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Monday, January 30, 2006

The Education Of Cynthia; Sen. Nava Eyes PRC Bid, And: Pete Motors Ahead On Bridge, Plus: Big Bill's Ship Loads Up Cargo; It's Another Bloggin' Monday 

Senator Nava
The contest for the Public Regulation Commission seat held by Shirley Baca is one of the banner races of Primary 06' and it may be about to get another headliner. Alligators on the ground in the Las Cruces area and in ABQ are checking in with reports that well-respected Dem State Senator Cynthia Nava is preparing a run against Shirley, who is the current holder of the title of "New Mexico's Most Controversial Politician."

Reports have it that Nava, Chair of the Senate Education Committee who represents southern Dona Ana county, is circulating petitions to win a place on the ballot. If she gets in she will join incumbent Baca and NM State Fair Chair Sandy Jones in the Dem primary in vying for a seat on the five remember PRC, arguably the most powerful regulatory body in the state.

Nava is no stranger to power, or power struggles. She was first elected to the senate in 1992 and has quietly ascended the ranks. Friday she was having a news conference with Big Bill pushing a measure to improve math and and science education. When we rang her office phone she was not available to confirm or deny the PRC bid, but it comes from solid sources who usually are on the money. So onward we go...

THE EDUCATION OF CYNTHIA

Nava is also an associate superintendent in the Gadsden Independent School District, which was recently rocked by a recall election. We blogged in August that some insiders thought Nava could be ousted because of the controversy. But the old Gadsden board is out and new members, appointed by Education Secretary Veronica Garcia, are friendly to Nava. (One of the new board members, Andrew Moralez, runs Big Bill's southern NM office) so she can expect to stay in her nearly $90,000 a year job, a sum comparable to what PRC commissioners are paid.

No state senators are up for election this year, (all 70 House members are) so even if Nava ran and lost she would retain her senate seat. And that seat is safe. She ran unopposed in the 04' primary and general elections.

But Shirley's ABQ December 04' ABQ Sunport arrest for pot possession, even though it was eventually dismissed, makes her vulnerable.

"If Cynthia gets in she could be the frontrunner. She is respected and well-known in Dona Ana county. Jones would need to run a very aggressive campaign because Nava could consolidate the Hispanic vote if Shirley's numbers don't hold up," commented a Dem strategist follwing the action.

Top D's are breathing easier now that indicted and resigned Treasurer Vigil is off the campaign trail. They would like Baca gone too as ethics morphs into a hot-button issue nationally and locally. Some think Nava may be their best chance of doing that.

By the way, Dona Ana county is a powerhouse when it comes to that education committee. It's Vice-chair is Senator Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces.

A CASE FOR THE MONDAY BLUES

We said Cynthia was at a news conference with the Guv Friday to push a bill to improve math and science education. And look what was revealed at that camera session: About 25 percent of Hispanic ninth-graders and about 20 percent of Native American students are proficient in math, compared to 55 per cent for Anglos.

There is not just a rich-poor gap in NM. There is a startling ethnic gap when it comes to our state's young people, and not just in education. Ex-Guv Carruthers pointed that out earlier this year. Can't we have a task force to openly and directly confront this and report to the state? It would be a nice exercise in leadership.

PAY-OFF FROM PETE
Sen. Domenici
Speaking of leadership, even in this modern era where language parsing is a well-paid skill, sometimes you get some. So it has been with U.S. Senator Domenici and the Montano Bridge battle featuring the Army Corps of Engineers over which a Domenici chaired subcommittee has funding authority. Since Pete (and Dem ABQ Mayor Marty) came down on the Corps for holding up the crossing desperately needed by the working people of the city, things are starting to move and we should have the bridge fully opened in a month or two.

New Mexicans have invested heavily in the senator, giving him landslide margins and the longest senate tenure in state history. In the case of Montano, the investment is paying off handsomely.

As for the Mayor, who got kudos for his bi-partisan work with Domenici, his announcement that he could not come up with $800,000 to four lane the long fought over ABQ West Side Paseo Del Norte road extension has insiders baffled. They say this is his chance to finally put the festering road issues to bed. If he doesn't four lane now, will that mean another decades long battle, like Montano, further gridlocking political debate here? They're just asking.

TAKING ON CARGO

Another state political elder is back in the game. Ex-GOP Guv Dave Cargo (1966-70) was named by Big Bill to the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad Commission. Is this the same Cargo who has been highly critical of Big Bill's "imperial" ways? Well, Cargo has been long associated with the up and down fortunes of the Chama Valley rail in far northern NM. But he has been more recently associated with Big Bill's lobbyist-of-choice Butch Maki, signing on as a consultant for the firm. Will that and his new appointment make Dave less critical of the Dem Guv in this election year? How could we think such a thing?

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
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