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Friday, December 05, 2008

The Eggshell Transition; Bill & Di Walk On Them As They Prepare State For Leadership Change, Plus: Denish Names Transition Staff 

  • On Friday Lt. Governor Denish named former NM Economic Development Director Kathy Keith as Transition Director. Her former chief of staff, Chris Cervini, was appointed transition communications director.
It's almost like he wants to stay. That's the vibe you get hearing Big Bill say his US Senate confirmation for commerce secretary may not be completed until late February and that he could be around to guide the Legislative session until then. The session starts January 20 and runs for sixty days. But Washington watchers say it's possible Bill's confirmation could come much earlier. It's happened before, they say, so he could be confirmed and ready to go to Washington by the end of January.

Earlier state House Speaker Ben Lujan openly pined about having Big Bill around for a good portion of the session. The two have been tight as a vise and will play until the last hand is dealt. But the nation faces an economic calamity and if Richardson is going to be a "key" player on the economy--as President-elect Obama said he will--shouldn't he be chomping at the bit to get to work in D.C? Well, the Guv and the speaker may want to have their cake and eat it, too--control the outcome of the legislative session and then Bill transitions to commerce. It's how the power players play.

New Mexico has a governor in waiting, but there's only one commerce secretary. Wouldn't President-elect Obama and the Democratic controlled US Senate want a team in place ASAP and ready to deal with the financial crisis immediately after Obama takes the oath?

TRANSITION STAFF
Kathy Keith
Here are the bios of the two transition staffers named by Lt. Gov. Denish. The info comes from her office:

...Denish named Kathy Keith as Transition Director to be the point person to the Governor's Office and overall manager of transition activities. Keith joins the staff from Public Works, LLC a private firm which assists Governors and their cabinet agencies nationwide on projects involving planning, innovative policy and efficiency. Previously Keith served as the Director of Economic Development Division for the State of New Mexico (2003-2006), as the Director of the federal program to rebuild Los Alamos following the Cerro Grande Fire (2000-2002), as the White House Liaison at the U.S. Department of Energy (1998-2000) and for the United States Congress (1993-1998) in various capacities. She is a native of Tucumcari and holds a bachelors degree in journalism and political science from Texas Tech University.

By the way, Keith's seven years of service in the US Congress were as legislative director to then-Congressman Bill Richardson.

Chris Cervini was named Transition Communications Director and will be responsible for communicating the activities of the transition and working with agency PIOs and current governor's office communications staff on the transition. Chris Cervini joins the transition from Lovelace Health System where he served as External Communications Manager in the Marketing and Public Relations Department. Before that he was Chief of Staff and Communications and Policy Director for Lt. Governor Denish from 2003-2006. He has a Master's Degree in Political Science from American University in Washington, D.C.

COUNT HIM OUT

NM Republican Party Vice-Chair Jon Barela says count him out when it comes to seeking the state chair position which is up for grabs next month. Barela, an attorney and a recent appointee to the ABQ School Board, says he is too busy with private business to consider a run for the GOP slot which is being vacated by Chairman Allen Weh. He has until mid-month to decide whether he will seek election in February to the school board seat he was appointed to.

Outgoing GOP Congressman Steve Pearce appears to be running for chair at the January election. However, if Pearce decides to try to get his House seat back from Democrat Harry Teague in 2010, he would not be able to serve the full two years. It's a question he is sure to confront when he discusses a chair candidacy with voting delegates.

THE BOTTOM LINES

When we blogged Thursday hat what is happening in Santa Fe with the Guv transition has never happened before, we were well aware of 1962 when Gov. Ed Mechem resigned to become a US Senator and Lt. Gov Bolack took over. But Bolack was not transitioning to anything. There was only one month left on Mechem's term. Our point was that the current situation--a transition to fill two years of a Guv's term while that Governor remains in office for six weeks or longer--is, to our knowledge, unprecedented.

