Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Is There A Doctor In The House? No, But How About The Senate? Plus: Prez's NM Lovefest, And: Pete Caught Speechless. Let's Blog! 

New Mexico Republicans are having a hard time drumming up politicans to run against powerful Dem Guv Big Bill and Senator Jeff next year, but the medical community is stepping in to answer the emergency call. The latest MD to have his name tossed around is Farmington urologist Dr. Allen W. McCulloch. The good doctor and I could not hook up on the phone Monday, but I did learn from insiders that he can be fairly characterized as a "reliable right-wing Republican" who is seriously chewing over the prospect of challenging Senator Bingaman. In fact, he held an "exploratory meeting" recently. Another doc, James Damron of Santa Fe, told me the same thing last year in regard to a possible challenge against Big Bill and has yet to back down.

Both races are seen as longshots for the GOP but the doctors may be the best shot they have. ABQ's Tom Benavidez, a perennial candidate, has already announced his bid for the R senate nomination. Gadfly Santa Fe city councilor David Pfeffer is another possible for the R's against Jeff. McCulloch, my Farmington Gators inform, is the son-in-law of well-known Four Corners oilman Jimmy Drake. "Jimmy has not had the most cordial of relationships with Jeff, so that could be a factor in this," one of our sources relayed. I'll check in for a check-up with Dr. McCulloch soon and let you know the political diagnosis.


Meanwhile, NM Senators Bingaman and Domenici didn't seem to have a care in the world as they graced the stage at Sandia Labs Monday morning for the signing of the 1,700 page energy bill. The bill itself is a big hodgepodge that has hardly anyone happy, but Jeff, Pete and the Prez milked it for all the PR it was worth. It came off rather well as you can see by the photos running here. KOAT-TV political reporter Matt Grubs broke a bit with the local lovefest coverage and trotted out Dem party chair John Wertheim who pointed out bipartisanship has not been a hallmark of Bush. Then again, the Dems haven't exactly been great compromisers either.


A funny aside on the prez visit. Longtime Domenici chief of staff Steve Bell tried to join the motorcade from Kirtland that was going over to Sandia, but staff wasn't allowed. OK, said Steve to a presidential advance man, but make sure my senator gets his speech for this morning. He then hands it over to the advance man. But instead of giving it to Pete, the guy gives it to Jeff, who did not know what it was and stuffed it in his pocket. When Pete was later publicly perplexed over where his treasured words were Jeff checked his pocket and discovered the speech. That won a presidential laugh and Pete's praise who said it was another sign of the "bipartisanship" that prevailed in the energy bill battle. How's that for on the spot spin? Pretty gooey, huh?

Bell's escapade was mild compared to the one that took place about 25 years ago when then Domenici press secretary Peter Wellish locked himself inside of one of those portable outhouses and was left banging on the door to get out while the senator's party made their way to the next campaign stop.


Bingaman is rarely seen with top drawer R's, never mind the prez, but his strategists were happy Monday. They know Jeff's liberal record is a target next year and a GOP presidential vaccine can't hurt in moving him toward the center, as long as it isn't Dr. McCulloch giving the injection.

E-mail your news and insider stuff. Thanks to those of you who do so regularly. See you tomorrow.

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