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Thursday, November 01, 2007

House GOP Leader Foley Draws Primary Challenger, Plus: The PNM Layoffs: Why? And: Steve's Tour & Heather's News Bureau 

Add another race to your must-watch list for Campaign '08. A serious challenger has emerged for NM House Minority Whip Dan Foley. He's Dennis Kintigh, retired from the FBI after 25 years and now ready to get his feet wet in the treacherous waters of Chaves county politics by challenging Foley for the Republican nomination for his Roswell area seat.

"I see this as an extension of my public service. It's something I want to do and I anticipate entering the race in the near future," said Kintigh.

This Republican race will attract statewide attention because of Foley's leadership position and because he has been controversial. Most recently he burst into the headlines when he was arrested on charges of resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstructing an officer. That case is pending before a special prosecutor.

Foley and State Senator "Lightning" Rod Adair have held a pretty firm grip on Chaves county GOP politics but they continue to be challenged by a faction that includes oilman Mark Murphy who want more moderate lawmakers.

Political newcomer Kintigh worked the narcotics beat for the FBI, dealing with some tough customers as described by the Roswell Record. That experience should come in handy as the customers don't come much tougher than Dan Foley.

INSIDE THE PNM LAYOFFS

Business Beagles are saying a big reason for the big layoffs at Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) is the electric utility's stock price. PNM is letting go of 500 workers over the next year--150 right away---saying the company needs to get lean and mean to finance future growth. But the business beagles say going unmentioned as a chief reason for the job slashing is continued pressure on PNM management to boost the company's stock price.

"There is a tremendous amount of pressure on management to produce a growing stock price. Utilities like PNM were once expected to be just steady stock performers. That is no longer the case. Wall Street wants a steady increase in the stock price, and they generally get what they want." Explained one of the biz beagles.

PNM's stock has been down as much as a third from its 52 week high. In recent years, Microsoft's Bill Gates bought a significant stake in the company.

PNM is taking hits for not shedding some weight in its highly paid executive suites while laying off rank and file employees. PNM CEO Jeff Sterba says execs will forgo bonuses for now, but they will keep their jobs.

FRED GETS FIERY
Mondragon
State Economic Development Secretary Fred Mondragon raised some eyebrows as he came out swinging against the PNM layoffs, the over 100 recently announced by Eclipse Aviation and 1,000 layoffs in Rio Rancho at Intel Corporation. He told KRQE-TV news:

"It's hard to see how they can justify a rate increase while at the same time laying off a number of people. I'm getting a little bit tired of these large companies coming in right before Christmas and playing bogeyman man... In this case right before Halloween and letting go of people right at the end of the year right before the holidays."

Mondragon suggested PNM execs look to cut costs among themselves. I'd be concerned about the high salaries," Mondragon continued. "They just brought in a high-powered executive from Colorado to be the chief operating officer."

Recent annual total compensation for CEO Sterba is $3.6 million. Other compensation in the executive suite of the publicly regulated utility include William Real at $924,000, Alice Cobb at $898,000 and Charles Eldred at $771,000.

Mondragon's comments are not going to resonate favorably in the PNM boardroom which is gearing up for a December rate increase hearing before the NM Public Regulation Commission, but his comments should be noted by the Legislature and local governments as they contemplate economic incentives for large companies.

Good paying jobs are cited as the trade-off for taxpayer sweetened deals, but now we're seeing how sour things can get for working New Mexicans when the big boys start sneezing.

PEARCE'S TOUR

The decidedly non-splashy Steve Pearce will try to make a splash Friday by beginning an "announcement tour" for his GOP US Senate candidacy. He'll start at a teen center in his hometown of Hobbs in SE NM and then make his way to ABQ for a 4 p.m. event at the Embassy Suites Hotel. One suspects he will try to nab live coverage on the 4 p.m. KOB-TV and KRQE-TV newscasts. The campaign is inviting several hundred supporters to be on hand.

Over the weekend Pearce will stop in Farmington, Santa Fe, Roswell and Alamogordo. He finishes Sunday in Mesilla in Doña Ana county.

A statewide candidate announcement like this needs to hit the ABQ and the El Paso TV markets. El Paso serves Las Cruces and Doña Ana County. Pearce could have gone straight to Doña Ana from Hobbs on Friday, but apparently believes he will be able get Sunday El Paso TV, even if he has done ABQ two days earlier. And if his campaign is not thinking "TV, TV, TV," they're not thinking right.

HEATHER'S NEWS BUREAU

ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson, apparently looking to burnish her credentials with the conservative crowd as she faces a tough race against Pearce for the GOP Senate nomination, engages in some old-fashioned press bashing in her latest newsletter.

"I bet you didn't hear this on the evening news last week," she writes. "In Al Anbar province, last week we had no casualties, killed or wounded in action...Al Anbar is the predominently Sunni part of Iraq where al Qaeda in Iraq was wreaking havoc about a year ago...It is vital to America that Iraq not become a safe haven for al Qaeda. Al Anbar is ground zero for that fight.

"The counter-insurgency strategy in al Anbar appears to be working. That's why you didn't hear about it last week." Declared Wilson

Sounding a little cocky there, Heather. But don't be too tough on members of the Fourth Estate. After all, you've only given them five years to learn what constitutes "real war news." If you help keep the war going another five, they are sure to come up with the quality journalism you expect. Oh, and a note to the Heather newsletter editor. It's spelled "predominantly" not "predominently."

Yeah, we love this game....

Have some political news? Comments? Email them our way. See you tomorrow on the Friday blog.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
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