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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Campos Surprises In Light Guv Straw Poll, Plus: The Most Challenged Cabinet Secretary And Why, And: Putting The Heat On Harvey; What GOP Turnaround? 

Rep. Campos
Don't call Joe Campos a giant killer, but his second place showing in a straw poll in Sandoval County Thursday night did recast the crowded race for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor and got the Santa Rosa state representative right in the thick of things.

The straw vote, taken among the Democratic Women of Sandoval County and the Sandoval County Democratic Club, had Brian Colon winning with 39 votes, but Campos' second place showing with 30 ballots was the surprise. Lawrence Rael, who is second in raising money behind Colon came in third with 27 votes, followed in fourth by State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino with 25. State Senator Linda Lopez claimed 11 straw vote ballots. Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano did not compete.

Insiders have been framing the light guv contest as a two tier battle with Colon and Rael in the top tier, but the straw vote results had Campos campaign manager Carlos Trujillo spinning a new tale.

"This is going to make people take a second look at Joe Campos," Trujillo declared. And newly emboldened by his candidate's victory, he fired a shot at Colon and Rael who have never held elective office. The lieutenant governor's position is "no place for on the job training," zinged the operative.

Campos is chairman of the House Voters and Elections Committee. He has close ties to House Speaker Ben Lujan. Carlos Trujillo was the campaign manager for Ben Ray Lujan's 2008 congressional campaign. Ben Ray, of course, is Ben Lujan's son.

Campos, who also serves as mayor of Santa Rosa, made his first move to prove he was serious when he loaned his campaign $100,000. Now the results of the straw poll could help his fund-raising and also quiet talk that Campos would get out of the race in time to run for his state House seat.

For Colon and Rael is was the proverbial wake-up call. Stay tuned.

THE SANTA FE CUTS

Before she left to begin a new job in D.C., Human Services Secretary Pamela Hyde warned beneficiaries of Medicaid--the medical insurance plan for the state's poor--that serious cutbacks may be coming in services because of state budget woes.

If you live in ABQ or Santa Fe the face of New Mexican poverty is not as evident, but travel around this state and you are going to see real need. Some emailers ask if Sec. Hyde has been aggressive enough in cutting administrative expenses and whether State Auditor Hector Balderas and Attorney General Gary King are being aggressive enough in going after Medicaid fraud.

We know Gary and Hector aren't great fans of one another, but working together (joint task force?) they might be able to find millions in Medicaid fraud--money wrongfully going out the door and that could go directly to medical services and avoid some of these cuts. (The AG's office already has a Medicaid fraud division.)

AVOIDING THE PITFALLS

Falls
We can't think of a cabinet secretary who is going to be more challenged in the new year than Katie Falls, who takes over from Secretary Hyde.

Falls had been HSD deputy secretary before Bill elevated her to secretary. She has been with the department since 2003. She worked for the Department of Health from 1995 to 2000 and before that with Navajo Indian Health Services. The North Carolina native comes to the cabinet with a Master's in social work from Smith College.

While Falls has a long background in delivering health care and welfare services, is she able to crack the budget whip on vendors and her own agency heads? Can she embrace efforts to clamp down on fraud? She will not only be expected to find ways to lessen the impact of Medicaid cuts in poverty-ridden New Mexico, but to ensure that private companies are delivering what the state is paying for.

There's not much room for error and not much coasting to be done in some of these top government jobs anymore, not when the standard of health for thousands of people is at risk. With that said, welcome aboard, Secretary Falls.

WHAT TURNAROUND?

We blogged recently of how the NM GOP has yet to put up any candidates against Democrats Balderas, King or State Treasurer Lewis. That does not build a competitive, two party system in a state the R's chronically complain has been controlled by the Dems for over 70 years.

A political party is in the business of fielding candidates, not deciding which candidates of the opposing party do or don't deserve to be challenged. If GOP chairman Harvey Yates, Jr. and company pass on giving our state at least the fig leaf of competition, why should voters listen to their whining over Democrats controlling the government decade after decade?

Put another way, how is not fielding candidates a "180 Turnaround Campaign?" Look what happened with RJ Berry, Harvey. We and others raised Cain about the R's not having anyone in the mayoral contest. You helped recruit then-state Rep. Berry and voilĂ ! You had yourself a GOP mayor for the first time in 24 years. It's really no different for other elected offices, is it?

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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