Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Heather, Patsy And the War: How Did It Get The Early Start? We Have The Report, Also: Angling For Auditor, And: Who Shot J.R. (Damron, That Is) 

Rep. Wilson
It will be the premier New Mexico political race of 2006. No doubt about that. In fact, I recently fielded a call from the national desk of the Los Angeles Times to discuss what contest they will target as a bellwether for their readers. The Heather Wilson-Patricia Madrid face-off is one of two they are considering tracking from beginning to end to keep tabs on the national mood and whether the GOP House majority is endangered.

Which leads us back to Heather's bold statement that it would be looking in "the rear view mirror" and a "distraction" for the House Intelligence Committee, of which she is a member, to investigate pre-Iraq war intelligence and where and how it went wrong. Why the controversial statement now, which Dem Madrid seized upon to score early political points? And not just with the partisans. The ABQ Journal, generally supportive of the GOP's Wilson, slapped her wrist with this editorial and then followed with a slew of letters to the editor taking her to task.

Curious insiders are asking just how this story emerged so early as a campaign hot potato. Me too. So I checked in with veteran Journal science writer John Fleck who penned the missive that kicked off what will be a long and hard fought congressional duel.


Fleck informs that Heather, on a tour of Sandia Labs with House Intelligence Chair Peter Hoekstra, did not raise the issue. "I asked the question because I have been following the controversy over aluminum tubes in Iraq that were mistakenly thought to indicate an Iraqi nuclear weapons program. I was not approaching it as a political question."

But Heather's hard-hitting language immediately red-flagged the story and it ended up a page one write-up and launched the campaign over the war.
And why was Heather so hard-hitting when she usually plays low-key on issues that divide the moderate district? Several theories abound including one that she turned it up because she was with her committee chairman who has stalled a pre-war probe. Another longtime Heather watcher said the tough tone was really not that unusual, but choosing to use it on the hyper-controversial Iraq war was the issue.

The Dems are hoping that the refusal to investigate will have long legs. "Even if the war turns her way, we will still have this issue of what went wrong. It's something that even supporters of the war may relate to and her position can be summed up neatly in a TV spot," analyzed the campaign operative.

It's worth repeating. The Iraq war is comparable to the campaign politics during the Vietnam saga. Before it's over Madrid and Wilson will both have their mettle tested like never before. And that's what makes for a premier political race.


We've got a contest for the Dem nomination for state auditor. Tuesday we reported that Jeff Armijo was in the running, but that some Dems were hoping for a rival. They have one. Tom Buckner, deputy superintendent for the state Regulation and Licensing Department is out collecting signatures.

He tells me he has served as a bank examiner for the FDIC and has lived in Rio Rancho since 97.' He's 64 and was appointed to his post by Big Bill. He also worked for Attorney General Madrid as a Medicaid fraud investigator. He adds: "I've got nothing against Jeff. May the best man win." And 35 year old Jeff, second cousin of ABQ Mayor Marty, phones in: "I like Tom." Come on fellas, you're going to give politics a bad name.

Is there an R auditor candidate yet? Not that I have heard. Have you?


Sometimes I even surprise myself with my bizarre late-night spelling screw-ups. Tuesday it was R Guv candidate "J.R Damson," when it should have been "J.R. Damron." I guess the question isn't who shot J.R. but who butchered his name. I have lashed myself ten times with a wet noodle and will now link to Dr. D's Web site as atonement for my sin for which I was gently roasted by several watchful blog editors.


Listen, but listen quick. The state GOP has put up a radio ad on conservative talker 770 KKOB-AM labeling Big Bill "King Bill" as they try to make hay over his pro baseball record. It's more of a symbolic play as the ad is up on just one station and ends Thursday. But it's the "earned media" they are after which they just got here and from the AP's Barrey Massey as well.

Corrections, criticisms, and of course, the latest political news, is always welcome. There's an e-mail link at the top of the page. Drop me a line. See ya' soon.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Pete And Jeff And Their Buddy System, Plus: The Latest Candidate Comings And Goings; Warm Up With Your December Blog 

Domenici & Bingaman
A couple of years ago it looked as if the decades long collegiality between New Mexico's two U.S. Senators might be in jeopardy, but with Campaign 06' rapidly nearing it appears to be love and peace again between R Senator Domenici and D Jeff Bingaman who is is seeking a fifth, six year term to the senate. How cozy are the two senators whose combined tenure in he World's Most Exclusive Club suprpasses that of any other state's delegation?

"Jeff is mainly vulnerable from conservative Eastside R's and D's. It's natural for him to court Pete who can give him valuable cover with those constituents and its equally natural for Pete to warm up to Jeff as the R's come under fire for skyrocketing energy prices. Past differences are overcome by that equation," analyzed one campaign veteran.

