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politics

Gary Johnson: Libertarians won't be to blame

Marisa Demarco

Gary Johnson spent the night mingling with supporters casually and thanking them for their votes. He took the stage a short while ago after running mate, Judge James Gray.

"A wasted vote is a vote for somebody you don't believe in," Johnson said. "There were a lot of wasted votes tonight. There were more wasted votes than I've ever seen in my life."

He told the Alibi in an interview tonight that things were looking good, but then as Election Day neared and the presidential race seemed tight, "we saw things evaporate. I thought we would have done better."

His crowd of supporters punctuated his speech with cheers as he spoke of his platform: "Roll back the police state. Stop the war. Stop the military intervention. Marriage equality is a constitutionally guaranteed right. Repeal the Patriot Act."

Johnson said no one can blame the Libertarians for the state of the country. "We should all be proud of ourselves, because over the next four years, none of us are going to have to say we're responsible for this. Don't blame me. I didn't vote for either one of them. I voted for Gary Johnson."

Judge Gray pleaded from the podium with Johnson to run again in 2016. Johnson told the Alibi that's the last thing anyone wants to talk about today, especially after a prolonged and dirty election cycle. "I ran two campaigns for governor where I did not mention my opponent in print, radio or on TV," Johnson pointed out.

After he made his way off the stage, someone from the audience shouted that Colorado had legalized marijuana for recreational use. Johnson said the state's move will lead to a change worldwide in drug policy.

politics

4th Party Roundup

Yeah, yeah, Bronco Bama and Mittens Whatever. Surely some of you are as sick as I am of the non-stop coverage those guys get and are wondering how the OTHER candidates are doing.

No, I don’t mean that Gary Johnson, Jill Stein crap either. I’m talking about the candidates with integrity! The candidates with boots on their heads, with magical flying reindeer, with no mouths whatsoever, and who may or may not actually exist!

Sadly, things aren’t looking so good for our below-the-ballot candidates:

Hello Kitty, by virtue of her London birth (!) is disqualified from seeking office.

Mr. The-Rent-Is-Too-Damn-High seems to have scuppered his presidential campaign and is now, according to his website, "exploring the possibility" of either running for New York mayor, and/or getting "a candidate on the ballot" in all 50 states in 2013. (What are we voting for in 2013?)

Santa Claus sold us out and is endorsing Jill Stein.

And finally, Vermin Supreme openly admits that a vote for him "is a vote completely thrown away." (Although we all get ponies if he wins!)

Screw it, I'm voting for Pogo.

Gary Johnson, Libertarian candidate for president, marched in Santa Fe's Pride parade on June 23. He says LGBTQ couples have a constitutionally guaranteed right to get married.
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
Gary Johnson, Libertarian candidate for president, marched in Santa Fe's Pride parade on June 23. He says LGBTQ couples have a constitutionally guaranteed right to get married.
politics

Gary Johnson: Coming to a ballot near you

When voters hit the polls countrywide, they’ll see at least three options for president. One of them is former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. As the Libertarian candidate, he’s pitching himself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal.

“I'm going to be the only candidate that doesn't want to bomb Iran. I'm going to be the only candidate that wants to get out Afghanistan now—and the wars. I'm going to be the only candidate that wants to end the drug war. I'm going to be the only candidate that wants to bring about marriage equality, believing that it’s a constitutionally guaranteed right.”

I got a chance to speak with him about what it means to be a third-party candidate for president in a country that’s increasingly frustrated with its leaders. Read up on his positions regarding the drug war, the Tea Party and minimal government.

politics

Heather Wilson and American Crossroads

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Outside money from Super PACs is already pouring into the New Mexico Senate race between Heather Wilson and Rep. Martin Heinrich. American Crossroads—a conservative super PAC launched in 2010 with help from Karl Rove and former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie—released an its first pro-Wilson ad on Wednesday. The ad, which Crossroads spent $250,000 to air across the state, is a positive bio spot that emphasizes her Air Force career and her “independent record.”

Wilson sat on the board of Crossroads GPS—the 501(c)(4) committee aligned with American Crossroads—from August 2010 to February 2011. The New Mexico Telegram reports that she “lists the Washington D.C. political group as a ‘nonprofit educational’ group.”

Crossroads GPS has provoked controversy because it runs explicitly political ads designed to get Republicans elected, but it does not have to reveal its donors to the public. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has allowed groups such as Crossroads to become big-money political players. During the 2010 election cycle, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS spent heavily on pro-Republican and anti-Democrat ads.

OpenSecrets.org reports that Crossroads aims to spend up to $300 million in 2012 to try to oust President Obama from the White House. In its first two years of operation, Just this week, Crossroads paid $7 million for an anti-Obama ad that will run for the next two weeks in 10 battleground states.

