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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Keith Gardner: Santa Fe Roadkill? Fallout Over His Latest Mishap, Plus: Janice Vs. Michelle In TV Face-Off, And: More News From The Fast Moving Campaign Trail 

Martinez & Gardner
Carrie Menapace (Facebook)
It's not like you didn't have a honeymoon, Keith. Back in November 2010 when then Governor-elect Martinez named Keith Gardner, a state legislator from Roswell, as her Chief of Staff and Brian Moore, a state rep from Clayton as her deputy chief, we blogged:

Overall, this group will likely be seen in Santa Fe as having the depth and experience to run the day-to-day operations of state government. Their challenge may be to keep deeply ingrained partisan instincts in check.

Today Moore is long gone--a moderate voiced grocer forced from an administration that took a sharp turn down the path of take no prisoners and harbor no compromise. As for Gardner, after the release of his now infamous obscenity-laced recordings and this week's allegations (here, here, here and here) that he intimidated ABQ Public Schools lobbyist Carrie Menapace by grabbing her and threatening her. Keith looks like some kind of roadkill you see when you're speeding down La Bajada. The carcass is there, but there is no life.

As we said, Gardner came in with good wishes and high hopes, but his temper has gotten the best of him and his credibility is shredded. This Governor, whether she knows it or not, needs a new chief of staff. But who? She is encapsulated in a bubble, a captive of her own inclination to keep her circle tight and seemingly putting all her faith in Gardner and her chief political adviser who for good reason has been dubbed the "Shadow Governor." The old Republican guard that could help her--Senator Domenici, Lou Gallegos, Tom Tinnin, Garrey Carruthers, Walter Bradley etc. are long gone or banished.

In both the audio tapes and the incident with lobbyist Carrie Menapace it is a bullying mentality on full display. A "my way or the highway" approach. Ironically, when he served in the Legislature some of the press corp dubbed Gardner the "Gentle Giant." But the pressure for results and the power of the Fourth Floor apparently got to him.

The administration wants to wield power with a bloody axe during the legislative sessions and on the campaign trail. They are drawing blood but it is spattering back on them. The bloodiest of them all right now is Keith Gardner.

With the January 2013 legislative session fast approaching, Santa Fe looks like gang warfare--the crips and the bloods--not the Democrats and Republicans. Martinez needs some power players and peace makers. The switch blades aren't working.

GARDNER FALL OUT


The latest Gardner imbroglio hands the Dems a chance to make political hay. ABQ State Sen. Linda Lopez does the lifting:

The Governor’s Chief of Staff has effectively rendered himself unable to continue in his present position as the top administrative official responsible for directing and managing state government affairs. The release of a recording in which he terribly maligned the President of the Senate, followed by yesterday’s disclosure of allegations of physical intimidation of a female Albuquerque Public School employee, has severely damaged Chief of Staff Keith Gardner’s ability to push forward the Governor’s agenda. His erratic and frightening behavior leaves me no option but to advise Governor Susana Martinez to release Mr. Gardner from his position.

 The "Gentle Giant" is crashing. Look out below.

COME ON DOWN, SUSANA

Arnold-Jones & Lujan Grisham
"Come on down, Governor." That was the money line of the first TV debate between the two ABQ congressional candidates on KNME-TV Tuesday night. It was uttered by Republican contender Janice Arnold-Jones in response to a question asking why party support for her has not been more robust. That Governor Martinez has been nowhere near Arnold-Jones--who ran against her for the 2010 Guv nomination--says it all. The GOP long ago threw in the towel on the district it held for forty years until Dem Martin Heinrich took it in 2008.

Martinez is nowhere, the national GOP is nowhere and unfortunately for Janice, it appears she has nowhere to go.

Arnold-Jones and Dem contender Michelle Lujan Grisham faced off for an hour in a polite exchange of views, even while being pressured some by veteran network newsman Sam Donaldson.

Either Janice or Michelle would make a good congressional representative. Janice did her best to disassociate herself from the radical wing of the GOP as represented by tax foe Grover Norquist and Michelle held high the Democratic banner and bested Janice as she powered through a comprehensive answer to the issue of global warming.

Veteran Dem analyst Harry Pavlides said Lujan Grisham "did exceptionally well," meaning the race did not get shaken up. "There was no knock-out but Grisham's superior knowledge of the issues had her winning on all three referee cards. Her experience as an attorney showed."

In years past this would have been a debate with standing room only. But with polling basically showing the race out of the R's reach, the event probably drew only a small audience.

The abandonment of the Arnold-Jones candidacy by the Martinez circle and the national and local GOP will stand as a black mark on the party. She is a class candidate who deserves better. As it is, she can barely afford a TV buy. Martinez could show some class by cutting a TV ad for Janice and writing her a check. Like the lady said, "Come on down, Governor."