Pete is chair of Senate Energy and Jeff, once the chair himself, is now ranking Dem. Earlier this year they banded together to pass an energy bill that Dems roundly criticized for being too friendly to major energy corporations, but one that Bingaman nevertheless supported, earning Pete's gratitude not to mention that of NM's oil and gas industry.


The Energy and Commerce Comittees recently held a joint hearing on high energy prices featuring the heads of the major oil companies who were later accused of lying to the senators when they testified they never met with Vice-President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 to plot energy policy. Then the news broke that that was not the case and it was Pete and the R's on the hot seat for refusing to have the oil execs take formal oaths at the hearing.

Not to worry. Jeff was quick to join Pete in signing a letter asking for answers from the oil bosses and not raising a stink about the oath-taking. It was nice cover for the senior senator.

Insiders in D.C. say Pete, as in the past, will not get active in the campaign against Bingaman. There is really no pressure for him to do so as the Bingaman race is not targeted by the national R's.

When it comes to being in the U. S. Senate membership has its privileges. Mutual back scratching apparently being one of them.


Coming onto the scene: Dem Jeff Armijo, a member of the ABQ TV-I Governing Board, now campaigning for state auditor. But one branch of D's says Armijo, who is in the travel biz, is not their favorite and they are looking to recruit another candidate, but there's no rush of applicants. Outgoing auditor Domingo Martinez is reportedly looking to get into Santa Fe county government when his term ends next year.

Dem Al Park is staying put. He says he will seek re-election to his ABQ State House seat after flirting with the notion of running for attorney general and then state treasurer. It's probably the smart move as both races were an uphill climb. He has raised over six figures for his campaign treasury, leaving him an odds on favorite for another House term and time to mull a future run in more friendly territory.

Finally, an R wag e-mails in his campaign slogan for GOP Guv hopeful and Santa Fe radiologist J.R. Damron: "He can see right through Bill Richardson." Hey, that and $10 million and it just might work.

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Monday, December 05, 2005

TV's Nelson Martinez: What Really Happened? We've Got The Scoop, Plus: Lots More From The Media Beat; It's Monday Blogging, New Mexico Style 

Speculation became fever pitched in media circles when ABQ NBC affiliate KOB-TV announced that longtime and popular native New Mexican TV anchor Nelson Martinez was being given his walking papers, but refused to give a specific reason. Martinez would only say that it was "complicated" and he was hiring an attorney. Here's the exclusive insider report on what really happened.

When it comes to TV news always start with the ratings. Because, for better or worse, (mostly worse) that's all that really matters in the bottom line biz it's become. The numbers for the broadcasts Nelson anchored (4 and 5 p.m) since joining KOB two years ago consistently lagged KRQE AND KOAT. With that as a backdrop Nelson was ripe for the picking, or the kicking.

"Management claims Nelson canceled a recent 4 p.m. anchor appearance saying he was too sick to go on, but was seen later that day at the book signing for Governor Richardson in ABQ's North Valley. On top of that, the station is said to have video of Nelson at the signing shot by a KOB crew. It was the straw that broke the camel's back," reports our reliable TV informer who has spent decades in the tube trenches and who adds that Nelson is disputing management's take hence the attorney.

You mean Nelson may have laid his career on the line for Big Bill?! If so, will he be rewarded? Heck, the Guv has hired half the journalists in New Mexico for lesser reasons. Nelson is one of the great Mariachi musicians in our state so do you suppose Music Commission honcho Nancy Laflin, once a TV news anchor herself, can make some desk room for Nelson?

Dick & Erika
As for the TV news wars, in the November sweeps KRQE again rode the strength of CBS primetime to capture another narrow win over KOB-TV for the 10 p.m. news title. ABC affiliate KOAT was third. To the chagrin of us political types who yearn for more varied coverage, the three stations have come to depend on an even heavier mix of crime stories. But in TV news it's not yearning that determines what gets on the air. It's what earns. Who says crime doesn't pay?


Let's stay on the media beat to tell you that another TV anchor veteran, Jane Metzler of 1980's KOAT fame, is now being heard in ABQ/Santa Fe. She's a national anchor for Fox News radio which airs on KAGM 106.3 FM. And in a twist of irony, Dianne Anderson, of 1990's KOAT anchor fame, gets to listen to her as she conducts a midday talk show there...Katy Zachry, one of a number of young and aggressive reporters signed up by KRQE to take them to the top of the 10 p.m news heap, is leaving the station for TV news in Hartford, CT., the #28 market in the nation. ABQ has now inched up to #46.

