Friday, December 30, 2011

Honk your horn if you love New Mexico!

If you're like me, you're still planning your Top 10 New Year's resolutions. But, it's also time to mark January 6th on your brand new 2012 calendar.

That's the day set aside to honor New Mexico's Centennial.

At 11:35, New Mexicans are being encouraged to honk their car horns for 30 seconds to wish the state Happy Birthday. That's the approximate time President William Howard Taft signed New Mexico into statehood a century earlier.

We just found out that ABQ RIDE plans a birthday ceremony at the Alvarado Transportation Center. It will feature a Rail Runner locomotive horn, a whistle from a vintage locomotive, horns from ABQ RIDE buses and air and car horns sounding the approximate moment New Mexico became a state one hundred years ago.

“In 1912, President Taft signed statehood papers a few days earlier than expected, so most New Mexicans didn’t find out about it until a day later," said Bruce Rizzieri, Director of ABQ RIDE. “Now, we want to give the occasion the fanfare it deserves at the site of what was once the jewel of Albuquerque, the Alvarado Hotel.”

The ceremony will feature 1912-era songs from the New Mexico Territorial Brass Band, which will also play New Mexico’s state song, “O Fair New Mexico”, during the ceremony. Commemorative Centennial ornaments designed and assembled by students at Van Buren Middle School in Albuquerque will also be given out to participants at the celebration, as well as cake and hot chocolate.

After the ceremony, Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry plans a ribbon cutting to inaugurate a permanent display of photos at the Alvarado Transportation Center. They will depict the storied history of the Alvarado Hotel, along with a history of public transportation in Albuquerque. The public is invited.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Johnson's fundraising lackluster

Campaign contributions are trickling in for former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson's 2012 presidential campaign as he plans his 13th trip to New Hampshire in the last 18 months, but he'll need to raise more money if he wants to be competitive.

Campaign treasurer Chet Goodwin reported Johnson raised a little more than $180,000 between announcing his campaign in mid-April through July 15, and spent nearly all of it. The campaign reported $6,000 cash on hand.

Johnson, an avid outdoorsman, may want to consider touring on his cycle, pitching a tent or making reservations with a budget hotel along the campaign trail, because the report indicates he has racked up more than $227,000 in debts and other obligations.

Johnson lags behind Republican front-runners Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Michelle Bachman and Ron Paul.

Romeny reported raising $18 million...well ahead of Paul's $4.5 million, Pawlenty's $4.3 million, and Bachman's $3.6 million.

President Barack Obama raised more than $46 million.

In New Hampshire this weekend, Johnson said he plans to compete in the 38th Annual Stratham Fair Road Race, speak to students at Dartmouth College, and attend campaign events in Keene, Freedom, Dover, Conway and Exeter.

Johnson's probably wishing CNN would have invited him to the first big GOP debate, where he might have been able to reach more potential donors.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Albuquerque GLBT community celebrates with pride

Thousands of folks lined up on Route 66 to watch the 2011 Albuquerque Pride Parade. After breakfast at Mannies Cafe we grabbed a few pics to share the scene with you in this slideshow. And, before you start sending us nasty e-mails, we included pics of the protesters and bible thumpers because they were there and part of the story. The homophobes also were monitored by police and promptly dismissed by most everyone in the crowd for their bigotry and hate mongering.

Now it's off to NM Expo where organizers have set up a foam party, dance tent, and poetry slam at the main street festival.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

GLBT legal issues spotlighted in Pride Week radio ads

Three new Gay Pride Week radio ads, sponsored by gay-friendly law firm Rugge, Rosales & Associates, are putting the focus on legal issues still faced by non-traditional families in New Mexico.

The firm said it hopes the ads raise awareness in the community about couples who are not recognized legally by the state.

“Both Traditional and Same-Sex Families should take steps to ensure that they and their loved ones are protected in the event of illness, death or separation, David Ray Rosales a managing partner at Rugge, Rosales & Associates said.

In one commercial two lesbian mothers discuss their young son and ponder what would happen to them in the event of event of an illness, death or a break-up.
Mother 1: He’s growing up too fast. I just wonder who would take care of him if something ever happened to us.
Mother 2: Since we can’t get married in New Mexico, I don’t know what my rights would be since I’m not legally a stepparent.
Mother 1: And you’re not legally my spouse. What would happen to you if I ended up in the hospital in an emergency situation or if I passed away? What about Jimmy? What about the house, or the business we’ve built? Would you get any benefits?

While New Mexico law prohibits gay marriage and same sex civil unions, Rugge suggests people protect their rights with solid legal planning.

Listen to all three ads:

Bedtime Story

Do You Know
This year’s Albuquerque Gay Pride & Festival begins on Saturday with a parade and later an expo at the New Mexico Expo Center.

Photos @2009 Peter St. Cyr

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

ACLU sues Albuquerque to force redistricting

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico is demanding that the City of Albuquerque reverse its decision to postpone redistricting until after the upcoming city council elections in October 2011.

Yesterday the group filed this lawsuit in state district court.

