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Friday, February 02, 2007

Radio Don Unleashed On Big Bill; Imus Rips Guv And His Prez Staff; Tells Him: "Besa Mi Culo!" Now It's Getting Fun 

Don Imus
A "fat bastard" with an "idiotic" staff? Say what? There were a lot of double takes across our Enchanted Land as word spread of the tongue lashing administered to Big Bill Richardson by Don Imus on his national radio and MSNBC TV shows Thursday morning. Imus came uncorked when, according to Imus, the Guv canceled an appearance on his show and asked Imus to apologize for previous comments he had made. It was all downhill from there as Richardson, his staff and nascent candidacy were all scorched shock-jock style:

"That moron...Bill Richardson...That idiotic, yuppie, not ready for prime time staff of his..He was going to come on today. He wanted me to apologize...Me apologize? You get that fat bastard on here and let him apologize. If Bill Richardson is going to run for President he is going to to have to get rid of the staff he has...I actually got a phone message from his idiot communications director. This moron calls me and wants me to call him back. Me, call him back to discuss this issue! You're not talking to some nitwit at some radio station in Farmington, you idiot!

"The fat sissy canceled. Get another staff, Bill, if you are going to run for president...They jerked around and the fat Governor wants me to apologize? These folks are not ready to play...This is New York; this is the big stage. This is not Santa Fe...Get serious..."

And in a final assault, the radio host and his crew accosted the Guv in Spanish: "How about if I whip your fat ass, Richardson? Besa mi culo!" (Kiss my ass.)

You can listen to Imus's comments here. And you can see the video here. These are partial excerpts of the Imus rant.

INSIDE IMUS
Big Bill
A Richardson sympathizer, while acknowledging that demanding an apology from Imus was a misstep, rose to the defense of the Guv who he said was maliciously maligned by the microphone master.

"Imus is an old booze hound trying to stoke his ratings again. He does it at the expense of the dignity of others. In the big picture, he is not much of a factor, but no one wants to tell him," rebutted the Guv backer.

Maybe, but Imus, who lost the sauce and the coke years ago, is avidly listened to by the D.C. power brokers as well as a healthy dose of liberals who will be voting in the Dem prez primaries. Industry reports say his overall listenership has taken some hits of late, but he still reaches millions. Sounds like a factor to us.

The Imus radio program has only one affiliate in NM--610 AM in Albuquerque. Unlike most syndicated radio programs, stations must put up a hefty penny to access Imus which limits the number of affiliates but keeps profits healthy. The 66 year old Imus, who has grown more crusty and irritable with age, has beaten the odds by staying on the air in a media world geared toward the 25-54 demographic. He is amply rewarded with industry articles pegging his take-down at over $7 million a year.

The Imus diatribe came after weeks of adoring press notices for Big Bill in New Mexico and served as a rude reminder that the national stage, as Imus said, is a much different arena. Still, repeatedly calling the Guv "fat" seemed juvenile. Hasn't Don noticed the new and diet-improved version of our White House Hopeful?

BEHIND THE BLAST

Imus is known for roasting politicos and then kissing and making up with them. (NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici has been a frequent guest as has Big Bill.) Imus's ire has been sparked by his efforts to get a community center built in Ribera NM where he and his wife run a ranch for children afflicted with cancer and other serious diseases. Imus claims Richardson has "jerked around" on the matter. Comments like that had the Guv's staff asking for an apology before he would again appear on the broadcasts.

(The Imus ranch had some controversy of its own not long ago).

The Imus baptism by fire may actually do the Guv and his staff some good, reminding them that thin skin gets roasted quickly in the national theatre; that you are dealing with people who are not intimidated by any politician and who can send you back to Pasadena before you know what hits you. The Governor knows all this having dealt with Imus for years, but his ego, as it does all of us at one time or another, may have gotten the best of him. If nothing else, the tirade could have Big Bill brushing up on his renowned negotiating skills as he works to bring the grumpy media personality back into the fold. Look for a Richardson initiated make-up session soon.

