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Monday, November 09, 2009

John Sanchez Resurfaces; '02 GOP Guv Nominee Eyes Rerun, Plus: The Politics Of Health, And: The Dennis Chavez Legacy Updated 

John Sanchez
You mean they're not all in yet? Maybe not. 2002 GOP Governor candidate John Sanchez made us do a double-take when we ran into him in the ABQ North Valley over the weekend and he casually dropped the news that he was considering a bid for either the 2010 GOP Guv or Lt. Gov. nomination.

"I'm meeting with friends and supporters to decide which way to go." He said.

That way could include no way, but the 46 year old, well-off roofing contractor who took a drubbing from Big Bill in 2002, seemed excited by the prospect of renewing his political career.

We wondered why Sanchez would consider running for the Light Guv position, given his previous stint at the top of the ticket. The GOP Guv field is so jumbled, a run for the top spot seems to make the most sense. Sanchez has his own wealth to kick-start a campaign and has remained active with the front-lines of the GOP by hosting numerous fundraisers at his sprawling ABQ NE Heights home. If there's a move, it looks like Guv, with the Light Guv bid floated to keep the dogs off his trail for a while.

Sanchez came to political fame in 2000 when he ousted then-House Speaker Raymond Sanchez from an ABQ North Valley seat. But Sanchez served only one term before running for Guv, too soon to take on a heavyweight like Richardson. Maybe he runs this time with recitals of state budget woes and taunts of "I told you so."

THE SANCHEZ FILE

Sanchez was the only Hispanic GOP Guv nominee in the modern history of the GOP. This year, Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez is seeking the Guv nomination and Sanchez's entry could have particular impact on her. One of Sanchez's early consultants, Jay McCleskey, now of Lincoln Strategy Group, is working for Martinez as are other segments of the party that once backed John. And Sanchez still has some bad blood from his 2002 GOP Guv primary battle when he went nuclear on then Lt. Governor Walter Bradley.

But Republican analysts said a Sanchez candidacy would be a threat not only to Martinez, but also to Allen Weh. Sanchez's wealth and approval from conservatives puts him toe-to-toe with Weh. And a Sanchez bid, they said, could make things tight for Weh at the March 2010 GOP pre-primary convention where it will take 20 percent of the delegates attending to win a party-approved spot on the June primary ballot.

Even though he went underground after his trouncing from Bill, Sanchez probably has name ID surpassing the GOP field, and the party is in such a state of flux that a Sanchez bid, far from seeming quixotic, could find its footing and fast.

A run for Guv would pit him against Weh, Martinez, Doug Turner and Janice Arnold-Jones. The latter two are considered moderate. Sanchez is a conservative, but he's been gone for eight years. Will his loss nearly eight years ago make him more pragmatic if he takes another shot?

If Sanchez goes for the much less exciting Light Guv nod, he would face former Clayton area State Rep. Brian Moore and Santa Fe physician J.R. Damron.

The retirement of Senator Domenici, the decision by Heather Wilson not to run for governor, the '08 defeat of the Bush forces and the continued inability of NM R's to gain traction have set the party adrift, but also created opportunity for new and old faces alike. Who has the strength and character to captain this shaky ship? Who owns the GOP's future? Stay tuned.

HEALTH POLITICS
Speaker Pelosi & Teague
We blogged last week about how Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich isn't giving much of anything away to the Republicans. His votes and politics have seemed to align, for the most part, with his centrist district. But will his vote this weekend on what the R's call a too liberal health reform bill change that? It will probably help the GOP's Jon Barela consolidate R support in the ABQ NE Heights. R's will have to do polling to find out if they can take it deeper. There may be an opening fpr them on Medicare which R's say could suffer under a public health option. Heinrich is taking it seriously enough that he held a telephone town hall on that topic alone. Still, Heinrich is going to satisfy his left-wing base with this vote, and that is a base that has been a bit antsy with him of late.

For southern NM Dem Congressman Harry Teague, the analysis is a no-brainer. He voted against the health care bill, depriving Republican Steve Pearce of a key issue on which to take his fellow Hobbs oilman out of the seat. The R's did score Teague for voting to allow the bill to advance to the floor, but on the plan itself he joined with the conservative Dems and said no. The reform measure passed by a narrow five vote margin. But the vote is not without grief for Teague among Dems. Some of them were e-mailing to us this page from his 2008 campaign Web site that outlines his purported commitment to health care. They accuse him of coming up short.

Northern Dem US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan did not have much political risk in his vote on the measure. As expected, he voted yes.

