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Friday, December 07, 2007

Dropping Anchor; Erika Ruiz Makes It Three in The '07 TV News Shake-Up. Plus: Another Big Foot In South Congress Race; Aubrey Dunn, Jr. Wants In 

Erika Ruiz
The TV news world has been nearly as topsy-turvy as the political one, and it got more so Thursday. Erika Ruiz, longtime anchorwoman at top rated KRQE-TV, is exiting the station after eight years and veteran anchorwoman Dianne Anderson is in line to replace her. And that could be only the beginning. Erika had high-profile trial attorney Sam Bregman issue the press release announcing her departure, signaling that a messy legal battle could be brewing. Ruiz is the third major ABQ TV news anchor to announce their departure in the last month,. KOB-TV's Carla Aragon is retiring and KOAT-TV's Cynthia Izaguirre is headed to Dallas.

"I did not leave voluntarily," the comely anchorwoman told me late Thursday. "Sam is a good friend of mine and I though it appropriate that he put out the release."

Bregman, a former ABQ city councilor who recently defended ex-NM Treasurer Robert Vigil on corruption charges, also said nothing to shoot down the prospect of possible legal action. The go-go trial specialist said he was unable to say whether Ruiz had retained him as her lawyer, but he seemed as eager as a Dalamation riding to the nearest fire.

Insiders speculate there could be legal action or maybe Erika is using the threat of her attorney to win a better exit settlement. The news release said she was leaving to "pursue other opportunities" but she confirmed to me the departure was not her idea.

Ruiz worked under a one year contract which can be renewed or not renewed at the will of the station. She said she was not given a reason for the nonrenewal. Before ABQ, she anchored in El Paso and Dallas. She will leave KRQE around January 10.

Ruiz co-anchored the 5:30 and 10 p.m news with NM TV news dean Dick Knipfing. The pair have been the consistent market leader in the important 10 p.m news derby. The recently released November news ratings show the 10 p.m. race wasn't even close, with KRQE beating #2 KOAT-TV by a large margin. Still, the anchor turmoil could be an opportunity for a ratings shakeup.

Ruiz, 42, has been in the TV news game for 20 years and said she would like to continue. "It's my profession. I have a degree in journalism, and I hope to continue." Meanwhile, she says she will help with her new husband's car buying service. She also has something else to keep her busy. She has five young children, three of her own and two her husband brought to the marriage.

As for Anderson, she joined KRQE last year as morning show anchor after departing KOAT. Station management there did not buy into her proposal that she anchor fewer newscasts so she could spend more time with her family. The media mavens say she has had success with the morning and now has the inside track to take over Ruiz's place. Speculators also mentioned Deanna Sauceda as a possible.

ANOTHER BIG FOOT DROPS
Aubrey Dunn, Jr.
Turn down the lights; the party just got wilder. Another big foot has dropped in the GOP race for the southern Congressional seat with 51 year old Aubrey Dunn, Jr., son of famous ex-NM State Senator Aubrey Dunn, announcing he will join the battle. A campaign spokesman says Dunn will put up $300,000 of his own money to give the candidacy fast traction. My Alligators report Dunn left First Federal Bank in Roswell earlier this year with a payout of nearly $1 million.

Dunn, however, faces the immediate challenge of explaining why he left the Republican party to become an Independent and only recently rejoined it. "He was disillusioned with Republicans who were blowing a hole in the federal deficit in Washington. I don't think that will be held against him," contended the spokesman.

But restaurant chain owner Ed Tinsley who has a ranch in Lincoln County, is already being scored for having a second home in Santa Fe, reigniting the carpetbagger charges that hurt him when he ran for the seat in 2002. It will be no surprise to hear cries of "party switcher" leveled against Dunn who is originally from Alamogordo but now has a ranch in Chaves County. This is his first run at elective office.

Thursday we told you about Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman getting serious about a run, another candidate who can get his hands on the cash needed to get in at this relatively late stage. Also in, but in need of money, is young Bob Cornelius of Lea County.

It took the R's a couple of months to get candidates on the field in the wake of Steve Pearce announcing he would vacate the US House seat to run for the open Senate seat. NM Republican Party Chairman Allen Weh predicted that several serious candidates would eventually emerge. Now even he may be getting more than he bargained for. It should be a fun one.

THE BOTTOM LINES

In blogging about that walkout from Monday's ABQ city council meeting by four councilors, we said the council president gets to name four members to the water board. It is actually three...Others email that the nearly $370 million projected state surplus for next fiscal year that we blogged about Thursday does indeed look like it will be rapidly spent, but money for the RailRunner construction won't be he reason; funds for that, they say, come from "nonrecurring" funds. Before your eyes glaze over, suffice it to say they are spending money like drunken sailors in Santa Fe and that surplus is going to be spent faster than a college freshman can chug a bottle of beer. And if they run low, they are going to go into the reserves to keep the party going.

We wondered aloud Thursday who was Willie Estrada. His name graces the Civic Center in Alamogordo where the first GOP debate for the southern Congressional seat will take place next week. Here's the answer:

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Willie N. Estrada (US54028427), Sergeant, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving a Tank Commander with 245th Medium Tank Battalion, 45th Infantry Division. Sergeant Estrada distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces in the vicinity of Bongowol, Korea, on the night of 21 September 1952.

Estrada died in that incident. Thanks to Floyd Vasquez, PR man for the NM Department of Veterans Services, for the info, as well as others who brought us up to date.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
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