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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Positioning Of Steve Pearce; Senate And Guv's Chair Eyed From His Perch, Also: That Other Vigil Scandal, And: Follow-Up On Rep. Foley Arrest 

US Rep. Pearce
I know. Let's get 2008 out of the way before we head to 2010, but the politicos won't let us. They're plotting, even raising money, for that far-off Governor's race. Which leads us to GOP Congressman Steve Pearce. The Alligators, reacting to a profile we did on Farmington attorney and University of New Mexico regent Jack Fortner as a possible R contender for the '10 Guv race, say Pearce has also privately mentioned the possibility. Pearce, a former state representative from Hobbs, would certainly have an inside track if he chose to go that route. His proven ability to raise money plus his own personal fortune made in the energy biz would give him a quick jump start.

The Pearce Guv buzz is part of a political stew the Gators are stirring, one that also has Pearce keeping his powder dry in case of an early retirement by GOP Senator Domenici. The thinking being if Pete stays in, Pearce, who will turn 60 in August, would be more prone to give up his southern congressional seat and go for Guv as a a career finisher. His age, combined with the GOP minority status in the House, would be driving factors, according to that school of speculation. On the other hand, if Pete steps aside, expect Pearce to step in. Meanwhile, there is already evidence of rivalry for the Pete seat between Pearce and ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson. Some of it appeared to surface at a GOP convention earlier this year.

Dems would love nothing more than for Pearce to get out of the southern seat which has been held by the R's for over a quarter century. It might give them a chance to put it in their column. Top consultants of both the D and R variety say Pearce appears to be in good shape for his '08 re-elect for his fourth term, but needs to be wary of general anti-incumbent sentiment.

The Democratic nomination for Steve's seat, currently sought by two little-known contenders, would skyrocket in value if Pete retired and Pearce went for the senate seat, leaving no incumbent in the southern CD. That is probably the only conceivable scenario, say my Alligators, under which Dem Dona Ana county State Rep. Joe Cervantes would consider giving up his House seat and go for the Dem congressional nod. But he would likely not be the only D coming out of the closet, not to mention numerous Republicans.

A Domenici departure would set off an unprecedented tumbling of the political dominoes, with Pearce's fortunes just one of the many angles that entertain us during these languid days of a New Mexican summer.

THE SIN OF OMISSION
Rep.Vigil
Former ABQ GOP State Rep. Rory Ogle sears the blog for the sin of omission, saying we took time Monday to comment on the legal problems of Roswell State Rep. Dan Foley, but failed to mention a scandal involving Democrats: "I can understand commenting about Foley...but I don’t get not one word about what has been happening in the West Las Vegas School district. I could be wrong, but I think we will hear far more before this goes to court." Ogle wrote.

Point taken. Here's the rundown on the burgeoning West Las Vegas Schools scandal from the ABQ Journal featuring allegations that Roberta Vigil, wife of State Rep. Richard Vigil and sister-in-law to corruption-convicted ex-NM Treasurer Robert Vigil, went wild and fraudulently spent nearly $18,000 on parties, instead of the bilingual program she was in charge of. She's been indicted, along with several others. The political angle is juicy. Rep. Vigil, vice-chair of the House Education Committee, helped secure a special appropriation that paid for one of the parties!

Rep. Vigil is in the bunker and won't comment. House Speaker Ben Lujan isn't talking either, but he may want to do something. Some lawmakers opposing ethics reform legislation this year claimed it wasn't needed because the Legislature had no problems; it was the state executive offices like Treasurer. Also, a major premise of the challenge by Rep. Kenny Martinez to Ben's speakership that Santa Fe needed to be less passive in dealing with ethics.

But a Vigil sympathizer tells me, "Richard is a teddy-bear of a guy, very well-liked. He doesn't need to get off the committee. It is the school districts that are responsible for correctly spending the money approved by the legislators, not the legislators."

The Legislature's interim ethics committee could look at the situation and determine whether Rep. Vigil should continue to serve on the committee. All it takes is one public complaint, or prompting from the Speaker.

As for Vigil's political future, he is in a solidly Democratic district in San Miguel county. However, he could have trouble if someone were to challenge him in the June '08 primary, and the odds are it will happen. In '06 he survived a primary challenge from Naomi Montoya, getting 58% of the vote. That was down from Vigil's previous primary wining margins in 2002 and 2004. With the scandal as a backdrop, it's hard to believe that Vigil's old foes won't be motivated to take him on yet again. Will they have the stuff to oust this veteran of La Politica? Stay tuned.

FOLEY FOLLOW-UP

KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson has video reaction from Roswell GOP State Rep. Dan Foley on his arrest Sunday evening at his son's basketball game. Foley says he was protecting his son and is unapologetic. he Alligators are out on force on this, going all the way back to 2001 when then-GOP State Rep. Ron Godbey was put under State Police protection after Foley wrote a note delivered to Godbey that said: "Godbey is a Dead man!!!" Godbey disagreed with the drug legalization philsophy of Foley and GOP Governor Johnson. Foley may be due the benefit of the doubt in this latest incident, but one can understand the reluctance to give it to him in light of his past record.

JAILHOUSE ROCKS


The e-mail brings this worthwhile retort to our praise for Democratic Bernalillo County Commission Chairman Alan Armijo and Republican Commissioner Michael Brasher for advocating expansion of the jail and trying to do it without increasing taxes:

"Why cant the commission get their act together? The ABQ City Council bails them out with millions and no way to hold their feet to the fire? That makes no sense. People in the city and county are paying to keep this jail going twice?? The county commission needs to get it together and make some serious changes." So says our anonymous contributor who was referencing a $9 million special appropriation the council recently made to help the county finance the metro jail.

News? Comments? Send them our way, and stop by again soon.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
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