Thursday, December 30, 2010

Get up early Friday if you want to know about Billy the Kid

Gov. Bill Richardson at 5:10 a.m. Mountain Time Friday will announce his decision on the Billy the Kid pardon. He'll do so on ABC's Good Morning America, his office announced. That's one way to get national attention, I suppose...while the rest of us locals sleep in.

Happy 2011!

So many of you have said this year that it was hard to read this blog against a black background. So it's about time I changed, it right?

(Not that it matters to the good folks at the PRC, who say they still can't read my blog at work.)

Thanks to all my readers this year for the mountain of tips and inside info. You kept it interesting in a year that was already fascinating on the political beat. See you in 2011.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Richardson done with pardons, except possibly Billy the Kid

Gov. Bill Richardson is done with pardons and commutations, his office just said in a news release -- with the exception of the case of Billy the Kid, which he still is considering.

According to records, he has pardoned 19 people so far. More information in the New Mexican Thursday.

As for those who recently have recently asked for executive clemency, Richardson said "I believe that requests of this nature must be fully vetted and investigated by the appropriate agencies to ensure that I do the right thing for those who request clemency as well as the citizens of New Mexico. While appreciate the urgency from those who have made last-minute requests for pardons, I do not have adequate time to thoroughly review them before leaving office."

A look at key players in the Martinez administration

I've got the first of several stories in today's paper about the key players behind Gov.-elect Susana Martinez. Check it out and stay tuned for the others.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fierro seeks clemency from governor

Carlos Fierro is seeking clemency from Gov. Bill Richardson. If you've been following the issue, we're still not sure who else is asking for clemency, however. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Journalists waiting on pardon application info

We've heard a lot about Billy the Kid's potential pardon from Gov. Bill Richardson. But we haven't heard yet on who else he might pardon, despite recent requests. I wrote about the issue in today's paper.

The Governor's Office is still working on the requests, and has until Dec. 29 to produce the records of who has applied for a pardon or to have their sentence commuted. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Martinez choses Hanna Skandera for education secretary

I couldn't go to the announcement today, but just got this from Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida who worked with Gov.-elect Susana Martinez' choice for education secretary, Hanna Skandera ...

“Hanna is a passionate, effective advocate for improving student achievement. Her vast academic, government and professional experience in education makes her an incredible asset to New Mexico as they work to improve student outcomes,” Bush said.

Skandera led school reforms in Florida and at one point worked in Dallas. More info from the Martinez camp on why they chose her, when I get it.

According to the group of which she once was the CEO , Skandera "was Deputy Chief of Staff to Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. While working in Washington for Secretary Spellings, Skandera focused on a range of issues related to K through 12 and postsecondary education. She previously served as Deputy Commissioner of Education in Florida."


In her statement, Martinez stated, “Hanna is a proven reformer who has successfully implemented education innovations and achievement-based reforms for two of our nation’s governors. She shares my belief that we must focus on implementing reforms that improve student achievement here in New Mexico, rather than simply throwing more money at a failed system.”

Martinez' office also said "Skandera has also served as an undersecretary of education for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and most recently as the deputy chief of staff and senior policy advisor in the U.S. Department of Education. Her career as an educator began during college, where she worked with Catholic Charities to develop peer education programs and life skills curricula that were used throughout the U.S. She is a graduate of Sonoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business and earned her Master of Public Policy from Pepperdine University, where she graduated first in her class."

Martinez to announce education secretary today

Gov.-elect Susana Martinez will announce who her choice for education secretary is today at 2:30 in Albuquerque. While much attention has been paid to budget officials, this could be among the toughest jobs in state government, given the state of our public schools . . .

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sunshine portal is up and running!

Check it out:

The Department of Information Technology says this is a beta version, and it's accepting feedback about the site, which puts so much information online, it's hard to fathom.

When the site is fully operational, you will be able to see which vendors are doing the most business with the state, get copies of State Land Office contracts and see how much the state brings in and how it spends its revenue. In addition, you'll be able to check out state investments, capital projects and more.

Already, though, I have got to say that in less than ten seconds I was able to click on an agency and pull up a complete list of employees and salaries -- sooooooo much easier than how we do things now. And, there's a master calendar for all the upcoming state government meetings, which is also handy.

The group that built the site, RealTimeSites, is accepting feedback for 30 days, so check it out and see what parts are easy to use and what sections need improving.

The site comes after Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, last year sponsored the measure to put the information online before July of next year. In a world that's really known for bureaucracy, this effort has been amazingly fast.

OK, I'm off to browse some more. This is a really great tool for anyone who wants to know more about state government.

A look at Richardson's discretionary stimulus spending

Former Gov. Toney Anaya, who heads up the state's Office of Recovery and Reinvestment, has said that the spending of the state's share of stimulus money will be transparent. In covering the stimulus as part of my beat, I've found that generally to be the case so far, although it took a while to get used to how the state presents the information on its website. And, it still takes some knowledge of state government speak to wade through the reports.

Anyway, when Gov. Bill Richardson announced yesterday that he was spending the last of his discretionary stimulus pot, (and not on a horse ranch) I looked back and what else he had used the $58 million in discretionary funds for. Here's a complete list, from the recovery office.

New Mexico Corrections Department. Help balance the state budget as the state continues to feel the impact of the recession. This move will help avoid cuts to important state services. $20,000,000

Help stave off additional state-employee furloughs and layoffs, $3.1 million

Graduate New Mexico! Initiative $8,312,877

Purchase land on the College of Santa Fe Campus $4,000,000

Expand Cerrillos Hills State Park and establish wild horse refuge $3,000,000

Assist teachers with health insurance premiums, professional development $2,500,000

Fund child care assistance and services $2,000,000

General Assistance Program for struggling New Mexicans $2,000,000

New construction and renovation at Los Luceros $1,750,000

Fund the New Mexico Office of Recovery and Reinvestment $1,150,000

Fund new Rio Rancho fire station $1,000,000

Food purchase and transportation to address food insecurity, including matching funds for farmers' markets purchases by
SNAP recipients $1,000,000

Fund interactive whiteboards in New Mexico classrooms $1,000,000

Fund dam and structural repairs at six acequias, or community irrigation systems $823,500

Fund State Police vehicles and fuel $750,000

Fund early childhood programs $734,000

City of Albuquerque Fire Department Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus $685,000

Fund Sunday Rail Runner service $643,500

Fund school breakfast and GRADS program $460,000

Cover budget shortfall to avoid furloughs in New Mexico courts $450,000

Department of Cultural Affairs furlough prevention $352,200

Fund Center for Education and Studies of Diverse Populations $350,000

Treatment services for veterans suffering from PTSD $350,000

Animal protection training for law enforcement $350,000

Construct wetlands treatment cell at Zuni Pueblo $300,000

Bernalillo County water project $300,000

Human Services Department furlough prevention $295,300

Fund juvenile justice community programs $250,000

Promote tourism opportunities in New Mexico through increased branding, advertising, and promotion $250,000

Fund Child Crisis Center of Southern New Mexico $250,000

Cover budget shortfall in the Pre-Kindergarten Program $237,123

Alleviate Developmental Disabilities Planning Council budget shortfall $209,800

Provide landscaping, furnishings, and equipment needs at New Mexico State University's Native American Student Center

Address budget shortfall to alleviate case backlog at the Public Defender Department $200,000

Fund Santa Fe International Folk Art Market $200,000

Support domestic violence programs $200,000

International Relations Institute at New Mexico State University $200,000

New Mexico Land Grant Council funding $200,000

Energy efficiency upgrades to higher education institution campuses $200,000

Wild horse herd management on the Jicarilla Apache Nation $100,000

New Mexico Highlands University - New Mexico Cultural Programs and Materials $100,000

Gadsden Independent School District STEM Program $100,000

Completion of heating and cooling system at New Mexico School for the Deaf $100,000

Health Careers Pathway Program at Raton High School $75,000

Promote Tour of the Gila bike race in Silver City $50,000

Children of incarcerated parents $50,000

Fund budget shortfall at Lensic Performing Arts Center and free admissions for children $50,000

Regulation and Licensing Department furlough prevention $15,700

Adult Parole Board furlough prevention $8,000

Office of Natural Resources Trustee furlough prevention $7,100

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New sunshine portal to launch sooner than expected

Good news in the good government category: the state's sunshine portal will be unveiled Thursday at a press conference in Albuquerque.

