Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Gary Johnson Resurfaces And So Do The Alligators Tracking Him, Plus: L.A. Meets Heather And Patsy; It's All Here On Your Tuesday Blog 

The familiar, high-pitched voice of ex-GOP Guv Gary Johnson (1995-02') was heard again recently as he emerged from his Taos cocoon to take a whack at Big Bill's semi-controversial hiring practices. Johnson, who last made news in September when he announced he was busting up with his wife and ex-First Lady Dee to be with another woman, condemned Big Bill for having a direct hand in hiring some 60 state employees at an annual cost of $3 million.

"I'll just say that we didn't do this once, not once," he argued in a statement that may or may not stand the scrutiny test.

But a Dem e-mailer wondered if Governor Johnson ever handed out contracts to various contributors and supporters. "In New Mexico the Dems get the jobs when they are in power and the R's give out contracts." She wrote.

The Fourth Floor low-keyed the response to the Big Bill hiring spree apparently thinking the story would mostly blow over. But some Dems, like liberal radio talk show host Mike Santullo, who seems to surface when things are at a low tide for the Guv, believe the issue has more legs than some political pros may be counseling the Guv. He expects to see plenty of TV ads about it come October and went preemptive now.

"Maybe the reason Johnson never hired anyone is because he never wanted to do anything. He vetoed over 200 bills and frittered eight years away. Now we have a Governor who is getting things done and needs help doing it. Gary ought to stick with legalizing drugs and climbing mountains. He knows a hell of a lot more about that than he does state government," weighed in Santullo.

His drug reference was to Johnson's long-standing and hyper-controversial support for legalizing dope; a position that spilt the NM GOP in part in the late 90's and from which it continues to be on the mend even to this day.


Harry Pavlides, one of the "Governor exempt" employees, (also known as "Gifts From The North" at the offices where they are employed) is not hiding underneath any rocks after being highlighted in various media reports as being hand-picked by Big Bill for a $45,000 a year State Fair administrative job.

"Is Johnson running again for something? His statements are purely political. I am proud to be working for the most progressive Governor in state history." Offered Pavlides. He challenged questioning media reports, and said he is performing a needed job. He supplied a long list of his activities including how he "arranged for admission to nearly 5,000 physically and mentally challenged, or foster children to the Fair."

Pavlides is a longtime Dem pollster and occasional contributor of election analysis to this blog.

Both Pavildes and Santullo are old-timers at manning the political battle lines and have no fear of taking on the opposition which they have done through the decades for other Dem Guvs. Others, especially those named in the media reports, prefer a more low key approach in job starved NM.

The Guv's problem is not so much expanding the number of state exempt employees, (political appointees who can be fired at will) but the way he has gone about it. However, if it is illegal, as some legislators claim, why aren't they in court filing lawsuits or asking for an attorney general's opinion?

As for Gary, if he does plan on making a comeback he will quickly realize that there's no legislative leaders around like Raymond Sanchez or Manny Aragon to kick around and play his foil like the old days. This time he'll be on his own.


The national coverage of the hotly contested ABQ congressional race featuring GOP incumbent Heather Wilson and Dem challenger Patricia Madrid has begun in earnest. I sat down recently with Los Angeles Times national reporter Mark Barabak whose paper has chosen our district to focus on as a bellwether for how the country may go this November. The Times is among the nation's top five papers with a weekday circulation of about 908,000 and Sunday coming in at 1,254,000.

Mark and I picked each others brains for better than an hour over at Yanni's on ABQ's Nob Hill. He then scoured the district for clues and some face time with Heather. His insightful take with quotes from your blogger and NM pollster Brian Sanderoff hit the Times Saturday.

As we wrapped up our conversation the national political junkie and I shared a conclusion. We both hope neither candidate makes a big, early mistake or we won't have anything to write about.

Thanks for tuning in today. Come back again soon.

