State could see major consequences from presidential election
More than a few voters treated this election’s outcome like an unwanted Christmas gift. They moved quickly to try to return it, pass it on to a friend, or put it in the attic to be forgotten. But as the old saying goes: “Elections have consequences,” and they can’t be ignored, no matter how disconsolate one is over the outcome.
Here are some of those consequences for our fair New Mexico:
The Legislature is about to take a step toward the left as it adds two Democrats to the Senate and five Democrats to the House. The means the 2014 historic Republican takeover of the House ends at two years. But will the deeper blue shading of the Roundhouse mean big policy changes?
It’s not likely. Remember, Republican Gov. Martinez still has two years left and is now buying new ink for her veto pen for use if the Democrats start sending her legislation that makes her frown.
Given the likelihood of more Santa Fe gridlock, the impact of the election is mainly on the narrative. That means much less talk about the conservative agenda of right-to-work, cutting regulations and taxes, and much more about education, poverty and the state’s depopulation. In other words, the Legislature will have to deal with all that fun stuff the Republicans tried to sweep under the rug with an “all crime all the time” agenda that failed to keep voters from straying from them.
The most visceral fear of the Trump presidency in New Mexico is among those who may be here illegally. The president-elect is pledging to quickly deport millions of undocumented immigrants whom he deems to be criminals. How that’s defined is what is sending shivers up the spines of the state’s large immigrant community.
Trump did not triumph here, as New Mexico handed a resounding 48 percent to 40 percent win to Clinton. But that does not mean for the next four years the state will always get the short end of the stick. It’s a mixed bag.
Trump has pledged to “rebuild” the military and rescind defense cuts. That’s a big deal for the state’s four military bases as well as Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, which are deeply entwined with the defense industry. He is also saying that a federal hiring freeze he plans will not apply to the military. Because federal funding remains the principal driver of the state’s economy, that’s a bit of good news.
On the other hand, a Trump presidency, combined with Republican control of both houses of Congress, could mean a hit to the social safety net programs that so much of the state is dependent upon in the form of Medicaid and food stamps. These programs are exploding with recipients as the state’s economic stagnation makes more residents eligible.
The individual fortunes of a slew of state politicians were reshaped by Election ’16. Gov. Martinez’s refusal to endorse Trump cost her dearly with the Republican base. Don’t look for Trump to plot revenge against her, but do look for her to be ignored by the White House.
Southern GOP Congressman Steve Pearce was the only prominent state office holder to go all in for Trump. That could mean more power (and pressure) for him as the state looks to Pearce to hold off any especially damaging fallout from Washington. He’ll also have a big say in the passing out of plum federal jobs here.
Democrat U.S. Sen. Tom Udall may have had it with D.C. His party failed to take back the Senate, and Udall is now publicly acknowledging that he is looking at running for the 2018 Democratic nomination for governor. He is a big fish in a small pond, and if he gets in, it could end the nomination hopes of Albuquerque U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Up next? The October 2017 Albuquerque mayoral election, but after the tumult of this year, we’re all permitted to take a break from La Politica but only until the Christmas trees come down.
Joe Monahan is a veteran of New Mexico politics. His daily blog can be found at joemonahan.com.