GOVERNOR KING IN HOSPITAL

Former NM Governor Bruce King fell victim to the recent icy weather, injuring himself at his ranch. The AP reports:

Former Gov. Bruce King had surgery to have a pin put in after breaking his hip in a fall at his Stanley ranch, his son, Bill King, said Thursday. "He slipped on the ice and fell," Bill King said. "He was out feeding the cats and it was kind of icy yesterday."

Bruce King, 82, was admitted to Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque on Wednesday. He was listed in good condition Thursday. "I think he's doing fine," his son said. "I talked to him this morning on the phone. He sounded good."

"He's tough," Bill King added.

Keep me posted. Send your news and comments via the email at the top of the page. I'm Joe Monahan, blogging and reporting for you from Albuquerque.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Likely New Dem Party Chair Scored For Lobbying; Olguin Responds, Plus: Waiting on The Feds For Two Big Stories, And: My Bottom Lines 

The coast appears clear for Michael Olguin to become the next chairman of the New Mexico Democratic Party, but some behind the scenes sniping is going on over Olguin's role as a lobbyist, particularly for the payday loan industry, and some foes have talked of coming up with an alternative candidate. So far, there have been no takers and Olguin is the odds-on favorite to take the leadership role when the election is held April 28th.

Olguin, 57, told me he had not heard of the concerns over his lobbying role until we rang him up at the Roundhouse Wednesday (Hey, we love spreading good news.) and while not brushing them off, he did not commit to abandoning lobbying if he assumed the chairmanship.

"If I were chairman, I would probably re-examine it to make sure there is no conflict-of-interest." He explained.

Olguin is a veteran power player, having served in the New Mexico House from Socorro from '84 to '98, garnering a reputation as a well-liked and effective lawmaker who capped his career as House Majority Leader. He was a loyal lieutenant to then-Speaker Raymond Sanchez. If Olguin had not lost his seat in '98 to Republican Don Tripp, he might have had a shot at leading the House. Instead, his ouster was a signal that the roof would also soon cave in on Sanchez who two years later lost his seat and the speakership .

THE OLGUIN FILE

While Olguin is taking hits over his lobbying, his main livelihood is his Socorro insurance business which he's had for 18 years. I first met him in the late 70's when he was an aide to the late NM Democratic Congressman Harold Runnels and I was working in D.C. For GOP Rep. Manuel Lujan. He says that his "political background and knowledge of the process" qualify him to succeed attorney John Wertheim as party leader.

"Fund-raising and party building are the crucial roles of a chairman," said Olguin who added that his history with the Legislature would also be an asset.

The lobbying issue is a touchy one because it was a major reason for the divisions that tore the NM GOP apart in recent years. When a faction of the party advocated legalizing drugs, lawyer-lobbyist Mickey Barnett, also then the NM GOP National Committeeman, was a paid lobbyist for the drug cause which was opposed by most Republicans. His faction also fielded primary candidates against fellow Republicans who his critics said would favor Barnett's lobbying clients. Critics of Olguin, while not fearing a division on that scale, nevertheless believe Olguin should follow the example of Wertheim and another previous chair, Light Guv Diane Denish, and not lobby while serving as party leader.

As for the titular head of the party, Olguin, who has served the last four years as chair of the Socorro county D's, says he has met with Governor Richardson and describes him "as supportive of my efforts." The Guv has also run up against critics of the payday loan industry who claim he has been too cozy with the business. Olguin is lobbying during the current session on a payday loan bill sponsored by Rep. Patricia Lundstrom. Efforts to get the bill passed last year failed and are being fought again this time by State Sen. Bernadette Sanchez who calls the measure "an industry bill."

HIS SECOND ACT

It's been a while since a native Hispanic New Mexican has been party chair and that is enlisting support for Olguin. "I am glad to see him emerge. I don't think the lobbying issue has any legs. I would be pleased to see a party chair who understands business as well as politics," commented Sisto Abeyta, a young Dem from ABQ's South Valley who is active in party affairs.

