Monday, February 18, 2008

New Clash Between Bill & Di; This Time Over Health Care Measure, And: Special Session Debated, Plus: Wilson Fires At Pearce During GOP Meeting 

Di & Bill Face-off
Tempers are still as hot as a freshly fired pistol following the rancorous 30 day session of the NM Legislature. Fresh finger-pointing has broken out between Governor Richardson and Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish, with the Guv's inner circle charging that the state's #2 hid out during the health care debate. They also charged that she got too cozy with senators who opposed the Guv's controversial and complicated plan.

"She can't stand up for health care, and she wants to be governor?" fired one sniper under the cover of anonymity. The Di detractors accuse her of playing footsie with Senate powerhouse Tim Jennings and other conservative southerners to curry favor with them to enhance her 2010 run for Guv. The whispering circuit on this is loud enough that Lady Di chose to answer the anonymous charges on the record.

"...I worked hard and used the public mike as often as possible..to advocate for Health Solutions and to build public understanding that having 400,000 uninsured New Mexicans is bad for our economy...It was the common thread in all my public appearances...It became increasingly clear that consensus was going to be difficult...The chairman of Senate Finance voiced concern about the revenue picture...

"The Governor's bill was watered down dramatically on the House side and came to the Senate just days before the end of the session...A full hearing for the amended bill never happened. In the meantime, the Governor threatened a veto based on the Health Care Authority revisions in the bill. All of this made progress difficult...

"As to Senator Jennings and the sad remark about footsie--Senator Jennings did a remarkable job in the face of the enormous personal challenge of his wife's illness. (Jennings' wife, Patty, is stricken with cancer) I am his friend and proud of it. Our fathers were friends and that has passed to the next generation.,..but I don't agree with him on every issue nor he with me."

The deep freeze in the Bill-Di relationship harkens back to the famous split between Governor Bruce King and Lt. Gov. Casey Luna in the early 90's. In '94, Casey actually ran against Bruce in the Democratic primary. He lost, but it contributed to King's defeat in the fall. Big Bill is in his final term so that can't happen this time.

Denish isn't about to lay down on the tracks for a piece of legislation that had train-wreck written all over it, but she can't risk straying too far from the Guv's stable. He is, as they say, still the man. Not having a strong primary opponent in 2010 is a luxury Di would be blessed to keep.


Meanwhile, the noggin scratching continues on what, if anything, Big Bill has up his sleeve if and when he calls a special session of the Legislature to focus solely on his failed health care reform package. Walt Rubel of the Las Cruces Sun-News has the conventional wisdom:

Richardson will call a special session in a couple of weeks, at which time the House will come in and dutifully pass the same bill that it just approved this session. The Senate will come in, vote to sine die and go home. In the past, the process would have repeated itself a couple of times before the Senate finally relented and gave Richardson some kind of face-saving compromise. This time, I'm not sure that he even gets that.

The Guv says he will seek exactly the same plan that failed in the regular session. Will he really stick with that position? The talk has been of a special before March 5th. That's when the Guv has to act on the giant capital outlay package. The thinking being that he could use a veto threat of that bill while lawmakers deliberated. But he could still retain that leverage even if he chose to hold a special session in June following the primary election. Under that scenario, he could veto the capital outlay package before March 5th, but cut a deal with lawmakers to pass a new one at the June special in tandem with a health care deal.

Or how about this: No special and the Guv allows things to cool down until the '09 sixty day session. Don't rule it out. If Richardson thinks he has painted himself in the corner, he won't let the paint dry. There are various face-saving ways he could back out of a special and move the conversation to more agreeable topics. As the late Ernie Mills would say: Don't say we didn't tell you.


Big Bill is one of those much talked about "superdelegates" to the Dem national convention. With the Obama-Clinton race so tight, there has been much speculation that these delegates--NM has 12 of them--could ultimately decide the Dem nomination. Who is Bill supporting? He is not saying, but from what he told the Sunday New York Times, it is clear his vote is tipping toward Hillary:

Richardson, in an interview, would not say whom he would vote for, but he clearly sided with Mr. Obama in the philosophical debate over how super delegates should decide how to vote.

“It should reflect the vote of my state, it should represent the vote of my constituency,” he said. “It shouldn’t be because you’re a fund-raiser or a big-shot delegate. Superdelegates should reflect their state or constituency. If super delegates decide this nomination, it’s going to look like big-shot politicians and fat-cats decided who should be president.”

But if Mr. Richardson sides with Mr. Obama on what should drive the decision of the super delegates, that position would seem to leave him more likely to become a Clinton superdelegate: Mrs. Clinton won New Mexico by a slight margin.

As for the other New Mexico supers, here is the lowdown on them.


Weekend political action as Bernalillo and Sandoval county Republicans held meetings to pick delegates to the statewide mid-March pre-primary convention. All eyes were on US Senate candidates Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce. Our GOP Alligators report there was some good news for each. Heather, teaming with ABQ GOP Congressional candidate Darren White who is seeking the seat she is giving up to pursue the Senate seat, scored a big win in the Bernalillo delegate count. Pearce was unable to dent her in her home base. Meanwhile, Pearce picked up more delegates than expected in neighboring, but much smaller Sandoval county.

The only poll we've seen is a mid-January survey that had Steve at 38% and Heather at 33%, but the poll's margin of error was enough to make the race dead even. Wilson was acting like the underdog in her Sunday speech before several hundred GOP delegates at the ABQ Marriott. Wilson attacked Pearce for allegedly supporting the proposal to mothball Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis. The Pearce campaign points out there were high profile news releases showing the state's entire congressional delegation supported converting Cannon to a new mission, and that's what was approved. KOAT-TV news reported Pearce chose not to fire any volleys at Heather.

The ABQ US House primary between Sheriff White and ABQ GOP Senator Joe Carraro was also on the weekend agenda. White is perceived to have a wide lead. Talk at the Marriott was whether Carraro will be able to win the required 20% of the delegates at the March pre-primary to get on the June ballot. If he doesn't, he would have to gather additional petition signatures. One bit of good news for Carraro: Big Bill is expected to sign legislation that lets candidates who fail to get 20% of the delegates at their pre-primaries to gather additional signatures to get on the ballot. The law had been off the books for a year.


Did we say "Good Riddons," instead of the correct, "Good Riddance!" Through the marvels of digital correction that error has been banished from the Friday blog. Now, if we only could only do that with our unwritten errors.

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