Tuesday, April 04, 2006
South Of The Border, Down Mexico Way; Awaiting Astorga & Any Politics To Follow, Plus: Barnett Postal Job Draws Fire
New Mexico political junkies awoke Monday ready to tune in on the ABQ visit of First Lady Laura Bush on behalf of GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson, but what is thus far the top New Mexico news story of 2006 screamed back into the headlines in the wee morning hours with the capture of accused cop killer Michael Astorga. The junkies dropped Laura and got their fix weighing the political implications of Astorga's capture, who Big Bill's opponents hope will be New Mexico's Willie Horton.
But Big Bill is not one to let events overtake him and he swung into action saying he will use his touted diplomatic skills to try to get Astogra "expelled" from Juarez so he can face the death penalty. That's an issue because Mexico has a law banning extradition of fugitives who face the death sentence. Astorga was expelled to the U.S. around 2:30 a.m. today. Terms of any agreement had not yet been announced.)
"The Governor is trying to get back to even," offered one of my Senior Alligators. "He has taken a hit because the state parole board released Astorga from prison. If he can help persuade Mexico to give up Astorga and still have him face the death penalty, the governor will have scored." He analyzed.
That would still leave the Guv's operatives to deal with the parole board issue, but a diplomatic coup would go a long way toward defusing it. And, if the GOP track record of ineffectual attacks on Big Bill extends to the Astorga case, it could end up a wash in the coming campaign. (His national foes could be more persuasive.) The irony that Astorga's break to Mexico gave the Guv the opportunity to get back on the offensive was lost on no one.
Early parole and murder of a sheriff's deputy are incendiary and emotional items for campaign lit and TV. One campaign veteran told me last night he recalled that the R's used the notorious 1996 ABQ Hollywood video murders to help defeat Dem House Speaker Raymond Sanchez in 2000. (By the way, Ruidoso, NM defense attorney Gary Mitchell, who was named Monday to defend Astorga, was the attorney for Hollywood killer Shane Harrison.)
"A letter from a relative of one of the murder victims was sent into the district faulting Sanchez for blocking tough-on-crime measures," he recalled.
As for GOP Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White who is up for re-election this year and known to nurse other future political ambitions, the capture of Astorga was a mixed bag. They got their man. Sort of. It was the Mexican police that made the bust. Astorga successfully eluded the sheriff's posse for nearly two weeks. But a win is still a win and with Astorga behind bars, White's deep sigh of relief was loud enough to crack the still, gray dawn of a memorable New Mexico morning.
As they promised, former NM legislators Earlene Roberts and Ron Godbey have gone public in their efforts to thwart the White House nomination of ABQ GOP lawyer-lobbyist and former NM GOP National Committeeman Mickey Barnett as a governor of the U.S. Postal Service.
Roberts, who lost her seat when a breakaway faction of the GOP led by Barnett fielded a primary foe against her, let loose in a letter to GOP Maine Senator Susan Collins who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee which must pass on the Barnett nomination.
"Mr. Barnett is a paid special interest lobbyist. In his work for his private clients, he has practiced the politics of personal destruction and intimidation. This has included threatening state legislators with primary opponents when they do not vote for his legislation even if it requires voting against their constituents or the Republican Party platform."Blasted Roberts, the former House Minority Whip of SE NM.
And ex-Bernalillo county State Rep. Ron Godbey, who ardently opposed Barnett and GOP Guv Johnson when they advocated legalizing drugs, is also on the warpath.
"Mr. Barnett has ignored my request to voluntarily withdraw his name for consideration from the Presidential appointment to the Postal Service. I've contacted former legislators familiar with Mr. Barnett's chicanery. Eight (for sure) have agreed to come on board with letters to the Senate committee opposing Barnett's confirmation." Scalded Godbey from his new home in Texas.
Mickey did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
The well-know lobbyist and former NM state senator may have reason to worry about his White House appointment. The ex-legislators point out that confirmation by the senate is not a no-brainer and that several nominees in recent years failed to make the cut. Hearings have not yet been scheduled.
(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
Not for reproduction without permission of the author