Data from the 2010 census shows that Albuquerque’s West Side experienced significant population growth, while other areas of the city remained stagnant or shrunk in population. The ACLU said it believes the Albuquerque City Council will dilute the voting power of residents on the West Side.

“At the heart of our democracy is the principle of ‘one person, one vote’,” ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson said. “When one city council district is grossly underrepresented, other areas of the city speak with a louder voice when it comes to making decisions about political leadership, bond proposals, and other important issues that affect us all. Failing to redistrict waters down the vote of citizens living in high-growth areas.”

The City of Albuquerque is divided into nine separate districts, each holding one seat on the city council. By law the boundaries of these districts must be drawn in such a way that each district is roughly equal in population. According to the latest census data, District 1 and District 5—both on the West Side—have 90,170 and 83,165 residents respectively. The remaining seven districts all have constituencies ranging in the low to mid-50,000 range.

For the past three decades following the release of new census data, the City of Albuquerque has moved swiftly to redistrict before the next city council election, ensuring that all areas of the city remained equally represented. This year, with full knowledge of the current major imbalance, the city chose to postpone redistricting until after the October 2011 city council election.

“The entire purpose of census data is to make sure that our government accurately represents who we are and the communities we live in,” ACLU-NM Cooperating Attorney David Urias said. “By ignoring the latest census data, the Albuquerque City Council devalues the votes of almost two-fifths of the city’s population.”

The ACLU claims its lawsuit represents more than 170,000 people living on the city's "underrepresented" West Side, the ACLU of New Mexico asks the court to prohibit the City Council of the City of Albuquerque from holding elections until they have completed redistricting as required under the Constitution.

Cities are constitutionally required to reapportion voting districts every 10 years following the release of federal census data to ensure equal representation among voters.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

State to investigate contamination at mine

The New Mexico Environment Department’s Ground Water Quality Bureau received a Stage 1 Abatement Plan proposal from New Mexico Copper Corporation to investigate surface and ground water contamination at the Copper Flat Mine. The facility is located approximately 5 miles northeast of Hillsboro on NM Highway 152.

Water quality monitoring of monitoring wells and an open pit pool at the facility showed concentrations of total dissolved solids (TDS), sulfate, chloride, manganese, and uranium in exceedence of New Mexico ground water standards during past investigations. The depth to ground water at the site ranges from 0 to 50 feet. In a letter to New Mexico Copper Corporation, NMED required that an Abatement Plan proposal be submitted within 60 days of notification.

The Stage 1 Abatement Plan submitted by the company proposes collecting soil, surface water and ground water samples and installing additional ground water monitoring wells to define the extent of soil and ground water pollution.

New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission regulations require responsible parties to remediate surface and ground water pollution. After the investigation is completed, a Stage 2 Abatement Plan proposal will be submitted to NMED. A public notice of the Stage 2 Abatement Plan proposal will be issued by New Mexico Copper Corporation within 30 days of submitting the proposal to NMED.

The public will have an opportunity to comment on the Stage 2 Abatement Plan proposal and request a hearing or meeting. NMED will seek written comments from the public within 60 days of determining that the cleanup proposal is administratively complete.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

2010 Hispanic voter trends and stats

An analysis of new Census Bureau voting data from November 2010 shows that Hispanic turnout conformed to the pattern of recent midterm elections.

Before the 2010 election some commentators argued that the failure to address immigration would increase Hispanic turnout, others argued it would cause them to stay home. The new data shows that neither of these predictions were correct. The analysis is available at the Center for Immigration Studies.

Among the findings:
  • Prior to the 2010 election, the Center for Immigration Studies projected that Hispanics would comprise 6.8 percent of the national electorate in congressional elections. The new Census Bureau data match this projection, with Hispanics comprising 6.9 percent of the vote.
  • The projection was correct because it was based on the assumption that Hispanic turnout would follow past patterns and that they would be neither especially animated nor especially disengaged in 2010.
  • The 31.2 percent of Hispanic citizens who voted in 2010 is very similar to the 32.2 percent who voted in the 2006 mid-term election and the 31.2 percent who voted in the 2002 mid-term election. All of these values fall within the margin of error of +/- 1.7 percentage points and indicate that 2010 was not unusual.
  • In addition to the 6.9 percent of voters who identified as Hispanic in the 2010 election, 77.5 percent of voters identified as non-Hispanic white, 11.5 percent as non-Hispanic black, and 2.4 percent as non- Hispanic Asian.
  • Hispanics are a much smaller share of voters than they are of the general population. In November 2010, Hispanics were 16.3 percent of the total U.S. population, 14.1 percent of the adult population, 10.1 percent of the adult citizen population, and 6.9 percent of those who voted.
  • The size of the Hispanic vote varied significantly by state. In 2010, Hispanics were less than 5 percent of the vote in 39 states plus the District of Columbia, and more than 10 percent of the vote in only five states (New Mexico, California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida).
  • Polling of Hispanics indicates that immigration is not one of their top issues. Like other voters, education, jobs, healthcare, and the federal deficit all rank above immigration in importance.
  • This does not mean immigration is unimportant to Hispanics. It does mean it was not an issue that was important enough in 2010 to have a discernable impact on their overall turnout.
  • Only 27 percent of Hispanic voters in the 2010 election were immigrants themselves (naturalized U.S. citizens) and just 14.9 percent lived in the same household as a non-citizen. The lack of direct personal experience with immigration may explain why the issue does not rank higher in importance to Hispanic voters.
  • CNN's national exit polls showed that in 2010, 60 percent of Hispanics voted for Democrats and 38 percent voted for Republicans. This compares to 69 percent and 30 percent in the last mid-term election in 2006. If the failure to address immigration played a role in Hispanic voting, it seems to have helped Republicans.
  • However, the increase in the Republican share of the Hispanic vote in 2010 is almost certainly related to general voter dissatisfaction with the economy and the Democrats, and it parallels gains that Republicans made among many demographic groups.
Methods and Data

