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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Halloween Scare For Dem Chair Wertheim; Gremlins On The Left Create Mischief; They Even Float A Possible Challenger; No Tricks, Just Your Tuesday Blog 

Dem Chair Wertheim
While you were out trick or treating last night and enjoying that last kernel of corn candy, politicos who stir their brews on the left wing of the NM Democratic Party were conjuring up some tricks of their own. For party chairman John Wertheim, the central target of this coven, Halloween 2005 was a scary night indeed.

Over the weekend 16 of the 350 members of the Dem Central Committee sent out their formal letter of complaint about Wertheim to the blogs, the papers and fellow committee members. But they saved their biggest trick for the spookiest night of the year, circulating word that Judy Espinosa, former NM Transportation Secretary and recent candidate for ABQ Mayor, just might work up a challenge to take over John's job.

What seems like an out-of-the blue move has been months in the making with Wertheim being blasted for a wide array of alleged sins including: not putting out an understandable budget, wasting party money by unsuccessfully challenging independent Prez candidate Ralph Nader's petitions to get on the NM ballot; by hiring a consulting firm for 30 grand that did not perform; and by not using his stroke to raise enough money for the party. All this on the heels of several staff dismissals at party headquarters that has the Alligators marching in Wertheim's direction at mach speed.

In light of all this, I canceled my Halloween plans which consisted of donning a Big Bill mask and scaring the hell out of the neighbors' kids by telling them I was running for President. Instead, I dialed up Chairman Wertheim who was on a final fitting of his scary Bush mask while his wife and Big Bill staffer, Bianca, was putting the finishing touches on her Heather Wilson get-up. They were headed out the door to pick up Robert Vigil and Sam Bregman when the phone rang and...

THE INTERVIEW
Judy Espinosa
Despite the flurry of charges, Wertheim was in a conciliatory mood saying the complaints did not pose a threat to either him or the party; that he is working to provide more "transparency" in party budgets; that the consulting firm the lefties are complaining about actually did a good job and that under his stewardship the Dems have raised more money than ever.

But that wasn't stopping the insiders from telling me that Espinosa is serious about a challenge; that she is seeking to meet with Big Bill and Light Guv Denish to outline her concerns and perhaps seek support for a long-shot chairmanship of her own.

"Judy is serious. We are unhappy with the direction of the party and think she could put it on track," informed one of her acolytes. Any challenge would wait until next year, reported another Alligator pushing a Judy move. Appropriately, Judy was staying as invisible as a ghost.

But ousting Wertheim would be easier said than done. He won a two year term in April with 60% of the central committee votes. It would take a special meting and, he says, a two-thirds vote to remove him. But he is anything but tone deaf and said he has been talking with the disgruntled letter signers to address concerns that he sees as valid.

"Most of this is insider stuff. But I do take seriously the complaint about the Nader challenge. That was a judgment call but I stand by it. Even though we lost in court, we kept his vote totals down," explained John who also said the challenge cost in the vicinity of 50 grand.

THE REAL ISSUE

Wertheim agreed that the larger issue is the fissure in the party over such issues as tax cuts. "I supported the Governor's tax cuts and I took heat for it as he did. Some Democrats think I am too conservative. But this is nothing like the Republican infighting that has cost them dearly. This is more like a family discussion."

Wertheim said the Dems are positioned well for 2006, with the GOP on the ropes nationally and not doing very well recruiting candidates locally. He also said his relationship with the governor "is good."

"We are working hard to involve everyone in the party. Perhaps I have been a bit isolated in that I have been in politics a long time. Sometimes you lose sight of what it looks like from the outside," observed the chairman in his cellphone mea culpa. But, he noted, his detractors have surfaced after several party staffers lost their jobs.

MY BOTTOM LINES


The next meeting of the Central Committee is in Santa Fe November 19th and national Dem Chair Howard Dean, leader of the liberals and patron saint of the Wertheim complainers, is scheduled to attend. Wertheim is looking forward to having Dean there so he can fill the party coffers with fundraising cash and answer those who claim Dem cash raising has been anemic.

As for where the dough goes, Wertheim, a NM native and Yale graduate who has made two runs for the U.S. House, said campaign finance laws have become 'exceptionally complex,' but much of the information is available for viewing on the Federal Election Commission Web site and at the Secretary of State's office.

This Democratic Party brush fire may have been ignited by arcane rules and obscure issues, but it served to unmask the deeper issues facing the D's on All Hallows Eve: Whether the Dems need to push a bolder, more distinguished message as the campaign tricks of 06' get underway.

Remember to E-mail me your news and comments so we can keep the politics coming. Back tomorrow. Same time, same station.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2005
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