Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Big Bill's Critics: Some Get It, Some Don't, Plus: 1st Poll Out In 1st CD, And: The Holloman Hit; An Insider Report From Your Home For NM Politics 

Sen. Grubesic
Is that all there is? That's the question being asked in the wake of the bizarre and rambling letter from Dem State Senator John Grubesic criticizing the ways of Big Bill. It was a missive so disjointed that the rookie politico had to preface it by saying he was not drunk when he wrote it. So it goes in a capital city so cowed by the heavy hand of gubernatorial power that they rejoice over any critic of the Fourth Floor, even if it's only one complaining that everyone kisses the Governor's ass or, as political analyst Grubesic puts it, engages in "bootlicking.”

But calling the Governor a "flabby king" ain't going to get you more power, Mr. Legislators. But there they were, so overjoyed by the thought of anyone daring to challenge the powerful chief exec that they were passing the Grubesic letter around like boys in a locker room thumbing the new Playboy. This is substantive policy debate and criticism?

Not that there's nothing to criticize. How about that eight percent plus increase in the state budget unanimously passed by the House? Not one "conservative” vote against it. Seems the Grubesic memo hit a nerve. The legislators doing the ass kissing are frustrated and resent it but are too fearful to say anything and risk their share of pork pie from the immense surplus.

All this makes the phrase "Legislative heavyweight" an oxymoron. The Senior Alligators of La Politica had it nailed from the start. These guys (and gals) are going to split the pot and head for the exits. Maybe they can frame that Grubesic tirade and pretend it was a law they passed.


If you are looking for someone who will actually stand up to the Governor and challenge him in a serious manner and without fear, you have to turn far away from the Nervous Nellies at the Roundhouse. You might try turning the pages of the Rio Grande Sun which has played some real hardball with Big Bill. I asked Sun news editor John Foster to explain:

“We've written about his relationship with the Jicarilla Apache Nation, and about him signing a bill that allowed elk to be classified as cattle. (Thus benefiting the Jicarillas and putting a tax burden on average Rio Arribans.) We wrote every major story on the Rio Arriba County magistrate judge fiasco. We had to get an opinion from the AG to get the governor's office to release the names of people who applied for that post. (And then there was time he walked out of a press conference when I asked if he owed the people of Rio Arriba an apology for the whole Rodella mess.)

We wrote about him not campaigning for Kerry in Rio Arriba. We've written about his decision to overrule his then-health secretary's decision to withhold state funding from ineffective drug treatment groups. (The groups were politically connected.) We've written some hard editorials about his decision to raid the permanent fund. We've written extensively on the failing schools here, despite a 2003 Richardson pledge to make Española a "test case" for his school reforms. Then there are the airplane stories, which we decided to do because we thought someone should do it.

“I think his office is not used to the kind of skeptical, tough, hard-nosed reporting that we do on every story, not just the stories about him. He gets a pretty sweet ride from most of the state's press corps, so I think it stings when reporters ask tough questions."

The Sun has a long, rich history of tough reporting and is led by the venerable Bob Trapp.


It’s Campaign 06' so here come the pols and not far behind are those ubiquitous polls. With the customary caution that you lend a skeptical eye to any poll done by any campaign, we report the first one out in the must-watch ABQ congressional race featuring incumbent GOP Rep. Heather Wilson and Dem challenger Patricia Madrid.

Madrid’s numbers say the race is a dead heat. Surprise! But seriously, the poll was conducted January 25-29 and gives Heather 44% to Patsy’s 43% with 13% undecided. (400 calls MOE + -4.9%) And before the R’s cry foul, we should point out that a poll done for the ABQ Journal in the last election cycle did, at one point, show challenger Richard Romero also just one point behind Heather. The Madrid numbers were done by Dem Celinda Lake’s D.C. research firm which is no fly-by-night operation.

Despite the closeness of the poll, it also says 52% of the electorate give Wilson a positive job approval rating, above the critical 50% level and enough to maintain her frontrunner position. That will be the number Madrid will be shooting at in the months ahead since it often correlates with the Election Night results.

Some R’s tell me Heather was also polling recently. If so, she has not released the numbers. If she does, we will post them here. Remember, we don't support candidates. We do support vigorous and hard-fought campaigns and fair and balanced analysis.