The site promises a ton of public information in one spot, including the yearly budgets for each state agency, with a categorized monthly expenditure list, a monthly summary of the State Investment Council's investments, info on all state employees, positions and titles and revenue the state is receiving, broken out by category. In addition, it will have a regular update of the state's check ledger.

If it works as promised, this will be a super handy tool for anyone who wants quick access to accurate information about how taxpayer money is being spent.

Sen. Sander Rue, who sponsored the bill to create the website, called it a one-stop shop.
"With the click of a mouse, the public can more actively participate in its state government. This one-stop shop website allows members of the public to more readily and easily become engaged in how government runs with our tax dollars," he said in a statement.

So far, it sounds like the site will quickly become a favorite for those following state government.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

ERB releases new proposals

If you are following the debate over how to keep the ERB solvent, check out the new proposal the ERB has put forth. It's posted here under "preliminary solvency proposal."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

ERB vote on pension changes postponed

The ERB just announced it has postponed by a week the decision on proposed changes to its pension plan, including making teachers work longer.

The meeting will be Dec 17 instead of the 10th. It will be held at CNM's Smith Brasher Hall in Albuquerque. (The board will still meet the 10th, just not on this topic.)

The move comes after criticism by teachers, who want more time to give input on the changes.

UPDATE, 2:36 p.m.

To clarify: the board is taking public comment on this issue Friday the 10th, but not voting.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Are state pension plans better than the private sector?

After I wrote this story in today's paper about the status of the state's pension plans, a couple of readers pointed out it might be interesting to compare those plans to private companies.

So send me info on where you work and what your benefits are. How much do you chip in and what about your employer? How many years do you have to work before you can retire and how many employees are at your company? I hope to use the info in an upcoming story.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Martinez names team to review aviation safety

Gov.-elect Susana Martinez has just named six men to review the safety of the state's airplane fleet. The members of the group "reflect the Governor-elect’s belief that any aircraft flying over New Mexico should be maintained safely and operated properly. Due to the fact that questions have been raised about the safe operation of state aircraft, the Governor-elect has asked a group of experts to review the matter and provide a preliminary assessment of the maintenance condition and operational safety of state government aircraft."

The team is

Mike Rice is a retired brigadier general from the New Mexico Air National Guard and Arkansas Air National Guard. Rice currently works as an aviation consultant, and served as the director of aviation for the City of Albuquerque and director of the aviation division for the New Mexico Department of Transportation.


Mike Arias has is a retired chief master sergeant with the Air National Guard and worked in aviation quality assurance for 15 years.


Terry O’Brien has been involved in aviation since 1972. O’Brien currently owns and operates A&P Services LLC, an aircraft maintenance company in Edgewood. He served as the director of maintenance for a FAR Part 141 flight school in Georgia, and mechanic for a FAR Part 135 repair station and a 135 charter company in Albuquerque.


Richard L. Perry is a retired colonel with the U.S. Air Force, and has a broad background in aviation operations and maintenance. Perry served as the director of engineering and system safety at the U.S. Air Force Safety Center and ran the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Airworthiness Assurance NDI Validation Center before starting his own consulting company providing aviation safety management and forensic engineering services. He holds an airline transport pilot certificate and served as chief pilot for an FAA certificated flight school.


Steve is a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, and currently the director of the Configurable Space Microsystems Innovation and Applications Center (COSMIAC) at the University of New Mexico, as well as the owner of a small airborne surveillance and imaging-related company. Suddarth has developed several airborne imaging systems for the U.S. military.


Ed Whitworth retired from the New Mexico Air National Guard as the 150th Logistics Group Commander. Whitworth is an aircraft maintenance officer and aircraft chief of maintenance for A7D and F16 aircraft.

The questions about the safety that Martinez is referring to were raised in this Larry Barker report.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Navarrette: Martinez story "just beginning"

Columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. has this look at Gov.-elect Susana Martinez today. He says her story -- and presumably her path to something bigger -- is "just beginning."

Navarrette says Martinez is scaring many Democrats with her popularity.

Martinez already is stirring anxiety among Democrats. The fact that she appeals to different groups of voters -- earning 38 percent of the Latino vote in the governor's race, according to exit polls -- makes her a threat to the opposition. Just like one-time federal appellate court nominee Miguel Estrada and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, she'll be a target for the left because hers is an inspirational success story that might convince Latino voters to take a fresh look at the GOP.

It remains to be seen what the Democrats in charge of the Legislature think, but I've spoken to several in the past days who are looking forward to someone new, even if they face major disagreements over policy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gardner to be Martinez chief of staff

Rep. Keith Gardner will serve as Gov.-elect Susana Martinez chief of staff, her team announced today.

Here's the list of other people she has named today, straight from the e-mail:


Keith Gardner serves in leadership in the New Mexico Legislature as minority whip in the House of Representatives, in addition to representing District 66 and the people of Chaves, Eddy, Lea and Roosevelt Counties. Gardner is the managing partner of Sprint Sports Rehabilitation Clinic in Roswell where he has resided for the last 17 years.


Ryan Cangiolosi most recently served as director of personnel for the Governor-Elect Martinez Transition Committee. Cangiolosi also served as campaign manager for Susana Martinez for Governor. He has extensive business experience and is an officer in the United States Naval Reserve. Cangiolosi has a BA and an MBA from the University of New Mexico.


Brian Moore most recently served as director of policy planning for the Governor-Elect Martinez Transition Committee. Moore is a business owner from Clayton and was a candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010. He was a member of the New Mexico House of Representatives from 2000-2008 serving on numerous committees including legislative finance and was a strong advocate for New Mexico’s rural communities.


Jessica Hernandez is a director in the litigation department in the Albuquerque office of Rodey, Dickason, Sloan Akin, & Robb, PA. Hernandez specializes in cases involving product, premises and general liability matters. She has served as a law clerk for the Honorable James O. Browning, United States District Judge for the District of New Mexico and received recognition as the youngest member of the New Mexico State Bar in 2003, 2004 and 2005.


Matthew Stackpole most recently served as director of support and coordination for the Governor-Elect Martinez Transition Committee. Stackpole served as deputy director of campaign operations for Susana Martinez for Governor. Previously, he assisted Richard J. Berry’s campaign for Albuquerque mayor, as well as field operations for the Republican Party of New Mexico. Stackpole graduated from the University of New Mexico Law School in May 2010.


Scott Darnell, a Farmington native, served as the communications director for the Republican Party of New Mexico and worked as a weekly commentator on the KNME-TV political discussion program, “New Mexico in Focus.” Darnell is a graduate of the University of New Mexico and received a Master in Public Policy degree from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is currently completing his work as a teaching fellow in the Department of Government at Harvard University.


Matt Kennicott most recently served as director of legislative and constituent affairs for the Governor-Elect Martinez Transition Committee. Kennicott was previously director of campaign operations for Susana Martinez for Governor. He has served as the chief of staff for the House Republican Caucus in the New Mexico House of Representatives.

Solano resigns

Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano has resigned.

