Thursday, May 14, 2009

State Welcomes USA President On His First New Mexico Visit Since Taking Command, Plus: Is Big Bill Stepping On Obama's PR? And: Heinrich & The Tacos 

The AP snapped this interesting pic of the President and Big Bill at Thursday's Rio Rancho presidential town hall. Quite the interesting shot. How should we caption it? Well, maybe leave it up the readers. E-mail your ideas.

According to Governor's spokesman Pahl Shipley, Richardson met briefly with the President backstage at Rio Rancho High School:

The Governor had brief and cordial meeting with President Obama backstage before the Rio Rancho town hall. They talked about a lot in a short amount of time- the stimulus, the NM economy, North Korea, and the border. The Governor also reiterated the point he made in a letter to DOE Secretary Chu last week that the guidelines for the Green Grid Grants in the recovery act are too restrictive.

The AP says Richardson had a one-on-one meeting with Obama.


Here is the President at Rio Rancho High School Thursday morning, conducting his Town Hall on credit card reform. He introduced Big Bill, calling him "one of the finest governor's in the country." Richardson rode in the motorcade to and from Rio Rancho, but not with the President.

The photo is from an ABQ Journal slide show. Video of the event here.

Prior to the event, we're told the president met as a group with Richardson, NM House Speaker Ben Lujan (not Congressman Lujan who was in D.C.), Lt. Governor Diane Denish, ABQ Mayor Chavez and State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez.

The Obama event was first announced as being in ABQ, not Rio Rancho, but Mayor Chavez got in on the meet and greet anyway. The warm greeting of Richardson by Obama, despite the Guv withdrawing his nomination as Commerce Secretary, was no surprise. Both men are veterans of the political spotlight. Richardson's administration remains under investigation by a federal grand jury for pay to play allegations. Did that come up when Bill met with the President?

Our insiders say the President also had a group session with ABQ Dem State Rep. Al Park, State Treasurer James Lewis, State Auditor Hector Balderas, Santa Fe attorney John Pound, who co-chaired Obama's initial presidential committee for the NM Prez caucus, former Senator Fred Harris, Joe Garcia, President of the National Congress of American Indians and Secretary of State Mary Herrera.

And here's a report on the town hall. And here's a live blog of the event from the national press, including the questions he was asked, none of which were about credit cards. The Town Hall was broadcast live on all three major ABQ TV network affiliates.

Protestors? Very few.

If President Obama handed out $100 bills to strapped credit card customers at the end of his Rio Rancho Town Hall today, he would be sure to bump his polling numbers here even higher, but even without such largess the Prez's Rio Rancho Town Hall meeting on credit card reform is going to garner heavy attention. It starts at around 10 a.m. and will be broadcast live on KRQE-TV, channel 13 in the ABQ market as well as streamed live on that station's Web site and others. We'll post an update on the goings on following the Town Hall, even if he doesn't hand out any $100 bills.

News reports said the President arrived from Arizona at Kirtland Air Force base at 11:50 p.m. Wednesday. There was no ceremony and Obama's motorcade headed to his hotel.

Being President is a detailed filled job. Could the President be pondering these issues as he makes his way out to the City of Vision?

"Do I hug Big Bill, give him a handshake or point him out in the audience?

"Gosh, these Spanish names are hard to pronounce. Have I been briefed properly?"

"Ok, where do we eat lunch. And do they know that I might want to order both red and green chile so no one is offended?

"Rio Rancho?? "Isn't this where they put all those federally protected witnesses from the mafia days? Hope none of them are asking for something."

Diane Denish? Didn't she support Hilary for President? Alright, let's make sure she buys lunch and pays for the gas."

Welcome to New Mexico, Mr. President, and don't sweat the details.


The credit card reform Obama is pushing for in Rio Rancho today continues to make its way through the US Senate. Are you surprised that a move to cap the interest rates on credit cards at 15 percent failed in the SenateWednesday, or at least surprised that it only won 33 votes with 60 against? NM Dem Senator Tom Udall voted for the cap; Dem Senator Bingaman voted against.
On this one, Udall seems more in step with the populist mood out here. Bingaman is a member of the Senate Finance Committee and bankers are lobbying heavily on this reform bill.

