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Thursday, October 18, 2007

No Pete Probe; Retirement Deflects Ethics Committee, Plus: Special Prosecutor In Rep. Foley Case, And: A Charlie, Not A Charlene For NM Supreme Court 

NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici's recent retirement announcement has apparently averted an investigation into his conduct surrounding the US Attorney scandal. The Web site "Truthout" is reporting that the Senate Ethics Committee has decided against a probe. Domenici's phone call to then-US attorney David Iglesias asking about the status of a federal investigation into charges of corruption in the construction of the Bernalillo County Metro Court building sparked the calls for a probe, but Truthout reports:

It's unlikely the preliminary investigation will move to the next stage," said one person who works closely with the committee. "The reason? His mental state."

ABQ Congresswoman Wilson also made a phone call. Whether there will be a House ethics investigation remains up in the air.

MORE PETE BEAT

Meantime, Senator Domenici chief of staff Steve Bell is telling the Journal he regrets the primary contest between Wilson and Congressman Steve Pearce saying it will divide the party. But the faction of R's upset with Domenici and Bell say the party was already divided because Domenici and Bell and associates favored particular groups of consultants, candidates and lobbyists.

Some insiders have speculated that Domenici did not want a strong GOP because it would give rise to potential competitors to his leadership,. That may be a stretch, but the Senator's legacy is not going to be enhanced by the nasty divide the party has gone through under his watch in recent years.

Not that the Dems don't tear themselves from limb to limb, too. It's just that they can afford more infighting because there is a a lot more of them and they win most of the elections, despite the fighting. A minority party not unified is doomed to be, well, a minority party.

THE LOW KEY PEARCE

Sticking with his low-key style, NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce sent out this mild missive to friends and supporterss Wednesday, announcing his plans to seek the GOP nomination for the Senate seat.

After talking with family, friends and supporters, Cynthia and I have decided to run for the United States Senate. Although I won't make a formal declaration for some time, we want you to know that we plan to enter the race.

I came to my decision after careful consideration and it was not one that I took lightly. There is still much work to do, but I want you to know that I will make an announcement soon once all the pieces are in place to begin the campaign.

You know me: I will run hard and I will run to win...

Insiders expect an official entry by the conservative lawmaker the first week of November. They tell us he will probably make a several city tour to launch his campaign in which he will be taking on ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson who is also leaving her House seat for a shot at the senate.

FOLEY CASE GETS SPECIAL
Foley
Whether Roswell GOP Sate Rep. Dan Foley will go to trial is now in the hands of a special prosecutor who is a former Lea County district court judge. He says he has no ties to the controversial lawmaker who faces charges of resisting arrest, obstructing an officer and disorderly conduct in connection with an incident at a basketball tournament in which Foley's' son was playing.

The District Attorney for the Roswell area, Terry Haake, sent the controversy to former District Court Judge Gus Gallini (Lea County '87-2002) who says he has no previous ties to Foley.

In his role as special prosecutor Gallini will decide whether the charges against the lawmaker merit going to trial. The Roswell Record reports Foley, 38, and the ex-judge do have some things in common--they are both Republicans and ex-Marines.

As the Roswell Record reports: "The case was dismissed from Municipal Court in July by arresting officers who forwarded it to the district attorney's office for further investigation. It has since become a political hot potato with judges hesitant to get involved.

The case has prompted speculation in Chaves county that Foley could draw an opponent in next year's GOP primary. So far, none has surfaced.

A CHARLIE NOT A CHARLENE

It's a Charlie not a Charlene who will fill out a portion of the term of NM Supreme Court Justice Pamela Minzner. Governor Big Bill Wednesday named ABQ criminal defense attorney Charlie Daniels to fill the seat left vacant by the passing of Justice Pamela Minzner. It appears we are beyond the point where we have "female" seats on the courts. We didn't hear any squealing over the naming of Daniels in that regard who is himself well regarded.

Our legal beagles pinpointed Daniels and ABQ District Court Judge Linda Vanzi as the likeliest winners of the appointment, and they were correct. Vanzi has about 11 years experience as an attorney, just a bit more than the ten years required to serve on the state's high court. Daniels is 64 and has over 30 years of high-profile experience.

Daniels is a Democrat and a Big Bill donor. (He kicked in $2300 for his Prez campaign back in February.) All five positions on the court belong to the D's, but Daniels will have to run in a contested election in 2008. One of our Legal Beagles sent this analysis:

"A strong Hispanic candidate could probably beat Daniels in the Democratic primary but I doubt that happens. No names come to mind."

We'll wait and see on that one. How about the Republicans? They haven't had a seat on the court in years. The odds are still against them, but they are expected to field a contender. E-mail any names bouncing around.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
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