Tuesday, March 14, 2006

It's Never To Early: Domenici Indicates 08' Re-Election Bid; We Go Indepth And Inside, Plus: Lucky's Streak Ends; He Bows Out Of Treasurer Race 

When he strode to the victory podium on Election Night 02' NM GOP U.S. Senator Pete Domenici had his family gathered at his side and indicated that it would be his last race. Not everyone believed it and it looks as if the skeptics were right. The 73 year old Domenici has indicated he will seek re-election in 2008 to an unprecedented seventh, six year term. He did it in a fundraising letter dated March 3rd sent to key supporters across our Enchanted Land.

Now, let me hedge a bit. This letter is written in a way that the money Domenici is raising could possibly go to other campaigns, not neccesarily his own re-election, but if that is the purpose he has me fooled.

Again, no one is surprised, especially Democrats who have long joked that only the Grim Reaper will keep Pete out of the World's Most Exclusive Club. For the record, here are the money lines from the Domenici letter: "I realize it may seem early to raise money for re-election, but as New Mexico's population grows and due to the high cost of television advertising, it is more challenging than ever to collect the funds I need...With your help, I am determined to press forward with a bold agenda in the coming year and to run a positive re-election campaign..."

Domenici will be 76 years old in 08'. His health has been an issue. But a recent treatment has relieved arm pain and my observers on the trail report that, for the most part, Domenici appears to be doing well. The question remains, however, how he will feel in two years. The apparent re-elect announcement may be intended to keep the field clear for the powerful chairman of the Senate Energy Committee. But ambitious hopefuls will keep a close eye not only on the senator's voting records, but his medical records as well.

There will also be questions whether the senator's legendary political antenna are as receptive as they should be. His recent staunch support of the Bush Dubai ports deal went completely against the grain of mainstream American political thought, but he picked up an IOU from the White House and appears to have suffered little, if at all, for the controversial position. So it goes when you have free tickets to every ride in the amusement park.


Domenici's key staffer is Steve Bell, who continues to play a behind-the-scenes role in the NM GOP, sometimes attempting to shape the party to the liking of this boss. As for the Dems, they long ago gave up on ousting the ABQ native. The last real Domenici race was in 78' when Toney Anaya gave him a run for his money. It's been easy street ever since, but one has to wonder if a strong candidate might emerge this time, if for no other reason but to position themselves for the day that Pete does eventually vacate the seat.

Re-election is not Domenici's for the asking, but it's as close as you get. The age issue is not what it would have been 20 years ago given today's longer and healthier life spans. Most important is the senator's continued and unmatched record of success in bringing vast amounts of federal funding into this low-income state.

When he gave up (or was eased out) of the helm of the Senate Budget Committee, some D.C. Alligators read it as a diminishing of his fortunes. And it may have been. But the energy committee chairmanship has given him even deeper roots in federal funding back home, winning him ardent support among the thousands of workers and contractors whose jobs depend on Uncle Sam's deep pockets and Pete's ability to pick them.

As a NM icon, it is extremely difficult for his opponents to tie the senator's prospects to those of any national administration. And even though the current White House is one of the most unpopular in his 34 year tenure, Domenici's in-your-face support of the Dubai deal shows just how much rope he has to burn.

Pete's somewhat aloof personality and tendency to dictate has held him back from winning popular personality contests. But this game is about power, politics and, in Domenici's case, delivering the goods. On that score, he is at the head of the class. Barring any health setbacks, our senior citizen-senior senator is in no danger of being flunked out by Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico.


The long knives of La Politica came out in force in the aftermath of the Monday withdrawal of Santa Fe State Rep. Lucky Varela from the Dem primary for State Treasurer. "There was an ethnic factor here. A lot of people were saying they would not support Lucky because a Hispanic was not electable after the indictment of (Treasurers) Vigil and Montoya. Lucky was a victim of that," said one tapped in D insider.

Victim or not, Lucky calling it quits puts James B. Lewis in the catbird's seat as the only Dem Treasurer nominee contender and the odds on favorite in the General Election. Lewis, an African-American, will take on ABQ's Demesia Padilla who is unopposed for the R nomination.

More on the Lucky withdrawal. Alligators in San Miguel county say he ran into trouble there when he went searching for votes at that county's recent Dem convention. They say relatives of ousted Treasurer Robert Vigil, a native of San Miguel, got their revenge by backing Lewis over Lucky because Lucky supported Vigil's impeachment in the Legislature. Vigil resigned before he was to be impeached on corruption charges. He now awaits federal trial.

Also, Varela recently toured southern NM and found a cool reception there. His son, Jeff Varela, told me, "we did a reality check and the withdrawal was the result."


Lucky is now going to run for re-election to his legislative seat, and his chances look good. Former Santa Fe Mayor Larry Delgado, who got in the race when Lucky went for Treasurer, says he will now step aside in favor of Varela. Probably best for Larry. He grew so thin-skinned as mayor, he refused to talk to his hometown newspaper anymore. Sayonara, Larry. Now you can talk all you want without the fear of anyone caring what you say.

The Varela supporters were unsure what, if any, role Big Bill played in Lucky hitting the wall, but they were suspicious. They reminded everyone that the veteran representative will likely be back in the Legislature next year using his expertise in fiscal affairs and more than ready to play the thorn to the Guv's rose.

Meantime, it will be all roses and lollipops for Lewis this weekend when the state Dems meet to nominate their statewide candidates. But after that it will be fence mending time for Lewis with those Hispanic Dems who today are swallowing the bitter pill of defeat.


Monday's blog, completed after an exhausting weekend of merrymaking, was left up with a glaring spelling error. One victim of our negligence, a Dem candidate who once sought the ABQ House seat being vacated by Ted Hobbs, Chris Catechis, caught up with us and wrote:

"My last name is spelled "Catechis." The hard part is trying to pronounce it. I have to agree that District 20 is a very solid R seat. Because of straight party voting, even Elvis could get elected as State Rep if he ran as a Republican in this District."

Thanks, Chris. You mean Elvis could not get elected if he ran as a D? Now, that's what I call an R district.

There's more politics to come this week. Let's get together again tomorrow right here. See ya' then.

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