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Monday, January 23, 2006

Fair Chair Targets Shirley Baca; Pot Bust Headlines Race, Plus: Mickey & Maki; New Power Couple? And: Caldera's Cauldron On One Hot Blog 

Shirley Baca
The ethical thorn in the side of the New Mexico Democratic party was partially removed when indicted State Treasurer Robert Vigil resigned, but the operation won't be complete for some party insiders until NM Public Regulation Commissioner E. Shirley Baca joins Vigil on the sidelines. Baca, busted for possessing pot at the ABQ Sunport in December of 04', promises to fight for re-election. According to reliable sources, she will get that fight. NM State Fair Chair Sandy Jones will challenge the controversial Baca in the June Dem primary.

The pot charges against the 54 year old Baca were eventually dismissed, but not before she became the subject of ridicule on the media and talk show circuit. Despite it all, political pros running the numbers for us say Baca's defeat is not a done deal.

"The district is designed for an Hispanic representative. The pot bust should put the race in play, but if she is the only Hispanic candidate in the race, she stays in the game. It could take another strong Hispanic Dem, maybe two, to put her away," offered up our Dem analyst.

Baca won the seat in 02' with 54 percent of the vote. She won a three way primary battle with an impressive 51 percent.

WE'VE GOT THE JONES

Jones of Willamsburg, (south of T or C) was named Fair Chair by Big Bill and is close enough to the Guv to win a spot on his social calendar. (He donated about $1500.00 to Big Bill's 04' campaign)

The chair of the Fair is a rancher with a construction company background. He will have his work cut out for him as just about all the precincts in Shirley's vote-heavy home county of Dona Ana are in the district. It is uncertain how upset the hometowners are about her run-in with the law.

But Shirley's pot bust is the least of it as utility insiders and some legislators regret ever having the PRC made an elected panel with widespread authority over electric and phone companies and many other industries.

The cries first went out when the son of NM House Speaker Ben Lujan was given Big Bill's explicit backing and won a seat on the five member panel. Ben Ray Lujan, Jr., became a fast-riser and is now chairman of the PRC.

While a feather in the Lujan family cap, the Lujan ascendancy put Dad Lujan under the scope in the House where members still fret that the Lujan-Big Bill deal has made the House too subservient to the whims of the powerful Fourth Floor.

But right now the issue is campaign 06' and having Shirley Baca out there as a poster child for wayward ways of top ranking Dems. I have not heard yet of any Hispanic challengers to Baca, but the Jones entry could encourage some. Stay tuned.

MAKI AND MICKEY
Barnett
Not a few Republican eyebrows were raised in our Enchanted Land when ABQ lawyer/lobbyist Mickey Barnett, leader of a break-away faction of the fractured NM Republican party, was quoted in the ABQ Journal as being the "personal lawyer" to top Democratic operative and Big Bill's favored lobbyist, Butch Maki. Barnett, ousted by the GOP faithful from his national committeeman post, continues to host a regular Thursday lunch for supporters as well as pursuing influence in state public affairs issues.

But this prominent R's association with top-tier Dems persists. Previously, he donated money to then Dem Senate Majority Leader Manny Aragon and was allied with prominent liberal Dem George Soros in efforts to legalize drugs in New Mexico. Now, the Maki tie-in, even while rumors surface that Barnett and his allies could again run a candidate or two against incumbent R state reps in the June primary as they did in 2004.

Of course, Maki has the right to hire anyone as his lawyer. But Republicans have the right to question the loyalties of Barnett as he seeks political power and influence. Barnett supporters have hammered at this space saying it has been a source of dissension, but a weakened, fractured opposition party has significant impact on public policy. It's fair game, fellas.

Specifically, the infighting weakened the opposition party in New Mexico and enhanced the power of a Dem Governor who not only benefits from a surplus of cash, but a surplus of ill-will among state R's. While Barnett can rightfully argue there is nothing amiss about his taking on clients, he cannot expect lifelong R's to put blinders on and ignore who he represents when he works to put his imprint on their party.

As for lobbyist Maki, being Big Bill's favorite promises to keep the lights shining bright on his ever-growing client list.

CALDERA'S CAULDRON
Caldera
And how about Heather putting in her two cents on the apparent imminent firing or resignation of University of New Mexico Prez Louis Caldera? Heather is fighting for Caldera who is under the gun from Board of Regents chief and former NM Dem Party Chairman Jamie Koch. Heather's defense prompted the Alligators to note that the Anglo Congresswoman's support of Hispanic Caldera has obvious political implications. You mean in the ABQ South Valley?

As for Caldera, insiders point to his failure to strongly establish himself. Koch is also taking behind-the-scenes hits for failing to handle the touchy personnel matter quickly and quietly. The spectacle of a $300,000 a year university president being played like a puppet is not comforting.

But Big Bill is getting what he set up. Koch is first and foremost an instrument of La Politica and so is NM Highlands University President and ex-state senator Manny Aragon who has had his share of personnel hassles.

One watcher of this one asks us what the UNM PR department and Caldera have been doing. "The guy has been completely under the radar since taking over. Does he have nothing positive to report, or just isn't interested? Not good."

For now, Caldera is twisting slowly, slowly in the wind. Won't someone have mercy and either cut him down or let him hang in peace?

E-mail me from the top of this page your latest political news from across the state. We are interested in all of it and try to use as much as we can. You can remain anonymous, just be right. Thanks for tuning in today.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
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