Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lunch Buddies: Sanchez-Bradley Schmooze Gets Them Talking As US Senate Race Positioning Continues, Plus: Readers Get In On PIO's Gone Wild 

Bradley & Sanchez
Oh, to be a fly on the wall at that lunch meeting between Lt. Governor John Sanchez and former Lt. Governor Walter Bradley that had the capitol buzzing. The two GOP heavyweights were spotted nestled in a corner of the Rio Chama across from the Roundhouse as speculation swirled across the state and (and in Washington) over whether we are headed for another epic Republican duel for a US Senate nomination. This time it could feature Sanchez and Heather Wilson, the battle-scarred former ABQ congresswoman who tenaciously holds to her decade long hope of following in the foot steps of her mentor, Senator Pete Domenici.

The political drama is the result of last week's surprise announcement by Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman that he would retire in 2012.

So what did Bradley, now a top dairy industry lobbyist, and Sanchez talk about? Well, we don't think it was the price of milk. These two have a long and sometimes bitter history. It was Sanchez--with the help of GOP consultant Jay McCleskey--who nuked the snot out of Bradley in 2002. That's when Sanchez triumphed over the onetime Clovis state senator to secure the GOP Guv nomination. Sanchez went on to to lose to Bill Richardson, but there were deep wounds, although Sanchez and McCleskey, now Governor Martinez's chief political adviser, have since parted ways. Now John and Walter have something in common, don't they?

Could Walter support John for Senate? Or was he telling John to step aside for Heather? Or was he just wanting to stay close to both sides? Whatever the case, Sanchez appears to be prepping for a run. If he goes in Wilson may be in for another race of her life--but this time it could spell the end of her political life. You don't lose two Senate nominations and get a shot at a third.

The Alligators report that while Bradley and Sanchez were having their lunchtime pow wow, Wilson was working the phones, contacting the pooh-bahs in the state GOP and preparing for a campaign launch. Republicans nervously await resolution of the potential Wilson and Sanchez candidacies. The Pearce-Wilson face-off had dreadful consequences for them. They lost the Senate seat and two congressional seats when the two went at each other.

The latest action also includes a Sunday night Tea Party conference call out of Hobbs where Wilson supporter and former NM GOP Chairman Allen Weh tried to persuade those on the line that Heather was more conservative than they give her credit for. But Hispanic Republicans like Sanchez are all the rage these days and the tea timers dance to their own tune. Their search for the anti-Heather is hard to inhibit. They drew blood on Wilson in '08, and their sword is again ready to plunge. Is Sanchez the one who will carry it in 2012? Stay tuned. This thing is just getting fun.


We don't get the vibe that either the Guv or the Dems in the Legislature want a big battle over the budget. From the wires:

House Speaker Ben Lujan says lawmakers are trying to reach a compromise with Republican Gov. Martinez on the budget and trimming the state's film incentives. Lujan said a proposal is being developed to limit the subsidies provided yearly for film production in the state. There also could be restrictions on the type of film expenditures that qualify for a tax break. Money saved from film subsidy changes could be used to meet the governor's objections to a proposed state budget.

Like Martinez, House liberals want fewer cuts to the education budget than are currently proposed. But they also support the 25% film rebate program that Martinez wants to trim to 15%.

Martinez could take the above compromise, combined with a bill to make the rebate program more transparent and also back an interim committee to study the matter and declare victory.

Or she could draw a line in the sand and pretend this is Wisconsin. But what would be the point? The film incentives are tied to job creation which is the number one issue in the state and an issue this Governor has talked little about in her brief time at the helm.

The financial stakes here are Lilliputian--about $25 million in a $5.4 billion budget. Is it worth going to the mattresses over that? Any tax break could be deemed "pivotal" or a "deal breaker," including those for the oil and gas industry that Martinez considers sacrosanct. She and her rural Republican base have made their point. But really people, let's make a deal already.


This could be the start of something big, if Santa Fe gives it a chance:

A bill designed to bring an end to social promotion will be heard by the House Education Committee today. It would require 3rd, 5th and 8th grade students to be proficient in reading before passing to the next grade. “This is absolutely essential to changing the culture of education in our state,” said Rep. Nora Espinoza (Roswell, Dist. 59). “For years we have invested funds into the system and now we need results.”

The money line from Espinoza is "changing the culture of education." Or substitute "expectations" for the word culture.


There was a notable level of discomfort at a recent meeting of the state Senate Public Affairs Committee as described in a newsletter from Sen. Dede Feldman, the ABQ Dem who chairs the panel:

(In a committee meeting) where several DWI bills that the Governor is supporting were presented, her staff appeared with little cameras in hand to tape the proceedings. They did not ask permission from the Chair (me), which is protocol, so I am cynical about how they intend to use the material. I’m a great fan of opening committee hearings to the news media, but this felt different. Since the staffers did not speak to me, I do not know how they intend to use the footage, but several present felt it was intimidation, meant to remind Senators that their comments would be used in campaign ads next year. Hmm.

Well, the new administration does often seem to be in campaign mode---make that permanent campaign mode.


Our continuing coverage of PIO's gone wild brings this from reader Jim McClure:

Joe, I agree that a budget cut for the public information office at ABQ Public Schools (and other government agencies) would be good public relations. In fact, the heads of those offices are missing an opportunity by not proposing cuts on their own.

During my 20 years in corporate public relations, cutbacks were a normal part of the business cycle. Functions such as newsletters and web design are easy to outsource...As a PR manager I always had two mental lists: a wish list of ways to expand, and a hit list of programs and positions I could eliminate...Big cuts actually are healthier than small ones because they force the organization to set priorities and clean house. Government PIO's who have never worked in the private sector may not know how to manage this way. The best solution for them may be to invest in a communications audit by an outside PR firm....

And here's another one from a reader of long PR experience and now toiling in the newsroom:

Gov. Martinez's huffing and puffing about the cost of government PR overlooks the decline of what was once at least a semi-honorable profession. When I was a City Hall PIO, the job was considered public service. If a reporter called, you hooked him or her up with a knowledgeable person who would speak on the record, and then you got out of the way. Generally, bureaucrats didn't live in fear of their jobs as long as they stuck to the facts. Now from the governor's office on down, the PIO is on a short leash. The job is to stay on the political message and the public is ill-served not by the expense of public information but by the shortage of credible public information. The media are complicit, of course, in often settling for these handouts as the easy way to meet deadlines.


Where are the great diplomats of our time? Year after year of this only minutes from our doorstep and still no decisive American leadership?

Fifty-three people were killed in a 72-hour span in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, making it one of the deadliest three-day periods in recent memory, state attorney general's office spokesman Arturo Sandoval told CNN Sunday. Among the dead were four police officers from three different agencies, Sandoval said. "This is the worst violence we've seen this year," he said, referring to the three days from Thursday through Saturday.

Is it too outlandish to speak of American military intervention or is this slaughter and government destabilization now accepted in Washington as the permanent state of affairs?

And then there's the issue of keeping this mayhem from crossing our own state border:

While New Mexico’s neighbors to the east and west are cracking down on border crossings, Target 7 has learned that the Land of Enchantment is cutting back on agents who patrol the border. The drugs, crime and criminals that start at the border may end up in your backyard, border security members said.

“The individuals that do get passed us and come through our county do end up in Albuquerque,” border security deputy Gary Lassiter said.

Federal budget cuts have reduced the National Guard presence on the border from 130 to 30. The Guv and Senator Bingaman are aware of it.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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