Dr. Joseph Pitluck Aguirre Withdraws From City Council District 6 Race; Family Relocating To Missouri; 4 Candidates Remain With Likely Run Off

On August 29, Dr. Joseph Pitluck Aguirre announced by a press release his withdrawal from the Albuquerque City Council District 6 race.  He further announced that he and his family will be relocating to the Kansas City metro area to practice dentistry where he will provide quality dental care to underserved communities. Pitluck Aguirre acknowledged that his decision may come as a surprise to some but he appreciates the understanding of the Albuquerque community during this transition.  August 29 was the day privately financed candidates had to file Declaration of Candidacy with the City Clerk.

District 6 is the South East Heights City Council District now represented by City councilor Pat Davis who decided no to  run for a third term. Dr.  Pitluck Aguirre is a registered Independent, a dentist and software development company owner and he was privately financed candidate. Dr. Pitluck Aguirre’s campaign for City Council focused on combating crime, assisting the unhoused, supporting small businesses, and expanding access to healthcare and STEM opportunities.  Dr. Pitluck Aguirre sees his move to the Kansas City metro area as an extension of these efforts.  He said this in explaining his decision:

“I am deeply thankful for the opportunity to engage with the Albuquerque community during my campaign. The support I received has been profoundly moving.  While I am relocating, Albuquerque will always hold a special place in my heart. I remain committed to this wonderful community and intend to maintain strong ties.”

“I am confident that this move will enable me to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. I look forward to maintaining strong ties with the Albuquerque community and continuing to support initiatives that foster prosperity, safety, and well-being.”

“In recent years, several states, including Missouri, have made significant strides in improving their dental Medicaid reimbursement rates. These improvements not only counter the effects of inflation but also create an environment that allows dental health professionals to serve their communities more effectively. I see this move as an opportunity to continue my mission of providing quality dental care, especially to those who need it most.”

“My dental practice will directly contribute to improving healthcare access in underserved communities. I also remain committed to advocating for policies that support small businesses and increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for dental health providers, wherever I am. ”

Dr. Pitluck Aguirre expressed his heartfelt gratitude to Sandia National Laboratories for their invaluable support to his software company over the years and he said this:

“Their technical guidance through the New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program, and the opportunity to serve as a contractor, has been a privilege. It allowed us to support, in our own small way, their crucial mission of national security. I am profoundly grateful for the chance to contribute to such a significant cause. ”

For more information, you can contact Dr. Joe Pitluck Aguirre at joe@joe4abq.com.


The regular 2023 municipal election to elect City Councilors for City Council Districts 2, 4, 6, and 8 will be held on November 7, 2023 along with $200 Million in bonds to be approved by city voters.  The remaining District 6 candidates are:

Abel Otero, a Progressive Democrat, a barber and community activist. (Publicly financed candidate.)

Kristin Green, Progressive Democrat and community activist. (Publicly financed candidate.)

Jeff Hoehn, Democrat, a nonprofit executive director. (Privately financed candidate.)

Nichole Rogers, Democrat, business consultant with background in health care, education and government.  (Publicly financed candidate.)

The candidates in the other 3 City Council races are:


Joaquin Baca, Democrat, a hydrologist. (Publicly financed candidate.)

Loretta Naranjo Lopez, Democrat, a retired city planner. (Publicly financed candidate.)

Moises A. Gonzalez, unable to identify, community activist. (Privately financed candidate.)


Brook Bassan, Republican Incumbent, a stay-at-home mom. (Publicly financed candidate.)

Abby Foster, Progressive Democrat, and private attorney. (Privately financed candidate.)


Dan Champine, Republican, a retired police officer and current mortgage lender. (Publicly financed candidate.)

Idalia Lechuga-Tena, Democrat, a consultant and former state representative, (Publicly financed candidate.)


The District 6 Albuquerque City Council race is the most contentious of the 4 City Council races with 4 remaining candidates all who are Democrats.  The November 7 municipal election could shift city council majority control from the current 5 Democrats to a Republican control or perhaps a conservative shift to challenge Mayor Keller’s progressive agenda.

After the 2021 municipal election, the city council went from a 6-3 Democrat Majority with the loss of a west side Democrat incumbent to a Republican and it became a 5-4 Democrat majority, but the ideology split is 5 conservatives to 3 progressives and 1 moderate.

Informed sources have  confirmed Mayor Tim Keller has met with or spoken to at least 3 progressive democrats running and pledging his support to them. This is a clear indication that Keller is fully aware the stakes are high in the upcoming 2023 municipal election. Keller intends to take an active roll in electing city councilors who will support his progressive agenda during the final 2 years of his second term thereby setting himself up to run for a third term in 2025.

District 6 is the most progressive district in the city.  Because there are 4 democrats running it is more likely than not a run off will happen between the two top vote getters if one of the 4 does not secure 50% plus one of the November 7, 2023.

Best wishes to Dr. Joseph Pitluck Aguirre and his family as they embark on relocating to Kansas City and thank you for your willingness to run for public office.

New Mexico’s Financial Reserves Reach 52% Of Ongoing State Spending; Déjà vu All Over Again; State Needs To Shed “Saving For Rainy Day” Mentality; Invest Surplus In Transformative Projects

The Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) is a bipartisan panel of lawmakers, both state senators and representatives, who work on the state’s budget year-round.  On August 23, the LFC met in Las Vegas, New Mexico where Secretary of Finance and Administration Wayne Propst briefed lawmakers on New Mexico’s revenues and the status of the state’s financial reserves used to help state government pay its bills.  Propst was joined by economists from the legislative and executive branches of government to share the revenue forecast.  The briefing was one of many that will occur to assist law makers in drafting the state’s annual budget before the 2024 legislative session that will begin on January 16, 2024.

Secretary Propst told lawmakers that New Mexico’s financial reserves have reached upwards of 52% of ongoing state spending this summer resulting in a financial cushion of nearly $4.4 billion.  The financial cushion is being fueled by the incredible oil and gas boom and along with strong consumer spending generating gross receipts tax revenues. The windfall is expected to continue.

Propst said New Mexico legislators and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham can expect almost $3.5 billion in “new money” for next year’s budget.   “New Money” is defined as the difference between current spending levels and projected revenue for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2024.  In otherwards, “new money” is the money left over after the state pays for all its yearly expenses.  Because of the state’s economic growth, declining unemployment rates, and the state’s oil and gas industry revenues, the state has far more to spend in new money. Propst told the LFC this:

“We’re living in unprecedented, historic times in the state of New Mexico [when it comes to oil and gas revenues]. … I think we’re in a safe place as a state.”

In December of 2022, New Mexico’s economists estimated how much cash the state would earn from things like taxes and investments. Now, a new estimate shows another $866.2 million they didn’t realize they’d have for the fiscal year 2023 and $790.7 million they didn’t know they’d have for the fiscal year 2024.

This year’s projected revenue growth is a continuation of record breaking  financial years for New Mexico. The increase in revenues is once again attributed to oil and gas revenue which makes up roughly 40% of the state general fund. Oil and gas revenues are historically very volatile as the markets can and  have had dramatic declines and increases.

New Mexico has surged past North Dakota to become the No. 2 oil-producing state in the nation, behind only Texas. According to state economists, oil production in New Mexico hit a record high in a recent 12-month period, with even steeper increases expected in the coming years.

The revenue is expected to give New Mexico lawmakers tremendous financial flexibility as they start preparing a budget package for consideration in the 2024 legislative session.

Ismael Torres, chief economist for the Legislative Finance Committee, said the incredible growth in oil production is expected to level off and then decline. Production is expected to peak in 2031. Torrez said this:

“These surpluses may not be here forever.”

To guard against a collapse in revenue, the New Mexico legislature has been very conservative and has allocated increases of funding into what are called “permanent funds” that are designed to provide steady income. Permanent funds act like endowment accounts where investments are made and can generate income.  Secretary of Taxation and Revenue Stephanie Schardin Clarke told lawmakers the state is “building a bridge from peak oil” to income that grows more predictably through investments.


The revenue projections for the last 2 years  are a total turnaround from 7 years ago when New Mexico policymakers were faced with major deficits and were force to spend heavily out of the state’s main reserve accounts to help the state government finance essential services and pay its bills.  In 2016 and 2017 a dramatic crash in oil prices occurred.  The state faced a downgrade in its credit rating and had the nation’s highest unemployment rate.

In order to avoid any and all tax increases despite any need, then Governor Susana Martinez and the legislature responded with a series of budget cuts and sweeping cash out of various state accounts to ensure the state could pay its bills. The state was forced to empty its main reserve accounts.  As a result, the state had just 2.4% of recurring spending in reserves in 2016.  Most of the reserve funding came from a tobacco settlement fund and it was a reserve of last resort.

As a result of the dramatic turnaround from 7 years ago, the budget approved for this year increased ongoing spending by upwards of 14% to roughly $9.6 billion over last year. In addition to the increase spending, lawmakers phased in reductions in the state’s gross receipts tax rate and twice issued one-time tax rebates to taxpayers.

The legislature’s financial strategy also included the creation of endowment-like accounts intended to generate steady income, even if oil revenue dips. The most notable endowments created were for early childhood education programs. Lawmakers also established new reserve accounts bolstered by automatic transfers of surplus revenue.

