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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Santa Fe Jockeying Updated: GOP Whip Race & Latest Coalition Talk, Plus: Is Jeff Ready? And: Darren Tweets Gov. Gary 

The under-the-radar jockeying for Santa Fe leadership positions continues. Even the usually little noticed posts are getting scrutiny because of the uncertainty over who will ultimately be in charge in the state House come January 18th when the 60 day session kicks off.

The latest from the Capitol wall-leaners is that ten year legislative veteran Rep. Don Bratton of Lea County is the heavy favorite to replace Rep. Keith Gardner as minority whip for the R's, but Bratton may have to give up his seat on House Appropriations--the most powerful committee--to get his colleagues to let him take on the whip chores. Others seeking to replace Gardner who has been named chief of staff for Gov-elect Martinez are Rep Jimmie Hall of ABQ and Rep. Dennis Roch of Texico. The GOP caucus meets Dec. 18 to make the choice.

THE GUESSING GAME

Meanwhile, the most popular guessing game in Santa Fe this December is not what Santa will leave under the Christmas trees, but whether there will be a coalition in the state House that will further empower the R's. With 33 members, they are at their strongest in that chamber in decades. If the R's were to somehow form a coalition, their minority whip would suddenly morph into majority whip.

The odds of there being a coalition change as often as the weather. Some of the 33 R's say they don't want to join with a handful of southern Dems to make Rep. Joe Cervantes the speaker and in the process topple Ben Lujan from the post.

If not all R's are brought aboard the coalition bandwagon by the time the final speaker vote is held January 18, it could be difficult indeed for any coalition to get off the ground, But there are 70 members of the state House and some of them could be absent on the Legislature's opening day. That could throw a monkey wrench into the nose counting. Only those present can vote. So if you are counting on 70 votes, but only 67 show, it can change everything.

A key question is how any coalition of R's and a small group of Dems would carve up the power. Would a Speaker Cervantes give committee chairmanships to the minority R's in exchange for their making him king of the House? That's how it was back in the early 80's when Dem Gene Samberson took the throne courtesy of R support. But the state Senate currently has a coalition of R's and conservative Dems, but the majority Dems retain all committee chairmanships.

As for the Guv-elect's camp, the vibe we get is that they would warmly welcome a coalition in the House. All the easier for them to advance their important first year agenda.

THE OTHER TEAM

Over in the Dem camp, Chairman Javier Gonzales appears in line to be re-elected next spring, but that doesn't mean there isn't grumbling about the lousy election results for the majority party. Gonzales has no major opposition yet--Santa Fe's Letitia Montoya says she will run--but he is taking the opportunity to reach out and mend any fences in need of repair. He launched a "listening tour" and continued it this weekend by making stops in the north.

But Gonzales and chums have a real problem--they seem like Republican Light. First, Big Bill slashes tax rates for the wealthy and now President Obama throws in the towel on taxing the rich. Dem Diane Denish meekly complied with Richardson's economics when she ran for Guv this year. Hey, how's that working out for you, Di?

Richardson's eagerness to cut the top tax rates to attract support for his presidential bid cost the state millions. He was joined in this acquiescence by a speaker of the state House who normally would have said no, but was indebted to the executive for advancing his son's congressional ambitions. And they did so without attracting the jobs they claimed the cuts would bring.

Denish's watered down Republicanomics left her indistinguishable from her Republican foe. Now Obama risks a similar fate because all of this takes place against a backdrop in which the richest Americans have more of the nation's wealth in their pockets than anytime in history. Surely, a breaking point is coming.

Even folks who disagree with you respect you when you fight for a belief. But the fight seems to have gone out of this White House while the congressional R's stand firm.

IS JEFF READY?

Dem US Senator Jeff Bingaman is now being watched closely as he prepares for his 2012 re-election bid. Here's a clip of him from the Senate floor last week talking about the economy so you can get a sense of where he's at. His demeanor remains largely the same--studious and low-key--although there are glimpses of the state's senior senator being a wee bit more animated. Bingaman, 67, does not seem off his game.

The WaPo recently ran a piece on the ten Senators most likely to retire in advance of 2012. Bingaman was not on it. He continues to publicly say he is undecided on running, but it's best to stay a non-candidate as long as possible.

He has been there a long time and has accumulated important power for the state as chairman of the Senate energy committee. He seeks a sixth, six year term. That's how many terms GOP Senator Domenici served before he retired in 2008. That 36 year run is the state record which Bingaman would tie if he wins re-election two years from now and serves the full six years.

PRESIDENT HARRIS

As expected, Republican Don Harris was elected to a one year term as president of the city council last night. It was done unanimously. The council breakdown is five Republicans and four Democrats. Harris is seen as a moderate R who has made overtures to the Dems on the panel. He takes over from Councilor Ken Sanchez. Councilor Rey Garduno was elected vice-president.

KEEP THEM ALL
Jerry Geist
Our posting on the troubled hierarchy of the University of New Mexico and how it is probably time for UNM President Schmidly, Athletic Director Krebs and football coach Locksley to head to the showers brought this retort from former PNM president and longtime civic activist Jerry Geist:

Dr. Schmidly has been quite ill but engaged. Lt’s cut a little slack until he is back. Paul Krebs has really brought all UNM athletic programs, graduation rates and grades up and has put in a process to keep them that way. His staff seems super. Coach Locksley has had a tough two years as has been covered a lot. No one has an easy answer and Locksley will have to be part of getting the answer.

I do not know Coach L but an acquaintance of mine related an observation. His daughter wanted to give back after getting a teaching certificate and so went to work in the DC area that Coach L came from. She is proud that from that sad and unsupported area he has become an example of “bootstrapping”oneself up. That is character we do not hear about. We are not a patient bunch but this is a good season to try again...

THE BOTTOM LINES

A tweet from ABQ Public Safety Director Darren White upon learning that former GOP Governor Gary Johnson admits to being a regular pot user as recently as 2008:

Gary Johnson admits that he smoked pot from 2005-'08. Some think he was high when he appointed me
Department of Public Safety boss in '95.

White resigned that cabinet post when he disagreed with Johnson's position advocating drug legalization.

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