Monday, November 15, 2010

"Let's Make A Deal Week" For Speaker Ben As Coalition Talk Continues, Plus: Spaceport & Dental School; A Future With Susana? And: Navajo Election Take 

Speaker Lujan
Will there be that ultimate political marriage of convenience--a coalition of Republicans and a handful of Dems--to take over the speaker's gavel in the 70 member state House ion 2011? Senior Alligators, Insiders, Wall-Leaners and Hangers-on have a not so definitive answer for you: "Not at this time."

The problem? What's the point? The R's are going to dramatically increase their membership on all House committees because of their pick up of eight seats in Nov. 2 election. And for all practical purposes they now have a functional coalition. That's where on key votes the 33 R's unite and pick off three Dems to make a majority.

The nice thing about that is when things don't work out the R way, they get to blame Speaker Lujan and the Dems and set up the 2012 campaign.

What more would they get out of a coalition? Well, not a whole lot, but enough to make it attractive if the House Democrats, who caucus Saturday, collapse into chaos over whether they should again choose Ben Lujan as their speaker.

A coalition deal might actually give some of the committee chairmanships to the R's (that's how it worked when he had one of these 25 years ago) and they would have more control over legislation that comes before the House.

The wily Lujan, a hard-scrabble effective political player if there ever was one, is in "let's make a deal" mode. He may have to return the chairmanship of House Judiciary to possible rebel Dem Joe Cervantes. Joe and three other southern Dems are flirting with joining with the R's to form the coalition. Joe was stripped of his committee chair post by Lujan when he backed an ill-fated 2006 coup against the speaker.

Lujan, 74, also has to set aside time to romance Reps. Irwin, Mary Helen Garcia and Nunez--the other three horses that could potentially become Ben's own version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The situation as the spinners are prone to say "is fluid." The R's don't seem in a hurry to rush down the aisle with Cervantes. And Dona Ana Joe could also prove to be a reluctant groom. But if Ben can't renew his vows Saturday, wedding bells still might chime for a coalition.


Maybe Susana Martinez and company need to tear down many of the outdated and too expensive structures of state government, but they can still build for the future.

The Spaceport needs her full support if it is to reach its full potential. The relationship with businessman Richard Branson needs to be extended into the new administration. And can Susana call upon former GOP US Senator Harrison "Jack" Schmitt for guidance on developing the state's space potential? He's a bright guy.

Martinez has expressed concern about the state putting more money int0 the $200 million Spaceport and wants more private investment. Fair enough. Most of the big money needed has already been invested. To get that private investment she wants, however, will mean work on the part of her office and her economic development team. A personal meeting with Branson shortly after she takes office would seem to be in order.

And then there's the long-discussed dental school for the University of New Mexico. This would be another jewel for UNM and the state. It would join with the respected medical and law schools in offering opportunity for youth and badly needed dental services in low-wage New Mexico.

When it comes to the Spaceport and the dental school Martinez should not be deterred by the state's current fiscal pinch. There is still a future out there and she can have her name on it--if she so desires.


State Dems retreated to their cave following their shellacking at the polls, but now that the dust is clearing they are starting to emerge. Here's a poke the party delivered over the Guv transition:

Here is a list of the "bold change" Martinez has brought to Santa Fe:

- Transition teams filled with long time partisan allies of the Republican Party.

- Energy and environment transition team filled with oil and gas attorneys/presidents and her husband who's an under-sheriff?

- Public Safety and Correction Teams Chaired by City of Albuquerque employees who are working on the tax payer's dollar.

- Big Real-Estate Developers with an interest in our water that will select the State's Engineer.

DPNM Executive Director Scott Forrester said "New Mexico voters chose Susana largely on her claims of change, yet all signs point to an incoming administration based on favors to campaign supporters and donors...


A hot topic for the new administration is just how many people toil for state government. The latest figures look like this:

According to the Department of Finance and Administration, there were 25,500 employees on the payroll when the hiring freeze took effect. In the last pay period of October 2009, there were 24,738 employees, and in the last pay period of October this year, 23,554 people worked for the state.

Those 2,000 fewer jobs means we have shrunk the state work force by amounts to a nearly eight percent reduction. While we often hear of the shenanigans of friends of the Guv being shuffled into jobs where they can try to hide from the new Guv, it's important to remember that a very real downsizing of the New Mexican government has already taken place and it continues.

Lynda Lovejoy
The really big Election Night surprise was far away from ABQ. It was the stunning defeat of Dem State Senator Lynda Lovejoy for the presidency of the Navajo Nation. She won a huge victory in the presidential primary over the other top vote-getter--Navajo Nation VP Ben Shelly, but Shelley cam back Election Night and took the prize. This, after Lovejoy joked after the primary that they should cancel the election because she was so far ahead. So what happened? From the Navajo Times:

Former Arizona State Sen. James Henderson...said the election hinged on one issue--tradition, referring to creation stories of a time in the distant past when Navajo women went to live on the other side of a river. There they tried to make a go of it but "in the end the women had no place to go so they had to ask for help from the men," Henderson said. "At that time, the women promised that they would never try to go ahead of the men again."

The belief that it's not good to have a woman as head of the tribe was very strong among Navajo traditionalists, he said, who also influenced the votes of their children and grandchildren, he said.

Shelly's victory was made all the more improbable when shortly before the election he was indicted in Navajo tribal court on charges of misusing tribal discretionary funds. he called the charges "political."

Lovejoy returns to the state Senate where during some of those long and sometimes tedious debates her mind is sure to wander to thoughts of what could have been.

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