According to Secretary Propst, notwithstanding the dramatic turnaround in revenues, the state still faces downwards market risks.  A good example of such risks includes disruptions in the energy market spurred by Russia’s attack on Ukraine. There are also upside scenarios that could push revenue even beyond today’s robust expectations.


New Mexico law makers are already beginning to discuss what do to do with the surplus.  The first will be to again put more funding into “rainy day” permanent funds but other ideas are emerging.  The ideas being discussed include everything from tax reform, health care, education and infra structure.

While some of the money will be set aside for permanent funds, like the Early Childhood Trust Fund, State Senator  Pat Woods, who represents Curry, Quay, and Union counties, says these programs are overfunded and hopes to put more money in future funds. Woods said this:

“We have so much money in the program right now that we are not able to, we are about to the maximum, of what we can employ for state government. … We have a lot of unfilled vacancies in state government, but we are not having any luck filling them – therefore we can’t produce much more programs.”

With the extra money in the budget, New Mexico House Republican Minority Leader Ryan Lane wants to tackle tax reform which is borders on a Republican broken record. Lane said this:

“I think we need to take a hard look as legislators as to why are personal income taxes are so high when we have such a surplus. … I think we should tackle some comprehensive tax legislation to really put more money back into our New Mexico working-class taxpayer pockets.”

Higher education is always a big focus for state Democrats and it to borders on another broken record. They say this is a unique opportunity to fund education while also saving for future years, when the budget may not be as big. Democrat Sen. George K. Muñoz, the LFC Chairman who represents Cibola, McKinley, and San Juan counties, said this:

“Now we are able to hold state budgets at a certain level, hold education across the board, keep in place opportunity scholarships which is full education, free education. That is what [the surplus] … really enables us to do.”

Senator Muñoz also said the approach should be to invest and move the state from oil and gas reliance and he said this:

“We need to see past the dollar signs and focus on planning for the future because these high-revenue years won’t last. …  we still have much work to do for New Mexicans, but we have an opportunity as well to move the state toward less reliance on oil and gas. … New Mexico has never had this opportunity before.”

Democrat State Rep. Nathan Small, and vice chairman of the LFC who represents Doña Ana County, agreed that the state should invest in education, as well as public safety and infrastructure. He brought up improving behavioral health care in the state.  Small said this:

“Substance use treatment, investments in health care, investments to expand reimbursement, so that there are more health care professionals who can see and serve New Mexicans.”

Small also said the state is in position to make wise spending decisions and avoid wild swings in the annual budget. Small put it this way:

“We’re in such a different era. … We have the opportunity to exit the roller coaster and get onto a steady climb to a broad prosperity for our state.”

Broadview area Republican Sen. Pat Woods suggested the strength in New Mexico’s oil and gas industry is masking other economic weaknesses, such as the state’s persistently low labor force participation rate. Woods said this:

“I have a hard time quite believing that we can replace the extractive industries in our state with the wealth of simply investing out of state.”

Farmington Republican Senator Bill Sharer said the state needs to invest the extra cash ostensibly to diverse the economy. Sharer said this:

“We don’t want to squander $3.5 billion when we can use it for investments that will allow us to weather economic downtowns. The question is, where do you put the money where it grows? New Mexico certainly has issues it needs to address but the focus should be how to take today’s money and turn it into future money.”


New Mexico law makers and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham will likely once again consider another round of tax rebates.  Over the last fiscal year, the state paid residents more than $780 million in rebates.  When asked about the possibility of another round of rebate checks, the governor’s office responded with this statement:

“The robust general fund proves that what we are doing in New Mexico’s economy is working. …  As we see another record year of projected revenue, we will continue building a solid financial future for our state through meaningful and long-lasting investments, always with an eye on stewardship of public dollars and fiscal responsibility.”

Links to quoted news materials are here:





As Yogi Berra has been quoted as saying “It’s deja vu all over again!”

It was on August 16, 2022 during a meeting of the LFC held in Chama, New Mexico, that legislators were told by LFC executive economists the state would  have a projected $2.5 billion in “new” money during the 2023 budget year that started on July 1, 2023.  The total revenue was forecasted to rise from $9.2 billion in the fiscal year that ended on June 20, 2022 to nearly $10.9 billion for 2023.

During the  August 16, 2022 LFC meeting,  Gallup Democrat Senator George Muñoz called the then project  $2.5 billion in additional revenues a “once-in-a-century” opportunity. Muñoz said at the time:

“If we want to really change, for once and for all, and keep our commitment to reducing tax rates, lowering the [gross receipts tax and] making New Mexico competitive with other states, this is one of the greatest opportunities we could have. … You can change the complete path of this state … Your phones are going to be ringing off the hook [with demands on how to use the new revenues].”

On December 12, 2022  the Legislative Finance Committee released its Consensus Revenue Estimate for fiscal year 2024. It was reported that New Mexico’s revenues had ballooned even further with the state’s revenues from oil and gas production increasing at record levels.  The new estimates released project the state will have an astonishing $3.6 billion in “new” money available for the budget year that starts on July 1, 2023.

The link to the Consensus Revenue Report is here:

Click to access ALFC%20121222%20Item%201%20General%20Fund%20Consensus%20Revenue%20Estimate%20December%202022.pdf

On December 12, 2022  Muñoz had this to say about the $3.6 billion increased revenues:

 “With this revenue forecast, there’s an opportunity knocking at our door. … No one in our state’s history has ever had this opportunity.”

Cabinet Secretary Debbie Romero of the Department of Finance and Administration told the LFC that risks exist to the record-high revenue forecast.  Those risks include supply chain shortages and the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. She also suggested to limit future spending obligations.  She urged lawmakers to target spending during the upcoming legislation session to one-time needs like water projects, rural health care and broadband expansion.  Romero said this:

“Those are the once-in-a-lifetime things we should invest in while not growing our recurring budget.”

During the last three years, New Mexico’s revenue levels have steadily increased due to surging oil and natural gas production. The spike in revenue is expected to continue over the coming year.  According to the Consensus Revenue Report the latest projections by fiscal year for the last 2 full years are:

2022 – $9.7 billion, up from $9.2 billion in August
2023 – $10.8 billion, up from $9.8 billion in August
2024 – $12 billion, up from $10.9 billion in August


Election after election, we hear New Mexico politicians running for office at all levels and elected officials from both parties repeatedly point out that we routinely rank high on the bad lists of crime, hunger, poverty, and low on the good lists of income, child well-being, places to retire, quality of education and jobs.  With the historic surpluses, the state now has for the first time in its history the financial ability to really address these issues.

New Mexico, as one of the poorest states in the union and has always suffered from the inability to invest in itself to turn its economy around. The state suffers from a “poor me” mentality, and now that there is money available that can be transformative, our elected leaders do not know what to do with the surplus.  With the now historical surpluses that will likely last for the foreseeable future, some economists say as many as 10 years, our state leaders need to stop saving for a rainy day and for the first time in the state’s history start investing in ourselves and spend on transformative projects and diversification of our economy.


Given the enormous amounts the state is now spending on education and what the state will be spending because of the enacted constitutional amendment, this years $4.4 billion surplus would be better spent elsewhere and not on public education. Public education is a reoccurring expenditure that must rely on continuing taxation. During her first term, Govern Lujan Grisham undertook to fully fund the state’s efforts to reform the State’s public education system and she was highly successful.  Lujan Grisham succeeded in securing over $1 Billion dollars for public education during the 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions. In addition to the dramatic increases in public education funding, Lujan Grisham administration created the Early Childhood Department, issued mandates to the Children, Youth and Families and Public Education departments.  An Early Childhood Trust Fund of $320 million was also created.  The base pay for teachers has been increased by upwards of 20% and have risen to $50,000, $60,000 and $70,000 depending on the level of years of teacher experience. The ball is now in the Public Education Department’s court to start to produce results now that so much funding is in place.

Likewise, the new surplus should not be spent on another round of tax cuts and rebates. There have now been two rounds of tax rebates that the surplus has been spend on. In 2022, the legislature enacted the first round of tax rebates that cost $529.7 million.  According to the state Taxation and Revenue Department, upwards of 850,000 of New Mexico’s 1.1 million taxpayers, or about 77%,  received the rebates.  Tax credit of $25 to $175 per child starting in 2023 was also  enacted.  In 2023, the legislature enacted a second waive of tax rebates of $300 for individual taxpayers and $600 for married couples which cost upwards of $1 Billion. About $440 million or half of the initial cost of the tax package went toward issuing rebates issued to all New Mexicans who filed tax returns in 2021.

Whenever surpluses in state revenues occur, Republicans always begin to salivate and proclaim all taxation is bad and that rebates and tax reform are desperately needed and the only way to go. The Republican tired and old political dogma has always been that tax revenues are the people’s money and anything in excess of what is actually needed over and above essential government services should be returned to the taxpayer. It is a short-sighted philosophy believing that only essential, basic services should be funded with taxpayer money such as public safety.  If that were the case, there would be no public libraries, no museums, no zoos, no mass transit expansions and no memorial monuments.