According to our story online, Solano admitted he used his office to sell old protective body vests and other supplies no longer utilized by deputies.

Here's more:

Solano submitted his resignation Wednesday and the investigation of his actions is now in the hands of state police. Undersheriff Robert Garcia was elected to serve as sheriff starting Jan. 1 and it is likely he will be named by county commissioners to assume the post immediately.

"I have done some things that I should not have done and am ready to come clean and face the consequences," Solano wrote to staff and supporters.

Solano then went on to explain how the transactions occurred.

"Several years ago, I read articles about families of soldiers buying protective body vests and sending them to their loved ones overseas, to wear for additional protection. I also saw that they were buying them online. I began selling old vests from the Sheriff's Department in this fashion," he said.

Solano said that protective body vests are turned in by officers when they get new ones or when they leave the Sheriff's Office and they are normally these are destroyed and discarded.

"They are warranted for five years and it's not recommended for law enforcement use after that. During the last few years I have taken these vests and sold them online - mostly to military personnel who wanted them for extra protection overseas. I sold vests and several other items such as old cell phones left over from when we replaced department issued phones, flashlights, police belts, and holsters.

"This was wrong, illegal, unethical and dishonest," he wrote.

Solano wrote that he his family has been stressed financially, "Unfortunately, I am just a normal man trying to keep my family afloat during these tough financial times. This is not an excuse. What I did was wrong and cannot be justified."

More later, no doubt.

UPDATE, 12:15 p.m.
This, straight from State Police:

Over the course of the past several months, the New Mexico State Police have been looking into an allegation of embezzlement by Greg Solano.
Through the four month investigation agents with the New Mexico State Police Investigations Bureau have learned that Greg Solano was selling Santa Fe County property. The amount of property has not come to a final tally; the scheme was facilitated through e-bay where Solano would sell items illegally.
Through the course of the investigation we have been working with the 1st Judicial District Attorney’s Office. The case is ongoing and once complete an update will be provided.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Exempt to classified employees

The State Personnel Office this afternoon released this list, amid the uproar over recent reports about exempt employees transferring to classified posts. It doesn't include anyone hired after the election -- employees Gov.-elect Martinez has said she would fire unless approved by her. The list does include jobs that were converted from one classification to another.

Exempt to Classified Employees-1

More info on exempts who transfered to classified spots

Channel 4 is out with this story on a popular topic these days: exempt employees transferring to classified jobs.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Candidate announces against Ben Ray Lujan

So it's a little early to be thinking about the 2012 elections, (or at least that's what I thought) but Republican Victor Marquez says he plans to run against U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan.

Marquez is a 36-year old Santa Fean who graduated from St. Mike's High School in 1991. He has an active secret clearance, works at the New Mexico Joint Operations Center at the Army National Guard and is a contract private investigator and director of operations with the Worldwide Investigations and Intelligence Group.

He seems excited about his candidacy and plans to make a formal announcement and publish a website later. I will of course write more about Marquez as I learn more, and as we get a little closer to the election. (We political reporters do deserve a break from the campaign trail every once and a while, right?)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wanted: your ideas on cutting budget waste

Ok, so a reporter can only find out so much about waste in state government. That's where you come in, especially if you are a state employee. What's being wasted at your department, or a department you do business with or otherwise know about? If you were advising Gov.-elect Martinez, where would you tell her to cut?
Be specific, and I could use your ideas in an upcoming story.

Write your ideas for trimming the budget in the comment section below or email me.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Richard May is DFA pick

Gov.-elect Susana Martinez has nominated Richard E. May to serve as her secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration.

Here's the rundown on his experience, from the Martinez camp:

"May has led a respected and accomplished career that includes working for Sandia National Laboratories as a manager, serving as chief appropriations and tax analyst for the Republican caucus in the New Mexico House of Representatives, and operating as a policy director for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP, as well as a principal at Davidson & Company, Inc. Prior to that, May served as majority staff director and Republican staff director in the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Budget, a federal affairs counsel at the National Conference of State Legislatures, and legislative director for Congressman John R. Kasich."

May's work is cut out for him, no doubt, given the now $450 million budget shortfall. Martinez said in a statement that May will help make "the tough decisions."

"The failure of state government to live within its means is inexcusable and it’s time we make the tough decisions necessary to finally put our fiscal house in order," she said. "In doing so, we must be mindful that the long-term solution to our budget crisis is economic growth and that is why we must balance the budget by cutting spending, rather than raising taxes, so we can create an environment where small businesses can grow and create jobs. I am committed to working with members of both parties in the legislature to accomplish this goal – the people of New Mexico deserve no less.”

Martinez said May will "help restore fiscal discipline by instituting zero growth budgets, identifying waste, fraud and abuse, and creating greater efficiencies by doing more with less." He is to set to work immediately, reviewing the budget, Martinez said.

Martinez to name DFA nominee today

Gov.-elect Susana Martinez today will name her choice to head the Department of Finance and Administration. She will do this at the Capitol this afternoon.

It goes without saying that whoever the nominee is, he or she has some serious work ahead, given the latest news on how big the state's budget really is. He or she also has a workload and a half sorting through any recent hires, exempts who have moved to classified posts and people who recently have gotten raises. That's just one area, of course, that the Martinez team will be looking at come Jan. 1.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Some state employees got raises while others faced furloughs

Channel 4 has a fascinating piece on state employees getting raises while others faced unpaid days off. Some of the employees didn't even ask for the raises while one employee got a raise for helping Department of Public Safety Secretary John Denko renew newspaper subscriptions and update his Blackberry, according to the report. See it below.

I will update later with reaction from Gov.-elect Susana Martinez. It will be interesting to see if there's anything she can do to undo the raises. She said yesterday she'd fire any exempt employees who have accepted classified positions since the election without prior discussion with her.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Martinez to fire any exempt who moves to a classified post without prior discussion

Gov.-elect Susana Martinez will immediately fire any exempt employees of Gov. Bill Richardson who move to classified jobs after the November election without speaking with her transition team, according to a letter from former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, who is chairing her transition team.

The move is meant to stem the usual tide of exempt employees who seek work in "safe" classified spots. I've written some about those moves in past week, as has Thom Cole of the Albuquerque Journal. I get phone calls almost daily with new tips on Richardson appointees who are trying for classified jobs.

Martinez at a press conference earlier today mentioned that she had asked Richardson to stop allowing this, but she didn't mention the letter. Already, Richardson has ordered an end to any more hires in state government, but hasn't said anything publicly about transfers.

I wish Martinez luck in digging into which exempts have indeed moved to classified spots. I know from experience that it is time consuming to follow the paper trail.

Below is the letter to Richardson chief of staff Brian Condit.

"Dear Brian,

In my first communication to you on November 4, 2010, I asked you suspend any transfers of personnel from exempt positions to classified positions effective immediately. I suggested if there are particularly compelling circumstances, we should discuss them on a case-by-case basis.

Today’s Albuquerque Journal reports that, “More of Gov. Bill Richardson’s political appointees have slid into career civil service jobs with state government in recent months … Appointees, or so-called exempt employees, serve at the pleasure of the governor.”

These kinds of personnel actions in the waning days of an administration certainly seem to circumvent the will of the people of New Mexico who voted in a new administration into office just a week ago. The fact that some of these employees are apparently moving into jobs with very high salaries when there is a freeze in place for hiring and a $250 million-plus state budget deficit is inappropriate.

The Governor-elect has made clear that current employees are welcome to apply for jobs in her administration. She is looking for highly-qualified people of character who share her vision for the state of New Mexico.

I am reiterating my request that you immediately suspend any transfers of political appointees to classified posts.

