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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Thursday, August 06, 2009

While Heather Waits So Does Money In GOP Guv Race, Also: Will Latest Light Guv Hopeful Last? And: Bernalillo County Clerk is Carrying; Find Out What 

Heather Wilson
Allen Weh, Susana Martinez, Janice Arnold-Jones and Doug Turner--all possible or already GOP Guv candidates--all have a common problem. Each of them is likely to have a hard time raising significant money until ex-ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson ends her flirtation with a candidacy. Heavy hitters we have spoken with are holding back their wallets and purses, and it's all about Heather. They still think she is the R's best chance to put this race on the map and they aren't going to let the cash flow until she issues a Shermanesque statement ruling herself out.

For Weh, a businessman with personal wealth, the issue is not as urgent. Also, PR company owner Doug Turner will be able to get in-kind support from his company. For Arnold-Jones and Martinez the cash question is more acute.

This, of course, is all to the benefit of Wilson. If she plans a run, pros say she is going to need $4 to $6 million and the longer that money stays available to her, the better. Maybe it causes some resentment in GOP ranks, maybe not. Backers of Wilson argue she has paid her dues and has a right to take her time in considering a run.

How long can Wilson wait? Quite a while, actually. In the not so distant past, formal announcements have come about one year from the date of the election. Following that guideline, she could easily wait until mid-November to make her move. That still gives her plenty of time to raise money and collect petition signatures and she already has heavy name ID. Not that she will wait that long to make a decision, but why not?


Longtime NM reporter and syndicated columnist Sherry Robinson says she doesn't get all the fuss being made over Heather. She thinks a Denish-Wilson contest is a loser for the R's:

Wilson is a smart lady with name recognition, but her strengths end there. For starters, Denish has only to refresh her memory of former Rep. Pearce's campaign attacks on Wilson. Second, while Denish has deep roots in Hobbs and is right at home in rural New Mexico, Wilson is a carpetbagger from Albuquerque...


36 yar old Nathan Krekula of Hobbs says he doesn't like the way Big Bill is running the state, so he's seeking the 2010 GOP Guv nod. Krekula is a Wisconsin native who teaches biology courses at the University of the Southwest. He says oil and gas jobs are going away because of state rules. Check out his Web site for more.

Rep. Jose Campos
State Rep. and longtime Santa Rosa Mayor Jose Campos says next Tuesday he will join the Conga line known as the Democratic race for lieutenant governor, but a healthy dose of scepticism greeted his announcement.

Isn't Jose the chairman of the powerful House Voters and Elections Committee and won't that panel be right in the middle of the 2011 task of redistricting all of the state's legislative and congressional seats? Would Jose really want to miss out on that powerful assignment? He would, if he gave up his House seat . And didn't he flirt with running for the southern US House seat for a couple of days in the '08 cycle, only to pull out, complaining of a back injury?

Then there's that other Campos--Jose's cousin, State Senator Pete Campos, who has also been flirting with a Light Guv run. Some family rivalry here? Along those lines, there was some speculation that Jose would indeed stay the distance in the Light Guv race and that his wife, Christina, an administrator at Guadalupe County Hospital, would make a run for his House seat. Gotta love that scenario.

Whether Jose stays the course or not, he does have the issue list that will likely dominate the next election:

Job growth, economic stability and improved quality of life through the expansion of renewable energy, innovation in education and vocational training, and the promotion of high quality, accessible, and affordable health care.

Oh, he forgot one--ethics.

Right now, the race for second banana is still somewhat unfocused with top pros pointing to Lawrence Rael and Brian Colon, both expected to soon formally enter, as the duo with the best fund-raising prospects. And in a race as crowded as this one is getting cash could be what will make or break our merry contenders.

By the way, Brian Colon, who insiders said had planned to announce that he will resign as Dem Party Chair Wednesday, will do so Friday. The Alligators report there was some back and forth on the exact date of the resignation as the competition heated up as to who would replace him. The salient point: Colon is headed for the exits and the Light Guv race.