In other states with contentious Senate campaigns, Republican backers have been outspending Democratic backers three to one. Ohio’s Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown has so far been outspent $8 million to $2.5 million. Like the New Mexico race, Virginia’s Senate seat is open, and two solid candidates are competing. But the disparity in outside money is staggering. Supporters of Democratic candidate Tim Kaine have been outspent $1.9 million to $385,000.

What does this mean for the Heinrich-Wilson race as we gear up for a nasty general election campaign? If the race follows the precedents already being set in other states, New Mexicans should prepare to have their airwaves flooded and their mailboxes filled with political ads paid for by outside groups. And chances are, they won’t be so positive.

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politics

Is New Mexico still a swing state?

Presidential politics were likely not on the minds of New Mexico voters during the primaries on Tuesday. There was no question as to whether Mitt Romney and President Obama would be the major party candidates on the ballot in November. But the general election cycle has begun. At this point, the outlook for the typically competitive and evenly divided state appears surprisingly one-sided.

In recent presidential election cycles, New Mexico received significant attention from candidates vying for the White House. The state’s demographic mix of staunchly conservative Southern New Mexico, liberal Democratic Northern New Mexico, and politically fickle Albuquerque has traditionally made the state into a battleground. In a close election year, New Mexico’s five electoral votes have held strategic importance.

In 2000, Al Gore defeated George W. Bush in New Mexico by a mere 366 votes. Bush flipped the state to the Republican side in 2004, winning by 6,000 votes. The key to Bush’s 2004 victory was his ability to win more than 40 percent of the state’s Hispanic vote. Both elections were won by less than one percentage point.

Those narrow contests made the state a major target for both Obama and John McCain in 2008. Both candidates spent millions of dollars on advertising and made multiple campaign stops in New Mexico. Nevertheless, the contest was not close in 2008. Obama dominated, winning a sizable 15 percent margin of victory. In doing so, he helped sweep in Democratic congressional candidates Tom Udall, Ben Ray Lujan, Martin Heinrich and Harry Teague.

Democrats are hoping that President Obama will repeat his dominant performance in New Mexico this election cycle. Polls so far show the president leading by a significant margin. Consistent high polling for Obama in the winter led Public Policy Polling to write in April, “New Mexico is not going to be a swing state this year.”

Obama is polling remarkably well among key constituencies in the state. He is up 61-35 among women, 67-30 among Hispanics, and 56-35 among young voters. Over the last decade, New Mexico’s electorate has become more favorable for Democratic candidates. The heavily Democratic Hispanic voter population has increased and Albuquerque has leaned more toward Democrats.

Democrats Martin Heinrich and Michelle Lujan Grisham would certainly like help from Obama supporters in November. A high-turnout victory for Obama might help put them over the top in close contests for the open Senate and Congressional seats. Democrats hoping to gain significant ground in the state Legislature also need an Obama wave.

Does Mitt Romney stand a chance of turning New Mexico red in November? Susana Martinez proved just two years ago that the state can still support Republicans in statewide elections. She remains popular with New Mexicans, showing a 54 percent approval rating in April. Her high approval rating, however, does not seem to be translating into support for Romney.

Romney must win over the more of the state’s Hispanic voters if he wants any chance of competing. With his hard-line immigration stance, Romney will likely find this to be an uphill battle. This week, Romney began courting Hispanic voters by releasing an ad citing rising unemployment and poverty for Hispanics under Obama. Yesterday, he appointed Gov. Martinez to a Hispanic leadership team in his campaign.

Yet the forecast still looks favorable for Obama in the Land of Enchantment. The race will likely tighten as November nears. But compared to previous cycles, it does not seem like the presidential campaign will reach a fever pitch in New Mexico. If the race continues to trend clearly toward Obama, both candidates may shift their focus elsewhere. The candidates’ relative lack of attention to the state compared to previous cycles could lower voter turnout and dampen enthusiasm for important and closer contests for the Senate, House and State Legislature.

politics

Citizens United screws with local primary races

Al Park
Al Park
Democrat PRC candidate Al Park made a last-ditch attempt in Federal Court to prevent his opponents from spending their campaign funds.

Park, a PAC and the Bernalillo County Republican Party used the argument that money is speech to make their eleventh-hour stand on Friday at 4 p.m. Primary election day is tomorrow.

First, some background. In New Mexico, candidates for the Public Regulation Commission and statewide judicial posts can use public financing to run their campaigns. Contenders were able to get about $30,000 from the state make a run at the PRC job. Democrats Cynthia Hall and Karen Montoya chose this option. Park, on the other hand, filled a war chest with more than $150,000 for the primary race.

Karen Montoya
Karen Montoya
Because he raised so much money, matching funds were triggered. Montoya and Hall were due another $60,000 in public cash to keep up.

