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Monday, November 07, 2011

Speaker Lujan Nemesis Looking For Greener Pasture? Plus: Stalking John Sapien, Kiki Saavedra Backing Of Griego Draws Fire & Big Bill Back In Big Time? 

Speaker LLujan & Rep. Jeff
She's emerged as a major power player in the New Mexico House of Representatives, but is the often mercurial Rep. Sandra Jeff--chief thorn in the side of Speaker Ben Lujan--about to jump the fence and try heading for green pastures? If so, it's big news. That's because Jeff, whose district includes portions of McKinley and San Juan counties, has nearly single-handedly denied Lujan needed breathing room to control the lower chamber.

Democrat Jeff joined with Rep. Andy Nunez--a Dem turned independent--to vote against retaining Lujan as speaker (Nunez voted present) and have often voted with the R's on key legislation, often depriving the speaker of a majority. The Dems control the House over the R's by a slim 36 to 33 margin, with lone indy Nunez rounding out the 70 member roster.

It's nearly impossible to accurately forecast the future moves of politicians in Indian Country where Jeff hails from. The normal rules do not apply. But we do have Senior Alligators who are charged with navigating all the waters of our diverse La Politica. One of them checks in with news about Jeff that has made the rounds before, but is of more consequence next year's election closing in fast:

I was at a luncheon Friday and met up with Sandra Jeff who reaffirmed that she will run next year against State Senator Lynda M. Lovejoy..."

If Jeff hops out of the House to take on fellow Native American lawmaker Lovejoy, you have to believe that her replacement would very likely be a Democrat and nowhere near as anti-Lujan as she has been.

Jeff running against fellow Democrat Lovejoy in the June primary would not be a shocker. The two are not known as kissing cousins--anything but. Also, Jeff may be thinking it might be a good time to take a gamble. After the way she ran roughshod over the speaker and the Dems she might draw a stiff primary challenge of her own in a bid for re-election to the House.

Jeff leaving should actually be counted as a Dem pick-up in the narrowly divided chamber, seeing how she has voted so often with the GOP. It would be a significant pre-election shift, and relieve some of the pressure on the party as it works to retake firm control. But, as we cautioned, many a predictor has been left with broken glass after using their crystal ball to forecast political events in Indian Country. Still, this is a potential story with statewide impact that can't be ignored.

STALKING SAPIEN

And how about another potential Democratic primary featuring an incumbent Senator? We could get one here in the metro as liberals contemplate the future of freshman State Senator John Sapien, an insurance salesman, who has gone deeply conservative.

Environmental groups are said to be particularly upset with Sapien. Also, his down-the-line support of State Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur "Dr. No" Smith has alarmed more moderate D's. That has led to the charge that he is a DINO--"Democrat in Name Only."

Sapien's current district includes a lot of conservative precincts in Rio Rancho, but insider experts believe when redistricting is completed by the courts, Sapien will lose most of Rio Rancho and take in more liberal precincts in Placitas.

Corrales, that bastion of liberalism, is already in the district that Dem Sapein took four years ago when he ousted Republican Steven Komadina.

Sapien has watched the redistricting maps taking shape but his liberal critics say he has not adjusted his votes accordingly and they want to take him out. And if they can't do that, they want to at least mount a challenge to make him work and spend campaign money. A defeat of Sapien or a good scare could shake up the conservative Dem powerhouses in the Senate who are seen as resisting the political shift going on due to the state unemployment crisis. Let's see if the libs find a contender or if Sapien starts swaying.

IN THE VALLEY
Rep. Saavedra
That recent endorsement of the ABQ congressional bid of Dem State Sen. Eric Griego by Rep. Kiki Saavedra brought this sharp-tongued retort from a South Valley Alligator who resented that Kiki called Griego a "South Valley native."

At election time everyone wants some association with the South Valley. Any other time we never see politicians. Griego comes from Barelas which is not in the South Valley. The South Valley to natives is west of the river to Foothill between Central and the Isleta Pueblo and is a part of the Southwest quadrant.

Unlike Griego who is a far left winger, South Valley people by a huge majority are social moderates and fiscal conservatives. Kiki Saavedra supports Griego to make it easier for (Republican) Jon Barela to win.

Say what? Kiki wants to make it easy for Jon Barela to win? To that end, he hopes Griego gets the Dem congressional nomination and not the more moderate candidates--former Mayor Marty Chavez and Michelle Lujan Grisham? (Barela says he is considering running). Well, that's a fun theory but self-interest is the guiding light of our politicos. We see it this way...

Saavedra is in no way connected to the liberal wing of the Dem Party that Griego represents. But he is up for re-election next year and there have been constant rumblings that Kiki, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, could draw a liberal challenger. Labor unions have been particularly concerned about Kiki's voting behavior. He can't take the rumors lightly. Not after what happened to his good friend Dan Silva. He's the former Valley and West Side Dem rep who was taken to the cleaners in a Dem primary a couple of years ago by liberal Eleanor Sanchez and lost the House seat he had held for decades.

Did Saavedra deliver this early and somewhat unusual endorsement of the liberal Griego to help him avoid a fate similar to Dan's? You can bet they are talking about it over the chicharrones.

CALLING ALL HISPANICS

No shocker here. With 2012 coming in sight, the White House is again wooing New Mexico Hispanics, who are essential to Obama's re-election hopes here. The news:

It is our pleasure to invite you to join us at the White House Hispanic Community Action Summit in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Saturday, November 12, 2011 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The summit will take place at the Pete V. Domenici Education Center of the National Hispanic Cultural Center located at 1701 Fourth Street SW, Albuquerque.


The gathering is designed to connect senior Obama Administration officials from a wide array of policy areas with Hispanic leaders, business owners, and local officials to discuss issues critical to the Hispanic community, New Mexico, and the nation. The summit is part of a series currently taking place across the country.


That's fine and dandy. But guess which group has been absolutely hammered by the jobs crisis? Working class Hispanics. This little jab from a conservative group landed in our email box about the same time as the ABQ summit news:

One statistic in the latest national unemployment report that is particularly important to note is the increase in unemployment among Latinos to 11.4%...

Well, it's certainly important to note if you are trying to make Obama run into a Hispanic headwind....


BILL REDEEMED?

Former Governor Big Bill is out on the circuit, enthusiastically pumping up President Obama for re-election. He appeared on "Meet the Press Sunday," prompting renewed speculation that Richardson might not be finished on the national scene. Could Bill, who lost out on his chance to become Commerce Secretary because of a pay-to-play scandal, see himself with a cabinet post or ambassadorship in a second Obama term? Why not? Another obstacle for Bill has been a long running pay-to-play investigation into New Mexico's investment funds, but it has not resulted in any indictments, making it appear the coast is clear for the former Guv to lobby the Prez for a post in exchange for working the stump for the embattled Obama.


Where could Bill best help? Well, in most places--
other than New Mexico.

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