Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Clothes Make The Man And A Campaign Issue; Zanetti's Uniform In The Spotlight, Plus: Mayor Race Update, And: Cadigan Council Reversal; He's Running 

Zanetti in Uniform
It can be the hottest of hot button issues--a candidate's military service or their comments about the military. Take, for example, the scalding actor Val Kilmer took over his comments on Vietnam veterans, or the ongoing debate in presidential campaigns over a contender's military service or lack thereof. Here in New Mexico, the issue has already popped up in a roundabout way, even though the gubernatorial campaign trail has only started to simmer.

Potential 2010 Republican Guv candidate Greg Zanetti is also a Brigadier General in the New Mexico Army National Guard. It is his wearing of his uniform at public events now that he has formed an official exploratory committee for the Guv race that has prompted comments heard here. On Tuesday's blog we wrote:

"GOP Guv hopeful Greg Zanetti makes a point of showing up at events in the uniform he wears as a Brigadier General in the NM National Guard."

Zanetti, a stockbroker in civilian life, and husband of former GOP State Rep. Teresa Zanetti, was more than irked by the inference, so we gave him the opportunity to explain:

...Part of my NM Guard job is to tell the Guantanamo story. When I do, I am in uniform and do not discuss politics...In February...the Santa Fe Republican Party sent an invitation for a Lincoln Day dinner with a picture of me in uniform. My jaw dropped and I called the NM Guard immediately. The invitation was done without my knowledge...I gave that speech in civilian clothes, even though I spoke of Guantanamo...Since then, I have been very careful to give civilian speeches in civilian clothes...on civilian topics.

I spoke with the NM Guard's Staff Judge Advocate before the campaign started and he researched the Regulations...I also signed a document that required me to keep the military and political sides separate. I am adhering to the regulations and to the agreement. I would not risk the campaign, or the Guard's reputation, by mixing the two....I do not discuss the Governor's race when in uniform...I have never shown up at a political event in uniform...

As we recall, the ABQ Journal showed a photo of Zanetti in his uniform attending a public event and identified him as a potential Guv candidate. (They don't run their photos on their Web site much, so we can't confirm that, but it's based on our memory of reading the dead-tree edition.)

Zanetti was also pictured in military uniform by the Roswell Daily Record when they identified him as a potential 2010 Guv candidate and ran a story and interview with him about the race. The photograph the paper ran appeared to be an official photo taken by the national guard, not one snapped while he was interviewed. It is posted with this story today.

Zanetti is understandably sensitive about the uniform issue, but when the bright lights of La Politica begin to shine, everything is caught under their glare. Zanetti says he is likely to retire from military service at the end of the year which would dim the lights on the uniform issue. But don't worry. There will be plenty of others.


No surprises. Three candidates have filed the needed petition signatures to qualify as ABQ mayoral candidates. The deadline was Tuesday. Mayor Chavez, who has not officially announced his candidacy, Republican RJ Berry and Dem Richard Romero all submitted more than 6,500 signatures needed to qualify for the October 6 election.The first mayoral forum is tonight. Details here.

The first four months of mayoral Campaign '09 have done nothing to up end the conventional wisdom that the race is Chavez's to lose. Dem Romero has taken some potshots at Chavez, but location of a soccer field and whether the mayor sought a discount for his plane travel when he sought the US Senate nomination last year, are not big picture issues. They are unlikely to dent the sturdy armor that Chavez wears as he goes into the race. Not that there isn't time.

Romero has plenty of time to prod and poke and see if something sticks. Ditto for late-starting Republican hopeful RJ Berry. But each day the news cycle does not deliver a blow is a good day for the incumbent. It means he will be at near-peak strength when the more serious hits start in late August and September.

Chavez was interviewed on KKOB-AM radio Tuesday. We listened closely as he bantered with veteran talk host Jim Villanucci. We did not hear anything amiss. Chavez, 57, parried questions for ten minutes over the aforementioned soccer field and demonstrated comprehensive knowledge. He reminded us of former Mayor Harry Kinney who seemed to be a walking encyclopedia when it came to the city.

