Monday, April 06, 2009

Dem Battle For Sec. Of State May Be Coming, Plus: More Play For Commission Seat, And: NM R's Ponder Future, Also: Where Will New NM Jobs Come From? 

Valerie vs. Mary?
The 2010 political landscape continues to take shape with another statewide office possibly headed toward a heated Democratic primary contest. We told you about the developing face-off for the Dem nod for Land Commissioner featuring Santa Fe County Commissioner Mike Anaya and former Land Commissioner Ray Powell. Now, Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza appears to be inching closer to taking on incumbent Secretary of State Mary Herrera in what would be another closely watched showdown. Espinoza toyed with a run in 2006 when Herrera, then Bernalillo County Clerk, ascended to the SOS office. But this time around she appears more determined, telling us in a recent email:

I am heavily considering and confident that I’d have a shot...I have gained much support from those who deal with the office on a professional level. I’m so tempted based on the need to make that office function. I will decide before June.

Espinoza, serving her second four year term as Santa Fe clerk, had a grandfather who was a State Senator. She grew up in the heart of the north--in Española--where her family had a gas station across the street from the restaurant owned by the famous politico Emilio Naranjo. Espinoza worked at Los Alamos Labs for 20 years and for five years in the Secretary of State's Office under Shirley Hooper.

An Herrera-Espinoza primary could be competitive, despite Mary's incumbency. Valerie could poll well with Northern Dems and Mary is well-known in Bernalillo County. The south could be up for grabs. Of course, another contender could get in and change that calculus, or Espinoza, who has proven to be an adept fund-raiser, could forgo a run.

Herrera has had a relatively placid term, but Espinoza's supporters claim she has done nothing memorable. The press has been impatient with the SOS for not getting the office's Web site up to snuff when it comes to candidate financial reports. But Herrera was recently named president of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, is well-liked in the party and has a strong ethical reputation.


It's interesting to see possible primary battles develop for SOS and Land Commissioner while we still await word on who--if anyone of stature--will definitely challenge Lt. Governor Diane Denish for the Dem Guv nomination. Insiders still say State Senate Leader Michael Sanchez is unlikely to go and Attorney General Gary King does not seem excited by the prospect. That could leave only actor Val Kilmer standing between Denish and the Democratic nomination. The way this state has been trending, it is going to a nomination worth its weight in gold.

Fresh stuff for you on that behind-the-scenes play for the Bernalillo County Commission seat held by Deanna Archuleta and who insiders say is headed for a job in the Obama Interior Department, perhaps as soon as this month. Lawyer and ABQ School Board member Marty Esquivel has been on the short list to win appointment to the seat by Big Bill if and when Deanna vacates, but Marty checks in with the news that he not playing:

Thanks for the mention in your fine blog...Wanted to let you know I took myself out of the running for the county commission spot. It was a great opportunity, but just is not the right fit for me, my family or my law practice at this time. I’ll continue on the school board as president and as coach of my son’s little league team. I’m not sure which one will kill me first.

Thanks for that compliment, Marty. Of course, it has nothing to do with us pushing you to run for Congress a couple of years ago. And before the R's grumble, we feel the same about R Jon Barela when it comes to giving the system fresh blood--or an enema--whichever medical procedure you find most appropriate. Anyway, back to the action already....

Downtown insiders now say they see former commissioner Lenton Malry as a leading prospect to win the appointment. Lenton was the first African-American to serve in the NM Legislature and was previously elected to the Archuleta seat in the ABQ SE Heights area. He has been working for the county as a neighborhood coordinator and recently went part-time. (He has also been an Election Night fixture on KANW-89.1 FM with yours truly since 1988.) One question: If Malry, 68, does secure the Guv's appointment, will he be a placeholder or run for a four year term in 2010?

Former county commissioner, lawyer and lobbyist Tom Rutherford has also been mentioned as a possible and Danny Hernandez, a member of the AMAFCA flood control board, called in to let us know he's interested. As for Deanna, she's not saying what the future holds, but she was spotted at Walgreen's---picking up a prescription for Potomac Fever.


A bit of drama livened up an otherwise routine meeting Saturday of the Bernalillo County GOP. A defense contractor physicist, Charlie Tipton, was elected as the new county chairman after defeating two other contenders. Michael Meyer, an investment advisor, was expected to run and win, but dropped out. One of those defeated was Tito Madrid, a former field operative for ex-ABQ US Rep. Heather Wilson. A Wilson supporter says it was not a rejection of Heather because she was not urging delegates to support Madrid.

Also on hand for the session was ex-US Rep. Steve Pearce, and one of our Alligators reported:

I saw the two of them (Steve and Heather) talking cordially which tells me that they will not be running against each other.

Well, at this stage of their careers these two old pros could manage to act cordial while locked in a room with deadly tarantulas, but it does seem unlikely that we will have a rematch of the '08 US Senate primary in which the duo faced off and Steve won. Wilson is still on the fence on whether to make the move for the GOP Guv nod. Pearce continues to eye a possible run for his former southern congressional seat, or perhaps a run at Governor--if Heather stays on the sidelines.


Informed observers say NM GOP Chairman Harvey Yates seems to want to keep the party on the right, believing that the GOP was not conservative enough in '08, causing its historic NM defeat. Others strongly disagree, saying the party needs to push to the middle as it did in the past when the term "moderate Republican" was not an anachronism. They argue that bedrock conservatism has seen its peak for now, and was never that defining in moderate New Mexico. Still, few were willing to step forward and lead the troubled party. Yates was and it is his ball to run with.

