Thursday, September 01, 2005

Give Me Land, Lots Of Land! Former Land Boss Eyes 06' Run; Is He A "Lyons Tamer?" Plus: More Great Wage Debate Ahead Of Labor Day 

Ray Powell
There's bad news looming for GOP State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons and possible Dem land commission hopeful and ABQ City Councilor Martin Heinrich. Friends of former Land Commissioner Ray Powell tell "NM Politics with Joe Monahan" that Powell is seriously eying another run for his old office and is a likely go.

"Ray recently resigned his position as executive director of the Valles Caldera Trust. It was a prelude to him launching his campaign," said one top level Dem in touch with the Powell camp.

Powell is no stranger to the campaign trail having won the office twice and serving ten years. He was appointed to the job when Jim Baca won an appointment to the Clinton administration. He then easily won the office on his own in 94' and 98'. The son of old time Democratic powerbroker and Dem party chair Ray Powell, Sr., the younger Powell earned generally high marks during his long tenure, keeping things a bit to the left of center, but not alienating (at least not constantly) ranchers and the energy industry who have key stakes in Land Commission operations.

But big oil is in bliss with Commissioner Lyons, who became only the second R to take the office in 20 years when in 02' he bested Dem Art Trujillo who was mired in controversy. Recent fundraisers featuring big oil have helped push Lyons' fundraising totals into the hundreds of thousands. It will be money he'll need if Powell gets in the race. Party registration makes the Dem candidate the odds-on favorite to take this down ballot race.

ABQ Dem SE Heights Councilor Heinrich, rich with liberal environmental credentials, has been planning a run, but a primary challenge with Powell would be formidable and observers say if Powell gets in Martin could quickly reassess.

Commissioner Lyons
Powell wasn't too happy in his latest job which he resigned this summer. He cited the ability of the Valles board to set policy. As executive director he missed having more to say about one of the world's most splendid pieces of land which Congress set aside for protection. (More on the management controversy here). The land commissioner administers over 13 million acres of public land and, as Powell well knows, gets a major hand in policy. His election would also be welcome by Big Bill, who has found former State Senator Lyons a tough foe who has battled the Guv over oil and gas drilling on southern NM's Otero Mesa and is credited by top R's with being one of the few state officials not intimidated by the Guv.

Like his father before him, Powell made an ill-fated run for governor. He withdrew in the face of Big Bill's overwhelming lead in 2002. Friends say the experience left him somewhat bitter, even though most politicos had given him little chance of success.

But that's not the case this time. The ABQ North Valley resident can readily argue that he has appeal to Dems across the state, just the ticket for the nomination and quite possibly, the ouster of the well-respected and hard charging Patrick Lyons.


Speaking of Martin Heinrich, he's back blogging in response to restaurant owner Jerry Wright's plea here yesterday for ABQ voters to reject an increase in the city's minimum wage to $7.50 an hour which they will decide October 4. Wright was especially bothered by a provision of the measure that would allow access to businesses to "educate" workers about the wage law. Henrich's retort:

"The education provision only applies to non-work areas where the public already has access; places like sidewalks and parking lots. The only employers who have anything to fear from this are the ones that will try to skirt the law. 99.9% of local employers are honest and ethical. Those businesses won't even know that provision is there. As for employers paying their servers $2.13 an hour, its simply long overdue that that was raised." Argues Heinrich.


We can look for a bunch of candidate announcements for 06' and a stepping up of the race for ABQ mayor when we return next week. Let's make it Tuesday so we can all have a nice holiday weekend. See you then!

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