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Friday, November 30, 2012

The State GOP Needs Hispanics In Its Future; Activist Urges Them To Go Get 'Em, Plus: In Defense Of Rebecca; Friend Of Former SOS Weighs In On Corruption Case Dismissal 

Rep.-elect Youngblood
The New Mexico Republican party is going to need a lot more Monica Youngbloods if it is going to be competitive in the years ahead. Youngblood (Monica Lopez) is the ABQ native elected to the new House District 68 on ABQ's Westside. Youngblood and Governor Martinez should be great recruiting examples for the GOP. They don't want to end this era like Tiger Woods. He elevated African-Americans to an entirely new level in the world of golf, but it did not result in more African-American golf professionals.

Veteran Republican Marge Teague is one of those giving thought to this challenge as the state's Hispanic population is poised to break through the 50% mark in just a few years:

The Republican Party has been remiss in including Hispanics in every aspect of its structure. In the mid-80's and early 90's we saw far greater participation among Hispanics in our Wards, Precincts, and County parties. When Los Alamos, Lincoln and Chaves counties became Republican majority counties during the 1980's, our voter registration activities were superb all over the state.

We need young Hispanic recruitment.  I am pleased to note that in my newly re-districted House District 68, we had two very bright, young, go-getter Hispanic women with families running for that seat against two Anglo men.  This should be repeated a thousand times each election for every office.
 
We need young Hispanic women as well as Hispanic men to serve as elected officials.  The Governor is our role model and we should be capitalizing on that each day.

Youngblood defeated three challengers in the GOP primary, including another Hispanic woman--Claudette Chavez-Hankins.

Republicans have a prime opportunity to get more Hispanics on their team. Governor Martinez controls the levers of state government and has a lot of jobs to fill.

The two candidates running for GOP chairman in next month's election are both Anglo males. Whoever wins might want to take Teague aside for a long talk. Besides recruitment, they may also want to talk about those tough-talking GOP polices that have turned off many Hispanics.

IN DEFENSE OF REBECCA

To the email now and a defense of former Democratic Secretary of State Rebeca Vigil-Giron. Corruption charges leveled against her by NM Attorney General Gary King were recently thrown out because she had been charged three years ago and the case still had not gone to trial. Reader Kidron Lewis writes from Washington, DC:

I wrote you back in 2009 about Rebecca Vigil-Giron's indictment and how many holes I thought were in the case. Today I am writing to express my support for Judge Sheppard's recent decision to throw out the New Mexico AG's case against Vigil-Giron. In full disclosure, I have known Rebecca for quite sometime, as I worked with her in Washington when she was head of the National Association of Secretaries of State, and she spoke at the 2006 Texas Democratic Convention which I attended. I am originally from west Texas.

When King's office was unable to prosecute the case due to a judge's ruling citing "perceptions of a conflict of interest" not one single New Mexico District Attorney stepped up and took on the case. I think that tells you a whole lot about how strong of a case it actually was, that the state had to offer a giant sum of money and take bids from private attorneys to handle it, and even then they still couldn't move the case to trial in a timely manner. Rebecca waited for over three years to get her day in court. 

...Some may wonder why Gary King would go after a fellow Democrat on trumped up charges. Well one possible motivation is if you have higher ambitions. Being able to say that you took a high-profile member of your own party down for corruption makes for a great campaign ad. Now I'm not suggesting that King deliberately set out to malign an innocent person, but I do think that he was very likely blinded by his own ambitions, and therefore didn't look at the evidence as objectively as he should have. That, or he was misled by some of the attorneys on his staff about how much evidence was really there, or both.

Either way, he's got some 'splainin to do, because now he has cost the state of New Mexico who  knows how much money on this, and has ruined the  reputation of a fellow Democrat who from what I can tell, was a decent public servant with a pretty distinguished record before this happened; yet it seems that he still won't face reality, and is rooting though his office for an appeal. Give it up Gary. It's like we say back in  Texas, "when you're in a  hole... stop diggin'."

Does the dismissal of the charges against Rebecca because of the long delay mean there is no case against her? Vigil-Giron supporters say yes. Detractors say no.

