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Monday, April 16, 2007

It's Ana Over Aragon For Dem Party Prize, Plus: Pete Admits Involving Bush In Iglesias Ouster, And: Death Calls For Political Player Julie Golden 

Chairwoman Canales
With the indictment of his cousin looming large and facing a challenger who had collected a plate full of IOU's, former State Representative Robert Aragon Saturday was soundly defeated by Ana Canales in his bid to become chair of the Democratic Party of Bernalillo County. Some 600 in-person and proxy votes were cast in the race in the state's largest county and Canales told me she defeated Aragon by about 90 votes.

"I've had a lot of visibility the past several years working in campaigns and fundraising, including the Governor's and Patricia Madrid's for Congress," Canales, an El Paso native, explained.

Canales, a medical transcriptionist by trade who came to NM in '92, also said the indictment of Aragon's cousin, former State Senator Manny Aragon, who was arraigned in federal court on corruption charges only days before the election also cast a shadow on the Aragon candidacy and "moved some people" to her side.

Canales, 54, a mother of three (two grown, one teen) and an executive aide to NM Cultural Affairs Secretary Stuart Ashman, described herself as a "progressive Democrat," but one who will reach out to "conservative Democrats in ABQ's NE Heights" who are especially needed to win the congressional seat held by the GOP's Heather Wilson.

RIPPING ROBERT

Negative campaigning played a role in the Canales victory. She says she is not responsible for the hit piece posted to the right. (Click on it to read.) The mailed attack reminded Democrats of Aragon's long ago service in the Legislature when he abandoned Dem House Speaker Raymond Sanchez and voted with the Republicans to form a conservative coalition that ruled the state House in 1982.

MONEY FOR MANNY

A rather surreal sight at the Dem confab Saturday was a table where a jar was put out and donations were being taken for the "Manny Aragon Defense Fund." The post was staffed by old Manny friend and longtime Dem politico and lawyer Kate Stetson. The reminder of Manny surely did little to galvanize the Dems behind Robert Aragon.

BRIAN'S BURRITOS
Brian Colón
State Democratic Party chair hopeful Brian Colón curried favor with the Bernalillo Dems Saturday by buying them burritos in the morning and pizza in the afternoon. "When they pop for food, they are serious," one of the attendees only half-joked. The ABQ attorney seeks to replace outgoing chair John Wertheim. His chief rival is former State House Majority Leader Michael Olguin of Socorro who was also at the meeting, but did not put on the show that Colón did. Michael is fuming that Brian is conducting a "smear campaign" because he has not committed to giving up lobbying the Legislature if he becomes state chair. His supporters are answering that Colón works for a law firm whose major clients include the city of Albuquerque and State Risk Management and this could somehow pose a conflict with the state chair position.

New Bernalillo county members elected to the state central committee Saturday appear to heavily favor Colón. Central meets April 28th in Las Cruces to elect the new chair. According to my Alligators, Colón, 36, has been more active in the campaign than Olguin, 57. He also has received the endorsement of three of the largest unions in New Mexico. A third late entrant in the race is Democratic activist Gideon Elliot. The key is getting your central committee supporters to turn out. Not many insiders are willing to predict a winner, but Saturday's results are seen as giving the Colón camp a boost as are the corruption scandals. The question is how many Dems are looking for a new face?

THE PETE BEAT

The weekend news confirmed for the record what has become obvious--NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici took his effort to oust David Iglesias as NM US Attorney directly to President Bush. Pete's office leaked the story as Attorney General Gonzales prepared to face a tough Tuesday hearing on Capitol Hill where the beans on Domenici may have been spilled. The preemptive leak could serve to dampen such a surprise, but Domenici still has his hands full as the screaming headlines are not doing him no good, no matter how his circle tries to spin it in the friendly confines of their hometown newspaper.

WHITEWASH?
Sheriff White
Another new angle the ABQ Journal hit Sunday was the role of Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White. It turns out he was one of the politicos calling the Justice Department trying to get rid of Iglesias. White says he was upset that the GOP US Attorney did not move quickly to get wiretaps in the investigation of a murdered Sheriff's deputy, so he ratted out Iglesias to the chief of staff for Attorney General Gonzales in a spring 2006 meeting.

But White's strike prompted an Alligator attack, with Iglesias supporters pointing out that White is not just sheriff, but was chairman of Bush's 2004 Bernalillo county re-election committee. They charged his complaining was really prompted by politics, not law enforcement, dubbing him a "foot solider" of lawyer-lobbyist Mickey Barnett, a close friend of Domenici who also lobbied Justice to urge getting rid of Iglesias.

White has been mentioned a possible future congressional contender, but his association with Barnett, leader of a breakaway faction of the state GOP that primaried candidates against fellow Republicans, could be an issue as he faces R's on the opposite side of Barnett & Co.

ODDS ON PETE

Meanwhile, the betting window on whether Domenici will continue to seek re-election in '08 remains open. Here's the latest from The Fix," the Washington Post's handicapper who now ranks Pete's seat at #8 of the top ten seats to watch.

No senator has insisted more times that he is running for reelection in 2008 than Pete Domenici.But we weren't terribly impressed with the $394,000 he raisedover the first three months of the year (despite how much his campaign touted the number). And there seems little indication that the hubbub over the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys will die down anytime soon--meaning that Domenici will continue to face questions over the dismissal of federal prosecutor David Iglesias. That means stories like this one will continue to crop up. And it means that Domenici has won himself a spot on the Line for the foreseeable future."

My take is similar. Domenici is running, but his campaign continuing is contingent on news in the US Attorney scandal, his personal health and whether a strong opponent emerges who could give him second thoughts. There's a long way to go. Stay tuned.

THE GOLDEN YEARS

Julie Golden was a gregarious and aggressive personality, a New York native who adapted well when he adopted New Mexico as his home. He built a career in advertising and lobbying that involved him in the key issues of his day. Golden, about 77, died of pneumonia at an ABQ hospital Saturday evening.

"He was a member of he Old Guard," reflected longtime Santa Fe lobbyist Scott Scanland who noted that Golden was honored by Santa Fe wall-leaners at a Hotel Santa Fe lunch during the recent legislative session. "Governor Richardson dropped by and recalled how Julie donated his ad agency's efforts to his '80 campaign for Congress. Julie made friends wherever he went," Scanland said.

For many years Golden handled the ad account of Rich Ford. This past legislative session he was on the job for the payday loan industry, doing work from a wheelchair, On the political side, Golden was an important player in Ken Schultz's 1985 election as ABQ mayor. In '91 Golden was honored by his advertising peers. Services will be held for Julie Golden on Thursday with details in the newspaper obits.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
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