E-mail your news and comments, anonymously if you wish.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Luck Be A Lady To Di; She's Gonna Need It; Unprecedented Transition For NM Governor Starts As Bill Starts Packing, Plus: The Hector & Lawrence Show 

Happy Together Or Not?
One of the current well-worn phrases you won't hear around New Mexico's capitol in the weeks ahead is: "Been There, Done That." No, we haven't. There's no rule book for outgoing Governor Richardson or soon to be incoming Governor Denish for the next six weeks as they prepare for Bill to exit to D.C. and begin his work as Commerce Secretary and for Di to take over the Fourth Floor. One thing is for sure: it's a recipe for tension. Today the duo will come with the holiday cheer for the TV cameras as they conduct a news conference, but the two players have very different agendas.

Richardson will want to protect his legacy and defend himself from charges that he is leaving the state financially flat-footed with a deficit that could hit half a billion dollars. But Denish may have quite different ideas on how to trim the fat. Hashing this out is the pair's most formidable challenge. If things go awry, look for legislators hungry to take back some of the power they have ceded to the executive the past six years to move quickly to take advantage. Heck, look for them to move to get back some of their mojo no matter what.

STAFF CHALLENGE


The names resonate with veteran politicos. Marilyn Budke. Lou Gallegos. Shirley Scarfiotti. James B. Lewis. James Jimenez. All of them had one job in common--serving as a chief of staff to a New Mexico governor. It's not an easy post to fill. You are a gatekeeper, master of the bureaucracy and a key player with legislators. Denish hired Judy Espinosa as her Light Guv staff chief with an eye toward the day she would take over as Guv, but Espinosa's tenure was cut short and she ended up at NM Expo.

Denish has given no indication of who will fill the vital slot, but she may want to do so soon as the line of favor seekers grows longer by the day. And then there is that transition to help manage. One name that comes to mind is Jay Czar, executive director of the NM Mortgage Finance Authority. He has the pedigree, having served as ABQ chief administrative officer and as head of the ABQ airport. He's a pro's pro and is well known in key business and political circles. Chris Cervini is a former staff chief for the Light Guv. Does he have the depth desired? And Di's current staff chief, Josh Rosen, shouldn't be given the bum's rush. Maybe the younger generation has got what it takes.

TIME TO GO

Lots of conflicting info floating around on just when Big Bill can be expected to leave the Guv's office. We asked Josh Kraushaar of the Politico in D.C. what he's hearing. "We expect just about all of the cabinet to be confirmed by the Senate and in their jobs by the end of January, including Governor Richardson as Commerce Secretary," Josh told us. The legislative session starts January 20, the same day Obama takes the oath.

THE HECTOR AND LAWRENCE SHOW

They're getting more aggressive as the hour of reckoning nears. The apparent top two contenders to become Light Guv under the new Guv, State Auditor Hector Balderas and Mid-Region Council of Governments head Lawrence Rael, were not playing shy when asked by the TV's Wednesday about their interest in the #2 post. Both were forthright in saying they want the job. And look at part of the thank you card Hector distributed far and wide right after the election. He's pictured with Caroline Kennedy. Yes, he's off and running.

How about a wild card choice if these two don't fit the bill? Let's put Espanola Mayor Joe Maestas in the mix. He would give Denish the northern Hispanic balance she needs for the 2010 race and he also understands how government works.

WILSON'S SWIPE

Is someone bitter? Outgoing ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson on President-elect Obama's selection of Richardson as Commerce Secretary.

Richardson is skipping town and leaving behind a crushing $500 million budget deficit for someone else to clean up. What a mess he's created in Santa Fe.

Maybe there's a point there, but Heather has lost her political timing and with it her seat in the United States Congress.