THE BOTTOM LINES

In breaking the news Thursday about Rep-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham's new chief of staff we said Rep. Rose De Lauro was from Florida. A reader said: "Perhaps you mixed her up with Cuban born Rep. Ileana Ros-Lethian who is from South Florida?"

Indeed, we did. Grisham's new chief of staff was born in Havana, Cuba and that must have put us on the Florida track...

Thanks for stopping by this week.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Blog Headlines: Coalition or Not? State GOP Chair Candidates Flee Jay, Darnell Says Not Planning On Leaving Susana, And: Dem Munoz Defends Pact With Barela 

Working the Beat
Welcome back. Here's what we're hearing..Behind the scenes maneuvering continues, but top Dems are increasingly confident that the state Senate coalition of Republicans and a handful of Dems is dead. They say 5 Dems would have to break ranks to continue the existing coalition and they just can't see it happening--at least not now. The 25 Senate Dems caucus December 9 and that's when we'll know for sure....

On December 8th state Republicans decide who will be the new state party chair and the early betting line is on Lincoln County GOP Chairman John Billingsley. He is facing off with John Rockwell, owner of an ABQ engineering company.

Rockwell is playing defense, He sent out a letter in which he worked to separate himself from Jay McCleskey, the Governor's powerful and controversial political adviser:

Many times I have been asked what involvement I had in some of the nastier races during the last election.  I have had no involvement.  I have met the Governors political advisor and talked to him prior to this campaign.  The state party Chairman and the Governor have different roles.  The state party will support the Governor and all Republican office holders.  We would not serve as anyone's puppet.

Billingsley made it clear he is not in the McCleskey camp and has been picking up steam in the split GOP because of it. Kinda interesting that the candidate seen as the most anti-Jay is perceived as the front-runner...

Another key point of contention: Who would do the best job raising money for the party?

Dona Ana County theatre owner Russell Allen, mentioned as another possible chair contender, now tells friends he is not running. Whoever wins will replace current GOP chairman Monty Newman.

SANTA FE AND SHERYL

In Santa Fe...Spectators wonder about ABQ Dem State Rep. and House Majority Whip Sheryl Williams-Stapleton. She had a rough year, but survived her re-election bid. So what about her leadership post? Is that also safe when House Dems caucus? From a Senior Alligator:

Stapleton would by now be positioned for logical move up the ladder to majority leader from whip, but she has, of course, had many troubles and so will be happy to hold on as Whip. In the last two elections she has narrowly won that position over Thomas Garcia, but he is now gone. House Speaker Lujan worked  against Stapleton in the past but is also now gone.

So does that mean Sheryl goes unchallenged for whip when the Dems caucus? Not necessarily, but it means she is favored to keep the post.

MOVING AND SHAKING

Staying or leaving? Alligators reported with confidence here that Guv communications aide Scott Darnell and his wife Alex Valdez Darnell, director of operations for Martinez, will soon leave the Fourth Floor, but the Santa Fe Reporter comes with this:

Blogs have reported that Darnell and his wife, Alexis Valdez Darnell, the administration’s operations director, are also departing. He writes in an email to SFR that the two are not, in fact, planning to leave...

Okay, we'll see what that means. "Not planning to leave..." Hmm. The Fourth Floor also said Deputy Chief of Staff Ryan Cangiolosi had no plans to leave but soon after he left for a job at the University of New Mexico Hospital. And, of course, we would have asked Darnell directly about his plans but the communications aide doesn't care to communicate. Go figure...

Attorney John Blair--a key aide to US Rep. Martin Heinrich--now Senator-elect Heinrich--will not be making the walk across the Capitol to join Heinrich. Blair confirms he has taken the chief of staff post with Representative-Elect Dan Kildee of Michigan. Blair served as legislative director for Heinrich who was elected to the House in 2008. Blair is well-known in ABQ. He once ran for state Senate and is a longtime Dem activist. Also from Capitol Hill in DC....