The two heavies seeking the Dem chairmanship are Sandoval County Dem Chair David Montoya and former Santa Fe County Commissioner Javier Gonzales, but a couple of members of the 400 member State Central Committee who will pick the new chairman, have a brand new face their pushing. He is 23 year old Michael Ray Huerta of Las Cruces. From there, reader Raul Sentano e-mails the party would benefit from a southern candidate and:

He can win. After only being a Democrat for three months, Michael came in and beat over 10 other candidates for the single spot of National Convention Delegate...He can help please progressives and gays. Michael is openly gay and has been involved with progressive causes, as well as GLBT causes across the state. Now that Victor Raigoza is not running, Michael can win over the far left base of the party.

The Democratic Party is a big tent and Diane D and Big Bill are going to have to herd everyone in.


With his legacy on the line, Big Bill took to the tube Wednesday to unveil yet another round of initiatives to address the latest dreadful stats revealing that only 54 percent of New Mexico students complete high school, compared to about 70 percent nationally.

The Guv is now trying to bring back students that were lost. His plan calls for getting 10,000 high school drop-outs their degrees, largely through on-line courses and by the end of his term next year.

He also mentions that achievement gap between Hispanic Anglo students. The Anglos graduate at a 64 percent rate and Hispanics at about 50 percent rate. He calls for:

The establishment the Office of Hispanic Education at the Public Education Department. The office will liaison with the Hispanic Community to engage in meaningful ways to address the achievement gap.

Meanwhile, that drive by some ABQ West Side residents to form their own school district separate from Albuquerque Public Schools continues. Dan Serrano of CASA--Citizens Advancing Student Achievement--says the proposal has been drafted and presented to Secretary of Education Veronica Garcia. He says the group's study shows a West Side district could be formed without raising taxes, that the property tax base is broad enough to fund a new school district. It will be up to Garcia to decide whether to advance the proposal.


Was it because North Korea did not want Big Bill that he was not selected to help free two American journalists, and nothing to do with the controversies dogging him here at home? From CNN on Bill Clinton getting the assignment:

Some heavyweights were turned down by the North Koreans: former Vice President Al Gore, a co-founder of the media outfit the women were working for when they were arrested, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations whose previous missions to North Korea included negotiating the release of a detained American...The former president's combination of stature and "unofficial" status made him the best choice to undertake a mission that the United States and North Korea agreed should be cloaked in a label of purely "private and humanitarian.


Reader and health care personnel recruiter Kevin McMullan took exception to this info on the planned upgrade of the Guadalupe County Hospital we received from Washington recently

The hospital is the only emergency care facility over the 275 miles between Albuquerque and Amarillo

Says McMullan:

Not correct. Dr Dan C. Trigg Hospital in Tucumcari has an emergency department.

We hope we don't have to visit either, but glad they are there.


Let's head south from Tucumcari to Carlsbad. While ABQ is preparing for an October mayoral election, Carlsbad, like several other NM cities, will do their local elections next March. Reader Mario Salinas in Carlsbad says the early action is underway:

Incumbent Mayor Robert Forrest is not running so we have several maybes. Jeff Diamond, councilman and past Eddy County Dem Party Chairman, has stated that he is running. Also, Manny Anaya, past councilman who gave Forrest a good scare last election, has also said maybe. Another maybe is Dale Janway, a past councilman and so far the only GOP possible...

Mayor Forrest is a Republican.


Not all of New Mexico's female politicos are on the campaign trail these days--although it sometimes seems that way--Bernalilo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver will be decidedly off the trail come around October. She is expecting a new addition then, but like a true politico her baby shower will be held at the home of Traci Cadigan, wife of ABQ City Councilor Michael Cadigan who is seeking re-election in October. Maggie, married to Big Bill aide Allan Oliver, joked about the soon-to-be new arrival:

Yes, he will be registered at birth but will be held in suspense until his 18th birthday-- Ha! He is due in October, just after the City Election. :)

Well, there won't be too much suspense about his registration--Maggie is a dyed-in-the-wool Dem. Did you notice she said "he" when referring to the new baby? What, she didn't want any suspense? Guess the Clerk gets enough of that on Election Night.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

City Slumps, But Salary Hikes For Politicos Grabs Agenda; How Is That? Plus: The Real Depression: Billions For NM Education & Lousy Results 

ABQ metro unemployment has rocketed to a rate not seen in decades; city government faces a big budget shortfall it's covering with property tax money not intended for that purpose; home prices have nosedived and commercial real estate in the city is in a slump that in some areas looks like a Depression. So what is becoming a hot button issue in the October 6 city election? How about raising the pay of the mayor and nine councilors? Talk about bad timing.