Furthermore, I wish to inform you that any employee who moves from an exempt to classified position after November 3, 2010 without prior discussion with the Transition Committee on a case-by-case basis will immediately be terminated upon the swearing in of Governor-elect Susana Martinez on January 1, 2011.


Heather Wilson
Chairman, Governor-Elect Martinez Transition Committee

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Richardson: no more hiring

After I wrote this story for Saturday's paper about the ongoing hiring at state government, Gov. Bill Richardson today said he's putting it to an end. (At least for the agencies under his control.)

"We took decisive action two years ago to severely restrict hiring, which has shrunk state government by more than 2,000 employees and saved tens of millions of dollars," he said in a statement. "However, in an effort to work with governor-elect, I am suspending all hiring during the transition."

Richardson leaves office at the end of the year, making way for Gov.-elect Susana Martinez. Richardson, who implemented a hiring freeze in November 2008, has been heavily criticized for adding so many jobs to the state payroll after he was first elected, and for allowing so many exemptions to the freeze.

Maybe this is the true hiring freeze the fiscal conservatives in the Legislature -- and elsewhere in the state, for that matter -- have been seeking.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Martinez names transition team members

Gov.-elect Susana Martinez has named key members of her transition team.

Here's information straight from her press release:

Nicole McCleskey is a partner at Public Opinion Strategies (POS), a political and public affairs research firm and was part of the senior strategy team for the Susana Martinez for Governor Campaign. McCleskey is also active in local community organizations and currently serves as President-elect of the Junior League of Albuquerque. McCleskey has a B.A. from Claremont McKenna College and M.A. degrees from George Washington University and the University of Southern California.

Paul Kennedy is a former New Mexico Supreme Court Justice. Justice Kennedy is currently a partner in the firm Kennedy & Han. Kennedy is a graduate of Georgetown Law School.

Danny Diaz is founder of Diaz Communications LLC and former communications director of the Republican National Committee (RNC). Prior to that, he served as deputy communications director for John McCain 2008 and southwest regional press secretary for Bush-Cheney ’04.

Ryan Cangiolosi most recently served as Susana Martinez for Governor Campaign Manager. He has extensive business experience and is an officer in the United States Naval Reserve. Cangiolosi has a BA and an MBA from the University of New Mexico.

Brian Moore is a business owner from Clayton and was a candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010. He was a member of the New Mexico House of Representatives from 2000-2008 serving on numerous committees including legislative finance and was a strong advocate for New Mexico’s rural communities.

Matt Stackpole most recently served as Susana Martinez for Governor Deputy Manager of Campaign Operations. Previously, Stackpole assisted the Richard J. Berry’s campaign for Albuquerque mayor and in field operations for the Republican Party. Stackpole graduated from UNM Law School in May 2010.

Matt Kennicott was previously Susana Martinez for Governor Director of Campaign Operations. He has served as the Chief of Staff for the House Republican Caucus in the New Mexico House of Representatives.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Heather Wilson to head Martinez transition team

Martinez is calling on long time friend Heather Wilson to take charge of the team, she said at a press conference in Albuquerque today.

People looking for information about the transition, including potential jobs, can check out this site.

Martinez to make "official announcement"

Gov.-elect Susana Martinez this afternoon will make an "official announcement" at her campaign headquarters in Albuquerque. The announcement could be about anything, of course, but likely will have some transition news. I couldn't get anything else out of her staffers, but will update when I know something.

Chatting with Chuck

I had a fun conversation last week with the man who is now the state's first first gentleman-elect, Chuck Franco. He will no doubt bring some country-style fun to the governor's mansion. Check out my story here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's Martinez

About the only question last night at the Susana Martinez victory party was what took so long for her to give the acceptance speech? It was pretty clear from early on she had the race wrapped up, so the night was less dramatic than other elections around the state. But historic nonetheless.

Anyway, here's what I wrote from her home town:

LAS CRUCES — A year ago, Susana Martinez was just a few months into her nascent gubernatorial campaign, a district attorney largely unknown outside her hometown here.

Just six months later, it was unclear whether she could elbow through the primary, facing well-known Republicans who had more money, and some said, more muscle. To say the least, things have changed dramatically.

Her ascent as a rising Republican star was marked at the Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces, where Tuesday night she gave an acceptance speech as New Mexico's governor-elect.

Martinez and lieutenant governor candidate John Sanchez bested Democrats Diane Denish and Brian Colón by 54 to 46 percent, with 21 of 33 counties reporting, according to the Secretary of State's website.

"At the end of the day, New Mexicans chose a different direction and I thank them for their trust and their courage," Martinez told a crowd of about 1,000 supporters, as many wearing cowboy boots as dress shoes.

"This victory tonight says something that someone who grew up in a working family just a few miles from the border can achieve anything," she said.

The rise will take Martinez, an El Pasoan by birth, from a neighborhood not too far from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, to the Governor's Mansion in Santa Fe. From high school student-body president to the fourth floor of the state Capitol. From a prosecutor known in legal circles to the biggest name in the state — and to one now mentioned by syndicated columnist George Will as a potential vice presidential candidate.

It means the 51-year-old lawyer will rule more than a Doña Ana County prosecutor's office. It means she will be the chief executive of a state where she pledged during her speech to "create jobs, get our books in order, eliminate the corruption and turn our schools around.

"We're going to get our books in order and end the shell games that have taken place in the Roundhouse for the last eight years," she told a crowd of supporters, many of whom wore "I 'heart' Governor Martinez" T-shirts, or buttons, or both, and waved the campaign's black and yellow signs for TV live shots.

So how did the once teenage security guard who patrolled the parking lots outside bingo games become New Mexico's first female governor and the country's first Hispanic female governor?

Observers say it was a grueling campaign schedule, a no-holds-barred debate style and a play-to-win-no-matter-what mentality.

The slumping economy, and an anti-incumbent sentiment also helped, local political scientists said.

"I'm absolutely sure a number of voters picked Martinez as an anti-(Gov. Bill) Richardson vote," University of New Mexico political science professor Christine Sierra said. "And Diane Denish got caught in the crosshairs."

Denish for a good part of the campaign worked to distance herself from Richardson, but Martinez constantly tried to tie Denish to him and what Martinez said were his failures as governor.

Lonna Atkeson, another a UNM professor, said Martinez also had a nationwide movement behind her. "She had the wind behind her of the national Republicans," Atkeson said.

The movement was large. Across the country, the GOP picked up 11 governor's offices, including the one in Santa Fe that Democrats have held for the past eight years and where many thought a year ago Denish would be a shoo-in.

While Martinez was nothing but smiles at the swanky hotel, where mariachis greeted guests on plush carpets, the job she starts Jan. 1 will be tough. She and her husband, Doña Ana County Undersheriff Chuck Franco, move to the City Different at a time of sagging revenues, angry voters and general dislike of what's happened in Santa Fe.

"They really are going to have to make some hard choices," Atkeson said. "If she (Martinez) isn't going to raise taxes, she's going to have to make cuts, and that's not popular."

As she campaigned, Martinez rolled out various ideas for dealing with the budget, education, crime — albeit short on details.

Martinez will face another complicating factor: the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

"It will be a very tough job, both in the challenge of cutting down the deficit and balancing a budget with money we don't have," Sierra said. "But before that even, she still has to work with a Democratic majority in the Legislature."

Part of the rub, no doubt, will come as the state delves into the task of political redistricting based on new census numbers, something Sierra predicted would end up in court, as it did a decade ago after former Republican Gov. Gary Johnson become locked in his own battle with a Democratic Legislature.

And, part of her new work may mean persuading some who didn't vote for her that she can do the job, and persuading everyone else that she can get up to speed on the intricacies of the Capitol's fourth floor, and pronto.

"We don't know a lot about executive women because there haven't been too many of them," Atkeson said. "But I'm assuming she's going to run the state like she did her district attorney's office."

