Thursday, August 02, 2007

Wilson's Weary Week; Have Dems Found Their Mojo? Plus: The Pork Fest In D.C.; Here To Stay Or Not?, And: Death Calls For Ex-Senate Leader Mike Alarid 

D.C. Dems may be finding their mojo, and that is bad news for ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson. After months of speculation on what the D's would do in regard to Wilson's role in the US Attorney scandal, they scored a significant public relations coup this week as they summoned Wilson's arch-nemesis, former US Attorney David Iglesias, to the capital and before leading members of the House ethics committee for a closed door Q and A. The dog and pony show had the desired impact, prompting stories on the blogs and the papers and putting the ethics yoke tightly around Wilson's neck. Combined with the no end-insight Iraq war, it is the double play the Dems hope could finally take her out of the ball game.

Speculation has been intense on whether the Dems would have the guts to go after Wilson in the House ethics committee. This week's questioning of Iglesias is not the full monte, but it indicates the chances of a full-fledged ethics probe are better than many thought and that the Dems, if they go for it, will make sure it is close to the election for full political impact.

Wilson was left flailing as the press pack moved in. Her isolation was palpable as she argued the House questioning of Iglesias wasn't actually an "investigation." Call it what you like, but whatever it was it brought back in high-definition the dreaded headlines of earlier this year when the scandal first broke. And that's the point. It's the political impact, not the legal impact, that matters to the Dems. Whether it is an official investigation or not at this point is irrelevant,. The black and white headlines telegraphed the desired anti-Wilson message.


Wilson last year used the ethics of her opponent as a cornerstone of her campaign, but only managed a less than 900 vote win. The approval ratings of GOP Senator Pete Domenici, also involved in the US attorney scandal, have plunged to 51% in the Survey USA poll. If legend Pete is at 51, where is Heather? Not good.

ABQ Democrats need all the help they can get from their D.C. brethren. They have two announced opponents, Martin Heinrich and Bryon Paez, but neither is well-known or with a lengthy public service record. Wilson will need to be the issue, and the US attorney scandal will need to be advanced. That means a full and formal investigation. They are not there yet, but this week's Iglesias appearance gave Wilson and the R's a taste of what may be coming.

Wilson has never served with the Democrats in the majority. Her encounters with the ABQ variety of the species have not been impressive, as she has dispatched most of them with ease. But we're not in Albuquerque anymore. The House is now led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi who, like Wilson, has a steely resolve and determination. The difference is Madame Pelosi has the power. How much of it she will use to try to unseat her Republican rival is the question we all await an answer to.


Maybe Rep. Wilson can find respite from the D.C. political heat during the August congressional recess, but she will have to wait a day. A national anti Iraq war group plans to protest outside of the congresswoman's ABQ North Valley home today. Welcome back, Heather.

LANL 101

It's been one of the biggest news years ever for Los Alamos Labs, and that prompted this in-depth piece from the Santa Fe Reporter. One of the more engaging questions posed in the piece came from EspaƱola Mayor Maestas who wonders why, with a $2 billion budget, LANL has not had more of an economic impact on the poor communities surrounding it.


Also on the fed beat, what about those calls to do away with "earmarks?" Those are the pork projects inserted into legislation usually having nothing to do with the pork. A little state like ours benefits from the ability of super-seniority Senators like Domenici and Bingaman to use their influence to get those earmarks. Don't you think big states like California and Texas would scoop up even more of the pork if there were no earmarks? Keep that pan hot and the bacon frying, Pete and Jeff. Our still impoverished state needs all the kitchen skills you can muster.


Michael Alarid loved his politics, and he didn't shy away from going for the gold. He ran for a seat in Congress in '72, for lieutenant governor in the 60's and ABQ mayor in '74. He didn't win any of them but he did win many, many elections to the New Mexico Senate. That's where he made his political home for nearly 30 years, where he wielded power as majority leader for several of them and where ultimately he carved out a lasting political legacy.

Word came to us Wednesday that Alarid had been claimed by death. He was 88. Mass is set for Aug. 7 at Immaculate Conception Church in downtown ABQ.

Democrat Alarid started his climb up the long ladder of La Politica in 1964 by winning a House seat. In '68 he joined the senate and didn't leave it until 1992, having risen to majority leader. That was the power rung from which he played the game with three New Mexican Governors--Bruce King, Toney Anaya and Garrey Carruthers.

Alarid may have been as well-known for "Mike's Food Store" in ABQ's Barelas neighborhood as he was for being a powerful politician. He and his now late wife Stella ran it from 1952 to 1985, meeting and greeting half the city.

His legislative record is highlighted by his role in establishing the community college, TV-I, since renamed CNM. He also played an important part in reforming the state's school funding formula. As a senate leader, Alarid is remembered as even-tempered and a friend of the little guy, too, who fought for public employees and their bargaining rights.

It was the 1974 mayor's race when Senator Alarid first caught the attention of a cub radio reporter for KUNM-FM covering his very first election. One day I noticed that the Albuquerque Journal had strongly endorsed Mike Alarid for mayor out of a field of over 30 candidates, many of them respected leaders of their time. I thought there must be something
special about that guy. There was. And in the years ahead all of New Mexico would come to know it.

I'm Joe Monahan, reporting to you from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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