Friday, September 09, 2005

Hurricane Politics; Change In the Air? Minimum Wage Backers Wonder, Plus: The Big Bill Barometer, And: My Readers Mailbag; It's Full Of Good Stuff 

Have the winds of Katrina ushered in lasting political change? And if so, what will be the effects in our Enchanted Land? It's a question being mulled over as politicos assess the ongoing coverage of the big storm and fill up on three buck a gallon gas.

"My gut tells me this news atmosphere is softening ABQ voters on increasing the minimum wage. Now the governor, just days after the hurricane, is willing to risk political capital and advocate a boost in the statewide minimum wage. Gas prices are a driver, but you have to wonder if we are getting ready for a shift on other domestic issues," analyzed a longtime observer of La Politica.

ABQ voters will decide a minimum wage increase to $7.50 an hour October 4th. A statewide increase will go before the Legislature.

The images of a huge underclass being evacuated from New Orleans may have awakened Americans to a reality usually hidden. The devastation could give rise to a more pro-government electorate, at least when it comes to social services. That would translate into more supprot for Social Security, health care coverage and the aforementioned minimum wage. Supporting the wage boost is the easy politico call with the ABQ Journal poll showing the measure winning 61% of the electorate, even before Katrina. For Big Bill it's a chance to do something for activist Dems who are none too happy with his tax cuts for the wealthy. But the answer to the larger question of whether there will be a lasting political shift in the New Mexico and American political landscape is still blowing in the wind. Stay tuned.


Our report that Ray Powell was getting into the race for the Dem nomination for state land commissioner and that he had not overly alienated the oil and gas industry in his two previous terms as commissioner, earned me this admonishment from a leading figure in that industry: "I must take exception to your comment that he did not totally alienate the oil and gas industry. He was the worst commissioner in our state's history in dealing with, or for that matter, refusing to deal with, the industry. His liberal, arrogant manner have no place in the land commissioner's job. Thanks, now I feel better."

I'm sure you do, but I am not so sure about Ray.

Venting on Bush and Big Bill came from independent gubernatorial candidate Eli Chavez: "Most politicians only worry about the money and could care less about the people. Gov. Richardson has not responded to New Mexico's needs but he has addressed his own needs. He purchased a $5.5 million jet while 40% of our state's residents do not have health insurance. Where was Bush after the Hurricane? The Bush Administration cut millions from the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the list goes on. It's not about people anymore, it is about big money," charged Eli who ended his missive by inviting me to coffee. OK, as long as its decaf, buddy.


We received a record amount of e-mail on our blogs on Hurricane Katrina. Gail Oliver of Albuquerque represented most of them: "You are 100% right on! If this isn't a wake up call to our nation, and if this doesn't compel others to get into the political arena, I can't imagine what other scenario would."

Thanks Gail. I hope we are both right. And thanks to my many other correspondents for their thoughtful and heartfelt comments.

Finally, my early morning readers yesterday saw here that there would be only one televised ABQ mayoral televised debate. Actually, I am told there will be two more debates and you can look below for the revised info. Have a great weekend!

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Gary King Goes All In For AG; Shakes Up Race, Plus: D's Romance Madrid To Reconsider Heather Run, And: Mayor Hopefuls Do TV Together; We Review 

Gary King
Gary King is shaking up the race for attorney general, dropping the news that he will definitely seek the Dem AG nomination in what is turning out to be a crowded field. King first let his interest known here back in April, but he gave me the all go signal in a late night phone call Tuesday from Washington D.C.'s National Airport. "I have the experience and the desire," he told me. This, despite being landslided in his run last year against GOP Congressman Steve Pearce. But AG is a horse of a different color and the insiders are already saying with his high statewide name ID and appeal to conservative Dems in the east and south King may be hard to stop. "If he runs a decent campaign, the unknowns going after him will have a hard time. It will be interesting to see if any of them get out now that Gary is in," observed one Dem activist.

The King entry may be the biggest blow to ABQ State Rep. Al Park, who has been running for over a year and raised significant funds, but he is little known outside of ABQ and his liberal legislative record does not appeal to the Anglo King voters. Attorney Eric Sedillo-Jeffries, former Big Bill aide Geno Zamora and District Attorney Lemuel Martinez are seen carving up the ample Hispanic vote, paving the way for a King victory.

"Gary is positioned well, but there is a danger here. If he loses this one his political career may be over. He has run and lost for governor and congress. This third bite out of the apple may be his last," offered our activist.

King's run against Pearce put his name back before the public and he feels it's now or never. And he is already poised to make a run at that "Little Texas" vote that eluded him in his race against the popular Pearce. "I am against repealing the death penalty," the son of the former legendary guv opined as he made his way into the nation's capital for yet another round of La Politica.