SUSANA FOR PIRTLE

The Guv is not being bashful in her effort to get rid of Dem Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings. She came with a direct letter on behalf of political neophyte Cliff Pirtle, saying Jennings' refusal to support her repeal of driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants makes it "crystal clear that as long as he's in office, New Mexico will continue giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants..

The Martinez letter was sent out on Reform NM PAC stationary, the PAC run by her political svengali Jay McCleskey. Martinez also personally endorsed GOP state Senate candidate Angie Spears in June in a hotly contested primary. Spears was routed by rancher Pat Woods.

Jennings says he expects $400,000 to be spent against him, mostly raised from out of state. He is favored for re-election, but that is huge money in a state Senate race, forcing Jennings to also mount an expensive effort. 

State Senate races are notoriously difficult to poll, so look for a lot of panic buttons to be pushed and a lot of numbers--some good and some bad--to be floated in the next month.

2014 WATCH

From the AP:

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez reports raising more than $800,000 in the past six months for her 2014 re-election campaign, and Democratic  Gary King has collected about $160,000. According to finance disclosures filed Tuesday, the governor's campaign had a cash balance of $1.2 million as of Oct. 1. King, who's serving a second term as attorney general, had cash-on-hand of nearly $101,000 in his campaign account.

NO SECRETS


Another university president is ousted and another round of outrage over a golden parachute for the dearly departed. This time it's New Mexico State University and the ouster of President Barbara Couture. She will get a going away check for $453,000 and be paid another $100,000 for staying on the job though the end of the year. But yet she was forced out and the Regents won't talk bout why, claiming they don;t have to. Reader James Meiers says Santa Fe need to change things:
 
Because the privilege that the NMSU and UNM boards have enjoyed in recent years regarding compensation to ousted presidents is statutory, I would suggest that if there is enough righteous indignation at the secrecy of the process then the answer is simple in concept and difficult in execution: Lobby the legislature to amend the act to remove the exception for decisions made on personnel action, or at least for certain personnel, e.g. presidents and vice-presidents.

I would also hope that the student regents are the most directly accessible to ask "What did you do?" There is nothing to my knowledge prohibiting them from speaking on the issue, and if there is then that is an even bigger problem that needs to be addressed. There should not be any sort of non-disclosure agreement prohibiting the temporary stewards of New Mexico's taxpayer-funded institutions from speaking to the community, especially the student body, from which they are supposedly serving on behalf.

WHO SAID IT?

"Mr. Heinrich is a great man, a wonderful father, and a passionate man." 

That quote about ABQ Dem Congressman and US Senate hopeful Martin Heinrich is from none other than northern US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan who is seeking re-election this year. 

Lujan and Heinrich ought to be saying nice things about one another.  Both of them came to the congress in the 2008 Obama wave and both are positioned to be around for a long time.

The latest polling from the Heinrich camp as they prepare for their first TV debate with Republican Heather Wilson Thursday night at 6 on KRQE-TV has him in the comfort zone:

An internal poll conducted for Democratic Rep. Martin Heinrich's New Mexico Senate campaign shows his lead growing over former GOP Rep. Heather Wilson. The poll, conducted by GBA Strategies, shows Heinrich leading Wilson 55 percent to 42 percent in a head-to-head match up. When Independent American Party candidate Jon Barrie is included in the poll, Heinrich's lead shrinks to 12 points: Heinrich 51, Wilson 39, Barrie 8. It's an improvement from Heinrich's last internal poll, released in late September, which showed the Democrat up by eight.

MONTOYA VS. OCKSRIDER

The under-the-radar race for an ABQ seat on the state Public Regulation Commission comes to life as Republican Christoper Ocksrider--running as the underdog against Bernalillo County Assessor Karen Montoya--announces this news:

Ocksrider (received) endorsements from the Chicano Police Officers’ Association and from former Governor David Cargo. "When you consider education, experience and ethics, Christopher is clearly the best candidate for this important position,” wrote Cargo in his letter of endorsement.

Ocksrider's father served in the Legislature from ABQ's NE Heights back in the 70's. The battle between Ocksrider and Montoya is over who will succeed Commissioner Jason Marks who is term-limited.

NM DYNASTY

The WaPo recently had some fun asking readers to name state political dynasties. Here's what they came with for our state:

New Mexico – The Lujáns

The Lujáns include current Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D) and former state health secretary Michelle Luján Grisham (D), who is about to join him in Congress. Ben Ray’s father, Ben, was speaker of the state House, and Michelle’s grandfather, Eugene, was chief justice of the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, a distant Republican relative, Manuel Luján, served as a longtime congressman and later as U.S. secretary of the interior, and his father of the same name was mayor of Santa Fe.

But the Lujans have not always had it easy when it comes to building a dynasty. Back in 1988, Manuel Lujan tried to hand off his ABQ congressional seat to his brother Edward who was soundly defeated in the GOP primary.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2012
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