Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Stop The Shopping! We've Still Got La Politica; Ex-land Boss Baca Going Again; Dem Duel With Ray Powell On Tap, Plus: Death Calls NM Grande Dame 

Jim Baca
The bells of La Politica ring with breaking news even with the holiday just hours away. Late Tuesday as I was buying expensive gifts at the neighborhood Wal-Mart, my cell phone played Jingle Bells forcing me to set them aside. If you miss getting yours, blame it on Jim Baca. That's right Baca is back. My phoning Alligator informed that the former two term State Land Commissioner will try to make it three, and that sets up an exciting duel for the 06' Dem nomination with Ray Powell, also a former two term land boss. This news was enough for me to put the gifts on lay-away and head back to the blog.

When I reached Baca (who is currently toiling part-time for Big Bill) at his ABQ North Valley home he said that pending a final conversation with wife Bobbi, he was a go. He even tried out a campaign slogan on me: "Save the Enchantment." It could also be "Save My Political Career." When he faced voters in 2001 for re-election as ABQ Mayor he finished fourth.


So why, after serving as commissioner for eight years, does Baca want the job back? "I want a constitutional amendment that would conserve more of our state lands. That's issue one," the longtime environmentalist told me. And he added a personal note. "I am now 60. A lot of guys my age feel life is over for them. I don't. I still have a lot to give and a lot to learn," offered the former director of the federal Bureau of Land Management. (Hey, with big Social Security checks, free medical care and plentiful Viagra, being sixty something doesn't sound so bad.)

The Alligators, who would work Christmas Day if we let them, floated to the surface with analysis. "Jim has the edge. A low primary turnout favors a Hispanic and a liberal like him," chimed in one.

Maybe. But Powell is a savvy politico. Neither veteran will hesitate to run an aggressive campaign to capture this prize. And watching it all will be unlikely Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons. The GOP incumbent won in 02' on the back of the drunk driving record of his Dem opponent. It won't be so easy this time and Pat will need all of the $1 million friends say he hopes to raise. But he too is tough and shrewd and maybe the R's best hope for an 06' statewide win.


So a June primary election that looked to be a big yawn is shaping up as one with some spark. The three way contest for AG, now the Land commissioner duel, plus a two way race for State Auditor. And late yesterday a reliable Alligator told me: "Joe, it looks like Dem (ex-State Treasurer) James Lewis is gearing up for a run against (State Rep.) Lucky Varela for Treasurer."

The unfolding competition among Dems will make for some tough campaigns, but it is healthy for the state's majority party and will make for better elected officials. The R's need to get solid candidates aboard for these offices and concentrate on unifying themselves for the battle ahead.

Keep it coming politicos. But wait until after Christmas, won't you? I have to get that shopping done sometime.

Carol Kinney
Carol Kinney was a polished player of the political arts for better than half a century. She was instrumental in getting then-husband Harry Kinney twice elected mayor (1974-77 1981-85). Carol, 82, died of a stroke last week while visiting Massachusetts.

I first met her in 74' as a cub reporter for KUNM-FM radio covering Harry's first inauguration. (Jim Baca became his press secretary). She was tough, elegant, involved, determined and committed. Her contributions to New Mexico go on and on and you can see them here. As ABQ's first, First Lady in the modern era, she set the standard and did it with class. It was a life fully lived on the brightly lit stage of La Politica. And now, with deserved applause, it's exit stage right for New Mexico's Carol Kinney.


Can you believe it? The calendar will soon turn to a new year. But we have one more blog to go before going on holiday with you until 06.' Join me tomorrow for a final take and some holiday cheer. And thanks for visiting today.

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