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.