Wednesday, February 18, 2009
No R's For Mayor And That's A First, Plus: Trouble For Moriarty Racino, And: Zangara Can't Dodge Economy, Plus: Zanetti Starts Guv Run
Yet another sign that the New Mexico Republican Party remains flat on its back. For the first time in history the race for the ABQ mayor's office kicked off without a Republican contender in the field. And not for a lack of trying. State GOP Chairman Harvey Yates has tried to recruit a candidate, but has had no takers. There is still little time. Insiders say a well-organized Republican could get in the race as late as mid-April and still make the April 28 deadline for filing 6,574 petition signatures needed to make the ballot. However, if a candidate wants to be eligible for public financing they have to collect some 3,300 individual $5 donations by April 1. At this point, the R's best bet might be a wealthy individual who could finance his own effort and quickly gather petition signatures. But in this economy and with Republicans still dispirited from their epic 2008 landslide defeat, good luck.
A couple of GOP state reps have been mentioned as possible GOP mayoral contenders because they could run for mayor and not have to give up their House seats which are not up for re-election until next year. But why go if your chances of winning are long?
ABQ elections are officially nonpartisan, but that fig leaf was shredded long ago by both parties who take an active interest in the high-profile position. However, party affiliation is not listed on the October ballot.
It is incumbent Mayor Marty Chavez who benefits most from the lack of a Republican in the field. Then again, the joke going around the GOP is that lifelong, but somewhat conservative Marty, is the Republican candidate. How will Dems Richard Romero (who formally announced Tuesday) and City Councilors Debbie O'Malley and Michael Cadigan crack the GOP NE Heights wards? Cadigan is talking the most conservative of the three, but he is relatively unknown. (Local activist Donna Rowe has also announced, but without organization muscle will be hard-pressed to make the ballot.)
With no GOP candidate emerging to split Chavez's vote, it raises the question of whether one or even two of the Dem trio will get out early and throw their support behind the strongest of the bunch. Something to watch for.
THE CHAVEZ WATCH
The mayor filed the paperwork Tuesday to become eligible for public financing. His associates tell me he is delaying a formal announcement as long as possible because it doesn't make any sense to position the mayor as a candidate. They believe the longer he is seen as acting as mayor and not a candidate, the better. And, as one of them put it, "people are still tired from the last election."
Chavez is playing a game, but his foes have been trying to nurture the impression in the media that Chavez may actually opt out of the race, but it is wishful thinking--especially among progressives apoplectic over the prospect of his re-election. Their instincts are right that their chances of defeating him are iffy.
THE POLITICAL LIFE
We covered the first race for mayor that took place under the modern form of government for KUNM-FM radio in 1974, and am surprised and thankful to have covered or particpated in just about every one since. From our perch the mayor-council has been a good form of government for our city. The executive has grown stronger through the decades, but that has been the case everywhere, probably because of television and its singular focus. None of our sitting mayors, department heads or city councilors has ever been indicted. Government corruption has been minimal, and quickly extinguished when it has popped up. The city has grown dramatically these past 35 years. Our big mistake was allowing unbridled growth on the Westside. But we got much right--the many parks, the open space and the upkeep of the city's older neighborhoods (at least many of them).
The Albuquerque lifestyle--laid back, unpretentious and played out against the backdrop of some of the world's most spectacular scenery--has been preserved. There is much room for improvement, but there is also much for the candidates of 2009 to build on.
SIGN OF THE TIMES
Hold your horses! So say the Alligators of the plans to move the Downs at ABQ at the State Fairgrounds to a new racino at the town of Moriarty east of ABQ. They say Downs president and major Friend of Big Bill, Paul Blanchard, who has won permission to close up the Downs racino and open up the new track in Moriarty, has asked for a two year extension on making the move. Building the new racino could cost upwards of $65 million and financing--not easy to get done in this banking environment--is apparently an issue. Also, that $4.5 million Moriarty was hoping to get from the Legislature to build infrastructure for the track is dead, another victim of the tight times. They're hoping the federal stimulus money might cover the tab.
Insiders say that one problem Blanchard may face is whether his request to run racing for two more years at the Downs has to be competitively bid. If so, will his former competitors for the Moriarty racino emerge to try to run racing at the Downs? Something for an enterprising reporter to check out.
Former Bernalillo County GOP Chairman Ken Zangara raised hundreds of thousands for President Bush, but he can't raise money to save his car dealership--Zangara Dodge. TV news reported there's a closed sign on the dealership and Zangara, who has had the business for 18 years, says he is looking for a buyer. The closure means a loss of over 100 jobs. We can stop debating the Obama stimulus and start hoping it works.
GRAND JURY MEETING?
A reliable Senior Alligator says he is told a state grand jury is meeting over the mess uncovered during the tenure of NM Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron. State Auditor Hector Balderas Tuesday released a report saying his staff can't say with certainty what was going on there in the year that ended June 20, 2007. We do know that the feds want to know how $6 million was spent and NM Attorney General King is investigating. If there is indeed a grand jury hearing evidence on this, it joins that federal panel investigating alleged pay to play in the Big Bill administration.
2010 here we come. Gosh, we have barely caught our breath from the epic election of 2008 but find ourselves blogging regularly on breaking developments in the 2010 race for governor. Tuesday, ABQ Republican Greg Zanetti was at the Secretary of State's office getting paperwork for a Guv run. The ABQ stockbroker and Army Brigadier General is finding early support from the more conservative elements of his party. Zanetti was telling wall-leaners at the Roundhouse that he believes former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson, who is flirting with a run for Guv, can't win a statwide primary. He cited her defeat for the 2008 US Senate nomination when Wilson fell to Steve Pearce. Zanetti, however, is also a former statewide loser. He lost a bid for the GOP nod for lieutenant governor in 1994.
In the camp of Dem Lt. Governor Diane Denish, new faces are coming aboard as Denish gears up for what could be a spirited battle for the Dem nomination. Campaign field director Michelle Mares and staffer Abigail Campbell have moved on. Mares is now working with the Secretary of State's office and Campbell is in D.C.
Former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson is trying to find her way back by taking a look at running for the 2010 GOP nod for Governor. Wilson will headline the Los Alamos County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner Thursday night. And the former chairman of the NM GOP, Allen Weh,
is telling friends he is actually thinking about a Guv run. Really??
THE BOTTOM LINES
Heard around the Roundhouse: "Have you heard about Representative Ray Begaye? He's the sleeper candidate for lieutenant governor."
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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