KAREN'S QUANDARY

This is a strange one. Insiders inform that State Representative-elect Karen Giannini needs a new job because the Honeywell Corporation, where she works in aerospace, won't give her the needed time off to attend the legislative session. They say she sent out an e-mail to supporters asking for help in finding a new gig so she can serve. Democrat Karen, a political unknown who no one expected to beat GOP State Rep. Justine Fox-Young, is one interesting politico who had personal tragedy while in the middle of her campaign for the ABQ NE Heights seat. Here's a sample from an e-mail exchange we had with her a couple of weeks ago:

I was born in Morocco on US soil to military parents. My father was in the USAF as a fighter/bomber pilot for most of his career. I've lived in the Philippines, West Virginia, Texas, North Dakota, Washington and Colorado. I attended Colorado State University where I received my BS in Physics and was commissioned into the USAF that same day by my father. I served in the USAF at Andrews and Kirtland AFB's during my 6.5 years and departed as a Captain. I received the endorsement of the Central NM AFL-CIO and the Albuquerque Teacher's Federation. I was putting my campaign into high gear when my father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in August. He subsequently went into surgery and died a week later--on my Mom's birthday--September 13.

Karen is dedicated to serving. That's for sure.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Thanks to readers of ABQ The Magazine for voting as the city's best blog and for their big party Wednesday night at Santa Ana. No, the Alligators did not stuff the ballot box....And thanks to members of the NM Association of Counties and Paul Gutierrez for having us on their media panel Wednesday. What was one of the big questions on the minds of top county officials? Who will be the next lieutenant governor? Our kind of crowd...Howie Morales is not a "Senator-elect" as we blogged Wednesday. He is a full-fledged Senator having been appointed to fill the Ben Altamirano vacancy...

E-mail your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Big Bill's Big Day: Obama Picks Him For Commerce; Who Will Outgoing Guv Take With Him? Plus: Senate Power Plays; Who Could Be The "Jennings Seven"? 

The curtain will begin to come down on one of the most powerful governorships in New Mexican history this morning at 9:40 our time when President-elect Obama makes official at a Chicago news conference what has been expected for weeks--Governor Bill Richardson will be nominated to become the next Secretary of Commerce. No major stumbling blocks are expected in Big Bill's US Senate confirmation hearings. He could vacate his office in Santa Fe and occupy his new digs in Washington as soon as Obama is sworn in January 20. (Former UNM Prexy Louis Caldera beat Bill to the punch Tuesday. The former army secretary was named by Obama as director of the White House Military Office.)

It is a good time for Bill to leave. His six year run has been greased with what will be recalled as legendary amounts of tax money from the epic bull market that occurred in oil and natural gas prices during his tenure which started in 2003. But the energy bull turned to a bear this year, and in a remarkable coincidence of timing, Richardson is getting out just as the state wrestles with a projected budget deficit of up to $500 million. Add on top of that an ornery Legislature that has had enough of Big Bill's sometimes bullying ways and his departure is engulfed in serendipity.

BILL'S BOYS
Homans
The Guv will be long-remembered for rewarding hundreds of campaign supporters with state jobs, contracts and other goodies. The giving is about to come to an abrupt end. One of our probing Alligators reports Richardson will have ten, maybe 20 jobs to fill, as Commerce Secretary. There are many more jobs available there for political appointees, but the White House has friends it will be rewarding. If you are looking to follow Bill to D.C., here is a list of jobs that can be filled at Commerce directly by political appointment.

And who from NM will travel east with the Guv? Our wall-leaners say current Guv Chief of Staff Brian Condit is a good bet to go as is former Guv chief of staff and longtime Bill political aide Dave Contarino. He is a native of the east and could welcome the opportunity to get back near his roots. Longtime friend of Bill and current head of the state taxation department, Rick Homans, is another who may be packing a suitcase. There are several press related jobs available for Bill to fill at Commerce. Gilbert Gallegos, one of the Guv's chief press aides and a former reporter for the ABQ Tribune, might go for one of those.

