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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On The Trail With Ben Ray And Janice, Plus: Santa Fe Leadership Struggle Taking Shape, And: News Veterans Come With "Little Joe" Memories 

Rep. Lujan & Arnold-Jones
Ben Ray Lujan and Janice Arnold-Jones? We snapped this pic of the political odd couple at a recent dinner in our never ending quest for a glimpse of bipartisanship in the rough and tumble world of La Politica. And finding it this close to an election isn't easy.

Lujan, of course, is the Democratic congressman representing northern New Mexico and Arnold-Jones is the GOP nominee for the ABQ congressional seat and is opposed by Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham--no relation to Ben Ray.

However, Michelle, an attorney and a cabinet secretary under Big Bill, is a cousin of former ABQ GOP Congressman Manuel Lujan who represented the district for 20 years and his brother Edward, a prominent GOP businessman and former GOP chairman who donated to a previous Lujan Grisham campagn. Michelle's grandfather Eugene Lujan was the first Hispanic Chief Justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court.

To clear up any confusion, Janice has posted on her web site a photo of her with former Congressman Lujan. We take that as an endorsement of Janice. As for Edward, well, we'll have to check where he stands...

Janice is going to need the support of Manuel Lujan and more. The ABQ congressional seat is ranked "likely Dem" by the pundits. Also, she has a reputation for being a moderate Republican, as her party has gone increasingly conservative. 

Meanwhile, Janice is trying to recover from her first big campaign gaffe. When it comes to her remark that GOP VP nominee Paul Ryan's budget plan is "frightening" for New Mexico's national labs, she tells a conservative web site: “I do not recall saying that.”

The comments were carried on the KOB-TV web site and demonstrate the predicament the Ryan pick has placed her in. We explored that topic on Monday's blog. (Even Susana is running for cover on the impact of the Ryan budget on NM:

I disagree with parts. I certainly want our labs to be strong here in New Mexico. I will communicate that should Romney and Ryan win. I want New Mexico’s labs to remain just as they are.”

As for Ben Ray, he was more than willing to have his photo taken with Janice and said he stands ready to work with whoever is elected to the ABQ seat, although he is endorsing Dem Michelle.

All these Lujan's can be confusing to even New Mexicans, so we were not too surprised when Ben Ray told us an elderly congressman he introduced himself to in DC thought he was the son of Manuel Lujan. No, Ben's dad isn't Manuel, but is the equally prominent Ben Lujan of Santa Fe, speaker of the state House.

Our pic was snapped at a dinner and celebration hosted by Las Amigas de Nuevo Mexico that included a special tribute to Sister Marianella Domenici, U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Speaker of the House Ben Lujan and Manuel Lujan. And speaking of the Speaker....

CAPITOL POWER PLAYING

The 2013 legislative session may not kick off until January, but the jockeying for power is well under way. It's a given in Dem circles that if the party retains control of the state House after the November elections--and they are expected to--that the new House speaker will be Rep. Kenny Martinez of Grants. He would replace retiring Speaker Ben Lujan. But who would replace Kenny as majority leader in the 70 member House? That's where there is intrigue.

The behind the scenes battle is said by the Santa Fe wall-leaners to feature ABQ State Rep. Rick Miera, chair of the House Education Committee, and House Business and Industry Committee Chair Debbie Rodella of Rio Arriba County.

The speaker rules supreme in the House, but being majority leader isn't chopped liver. We'll be watching this one. (By the way, Rep. Eliseo Alcon of Milan would love to be chair of business if Debbie gets majority leader. ABQ Dem State Rep. Moe Maestas is expected to make a play for the chairmanship of House Judiciary that will be vacated by retiring Rep. Al Park but keep and eye out for ABQ Rep. Gail Chasey for that spot).

CARRARO WATCH

Will the Dems or Dem affiliated PACS come out and support former ABQ GOP State Senator Joe Carraror who is now running as an independent against GOP State Senator John Ryan? It's an important question because Carraro has high name ID and is seen as a major threat to Ryan who is expected to be better financed than Carraro and launch an attack campign against the colorful Carraro. Dems have to be mulling over the notion of backing Carraro. Ryan is a a hard-core conservative. His wife Veronica Gonzales is the secretary of cultural affairs under Governor Martinez. Who would Carraro caucus with if he were to be elected as an independent?

