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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dems Weigh Deals To Divvy Up Senate Power, House GOP Dumps Taylor As Leader, Plus: Dinelli Tiptoes Toward Mayor Run, And: A Patronage Play For Susana; Her Losing Judges Need Work 

Here's a deal that could put the state Dems back in the driver's seat in Santa Fe. The question is if State Senate Majority Leader  Michael Sanchez can pull it off and quash the coalition of R's and  a handful of Dems that control the powerful Senate President Pro Tem position.

It goes like this. When the 25 Senate Dems gather in caucus in early December they select Senator Pete Campos of Las Vegas as Pro Tem, Linda Lopez of ABQ as Senate Majority Whip and Carlos Cisneros of Questa as Caucus Chairman. Now, is everybody happy?

Well, probably not. There are a bunch of other Dems who see themselves as potential leaders and  conservatives are scurrying to keep the coalition alive. Their plan is to have Dona Ana County Dem State Senator Mary Kay Papen do the deed now that Roswell Dem Senator and coalition Pro Tem Tim Jennings was defeated in this month's election. The 80 year old Papen will need all 17 R's and five Dems to get to a majority of 22. It won't be easy.

But neither is it easy for Michael Sanchez to pull his Dems together to avoid the coalition which would play into the hands of Governor Martinez. Th time of  decision is drawing near. The behind-the-scenes action is turbulent.

HOUSE LEADERS

A coup on the GOP side of the aisle in the state House. Rep. Don Bratton of Hobbs prevailed over House Minority Leader Tom Taylor of Farmington, ousting Taylor from the top post at a Monday night ABQ caucus.

ABQ Rep. Nate Gentry was elected to Bratton's position as minority whip and Rep. Alonzo Baldonado of Valencia County was named caucus chair.

The GOP has been divided by the recent election. The shake-up in all three leadership posts could be seen as a sign of that.

Bratton, 65, a retired oil company engineer, is a good friend of southern GOP Congressman Steve Pearce, also retired from oil. He has been in the House since 2001.

Bratton is an old school conservative. Taylor not as much. Insiders say Bratton is less tied to the Governor and her powerful political adviser Jay McCleskey, but they don't expect any friction with Susana. Still, Bratton is tied to SE oil--the same as Harvey Yates, Jr., the former NM GOP chairman who is embroiled in a bitter and public dispute with McCleskey. It stems from the Governor and Jay successfully going after conservative Roswell Dem State Sen. Tim Jennings who Yates and others prominent in the oil industry supported.

Some Senior Alligator analysis:

"It appears the House Republicans think they need to be even more conservative as a result of the election. Also, there could be some retribution here against Taylor for the failure of the R's to take over the House from the Dems."

With some election results still not finalized, the state House has 38 Dems and 32 R's.

Taylor played a minor role in the House elections. It was the Governor through McCleskey who had the most fingerprints on the failure to capture the state House. The PAC run by Jay spent over $2 million.

In the whip race, Gentry beat out Reps. Dennis Roch of Texico and Candy Spence Ezzell of Roswell. Unlike Bratton, Gentry is firmly in the McCleskey camp.

TIPTOEING TOWARD

Pete Dinelli
Former ABQ Public Safety Director and attorney Pete Dinelli continues to make noise about running for Mayor in 2013. In a missive to Democratic party Central Committee members Dinelli, 60, outlines some of what he would run on:

I will be running on a platform of restoring confidence in public safety and promoting economic development for job creation. Albuquerque's Police and Fire Departments are in a complete staffing meltdown and their response times are up. 

During a 24 month period,  Albuquerque  had 25 police officer involved shootings with 17 fatalities. If elected, I intend to replace top management in the Police and Fire Departments...Albuquerque has had a 0% job growth rate for the last 3 years, unemployment has been a steady 8%  with 12%  unemployment among Hispanics. I will implement a comprehensive and aggressive economic development plan with an emphasis on job growth.

Dinelli, who served on the ABQ City Council in the 80's,  says he will make a final decision on a mayoral run in early January. The election is in October.

THE FIELD

So far there are no official candidates for the 2013 mayor's race. ABQ GOP Mayor RJ Berry is expected to seek re-election, Besides Dinelli, other possible Dem contenders include former Lt. Governor Diane Denish, State Treasurer James B, Lewis, ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez. Retired APD Senior Sargent Paul Heh is also eying a bid. Like Berry, he is a Republican.

In 2009, two Dem candidates split the vote, making Berry the first GOP mayor since the 80's. This time the Dems are going to try to get one major candidate. And who is in charge of getting that done?

PATRONAGE PLAY?

We blogged that outgoing Dona Ana County District Attorney Amy Orlando is a good bet to land a job with the Martinez Administration. The PAC run by the Guv's political adviser spent big bucks to try to get her re-elected, but voters chose the Dem contender. Martinez, who was the longtime GOP Dona Ana County DA before becoming Governor, also failed in her efforts to win elections for a number of judges she had appointed to the bench. That brings this reaction from reader Kathryn Carroll:

Susana will not only have to create a job for soon-to-be unemployed DA Orlando, the three judicial appointees she placed on the bench in the Third Judicial District (in Dona Ana County) will also be unemployed come January. She plucked her pals, Susan Riedel and Jacinto Palomino out of the DA's office a month after she took office in 2011, and then in April, 2012 she bestowed a judicial appointment on another former Deputy DA, Nelson Goodin.  All three got soundly defeated by their Democratic challengers, each of whom won by 56% or more of the vote on November 6th.
 

It is fair to assume that none will be returning to their old jobs back at the DA's office now that it is under the direction of newly elected Democratic DA Mark D'Antonio.  In addition to probably finding her buddy Amy Orlando a job on the state payroll, she could feel an obligation to find state-funded employment for both Riedel and Palomino.  Goodin, in the meantime, will ease back into the position of Chief Legal Counsel for the NM Taxation and Revenue Department, the job he held before the judicial appointment, thereby assuring he will remain on the state payroll.

Thanks for that, Kathryn, We'll see how right you are in the months to come.

THE BOTTOM LINES

From former ABQ Mayor Jim Baca who recently underwent knee surgery:

I remember back in the 50's when our family doctor would visit our home when some one was ill. Well, my surgeon who lives nearby came over on Sunday evening on his bicycle so he could check out my new knee.  I was supposed to see him in a couple of weeks but he will be gone all of December getting his own hip surgery.  He called before hand to see if he could bring us the last of his tomatoes from his garden. What a great guy. Worthy of a Rockwell painting.  He said I was progressing well.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2012
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