But don't expect a rush for those Commerce posts from here. Politicos already settled in with good salaries aren't anxious to give up the New Mexico lifestyle and exchange crystal blue skies for dank gray ones or listen to the ripples of the Potomac when the Rio Grande beckons.

MAKING IT OFFICIAL

When the time comes, we believe all Big Bill has to do to resign the office of Governor is to submit a letter of resignation to the Secretary of State. The Lieutenant Governor would then automatically become Governor. The NM Constitution says: If...a vacancy occurs in the office of governor, the lieutenant governor shall succeed to that office, and to all the powers, duties and emoluments thereof...

We're not sure if Lady Di would have to take an oath since as Light Guv she automatically becomes Guv. Maybe the Legal Beagles can e-mail us on that. But we're sure she will want a swearing-in ceremony to drive the point home to New Mexicans that they have a new governor.

MORE ADVICE FOR SANCHEZ
Sanchez
How to quell a possible Senate uprising that would have renegade Democrat Tim Jennings retain his president pro tem position by forming a collation with GOP Senators? That's the hot political potato on the plate of Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. The Dem caucus voted to back Sen. Carlos Cisneros for the post Sunday, but the ousted Jennings hopes to pick up seven Dems--including himself--and the 15 Republican votes to overturn that decision when the full Senate votes on the matter on the opening day of the Legislature in January. Yesterday Sanchez was advised here by various Alligators to play it tough. Today another view: Sanchez should coax Jennings down from the tree.

Sanchez should offer Jennings the chair of the Senate Corporations Committee. Control of the Senate is too big a prize to be won or lost by taking senators to the woodshed. Such tactics come back to haunt because offenders and their allies still have votes to cast on many other issues and there is always time to wait for comeuppance. Further, that two guys from the North, Senators Campos and Cisneros, have an alliance, makes voting with the Republicans attractive to many Democratic senators.

That alliance referenced there is the rumored pledged by Sen. Cisneros to make Campos chairman of Senate Finance, a position currently held by Senator John Arthur Smith. The president pro tem has major say on Senate committee assignments.

The odds do not favor the Jennings coup because Dem defectors have to cast their votes with the Republicans and for Jennings in public. But stranger stuff has happened. How could Jennings get there, assuming the R's will all vote for him? Here are the possible "Jennings Seven" as compiled by the Alligators: Jennings, Mary Kay Papen, John Arthur Smith, Senator-elect Howie Morales, Linda Lopez, Senator-elect George Munoz and Lynda Lovejoy. There are a couple of other names going around as well. If you hear any of these names start to publicly peel away from Jennings, he will be a dead man walking.

Jennings commands respect throughout the state. There is a fear that the Legislature could lurch to the left next session. That helps the fiscally conservative Tim. But Democrats fear that if his backing of Republican Senator Rawson against his Dem election foe is allowed to stand, the Democratic Party faces chaos.

HOW ABOUT OUR SHARE?


Talk of a $136 billion federal aid package for the states has us all ears. Will NM, facing a possible $500 million budget shortfall, get a cut? A bunch of the money would go for the Medicaid health program which is straining state budgets. The lion's share would go to create public works jobs to help jump start the economy. Some R Guv's call it another bad bailout idea. We won't argue with that, but if Congress is going to do it New Mexico needs to get its share. Are our newbie congressmen---Teague, Heinrich and Lujan--keeping this on their radar? Santa Fe surely has to be watching closely.

E-mail your news and comments, anonymously if you wish.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Richardson Expected To Be Named Wednesday; Waiting For Obama To Make It Real For Bill, Plus: Senate's Sanchez Told To "Get Tough" On Renegade Jennings 

  • RICHARDSON TO BE NOMINATED FOR COMMERCE SECRETARY WEDNESDAY, SAYS WASHINGTON POST. ANNOUNCEMENT TIME IS 9:40 A.M. MOUNTAIN TIME. COVERAGE EXPECTED ON MAJOR CABLE NETWORKS
In this crazy, news-around-the-clock, always-on-deadline world we live in, it took no more than a couple of hours after Thanksgiving dessert was served for a wave of anxiety to arise when Big Bill was not immediately named by President-elect Obama as Commerce Secretary. E-mail boxes filled with inquiries--"Is something wrong?--and cell phones vibrated and belled with similar sentiments. Even those know-it-all Alligators grew tentative when Monday came and went and still no announcement that the Big Guy was headed to the Big Time.