It’s no secret that the biggest problem with New Mexico’s economy and state funding is the state’s reliance on revenues from the oil and gas industry. New Mexico has been struggling for decades to diversify its economy, wean itself off of federal government spending and reducing its heavy reliance on the oil and gas industry where the state gets nearly 40% of its revenue from. When the oil and gas industry booms, New Mexico becomes flush with money and when it busts, the state revenues plummet causing financial crisis and politicians calling for no tax increases and slashing of budgets and government.

With $3.7 billion In Federal Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act Funding, the allocation of $478 million in federal pandemic aid out of $1.1 Billion in pandemic relief and another projected surplus of $4.4  from oil an gas revenues, the state’ s decades long financial woes are turning around.

There are 10 sectors or industries that have been identified as having the best shot at diversifying New Mexico’s economy. Those industries identified are:

Film & Television


Sustainable Energy

Intelligent Manufacturing


Value Added Agriculture

Global Trade


Intelligent Manufacturing

Outdoor Recreation

Recreational Cannabis And Hemp Industries

Two  in-depth reports  on each one of these industries can be found in the the postscript below.

The Governor Lujan Administration and the New Mexico legislature should make every effort to promote and fund public/private partnerships with each industry, provide tax breaks and incentive to those industries and make available economic development funding to encourage investment in the state.


Debate is now hot and heavy on how to spend the historic surpluses should be spent. There is indeed a lengthy list on what the surplus can be spent upon. The list includes:

Major infrastructure needs such as roads and bridge repair, funding for wastewater projects, dams and acequia projects, the courts, law enforcement and the criminal justice system, funding for our behavioral health care system, job creation endeavors, economic development programs, funding for the Public Employee Retirement funds to deal with underfunded liabilities and benefits are all likely topics of discussion during the upcoming 2023 legislative session. A civil mental health and drug treatment court with hospital facilities and transitional housing with services is something long overdue. All merit serious consideration and funding with the historic surplus.

What all too often is totally ignored because lack of revenues are major capital outlay projects that are for the benefit of the general public and that improve the overall quality of life. Roads and water projects are such priorities. Dozens of bridges across some of the most rural parts of the state are rated in either poor or critical condition, requiring millions of dollars to repair or replace.  It will cost an estimated half-billion dollars just to bring all of the state’s bridges up to fair condition. New Mexico is getting millions of dollars in federal funding to help repair roads, bridges and tunnels in the state. In fiscal year 2023-2024, $549.4 million is going toward the state and be used to fund different programs aimed at improving safety and reducing carbon emissions. The funding comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that gives $59.9 billion in fiscal year 2023 to states across the country.





Given the sure magnitude of the surplus, it is likely municipalities, citizens and interest groups will be asking for funding for special capital projects such as swimming pools, parks, recreation facilities, sport facilities, such as soccer stadiums, and entertainment venues.  The Governor and the legislature should listen and fund such projects while they can.

For the last two years, the New Mexico United soccer team has been trying to get taxpayer money to build a soccer stadium. In 2020, the soccer team was able to secure $4 million in state funds.  In 2021, Albuquerque taxpayers were asked to support a bond to pay for the stadium, but it was rejected. With a $3.8 in surplus revenue, the legislature should consider fully funding the facility which will be about $16 million.

Other major capital outlay facilities and projects that has been discussed for decades is improving the New Mexico State Fair and all of its aging facilities.  In particular, demolishing the 60-year-old Tingly Coliseum and building a multipurpose entertainment and sports facility with the capacity of upwards of 20,000 has been a dream of many a Governor, State Fair Commission and Fair Managers.

On February 25, 2019 it was reported that there is a need for such a facility and EXPO New Mexico was in  the final stages of conducting a feasibility study on the construction of a new arena on the state fairgrounds.  Tingley Coliseum has been around since 1957 with capacity for 11,000. Over the years it’s been remodeled and upgraded but it is still a state fair rodeo venue. The state and Albuquerque for decades has needed a large capacity, multipurpose entertainment venue of upwards of 20,000.




The upcoming 2024 New Mexico legislative session begins on January 16, 2024. it is a 30-day session known as the short session. The session will be confined to financial and budget matters subject to the Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s call and what she will allow to be placed on the agenda.

Governor Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Legislature will over the next few months decide how to spend the surplus.  The Governor and the New Mexico Legislature will release their own, separate, proposed budgets and spending plans in early January before the start of the 30-day session.  Budgets will be drafted based on the revenue projections and will include how much in reserves for any possible future budget shortfall.  During the legislative session, there will be a consolidation and a consensus budget formulated that lawmakers will then approve for the fiscal year that will start on July 1, 2024 and end June 30, 2025.

Indeed, the 2024 legislative could be a “once in a century opportunity” to really solve many of the state’s problems that have plagued it for so many decades.  It should also be viewed as an opportunity to spend to diversify the state’s economy and build facilities that are needed and that will have a lasting impact on the state’s quality of life for decades to come.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham will have an extraordinary opportunity to propose transformative projects for the surplus. The real question is will she play it safe as she has done the last two years because she was running for re-election and concentrate on tax rebates to garner favor with voters or will she concentrate on transformative projects and investing in economic development to diversifying our economy?


Industries That Can Diversify New Mexico’s Economy; AED Announces Five-Year Strategic Plan; State And City Economic Development Identify Industries To Diversify Economy; Now Just Do It!


Film Industry And Recreational Cannabis Industry Are State’s “First Step Industries” For Diversifying New Mexico’s Economy; Infrastructure Also Needed For Economy Diversification


Longest Serving City Chief Administrative Officer Lawrence Rael Retiring; Dr. Samantha Sengel To Replace In November; Congratulations On Job Well Done!

On August 28, 2023, Mayor Tim Keller announced that Chief Administrative Officer  Lawrence Rail will be retiring  this November after 35 years of public service. Keller also announced the appointment of  Dr. Samantha Sengel, the long-time Vice President of Central New Mexico College, as his replacement that will require City Council confirmation.

The CAO of the City of Albuquerque is essentially equivalent to a city manager that works directly under the Mayor and who serves at the pleasure of the Mayor and can be terminated without cause. The CAO is responsible for administrating the city’s personnel rules and regulations and all 27 City Department Directors report directly to the CAO.  The CAO is the most impactful full-time, non-elected professional in city government appointed by the Mayor with confirmation by the city council. The role has formal control in the charter, over $1 billion in annual spending, oversees nearly 6,000 employees and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the largest city in New Mexico. CAO Lawrence Rael is currently paid upwards of $220,000 a year.


Lawrence Rael is the longest serving CAO in the city’s history. Rael has served on and off as the City’s de facto city manager under four mayors since 1990,  Mayors Louis Saveedra, Jim Baca, Marty Chavez and Tim Keller.  Prior to his current role, he served as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the Keller Administration since 2017. His tenure with Mayor Keller has included signature infrastructure projects including the Railyards, Netflix, the New Mexico Media Academy, the Rail Trail, Maxeon’s relocation to Albuquerque, the acquisition of the Poole property, the Sunport renovation and dozens of other large and small scale projects throughout the city. He has also played a major role with APD’s police reform efforts under the Federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement.  He can claim credit for securing three-year collective bargaining agreements with most of the City’s workforce.  Rael’s major city projects include  the Isotopes Park, improvements to the Zoo, Botanic Gardens and Aquarium, the Explora Science Center, and the Convention Center.

It was in 2001 that Rael left the city for 8 years to  managed the controversial Rail Runner for the state. Rael served as the Executive Director for the Mid-Region Council of Governments for nearly a decade.  He worked on the staff of Senator Jeff Bingaman.  In 2012, Rael was appointed by President Barack Obama as the director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency for New Mexico. In 2017, Rael joined the Keller administration as the Chief Operating Officer  (COO) for the City of Albuquerque. He was named CAO in 2022 after the departure of Keller first CAO Sarita Nair.  Rael also made unsuccessful runs as a Democrat for Lt. Governor and Governor.

Mayor Tim Keller had this to say about Rael’s departure:

“As far as government leaders go, Lawrence is one of a kind in New Mexico. Through four administrations he has left an indelible mark in improving nearly every corner of the city, creating thousands of jobs, and over three decades leading tens of thousands of the City workforce on a daily basis.  He has my, and I know all of Albuquerque’s gratitude for his lasting legacy building the Duke City. He has earned his retirement two times over!”

CAO Lawrence Rael had this to say about his service:

“Nobody does this work alone. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish any of these amazing projects without the hard work of the thousands of City employees who I’ve had the pleasure to work with every day. Still, not bad for a kid from Sile.”


Mayor Keller announced a two-month transition between Mr. Rael and Dr. Sengel that begins with the City Council confirmation process for the new CAO. She has over two decades of experience in management and executive leadership at Central New Mexico College.  She brings relevant government work experience to the role and has   long-standing existing relationships with City, County and State leaders.

Mayor Keller had this to say about her appointment:

“Dr. Sengel is a rare find in New Mexico; she was raised here, is one of the few people in our city with the relevant very large government management experience, and has the passion to transition her decades of deep concern for educating our workforce into full dedication to lifting up all things City of Albuquerque. Her qualifications and experience are a tremendous compliment to the City leadership team, for collaborating with stakeholders and for all we need to do to help our city.”