Being mayor may be old hat to Chavez and maybe he is even a little bored, but his radio appearance reinforced the view that Chavez brings his "A" game to his political campaigns. His foes have a shot, but the bar is high. Debates with a Chavez firing on all cylinders and backed up with an incumbent's command of the issues could be filled with more treachery than opportunity if a challenger doesn't do his homework. Berry and Romero will need time in the gym to build up their political muscles. Chavez seems as ready as ever (and we've watched him for 20 years) to field their punches and then some.

And an aside: Villanucci, who has clashed with the mayor over the red-light camera program, told his audience he is still open to supporting Chavez. Republicans, hoping Villanucci will help rally the GOP base around State Rep. Berry, could not have been happy to hear that.


Cadigan Vs. Lewis
Chavez has a way of getting under the skin of his opponents, sometimes to their lasting detriment. Which brings us to the case of City Councilor Michael Cadigan. The two term West Side lawmaker earlier announced he would not seek re-election to his council seat even if his bid to become mayor failed. Well, Cadigan withdrew from the mayor's race when he could not garner enough support, but now he has reversed himself and says he will seek a third term to the council.

The attorney and former Marine has an intellectual streak that has elevated the city political debate, but observers--and even some friends of Cadigan--warn that what seems to be a deep personal animosity toward Chavez could sidetrack him as he seeks another council term. And the third time may not be as easy as the first two. Already in the race is political newcomer and Republican Dan Lewis who is working the district and showing determination. The small businessman and teacher came with this hit on Cadigan when he learned of the councilor's change of heart:

Just last week, during a lunch meeting I had with Mike Cadigan...He told me, and I quote: “I’ve become jaded. I’m too cynical. I’m done with being a city councilor. I’m going to go to Colorado and ski, do some fly-fishing.” Encouraging me, he stated “This job needs someone who can see with a new set of eyes.” So I am a bit puzzled to hear that Mr. Cadigan says he is running for re-election. That is his prerogative. I thought he would retire on a high note, but it looks like he wants to run again, jaded and all.

Well, game on for the West Side. If Michael responds to that opening Lewis volley, we'll be sure to bring it to you. (Democrat Jeremy Toulouse also says he will try to qualify for this council race.)


Besides not letting Chavez (or Lewis) get the better of his emotions, Cadigan also has to be careful not to associate himself too closely with Democrat Richard Romero. There is a little problem there. When he withdrew from the mayoral race, Cadigan immediately endorsed the mayoral bid of the former state senator. Insiders expect Romero to turn in a weak performance in the West Side district where Chavez remains popular. A recent poll conducted for a prospective council candidate showed Chavez scoring 41 per cent of the vote in Cadigan's district, with Romero and Berry getting 17 percent each.

Romero's appeal to the environmental community is not a big selling point for him on the West Side nor for the re-election of Cadigan. The critics have rapped Cadigan as too liberal for the district. Lewis could try to put that theory to the test.

While the incumbency and his name ID probably give Cadigan the front runner position at the start, this could turn into a heated battle. Keep this one on your watch list.


The new manager of the Isleta Casino and Resort is trying to knock down a report from KOAT-TV and picked up here that 200 of the resort's 1,200 employees are being laid off because of lousy business. Isleta CEO Ron Wilson, on the job for a month, won't confirm how many workers are losing their jobs, but claims the 200 figure is too high. He also won't confirm the total number of employees at Isleta. It's not like Ron isn't used to hearing about layoffs. He comes here from Michigan which has the highest state unemployment rate in the nation.

Why should the number of New Mexico citizens losing their jobs from casinos that operate under state-sanctioned compacts be secret? Come on Ron, stop that Michigan two-step and give us some New Mexico straight talk.


One of our Alligators reported here April 20 that famed cyclist Lance Armstrong would appear at the Tour of the Gila race this week in Silver City. That set off a back and forth, with the media attempting to nail it down. Now it is nailed down. Lance will be in the NM race, helping to provide a needed economic boost to struggling Grant County. Maybe we should recruit some sports Alligators to continue to keep us in the loop? Applications are available at Barelas Coffeehouse.


We mentioned Republican Jay Howard Deme Tuesday as seeking the guv's appointment to Democrat Deanna Archuleta's Bernalillo County Commission seat. Deme says he's actually interested in filling a vacancy for another seat on the commission, if there is one. Talk about getting in early....

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