Not for reproduction without permission of the autho

Monday, March 06, 2006

Woman In Jewell Case Speaks: "I Loved Him," She Declares; Condemns Secrecy As Jewell Bows Out, Plus: Odd Twist: She Was Student In Guv's UNM Class 

Summers & Guv at UNM
Word came late Sunday that Tommy Jewell has declined the Governor's appointment to become the head of the NM Children, Youth and Families Department. Outgoing Secretary Mary Dale Bolson will remain on the job until a replacement is named. The news came as new twists developed in the controversy surrounding the retired ABQ District Court judge. The woman who filed a 1999 domestic violence complaint against Jewell, Karen Summers, contacted this blog to rebut charges leveled here Friday by an attorney friend of Jewell. That attorney claimed Summers was "pissed off" and trying to embarrass Jewell. And in another twist, Summers says she was a student in Governor Richardson's University of New Mexico government class last year and served as a Governor's intern at the Human Services Department last summer. She said the Governor was not aware of her past involvement with Jewell at the time.

And in yet another ironic twist, Summers told me her daughter is a student at New Mexico State University and was enrolled in Big Bill's government class at that campus.

"I would like to tell the Governor my side of the story. My main concern is the secrecy in this case. I did not file my complaint because I was "pissed off" or trying to embarrass Tommy or his wife." Said Summers. (Jewell's wife, District Court Judge Angela Jewell, handles domestic violence cases.)

"I had a genuine (domestic violence) complaint. I had a long term (8 years) relationship with Tommy. I was in love. I loved him." She declared softly.

Summers, now in hear early 50's, said her complaint resulted from a quarrel about ending the relationship.

Last week Jewell denied any violent behavior, telling the Santa Fe New Mexican: "I have not been violent in my life." He also pointed out that he was never charged with a crime in connection with the complaint.

The Summers complaint ended up being filed in Sandoval county even though the alleged incident took place in Bernalillo county. "I filed my complaint in Bernalillo county, but immediately (ex-Chief District Court Judge) John Brennan had the case moved to Sandoval county and to Judge Louis McDonald. Then it was sealed. That was wrong and several of the other judges questioned the action," she said.

At the time McDonald justified the sealing of the case by saying: "The file does not contain any information which would serve any purpose other than to gratify private spite and promote public scandal." His version on why he got the case has yet to be heard. Perhaps it was because it was thought there would be a conflict of interest for a Bernalillo county judge to hear the case of a fellow judge. But Summers sees darker motives.


Summers' complaint was settled with both parties agreeing to the secrecy agreement. Judge Brennan resigned from the bench in 2004 after being arrested on cocaine possession and drunk driving charges.

Summers claims she was intimidated into signing the 99' agreement and that the case was moved to Sandoval county because she knew of Brennan's cocaine use and he wanted the complaint quashed. "Those around the courthouse knew about his cocaine use. It was common knowledge," contended Summers.

She also said she believed the case was sent to Sandoval county in the hope that she would not pursue it. "But I did. I hopped in my little car and made the drive out there. I don't think they expected that."

Summers, a single mother of five children ranging in age from 32 to 19, also cleared up the mystery over the title of the complaint which said: "Domestic violence w/ children."

"There was no violence with regards to the children. They were present at the time and suffered emotional trauma, but there was no physical abuse." she said.

Summers worked as a paralegal for the city of Albuquerque. She said she lost her job as a result of "blacklisting" but later filed suit and settled with the city over the dismissal.

Later she enrolled at the University of New Mexico, majoring in psychology. She also applied for and was accepted in Governor Richardson's government class. That, she said, led to her appointment as a Governor's intern last year in the Human Services Department.

Jewell & Summers
Despite the sour ending to her relationship with the former Children's Court judge, Summers said she was not urging the Governor to reject Jewell as CYFD cabinet secretary. She says she has been blacklisted by Jewell's friends in the legal community and fears her plans to attend UNM Law School could be jeopardized by them so she is going public.

"Tommy Jewell himself has not done any of this (the alleged blacklisting) to me or my children and I believe he truly does have the best interests of the children of the state at heart. Unfortunately, he is surrounded by some seriously dysfunctional people that feel the need to do things like making that false statement to you about me and the case." Summers explained.

Jewell, 51, has refused to talk about his relationship with Summers or the domestic violence case, citing the secrecy agreement. The incident, despite being reported in the newspaper, never came up in the vetting of the Jewell appointment. In his New Mexican interview Jewell reports a hurried and somewhat chaotic background check.

Obviously, if Jewell had detailed the incident, or if it had been discovered through a complete vetting, the story might be different. The issue is particularly sensitive because of New Mexico's horrific rate of domestic violence cases and because CYFD is the lead agency charged with solving the problem.

