Monday, December 04, 2006

Keeping The Heat On Heather; Dems Talk of Redistricting, Plus: Sen. Sanchez Retained As Leader, And: Marty Puts Brakes On Streetcar 

Rep. Wilson
If they can't get her at the polls, some Dems appear determined to get ABQ GOP U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson at the Roundhouse. Talk is circulating that the Legislative session could see an attempt to redraw the lines of Wilson's congressional district making it slightly more Democratic and finally doing what voters have refused to do for the past 40 years--giving the district a Democratic Representative on Capitol Hill.

It wouldn't be easy, but with with a Democratic governor and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that doesn't prevent such a mid-decade redistricting, expect at least one bill to be introduced. Whether it will be treated seriously is the question. When the subject came up in a pre-election conversation I had with Big Bill's chief political adviser, Dave Contarino, he smiled sheepishly, but offered no telltale comments.

A move on Wilson's seat would make the R's go ballistic, but they made no gains in the State House in the recent election and remain in the minority there, the senate and the Fourth Floor. There is little to stop the Dems from going for it except strong public opinion. But with Wilson scoring the weakest victory of her career this year, would the public care much?

One of the plans circulating seems aimed at getting the job done without stirring an outcry. It would place rural and heavy Republican Torrance county in the southern congressional district and would move all the precincts in Valencia county that are in the southern district into Heather's 1st CD. Along with some other minor changes, that would increase the Dem registration in the district by 1.2%.

Would that finally turn the tide for the D's? For sure, it would not hurt, but the district has such a history of independent voting that even increasing the Dem totals would be no guarantee, but it would certainly increase the odds.

The Governor will have to measure opinion carefully before he decides how much, if any, to support a mid-decade redistricting. But with a huge 69% re-election victory, placing a Dem in the ABQ district may be a legacy he decides is worth going after. Stay tuned.

Sen. Smith
Apparently there is still some jockeying going on over who will head the powerful Senate Finance Committee when the Legislature convenes in mid-January. Insiders report that Senate Democrats held a quiet out of the way caucus in Socorro Saturday where they re-elected Senator Michael Sanchez as majority leader and Ben Altimirano as Senate President Pro Tem, but committee assignments are still undecided.

Deming Dem Senator John Arthur Smith, a fiscal conservative who sometimes is a thorn in the side of the liberals and Big Bill and who is vice-chair of the committee, is in line for the post after the resignation of Senator Fidel, but there is talk of Senator Jennings of Roswell competing for the position. He's no fiscal friend of Bill's either and is also pretty conservative, so while it makes for interesting insider baseball, it would not appear to signal a new direction in the committee's overall direction. Let's see what develops.


You gotta know when to hold them and when to fold them, says the old gambling adage. ABQ Mayor Martin Chavez and City Councilor Martin Henrich saw the wisdom of that over the weekend and decided to put the brakes on that controversial $270 million streetcar project that threatened to give both of them losing political hands.

It was a poker game that the Mayor probably should never had sat down to, but like Big Bill, he has high popularity ratings and perhaps he figured he could tilt this one his way. Meantime, Heinrich showed too much enthusiasm for the unpopular concept, jeopardizing his reputation as a liberal, but not an ideologue. He pulls back just in time.

The Mayor says instead of pushing for a streetcar, he will form a study group on city transit. That study could take up to a year to complete.


Chavez is on much firmer ground in his continued push to improve the quality of the Albuquerque Public Schools. To do that he will have to tangle with the teachers unions, parents, the current school board and the Legislature. Real estate agents are fond of telling you how the first thing newcomers ask about are alternatives to sending their kids to public schools. Chavez wants the mayor to have a say in the direction of APS. If he succeeds in even a small way, it will be a much more significant legacy than a streetcar or a downtown arena. And, we imagine, a more satisfying one.


Insiders say Big Bill began to swing his axe this weekend, felling at least one female cabinet secretary who was said to be "shocked" by the Guv's action. We did not have the fired secretary's name at blog press time. Will there be more to come in the transition to a second term?

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