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Monday, January 21, 2013

The "C" Word Resurfaces: Will Susana Take License Compromise? Plus: Pearce Pounds The Unemployed, But Is He Reading The News? And: Radio Daze; KKOB-AM Leader Exits Amid Cost-Cutting, Also: Politico Fabian Chavez Dead at 88 

Sen. Stuart Ingle
It's getting interesting, this latest play on driver's licenses for undocumented workers.

For over two years it has been the be-all, end-all issue for Governor Susana. Will her national ambitions and a turn to the center for her 2014 re-elect make this the year she compromises and finally puts points on her legislative scorecard?

That point of view is gathering adherents because Senate Republican leader Stu Ingle has joined forces with Dem Senator John Arthur Smith to craft a bill that would not repeal the licenses but adopt a two-tier system like Utah's. It would not allow the undocumented to use their licenses for identification purposes.

The Guv's office says: "She will not sign any bill that continues the practice of giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants."

Is there any wiggle room in there? How about a bill that allows "permits" or is otherwise amended? Could she then bend?

Martinez has a very skimpy legislative record and her attempts to change the Legislature by using opposition to the licenses as a lawmaker litmus test produced mixed results for her in the November election. Taking a compromise would end an issue that everyone is sick and tired of and give her a legislative win.

House Speaker Martinez says the issue is so divisive that only a signal from the Guv that she is ready to work on a compromise is a reason to give the issue much attention this session.

The fact that Leader Ingle is pushing the compromise is significant. He has been somewhat estranged from the Guv. There was speculation last year that the Guv's political team was looking for a primary opponent for Ingle. Then there was that beating up of Republican Pat Woods by the Governor in favor of Wood's June primary foe. The Guv tried to paint Woods as soft on the license issue, but Woods beat Susana's candidate handily. Ingle and Woods are east side comrades

Is Ingles's push on a driver's license compromise a dig at the Guv? Is he telling her now is the time to resolve this issue that has so dominated the agenda during a time of economic decline? And is that what she will do by the end of the session? Stay tuned.

WAY OUT WASHINGTON

Rep. Pearce
What's with Steve Pearce? The southern GOP NM Congressman is always ultra-conservative but now he's beating up on the citizens he is elected to represent.

According to Steve, the jobs crisis in the state is caused by shiftless would-be workers who would rather be on welfare and shooting drugs than going to work.

He started the diatribe against the unemployed in a mostly ignored speech to the Legislature last week, but then he made the media rounds to emphasize his points.

Didn't Pearce hear the astounding news of the 7,000 applicants for 200 low-paying jobs at the new ABQ Target store? Lines at that job fair went down the block. Does Steve think that this throng believed it was lined up to get some free pot?

And hasn't he heard that people who can't find jobs in New Mexico have been leaving the state in droves? We are now one of the top five states for people moving away. Are all those folks headed out of here so they can get food stamps and heroin over in Texas and Arizona?

Pearce does make a valid point about drugs and the workforce--one we've made ourselves in  speeches. We do have too many workers who can't pass a drug test because we have one of the worst rates of substance abuse in the USA. But Pearce's answer is to have anyone receiving public assistance get a drug test, a proposal already declared unconstitutional.

Pearce says he's willing to help with drug abuse but that means putting more federal dollars in here for detox, education and intervention programs. Steve is not known for wanting to spread federal dollars around.

Pearce's message that the American people are becoming an indolent lot and losing "the habit" of work may play in selected precincts in the south, but taking it statewide is puzzling. It only reinforces all the reasons why Steve was never able to advance to the United States Senate.

Pearce and his staff may think they are being savvy and positioning Pearce well with his peripatetic media activity and his over-the-top take on the jobs crisis. They don't seem to understand that he risks becoming a diminished voice. And maybe he draws a stronger Dem opponent in '14? One Alligator suggests a conservative Dem like former Roswell State Senator Tim Jennings.

Meanwhile, Steve, How about less red meat and more on protecting Fort Bliss and White Sands from budget cuts?