Dr. Samantha Sengel had this to say about her appointment:

“I am so pleased to be able to continue my focus on developing the future of Albuquerque and central New Mexico as a great place to live, learn, work, and prosper. This has been my life’s work for a quarter century, and I look forward to working alongside all of our dedicated City employees to continue that focus.” 

Dr. Samantha Sengel is the second female ever appointed CAO and both have been appointed by Mayor Tim Keller.  The first female CAO was Sarita Nair who served as Keller’s CAO during his first  term from 2013 to 2017.

Links to quoted news sources are here:




A major hallmark of CAO Lawrence Rael is that he is indeed a real survivor having worked successfully with 4 of Albuquerque’s Mayors, two of who were well known to have very strong and aggressive personalities and difficult to deal with at times.  His reputation was one of a low-key approach to government, always very mindful and respectful  who was Mayor and always knowing how to “keep the trains running on time” which he always did.  There is little doubt that Rael is one of the most knowledgeable of government officials in the state. There is no doubt there were more than a few controversies he dealt with, but he was able to deal with them responsibly and professionally always being the dedicated public servant.  Congratulations to CAO Lawrence Rael for a job well done and his well-earned retirement and best wishes to him and his family!

2022 APD Annual Use of Force Report: Decline In Overall Use of Force, Record High Number of Police Shootings; Expect More Police Shootings As City Becomes More Violent

The Albuquerque Police Department has released its Annual Use of Force Report for the year 2022.  The annual Use of Force report is required under the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) with the U.S. Department of Justice.

It was on November 14, 2014, the City of Albuquerque and the United State Department of Justice (DOJ) entered into the CASA after an 18-month long investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that found that the Albuquerque Police Department engaged in an pattern of “excessive use of force” and “deadly force”, especially when dealing with the mentally ill. The DOJ investigation also found a “culture of aggression” existed within the APD.

This blog article is a summary and analysis of the 2022 APD Annual Use of Force Report. It discusses the reason why the city will likely see more police officer invoklved shootings as a violent city becomes the norm.


A review of the classifications of Use of Force levels by APD  policy is in order before review of the statistics.

Level 1 force is defined as  force that is likely to cause only transitory pain, disorientation, or discomfort during its application as a means of gaining compliance. This includes techniques which are not reasonably expected to cause injury, do not result in actual injury, and are not likely to result in a complaint of injury (i.e., pain compliance techniques and resisted handcuffing). Pointing a firearm, beanbag shotgun, or 40-millimeter launcher at a subject, or using an Electronic Control Weapon (ECW)  to “paint” a subject with the laser sight, as a show of force are reportable as Level 1 force. Level 1 force does not include interaction meant to guide, assist, or control a subject who is offering minimal resistance.

Level 2 force is defined as  force that causes injury, could reasonably be expected to cause injury, or results in a complaint of injury. Level 2 force includes: use of an Electronic Control Weapon (ECW), including where an ECW is fired at a subject but misses; use of a beanbag shotgun or 40 millimeter launcher, including where it is fired at a subject but misses; OC Spray application; empty hand techniques (i.e., strikes, kicks, takedowns, distraction techniques, or leg sweeps); and strikes with weapons, except strikes to the head, neck, or throat, which would be considered a Level 3 use of force.

Level 3 force is defined as force that results in, or could reasonably result in, serious physical injury, hospitalization, or death. Level 3 force includes: all lethal force; critical firearms discharges; all head, neck, and throat strikes with an object; neck holds; canine bites; three or more uses of an ECW on an individual during a single interaction regardless of mode or duration or an ECW application for longer than 15 seconds, whether continuous or consecutive; four or more strikes with a baton; any Level 2 use of force, strike, blow, kick, ECW application, or similar use of force against a handcuffed subject; and uses of force resulting in a loss of consciousness.


The 2022 Use of Force Report provides the following key findings:

  • In 2022, APD used force in 590 force incidents. A force case can include multiple people who are involved in a single incident or offense report.
  • In these 590 incidents, there were 626 force interactions where a single person had force used with them in response to resistance. A force interaction is limited to one involved person at one point in time.
  • Compared to 2021, there was an 18% decline in the number of force interactions from 764 to 626.
  • Compared to 2020, there was a 35% decline in force interactions from 960 to 626.
  • 358  or 57%  force interactions were classified as Level 2 force.
  • 587 people were involved in force interactions. 5% of people were involved in more than one force interaction; 26 people were involved in 2 incidents and 6 were involved in 3 interactions. No individual was involved in more than 3 use of force interactions during this year.
  • The median age of people involved in force was 32 meaning that half of involved individuals were 32 or under and half were 32 or over.
  • 25 out of 590 cases were deemed out of policy (4%). Four percent (26 out of 626) of force interactions were out of policy.
  • In every 1,000 calls for service, force was used 1.64 times, down 16.7% from 2021.
  • Force was used in 4.4 out of 100 custodial arrests, down 20% from 2021.


In 2022, there was a record-high number of 18 police officer involved shootings. The breakdown of the 18 shooting is as follows:

14 of the people were armed or trying to arm themselves,

8 fired a gun

2  had an edged weapon, including a set of nail clippers in one case.

In 3 of the shootings, the “perceived weapons were ultimately determined not to be lethal” and included a key fob, a phone and landscaping rocks.


The annual use of force report shows that APD used force fewer times  in 2022 than in preceding years. According to the report, Albuquerque police officers used force on residents 626 times in 2022. This is the lowest total number since APD began tracking use of force data in 2018. The number also represents an 18% decrease from 2021 and a 35% decrease since 2020, when APD officers used force 960 times.

Of the hundreds of force cases investigated in 2022, a total of 26, or 4%, were found to have violated policy.  The decline in the overall number of use of force incidents is in sharp contrast to APD recording a record-high number of police shootings in 2022.

APD officers used force 0.2% of the time during calls for service and 4.4% of the time when arresting someone.  This was a decrease of 16% and 20% respectively from the 2021 use of force incidents. Level 1 use of force incidents accounted for 164 incidents, or 26%, of cases last year.  57% of  use of force incidents by APD officers were  classified as Level 2.   104 use of force instances, or 17%,  fell into the Level 3 category, which includes police shootings.


The raw data in  2022 Annual Use of Force Report is as follows:

The types of force used most often by APD officers to subdue a suspect were as follows:

25% hand-to-hand combat.

20% resisted handcuffing.

14% involved resisting physical restraint.

Officers used force once on more than 550 people, twice on 26 people and three times on six people. Nobody had officers use force on them more than 3 times last year.

Of the people that force was used on in 2022, 17% were armed and 69% were unarmed.

16% were homeless

36% were experiencing a crisis or had a mental illness.

Last year 460 officers used force against a person. Of those, 268 officers used force once or twice and 16 did so 9 or more times.  APD reported that 75% of those officers are assigned to specialized units where force is more likely. One officer used force 17 times in 2022.

Officers used force once on more than 550 people, twice on 26 people and three times on six people. Nobody had officers use force on them more than 3 times last year.

The SWAT team was utilized 69 times, 15 times for a domestic dispute, 14 for a pre-planned warrant arrest and 10 times for a wanted person.

Police dogs were used by officers 269 times, helped detain someone 89 times and, of those, bit someone 16 times.

282 people were injured by an officer. The most common injuries were scrapes, complaints and cuts.  The least common injuries were broken bones, a bloody nose and pepper spray.

Officers used force once on more than 550 people, twice on 26 people and three times on six people. Nobody had officers use force on them more than three times last year.

According to the report, police dogs were used by officers 269 times.  Canines helped detain someone 89 times and, of those, the animal bit someone 16 times.

The SWAT team was utilized 69 times, 15 times for a domestic dispute, 14 for a pre-planned warrant arrest and 10 times for a wanted person

Officers used force once on more than 550 people, twice on 26 people and three times on six people. Nobody had officers use force on them more than 3 times last year.


According to the report, officers used force most in the Southeast Area Command 32% of the time and in Northeast Area Command 20% of the time.  Force was used the least in the Southwest Area Command with 11%  and in the Northwest Area Command with  9%.

APD’s report found that force was used most on Hispanic at 49%, non-Hispanic white people at 21%  and Black people at 11%. Black people make up 3% of the city’s population, according to census data, while Hispanics make up 49% of the population  and non-Hispanic white people make  37% of  the population.

The average age of person that officers used force on last year was 28. In all, 27 people were under the age of 18 and two were over 65.

The link to review the entire 42 page 2022 APD Annual Use of Force Report is here:



Albuquerque Police Department (APD) spokesman Gilbert Gallegos  shared  more recent data that showed officers used force less in the first half of 2023 compared with last year, mostly due to half as many Level 1 cases. He also said, going forward, APD officials expect Level 1 use of force to go up and Level 2 to go down due to take-downs now being considered a Level 1, unless the takedown leads to injury or likelihood of injury.

Last year saw the highest number of Albuquerque police shootings in the department’s history with officers shooting 18 people in a single year, injuring 3 and killing 10.  The report called the record-breaking total “a concern for APD” and said “The department is working to ensure policy and training encourage alternatives to deadly force whenever feasible.”

