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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Focus On The Speaker: Will His Primary Foe Land Any Blows? State Watches This One Closely, Plus: Ex-Mayor Marty On The Campaign Trail 

First the bad news for NM House Speaker Ben Lujan. For the first time in over 20 years the Democratic leader has a primary election opponent and one who has some credibility. The good news for the longtime leader is that even if Carl Trujillo makes an impressive run at Lujan and weakens him in the eyes of his fellow legislators, Alligators and Roundhouse wall-leaners say there does not appear to be anyone positioned to pull off a coup against Lujan and seize the top power post in the 70 member chamber.

Unlike Speaker Raymond Sanchez, Lujan's predecessor who served longer in the post than anyone in state history, Lujan has not groomed anyone to replace him. (Sanchez looked fondly on then-House Majority Leader Mike Olguin as a possible successor).

Not that Lujan isn't concerned about his primary challenge from the 43 year old Trujillo, a nephew of Santa Fe Dem State Rep. Jim Trujillo, a Lujan supporter who tried to dissuade Carl from making the challenge.

This is the year of the anti-incumbent, and even though Trujillo will apparently not be well-financed (he is not accepting contributions over $100), it won't take much in this environment for voters to look at a new and younger face.

Trujillo's theme--"I'm tired of the old politics"--is simple and has the potential to resonate with the disaffected.

GAMING IT OUT

Carl Trujillo
Lujan's tenure is pretty amazing. He was first elected in 1975, and is now serving his 35th year at the Roundhouse. He became Speaker of the House in 2001. Only Sanchez held the speakership longer.

At 74, he is encountering more balkiness from his caucus and continues to take criticism that he can be a bully, but he still manages to hold the D's together. His father was a sheepherder, a skill Lujan appears to have inherited.

Lujan was challenged for the speaker's chair in December 2006 by State Rep. Kenny Martinez, but the coup attempt failed and Martinez has since been a Lujan supplicant. He could try to rise again when Lujan retires, but his challenger days appear over. His attempted coup was authored by a wing of progressive Dems who Martinez no longer seems wedded to.

But what if Trujillo, a Los Alamos Labs research technologist, were to score over 30% of the June primary vote against Lujan? That might embolden Lujan's foes in the House, but it would be a revolution in search of a leader. There are simply no names circulating now that Senior Alligators say have the credibility to take Lujan out. Maybe if Lujan was wounded by Trujillo, one would emerge? Or there could be a long shot try at putting together a coalition comprised of a handful of unhappy Dems who join with the R's to oust Lujan?

But Lujan doesn't want those waters tested. He recently sent out a news release announcing he had been endorsed by the Pueblo of Pojoaque Tribal Council. that's hardly an earthshaking event, but something you do when you take seriously a threat to the throne.

NO CHALLENGE?

Why didn't state Dems put up anyone to run for the ABQ NE Heights seat being vacated by GOP State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones who is now seeking the R nod for governor?

That question arose when we blogged last week that Republican and Sandia Labs engineer Conrad James is unopposed for the R nomination and no Dem has filed for the seat. James will get a free ride and become the first African-American on the GOP side of the aisle to represent Bernalillo County in the Legislature.

Scott Forrester, executive director of the NM Dem Party, tells us there was little the D's could do about. Even though party registration is not heavy R, he says the seat is solid for the GOP and would not be worth a Dem challenge. He points out no Dem has ever had it, and that would not change even with no incumbent running.

Forrester says the party's top priority House seats in the Bernalillo County area are those held by Karen Giannini, Ben Rodefer, Bill O'Neill and Eleanor Chavez.

ON THE SCENE

(Patty Baker)
Former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez surfaces on the campaign trail today as a "special guest" at a fund-raiser for Dem Light Guv candidate Joe Campos at Scalo restaurant. Mark Fleisher, Chavez's campaign manager for his unsuccessful 2009 mayoral re-election, is no managing the Campos campaign. Chavez now works in DC as director of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, an organization of local governments focusing on climate protection.

Chavez never ran for lieutenant governor, but he was the 1998 Dem Guv nominee and Diane Denish was his running mate. They lost to Gary Johnson and Walter Bradley...

Vanessa Alarid, who spearheaded Santa Fe lobbying efforts for real estate giant SunCal, has left the firm and taken up residence at Butch Maki and Associates, a prominent capitol lobbying firm. Alarid is a former executive director of the NM Dem party.

Alarid's SunCal boss, Will Steadman has also jumped ship. He has been named CEO of the commercial real estate brokerage Grubb and Ellis.

SunCal hired an army of lobbyists to try to win a controversial tax break known as a TIDD for its large land holdings on ABQ's West side. It came close, but never could muster enough votes in the Legislature to make it to Big Bill's desk.

The real estate crash ended SunCal's ambitious plans and also a lot of reliable pay checks to those Roundhouse lobbyists.

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