The data for this analysis come from the public use file of the Voting and Registration Supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS) collected by Census Bureau, which contains about 100,000 adults. The Voting and Registration supplement is conducted in November every other year after Election Day. The public-use file of this data was recently released. Among other questions, the survey asks individuals if they are registered and if they voted. The Hispanic and race questions are separate. Hispanics are individuals in the CPS who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino, which means that they or their ancestors came from a country that derives its language and culture from Spain.

The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent research institute that examines the impact of immigration on the United States.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gary Johnson announces 2012 bid in New Hampshire

[Campaign picture from Johnson's Twitter account]

'I’m running for President of the United States. And I don’t do so lightly.'

This morning, former Republican New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, standing on an outdoor platform in New Hampshire, told supporters he's running for president in 2012 because, "America needs someone who will say 'NO' to the insane spending and stop the madness that has become Washington It is time we put one of our own in the White House."

Johnson says America is in a mess, but it can be fixed.

"I'm a fix it man," Johnson said in a news release. "Before I was governor of New Mexico, I started a one-man fix-it business that I grew into an American dream with more than a thousand employees. My formula for success was simple. I showed up on time, did what I said what I’d do, and knew what I was doing."

Johnson blames a long list of problems that need attention, including record unemployment, devalued currency, banking scandals, the mortgage crisis, drug crisis, economic crisis, and loss of industrial might on past presidents and members of congress.

Touting his record in New Mexico, Johnson said he help eliminate the state's budget deficit and cut the rate of state government growth in half while reducing the state workforce by over 10%, without laying off a single qualified state worker.

Dubbed 'Governor Veto" during his two terms as the chief executive in New Mexico from 1993-2002, Johnson said today, "America needs a ‘President Veto’ right now – someone who will say ‘no’ to insane spending and stop the madness that has become Washington. That’s why I am here today to announce that I’m running for President of the United States. And I don’t do so lightly."

Optimistic about his chances, Johnson said, "I’m ready for a different America. I’m ready for the day when a person can build a good life on a decent income, and we can take our government at its word – when people have more to smile about. I’m ready for peace and prosperity and some American dreaming. I’m ready for America to be AMERICA again."

Since 2009, Johnson has been touring the country, making speeches as honorary Chairman of a non-profit political advocacy group. The status of that group is unknown, but unlike Gov. Susanna Martinez' new political action committee, his IRS 501(c)(4), which raised $205,000 in the fourth quarter of 2010, can not spend money directly on campaigns, but only promote issues.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gov. Gary Johnson's documents reveal puzzling trail

Updated: 6pm

Just days before former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is expected to formally announce his bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, we’ve found a complex web of non-profit registrations, and only one quarterly financial report, for his 16-month-old Our America Initiative.

Johnson, who chairs the political advocacy group announced he was forming it in December 2009, but it was not registered as a Non-Profit Corporation in California until March the next year. The only financial disclosure we could find for the IRS exempt 501(c)(4) is this 4th Quarter (2010) filing in Utah.

Attorney Maureen Otis, from Stafford, Texas filed the financial report with the Utah Department of Commerce's Consumer Protection Division as required this February for the group's Treasurer Chet Goodwin, who lists his office in Salt Lake City. No financial reports were located at the California Secretary of State's office for the entire period.

The PAC reported raising a little more than $205,000 in three months from October 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010. At the end of the quarter less than $2,500 cash was on hand. That’s the amount left after deducting $170,000 in overhead expenses. The report indicated $37,000 was spent on fundraising commissions and $606 for other expenses.

Our America Initiative donors do not have to be revealed and were not.

The PAC. is being managed by Ronald Nielson's NSON Opinion Strategy, a research and management group for political entities. NSON is also based in Salt Lake City. Nielsen was sued by the IRS two months ago for tax liabilities un-related to the Our America Initiative.

Two of Our America's officers, who are listed on IRS Form 1024 (embedded below) are from Albuquerque, including President Kelly Ward and Secretary Harold Field. The officers are not compensated for their roles on Johnson's board, expect the group does pay Goodwin for his accounting work.

