Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Jockeying For #2; Latest Names For Dem Light Guv Race, Plus: Heather Still Playing With Guv Run; Steve Lurks, And: Big Bill's Legacy Building
The roster of possible Democratic lieutenant governor candidates is getting as long as the line forming for tickets to Obama's Thursday Rio Rancho Town Hall. They keep coming out of the woodwork. ABQ Dem State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino tells us he will meet with friends today to talk about tossing his hat into the race for the state's #2 political position. The longtime liberal is serving his second term in the Senate.
Running for Light Guv from the Senate next year is a free ride. Senate seats aren't up for election until 2012, but all 70 House seats are on the ballot next year. ABQ State Senator Linda Lopez has formally entered the race; northern State Sen. Pete Campos is looking at it; State Senate Majority Leader Michel Sanchez says keep him in mind for a possible Guv run.
Other Dem light guv prospects---and we know we are going to forget someone---include already announced Santa Fe Sheriff Greg Solano, NM Dem Party Chair Brian Colon, ABQ's Lawrence Rael and Santa Fe's Javier Gonzales. State Auditor Hector Balderas appears ready to go for re-election to his current job, but let's keep him on the light guv list--just in case.
What about Heather Wilson? The former ABQ GOP Congresswoman is closely watched as the date of decision for a run at the GOP Guv nod draws closer. Tea leaf readers got some work when Wilson, who started her political career as head of the NM Children, Youth and Families Department, hit the ABQ Journal with an op-ed piece on the current state of our juvenile justice system. That's a far cry from Heather's usual opining on national security. Is it a signal that the 48 year old is inching closer to a run? And we mention her age because we find it interesting that none of the announced or potential Guv candidates that has come along is even close to representing the new generations of New Mexicans. These boomers stay around a long time.
Over the weekend, close Heather political ally and Republican Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White also took up the juvenile justice theme. There's been talk of White seeking the GOP lieutenant governor nod. He has indicated he won't go, but minds have been known to change. The sheriff is term-limited and can't run again in 2010. He has said staying in elective office is a goal.
We note that Lt. Governor Diane Denish says she has $1.7 million in cash on hand in her latest finance report. There were some news reports circulating earlier that put the number at $2 million. Yes, that $300,000 makes a difference in how this race is viewed, especially if Di gets a strong primary challenge. Denish has raised a total of $2 million since starting the race.
Denish, the only announced candidate for the Dem nod for governor, says her recent contributions include $15,000 from Stan Fulton, owner of Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino. ABQ developer Mesa del Sol gave her $10,000. Fulton made his fortune in Las Vegas and then bought Sunland and made that profitable. He has been a heavy NM political donor. We did PR work for him a while back and found him to be of the good old boy school--gregarious and street smart. He will play in this one all the way to the finish line. Mesa del Sol is a blog sponsor, but we're not running for anything.
Some of the Southern Gators sent this piece on former GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce's recent stop in Alamogordo--heart of the state's conservative base. Some of them think it signals that Pearce is more interested in the southern congressional seat than a try at Guv. Maybe they're right, but others playing the Steve guessing game note he is spending a lot of time in ABQ these days. If Pearce and Wilson both ran for the GOP Guv nod--something you've got to think has long odds--it would be a rematch of their face off for the GOP US Senate nod in '08 which Pearce won.
CHECKING THE POWER
The Republicans may be flat on their backs, but they benefit from the news philosophy in the papers and blogs like ours that whoever has the power has to be doubted. In the current case that makes the media environment somewhat receptive for an out-of-power Republican message. Now if they can just craft a compelling message (We know--corruption, corruption, corruption).
GOP State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons decided to go ahead and make official his bid for the southern Public Regulation Commission seat after news of it broke here Monday. He sent a news release as well as a note showing our deficiency in eastern NM geography:
Thanks for announcing my run for the PRC in today’s blog. I might as well make it official--see the attached press release. I need to correct a couple of geographical inaccuracies. First, my ranch is located in Quay County which is well within PRC District 2. Secondly, don’t confuse the town of Melrose with Melrose Bombing Range. Melrose is located in Curry County and the bombing range is in Roosevelt.
Further, if increasing Land Office revenue by 108% is controversial then so be it. Under my leadership, public schools and universities have earned $3 billion. The state is coping with a $700 million deficit; therefore my office is playing vital role in helping these learning institutions meet their budgets.
Lyons, who is term-limited, has taken numerous hits on the state's editorial pages, but he is a proven vote getter. Republican Bob Cornelius of Lea County, who made a brief run for the southern congressional seat last year, says he is also looking at that PRC contest, as well as the land commissioner post Lyons will vacate at the end of next year. Cornelius, 29, says he represents new blood for the GOP, and will campaign aggressively for whichever office he goes for.
