Thursday, November 20, 2008

R's Look To ABQ Senator Payne To Replace Ousted Rawson, Plus: Today's Name Drop: Lawrence Rael And Steve Pearce, Also: More Post-Election Musings 

Sen. Payne
New Mexico Republican state senators seem poised to turn to a military man to keep the troops in line on key votes in the upcoming legislative session. Santa Fe wall-leaners say ABQ GOP Senator William Payne is the likely pick to replace Lee Rawson as Senate minority whip. Rawson was ousted from his Dona Ana County seat in this month's election.

Payne has had a long and distinguished naval career, attaining the rank of rear admiral. Even now he is on reserve duty and unavailable for comment on the report that he will be selected by the GOP Senate caucus as the right hand for Sen. Stuart Ingle who is expected to be re-elected Senate minority leader.

Payne, a University of New Mexico Law School grad, is the only attorney among the 15 remaining R's in the 42 member Senate. Insiders say he has not been involved much in the intra-party squabbling that has beset the party in recent years. If he gets the nod from the R caucus, Payne would give ABQ some representation in the legislative hierarchy.

The whip post would be a nice boost for Payne who was first elected in 1996 and was re-elected this year without opposition. But he might not have that much to do as whip. The era of Democratic dominance in Santa Fe will continue in January with even larger majorities. Then again, with a possible budget shortfall of several hundred million or more, other than slashing budgets, the Dems might not have much to do either.


How about longtime politico Lawrence Rael as the #2 pick for Light Guv Diane Denish if Big Bill leaves for D.C. and she becomes the new guv? Hmmm...he may know where too many bodies are buried. Meantime, young State Auditor Hector Balderas is still considered Di's most likely #2 choice--if she gets to make one. Balderas has a heavy radio buy up in the ABQ market asking for public help uncovering problems in state government. Those spots, of course, have nothing to do with his statewide ambitions. Of course not.

And how about Steve Pearce for NM GOP chairman? Pearce had his clock cleaned by Tom Udall for the US Senate seat. Any political hopes he has are on life support. The southern NM congressman could probably capture the chairmanship and was asked about it this week on a telephone call with supporters, but our Gators monitoring the conference call say he made no commitments and believe a run is unlikely.

What a step down it would be. And could he really launch a decent 2010 Guv bid after serving as the GOP hit man? And Pearce is from the south when the party needs leadership from big Bernalillo County where they got wiped out. And he's still madly in love with Bush. Can he fall out of love for the sake of big Bernalillo?

Allen McCulloch of Farmington, the '06 GOP Senate loser, seems to be actively campaigning for the post. Insiders now report that McCulloch has a meet and greet slated for Friday night at the Holiday Inn Suites in NE ABQ. Also, keep your eye on Roswell oilman Mark Murphy who put up several hundred thousand of his own dollars to take out fellow R and State Rep. Dan Foley in the June primary. Murphy has been urged to go for the chairmanship and "clean out the nest" at state GOP headquarters.

Lisa Torraco, the GOP loser for the Bernalillo County district attorney's post, is hearing her name dropped for chair because she showed some gumption on the trail. Also being mentioned is Anthony Contri, a defense department contractor. And the list goes on. The chair election is in January. Pearce could probably have the job for the asking. But he needs to ask himself if it's worth asking.

Senator-elect Sapien
The post-mortems continue to pile up on the big upsets of Election '08. We knew veteran Sandoval County GOP State Senator Steve Komadina would be getting a stiff challenge from Dem John Sapien, a Bernalillo native and Corrales resident, but most thought Komadina would pull it out. He lost to Sapien, an insurance agency owner and son of a former Sandoval County Commissioner, by a mere 121 votes. Maybe that June GOP primary challenge from Barry Bitzer hurt Komadina who is a medical doctor and two term Senator. Here's a take from a reader who claims Komadina's roughing up of Bitzer may have cost him in November.

The last time a Republican in that Senate district drew a primary challenge it was also enough to open the door for the Democrat in the general election. Pauline Eisenstadt beat Senator Virgil Rhodes in '96. Komadina came out swinging with mail against felow Republican Bitzer.

Did that primary cost Komadina the 50 votes he lost by in November?

And some spin on that brutal state Senate Race in the ABQ North Valley area featuring incumbent Republican State Senator John Ryan and Dem Victor Raigoza. Raigoza went ballistic when the state GOP hit with mail that implied Raigoza was gay and would support a gay agenda as a lawmaker. Ryan was scored for the attack, but his friends say the piece came after Raigoza hit with mail that brought up Ryan's teenage felony conviction for burglary, an issue that had already been vetted when Ryan was elected to the seat in 2004. In politics, there are usually two sides to the story...

NM's New D.C. Delegation (pic from Jeff's office)
What's not to smile about? But how long will those grins last? This is the first pic of the state's new and all Democratic congressional delegation getting a greeting from Senator Jeff Bingaman Wednesday. I think Jeff is telling the newbies (except Rep. Udall who already knows the ropes) that fresh donuts and coffee are served each day at Jeff's place at 5 p.m. However, if they don't help him secure funding for the national labs, he's canceling the coffee klatch and they are all on their own.

For those just coming to this party, pictured left to right is northern Congressman-elect Ben Ray Lujan, ABQ Congressman-elect Martin Heinrich, Rep. Udall and southern NM Congressman-elect Harry Teague.


NM oil money is going to make sure the record of NM GOP US Senator Pete Domenici isn't forgotten. Yates Petroleum of Artesia is coming with a cool half-million to help fund the Domenici Policy Institute at New Mexico State University in Cruces. The institute will provide a place for scholars to research Domenici's 36 year Senate record and related issues. With this kind of money, one would hope the chances of getting a good book on Domenici and his life have gone up. We still don't have one on the late Senator Dennis Chavez.


ABQ city government has a hiring freeze on as does the state. The city of Santa Fe's finances are also on the ropes. And don't go looking for a job in Rio Rancho government. This nasty and deep recession is now hitting there and causing cutbacks. Welcome back, Mayor Swisstack. your old seat in the the Legislature may not look anywhere as near as hot as the one you're sitting in now.


La Politica takes us on long and winding roads. Take, for example, this week's Bottom Lines blogs about onetime boom town and now ghost town Kingston, NM. After refuting reports that it was the largest town in the state in 1890, inquiring minds asked for an exact location of the town which boomed with some 7,000 residents, most of whom were mining silver. Here's a google map. The town, west of I-25 in Sierra County, is in the middle of nowhere, but still has 25 residents. We even found a Web site put up by a couple of residents there. They had their priorities in Kingston. There were 22 saloons in town and three newspapers to argue over....

Hard times in the newspaper biz means the annual bonuses for employees of the state's largest paper, the ABQ Journal, have been canceled. That word from the Duke City Fix....

So first we hear from reader Bill Hume telling us that NM US Marshall Gorden Eden does indeed spell his first name G-o-r-d-E-n. Then when we made the correction we made another typo by dropping the "R" from "Republican" when identifying Eden's party. The readers piled on, including Mike Parks:

Obama's cutting edge use of cyberspace has obviously influenced politicians and officials of all stripes, as evidenced by Gorden Eden now being identified as an "epublican."

Did we invent a new word?

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