Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New Mexico's 2012 Politics

When trying to get good information and investigative reporting about New Mexico's politics, I turn to Joe Monahan's Blog New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan.  Right now, he's doing a great expose of Republican Governor Susana Martinez's poltical missteps and amateurish executive style with her over reliance on Republican strategist Jay McCleskey.  The Santa Fe New Mexican has been printing articles about Martinez's use of private email for official state business and her use of government employees to collect information for her political superpac fundraiser Susana PAC. There is a loud cry about a Shadow Government operating in the New Mexican State Capitol, with some people characterizing Jay McCleskey as the "Guv" on  the Fifth Floor (the NM Capitol building has only 4 floors and Gov. Susana Martinez is on the fourth floor).  This is a set back for the Hispanic Governor that some in the Republican Party thought might be a VP pick for Romney. 

Talking about presidential politics, New Mexico has fallen off the short list of critical swing states that could determine the US Presidency in 2012.  This will most likely result in fewer dollars spent on political ads in our state. Here's an interesting piece reprinted from: the New York Times "Five Thirty Eight Nate Silver's Political Calculus" - June 15, 2012 on the role New Mexico will play in the 2012 Presidential election:

Presidential Geography: New Mexico


This is the inaugural post in our Presidential Geography series, a one-by-one examination of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In each state, we’ll explore the economic and demographic peculiarities that combine to make one state lean toward President Obama and another go solidly to Mitt Romney. We’ll also highlight a bellwether county in each state to watch for clues on election night as to where the statewide vote will end up.

The 2000 presidential election is most remembered for the Florida recount and George W. Bush’s hair-thin margin over Al Gore in the state. But it was actually New Mexico that had the closest contest that year: a 366-vote Gore victory. Four years later, the race in New Mexico was nearly as tight. Mr. Bush managed a 5,988-vote cushion over Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Then came the 2008 race, and the vote in New Mexico wasn’t close to close. President Obama carried the state by 125,590 votes, a 15-percentage point shellacking.

So what happened?

Answer 1: Demographic changes, a growing Hispanic population chief among them, finally hit a tipping point, and Democratic presidential candidates will be able to bank on New Mexico’s five electoral votes in 2012 and for the foreseeable future.

Answer 2: The 2008 election was an anomaly. A Democratic wave nationally — caused by a deeply unpopular Republican in the White House and a financial crisis — as well as a strong get-out-the-vote effort by the Obama campaign combined to inflate the margin in New Mexico. The state will revert to its pre-2008 competitiveness in 2012.

To find the correct answer, FiveThirtyEight spoke with two political science professors from the University of New Mexico: Gabriel R. Sanchez, who is also the director of research for Latino Decisions; and Christine Sierra, who heads up the university’s Southwest Hispanic Research Institute.

New Mexico has grown more Democratic as its Hispanic population has increased. Hispanics make up 46 percent of the state’s population. Mr. Bush was competitive there partly because he did well among Hispanic voters, winning 44 percent in 2004. In 2008, by contrast, Senator John McCain of Arizona won just 30 percent of the Hispanic vote.

Spanish-speaking enclaves in northern New Mexico trace their heritage back to the Spanish explorers of the 1500s, and many families have been American citizens for generations. As a result, Hispanic turnout tends to be higher in the north than in southwest New Mexico, where recent immigrants from Mexico and Central and South America are more common.

Beyond the growing Latino population, Mr. Obama’s margin in New Mexico was helped by the state’s large American Indian presence, which is 10 percent of New Mexico’s population and which was determinedly courted by the Obama campaign in 2008.

The Third Congressional District is the most Democratic in the state. It includes liberal-leaning Sante Fe and has a higher share of Indians, almost 20 percent, than the state’s other two districts.

New Mexico might be even more Democratic if not for idiosyncratic Albuquerque, the state’s only real metropolis. Albuquerque, in the central part of the state, is less Democratic than big cities in other states. The First Congressional District, which is anchored by Albuquerque, elected a Republican to Congress from its creation in 1969 until 2008.

One reason Albuquerque might be more politically competitive than other big cities, Ms. Sierra said, is that nearly one-fourth of its workers are employed by the government, and many of those jobs are defense-related. Sandia National Laboratories and Kirtland Air Force Base are both in Albuquerque.

The southeast is the one overwhelmingly Republican region of New Mexico. Known as Little Texas, the area — in its culture and landscape — resembles its giant neighbor: it is predominately white, and oil and cattle ranching are two of its principal industries.

The Bellwether: Sandoval County

Picture by Mark Holm for The New York Times

Sandoval County has recently been an almost-perfect barometer of New Mexico’s political mood. In the past three presidential elections, the vote share for both the Democrat and the Republican in Sandoval County hasn’t been more than one percentage point off of the levels statewide.

