Supreme Court hearing on marriage equality, KUNM radio has done a great service by providing a podcast of the hearing.

You can find that HERE.

I have to applaud the high court for their unprecedented step of allowing TV and radio stations to stream yesterday's proceedings. The Supreme Court hearing room itself is surprisingly tiny, with only 40 seats or so for spectators -- and a big chunk of those seats yesterday were taken up by plaintiffs and county clerks, who were part of the case.

But the court staff provided overflow listening rooms in the court building itself and at the nearby Inn of the Governors. It's good to see this institution opening up.

My story on the hearing is over at The New Mexican site HERE.

My colleague Robert Nott wrote a companion piece about the crowd that showed up at the court yesterday. That's HERE.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Same-Sex Marriage Hearing

The New Mexico Supreme Court at the outset of Wednesday's hearing

I have to agree with something Arizona lawyer James Campbell said after this morning's hearing at the Supreme Court. Campbell, who argued against allowing same-sex marriage in New Mexico, was asked how he thought the justices would decide.He diplomatically brushed off the question, saying he never gets caught up in the game of predicting how judges were going to rule.

That's sound advice. Remember the U.S. Supreme Court hearing on Obama when all the pundits were predicting that the law would be struck down based on the questions and comments of the justices.

The same-sex marriage plaintiffs and their legal
team following the Supreme Court hearing
After the hearing, at least one opponent of gay marriage was predicting the court would rule against his position. “I think the die was cast before we came in here,” said State Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, told me during a break. But, Sharer stressed, if that's true, there will be a serious effort in the Legislature to pass a constitutional amendment to declare marriage is between one man and one woman. (Conservatives have tried to pass this nearly every year I've been covering the Roundhouse.)

Still, there was reason to think Sharer may be right about the ultimate decision of Court. Some of the questioning of Campbell did seem pretty tough.

At one point in the hearing, Justice Richard Bosson asked Campbell point blank, “Why shouldn’t you be able to marry who you choose?”

Campbell argued that the government has a compelling interest in marriage because it encourages “procreative relationships,” Bosson countered that in state marriage laws “there’s not word one about encouraging procreation.”

Justice Charles Daniels pointed out that opposite-sex couples get to file joint tax returns and have inheritance rights and joint-ownership rights whether or not they have children, Daniels also asked Campbell how allowing gay people to marry would discourage heterosexual couples from getting married.

Justice Barbara Vigil asked Campbell for “empirical data” that being raised by same-sex parents is adverse for children. Campbell conceded there isn’t such data. But he cited statistics from The Netherlands that the marriage rate went down and the rate of children born to unwed mothers went up after that country legalized gay marriage.

This might appear that the court wasn't impressed with Campbell's arguments.

Maybe they weren't. But remember, it's not always easy to predict how a judge will rule.

See more about the hearing in tomorrow's New Mexican.

Updated: 5:19 pm Here's a video of Sen. Sharer after the hearing, courtesy state Senate GOP spokeswoman Diane Kinderwater. (This isn't the conversation between Sharer and myself I referred to above, but he's saying basically the same thing.)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tomorrow's Supreme Court Hearing Will Be Streamed on the Web

Tomorrow's hearing on marriage equality at the New Mexico Supreme Court will be streamed on the Internet, I just verified.

This will be the first time the court has streamed a hearing

I first learned about this in an email this morning from the liberal group Progress Now New Mexico.

Seats in the actual courtroom will be full but there are rooms on site where you can watch live via a televised feed.
If you are unable to make it up to Santa Fe or just can't get away from your desk, we worked with KOAT to get a special live stream webpage set up so you can watch online.

The streaming will be on the KOAT site. 

Progress Now and several gay-rights groups are offering free coffee and donuts in front of the Supreme Court beginning at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. The hearing is scheduled to start at 9 a.m.

Monday, October 21, 2013

NM Supremes to Hear Marriage Equality This Week, But Don't Expect Immediate Decision

Wednesday is the day the state Supreme Court hears oral arguments on same-sex marriage.

But lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union said in a teleconference this afternoon that the high court has informed them that there will be no decision coming from the bench. Laura Schauer Ives, legal director for the state ACLU said hopefully the court will decide by the end of the year.

The lawsuits filed in at least two state courts by Republican lawmakers opposed to county clerks issuing marriage license to same-sex couples will not be part of Wednesday's hearing. However,  Elizabeth Gill, a national ACLU lawyer, said those legislators filed an amicus brief and will get time to present their arguments against marriage equality before the court on Wednesday.

