Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Native American Factor Surfaces In 3rd CD, Plus: Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Rich Candidates Deal With Some Reins, And: Our Blog Bottom Lines 

Secretary Shendo
It may be a 2008 long shot for New Mexico to send its first Native American to the US House of Representatives, but the sizeable Indian community in the northern Congressional district is a key constituency and Benny Shendo, Big Bill's Secretary of Indian Affairs will form a committee to weigh a run for the Dem nod for the House seat being vacated by Rep. Tom Udall who is Secretary of Indian Affairs, is making a move that will keep them in the thick of things. Shendo has told friends he will form an exploratoryrunning for the open US Senate seat.

Native Americans comprise about 19% of the population of the Third CD. Only a northern Arizona district has more. Hispanics makes up 36% of the district. Shendo, a native of Jemez Pueblo, would be joining a crowded field of wannabe's in the overwhelmingly Democratic district Many of the potential candidates will be gone before the mid-March preprimary convention, unable to raise money or attract delegate support, or having cut deals fopr their support with the dominant candidates. If a Shendo candidacy falls short, he could still be a deal maker and help push Native American support to one of the top contenders, and in the process keep their issues on the front burner,

For now, the Shendo name toss reminds New Mexicans that our "majority-minority" state has no Hispanic or Native American in its Congressional delegation, an issue that will especially overhang positioning for the Udall House seat.


We have to hedge on the planned announcement Thursday of ABQ GOP State Senator Joe Carraro for the ABQ US House seat. While saying he is going to run against Bernalillo County Sheriff Daren White for the GOP nomination, Joe so far refuses to say whether he will give up his Senate seat to do so. Carraro could stay in the race all the way to the mid-March preprimary and then decide to drop out and file petition signatures three days later to run for his Senate seat. How will Carraro raise serious money if he is not willing to tell donors he is all in for the United States Congress? Well, he won't.

GOP State Rep. Tom Anderson who would love to run for Carraro's seat isn't taking the bait. He says he does not want to fall into a trap by giving up his House seat only to see Carraro drop his congressional bid and come back to the Senate race. Anderson is staying put. And unless Carraro or someone else goes all in, so is the GOP race for the 1st CD. Another sidebar on this: Will GOP Senator Domenici hold a "Meet and Greet" lunch for Carraro like the one he is holding for Darren in D.C. December 5th?


We told you last week about the "millionaires' amendment." That's the federal election law that kicks in when a rich candidate for Congress spends over a certain amount, permitting their opponents to collect increased individual contributions. Like everything in campaign finance law this one is maddeningly complex, but with the help of readers and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) site, we have put together more detail on how this amendment could play out in New Mexico as we fill three open US House seats and an open Senate seat.

According to the FEC, oil wealthy GOP Senate candidate Steve Pearce could spend up to $415,680 of his own money in the primary and the same amount again in the general election before the amendment kicked in. If he goes over that amount his primary opponent--GOP US Rep. Heather Wilson--would be able to collect individual contributions triple the normal limit of $2300. If Pearce spent even more of his personal money, the amount Wilson could collect from individual donors would continue to rise. It is unlikely that Pearce will have to spend over $415,000 of his own money in the primary. The general election is another story.

As for our US House seats, the wealthy guys include Hobbs oil man Harry Teague and Las Cruces attorney Joe Cervantes. Both are seeking the Dem nod for the southern congressional seat. Santa Fe developer Don Wiviott is the wealthy candidate seeking the Dem nomination in the northern congressional district. According to the millionaires' amendment, a House hopeful can put up $350,000 0f his own money without triggering the higher donation limit for his opponents. So far, Wiviott has come closest to breaking the barrier, donating $325,000 to his own campaign. If he goes over, his House foes could start collecting $6900 in individual donations. Teague has given himself $200,000. Cervantes has not said how much of his family's agricultural based wealth, if any, will be used for in his campaign.

The catch, of course, is the ability of the rich candidates' foes to get their donors to give all that extra money. There is also another provision in the law worth noting. It says, "The national and State party committees may make unlimited coordinated expenditures on behalf of the candidate" when the millionaires' amendment kicks in. That would be more applicable in a general election than in a contested primary where parties traditionally stay on the sidelines.

The millionaires' amendment could slow down our well-to-do contenders, but in the end would not hold them back from writing a huge check if that's what they felt it would take to put them over the top. The law is not that punitive. Also, a rich candidate can always wait until the final weeks to spend his money, giving his opponent less time in which to solicit the bigger donations to make up the difference.


David King, 61, has been a mainstay on the state political scene and by all accounts a bright guy, but he has a problem and some of his supporters are saying he needs to get help or get out of public life. The GOP Public Regulation Commissioner was found to have sexually harassed a woman at the PRC and $800,000 was awarded to her. King faced similar circumstances in the early 90's while State Treasurer and the state spent $305,000 to settle three sexual-harassment claims against him. In the latest case, taxpayers are on the hook for $140,000 of the $800,000. Is it time for King to come clean, or clean out?...

Some Sandia Labs employees will be joining their brethern from Los Alamos Labs in cleaning out their desks this holiday season, but the Grinch will not be as big a presence at the ABQ nuclear facility as he will be at LANL. Officials say 40 to 80 Sandia workers will be out because of federal budget cuts, while 500 to 750 at Los Alamos will get layoff coal in their stockings....Las Cruces area State Senator Mary Kay Papen is not ready for a layoff. The Democratic lawmaker says: " It probably will not get me any brownie points but I am 75, feel 50 and am in perfect health.." Papen says she will seek a third four year term next year.

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