Whatever her work entails starting in 2011, for now, her goal no doubt is to rest. And to get ready. Between now and then, she will leave the job to which she was first elected in 1996, and Franco will retire from his.

At the end of her 14-minute speech, Martinez asked for supporters to continue their prayers for her and her campaign.

She then shook hands in the crowd, and was off, likely to more sleep than she's had in months.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vote today

. . . it's your last chance. If you need help with polling places, or remembering what all you are supposed to be voting for, see our election day resource list here.

Catch our recap of the election here.

When you are done voting, (or before, if you really wait) check out our live blog on the New Mexican's homepage. I will be updating from Las Cruces once I get there. Also, tune into KUNM, 89.9 FM for on air updates.

While we we do our best to keep you up to date on local elections, check out the New York Times' election tracker for a look at what is happening around the country.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sen. Mary Jane Garcia back in hospital with blood clot after attack

Senate Majority Whip Mary Jane Garcia is now in a Las Cruces hospital with a blood clot in her leg after being attacked in Albuquerque Sept. 16. She suffered a fractured leg in the incident at the Hotel Albuquerque.

Garcia, 73, has undergone physical therapy since the attack and has been in good spirits recently, sources who have been in contact with her said. She had been at home after the attack and even attended the Clinton rally in Espanola, albeit in a wheelchair. Doctors now want to keep her immobilized to prevent the clot from moving, someone who spoke with her by phone today said.

Garcia will talk in depth about the attack on the Report from Santa Fe show this weekend on KNME-TV, Channel 5. The show airs on Friday night at 10:30 and Sunday morning at 7:30.

Secretary of State back in the news for voting glitch

You've probably read this news today about the problems with early voting. You might also have seen this report from the New Mexico Independent about how few newspapers have endorsed Herrera. So I thought it was time to post the only real debate I've seen between Mary Herrera and Dianna Duran, courtesy of Report from Santa Fe with Lorene Mills.

This text will be replaced

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New anti-Martinez ad focuses on water

Water hasn't been the biggest topic in the 2010 gubernatorial race, although I have written a little about it.

(Along with that, the environment in general hasn't been discussed much either, although my colleague Staci Matlock did pen this piece.)

With less than a week to go until the election, the group We Are New Mexico just came out with this ad on water.

Water - Five New Mexican Women Express Concern About Susana Martinez - from matthew betlej on Vimeo.

Richardson administration still stingy with exempt info

Here's a little nugget worth reading about this morning. Thom Cole's column delves into a still apparently tricky topic with the Gov. Bill Richardson administration: exempt employees.

We've seen how the current administration deals with such information. So how will the next governor deal with the media, public records requests and other open government topics? I've got a story in the works on just that topic. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Duran's campaign says she's ahead

Republican Sen. Dianna Duran has a double digit lead over incumbent Mary Herrera, Duran's campaign manager said today.

Sen. Rod Adair, who is running the GOP effort to take control of the Secretary of State's Office, said he's hopeful about the race.

"We have reason to believe we are up by a double digit lead and we are optimistic about that," he said "But we also know there are lots and lots of undecided voters out there and we're hoping those vote in our favor."

Adair said he couldn't cite any information about the lead but seemed extremely upbeat on the phone today.

The Republican Party is eager to take control of the office but has struggled in the past to come close. This year, Herrera has been dogged by bad headlines about her office, which is a theme of Duran's TV ad.

By contrast, Herrera says she's worked to clean up the office and focused on that theme in her ad. The ad, which delved into the improvements she's made since being elected, however, was recently pulled down from the Internet, which is curious . . .

$4 million mystery solved

OK so I did get some info on the mystery contract Susana Martinez mentioned during last night's debate. Turns out it was a recent renewal of an ongoing contract that the state has for risk management cases with the Robles, Rael and Anaya law firm, of which Democratic Lt. Gov. candidate Brian Colon is a partner.

At the current time, Colon isn't billing any hours at the firm, a campaign spokesman said. The contract has been in place for about four years, according to Chris Salas, who said it is worth up to $4 million. Risk management has many similar contracts for services with other law firms, some of which are quite lucrative.

Anyone wishing for more debates?

Don't know about you, but I was sort of hoping to see the candidates square off a few more times after last night. Alas, that was the last scheduled debate before the Nov. 2. election. Check out our coverage here and here.

One big thing that went unanswered in my mind was the $4 million contract that Susana Martinez said Brian Colon had just gotten with the state. (I'm also still wondering about Martinez' grandparents and whether they were from Mexico, a question I asked her campaign about two weeks ago, after she said in a New Mexican story that her great grandparents were the most recent immigrant members of her family, something that appears to conflict with what she told the Laura Ingraham radio show.)

Of course, I'm also wondering what kind of tasty meals Diane Denish would be whipping up, after she said the mansion doesn't need a chef because she can cook.

Although the debates are over, expect many more TV ads between now and the election. Check out some spoof ads here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

SOS ads on the air

Several people have asked to see the TV ads in the secretary of state race. Here they are, side by side.

First, Sen. Dianna Duran's ad:

and, the ad from Mary Herrera:

I haven't seen any polling in this race -- if you have, please let me know -- but it's a talker for sure, given the recent headlines about the office. THe fact that both campaigns have ads out, which usually doesn't happen in such a down ballot race, is an indicator that both parties think it might be close.

Friday, October 15, 2010

And now for some downballot news

I finally got around to writing my story on the state treasurer's race between incumbent James Lewis and Republican Jim Schoonover, which you can read here. You should also check out this piece by Heath Haussamen for more info on Schoonover's background.

Today, I'm working to finish my piece on the auditor's race, in which there's been a development. On Thursday night, GOP chairman Harvey Yates said the Republican candidate Errol Chavez has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. It's unclear at this point what that means for his candidacy.

Here's the statement from Yates:

"For the last several weeks Errol has been suffering from a medical condition, the cause of which was unknown. However, yesterday medical examinations revealed that Errol has a brain tumor. Tomorrow he is being transported to a major out-of-state hospital for further diagnosis and treatment of the tumor. While we wait for additional information, our thoughts and prayers are with Errol and his family during this difficult time."

My other story in today's paper, on the situation with Brian Colon's Florida condo is here.

Update, 9:50 a.m.

Chavez's campaign director just called to say he's not giving up on the election, despite having to go out of town now for treatment.

"He's been adamant he will stay in the race," said director Christopher Martinez. "He's been adamant that miracles do happen."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Weekly Standard: lien placed against Colon's Florida condo

The Weekly Standard is reporting that Brian Colon isn't up to date on payments for a Florida condo. See their story here.
In part, the story says
"Recently uncovered documents reveal that Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor Brian Colón has refused to make payments on a condo that he owns in Florida. A representative of the Sunrise Lakes Condominium Apartments association in Sunrise, Florida claims that Colón has refused to pay his mortgage and his maintenance fee, which has resulted in a lien being placed on the property.

The representative says that Colón inherited the property in 2008, and that since then he has refused to respond to requests to pay for outstanding fees and mortgage payments. Colón is listed as the responsible party for the property. Letters and phone calls have been sent to Colón and his campaign in order to reclaim payment, but so far they have been ignored.

The Sunrise Lakes condominiums are designed as an affordable retirement home community for seniors with many of the units selling for under $20,000. The main point of his concern was that since Colón has refused to address his payments, other tenants have had to foot the costs with increases in their own fees.

Records with the Broward County courts show that as of last year, Colón owed $4,269.75 for outstanding condominium fees and $12,650.43 for the one-bedroom unit. The most recent court documents are from the July 2009, when the condominium association decided to take legal action against Colón."

I'm seeking comment from Colon.

