Monday, January 24, 2011
Bingaman Bringing Home The Bacon; Will It Scare Off The R's? Plus: More Noise From Nunez, The Fall Of Cisco And Susana Speech Appraisals (Cont.)
Bringing home the bacon. That will be the major theme of Dem Senator Jeff Bingaman's campaign for a sixth US Senate term. And bringing it home he is. Juiced up federal funding levels are starting to stream into the state and that's going to make it twice as hard for the R's to toss him out in 2012. From Bingaman's speech before the NM Legislature:
In 2009, President Obama and Congress committed to an increase of $14 billion over the next 10 years for (nuclear) modernization efforts...It is fair to say that...a sizable portion of the $14 billion...will go to these (national) laboratories in our state. All told, the Department of Energy’s expenditures in New Mexico increased this year from $4.0 billion to $4.6 billion, an increase of 15 percent. In the coming years, our labs will receive additional billions of dollars in new federal funding related to modernization effort.
You mean the federal energy department spending here nearly equals the entire state budget of $5.4 billion? And we haven't even tallied up defense spending.
Bingaman, chairman of the Senate energy committee, is now bringing in here the kind of substantial cash former GOP Senator Pete Domenici was famous for, even if it is not drawing the kind of attention Pete got.
Even a potentially strong GOP opponent like former ABQ GOP congresswoman Heather Wilson could have second thoughts about running against Jeff in light of his success in fulfilling his primary role--securing full funding and then some for the federal labs and military bases which form the backbone of the state economy.
Bingaman's troops say a run against Wilson could cost upwards of $8 million. If he draws a weak foe, the price for the re-elect plummets to around $3 million. They also indicate his polling numbers have improved since he bottomed out at 50% approval last year during the peak of the GOP onslaught. Jeff is expected to make his re-elect announcement in March.
The senator, 67, looked older (don't we all) and had a slight stoop when seen in Santa Fe, but his health is apparently robust. His political health certainly is, as he fully embraces the role of New Mexico's "senior senator" and follows the footpath trod by the likes of Dennis Chavez, Clinton Anderson and Pete Domenici.
He won't go Republican, but neither will he meet with the House Democrats anymore. Dona Ana State Rep. Dem Andy Nunez may go independent. This, after he took part in a botched coup attempt of Speaker Lujan and was stripped of his committee chairmanship by the speaker. Nunez is spinning that the Speaker was killing his bills anyway and therefore the loss of his chairmanship is not a big deal for his home area. Like we said, he is spinning.
So what about 2012? Will Nunez run as a Democrat, an R, an Indy? Or is this fit of pique his political swan song? He has a swing district, but the way he has been all over the map he would seem ripe for a strong Dem primary challenge. Nunez will be pushing 80 in '12 (he's now 75). That also could have voters looking for a younger face and one with less political baggage.
Some readers thought we were too tough on Nunez in our recent analysis of what we deemed political clumsiness of the first order. Dr. Chris Erickson of NMSU came with this:
Your comments about Rep. Nunez concerning the failed attempt to ouster Ben Lujan as speaker are a bit harsh. Nunez has been a lifelong public servant, having spent his working career at NMSU and then his retirement as an unpaid legislator. Nunez was frank and honest in his expression of support for (fellow Dona Ana Dem) Joe Cervantes to become speaker. It is precisely his candor that endears Andy to his constituency (of him I count myself). You imply in your comments that Rep. Nunez is at the end of his career as a legislator. I hope not. I personally hope to have the opportunity to vote for him for a long time to come.
Thanks, Chris. Andy's a nice guy, he just needs some help from the NMSU math department on how to count votes.
That was something last week when ABQ Dem State Sen. Cisco McSorley was stripped of his chairmanship of the judiciary committee and replaced by Sen. Richard Martinez. How often does that happen? Not very. And it could have further political implications. Will Cisco, 60, decided enough is enough and decide not to seek re-election in 2012? Or could a younger liberal emerge to challenge Cisco in his liberal UNM area district in a Dem primary?
