Monday, February 16, 2009

Unique Moment For State Politics: The Lujans Are In The House, Plus: Chavez Wakes To Economic Plight, And: Some Monday Bottom Lines 

US Rep. Lujan in Raton
It will be a proud papa presiding over the NM House of Representatives and an unique moment in state history today. House Speaker Ben Lujan will watch as his son, newly elected northern Democratic Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, addresses a joint session of the Legislature at 10 a.m. There have been few, if any, successful father-son teams at the top rung of state politics. Until now, the King's come closest. Gary King, son of former Governor Bruce King, is the state's attorney general. The son of US Rep. Harold Runnels, Mike Runnels, was elected the state's lieutenant governor, in 1982, shortly after his father passed away. Pete Domenici, Jr. was sometimes mentioned as a possible political heir apparent to his famous US Senator father. But it was the Lujan family of Nambe that pulled off the feat most strikingly.

There was much talk that Ben the elder would retire once he saw his son seated in the Congress--talk that has since subsided. The younger Lujan owes much to his father, but after the rough and tumble campaign he endured to get where he's at, it's hard for his foes to say Ben Ray didn't earn his seat. Today will be time for his fellow politicians to take stock of the next generation and see how near the tree the apple landed.

Lujan the younger will look forward to securing his first re-election. With that, he will still be his father's son, but the shadows the pair cast will be of equal length.


New Mexico's other thirtysomething congressman, ABQ Dem Martin Heinrich, has sent out one of his first pieces of "franked" mail to ABQ area constituents (or at least its the first we've received). That's mail they get to send for free, announcing community meetings and issue updates. Martin is having an economic recovery and job resources town hall meeting Feb. 18 at 5:30 p.m. deep in the ABQ Valley area--at the Alamosa Community Center at Coors and Bridge. Of course, you would have a job resource fair where people need jobs--and there is an exaggerated need in the Valley--but it is also a potentially problematic area for the freshly minted congressman. His ties to the Hispanic community are not deep--he received a stiff primary challenge from Michelle Lujan Grisham in 2008--and strengthening his ties there are important to fend off any possible primary challenge in 2010. Now, if he can deliver some direct job results to the area, he'll be that much better off.


ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez, who sparred with Heinrich when he was on the city council but has since buried the hatchet, will attend the congressman's town hall. (Heinrich is expected to stay neutral in this year's mayor's race.) Now that ABQ is set to receive millions in federal stimulus funds, the mayor has flatly stated: "ABQ is in a recession."

Until now, the mayor has couched his economic analysis in the bromide that "things are not as bad here as elsewhere." But as job losses mount and businesses also feel increasing pain, that observation is losing its resonance. Chavez now is also publicly expressing concern about the length and depth of the downturn. (Is he worried, as we are, that Eclipse Aviation and its remaining 900 jobs could vanish in a wink?) The mayor also has formed teams of biz and community leaders to recommend how to spend the federal cash influx.

In this case good politics--lowering expectations as he embarks on his October re-election quest--meshes with good public policy. Chavez needs to lead on the economy, but has been reticent. He's not paid by the ABQ Chamber of Commerce and wishing bad news away, or soft-pedaling it-- won't make it go away. He now seems to be stepping up. The public is uncertain on this huge stimulus plan, but Chavez bottom lines it by declaring it will be considered a success if it lowers the jobless rate.

This is going to be a long year for the ABQ economy. If Chavez falters, mayoral hopefuls Richard Romero, Michael Cadigan or Debbie O'Malley will gladly take the baton.


More info on that poll we broke on the blog Friday morning about the domestic partners bill in the Legislature and how it is playing in the districts of two key Senate opponents. The survey was conducted by Research and Polling for the NM branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. It showed surprisingly strong support for the controversial proposal in the Espanola area district of opponent Richard Martinez as well as that of ABQ Westside Senator Bernadette Sanchez. Martinez remained unmoved. He said: "With all due respect to Brian Sanderoff and his research and polling, I don't think that poll is worth the paper it is written on, because I think the way they ask the question they got the answer that they wanted." Sanderoff said the survey was objective.


We'll remember Ed Grothus of Los Alamos as one of the most prolific writer of letters to the editor in state history--many of them centered on is hope for a nuclear weapons free future and worth reading. The political gadfly passed away last week....

And from the Governor's office:

Governor Richardson announced he will lower flags in honor of Patricia K. Jennings, 53, who passed away on Saturday. Mrs. Jennings, the wife of Senate President Pro Tem Timothy Jennings of Roswell, had been battling breast cancer...She was Executive Director of the New Mexico Medical Insurance Pool.

Patty was well known and respected and she worked hard to get those without health insurance--covered. On behalf of the First Lady and myself, our sympathies are with Senator Jennings and his family,” said Governor Richardson.

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