Monday, March 09, 2009

AG King Guv Run Remains Doubtful: "Leaning" Towards Re-elect Bid, Plus: Santa Fe's "Screw The Media Party"; We've Got You Covered On Your Monday Blog 

Di and Gary
The chatter has been growing so loud about Attorney General Gary King looking at launching a bid for the 2010 Dem guv nod that we dialed him up to find out for ourselves if the corridor talk was based on reality. We found him at the Chicago airport on his way back from D.C. and not nearly as animated about a possible Guv run as the back channels would have it.

"Running for governor is an option, but I am leaning toward running again for attorney general in 2010." said the Democratic Ag whose father, Bruce King, served three terms as the state's chief executive.

King, a former state representative, has run twice before for Governor but said a third try would require special circumstances. What might those be?

"Well, if Diane (Denish) decided not to run, that would surely be one....and if I thought (actor) Val Kilmer actually had a serious chance of becoming governor of this state, that would be another. I don't think he understands the politics or government of New Mexico," declared the AG.

Gary sees Light Guv Diane Denish as the frontrunner and says the two have regular contact. A King entry could complicate her chances in the Democratic primary, depending on who comprised the rest of the field. For example. no major Hispanic candidates have yet announced. Actor Kilmer is toying with a run, but analysts note there is now a negative thread being sewn about his potential candidacy which is good for Denish as long as others do the dirty work.


King's first statement on his 2010 plans came here in May of 2007 when he gave a definitive "no" when asked if he would go for the Guv's chair. But the goal posts are moving targets in politics and King has since toyed with the notion. But now it appears we are back where we started. If King doesn't run and actor Val Kilmer demurs, who else will go? Insiders say Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez does not seem as probable a candidate as a few months ago. ABQ Mayor Chavez always lurks, but he polls poorly statewide. Kilmer may have more appeal to a general election electorate than to Dem primary voters. Can Light Guv Denish now hope with some reason that she can avoid a contentious Dem primary?

When we tracked him down King was much more interested in talking about the job he is doing as attorney general than a theoretical run at the state's highest office. He said plans to begin his re-election fundraising as soon as the legislative session ends. He complimented his staff, calling them a "strong team" and cited his consumer division as one example.

We asked him about some criticisim he has received for not being aggressive enough in pursuing political corruption. "This isn't CSI on TV and we don't do things in an hour, but in the next two years you are going to be hearing moreabout our efforts. Pay to play is not going to be tolerated in New Mexico." He declared.

Insiders believe a state grand jury led by the AG is looking into state corruption.

Summing up the politics of the moment, King offered a final remark on the Guv run chatter: "You can tell the Alligators that I really love my job," He quipped.

What do you call a gathering of well over 100 friends and supporters of embattled former Big Bill chief of staff Dave Contarino? Well, one of those in attendance says last week's party at the Santa Fe title company co-owned by Contarino and his wife was dubbed the "Screw the Media Party." Actually, it was called that four letter word describing sexual intercourse, but also often used to express contempt. Not that the Contarinos sent out invites announcing a "Screw the Media" bash, as explained to us by one of those in attendance.

"I received a call from Linda (Dave's wife) telling us there would be an event in support of Dave--not a fund-raiser or anything like that--but just to show support. I thought it was going to be a few of his friends, but it turned into a large party. Much of the talk was how Dave has been raked over the coals by the media coverage of the CDR scandal so we called it the "Screw the Media Party." We believe Dave has a solid reputation for integrity and it is being unfairly tarnished by the media drumbeat."

Apparently screwing the media is an enjoyable past time. Some of the party goers continued the festivities after the main event at the title company--Southwestern Title and Escrow-- and were spotted at the Rio Chama restaurant and bar, next to the Roundhouse.

Contarino, a Cornell University grad, has figured prominently in the reporting of the CDR scandal, with him and former NM Finance Authority chief David Harris often cited as the most well-known personalities--besides Big Bill--garnering the attention of the US Attorney's office and the federal grand jury investigating alleged state corruption in awarding contracts. Both men are thought to be the most likely targets for indictments in the case. However, the Republican US Attorney is now coming under fire from Contarino allies and prominent Dems for not having concluded the case which has been going since last August.

Contarino, 47, is a skilled political consultant with a long resume in state politics, including his association with Big Bill in 2002 as well as the 1994 US Senate campaign of Jeff Bingaman and the '98 congressional campaign of Phil Maloof. He is credited with guiding the Governor to a record re-election win in 2006. He also was campaign manager for the Guv's presidential campaign which drew more mixed reviews.

While the party for Contarino was not a fundraiser some of Big Bill's supporters have started to raise funds for Contarino to help pay his mounting legal expenses.

In the government arena, Contarino, called by the Guv his "most trusted aide" is credited with ably making the switch from political director to chief of staff for Bill's first term, now appraised by veteran observers on both the left and right as one of the most productive in state history.

We're informed Big Bill, his current chief of staff Brian Condit and NM Dem Party Chairman Brian Colon were among those on hand for the party at the title company. As far as we know, they maintain their daily newspaper subscriptions.


It's not the first time that the media has become the focus of political anger at the upper reaches of New Mexican politics. It was during Governor Toney Anaya's administration in the mid-1980's that bumper stickers along the lines of "They kill good trees to print bad newspapers" popped up around the state. They were passed out by Toney's supporters. At the time, the media coverage of Toney was blistering and his approval ratings were among the lowest ever recorded. But he finished his term without anyone being indicted which in New Mexico politics is not always a low bar to jump.

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