Olguin takes the criticism in stride acknowledging that "when you stick your head out there" there are going to be hits. It is his practiced political personality that seems to win him the most support. "He is well-liked, glib, knows the issues and understands party politics as well as anyone. He can also carry the ball for us in the media," analyzed one party veteran.

It appears Olguin will have a chance to prove the merit of those statements. Written off as "a could have been" after losing his House seat and a shot at the speakership, he now prepares for a rare second act on the stage of La Politica. He is already being reminded that there, the lights always shine brightly.

WAITING ON THE FEDS
ABQ Federal court
Still no official announcement on who will be the next U.S. attorney for New Mexico. While initial insider betting was heavy on Jim Bibb, the tide has now turned to ABQ attorney Charles Peifer. NM GOP Senator Domenici has submitted four names to the White House to replace David Iglesias. Domenici chief of staff Bell said don't expect the job to be a "political plum," a statement read as a zing against Bibb, who ran for attorney general last year as well as at Iglesias who won the job after also running for state attorney general, but whose performance is known to have disappointed Domenici. Peifer, 46, if he does get the job, is not expected to take over for several months as he closes out private law business. All this is courtesy of the legal beagles who are being kept busy on this beat.

And what about federal indictments in the investigation of the construction of two Bernalillo county courthouses? The Alligators pinpointed the end of January as D-Day for those, but nothing has been announced yet. The indictments are still expected, but you are dealing in "government time." And maybe the reports that the indictments would come made the decision makers take another look at the calendar.

SPACEPORT DEBATE II

Wednesday's blog noting that not all in Dona Ana county are happy about the prospect of paying an additional quarter cent in gross receipts taxes to finance the Big Bill spaceport, drew response from politico Josh Geise who took took note of pickets that recently greeted the Guv in Las Cruces:

"The state has already appropriated $100 million and will do another $25 million. Like most major infrastructure projects the local communities are asked to contribute matching funds to show local support. It makes no sense to fund the entire project with state funds when the communities up north will see little benefit.

"The "picketers"--if you can call one guy and his children picketers--are upset because they'd like to see the money go to basic services. They're missing the point of economic development. When the spaceport begins operation the tax base of Dona Ana county is going to expand providing better healthcare, education and other basic services." Argued Geise.

The tax election will likely be held in early April. It could be spirited as some will counter argue that the spaceport is akin to big road and other projects that may mainly benefit one area of the state, but a special tax is not levied on those living near the road.

Interesting sidelight: Governor Richardson late Wednesday announced he will "highlight his support for several multi-million dollar infrastructure projects in Southern Dona Ana County during a press conference Thursday in Las Cruces."

It seems Big Bill is already campaigning for an expected April tax vote.

NOT ALL LOVE FOR LYNDA

The day State Senator Leonard Tsosie resigned the insiders pinpointed Lynda Lovejoy as the obvious replacement for the Native American leader. Wednesday Big Bill proved them right as he named Lovejoy, a former member of the state House as well as the Public Regulation Commission, to the Tsosie vacancy. Last year Lovejoy unsuccessfully sought the chairmanship of the Navajo Nation in an election at which Tsosie was elected to the Navajo Nation Council. This northwest NM senate seat is designed for Indian Country. Some wanted a Pueblo Indian to take the position which would have been a first in state history, but we got another first in that Lovejoy is the first Native American woman to serve in the Legislature's upper chamber.

Lovejoy is not getting any love, however, from liberals who resent her comments on abortion and homosexuality during her recent presidential run and which were circulated against her on the Net. Here's how the New Times of Phoenix wrote her up: "I''m anti-abortion on an individual basis," she stammered, with more umms and ahhs than The Bird has room to reproduce. "But I know families whose children have gone through abortion . . . but personally I would not tolerate it except when a person doesn't have a choice."

Safe enough answer, despite the Navajo pol's near incoherence. But her remarks on homosexual rights made her sound like some 19th-century eugenicist.

"I feel the same way about that as I feel about abortion," spat Lovejoy. "I know we are all . . . some of our children are born with physical impairments and it's not the baby's fault. That person is special. I feel the same way about sexual orientation."