The hard-working citizens who comprise the City Charter Review Task Force started their work last August, before the worst of the economic crash. But even as the bear market intensified they seemed oblivious to the economic and political atmosphere. They have continued to force an "independent salary commission" plan to the top of the public agenda.

Never mind that ABQ voters since 1974 have probably rejected a dozen times--and most recently in 2007--the idea of raising the way the mayor and councilors are paid. Yet the task force seems to think that politician pay is among the most pressing matters facing the city. They want a special commission to set the pay because they think our city leaders are underpaid and that is impacting the quality of government we receive. But is it?

The councilors receive 10 percent of the mayor's salary, or about $10,940 a year. He gets about $109,500. But each councilor also has a full-time aide who gets paid $51,688 a year. Also, the president of the city council, elected to a one year term, receives double the salary of his colleagues--$21,881--compensating him for the heavier workload. Also, the Office of Council Services has 26 full-time employees. And this isn't enough for a city of 525,000?


We don't see any shortage of candidates running for council or mayor this year. Even under the restrictive new public financing law we have hot races in three of the five council districts up for election and a mayor's race with three not so shabby candidates.

As for the current council, we don't see a bunch of mediocrity there either. Ditto for many of the council candidates. The desire to serve, not the salary, seems the main motivator. That has to be one of the most appealing aspects of our city government. Why destroy it?

The good news is that the mayor, council and task force are done with their food-fight over the salary issue and other proposed charter amendments. They will each be voted on Oct. 6.. Not surprisingly, Mayor Chavez is against a salary commission.

The charter task force was no doubt well-intentioned and all were volunteers, but their work has been overshadowed by the big political disconnect they delivered with the proposed salary commission. The city faces much more difficult and fundamental challenges. Perhaps the next task force will concentrate on those.


If denizens of the Duke City need something to really worry about. They can try this:

Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Winston Brooks is describing the state of APS schools as a crisis. That characterization follows the release of 2009 Adequate Yearly Progress reports for every school in the state and news that the APS graduation rate is only 46 percent.

For the state, the new stats show only about 54 percent of our students are finishing high school. It is absolutely maddening that after the billions we have pumped into education from the historic energy surpluses that we continue to languish so badly.

Secretary Garcia
I spoke not long ago with NM Secretary of Education Veronica Garcia, and it was an intense conversation with the Secretary asking me if I was arguing with her or interviewing her. I admitted to big time frustration over the continued failures, despite the huge cash outlays. So did she.

We discussed mainly how the Anglo graduation rate---now 64 percent--is so much higher than the 50.2 percent rate for Hispanics and the even lower 45.4 percent for Native Americans. The national graduation rate is 70 percent.

Former Governor Garrey Carruthers, now dean of the biz school at NM State University, has been arguing for years that more special measures must be taken to reach young Hispanic and Native American students. The ethnic factor must be confronted, he says, as the Anglo grad rate is so much higher. Secretary Garcia calls it an income issue. Whatever it's called, we know that it is the particular needs of minority students that have to be addressed.

The political and intellectual classes are aghast that after this kind of spending we are still in such sorry educational shape. But are most New Mexicans as aggrieved? And if not, why not?

Governor Richardson holds a news conference today to talk about more initiatives to address the graduation problem. He will take a hit for the new stats, as will Light Guv Denish, but no single politician is to blame. Rather than dumping on him--there will be plenty of that a year from now---we can only hope that in his time remaining he can come up with something that moves the needle on one of the most intractable problems facing the Land of Enchantment.


Governor Big Bill scored a bounty of national TV shots on the North Korea situation Tuesday, but did it cover the disappointment he may have felt that it was the other Big Bill--Bill Clinton--who was tapped by the White House to travel to the isolated nation to free American journalists? There was some wry amusement in watching the Guv praise his former boss for his successful mission as the two have not spoken since our Big Bill endorsed Obama for president instead of Hillary.

