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Monday, December 03, 2012

Is It Campos To End Coalition? Senate Drama Builds, Stakes High For Dems And Guv, Plus: Hispanics & The GOP; The Readers Write, And: Roasting Rebecca  

Senators Jennings, Campos & Smith
Let's update the big political story. Cautious optimism continues to prevail among state Senate Democrats hoping to end the coalition of conservative Dems and Republicans that holds major sway in the 42 member Senate.

They say that Senator Pete Campos of San Miguel County--a top candidate for Senate President Pro Tem--is slowly grinding it out and that they see the 25 Dem Senators "leaning" his way with this Saturday's caucus now in sight. But the dynamics of any caucus are delicate, with horse trading over committee assignments and other valuables always in the background. In other words, it doesn't take much to upset the apple cart.

Key questions: Will all 25 Senate Dems show up at the caucus? They need a total of 22 to elect a pro tem without GOP support. If the caucus can't unite behind one candidate this weekend and announce that to the New Mexican public then we could be headed for a floor fight over renewing the coalition.

This decision over who will be Pro Tem--the key player in handing out Senate committee assignments--is seen as one of the most crucial political decisions of any recent Legislature.

Dem Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings of Roswell was supported by all the Senate Republicans and a healthy dose of conservative Dems. It set a conservative tone, helpful to Governor Martinez who was not faced with the unpleasant task of having to decide on controversial legislation that reached her desk. The coalition has meant gridlock and gridlock--while maddening to many--is good for a GOP governor who paints the Legislature as the bad guy.

Of course, coalitions could and probably would still form in the Senate over specific legislation, but defeating the Pro Tem coalition would show party unity and discipline and pave the way for the same on key Dem bills.

While a busting of the coalition is seen greatly benefitting the Dems, the Pro Tem post is elected by all Senators. Campos is seen as being able to build bridges to them thus his candidacy is getting some momentum.

So it really is all on the line for the state Democratic Party and Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez who so handily triumphed over his Governor-supported election foe. If Campos or another non coalition Dem can't pull off a Pro Tem win it will be a major win for Martinez who unwittingly unified the Dems by unleashing her political consultant to run negative legislative campaigns across the state. But that new found unity has to withstand the challenging atmospherics of a Senate caucus and the recent historic tilt toward Senate conservatism.

Sanchez can rely on his brother--former House Speaker Raymond Sanchez for advice--but this is the big test of his political career and he will have to carry the day. If he at all wavers the smell such weakness generates would waft across the state. The state's majority party would have again been outfoxed by the minority R's, legislation that would pit the Governor on the spot will stay stuck in the Senate and her re-election prospects for 2014 would be strengthened tremendously. And that's why this relatively obscure battle for an insider Senate position is being watched by power players and politics from coast-to-coast.

(We haven't talked much about Susana outfoxing everyone by crafting compromise legislation on key issues getting it to her desk. That's not been her style or desire. She has insisted on the no compromise path and failed to remove legislators in the recent campaign who she maintained stood in her path. That path remains blocked but she can still fall back on a compromise strategy to change the narrative if the Legislature starts to move against her).

HOUSE ACTION

Over on the House side the drama is much less, but still interesting. Kenny Martinez of Grants has no opposition in his bid to become the next Dem House Speaker, but the #2 post--majority leader--has them buzzing. Kenny is giving up that post and the vacancy has attracted the interest of at least four members of the 38 member state House. They are Debbie Rodella from Rio Arriba County and three ABQ Democrats. And therein lies the rub. As the lone non-ABQ Rep vying for the posts she  is emerging with some muscles as the three big city reps may be splitting up votes.  Those three are Reps. Rick Miera, Gaily Chasey and Miguel Garcia. But maybe they all don't take it down to the wire and a vote. If it's Debbie versus one or two--not three-something might happen. We'd describe this race as fluid.

HISPANIC POLITICS

Lots of reaction to our Friday blog. We talked about the need of the state GOP to broaden it appeal with Hispanic voters and quoted longtime GOP activist Marge Teague. And we ran a letter from a friend of former Dem Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, defending her against allegations of corruption that were recently dismissed because the judge said too much time had elapsed since she had been indicted. First, some thoughts on Hispanics and the GOP from a Valencia County R:

While I agree entirely that a more inclusive attitude concerning the Hispanic population in the GOP is necessary, I have to point out that we elected an Hispanic Governor, Lt Governor and Secretary of State in 2010. All Republicans. I don't believe that this is duplicated anywhere else in the country. They have the potential of being, and in many respects already are, the role models for the young Hispanic population. All coming from poverty or very poor situations and making it to the top. This is a real, on the ground, demonstration of inclusion of Hispanics in the Republican Party. It sure looks like a good start to addressing that issue here in NM. to me.

In this culture of poverty and low educational expectations we really need to reach out. I certainly know this personally from traveling with John Sanchez when he was a candidate. An example of that took place in Moriarty when a young Hispanic girl ran up to John and gave him a hug and thanked him for giving her the confidence to believe that if she worked hard and did the right things, she too could escape the cycle of rural poverty as he did. Everyone there was truly moved, especially John.