Insiders say a native of Havana, Cuba will be the new chief of staff for ABQ Dem US Rep-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham who is replacing Heinrich in the House. Leticia Mederos was previously chief of staff for Rep. Rose DeLauro of Connecticut. Lujan Grisham is the first Hispanic female to serve in Congress from New Mexico.

WHY HE SIGNED

Sen. Munoz
We wondered recently why Dem State Senator George Munoz of Gallup would sign off on a series of economic development proposals touted by the Martinez administration. He did so in an op-ed piece he co-authored with Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela. Munoz tells us:

I  am a businessman and understand the needs of small business. When I ran for re-election my focus was on the economy and education. My concern is for my constituents not politics. I told my constituents that I do not want to  be 49th in jobs or education ever again. While I am not an educator, I am married to one, and having two children in the public education system I get my lessons at home. I know my children’s teachers personally and they are some of the greatest teachers but I want to see our state do better in educating all students. When it comes to passing a balanced approach to job creation, it is not  about me as a Democrat...It is about putting people back to work and being competitive with our neighboring states...New  Mexicans didn’t elect us to fight; they elected us to work to solve the hard issues...

Barela and Munoz are calling their proposals the "New Century Jobs Agenda." However, while Munoz says education policy was a reason he signed up with Barela, the op-ed piece does not offer any education proposals. It does suggest cutting corporate income taxes as a way of spurring job creation.

The pair say that their agenda evolved from the New Century Economy Summit convened by the Economic Development Department and facilitated by New Mexico First, a nonprofit policy group.

One assertion we are going to pick a bone with. The duo say that, "In less than two years, the state’s $500 million deficit has been converted into a projected $270 million surplus without raising taxes on job creators and workers...

First, the state did not face a $500 million single year deficit if that's what Munoz and Barela are saying. Second, the budget shortfall in state government was indeed solved in part with a tax increase. The 2010 Legislature approved a quarter cent increase in the gross receipts tax that brings in millions.

THREE TIMES

A reader wonders how we could blog that Governor Martinez has asked three times that the law allowing undocumented immigrants to get a state driver's license be repealed when she has had only  two legislative sessions. The answer is because she also asked for the repeal in a special legislative session. Come January she will make her fourth official effort to get the licenses repealed.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Shoe Drops; Feds Announce APD Probe; What's The Political Impact? How We Got Here And Where We May Be Headed; Our Special Coverage, Plus: Say What, Susana? 

Mayor Berry
It's about time. That's the most common refrain we heard in the hours after the US Justice Department announced at a news conference Tuesday that it would investigate the use of excessive force by the ABQ police department.

Those who had been waiting for the Feds to make a move had a point. Even as the long-awaited probe was being made official, headlines were again screaming of the latest misadventure of one of ABQ's finest. And the news also blasted forth the latest dismal ABQ jobs report, reminding us that the police department isn't the only crisis that faces City Hall.

Fortunately, this latest APD incident wasn't a police shooting but there have been 25 of them since 2010--17 of those fatal. It was that bloodshed combined with a lengthy series of other abuses revealing a diseased police culture that prompted the Feds to come in. After years of shocking shootings and head-shaking incidents, it is clear Justice decided there were more than just a few bad apples at APD. And not a few cops also believe it, supporting a federal probe in a recent union survey.

(The statement of Assistant US Attorney General Perez is here. The Justice Department news release is here. Reaction to the investigation by relatives of police shooting victims is here. Reaction from ABQ Police Chief Schultz is here.)

The constant flow of unhappy news from the 1,000 member department forced us and others months ago to advocate for a Justice probe and also declare that the usefulness of Chief Ray Schultz--at the helm since 2005--was at an end and that he should be replaced. The plea to replace Schultz has been ignored by Mayor Richard Berry, but the questionable use of police power and authority that has plagued our city will not be ignored by the United States government. And that is how it should be.

THE POLITICAL IMPACT

In response to the official announcement of a civil rights probe of APD Mayor Berry was quick to say that he and Schultz have implemented dozens of changes and that they welcome the probe. Well, maybe, but politically the Republican Mayor has to welcome this investigation about as much as ants at a picnic. (The mayor's complete statement on the DOJ probe is here).

