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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Gary Johnson Resurfaces And So Do The Alligators Tracking Him, Plus: L.A. Meets Heather And Patsy; It's All Here On Your Tuesday Blog 

Johnson
The familiar, high-pitched voice of ex-GOP Guv Gary Johnson (1995-02') was heard again recently as he emerged from his Taos cocoon to take a whack at Big Bill's semi-controversial hiring practices. Johnson, who last made news in September when he announced he was busting up with his wife and ex-First Lady Dee to be with another woman, condemned Big Bill for having a direct hand in hiring some 60 state employees at an annual cost of $3 million.

"I'll just say that we didn't do this once, not once," he argued in a statement that may or may not stand the scrutiny test.

But a Dem e-mailer wondered if Governor Johnson ever handed out contracts to various contributors and supporters. "In New Mexico the Dems get the jobs when they are in power and the R's give out contracts." She wrote.

The Fourth Floor low-keyed the response to the Big Bill hiring spree apparently thinking the story would mostly blow over. But some Dems, like liberal radio talk show host Mike Santullo, who seems to surface when things are at a low tide for the Guv, believe the issue has more legs than some political pros may be counseling the Guv. He expects to see plenty of TV ads about it come October and went preemptive now.

"Maybe the reason Johnson never hired anyone is because he never wanted to do anything. He vetoed over 200 bills and frittered eight years away. Now we have a Governor who is getting things done and needs help doing it. Gary ought to stick with legalizing drugs and climbing mountains. He knows a hell of a lot more about that than he does state government," weighed in Santullo.

His drug reference was to Johnson's long-standing and hyper-controversial support for legalizing dope; a position that spilt the NM GOP in part in the late 90's and from which it continues to be on the mend even to this day.

PAVLIDES ON PATRONAGE

Harry Pavlides, one of the "Governor exempt" employees, (also known as "Gifts From The North" at the offices where they are employed) is not hiding underneath any rocks after being highlighted in various media reports as being hand-picked by Big Bill for a $45,000 a year State Fair administrative job.

"Is Johnson running again for something? His statements are purely political. I am proud to be working for the most progressive Governor in state history." Offered Pavlides. He challenged questioning media reports, and said he is performing a needed job. He supplied a long list of his activities including how he "arranged for admission to nearly 5,000 physically and mentally challenged, or foster children to the Fair."

Pavlides is a longtime Dem pollster and occasional contributor of election analysis to this blog.

Both Pavildes and Santullo are old-timers at manning the political battle lines and have no fear of taking on the opposition which they have done through the decades for other Dem Guvs. Others, especially those named in the media reports, prefer a more low key approach in job starved NM.

The Guv's problem is not so much expanding the number of state exempt employees, (political appointees who can be fired at will) but the way he has gone about it. However, if it is illegal, as some legislators claim, why aren't they in court filing lawsuits or asking for an attorney general's opinion?

As for Gary, if he does plan on making a comeback he will quickly realize that there's no legislative leaders around like Raymond Sanchez or Manny Aragon to kick around and play his foil like the old days. This time he'll be on his own.

OUR L.A. LADIES

The national coverage of the hotly contested ABQ congressional race featuring GOP incumbent Heather Wilson and Dem challenger Patricia Madrid has begun in earnest. I sat down recently with Los Angeles Times national reporter Mark Barabak whose paper has chosen our district to focus on as a bellwether for how the country may go this November. The Times is among the nation's top five papers with a weekday circulation of about 908,000 and Sunday coming in at 1,254,000.

Mark and I picked each others brains for better than an hour over at Yanni's on ABQ's Nob Hill. He then scoured the district for clues and some face time with Heather. His insightful take with quotes from your blogger and NM pollster Brian Sanderoff hit the Times Saturday.

As we wrapped up our conversation the national political junkie and I shared a conclusion. We both hope neither candidate makes a big, early mistake or we won't have anything to write about.

Thanks for tuning in today. Come back again soon.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
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