Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Pino Plan: Senator Confirms He Will Move To Redistrict Heather's Seat, Plus: More Party Chair Talk, And: Big State Prison Contractor To Get Boot 

Sen. Ortiz y Pino
It will be ABQ State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino stepping up to the plate to introduce a controversial bill to redistrict the ABQ area 1st congressional district seat held by Republican Heather Wilson. Dem Pino, who played a high-profile role in switching NM to the all-paper ballot system, confirms that he will sponsor in the 07' legislative session the redistricting measure that we previously blogged and which could land like a dud or become red-hot. The plan Pino prefers would drop rural and Republican Torrance county from the 1st CD and place it in the southern district and move all of Valencia county into Heather's 1st CD.

Pino, avoiding the obvious hit on Heather, told me his plan makes sense because it would simply make the ABQ seat "more urban." Redistricting is normally done just once a decade, but a U.S. Supreme Court ruling has paved the way for redistricting at other times.

Even if the Pino plan to redesign the district were somehow to make it all the way through the Legislature and to the Guv, a Democrat taking the seat would still not be a sure thing.

Pollster Brian Sanderoff and I discussed it and agreed that in a close race like the one run recently by Dem Patricia Madrid, Heather would have ended up history under the new plan. But Madrid has been one of only two Dems (Richardson in 80') able to get the district anywhere close to being in play during the past 40 years.

For example, Dem Richard Romero lost both his bids to Wilson by nearly double digits. The new district, as envisioned by Pino, would have done nothing for him. But hope springs eternal in the party of the donkey to take the Wilson seat in which R's are outnumbered by some 39,000 Dems. Redistricting is one way to keep the hope and the dream alive.


As for Heather, I've received inquires asking what's up with her extremely critical statements of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and her unwavering, gun-ho support of the unpopular and unsuccessful war.

First, it appears Wilson is a true believer. She has not changed much over the course of the nearly four year long war. Even her near brush with electoral death has not shaken her hawkish and increasingly lonely position.

The recent statement set some folks back because it came so soon after that close race with Madrid in which her support of the war nearly cost her the seat. But Wilson, say the insiders, is already concerned about not being conservative enough if she has to face fellow NM Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce in a primary fight for the right to succeed GOP U.S. Senator Pete Domenici.

Domenici has said he will run in 08', but if he can't or changes his mind, a primary war could develop with Pearce the favorite because of his appeal to party conservatives who dominate the nomination election. Wilson has touted herself as a "moderate" to secure the ABQ seat. That has appeal to some Dems, but not a lot to conservative R's outside the metro area who will help decide any senate primary fight.

Wilson's tough talk, however, may not necessarily be playing well with even conservative R's who are rapidly backing off from support of the disastrous war. On Election Night, Pearce softened his Iraq tone and invoked the word "bipartisan" in discussing possible solutions.

Wilson has work to do in learning how to communicate with rural NM, but she has proven her political acumen in ABQ, so it's not out of the question that she could catch up with Pearce. That is if she doesn't blink if it comes time to give up a congressional seat and actually make the run for the U.S. Senate against a fellow U.S. Rep.

Earl Greer
Add the name of Earl Greer to the list of those taking a look at running for state GOP chair next year. Greer lost his bid in November for a down south Public Regulation Commission seat and also lost when he sought the GOP congressional nomination for the southern seat a few years back. Greer is aligned with the forces who want a housecleaning at the state GOP.

Insiders say onetime GOP Guv candidate J.R. Damron, current chair Allen Weh and Bernalillo county GOP chair Fernando C de Baca are also pondering the contest. Monday we mentioned Jim Bibb who lost the attorney general race as another possible. Our Alligator says Bibb is contemplating a move to ABQ, but a run for chair is a long shot at best. Roswell oilman Mark Murphy is now said by the GOP insiders to be more interested in perhaps replacing George Buffet as GOP National Committeeman, rather than than taking a run at chair.

And what about the Dems? John Wertheim will vacate the chairmanship next year. We hear former state Rep. Mike Olguin of Socorro is one of those weighing a run for the top post in the state's majority party.


It looks as if one of the biggest ($100 million) and most lucrative state contracts is about to become available. Insiders tell us that the Santa Fe Reporter will hit the streets and the Web today with news that Wexford Health Sources, which runs the health care in the state's private prisons, is going to have its contract ended by Governor Big Bill. This as a result of an investigation done by the weekly newspaper that alleged prisoners were shortchanged on their health care and corners were cut.

On the political angle, the New Mexican recapped this from the ABQ Journal earlier this year: "In 2004, a $10,000 contribution to a Richardson political committee from Wexford's parent company caused a stir and later was returned to the Pittsburgh company. The Bantry Group made the contribution to Richardson's Moving America Forward PAC in April 2004. This was during a bidding process just a month after the Corrections Department requested proposals for a contract to provide health care and psychiatric services to inmates. That contract potentially is worth more than $100 million..In August 2004, a Richardson spokesman said the money would be returned "to avoid even the appearance of impropriety."


Nothing like fouling up your language when welcoming aboard as an advertiser the NM Coalition for Literacy, but somehow we managed that laughable feat when we used "your" instead of "you're" Tuesday. Obviously, the coalition has a lot of work to do around here. Thankfully, I don't have to use a tutor yet, as I have a gaggle of reader-editors who are more than happy (some would say sadistic) to point out the error of my ways. And I thank them for it everyday. I think.

News? comments? Send them to me via the email link at the top of the page. Thanks for your company. Let's do it again tomorrow.

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