Barron Jones of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico said APD’s decreasing use of force “should serve as a lesson for other police departments throughout the state.”   Jones said this:

“APD still has a great deal of work to do.  … We remain concerned that APD still has a big problem in using deadly force against unarmed community members, particularly those experiencing mental health crises.”

The link to quoted news source material is here:



It was on December 23, 2022, the Albuquerque Journal published on its front page, above the fold, a remarkable story entitled “APD looks to curtail police shootings” with the sub headline “Officers have shot 18 people so far this year, resulting in 10 deaths”.  The news story reads in pertinent  part as follows:

“In the midst of a spike in shootings by its officers the Albuquerque Police Department is working to change policies so they can use “less-lethal” force earlier in an encounter – in the hope of preventing the need for deadly force.

Additionally, the department’s executive staff and city attorneys will review this year’s 18 shootings by officers to see if they can identify and address any trends. Among those incidents 10 people were killed and three were injured. In five cases no one was struck.

The number of shootings has alarmed advocates, and discussions of the increase dominated a recent federal court hearing on APD’s reform effort. Last year APD officers shot at 10 people, killing four, injuring five, and missing one.

But Chief Harold Medina said he’s been contemplating changes for a while and APD has already been working on them with the Department of Justice and the independent monitoring team overseeing the reforms.”

Medina said he wants APD’s executive staff and city attorneys to meet and look for trends among this year’s 18 police shootings and identify changes to be made.  Medina said this:

“We had already been trying to change the policy. …  But as we heard everybody’s concerns during the [December 6 federal Court] hearing, I really felt there was a way we could do this better. That’s when we got these ideas of we should meet to look at all the cases at once as a whole. …  One of my big frustrations right now is our processes take so long – like we identified issues but by the time we get everything approved through everybody it takes months.”

“Right now they go through the individual cases and if somebody there can remember or they tie into something in the past, that’s a benefit and they could try to make it a trend. … We are now purposely putting all the cases in front of them … and they’re going to have little different data points that we could look at and the goal is to look at them all together at the same time and see if they can identify anything that’s of a concern.”

The link to them full Journal article is here:



Albuquerque is at the forefront of New Mexico’s high violent crime rate.  According to legislative data released, the city had about half of the state’s violent crime in 2022 but has just 25% or so of its total population.  The Albuquerque Police Department reported that in November, 2022 gun law violations spiked 85%.

The last 2 years have also been two very violent years for Albuquerque.  The number of homicides in the city have broken all-time records.  In 2021, there were 117 homicides, with 3 declared self-defense reducing homicide number to 114.  In 2022, there were 120 homicides, a historical high.

It was on  March 16, 2023 the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) released the 2022 crime statistics along with crime statistics for 2021 for a comparison. During his March 16 press conference announcing the City’s 2022 crime statistics, APD Chief Harold Medina embellished that a  3% drop in  overall total of crime and a 4% decrease in Crimes Against Persons and the 2% decrease in Crimes Against Property was positive movement.

The slight 3% decrease in overall crime was over shadowed by the 24% spike in CRIMES AGAINST SOCIETY which are largely made up of drug and gun offenses and a 71% increase in murders over the last 6 years.  Chief Medina presented a vertical bar graph that revealed that over the last 6 years, Albuquerque has had a dramatic 71% spike in homicides.  The number of homicides reported over the last 6 years is as follows:

2017: 70 homicides

2018: 69 homicides

2019: 80 homicides

2020: 78 homicides

2021:  110 homicides

2022:  120 homicides

On March 16, in addition to reporting that there has been a 71% spike in homicides, APD officials reported that over the past 6 years there has been a 28% increase in Aggravated Assaults which by definition includes the use of a firearms. Following are the Aggravated Assaults numbers:

2017: 4,213

2018: 5,156

2019: 5,337

2020: 5,592

2021: 5,669

2022: 5,399

Crime rates in Albuquerque are high across the board. According to the Albuquerque Police’s annual report on crime, there were 46,391 property crimes and 15,765 violent crimes recorded in 2021.  These numbers place Albuquerque among America’s most dangerous cities.

All residents are at increased risk of experiencing aggravated robbery, auto theft, and petty theft.  The chances of becoming a victim of property crime in Albuquerque are 1 in 20, an alarmingly high statistic. Simple assault, aggravated assault, auto theft, and larceny are just some of the most common criminal offenses in Albuquerque. Burglary and sex offense rates In Albuquerque are also higher than the national average.


On May 10, 2023  Federal Court Appointed Independent Monitor James Ginger filed his 17th Report on the Compliance Levels of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and the City of Albuquerque with Requirements of the Court-Approved Settlement Agreement. The Federal Monitor IMR-17 report which covers August 1, 2022, through January 31, 2023, reported APD’s compliance levels were as follows:

Primary Compliance 100%

Secondary Compliance 100%

Operational Compliance 92% (95% needed to be achieved and sustained for 2 years)

Once APD reaches 95% compliance in all 3 compliance levels and maintains it for 2 consecutive years, the case can be dismissed.

On June 6, during a hearing on the 17th Federal Monitor’s Report, Federal Monitor James Ginger made it clear that APD continues to make impressive gains in the compliance levels over the past year.   Although APD is making gains in in implementing the reforms, it was also clear that there have been more APD police officer shootings in 2022 than during any other year before.  In 2022, there were 18 APD Police Officer involved shootings,10 of which were fatal.  In 2021 there were 10, four of which were fatal.

A review of shootings by APD police officers between 2018 and 2022 identified three common circumstances:

  1. When officers are attempting to apprehend violent suspects;
  2. When individuals are experiencing some kind of mental health episode;
  3. When people with little criminal history are under the influence of drugs or alcohol and make bad decisions.

Albuquerque Police Department has released data before that shows  there have been 56  police shootings dating back to 2018. Of the cases reviewed, 85% involved people who were armed with a gun or a weapon that appeared to be a firearm.  About 55% of the cases involved people under the influence of drugs or alcohol, while only 2 cases in which intoxication did not play a role. Without toxicology tests, it was unknown whether drugs or alcohol played a role in the remainder of the cases.  Statewide, authorities said the number of shootings in which officers opened fire stands at 50 for the year 2022.

The link to the quoted news source article is here:



Albuquerque residents can take some comfort that the 2022 Annual Use of Force Report shows that APD used force less in 2022 than in preceding years. According to the report, Albuquerque police officers used force on residents 626 times in 2022. This  is the lowest total number since APD began tracking use of force data in 2018. The number also represents an 18% decrease from 2021 and a 35% decrease since 2020, when APD officers used force 960 times

There is no doubt that the city residents  should also be absolutely alarmed over the fact that there has been a spike in police officer involved shootings given the fact such shootings, and accompanying litigation and judgements against the city, is what brought the Department of Justice to the City in 2013 in the first place. When it comes to APD Police Officer Involved shootings, history is repeating itself despite millions spent and implementation of the settlement reforms over the last 9 years.


Albuquerque has changed and APD has changed over the 9 years since the CASA was negotiated. The city has become more violent and APD has been trained in constitutional policing practices.  It’s because of the city’s dramatic increase in overall crime rates that there have been more police officer involved shootings as police officers are finding themselves in more predicaments where they feel the need to protect themselves and not attempt to deescalate a situation and use force or deadly force.

The  tragic reality is the city will likely see more  police officer involved shootings  even if APD achieves 100% compliance in the 3 settlement compliance levels and as all 271 mandated police reforms under the settlement are implemented and as the DOJ prepares to leave.  A violent city  has become our new norm.  

MayorTim Keller’s Rail Trail: Paradise Road or Homeless Skid Row?

On August 17, the online news agency New Mexico Sun published the below 750-word Dinelli opinion guest column on Mayor Tim Keller’s  proposed $80 Million Rail Trail project.

HEADLINE: Keller’s Rail Trail: Paradise Road or Homeless, Drug Skid Row?

By Pete Dinelli,

On July 22,  Mayor Tim Keller was joined by world-renowned architect Antoine Predock to announce plans for the Albuquerque Rail Trail project. Predock is the designer of  the project. The project is a 7- to 8-mile multi-use pedestrian and bike trail circling downtown that will connect key destinations in the downtown area.  The total projected cost is $80 Million with $40 million already set aside for the project.

As designed by Predock, the Rail Trail will consist of 11 major sections all in the Downtown area from the Rail Yards to the Sawmill District, Old Town, Tingley Beach, the Barela’s neighborhood, and back around in a 8-mile loop. The trail will show major attractions like scenic stops along the Rio Grande, tourist spots, and a unique raised trail area with a plaza beneath for shops and food vendors over by the convention center. It will also have a redone underpass with lighting at Central and 1st Street highlighting the Historic Route 66. Other features include a tree-like, geometric structure wrapping over the bike path, which will be rooted in spaces that could be used for retail or other purposes.

By any measure, spending $80 Million dollars on an 8-mile bike trail and pedestrian walkway is a difficult sell to the general public which is the likely reason Mayor Tim Keller and his administration conveniently did not put it on the ballot for voter approval, especially when it comes to a legacy project the Rail Trail represents to Keller.  Keller calling an $80 million bike trail and pedestrian walkway “the largest public works undertaking since we literally built the zoo and the tram” that will transform the city is typical Keller public relations tactics.  Keller forgets the $125 Million ART bus project he completed down the middle of central that has destroyed historic Route 66.