Earlier this year, five state district judges ordered clerks to county clerks in Santa Fe, Bernalillo, Los Alamos, Taos, and Grant counties to issue licenses to same sex couples. A total of eight counties out of New Mexico's 33 counties are issuing licenses to gay couples.

More than 900 same-sex couples have been issued marriages this year.

The teleconference took place on the same day as New Jersey became the 14th state to allow same-sex marriage. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who opposed the decision by his state Supreme Court, announced this morning he won't appeal the case.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: Noncompetitive Races = Fewer Attack Ads

Is it possible that 2014 could come and go in New Mexico without wall-to-wall negative ads that make local television virtually impossible to watch during the final weeks of election season?

That’s probably doubtful, but it’s not out of the question if the top races here don’t become more competitive.

(I’ve said it before. If there’s anything worse than attack ads, it’s positive ads — with few exceptions.)

For more -- including Gov. Martinez's Big Hollywood connections -- see my column at The Santa Fe New Mexican website.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Traveling Lady

Gov. Susana Martinez
Gov. Susana Martinez will be racking up some frequent-flyer miles going to political events this month.

Tonight, the governor is traveling to San Antonio where on Thursday she's scheduled to give the keynote address for the 2013 Biennial Convention of the Texas Federation of Republican Women.

She'll be returning to New Mexico Thursday evening, her political consultant Jay McCleskey said. The Texas GOP group is covering the costs of her travel, McCleskey said.

On Monday, Oct. 21. Martinez is headed for my home state of Oklahoma for a fund-raising event for her re-election campaign. She'll return to New Mexico that same day, McCleskey said.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
On Wednesday, Oct. 23, Martinez will be in Denver to attend a statewide event for the Colorado Chamber of Commerce. "She will be discussing job creation and New Mexico's improved business climate with Colorado business leaders," McCleskey said. The expenses for that trip will be covered by the chamber, he said.

The next day, the governor is flying to Wisconsin for fund-raising events in Madison and Milwaukee for Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who also is up for re-election next year. Walker is frequently mentioned as a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate.

Martinez will return to New Mexico that evening. McCleskey said. Costs for the Wisconsin trip will be paid by the Walker campaign.

Campaign Finance Blowout

Blowout. That's probably the best one-word description for the campaign finance reports filed yesterday by candidates for governor in New Mexico.

Incumbent Gov. Susana Martinez at this point might be tempted to play like Scrooge McDuck and joyfully swim in a pool of currency. She's got more than $3.2 million cash on hand, according to her report. That's more than 20 times the figure for the strongest Democrat Gary King, who reported $142,000 in the bank.

My story in today's New Mexican is HERE

The other Democrat in the race, Sen. Linda Lopez of Albuquerque didn't file her report until right before midnight (way past my deadline but within the state's deadline). She had only $16,000 in her coffers.

(It looks like Sen. Howie Morales is about to enter the Democratic primary also. He's got a long way to catch up, but the anemic showing by King and Lopez could help him with Dems looking for an alternative candidate.)

But it wasn't completely bad news for Democrats yesterday. Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who is challenging incumbent Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who apparently hasn't yet launched a serious fund-raising effort, ended up with a cash balance of $45,000. Duran had just over $7,500 cash on hand.

No, the money race isn't the most important factor in a campaign. But, at least in the governor's race, the more-than-daunting financial advantage for Martinez could further cement the feeling of inevitability for her re-election. I wouldn't be surprised to see the national pundits like Larry Sabato and Charlie Cook change their ratings of the New Mexico governor's race from "Leans Republican" to "Safe Republican" in the near future unless something drastic happens.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Udall Gets Republican Challenger

A political newcomer from Las Cruces announced Tuesday that he will challenge Democrat U.S. Sen. Tom Udall next year.

David K. Clements, an assistant district attorney in Dona Ana County and chairman of the Dona Ana Republican Party describes himself as a "constitutional conservative and economics enthusiast" who said in a statement, "Career politicians" like Udall have disregarded their oaths to support and defend the Constitution "and have created a culture of dependency in New Mexico."

"Advancing free market policies that allow small businesses to create jobs, balancing the federal budget, and fighting to preserve the privacy rights of New Mexicans will be the focus of Clements’ candidacy," Clements' statement said.

Clements is married and has a son. Though he lives in Las Cruces, he said he spends time on his family ranch at Nara Visa in Quay County.

So far Clements is the only candidate to mount a challenge against Udall. National pundits have described Udall's seat as safe.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Vacation's Over

Well, that two weeks went by way too quickly!

I came back to work today only to find a dark and empty Roundhouse. Some state government shutdown? Nope, it's just Columbus Day.

It's not a heavy news day at all, though I'm working on a couple of stories for tomorrow's paper, so stay tuned.