Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More #2 Action; Rail Runner Rael Starts Moving Light Guv Money Train, Plus: City Different Action; Always Interesting, And: Chavez & Romero News 

Lawrence Rael
Will the cash count be the deciding factor in the wide-open-who-knows-who-will-win-race for the 2010 Dem nomination for lieutenant governor? It could. That's why it caught our eye when we received word that Lawrence Rael will host an August 6 cocktail reception where ticket prices top out at $1000 and are also being offered at $500 and $100. The fund-raiser announcement comes even before Rael makes a formal entry into the crowded light guv race. That's expected soon. But such is the importance of the cash count that the fund-raiser is already being touted before the issues. Campaign pros say it will take $250,000 just to establish credibility and as much as $500,000, if not more, to take the #2 prize.

The host committee for the Rael reception includes high-powered ABQ trial attorneys Margaret and Turner Branch; former Bernalillo County Commissioner Steve Gallegos; Sandoval County Commissioner Donnie Leonard; businesswoman and former University of New Mexico Regent Maria Griego-Raby and Steve Anaya, executive VP of the Realtors Association of NM and nephew of former NM Governor Toney Anaya. The reception will be held at the law offices of Salazar and Sullivan who specialize in medical malpractice.

Rael, 51, has never held or run for elective office. He is now executive director of the Mid-Region Council of Governments which spearheaded the development of the Rail Runner, an issue the former longtime chief administrative office for the city of ABQ is sure to use on the trail. (There is good but there is also bad to that.)

And he will have a lot of company on that trail. ABQ State Senators Linda Lopez and Jerry Ortiz y Pino are off and running as is Santa Fe Sheriff Greg Solano. Numerous other candidates wait in the wings, including NM Dem Party Chair Brian Colon. Insiders think Rael and Colon have the most fund-raising prowess. Are they right?

Rael is said to have a good relationship with early 2010 Dem Guv front-runner and current Light Guv Diane Denish. Talk has also circulated of Rael being chief of staff if Denish took over the Fourth Floor. As a light guv nominee, his Hispanic background would balance a Denish-led ticket, but he is not from the Hispanic north, which some observers see as the ideal home area for the Dem ticket's second banana.


Speaking of Linda Lopez, our Tuesdy blog talking of repealing the state tax cuts for the wealthy passed in the early years of Big Bill's term brought this reaction from longtime reader Danny Hernandez:

Talk of repealing the Richardson tax breaks for the upper income brackets reminds me that Sen. Lopez has introduced a bill to return income taxes to pre-2004 rates every year since 2004...Perhaps 2010 will be the year this bill will get some traction. While I'm on Linda's soap box: You keep writing how Lady Di needs to separate herself from Big Bill. From that strategic perspective: Who's better known for her independence from Richardson than Sen. Lopez?...

Well, the problem is not Linda's independence from Bill; it's her independence from Di. It was Denish who thwarted Lopez's ambitions years ago to get a slot on the ballot as lieutenant governor. Ever since their relationship has been icy, with occasional warm spots. But we're sure they can let bygones be bygones. Can't they? Of course, if Denish wins and Linda is Light Guv, we might have to start a second blog just to cover that relationship. Remember Bruce King and Casey Luna?

Reader Fred Van Soelen also had some thoughts on repealing the state tax cuts for the wealthy. He also commented on our thoughts that a tax increase to balance the state budget is unlikely when the Legislature meets in an expected October special session. Fred told us to get off the soap box:

When you say tax increases are off limits, but advocate for repealing tax cuts and tax breaks, it needs to be said that repealing a tax cut IS a tax increase, and repealing a tax break IS a tax increase. To argue otherwise is pure sophistry. And while I'm at it: don't spin the arguments for the tax increasers, let them do it on their own.

Fred, you busted us. I am now administering to my backside the traditional ten lashes with a wet noodle.


Is the Santa Fe City Council, Mayor Coss and Big Bill bowing to sentiment and nostalgia or does it really make sense for the city and state to sell millions in bonds to purchase the failed liberal arts College of Santa Fe? From the outside, there seems ample reason to raise the question. The purchase, which appears unstoppable, could be either a brilliant move or a disaster that will haunt the city for years to come. Especially eyebrow raising is this statement from Santa Fe Councilor Wurzburger: "We have to get his done before next week." What? The debtors won't wait until important questions can be answered?

Getting it done means issuing $30 million in bonds backed by city revenues to wipe out the school's massive $20 million debt. Big Bill is promising another $11 million in bond capacity that the city would have to pay back with gross receipts tax revenue--revenue that continues to plunge. Is this economic development or a bail-out? The news report from the ABQ Journal's Kiera Hay reads like a Chinese crossword puzzle--the unanswerable questions on this deal are all over the map.

Even as the Santa Fe leadership gambles on a second coming for the College of Santa Fe, there may be no second chance for some of the city work force. Furloughs of city workers are impending because of the crash in city revenues brought on by the bear markets in tourism and real estate and the slowdown in government employment. Employee hours have already been cut to save money, now the furloughs. Can layoffs be far behind? But why worry? Let's go out and buy a college! Even the usually level-headed editors of the New Mexican seem smitten, even if not exactly sure how the deal will work. Well, they don't call it the City Different for nothing. The byzantine deal still lacks the necessary council votes. Maybe some last-minute sanity will prevail and Santa Fe's beleagured taxpayers will be spared from seeing their dollars entered into a crap shoot. Now that would really be a City Different.


Here's 75 seconds of raw video of former southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce from Hobbs where Tuesday morning he made official his already widely reported decision to try to recapture the House seat he once held and that now belongs to Harry Teague. Steve also made an "official" announcement in Las Cruces Tuesday, the districts most vote-heavy region.


Supporters of ABQ Mayor Chavez are hoping to score political points against fellow Democrat and mayoral hopeful Richard Romero by pointing out he gave numerous campaign donations to Republicans while serving s a lobbyist in Santa Fe. We blogged Tuesday of a $200 donation Romero made to GOP State Rep. Richard Berry in 2006. Berry is now also running for mayor. Other R's Romero gave money to include $200 contributions in 2006 to GOP legislative candidates Bill Rehm, Tom Anderson and $150 to GOP Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert. But Romero, who is now heavily courting progressive Dems, takes it in stride. His campaign says:

I think u covered it. Lobbyists tend to contribute campaign funds to legislators. Richard Romero, as a lobbyist, donated to many Republicans: Payne, Snyder, Youngberg, Hall et al, probably a small contribution to everyone of the ABQ Santa Fe delegation.

One of Romero's main lobbying clients was the University of New Mexico.

On the flip side of the coin, some Romero supporters are trying to make hay over the fact that Mayor Marty spent some $40,000 in campaign money in late 2008 to conduct an in depth poll, among other things. The assertion is that this may violate the city's public finance law and should count against the $328,000 in public money Chavez was given to conduct his 2009 re-elect bid. Trouble is
the 2009 council election calender put out by the city clerk indicates that the clock doesn't start ticking on city election spending until January 1 of the election year. It states:

Jan. 1 (Thurs.) Exploratory Period Begins for Public Campaign Funding.

It's a loophole in a law that seems riddled with them and the lawyers, we're sure, would be glad to argue about it. But like Romero's contributions to R's, this is a process issue that comes during the slow days of summer as we await serious engagement over serious issues. Meanwhile, it looks like there's still some iced tea in that pitcher. Enjoy.

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