The southern PRC seat is safe R. No Dems need apply. On the Dem side for land commissioner, former land boss Ray Powell, Jr. says he will run and Santa Fe County Commissioner Mike Anaya is looking at a bid.
Big Bill is "flooding the zone" with news release after news release as he works feverishily--his critics would say desperately--to reverse his deep and profound slide in public opinion. Faced with a second term that has partially imploded in ethics scandals, Richardson has about six more months of clear legacy building until the R's--if they have their act together--start demolishing his record in time for the 2010 election.
Monday was another day of frenetic activity for the Fourth Floor on the press front. They said Big Bill will attend the Rio Rancho Town hall with President Obama on Thursday; they released another schedule that has Richardson dashing across the state to talk with local leaders about the federal stimulus package and they said the Governor is now open to putting more legislative representation on the State Investment Council, an idea pushed hard by GOP Farmington area Senator Steven Neville, a real estate appraiser who has cited the various investigations into possible abuses in the invesments of the state's permanent funds.
Richardson vetoed a Neville bill that would have given lawmakers a bigger say on the council. Now that he has pulled what capitol reporter Trip Jennings calls "a 180 degree turnabout" maybe the Guv can put it on the agenda for the special session expected later this year. The Guv also said Monday he now supports the legislative proposal for an independent review of the state's investments.
A lot of folks are going to say this stuff is like the Guv chasing the horse after he opened the barn door. But the horse still has to be rounded up and Bill's proposals are going to be welcomed.
And there's more zone flooding. Richardson on Monday also released the latest report on activity of his political committee. It is the ungodly sums of money that this Governor has raised that most threatens his stature in the future.
THE FLOOD CONTINUES
Late note: Richardson's office said Tuesday he would name Maggie Hart Stebbins as the new Bernalillo County Commissioner, calling her a "new face."
And even more Guv flood. His office put out the names of three women who they said are finalists for a vacancy on the Bernalillo County Commission---Maggie Hart Stebbins of the Mid-Region Council of Governments; PR agency owner Joanie Griffin who has political ties to Mayor Chavez and Idalia Lechuga-Tena, an aide to the mayor with experience in bilingual projects. Judy Espinosa, former head of NM Expo, was not on the list. There has been much speculation that she was to be the chosen one. These new names come after the Governor said he wanted a new list to work from after a first round of interviews that included Espinosa. The replacement gets a free ride until 2012, filling out the unexpired term of Deanna Archuleta who has taken a job in the Interior Department in D.C. The appointment is expected to come today.
The Guv is expert at creating a whirlwind of activity, but that federal grand jury investigating allegations of pay-to-play in his administration may hold the key to how Richardson is finally viewed in history. Right now, he is getting an "A" grade for his first term and a barely passing one for his second, making for an average or slightly above average record for the long-term. For a man of his ambition average is something to be sneered at, not attained. Look for more flooding of the zone. The press will be momentarily overwhelmed and perhaps the public with it, but history will have plenty of time to put it in proper perspective.
THE PASSING PARADE
Reader Kay Lang informs us of the passing of a prominent New Mexican she served with:
I haven't read anything about the death of Phillip Gonzales, 93. Phil was involved in education in NM for over 50 years. A building was named after him in Santa Fe several years ago--the Phllip Gonzales Educational Retirement Bldg. He served on the ERA board for 25 years, as chair most of those years. When he retired he was Supt. of Finance and Operations for APS. He...played a major role in changing the state funding formula. He has been written about in several books including that of the life of Governor Bruce King. He had many friends and was like family to so many of us..
THE BOTTOM LINES
The Caldera controversy percolated in our Monday e-mail as a reader wondered who would want to take classes from the former University of New Mexico president if he returns to a tenured position at th UNM School of Law. He was forced out as director of the White House's Office of Military Affairs after that controversial New York City flyover by Air Force One. But UNM law student Kevin Holmes says Caldera would not be persona non grata:
...While Professor Caldera's anticipated return may be a bit awkward, I get the impression that most students understand that in politics there always has to be a guy to take the fall when something as disastrous (in a public relations sense) takes place. I think most of us realize that Professor Caldera has taken full responsibility for the flyover and...is still a very smart and very experienced man. I believe that he provides the kind of insight into the workings of the world outside of our little state that might otherwise be lacking...I am sure plenty of students will still be happy to take the classes he teaches.
Well, he should have a full-house for his "flyover" lecture.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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