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Thursday, February 09, 2012

Around La Politica We Go: Sanchez Offically Ends GOP Senate Bid, Plus: A Senate Candidate's Husband, Spaceport Immunity And Udall's Points 

Around La Politica we go this Thursday...Lt. Governor John Sanchez made official today his withdrawal from the race for the GOP US Senate nomination. Notably, he did not endorse Heather Wilson, his chief rival for the nomination. The withdrawal statement:

Eight months ago, our campaign for the U.S. Senate began with one clear objective: to give New Mexicans the opportunity to send conservative leadership to Washington D.C. The timing on this race was not ideal nor did we choose it. But the need for a conservative leader from New Mexico is real.

Throughout the course of this campaign, it has become clear to me, that in order to ensure that a Republican is elected to represent New Mexico in the U.S. Senate, the G.O.P must stand united. A bitter and divisive Republican Primary would only diminish our party’s genuine opportunity to bring real change in Washington. The reality is that the path forward to success in the campaign could cause a negative primary struggle that would leave the eventual nominee bruised, bloody and broke.

After much prayer, counsel with my family, and discussions with supporters, I have decided to end my campaign for the U.S. Senate, and continue to serve New Mexico as your Lt. Governor.

I want to express my sincere thanks to those New Mexicans who joined our campaign. I am forever grateful for the support we received from grassroots leaders, tea party patriots, business owners, GOP activists and everyday citizens. They offered their efforts and their dollars and it meant the world to me. This was not my time, but I will never forget their friendship.

I am redirecting myself today to helping our party advance the strongest slate of candidates to victory in November, from the Roundhouse to the White House.

I hope that you will join me in working with Governor Martinez, and all conservatives to complete the important work that we have begun in New Mexico.

Las Cruces day care center owner Greg Sowards is still in the race, touting himself as the conservative alternative to Wilson, but Sanchez was Heather's main worry and she is now expected to have a pretty easy path to the nomination.

Sanchez's campaign never took off, moneywise or with conservative momentum even as the grumbling continued that Wilson was "too moderate" for many R's. Sanchez might have been able to count on national conservative groups to jump in the race if he had shown some early muscle, but he didn't and now he has to regroup as Wilson starts a slow waltz to the Senate nomination, a prize that eluded her in 2008 when conservatives unified around Steve Pearce.

REACTION

Wilson came with this statement on the Sanchez withdrawal:

Lt. Gov. John Sanchez is a fine public servant who has always put the needs of New Mexico first. He ran a good campaign that questioned the current direction of our country and emphasized the importance of this election. I consider John a friend, and I know he will continue to serve New Mexicans with honor."

Martinez who has supported Wilson from the get-go and panned tbe Lt. Guv's entrance into the race, came with this cool quip:

The governor supports Lt. Governor Sanchez’s decision to exit the Senate race and focus on serving as Lt. Governor to help turn New Mexico around.

AT THE ROUNDHOUSE

Have the funeral already. The House again passes the bill to repeal driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. They did so on an overwhelming 45-25 vote as the Dem leadership basically gave up the fight and will let the undertakers of the state Senate embalm and bury this measure once again. A lot of Dem House members, worried about the political beating they would take from the R's this fall if they rejected the repeal, won political cover for their 'Yes" votes....

A Republican Alligator writes of Governor Martinez continuing to be prominently mentioned as a possible VP running mate for Mitt Romney:

Romney's political director is Rich Beeson. He used to be the regional director for the Republican National Committee which included New Mexico and is a close personal friend to the guy he moved into that same position when he left it. That would be Jay McCleskey, Martinez's political advisor.

Well, sounds plausible and those are interesting connections, Gator, but foremost is Martinez's status as the first female Hispanic Governor in national history. Without that, she doesn't get near the door of the GOP Prez nominee....

Embattled Las Cruces District Court Judge Michael Murphy resigns in a deal cut with the state Judicial Standards Commission. That kind of takes the wind out of the sails of special prosecutor Matt Chandler, doesn't it? You could argue that Chandler's bribery indictment of Murphy chased him out but Murphy resigned because of inappropriate comments he made, not because of the bribery charges which he still faces trial on.

A number of legal beagles have dismissed the bribery case as politically inspired. Whatever it is, with Murphy off the bench for good, the bribery case is not going to draw anywhere near the attention it would have. It will be interesting to see how much vigor is now applied to the case by Matt, the GOP 2010 Republican attorney general hopeful and who could make another run for it in 2014....

Reader Michelle Meaders questions our use of the word "centrist" when describing the Guv's approach to Medicaid, the massive program that provides health care to mainly low income New Mexicans:

You haven’t noticed the uproar about her multi-million dollar Medicaid contract to an out-of state consultant, completely bypassing the Legislature?

Yes, we've heard about the contract, Michelle, but we were talking about the overall funding for Medicaid. In this year's budget--and last year's--Martinez did not take a meat cleaver to Medicaid. Neither did the Legislature. Maybe that contract the administration is proposing takes us in the opposite direction, but we're not there yet.