It remains unclear if donations, which were reported in the single financial report included all donations received for the preceding 12 months. We wanted to know if the total was lumped into one quarter or if the PAC. did not start receiving donations until October 2010.

When we contacted Gov. Johnson, he directed us to Nielson saying, “check with Ron. He’s a real honest guy,” but Nielson declined to return phone calls or respond to emails. Multiple calls and emails to Goodwin and Otis were not answered.

The group will have to file another quarterly report in Utah later this month, and once Johnson launches his presidential campaign on Monday in New Hampshire he will be required to file financial reports with the Federal Election Commission.

We checked the FEC site this morning, and the Friends of Gary Johnson, a non-party/non qualified group registered in Ruckersville, Virginia reported $0 in donations.

You can read the group’s by-laws in the Unified Registration Statement, which is embedded here.

Unified Registration Statement filed in Utah
Our America Initiative

IRS 1024 form found online at the California Attorney General's Office
Our America Initiative 1024 Application

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Heinrich hopeful ahead of budget deadline

As the U.S. House of Representatives try to strike a short-term budget deal to prevent a government shutdown the magic number being discussed in the nation's capitol today isn’t billions or trillions, but just two.

In just two days the continuing resolution that is funding the government expires unless the two parties come to an agreement by mid-night this Friday.

After launching his 2012 U.S. Senate campaign in Albuquerque on Saturday, Rep. Martin Heinrich is back in Washington monitoring behind-the-scene negotiations.

On Tuesday, the congressman called us and said he’s hopeful something will be hammered out before the deadline.

“This is one of those situations where the American people expect us to act like adults and sit down and find some middle ground,” Heinrich said. “We have to be willing to support some level of compromise and that's true of both sides."

Heinrich said the Republican leadership faces a huge challenge, because their entire freshman class wants to send a message about government spending and the federal deficit by shutting down the government.

"I just don't think we can afford to be shuttering the doors at the VA and all the jobs that would go on hold during that period. I think we all need to step up and come to some sort of agreement and find some middle ground,” Heinrich said.

Reaching a compromise could be difficult for Heinrich and other Democrats who believe Republican priorities are focused on cutting the wrong things.

“The problem is that everyone agrees that there needs to be cuts within the federal budget," Heinrich said. "But, you can't expect to balance the entire federal budget on the backs on teachers and firefighters. So, we need to meet where we can in terms of overall numbers, and then figure what are priorities are within those limits.”

Heinrich said he will not agree to maintaining tax breaks for corporation that outsource jobs overseas and protect tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. He said that undercuts the people who provide really basic services.

He also expressed concerned over House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s 2012 Pathway to Prosperity plan.

“It really ends medicare as we know it. It gets rid of the current medicare program and replaces it with a voucher program,” Heinrich said. “I can tell you in the many, many town hall meetings, visits to senior citizens over the years, that's a proposal I've never heard come out of the mouth's of any seniors. That's a proposal that's going to meet with a lot of resistance from the American people.”

Heinrich isn't worried about an imminent financial market collapse like former Gov. Gary Johnson, who told us last month last month in Taos, that unless the government cuts spending by $1.6 trillion and fixes government entitlement programs the global economy could fail.

“What we have to look at is how far we can cut spending and still maintain economic growth,” Heinrich said. “The most powerful thing we can do right now, not only to reduce the deficit, but more importantly, to keep recovering from this recession, is to make sure that the economy continues to grow throughout 2011 and 2012. So we have a very fine line we have to walk of bringing down spending and making sure we live within our means, but also not pulling the rug out of this recovering economy.”

Heinrich’s priorities

The second-term congressman said there are wasteful programs he can live without, but insists he is willing to make compromises. Still, he expresses concern some of the cuts Republicans are proposing "are a threat to the countries national security."

In February, Heinrich and members of the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee sent this letter to Chairman Ryan expressing their concern over the potentially dire consequences that the Committee's planned 2011 budget allocation would have on the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

He’s concerned a “one-size” budget would jeopardize the state’s national laboratories.

“One of the things we've really been fighting for is the NNSA. At a time when we're asking NNSA to step up and make sure we implement the new START treat and make sure our nuclear deterrent is safe, secure and reliable,” Heinrich said. “We can't have a 17 percent cut at Los Alamos and an 11 percent cut at Sandia National Labs. And, those are numbers that Rep. (Steve) Pearce, and other Republicans, actually voted for. Their not responsible in today's national security climate, and hopefully will make sure that we have some progress in the midst of all this.”

While, Heinrich is in favor of reducing government spending he worries that cuts to the national labs could hit the state’s economy hard.

"Impeding the work being done at our national labs won't grow our economy and certainly won't create jobs."

Earlier this year Heinrich tried to save Pell Grant Scholarships from the chopping block. Those are the the single largest source of federal grant aid for post-secondary education and Heinrich knows many unemployed New Mexicans are headed back to school, including veterans returning from the Middle East, to prepare for new jobs.