Someone call part-time psychotherapist and ABQ Journal reporter Bruce Daniels because we're at it again--going genetically conspiratorial. Big Bill has scheduled a high-profile news conference for 2:30 this afternoon with superstar actor-filmmaker-environmentalist-supporter of the arts Robert Redford just hours after President Obama concludes his Rio Rancho Town Hall. The Guv says he and Redford will "announce a new initiative." Bill will also attend the Rio Rancho event

Isn't our Guv's news conference stepping on the President's PR? Redford isn't exactly a grade B player and the news conference is going to get big TV play. It won't overshadow the President, but let's call it very interesting that the Governor of the state would decide to showcase himself with Redford on the state's TV screens on the day the President pays his first visit here. Tension between the White House and the Guv? Go ahead and call the head shrinks, but we're hearing little voices telling us this is weird.

Rep. Heinrich
He gave it the college try but ABQ Dem US Congressman Martin Heinrich did not appear to get very far when he took his case for the Air National Guard's 150th Fighter Wing--known as "The Tacos" and stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base--before US Sec. of Defense Robert Gates at a Wednesday hearing of the House Armed Services Committee. After his brief questioning, the Tacos, employing over 1000, appeared no closer to being spared from the budget guillotine.

Gates told Heinrich he normally doesn't duck questions, but said the decision to go to more unmanned missions was an Air Force decision and one he seemed to support. The freshman lawmaker then noted that the Pentagon says the Tacos could "transition" to another mission, but pointed out that no such missions are named. But Gates went dead air. He offered no comment and the committee chairman swiftly moved to other business.

It was somewhat uncomfortable to hear Heinrich semi-apologize to the Secretary for being "new" to the Hill, and perhaps he should have detailed out loud some of the possible missions the Tacos could be assigned now that their F-16 Fighting Falcons are slated to be taken away in the next year. But Heinrich could also be said to be doing his best with a situation that he inherited. Our e-mail--some of it from the Tacos--scores the NM leadership of the Air National Guard for being stubborn and not pursuing another mission for the Tacos even though it has been clear for years that they were on the chopping block.

To his credit, the new ABQ congressman is not stuck on keeping the Tacos on a manned fighting mission, he is looking for some way--any way--to save those jobs. If this were Heinrich's fifth term and not his first, perhaps he would have a better shot. But based on Secretary Gates' attitude Wednesday, Heinrich and Mayor Chavez's task force have their work cut out for them if the Tacos aren't going to be shredded.

If all these military and contracting jobs to support the fighters are lost and if ex-Congresswoman Heather Wilson makes a run for Governor, Dems may want to ask her where she was when it came time to bail out and find a new Taco mission. Heinrich's foray into the matter may have been somewhat nugatory, but in the end this was baggage he didn't pack.


Duly noted: New Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, appointed this week by Big Bill to fill a vacancy on the commission, once worked for Bill in Congress, according to the Journal's Dan McKay. While people sometimes seem to spring out of nowhere, there is usually a tie that binds. Now here's a question for the news scribes to put to someone in charge and it comes from a Senior Alligator:

Does Maggie Hart Stebbins have to give up her Mid-Rio Grande Council of Government job since Bernalillo County funds them? I don't know the answer and I was asked. MRCOG head Lawrence Rael might want to answer that one..I'm just curious if that was discussed when the Governor recruited her for the job.

Now there are a lot of other folks curious, too.

Attorney General Gary King, locked in a back and forth fight with State Auditor Hector Balderas, can be forgiven for gloating as he reads of this:

The campaign of State Auditor Hector Balderas late last month returned a $10,000 contribution to Sandia Asset Management, a Santa Fe firm associated with Marc and Anthony Correra. Marc Correra is a local investor who has made recent headlines for sharing in $15 million in finders fees as a third-party placement agent, paid by companies awarded contracts to invest state money. His father, Anthony Correra, is a friend, adviser and financial supporter of Gov. Bill Richardson.

Hector appears to be running for re-election as State Auditor, but we are keeping him on the list of possible Dem lieutenant guv candidates until he makes a definitive move. As for the returned contribution, Balderas, a love-child of NM progressives, is finding that this campaign system of gobs of cash spares no politico embarrassment. Gary had his turn in the barrel when critics asked him recently to return a big contribution.

The King-Balderas bickering is an unwanted distraction as the state grapples with a multitude of possible financial scandals. Can't someone like veteran negotiator and former AG Paul Bardacke mediate the peace between these two? Gary and Hector are both good politicians, but the taxpayers need them fighting the crooks, not one another.


Kelly Ward managed Gary Johnson's successful 1994 GOP run for Guv and Doug Turner, now a PR Agency owner weighing a run for Guv, worked on the '94 campaign but was Gary's 1998 re-election manager. We didn't quite make that clear yesterday...

And just for fun, we'll buy lunch for the first two readers who can tell us who was the campaign manager for Garrey Carruthers when he became a GOP Governor in '86. Garrey, you and your old campaign team are not eligible.

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