State House Minority Leader Tom Taylor pours it on heavy on the House's passage of the state budget. Here you go:

“This budget was the result of a collaborative, tri-partisan effort,” said Minority Leader Tom Taylor (R-1). “It is a testament to the great work of the House Appropriations committee that we were able to unanimously pass a budget out of the House this session.”

And did he mention all 70 House members--Dems and R's--are up for re-election? Well, of course everything is great. But will someone administer ten lashes with a wet noodle to the person who came up with the word "tripartisan?"

THE HUSBAND FACTOR
Castellano & Jim Williamson
Jim Williamson, the husband of northern Dem State Senate candidate Nicole Castellano, is now a Democrat, not a registered Republican as we initially blogged Monday. The error was pointed out by Nicole. However, he was indeed a Republican not long ago. Now, Jim is not running, but he is a public figure (see below) and there has been considerable speculation from supporters of State Sen. Phil Griego who Castellano hopes to unseat in the June primary, that she would be too friendly to the agenda of Republican Governor Susana Martinez. With that as context, a Republican Alligator comes with this backgrounder:

Jim Williamson, husband of Senate candidate Nicole Castellano, was a registered Republican while working at the Public Regulation Commission for Commissioner David King. He changed his voter registration to Democrat on February 20, 2010 right before being named by the Democratic controlled PRC Commission to Director of Consumer Relations.

Jim is a member of Republican Party of Santa Fe Facebook group. He lists that he is conservative on his Facebook page. His Facebook groups include “Fire Nancy Pelosi,” “Mike Huckabee,” “The Tea Party,” “Blue Republican,” “The Albuquerque Tea Party” and a slew of Republican Party candidates from the presidential and state government levels. It shows that he supported several Republicans in 2010 including Governor Susana Martinez, former NM GOP Chairman Allen Weh, and Matt Rush for Land Commissioner.

Now you know why there is plenty of room for conspiracy theories when it comes to the Griego-Castellano contest.

Postscript: Nicole Castellano emails:

The King family from Bruce and others (Dems & Repubs) have always been friends to the Castellano family and Jim was fortunate and experienced enough to help David out for a short time. However, Jim's voter registration is in fact Democrat. You can verify with the County Clerk of Santa Fe which has him registered. Thank goodness, since he will actually be able to vote for his wife in this race.

And our Gators did indeed verify Jim's registration--as both a Republican and Democrat. The registration is here.

SENATE BIAS?

A former high ranking member of the leadership of the NM House sends this:

It frustrates me to see in HB2 (the appropriations bill) that the Senate, with 42 members, receives $1.427 million for employee hires while the House gets $1.532 million for their 70 members. Other than confirmation hearings, I don’t see anything more they do than in the House and the disparity in employees seems outrageous. It never used to be that way.

SPACE LAW

Now some equal time for those who do not agree with us that state Senate Dems dropped the ball when they killed the Spaceport immunity bill. ABQ attorney David Duhigg comes with this:

Joe, Like you, I think the Spaceport is important and will be a valuable source of good-paying jobs. New Mexico is on the cusp of having the first operational commercial space flight entity in the world. NASA will no longer operate space flights, and Spaceport America is in the unique position to take over all of NASA’s space flights, except for military and intelligence.

This means that Spaceport America will not only provide space tourism, but will also be launching individuals into space for commercial enterprises and scientific endeavors. The “space flight participants” that the immunity bill referred to are not just rich people looking for an adventure. They are scientists, researchers, and businesses.

If I am a business looking for a commercial space flight provider because I want to, say, put communications satellites in orbit, I want to know that I am getting the safest provider possible, and that it is insured so that my investment is protected.

I want to know that I have some sort of recourse if the things go wrong because of someone’s negligence. If the provider has the extraordinary immunity this bill sought, I know that my investment and my business will be hung out to dry if something goes wrong, so I am going take my business elsewhere.

And when I and my fellow businessmen, investors and researchers go elsewhere, the Spaceport loses money and jobs...The immunity would have been a job killer. The jobs the Spaceport promises will rely on profits, and we cannot bank on an unending stream of billionaire space tourists who throw caution to the wind to keep the Spaceport profitable and New Mexicans employed. Safety, protection, and recourse attract customers and create jobs, not immunity.


Thanks for that opinion, David, but the next question to tackle is why other states hoping to build a space-based economy--including Texas, Virginia and Florida--have approved laws to protect companies from lawsuits in cases of space travel. Underdeveloped New Mexico is playing with fire by leaving this immunity bill on the table.

UDALL'S POINTS

As he looks toward his 2014 re-election campaign, Dem Senator Tom Udall is going to be looking to put legislative points on the board. Like this:

Legislation championed by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and carried in the Senate by Sens. Tom Udall and Dean Heller (R-NV), to crack down on drug smugglers on the Southwest border has cleared the Senate and will now be sent to President Obama to be signed into law. The Ultralight Aircraft Smuggling Prevention Act will improve border security by cracking down on smugglers who use ultralight aircraft to traffic drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border. The measure overwhelmingly passed the House on Wednesday during an emotional farewell tribute to Rep. Giffords, who resigned as a Member of Congress to focus on rehabilitation.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2012
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