Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mayor's Race: Is That All There is? Chavez Rivals In Sluggish Start, Plus: Council Action, And: Yes, There Is A Free Lunch--For Two Blog Readers 

Peggy Lee
As Peggy Lee famously sang, "Is that all there is?" A joint news conference was called this week by two rivals for the ABQ mayor's job--Republican Richard (RJ) Berry and Dem Richard Romero. So what was the purpose of this rare event? To delve into the city's ever-rising unemployment rate? To remedy the historic deficit (up to $68 million) facing the city? The collapse of Eclipse Aviation so touted by and invested in by city government? Was it about overpaid city bureaucrats? Or was it the plan to divert future bond money to balance the depleted operating budget at the expense of quality of life projects? Maybe the the pair unveiled plans to rejuvenate the city's sour business climate? The answer is none of the above.

So just why did Romero and Berry go together before news cameras? Well, it was to criticize Chavez for airing TV public service announcements financed by the city treasury. Not exactly an earthshaking issue and surely not one that would awaken Mr. and Mrs. Albuquerque from their outwardly apathetic mood over this year's city election. Unsurprisingly, as he has in the past over the same issue, Chavez easily deflected the political gang bang. Not that the foes did not have a point, but what Messrs. Berry and Romero ended up with was a brief news splash with little, if any, staying power. Not that it had to be that way and not that the 130 or so days left before the October 6 election have to be a reiteration of similar somnolent affairs.

Romero and Berry are both bright fellas, but the public is not going to be consumed with sidebar process issues during exceptionally turbulent economic times. And Martin Chavez is not going to lose his quest for a fourth mayoral term by getting whipped with a wet noodle. It will take a sledgehammer and it will take candidates willing to make bold and risky moves--moves with meaning. A sure-fire way to lose this race is to make it about Chavez's personality and his perhaps outsized ego that leads him to seek constant media exposure. That's old hat to city voters who long ago accepted the incumbent's character flaws, but have embraced his politics.


Berry & Romero
While Monday's odd couple news conference failed to impress the Alligators, it did leave some wondering whether Romero and Berry have hatched a deal. If they manage to keep Chavez below 40 percent in October and force a run-off election, would the third place finisher endorse the one who would face-off with Chavez? Of course, if there was such a deal it would be a bit complicated for Rep. Berry. If he loses his mayoral bid he is expected to seek re-election in 2010 to his far ABQ NE Heights and heavy Republican state legislative district. Being an open supporter of liberal Dem Romero might not play well with all his neighbors. It may be far-fetched, but you never know. Such an endorsement might even earn RJ a GOP primary challenge. But if Berry makes a run-off, any deal would have Romero endorsing him. Problem solved for RJ--as long as he can predict the future.

As for the consultants who dreamed up this dynamic duo concept, maybe they should keep in mind what Peggy Lee said the next time they have a brainstorming session. Or better yet, what Clara Peller had to say back in 1984: "Where's the beef!?


Meantime, Michael Cadigan, onetime mayoral hopeful and now candidate for re-election to his northern West Side city council seat, was successful in having $170,000 in funding for media ads for the Environmental Health Department slashed from the city budget. Not a bad idea considering the city's fiscal straits, but are we alone in recalling that it was Councilor Cadigan who so ardently prodded his fellow councilors to appropriate thousands annually to buy full-page, color ads in the ABQ Journal to publish the faces of those convicted of DWI? Is that city money any better spent than the "Q" ad campaign Cadigan had slashed? Or are some ads more equal than others? We're just asking.


So far, Councilor Mike is giving us more fodder than the mayoral candidates. On the campaign trail in Cadigan's district, Republican Dan Lewis says he has submitted enough individual $5 donations to qualify for public financing. Based on the number of registered voters in the district--you get a buck for each one--Lewis will collect about $47,000 to run his campaign. Cadigan, an attorney, who was an original advocate of campaign public financing, has opted out of the system and will raise private money. Based on his past fund-raising performance, he is expected to surpass the $47,000 mark, even though there are new restrictions on who you can raise that private money from.