The former city councilor also told us cutting National Public Radio funding is “highly partisan legislation.”

“It has nothing to do with fiscal responsibility and everything to do with politics. Instead of focusing on creating jobs or reducing the deficit,” Heinrich said. “The House Republicans have wasted time trying to de-fund one of the most widely-used and independent journalistic institutions in America.”

Federal workers, who will be locked out if a budget settlement isn’t reached by the deadline also face wage increase freezes.

The budget outline unveiled Tuesday by House Republicans seeks to freeze federal salary schedules through 2015, reduces the federal workforce by 10 percent and requires employees to pay more toward their retirement benefits.

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Monday, April 4, 2011

Slideshow with Audio: Noon time labor rally in Albuquerque


"Ain't no power like the power of the people, and the power of the people don't stop" chanted union labor supporters, who attended a lunch-time rally in Albuquerque.

Monday's rally coincided with the commemoration of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Rally leaders said they wanted to honor King’s commitment to help workers earn collective bargaining rights.

Dan Rivera, a retired AFL-CIO pipefitter, and former New Mexico Federation of Labor director, told us he's concerned that unions are being disrespected.

"We're being attacked. We're being spit in the face. We're being disrespected, and it's the people who have to come out and stop it," Rivera said. "It's disgraceful what they've done to organized labor."

He said he's prepared to stand up and fight it.

Listen to my full interview with Rivera on AudioBoo by clicking the blue arrow below.


Rivera says their rally is not just about union workers.

"It’s about the people and about human rights," Rivera said.

Carrying signs, people at the rally gathered at the corner of Central and San Mateo and listened to speeches by Rep. Eleanor Chavez, Democratic Party Chairman Javier Gonzales, and defense attorney Sam Bregman, a candidate for party chair.

Updated: April 4, 2011 at 3:40pm

State Representative Elenaor Chavez, who has represented health workers in the past, and currently represents teachers, agrees with Rivera.

"Workers in New Mexico have a right to jobs with justice, a living wage, benefits and a pension," Chavez said.

Listen to my complete audio interview with her here. I found it interesting to hear what workers did back in the 1980's while Hal Stratton was the state's Attorney General. They created a W.A.R unit, or Workers Against Repression. Interesting history and a good interview.

Sam Bregman says new Gov. Susana Martinez is balancing the state's budget on the backs of union workers. Here's my complete audio interview with Sam. Trust us, you'll want to hear what he says about the lack of a labor board in Albuquerque, more than a year after Mayor Richard Berry was sworn into office. Bregman calls it an assault on the right's of workers and collective bargaining.

April 4th marked the 43rd anniversary of King's death.

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Video: Heinrich talks about 2012 U.S. Senate campaign

After announcing his 2012 U.S. Senate campaign on-line Saturday morning, New Mexico Congressman Martin Heinrich, wearing black boots and black jeans, met with reporters for less than ten minutes at the National Hispanic Cultural Center to talk about the biggest campaign of his life and his first state-wide race.

Now he plans to spend the next 12 months, traveling the state, trying to convince Democratic primary voters he's a "good guy" and the right candidate to replace retiring five-term U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, who announced his retirement earlier this year.

The second-term representative is the second Democrat to announce a bid for the Senate seat. In February, State Auditor Hector Balderas told us in an exclusive video that he's seriously considering his own bid. State Treasurer James Lewis, and former Lt. Governor Diane Denish have also said they are considering entering the primary race. Albuquerque community activist Andres Valdez was the first Democrat to announce.

Republican Heather Wilson formally entered the race last month. And, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez is expected to announce a decision in April. Second Congressional District Rep. Steve Pearce has not ruled out a campaign of his own.Republicans Greg Sowards and William S. English, who are not well known yet, have also entered the Republican primary race.

Heinrich said he has not determined a campaign budget, and wouldn't speculate on how much money would be needed to win both a primary and general election race, but analysts say both he and Wilson have a money advantage, because they can roll over any federal campaign donations they already have in their accounts.

The congressman's staffers said Heinrich was expected to return to Washington on Tuesday as the war of words over the federal budget notches up, and as negotiations, between Democrats and Republicans, continue. A budget must be passed by Friday or the government will come to a halt.

Heinrich, who will vacate his House seat, told reporters constituent services will not be impacted by his 2012 campaign.

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Heinrich launches U.S. Senate bid to replace Bingaman

The Decision from Martin Heinrich on Vimeo.

The speculation is over, U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich has decided to run for the U.S. Senate. He officially launched his campaign today on his Facebook page and campaign website.

Ahead of meeting with reporters, he released the following statement:
I am excited to announce today that I am a candidate for the United States Senate. Details to come on my listening tour across New Mexico. I hope you’ll join me on this journey to provide everyone in this state with a prosperous future worthy of our efforts and our values.

Heinrich is expected to meet with reporters at 1pm today following a Cesar Chavez day march at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. We'll be on site and bring you pictures, video and comments from Rep. Heinrich later today.