But a check of insider sources and the national news beat reveals no hitches--at least not yet--in Governor Bill getting the nod from Obama. It seems the leaked news that Richardson would be named "after Thanksgiving" set off some alarm bells, but some of our reliables say that could mean the wait could be done today or last all the way until mid-December. Some pointed out that former Senator Tom Daschle, leaked to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, also awaits official appointment and his name came out around the same time as Bill's.

It's not everyday that a Governor gives up his job mid-term to leave for a national post, so the nervousness over Richardson is understandable, even if no significant opposition to his appointment has surfaced. If the media and political classes are anxious, just think how Diane Denish feels. The Light Guv has new curtains picked out for the Governor's office, but she dare not touch them until Obama makes Bill official--her fingernails are sweating too much.

GET TOUGH

Want more political drama? Just keep it here. Wall-leaners, Alligators, hangers-on and power players past and present all seem to agree on the approach Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez needs to take with renegade Democrat Tim Jennings--get tough. Jennings, rejected by the Senate Dem caucus Sunday to continue as president pro tem, is now working the beat to convince seven Dems to join with 15 R's to allow him to continue as pro tem, even though the caucus dumped him in favor of Questa Senator Carlos Cisneros.

Jennings displayed some bravado in the press, claiming he has the votes to keep the job. But can't Sanchez nip this movida in the bud by targeting a couple of the possible "Jennings Seven"? He could and he should, say the players we quizzed. Several suggested that if Tim persists he should be told that if he loses, he will be stripped of all power and good committees and sat in the back row like an unruly student.

Sometimes power is just about power. For Michael Sanchez, the longer the back room dealing goes on, the more dangerous it becomes. He knows it. He has said he hopes to have the situation in hand by Christmas. Wily GOP Senate leader Stuart Ingle must be humbled by the way the political gods are smiling at him--at least for now.

BETTER THAN LAST TIME

Benton
Last December four ABQ city councilors walked out of a meeting during a heated dispute over who would be city council president. Last night the season of peace took hold and Councilor Isaac "Ike" Benton was elected president for a one year term without opposition--or walkouts. He succeeds Republican Brad Winter who won the presidency in '07 when Dem councilors split between two candidates. The walk-out was a low point for the panel, but they've been doing better since. Benton, an architect, is not a political professional, but a citizen in the volunteer tradition. GOP Councilor Sally Mayer was elected council vice-president. Both serve one year terms. Benton is being challenged for his council seat in '09 by Dem Bernalillo County Commissioner Alan Armijo.

IT'S NOT JUST THE MONEY

The latest defensive spin on the failure of Eclipse Aviation is that the government money involved--under $20 million in state funds plus various city tax breaks--is really a drop in the bucket and Eclipse going bankrupt is not that big of a deal. But it is a big deal--not only because of the public money but because of the way the New Mexican economic development community and the media devoted so much time, energy and resources to this deal, even as they were shown evidence that this thing wasn't going to fly.

Eclipse was not presented to the public as a single business development, but as a panacea for our dismal low wage economy. Eclipse, it was said, would not only provide thousands of high-paying manufacturing jobs, but thousands more from other firms that would locate here because of Eclipse. This wasn't only a financial investment; it was sold as a commitment to change in the direction of the city's economy. So now what? Can the folks who kept Eclipse front and center for so many years answer that question? We're just asking.

