Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ben Ray In Iraq: The Photo, Plus: Mayor Marty First Again As His Signs Go Up, And: The Triple Play: Three NM Reps At One Fund-Raiser 

Rep. Lujan visits NM soldiers in Iraq
We broke the news for you Monday of northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan's unpublicized weekend visit to war torn Iraq where he visited New Mexico National Guard members. Now our "International Alligators" send us this photo and more details of the visit by Lujan, a member of the Homeland Security Committee, who was part of a touring congressional delegation. He was invited on the trip by the chair of the House Armed Services Committee and will also visit Afghanistan. Now to our report from Iraq:

Congressman Ben Ray Lujan writes down the mailing address for the 720th Convoy Security Company at COB Adder for SPC Laraine Martinez of Taos as SSG Andrea Valdez of Las Vegas, New Mexico watches. Both soldiers are members of the 720th NM National Guard Company out of Las Vegas. The Congressman visited the sprawling southern base with other House members for a fact-finding mission. Ben Ray promised both the 720th and members of the 1115th of Taos, also serving at Adder/Tallil, to keep them stocked up with Hatch Chile, Pinto Beans and real New Mexican salsa and beef jerky to supplement their chow.

Security reasons dictated no publicity for Rep. Lujan's trip and he didn't seek any here. Guard members gave us the info and also wanted to be called "International Alligators." We're proud to oblige them. Best wishes to all of our New Mexico soldiers around the globe.


He was first to get his petition signatures in, first to qualify for public financing and now he's first to get his campaign signs up and dotting the major intersections of the state's largest city. ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez, seeking a third term in a row and fourth overall in the October 6 election, shows no sign of letting up while his opponents try to catch up.

Signs for the city election are allowed to go up 60 days before Election Day and Chavez's popped up on the first day they were permitted. We haven't seen any yet for Republican Richard "RJ" Berry or Democrat Richard Romero. We did spot one for City Council President Ike Benton who faces a challenge from Bernalillo County Commissioner Alan Armijo.

Chavez hasn't won all these times without good organization. That he has led the campaign in three important benchmarks is no coincidence. Not that the incumbent doesn't have problems. If you look closely at the pic we posted, there is another sign in the photo--a "for sale" sign on the property where the Chavez poster is placed. That's a sign of a weak economy that might be an issue for his foes as they look to keep the mayor from scoring 40 percent of the vote. If he drops below that, a run-off election would be held between the two top contenders.

Chavez's signs are very similar to those he used in his 2001 and 2005 efforts. And if you again look closely, you can see something else familiar--the graffiti artists have given the mayor a goatee. On some of his other signs the graffiti gangs blackened the Mayor's teeth. But no matter how you color the political picture, Chavez remains the man to beat in the 2009 race for ABQ mayor.


The incessant announcements of major job losses or layoffs have been like mini-bombshells exploding on the mayoral campaign field, but Chavez seems to be avoiding injury as he scampers between the potholes left behind. Still, the mayor has to be concerned about the economic future, even as his job requires him to be the city's chief cheerleader. News Monday that Comcast cable would eliminate 160 ABQ call center workers in the next two months was another of those mini-bombshells. Until now, call center employment has been holding up reasonably well here. Many of the jobs will move to Denver and their loss is going to be yet another hit to the city's tax base.


This will be a first. NM's three congressmen will hold a joint fund-raiser. The trio of Harry Teague, Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan will be feted at an August 21st reception at the home of ABQ developer Gary Goodman. That may be a relief for the Reps as they are expected to get an earful from anxious constituents during the long August recess.

Top money levels for the event: $3,000 or $1,000 per campaign; $1,500 or $500 per campaign; $750 or $250 per campaign.


A fundraiser set for this Wednesday at 11 a.m for US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at the Embassy Suites Hotel near downtown ABQ may draw protesters. E-mail has been going around organizing a protest. NM Dem US Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall are hosting the $500 a person event. Reid is raising money here for what is expected to be a spirited re-election battle for his Nevada seat.


We're not picking on University of New Mexico President David Schmidly personally for the bloated paycheck he is pulling down--$600,000 a year in addition to a $40,000 living expense and $40,000 car expense. He negotiated it fair and square. It's the university's overly politicized Board of Regents that deserves scrutiny. Look at this. The University of Nevada at Las Vegas just hired a new president. The cost? $289,000 for the first year and $246,000 for the second. And we're paying what? And then we have the $428,000 year salary and $50,000 in "deferred compensation" for of the UNM chief operating officer. Over a million bucks a year for two administrators in a small state like this.

Under public pressure, Schmidly froze UNM administrative salaries, including his own, in January. But the bloat from the boom remains. The Regents and the NM Legislature---that would be the chairmen of the appropriation committees--need to take a look. UNLV has over 28,000 students. What do they know about paying university presidents that we don't? Apparently a heck of a lot.


Insiders questioned the long-term staying power of Santa Rosa area State Rep. Jose Campos when he announced he would get in the crowded Dem race for lieutenant governor this week. They pointed out that he is chairman of the House Voters and Elections Committee which will have a major say in the 2011 redistricting of state House and Congressional seats and wondered if he would really give that up. But Jose's better half, Christine Campos, e-mails to respond to the speculation and also the conjecture that she could make a run for the seat that Jose will vacate if he stays in the light guv race:

I prefer serving my community through other means, including civic and community organizations. As you noted, I am the Administrator of Guadalupe County Hospital and am planning for the construction of a new hospital tht will be completed in March 2011 ...We are indeed staying the distance! With a little luck and a lot of hard work...Jose will become the next Lt. Governor, and he and I will carve a path between Santa Rosa and Santa Fe, visiting each other (dating if you will) on weekends and holidays.

Christine will loyally carve a path to Santa Fe and she'll set up dates with her husband? What a gal. Can we write her in?

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