And so ends a tale that now enters the never ending book of La Politica; a tale that may serve to remind those who seek the power and glory that secrecy is not their friend.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Friday, March 03, 2006

Tarnished Jewell: Can Big Bill Save This Cabinet Secretary? Should He? Exclusive And New Details On A Special Edition Friday Blog 

Judge Jewell
The plot thickened Thursday in the Tommy Jewell saga with the woman who was involved in the 1999 domestic violence case in which Jewell was named telling KRQE-TV news that she is available to discuss the case with the Governor, and insiders supportive of Jewell contacting this blog to claim the secretary-designate of the NM Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD) may be the victim of a set up. Meanwhile, Governor Richardson's office issued a statement saying they will "evaluate" the situation and then issue a "decision."

Based on the KRQE report and sources for this report, it is apparent that the woman involved in the case is not Jewell's wife, Angela Jewell, a Second Judicial District family court judge with the Domestic Violence Division. Which takes us to the set-up claims.

(Here's the latest for my weekend readers from the ABQ Tribune.

A friend of the Jewell's, an ABQ attorney, claims the woman who made the charges, which are under court seal by agreement of both parties, was upset with Tommy Jewell and knew domestic violence charges against him could end up in the courtroom of Judge Angela Jewell.

"She was pissed off about something and knew exactly how to hurt Tommy the most. She filed a domestic violence complaint knowing full well it would go to Angela. It was terrible. Tommy and Angela were counseled by their parents and there was a lot of soul searching. They were determined to keep their family together and they did. I wish they had not sealed the record. I can not imagine a person more qualified to take leadership of CFYD," e-mailed the attorney.

KRQE reported that Jewell was served with a temporary restraining order in 1999 after being accused in the domestic violence case that allegedly somehow involved children. Sandoval County District Judge Louis McDonald did not move the charges forward calling the allegations "unsubstantiated" and sealed the case file.

Both the Governor and Lt. Governor Denish, chair of the Children's cabinet and who recommended his appointment, have asked Jewell to explain the charges and he has agreed.

But even if details of the case break his way, Jewell and the administration are still faced with the fact that Jewell failed to disclose the incident when he was vetted for the post. The vetting issue has haunted the Governor who has run into similar problems in the past. He said the process for vetting high ranking appointees would be changed to insure thoroughness. Apparently the new procedures have also come up short.


Guv & First Lady
Insiders at the Capitol pointed to the obvious as they weighed the political fallout saying the charges would not be quite as sensitive if Jewell was being tapped for any other agency but CYFD which deals directly with the domestic violence issue.

They pointed out that First Lady Barbara Richardson has been in the forefront of the fight against the abuse of New Mexican women. Two months into his administration, Big Bill announced the creation of a domestic violence task force, of which Barbara Richardson is a member. Two months later, he created a Domestic Violence Control Commission and named his wife as the chair. In 2004, he appointed Sandra Gardner as domestic violence "czar" and proposed law changes, including new and tougher penalties for offenders, expanded treatment for offenders and more resources for victims.

This aggressive approach to a problem that Denish has called "an epidemic" in the state has earned the First Lady accolades and won the Governor widespread support among groups battling domestic violence as well as children's advocates. But if Jewell can not lift the cloud hovering over his head, and the appointment goes forward, there could be significant political damage.

A member of the State Senate Rules Committee was just catching up with the story when I spoke to him late Thursday. He said he did not know what to make of the charges against Jewell who he praised as highly qualified. But when informed that the retired children's court judge failed to inform the Governor of the domestic violence case, he sighed: "That's bad." The Rules Committee presides over confirmation hearings for cabinet secretaries.


Various e-mailers checked in here with the theory that others who sought the cabinet post were responsible for leaking the Jewell story. A few said there was a published report of the 99' incident and that it was widely known in the legal community. After speaking with several attorneys, the notion that the matter was well-known does seem to hold water.

