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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Young Blood Takes Clerk Post In NM's Largest County; Maggie Toulouse Wins It, Plus: Key Heather Staffer Departs, And: Domenici Aide Called By Death 

Clerk Toulouse
If you thought some young blood was in order for the long suffering Bernalillo county clerk's office you got your wish Tuesday as the county commission, in a mild surprise, looked to 30 year old political consultant Maggie Toulouse to fill the remainder of the term of Mary Herrera who left the position when she was elected secretary of state.

One of Toulouse's first orders of business will be to patch up the relationship between the secretary of state's office and the county clerk. Outgoing secretary Rebecca Vigil-Giron and Herrera were hair pulling right up until the final bell.

"I feel like I have a great relationship with Mary...she has been in my exact position...I believe that makes her an ally in improving the relationship," Toulouse told me via cellphone last night after her first tour of the offices she will now command.

While the clerk's vote counting problems continued under Herrera, there was noticeable improvement. Toulouse will be under the gun to continue that trend. Her first test will come soon as she runs the Albuquerque Public Schools election in early February. Then it's on to the June '08 primary; an election in which you can expect to see Toulouse's name on the ballot.

"I will seek a four year term in 2008." She announced.

That may set up a spirited primary battle as Hispanic Dems in the ABQ Valley were already grumbling that the clerk appointment did not go to a Hispanic female.

THE POLITICAL PLAY

County Commission
As usual, there was much speculation on the role, if any, that Big Bill played in the pick. Toulouse is a close political associate of Guv campaign manager Amanda Cooper. Toulouse's soon-to-be husband, Alan Oliver, is a policy adviser and speech writer in the Guv's office.

It was not an easy decision for the five member commission, even though it is dominated by three Democrats and one Republican who usually votes with the D's. After several rounds of balloting, Toulouse finally got past assistant ABQ city clerk Kelli (Baca) Fulgenzi to take the position on a 3 to 2 vote. Other candidates considered on the early ballots were Agnes Maldonado and Demesia Padilla, the GOP nominee for state treasurer in the November election.

Commission chairman Alan Armijo, a Fulgenzi supporter, could not bring Commissioners Cordova and Archuleta aboard. As they fell to Toulouse, Republican Michael Brasher finally joined the two liberal Democrats and gave the state's largest county a taste of coalition politics and the $57,000 a year clerk's job to Toulouse.

Brasher and Armijo have had an thorny political relationship and his vote for Toulouse had to be cast with some relish, even if it was for a liberal Democrat. Observers wondered if the split among the three Dems over the clerk appointment will extend to when the commission votes on a chairman later this month and other future policy issues.

TOUTING TOULOUSE

Toulouse brings to the office a well-known name. She married a grandson of the late legendary New Mexico attorney Jim Toulouse, has since divorced, but retained the respected surname.

Toulouse's appointment was greeted cheerily by those who asserted the infighting among the Dems on the county commission produced a fresh face who could bring some sorely needed new ideas on how to get the votes counted on time and in a trustworthy fashion.

Longtime county elections bureau chief Jamie Diaz is expected to stay for the immediate future, but there has been corridor chatter that he may retire soon, giving Toulouse an opportunity to appoint that key post. For now, she and Diaz will run the elections, with Toulouse filling two vacant deputy clerk positions.

Toulouse, known as a "progressive" Dem who was an ardent supporter of '05 ABQ mayoral candidate Eric Griego, says she is confident her experience managing large staffs for campaigns, working with databases and voter files and her masters degree from UNM equip her for one of the most closely watched political positions in the state.

There will be a honeymoon period for Toulouse as a frustrated but hopeful public awaits signs that she is up to the formidable task, but patience is thin and opponents lurking. It's a good bet that the honeymoon she takes with her new husband will last a lot longer than the one given her by the Alligators populating the deep grasses of La Politica.

TITO'S NEW TITLE

"How did you know?!" exclaimed a stunned Tito Madrid when I reached him Tuesday just five hours into his new job as a government relations executive with the ABQ Chamber of Commerce.

The key campaign aide to ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson confirms that he has left the comfy confines of federal employment for a "new opportunity" and a much better salary. But Tito was still extolling the charms of Heather--"she's a great person and a great congressperson."

He was a respected operative for her, serving as field director with emphasis in the ABQ South Valley where Wilson has built significant popularity for a Republican.

I asked Madrid, no relation to Patsy Madrid who Heather defeated in November, if there was anything to the talk that in the recent campaign he frequently clashed with Wilson campaign manager Enrique Carlos Knell.

"Not at all, Joe. We were office mates for four years and got along fine."

OK, if you say so Tito. But that may be pretty strong Kool-Aid you drank.

Madrid will soon be spotted in the hallways of the Roundhouse and at ABQ area government offices as he promotes chamber positions.

As for Heather, she hasn't yet named a replacement for Tito, but she was recently in Baghdad and commenting on her new positioning on the war, a story I hope to get to soon.

DATELINE ROSWELL

I received this from Chaves county late Tuesday: "Poe Corn from Roswell died tonight. Poe was a loyal supporter of Senator Domenici (R-NM). Poe ran the Senator's Chaves County office for many years along with his wife Nancy Corn. Poe was part of the longtime ranching Corn family and an important and well respected Republican leader."

Corn was with the senator since the early 70's. He succumbed to cancer.

Thanks for joining me today. Don't forget to e-mail your latest news, comments, praise or criticism from the link at the top of the page. If you want to be anonymous, just let me know.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
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