Thursday, May 05, 2005

Blogging With Bingaman: Still Playing After All These Years; Poised For Six More? It's Chicken Sandwiches And La Politica On Your Thursday Menu 

Sen. Bingaman
First, I checked with the Blog Ethics Board and they approved the free lunch Jeff Bingaman bought me the other day. So all you holier than thou types who feel I can be bought for a chicken sandwich, well, you may have a point. In any event, read on as I clue you in on the latest as NM's Democratic U.S. Senator gears up for a run for a fifth, six year term in 2006.

The most important stuff first. You and I may think the race will be about the usual suspects; health care, jobs, education, but Bingaman is preparing for a full frontal assault from the GOP on the terrorism issue. "They used it successfully last year and I have no reason to think they won't bring it up again against Democrats," he speculated.

He also flatly declared that he expects no cuts whatsoever to any of NM's military installations when the base closing announcements are made later this month. He was so matter of fact I probed a bit citing the near hysteria over a possible shutdown of some of ABQ's Kirtland AFB. Again, he deadpanned that he "has heard nothing" that makes him think NM will lose anything. We shall see.

Back to the campaign, just who will be around to use terrorism or any other issue against Bingaman is an open question. Gadfly Tom Benavidez who ran as a Dem against GOP Sen. Domenici in 96' is back this time as an R and running against Bingaman, but no heavyweights have emerged. Still, the Silver City native is staying in shape, jogging three to four times a week and stepping up his travel schedule and money raising. He now has half a million tucked away.

Anne Bingaman
Bingaman has not changed much since I first covered him back in 78' when he ran successfully for attorney general. He is an "L" guy: laid-back, low-key, likeable, laconic and liberal. The critics have been saying he is disinterested in the job and was an unlikely candidate for re-election. But at lunch he described the intricacies of Senate Finance Committee politics, his winning fight last month to restore Medicaid funding to the federal budget and reminisced about old political times in New Mexico. If disinterested, he keeps it well-disguised.

His concerned supporters may be on more solid ground when they pine for Bingaman to be more engaged with the media, and not let Sen. Domenici have so much of the limelight. But his way has worked for two decades. However, you will see more of him on TV as the election cycle begins.

Bingaman's high-powered wife Anne, an attorney and businesswoman, will again be a key strategist and player in his re-elect. "If she tells me she can't support me, it will be time to go," he joked.

But more important, will a credible Republican emerge to tell the soon-to-be 62 year old Jeff it is time to go? I am not privy to the latest polling, but as the political pendulum swings a bit conservative here it would seem Bingaman would be ripe for at least a stiff challenge, if not an upset. But voters, including many Republicans who might suffer cardiac arrest if they examined the junior senator's voting record, have bonded with him. For a good number of New Mexicans, sometimes it's more about the person than the politics. Not often, but sometimes.

As we polished off our tasty sandwiches, Bingaman agreed that it was raising the millions of dollars for yet another campaign that is the most distasteful part of politics. He then proceeded to pick up the tab. I tried desperately to stop him, but thoughts of using my lunch savings to buy those new blogging pajamas took over and the larceny in my soul prevailed. Should I declare my candidacy for something?


If a group of citizens circulates petitions for a grand jury investigation into the ABQ police department evidence room scandal is a district court judge obligated to accept those petitions and empanel a grand jury? I blogged the other day that the judge may have some discretion. Readers say no, the judge has no discretion and must act on the petition. Can some of our legal beagles in the audience help us out on this one? No one has yet announced such an action. It probably should be the police themselves who do it.

Have some news, gossip, intrigue about NM politics? E-mail me from the link at the top of this page and let's keep the news of La Politica flowing.

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