Monday, May 11, 2009

Lyons Prowls: Eyes PRC Bid, Also: Obama Visit Confusion; First ABQ, Now Rio Rancho; Big Bill's Role, Plus: Our Bottom Lines On A New Mexico Monday 

Pat Lyons
He's become one of New Mexico's more controversial politicos, but NM Land Commissioner Pat Lyons is telling associates he is determined to stay on the public stage and will soon launch a bid for the southeastern Public Regulation Commission (PRC) seat to be vacated next year by Republican David King. Lyons is the only Republican currently elected to statewide elected office. When the former state senator started his tenure in 2003 there was hope in some GOP quarters that he could be a player for the governor;'s chair, but numerous controversies dashed those hopes. But the PRC seat Lyons is seeking is heavily Republican and he faces no significant primary challengers yet. Winning the primary for that seat is tantamount to winning the general election. Lyons has a house in Melrose in Curry County and a ranch in Quay County.

(By the way, Republican NM Appeals Court Judge Rod Kennedy is the other statewide (non-executive)R office holder. And Rod will tell you himself when you run into him shopping at Wal-Mart.)

Meanwhile, David King, who can always be counted on to deliver a controversy or two, has been talking to colleagues about possibly seeking the GOP nod for lieutenant governor next year. The only prominent R from the famous King ranching and political family is the definition of a survivor. Remember when he ran and lost the southern congressional seat back in 1980? He's managed to stay in the game ever since, serving as state treasurer, among his varied elective and appointed offices.


David's cousin, Gary King, is eyeing a re-election bid for attorney general next year, and hoping that he gets no primary opposition. King seems relatively popular among the rank and file Dems. He is having a little trouble on the left and that has prompted Dem Public Regulation Commissioner Jason Marks to talk out loud about challenging Gary for the nomination, but so far nothing has come of it. We'll stay tuned.


Innocent mistake or not? Since it involves the President of the USA, let's take a look. Big Bill rushed to put out a news release on May 4 announcing that President Obama would be visiting Albuquerque this Thursday, but it turns out the President will actually be at Rio Rancho High School for his Town Hall meeting on credit cards (tickets here). As soon as Bill put that release out last Monday night we began getting blow back that he pushed hard to make the announcement, and did not appear to have a White House go ahead. He may have pushed for obvious reasons--he lost out to be Obama's Commerce Secretary and there is a wide-ranging federal probe into allegations of pay-to-play in his adminstration. Both have eroded his popularity.

Richardson's office apparently assumed the President would be in ABQ. In the days that followed the White House made no effort to correct that impression. But Sunday the White House announced it would be Rio Rancho. The Guv did not look good, and the White House looks a little less close to the embattled Governor. The Guv may need and want a halo effect from the popular President, but getting it is a different matter. It's assumed he will be at the Obama Town Hall, but Obama may want to emphasize the people, not the politicos. We're all burned out on the eternal campaign.

The state's congressional delegation, we're told, will be in Washington and not at the Obama event. Rio Rancho is represented in the main by Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, but his fellow Democrat, Rep. Martin Heinrich, also has a few precincts in the city. Both of the lawmakers are tied closely to Obama. He gave Heinrich some coattails in big Bernalillo County. Lujan helped galvanize the Spanish North for Obama--important Dem territory.


As for politics, Sandoval County and Rio Rancho in particular is a swing area that the Dems have to be concerned about protecting in the 2010 and 2012 cycles. They hope Obama's personal attention keeps the area in his column as it was on Election Night '08.

Rio Rancho also is home to Intel whose top brass has been friendly to the President. In February, Intel announced $7 billion in new construction for plant facilities--including $2 billion for its Rio Rancho plant. The President was appreciative enough to call Intel's CEO and thank him. Also, Rio Rancho is not as much in the shadow of the national labs and defense establishment which is getting lukewarm news from this administration.

In many ways, Rio Rancho, a suburb of ABQ with population now at about 75,000 exemplifies the Middle America nightmare--soaring home foreclosures, huge and ongoing layoffs at its giant employer (Intel) and a general angst about the economic future. The credit card issue will resonate there.

Kennedy @ Sandia '62
Not many of us were around for President Kennedy's 1962 visit to ABQ, but in reading of that event and his presidency at that time, we get the sense that President Obama, like Kennedy, will generate a certain sense of excitement on his first visit as President here. It is about the possibility that Obama represents, not the grim reality that is happening on the ground. The nation and state seem at a turning point in so many economic matters. You hear more than a few folks--Dem and R--comment here that Obama represents the last best hope to have America make the turn back to better times. That's a high compliment for the young leader, but also a tremendous burden.


The President will not just do a hit and run, but will spend some time here cultivating relationships. He is set to land at Kirtland AFB Wednesday night and drive to Rio Rancho Thursday for the 10 a.m. meeting. Will he make a stop along the way for a snack or a meet or greet? We would actually be surprised if he didn't. He is a people president.


We blogged last week that ABQ Mayor Marty was juggling his schedule to be sure he would be in town for the President's visit. Now he is free to roam, as Dem Rio Rancho Mayor Swisstack will be in the spotlight. There is no love lost between ABQ and Rio Rancho, and having Obama's visit first announced as in ABQ doesn't do any favors for the White House. (There was some political e-mail floating around Sunday gloating that ABQ had "lost out" to Rio Rancho, even though that may or may not be the case.) But process issues like these are forgotten or not recognized by the public, so there's no lasting damage to the President, but Big Bill suffered a dent.


Now actor Val Kilmer says "probably not" when asked by the Politico if he will seek the 2010 NM Dem Guv nomination. But with the ABQ Journal's Michael Coleman and others calling Val a "tease," front runner Diane Denish won't be able to close the door on a Kilmer candidacy until at least late in the fall or until Val says something definite.


From the e-mail:

Does (former University of New Mexico president) Louis Caldera's resignation from his White House position for authorizing the flyover of New York City by Air Force One mean he will return to his tenured position at UNM Law School? Who in their right mind would take law classes from someone of such poor judgment?....

Well, it could make for some interesting lectures....

Adam Kokesh, who bills himself as a "revolutionary patriot," sent us his Web site a while back and told us he is weighing a run for the northern congressional seat held by Rep. Ben Ray Lujan. Kokesh is not an R or a D and could launch an independent bid...

President Obama, playing off swine flu fears at the White House Correspondents Dinner, had a joke about how he and his rival for the Dem prez nomination and now Secretary of State Hilary Clinton are once again pals:

"In fact, the minute she got back from Mexico, she pulled me into a hug and said I should go down there myself."

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