Welcome back, Lynda. But we don't think you will be getting too many invites to campaign for Big Bill in those liberal Dem prez primaries. By the way, the annual Indian Day celebration will be celebrated Friday at 8:30 a.m. at the New Mexico Legislature.

JOE'S BOTTOM LINES

Here's a Roundhouse funny on the perennial issue of cockfighting from House Minority Leader Tom Taylor. It looks as if a statewide ban on the controversial activity might actually pass this year and perhaps anticipating it, Taylor comes with a "cock retirement" proposal in the form of a House Memorial. Don't get too cocky if it passes, Tom.

Nothing official yet, but we are hearing that former ABQ Journal reporter Charlotte Balcomb Lane has signed on as the new communications director for the state Republican party. An announcement is expected Monday. The search continues for a new executive director...

See you here tomorrow for the Friday blog. Meantime, send your latest news via email from the link at the top of the page.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Quiet Roundhouse Thus Far; An Update, Plus: The Spaceport Blues? Voters Question Tax, And: The Loneliness Of Emily; We Explain 

Yes, the Legislature is a bust so far, but that's not unusual with just a couple of weeks passed in a 60 day session. Maybe the whole thing will eventually break down into joyous chaos, but there are no signs of it yet. Blogger Steve Terrell has bought a dozen whoopee cushions and will use them to try to sow discord among the solons so he and the other Roundhouse regulars have something controversial to write about.

The new state House Minority Leader, Tom Taylor of Farmington, says sessions like this one where there is a lot of money to spend, are the toughest. Maybe it is for the lawmakers fighting over the pork, but not for the general public. With a surplus of over $700 million, following huge surpluses in the previous three sessions, we have not seen a session painful to the public since Gary Johnson was Governor and he repeatedly used his veto to rein in spending.

A tough session is when there is no money and every imaginable constituency is pleading for help and legislators are forced to make tough calls. Giving a construction pork project $10 million instead of $20 million is not the type of decision that should keep a lawmaker up at night. One wonders whether this current Legislature and Governor will experience a truly tough session, where the stakes are such things as layoffs and adequate healthcare spending. The financial wizards in state government are saying we can expect a lot of volatility in the price of oil and natural gas, but nothing has yet led them to decrease state revenue estimates, so pass that bacon, please.

THEY WANT EVEN MORE

All this begs the question of why the Governor and many legislators are asking the good people of Dona Ana county to raise their taxes to finance a spaceport. The critics are making their voices known, even picketing the Governor when he pushed for the quarter cent gross receipts tax hike at a recent appearance. With over $14 billion in state investment accounts and the aforementioned $700 million state surplus, the administration is being charged with not efficiently prioritizing statewide projects to avoid a tax increase in an era of epic surpluses and for cutting a lousy deal with the billionaire who will be the main tenant for the southern NM project.

They are good questions. While the Done Ana county commission waxes enthusiastic about raising taxes in the low per capita income county and is set to put it to a vote in early February, a considerable number of voters may want some explanations, not just cheerleading.

THE LONELINESS OF EMILY


Is there any columnist, editorial writer, pundit or blogger (except the hate bloggers) who is not genuflecting at the altar of Big Bill's Prez bid? A Governor could not ask for a better kick off from his home-state press, but that near unanimity sparked our contrary streak so we we went searching for at least one NM scribe who still clings to cynicism as their ethos, even when it comes to the mighty popular Governor Bill Richardson.

Inside the Capital columnist Jay Miller came close with this mini-dose of realism: "Right now the first serious female candidate and an inspiring African-American candidate are trumping him (Richardson)."

But in all the media corners of this Enchanted Land I found only one ink-stained wretch (or carpal tunnel afflicted one) who actually threw a pail of cold water on the Big Bill candidacy. It was Emily Esterson writing for New West.

"My prediction is Richardson gets knocked out early but becomes a potential VP candidate fairly fast." So wrote Emily in what has to be one of the loneliest statements in New Mexico media.