There's suspense over Holloman Air Force Base’s future, and I have a direct report from Larry Morgan, former chief of staff to the late Congressman Runnels as well as a top aide to ex-U.S. Sen. Schmitt. Larry attended the Monday news conference announcing the changing mission there. I will monitor the jobs situation and seek more for you from Larry and others as needed.


Apologies to all of you who have had trouble getting on our site the last day or two. Blogger.com had major problems but fixed them, so welcome back to those who were shut out. Check out Monday's blog about GOP State Senator Sue Wilson Beffort signing up for the Light Guv race. I think you’ll enjoy it.

And I enjoyed having you here today. Send me your comments and political news via the e-mail link at the top of the page.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

R's Finally Set 06' Ticket; Sen. Wilson Beffort Goes For Light Guv; Lamb Or Lion? We Look At It The Way You Like, Inside And Indepth 

Sen. Wilson Beffort
She may end up being a sacrificial lamb, but ABQ State Senator and last minute GOP Lieutenant Governor candidate Sue Wilson Beffort will have to be dragged kicking to the slaughterhouse. The three term lawmaker, perhaps best known for advocating a ban on the breeding of pit bull terriers, will likely resist becoming the all out attack dog traditionally reserved for the number two, but her record shows she has the potential to more than hold her own in the political dogfight to come.

Wilson Beffort, 58, spared the R's and their Chairman Allen Weh major embarrassment by announcing over the weekend that she will join likely GOP Guv nominee J.R. Damron of Santa Fe to form the 06' GOP ticket. Her first order of business will be to shed the image of a candidate of last resort and demonstrate that her successful past has prepared her for the bright and sometimes harsh lights perpetually shining on the statewide stage of La Politica.


The senator and the state's current #2, Light Guv Diane Denish, share common ground. Both have accomplished fathers. Wilson Beffort's helped found the University of New Mexico Medical School in 61' and Diane's dad, Jack Daniels, was an accomplished businessman and veteran of the state political scene. They also share a concern over domestic violence with the state senator asking the Legislature for $3 million this year to combat the problem and Diane taking on similar concerns with her children's cabinet. And Wilson Beffort is a longtime businesswoman who owned an employment agency and remains in that field. Denish has run her own marketing and research business.

But these ladies part ways on money matters. Wilson Beffort is a bedrock conservative opposed to the statewide minimum wage increase and especially Santa Fe's ordinance placing the pay scale at $9.50 an hour. She is also an advocate of a more private approach to providing insurance to state Medicaid recipients. The senator was instrumental in helping Big Bill get GOP support for his 03' personal income tax cuts and is not a benchwarmer on either the Senate Finance or powerful Legislative Finance committees.

Some hardcore GOP eyebrows may be raised when they note that Wilson Beffort failed to vote when the "Defense of Marriage Act" calling for a ban on same-sex marriages passed the senate last year. (It failed to make it into law) And they will further note that she supports the Spaceport for southern NM while ticket-topper Damron does not. But they will probably be mostly thankful for finally having a candidate. Sue will have to get 1881 GOP petition signatures and file them by Feb. 14 to make the ballot. Dems are sure to monitor to see that she crosses that hurdle. With party help, she probably will.


While the chances of upsetting Big Bill are slim, the Light Guv spot makes the senator an instant statewide political figure (joining that other Wilson, Heather) and positions her as a new leadership voice (if she desires) as well as other political possibilities.

Wilson Beffort landlsided her D opponent in her heavy GOP district in 96' and ran unopposed in 00' and 04. Blessed with this luxury of popularity and free re-election rides, she has largely avoided the intra-party warfare that broke out in the state party ranks two years ago and created divisions that continue to this day. But because she has had it easy, her fundraising and campaign trail abilities may be rusty. She raised only $11,000 in 04'. Her debating skills, honed in the Legislature, are also about to be tested, perhaps in TV forums with Denish who over the years has successfully sharpened her knives on an array of foes. Anyone remember Jerry Sandel?

The newest statewide political player will get some help from home. Her husband, Steven Beffort, headed the NM General Services Department under GOP Guv Johnson and has been a contributor to R candidates. He should have an understanding of what's to come. He is now UNM's associate vice president for facility planning.


Geographically the new GOP ticket lacks eastside and rural conservative appeal, but it may open up an GOP opportunity among women voters statewide. Most important, Wilson Beffort gives the party a competent face with tinges of moderation who can make a case for the ticket on television and in the national press which will cover the contest because of Big Bill's presidential ambitions. In fact, while Sue is known in political circles, the R's anxiously await the initial performance of rookie J.R. Damron leading some to wonder why she did not pursue the top spot.

