Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Sources: Longtime State Rep Whitaker Set To Resign; Adieu "Imminent," Plus: Dems Fret Over House Future; Big Losses In 06'?, Exclusive Details Here
Top New Mexico political insiders report that the Roundhouse is being rocked by news that well-liked and powerful Dem State Rep. Don Whitaker of SE NM (Dist. 61, Lea county) will soon tender his resignation because of poor health. The chair of the important Taxation and Revenue Committee has been hospitalized in ABQ with serious ailments for over a month and, according to my most reliable of sources, not expected to return to his Legislative duties. "Don is a salt-of-the earth guy and has served the state well, but his health demands all of his attention," informed one veteran politico. And already the Alligators are on the watch reporting that a likely replacement for Don is in the bullpen.
"Democratic Lea County Commissioner Harry Teague will be appointed in his place. (The county commission, of which Teague is chairman, makes the appointment to fill the unexpired portion of the Whitaker term).We think we can keep the seat with him because he is a conservative and well-liked in the area," said one top level Dem strategist. But other Roundhouse wall-leaners were spinning this blog that the Whitaker seat will go R. "All they have to do is put up a decent candidate. Don held the seat for the D's because he was so popular, but that is deep R country (Bush got 80% of the vote!) and I expect the seat to switch parties," said one of the Roundhouse regulars.
And what about Big Bill? Does he have an angle here?" I queried another political power player. "Yes, he does. Teague is tapped in with Johnny Cope, a governor appointee, labor leader and major fundraiser for Bill," was the prompt answer.
An what about the chairmanship of that powerful taxation committee? "It's a wide open contest. Don't assume Bobby Gonzales (vice-chair from Taos county) will get it. The Speaker (Ben Lujan) will take a close look at this one before making the call," commented another Alligator tracking the late-breaking action.,
Rep. Whitaker was retired from the oil and gas industry and is respected and admired by D's, R's and Big Bill. The pride of Eunice, NM was wished a speedy recovery by all of those commenting for this report and we join them.
THE D'S BIG FEAR
The Whitaker departure sets the stage for what could be a dramatic rebound by the GOP in next year's Legislative elections. That's the word from the top sources in New Mexico politics who you read here regularly and who have proven their accuracy. "Even an incompetent Republican party has some easy fruit to pick. Fred Luna may finally retire and his Valencia county seat is set to go R. Then there's Joe Stell in Carlsbad, the Al Park seat in ABQ that will be open when he runs for attorney general, and the Democrat seat in Rio Rancho held by Tom Swisstack, but which he barely hangs onto. If all went their way the R's could pick up as many as five seats. That would put them within three or so of a majority," analyzed one political pro who goes back to the early 80's.
And it was the early 80's when New Mexico last had a coalition of D's and R's controlling the House. Could it happen again? "The very thought sends shivers down (Speaker) Ben Lujan's spine. He is worried, very worried that gains of that size could change the dynamic. A coalition is never easy to pull off, but believe me, the governor, the Speaker and (Dem party chair) John Wertheim are losing sleep over this one," offered our very well-informed source.
Still, one cynic argued even with more R's in the Roundhouse things won't change much. "They are awash in so much oil and gas money that everyone could end up fat and happy. Why have a coalition when you can get barrels of pork without one," spouted our acidic observer. He has a point. Last year's big spending state budget passed with only three "no" votes.
Wow! What a report today from our top insiders. It is political junkie stuff like this that keeps me super-excited after over 30 years in the game, and it's the stuff that makes your blog ground zero for all things La Politica. I have even more exclusive big news for you tomorrow! If you know anyone interested in New Mexico politics who is not checking in here, do them a favor and send them our link: www.joemonahan.com. We don’t want anyone missing out.
P.S. Keep those e-mails coming
(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2005
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