Of course, her prediction is more probable than the Guv actually winning the Dem prez nod, but don't worry Bill acolytes, her realism does not appear to be infectious. There's a hometown steamroller out there paving a path for this candidacy and it has what Bill will need in the months ahead--momentum.

RADIO WAVES


The latest radio ratings for the ABQ market hit the streets this week, showing the state's largest station, 50,000 watt news-talker 770 KKOB-AM, has steadied the ship somewhat after experiencing a precipitous 20 percent ratings slip. Arbitron reports it has bounced back to an 8.4 percent in overall listener share, up from its nadir of 6.9 percent. The station, a source of political discussion around much of New Mexico, has taken a less conservative edge in its morning programming with new host Bob Clark.

And if you want more on New Mexico talk radio, pick up the February issue of New Mexico Magazine where you will find my article on that very topic.

Glad to have you with us today. Stop by again soon.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Gay Press Gives Kudos To Big Bill Prez Bid; Plus: Mayor Marty Camp Comments On Di's Guv Poll, And: My Bottom Lines On A NM Tuesday 

The modern Democratic party is a whole made up of many parts, not the least of which is a sizeable gay community, important to the Prez contenders in both votes and its ability to raise money. For Governor Richardson, the initial reaction to his Prez bid in the gay press is quite favorable. In fact, one prominent gay issues writer, Chris Crain, opining in the New York Blade, urges gays to take a close look at Richardson as his record on issues of import to them is actually better than frontrunner Hillary Clinton's.

"Both oppose gay marriage, but when the New Mexico legislature pushed a “Defense of Marriage Act” in 2005, Richardson said he would veto it unless it was enacted alongside civil unions. His position wasn’t just expedient; it was principled and would satisfy any but those with a marriage litmus test. The DOMA effort failed.

Richardson has signed a virtual panoply of gay rights protections, that includes:

* Expanding civil rights laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity (only three other states had done so at the time);
* A hate crimes law that protects both actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity; and
* An executive order extending health insurance and other benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of state employees.

Like Hillary, Bill is on record backing full-fledged civil unions...Richardson opposes state-level constitutional amendments that ban gays from marrying.

"While in Congress, Richardson backed military service for out gay men and lesbians. That means, unlike Hillary, Richardson was anti-Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell when it was very uncool to be." Penned Crain.


Richardson's praise from the gay press isn't going to win him any favors from conservatives or even NM Hispanics who polls show oppose gay civil unions in large numbers. But Bill is done running for governor. Some observers have said his problem is that he is too "centrist" for Dem Prez primaries in which liberals have an outsized say. His positions impacting gays could give him entree to some liberals and their checkbooks who otherwise might not give him a second look.

MARTY AND DI

The Mayor Marty camp was rather sanguine about that poll revealed here Monday showing him lagging Light Guv Diane Denish for the 2010 Dem Guv nod by a margin of 56-38 percent. "We hope she believes those numbers. It is so very early that these polls mean very little. I will say that Marty has more of a record of accomplishment than Diane. He has been an executive and she has not. That will play a role in the campaign," said one Chavez Alligator who also wondered if the poll "pushed" any of its repondents in Diane's directon. We can't tell because the questions have not crossed our desk, just the full memo from her pollster.

KOB-TV's Stu Dyson, following up on our report for the station's 6 p.m news, told us during an interview we did for the broadcast that Marty told him the early start to the campaign "is absurd," but stopping it is not in the cards.

Meanwhile, Dem heavyweight Ed Romero is holding an ABQ fund raiser for Chavez tonight, but Ed is walking the line on the Guv race saying he is not committing to Marty at this time, just doing a favor for a longtime friend. He'll be doing some of that for Big Bill too.

MY BOTTOM LINES

Ex-GOP Chair John Lattauzio, commenting on Monday's blog regarding the departure from New Mexico of another former R chair--John Dendahl--said he has a bone to pick. We said that when Dendahl took over as party chair in '94 he "rebuilt a downtrodden Republican party" to which Lattauzio of Alamogordo, chair prior to Dendahl's ascension, responded:

"John took over a party that was arguably in better shape than at any time in NM history. Under the six years of Edward Lujan followed by the six years of John Lattauzio, Republicans elected two governors, a land commissioner and an attorney general." Wrote Lattauzio.