Richardson has visited North Korea several times on troubleshooting missions. You can argue that it took someone of the stature of the former President to do this deal, or you can argue Richardson was shut out by the Clinton's and the White House because he is untouchable until the federal investigations into pay-to-play in his administration are concluded. And argue they will....


From Lt. Guv Denish:

Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish named Ms. Sam Thompson Communications Director. Previously, Sam served as the Communications Director for Attorney General Patricia Madrid.

Sam is short for Samantha, right?


The action has never been earlier when it comes to a New Mexico election cycle, probably in large measure because of the costs of these campaigns. And then there's just a lot of politicians who want jobs. An early look at Campaign '10 and some pollster Brian Sanderoff analysis here.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Is She Having Fun Yet? Rivalry For Dem Chair Tests Di; It's A "Northern Thing"; Plus: Don't Show Us The Money--Court Rules On Nonprofits 

Javier Gonzales & Denish
All we can say for Diane Denish is we hope she's having fun. She doesn't need the money, she has her health and is at an age where most of her contemporaries are comfortably touring London in one of those double-decker buses or buying summer furniture for their Angel Fire cabins. But here she is, the Lieutenant Governor hoping to become Guv, facing a task more suited for a lion tamer or an alligator wrestler. We speak of the mostly behind-the-scenes contest for the chairmanship of the NM Democratic Party that has popped up in the wake of the news that Chair Brian Colon intends to step down and run for lt. guv.

It's just what Di needed--a rivalry for the post between two Hispanic men from Santa Fe County--David Montoya, biz consultant and now Sandoval Democratic Party chairman and Javier Gonzales, a former Santa Fe County Commissioner, who, like Montoya, is a biz consultant and is now a member of the NMSU Board of Regents.

What's the problem, you ask? Mediating this one should be child's play for an Anglo gal from Hobbs. Very funny. Although we hear the public schools in Little Texas are pretty darn good, we understand they do not have classes in the art of the Movida, settling disputes among families whose blood lines go back four centuries or how to grasp that what you have been told is not necessarily what you heard. In fact, the only "school" for that stuff may be in a secret Morada in a cave in Mora County.


Di's previous adventures along the ancient paths of La Politica should help keep her on course over the next several days during which the chair issue is likely to be settled. After all, she still carries scars from long ago battles with Stephanie Gonzales, Patricia Madrid and Linda Lopez. Now she must be wondering if the guys of El Norteño are going to inflict a few cuts. Not if she can help it. (And if you don't recognize the names of those Di gal pals, we suggest you start out on the junior blogs and work you're way up to here).

From the chatter we could pick up, Denish may have been a bit blindsided by the Colon resignation news, but she was not about to immediately shove a chairman down anyone's throat. That went out of style when Obama came in. But letting the dogs out and letting them fight it out for a couple of weeks before the meeting where the Dem Party Central Committee will pick a new chair is an equally unappealing option.

That was the backdrop Monday as insiders reported Di took a meeting with Montoya and we presume did the same with Javier or moved to set one up. The best option for her is that someone starts blinking--really fast and really quick. Meanwhile, one expects Di is dialing across the Democratic spectrum, seeking advice to decide which way she will quietly, but firmly tilt.


Gonzales has played with the notion of running for a variety of elective offices--Congress and Lieutenant Governor for two--but playing and being a player are two different things. Is he just playing again?

Montoya got ahead of the curve by campaigning among party regulars for the chair job well in advance of the news of Colon's planned resignation. Did he get too far ahead of where Di wanted? Is it his turn to blink?

There are other possibles making noise over this thing, but it's like the children's table at Thanksgiving. Let the adults talk.

And, no, we didn't forget about everyone's favorite elephant in the room. All of this is happening under the watchful eye of Big Bill who just happens to still be Governor, even if Greg Fouratt may have different ideas.