But a year ago, the Supreme Court ruled that matching funds are unconstitutional in Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett. Just as with the Citizens United ruling (famously pummeled by Stephen Colbert), the Bennett decision is based on the idea that money is political speech. Therefore, matching funds dilute the speech of people who donated to privately financed candidates. And that speech, said our nation's justices, is protected under the First Amendment.

At the hearing Friday, Park argued that thousands of contributors would be impacted if his opponents could spend their matching funds. The contenders with private war chests would also suffer irreparable harm, he said. "If these candidates lose, there is no recourse."

Park, by the way, voted as a legislator in favor of the bill that brought public financing to these races in 2003—a fact he acknowledged during the hearing. But, he said, that was before the high court ruled on Bennett. "The Bennett case is the law of the land."

New Mexico's Voter Action Act, he pointed out, was patterned after Arizona's law, which was at issue in the Bennett case.

Victor Lopez
Victor Lopez
But, argued lawyer Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, there are some key differences. In some Arizona races, candidates are given as much as $250,000, she said. In New Mexico the initial sum is much smaller. That makes the matching funds more crucial. She represented Judge Victor Lopez, a publicly financed candidate for the Court of Appeals who would also be affected by Friday's decision.

Sedillo Lopez said in New Mexico, judges are never allowed to know who donates to their campaigns because there's a threat that a contributor may later have a case before the judge. She added that those who chose to gather private donations still host fundraisers, and "it's not like they wear blindfolds to those fundraisers." That's why public financing is critical to the independence of the judiciary, she said.

In the 2012 legislative session, a bill was introduced to do away with New Mexico's matching funds. The secretary of state and the attorney general testified in favor of the measure. But it failed. The constitutionality issue was still part of Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran's justification for not issuing the matching funds to the candidates. She was finally forced in State Court to release the funds on Friday morning, leaving the candidates just a few days to spend $60,000. The afternoon hearing in Federal Court attempted to block them from using the money even though it had been dispersed earlier in the day.

Cynthia Hall
Cynthia Hall
PRC candidate Hall said in an interview this afternoon that she wasn't sure she could spend it all, but she's going to get pretty close. Radio ads and robo-calls kicked up over the weekend, and she's got a staff of people working 12-hour days, going door-to-door and making phone calls. She couldn't get any TV ads on the air because she got the money too late, she said.

"In the past two days, I’ve thought, Gee, how different my campaign would have been if I had gotten this money when I was supposed to." That was back on April 30, she said. The secretary of state will be taken to task, she added. She's not sure yet whether she will sue Duran, she said, but "I think we'd be doing the public a favor."

The Supreme Court's decisions in Citizens United and Bennett are out of touch with what citizens really want, Hall said. The idea that money is speech gives power to the wealthy: "It elevates the value of private money over the value of voters' interest in fair elections." Eventually, the Supreme Court usually catches up with a cultural shift, she added, and around the country, people are working to overturn these bad calls.

politics

Early Voting Ends Tomorrow!

It’s getting down to the wire to vote in the primary. Unsure about who’s running and what their platforms consist of? Check out our user-friendly election guide, which you can even personalize and access with your smartphone.

My Vote Centers will be open throughout Bernalillo County from 8:00 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and tomorrow, June 2. Stop in at the most convenient location to cast your ballot. An additional list of early voting locations can be found here. For additional information, call the County Clerk at 243-VOTE (8683).

The last day to vote in the primary is Tuesday, June 5. So far voter turnout has been thin; don’t be one of many whose voice won’t be included!

politics

Al Park’s omission

Al Park
Al Park

During our endorsement interview, we asked attorney and PRC candidate Al Park about a potential conflict of interest in contracting with the state if he gets elected.

That day in early May, he told the editorial panel, "Over 50 law firms in the state have risk management contracts, and we've got a really small one." He failed to mention his firm— Park & Anderson, LLC—has made more than $600,000 from that contract in the last 10 months.

Read the whole story here.

politics

Today is the last day to register to vote in the primaries

We’ve been busy interviewing candidates in this year’s primary election on June 5. We’ll have our endorsements out soon!

In the meantime, make sure you’re registered to vote. You’ve still got a little more than two hours to get it together.

Only folks who are registered as Democrat or Republican can vote in the primary in New Mexico. Scout all the how-to details for Bernalillo County on the clerk’s website.

politics

Santorum calls it quits

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If Madonna married a real giant, that would be good.

Republican candidate Rick Santorum dropped out of the race today, which effectively means Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee. Santorum’s daughter is ill, and he hasn’t been polling well.

Here’s a post on his relative truthiness over the course of the campaign from PolitiFact.

Santorum made his anouncement without endorsing Romney. But Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus commended the now ex-candidate for putting “his desire to defeat President Obama” above ambition.

Obama has a decent—if inconsistent—lead on Romney in the polls, according to this Gallup chart. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about that soon since the spin from here until November will be about those two candidates.

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