BARRIE BACK? 

Third party US Senate hopeful Jon Barrie isn't quite out of the game yet. We blogged Monday of how the Secretary of State had said Barrie can't be on the ballot, but Barrie's lawyer got busy Monday:

The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case brought by a third-party candidate who wants to run for U.S. Senate but claims he was wrongfully kept off the ballot. Jon Ross Barrie of Albuquerque said in his petition today to the high court that Secretary of State Dianna Duran was wrong when she refused to certify him for the Nov. 6 general election ballot. Duran’s office said Barrie did not submit enough valid voters’ signatures on nominating petitions. And the secretary of state said he did not meet the required deadline for being a member of the Independent American Party. The court will hear arguments in the case on Wednesday, Aug. 22.

Barrie is running as a conservative, posing more of a threat to Republican Heather Wilson than Dem Martin Heinrich.

REPORTING FROM LAS CRUCES

Monahan & Miyagishima
We're in southern New Mexico for a couple of days so we stopped by Las Cruces City Hall to catch up with recently re-elected Democratic Mayor Ken Miyagishima. He's rejoicing over a big increase in tax collections--up 12 percent this July compared to last year. ABQ Mayor Berry would like to have those numbers. The big Duke City recently reported basically flat revenues--up 1.9% for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

But both mayors share downtowns that are somewhat troubled.We left Las Cruces City Hall in search of a coffee shop or restaurant and ended up walking over a mile to find one that was open. Downtown revitalization remains a challenge for Cruces as it does for ABQ.

Las Cruceans made a wise investment in their new City Hall. It is now two years old, hyper-modern and staffed with polite staff and security. 

There is a lot of interesting La Politica this cycle in Dona Ana County--like Governor Martinez's efforts to get her old friend Amy Orlando elected district attorney--the job Susana had before she became Governor. And then there's Andy Nunez, the Dona Ana Dem state rep who switched to independent and is seeking re-election. Will he prevail? More on those and other Dona Ana doings in the days ahead. We're on our way now to Silver City and Deming.

By the way, Miyagishima, 49, did not get shy when we asked the popular executive if he had any statewide political ambitions.

LITTLE JOE

Our Monday reminisces about our campaign travels with the late US Senator Joe Montoya brought  email from a couple of New Mexico's longtime TV news reporters. Rodger Beimer held forth on KOAT-TV in the 70's. He says our memory may have suffered when we said we flew with Montoya in the '76 campaign in a single engine plane:

If you were on the same plane with Sen. Montoya that I was, it was a Piper Aztec – twin engine – flown and I think owned by “Tiger” Boyer – the Senator’s press secretary and former Albuquerque Tribune political reporter Jim Boyer.

Right you are Rodger and thankfully Boyer was a careful pilot who could not be forced to fly in foul weather.

And from KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson who we worked with back in the 70's we get this:

Nice memory of Little Joe! You and I were working at KRKE-AM radio when Joe lost to Jack Schmitt in '76. I remember that Election Night you cut a report for the morning broadcast about Montoya's career and its apparent end. I recall telling you it was a fine piece of work and you said the real story was that Little Joe would be dead within a year or two. The defeat breaking his body as well as his spirit.

I also recall--earlier in the campaign--covering Democratic vice-presidential candidate Walter "Fritz" Mondale a a rally with Montoya at the Convention Center. Little Joe opened up by shouting at the crowd that under the Republican regime of Nixon and Ford here in New Mexico "we can't even afford pinto beans!" A good portion of the Democratic crowd actually booed Joe and when Fritz came up he made a joke about the whole thing - wondering when was the last time that Joe Montoya ate pinto beans. That night I predicted Montoya would lose to Schmitt. Like your death prediction it never made the air. But weren't we a couple of smart guys back then? 

I remember that rally well, Stu, and used some of Montoya's speech from it when I did his radio obituary . Somewhere I have the tape of it--I hope.

Yes, we were a couple of smart guys back then, and we still have a few laps left in us. Onward to Campaign 2012...

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