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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

He's Back! Big Bill Is Meeting With North Koreans; Does Santa Fe Summit Lift His Legal Cloud? Plus: City Election News & Latest On Special Session 

  • Former NM Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron and three others have been indicted in voter education funds case.

New Mexico politics is like the weather. If you don't like it, give it a minute and it will change. And change it did in dramatic fashion late Tuesday night as word spread that Governor Bill Richardson would meet with two North Korean diplomats for most of today at the Governor's mansion. The topics were not disclosed. Officials stressed that the North Koreans requested the meeting and that Richardson, a former UN Ambassador with a long history of talking with the isolated nation, will not be negotiating or representing the Obama administration. But the import of the development was lost on no one with an interest or a stake in state politics. Sure, the Koreans requested the meeting but if Richardson or his top associates were about to be indicted in the CDR federal grand jury probe, would the powers that be allow this session to go forward?

New Mexico's Governor has operated under a dark cloud ever since last August when it was disclosed his administration was the subject of a federal investigation involving CDR and a lucrative contract it was awarded after making big donations to Big Bill's political coffers. That investigation, which forced Richardson in January to withdraw his nomination as Obama's Commerce Secretary, was confirmed to be over in June with the news that US Attorney General Eric Holder had the case on his desk and would decide if there would be criminal indictments. Flash forward two months and we have heard nothing more about the investigation mounted by Republican US Attorney Greg Fouratt. But we have heard that the Governor is back on the international stage in a big way. And we know the massive news coverage he will receive is bound to jump start his popularity ratings that are currently languishing below the 50 per cent mark in the most recentSurveyUSA poll.

IT GETS MORE INTERESTING


And how about this one? The announcement that the North Koreans would meet with Richardson came only hours after President Obama was briefed by President Clinton about his successful trip to the North to free captive American journalists. Clinton has had Richardson on his persona non grata list ever since Big Bill passed on the chance to endorse Hillary Clinton, now Secretary of State, for the Dem presidential nod. What this signals, if anything, about the relationship of the two Bills and Hill, we'll let you decide, but we will go out on the limb and speculate that the President of the United States is quite aware of all the relationships and angles here and has allowed this visit to take place. Would he do that if Richardson or his former top aides--David Contarino and David Harris--were to be indicted with the go-ahead from the attorney general? That sure would make the USA look pretty silly. It all made the late night speculators bolder in their predictions that Big Bill is back and back in good stead with our Prez.

This big story takes place against a political backdrop recently recharged by the US Attorney scandal and the continued revelations about the involvement of former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson and how it may impact her decision on whether to seek the Guv's chair in 2010.

With this news stunner the clouds move back over the heads of the R's, and Big Bill--at least for now--is looking up at clear, blue skies. What will the political weatherman bring next? Stay tuned to this station!

CADIGAN VS. LEWIS
Cadigan
The West Side city council battle is now a contest featuring two. Democrat Jeremy Toulouse, whose candidacy never gained much traction, threw in the towel Tuesday and endorsed Republican Dan Lewis who will now go mano-a-mano against two-term incumbent Councilor Michael Cadigan.

The Lewis camp hopes that any anti-Cadigan vote Toulouse was attracting will now come to their side. Insider polling in the three way race has shown Cadigan at around the 40% level going into the final weeks. Lewis is getting backing from the NM GOP, but my Alligators say he has to be careful not to get too personal with Cadigan as the R's have in the past with Mayor Chavez. That sort of thing has backfired. Still, Lewis is delivering hits on the incumbent through the mail hoping to soften him up for the September finish.

Lewis is taking public financing and will get over $45,000 to spend. Cadigan has about $17,000 on hand, with the ability to raise more quickly. He also has heavy name ID, a major asset as he seeks a third term. One thing is certain--now that there are only two candidates there will be no run-off for the seat that Cadigan has held since 2001. Election Night will tell the tale.

THE SPECIAL

Nothing firm by any means, but we are hearing October 9 as a possible start for the special legislative session to deal with a shortfall of over $430 million for the current budget year. There are some long-planned conferences for lawmakers in the first week of October which brings into play the 9th as a good starting date for the Guv to set.

The 9th is a Friday and from a psychological standpoint Bill may want to call them in then, hoping they can get the job done by the end of the weekend. He has said he wants a one day wonder, but that is highly unlikely.

The Guv was asked Tuesday about reports first heard here that various tax credits and incentives could be on the table as the state looks for new revenue sources. Bill said he would be open to a discussion about incentives that have outlived their usefulness, but he drew a line in the sand on the incentives used to lure movie makers to the state.

The Guv also said he is not in favor of rolling back the 2003 tax cuts for upper income taxpayers.He's going to win that one this year. But we sense that fight will continue in the years ahead as the economy and budget stay relatively flat.

We don't know how many lawmakers will be on that bipartisan group charged with coming up with budget solutions before the Guv calls the special. Insiders are pegging the number at five to eight as a good size for such a group, but that is just an educated guess. Legislators will name their own members to negotiate with Bill's representatives.

THE BOTTOM LINES

We had the dates mixed up in the first draft of our Tuesday report on the withdrawal of ABQ GOP City Councilor Sally Mayer. In 1998, she ran and lost--56% to 44%--against then-NM House Speaker Raymond Sanchez. In 2000, Republican John Sanchez beat Democrat Raymond Sanchez for the House seat. In 2002, John Sanchez was the GOP Guv nominee and lost to Big Bill.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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