But that's the insider Alligator talk. What matters now is the leadership of a state agency charged with the well-being of thousands of New Mexican women and children who face an uphill struggle in the game of life. It is now up to Governor Richardson to make the right call on their behalf.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Night Of The Bizarre: Judge Jewell In Domestic Violence Case, Plus: NM Police Boss In Love Affair With State Lawmaker, And: Death Calls Tiny Martinez 

Tommy Jewell
A blizzard of bizarre political news fell over our Enchanted Land late last night as KRQE-TV in ABQ led off its 10 p.m. newscast with two stunners. First, that Judge Tommy Jewell, Big Bill's pick to become the new cabinet secretary for the Children Youth and Families Department, (CYFD) was involved in a 1999 domestic violence case that involved children. Second, that Carlos Maldonado, the recently retired chief of the NM State Police, quit because he was confronted with evidence of an extra-marital affair he had with a state legislator.

On Jewell, the station reported he reached a settlement over 1999 domestic violence charges that kept records of the case permanently sealed. Jewell, 51, was asked to comment, but said he could not because it might violate that agreement. He is married to ABQ District Court Judge Angela Jewell. The couple has two children. However, because of the seal on the case KRQE could not report whether it was members of Jewell's family who were involved in the case or other individuals.

The Jewell story had Big Bill's office running for cover with a spokesman saying they had no idea of the Jewell case, that he never told them, but they would ask the retired judge about the matter. Meanwhile, they are sticking with the Jewell appointment, for now.

Then there's the case of State Police Chief Charles Maldonado who announced recently he was retiring after over 20 years of law enforcement and three years as state police chief. But KRQE reported Maldonado, 44, was pushed over the cliff; that he resigned when the husband of the state legislator he was having an affair with confronted the department with evidence of the illicit romance. On this one, the Guv's office refused comment. The station did not say if the female legislator was a member of the House or Senate. Talk about grist for the Roundhouse mill. It doesn't get any more sensational than this.

And there was even more on the Night of the Bizarre. KRQE's Larry Barker hit with an investigative report that said Big Bill has created unauthorized positions for over 60 state workers at a cost of over $3 million. Dem State Senator Cisco McSorley asserted the hires were illegal. And former Governor Gary Johnson said Big Bill "has crossed the line." Guv Chief of Staff Dave Contarino, on the defensive, maintained there was nothing wrong with the hires, but GOP State Senators Carraro and Rawson joined McSorley in saying they sidestepped legislative approval.

It was an impressive night for hard-hitting news in a medium usually obsessed with the murder meter. If the GOP had a gubernatorial campaign fully up and running, Wednesday night would have been even worse for the Fourth Floor. But that was about the only saving grace for the Governor. Now he and his staff are manning their battle stations in preparation for the media onslaught sure to follow. Oh yeah Guv, welcome home from D.C.


There is a guy in the Big Duke City today who just may have a message that will appeal to a wide cross section of voters. He's John Edwards, the 2004 Dem Vice-Prez candidate who is campaigning for Madrid and his own possible 08' Prez bid.

Edwards' theme has been "Two America's," one where a minority is well-off, but another where millions toil just to keep their necks above water. It got him the VP slot in 04' and with the gap between the rich and poor still growing the theme could serve him well again.

A recent poll shows Edwards coming in second for the Dem nod, behind Hillary. Granted, a lot of that is simple name ID. But Edwards did not seem to suffer as much from the 04' defeat as Kerry who is also high in the 08' rankings becuse of name ID but who is having trouble persuading party faithful that a second time could be the charm.

Edwards placed fourth with 10% of the vote in NM's 04' Prez caucus. But in a poor state like this he's a candidate to keep your eye on, especially if Big Bill is not around to claim favorite son status.


Word came late Wednesday of the death of one of the last political patrons of the North. Donaldo "Tiny" Martinez of Las Vegas is dead at 82. More from the AP:

A political activist who endorsed Bill Richardson's first run for Congress and helped Hispanics in northern New Mexico has died. Donaldo "Tiny'' Martinez died in his sleep early Wednesday, local leaders said. He was 82.

Martinez served for 16 years as district attorney, he was a district judge for six years, a local Democratic Party chairman for 12 years, a state representative for one term and chairman of the West Las Vegas school board for 18 years.

Governor Richardson called Martinez a "Democratic political icon" and credited him with boosting his political career by endorsing him during his first congressional campaign in 1980. "He was a man of action and conviction and a true public servant," said Big Bill.

The last surviving Northern patron is Rio Arriba's Emilio Naranjo whose relationship with the Guv is not nearly as warm as it was with Tiny.

