Inside the Capitol

Thursday, October 11, 2012


101512 bullies & lawyers

SANTA FE – From early indications it will be Republican bullies vs. Democratic lawyers at the polls on election day, November 6.
For those of you who aren't up for such excitement, absentee voting, which already has begun, or early voting, which begins October 20, may be the answer.
We've already seen news that a poll watcher class for Republicans was held in Albuquerque in late September to teach volunteers methods of challenging potential voters.
Democratic leaders charge that some of the methods discussed are not legal. The state party has sent an email throughout its system warning that Tea Party bullies will be at the polls intimidating voters.
The Democratic Party asks that everyone receiving the email donate $25 to $100 or more for lawyers on the ground to fight efforts to steal elections from under our noses.
How exciting. You don't want to miss it. Will it be a David vs. Goliath fight? The bullies appear to be mere volunteers. They will be up against highly trained paid professionals.
Okay, I've spent 160 words trying to get you excited about voting. Now, please humor me by reading the next 500 words about the serious choices on the back side of the ballot.
You've heard much about the big races at the top of the ballot. And you won't be able to escape hearing more. But this may be your only shot at learning something about appellate judges, constitutional amendments and statewide bond issues.
First the judges. Supreme Court Justice Richard Bosson and Court of Appeals Judges Roderick Kennedy and Michael Vigil stand this year for retention. You get to decide whether they have done a good job. But unless you are a trial lawyer, how would you possibly know?
That's why a Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission has been created. It is a nonpartisan group that evaluates judges on fairness, legal knowledge, communications skills, preparation, attentiveness and temperament. The JPEC reviews written opinions, caseload statistics, interviews, self-evaluations and independent surveys.
All three passed muster and are recommended. If they receive 57 percent of the vote, they get to stay. If this sounds like some sort of compromise, you're right. It's an attempt to keep judges out of politics without giving them a lifetime appointment.
Now for the constitutional amendments. Amendment 1 would put a municipal judge on the state Judicial Standards Commission. They feel it is only fair to be included since everyone else is.
Amendments 2, 3 and 4 relate to the troubled Public Regulation Commission. There was sentiment to make the commission appointive by the governor in order to increase the quality of commissioners but the Legislature's decision was to keep it elective but to increase requirements and transfer some of the commission's many duties to appropriate executive agencies.
Amendment 5 would take the Public Defender's Office from under the governor and make it an independent department. The amendment would bring New Mexico in line with national standards and would eliminate the conflict of the governor being in charge of both law enforcement and indigent defense.
And finally, bond issues. State capital construction is financed through budget surpluses, severance taxes and bond issues voted on by the public at general elections.
Legislators decide on how budget surplus money and severance taxes are used. We usually call it pork. The popular projects, such as senior citizen centers, libraries and higher education are put to a public vote.
Higher education construction gets about 85 percent of the pie. Seniors and libraries are the other two bond questions. These bonds replace retired bonds, so they won't produce a tax increase, if passed
The secretary of state's website,, contains further information on some of these issues. Think New Mexico's website,, has information on the PRC constitutional amendments.
Further information on the three statewide judicial races can be found at or by calling 505-827-4960. The League of Women Voters,, should have something posted by the time you read this.
101712 negativity

SANTA FE – Recent research reveals that presidential campaigns are becoming more negative every four years.
It isn't difficult to believe. In New Mexico state and local campaigns are getting that way too. This year our state's legislative races are leading the way.
Since no federal races in New Mexico are targeted this year we are catching a little break in the presidential and congressional races. But many legislative races are nasty and have been since the June primaries.
Leading the pack in negativity during the primary campaigns was the battle for Clint Harden's Eastside Senate seat from which it appeared he had to step down for not being a sure enough vote for GOP leaders.
Gov. Susana Martinez immediately stepped into the race, if she hadn't been already, and pushed Angie Spears,the well-connected niece of a high Republican official. The governor's Super PAC gave her big money and the governor herself traveled the district promoting her.
Spears lost, but now Sen. Harden has announced he is stepping down before the December 31 end of his term. He is recommending that winner, PatWoods, be appointed by the governor to fill that seat.
That would be the usual procedure since Woods will assume the seat in January anyway. But it is a further poke in the eye at the governor. She could appoint the primary election loser whom she supported, if she wants. But maybe she will let bygones be bygones.
Now the big contest will be an effort to knock Democrat Tim Jennings of Roswell out of his Senate president pro tem top seat in the Senate. Jennings is conservative and the best Republicans can do for Senate leadership unless they could magically take over the Senate in November.
Jennings' opponent is 26-year-old Cliff Pirtle but the real fight is with the governor's chief of staff Keith Gardner, formally a Roswell lawmaker. Gardner was taped on a lengthy phone call slamming Jennings and Roswell and vowing to raise $500,000 to beat Jennings.
Jennings has compiled parts of the hour and 13-minute rant into a television ad that is running statewide – something almost never seen in legislative campaigns. This obviously isn't just a local issue within Jennings' state senatorial district.
Jennings has a big target on his back and so does Senate Democratic Leader Michael Sanchez, of Belen. The governor's people already have found David Chavez, an opponent who will be well funded.
The Reform New Mexico Now PAC, run by Gov. Martinez's political guru Jay McCleskey, has announced that it plans to get involved in some 20 legislative races this month. This will include mail and TV in the last 10 days of the campaigns.
This isn't completely unusual for a governor. Former Gov. Bill Richardson and his PAC got involved in legislative campaigns but only to the extent of making donations. Even legislators donate to each other, sometimes across party lines.
This is big time stuff. And it isn't confined to Republicans. This really got started four years ago when two left-leaning non-profit groups got involved in defeating mainly Democratic state senators who didn't lean far enough to the left.
Legal challenges to their operations and their refusal to reveal income sources dragged through the courts until recently when the rights of the nonprofits were affirmed.
One of those Democratic senators defeated largely through efforts of a nonprofit was Shannon Robinson, of Albuquerque, who now is running as a Republican against incumbent Sen. Tim Keller, who beat him four years ago. Robinson appears to be getting some help from top Republicans but not enough yet to match Keller's war chest.
Another hot and heavy legislative race is on Albuquerque's West side. Joe Carraro, who represented the area for a long time as a Republican dropped the partytwo years ago after not receiving GOP help in a previous U.S. Senate race.
Carraro now is an independent and is challenging incumbent John Ryan, the husband of a member of Gov. Martinez's cabinet.
My Wifi conked out, so I'm a little late and behind.


Post a Comment

<< Home