Insiders are saying this council race has a chance of going to a run-off election if Democrat Jeremy Toulouse stays in. Toulouse has not been able to qualify for public financing but says he will collect enough petition signatures to have his name on the ballot. Another Democrat, attorney Robert Aragon, ex-brother-in-law to Mayor Chavez, has also taken steps toward a candidacy, but our insiders say he does not appear to be a go.

A two way race would likely be an easy Cadigan win but a three way face-off--Cadigan, Lewis and Toulouse--raises the realistic prospect of Cadigan failing to breach the magic 40 percent, forcing the run-off election with the other top vote getter--most likely Lewis who is already getting help from the Republican Party which has made several robo-calls into the district.

Cadigan's flirtation with the mayor's race and his flip flop on whether he would seek a third council term may have put a chink or two in the armor of the two term councilor. Also, his endorsement of liberal Dem Richard Romero for mayor is not necessarily consistent with the often conservative politics in his council district where insider polling shows Mayor Chavez running strong and where Chavez has historically won big. Dem Toulouse will have to stay in the contest and split votes with fellow Dem Cadigan for the Republican dream of a run-off to come true, but it is not a dream based in fantasy.


Here's a solid newspaper piece on Cadigan, his controversies and triumphs. It reminds us that we are really going to miss the coverage of the now defunct ABQ Tribune in this year's race for mayor.


It may be robbing Peter to pay Paul, but the mayor and ABQ city councilors are of a single mind on one issue: they will sacrifice road and park repairs and other infrastructure projects in future years in order to pump more money into the city's basic operating budget so employee layoffs can be avoided. The 2011 bond package is now proposed to be just $120 million, not the $160 million we could afford. Diverting the money will keep city workers employed but the price will be fewer repair and building projects, making for a shabbier looking city.

A tax increase is politically unpalatable in these recessionary times, but if the collapse in gross receipts tax revenues continues for another year, it's hard to see how the city is not going to have to deal with its personnel costs. Hundreds of vacant positions have not been filled, but a full day of reckoning--layoffs and/or furloughs could be on the horizon. But hey, all that can wait until after the October election--after a majority of the councilors and the mayor stand for re-election.


Ex-Gov. Carruthers
We haven't forgotten our contest to award lunch to the first two blog readers who could tell us who managed the successful Guv campaign of Republican Garrey Carruthers in 1986, but we ran into some trouble figuring it out. (How do we get into this stuff?)

Numerous readers guessed that Selma Sierra, now the director of the Bureau of Land Management for Utah and before that a veteran NM politico, was Garrey's manager. We thought so as well. But it turns out Selma managed Garrey's primary campaign, and while we didn't specify the primary or general elections, we have to go with the general election manager. According to Garrey, Sharon Jones managed his general election effort, or at least that is what he is told:

My sources (Sharon) tells me that Selma was the primary campaign manager and Sharon Jones was the general election manager! That is our story and I am sticking to it!

Garrey, who turns 70 this year, is now dean of the NM State University College of Business. He'll be glad to know that it is two longtime Republican consultants--Greg Graves, who is currently working for 2010 GOP Guv candidate Greg Zanetti, and Pat Killen, who we're sure will pop up on the 2010 scene, were the first two readers to correctly guess Sharon Jones. Greg and Pat win the free lunch and we'll get hem together in ABQ for their reward. But after the way those two have spun us over their favored candidates over the years, they should be buying us lunch.

Carruthers had this final comment on our lunch contest to determine who ran his campaign:

"I hope no one thought I was in charge."

Which leads us to give him this zinger: Do you mean the campaign or when you were Governor, Garrey?

Thanks to all of those who responded.


From Reader Antonio Gomez:

Just wanted to let you know that you keep misspelling Marc Correra and his dad's names as Correa. Not that it matters but I think Correra is probably Italian and Correa sounds Spanish. Best regards.

As Ed McMahon would say, "You are correct, sir!"

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