We pointed to the election of native Republican Hispanic Monica Youngblood  to an ABQ westside state House seat as an example of how the GOP is making some progress, but not everyone agreed,including this GOP reader in ABQ 

Marge Teague is right about the GOP needing to recruit Hispanic candidates. Yes, we need more of them and we also need more to participate in the operation of the state party. But what we don’t need is more candidates like Monica Youngblood. I was talking with a couple of her soon-to-be colleagues who totally agree she’s going to be nothing more than a puppet of Gentry/McCleskey. So as a Hispanic, I’m completely appalled that she’s somehow seen as an example of the “solution.”

Bottom line, we need more non-dark side Hispanics who are smart independent thinkers and who will stand up to the BS.  The worst thing the party establishment can do is to recruit more empty suits like Susana and Monica.

The Gentry the reader references is ABQ GOP State Rep. Nate Gentry, recently chosen as House Minority Whip. Jay McCleskey is the Guv's controversial political adviser who ran a political action committee that spent millions on the recent legislative races.

And reader Gerald Pacheco says Youngblood is not the new blood the party needs:

Monica Youngblood is the exact opposite type of face Republicans need to attract Hispanic and Latino Voters.  Youngblood is from the Nora Espinoza wing of the Republican Party. The only way she won the Republican Primary was through courting far right wing evangelical voters like herself.  She built a strong alliance with failed US House candidate (and ABQ City Councilor) Dan Lewis and the ultra-right machine. Monica Youngblood is to Hispanics and Latinos as Alan Keyes is to African Americans--out of touch with their communities values.

Nora Espinoza is a GOP Roswell state representative with ties to the hard right of the state GOP via outgoing Roswell State Senator Rod Adair.

In fairness to Lewis, he has not been all "ultra-right." He is the lone GOP councilor who supported having the Department of Justice investigating possible civil rights abuses in the ABQ police department.

TEXAS EXAMPLE

PhotobucketAnother Republican reader--we have them with them across New Mexico and the USA--sends this
report from the Politico about the GOP and Hispanics in Texas and says there's something for NM Republicans to learn from:

This is a good piece which begs the question why a state with a higher Hispanic population, a longer history of Hispanic political participation and an Hispanic governor and lieutenant governor can't do the same. From the article:

In a state that’s nearly 40 percent Hispanic, all statewide offices are held by Republicans; about 700 new Hispanic delegates went to the party’s convention last summer; Ted Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant, has just been elected to the U.S. Senate; and George P. Bush—who is of Hispanic descent—looks primed for a statewide run. In interviews, a dozen party leaders, operatives, businessmen, elected officials and others said Texas could serve as a model for national Republicans looking to draw more Hispanics into the fold. They point to a proven Lone Star recipe that combines policies aimed at assisting immigrants, mixed with an effective political ground game and outreach - all of it glued together by welcoming language that embraces the Latino population and its concerns. And, those involved say, the Texas GOP has largely avoided miring itself in anti-immigrant legislation and sharp-edged words and phrases that have turned off Latino voters nationally, particularly in the last election cycle.

MORE ON THIS

All this talk about GOP and Hispanics is certainly justified. Look at these numbers from the November election:

A poll released Friday by a national Latino research organization  said President Obama captured 77 percent of the Hispanic vote in New  Mexico, a powerhouse showing that enabled him to carry the state. The same percentage of Hispanics voted for U.S. Sen.-elect Martin Heinrich,  also a Democrat, according to the election-eve poll by Research for  Latino Decisions. The company calls itself the country's leading Latino  opinion research firm. Obama defeated Republican Mitt Romney in  New Mexico by 9 percentage points. Heinrich's margin over Republican  Heather Wilson, a former congresswoman from Albuquerque, was 5 points.

REBECCA MAIL

Now to the mail on Rebecca Vigil Giron and the use of federal voter funds that were at the center of the corruption scandal Robert Carroll writes:

I will never forget the endless TV commercials with Rebecca Vigil-Giron saying that for more information “you can go to my website.” I remember thinking that this woman believes that she owns the Secretary of State’s office and that she was destined for corruption trouble. As for the Attorney General failing in another prosecution...par for the course with him.

And another reader asserts:

They (Vigil Giron and others indicted) were manipulating and using that federal money for the sole purpose of boosting her profile for future office....She was looking at Governor's office or Congress. 
It was so blatant at the time a lot of people have forgotten the barrage of those horrible images of her day in and day out.

State charges against Vigil-Giron have been dismissed. Federal charges are pending against several who worked with Vigil-Giron. She does not face federal charges.

THE BOTTOM LINES

From the wires:

Gov. Susana Martinez will help kick off the rest of the holiday season in New Mexico with the lighting of the state Christmas tree at 5 p.m. today. The ceremony will take place outside the state capitol in Santa Fe...The ceremony will include music from the New Mexico National Guard 44th Army Band, and a Santa Fe-based Girl Scout troop will be serving apple cider and biscochitos, New Mexico's state cookie.....

The Guv will appear on the conservative Fox News Channel at 8 p.m. tonite with Greta Van Sustern who spent a day with Martinez and posted some pics of the Guv's childhood home in El Paso...

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2012
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