Update, 9:04 pm

Colon said the apartment was his mother's home. "When she passed away, she handed it down to me and my siblings. We are working as a family to resolve this matter," he said in a statement.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Martinez will donate money from controversial oil man to rape crisis center

Republican Susana Martinez said she will donate $20,000 in contributions from Texas oil man Clayton Williams to a Las Cruces rape crisis center.

The donation comes after Democrats called on her to return the money from Williams, a one-time gubernatorial candidate who the Associated Press has quoted about rape as saying "As long as it’s inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it."

La Pinon, the center that will get the money, is glad for the cash, but not taking sides in the gubernatorial race.

“I know first-hand that Susana has dedicated her life to fighting sexual abuse and helping turn victims into survivors. Claiming Susana is anything but a champion for rape survivors is reprehensible.” Donna Richmond, director of La Pinon.

Martinez got $5,000 from him in the primary and $15,000 for the general election. Her campaign manager said Martinez had met Williams, but didn't know the circumstances of their meeting.

Dems say Martinez should give back money of man who made rape joke

Democrats are calling on Republican Susana Martinez to return $15,000 from Texas oil man and former gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams after a joke he made about rape.

The Denish camp in a release said:

When he was running for Governor he (Williams) said bad weather is like rape. “As long as it’s inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.” [AP, 6/14/08] Williams' public statements are shocking and offensive to rape victims and women, and have no place in the New Mexico Governor’s race.

"This is absolutely outrageous and cuts to the core of why Susana Martinez is wrong for New Mexico,” Denish spokesman Chris Cervini said.

"She has taken yet another big donation from a Texas billionaire. But this time, he is also a Texas politician who jokes about the rape of women. Susana Martinez needs to immediately return the money and explain to New Mexicans why she thought it was acceptable to take money from someone who has made fun of rape victims so publicly," Cervini said.

"New Mexicans need to send a clear message to Susana Martinez that there is no place for this behavior in our state."

Sen. John McCain once cancelled an event with Williams, according to the Dallas Morning News.

I have a message into the Martinez people seeking comment.

Update, 5:21 pm

Martinez will donate the money to a rape crisis center in Las Cruces, campaign manager Ryan Cangiolosi just said.

"Susana doesn't want there to be any questions about how she feels about rape survivors. She's fought very hard for them throughout her career," he said.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gubernatorial profiles in today's paper

Check out what my colleague Steve Terrell and I have been up to for the past few weeks.

My profile of Republican Susana Martinez is here and his story on Diane Denish is here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

NYT: Richardson shapes NM guv race

If you thought Bill Richardson wasn't a big factor in this year's gubernatorial matchup, think again, the New York Times says today.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Mary Herrera, Dianna Duran duke it out on TV tonight

If you've been following the drama at the Secretary of State's office these days, you'll want to check out Report from Santa Fe hosted by Lorene Mills tonight on PBS. She's got both Mary Herrera and Dianna Duran on her show. It airs on Channel 5, KNME, at 10:30 tonight at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday. The show also airs on KANW-FM, 89.1 at 9:30 a.m. Monday.

If you're in the mood for debates -- and who isn't this time of year -- remember that the last two gubernatorial debates are coming up Oct. 17 and 21. ON the 17th, watch KOAT, Channel 7 at 6 p.m. On the 21st, check out Channel 4, KOB-TV at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New ads out again today

Let's hope the campaigns are saving money in other places as they spend what seems to be all their cash on ads. Check out the two latest in the gubernatorial war. At this rate, they might actually go broke before election day.

While the ads are new, the topics are not. Martinez is working to tie Denish to Richardson, as the Democrats paint Martinez as a Texan.

More questions about how business is being done at the PRC

The New Mexico Independent has another good story today about happenings at the Public Regulation Commission.

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government suggests some one-on-one conversations between commissioners and State Insurance Superintendent John Franchini are a way to get around the state's Open Meetings Act. The talks are about a corrective action plan dealing with the insurance division -- steps to be taken after a critical audit.

According to the story, "The PRC doesn’t regulate the insurance industry, and therefore has no jurisdiction over the plan in question. But the PRC supervises the insurance superintendent, who is presenting the plan as a courtesy, officials said."

In addition, PRC member Sandy Jones and the insurance division's attorney told the news organization that "because they lack jurisdiction, Public Regulation Commission members can hear the details of the plan individually because they won’t be taking action on public policy."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

PRC policy to require employees to get permission to talk to reporters

Just when everyone was paying attention to the gubernatorial race, things have heated up again at the Public Regulation Commission.

Check out this story from the New Mexico Independent.

According to the story, new PRC chief of staff Michael Rivera will require PRC employees to get permission from him to speak to the media.

Currently, PRC employees are supposed to tell the chief of staff about conversations they have with reporters.

“The policy doesn’t necessarily prevent employees from talking to the media but we have to tighten that up a little,” Rivera said.

The new policy will require that employees get prior permission from Rivera before talking with reporters, Rivera said.

“One thing we’re looking at is having reporters visit with employees in the office next to my office,” Rivera said. “I may or may not chose to sit in on those meetings.”

The new policy comes in the context of a not-so-flattering audit report that someone at the PRC leaked to the media, according to commissioner Sandy Jones. But New Mexico Independent editor Gwenyth Doland points out the news organization obtained the document through the state's Inspection of Public Records Act. (Updated: 6:24, p.m.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Weh, Turner to chair Duran campaign for SOS

Wondering what happened to gubernatorial would-bes Allen Weh and Doug Turner? Wonder no more. The pair have teamed up to co-chair the campaign of Sen. Dianna Duran for Secretary of State, they said in an announcement.

"In the next couple of week, Dianna must raise $250,000 to get up on television, get her name out and build the support needed to close a very narrow gap in the polls," the email says.

"This year, we have a real opportunity to shift the balance of power in our state and in our nation. And while we are excited at the prospects of victories at the top of our Republican ticket, we can’t forget about critical down ballot candidates."

While the Secretary of State's Office isn't typically a big headline getter, it has been this year, given allegations by former employees of wrongdoing, among other things.

With Susana Martinez in a good spot (at least in recent polls) to take the governor's mansion, it seems some Republicans are turning their attention to another seat they'd really like to win. The email points out that the GOP hasn't held the Secretary of State's Office since 1928.

By the way, there will be a debate between Duran and incumbent Mary Herrera next week. It will be aired, and streamed online, at 4 p.m. Thursday on KSFR, 101.1 FM.

Gary King is a superhero least in his campaign ad. Check it out here. I sort of expected him to leap down from the balcony in the last shot, which has the superhero-y music, and just needs him to don a cape.

The ad is the first on TV in the attorney general's race. Expect more from King and also from opponent Matt Chandler in the coming days. Because of the closeness of the gubernatorial race, the AG's matchup hasn't garnered too much attention. You can read the story I did wrapping up the race here. The odd thing about the ad is it doesn't mention corruption, which until now has seemed to be the race's main theme.

Superheros are popular in this year's campaign. The new Justice League PAC also is playing off that theme in its ads.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dueling polls both show Martinez ahead in gubernatorial race

Two new polls out today both show Republican Susana Martinez ahead of Democrat Diane Denish in the Nov. 2. matchup for governor.

One, done for Denish's campaign, shows Denish behind by five points while the other, done for Martinez, shows Martinez up by 10.

Along with the polls, of course, comes the spin. Republicans are thrilled, and Dems say the race is still extremely close -- which it is. The poll for Denish, by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, showed Denish behind 44-49. The Martinez poll, by Public Opinion Strategies, showed Martinez up 50-40.

Friday, September 17, 2010

President Obama headed to NM

No details yet from the White House yet, but President Obama is headed to New Mexico Sept. 28

As soon as that was announced, Republicans trounced.

