Some long knives are coming out on State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, possibly setting up a challenge to his leadership, or at least a check on his power. The sharpest knife is being wielded by his old foe, State Senator and fellow Dem Phil Griego, who fired off a letter to each Democratic senator claiming the senate "managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory" during the last legislative session. Griego asks in the letter: "What the hell happened to us?" He also calls on the Dem caucus to seek answers from Leader Sanchez. On the other side, Griego is being accused of carrying water for Governor Big Bill who would not shed tears if Sanchez of Belen was pushed aside.
You may recall that during the final moments of the 30 day 06' Session three key pieces of legislation--payday loans, an increase in the state minimum wage and a big transportation funding bill, GRIP II, were all left to die. Senator Griego is pointing the finger at the leadership saying "there was no communication among he Democrats." He also told me in a phone interview last week before we broke for a post-election holiday that "the issues should have been discussed from the beginning of the session," but that Leader Sanchez failed to call "even one meeting of the Dem caucus."
Griego argues to his fellow senators that the leadership needs "to listen to the governor and "deal with his issues. We're all on the same page, but we never established any real communication with the governor. We are in the majority in the senate but we are not acting like it."LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE?
On the flip side, another Dem senator told me, the majority of the senators "are happy with Michael and don't see things as Phil does. Michael represents us well and I doubt if there will be a serious challenge," the senator said. He added that the "Old Bulls" of the chamber such as Sens. Altimirano and Fidel are unlikely to back any challenge.
As for Grigeo, he said he is not trying to oust Sanchez, although two years ago he and Senator Dede Feldman lost the majority Leader position to Sanchez. "That position is for the caucus to decide. I am putting forth issues that need to be discussed," said Griego, while also saying the detailed plan he presented then on how the senate should be run would be useful for the caucus to review.
He does say that the Fourth Floor bears some of the responsibility for the breakdown in communication. "Maybe the Governor did put a little more than needed before us, but we need to discuss these things," he said.
For his part, Big Bill was smarting after the session in which Sanchez stiff-armed him and weakened the chief executive in the eyes of analysts and the public. In the 02' campaign the Guv introduced Griego to northern New Mexicans as the "next majority leader, but that didn't happen and Sanchez has been independent of the Guv since.
Griego denies being a stalking horse for the Governor, but if he were to again enter the race for majority leader and somehow pull off a upset, the power politics and therefore the policies of New Mexico could see significant change. Since that appears a long shot, perhaps the play is to soften up Sanchez to be more of a team player with the Fourth Floor and its senate allies. Trial lawyer Sanchez has shown himself to be a skilled power player, but there are others there equally knowledgeable in the fine art of La Politica and more than willing to test those skills.
NEW AUDITOR CONTENDER
GOP sources are checking in with news that Lorenzo Garcia, who ran for NM State Treasurer in 1994 as the Green Party nominee and in 98' as the GOP Treasurer candidate, will be named this weekend by the GOP State Central Committee to replace ABQ's Dan Alvarez who won the June GOP primary for state auditor, but is getting out. Garcia, a CPA, commanded a surprising 47% of the vote against Montoya in 98'. They apparently hope they can do the same against Dem Jeff Armijo who we blogged has some analysts saying he has some soft spots.BOTTOM LINE
Suzan Reagan of the NM Labor Department blogs in to update us on the latest jobless figures for the state which we blogged on Thursday. She says the rate is now at 4.3%, up from the 3.9% in March that we cited. But the point holds: NM's unemployment rate is at an historic low and Big Bill and other D's will hammer that theme heavy in the coming campaign.
(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
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