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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Campaign '12: Legislative Primaries Start To Take Shape; We've Got The Latest, Plus: Berry Scurrys On Paseo Rebuild, And: A Fish In The Land Office 

Campaign '12 for the New Mexico Legislature is starting to take shape. Here's what we hear...

ABQ Dem State Rep. Bill O'Neill will watch at least two Republican foes compete for his NE Heights seat. O'Neill will be targeted by the June primary winner for his refusal to vote for a total repeal of the law allowing undocumented immigrants to acquire state driver's licenses.

Mark Moores and Nancy Cooper are the two Republican names in the race so far for the ABQ NE Heights Senate seat recently vacated by GOP Senator Kent Cravens. Dem Lisa Curtis holds the seat by gubernatorial appointment, but the R's have a good chance of taking it back in November as the district remains heavy R.

Freshman ABQ GOP westside State Rep. David Doyle will leave the House to seek the GOP nomination for the Senate seat held by Dem John Sapien. There is also talk that Sapien will draw a Dem primary challenger. No firm names yet. Meanwhile, Paul Pacheco who lost to Doyle in the House GOP primary two years ago, will run again and hopes with Doyle gone his chances will improve.

Nicole Castellano, daughter of former Santa Fe District Attorney Joe Castellano, is challenging State Senator Phil Griego for the nomination in the sprawling six county northern seat. She has been in business development for two decades. Her husband is a Republican who works for the Public Regulation Commission. That should get the conspiracy theories going. (Nicole emails in that her husband is now a Democrat).

And freshly appointed state Senator Bill Burt of Alamogordo tells me he will seek election to the SE NM seat. Redistricting has thrown Burt and Senator Rod Adair into the same district. Burt says he has not talked with Adair about his plans. If the two run, it will be a heated GOP primary with the winner nearly assured of victory in November in that heavy R area.

Filing day for the legislative seats is March 20.

DATELINE SANTA FE

We jumped the gun a bit when we said on our first draft of Tuesday's blog that the House had approved the state budget. Actually, House Appropriations gave the go ahead.The full House is expected to follow suit today and send it over to the Senate. Reader Cheryl Haacker has some thoughts on what we wrote about the budget:

Joe, you wrote:

"You might say that's because the Dems have a boatload of budget hawks and Susana has little to disagree with them about. Or you might say she realizes she doesn't have the votes to change much in the budget so she toes the line."

I would add:

Or perhaps the Governor realizes that she has the authority and power to just line out any items she doesn't like, in their entirety - or even by single digits. There's no need to fuss too much under those circumstances, is there? She can have the final edit on anything that reaches her desk!

True enough, Cheryl, but we again emphasize that since taking power Martinez has not picked major budget battles with the Legislature. Her mainly centrist positioning on Medicaid and education funding began in her 2010 Guv campaign and has remained a staple of her political agenda. And being in the center can serve her well around here.


ENVIRO ENOUGH?

We blogged Tuesday that former Mayor Marty Chavez, now a candidate for the Dem nod for the ABQ US House seat, "developed a strong environmental record as Mayor." That had them hitting the "Send" button on the email programs. Paul Stokes is one reader example:

You highlighted the environmental record of Marty Chavez, but highlighted nothing about his opponents--Eric Griego and Michelle Lujan Grisham. As a supporter of Griego, I wish you would have acknowledged his endorsement by the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club...Several other progressive groups have endorsed Griego, including Progressive Democrats of America...

And news from Lujan Grisham:

Our campaign got the news that I am endorsed by the National Women's Political Caucus! I am both excited and honored to have the support of an organization that increases women's participation in all areas of political and public life.

A SCURRYING BERRY

ABQ Mayor RJ Berry is heralding the latest developments for funding a rebuild of the Paseo Del Norte/I-25 interchange as "bipartisanship." He's working not only to get the project underway, but to also avoid a political debacle if the stalled project stays stalled.

The ABQ City Council has now agreed to put $50 million of bonds into the rebuild and Berry is asking the state for $30 million in capital outlay as well as another $8 million in federal grants. Dem Councilor Ken Sanchez, a possible 2013 mayoral opponent of Berry, has joined with the mayor in support of all of this and also calling it bipartisanship.

But Berry stepped in it when he asked voters to approve bonds for Paseo at last October's election. He put on the ballot with Paseo the building of a controversial sportsplex. As a result, Paseo and the sportsplex were both defeated.

Berry is now spreading responsibility for the Paseo problem and he has willing takers on the council who don't want to look like obstructionists. But it is the city's executive, not the council, who will own this issue when it comes election time. It is either going to be built by then or not. If it is, Berry is off the hook. If it isn't, he will be nailed for not delivering and the bipartisanship of today will likely be out the window.

Berry says his chances of getting that $30 million from Santa Fe is very good. If it comes through, his Paseo problem could be academic. Stay tuned.

SPACED OUT

Democrats proudly rolled out a jobs plan this legislative session and routinely fault the Governor for ignoring job creation, so what do they do when it comes to perhaps the largest potential job creator in the decades ahead? They throw up this beaut of a roadblock:

A Senate panel killed a bill to prevent New Mexico space travelers from suing in most cases of negligence. The proposal failed in the Judiciary Committee on a 6-5 vote. Democrats said the bill went too far in eroding the rights of consumers. The measure would have prevented passengers or their families from suing manufacturers of parts and equipment used in space flights.

First, it was foot-dragging from Governor Martinez that Spaceport backers fear. Now that she appears to be finally on board, its the Dems throwing up a potential roadblock,

Sub-orbital space travelers paying $200,000 a pop would seem more than aware of the risks and other states have passed legislation that was rejected by Senate Judiciary.

Trial lawyers are being blamed by Spaceport supporters for the Dem rejection. Their lobbyist denies it.

ABQ Dem State Senator Eric Griego was among those voting to kill the bill, even as he promises job creation as a Dem candidate for Congress. Both of his opponents are attorneys. Do they agree with that vote?

As he rolled out a jobs plan Senate Majority Leader, attorney and Senate Judiciary member Michael Sanchez said this session that Dems get a bad rap from their critics for being "anti-business."

With votes like this one, Michael, you're only giving them more ammo.

LAND ART

It's not all politics in Santa Fe. Each month State Land Commissioner Ray Powell, Jr. opens the doors to his offices to local artists. When we stopped by recently ABQ artist Diana Stetson was displaying a number of her works, including some inspired by the global warming problem.

We took particular delight of this painting showing a fish swimming about--in the State Land Office of all places....

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