The investigation could take as long as two years, creating headlines that could play a major role in the 2013 mayoral race. Berry's popularity has been sky high but suddenly things look different. He presides over a Democratic city and this investigation could give a strong Democratic challenger just enough momentum to oust the incumbent.

The trouble for the Dems is far from relieved by the Justice probe. If they fail to unite behind one candidate, Berry could, as he did in 2009, again win. If the R's remain solidly behind him but two strong Dems or more split their party's vote Berry's path to victory remains clear. His problem? Berry must get 40% of the vote to take the race without a run-off. In a run-off with the top Dem vote getter he is likely to lose.

HOW WE GOT HERE

Schultz & White
When Mayor Berry took over we repeatedly warned that his decision to allow then-Public Safety Director Darren White to bypass the city's Chief Administrative Officer and exercise command and control over the chief of police was unprecedented and dangerous. Previously the Chief reported to the CAO. The City Council, Mayor and the mainstream media largely pooh-poohed the warning. White was later forced to resign and now the federal investigation. (CAO David Campbell resigned in part because he had been pulled from the APD power chain in favor of White).

By ceding control of the APD to his controversial Public Safety Director, Mayor Berry may have sent a signal to the rank and file officers that they had a very long leash. His decision to keep Chief Ray Schultz on the job when he took over--at the urging of White--is now one that Berry will be forced to answer for in the coming campaign.

For his part Schultz is using the federal probe as an excuse to stay on the job, saying to leave now would look like he was trying to get off the hook. (Don't worry, Ray. We'd get along just fine).

ABQ GOP City Councilor Dan Lewis, who broke with Berry last year and called for a Justice Department investigation of APD, says Schultz needs to go. Lewis will take over the presidency of the City Council next month, presenting another challenge for Berry.

When Darren White left the 11th Floor and the lines of authority were reestablished between APD, Mayor Berry and Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry, we looked for things to quiet down. They didn't. The warped culture that sent the department off the tracks continued, as did the repeated instances of officer infractions.

The Feds say this is a civil investigation, not "criminal." But one can lead to the other mighty fast. This kind of probe can also turn friend against friend. The Feds arrival here is also going to prompt requests for them to investigate other APD actions that are not the result of excessive force. For example, the circumstances in the aftermath of the death of noted defense attorney Mary Han.

We expect Darren White will be taking time off from his Downs at ABQ job to answer to a higher authority for the decisions he made. So will the array of deputy chiefs and others who enabled the culture of a police department that went so far astray.

It is not just Berry and Chief Schultz who shoulder responsibility for letting APD decline to its present disheveled state. The complicit ABQ City Council and the state Democratic Party are also culpable. Neither provided a check on executive power that could have led to department reform and perhaps meant fewer police shootings. The daily newspaper was also late in catching on, but came on strong when it finally came to the story. However, the steadfast refusal of its editorial pages to call for the resignation of Schulz may have contributed to the delay in cleaning up the mess. 

For the next year the Department of Justice will be the "shadow mayor" in ABQ. What they discover and how it's digested will play a major role in who becomes the real mayor in October of 2013.

A FINANCIAL HIT?

If Justice mandates reforms in APD, how much will they cost? Add what ever it is to the millions in lawsuits the police shootings are costing us. And don't forget all the cops who are retiring at the end of the year because of fear over changes in their retirement plan. We could drop below 900 officers at the end of the year. You might save money by hiring fewer officers, but you would then have to cover the deficiency through expensive overtime. And then there's the issue of response time that comes up with fewer cops on the force. And who will want to sign up for APD when it is under the federal gun? You're going to have to pay to attract top-notch recruits.

All of this comes as we digest the news that city tax collections for the first four months of the budget year put us on the path for having a $10 million dollar budget deficit for the fiscal year.