Here an email from the RNC:

"As New Mexico Democrats scramble to defend voting in lock-step with Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi’s failed agenda, maybe the President can help Martin Heinrich, and Ben Lujan explain how small business tax hikes will help get the economy back on track and create jobs in New Mexico," said Bill Riggs, RNC spokesman.

No word on what the visit would be about. Could it be a stop for Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, who is locked in a tight battle with Republican Susana Martinez? Already, former president Bill Clinton is scheduled to appear in Espanola Oct. 14 for Denish.

Fiscal crisis lost in campaign crossfire

It's among the most important things a governor has to do, but the state budget has been among the least talked about topics of the campaign trail so far this season.

That doesn't mean the candidates haven't spoken about it at all, as I point out in this story, but some observers say they expected to hear more by now about specific plans to cut spending and or raise taxes. (Although both campaigns have released some specifics.)

Given the budget crunch we're in, it won't be long, however, until the next governor will be making those choices, something I would imagine is among the most unpleasant tasks in state government.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Martinez won't get wordsmith vote

Of all the criticisms I've seen of the gubernatorial candidates so far, this one is the most odd. On his blog, Art Trujillo, a retired professor of journalism and mass communications at New Mexico Highlands (not the former Santa Fe mayor) takes on Republican Susana Martinez for a phrase she mentioned on the campaign trail.

"In the TV spot for Susana Martinez, the GOP candidate touts her toughness on crime, as compared to the fact that her opponent, Diane Denish “gives drivers licenses to illegals.”

Martinez ends the commercial with, “As governor, that will change.” The error is a bit more subtle than the run-on sentence or the fragment. Martinez’s promise implies a great deal. It makes the word “that” an incorrect object of “governor,” as if the state’s highest office is a “that.”

What we assume Martinez really means is, “As governor, I will change that,” the policy of allowing undocumented immigrants to get New Mexico drivers licenses.

Officially, then, in English grammar, the “error” is considered a “general reference,” and without having to learn a slew of grammar rules, the gubernatorial aspirant merely needs to rephrase her sentence so that her “that” refers to proposed policy changes, not the high office."

Trujillo has a point, although minor. I think most people probably understand what Martinez was saying. Still, good for Trujillo for paying attention. Maybe he will keep tabs on all the candidates and report back on other language mishaps.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Only Republicans attending Catholic forum Saturday

The New Mexico Catholic Coaltion is sponsoring a candidate forum Saturday Sept. 11 in Bernalillo. So far, only the Republican candidates for governor, attorney general and CD 3 have confirmed. I will update later if that changes.

The forum is at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish Social Hall in Bernalillo from 1-3 p.m.

The confirmed attendees are Susana Martinez, Matt Chandler, and Tom Mullins.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

National governor's group dumps cash into race

The Republican Governor's Association has given $500,000 to gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez, the Washington Post is reporting.

The move is surely a sign that the GOP thinks it can pick up the seat, and great news for Martinez, who has suffered a cash disadvantage against Democrat Lt. Gov. Diane Denish.

Keep watching to see what other national groups get in on this race, which seems to be getting tighter by the day.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Could a Republican take the Secretary of State's Office?

An interesting piece here from the New Mexico Independent on the race between incumbent Mary Herrera and Republican Sen. Dianna Duran.

Could this be the year Democrats lose control of that post, given the recent scandals that have arisen, including the news today that two whistleblowers have been fired?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

More trouble at the Secretary of State's office

This radio piece by Jim Williams of KUNM looks in depth at some of the recent problems at the Secretary of State's office. It's interesting in part because it has a variety of people talking about what has going on behind the scenes in Mary Herrera's office. Several people have now come forward with allegations about wrongdoing in the office.

Federal stimulus money saves the day . . . again

Gov. Bill RIchardson's office just announced that the state will avoid additional furloughs by using stimulus money. The news comes as most state agencies face 3.2 percent budget cuts that start today. Many of the agencies told Richardson's office they weren't able to cut that much without furloughs or layoffs.

If not for the money, the governor's office said "more than 1,100 employees who deal with income support services would have had to take 2.5 furlough days; about 362 employees at state museums and monuments would have had to take 8 furlough days; and employees at the Alcohol & Gaming Division would have to take 4.5 furlough days."

Other money will help avoid furloughs or layoffs at all magistrate courts, three district courts and Metro Court in Albuquerque.

The administration continues to analyze agency spending plans as the state grapples with its budget crunch.

At the same time, Richardson seemingly has been a stimulus spending spree, allocating all kinds of cash given to him as discretionary spending from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Recent allocations have included juvenile justice programs, animal welfare projects, a Rio Rancho fire station and acequia projects.

New site tracks NM education spending

Just as kids head back to school this year, the Rio Grande Foundation has launched a new site that looks at how New Mexico spends its education money.

The site has searchable databases of payroll, contracts and other spending of most school districts in the state. The foundation says the site is a work in progress and will grow with additional information.

As the state further scrutinizes what it spends on education, and as it remains a hot topic in the gubernatorial race, It's nice to see so much information in one place. Check it out.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Martinez leading in poll, Richardson unfavorable

A new poll out by Rasmussen shows Republican Susana Martinez leading Democrat Diane Denish by five points in this fall's gubernatorial election. When “leaners” are included -- voters who initially are undecided but then chose a candidate after additional questions -- Martinez is ahead by seven points, with 51 percent compared to 44.

Three percent said they prefer another candidate in the race while six percent are undecided. That's a small number of undecideds, and a bit curious about the other candidate...

The poll also asked likely voters what they thought of Gov. Bill Richardson. The news wasn't good for him:
Just 16 percent strongly approve of the job he’s doing while 24 percent somewhat approve, 21 percent somewhat disapprove and 36 percent strongly disapprove.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Join us on our live blog tonight!

Join in the fun as we blog live about the gubernatorial debate tonight, starting at 5:45. While the actual debate is by invite only, you don't need an invite to join our running commentary, so stop by.

Will Diane Denish misstep? Will Susana Martinez flub it? Or will they both do well? That's one of the big mysteries, as expectations run high ahead of the Nov. 2 election.

Read my preview of the debate, and access the blog here.

The debate, which is the first of general election, starts at 6 p.m. at Eldorado High in Albuquerque.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Questions raised about virus on Mary Herrera's computer

KOBTV, Channel 4 is reporting about apparent security issues with the state-issued laptop of Secretary of State Mary Herrera.

You can see the story here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Another gubernatorial debate set

If you're as nerdy as I am, you'll want to get your calendar marked right away for Sept. 26. It's the next confirmed debate between Lt. Gov. Diane Denish and Dona Ana District Attorney Susana Martinez.

Next up, I should say, after the debate next Thursday at Eldorado High School. Speaking of that debate, you're gonna want to check out the live blog we have planned, on the New Mexican's home page. We're partnering up with our friends at the New Mexico Independent, so come check it out.

That debate is all about education, a hot topic on the campaign trail this week.

Oh, and the Sept. 26 event is at Congregation Albert in Albuquerque. Details to come.

Update, 4:57 p.m.

Speaking of debates, I just learned that U.S. Rep Martin Heinrich and challenger Jon Barela will attend a forum from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Albuquerque. The event is a luncheon hosted by the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gov candidates clash on education

Crime. The economy. Education. These are the staples of any campaign. In the 2010 gubernatorial debate, the discourse is now about education.

Check out my coverage here of Republican Susana Martinez' press conference on her schools plan yesterday, as well as a set of five education related questions for Martinez and Denish here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Martinez outlines education plan

GOP gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez today in Albuquerque revealed her plan for education in the state, calling it a top priority for her administration.

