Monday, August 13, 2007

Big Bill: Where To Now? Gay Gaffe Has Analysts Analyzing; Plus: She Got Out, But Laura Sanchez Is In As Dem Party Exec, And: They Called Her "La Jefa" 

The rickety rickshaw known as the Big Bill presidential campaign needs to park itself for a few days and take a long hard look at the road ahead. So say the top political analysts consulted in the wake of the latest gaffe (at least for a liberal Dem primary audience) committed by the New Mexico governor at a national forum. Richardson, they say, is clearly overtired, overworked and under prepared. Thus far, the memorable events of his presidential effort are his poor performances on Meet the Press, most of the various debates and now last week's presidential forum on gay issues where he fell on his sword.

Despite these ignominious bookends to his seven month old long shot bid for the presidency, the Governor's persistence and ability to raise money for early TV has kept him near double digits in polling in the key early state of Iowa where the stakes are growing higher by the day. But with only five months before the Iowa voting, the Alligators say Richardson needs to retool if he is going to upgrade his candidacy from coach to first-class.

"He has worked himself into position as a solid second tier candidate. Now he needs to look at what it takes to become first-tier candidate. That means stopping and looking at what is happening. This is a marathon, not a sprint," analyzed one of our insiders who has worked with the Governor.

But sprinting is Big Bill's favored mode, and it is catching up with him.


"He is working 15 hours a day or more. He needs to take a day off. He seems to be running on adrenaline, and he hit the wall at the (gay presidential) forum. He has been this way since he ran for Congress, but this is a bigger ballpark and he needs to adjust. Fifteen hour days don't allow you time to prepare for events but preparation is imperative. Right now he is where he is supposed to be, solidly in the second tier, but if he is going to make the leap up, he has to retool, " offered an insider with long experience.

Bill's gaffe may cost him money from the gay community, but in itself is not going to torpedo his candidacy. He has a demonstrated record on gay and civil rights, but the cumulative impact of his errors is hurting his presidential campaign and perhaps extracting a toll on his vice-presidential ambitions as well as hopes of becoming secretary of state in n a Democratic administration.

Richardson has gone further than many expected--his extraordinary one-on-one political skills general affability, and decision to air early media--has served him well. But the great irony of this campaign has been Big Bill looking for the top-tier candidates to make mistakes so he can break through. Unfortunately for him, it is he who is making the most noticeable mistakes.

Laura Sanchez
Laura Sanchez said she meant it when she called us July 29th to tell us she was removing her name from the list of finalists for executive director of the NM Democratic Party. We dutifully blogged the development and began focusing on Art Terrazas, Jr. who had emerged as a front-runner to replace outgoing ED Matt Farrauto. But Sanchez and Dem Party Chairman Brian Colón checked in Friday with the news that there had been a change of heart and that Sanchez, 32, would take the job.

"He made me an offer I couldn't refuse," joked Sanchez.

The emergence of Terrazas may have actually helped Sanchez win the job as some insiders began putting heat on the chairman to go with someone more to their liking. Whether responsible or not, they were pleased that Colón returned to Sanchez who served as treasurer for his campaign for party chair.

Also aiding Sanchez, who earned a law degree from UCLA, is not being overtly aligned with any faction of the party. Terrazas set off alarms among liberal Dems. Sanchez has not been deeply involved in NM politics. She did serve a stint as a staffer for the state Senate Judiciary Committee. She leaves the Natural Resources Defense Council to take the party post.

While Terrazas of Dona Ana county did not end up as ED, southern NM Democrats did get representation at state headquarters. Sanchez is a native of Deming.


Millie Santillanes was not a woman to be taken lightly. She would probably chuckle if she were to read that line, knowing that it not only notes her large physical presence, but also her status as a longtime and fierce force in ABQ politics. It helped earn her the nickname of "La Jefa." The voice of Santillanes, heard prominently in the city political dialogue over the past 25 years, was stilled Saturday as she was summoned by death while being prepared for gall bladder surgery at a local hospital. She was 74.

At the time death called, Santillanes was city clerk. Earlier, she was a businesswoman who owned retail shops and who served a term as president of the ABQ Hispanic chamber of Commerce. She most captured the public imagination in the late 90's during a raucous debate over a sculpture depicting the founding of the city. The controversy brought to the fore the ancient wrongs committed during the early settlement of New Mexico and Albuquerque, Some said Millie pushed the envelope in her advocacy of Hispanic culture during the debate, but she saw a world where cultures of all sorts were being plowed under by a wave of Golden Arches and she fought back.

Santillanes was a rarity in La Politica--a Hispanic female Republican. In the early 80's, she joined with populist businesswoman Elizabeth Cook of "Concerned Citizens" to hold city officials feet to the fire and successfully oppose several tax increases. In 1985, the mother of eight tried a direct takeover of city hall, launching a campaign for mayor. She lost, but later accepted a position with winner Ken Schultz and again later as city clerk under Mayor Chavez.

The fire is out now, but it will be remembered that the torch burned with ardor when it was in the hands of New Mexico's Millie Santillanes.

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