Friday, February 22, 2008

More Primary Contests Take Shape; Former ABQ DA Schwartz In Hot Race For Judge, Plus: Sen. Shannon Robinson Draws Foe for SE Heights Seat 

Bob Schwartz's electoral luck has been lousy of late, but his political luck took a turn for the better this week when Big Bill appointed him to fill out the remainder of the term of retiring ABQ District Court Judge Mark Macaron. Now the question is can the Democrat turned Republican turned Democrat again reverse his ill fortunes at the polls and win a six year term.

Schwartz, 58, won election to two four year terms as a Republican Bernalillo County District Attorney, but he lost a close contest for ABQ mayor to Marty Chavez in 2001 and Republicans rejected his 2006 bid for attorney general when he failed to make the primary ballot.

Schwartz has served as Chief Prosecutor at the New Mexico Department of Regulations and Licensing since May 2006. Previously he was the Senior Crime and Policy Advisor to Governor Richardson. In the Dem judge contest he will face ABQ Metro Court Judge Ben Chavez in what could be a close contest. Schwartz has major league name ID, but Chavez also has a well-known name. In a 2006 survey by the ABQ Bar Association Chavez rated the highest in satisfaction. His father was a NM Court of Appeals Judge. Also, Hispanics tend to perform well in Dem primaries. Like Schwartz, Chavez is a Big Bill appointee. He was named to Metro Court in 2004 and in 2006 won his own four year term.

Schwartz is a favorite of the ABQ newspapers who relish his quotable quotes, but he has not sold as well with the electorate who have rejected him in favor of more traditional candidates. Has his time finally arrived? Judge contests are low-key affairs and name ID is often the key to winning. Schwartz's second face-off against a Chavez will be a race to watch.

Tim Keller
We're getting a couple of interesting Dem state senate primaries in the ABQ area. The latest is for the SE Heights seat of Shannon Robinson who has served since 1989. Thirty year old Tim Keller, a business planning consultant for government and nonprofits, says he is ready to take on the longtime incumbent because: "I think there is an opportunity for more economic development" in the district. He also cites health care and education as top issues.

Keller, a graduate of St. Pius High School, told me he moved into District 17 in May of last year, but pointed out he is a native of ABQ. The Notre Dame grad has won the endorsement of the liberal Conservation Voters of NM which had some success earlier this year in the Las Cruces city election.

The new contender says following college he spent a couple of years in Cambodia heading up a nonprofit group helping the disadvantaged. In recent years the city's SE has seen a burgeoning Asian population.

Robinson is a crusty old pro who has made foes in the left-wing of the party, but has deep ties to the district which includes the NM Expo. If he is going to run into trouble it will be in the primary with Keller. The district votes solid Dem in general elections.

Other Dem June senate primary battles in the ABQ metro include former ABQ City Councilor Eric Griego challenging State Senator James Taylor for a South Valley seat. Another South Valley contest pits businessman Michael Padilla against veteran Dem Senator Linda Lopez.


Our description of ABQ's red light cameras as "dreaded" brought in dissenting e-mail from readers who said many, if not a majority of the city, actually support the red light cameras because of the crazy driving around here. A non-scientific viewer poll by KOAT-TV does not support that view, but the cameras certainly have support among the politicos. None of the nine city councilors is publicly arguing the cameras should be turned off.

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