Bill has closer ties to Gonzales than Montoya, but both potential chairs have warm ties to state House Speaker Lujan who is an important ally of Bill's and whose son, Ben Ray, happens to be the Northern congressman. Okay, we won't sugarcoat it. When Bill became Secretary of Energy, David's mom, who worked for Bill's predecessor, Federico Pena, was swept out of a job.

What can we say? It's a northern thing. A gringo from Pennsylvania can explain--and understand--only so much.


We don't think we'll be seeing a billboard announcing a 15 round bout of "Montoya vs. Gonzales" at Isleta Casino. The two are known as friends and the peace could be made before the two go to the mattresses. But no matter how the issue of a new chair is settled, it will reflect more on the woman who would be Governor than on who grabs the gavel from the hands of Brian Colon. And guess what? If everything goes perfect, she gets absolutely no credit. But if one thing goes wrong? Well, you know the answer to that.

Politics this complicated is enough to send anyone retreating to that Angel Fire cabin. But retreat is not an option when seeking the rewards available only to those who stake claim to the title of Governor of New Mexico.

'08 Hit Lit (click to enlarge)
The genie out of the bottle known as unaccountable campaign spending by IRS protected nonprofits apparently is going to stay out of the bottle until we get the Congress and/or the Legislature to do something. That appears to be the bottom line of a federal court ruling Monday that said the progressive nonprofits that mailed out what appeared to be campaign lit against incumbent legislators in the 2008 election do not have to register with the state as political committees. That would mean they would have to tell us who is giving them their donations and exactly how they are spending the money. In other words, we appear to be getting quasi-political parties in America that are going to operate without any transparency. The irony that this secrecy was started by primarily progressive groups is lost on no one. They argue what critics see as campaign lit is actually educational material.

But it is not only progressive nonprofits led by consultant Eli Lee fostering secrecy. Recently, the conservative-oriented Southwest Citizens Coalition, headed up by Farmington's Allen McCulloch, hit with radio attack ads against Dem US Reps Heinrich and Teague. Like their liberal counterparts, they say they will not disclose who gives them their money.

The lit sent out by the nonprofits in 2008 struck us as blatant electioneering and clearly intended to circumvent disclosure laws and take advantage of IRS rules exempting the public reporting of donors and expenditures. Attorney General King urged the Secretary of State to demand that the nonprofits file disclosure reports like other committees. She did. The nonprofits sued and Monday they won. (Complete court ruling here.)

But look who has just hopped on the disclosure bandwagon--or at least put one leg in it. Why, it's that original progressive, former ABQ Mayor Jim Baca:

It probably would not hurt to know where some of this money comes from. What is wrong with a little sunshine?

Welcome aboard, Jim. We've been waiting for you. Now if you could just convince your young political progeny to join you.

Federal Judge Judith Herrera, (a Republican appointed by President Bush), assessed the mailings at issue in this specific case and ruled they did not fall under the state's reporting requirement. She did, however, leave the door open a crack for future challenges to what we term "political nonprofits:"

The...organizations’ broader reasons for existence are not relevant to this determination, as (the Secretary of State) has admitted that she did not classify them as political committees for any reason other than the mailings. In granting summary judgment to (the nonprofits) , the Court is not saying that there are no circumstances under which (the nonprofits) could qualify as political committees, only that the reason advanced by (the SOS) for her classification is invalid...

The progressive nonprofits are raising hundreds of thousands of dollars--if not millions of undisclosed dollars--and their conservative brethren will now likely do the same.

If Judge Herrera were asked to rule on hypocrisy, she could have thrown the book at the lot of them.


From reader Jose Campos:

Joe, (Dem Party Chairman) Brian Colon was raised in Bosque Farms, not Belen (as we blogged Monday), and graduated from Los Lunas High School.

Colon was born in New York....

Auditor Balderas
Colon helped engineer the election of fellow attorney Hector Balderas as state auditor in 2006. It was no surprise then that Hector immediately announced he would seek re-election as auditor in 2010 as soon as Brian let word leak that he was resigning as Dem chair and going for Light Guv.

Hector's name has been bandied about for a variety of political offices, but he came in after the epic 2005 Treasurer scandal. Expectations are high for reform. Now that he has his immediate political future settled, he should have more focus. Maybe that nasty squabble he has been having with Attorney General King can also be settled.

