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Monday, December 05, 2011

State Rep Defends Downs Deal & Draws Spotlight, Plus: Making Her A Happy Heather, And: The State Economy: Looking For Ideas 

Rep. Gentry
Some Republicans are expressing disappointment to us that ABQ GOP State Rep. Nate Gentry has been positioned as a prominent defender of the controversial racino lease that the Martinez administration is awarding to the Downs at ABQ. Gentry had not really shown his true colors publicly when it comes to the factions within the state GOP, but he is now on the attack against GOP State Fair Commissioner Charlotte Rode who opposed the deal as did well-known ABQ GOP businessman Tom Tinnin. He resigned in protest from the state Board of Finance. Gentry, an attorney, is being trotted out on radio and in the newspaper to defend the questionable deal. His critics say so much for Nate being an independent Republican.

Gentry's embrace of the questionable Downs deal is his first major foray into the court of public opinion. Gentry, a former aide to retired GOP Senator Pete Domenici, follows Sec. of State Dianna Duran and attorney Matt Chandler in bearing the torch for the wing of the party represented by Governor Martinez and that is controlled by GOP national committeeman and attorney Pat Rogers, lawyer lobbyist Mickey Barnett and Martinez political consultant Jay McCleskey. The other wing includes, among others, the aforementioned Tinnin, State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones and now Commissioner Rode.

Duran's embrace of the far-right wing of her party ended in political disaster when she failed to come up with the goods on voter fraud. And Chandler's political career seems to be hanging by a thread as he spearheads the prosecution of a judicial corruption case that is skating on thin ice. That would seem to be good reasons for Gentry to ponder whether he is a pawn or a player in what has been dubbed the down and dirty Downs deal.

HAPPY HEATHER

GOP US Senate hopeful Heather Wilson has come with a new website and logo. The site is heavy on large pics of Heather in smiling mode. The issues section is skimpy but will probably be filled out as the campaign rolls on.

The latest take on Wilson among our Senate watchers is that she appears to be running well in her effort to take the GOP nomination against Light Guv John Sanchez and Greg Sowards, but that she has a major issue to resolve if she is to go all the way.

Wilson, a former 10 year ABQ congresswoman, carries high negatives after her many years in public service. Some of the smart crowd think that it will prevent her from getting to 50%, leaving her a few points shy of the victory. Warming Wilson up appears to be job one for her campaign. That explains why her website is dominated by Happy Heather. If they don't like you, they probably won't vote for you.

BEN RAY BOOST?

From the Politico on northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan:

It's been less than a week since Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Charles Gonzales (D-Texas) made the surprising decision to retire, but that hasn't stopped the speculation from flying downtown over who will replace him as head of the CHC. The odds-on favorite for the position so far is Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, according to K-Streeters..Lujan, who is currently chairman of the CHC's Bull PAC has a strong following downtown and would be in line for the slot as long as Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) decides not to run.

Didn't Angela Ramirez, Ben Ray's chief of staff, come to him from her job as a former director of the Hispanic Caucus? Yes, she did.

Meantime, Arizona Rep. Grijalva, a member of the Hispanic Caucus is prepping an endorsement of Rep. Martin Heinrich, a nice little pop for the ABQ congressman who faces Hector Balderas for the Dem Senate nod.

MORE ON D'ANTONIO

Piecing together more on the ouster of John D'Antonio as state engineer, another source comes with additional info on how it came down:

During his interview with the US Army Corps of Engineers,, the hiring committee asked him if he were offered the job, would he accept it. John answered, yes he would. A couple of weeks later, the Corps called and offered John the job. He accepted. Within an hour of accepting the job, John called Ryan Cangiolosi of the Governor's office to tell him that he had accepted a position with the Corps and will be submitting his resignation. At the time, Ryan and the Guv were attending the US/Mexico Governors Border Conference. Ryan called John back and asked if he was willing to meet with the Guv the following week. John agreed.

And at that meeting D'Antonio submitted his resignation.

MORE BILL


The NYT posted some new info on the federal grand jury probe of former Governor Big Bill that centers on an allegation that he had a n affair with a state worker and that it was covered up with hush money.

Some readers ask how Richardson can claim the investigation is politically motivated when the new US Attorney is Dem Ken Gonzales. The answer is that former US attorney and devout Republican Greg Fouratt is still a major influence in that office, according to insiders, even though they say he is not part of the official team investigating Bill.

TV RATINGS

Media observers were mildly surprised that KOAT-TV announced it took the 10 p.m. news rating crown in the November sweeps. KRQE has been a multi-year leader in the category. And it turns out they are still #1, if you count only the Monday through Friday newscasts. Only when the weekends are taken into account, does KOAT take the prize. The ABC affiliate also put in top ratings performances for other news broadcasts, but the station had a good ratings book a while back but never followed through. We'll know if this latest ratings pop is a fluke or for real when we have the February sweeps.

Speaking of TV news, Neil Simon is a former KOB-TV reporter who is now communications director at the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. He writes to us with a piece of criticism for a joke that ran on Friday's blog that was about dousing congressmen with gasoline:

Your blog is the best way for me to keep up with NM politics, but I found offensive the joke \ about burning members of congress. Amid a Congressional session where violence against Members has left people dead and a U.S. Rep. seriously injured, and an era of international political upheaval sparked in part by self-immolation in Tunisia and more of the same among monks in China, I found the joke about burning Members of Congress in poor taste.


THE MAES CHALLENGE

And keeping the mailbag open for a moment, we find this one from Santa Fe lobbyist and former state senator Roman Maes:

Joe, I share and appreciate your concern for New Mexico's economy. Will you consider a challenge? Let's turn a negative economy into a positive one by using a small portion of your blog to receive serious recommendations, ideas, solutions to improve our economy. Your readers need an outlet for positive thinking. Maybe, just maybe someone will listen and move on a great idea.

Thanks for that, Roman. We've done that on occasion over the years and if we get any responses we will gladly run them.

Meanwhile, if we ran into the Guv a few of our favorites we might mention:

---Look to float a capital outlay bill of at least $400 million to kick-start the state's depressed construction sector
---Cut the job-killing NM Gross Receipts tax and raise the personal income tax rate on the highest earners
---Support building a dental school at the University of New Mexico
---Now that you have endorsed the NM spaceport, keep hugging it.
---Support using some of the state's Permanent Funds for early childhood education.

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