Friday, August 07, 2009

It Goes to Gonzales; Dem Chair Battle Appears Avoided; Montoya Withdraws, Plus: Money Flows In Race For Light Guv 

Javier Gonzales
With the current party powers that be (Bill & Di) clearing his path, Javier Gonzales began to assess the many pieces of the modern New Mexico Democratic Party. His chief rival for the chairman's post, Sandoval Dem County Chair David Montoya, stepped aside Thursday and endorsed Gonzales. It was a welcome development for the D's and one D in particular--Diane Denish--who is well on her way to securing the 2010 Dem Party nomination and hopes to avoid as many unexpected bumps as possible.

Party insiders say Gonzales, 43, was seen in a stronger position than Montoya because the former Santa Fe County Commissioner and current NM State University Regent has closer ties to both Denish and the Governor and would also go down better with progressive Dems.

Gonzales, 43, has a business background and is now involved in the film and media company, Santa Fe Studios. The Gonzales family has for many years been involved in the radio business. (Complete bio here.)

Gonzales still has to stand for election before the 400 or so members of the Dem State Central Committee, but no other major contenders other than Montoya emerged, so he is well on his way to a win. 23 year old Michael Ray Huerta of Las Cruces, who was pondering a run as an openly gay candidate, also endorsed Javier Thursday.

The Dem chair meeting will come within sixty days of current chairman Brian Colon's resignation which takes effect Saturday.

Gonzales told me electing Denish Governor would be his top priority as chair and he gave her kudos for her performance under the stress of his competition with Montoya.

She encouraged us to sit down and work out our differences. She urged us to get in there and work it out. She showed leadership on this...David is a friend and we agreed that I was in a position to go forward with my candidacy...

Neither Gonzales or Montoya, both Santa Fe natives who come from old-line families, with Montoya now calling Corrales home, is walking away mad, even though it is clear Di tipped to Javier. Montoya said he threw in the towel to avoid a divisive battle:

Nothing is more important to me than making sure that we elect Diane Denish Governor. The Lt. Governor and I share a commitment to the core principles of this party--health care, education, creating good paying jobs, and fighting to protect the civil rights of every New Mexican. I am therefore withdrawing my candidacy..and endorsing the candidacy of my good friend, Javier Gonzales.

On his way to the exits, Montoya was thrown a bone by outgoing chair Colon:

I am announcing the appointment of David Montoya to the newly created position of Senior Advisor to the Chairman and Director of Party Strategy. In this capacity David will advise the next Chairperson on party and communications issues...

Gonzales has flirted with running for political office in the past, but has never followed through. The party chairmanship could give him the opportunity to establish his credibility.


The Gonzales candidacy has not necessarily been digested well by the Dem's progressive wing. He has a business background and ties to state House Speaker Lujan, always a favorite foil of the left. Gonzales appraised it this way:

Shortly after Bill Richardson withdrew from the presidential race, I was one of several Democrats who was part of the early leadership of the Obama effort...The progressive wing is important...it's strong. It delivers votes for Democrats and I am real proud of them. There is also a traditional component to the party as well...many people have been Democrats here a long time are also important in delivering votes. It is a party with a big tent..I want strong relationships with all the constituents of the party, including progressives..

His political breakthrough comes at a time when the progressive agenda is hitting roadblocks in Washington and when the economy and jobs, which are not traditional progressive issues, are front and center among New Mexico voters. Also, a looming state budget crisis weakens the left wing. The debate is now about what to cut, not what to grow.

While they may wear uneasily with the far left, the business bona fides of Denish and Gonzales may be fortuitous for the Dems for what is to come in the general election. The progressives will, however, work to keep Denish from straying too far from their agenda as she works to secure the 2010 nomination without opposition.

If, as expected, Gonzales takes the post, it will also come at a time when state Democrats have rarely been more powerful--thanks in large part to Big Bill's political muscle. They control the entire Congressional delegation, the Legislature, the Governor's chair and the State Supreme Court. Republicans are barely a factor, good at making noise, but not at securing political power. But that hasn't always been the case. For Javier Gonzales job one will be keeping what his party already has.


Not all Dems were happy with the high-level maneuvering in their party. This Dona Ana Dem vented their rage and it landed in our e-mail box:

Colon announced that Montoya suddenly was appointed to the completely new position of "Senior Advisor to the Chairman and Director of Party Strategy." Then Montoya announces he's not going to seek the Dem Party Chair but instead announces his support of Gonzales...I still want Diane Denish to be governor, but I'm appalled at my party. And as for Michael Huerta, I'm not sure where the info came from that he was being courted to run, but I'm fairly sure that is bullshit...He may be well liked in some quarters but he's not the next appointed one.

We found it mildly amusing that Lawrence Rael was holding a fund-raiser last night before he even made a formal announcement that he would be seeking the Dem nod for Light Guv. But money continues to be the mother's milk of politics, and the first report on how Rael did will not amuse his many potential opponents.

One insider says at least 100 attended and that perhaps as much as $50,000 was raised (We blogged the news and the hosts of this fund-raiser July 22). We will know for sure when finance reports come out in October. But the Alligators have been snapping for some time that Rael, head of the Mid-Region Council of Governments that is responsible for the Rail Runner and the former longtime chief administrative officer for the city of ABQ, could be an effective fund-raiser.

That 50k number is sure to get Brian Colon's attention. Looks like he has no time to spare getting in the next race to become the state's next number two.


The race for city council on the West Side awakened this week with news that incumbent Dem Michael Cadigan is taking a hit from a district court judge:

A judge slammed Cadigan repeatedly in a 17-page opinion that awarded former landowners $136,500 because the city improperly denied a zoning change. The case involves about eight acres in Taylor Ranch that once housed the Westside Equestrian Center...Much of District Judge Ted Baca's decision focuses on Cadigan, who represents the area and served as the City Council's land-use chairman in 2002. Cadigan voted against the change before recusing himself.

Cadigan is opposed in the Oct. 6 election by Dan Lewis, a Republican small business owner and teacher and Dem Jeremy Toulouse. Cadigan, an attorney, is seeking a third four year term after dropping out of the mayoral race.


Conan O'Brien:

President Clinton flew all the way to North Korea, under the cover of night, to rescue two beautiful women from the clutches of an evil dictator. And what's amazing is that's the exact same alibi he used on Hillary last week.

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