Lattauzio is taking some credit for Gary Johnson's '94 Guv victory. Dendahl ran against Johnson in that year's R primary. In December of that year, he assumed the chairmanship, so we gave him undue credit for the first Johnsosn victory. Lattauzio says he harbors no animosity towards Dendahl, that he just disagrees with him on drug legalization and other issues... Diane Denish actually has won the Dem nomination for lieutenant governor three times, not twice, as we initially blogged Monday. She won it twice as Big Bill was winning the Dem Guv prize and in 1998 when she was the running mate of the man she now opposes for the Dem Guv primary, ABQ Mayor Chavez.

EVEN MORE BOTTOM LINES

Finally, is the Marty-Diane early start driving other politicos crazy? Maybe. Check this one out from Santa Fe:

"Second term Democrat Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya who ran unopposed in the primary is eyeing Udall's congressional seat when it becomes vacant. The scenario goes like this: A Democrat is elected president in 2008 and selects Udall to be Secretary of Interior to follow in his dad's footsteps. His recent appointment by Pelosi and Company to House Approps proves his stock is rising."

Well, don't hold your breath, Harry. But if Marty and Di can plot years ahead, why shouldn't you?

This is the home of New Mexico politics--www.joemonahan.com--straight-shooting independent news and analysis. It's been that way here since '03. Drop me an email with your news or comments from the link at the top of the page.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Monday, January 29, 2007

Are You Ready For This? First Poll Out In 2010 Dem Guv Battle, Plus: Bad News For Bill's Prez Bid, And: A Bitter Dendahl Exits State; Read Our Comment 

I don't know if we're ready for 2008, never mind 2010, but ambition that has been bottled up since Big Bill Richardson took over the territory is starting to come uncorked and spill onto the coveted stage of La Politica. The latest example is a poll conducted by the state's #2 showing her trouncing her prospective 2010 Dem Guv primary rival, ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez by a whopping 18 points. The survey was done by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research which also does Big Bill's surveys and shows Light Guv Diane Denish getting 56% support of Dem primary voters with Marty lagging with just 38%. (You can go here and click on download for the full poll.)

There is a method to this early madness. The competition for campaign funds is more intense than ever, causing the earliest start ever to a New Mexico Guv campaign. While no one is expecting any candidate to spend the $13.5 million Big Bill did in last year's election, insiders place the price tag for the '10 primary and general at least in the $5 million area. It was that reality that spurred Lady Di to announce her candidacy earlier this month and Marty to follow with his own announcement.

Denish and Chavez have fought over money before. In '98 Marty was the Dem Guv nominee with Diane at his side as the lieutenant governor contender. The two were soundly beaten by incumbent GOP Guv Gary Johnson, and the Alligators report the two Dems ended their political date together bickering over, among other things, campaign money.

POSITIONING HER POLL
Denish
Denish will try to use her poll (606 likely Dem voters. Jan. 15-18. MOE + or-4%) to quash any early enthusiasm for Marty's candidacy, especially among big financial donors. The poll will be difficult for Team Chavez to dismiss as Di has won the Dem Light Guv nomination three times, has been twice elected to the job, and has raised her profile with travel throughout the state and by presiding over the state Senate. The mayor remains popular in ABQ, but persuading the rest of the state that anyone from the Big Duke City is not to be looked upon with suspicion is always a challenge. Also, he has the memory of a scorching loss in '98 of Bernalillo county by some 20,000 votes. He was a popular ex-mayor then, but it didn't rub off when voters considered him for the promotion.

Also hindering Chavez is the specter of Denish's personal wealth. She has independently raised $1 million so far and while she is not prone to opening her own wallet, she could. Those making initial bets on who to give money to know it. Another early trouble sign for the mayor is the polls finding that he runs 10 points behind Denish with Hispanic voters--52% to 42%.