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Power Play: Colon To Resign As Party Chair Wed.; To Make Race For Light Guv; Who Is New Chair? Test For Denish? And: Contest Winner Cools It With Coke 

A crowded race for lieutenant governor is about to get more crowded and the Democratic Party of New Mexico will soon get new leadership as party chairman Brian Colon joins the race for the nomination for the state's #2 position. He will resign Wednesday as party chair, inform several Alligators, and shortly after begin his first quest for elected office.

The Democratic Party Central Committee will meet within sixty days of the resignation to pick a new chair. Colon was re-elected for a second two-year term earlier this year.

Colon, 38, was originally tapped for the party chairmanship in 2007 by Big Bill. However, Lt. Governor Diane Denish, the party's likely 2010 Dem Guv nominee, will want a major say on who will replace Colon and help guide the party in the crucial 2010 election year.

Insiders are already waiting to see how Denish and Richardson work together on selecting a new chair. Any tension between the duo could quickly become part of the narrative of the Guv campaign, making Di's road to the nomination less sanguine and Bill's legacy in his own party less than what he would hope.

David Montoya
The initial word we are getting from top placed political sources is that Bill will defer to Di. The duo has had a somewhat rocky relationship, but Bill, they say, does not want to be placed in a position where he is blamed for picking a chair who is not fully supportive of Denish and causing the Dems general election problems. The Light Guv remains the presumptive nominee.

A variety of political consultants, Alligators and wall-leaners are saying Denish would be well-served to have a Hispanic named to the position, reflecting their majority strength in the party and continuing to shore up a potential weak spot in her political resume.

Newly elected Sandoval County Dem Party Chairman David Montoya, CEO of defense consulting firm Manzano Strategies, has told friends he will seek to replace Colon. Montoya is a fervent backer of Denish, but insiders are waiting to see who else emerges, especially any major contender from the party's progressive wing. They are also waiting to see how Denish handles her first major political duty as she moves to become the titular head of the Democratic Party as Big Bill transitions out. She's no stranger to the game, having served as party chair herself.

KKOB radio reporter Peter St. Cyr says two other names are also about: Martin Suazo of Las Vegas and Victor Raigoza, who has run for the state senate several times. But Montoya, who has several family members working with the Obama administration is seen as the top-tier contender out of the starting gate.


Colon, a trial attorney, can argue that under his watch the party scored historic congressional and presidential victories. The state's congressional delegation is now all Democratic and Obama won the state big. He can also argue he bridged the divide between party centrists and progressives. But Colon's fund-raising ties to Governor Big Bill are already being talked about among his rivals. With federal investigations into fund-raising here, ethics is a hot button issue. And the party's 2008 presidential caucus, under Colon's direction, turned into a fiasco when the party ran out of ballots and the resulting delays in voting brought Colon unwanted national attention.

Still, insiders say Colon will enter the jammed-up Light Guv race as a top-tier contender because of his political skills, his network within the party, name ID built by being party chair and an ability to raise money. That last criteria is becoming critical in this contest.

Colon also has another advantage. It takes 20 percent of the March pre-primary delegates to get on the June 2010 primary ballot. As a party chairman he will be well- positioned. If you are denied at the pre-primary, you can still get on the ballot by gathering petitions. However, no one has ever gone on to win the primary after being forced to go the petition route.

Colon's entry follows Light Guv news from Lawrence Rael, executive director of the Mid-Region Council of Governments. Rael recently announced his first fund-raiser which had a number of trial lawyers listed as hosts. That is support that Colon is also courting. Rael has yet to make a formal announcement of his candidacy, but his presence is likely pushing Colon to throw his hat in the ring now. Neither man has previously sought elective office.


Already in the Light Guv race are ABQ State Senators Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Linda Lopez and Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano. Insiders say that Colon's entry signals that State Auditor Hector Balderas, a close friend of Brian's, will indeed seek re-election to a second four year term as auditor and not go for Light Guv. Balderas has scheduled his first fund-raiser.

