Monday, February 11, 2008

Capitol Food Fight As Session Nears End; Di & Senate At Odds With Bill, Plus: Major Political Week Ahead; Prez Vote Count & Candidate Filings 

Bill & Di in Happy Times
Right on schedule, an end of session food fight has broken out between Big Bill and the state Senate. This year the twist on this annual rite is the involvement of Light Guv Diane Denish who split with the Fourth Floor, winning kudos from senators and jeers from Big Bill staff chief James Jimenez. We get the gooey details from the AP. And tales of bizarre political behavior from the New Mexican.

The squabble centers on delivery of bills to the Guv's office that are passed by the lawmakers. Saturday night, with the Guv's office shut down, Lady Di at the request of the senate, accepted on behalf of the Guv a budget bill and the pork bill--that's the one that provides all that nifty construction money to each legislators district. The key point being this: "If the Legislature gets bills to the governor before the last three days of the session...he must either sign or veto them while lawmakers are still at the Capitol—giving them an opportunity to override any vetoes."

Big Bill wants to use the threat of pork vetoes as leverage to put pressure on lawmakers to pass his health care plan. But if he has to sign or veto the money bills before lawmakers adjourn Thursday at noon, there is no leverage because they would have a shot at overriding any vetoes.

The Light Guv is seeking the 2010 Dem Guv nomination and some insiders were reading her favor to the senators as an assertion of independence from Big Bill who they say has been out of sorts ever since getting thrashed in the Dem prez race.

We’re told the Guv was at the UNM Lobo basketball game when the Saturday Night Rebellion occurred. Sen. John Arthur Smith is braying about a "crisis" and going to court against the Guv if he refuses to accept the Saturday bill delivery. Jimenez is parsing and saying the Light Guv had no power to accept the bills in question.

Attorney General Gary King will try to settle the squabble. He told me late last night from the capitol where he was attending a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting that his staff would research what constitutes the Guv "accepting" a bill from lawmakers.

Advice from the Alligators? Bill, you're a bit of a lame-duck with a pissy Legislature and press. Look for the compromise. Senators, you're tired and you're all up for re-election. Breathe deep and get us out of this mess. Lady Di, you did the Senate a favor and got some brownie points but don't push it. There's plenty of time left before 2010.

And to those of you who want longer legislative sessions--Fugghedaboudit!


This will be yet another eventful political week for New Mexico, and not just because the Legislature is in its final stretch. Candidates for the three NM congressional seats--all with no incumbents--will file their candidacy papers Tuesday. Will we get some first round drop outs? Also, we should--and we emphasize should---have a final tally on who took the popular vote in last week's troubled Democratic Presidential Caucus.

There are 11 candidates--seven R's and four Dems--seeking the southern Congressional seat. At least five Dems and two R's say they are seeking the ABQ seat and at least five Dems and two R's say they are running for the Northern seat. All of these candidates will have to submit petition signatures Tuesday---numbering in the hundreds--to make their candidacies valid. Political watchers will be looking to the Secretary of State's office Tuesday at 5 p.m. to see who is really in.

A major winnowing of the congressional hopefuls could occur at the mid-March pre-primary conventions, or maybe not. Legislation to make it easier to get on the June primary ballot has sailed through the House and Senate, but final versions still need approval before heading to Big Bill. This being the final week of a frenzied 30 day session, anything can happen. The measure would allow candidates who do not garner 20% of the delegates at their party's pre-primary to gather additional petition signatures to make the ballot. If the bill makes it through, prepare for a large number of candidates. If it doesn't pass, we will still be dealing with uncertainty for a while. Candidate Don Wiviott has a court suit to resinstate the petition option.

Back at the Roundhouse, as our Alligators predicted, major ethics legislation appears dead. Are the ethics lobbyists asking for too much at once? That's a complaint we're hearing. Critics say after years of failure, ethics advocates should push for one big ethics bill a year, not big ethics packages. They argue if you get one piece of the pie each year, after a couple of years you would have a whole pie. Perhaps the donors to Common Cause will think about that in light of yet another unsuccessful session.


The NM Democratic Party says volunteers have now pronounced valid 2,778 of the over 17,000 provisional ballots they are sorting through from last week's presidential caucus. They aren't saying how many ballots are left to examine, but you can bet it's a bunch. Hillary Leads Obama by 1,123 in the popular votes. After all the provisionals are examined for validity, the good ones will be counted. The party says it is double-checking the voter lists as they examine the provisionals this week because other verification requirements for provisionals have been eased. It's not letting Dems "vote early and vote often" but these prez campaigns want this deal done thus the liberal rules.


After Tuesday's election disaster, Lieutenant Governor Denish, a former NM Democratic Party Chair, says she thinks it's time for the state party to consider having a full-time paid chairman. That's a good place to start the conversation, but we see it differently. What the party really needs--to be crass about it--is rich people to serve as chair. Why? Because current Chair Brian Colon says the lack of money was the big reason why the party did not have more voting sites and materials for the election. The party held back spending on those items as well as consultants because he did not have the cash to pay for them.

The chief job of a party chairman is to raise money. Rich people are good at raising money from their rich friends. It's a formula that has been followed for years in both parties. Denish, from a wealthy family, is one example. From the old days, we had Hobbs oilman Ben Alexander. More recently, we had monied-up Jamie Koch and John Wertheim, whose family has significant wealth. On the R side, current GOP Chairman Allen Weh is far from the poorhouse. The same goes for earlier GOP chairs John Dendahl, Ramsay Gorham and Edward Lujan.

Colòn, an attorney, is not wealthy and has to work for a living. That doesn't necessarily make him a bad chairman; it just makes him deficient in the #1 chore of the chair--to keep the money flowing and to work on party affairs without worrying about his own wallet. There is already a full-time paid executive director at Dem and R headquarters. Paying for a full-time chairman is unlikely to improve fund-raising performance. It is a fact that having a well-established politico with personal money will.

Speaking of money, Denish says she will contribute some of her campaign funds to the party to pay for the extended caucus vote count. Insiders say she, Governor Richardson and Senator Bingaman are each donating $5,000 each to help replenish party coffers.


Thanks to ABQ The Magazine and contributor Peter St. Cyr for the cool write-up in the February issue, and photog Liz Lopez who used all that digital magic to make us look presentable to polite company. An excerpt: "Monahan runs the state’s go-to political blog, “New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan.” And, as his busy schedule shows, a day in the life of this blogger is anything but boring..."

As you can see, I was caught with one of my Alligators. The magazine, as they say, is currently available at newstands everywhere.

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