THE BINGAMAN VIEW


Meanwhile, NM senior Senator Jeff Bingaman was telling constituents in ABQ over the weekend that survival of the health bill in the Senate in its current form is "unpredictable." It needs 60 votes for the public option to survive and the Dem lawmaker, a key national player on this, indicated it's still anyone's guess on what kind of bill, if any, emerges from the Senate.

THE CHAVEZ LEGACY

He's been gone 47 years, but his legacy is large and few disagree that Democratic US Senator Dennis Chavez was the most significant Senator in state history. And that legacy will now be a permanent fixture at the University of New Mexico School of Law. The Dennis Chavez Foundation has donated $100,000 to the law school to establish an endowed lectureship/symposium on law and civil rights. The check presentation was made by Chavez grandson Jorge Tristani and Chavez foundation president John Cordova to UNM Foundation President John Stropp.

Senator Chavez introduced civil rights legislation as far back as 1947 that was similar to the landmark bill passed in 1964. He died in 1962, but is given a large slice of credit for the '64 act.

If 20th century New Mexican civil rights was about integrating the Spanish and Native Americans into a state under the flag of the US and ensuring their equal status, the 21st century civil rights challenge may be the inequality gap in public education between Hispanic and Native American children and their Anglo counterparts. Governor Richardson and others have begun to awaken to the challenge. He's proposed a high school drop out program and today will headline a solutions summit in ABQ on the Native American issue.

The new dean of the law school, Kevin Washburn, tells us the Chavez lecture and symposium will feature civil rights issues. We don't want to be presumptuous, but we think "El Senador" would consider the ethnic education crisis appropriate for the annual law school event bearing his name.

THADDEUS AND LAWRENCE
Lucero
My Alligators were snapping at me over the weekend, wondering if we had heard that Bernalillo County Manager Thaddeus Lucero was high on the list of possibles to head up the Mid-Region Council of Governments, replacing Lawrence Rael who will resign soon to campaign full-time for the Dem Light Guv nomination. Lucero just signed a fat renewal contract with the county (about $150,000 a year) but insiders say the MRCOG post is a real plum. Rael is making about $140,000 or so and he doesn't have to deal with a demanding five member county commission.

If Lucero did hit the exits to head to MRCOG, that would leave the county manager position open. Let the speculation begin. Or not, if the Gators are getting ahead of themselves.

THE FIRST ONE


Likely Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish seemed to escape major damage from the recent brouhaha over her use of federal stimulus money from six years ago. The amount was not large and she answered most of the issues completely, but she could not entirely close the door when it came to a contractor doing work on a Christmas card, apparently for a holiday open house party. That will be enough for the inevitable 30 second TV spot showing "Santa Di" handing out presents to her cronies and contractors. It might not sway many voters, but the imagery should be amusing.

A sidebar on this one: It appears former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson has the self-assigned role of attack dog on Denish now that she has declined the lead dog role by ruling out a run for Guv. Wilson jumped on the Di stimulus story like a duck on a June bug:

A full federal audit needs to be done to find out whether Lt. Governor Denish has misused federal tax dollars for personal and campaign purposes.

Come on, Heather. Now you're shooting from the bleacher seats? If you want to party with us, put on those dancin' shoes. We'd love to have you. But doesn't this soiree require a formal invitation titled: "Declaration of Candidacy?" Otherwise, don't you get to enjoy that "private life" you said you pined for?

THE RJ BEAT


It will soon be a very public life for ABQ Mayor-elect RJ Berry. For past mayors that included frequent clashes with the nine member city council. RJ has already clashed with three of his fellow R's on the council over his nomination of attorney David Campbell as chief administrative officer. We expect everyone to be on their best behavior today when Berry appears with two of the new councilors who seem intent on giving him a hard time--Republicans Dan Lewis and Michael Cook. The trio will appear before a noon lunch sponsored by the ABQ Press Women. No need for green chile on the plates, ladies. These guys are already heating things up.

THE BOTTOM LINES


Some readers were confused by our reference to the Hotel Anadaluz in downtown ABQ, where VP Biden will appear, Nov. 16, as an original Hilton. They remember it as La Posada which it became in 1984. But the hotel was originally built in 1939, and was the fourth in the Hilton chain whose founder, Conrad Hilton, was born in San Antonio, NM. It's perhaps best known as the honeymoon headquarters for Hilton and his starlet wife Zsa Zsa Gabor...

Anthony Gonzales wanted to clear up any misunderstanding about a portion of our obituary last week of former Suprme Court Chief Justice Gene Franchini:

The scholarship fund for mock trial students was established by the Center for Civic Values in Justice Franchini’s honor as he is known nationally as the “godfather” of the New Mexico High School Mock Trial Program. Funds were contributed by numerous people.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Email your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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