But it will be Damron who will feel the full, unrelenting heat of a major league campaign assault not only for the governorship but for the presidency of the American nation. The Big Bill camp is betting they can get him to fold early, but the addition of Wilson Beffort could complicate that. After all, who knows pit bulls better?


For those of you who have to have it, we got it. Here's the complete transcript of the President's Intel visit at Rio Rancho Friday. Did he really say Dem Senator Jeff Bingaman is doing a "fine job?" Yes, he did.


You never know whose reading your stuff and that's especially true the past few days. Apparently my blog host, Blogger.com, is having a mess of technical problems and folks who come here via www.joemonahan.com are shut out. You can still access the
site at my old address--www.joemonahansnewmexico.blogspot.com.
Please pass that on to those who are having trouble. Hopefully, the tech wreck will be fixed soon. Otherwise, I will continue talking to myself. Maybe the therapy will do me some good.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Half A Lifetime At The Venerable Frontier; More Than A Restaurant; Reflections On A NM Treasure. Plus: More Money Chasing, And: R Lt. Guv Update 

There's not many businesses that have been around longer than Pete Domenici has served in the U.S. Senate. But this month the famous Frontier Restaurant across from UNM celebrates 35 years as a greasy spoon of world-renown. The ABQ Trib's Ollie Reed does an admirable job of summing up this pit stop that has become a state treasure. But the one piece of history that stands out for me that Ollie did not mention is just how shaky it was at the start.

When I came wheeling in to town in the very early 70's fresh off the Greyhound from my native Pennsylvania, it was a shocking sight. Albuquerque had just endured its most violent streak in history. Days of rioting sparked by some police arrests had left their mark. Windows up and and down Central Avenue were shattered, debris was strewn everywhere and, most chilling, National Guard troops patrolled the area in high riding jeeps that made it look as if my new home was under martial law. And it kinda was.

One of the victims of that riot was the Frontier, then open only four months. Every window in the then much smaller Frontier was smashed and the place appeared shut down. But that was the low point. Dorothy and Larry Rainosek never looked back, and they never held a grudge over the violence against their now fabled restaurant.

Dorothy Rainosek (Trib)
The Frontier is great inspiration for a novelist. It hosts the players of La Politica, the homeless, the celebrators, the heartbroken and its share of shady characters, not to mention a couple of generations of students and professors. Even if you are from outside of ABQ, you probably have been there. If you haven't, you likely will.

The Rainoseks tolerance for and celebration of human diversity in this most diverse state of them all is the hallmark of their success. Want to sit sipping a cup of coffee for three hours contemplating your lot? No problem. Want a quick sweet roll to go? You can have that too. Wear what you want (just wear something) and hang with who you like. Hispanic, Black, Anglo, Indian, Asian, Republican, Democrat and Green. They are all here and as comfortable as in their own living rooms.

The Frontier could never be franchised. Its special allure, conceived intentionally and accidentally over four decades, is much more complicated and mysterious than any business formula. Its special ties to UNM reinforce the uniqueness.


Much has changed in New Mexico politics and in the public environment these 35 years. There's a more caustic atmosphere out there, but the Frontier remains a citadel of harmony for all who enter its doors. And a lot of the money coined there heads out those doors into a myriad of charitable and civic causes. And how many jobs have the Rainoseks provided our state's students? Talk about putting your kids though college!

I have no idea of their politics. And that's how they probably like it. But if politics is at all about building a sense of community, the Frontier family has equaled and then surpassed the contributions of most politicians. Here's to their next 35 years.


GOP Farmington urologist, Dr. Allen McCulloch, is the early winner in the money chase among the candidates seeking the R's nomination for the right to take on Dem U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman in November. Washington insiders e-mailed the latest numbers since they have not yet been posted on the FEC site. They show McCulloch raised about $63,000 in the 05' fourth quarter giving him a total of $188,000 in cash on hand. David Pfeffer has just $11,000 in his kitty and ABQ GOP State Senator Joe Carraro just announced his bid.

Veteran R's give McCulloch the edge for the nomination with Carraro expected to be his main challenger. But whomever wins faces long odds against Jeff who reported he is sitting on $1.6 million with more to come.

