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Thursday, December 21, 2006

2006: It's A Wrap; Here Comes 2007; Do You See What I See? Plus: Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! 

2007 will have a hard time trumping 2006 for excitement, but there will be plenty to keep us interested. As always, it will be the unexpected turn of events that will make New Mexico politics the states #1 indoor sport. We have fond memories of old '06 (What an Election Night!) but for our final blog of this year, we point the compass toward the future because it's the possibility of what can be, not what was, that defines the spirit of New Mexico and the USA.

Suspense hangs in the air with the new year on our doorsteps. Will he or won't he? That's the question we will hear throughout 2007 about Senator Domenici and whether he will seek another six year term in '08. He says he will, but the politicos won't be convinced and believe Pete will assess the situation at the end of '07. His decision could very well be the most important of the year as retirement would set off an unpredictable chain of events.

Governor Big Bill will again keep us entertained in his inimitable and peripatetic style. Will his bid for the Dem prexy nomination survive the turbulent political waters of 2007? Does he have what it takes to play on the national stage? Will Lieutenant Governor Denish take on a higher profile here as Big Bill campaigns out-of-state?

In Santa Fe, a 60 day session of the Legislature awaits and with it the question of whether the huge and ongoing state surpluses are being spent in a way that is producing measurable results in improving our quality of life. Are they? Also, could '07 be the year when the party finally ends with falling, instead of soaring natural gas and oil prices?

Will the Governor and the Legislature become less enamored with "pork" projects and talk to us more directly about the long-term future of our education system, our stubborn poverty and other social problems? What can money do and what can't it do? Will any imaginative ideas emerge from our newly elected state House representatives? And will today's middle class New Mexicans get more tax relief and/or rebates from the billions in surplus that could make their lives more livable?

MORE QUESTIONS FOR '07

In 2007 we will see how Rep. Tom Udall (D-NM) handles the new power that is his as a member of the House Appropriations Committee. We will also see how Rep. Heather Wilson handles being a member of the GOP minority in the U.S. House. It's the first time there for her. Can she make it a comfortable fit? The same for Rep. Steve Pearce who was climbing the GOP congressional ladder, but now faces a stall as the Democrats take over. And then there's that ugly war in Iraq. Voters sent a clear message to Wilson with her slim re-election win. Will she heed it? And if not, will there be consequences? Again, '07' will tell the tale.

Will new state Treasurer James Lewis and State Auditor Hector Balderas restore trust in how the state's billions are handled after a historic Treasurer scandal that blemished New Mexico's national reputation? Doing so would enhance the long-term business prospects of the state. More missteps or scandal would jeopardize the economic hopes of the next generation.

Will the new leadership at Los Alamos Labs stop the comedy of security errors and restore the prestige and dignity to what is supposed to be a world-class facility?

Will ABQ Mayor Chavez be able to advance his goal of more accountability and measurable results in the big city's school system, or will he be sidetracked by personality clashes or a focus on building buildings?

THIS YEAR'S FINAL BOTTOM LINES

We live in a wonderful, almost fantasy-like environment in this Land of Enchantment. It is a gift that gives year round--the sunsets that make hearts soar; the mountains that inspire dreams; the never-ending landscapes that give a spiritual dimension to daily life. The contrast of this earthly perfection with our crazed, but beloved La Politica makes us that more inscrutable to the outside world.

New Mexico politics is also special because ancient customs collide with the contemporary. It's what makes our state so deliciously baffling and delightful and so pleasurable to talk with you about through this blog.

Thanks for joining me today and all the days of 2006. I look forward to more special times with you when we return in the new year. Until then, here is my annual holiday card to you and your loved ones.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Joe

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
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