Over at NM's #1 radio station, 50,000 watt giant 770 KKOB-AM, Big Bill got a lesson in how quick conservatives will turn on him, despite his attempts to romance them with tax cuts. National talker Sean Hannity last week panned Big Bill profusely for his new position on Iraq--set a definitive timetable for withdrawal--and even threw in a hand grenade over the Guv's resume mishap. Hannity is so pro-Prez that critics have taken to calling him "Bush's Bitch." But Big Bill and Sean were cozy together, until now. Lesson for the Guv? Sometimes the one you're using, is using you.

Finally, one of the writers for "Late Night With David Letterman" could not resist lampooning the Guv over his baseball blunder calling it his "Field of Hallucination. To which the Guv and his minions say: "Amen. Better to take our lumps now than later."

And with that we say thanks for tuning in. Send me your news and comments via e-mail.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Duke City Doings: A Council Prez Prediction; Mayor Takes Oath Today, Plus: We Size Up His New #2; It's Your State Of The City Blog; No Ticket Needed 

ABQ liberals, given a stern whipping by ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez in the October city election, may get a consolation prize. According to City hall insiders, Councilor Martin Heinrich is poised to take over the council presidency when the new council and mayor take their seats.

"It appears Martin has five of the nine votes. Republican Craig Loy appears to be a vote short. At this time, the smart money is on Heinrich," reports our nose counter.

Dem Heinrich is playing it close to the vest, noting that it is another week before the vote and that he is not "ready to count his chickens before they hatch." That said, the SE Heights first term lawmaker sized up the factionalized council this way: "I think it will take some time to determine where enough consensus exists to craft good legislation."

Heinrich has been an even tempered solon, but an unabashed liberal whose possible presidency is raising the hackles of some in the biz community who are still miffed over his advocacy of a citywide minimum wage (It narrowly failed at the ballot box). Despite Mayor Marty's big win and the pro-growth politics it signifies, there are four councilors, including Heinrich, who can be counted on to slow down the hyperactive 11th floor.

The council prez is largely ceremonial and serves just one year. But he does get to appoint members to council committees and other government bodies, so there would be a chance for Heinrich to push his agenda.


When he takes the oath today for an unprecedented third, four year term, Mayor Chavez says he will be "liberated" because he is not running again and can make decisions without political consideration. It's true he's not running for mayor again. The City Charter says he can't. But does anyone really think the ultimate political animal is done with elective office for good? He ran for for Guv in 98' and has always kept his eye on the U.S. Senate. Insiders take with a a grain of salt his claim that there will be no politics in his future or in the decisions he makes in the next four years. Whether he will be successful at future political endeavors seems the more relevant question.


The Mayor's new number two, UNM public administration professor Bruce Perlman received his inauguration into public life this week when he was described in the papers as "a founder" of the infamous ABQPAC which landed the Mayor in so much hot water. The issue is not expected to be an obstacle to his confirmation by the city council, but Perlman has to wonder if the slogan will someday end up on his tombstone.

Perlman comes from the Ivory Tower and while lacking the lengthy government experience of predecessor James Lewis, the UNM bureaucracy has provided him plenty of opportunities to face down the Alligators. Now he will be knee-deep in them in one of the hottest seats in the city. The CAO-designate is known for his keen sense of humor which one surmises he will be calling on frequently in the challenging days ahead.

2009 OR BUST!

Sure, right now it's all Marty all the time. But it's never too early to get ready for the next mayor. 2009, here we come! Councilors Michael Cadigan and Ken Sanchez are already on the short-list. Both of them are from the West side.

The buzz around today's inauguration of Mayor Chavez is curiously sedate for a personality who is so front and center. Little advance publicity and no big parties like four years ago. Maybe after having the job so long he finds less of a need to shout about it--at least on opening night. Or maybe it's the absence being felt of social butterfly and ex-mayoral wife Margaret Chavez.


The state of the city is good, contentious as always, but good. The government supported economy chugs along, the city is clean and local government has been relatively scandal-free. (The bugaboo being the unsolved APD evidence room rip-off). For growth, Chavez's re-election means more of the same. And is that so bad? It's not like we are L.A.

The next four years will finally see settlement of the age-old road arguments--Paseo del Norte will be extended, an expanded Montano Bridge will be a done deal and more roads and schools will be built on the West side to accommodate growth. Why? Because we had an election where the arguments were aired and the people voted. Don't like it? There's another city election in just two years.

ABQ's biggest problem is the ongoing crime wave and the poor image it has spawned nationally. It has also been a considerable impediment to economic growth. Chavez has done about all he can in getting tough on crime. Now we face difficult social and economic issues to beat this problem. The mayor wants to butt in to the local education system which is the first line of defense against crime. He will get his head kicked in for it, but if he doesn't burn political capital on the number one issue, what's the point of having power?

Always enjoy having you here. Come back again soon.

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