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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Cook On The Council; Mayer Quits Race, Plus: Bingaman Brings Back Town Hall As Health Debate Rages, And: A Serious South Valley Alligator 

Mike Cook
With two-term incumbent ABQ GOP City Councilor Sally Mayer bowing out of her re-election bid, there will soon be a Cook on the council, as in Mike Cook, a certified financial planner who has been raising the campaign temperature on Mayer, but now only faces a write-in candidate and an all but guaranteed four year term on the nine member panel. What kind of councilor will Cook be when he takes office December 1? Based on a conversation with him while he was attending last night's council session, we'd call him an independent-minded Republican. He does not have a personal or political relationship with ABQ Dem Mayor Marty Chavez, nor is he wedded to the leadership or consultants who dominate the state GOP.

Cook, 52, says it will be all crime all the time in his initial months on the council. "It's the issue I hear the most about it--especially property crime" relayed the onetime Army military policeman who has also served a stint on the city's Police Oversight Commission.

Cook, who moved to ABQ from Arizona when he was six and whose wife of 30 years owns a Pilates exercise studio, will not be making any enemies with the city's development community. He told me he favors a bill that would temporarily suspend impact fees for home builders, saying it is needed to help the economy "get back on its feet."

Cook, the father of three sons, was an engineer in the semiconductor business before getting into financial planning. He practices in a firm with two partners. He is a graduate of Del Norte High and has a biz degree from the University of Phoenix.

Even though his election October 6 is now pro forma--only a write-in candidate will be listed on the ballot with him--he says he is taking nothing for granted and will continue his door-to-door campaign. He has some $40,000 in public money to spend.

Is Cook a fiscal conservative? Well, now that he faces no opponent on the ballot, when the campaign ends he could return some of that public money to the city treasury. Couldn't he? Welcome to La Politica, Mike, where the choices are rarely easy.

SAYONARA, SALLY
Mayer & Friend
Mayer's withdrawal was a mild surprise. It came on the day before the legal deadline to get your name off the ballot and also on the heels of a negative hit piece Cook mailed out this past weekend charging Mayer with missing a third of recent council meetings and having the highest absentee rate of any of the nine councilors. She says she is getting out now because her daughter needs her help raising two small grandchildren in Chicago. She says she will be gone up to a year as her daughter's husband plans a new business.

But there were troubling signs before Sally said sayonara. She had difficulty qualifying for public financing which required many individual $5 donations; her pet cause--animal protection--had sharply divided many of her constituents in her Mid-NE Heights district and recent news that Mayer, who was in real estate for many years, was jobless and had a $5,600 outstanding credit card debt, cut both ways. Also, her on-again, off-again relationship with Mayor Chavez was recently off again, complicating her life on the council.

Mayer told me she raised about $12,000 since opting not to take public financing. Money left will be returned to the donors or charity. She confirmed that she had recently commissioned polling on her race from GOP consultant Jay McCleskey but she said the numbers showed her in good shape. She is not endorsing fellow Republican Cook, even though only a write-in candidate remains. She did not want to comment on the reason, but insiders point to the negative hits she received from Cook who is being consulted by attorney Doug Antoon. She did say she will now be more public in her support of GOP mayoral candidate RJ Berry.

Longtime politics watchers will remember Mayer for her 1998 run against then-powerful state House Speaker Raymond Sanchez. She lost but was given credit for softening up the ground for Republican John Sanchez who beat Raymond Sanchez for the ABQ North Valley House seat in 200o and became the 2002 GOP Guv nominee.

But it will be Mayer's authentic concern for man's best friend and other members of the animal kingdom that will define her eight years as a councilor. She was the driving force behind the city's animal law--the Heart Ordinance--which supporters said makes for more responsible pet owners.

Mayer brought to the council unpretentiousness and a solid ethical standard. In that regard, she followed the path made by her predecessors and set an example for those who will succeed her.

JEFF'S CHANGE

We noticed that New Mexico senior Senator Jeff Bingaman has changed his mind about town hall meetings. He stopped dong them in the early 90's but in the face of stiff opposition to the Dems health care reform plan, Jeff has scheduled a town hall for today at 4:15 p.m. but it will take place far from the media glare--in Clovis at the Civic Center and it probably won't be heavily publicized. It's possible Bingaman will have a town hall in the ABQ media market, but nothing definitive yet. Bingaman is one of the six senators--the so-called Gang of Six"--working on a bipartisan health care plan. He has been getting bombarded with requests from constituents for personal meetings on the hot-button issue.

Northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan was town halling it in Santa Fe last night and ABQ Dem Congressman Heinrich has one set for Saturday at the University of New Mexico Continuing Education Building. Extra security has been called in for that event as tempers have flared at similar sessions held around the nation. However, the Santa Fe meeting drew about 200 and was pretty calm, according to TV news. (Another 200 could not get in.) That's not surprising. New Mexicans have a tradition of political civility. It's the politicians you have to worry about.

LUJAN EVASION?


The Farmington Daily Times seems to be upset that Lujan won't be holding a town hall on health-care in conservative San Juan County. Lujan says he has visited the county six times since he took office in January. We understand the concern, but also see the point that some are trying to turn town halls into a test of a lawmaker's machismo.

FREE RIDE?

What's most conspicuous about the press coverage GOP Guv candidate Allen Weh is receiving around the state is its inattention to his record as chairman of the party. It did not go well, with historic losses in both the 2006 and 2008 cycles. But Weh has managed to get reporters to focus mostly on his military and business experience. It's quite a feat considering the depth of the losses he presided over. Weh is aware the issue lurks, recently telling Valencia County Republicans:

My qualifications are based on my life experiences,” he said. “Not being chairman of the party, but rather being the executive that’s run a business and a Marine officer that’s had some significant responsibilities given to me in the course of my career.

Will it be his rivals who bring up what has so far gone unmentioned?

SERIOUS GATORS

They take their politics seriously in the heart of La Politica--ABQ's storied South Valley where the art of the movida has been undergoing refinement for over 400 years. One of the Valley Alligators wants all to know of their political preeminence and sent this graphic he designed to make sure we got the message. That looks like one serious Gator, maybe even one of the senior variety.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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