There's positive reaction to the naming of Santa Fe Dem State Rep. Brian Egolf as the new chairman of the state House energy committee from enviros and those concerned that oil and gas has too much power with the new Governor. But the other side of the coin comes in this reader missive:
(Egolf's appointment) is bad news for the entire state. As important as it is in the long run to diversify our economy, the oil and gas industry is still the largest contributor to the state treasury. Right now, there are only three ways that we can bridge our deficit for the foreseeable future: raise taxes (which won't happen under the new governor), increase oil and gas production, or further dramatic cuts in spending (which Egolf and the speaker oppose). There was a real opportunity here, given our economy, for the Speaker to demonstrate statesmanship and put someone in that position that would work with the governor, the industry, and environmentalists to find middle ground. With Egolf, it's highly unlikely that significant cooperation or compromise will take place.
We'll see. Egolf says he will strive to be fair in his new power position.
AROUND LA POLITICA
Let's return to some reviews of Governor Martinez's first major speech--her State of the State before the Legislature last Tuesday. GOP activist Sylvia Bokor writes in her newsletter:
I report...a single sentence I overheard as I was walking toward my vehicle after Susana's speech. A man walking some distance from me was on his cell phone. As I passed him, he declared in a somewhat loud voice, "It was the scariest speech I have ever heard in my entire life." Initially, I could not believe my ears. It shows an aspect of corruption I had not considered before. The man's hand was evidently in the cookie jar and he is going to be caught, and he knows it. Go get 'em, Susana!
More analysis. This from Stephanie DuBois, an Alamogordo area Dem, who recently ran against Republican Pat Lyons for the Public Regulation Commission:
I do think she was trying to show the Legislature her tough, prosecutor style, because she is our a female leader and the first for New Mexico as well as the first Hispanic female.
I take exception to her analogy of showing a picture ID to rent a video at Blockbuster with having to show a picture ID in order to vote. Renting a video isn't a right but voting is. If this passes I fear law suits will ensue.
She spoke of politicians who step over the ethical line, dying they should be removed from office and have their pensions taken away if found guilty. I wonder if her administration will investigate the amount of almost $25,000 that former Land Commissioner Pat Lyons and now Chairman of the PRC supposedly spent on an airplane owned by his high school buddy at almost twice the going rate...
The newspapers weighed in on the speech, with a New Mexican editorial raising a question about the size of the state budget shortfall that you have often seen referenced here:
The budget deficit — which, she insists, doubled diabolically from $200 million in the course of a couple of days. Does that extra $200 million represent cuts the last Legislature already made, and for which she hopes to get some of the credit, or have the Democrats masked the real shortfall? If they have, the spending cuts she's proposed so far are only half enough. So where else to apply the knife?
A reader writes:
Referencing last Thursday's reader comments about UNM lobbyists. In fact all the universities contract some form of lobbyist. Some are on staff full time and others are employed through the council of university presidents association. They should all be registered with the state so go fishing if interested.
Eyebrows were raised when new GOP Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston hired attorney Lisa Torraco as his spokesperson at a whopping salary of $90,000 a year. But it didn't last. Torraco has left the post because she says she could not shut down her private law practice within the 30 days required by her contract.
Torraco was the 2008 GOP Bernalillo County district attorney candidate, losing to Dem Kari Brandenburg. Insiders saw here appointment by Houston an an opportunity for her to increase her profile in advance of perhaps making another run against Kari in 2012.
Sheriff Houston is looking for a new PIO--but at $75,000 a year, not $90,000.
Susana is not alone among new Republican Governors looking to trim tax breaks for the movie industry. It's happening around the nation.
Some cool stuff here as Guv Susana gives a post State of the State interview in Spanish for KLUZ-TV. You won't see that in Nebraska.
THE BOTTOM LINES
For quick access to the NM Legislature's web site and that of the Governor's, just click on the links posted on the right hand side of the page....
And from the category, "Adult Truths:"
I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you. die.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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