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Thursday, October 27, 2005

New Mexico Exhales As Indicted Treasurer Blinks; Resignation Ends Six Weeks Of Anguish And Anger; Perspective & Analysis On The Historic Week 

Capitulating in the face of certain impeachment and historical disgrace, federally-indicted New Mexico Treasurer Robert Vigil ended the pain late Wednesday and tendered his resignation. It was the end of a six week saga that had the state on a legal, political and emotional rollercoaster the likes of which it had not seen in its 93 year history.

There was some initial confusion at the Roundhouse on whether the extraordinary session of the Legislature set to convene Friday would go on, but House Speaker Lujan issued a statement late last night stating the obvious; that there was no need for a session to impeach now that Vigil had walked away. And veteran TV anchorman Dick Knipfing added at the tail end of a special report: "Its hard to see how you impeach someone who has resigned." Thus the political coffin was nailed shut.

Big Bill, campaigning for Dem Gov candidates in New Jersey and Virginia, announced he will form a "bipartisan" search committee to pick a replacement for Vigil and they will give him three names. As we blogged Wednesday, ABQ chief administrative officer and former Treasurer James B. Lewis could end up on that list as could state tax boss Jan Goodwin. Others are sure to surface.

For the Governor and the Dems the resignation could not come soon enough. The scandal was threatening to overshadow his re-election campaign and the entire 2006 ticket. Republicans were still talking up connections between the Guv and Vigil, but the resignation took the wind out of their sails.

"Governor Richardson appears to come out pretty well. He applied continuous pressure on Vigil and there was no news that tied the Governor directly into the Vigil mess. In New Mexico, that ain't bad," commented one R.

OTHER WINNERS AND LOSERS
Rep. Martinez
The Legislature formed a ten member impeachment subcommittee and picked GOP attorney Paul Kennedy to lead them. Lawyer and State Rep Kenny Martinez co-chaired the committee along with ABQ GOP Rep Eric Youngberg. How did they do?

"It's hard to find fault. Martinez showed composure and did not give in to some pressure from Democrats up North to go light on Robert. He and the Governor tag-teamed this one. They showed Vigil no hope. That's hardball and effective politics," commented a veteran of the Roundhouse wars.

Attorney General Madrid, slammed by the R's for not investigating Vigil when she had a chance, nevertheless was the first to ask for Vigil's resignation and also won credit for staying the course. "She's tough and don't think Heather Wilson wasn't watching," remarked another of my Gators as he anticipated that ABQ congressional match-up between those two women next year.

Another Alligator weighed in about the Vigil side. "They had little hope from the beginning. The corruption charges were just too serious. Anyone else would have resigned right away, but Robert is a proud guy. (Vigil attorney) Sam Bregman probably kept him in the game too long."

And KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson wrapped the story with the irony of the day: Vigil resigned on what was his 52nd birthday. Not a very happy one, we presume.

When Gerald Ford took over from resigned President Richard Nixon in 1974 he remarked: "Our long national nightmare is over." The Vigil event doesn't match the import or drama of that event, but for our Enchanted Land it was close enough. Hopefully, it will be at least another 93 years before it happens again.

MY BOTTOM LINES

In my Wednesday blog I said Governor King appointed James Lewis Treasurer in 1985. Of course, it was Governor Anaya...In my report this week on Big Bill's personal lawyer, former Attorney General Paul Bardacke, we used the term "Consiglieri." A reader e-mails: "Consigliere" is how the term is spelled when referring to one individual. Spelled with an "e," it is singular. "Consiglieri" with an "i" is plural. Traditionally, a Mafia family has only person in the position of consigliere at any given moment. Not that Big Bill is running a Mafia family...Finally, join me for more talk on the Treasurer scandal at 8:30 p.m. on KNME-TV, channel 5 in ABQ Friday night on "The Line." The program repeats Sunday at 7 a.m.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2005
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