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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Richardson Senate Chatter Grows Louder As Pete's Political Crisis Deepens, Plus: D's Hit Heather Again; Air TV Ad, And: More on Dem State Chair Race 

You Know Who
The continued hammering of NM GOP U.S. Senator Pete Domenici on the U.S. Attorney scandal has top strategists adjusting their '08 scenarios for Pete's seat, and more of them are including in them NM Governor Bill Richardson. The reasoning goes that the Guv is running a long shot campaign for the Dem Prez nomination and could be available for a senate run early next year when the dust clears on the Prez battle. Not that many see Big Bill challenging Pete, but they do say it makes sense for him to start plotting in case Domenici does not make the race. Here's one scenario explained by a Dem insider.

"Democrats put up a placeholder candidate for US Senate in case Pete drops out. If he does, and if Richardson’s presidential plans fizzle after the Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina primaries, Democrats would be in perfect position to take the placeholder out and drop Richardson in the race." So spun our insider.

We've blogged previously that the political community needs to keep an eye on the possibility of a "hand-off" of the Pete seat. That means he runs and wins the GOP nomination for a seventh term next June, but then announces his retirement and works to have the state GOP Central Committee name his protege, ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson appointed as his replacement for the General Election in November.

REMEMBER WHEN?

A similar circumstance occurred in the '06 NM GOP Governor's race, with Santa Fe's J.R. Damron withdrawing after winning the June primary and being replaced by the party with John Dendahl. To protect against that in the 'o8 senate race, the Democrats could groom a "placeholder." Some observers say state Economic Development Secretary Rick Homans, who is exploring a run for Wilson's congressional seat, could fit the role of "placeholder" for Big Bill if he decides not to go forward with a U.S. House campaign.

How about Bill running against Pete? We shouldn't rule anything out. Remember, the Guv could transfer any leftover funds from a failed Prez bid to a federal senate campaign. If Domenici dips much lower than the 57% he registered in the last USA Survey, taking on the senator goes from far-fetched to realistic. Also, he might not even need a "placeholder" to keep the seat warm. If his Prez campaign ended in early February '08, he would still have time to meet filing deadlines and declare his senate candidacy there and then.

Tension over next year's NM U.S. Senate election is the highest in modern times. The Domenici factor is immense. If he goes, or if he falters, the dominoes start falling everywhere. Under such circumstances, all possible scenarios merit continued attention.

THE DOMENICI CRISIS
Bush & Domenici
There is absolutely no let up in the political crisis facing the 74 year old Domenici. Yes, I am now calling it a crisis for the veteran politician. How else to describe the daily drumbeat of bad news? Monday night there was more. The former chief of staff to Attorney General Gonzales, Kyle Sampson, has told congressional investigators that President Bush took concerns over NM US Attorney David Iglesias directly to Attorney General Gonzales last October.

The central ethics question remains on the table: Was Iglesias fired because he would not give Rep. Wilson an election boost by refusing to comply with what he said were October phone requests from her and Domenici to speed up indictments of prominent Dems in the federal probe of ABQ Metro Court? Stay tuned.

HEATHER HIT AGAIN

You've heard the Dem radio ads attacking Wilson for her role in the US Attorney scandal. Now she is taking hits on the issue that almost cost her her job last year--the Iraq war. This new TV ad comes from a Democratic-leaning group called Americans United for Change and asserts that Wilson has not learned any lessons from her near loss to Dem Patricia Madrid.

“Heather Wilson is still voting with the president on Iraq. On March 23, she voted against bringing our troops home,” an announcer says in the ad that will air in New Mexico, as an image of Wilson with Bush flashes across the screen. “Tell Heather Wilson, after four years, it’s time to end the war."

DEM CHAIR FACE-OFF
Michael Olguin
Some follow-up to Monday's blog on the election of a new Bernalillo county Dem party chair and the fight for state Democratic chair which will play out in Las Cruces on the 28th. I've received several queries on whether proxy voting will be allowed at the 28th meeting. NM Dem Party executive director Matt Farrauto answers. "Yes. A proxy may be carried by any Democrat from the county of the elected State Central Committee member." Which means folks far from Cruces won't have to drive 6 hours. According to the Dems Web site, there are about 400 members of their state central, so the election for chairman is very grassroots.

State chair contender and ABQ Attorney Brian Colón was born on Long Island, New York, and as a child moved to NM with his family. So he is not a "native" of Valencia county as we blogged, but is darn close: " Indeed, I was raised in Valencia. My place of birth is NY and then my family moved to NM when I was about a year old. I have been in NM my whole life. I lived in Valencia from the time I was about 5 or 6 years old or so." Explains Colón.

The other leading candidate for the chair spot, former House Majority Leader Michael Olguin, is counting on the rural counties to pull him through as Colón tells supporters his campaign is running strongly in big Bernalillo. And the third, lesser-known contender, Gideon Elliot is campaigning too. And that's Elliot with two L's, not the one we gave him.

Defeated Bernalillo county Dem chair candidate Robert Aragon told us during the campaign that he supported Colón for state chairman. After his defeat Saturday by Ana Canales, the question is: Did Colón's supporters back Aragon? Ah, the intrigue of La Politica.


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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
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