LIGHT GUV HISTORY
Gov. C de Baca
This one seems to have gotten away from us. We've long thought that no NM lieutenant governor has succeeded in becoming governor for the term following the governor he served under. But syndicated columnist Jay Miller recently wrote that Ezequiel C de Baca served as the state's first lieutenant governor in 1912 and in 1916 was elected Governor. However, he died, in 1917, only six weeks after being sworn in. The history books confirm the story. It's true that C de Baca was the only Lt. Governor in state history to pull off the feat, although others have tried. Diane Denish could become the second if she gets to finish out Bill's term and is elected in her own right in 2010.

We took our mistaken impression as an article of faith as it was shared over the years with a variety of politicos. Of course, we could zing Jay and say he knows this stuff because he was around back in 1917. But we would never do that. The little episode reminds us of an old reporter's quote: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out!"

THE BOTTOM LINES


From David Letterman: "Let me give you an idea how desperate the economy is here in New York City." It is "so desperate, the crack dealers...are now offering free nachos."

E-mail your news and comments, anonymously if you wish.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Monday, December 01, 2008

Dem Senate Leaders Picked; Jennings Still Kicking As He Sinks, Plus: ABQ Council Prez Election, And: Election Night Party Action; We've Got The Video 

Sens. Cisneros & Sanchez
He sleeps with the fishes, but like a fish he breathes underwater. So it is with State Senator Tim Jennings after he was dumped overboard by his fellow Democrats at a Sunday caucus which saw Belen's Michael Sanchez re-elected to the most important and powerful position--Majority Leader. But Senator Carlos Cisneros (Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Santa Fe & Taos) was backed over Roswell's Jennings for the president pro tem slot. Now the questions are: Will Jennings persist in a long shot bid to retain power and get named Pro Tem by forming a coalition with Senate Republicans? And, will Leader Sanchez be able to impose the necessary discipline to thwart the move and keep Democrats, if not on the same page philosophically, at least reading the same book?

Jennings paid a stiff price for helping the campaign of GOP Senator Lee Rawson of Las Cruces who went down in flames Election Night. The 27 Senate Democrats, their ranks strenghtened by three as a result of the November election, voted at their Sunday afternoon meeting at the Isleta Eagle Golf Course Clubhouse that Jennings must go. Still, after the three hour session, speculation continued on just how Jennings might keep his leadership slot by coming up with seven Democratic votes and join them with the 15 R's. There's one little problem--how do you get seven Democrats to stand up in public and essentially denounce their party's selection for pro tem following one of its biggest state landslides ever? For starters, it would seem you would make a hell of a lot of promises you may or may not be able to keep.

Not that conservative and moderate Dems don't coalesce with R's on occasion to block legislation and not that the leadership doesn't sometimes look the other way, but to have a formal coalition in the aftermath of a "change election" would be a major and deflating body blow to the state's majority party.

The pro tem caucus vote was a secret vote and counted by two of the Senators. It was not immediately known how many Dem votes Cisneros and Jennings each garnered. Cisneros was known to be supported by a coalition of northern Hispanics and party progressives. Whatever the numbers, the onus is now on Leader Sanchez to deliver and get Jennings to back off. If Sanchez allows the Senate to give the R's real power, the 2010 governorship could be put in play for them and the blame put squarely on Sanchez's shoulders. Hey, no pressure Michael. Maybe Mrs. Sanchez can help out and put a copy of "How to Herd Cats" under the family Christmas tree this year.

SAYING NO TO DR. NO?
"Dr. No"
Should "Dr. No" go? There's a lot of opinion about Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith who was given his nickname by none other than Governor Bill. Few Dems dispute that the Deming lawmaker gives them valuable cachet with numerous conservative and southern D's and independents. But that may not matter. If Senator Cisneros, as expected, prevails and becomes Senate pro tem when the Legislature convenes for a sixty day session January 20, he will have a prime role in naming Senate committee chairs.

