Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stirring Up The La Politica Pot; Ben Ray's Chicharrones, ABQ House Race Rumblings, Heather's Polling, And: The Gay Hairdresser Conspiracy--Or Not 

Congressman Ben Ray Lujan takes his turn at stirring the chicharrone pot at the annual Valencia County Matanza in this snap sent to the blog. He seems quite capable as he is properly using a wooden paddle--not a metal one, an error that vaulted 2010 Lt. Governor nominee Brian Colon into unwanted legendary status (well, at least around here).

While Ben Ray, 39, and serving his second two year term in the US House, is stirring things up down in Belen, he's having a much tougher time stirring up his Washington colleagues over the budget ax that is bloodying Los Alamos National Labs. Up to 800 layoffs are in the pipeline and Lujan and the rest of the congressional delegation seem powerless to stop them.

Los Alamos County votes heavy Republican, but most of Lujan's district is heavy Dem and he is expected to win a third term this November without too much trouble.

But the lesson is that getting power on Capitol Hill takes time and patience. Much like watching over those delicate morsels of pork the congressman is attended to at the matanza. More than ever it is is the political pork--the billions that go into Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs and that are spun out into the area economy--that is on the minds of New Mexico voters. If New Mexico can't stop the bleeding in the coming years in DC, the chicharrone pots are going to be filled with potatoes--not delicious and fortifying pork.


In the race for the ABQ US House seat it's not chicharrones being stirred, but a hornet's nest. They keep flying out of the hive and at former Mayor ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez. A few are now stinging Eric Griego and one or two have even taken a bite out of Michelle Lujan Grisham.

For Marty, it has been girlfriend Loretta Mares that has stirred things up. She's been indicted on felony embezzlement charges out of Santa Fe, and even though Marty no longer lives with Mares, Dem Alligators are expressing concern. A sampler:

The Republicans love to beat up on Hispanic Democrats on corruption charges. The ABQ House seat appears ready to go Dem, but this mess with Marty could breathe life into a corruption argument against him--even though he is not personally involved in the scandal. It's just the way things play out in New Mexico, and it is worrisome.

Meantime, State Senator Eric Griego is getting an idea of what it's like to play on the larger stage of La Politica. He cashed out of his former job as executive director for NM Voices for Children with a $24,000 pay out. The critics raved that it really was a campaign contribution in disguise, but Voices says it was severance pay and the feds say there was no campaign violation. Whatever the case, it shows that the voluble Griego--doing his best to keep his cool as the heat rises--will be taunted plenty as he is taken more serious as a possible Dem nominee. And that's the way it should be, right?

As for Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham, she's hoping the troubles of Eric and Marty make way for her to run the ball up the middle. But she's going to have to get her team together to do it. Insiders report she has already shed a campaign manager. From Gatorville:

Jason Henry quit the campaign after much speculation that he was going to leave. Michelle has just hired Dominic Gabello as her new campaign manger. He was former Congressman Harry Teague's campaign manager and just finished working in Virginia's state senate elections. If anyone can rein in Michelle it will be Gabello.

Rein her in? Okay. But what about letting things loose? This is Michelle's second try for the Dem nod for the ABQ House seat, having lost the first one to Martin Heinrich in 2008. She no longer runs without risk, You lose this one and your future options don't look so wide open.

She has out raised her two rivals in the early going, but--and a big but--she hasn't spent much. Griego and Chavez have been padding the political payrolls for months and building ground organizations. The Alligators say they still have ownership of this race, but if girlfriends and campaign spending issues continue to buzz above them, it could be to Michelle's benefit.


Attorney Brian Thomas jumps in the Dem race for the ABQ State House seat being vacated by Danice Picraux. He joins education union chief Christine Trujillo in the contest as politico Sterling Fluharty drops his plans to run and endorses Christine. Thomas is ready to spend--and presumably so are the unions n behalf of Trujillo. This could be a hot one. The district is heavy Dem. No R's need apply....

Former Dona Ana County Commissioner Bill McCamley just keeps trying. He writes us from Las Cruces to inform that he will seek the Dem nod for the state House seat that Rep. Joni Gutierrez has decided to leave. She wants to become the next Democratic National Committeewoman from NM. McCamley sought the Dem southern congressional nod in '08 but lost to Harry Teague. He was back in 2010, running as the Dem candidate for a Public Regulation Commission seat but failed to score. Is this his time? Well, is there going to be a strong Hispanic contender joining McCamley for this House seat? If not, maybe it is his turn. (R's tell me to keep them in mind for the Joni seat. It leans Dem, but they say they have a shot. Let's see who they field)....