Heinrich, who is in his second term as a U.S. Representative, is the first Democrat to announce his plans. State Auditor Hector Balderas, State Treasurer James Lewis, former Lt. Governor Diane Denish are reportedly considering their options.

Republican Heather Wilson announced her 2012 bid in March. Lt. Gov. John Sanchez is expected to make his plans known this month.

Ahead of Heinrich's announcement, Sen. Eric Griego said yesterday he was launching an exploratory committee and is considering a bid to replace Heinrich.

Republican Janice Arnold-Jones has been considering a primary bid for Heinrich's seat since last month -- and spent last week in Washington looking for financial support.

City Councilor Dan Lewis is expected to announce his bid for the CD-1 Seat on Sunday at the Hotel Albuquerque around 3pm.

The son of an electrician and a factory worker, Heinrich has been a committed advocate for New Mexico’s middle class families. He said he wants to "create an environment for New Mexico’s small businesses to thrive and grow, creating good jobs for our communities."

Heinrich has been a champion for clean energy economy and treasured public lands. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, Martin saved over 1,000 jobs at Kirtland Air Force Base.

Heinrich has said his campaign for the U.S. Senate will focus on helping New Mexico’s economy grow "for everyone and not just the special interests."

Prior to being elected to Congress in 2008, Martin served as Albuquerque City Council President and as Natural Resources Trustee for the State of New Mexico.

He and his wife Julie are raising their two sons in Albuquerque.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

SOS staffer placed on leave for "offensive" actions

At least one staffer in Secretary of State Dianna Duran's office has been placed on leave after offensive material was found on the office website and sent in a package to Political Action Committees around the state.

The material, which appeared on a sample spreadsheet that was posted yesterday and found today, was apparently being tested on-line. Remarks included in the spreadsheet are being described as racist and included the names of two African-American legislators.

“I was shocked and disappointed to learn that a state employee apparently posted what can be interpreted as racially offensive language in a sample finance report,” Duran said. “I find these actions deeply offensive and I immediately ordered the materials removed and I initiated an investigation."

The name of the staffer was not released to the media.

“It is critical that New Mexicans have faith that the Office of the Secretary of State will protect the rights of all New Mexicans equally and that I will not tolerate any form of racism or bigotry in this office," Duran said.

"Violations of this policy will result in swift and decisive action.”

A news release we received said that Secretary Duran has placed calls to both Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton and Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert, whose names were referenced in the inappropriate posting, to address any concerns they may have.

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Justice League PAC demands Duran's resignation for racist jokes

Updated: 4:45pm

New Mexico-based Justice League, a political action committee, is calling for the immediate resignation of Secretary of State Dianna Duran for racist jokes aimed at two African American legislators they say they found posted in an online spreadsheet included in a package sent to them from Duran's state office.

The package was suppose to helped registered PACS comply with state rules ahead of next month's deadline for bi-annual bi-annual campaign reports.

According to the PAC's Treasurer Eli Il Yong Lee, the documents contained instructions to download an Excel spreadsheet from the Secretary of State’s website.

Comments left in the Monetary Contributions worksheet clearly targeted African American state legislators Sheryl Williams Stapleton and Jane Powdrell-Culbert. They are listed as manager of a faux PAC named: National Organization of the Beer Drinkers and Guzzlers.

The faux PAC's listing reports it's being managed by the first name of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederated States of America. The SOS's sample report also combines the lawmakers last names for the report Sheryl Powdrell-Culbertson. Their faux PAC's address was listed as 246678 North General Dwight D. Eisenhower Boulevard Northeast.

We have posted the Excel spreadsheet supplied to our blog from the Justice League. Duran's staff removed the original spreadsheet after it the racist listing was discovered.

“I was shocked when I downloaded Secretary Duran’s spreadsheet this morning to find such racist comments on a State document. Secretary Duran should be ashamed of herself," Il Yong Lee wrote in a "breaking news" release this morning. "We expect more from elected officials. There is no place for racism in New Mexico, much less in a state office. She should resign immediately.”

Officials at Duran's office were not immediately available for comment. And did not return two telephone calls seeking a response. An email inquiry at the governor's office was also not replied to as of Thursday afternoon.

Earlier this month, the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a request to inspect public documents at Duran's office after her office announced it had uncovered possible instances of voter fraud by foreign nationals.

The resignation demand also follows an announcement by Attorney General Gary King that Duran's decision allowing Gov. Susana Martinez to use campaign funds to pay for political ads to bolster the public's support of one of her key legislative issues in 2011 (revoking the issuance of driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants) was unlawful.

Duran was elected in November after ousting incumbent Secretary of State Mary Herrera, and was the first Republican elected to the post in 80 years.


By late Thursday afternoon, Duran said she had place one staffer on leave, called both state representatives, and said she was deeply offended by the comments in the spreadsheet.

To read more about the Secretary of State's internal investigation click here to advance one blog post.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sen. Eric Griego considers 2012 Congressional Campaign

Former Albuquerque City Councilor and current NM Sen. Eric Griego tells us he's considering a 2012 congressional campaign, but is waiting for current Rep. Martin Heinrich to make a final decision on his own 2012 U.S. Senate campaign.