City officials said they are working to have the trail fully lit with street lights and security officers. Given the openness and length of the trail, the entire length of the trail will likely become a magnet for crime. It’s not at all hard to envision panhandling, drug dealing, prostitution solicitation, pickpocketing purse snatching and shoplifting at the merchandise vendor stations and the homeless camping along the Rail Trail. At a minimum there will be the need for police to patrol the entire length of the trail and to have it closed down at night like a city park and to prevent illegal camping.

Project architect Antoine Predock places what he and Mayor Keller believe is an iconic Albuquerque image front and center: the tumbleweed. Predock envisions a giant, electric tumbleweed placed at Central Street and the rail road tracks. Predock proclaims the image of a tumbleweed rolling down the road is part of every resident’s experience enshrined in pop culture. During the July 22 presentation Keller became downright giddy with excitement with a grin on his face and a smile in his voice as he talked about the 25-foot neon tumbleweed when he said:

“When this happens, no one will think of Albuquerque without the neon tumbleweed at the intersection of Route 66 and the railroad.”

Spending thousands of dollars on a 25-foot neon tumbleweed at the intersection of Route 66 and the railroad as a symbol for a City falls squarely into the category of “What the hell are they thinking?”  Frankly, the use of a 24 foot neon tumbleweed is embarrassing for a city known for its Sandia vistas, the International Balloon Fiesta, Route 66, its history and diversity.

A tumbleweed conjures up images of windswept dust and desolation.  It conjures up the images of Albuquerque being nothing more than a dusty and dying little town in New Mexico as tumbleweeds, dirt and debris are swept by the winds through the vacant streets of a once vibrant community.

There are so many other symbols that could be and are reflection of the city as a whole and that can even be whimsical at times. Those images include chile ristras, luminarias, images of the tramway, hot air balloons during a balloon glow, a vintage train, a vintage convertible driving down Route 66, mariachis playing, Indian jewelry, pottery and tribal dancers, hand-carved and painted wooden santos, bultos and retablos, and crosses.  Whimsical images of a “big enchilada” and even Bugs Bunny saying, “I should have taken a left at Albuquerque” could be used.

The 25-foot neon tumbleweed is artwork that needs to be scraped as not a fitting symbol of the city.

Pete Dinelli is a native of Albuquerque. He is a licensed New Mexico attorney with 27 years of municipal and state government service including as an assistant attorney general, assistant district attorney prosecuting violent crimes, city of Albuquerque deputy city attorney and chief public safety officer, Albuquerque city councilor, and several years in private practice. Dinelli publishes a blog covering politics in New Mexico: www.PeteDinelli.com.





The New Mexico Sun is part of the Sun Publishing group which is a nonprofit. The New Mexico Sun “mission statement” states in part:

“The New Mexico Sun was established to bring fresh light to issues that matter most to New Mexicans. It will cover the people, events, and wonders of our state. … The New Mexico Sun is non-partisan and fact-based, and we don’t maintain paywalls that lead to uneven information sharing. We don’t publish quotes from anonymous sources that lead to skepticism about our intentions, and we don’t bother our readers with annoying ads about products and services from non-locals that they will never buy. … Many New Mexico media outlets minimize or justify problematic issues based on the individuals involved or the power of their positions. Often reporters fail to ask hard questions, avoid making public officials uncomfortable, and then include only one side of a story. This approach doesn’t provide everything readers need to fully understand what is happening, why it matters, and how it will impact them or their families.”

The home page link to the New Mexico Sun is here:


The 7 Major Takeaways And “Spiciest” Moments Of The First Republican Debate; 4 Appeared To Be Auditioning For Vice President; 6 Raise Hand Saying Will Support Trump If Convicted; Ramaswamy Winner As Trump Without The Crimes And Indictments

On September 23, the very first Republican debate for President in 2023 was held Milwaukee, Wisconsin before an audience of 4,000 at the Fiserv Forum. The debate was sponsored and telecast exclusively by FOX News. Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum of Fox News were the moderators who presided over the debate.

Former President Donald Trump, although having qualified, declined to participate seeing no need because of his huge lead in all the polls. The candidates in alphabetical order who qualified and who  participated were North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Former Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, former Vice President  Mike Pence, businessman billionaire Vivek Ramaswamy and South Carolina US Senator Tim Scott.

The national news organizations CNN and Politico published the following news articles on the internet, each giving a totally different perspective:

CNN: 7 Takeaways From First Republican Presidential Primary Debate By Eric BradnerDaniel Strauss and Arit John, CNN

With Donald Trump skipping the first 2024 Republican presidential primary debate, eight of his primary rivals – most of them men wearing ties similar to the bright red one regularly worn by the former president – brawled for second-place status Wednesday night.

Vivek Ramaswamy, the 38-year-old entrepreneur and first-time candidate, was alongside Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the center of the stage – and he was the central figure for much of the night. Ramaswamy clashed with former Vice President Mike Pence over his experience, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley over foreign policy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over Trump, and more.

And because he has positioned himself as a defender of Trump, Ramaswamy was, at times, a stand-in for the former president, who momentarily ceded the stage Wednesday night but will take it back Thursday when he turns himself in at the Fulton County jail in Georgia as he faces election subversion charges.

For all the fireworks in the two-hour showdown, the debate had the feel of an undercard. Trump has retained his massive lead in the polls despite his legal woes, and nothing that happened Wednesday night is likely to turn the race on its head.

The former president’s absence meant several candidates who have positioned themselves as strident critics of the former president were denied opportunities to directly confront him. Christie, who Ramaswamy said is running a campaign “based on vengeance and grievance” against Trump, spent more time brawling with the entrepreneur than the former president. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson went long stretches of the debate without being acknowledged.

Meanwhile, for North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, the most significant development Wednesday was that he was able to participate in the debate at all. Burgum was taken to a Milwaukee emergency room Tuesday after suffering a high-grade tear of his Achilles tendon.

“I think I took it too literally when they said, ‘Go to Milwaukee and break a leg,’” he joked.

The debate played out in front of a rowdy crowd of about 4,000 people at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. The crowd’s reactions – including jeers and boos when candidates criticized Trump – at times drowned out the Fox News moderators.

Here are seven takeaways from the first 2024 Republican presidential primary debate:


With Trump absent from Wednesday’s debate, the target of most of the debate participants was not DeSantis or South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott or any candidate who has ever held elected office. It was political newcomer Ramaswamy. The first jab at the Ohio entrepreneur came from Pence: “Vivek, you recently said a president can’t do everything. Well, I’ve got news for you, Vivek. I’ve been in the hallway. I’ve been in the West Wing. The president of the United States has to confront every crisis facing America.”

That spurred a heated back-and-forth and light name-calling between the two candidates. Later, in the first bit of the debate, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie compared Ramaswamy’s answers to something cranked out by ChatGPT. Christie then capitalized on Ramaswamy rhetorically asking what a little-known guy with a funny name was doing on the debate stage by pointing out that the quip sounded awfully like Barack Obama’s old stump line about him being “a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him.”

At another point, Pence went after Ramaswamy when the entrepreneur said, “We are in the middle of a national identity crisis.” The former vice president replied, “We don’t have an identity crisis, Vivek. We are not looking for a new national identity.”

The pile-on aimed at Ramaswamy was surprising. He’s new to politics. At the same time, recent polling has shown him rising over other candidates who have spent, in some cases, decades in electoral politics. For Ramaswamy’s opponents, this is about scuttling any momentum he is having.


DeSantis set the expectation that he would be the focal point of Wednesday’s debate. He was anything but.

He certainly didn’t speak the most. Though his campaign suggested his Republican opponents would have their “knives out” for DeSantis, he wasn’t on the receiving end of many attacks. And at a key moment – when the candidates were asked to raise their hands if they would support Trump if he is convicted in a court of law – DeSantis peeked around the stage to see how everyone else had responded before he half heartedly put up his right palm.

DeSantis, who earned the center-stage spot, appeared content to exit Milwaukee without risking his second-place standing in the polls. But he also did little to erase the impression, confirmed by polling, that he is closer to the rest of the pack than in a tier with Trump or in one of his own.

When he spoke, DeSantis largely leaned on rehearsed lines familiar to anyone who has heard him speak in recent months. Just as he does on the campaign trail, he opened the debate by declaring “Our country is in decline” and “We need to send Joe Biden back to his basement.” He joked about Hunter Biden’s paintings – a regular punchline when he visits early nominating states. He said under a DeSantis administration, people who cross into the United States illegally would end up “stone cold dead,” a promise he has repeated for weeks.

At times, moderators attempted to move DeSantis off his practiced remarks. When DeSantis touted his record on crime by declaring it was at a 50-year low in Florida, Fox’s Brett Baier interjected that crime was up in Miami. DeSantis clarified: “Well, statewide.” Asked if he would support a federal six-week abortion ban, DeSantis talked about his electoral victory in Florida. Pressed to give an answer, he replied as he has for weeks, by refusing to rule it out or get behind it.

DeSantis attempted to shed his reputation as a cold and stiff debater by forcefully speaking directly to Americans at home, often pointing directly at the camera, and by sharing anecdotes from an abortion survivor and a mother whose son died from fentanyl poisoning. He shared his biography – thrice mentioning his military service and talking repeatedly about his young family – an acknowledgment that voters may not yet know his story beyond the cultural clashes and Covid-19 policies that have made him a Republican star.


