Thursday, January 08, 2009

Fernando's Comeback? He Runs For GOP Post, Plus: Bill's World: Fishing Expedition Or Not? And: Win A Free Lunch In The Blog Photo Caption Contest 

C de Baca
Can Fernando C de Baca be a "Comeback Kid?" He's going to try Saturday when he's nominated to become the next treasurer of the NM Republican Party. C de Baca was one of the casualties of Campaign '08 when he uttered:

“The truth is that Hispanics came here as conquerors. African-Americans came here as slaves...Hispanics consider themselves above blacks. They won’t vote for a black president.”

That quote was flashed around the globe as the nation prepared to elect its first black president and it cost the longtime politico his position as Bernalillo County GOP Chairman. But Saturday, when Republicans gather to elect new officers, C de Baca will make a play to become the party's new treasurer. Fernando's friends say he is considering having a black minister place his name in nomination. The seventy-something C de Baca suffered foot-in-mouth-disease when he made his off-color comments. Maybe he gets a stab at a fresh start Saturday, but not without sparks flying. The aftertaste from that sour quote is going to last a while. No other candidates for treasurer have surfaced , but negative e-mails about Fernando have started to fly. Opposition could surface in the form of a floor nomination.


We aren't seeing Farmington's Allen McCulloch throwing in the towel in his bid to become the new GOP chairman Saturday, even though oilman Harvey Yates has lined up the support of ex-Senator Domenici and former US Reps Wilson, Pearce and Lujan. In fact, there is some negative campaigning going on against Yates. If Allen stays in, the Saturday meeting at the Hotel ABQ next to Old Town could get intense.


Well, of course the Governor's inner circle is being quizzed by federal prosecutors. Duh. They are going after The Whale--Big Bill. But how are they going to harpoon this elusive catch? Bloomberg news reports that a person who testified before the federal grand jury investigating the CDR bond deal said prosecutors are asking if Dave Contarino, Bill's former chief of staff, told a state agency to hire CDR which donated $100,000 to Richardson's political committees.

Did Contarino or another Big Bill aide line up the contract for CDR after getting an explicit promise of campaign money and did Big Bill sanction the hold-up? Another top Richardson aide--senior political adviser Michael Stratton--worked for CDR as a consultant and reportedly lobbied the New Mexico Finance Authority to give the contract to the firm, sources told both Bloomberg News and Barry Massey of The Associated Press.

But do we have a fishing expedition here or the real deal? Pay to play cases are usually decided with wiretaps and paper trails. That's what happened when the Feds prosecuted the Metro Courthouse corruption case that snared Dem politico Manny Aragon as well as the corruption case against State Treasurer Vigil who was caught on tape.

Questions for this one: Were the feds wiretapping someone back in 2004 when the bond deal was being made? That seems unlikely. Did they suit someone up with a wiretap months or years after the fact and get a Big Bill aide to record the Governor admitting he was in on the deal? That seems far out. Did one of the Governor's aides outline the pay to play deal to CDR in an e-mail? That sounds pretty stupid. If someone came forward recently and testified that he took part in a pay to play scheme with the Guv, is there any hard evidence to back that up?

Yes, the Governor is a big legal target, but not an easy one to hit. Politically, the harpooners had an easier time as the Guv withdrew his nomination to be the president's commerce secretary because of the grand jury probe.

No one is going to underestimate the investigative prowess of the feds. They have two big notches under their belt here, but it's important to point out amid the frenzy that an indictment only requires probable cause that a crime was committed; a conviction requires evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. The old saw about a prosecutor being able to indict a ham sandwich is still true.

The Guv briefly defended himself again Wednesday: "In my view, the state and its officials have done nothing wrong. They behaved with the best of intentions and the best conduct."


This bigger than life politician can't be underestimated, either. There he was on statewide television last night, cracking a self-deprecating joke about the probe and in another segment offering sincere and high praise for former aide Contarino. The Guv is taking to heart advice that he not hide from the cameras and that he turn on his Old Warrior charm. It may not influence the grand jury, but it helps with the people of New Mexico who have bonded with him. If the worst case scenario unfolds and indictments come down, it will be the people of this state who will decide whether to stay by the Governor's side or tell him his governorship must end early.


Well, the governor may have been Mr. Public Wednesday, but the night before it looked as if he was Mr. Incognito. Here he is in this very cool ABQ Journal Maria Brose photo from one of the Alligators taken at the UNM-UTEP game at ABQ's Pit Tuesday night. We believe that's Chief of Staff Brian Condit whispering in his ear. What's he saying there?

It's definitely time for a blog caption contest with a free lunch to the winner and their guest. E-mail in your captions and let's have some fun.


We'd like to see a poll on how this deal is impacting New Mexico public opinion. Believe it or not, it may not be as compelling as insiders and media types think. The electorate is so bombarded with alleged political wrongdoing, they seem to glaze over and dismiss much of it until it is proven very serious--such as the indictment stage. At least that's what NM pollster Brian Sanderoff has told us over the years and we've seen his take borne out in a variety of political campaigns and in the lackadaisical attitude toward campaign reform in D.C. and Santa Fe.

Richardson won re-election in 2006 by the biggest margin in state history. His popularity has ranged from around 50% to the 62%, according to polls from last year. The 62% was among likely voters who most closely follow the news.

If there was a crime committed it needs to be prosecuted, but that doesn't mean it isn't worrisome to have this issue hanging over the state. our reputation is getting a daily black eye nationally. And It sure isn't helping economic development. We can only hope that we get resolution--one way or the other--and soon.


One of the Gators sent this one in--Illinois Governor Blago gave $20,000 to Big Bill's political coffers in Nov. of '06. It's Blago's pay to play over the Illinois US Senate seat that has turned the attention up on Bill's problems. Please, let this be the only Bill-Blago connection.


We asked for and we received possible names to take Michael Cadigan's ABQ West Side city council seat now that he is giving it up to run for mayor. Three possibles emerged from the Alligators, including Robert Aragon, a former state legislator and ex-brother-in-law to Mayor Marty Chavez. The two once practiced law together. Lance Milford is another name making the rounds. His family is well-known for advocating for tough DWI laws. And Robert Doucette, the assistant to Republican Bernalillo County Commissioner Michael Brasher, is another possible contender. Ok, now a fourth one comes in as I wrap up the blog--Marci Youngmark. In October city voters will choose a mayor and councilors in five of the nine city council districts.

E-mail your news and comments, and don't forget to enter our caption contest for your chance at a free lunch.

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