Liberals are headhunting for Smith who they see as too conservative. Their preferred alternative is northern Senator Pete Campos, a moderate. Smith, who has faced down Big Bill in numerous budget battles and won public support for it, is seen staying as a member of the powerful committee, but not necessarily as chairman. Still, there is time for deals before opening day. Soon-to-be Governor Diane Denish will watch closely. Some analysts say having Smith kill spending bills before they reach her desk could help the appointed governor. She will be under pressure to appease liberals who want expanded government even as the money well runs dry. Maybe Mrs. Sanchez could also stuff Di's holiday stocking with that cat herding book.

OTHER CAUCUS ACTION

Senator Mary Jane M. Garcia (D-Dona Ana) retained her position of Senate Majority Whip at Sunday's caucus. She was not challenged. New Grants area State Senator David Ulibarri (D- Cibola, Socorro & Valencia) was selected as the Caucus Chairman. That election was a lot easier for him than his Democratic primary which he won by a mere five votes.

LEADING THE COUNCIL
Winter & Benton
Who will be the next president of the ABQ City Council and why does it matter? Insiders say that freshman Dem Councilor Ike Benton will likely be selected for the one year council presidency at tonight's meeting. He would succeed Republican Brad Winter.

The presidency may matter more right now for Benton than the other eight members on the panel. He faces a re-election bid in 2009 against fellow Dem Alan Armijo, who is term limited and can't seek re-election to the Bernalillo County Commission when his second term expires in 2010. Benton is the first Anglo to represent his district, an area heavy with downtown and university precincts and a large Hispanic and African-American population. The presidency would give him a profile boost just as Armijo works to get his campaign off the ground.

Another factor is the partisan breakdown of the council. It has five Democrats and four Republicans. After a sweeping statewide election victory, it would be a setback if the Dems on the council could not elect one of their own and give the beleaguered R's an opportunity to make hay. (Republican Sally Mayer, a possible '09 mayoral candidate, is the likely pick for council VP, say city hall watchers.)

And one more reason today's council prez vote will be watched: If Mayor Chavez were to leave for a job in the national administration, or any other reason, the council president becomes mayor. There's a lot of wishful thinking going on in that regard among the mayor's council foes, but indications are they will have Marty to kick around for another year, and four more to boot if they can't take him out at the polls next October.

YOU'RE A BANKER

You're about to become an owner of NM based First State New Mexico Bank. How? FSNM has applied for $90 million in federal bailout money which will be used to buy stock in the bank. Several weeks ago e-mailers here red-flagged FSNM as a problem child as the economy takes a serious hit. Shares in the bank are trading at about a buck and a half a piece. If the bank can score a comeback with the cash we are giving it, we new shareholders could make some money. If not, well, you know how that goes, don't you?

SURPRISE US, TOM

We were among the very few who gave kudos to Republican Steve Pearce and Democrat Tom Udall when both US Senate candidates opposed the initial $700 billion bank bailout, a vote for which both received a good whipping in the press. But they've been shown to be right as the federal bailouts have grown bigger and some say even more unaccountable.

Udall beat Pearce who accused his opponent of being disingenuous in his bailout opposition. During his time in the US House, Udall has been liberal to the point of being boring. His bailout opposition presents the possibility of a more independent minded Udall. Was it all politics, as Pearce claimed, or will we see a Senator Udall who, on occasion, surprises?

ELECTION NIGHT WILD

Media personality Caleb Crump usually films his TV show at ABQ area hotspots, featuring the hottest music and the hippest crowds, but on Election Night he took the show to NM Democratic headquarters at the ABQ downtown Hyatt. What resulted was a raw look at the excitement of the evening, complete with Crump's trademark "shout-outs" from those interviewed. And how can you not crack up when Crump, in the heat of the moment, offers up this simple, but on the mark analysis: "Barack got it on lock!" Hep cats are going to want to see the video of Caleb kicking it...

E-mail in your political news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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