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Thursday, June 21, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Domenici Draws Dem Foe Who Says He Will Start With His Own $400K; Who Is Don Wiviott? We've Got The Scoop On Your First Day Of Summer Blog 

Don Wiviott
He's never run for political office, has no statewide name ID and confesses to being bewildered by the process of organizing a campaign. But Santa Fe developer Don Wiviott does have two things that will likely make him a player for the 2008 Democratic nomination for US senate--lots of money and fire in the belly for his pet cause--the environment.

The 51 year old 14 year resident of the capital city took his candidacy from rumor to reality Wednesday telling me in a phone call from Washington D.C., "I am in. I am running."

Wiviott says he plans on starting his campaign with $400,000 of his own money and is willing to spend $800,000 to $1 million, if necessary. So far, he is the only candidate in the race talking serious cash. Two other contenders are announced, but both have said they will not raise significant money, making Wiviott the frontrunner for the nomination on the first day he publicly announced.

Wiviott made his money developing "The Lofts" a series of environmentally sensitive mixed use communities that have proved highly popular in Santa Fe which prizes "green" causes. He cites "global warming, the Iraq war and the national deficit" as key issues. "Pete has lost touch with how quickly we need to move on these issues," he said of the state's longest-ever serving US senator. The freshly minted contender says he supports a timetable for withdrawing American troops from Iraq, resolving once and for all the #1 issue facing the American nation.

A "PLACEHOLDER" FOR BIG BILL?

The political neophyte, born in Spain of military parents, willingly discussed the conspiracy theory that he is getting in the race to be a "placeholder" for Governor Richardson who may want to seek the senate seat if his Prez campaign fizzles next year. He says he is acquainted with fellow Santa Fean and Big Bill campaign manager Dave Contarino. "I did discuss my candidacy with Dave as I did with many others, but if I was going to be a placeholder I would not be putting up this kind of money or investing this kind of time," he asserted.

But how much Wiviott will actually spend will be a subject of intense interest. If no other major contenders get in the race, he may not have to spend much on the primary election, leaving the money to spend against Pete. By announcing he is willing to spend his own dough, he may keep out a candidate or two who has been toying with a run. Not that there has been a clamor for the nomination. The Dems have been stunned that even with Domenici plunging to a 51% approval rating in the latest Survey USA poll, no one with broad name ID or experience has surfaced. Money, Domenici's legend and the fear that Big Bill could indeed make a play for the seat are all cited as reasons for the reticence.

GETTING IT GOING
Kelley Owen
Wiviott, who is married to Santa Fe real estate agent Kelley Owen, is moving quickly to assemble a campaign team, some of whom have ties to Big Bill, including the Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner polling firm and media consultant Doc Sweitzer. His fundraiser, Kim Scott, worked for President Clinton. Wiviott is soliciting funds on the ActBlue Web site for Dem candidates.

I spoke with the new candidate from the Take Back America conference being held in D.C. and attended by several Prez candidates, including Big Bill. Wiviott also visited with the Democratic National Committee. His willingness to put up his own money and hire national Dem operatives is sure to keep the DNC welcome mat out for him.

A political amateur has obvious disadvantages starting off at the highest levels of politics, but as a newcomer, Wiviott will have the advantage of running as a nonpolitician when voters are frustrated with politics. His willingness to get in the race and fill a vacuum could be greeted with open arms by party leaders, desperate to get a serious challenger on the field against a weakened Pete. While most seasoned politicians think the Dem nomination is worth about as much as a wooden nickel, by this time next year its value could be much more. Wiviott plans to be around to find out.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Another hit for Rep. Tom Udall over Los Alamos labs funding as the House rejected overwhelmingly (312-121) his bid to restore the budget cuts and prepared to send it over to the senate where we will now watch to see what Sen. Domenici can do. But before it goes there, the NM GOP takes one last bite out of Tom's hide. R's Pearce and Wilson supported Udall's amendment, but a majority of House R's voting on the measure joined the Dems and went against it.

We wondered the other day about the whereabouts of former Dem ABQ City Councilor Richard Chapman, the only ABQ official to be subjected to a recall election in modern history. He survived that election in the late 80's. As for where he is today, State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino tells us:

"Richard and his wife Laura Ferrary live in Downtown ABQ. He works as a consultant on water conservation issues and is happy as a clam being out of politics. His counsel is still valuable and I get it every chance I have."

Thanks, Jerry. Say hello to Richard for us. And thanks to you for tuning in to New Mexico's #1 political blog. Send your news and comments to our mailbox.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
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