RADIO DAZE

McConnell
A lot of things aren't the way they used to be as the Great Recession changes the very fabric of this state. Advertising is on that list and it's caused yet another local media casualty. Milt McConnell, the general manager of the station group that includes 50,000 watt talk radio giant KKOB-AM, is out.

McConnell is a victim of downsizing by the station's new owners--Cumulus Media--which is slashing jobs across the nation. They are especially targeting well-paid executives and radio talent. They either don't replace them or hire much lower-paid managers and talent.

The company is the nation's second largest operator of radio stations. It owns seven stations in the ABQ market, including KOB-FM and KRST-FM.

KKOB-AM has long specialized in conservative talk radio and positions itself as a reliable voice for the political right. It maintains the #1 rating in the ABQ market, although those ratings have suffered in recent years.

McConnell's departure was painted as a "resignation" but station insiders say McConnell--a well-respected voice in the city biz community--was a marked man once Cumulus' cost-cutters came to town. Earlier, the sales manager departed the station.

Revenue at KKOB-AM is said by our insiders to have peaked several years ago. Ongoing cost-cutting by present and past owners has kept the station in the black, but radio professionals like McConnell are becoming an extinct species.

What's next? Insiders think that national host Rush Limbaugh may be displaced from KKOB because Cumulus could save money by replacing him with one of their own syndicated talkers--like former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. He is currently heard in ABQ on Cumulus-owned 1050 KTBL-AM.

Bob Clark is the morning host at KKOB, Jim Villanucci mans the afternoon shift and Pat Frisch is the program director. We'll keep you posted.

FABIAN CHAVEZ

He was a major player in New Mexico's post World War II politics and widely regarded as one of the most effective State Senate Majority leaders in state history. But his quest for the top prize--the governorship--proved elusive. Still, Fabian Chavez who died over the weekend in Santa Fe at 88, accomplished more than his share--enough for a pretty good book about him.

Veteran Republican Bruce Donisthorpe recalls that when Democrat Chavez ran against incumbent Republican Governor Dave Cargo in '68, he used as his campaign slogan something along the lines of  "Fix the Ship; Unload the Cargo." Aah...the good old days.

Fabian lost that race by only 3,000 votes. He tried a congressional race two years later, but that also faltered.

Chavez, in the Legislature in the 50's and 60's, was instrumental in the founding of the UNM Medical School. He was a success as state Tourism Director and served in the Commerce Department under President Jimmy Carter and much, much more.

Journalist David Roybal wrote that book about Fabian--"Taking on Giants." You can find that here.  Newspaper man Steve Terrell calls Chavez "one of the great old lions of New Mexico politics. His report is here. Reporter Tom Sharpe comes with this indepth piece.

CAYETEANA (TANNA) ROMERO

Word comes to us of the passing of Cayetana (Tanna) Romero, a native of Algodones, who along with her husband Ed Romero represented the USA when he served as Ambassador to Spain. In addition, she was a businesswoman, philanthropist art collector and a contributor of her time to a myriad of boards of directors in the state, including the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

We had an extended conversation with her back in August at a dinner for Las Tres Amigas, a group dedicated to promoting New Mexico. She described to us her service in Spain and the contrast with her humble beginnings in Algodones. We don't know if she managed to get to finish the book she told us she wanted to write about her experiences, but her life is written large in the world of La Politica. Tanna Romero was 77.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Our condolences to former Dem State Senator Eric Griego whose brother Greg, 51, was slain along with his wife and three of their children in a horrific murder spree Saturday in ABQ's South Valley area.

Greg Griego's 15 year old son is charged with the murders. He allegedly used a "military-styleā€¯ assault rifle and other weapons

The murders are sure to usher in yet more gun control debate. Las Cruces blog reader Greg Lennes started it off, saying:

How long are we Americans going to put with the bogus arguments of the NRA and the Second Amendment junk? There are more deaths. This time it is  in New Mexico.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2013
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