Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Karl Rove's New Mexico Mark; A Mixed Legacy Is Analyzed, Plus: How NM R's Can Increase Their Muscle, And: Big Bill Likes Latest Numbers 

randy autioBush & Rove
Bush brain Karl Rove, who announced his resignation Monday, made his mark on New Mexico politics, leaving a decidedly mixed legacy here. He developed a crafty plan for Bush in 2004, spiking turnout in conservative rural New Mexico with strategically placed presidential visits and voter targeting. Bush won the state by about 6,000 votes, after losing it by less than a thousand in 2000. On the other hand, Rove was knee-deep in the US attorney scandal that has engulfed and weakened GOP Senator Pete Domenici and ABQ GOP US Rep. Heather Wilson, leaving New Mexico Republicans in an uncertain position for 2008 and beyond.

The White House political operation in NM blew up when fired NM US Attorney David Iglesias charged that he was being pressured to prosecute voter fraud cases that were not worthy of prosecution. He also said he was pressured by Domenici and Wilson to bring indictments in the Metro court construction scandal before the '06 election. GOP political operatives and lawyers Mickey Barnett and Pat Rogers were Rove's allies on the ground, but never did produce convincing evidence of voter fraud, leading the Dems to charge, with some credibility, that the accusations were a scheme to suppress voter turnout among minorities.

If Rove and company were indeed trying to suppress minority voting here, as the evidence indicates, it was a contradiction. Here's what Rove said Monday when speaking of the "Latino" vote and that failed immigration bill the White House pushed and that so enraged conservative R's. "You cannot ignore the aspirations of the fastest-growing minority in America." And Rove said he believed the GOP was still on track to build a lasting majority. Not in New Mexico, Karl.

Domenici has suffered the most from the US attorney scandal, seeing his approval ratings plunging below 60% for the first time in memory and his legacy irrevocably tarnished. There was a big political pay off to be had if it could be proved that widespread voter fraud was being employed by Democrats to alter election outcomes. But even in the absence of any such proof, the plot to oust Iglesias continued, making the participants look like abusers of power, not the election protectors they held themselves out to be.


There is a path to more Republican power in New Mexico, but it isn't the quick fix that Rove and company thought they had and which led to the epic scandal. The path is finding and recruiting candidates and funding them. It means defrocking self-dealing lobbyists and consultants who have used the state GOP as their personal playground, discouraging participation and needlessly dividing the small party. And it means long hard work at the grassroots level.

Karl Rove's creative '04 NM Bush strategy will long be remembered and studied, but his pursuit of a quick fix of political power here by using the machinery of the federal government will cast a long shadow. In the end, his political epitaph could be these words from a mournful songwriter: "He said he wanted Heaven, but praying was too slow."


Will Hillary's Iowa TV debut today will it mean less oxygen for Big Bill who has been toying with the 10% polling level in that early caucus state? A new ARG poll released Monday had Bill at 7% nationally among "likely" Dem voters, his highest ever and up from 3% in the previous ARG survey. Maybe all that attention over the gay gaffe actually boosted his name ID and even had some conservative Dems happy that he was confused over whether homosexuality is a choice or rooted in biology. The poll was taken August 9 thru 12, while Bill's gay statements were making national headlines. ( He clarified that he believes being gay is matter of biology.)

The Guv was averaging 3.6% in the national polls before the ARG survey was factored in. He has been up on Iowa TV for weeks, so it will be interesting to see if he can increase his numbers there as the big name candidates hit the small screen.


In the strange coincidence department, shortly after we blogged last week about Senator Dennis Chavez, we learned of a July 19th burglary of the the ABQ home of his daughter, Gloria Tristani. Valuable silver utensils (some pictured here) that had been given to the senator, who died in 1962, were among the items stolen.

One especially prized possession now missing is a sterling silver picture frame containing a signed photo of President Truman. Also, silver trays and other items given to Chavez by the people of Clovis, NM for his role in reopening the Air Force base there in the late 1940's were taken in the robbery. Tristani has two other out-of-state homes. Her daughter, also named Gloria Tristani, ran against Senator Domenici in 2002.


We had a post up for a time Monday saying ABQ Deputy City Clerk Kelli Fulgenzi (Baca) was likely to be named city clerk by Mayor Chavez to replace Millie Santillanes who died over the weekend, but conflicting reports came in and we took it down. Chavez on Tuesday named assistant city attorney Randy Autio as the "Interim Chief Clerk." He will serve through the October 2nd city election after which a permanent clerk will be named. Fulgenzi stays on as deputy clerk and is still hoping to be named city clerk. The city clerk is charged with administering city elections. Got all that?

Fulgenzi confirms our report that she is going to seek the 2008 Dem nomination for Bernalillo County Clerk, setting up a face-off with current clerk Maggie Toulouse. Agnes Maldonado, sister of ABQ Dem State Senator Bernadette Sanchez, is also expected to make the run...

Meantime, funeral arrangements for Santillanes have been announced, with a rosary set for Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Albuquerque Old Town's historic San Felipe de Neri church. A funeral mass will be conducted there Thursday at 10 a.m.

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