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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sources: Another Ethics Mess Possible For NM Dems; Auditor Candidate Armijo At Center Of Chatter; Will He Withdraw? Plus: Di's Parking Problems 

Jeff Armijo
With just 78 days to go before Election Day, do we need to add another "ethics" problem to the large pile confronting the NM Democratic Party, Yes, say top sources who report that Dem State Auditor candidate Jeff Armijo faces a "negative situation" that could possibly drive him from the ticket, or create a major campaign issue that could cause his defeat as well as fan more ethics flames in the direction of other Dem hopefuls.

The sources tread cautiously on the nature of the "situation," but say Armijo has been advised by Dem loyalists that an abandonment of his candidacy should be considered. The sources say that the problem does not involve business, but centers on "a personal relationship" of Armijo's.

Talk of Armijo's potential problem has been swirling through the chattering classes, but has yet to surface publicly, even though one source said there has been mention of it "in a public record."

Armijo did not return a phone call Monday. His GOP opponent, Lorenzo Garcia, reached at his ABQ West Side home, said: "I have heard the talk, but it is not specific." Garcia is not a source for this report, nor are any other Republicans.

September 12th is the last day the Democratic Party Central Committee could put up a new candidate for the position, but only if Armijo withdrew. "He appears to be choosing to ride it out, either believing this thing won't surface before the election or, if it does, will not have the negative impact some Dems believe it will," analyzed a Senior Alligator.

Armijo, 36, operates a family-owned ABQ travel agency. He easily won the Dem nomination for Auditor over Rio Rancho's Tom Buckner, who criticized Armijo for a lack of auditing experience, a charge the 55 year old Garcia, a CPA and retired state government employee, has also picked up on.

THE ARMIJO FACTOR

The worry for the Dems is several fold. The retrial on corruption charges of ex-Treasurers Vigil and Montoya is scheduled to begin September 5th, Dem congressional hopeful and Attorney General Madrid is on the defensive on ethics charges leveled against her by GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson and the possibility of pre-election federal indictments of politicos involved in the construction of two ABQ courthouses lurks in the background.

The Armijo situation is especially delicate because a charge is not proof of guilt, but it is not the legal standard the Dem insiders are worried about; it's the political standard. Fresh allegations against a top Dem would be throwing fuel on an ethics fire which has been dampened, but not extinguished.

The Armijo candidacy, say the sources, could become of special concern to Big Bill, who hopes for a 60% victory. More ethics problems could serve as a drag on that goal.

The last thing the Guv's loyalists want is for Armijo to be tangled up in any problems after the September 12 deadline passes. It could force them to back-off from their support, leaving the possibility of Republican Garcia becoming the first GOP auditor in 40 years and extending the damage to Dem hopefuls across-the-board. If the sources have it right, it could be sooner rather than later when Big Bill is forced to have a sit-down with Jeff and agree to a future course that works for both of them and the rest of the Democratic ticket.

On this one, a big "Stay Tuned."

BIBB MAKES A BUY

Meanwhile, the first TV time has been bought and aired for a down ballot race. It comes from newcomer and R attorney general hopeful Jim Bibb. The spot emphasizes Bibb's service in the military and his prosecutorial experience at the local and federal level. His Dem opponent, Gary King, will also be up "soon," says a campaign spokesman.

WELCOME ABOARD, JUDY

We blogged when government veteran Judy Espinosa took over as chief of staff for Light Guv Diane Denish that she would now be operating under the harsh, bright lights of La Politica. But even we didn't think her first exposure would come this soon. Seems Judy parked Diane's SUV right in front of a fire hydrant in ABQ's Martineztown as the state's #2 disembarked to tour flood-damaged areas. "I didn't park it," Di told TV. "She did," nodding in Judy's direction. The TV talkers had a Monday field day, interviewing Mayor Marty's fire chief who scolded the Lt. Guv. They then got Judy to apologize for her errant parking pattern.

Yes, the fire chief is hired by the mayor who may seek the Dem Guv nomination in 2010, the same year Denish is planning a run. Welcome aboard, Judy. It's going to be a wild ride, but not a free one.

MY BOTTOM LINES


This is the Internet age, but not for all the campaigns. Where is the campaign Web site for Congresswoman Heather Wilson? There is none. And while GOP AG hopeful Bibb hit with TV Monday, the spots are not posted on his Web site. Dem candidates Madrid and Big Bill are proving the most Internet savvy this cycle, posting most, if not all of their ads...

ABQ Tribune editor Phill (yes, he uses two L's) Casaus is no liberal, Joe. So says Phill's longtime friend, ABQ attorney Marty Esquivel. We called Phill a "liberal pundit" in our blog Monday to which Dem Marty retorts: "I've known Phill since Boy's State 1980. I've yelled at him for being too moderate since that time, and used to call him a "Republican" as a euphemism for calling him something derogatory." Emails Marty. While Phil may not have liberal credentials, the editorial page of the paper he leads certainly does and we should have made the distinction...Will no one make claim to being a liberal, even as the country moves to the center? Hey, I think I see the Trib's Kate Nelson raising her hand. You go, girl!...

While talking up auditor candidate Garcia Monday, the Republican joked that the blog has been taking hits from both R's and D's in recent months. "They each try to pigeonhole you into the other party. That's probably a good thing since you are known for playing it down the middle."

Thanks, Lorenzo. Taking hits from the attack dogs on both sides of the aisle is an inescapable fact of the modern political environment, even if you are a bystander. We just keep plugging along-Old School style--telling you how we see it, not how we would like it to be. Isn't that what being nonpartisan is all about?

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
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