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Union supporters rally in Santa Fe

About 200 people gathered in front of the Roundhouse on Saturday to rally in support of unions.

To watch a video with audio featuring the energetic and passionate Sen. Cisco McSorley click here.

And for Sen. Eric Griego click here.

Note: This was originally streamed live via my I-Phone so don't expect broadcast quality video.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011

For Pete's Sake: Transparency requires courage

by Peter St. Cyr

As the debate in Santa Fe, and across the state, heats up over revoking driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, Governor Susana Martinez, who made the issue a first-year priority for her administration, is taking her appeal directly to the public with one-minute radio ads paid for with money left over from her 2010 campaign.

Using the bully pulpit

It's really not unusual for executives, like presidents, governors, and even mayors to use their bully pulpits to rally the public in support of their proposals. In fact, presidents often take to the national air waves and urge voters to call their senators and representatives -- especially before close votes. They even jump on Air Force One and jet to cities and appeal directly to their constituents. You and I have seen them employ this strategy after almost every State of the Union speech.

President Theodore Roosevelt, who coined the phrase, understood the Oval Office is a terrific platform to advocate an agenda. Every president since has come into our living rooms and spoken to us directly.

Now, Gov. Martinez is using the airwaves, her website, and news conferences to move her public policy proposals. But, she's getting mixed reactions to those tactics.

On Saturday, shortly after the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee tabled three measures dealing with immigrant licenses, the governor's staff sent out a news release which referenced a 2010 public opinion poll. It showed 72 percent of the state's voters are opposed to licenses for non-citizens.

Martinez also had staffers attend the HCPAC hearing and video tape the proceedings. Now, she’s posted those recording on her website. Surely, if the hearings were webcast, and archived, in the first place this would not have been necessary.

Going further, Martinez then launched the radio ad campaign and paid for it with leftover campaign money. While some bloggers and political analysts have criticized her for spending donated money on the ads the law clearly states it can be used for re-election activities. And frankly, getting her agenda passed, with the help of voters calling their lawmakers, seems like a good re-election strategy to us.

Appealing directly to the public

Clearly, elected officials use the media to deliver highly targeted messages to reporters (like me) who show up for their news conferences. They know it's a direct route to the public and the best way to urge support of their proposals.

Just today we received notice that Martinez would be holding a lunch hour news conference to ask the public to support her legislation, which will implement stricter penalties on public officials who are convicted of corruption. She's even invited a group of legislators backing her anti-corruption initiative.

We have to allow executives to push their agenda and appeal to the public directly.

We’re certain that Martinez has consulted attorneys and feels comfortable using money from her 2010 campaign to fund the radio ad broadcasts, and even more comfortable posting videos of legislative hearings on her website.

But, it appears committee chairs and legislators are worried that these videos will be used "against" them in future elections.

On Wednesday, the NM Senate voted 35-3 in favor of new rules (SR4) that require members of the public -- and media -- to request permission from each committee chair and ranking minority member before they photograph, videotape or otherwise record hearings. Certainly, judges have had that option for years, but it appears to us that C-SPAN has been broadcasting federal committee meetings and floor sessions for years.

But lawmakers worry those video tapes will be edited and that they will be taken out of context. The simple solution would be to start webcasting everything beginning now.

Keep in mind, these are public officials, conducting public meetings, in a public building, and as a fan of open government, it's way past time to utilize the technology that’s available. Everyone should have direct and remote access to government.

Spinning the message

After listening to the radio ads above we checked with local law enforcement officers and a few prosecutors. They said Martinez' ads are somewhat misleading.

Prosecutors said they were never able to confirm that the 2009 Denny's robbery-homicide suspects were actual members of the violent Mara Salvatrucha Gang (MS13), which was originally reported after one of the suspects was shown with the number 13 shaved into his haircut. But police quickly backed off of the gang connection after learning the men bragged about being members of the deadly gang simply to intimidate residents in their neighborhood.

Still, Martinez' award-winning ad man and 'top advisor' Jay McCleskey isn't completely wrong. He never directly mentions MS13 in his ad -- instead he writes "a gang from El Salvador", which could technically be true.

The group (being three or more people) was clearly a criminal organization, organized and operating for criminal purposes. By most common definitions, that is a gang. Since the state does not define a gang, that definition is usually sufficient for law enforcement to classify a group as a gang. At the end of the day, all three suspect's were in the country illegally and had state driver's licenses.

For Pete’s Sake

Legislators should be have strong principles before they head to Santa Fe. Once there, they need to listen to both sides of an issue, ask questions, and then courageously stand by their votes.
If they lose re-election based on their voting records so be it. At least we will remember them for the principled leadership.

Of course, government transparency is a two-way street. And one question remains unanswered.
Will the governor, who already has a much better track record complying with Inspection of Public Records' requests, allows legislators, or the public, to record her own cabinet meetings and executive briefings?

