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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jimenez Exits; Condit New Guv Staff Chief; Gators Vindicated, Plus: The Hidden Campaign & AG King, Also: Teague's New Manager 

Brian Condit
Vindicated Alligators splashed in delight in their summer pools Tuesday as the Guv's office finally confirmed their reports that Brian Condit would replace James Jimenez as Big Bill's chief of staff. The Gators, especially one Senior Gator, now only await confirmation that Jimenez will go to work as city manager for Rio Rancho under new mayor Tom Swisstack. The Guv's office only said that Jimenez would leave at the end of August to take another job.

We first blogged that Jimenez was headed for the exits in early July, but the Guv's office told the press no such move was afoot. The ABQ Journal said "Internet reports" had been struck down. But the Alligators are not in the rumor business--they are in the reality business--tracking the changing power structure of the state and what it means. Their 99% accuracy rate remains intact, and we're darn glad or else we would be out of business.

Condit, a former union president who has handled legislative affairs, has served as the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff since 2004. Capitol wall-leaners say he will need to work to smooth over some ruffled feathers with certain state legislators.

THE HIDDEN CAMPAIGN

Some would say it is one of the great ironies of this election cycle. A group claiming to advocate ethics reform appears to be in violation of federal rules and is basically thumbing its nose at Attorney General Gary King. The AG has advised the secretary of state to treat the group, NM Youth Organized, like any political candidate and require full disclosure of who gives them their money. However, no action has been taken and King has said nothing more.

Whether you're on the right, the middle or the left, the activity of NM Youth Organized and its parent group--Center for Civic Policy--is of concern. The group, run by veteran political operative Eli Lee, has secured coveted non-profit IRS status which means they can conduct limited political activity without disclosing contributions. Also, the donations are tax-deductible. After nuking two Dem state Senators in the June primary, who both lost their seats, the group is back at it in Las Cruces, targeting GOP State Senator and minority whip Lee Rawson. The critics say the group's activity is anything but "limited" and crosses the line for a non-profit.

Without blushing, the group claims its recent campaign flyer has nothing to do with Rawson's re-election race in which he is opposed by enviornmentalist Dem Steve Fischmann. They claim the flier, hitting Rawson for not being in favor of imposing campaign contributions limits, is aimed at the August 15 special session. But that issue isn't expected to be on the special agenda. Candidate Fischmann maintains he is not in cahoots with NM Youth Organized, which would be a violation of campaign law.

KING'S CHALLENGE

King is getting an earful about political advocates on both the left and right disguising themselves as non-profits and letting their supporters hide from the disinfecting light of day. Insiders wonder if the AG is in a political fix because the Center for Civic Policy is left-leaning and has influence in Democratic primaries. King is a Democrat who will either seek re-election in 2010 or make a run for the Dem nomination for Governor. Rawson told us: "I have talked to AG King regarding this issue. To my understanding, he believes it (the group's activity) is a violation of our current campaign laws."

We are getting wind that the ABQ Journal may be looking to do an investigative piece on the sprouting of these political non-profits (including those run by oil companies?) It would appear long overdue as would action by the attorney general and secretary of state.

MORE ON THIS

Here's a YouTube PSA for NM Youth Orgnized.

CALLING IT EARLY?


It's this kind of psychology that GOP US Senate nominee has to worry about.

Things are rolling for the Democrats," said Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report. "I don't laugh anymore at eight or nine. A few races have to fall into play but they are close. They have Virginia gone, New Mexico is also gone, and six races are toss ups, including Minnesota..

But stop the presses. We asked Jennifer if she really though our Senate race was history. She replied via e-mail from D.C.:

"I am not happy with the Huffington Post piece. I was misquoted on NM. What I said was that NM was ALMOST gone. (and I’ve probably said to 50 reporters and in a dozen speeches). I haven’t completely written Pearce off, I’m just having a hard time seeing how he catches up to Udall...

HARRY'S HOUSE
Teague
Southern Dem congressional contender Harry Teague has a new campaign manager. He is veteran political operative Frank Costanzo, who served as a senior advisor to Big Bill's presidential bid, Arizona state director for Howard Dean's 2004 run for the White House and manager of several congressional campaigns. Teague also unveiled a new Web site to go with the new manager,

Costanzo is also described as a corporate turnaround artist. Not that Teague needs turning around, but the Dem is the definite underdog in the conservative south where he faces Republican Ed Tinsley in November.

Costanzo replaces Brad Foster who managed Teague during the primary, but was let go for the general. Tinsley also has a new manager, having demoted his primary manager and naming Domenici and Heather Wilson operative Chris Collins to the post.

Costanzo joins fellow progressive Dem organizer Neri Holguin in working for Teague. Watchful Dems in Santa Fe say the progressives he has on board have plentiful organizational experience, but to win the race Teague, who has close ties to Big Bill and Light Guv Denish, is gong to have to run as a somewhat conservative Democrat. Tinsley is already charging that Teague, an oilman from Hobbs and a former twoterm county commissioner, is too liberal for the district. Neither Teague or Tinsley have yet been pressed hard on the issues of the day, but Teague has fair warning. Veering to the left is a sure-fire recipe to keep him out of the US House.

THE BOTTOM LINES

ABQ GOP congressional candidate Darren White spent Tuesday night in the hospital suffering from back pain. His campaign says he fell while exercising Monday. They say he is expected to return to his sheriff's duties and the campaign trail soon. We guess Dem Martin Heinrich will have to send that get-well card to Darren's home...Steve Pearce is proud to be an oilman, he tells the Los Angeles Times...

Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenberg, seeking a third four year term, is counting on Hispanic Dems to help put her over the top. To that end, she has her Web site available in Spanish and English. She is opposed by GOP attorney Lisa Torraco...For fans of newsman Ed Pennybacker, who passed away last week, blogger and photog Mark Bralley offers an in-depth look back...

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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