Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Election Day Arrives In ABQ: Join Me For The Vote Count Tonight, Plus: Pre-Impeachment Skirmish As Chairman Cervantes Warns Vigil Lawyer To Butt Out 

(Michael A. Stecker)
Pre-election jitters spread across the Duke City late Monday as campaign workers and candidates felt that familiar out-of-control feeling that descends on them as the mystery of democracy is set to unfold. It is now the people who will decide, not the polls, pundits or media manipulators. The polls be damned. As in years past, I heard voices crack with fear as the hour of judgement neared. "What do you hear?" was the question heard frequently and urgently. Politicos thirsted for even a tidbit of information as they tried to retain control of events, at least in their own minds. But it was not to be. As the day wore on the retreat had begun, the phones grew silent and the long, lonely wait could not be avoided.

Today will be a day that will change lives forever. For most, it will be disappointing because there is only room for a handful of winners. Losing before the entire state is the price they pay for a shot at the power and glory only available by stepping forth into the harsh limelight that brightens the ancient stage of La Politica. Good luck to all the candidates.

Election Night starts on KANW 89.1 FM at 6:30 tonight with yours truly anchoring events as they unfold. I'll have the able assistance of top NM lobbyist Scott Scanland, veteran GOP State Rep. Larry Larranaga and Dems Lenton Malry and Terry Brunner. Green Steve Cabiedes mans the early vote desk. Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera will be our Government Center reporter and Kevin Otero is our producer. We are all set for year 18 of our KANW election coverage, but it won't be complete without you, so please stop by.

Chairman Cervantes
Pre-impeachment skirmishing has started. The attorney for indicted State Treasurer Robert Vigil, Sam Bregman, has apparently been lobbying lawmakers to thwart the impeachment drive that will begin at the special Legislative session later this week. Bregman, himself a politician who served a term on the ABQ city council and has run for other elective office, has rankled the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces. It is in his committee where articles of impeachment will begin their journey and Cervantes is making it clear to Bregman that he is not about to preside over a tainted process. Here's an e-mail circulating from Cervantes to Bregman in response to Bregman's political activity.

"I have received your e-mail letter, and have also been asked about calls made by you to several colleagues in the New Mexico House of Representatives.

In the event impeachment legislation is introduced, both House and Senate legislators may be acting in a quasi-judicial capacity. Any bias or pre-judgment may taint or disqualify a Legislator's vote whether for or against any impeachment.

I consider calls and letters to legislators inappropriate ex parte communications with those potentially serving in a quasi-judicial constitutional role. Ex parte contacts represent an extraordinary breach of procedure and process. Most of my colleagues are not attorneys, however, and may not understand the implications of taking your calls or receiving your letters. Non-lawyers may not understand that pre-judgment or bias may disqualify them from voting on any impeachment issue.

"I..ask that you give more thought to the judicial role of House members in any impeachment proceeding. Please do not send me any more e-mail, or attempt to contact me by phone, to argue Mr. Vigil's case. I intend to approach any impeachment with the same impartially I would expect from a potential judge in my legal cases." Wrote Cervantes in an e-mail making the rounds among legislators.

Lawmakers can get very protective when taking up the most rarely used impeachment power. It is a somber responsibility reserved exclusively for those elected directly by the people. Lobbyists, lawyers and others not part of the club need not apply.

The responsibility is particularly grave for Chairman Cervantes and other House leaders because this will be the first time in state history that an impeachment will be seriously undertaken and will stand as precedent for generations to come. Cervantes seems to understand the expectations placed upon him by the constitution and the New Mexicans of today and those to follow. And now, so does Mr. Bregman.

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