If there was one candidate who was expected to emerge from Wednesday night with a knock-out punch of a moment, it was Christie. Nearly eight years ago, the former governor embarrassed Marco Rubio during the final debate before the New Hampshire primary by pointing out the Florida senator’s habit of repeating lines. While Rubio won more votes than Christie in the Granite State – coming in fifth to Christie’s sixth – the senator struggled to shed a reputation for being robotic.

Christie seemed ready to give Ramaswamy the same treatment. But while Christie’s “ChatGPT” line was reminiscent of his past debate performance, he failed to trip up the Ohio businessman. Instead, Ramaswamy went on to attack him over his criticism of Trump.

Asked if he would support the former president if he’s convicted of a crime, Christie said the party needs to stop “normalizing this conduct,” drawing boos from the crowd.

“Your claim that Donald Trump is motivated by vengeance and grievance would be a lot more credible if your entire campaign were not based in vengeance and grievance against one man,” Ramaswamy said.

Ahead of the debate, Doug Mayer, a senior adviser to the Christie campaign, told CNN the former New Jersey governor would turn anyone who defended Trump into Trump. But Christie’s attempt to attack the former president’s top defender onstage was met with more vitriol from the crowd.

“You make me laugh,” Christie said before the sound of boos drowned him out. The optics didn’t help: Fox News showed a split screen of Christie standing silently as Ramaswamy grinned until the moderators asked the crowd to let him finish.


Some candidates supported a 15-week federal abortion ban. Some said they were against efforts to pass a nationwide ban. And no one clearly stated they would sign a six-week federal abortion ban – even if they’d approved such laws as governors.

More than a year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, abortion policy is still a tricky issue for Republican candidates caught between the need to demonstrate their anti-abortion bona fides and address the realities of the political landscape, where voters have rejected stringent abortion restrictions and the candidates who backed them.

At one end of the spectrum stood Haley, who sparred with Pence over the possibility of passing a federal ban. Haley called on the other candidates to “be honest” with the American people about the low odds of getting 60 senators to overcome a filibuster and approve a federal abortion ban. She instead pushed for consensus on issues such as encouraging adoption and allowing doctors and nurses with moral objections to the procedure the right not to perform them.

“Consensus is the opposite of leadership,” Pence said in response. But even Pence wasn’t willing to go further than endorsing a 15-week federal abortion ban, the cutoff offered in a bill South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced last year.

“A 15-week ban is an idea whose time has come,” Pence said. Scott also backed the 15-week ban onstage.

Two candidates who have signed six-week abortion bans into law – DeSantis and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum – stopped short of saying they would do the same nationally. Burgum said his opposition to a national ban stems from his support for the 10th Amendment. DeSantis, asked if he would sign a federal six-week ban, simply said he would “stand on the side of life.”

“I understand Wisconsin will do it different than Texas,” DeSantis said. “But I will support the cause of life as governor and as president.”


When moderators asked DeSantis whether Pence was right to reject Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn the 2020 presidential election, the Florida governor attempted to dodge – ignoring what he’d been asked and complaining about the “weaponization” of the federal government.

But Pence dug in, putting DeSantis on the spot.

“The American people deserve to know whether everyone on this stage agrees that I kept my oath to the Constitution that day. There’s no more important duty, so answer the question,” he said.

“Mike did his duty. I’ve got no beef with him,” DeSantis said, attempting to quickly move on.

The moment illustrated how cautious the Florida governor is of alienating Trump’s base.

Christie, though, mocked DeSantis’ answer, calling it “a pre-canned speech.”

He said Pence “deserves not grudging credit; he deserves our thanks as Americans.”


Haley, the former South Carolina governor and US ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, brought onto the stage Wednesday a message that was geared more directly for a general electorate than those of her rivals.

What’s less clear is whether she did enough to impress Republican voters to get there.

Haley balked at a federal abortion ban, saying the reality of the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to break the filibuster and the need for a House majority means “consensus” is necessary on the issue. She also said contraception should be available to all women.

She was one of the few candidates to acknowledge that climate change is real.

She was the first to criticize Trump by name, pointing to rising spending during his presidency. She praised Pence’s actions on January 6, 2021, despite Trump’s pressure on the former vice president to seek to overturn the 2020 election result. Haley also called her former boss the “most disliked politician in America.”

“We cannot win a general election that way,” she said.

And she hammered Ramaswamy during an exchange over Russia, as Haley defended the United States’ support for Ukraine.

“You have no foreign policy experience, and it shows,” she said during one of the night’s most animated exchanges.


The plan for Scott going into the debate was to stick with his “kill ‘em with kindness” attitude. For the first part of the debate, he did that. The problem was that approach kept him out of most of the exchanges. While the other candidates were debating and skirmishing over abortion, Ukraine or whether Trump should be pardoned, Scott wasn’t really in it. He did try and insert himself with warnings about the “weaponization” of the federal government and crime in America. But all of his comments and arguments faded into the background as candidates piled on Ramaswamy or Christie praised Pence for his actions on January 6, 2021.

When Scott did get a chance to weigh in on the southern border, illegal immigration and fentanyl, he offered a long answer about how important and easy it would be to finish Trump’s border wall.

“As the next president of the United States, I will make that border wall complete,” Scott said, extending each word in that concluding sentence. He paused for applause. There was none.

Ahead of the debate, Republican strategists argued that this was the approach Scott wanted to take because it’s his authentic self. The question now is if the South Carolina senator will stick with it going forward.

The link to the full CNN report with videos and photos is here:


POLITICO: The spiciest moments of the first GOP debate


Trump wasn’t on stage. But the debate didn’t lack for intense exchanges.

Mike Pence and Chris Christie knocked Vivek Ramaswamy as a know-it-all novice.

Nikki Haley leaned into being the only woman on stage.

And no matter whether former President Donald Trump is convicted of a crime, he still has the support of most of his rivals.

The first Republican presidential debate of the 2024 election did not lack for fireworks, even with the absence of its frontrunner Trump.

Here’s a look at the must-see moments of the two-hour showdown:


Former Vice President Mike Pence refused to vow to pardon former President Donald Trump if elected — though he didn’t close the door to that possibility, either, after being goaded onstage by Vivek Ramaswamy.

“Join me in making a commitment that on day one you would pardon Donald Trump,” Ramaswamy challenged Pence.

“I don’t know why you assume Donald Trump will be convicted of these crimes,” Pence replied. “That is the difference between you and me. I have given pardons when I was governor of the state of Indiana. It usually follows a finding of guilt and contrition by the individual that’s been convicted.”

Trump, Pence’s former running mate, is currently facing dozens of charges across four indictments. In one case, a federal indictment against Trump related to his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, Pence could end up serving as a key witness against the former president.

“If I am president of the United States, we’ll give fair consideration to any pardon requests,” Pence said onstage Wednesday night.


Asked if they would support Trump as the party’s nominee even if he was convicted of a crime, 6 of 8 candidates raised their hands — with varying degrees of enthusiasm — with only Christie and Hutchinson indicating they would not support the former president again.

Christie, shaking his fist slightly, spoke up first after the question, side-stepping the issue of prosecutors that many Republicans have criticized as politicized, but calling attention to Trump’s underlying behavior.

“Someone has to stop normalizing this conduct,” the former New Jersey governor said, though his comments were met with displeasure by some in the audience as well as on the stage.

“Booing is allowed, but it does not change the truth,” Christie added.


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may have had the No. 1 spot on the debate stage. But it’s the man in the No. 2 spot, Vivek Ramaswamy, who’s taken the most incoming over the first hour of the two-hour melee in Milwaukee.

Mike Pence and Chris Christie piled on Ramaswamy, who entered the debate as a star on the rise while DeSantis has been sliding in polls. They’ve attacked him on his age and his political inexperience — Pence called Ramaswamy a “rookie,” Christie derided him as an “amateur” — as they look to stop his climb.

And the former federal prosecutor took Ramaswamy, who’s repeatedly pledged to pardon Trump if elected president, to task for defending the former president against the multiple criminal investigations he’s facing.

“You’ve never done anything to try to advance the interests of this government except to put yourself forward as a candidate tonight,” Christie said. “I did it as U.S. attorney, I did it as governor. And I am not going to bow to anyone.”

It all made DeSantis somewhat of an afterthought over the first hour, limiting his screen time and his speaking time.


GOP presidential candidates were faced with a key question Wednesday night: Did Pence do the right thing on Jan. 6?

“Absolutely,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said, who was the first candidate to answer the question.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum agreed with Scott, though Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis danced around the question.

 “It’s not about Jan. 6, 2021, it’s about Jan. 20, 2025, when the president is going to take office,” DeSantis said. DeSantis later clarified and said “Mike did his duty. I got no beef with him.”

Pence has defended his actions on Jan. 6 and has said former President Donald Trump “had no right to overturn the election” on Jan. 6.

Pence refused former President Donald Trump’s pressure to overturn President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory when presiding over the certification of the election results.