Meanwhile, The current AG, Patricia Madrid, is being romanced anew by national Dems who see a possible turn in the tide in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and who cannot bear the thought of ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson going unopposed. They still think the two term AG may be their best shot. "Even if Madrid isn't all that strong, with gas prices, the war gone bad and now the hurricane, the political climate could change in our direction. We need a strong candidate ready to take advantage," said one Dem insider.

Madrid told me recently she is not anxious to run against Heather and that set off anguish among Dems across the nation who keep tabs on Wilson's fortunes. Still, with Heather's numbers reasonably strong, it's going to take more than a box of chocolates for the D bosses to get Madrid to the altar.


If Patsy won't do it, how about an unabashed liberal? ABQ Dem State Senator Jerry Oritz y Pino may be game if Madrid makes her "leaning against" a decided no. "He's looking at it. He knows it would be uphill, but he feels the issues could break his way, "said a friend of Jerry's who is urging him to go. It's becoming clear that major political change could result from the disastrous hurricane and the energy crisis. The best minds in politics are now contemplating what form that change will come in. The only thing they know for sure is that you can't take advantage of anything if you don't have a candidate.

Eric Griego
There are plenty of candidates for ABQ mayor and they all appeared on the televised stage together last night on KNME-TV, one of three scheduled joint TV appearances of the campaign which ends October 4. KOB-TV will air a live debate Wednesday at 7 p.m. and KRQE-TV will tape one for October 2 but has not announced when it will air. I tuned in to the late night re-run with a veteran Alligator on the phone line more than willing to score the event. Why couldn't KNME do a broad-based debate? The discussion was confined to crime. Anyway, the Gator and I ended up scoring it on style for City Councilor Eric Griego who dropped the angry man act he is sometimes famous for. This time he came across invigorated and knowledgable. His youth contrasted well with all the gray hairs near him. Mayor Marty was his usual on the ball self, but had nothing to gain from being with his opponents. Our analyst said the GOP's Brad Winter seemed gun shy and not assertive. David Steele said his campaign was "simple" and so was his performance.

We'd like to see another TV appearance, one where all the issues are discussed. How about it Dick Knipfing? Call Lady Kate Nelson and clear some of that early prime on KRQE-TV and let's party.


I have run out of steam post-midnight so I won't write about Andy Lenderman's article (and Steve's) in the Santa Fe New Mexican on Senator Domenici and the controversy over his role in providing flood funding for New Orleans. But I did remember to post it. One other thing. Many of you commented on an article about the blog in the latest NM Business Weekly. I have not seen it. If it is on the Web, I will post it here.

You know the drill. Email me all your political stuff and have fun seeing it show up here.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Hope And Hell In New Orleans: NM Sheriff Blogs In, Plus: More Hurricane Fall Out, And: Mayoral Maneuvers; Stand By For News 

The massive political fallout from the calamity of Hurricane Katrina will continue for months, but for a group of New Mexicans camped in tents near the Mississippi River in New Orleans politics is a world away. The stark reality of death and untold human misery is front and center. I know many of you would like to be there to help. I know this because of the record amount of e-mail I have received. But we are well-represented. Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, along with 35 of our deputies, scour the flood soaked streets of the Crescent City each day, desperately trying to persuade the last citizens to depart, to literally run for their lives. The air boats are steered by fisherman coated in body armor to fend off snipers. The drama can't be overstated. Late last night Sheriff White blogged in on an unreliable cell phone from a city he described as "so dark, it's disorienting."


"Joe, as a human being it hurts, it really hurts, but we have a job to do. Today we came across a floating body that was clearly a homicide victim. Normally, you would throw up the crime scene tape and call CSI. But we just float by seeking those who still live. Bodies are everywhere, but also thousands of survivors. We are saving hundreds. The reward is the thanks and the hugs the men get. But it is grim, very grim. I have never seen anything like it, no one has. Why do some people shoot at the boats? Who the hell knows? We have two deputies on each one for protection. We arrested guys rescuing people from homes and then going back and looting those same houses. The New Orleans police are saying 15,000 to 25,000 are dead. They only have one radio channel. There is no 911 service.

The cops are upset with those who walked away, but those still working are incredible. They're living in the precinct houses and only have the clothes on their back. Our people and the others here are going to get an express check-in from God for the work they have done," blogged an emotional and bone-weary sheriff as he and his men readied themselves for another night in sleeping bags. All the men volunteered. You can help too.


Back on the political front, Alligators were pointing out this press release from Senator Domenici as evidence of his continued tension with Big Bill after last month's battle over Cannon Air Force Base. The release, they point out, contains lavish praise for ABQ Mayor Marty for taking in New Orleans evacuees, but none for Big Bill who also played a major role. The slap at Big Bill, if that's what it was, came at the expense of GOP mayoral contender Brad Winter who is trying to take Marty down. But when you have a big fish to fry, you fry it.

And then there's the talk of the placement of the evacuees. Many will go to Roswell, Farmington and Clovis, all cities that are weak spots for the Guv. "Why is Santa Fe not helping?" E-mails one northern Gator. Let's just call this one interesting.


