Monday, June 16, 2008

Inside The GOP: Weekend Confab Generates Story Lines For Campaign '08, Plus: McCain Names NM Director With A Past, And: Perlman Out At City Hall; Why? 

No upset this time. With Steve Pearce laying low, ABQ attorney Pat Rogers, a prominent backer of Heather Wilson and an ally of the current leadership of the NM Republican Party, was easily elected to a four year term Saturday as NM's Republican National Committeeman. Rogers defeated ABQ businessman and write-in candidate Anthony Contri on a vote of 205 to 130 at the Las Cruces meeting where NM delegates to the GOP national convention were also selected.

Four years ago it was a different story when George Buffett ousted lawyer/lobbyist and Rogers ally Mickey Barnett from the committeeman slot, arguing successfully that he thought it was wrong for a lobbyist to be a party official.

There was some grumbling among Pearce supporters that the southern NM congressman did not get more involved in the committeeman contest and start to take control of the state GOP. But Pearce, who had a primary fight to the finish with Wilson, was not prepared to wade into a nest of political vipers and risk losing face and political capital as he prepares his underdog US Senate campaign against Dem nominee Tom Udall.


Being the Senate nominee entitles Pearce to make a play to take command of the state party, but circumstances limit his power. He hopes that Wilson and Senator Domenici acolytes and NM party chair Allen Weh are sincere in their pledges to unify the party behind him, but there are questions. For example, on Friday the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, John Ensign, seemed to consign Pearce's candidacy to the ash heap. The Wall Street Journal reported: "Asked if the NRSC was mulling walking away from these two races to focus resources elsewhere, Ensign was noncommittal, but added, “You don’t waste money on races that don’t need it or you can’t win.”

A spokeswoman later said Ensign “by no means suggested that he wouldn’t put money into NM (the quote was taken out of context)–this race is one of our top priorities..."

But the damage was done, demonstrating that party top siders still rue Wilson’s loss, perhaps making it more difficult for Pearce to raise the millions needed to keep the race competitive.

KOB-TV's Stuart Dysion and I were on the Friday night Pearce campaign beat tracking the Ensign controversy.


A subplot to state GOP politics is the future of ABQ Congresswoman Heather Wilson. A new twist was offered at that Las Cruces confab--talk that Wilson, 47, could emerge as a contender for the 2010 GOP Guv nomination. But Pearce backers see him as the leading contender for the Guv nod if he loses his Senate bid. Wilson seems likely to cast about for one of those high-paying lobbying or consulting gigs that seem to be plentiful for ex-members of Congress. But what if Pearce were to score the upset and take the US senate seat? Would that put Wilson in a position to purse the Guv nod? That is probably the only circumstance in which it makes much sense.


It appears John McCain has picked a political lightning rod to be his coordinator for his NM prez campaign. Word was circulating at the Las Cruces convention that former NM GOP executive director Marta Kramer has been hired by the Arizona senator to oversee the campaign in this critical swing state. That brought out both Dem and Republican Alligators who noted that Kramer was involved in a 2006 campaign controversy involving Dem African American State Treasurer candidate James B. Lewis that will no doubt get renewed scrutiny as the Dems nominate the first African American prez nominee in Barack Obama.

In October '06 Demesia Padilla, Lewis’s GOP Treasurer rival, put out a campaign mailer portraying Lewis as a puppet of Dem Guv Bill Richardson, replete with puppet strings and a color tone that prompted cries that the race card was being played. Kramer was front and center defending the offending piece of literature which is pictured here. The quote that stole the headlines was when Kramer blurted out: “Political caricature is a time-honored tradition...accusing a Hispanic woman of being racist is ridiculous."

But racism is not confined to a particular ethnic group and Kramer took multiple hits for the comments and for that controversial lit piece. She may take some more heat for it as the McCain-Obama match heats up.

Bruce Perlman
ABQ City Hall insiders are not surprised by the announced departure of Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Perlman. They point out that two and half years at the side of a very demanding Mayor Marty is no small feat. There was some talk that Perlman's departure was connected to tension between that 11th Floor and the ABQ city Council. Perhaps. But our sources say Perlman was burning out from the stress as other Chavez CAO's have.

While Perlman is the top city administrator, Chavez takes an active interest in all major decisions, a source of pressure for anyone holding the CAO post. Next up is Ed Adams, who has been the city's chief operating officer. He seems to have learned to navigate around the sometimes mercurial management style of ABQ's longest ever serving mayor.

Perlman has a long record of fealty to the mayor but there are signs of Chavez fatigue at city Hall which is not unusual in a second term. The question is will there be a third consecutive term? Chavez is not committing to a run, but all signs point in that direction. In that regard, Perlman's departure is better now than in the middle of the '09 campaign.

For now, Marty Chavez continues to hold down the fort. It may not look as impregnable as in years past as some top soldiers fade away, but it will still take a strong army to penetrate it.


New Mexicans will not soon forget Tim Russert. It was May 27, 2007 when the longtime moderator of NBC'S Meet the Press sat down with Governor Richardson and essentially ended any hopes Richardson had to become president. It wasn't that Russert, who died Friday of a heart attack at the age of 58, was that tough. Richardson was simply not prepared for Russert's relentless and trademark cross-examination style. Big Bill's long shot presidential campaign never recovered. During Sunday's MTP tribute to Russert one of the highlight clips shown featured Richardson basically admitting defeat at the hands of his inquisitor.

Still, the Guv was among the politicos remembering Russert Friday. "Tim set the standard for tough but fair political coverage." He said.

And no one knows that better than Bill Richardson.

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