ANOTHER VIEW

Retired APD Seargent Dan Klein has contributed his views here on APD for several years. We asked him for some thoughts on the big story:

 When I saw Schultz and Berry standing with the DOJ at the press conference I thought "finally they are going to take responsibility and accountability for what has been going on at APD." Wrong.  Schultz should have clearly stated that he has been chief for 7 years and accepts 100% accountability for the DOJ investigating his department. Instead he makes it sound like he is a brand new chief who recently came aboard and is working to clean things up....Berry's job is to make sure the citizens are represented. The citizens expect him to hold city employeed accountable when things like this happen. I didn't hear any of that from Berry.  He did not hold Schultz accountable.  In fact I wonder why Schultz and Berry were even there as they fought for months to keep the DOJ out.  


Berry is showing a lack of leadership by not holding Schultz accountable. That will effect him in the upcoming election.  That is if he runs.  Could this end his campaign before it even begins?  If Berry continues to not hold Schultz accountable for his police department then he may not run in 2013. 

Finally from us on this story, a DOJ probe exposing the faults of the city's police department can't be good for our efforts to attract business--at least not in the short run. But if the investigation restores confidence and cleanses the department of its toxic elements, it will be very good for business in the long run.

SAY WHAT, SUSANA?

Are we missing something? In the wake of the defeat of Mitt Romney who failed to attract significant Hispanic support, Governor Martinez says, "she advised Republicans to craft “positive” instead of punitive ideas for immigration reform and drop the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric."

Has Martinez's rhetoric been "positive" when it comes to repealing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants? Was her rhetoric not "anti-immigration" when she successfully accused Allen Weh, her 2010 GOP Guv foe, of favoring "amnesty" for illegal immigrants?

Both of these points are ignored when Martinez is asked how the GOP can attract more Hispanic support.

Also, there is the question of Susana's own electoral success with Hispanics. There isn't much polling out there on how she did in 2010. One exit poll we recall had her getting 38% of the Hispanic vote, respectable but not epic. George W. Bush managed about 40% in NM in his 2004 election.

The Governor insists that it is the "tone" and the "rhetoric" that is driving Hispanics to the Dems. But what about policy. Changing that would mean accepting a compromise on the driver's license issue and reappraising her views on how undocumented immigrants already in the US can stay here legally.

"Tone" and "rhetoric" do matter, but it is what you believe and propose that matter more.

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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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Monday, November 26, 2012

John Sanchez: Watch Your Back; Possible GOP Primary Foe To Light Guv Already Surfacing, Plus: Yates Vs. McCleskey; Nasty GOP Split Playing Out In Open 

Randy Baker
Lt. Gov. Sanchez
Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez is no stranger to the treacherous waters of La Politica and he may soon be wading in them again.

Even though we are only days from the conclusion of Campaign '12, the positioning and power playing for '14 is well underway.

For Sanchez, our Alligators report that could mean facing a serious challenge for the 2014 GOP lieutenant governor nomination--if he indeed decides to go for a second term and forgo a run at the '14 Republican US Senate nomination.

The name already surfacing as a possible challenger to Sanchez is Randy Baker, vice-president and chief operating officer at DRB Electric, the ABQ based company owned by his wife Denise Baker.

It's no secret that Sanchez has been frozen out of the Martinez administration. Even though they were paired as the 2012 GOP ticket, the relationship was frosty from the beginning. The Guv's political team made it clear that that they did not want him. But he won the primary handily and ascended to the state's #2 spot.

The Martinez-Sanchez victory was the first by an all Hispanic gubernatorial ticket.

Now Sanchez could face a well-funded challenge from Baker who has said nothing officially but has been talking up a possible candidacy, say our GOP Gators.

The Bakers are major friends of Martinez. Susana named Randy Baker to the Constructions Industries Commission where he became chairman. Denise Baker was appointed chair of the New Mexico Finance Authority by Martinez but had to resign in July when she was  busted for DWI. Subsequently, the agency imploded in a major scandal.

Yes, it is somewhat astonishing that we are hearing chatter of a coup attempt against Sanchez so soon after the Governor's major political setbacks in November. She was unsuccessful in changing the composition of the Legislature, even though the PAC operated by her team spent millions. And GOP unrest is growing in the wake of those results, with calls for Martinez to stop challenging fellow Republicans and to rein in her aggressive political consultant Jay McCleskey.

