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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Speaker Is Still In The House; Lujan Seen Strengthened By Primary Election, Plus: Pearce's Money & Udall Ties One On 

Speaker Lujan
What happened to the notion of NM House Speaker Ben Lujan retiring to his rocking chair and whiling way the hours watching his son carry on as the state's newest congressman? That was the talk back in December of '06 when the 72 year old power broker crushed an attempted coup by House Majority Leader Kenny Martinez. But rather than checking out Maui real estate, the Speaker shows no sign of giving up the acreage he has claimed at Santa Fe's storied Roundhouse. In fact, he seems well positioned to be re-elected to another two year term by the House Democratic caucus this December and also to be a major power player in the presidential race.

Wall-leaners point out that the progressives who launched the coup against Lujan--Martinez, ABQ Rep. Al Park and Rep. Joe Cervantes--now need the Speaker's help if Obama is going to carry New Mexico against McCain. In fact, they are counting on it. Ben Lujan, Jr., the Speaker's son and Dem northern congressional nominee, is expected to drive up Hispanic turnout for his candidacy and in turn for Obama's. Lujan is a near-lock to win the congressional seat. The son and father don't have to give Obama an extra push, but they will. If Obama carries NM with the Lujans help and finds himself in the White House, the progressives will owe Speaker Lujan a big one. We think it is a debt he would be inclined to collect.

FOLEY FALLOUT

The Speaker is not only joyous over the success of his 36 year old son, he has reason to be gleeful over the defeat of GOP State Rep. Dan Foley who was known to cross the aisle and glad-hand with Martinez and Company. But Foley, whose personal behavior and business relationships mired him in nonstop controversy, lost his Roswell seat in the primary so there will now be a new House minority whip, one insiders assume will not be playing footsie with the Dems, including those who have plotted against Lujan. ABQ GOP State Rep. Larry Larranaga, who has expressed interest in the post in the past, is among those mentioned as Foley's successor.

With the progressives needing him, not opposing him, and a major thorn in the form of Dan Foley removed from his side, Ben Lujan can look forward to being at the center of the political intrigue that lies ahead in this epic election year. The last thing he is thinking about is the rocking chair. Not while his hand is still firmly on the cradle that rocks our beloved La Politica.

PEARCE AND THE PATCH

He may lag in the polls and be the decided underdog, but if need be GOP US Senate candidate Steve Pearce has a personal fortune (around $20 million?) that he could tap to keep his race with Democrat Tom Udall competitive. It's the last thing we expect him to do. Money will probably come whether Pearce is polling well or not. Here's that take from one of our Pearce-backing readers.

Pearce has...plenty of oil guys ready to put in more. Remember the oil guys are people comfortable with long shot risk. Successfully navigating long shot risk is why they are wealthy in the fist place. Note that when (NM Guv candidate) Garrey Carruthers was down (in '86), he went to his oil guys in Farmington for money and quickly raised enough to win the nomination for governor.

Individual contributions are limited to $2300, but independent groups--some backed by big energy interests--can spend without limits. Udall is the clear frontrunner, but Republicans are not going to walk away. They believe the northern congressman has a glass jaw and that heavy negative attacks will bring his numbers down. Pearce's campaign and the third party groups will spend a boatload of cash to put their theory to the test. Don't say we didn't tell you.

TINSLEY, TEAGUE AND BILL

What's the deal with Ed Tinsley and Big Bill? Tinsley, the GOP southern congressional nominee, apparently thinks tying his Dem foe, Harry Teague, to the hip of Big Bill will boost his stock in the conservative district.

"I'm for funding our troops to make sure they have the right kinds of weapons, armor, and technology to execute their mission," Tinsley said. "I feel like the decision on when we begin withdrawal from Iraq needs to be in the hands of our military leadership in the field. That decision cannot be dictated by Teague or Gov. Bill Richardson."

It is Lt. Governor Denish, not Richardson, who has been the biggest booster of Teague in the state's executive branch. Richardson did issue a late endorsement of Teague in his primary contest. Teague, from Lea County, has a chance to pick up support ordinarily not available to a Dem candidate. Is Richardson's support of Teague a drag on him? Tinsley thinks so.

TYING ONE ON

Leave it to photog Mark Bralley to reveal that Dem US Senate nominee Tom Udall has not yet mastered the trick of dressing down like GOP US Senator Pete Domenici. Bralley sends this shot which on close inspection (very close) shows Tom sporting a Salvatore Ferragamo tie with a retail price of about $160.00. It probably works in ABQ and Santa Fe, but we think you'll see Tom wearing more bolo ties when he hits the trail outside of the metro area. At least he will if he wants to mimic the success of Pete who we long suspected of having one set of suits for the corridors of D.C. and one for laid-back New Mexico.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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