If Yates goes too far right some GOP analysts believe there could be yet another day of reckoning in 2010. If so, the optimists among them see the small party finally building a coalition from the center that could bring back some semblance of power.

All of this is music to the ears of the Dems who now have more control than perhaps anytime in the post WWII era. The state's entire congressional delegation, the governorship, the two chambers of the Legislature, all statewide executive offices, excepting one, and the vast majority of the 33 counties are all under the Democratic banner.

Republicans may be shut out, but not conservatives and the few moderate R's that populate the area. Like the old days when the Dems dominated and the R's were on the mat, there is a conservative-moderate Dem faction to check the liberals from going too far. That was amply demonstrated in January with the election of Roswell Sen. Tim Jennings as President Pro Tem.


Will Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White seek the GOP nod for Lt. Governor in 2010 or some other office? It seems he wants to try to extend his political career, despite the waxing he received in last year's ABQ congressional race. White has formed a political action committee to repeal the repeal of the death penalty recently signed into law by Big Bill. The PAC has started a Web site and cut a TV commercial. It will be interesting to see how much the PAC has raised and from whom. It will also be interesting to see if White's drive to get tens of thousands of signatures to place the repeal on the NM election ballot is more than grandstanding.

The sheriff has been consistent in his support of the death penalty, arguing that not having it endangers lawmen. It's a powerful argument, but noted defense attorney Ray Twohig blogged in here recently that his reading of the NM Constitution tells him placing a public safety measure like a repeal of the death penalty on the ballot is not an option. Do other lawyers disagree? Let us know.


There is no other number with more impact on the well-being of the USA than the unemployment number. A man or a woman without a job--without a purpose--can turn into an unguided missile. First, in Binghamton. Now in Pittsburgh.

What may be most worrisome about the thousands of jobs being lost in our state--besides the severe human toll--is how we are going to put those people back to work.

We can see the miners reclaiming their jobs when the commodities cycle turns back up, but Eclipse Aviation will not be back in business. Thornburg Mortgage in Santa Fe--where 130 were laid off Friday--is gone for good. We won't be needing new mortgage companies anytime soon. Intel has shrunk its work force by 40 percent at its Rio Rancho facility and we don't see them adding workers. Efficiency will see to that. Zangara Dodge shut down. Will another car outfit open to replace it? Don't count on it.

It will be New Mexico's small businesses that will have to recharge the state's private sector. The hope for "green" jobs that is being espoused by President Obama and NM's Congressmen is understandable. But is there a plan, not just scatter shot one-time stimulus money being pumped into various government entities? How many of these jobs can we expect to create? Over what period of time? Will they form a permanent backbone for our economy, or just give a temporary lift? And what exactly is a green job? Have fun when you Google that.

For now, the relative stability of the state's government sector is holding up the economy, but there is very real pain here--as there is in Binghamton and Pittsburgh. Too many politicians and policy makers here seem to be dismissing the need for a new economic development paradigm by dismissing the recession as "being worse elsewhere." That's a campaign slogan, not a plan.

Where do ABQ's mayoral candidates see us headed? What about Big Bill and his policy makers? And when will we see Lt. Governor Denish, the leading candidate to replace Richardson, start to address this issue? There are plenty of people waiting to hear---too many of them without anything else to do.


We just plain forgot. That's our explanation for not pointing out Friday that it is Roswell GOP State Rep. Dennis Kintigh who has been giving Big Bill such a hard time over the generous tax credits extended to the film industry. We blogged how actor Denzel Washington made a $50,000 donation to the Roswell Boys and Girls Club and garnered deserved PR for doing so. But as with just about everything in our Land of Enchantment, there is the political angle. In this case it is that Kintigh proposal (beaten back in the Legislature) to repeal those tax incentives. From a KRQE-TV news report:

Then-Gov. Gary Johnson, a Republican, signed the credits into law in 2002 after they were approved by the Legislature. Over the years, they've grown from 15 percent of certain expenses to 25 percent and will total an estimated $55 million this year and $60 million in 2010. Kintigh argued that asking New Mexicans to tighten their belts and then turning around to give the film industry millions in tax credits isn't fair.

While it's not exactly Denzel vs. Dennis in Roswell, there are overtones. Not that Dennis is intimidated by big money. Roswell oilman Mark Murphy and his family spent an incredible $340,000 on Kintigh's campaign to oust Rep.Dan Foley in a 2008 GOP primary fight that now belongs to the ages. Come to think of it, that might be a plot line for a movie--starring Denzel Washington?


After having some fun toying with the press, Big Bill quietly announced Sunday he has signed the bill that opens to the public conference committees of the Legislature. Those are the meetings between Senate and House members where differences over legislation are hammered out. The press has lobbied for years that they be opened up and the bill this year finally made it to the Guv's desk. He tortured the scribes by saying he might not sign their coveted measure, but he did. Will the meetings really open the public to more of what the Legislature does, or will the deal-making simply move to the restrooms? We'll see...

Greg Lennes has those bottom lines from Las Cruces as he comes with this riff on actor and potential 2010 Dem Guv candidate Val Kilmer:

It is no "Top Secret" that Val Kilmer is interested in being "Top Gun" in New Mexico. Although he is not a "Real Genius", is "Missing" political experience, and is not a "Saint," he will bring some "Heat" into the gubernatorial race. Of course, his "Tombstone" will read "Batman Forever."

Thanks for the chuckle, Greg. Hope it's contagious...

E-mail your news and comments.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author
website design by limwebdesign