Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Name Game: Heinrich House Seat Suddenly In Play, Plus: Humbling Hanna; Education Lobby Strikes, And: Alligators To John Sanchez: Show Us The Money 

Time for the name game for the ABQ congressional seat. Expectations are that Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich will eventually announce he is indeed seeking the 2012 US Senate nomination, putting his House seat up for grabs. Who are the players? Let's kick if off with the D's.

Dem State Rep. Al Park is on most lists. He's indicated he would like to run for the Public Regulation Commission in '12, but if Heinrich leaves, expect Park to change direction and seek the seat.

New Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham ran against Heinrich for the Dem nomination in 2008 and lost. If he leaves, the odds are she will be back for a second try next year.

Public Regulation Commissioner Jason Marks is also on the list of lookers. His second term on the commission ends next year. Former ABQ Public Safety Director Pete Dinelli could make a go of it, but isn't of a mind to. He's eyeing the 2013 ABQ mayoral race.

State Senator Tim Keller is also toying with the idea of running for ABQ Mayor in 2013, but an open slot in the US House will get his attention. Put him on the list, even though he would have to give up his ABQ SE Heights senate seat to make the House bid. Ditto for Senator Eric Griego.

How about Lawrence Rael who ran for Lt. Governor last year? He's available.

Diane Denish says she wants to look at the Senate race, but she could also make a splash as a US House candidate.

He lost it in '96 but attorney and former NM Dem Party chair John Wertheim could make a run of it, but he says attorney general in '14 is on his mind.

On the Republican side, the Alligators are already speculating about a possible battle for the GOP House nomination between ABQ City Councilor Dan Lewis and Jon Barela, now the state economic development secretary who lost to Heinrich in a close race last year. Lewis has already formed an exploratory committee. Will Susana let Jon run? And what about Janice Arnold-Jones? The former state rep has weighed a House run in the past. Maybe she takes a look.

State Senator Kent Cravens probably won't, but he could.

If Heinrich hops to the Senate, there will be more names surfacing, but the ones listed here should keep the conversation going over today's enchilada lunch.

There's nearly zero chance that the nomination of Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera will be rejected by the state Senate, but Majority Leader Sanchez sent her a message by questioning whether she meets the Constitutional qualifications for the office. You need to be a "qualified, experienced educator." Skandera isn't a teacher, but she is an an administrator.

Skandera and the Guv are upsetting the educational apple cart, especially the way Susana has been pushing for bureaucratic cost savings at ABQ public schools. Is that one reason for the push against Skandera?

If so, maybe the Guv ought to talk to the secretary about that proposal to split up APS into two manageable districts. That might make for a good coffee conversation between the Guv, Senate Leader Sanchez and Senate Rules Committee Chairman Linda Lopez, where Skandera's nomination will first go. The last we we looked, the state secretary of education has the power to create a new school district when she decides it is in the public interest.


The education lobby remains strong in Santa Fe. One of of our Senior Alligators monitoring the Roundhouse action has the latest:

House Democrats had a three hour caucus Monday afternoon. Expect changes in the state budget approved Friday by the House Appropriations and Finance Committee before it wins final House approval. Speaker Lujan is making deals with some of his Dems to get the votes he needs to avoid dealing with the Republicans. One of the key changes appears to be to lessen the cuts to the public school budget.

There are 36 Dems, 33 R's and one independent in the House. A majority is 35 so the speaker needs to hold just about all his Dems to avoid having to ask for GOP support.

The proposed $5.4 billion budget for the year that begins July 1 contains about a 2 percent cut to public education which is slated to receive $2.4 billion. But there is fierce resistance to even that small of a cut, as Martinez found out when she challenged the APS bureaucracy.

The public might agree with the Guv that a bloated $500,000 APS PR budget is ripe for the pruning as well as other administrative costs, but the education lobby in Santa Fe, led in part by Dem State Reps. Rick Miera and Mimi Stewart, don't seem to hear them. Why not?


When the ABQ police officers union gave Public Safety Director Darren White that vote of no confidence last week, it put Chief Ray Schultz in a touchy situation, but reader Dan Klein points out the chief seemed to be able to stay under the radar:

Weird (or crazy like a fox) how Chief Schultz is not mentioned at all in the APOA no confidence vote. You would think some reporter would try to get a comment from him. Or maybe they did and he is ducking for cover?

Schultz is the first police chief to answer to the city's public safety director instead of the chief administrative officer.


Since his personal wealth is central to the thesis that Lt. Governor John Sanchez would make a potentially strong candidate for the GOP US Senate nomination, Alligators want to know more. They note that at the end of 2010, he reported that he has nearly $300,000 in debt from his Light Guv run. However, just about all of it is personal loans that the roofing company owner doesn't have to pay back. He also reports $133,000 in cash which he can't use on a federal race.

How are Sanchez's personal bank books? Are they flush enough to self-finance a large portion of a Senate primary campaign? They were when he ran for Light Guv. Stay tuned.

By the way, Sanchez is no longer a North Valley resident as we blogged yesterday. He moved to the far NE Heights several years ago. We were thinking back to 2000, when he upset Speaker Raymond Sanchez for a legislative seat which included the North Valley.


Can we take over the assignment desk at the Las Cruces Sun-News for a couple of minutes?

Will they please tell us exactly what this statement from Governor Martinez regarding the development of the Spaceport means:

New Mexico's taxpayers have made a significant investment in the spaceport project. It's time to see the project through to completion by bringing in private funding.

Does that mean if additional private funding is not forthcoming and the Spaceport needs more state funding that it won't be completed?

The paper's editors were effusive in their praise of Martinez's handling of the Spaceport, and she did move quickly to fill the vacancies she created when she dismissed the entire Spaceport board. But her quote above hangs over the project and no one seems to know what it means or its potential consequences. Can the paper check it out?

Okay, we're off the desk....


How many lawyers are there in the Legislature? According to ABQ District Court Judge Allan Malott, who pushed back against a reader who claimed attorneys in the Legislature have made life easy for the judiciary, there are "a half dozen or so." But reader Liska pushes back on the push back. She says:

Maybe Judge Malott needs $$$$$ for a law clerk to do research. He tells you there are "only about a half dozen" lawyers in the Legislature. There are 14.

Malott continues to pound the table against possible cuts to the judiciary during this legislative session, but readers continue to push back.


A reader, an attorney, writes of the aggravated DWI bust of NM Court of Appeals Judge Robert Robles:

Robles should be Robe Less! He should voluntarily take the most stringent of the DWI punishments, or he should place himself into Drug Court (NM has one of the best drug courts in the country). He should be held to a higher standard. I am all for second chances-but you have to pay your dues first. Then you ask forgiveness. Then you work to get your life in real order.

Robles was suspended without pay by the state Supreme Court. The suspension will continue as the Judicial Standards Commission investigates and until the conclusion of the criminal case against the judge. After that, we will find out if the commission recommends that the high court should remove the judge for good.

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