Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Longest Serving State Senator To Retire; Pinto Packing It In, Plus: Young Dems Elect New Prez, And Incredible Tsunami Video You Haven't Seen 

Sen. Pinto
We're getting word on the first legislative retirement in advance of the 2012 election and it's a biggie. Our insiders report the longest serving member of the New Mexico State Senate--Senator John Pinto--will not seek re-election next year. He has served since 1977 and is co-chair of the Indian Affairs Committee. When he ends his run next year he will have been elected to nine terms and served 36 years.

Pinto, 86, is a Navajo who represents McKinley and San Juan counties and was one of the first Native Americans to serve in the Legislature. During WWII he was trained as a Navajo Code Talker. He is known for bringing numerous public works projects to his district and working to have more Indians involved in government. He is also well-known for his annual singing of "The Potato Song" which he usually performs at the conclusion of each legislative session. It has come to be known as an uniquely New Mexican moment.

Early speculation about who will seek to replace Pinto centers on his son, but there will be other names. The legislative redistricting later this year will be closely watched now to see how it impacts this sprawling NW district.

Pinto was born in 1924 into a family of sheepherders on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and was raised in Gallup. He earned a masters degree at UNM and became a school teacher. There's more about his fascinating life story. Here's an excerpt that brings it home:

Back in 1977, (ABQ State Senator) Manny Aragon was on his way to the opening session of the New Mexico Legislature in a terrible January snowstorm when he spotted a middle-aged Navajo man standing in Downtown Albuquerque with a blanket over his head and his thumb out.

Aragon pulled over in his old Cadillac and gave the guy a ride. "I just thought he was a transient," Aragon said. As they drove north, Aragon asked his passenger where he was headed. The hitchhiker said he had taken a bus from Gallup to Albuquerque and was now traveling on to Santa Fe. "Oh, yeah?" Aragon said. "What are you going to do there?" "I'm a state senator," the hitchhiker replied. "So am I," Aragon said.

How about that?


Freshly minted Dem US Senate candidate Hector Balderas is getting some heavyweight help in his bid to upset US Rep. Martin Heinrich for the nomination. Mo Elleithee of Hilltop Public Solutions has signed up to advise Balderas on communications.

Among Elleithee's former clients is NM Senator Tom Udall. The senator's step-daughter, Amanda Cooper, is a political consultant with close ties to attorney Brian Colon, a close friend of Balderas and who is involved in his Senate bid. Both Cooper and Colon were closely associated with former Governor Richardson.

None of this means Senator Udall is leaning toward Balderas, but the lines are worth connecting.

As for Hector's communications skills, Mo may want to examine the state auditor's repeated use of the term "fiscal accountability." Is that really a phrase that is going to get hard-core Dems out of their seats? Just asking.

John Garcia, head of the state veterans' department under Big Bill, is moving up. A friend tells us he will move to Washington to become deputy assistant secretary of intergovernmental affairs in the national veterans' department. He will deal with Capitol Hill as well as state veterans' agencies like the one he led here.

Garcia, a Vietnam vet, is a an old government hand. He was deputy chief of staff to Governor Bruce King back in the day. He is a graduate of ABQ's West Mesa High School.


Readers have been asking about the Guv's plans to sell the state jet. The latest:

New Mexico has awarded a contract to a Colorado-based aviation broker to sell the state's executive jet plane. A source close to the negotiations confirmed to The Associated Press that the state General Services Department has hired Wetzel Aviation Inc. to sell the Cessna Citation Bravo.Big Bill bought the jet in 2005 for $5.5 million. Maybe you can pick it up for $3 million or so.

Benai Padilla
The NM Young Democrats have a new president. She's 25 year old Benai Padilla of ABQ. She's starting her political career the right way, too. Benai beat out Adrian Carver by getting 71 percent of the vote at the group's recent election.

She is currently an aide to ABQ Dem State Senator Tim Keller and worked in Diane Denish's Guv campaign. The new prez says she plans on attending law school at UNM.


It's no bed of roses around here when it comes to the jobless rate, but look at this:

MADRID (AP) - Spain's unemployment rate rose sharply to a new eurozone high of 21.3 percent in the first quarter of the year, with a record 4.9 million people out of work, the government said Friday. The rate was the highest reported by the country since 1997.

Joblessness during the January-March period jumped 1 percentage point from 20.3 percent at the end of 2010, and adds pressure on Spain as it tries to recover from nearly two years of recession and convince investors that it can handle its heavy debt load.

Not to say New Mexico is completely unfamiliar with this sky high unemployment. In Luna County, in the southwest, the Feds say the jobless rate is 20.9 percent.


There are some jobs coming to the ABQ metro--thanks to the Feds:

Albuquerque's economy is about to get an $89 million boost from a U.S. Air Force laboratory where scientists and technicians will predict the weather in space and ensure the reliability of satellites. Kirtland Air Force Base officials and a handful of dignitaries cut the ribbon on the new $59.5 million Battlespace Environment Laboratory, which brings with it nearly 200 jobs.


Governor Susana drives it down the middle of the road when it comes to public employee unions. New Mexico is no Wisconsin:

"We have to work with collective bargaining and the unions, we have to make sure that we get the most for the taxpayer dollar...especially, like, for example, in education...We have to make sure we are working with the unions but that both of us are putting the kids first."

But no, she said, she doesn't see a need for major changes to the state law.

Although not a member of a union, the Governor is a lifelong public employee having served as a longtime district attorney and prosecutor before being elected Guv.


Happiest kids live with two parents, have no younger siblings, don’t argue, eat together, and have happy mom

And the story.


That former NM GOP Governor and presidential candidate Gary Johnson

...Wants to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and he also wants to slash the military budget.

Why is he the only Republican taking an anti-war position when polls show most Republicans agree with him?

Then there are these problems for Governor Gary:

...If Johnson is a serious candidate for president, then these views will become less significant as the primary season wears on. That is, for Johnson to find real success within the Republican primaries, he’ll have to raise money from GOP donors and satisfy the issue preferences of GOP elites, donors and primary voters. And to that end, he’ll have to repudiate positions – like marijuana decriminalization and marriage equality – that run counter to the views of most Republicans.


Can former ABQ city councilor and State Senator Eric Griego raise the money needed to run an effective race for the 2012 Dem nomination for the ABQ US House seat? We raised that question Monday and got some feedback from a Griego supporter:

He raised over $300K in the 2005 mayor's race against Marty Chavez...That is as much or more than anyone considering the race ever raised (except Marty, of course who mostly leaned on city contractors for his money). Griego has a list of 2,000 donors from his Senate and mayoral race...


Reader Herb Romero writes and sends incredible
Japan tsunami video that you probably have not seen.

Terrifying video, Joe. First, focus on the horizon--the video is taken from the hills. At the very end, some people had to be rescued as they tried to get to the hills and safety. I'm not sure all of them made it. You don't have to understand Japanese to hear terror in their voices as they witness their town disintegrate before their eyes. I was mesmerized watching this video, had not seen it before.

Thanks, Herb. It is incredible, jaw-dropping video.


From David Letterman:

There has already been some trouble for Osama bin Laden in the afterlife. It is the kind of "mix-up" that happens all the time. Just a paperwork kind of a deal. He was greeted by 72 vegans.

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