Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Top Bernalillo County Manager Candidate Surfaces, Plus: New Senate TV; Sowards Sours On Heather & John, And: Carraro's Corner; He Mulls The Biz Scene 

Miss ABQ
Thanks to Stephanie Chavez, Miss ABQ 2011, for getting us started today. We could think of worse ways. Now to the action...

We begin this Tuesday from downtown ABQ where we learn that the top candidate for the high-powered position of Bernallio County manager is a guy with a very low-key personality and who already has the job. That guy is interim County Manager Tom Zdunek. He was placed in the post after longtime manager Thaddus Lucero got in a pickle with the commission, was given the boot but landed on a soft cushion over at the Mid-Region Council of Governments.

Our Alligators predicted all that before it happened, and now they are saying watch Zdunek. They say he appears to have the support necessary on the five member commission. A national search is underway for a county manager, but few expect an out of towner to get the gig which paid Thaddeu over $157,000 a year. Zdunek is making about Ten Grand less as interim manager.

Zdunek is a former county public works director who has quietly risen through the ranks and now finds himself received favorably because he is not a practitioner of the art of La Politica. The county is looking for someone to calm things down after Lucero's reign ended in so much tumult.

And the tumult will continue downtown today when the Young Dems rally to demand the resignation of Republican County Commissioner Michael Wiener who was cleared of charges that he sexually harassed a county worker. But his sexual jokes that were revealed as part of the probe are still drawing fire. State Dems have asked Governor Martinez to return $700 in campaign contributions Wiener gave her.

Wiener tells me he can take the heat and plans to seek re-election to his ABQ NE Heights commission seat next year. Will he have a GOP opponent in the June primary? After all the controversy, it is almost certain he will. The commission meets tonight and during public comments you can expect Wiener to undergo another round of severe tongue lashings.


A bunch of insightful reader email continues to come in on our coverage of the ABQ Journal on the Thursday blog. Carrol Cagle, a former journalist turned consultant, has this food for thought:

Readers have commented (and probably others feel) that what they see as a conservative tilt at the Journal acts as a legitimate trigger to unsubscribe. I would caution against that reaction, even if one’s political views make one want to unsubscribe in protest.

It is important to have local news reporting as an antidote to wrongful use of institutional power, and as an essential ingredient in a free society...Even if one does feel that some of the Journal's news coverage has come to tilt rightward, I doubt that many would think that most of the reporting falls into that category. Certainly, some of the Journal’s top-flight investigative reporting represents the best of journalism--digging deep into complex, but important, stories involving the use, or abuse, of governmental power or corruption and fraud whether governmental or private sector or both together....

Did you know? Cagle is a former top aide to NM Dem Senator Clinton P. Anderson? He later became author of the syndicated column "Inside the Capitol" which is now under the wing of Jay Miller.


Do you think Jeff might have scheduled this "preparation hearing" earlier, considering we've all been breathing smoke for nearly two weeks?

Senator Jeff Bingaman will hold an Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Tuesday to review preparations for the 2011 wildfire season and to review the wildfire management programs of the Federal land management agencies. Among those testifying before the committee will be Tom Tidwell, chief of the Forest Service.


So what does GOP US Senate contender Greg Sowards say about his two better know rivals for the 2012 nomination? "Been there, done that," declares his first TV spot slamming both Heather Wilson and John Sanchez. Then Sowards takes another bite out of both. Referencing old allegations that Lt. Governor John Sanchez hired illegal immigrants at his ABQ roofing biz, Sowards' spot says:

Unlike the career politicians, Sowards will say no to hiring illegals, no to Wall Street bail outs, no to raising the debt ceiling.

That reference to Wall St. bail outs is a veiled hit on Heather who in her final days in the US House voted for the banking bail out. (Sanchez was never charged with hiring illegals.)

Sowards, owner of a chain of Las Cruces day care centers, says "real conservative change" begins with him.

Sowards spot says he isn't a career politician, but a Sanchez supporter said it is not for a lack of trying. He pointed out that Sowards has run several gadfly campaigns for Congress. Sanchez went up briefly with the first US Senate TV when he announced his candidacy late last month.

Who does his ad hurt most? Probably Heather. She is trying to redefine herself this cycle as a conservative candidate after being rejected as a moderate when she lost the 2008 GOP Senate nomination to Steve Pearce.

Sowards is self-financing. So far he has given himself $150,000. That will keep him on cable TV stations, like the conservative Fox News channel, but Sowards going the distance and winning a 2012 primary ballot spot at the March pre-primary convention remains a long shot.

Still, this well-produced spot does a pretty good job of trying to establish Greg as a more serious candidate than he has come across as in the past. If he keeps it up, maybe the gadfly will get his wings flapping.

Joe Carraro
Reader and former GOP State Senator Joe Carraro represented part of Sandoval County. He says he enjoys our riffs on the economy and has some of his own:

Joe, You've been hitting it right on the head. I've been doing some commentaries and did one last year that is exactly what you and your readers are talking about. It's called
The Economy.

When I was in the Senate, I tried to spend the money they were using for the Railrunner on creating the same "stimulus" plan I mention in the video for New Mexico to create a new industry. Met with solar people back in DC who said that they could easily do it.

Okay, Joe, but the Rail Runner is here to stay.

We remember a few years back, in 2006, when Joe was running for the GOP nod for US Senate and was attacked by his Republican rival for taking a $3,000 taxpayer-paid trip to Hawaii to attend a legislative conference. Flash forward and we find for 2010 not a single legislator is going to make sour headlines for trekking to exotic locales. In fact, House Speaker Ben Lujan notes travel costs for lawmakers are down by half.

Now, if Susana gets that dream dungeon of hers built below the Roundhouse, we can cut the travel budget even more.


Another veteran KOB-TV reporter is headed toward the exits. Jeff Maher, who has carved out a reputation for coverage of ABQ government the past five years, is headed to Sacramento and the ABC affiliate there. His departure comes on the heels of investigative reporter Jeremy Jojola heading for Denver. The Sacramento market is #20 in the USA. ABQ is #46. You don't have to worry about longtime KOB anchor Tom Joles going anywhere. We know for a fact he could not live more than an hour away from Saggio's pizza.

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