Among other things, the plan includes:

-- putting 65 percent of education funding into the classroom. Currently, 61 percent goes into classrooms, she said. The difference is $74 million.

-- ending social promotion. Kids who can't read in the 3rd grade won't be sent on to 4th grade, she said.

-- merit-based pay for teachers.

-- giving schools an A-F grade instead of using bureaucratic terms.

-- tax credits for individuals and corporations that give scholarships to poor students, and tax credits for groups that provide summer internship opportunities.

Martinez also used the opportunity to take a swipe at opponent Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, saying "The current administation has spent more on education than any previous administration with nothing but a record of failure to show for it."

See the actual plan below and read more about it, and Denish's plan, in tomorrow's paper.

SusanaMartinezEducation Plan

Monday, August 9, 2010

SOS race getting interesting

The race for Secretary of State is heating up a bit ahead of this fall's election. Challenger Sen. Dianna Duran is getting some Democrats to support her, while incumbent Mary Herrera says she has Republicans on her team. Check out my coverage here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Richardson to be Colombian envoy?

With all the speculation today about what Gov. Bill Richardson will do with his Life After the Governorship, I'm gonna jump in and add my own. How about special envoy to Colombia? Or at least Latin America? (Although he might like to be ambassador to Colombia, that post looks filled.)

It might explain the trip Richardson will take this weekend to Bogota to attend the inauguration of president-elect Juan Manuel Santos. (Or maybe, given Richardson's connections to Latin America, they are old friends?)

The Richardson-as-envoy idea isn't new, and is usually speculated each time Richardson jets somewhere. But it makes sense. That's where his roots are, and that's a field he enjoys. (I know he'd enjoy it more than being a judge on American Idol, one idea he jokingly mentioned to the Albuquerque Journal.) Richardson was last in Bogota and next door Venezuela in 2008 on a mission related to Americans held hostage by FARC rebels.

Richardson also seems to be setting the pace for some kind of envoyship: he'll attend the ceremony Saturday and fly back Sunday. No taxpayer money is being spent on the trip, his office said.

Could the PRC be on the chopping block?

Members of a task force looking at ways to streamline state government are eyeing some changes at the PRC. Specifically, they are considering taking key parts like the insurance division out of the agency.

PRC commissioners, of course, aren't too keen on the idea. Read my story here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

One gubernatorial debate set, Denish asking for more

With just three months until the general election, it's about time for the gubernatorial debate schedule to be set. So far, the Albuquerque Public Schools has agreed to host one on Aug. 19, and both candidates say they will be there.

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish says she wants more than that, though, and is proposing seven others.

"The stakes couldn’t be higher for New Mexico families in this election and voters deserve to hear how each candidate for Governor would address the challenges facing our state," Denish campaign manager Oren Shur said in a statement.

Denish's proposed schedule includes three T.V. debates and five others in communities around the state such as Las Cruces, Taos and Santa Fe.

Denish also wants three debates between Democrat Brian Colon and Republican John Sanchez.

Update, 10:38 am

I had asked the Martinez campaign if they had agreed to any other debates yet.

Below is the statement I got. The tone really sets up the tone for the debate, and reflects that of the campaign so far. (In Denish's orignal statement, she said “Most New Mexicans aren’t familiar with Susana Martinez and she’s been virtually silent on a wide range of issues that directly impact families like education and jobs. Debates are always a critical part of the electoral process and that’s particularly true in this campaign.”)

From Ryan Cangiolosi, Martinez campaign manager:

"We look forward to discussing the epic failures of the Richardson/Denish Administration that have led to higher unemployment and job loss, rampant waste, fraud and abuse, and unacceptably low graduation rates and performance levels in the classroom. We are pleased the Denish campaign agreed to participate in an education debate on the 19th of August and look forward to continuing our conversations with the Denish campaign as we schedule additional debates in the fall."

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Kewa Pueblo aims to take once iconic trading post from ruins to revitalized

One of the most fun things about this job is getting out and doing stories in places other than the Capitol.

Here's one I did Friday.

The folks below are travelers Alan and Bonnie Lurie of New Jersey. They are months too early to see the revitalized trading post at Kewa Pueblo I wrote about, but had fun stopping by for a photo anyway.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Martinez calls on Denish/Colón to release foundation information

A day after she outlined her anti-corruption plan, GOP gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez is asking the Diane Denish/Brian Colón ticket to release information on the Moving America Forward Foundation. She'd like to know who contributed to the group and how it spent its money.

Colón was the treasurer of the Moving America Forward Foundation. The group has been criticized for refusing to reveal who contributed the $1.7 million the foundation raised in Richardson's early years in office.

First, a little background, courtesy of my colleague Steve Terrell.

The foundation surfaced as a target last year in whistle-blower Frank Foy's suit claiming political pressure from the Richardson administration resulted in the state making $90 million in bad investments with a Chicago firm.

In a motion filed last year, Foy's lawyer, Victor Marshall, claimed it "was used as a conduit for making kickbacks" and that "donors used the foundation to launder kickbacks and other illegal inducements in exchange for investment business or other valuable consideration from the Richardson administration, while perhaps making kickbacks tax deductible in the process."

A foundation lawyer last year called the motion "an irresponsible publicity stunt" and said none of the defendants or other people mentioned in Foy's lawsuit ever contributed to the foundation.

A Denish spokesman said she had no role with the foundation, and the group doesn't have to release donor info.

"As a 501(c)3, much like the Conservative Rio Grande Foundation, Moving America Forward was not obligated to disclose its donors. Diane Denish had no role with the foundation, but as someone who has worked with foundations and non-profits in the past, she understands the rules governing 501(c)3s," spokesman Chris Cervini said in an e-mail.

I have a message into Colón and will update when I hear back.

Update, 2:56 p.m.
This from Colón, through Denish's spokesman.

"Donors to 501(c)3s have a right to privacy under the law and I respect that right. Yet again, Susana Martinez is being hypocritical, asking for the release of private donor information from a 501(c)3, yet not demanding the same of conservative organizations such as the Rio Grande Foundation, which has done a lot of her heavy lifting by supporting right-wing bloggers such as Jim Scarantino."

Guess my next call is to Scarantino, although we're getting off topic a little here. . .

Update, 3:29

Scarantino said he's an independent contractor for the foundation and "isn't beholden to anybody."

"I've never been told to write something or not to," he said.

But, he said, he will release all funding information for the web site he edits, if Colón will do the same with the foundation.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Martinez outlines corruption plan

Susana Martinez chose the Metro Courthouse as a backdrop for the press conference she held this morning to announce her anti-corruption plans.

The six-part plan takes aim at lobbyists, ramps up penalties for crooked public officials and calls for webcasting and archiving all state government meetings, not just the Legislature. It also calls for a public corruption division in the State Police Department and would make not reporting a corruption related crimes a crime as well. In addition, Martinez said she wants to reform the capital outlay process, increase the campaign finance reporting and require ethics training for all public employees.

Corruption is a major issue in the gubernatorial election. The story I did when Diane Denish revealed her plan last July is available here.

Martinez running mate John Sanchez accompanied her, as did state Rep. Dennis Kintigh, R-Roswell. A handful of protestors held signs that referenced her contributions from Bob Perry, a Houston homebuilder, and his wife, Doylene, who gave her a total of $450,000. Perry, a major contributor to New Mexico Republicans in recent years, is a major moneyman behind the infamous "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" ads that questioned the military record of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in 2004. Democrats frequently have pointed that out.

The courthouse location choice, of course, was no coincidence, and Martinez did mention the scandal of former Senate President Pro Tem Manny Aragon in her speech.

Here's the plan:


Update, 9:52 am
I said earlier the event took place at the Bernalillo County Courthouse. Wrong place. It was Metro Court.