Still, Martinez is nothing if not relentless and her prosecutorial political personality is a hallmark of her first two years. Sanchez will have to watch his back.

SURVIVING SUSANA

It's not as if Sanchez isn't aware of the back room treachery that is apparently under way. He just announced more mobile office hours for the office of Lt. Governor, keeping his profile up and asserting his independence from the administration that has kept its doors closed to him.

The news:

Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez is pleased to announce a series of “Mobile Office Day” hours beginning next week, with stops in Santa Rosa, Tucumcari, Clovis, Portales, Hobbs, Carlsbad, Artesia, and Roswell. At each stop, Lieutenant Governor Sanchez will be available to meet with constituents and provide assistance with issues related to state government.

Sanchez made a brief run for the 2012 GOP US Senate nomination, but quickly folded his tent in the face of a strong challenge by Heather Wilson.

That campaign hurt Sanchez with the political community because he seemed unfocused and disorganized, but the disarray did not seem to penetrate public consciousness, leaving Sanchez
a possible contender for another try. Could he decide he's had enough of being Light Guv and make another Senate dash by seeking the '14 GOP nomination for the right to take on Dem US Senator Tom Udall?

Sanchez, who owns a large ABQ roofing business, was the 2002 GOP nominee for Governor and friends of his say he has not given up that dream. That makes the run for Senate possible but questionable.

As for any Light Guv challenge from Baker, a Republican friendly to Sanchez says,

John is not intimidated. He has more than a decade in this game and knows how it is played. He is out in the state doing what you must do to keep your head above water."

That water Sanchez is keeping his head above is filled with sharks...and Alligators.

YATES VS. McCLESKEY

Harvey Yates
One of the more worrisome political splits facing Governor Martinez is the one between former New Mexico GOP Chairman Harvey Yates, Jr. and her chief political adviser Jay McCleskey. It is being played out in the pages of the state's newspapers and it seems likely that it's only the beginning of the public battles McCleskey faces.

Usually political consultants keep a low profile, but McCleskey is not your usual political adviser. His nickname "Shadow Governor" is well-deserved. But he is playing with political fire by deciding not to ignore Yates' recent criticism and bashing him back. In response to that critical op-ed from Yates, McCleskey retorts:

The ads were entirely factual, issue-based, and an accurate representation of the record, which is why the voters agreed and rejected (Roswell Dem State Senator) Tim Jennings. Unfortunately, Harvey Yates is using this campaign as an opportunity to lash out, because he is bitter about his lack of influence with the Martinez administration.”

"A lack of influence" with Susana? Is that Jay rubbing Yates' face in the dirt and letting it be known that he is the one with the influence? Sure sounds that way. And this after Yates in 2010 was widely accused of playing up Susana at the expense of her GOP primary challenger and former NM GOP Chairman Allen Weh. Those days seem so far away now, don't they?

McCleskey made a small fortune this cycle--as much as $500,000--according to our political experts--and maybe he's feeling his oats, but half a million is tip money for Yates. His family's SE NM oil company is on the sale block for billions. Still, Martinez is giving her political consultant free reign to take on whoever he wants. But it will be she who ultimately must deal with the strained relationships and the open warfare in the state GOP that is sure to follow.

In fact, it's already begun. We broke the news last week that Lincoln County GOP Chairman John Billingsley is openly running for state chairman as the anti-McCleskey candidate.

SHUFFLING THE DECK

A reader writes of the personnel shuffling underway in Governor Martinez's office:

Joe: Regarding your Wednesday November 21st blog titled "Fourth Floor Shuffle" watch for Dona Ana County District Attorney Amy Orlando to get a state appointment. Amy is Susana's friend who lost her re-election bid to Democrat Mark D'Antonio this month....

Orlando was chief deputy district attorney for Martinez who was Dona Ana district attorney before becoming Governor. Now that Orlando has lost and is in need of a job, Susana giving her one would be about as surprising as red chile on your tamale. (You do use red, don't you?).

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