Still, Chavez is not to be underestimated. His historic 2005 third term mayoral win and his ability to command press attention, along with a successful fund raising record, means he will likely be a threat to the finish. There's also the prospect of more candidates joining the fray which could shake-up the race.

Its hard to picture Governor Richardson as a lame-duck, but with Denish and Chavez out of the gate so early, I think I see at least a bandage on one of those webbed feet.

BIG BILL'S BAD NEWS

It has received little coverage in NM, but recent machinations by several big population states to move their Dem Prez primaries up to early February could be the beginning of a death squeeze on the candidacies of lesser known Prez contenders, including New Mexico's favorite son. How will he muster the multi-millions to compete in so many early states? Even an early win in Nevada may not give him time enough to take advantage of any momentum under the likely new calender. The change could also start choking off funds for the lesser knowns as the money mavens start thinking it will indeed be a top tier candidate who will take the big prize.

THE DENOUEMENT OF DENDAHL
John Dendahl
He is going out the same way he came in--slashing and burning. And therein lies the success and failure of a New Mexico political figure who generated acres of newsprint, rebuilt a downtrodden Republican party only to help burn it to the ground and finished his controversial career by losing the governorship by the largest margin in state history. We speak, of course, of John Dendahl, who gave his swan song to the state Saturday by faulting the people of New Mexico for the problem of political corruption and seemingly exonerating himself.

As he prepared to leave his native state for a move to the Denver area to be near family, the 68 year old Dendahl lashed out at Governor Richardson who in November made him an asterisk in the history books. "(Richardson) has expanded what I think is corrupt conduct in government in New Mexico and people of New Mexico have accepted it."

Dendahl managed a meager 31 percent of the vote in November. He is apparently contending that the 69 percent who voted against him were hoodwinked and gave aide and comfort to the corruption that has long haunted the state. But Dendahl's resounding rejection by the electorate was born in the first trimester of his candidacy when he made a series of embarrassing and ill-informed statements. And the manner in which he became the GOP nominee was itself held out as an example of the corruption that the old warrior inveighed against as he looked toward Colorado and a retirement of reflection.

Fellow Republicans who battled Dendahl through the years were not neglectful of his departure, with former GOP chairman Lattauzio, ex-State Rep Greg Payne and Bruce Donisthorpe among those forming the escort committee to the Colorado border. "The spiritual leader of a very dark side of our party is gone. It could very well strengthen the middle at the expense of the extreme," chimed in Donisthorpe. The obvious glee in Democratic quarters needs no reporting.

CONTEXT AND COMMENTARY

As party chair in the 90's Dendahl's bullying tactics earned him a reputation as an "attack dog," but he led the R's on an impressive run, adding GOP seats to the Legislature and helping to twice elect a GOP Governor. But then Dendahl joined with Governor Johnson to support the legalization of drugs. Republican lobbyists joined in and the party was bitterly divided, creating a rift that extends to this day. Or, as Payne puts it: "Drugs did to the Republican party what they do to every family." In the end, the party that Dendahl authored, as well as the national party in Washington, held power for the sake of power and the distribution of favors to a clique of lobbyists and consultants. The voters have made them both pay a price.

A new generation of Republicans, many watching in disdain from the sidelines as their small party tore itself apart, may be awakened by the news of Dendahl's exit and join those working to broaden its appeal, thereby providing a strong check on the party in power and inhibit the corruption that so vexed Dendahl in his valedictory. Surely it is a roadmap for current GOP Chairman Allen Weh as he seeks re-election to another term.

It is a twisted arrogance that leads a politician to blame the people for the woeful performance of their government. It is the politicians who are given immense power and responsibility to carry out the will of those they govern. Failure or success is judged at the polls. John Dendahl certainly won't be the last politician who deflects harsh public judgment by curling up in a cocoon of bitterness. But one man's journey, as filled with pathos as it may be, is only a speck on the big picture continuously painted over the course of over two centuries. In America, it is the people who tell truth to power.

Hasta la vista, John.

This is the home of New Mexico Politics--www.joemonahan.com. Be part of the fun, send your email from the link at the top of the page. Interested in advertising here? Drop me a line.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
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