It's time for the sun to shine on government across New Mexico.

Now, I'll get off my own blog "bully" pulpit, open my notebook and record the stories that interest you. Let's hope we'll have unlimited access to government of the people.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Video Post: Balderas prepares U.S. Senate bid

While there's no timetable to formally announce a bid for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by five-term U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico State Auditor Hector Balderas, 37, appears closer to making the commitment -- and soon.

Today, during an informal afternoon coffee interview with us, Balderas said New Mexicans are looking for the next generation of leaders to head to Washington, D.C., and he's hoping his record of fiscal discipline and work on government accountability issues, both inside the auditor's office and in the NM House of Representatives, will appeal to those voters.

An exciting time

On Saturday, inside the Roundhouse, Balderas confirmed with us that he has been consulting with his family, a team of his political advisers, and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee about the 2012 race and is close to making a decision about jumping into the race.

“I'm strongly considering entering the United States Senate race from New Mexico,” Balderas told us on Saturday.

In a time of fiscal crisis, Balderas said voters want strong leadership on issues of accountability and government reform. He said he has a record of both, including exposing statewide corruption, and uncovering a massive embezzlement in Jemez Springs in 2009.

Balderas told us he would take those same principals with him to Washington.

" I think that there has to be fiscal reform. Right now you see President Barack Obama and the legislature at the federal level grappling with this issue,” Balderas told off camera on Saturday.
"The choices and investments we make now will effect generations to come, so I will make fiscal accountability one of my top priorities.”

He also wants to make education reform another key campaign issue.

“I wouldn't be where I am today without educational opportunities,” Balderas said.

Passing the political torch

Balderas said he’s been getting favorable feedback and the buzz seems to be increasing, but Balderas said Democrats have to be concerned about holding on to Bingaman’s seat.

“New Mexicans at every kitchen or coffee table need to think about what direction do they want to go. It is a real opportunity to chose a different type of leader in New Mexico,” Balderas told me in Santa Fe before the video interview.

Republican contenders could include Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, former Rep. Heather Wilson, and former Gov. Gary Johnson. Two relatively unknowns have already launched their republican bids for the seat.

Democrat pundits have focused on Heinrich, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, former Gov. Bill Richardson, State Treasurer James B. Lewis, and former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez, along with Balderas.

If elected, Balderas would join two other Hispanics in the Senate. Florida is represented by Republican Mark Rubio, who was elected last year. New Jersey Sen. Robert Menedez, a Democrat, was appointed in 2005 by then Gov. Jon Corzine and elected outright in 2006 to a full six-year term.

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Heinrich: Cuts to Pell Grants threaten next generation workers

by Peter St. Cyr

Corrected: Wednesday at 7:45a Wednesday

Before dawn last Saturday morning, objecting to the Republicans' proposed spending bill, U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich urged members to restore Pell grant funding to current levels. His Motion to Recommit, or MTR, unfortunately failed.

Recognizing the huge federal deficit, Heinrich said Congress must approach the country's challenges with responsibility and prudence.

"Americans need jobs," Heinrich said. "Republicans have ignored this problem and now they're making it worse."

Focused on preparing the next generation of workers, Heinrich spent his short time at the podium and warned members that arbitrary short-term cuts to programs like Pell grants will harm the country.

Educating students for a sustainable future

Heinrich, who announced a day later that he's considering launching a bid to replace U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, told house members how the cuts will affect students like New Mexico war vet Specialist John Carabillo. He's currently enrolled in an associates program and studying information technology.

"These cuts are a choice that come at the expense of middle class Americans. And cuts to education weakens the country," Heinrich said.

After graduation, Carabillo, hopes to find an IT job at Kirtland Air Force Base.

The cuts approved by republicans, Heinrich believes will threaten Carabillo's opportunities and could force him to delay his education, take fewer classes, or take out expensive loans.

At 4:30 in the morning, Heinrich mustered the energy to tell his colleague that his MTR would be paid for by cutting salaries and expenses at the Department of Education, which takes it back to fiscal year 2008 levels.

Under the House Republicans’ bill, funding for Federal Pell Grant scholarships in New Mexico would be cut by $39 million in fiscal year 2011 from current levels, which would significantly reduce or eliminate federal financial aid for almost 10,307 low-income college students and slice $845 off of the current maximum award.

"This motion to recommit would be a down payment to Carabillo's future," Heinrich told a packed chamber. "My amendment to restore these scholarships will not add a penny to the deficit." Heinrich says the money for Pell grants can be found by making cuts to Education Department salaries.

We've asked Heinrich's staff to crunch some more numbers. We'd like to know how the Republicans' spending bill will impact New Mexico in other areas, like transportation, university research, lab spending, child head start and health programs, construction, and other areas.

We'll let you know. You can read how budget cuts are going to impact California in this LA Times article. You can expect similar consequences in New Mexico.

Correction: In the original post we wrote the a MTR was a Motion to Restore. In fact, it a Motion to Recommit.

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