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Friday, January 14, 2011

Speaker Scrap Features Third Player; Plus: The Spaceport Blues, And: New Bernco GOP Chair On Tap 

Speaker Lujan
Overlooked in that wild and wacky race for state House speaker is one Thomas Garcia. Like Dona Ana County Dem Rep. Joe Cervantes and longtime Speaker Ben Lujan, Garcia has also been working the phones in an effort to grab the gavel Tuesday and fill Santa Fe's gaping power gap.

Garcia, 38, is a former aide to then-congressman and now US Senator Tom Udall. Like Cervantes, he's trying to come up with enough Dem votes to join with the Republicans and make him a coalition speaker. He is a liberal northern rep and the prospect of him leading a coalition with the R's shows you how bizarre the speaker battle has become.

Of course, in the Byzantine world of New Mexico politics it's not too surprising. After all, Cervantes is a southern Hispanic Dem. The Norteños could not allow him to go unchallenged, could they?

Maybe Joe and Tomas get together before the vote and decide which one has the best shot at dethroning Ben, or maybe the party really gets wild and we somehow end up with a Republican speaker. Or maybe once again it all comes together for Ben. Who knows?

In the middle of all the wackiness is the venerable Ben Lujan. He could have spared the state the spectacle by having an heir apparent ready and stepping aside when he was nearly thrown out of office in his own Dem primary last year. But gentle Ben refused to go gently into that night. And the leading Democratic lights in the state House and party just look the other way.

Either Cervantes or Garcia paired with the R's to form a speakership will look like a botched scientific experiment gone bad, resulting in something akin to a two-headed sheep. And if Lujan stays in power, he will resemble a treed cat, constantly looking down to see who's coming up after him.

What the R's expect to get out of all of this is a mystery. With 33 members in the 70 member body all they need is three Dems to join them on any given vote to pass a bill. That's what we pundits call a functional coalition. And you don't get blamed when things go lousy.

And more important, what do the people of New Mexico get out of the deal? A more conservative agenda is a done deal no matter who is at the helm. And it's not like Governor Martinez has articulated dramatic and bold change that she simply must have approved by this legislature.

But so it goes when the stakes are lowered in the poker game. Santa Fe is broke for the foreseeable future and the private sector is stalled as well. They are fighting over scraps at the capitol and it's neither subtle or pretty.

Mr. Speaker, we yield the floor (Whoever you are).

SPACEPORT BLUES

Spaceport enthusiasts appear to have a lot of work to do to get Governor Martinez animated about the project that would launch tourists into space. At least that's the take from this somewhat mundane news release that talks about auditing the project but offers no encouragement for the mission:

As Governor Martinez’s administration continues to review all aspects of the budget...the Governor’s Spaceport Transition Team has begun its review of operations at Spaceport America. The transition team will review and advise Governor Martinez and Economic Development Secretary-designate Jon Barela on the project’s operations, financing, and contracts.

We trust there are no significant problems with Spaceport spending, but if there are any questions raised you have to wonder if the administration will try to use them to downplay the project which in addition to launching tourists into space is aimed at building a space industry here. Stay tuned.

NEW CHAIR

Attorney Chris Collins, an attorney of the Barnett Law Firm, a former campaign manager for ex-Congressman Heather Wilson and a onetime staffer for Senator Pete Domenici, is expected to be named the new chairman of the Bernalilo County Republican Party at a weekend convention. It will be an expensive election, but not for Collins. R's taking part have to pay $40 to attend the Saturday morning meeting. If they pay at the door, the price rockets to $80 a person. How's that for pay-to-play? (Collins' supporters say he will work to reduce those fees in the future.)

THE BOTTOM LINES


Former TV newsman Greg Gurule will handle press chores for the Senate Dem Caucus during the upcoming legislative session...KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson takes on the race for House Speaker in this report...Veteran news reporter and syndicated columnist Sherry Robinson has signed up with the Gallup Independent to cover the session...

In reaction to our Wednesday blog in which a reader revealed that former GOP NM Attorney General Hal Stratton is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, another reader writes:

Hal Stratton a Cherokee? Oh my God!! What's next? (State Senator) Rod Adair a Mescalero?

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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