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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Griego Fires Another Shot Across Marty's Bow As A Scorcher Of A Race Begins To Take Shape, Plus: The Political Character Of John Sanchez 

Chavez, Griego & Lujan Grisham
Eric Griego has fired another warning shot across the bow of Marty Chavez as the two leading contenders for the ABQ Dem congressional nomination prepare for what insiders now expect to be an exceptionally bloody feud between the two old political rivals. (Okay, we don't know how bloody, but we do need some good copy).

Griego came with his second major environmental endorsement this week, signaling that the battle for the heart and soul of the nominating wing of the Democratic Party is fully engaged and Griego has come to play.

The endorsement from the League of Conservation Voters action fund comes on the heels of Griego's endorsement from the Sierra Club, the nation's legacy environmental group. This backing will help Griego raise the money he needs to keep pace with former ABQ Mayor Chavez.

Chavez left a top job with a DC environmental group to seek the congressional seat. As mayor, he was a major booster of green initiatives. But to no avail politically. The former Mayor's strong pro-development record--especially for the city's West Side--continues to haunt him with the enviros and their endorsements are eluding him.

The Alligators expect negative campaigning when the calender turns to 2012. And many of them expect Marty to fire the first volley at Eric--not vice versa. Chavez backed off the 2010 Guv race when liberals raised a ruckus over him and he also had to look away from the 2008 Senate race for similar reasons. He is not looking for a third strike and must now pull out all the stops or risk being sent to the showers yet again.

The three time mayor who lost a bid for a fourth term in 2009 has seized on the jobs issue as a way to unite the disparate factions of the Dem Party. He unveiled a clever section on his web site called "Marty's Job Center" where he lists open jobs. Now it appears he is going to have to use some of that creativity to slow down the early Griego surge.

Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham is the other contender in the contest, coming with a decent initial finance report, but yet to convince the insiders that she can compete with experienced and battle-scarred warriors Griego and Chavez. She could not floor the gas when she ran for and lost the nomination in 2008. That memory lingers. She will have to move it early or the ship will sail without her as spring approaches.

Griego, a state senator and former city councilor who ran against Chavez in the 2005 mayoral contest, says the enviro endorsements show his campaign is building momentum. The anti-Griego crowd continues to chant that he is too liberal to win in November and that Chavez or Lujan Grisham is the best choice for the Dems to run in the swing district.

Observers initially seemed confused about the impact of a three way race for the nomination for the seat being given up by Rep. Martin Heinrich who is running for the Senate. But now conventional wisdom sees it as benefiting Griego. The reason? If he can consolidate the liberal vote he can take the prize with as little as 40 percent--not the more formidable 50% that he would need in a mano vs. mano with Marty. Chavez and Lujan Grisham are trying to get their share of the liberal voting bloc, but so far Griego is the clear choice of the libs.

One thing is now certain--no one will be walking into the nomination. Get the popcorn out, this one's going to be a spectacle.

THE SANCHEZ FILE


Say what you will about Lt. Governor John Sanchez, he is proving to be a class act when it comes to handling his public relations with Governor Martinez. Given the chance to take a whack at the Gov because she does not always notify his office when she will be out of state thus making Sanchez acting governor, his office simply said it had no comment. But Martinez and her political operatives have taken plenty of snipes at Sanchez who took over his step-father's roofing biz and built it into a major ABQ company.

Once he announced he was a GOP candidate for the US Senate Martinez said she would not give him additional duties other than the minimal ones already prescribed in the state Constitution. And she basically endorsed Heather Wilson for the Senate nod shortly after Sanchez announced his bid. That kind of treatment would be hard to swallow by anyone, but must especially sting Sanchez, a native New Mexican who came up the hard way and made a success of himself.

Then there was that 33 county road tour Martinez sent Sanchez on during the transition months, keeping Sanchez away from Santa Fe while critical decisions regarding the future administration were made. And then there is Martinez's public chafing over the constitutional directive that once she crosses the state line--even if only to visit her family in El Paso--gubernatorial powers must transfer to the lieutenant governor.

Sanchez could play like previous Light Guvs and engage this governor publicly and loudly over the many slights she and her political operatives have inflicted on him. But his Senate candidacy in a party where Martinez remains popular and his own persona hold him back.

We wrote months ago of Sanchez's critics who deride his lack of a college degree and question whether he is smart enough to serve in the Senate. They also question his work ethic since he missed a lot of votes when he served a solo term in the state House. But this even temperament Sanchez is showing is a strength of character that one could argue is as important as other criteria for being a US Senator. He can hold his tongue, bide his time, await his day and then strike while the iron is hot. Are those personality traits that could benefit New Mexico in the US Senate in the difficult years ahead?

Heather Wilson is the acknowledged front-runner in the GOP Senate bid and is certainly no lightweight, but Sanchez's subtle demeanor and respectful approach to public life while under pressure belie the notion that he is a dimwit. The irony here is that the more the Governor and her political operatives snub Sanchez, the better he looks.

Sanchez is two for three in politics. In 2000, he won an ABQ state rep seat when he knocked off the incumbent House Speaker. He faltered when two years later, in 2002, he secured the GOP Guv nomination but lost the general election to Big Bill. He came back to life in 2010 when he trounced his opponents to take the GOP Light Guv nomination and was swept into office with Martinez.

Sanchez's political personality was born in the extremely competitive trenches of free enterprise where showboating in lieu of performing is verboten. This is a different breed than those who have spent their careers with the comfortable certainty of a government paycheck. As in his business, Sanchez pursues goals--not vendettas. And it shows.

WHIP THE WHIP?

Will longtime ABQ SE Heights State Representative and House Majority Whip Sheryl Williams Stapleton draw a 2012 primary opponent now that she has suffered a media beating? Probably not anyone formidable, but she will keep looking behind her shoulder.

Stapleton, 53, was waxed in a KRQE-TV news report for receiving a paycheck for her duties as an assistant ABQ Public Schools superintendent Schools while was attending the legislative sessions in Santa Fe. The morning fishwrapper also piled on before the APS superintendent retroactively approved Cheryl's double duty.

The reports were intriguing, but Stapelton, first elected in 1995, was not accused of being a crook. Many pubic employees serve in the Legislature and the critics harped that the rap on Stapleton came across as a technical violation. One of our Alligators played it this way:

The media hits were more like chinks in her armor rather than a fatal wound.

Still, there is good material there for any foe who does step up to the plate. And Stapleton has not been the most communicative legislator when it comes to the media. Our legislative watchers say a strong Hispanic name or an Anglo liberal would give Stapleton the most headaches. The district is safe Dem so no R's need apply.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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