Friends of Santa Fe's Javier Gonzales tell us he is not likely to get in. Espanola Mayor Joe Maestas continues to float his name. ABQ State Senator Tim Eichenberg's name is also out there. He is the only prominent Anglo name being heard. Northern Senator Pete Campos is another on the possible list. And there are even more possibles contemplating a bid. Some will fade by the fall, but the positioning is creating a summer political pastime.

The Dems have historically balanced their Guv ticket ethnically, with one Anglo and one Spanish surnamed candidate. Colon has a Spanish surname, but is of Puerto Rican descent and does not come from a New Mexico family. However, he has been here since grade school and grew up in Bosque Farms.

Conventional wisdom has it that Denish would best be served by a Hispanic male Light Guv nominee, preferably from one of the northern counties. But if not from the north, definitely of Hispanic heritage.


Expect PR executive Doug Turner, a possible for the 2010 GOP Guv nomination, to soon file papers to form an exploratory committee, rather than going all in with a formal candidacy. Turner says he has received contributions of over $5,000 and state rules mandate a committee. All Republicans are keeping a close eye on the camp of former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson. She has the big foot that will keep a shadow over the race until she announces her plans.


Mayor Marty late Friday announced a resurrection of sorts of Eclipse Aviation, saying the once robust very light jet maker will likely be sold out of bankruptcy for a paltry $40 million. He said the company "intends" to rehire some workers here, but is anyone not skeptical after all of the political and economic capital New Mexico gambled and lost on Eclipse? But it's a free country and--we think--still a free enterprise system. If Eclipse can somehow take off, we wish them luck. But more of our tax dollars for cash or tax incentives? Would they have the gall to ask?

One of the weirder defenses we have heard about the Eclipse failure goes something like this, "Joe, they were around for a couple of years and employed people during that time, so it wasn't all that bad.."

But that is not how Eclipse was sold to taxpayers who provided $19 million in cash and tens of millions more in incentives for the start-up. It was to be the heart of an aviation cluster that was to be the center of a new manufacturing industry for the metro area. Now, we are getting this dumbed down argument. Of course, it does not account for the social and economic costs of the mass unemployment that resulted from the Eclipse collapse. As the President said over the weekend:

"Even as we rescue this economy, we must work to rebuild it stronger than before," he said. "We've got to build a new foundation strong enough to withstand future economic storms and support lasting prosperity."

And what about all those employees specially trained to work at Eclipse and that we're now told could not "potentially" be re-hired? KRQE-TV reports that former employees say no more than a quarter of the Eclipse work force is still around here.

Eclipse as the foundation of a new ABQ manufacturing economy was a product of the "go-go, trees grow to the sky" financial era of American history. Can the policy makers and the press fall out of love? Because as far as taxpayers are concerned, the relationship died a long time ago.


It all doesn't go down the drain. Here's something that should work:

Senators Bingaman and Udall and Congressman Teague announced that $9.4 million in immediate federal funds will be made available to build the Guadalupe County Hospital. The funds, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will go to replace the outdated care center currently in Santa Rosa. The new facility will house a 10-bed acute care hospital and medical clinic...

The hospital is the only emergency care facility over the 275 miles between Albuquerque and Amarillo. Total cost: $13 million which will be a federal loan to the county. Groundbreaking: November 2nd.

Santa Rosa, get ready to be stimulated.

Liz Gallegos & Me
What better prize to win in the middle of a New Mexico summer than some refreshing Coca-Cola? And that's just what blog reader Liz Gallegos did when she won our recent contest by correctly answering two brain-teasers related to New Mexico politics.

Liz and I met up with the Coke folks, including Vice-President Edward Lopez, to award her the prize under a sizzling July sun. He's no slouch--he had two iced ones ready for our enjoyment as we posed under the sun to congratulate Liz who took home in her car trunk a six month supply of coke products. Now when the heat of La Politica gets too hot, Liz can quickly cool off. And, of course, we suggest you do the same with your favorite flavor of Coke.

Thanks to all who entered the contest and to Coca-Cola for making it all possible. And we're not done with Summer Fun '09. VP Lopez says let's do it again--another six month supply of Coke to a lucky winner! We can't argue with that, so stay tuned for round two and your chance to win.

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