Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Dam Breaks On Naming Top NM Federal Posts: Is New US Attorney Next? New Twist On That Surfaces, Plus: More From The Long Campaign Trail
Obama & Brunner
The dam that seemed to be holding up Obama administration appointments in New Mexico finally broke Tuesday, giving hope to New Mexico Democrats that the most anticipated federal appointment--that of US Attorney--will come next. But when that comes, there could be a twist. More on that later, but first the appointment action.
Blog readers may recall the internecine warfare that surfaced over the plum post of state director for Rural Development under the US Department of Agriculture. Our two players were Terry Brunner, state director fot NM senior US Senator Jeff Bingaman and Robert Apodaca, head of the local government division for the Department of Finance and Administration and not without ties to Big Bill. Brunner had the inside track because the senior senator of the party in power in the White House--in this case that is Bingaman--traditionally gets to pick. But Dem administrations have often named Hispanics to the post and that put Apodaca in the running, if only briefly.
Brunner, 38, says the salary scale for the post ranges up to $130,000, although in June we blogged it topped out at $145,000. He has been with Jeff for seven years and has a degree in Latin American Studies. His shoes will be filled by Greg Bloom, a longtime Bingaman staffer in Las Cruces who has specialized in border issues.
The Obama administration Monday also named Salomon Ramirez, who has worked for the USDA for 34 years, as state executive director for the Farm Service Agency.
Now on to the US Attorney intrigue.
APPOINTMENT HOPE RENEWED
With the filling of two somewhat high-profile federal posts in the state, the Alligators again started circling over the prestigious and powerful US attorney position. They said an appointment could finally be on the way, but with a twist.
Santa Fe attorney John Pound and ABQ attorneys Pete Dinelli and State Rep. Al Park have been on the short list of US Attorney names (you know, that napkin with names and red chile stains being passed around at the Barelas Coffeehouse) but the new angle has the White House perhaps staying away from the politicos and opting for someone already on staff--someone like a Hispanic Democrat who is already an assistant US attorney.
The move makes sense if the White House wants to calm concerns that Justice is a political playground. The new US attorney will require Senate confirmation and a non-political player would not push as many hot buttons as the big names.
The Gators and Legal Beagles postulate that the appointment could finally come because the pay-to-play probe of Big Bill's administration launched one year ago by Republican US Attorney Greg Fouratt may finally be winding down. They site Bill's recent cavorting with North Korean diplomats in Santa Fe and his trade mission this week to Cuba as signs that the Governor may no longer be in danger of indictment and that the odds on indictments of his former key associates have also gone down. If so, Fouratt may be heading toward the exits soon, as current theory holds he has had job protection while investigating the Guv and company because no one wanted to fire him during the sensitive political probe. But if that is indeed over, so may finally the hold up in getting a new US Attorney.
Speaking of Justice, US Attorney General Eric Holder will be back in ABQ in early September for a legal conference. He was here a couple of weeks ago for another event, but brushed aside questions about the federal corruption probe of state government. He will likely do the same this time. Back in June, a state official confirmed that the decision on whether to come with indictments in the CDR bond deal were on Holder's desk. Did the USA AG make a decision or is the paperwork gathering dust?
SHE WON WHEN?
Maybe the years are starting to run together because we have covered so many of them, but we erred Tuesday when we said former Sec. of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron ran for her first term in 1978. Dem Shirley Hooper won that year and Bruce King took his second term then. Rebecca won the first of her three terms in 1986. This was pointed out to us by, among others, veteran pollster Brian Sanderoff who was a top aide to Bruce King in the early 80's.
WEH & WHITNEY
Former NM GOP Chairman Allen Weh, preparing for a Sept. 8 entry into the GOP race for Guv, says he has hired his political ally Whitney Cheshire as his campaign manager. Wasn't she the gal who got up every morning for a year or so to write a blog critical of our blog? Indeed. Well, if Allen can get as much work out of her as we did, he may be on to something. Whitney could also use a winner. Her list of past clients include John Sanchez for Governor, Heather Wilson for Senate, both of whom lost, and the NM GOP, which in the last two cycles has been beaten comatose by the Dems.
But, you know, despite Weh's lack of campaign experience and his controversial record as state GOP chair, our insiders say Weh, in the very early going, might actually be the front runner for the nomination. Why? Because he is the Alpha Anglo male in the race facing two female candidates and a lesser known male. The NM GOP is still very much a white bread experience. He also has an impressive record of military service and apparently can finance his campaign with personal wealth. Besides Cheshire, Weh is shelling out for three other staffers.
Now that analysis might make Allen pleased, but he won't come close to the joy top Dems claim to have over thinking about him becoming the GOP nominee. Their bodies shudder with X-rated delight at the prospect as they see him and his record as easy pickings. But at 66 years, the old warrior has heard it all before and it hasn't kept him off the battlefield.
Another GOP Guv hopeful, Doug Turner, made his inaugural trip to Roswell, the shrine of NM Republican politics, and came away with this profile in the Roswell newspaper. If you're Catholic, you head to Lourdes for what ails you. If you are a NM R--even a middle of the road one like Turner--you head for Chaves County and find redemption where the true believers still believe...
And so it goes in this, our summer of 2009.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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