Sandoval County is home to Rio Rancho, a suburb of Albuquerque that has ballooned into the third largest city in the state. Rio Rancho grew 69 percent from 2000 to 2010. The residents of its subdivisions, like the one above, are a little more conservative than the people of Albuquerque and include employees for Intel, Victoria’s Secret and Sprint PCS, all of which have plants in Rio Rancho.

The Bottom Line

Mr. Obama is a 92 percent favorite in New Mexico, according to the current FiveThirtyEight forecast. The model projects the president will receive 55 percent to Mr. Romney’s 44 percent, an 11-point margin. That would be a closer race — if not exactly close — compared to 2008.

An 11-point Democratic margin is also probably closer to New Mexico’s default partisan lean than the 15-point victory in 2008. Going back to our two answers at the top of this post, both Mr. Sanchez and Ms. Sierra said that both were incorrect. “The truth likely lies somewhere between the two, but it is too early to tell,” Mr. Sanchez said.

New Mexico might be a swing state in future elections, depending on the national political environment and the candidates. In particular, a Republican candidate would have to have unique appeal to Hispanics to put the state in play (a task that may have been made harder for Mr. Romney by the Obama administration’s decision to limit deportations in certain cases).

But New Mexico is probably no longer a tipping-point state. And if Mr. Obama finds himself in danger of losing in the Land of Enchantment, it’s likely that a large share of the rest of the nation has already become disenchanted with him.

New Mexico QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June Wildflowers on Sandia Mountain Trails

Last Saturday (June 9th)  I joined Jeanette Buffet and 11 participants on a Wildflower Walk in the Sandia Mountains on the South 10K Trail.  Volunteers for the Forest Service lead these lovely walks. Here are some of the flowers we saw.

Golden Pea Thermopsis montana

Jacob's Ladder

Red Elderberry Sambucus racemosa v. microbotrys

Calypso Orchid or Lady Slipper

Lanceleaf Bluebells Mertensia lancelota

Red Columbine Aquilegia desertorum

Sidebells or One-Sided Wintergreen Orthilia secunda

False Solomon Seal

Mahonia or Oregon Grape

Ninebark Physocarpus monogynus

Rattlesnake Orchid Goodyera oblongiflora (bloom has dried)

This hike at 10,000 ft. elevation had a lot of blooming wildflowers  and was worth the time. I walked the Cienaga Canyon Trail on Monday (June 11th) and found the area fairly sparse and dry with the following wildflowers still blooming:

Dakota Vervain

Rocky Mountain Pentstamen

Northern Bedstraw Galium boreale

White flowers on Jacob's Ladder

New Mexico Scorpian Weed Phacelia neomexicana


Scarlet Pentstemon

Atlantis Fritillary Butterfly

Capulin or Chokecherry (inmature fruit)

Purple Geranium

Northern Bog Violet

Northern Bog Violet

Hop Tree Ptelea trioliata

Golden Smoke

Yellow Clover  Melilotus officinalis

Northern Bog Violet Viola nephronphyllia

Spike Verbena Verbena macdougalii

Richardson's Geranium

Tuber Starwort

Giant Hyssop Agastache pallidiflora


Sweet Cicely

Blue flowers on Jacob's Ladder

Mountain Figwort (a favorite of hummingbirds)

Cienaga Spring where the Northern Bog Violets grow. Cutleaf Coneflower Rudbekia laciniata (not blooming yet)  in foreground

Northern Anemone or Windflower Anemone canadensis

Windflowers were in full bloom by the side of the road just before the last parking area and trailhead

Returning home at 5PM, I enjoyed that fabulous New Mexico sky

On Tuesday (June 12th)  I took a walk on the Tree Springs Trail and found very few wildflowers:

Western Wallflower

Mountain Parsley

Rocky Mountain Penstemon was a star here, blooming was at its peak

Wild Strawberry

Rocky Mountain Pentstemon


Small-leaf Pussytoes

Flowers of Small-leaf Pussytoes

Mountain Parsley

Pretty Cinquefoil

New Mexico Locust tree on the Oso Corredor Trail cut-off

Fendler's Waterleaf or Squaw lettuce
Hydrophyllum fendleri

Tuber Starwort

Rocky Mountain Pentstemon

Rocky Mountain Clematis (not blooming yet)

Whipple's Penstamon Pentstamon whippleanus

Whipple's Penstamon is also called Dusky Penstamon

Whipple's Penstamon

Whipple's Penstamon

Scarlet Penstamon Penstamon barbatus ssp. torreyi

Western Yarrow Achillea millefolium

I will lead the wildflower walks on Sandia Mountain trails June 16th and June 30th.  Please meet at the Sandia Ranger Station in Tijeras at 9:00AM on any Saturday through August if you wish to join us.