“I made it clear and hoped that the issues surrounding the 2020 election and the controversies around Jan. 6 would not come to this, come to criminal proceedings,” Pence said. “The American people deserve to know that the president asked me in his request that I reject or return votes. He asked me to put him over the Constitution and I chose the Constitution.”


DeSantis touted signing a six-week abortion ban in Florida — which has yet to take effect, pending a court review — but dodged a direct question on whether he would sign a similar federal ban into law, saying only that he would.

“I will stand on the side of life,” he responded. “I understand Wisconsin will do it different than Texas. I understand Iowa and New Hampshire will do it different. But I will support the cause of life as governor and as president.”

Haley also ducked a direct answer on the question, as she has in the past, arguing that a national ban isn’t likely to garner the needed 60 Senate votes to pass. Instead, she called for narrower legislation.

“Can’t we all agree that we should ban late-term abortions? Can’t we all agree that we should encourage adoptions? Can’t we all agree that doctors and nurses who don’t believe in abortions shouldn’t have to perform them? Can’t we agree that contraception should be available? Can’t we all agree that we are not going to put a woman in jail or give her the death penalty if she gets an abortion?”

Other candidates jumped in with more direct responses.

Pence and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) voiced support for a national ban, arguing that failing to do so would allow blue states to continue providing abortions.

“We can’t leave it to Illinois. We can’t leave it to Minnesota,” Scott said.

Pence also hit Haley for her answer, calling it “the opposite of leadership.”

Burgum, who signed a 6-week ban in North Dakota, was the sole candidate to come out swinging against a federal ban, saying it would violate the principles of federalism in the Constitution.

It’s notable, as the candidates struggle with how far right they want to go on abortion, that the field in general is to the right of voters in New Hampshire, the first primary state, on the issue. Six in 10 New Hampshire voters opposed overturning Roe v. Wade. More than 70 percent identify as “pro-choice.” The state allows abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, with some exceptions afterward. Candidates tend to downplay or not mention their abortion stances when campaigning in the state. DeSantis, for instance, doesn’t talk about the six-week ban he said in the debate he was “proud” to sign.


Nikki Haley was the only woman on the Milwaukee debate stage Wednesday night.

And, within the first half hour of the program, the former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador made sure people knew that — stepping into a spat between former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and biotechnology entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy on climate change.

Haley offered up a riff on a Margaret Thatcher quote, “This is exactly why Margaret Thatcher said, ‘If you want something done, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.’”

Minutes later, Haley fired back at former Vice President Mike Pence for touting that he would sign a 15-week abortion ban into law at the federal level — pointing out that there aren’t enough votes in the Senate to pass such a measure.

“No Republican president can ban abortions any more than a Democrat president can ban all those state laws,” Haley said. “Don’t make women feel like they have to decide on this issue when you know we don’t have 60 Senate votes.”

Haley has been eager to distinguish herself as the only prominent female candidate in a field full of men. GOP voters, however, haven’t been quick to embrace Haley just because of her gender.


GOP candidates during the first Republican debate argued over climate change, with Vivek Ramaswamy calling it a hoax.

“I’m the only candidate on stage who isn’t bought and paid for, so I can say this,” Ramaswamy said, though he caught some shade. “Climate change is a hoax…The reality is more people are dying of bad climate change policies than they are of actual climate change.”

Ramaswamy’s remarks were booed by the crowd and slammed by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who compared the entrepreneur to ChatGPT and former President Barack Obama.

The question started when Fox moderator Martha MacCallum asked: “Do you believe in human behavior causing climate change? Raise your hand if you do.”

Before anyone could make a move, Ron DeSantis took the floor.

“We are not schoolchildren. Let’s have the debate,” DeSantis said, before launching into a response bashing Biden and the media.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, meanwhile, called for China and India to cut emissions.

“First of all, we do care about clean air, clean water. We want to see that taken care of, but there is a right way to do it. The right way is first of all, yes, is climate change real? Yes, it is. But if you want to go and really change the environment, we need to start telling China and India that they have to lower their emissions.”


The GOP divide on Ukraine was on full display during the debate, with Vivek Ramaswamy and Ron DeSantis saying they would cut off funding to Kyiv while others defended U.S. aid to the embattled nation.

“I find it offensive that we have professional politicians who will make a pilgrimage to Kyiv, to their pope, Zelenskyy, without doing the same for the people in Maui or the south side of Chicago,” he said, referring to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine.

DeSantis was more hedging, saying that he would stop aid to Ukraine unless European governments stepped up to “pull their weight.”

Those calls to stop Ukraine funding earned applause in the room, but were not shared by all candidates. Nikki Haley accused Ramaswamy of wanting to “hand Ukraine to Russia” and “let China eat Taiwan.”

“You are choosing a murderer” over an ally of the U.S., Haley said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I wish you success on your future career on the boards of Lockheed and Raytheon,” Ramaswamy retorted, naming two large U.S. weapons manufacturers.

“You have no foreign policy experience and it shows,” Haley shot back, earning raucous applause in the arena.


Former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley laid into four of her opponents for raising the national debt during the opening moments of the first GOP presidential debate in Milwaukee on Wednesday.

Haley took aim at former President Donald Trump for adding $8 trillion to the national debt, while also taking shots at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and former Vice President Mike Pence for voting to raise the debt ceiling during their time in Congress.

Republicans, she said, are responsible for the nation’s ailing economy, not President Joe Biden.

“No one is telling the American people the truth. The truth is that Biden didn’t do this to us, our Republicans did this to us too,” Haley said.

Haley pointed to $7.4 billion in earmarks requested by Republicans in the 2024 budget compared to the $2.8 billion asked for by Democrats.

“So you tell me who are the big spenders,” she said. “I think it’s time for an accountant in the White House.”

Haley additionally criticized the passage of the $2.2 trillion Covid-19 stimulus bill, as well as congressional action that required states to keep more than 90 million people continuously enrolled in Medicaid during the pandemic.

The link to the Politico report is here:



The August 24 debate between the 8 Republican candidates for President can only be described as a political slugfest between 4 of the candidates who looked liked they were applying to be Trump’s Vice President as they talked and argued and at times yelled at each other. The three candidates who Trump would never likely think about making his running mate given their strong opposition to him are Mike Pence, Chris Christy and Asa Hutchinson.  When it was all said and done, no candidates made a mistake that would end their candidacies.  That does not matter because all  8 of the candidates are so far behind Trump in the Republican polls they might as well concede the election to him right now.


If one was forced to declare the winner of the debate it was 38 year old businessman and billionaire Vivek Ramaswamy who essentially became the stand in for all things Trump. Ramaswamy is estimated by Forbes Magazine to to be worth at least $950 million and he made his money in “biotechnology” where the company he founded  purchased patents from larger pharmaceutical companies for drugs that had not yet been successfully developed, and then bring them to the market.

Ramaswamy came across brash and confident, much like Trump, and is coming up in Republican polls tying at times with DeSantis. He can be described as Trump without the indictments and crimes but he is genuinely intelligent with a business degree from Harvard and a law degree from Yale law school, that is until he opens his big mouth. Ramaswamy is a vocal supporter and defender of all that is Trump and he  has promised to pardon Trump if elected president. Ramaswamy has also promised to pardon Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, and has called Snowden’s actions “heroic”.

He opposes affirmative action, he opposes teaching critical race theory.   He declares himself as pro-life, and has said, “I think abortion is murder.” He supports state-level six-week abortion bans, with exceptions for rapeincest, and danger to the woman’s life, but opposes any kind of federal ban.

Ramaswamy favors raising the standard voting age to 25, which would disenfranchise a portion of the U.S. electorate. Voters under 25 made up nearly 9% of voters in the 2020 general election. Ramaswamy has said he would allow citizens between 18 and 24 to vote only if they are enlisted in the military, work as first responders, or pass the civics test required for naturalization. Ramaswamy supports voter ID laws. Ramaswamy supports making Election Day a federal holiday while eliminating Juneteenth as federal holiday. Ramaswamy called Juneteenth, which celebrates the emancipation of African-Americans from slavery, a “useless” and “made up” holiday, and asserted it was “redundant” to Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day.

Ramaswamy claims that climate change is a hoax but has said that he is “not a climate denier” and he accepts that burning fossil fuels causes climate change.  He has said that global climate change as “not entirely bad” and that “people should be proud to live a high-carbon lifestyle”  and that the U.S. should “drill, frack, and burn coal.” He has criticized what he calls the “climate cult” and said that as president, he would “abandon the anticarbon framework as it exists” and halt “any mandate to measure carbon dioxide“.



The most memorable event during the debate was when all the candidates were asked if they would support Trump as the party’s nominee even if he was convicted of a crimeWhat came as a shock was that  6 of the 8 candidates raised their hands.  Only Christie and Hutchinson indicated  they would not support the former president again.

If that is the case, all 6 of those candidates have essentially conceded the race to Trump. Its a reflection of the strangle hold Trump not only has on the Republican party but as well as the candidates themselves. Not one  of the 8  will win the nomination by trying to “Out Trump – Trump.”  Supporting a convicted felon who said the constitution should be suspended is beyond comprehension. Trump should go ahead and plead guilty to all the charges and just go ahead and campaign for the Republican nomination as a convicted felon, but then again campaigning from a jail cell will be difficult for him.