We need your help covering NM politics. E-mail me your political news and gossip. There's a link at the top of the page. Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you again soon.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

He's Back: La Politica's Steve Gallegos Announces PRC Bid, Plus: My Wednesday Bottom Lines; A Potpourri Of Cool Political Stuff Just For You 

An interesting race is shaping up for the race for the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) seat held by the retiring Lynda Lovejoy, and former ABQ City Councilor and Bernalillo County commissioner Steve Gallegos has just made it more intriguing.

"I just gave (NM Transportation Secretary) Rhonda Faught my letter of resignation. Because I intend to run for political office and the Department of Transportation receives federal funds, I am covered by the Hatch Act. I also want to avoid any possible perception of a conflict of interest and I am ready to "hit the trail running." So bloggged in Gallegos whose name stirs the Valley Alligators like few others.

And they're stirring again. Andrew Leo Lopez, also seeking the Dem nomination for the seat that covers some of the Hispanic Valley wards but is designed for a Native American, is already hammering Gallegos for being a past employee of telecommunications company Qwest, which is regulated by the powerful five member panel. But Gallegos is not biting. "Andrew is being Andrew," he sighed over his cellphone from the state capitol.

Gallegos retired from the phone company and has been a Big Bill appointee at the Department of Labor and most recently at transportation where he was a liaison with the Legislature. He is also a former State Senate sergeant-at-Arms, courtesy of then-Senator Manny Aragon.

But Lopez and Gallegos are just two of several players in this one, including Derrith Watchman-Moore, who, like Lovejoy, is Navajo. She is also a relative of ex-State Rep. Leo Watchman. Two other Navajo candidates are also said to be eyeing the seat.

The Gallegos camp thinks with his superior name ID he can easily out poll Lopez and then hope for a split in the Native American vote to take the nomination. It is a solid D seat so no R's need apply. Candidates have until mid March to get their nomination petitions in and that will give us a better idea what the ethnic angles will be in this district that takes in a good portion of the Navajo Reservation in the Four Corners region.

For his part, Gallegos, who suffered a mild heart attack a couple of years ago and said then that he was taking a break from La Politica, told me the best part of public service is "helping people" and he misses that. Lopez, who sought a PRC sat as a Republican back in 98', says he's crisscrossing the district in search of votes.

It's definitely a race you'll want to keep on your political radar.


Rep. Cervantes
Moving from Navajo Country to way down south, supporters of Dem State Rep. Joe Cervantes, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, continue to tout him for higher political office someday. The Las Cruces Sun-News recently checked in with the blog to talk about Cervantes and his future. You can read it right here.

The first paid TV ads of Campaign 06' didn't make much of a splash, but they have aired. ABQ GOP State Senator Joe Carraro was up on he tube for a couple of days with a small buy (about $4500) touting his candidacy for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. Also running is Santa Fe City Councilor David Pfeffer and Farmington urologist Allen McCulloch. Dem Senator Bingaman will defend the seat.

By the way, in that piece we did on the GOP race for attorney general Tuesday our early readers did not get a link to the Bob Schwartz Web site as they did for Jim Bibb. We could not find it, but several readers did and Schwartz's site is now linked in that blog. I worked in a campaign in 01' with Bob on the opposing side so the omission stood out for me. But, as with all the races this year, we will shoot this one down the middle, giving you the fair and balanced coverage you expect when coming to this space.


And hold your horses on Fred Luna. The longest serving member of the State House is still weighing whether to seek another two year term, say politicos in Valencia county. Or we should hold our horses because it was we who blogged earlier that Fred looked like no go seeing as how he was getting dialysis treatment three days a week during the legislative session. But the longtime ally of House Speaker Lujan, now pushing 80, is telling friends he "might" run again. We'll see. If he does, he can count on a stiff GOP challenge from Belen banker Edward Archuleta in this district that has the potential to go R because of recent population changes.

And "all hell has broken loose," in the Dem race to replace State Rep. Kandy Cordova who announced she will retire after this term. That from an Alligator there who reports there are as many as half a dozen D's seeking the seat. And there's an R running too. Like the Luna seat, this one is no longer safe D and a must-watch contest for you Roundhouse mavens. We will know who is all in when filing day rolls around in a couple of weeks.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author
website design by limwebdesign