Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lame Duck Becomes Roaring Lion; Richardson Rises As Session Nears End, Plus: First Poll In Northern Congress Race 

The lame duck turned into a nasty lion Wednesday, taking control of the Roundhouse through a stroke of serendipity, pure persistence and pitting the House and Senate against one another. After looking like his back was put up against the wall by the state Senate, Governor Richardson now looks to have the Senate where he wants them--over a pork barrel.

The zany events of the final hours of the 30 day legislative session is the stuff of political folklore. Suffice it to say, when the back and forth on the $348 million capital outlay bill was over, a measure was nearing the Fourth Floor and the "lame duck" Governor had been dispatched, replaced by a roaring lion. Neither the House or Senate has the stomach to try to override Bill's veto of the original capital outlay bill, despite the drumbeat in the press that they had had enough of the Guv's dictatorial ways.

The final pork bill is expected to pass the House before the scheduled noon adjournment. Big Bill will then have 20 days to decide what projects, if any, to veto. He is not mad at House members, so his focus will be on the Senate. Will he now be able to persuade them to come back into a special session and take up his health care bill or else see their pork eviscerated by his veto pen? Or, will the Senate barons tell him to take a trip to Hades, forego their pork and face voters later this year empty-handed?

The Senate recessed shortly before midnight. They will meet again at 9 a.m. to take one final look at whether to consider the Guv's healthcare bill.

While the Guv appears to be positioned to win a short-term victory, his long-term relationship with the Senators of his own party has been further damaged this session. That may be the bigger story of Legislature 2008.

By the way, when asked where the Governor was as he conducted a news conference on his behalf Wednesday afternoon, Big Bill staff chief James Jimenez said he didn't know. Well, the Alligators know. They said he was headed for the World Extreme Cagefighting event at Santa Ana Star Center. Cagefighting when you have the Legislature to fight with? Some guys can't get enough!

We'll update the fast-breaking events as they unfold today. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn at noon, so check back in.


The first poll out in the race for the Democratic nomination for the northern NM Congressional seat confirms what observers have been saying: Ben Lujan begins the campaign with a commanding lead and the race appears to be his to lose.

According to the survey paid for by Lujan's campaign and conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Lujan, son of NM House Speaker Ben Lujan, garners 35% of the vote in a seven way contest. His closest challenger is Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya who gets 9%. Santa Fe developer Don Wiviott is third with 6%. Other candidates and their percentages: Jon Adams--4%; Bennie Shendo--4%; Derrith Watchman-Moore (who is not running) 3%; and attorney Rudy Martin--2%. Over a third of the electorate is undecided so there is still a chance for someone to make a move on Lujan.

The polling firm says its findings are based on a survey of 504 likely Democratic primary voters conducted January 27-30th. The survey is subject to a margin of error of 4.4 percent. The polling memo I have does not list the specific question asked. It says he begins the race "with a solid lead."

Lujan's poll is circulating among his supporters, and we expect it will be used to help him raise funds for the race ahead. Wiviott is the only candidate currently with the resources to do a significant media buy. He may start that sooner rather than later after weighing these numbers.


We omitted Dem Jon Adams, a former NM assistant attorney general, in our listing of all the candidates who filed for Congress Tuesday. He has been traveling the northern district and even said he spotted a drunk driver recently and had him arrested. Maybe Jon will look at the NM State Police if he doesn't make it to Congress.


There's good news and bad news for southern NM Dem congressional candidate Harry Teague. The good news is that his foes are concerned enough about him to fire an early shot; the bad news is the shot was indeed fired.

Teague, a leading Democratic contender for the U.S. House seat representing southern New Mexico, has been accused in a federal civil rights lawsuit of ignoring a sexual harassment complaint leveled against a top manager in one of Teague's companies in Hobbs.

Teague was not personally charged with harassment, but he and other private businessmen seeking the congressional seats can expect their business records to come under scrutiny.


Another Dem seeking that southern seat, Frank McKinnon, e-mails with this inquiry:

"I have been reading your web site since you first mentioned my name as a candidate for CD2. I am curious as to where you have been receiving your information about who is leading in this race. It is a much different picture than what I have been seeing across District 2, but I am open minded and seeking your sources of information."

Let me take a stab at it. Teague has put up over $200,000 of his own cash and raised another $200k--mainly from oil and gas interests. That is nearly double the funds of his closest rival, Bill McCamley, making Teague far and away the best financed candidate. For better or worse, that is very often an indication of who will be the ultimate winner. Besides the cash, Teague has been twice elected to the Lea County Commission and served as its chairman; he has secured the public backing of the state's #2 Democrat, Light Guv Diane Denish, who can push votes his way--and he is the most prominent conservative-moderate Dem in a conservative southern district. Also, we see Dem Al Kissling splitting votes with McCamley in their home county of Dona Ana. Teague has no one poaching on his SE territory. That's why he is the frontrunner in the race for the nomination and the early target of his rivals.

Thanks for the note, Frank. Frontrunner status isn't written in stone. It can change, and if it does for us in this race, we'll be quick to the rewrite desk.


And Alysha Greer Smith, the daughter of southern NM GOP congressional candidate Earl Greer, also hit the e-mail box after reading Wednesday's blog:

Joe wrote: "Can Greer get over his losses for the state GOP chairmanship as well as a PRC seat?" As far as my dad's "losses," if you want to call them that, he is in great company with Congressman Joe Skeen, President Ronald Reagan, and President Abraham Lincoln. All had to "overcome" losses before they rose to greatness.

Thanks, Alysha. But we have to call a loss a loss. Who was the lady who said, "A rose is a rose is a rose...?" Well, a loss is a loss is a loss. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

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