Rejoining the mayoral campaign trail, we find the Winter campaign, according to insiders, putting up about $8,000 for a cable TV buy, his first of the campaign. It touts him as the "independent Republican candidate." We are also receiving word that he will get help from the national GOP for a mailer. The question remains whether Winter will have the big money for a positive TV buy that does not involve the ethics charges he levels against Chavez in his first spot. "The commercial is well-produced and hits Marty effectively. The trouble is the "independent Republican" line. Does that go away? I think so, or else a lot of Dems, conservative Republicans and independents are going to turn away," analyzed one mayoral watcher.


Officials at the state investment council were holding their breath over that report that an Eclipse jet landed on its belly after landing gear apparently failed. After all, the state investment in the start-up company is over $20 million. Maybe they are relaxing a bit after this statement from Eclipse: "We have determined that no aircraft mechanical or electrical problems contributed to this event." In other words, it was pilot error, according to Eclipse. Still, the risk of this investment is evident to anyone with experience on Wall Street. This could be a real high flier or a crash landing. Don't say we didn't tell you.

E-mail me your news and comments at the top right of this page and help keep the political news flowing.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Three Bucks A Gallon And Headed North; NM Senators Under Gun On Gas Prices, Plus: Udall On New Orleans; Why Is He Alone? And: Planes In The News 

New Mexico's two U.S. Senators will try to get ahead of the curve today by holding a hearing in D.C. as national outrage mounts over the skyrocketing cost of gasoline, now well over three bucks a gallon and climbing. The outrage is more palpable because of the "energy bill" that Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman crafted and sold as an eventual solution to the nation's energy woes. The problem is the fine print, and people are not reading it. The senators said the bill would do nothing to bring down high gas prices in the short run, but that's what many folks think an energy bill should do, thus the heat is on the duo. They went as far as appearing with the Prez in Albuquerque to watch him sign the measure. But that's now history as the disaster in New Orleans combines with out of control pump prices to deliver a perfect storm to Washington lawmakers who are being told by those suffering at the pumps just what an energy bill should be.

Politically, Dem Senator Bingaman was set to score points for his re-elect next year by working with Republican Domenici to get an energy bill, but with national energy policy in tatters that plan appears to be for naught, at least if gas prices stay anywhere near today's levels.

Sen. Goldwater
The problem with our politicians today is that they are seemingly unable to say how they really feel on even the most profound events. Remember Barry Goldwater? He told it like he saw it, and whether you agreed with it or not, it was refreshing and pure. New Mexico's Tom Udall was the only member of our state's Congressional delegation to lay it on the line when it mattered as he came out swinging on the feds late response to the Gulf Coast disaster. Said Udall: "We have a moral obligation to conduct a full review of what happened." The cynics will say Udall could take that stand because of his liberal district, but from this corner future generations (and hopefully this one) will judge politicians on whether they stood up on New Orleans, not whether they were liberal or conservative. The rest of the state's delegation was pretty mousy on the calamity, even as President Bush admitted the government response was "unacceptable."

Some politicos who refused to go with Udall felt it would be deemed "fingerpointing." Folks, asking what contributed to people dying in the streets of a major American city is called accountability, not fingerpointing. It would have been great to see a joint statement from our D.C. delegation saying: "We know our government did not perform as required. We are united in making sure it does in the future. Meanwhile, we are determined to save New Orleans and the Gulf Coast." But Barry Goldwater is long gone and many of today's so-called "leaders" are actually re-elect machines fearful to risk anything, even in the face of human catastrophe. Is this a function of today's over-consulted, big money, little ideas political campaigns? We're just asking.

Eclipse Jet
Big Bill fell into some some good PR as he sent the state's brand new and hyper-controversial jet on its first mission to flood-drenched Louisiana. Critics will be after him throughout next years campaign for spending $5.5 million for the Cessna, but right now the mercy mission makes the jet purchase look, well, not so bad. But get ready for the R's to unload on the Guv when he begins using the jet for less critical travel. Their next line of attack? Soaring jet fuel costs and how that will make the jet even more expensive than officials projected...And critics of the big investment in start-up Eclipse Aviation were given some fresh ammo over the weekend when during a test flight the landing gear on an Eclipse jet apparently failed to function and the plane skidded to a stop on its belly. The naysayers point out that investing in any kind of airline is highly risky. They wonder if the latest $15 million of state cash given Eclipse is too much. If Eclipse's problems grow beyond a bad landing, Big Bill and others will be on the hook for an explanation.


Yes, those were TV spots for R Brad Winter's ABQ mayoral candidacy on the ABQ cable channels over the weekend. He's calling himself the "independent Republican" candidate. Hey, aren't ABQ elections supposed to be "non-partisan?" More on the mayoral derby tomorrow. Until then, thanks for your company.

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