And the very long shot hopes of the GOP of taking the majority in the NM House in the November election is growing even longer as the legal machinations over redistricting continue in the courts. The AP has the latest twist which favors the Dems....

Workmen's comp Judge Victor Lopez, seeking the Dem nod for an open seat on the NM Court of Appeals and competing with ABQ District Court Judge Monica Zamora, checks in with this news:

The Secretary of State’s office has approved the Judge's application for public financing. He filed contributions of $5.00 from over 1650 individuals and also submitted about 4500 petition signatures to qualify him for the June primary ballot..The Secretary of State will distribute $85,748 to Judge Lopez’s campaign to be used for campaign related expenses.

Judge Zamora is not taking public financing. If she raises much more than $85,ooo that could be a key factor in the race


The GOP State Senate caucus comes with this retirement news of a veteran ABQ lawmaker:

The consummate citizen legislator, State Senator Mark Boitano (R- 18 Bernalillo) said that after 16 years of serving in the Senate, he will not seek re-election and will step aside at the end of his term to given another New Mexican the opportunity to serve the constituents in the Northeast Heights of Albuquerque.

I have always believed in term limits, and after four terms in the Senate, it is time to move on and allow others to continue the fight in the Senate to improve New Mexico. I have a real estate business to run, a wife and children I love and want to spend more time with, and I will begin looking for new opportunities to serve my community and state.

This is the fifth Senator of the 42 to retire this cycle--three R's and two Dems. That seems a bit high, but these guys have been around a while. But there's no denying Santa Fe is more confrontational and just not as much fun anymore, according to many who have hung out there for years.

Boitano worked hard to get Senate sessions broadcast on the Web and was instrumental in getting charter schools going in the state. Boitano was a conservative and true to his ideals, but never bought into the "punitive" wing of the party that has isolated itself from the New Mexico mainstream.

There is now a nice opportunity now for a new face to take over Boitano's NE Heights Senate seat. Or maybe a not so new one. GOP State Rep. Conrad James appears to be on his way to having the race of his life for re-election because of new boundaries for his NE Heights district. He lives in Boitano's district. Could he make the switch? Let's watch and see about that and other names that emerge.


We all know the problems GOP US Senate candidate Heather Wilson is having in the polls--(at least regular readers of this space know). Despite being far better known than her prospective Democratic opponents, the former five term ABQ congresswoman consistently trails Dem Rep. Martin Heinrich and fares little better against Hector Balderas.

Team Heather is pushing back furiously against such polls, arguing that the surveys when interpreted properly show the race a dead heat. But that's not all that great, either. And instead of coming with her own head to head poll for the general election Wilson comes with a campaign poll showing her trouncing her lone remaining rival in the GOP Senate nomination battle-Greg Sowards.That's not exactly what you call news.

Why Wilson would need a poll showing the obvious--she leads the unknown Sowards 81% to 10%--is a good question, Maybe she just wants to show that Sowards is unlikely to get 20 percent of the delegates at the March GOP preprimary convention and thus be denied an official spot on the June primary ballot (he could still get on by garnering additional petition signatures).

Maybe she wants to have a poll out there that shows her beating someone decisively. Or maybe she just wants to show Sowards--who has over $600, 000 of mostly his own cash to spend--not to go there. The poll was taken shortly after Lt. Governor John Sanchez dropped his GOP Senate bid this month.

And in the category of stuff you need to know: Wilson's polling is being done by Public Opinion Strategies where Nicole McCleskey, wife of Susana political adviser Jay McClesky works. It's a small world.

Roll Call ranks the race for the open US Senate here a "toss-up." We have it "lean Dem." Our ranking is based on the early state strength of Obama, the turnout model for a presidential year, the initial polling showing the better-known Wilson trailing or in a tie with her lesser known Dem challengers and the apparent decision by national Republicans not to seriously contest for the ABQ US House seat.


Don't warm up the black helicopters but do put up a warning flare for the ABQ Journal's Bruce Daniels who sometimes describes us--aptly for the most part--as "genetically conspiratorial." Our latest venture to the far side has us wondering about the gay hairdresser story. Said hairdresser is no longer doing the gubernatorial coiffure because, he says, Susana does not believe in gay marriage.

The story has been played to the hilt. It straightens out (no pun intended) her bona fides with GOP social conservatives. They were upset--especially one Reverend Smotherman--with her recent appointment of a gay man to the Public Regulation Commission. Funny how the gay hairdresser story came along right after that one went sour on Susana. Well, don't warm up the black helicopters, we're just sayin'...

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