Yesterday we filled you in on the fundraising reports for the banner NM congressional race of 06' featuring ABQ GOP Rep. Wilson and Dem Patsy Madrid. Inquiring minds wanted to know where all that money comes from. Here's Heather's and Patsy's too. Now that I have saved you all that work, won't you take a moment and click on my sponsors ads at the top of the page?


That search for a GOP Lieutenant Guv candidate we blogged about earlier this week is going down to the wire, but word was circulating in Santa Fe late Wednesday that the party has finally recruited a contender. If so, it's none too soon. That candidate will need to get nearly 1900 valid GOP signatures to make the June primary ballot and do it by Feb. 14. When the candidate surfaces, expect an all-out signature push. We'll keep you posted.

Thanks for the company today. Come back soon for more fair and balanced coverage of New Mexico politics.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

PNM: Generating Energy And Political Power Too, Plus: Heather & Patsy: They're Armed And Dangerous; Cash Piles Up; Grab That Mouse & Let's Blog! 

Sometimes its the coincidences that make blogging fun. Take this one. Tuesday, the same day that Big Bill's Renewable Energy Transmission Authority bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 7-3 vote, electric and natural gas giant, PNM Resources, announced it scored a 10 percent earnings gain for 2005. That's historically high, but not during this energy bull market.

The energy authority would involve the state in building transmission lines to export wind and other power to California. It comes on the heels of 2004 legislation that mandates the state's utilities to generate 10 percent of their electricity from "renewable resources." (But only if the expense is "reasonable.")

ABQ GOP State Senator Bill Payne questioned why cash-flush utilities like PNM shouldn't build those transmission lines and leave the taxpayers alone. On the other hand, argues the Guv, a former U.S. Energy Secretary, developing wind and solar energy and such is a major endeavor that requires government and business collaboration.

Jeff Sterba
Since taking over in 2000, PNM chief exec Jeff Sterba has taken the company a long way from the bad ol' days when the utility was scorned for high rates, bad investments and arrogant manners. The company has also played the political money game with effect too. Take a look here and here. PNM resources gave over $80,000 to NM politicians in the 04' cycle. Sixty percent of it went to the Dems, (including a couple of grand for Big Bill) reflecting the majority party's power.

But recent utility critic Senator Payne picked up $750 from PNM and even ABQ GOP Senator Carraro, who has since called for an investigation of big PNM exec bonuses, managed to snag a $750 04' contribution.

Sterba isn't the only one burning both ends of the candle. Our "centrist" Governor is also happy to do so--satisfy the enviros with renewable energy plans and then have the state help out the utilities by building transmission lines. Do you think Jeff and Bill talked about that on their recent trip to North Korea?


PNM Resources continues to be the subject of the Wall Street rumor mill where some analysts see it as a prime takeover target. But the company's stock is trading near its 52 week low, perhaps reflecting dimmer prospects for an imminent takeover as well as lowered earnings expectations for this year.


Dem congressional hopeful Patsy Madrid easily crossed the first hurdle to keep her race against ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson on the frontburner and at the top of the must watch list for 2006. She raked in over half a million bucks in the final three months of 04' giving her a healthy cash balance of about $432,000. And Heather is showing no signs of slouching in the cash department, although Patsy did outraise her by a couple of hundred grand in the fourth quarter, according to federal reports released late Tuesday. Heather is comfortable with about a million bucks in her cash account and did some big January fundraising, including a $1000 a pop party hosted by PNM exec Sterba, not reflected in this report.

In 04' Wilson raised $3.4 million and challenger D Richard Romero made it past $2 million. Madrid can expect to do better than Romero, but as the incumbent Rep. Wilson is still expected to be first, at least when it comes to money spent. Who comes out first in the vote-count is a matter of considerably more suspense.

We all talk about how much money the candidates raise, but not much about how and where they spend it. So here's an example for you from Heather's latest expense sheet.

Of course, it's the TV stations that will again be the big winners. Millions will pour into their coffers as major candidates of all stripes flood the 06' airwaves. That's the real driver behind our big money politics, but efforts to change it have met with stiff resistance, especially from the National Association of Broadcasters. How shocking.


We welcome back the Conservation Voters of New Mexico to the blog. (Click on their ad to visit) And if you are interested in placing an ad here, please contact me and we'll get you started.

And don't forget to e-mail me your news so we can keep the politics coming and, as always, thanks for making us part of your day.

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