Monday, June 06, 2011

Little Election With Big Hole: No Campaign Reports Required, Plus: Are R's Wasting Shots On Ben Ray? And: Karl & Heather; Together Again 

On the river
We have no idea how much money is being spent or who donated it for an election that will be held tomorrow in the ABQ metro, and neither does anyone else.

The below-the-radar election is for three seats on the seven member Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, set up in the 1920's to ensure flood control, but whose election rules are an anachronism that persist into the 21st century. (Some of the candidates have filed reports voluntarily.)

The conservancy
controls the ditches, dams and levees from Cochiti Reservoir to the Bosque del Apache near Socorro. It also maintains popular recreation sites along the Rio Grande. It has a budget of around $19 million a year, much of which comes from property taxes. Only property owners are eligible to vote in Tuesday's election. (Voting info is here.) The board, although unpaid, makes decisions that impact property owners thus the issue of campaign contributions.

One of the candidates in Tuesday's balloting, engineer John Kelly, is calling for a campaign finance reporting system and other MGRCD reforms. He is getting
strong backing from ABQ Dem North Valley State Senator Dede Feldman. Kelly is trying to oust Augusta Myers, a former TV news reporter who served as public information officer for the district before deciding to run and winning her seat four years ago. There are four other candidates vying for Myers' Bernalillo County seat, with Kelly seen as the main threat. The other candidates are Andrew Leo Lopez, Lawrence Rodriguez, Elaine Hebard and Claudio Gonzales.

Another name being watched is former MRGCD member Bill Turner, a hydrologist and water broker, who previously served on the board and was a thorn in the side of longtime conservancy executive Subhas Shah. Turner, the father of 2010 GOP Guv candidate Doug Turner, is seeking the at-large seat held by Eugene Abeita. The other contender is John Avila.

The third seat to be decided represents Valencia County and is held by Janet Jaratt, the current chairman of the board. She has drawn a challenge from Johnny Paiz.

Shah is the ultimate survivor. Despite repeated moves through the decades to get rid of him, Shah has won the confidence of the many boards he has served under.
In 1977, Shah was named as the district's chief engineer in. In 1989, he also took on the title of chief executive officer after then-CEO Jim Baca was fired.

It's nice work, too. Subhas retired in 2009 for 90 days and began collecting a state pension of more than $100,000 a year. He was then hired back at MRGCD at a salary of $160,000. Before he retired, he cashed in sick leave and leave hours that brought him a cool $300,000 in cash. How's that for an "only in New Mexico" moment?


The NRCC never misses an opportunity to complain about wasteful government spending, but the GOP campaign committee might want to question its own spending. They've decided to launch robo calls into the districts of 11 Dem congressmen, faulting them for voting for an increase in the national debt ceiling without accompanying spending cuts. But one of the congressmen targeted is New Mexico Dem Rep. Ben Ray Lujan. He holds one of the safest districts in the nation, has no announced GOP opponent and after congressional redistricting is done later this year, his district is not going to change appreciably. And Lujan has a plausible and politically popular explanation for his vote in the heavily Dem and low-income district.

Republicans had no problem borrowing trillions of dollars to give bigger tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires. Yet our country’s ability to continue sending Social Security checks and paying VA benefits relies upon an increase in the debt limit to pay for the obligations made by the Bush administration, and Republicans are irresponsibly holding the U.S. economy hostage in an effort to end Medicare as we know it.

Maybe the national R's were encouraged by the 2010 election results when Lujan, seeking a second term, was held below 60 percent by Republican and tea party backed Tom Mullins. Lujan won with 57 percent. But 2012 will be a presidential election year drawing a more moderate electorate and with growing concerns over Medicare and Social Security, tea party fervor appears to have peaked in New Mexico.

Lujan would be most vulnerable to a primary challenge, but that's about as likely as him voting to cut Medicare to balance the budget. For the NRCC, there must be happier hunting grounds.

By the way, Ben Ray turns the ripe old age of 39 today. He may feel older, but as our old friend Odis Echols was fond of saying, "I've got ties older than him."


With all the attention given to politicians and planes, we wondered on our May 31 blog how Gov. Martinez would travel to southern California June 13 for a speech before Orange County Republicans. Her office says the Guv's newly-formed political action committee will pay for the trip and that Martinez will travel on a commercial flight, not on a private plane owned by a campaign donor.

Martinez made the use of state aircraft by top politicos a major issue last year. When her administration misfired recently in allowing a state plan to be used in violation of state rules, she took a hit.

And it's not just New Mexico where this is a hot button issue. You probably heard about New Jersey Governor Christie's travails when he took a state helicopter to his sons' baseball game. He agreed to reimburse the cost, but only after a media firestorm over the ride.


For months on end the headlines wedded Heather Wilson and White House political adviser Karl Rove to the US Attorney scandal. So when they appeared together recently at a political fund-raiser it was a major eyebrow raiser and an opportunity for Wilson's foes to pounce:

Wilson showed up at the El Paso County Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner in Colorado Wednesday Wednesday, where Rove and she both spoke:

“Heather Wilson's decision to campaign with Karl Rove shows that nothing has changed since she was named one of Congress' most corrupt members by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in 2007," said Shripal Shah, with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Former US Rep. Wilson is now engaged in a hotly contested race for the GOP US Senate nomination with Lt. Governor John Sanchez. The US attorney scandal is not expected to play much in the GOP primary, but if Wilson is the general election nominee it will again be fodder for her Dem foes.


Wilson did a video taping while in Colorado that revealed a more youthful appearance than when she announced earlier this year. Her hair was colored to a darker shade of brown and there was more attention to the make-up and clothes.

The cosmetics of the GOP race are an issue. Even though Sanchez, 48, is only two years younger than Wilson, 50, his youthful TV persona is on full display in his first round of TV ads. Looking senatorial is all part of the game, however one chooses to define it.


It's going to take more than a Clovis lawyer tossing bribery charges out like their cow chips to take down Big Bill:

Unless Richardson is charged with a crime, the former governor's reputation in national and foreign policy circles is unlikely to be sullied by the pay-to-play allegations that have generated local headlines in New Mexico, according to Norman Ornstein, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank.

"The skills he brings to the table....a great sense of how to interact with people and how to negotiate, those don't go away," Ornstein said in an interview. "If he's out there in the middle of something where he has already built up some credibility, in a place like North Korea or if he has the imprimatur of the U.S. government, which is what some of these negotiations have had, none of this stuff would make a difference."

Is this where we're supposed to join with the new administration and certain segments of the media and start dumping all over Bill? Guess we missed the memo. What do the kids say? That's so 2010.....

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