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Monday, March 03, 2014

Roundhouse Retirements Keep Rolling In; Why So Many? Plus: Clements Stuns Weh At Preprimary In GOP US Senate Contest; Now What? And: Howie Trumps Rael In Petition Battle 

Even the prospect of becoming the majority party isn't enough to keep top House Republicans from saying adios to the Roundhouse. State House Minority leader Don Bratton--conceivably in line to become Speaker of the House--surprised La Politica Friday and announced he will not seek re-election this year.

Now our GOP Alligators confirm that Bratton will be joined in retirement by ABQ GOP Rep. Jim White who is serving his third term. They add that ABQ GOP attorney Jim Dines is collecting petition signatures in preparation for a run in the far NE Heights district.

The other Reps who have announced they will not seek re-election are Dems Ed Sandoval, Kiki Saavedra, Rick Miera and Ernie Chavez--all of ABQ. Dona Ana County Dem Nate Cote is also out. On the GOP side Anna Crook of Clovis, Tom Taylor of Farmington and Bill Gray of Artesia are retiring.

We may be headed for a record or near record for the number of retirements for this century. In 2012, 12 House members bailed out (13 got out in '98).

We don't expect ailing Dona Ana Dem Phil Archuleta to try for a return Roundhouse trip. That would bring the state House retirement total to 11. That's 15 percent of the 70 member chamber.

Bratton of Hobbs is 66 and has been in since 2001. Still, it was somewhat remarkable that the prospect of becoming Speaker or the head of a conservative coalition that would seize power from the Dems was not enough of a lure for him to stay.

Then again, the R's see their primary job as stopping the Dems from spending money and passing new programs. With a Republican Governor in office and poised for another four year run, what's the point of being there?  Her veto pen is plenty of protection. For Dems, they can't spend any big money and get anything of significance approved by the Governor and that serves as an added incentive for them to hit the road. With Martinez favored for re-election, it could be another four years of twiddling your thumbs.

THE NEW SANTA FE

There seemed to be near universal agreement among the Wall-Leaners that the recent legislative session was so dull and irrelevant it was worse than watching televised chess. The ennui was enough to induce hair-pulling among those who are inclined to actually pay attention--an increasingly small crowd these days.

It just doesn't seem relevant. Not when the state is facing epic social and economic transformation and Santa Fe seems--as one reader put it--"like a club for insiders that spends most of its time honoring local Mariachi groups and debating meaningless memorials."

Not that a couple of even really productive legislative sessions could solve the intransigent problems this state faces--we're nearly 50th in everything. But the lack of serious engagement--even denial--amid this new social and economic paradigm has given the Roundhouse a reputation for insularity that rivals that of the Congress.

Those retiring may miss the ego trips they get from those who must curry favor with them but they may be getting out while the getting is good. It seems the storied Roundhouse has few stories to tell these days that really matter to Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico.

GOP PREPRIMARY ACTION

Clements
Democrat Tom Udall is heavily favored for re-election to his US Senate seat this year, but could an unknown and younger foe give him a harder time than a well-known and older one? That's the question in the aftermath of the surprise showing of David Clements at Saturday's GOP preprimary convention.

Clements stunned Allen Weh, a former NM GOP chairman, by getting 46.83% of the vote to Weh's 53.17%. The raw vote total had Weh with 402 votes and Clements with 354. (Video of Clements' convention speech is here.)

Clements is a former chair of the Dona Ana County GOP. His campaign says he broadened his delegate support by traveling across the state to visit them. They say he won stronger than expected showings in the ABQ suburbs (Valencia and Sandoval counties) and in the north.

Clements, 34, is a former assistant district attorney in Las Cruces and a Republican libertarian. Weh, 71, is the establishment candidate who has been a prodigious fundraiser for the GOP but as party chairman made his fair share of enemies. That showed in his weak preprimary showing. Weh lost the 2010 GOP Guv nod to Susana Martinez.

Because he has independent wealth, he will have TV money for the June primary and still starts as the favorite. But Clements' strong preprimary showing might attract out-of-state conservative support and that could make this a real race to watch,

Udall is surely already watching. He knows what he gets with Weh but Clements is a different story. He is new and unpredictable. How he would play with the public at large is an open question. Certainly, Udall is already eyeing Clements' libertarian stance on Social Security and Medicare. . .just in case. . . .

BATTLE OF UNKNOWNS

It was the battle of the unknowns at the GOP preprimary when it came to ABQ congressional candidates Mike Frese and Richard Priem. Frese, a small business owner from Corrales who has run for elected office before, beat out Priern 63.6% to 36.4%. Priem is a program manager and corporate officer overseeing law enforcement training.

Priem has personal wealth that could be used for TV. That could make a difference as he looks to score back on Frese.

The winner of the June primary will take on Dem Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham who is heavily favored and who the national R's are not targeting.

ANATOMY OF AN UPSET

Weh
Weh told me that because he got in the race several months after Clements he was at a disadvantage cornering delegates, but added:

A win is a win. We are on the ballot--the first order of business.

Clements' campaign says he traveled 17,000 miles since announcing his candidacy in October.

Weh pointed out that a controversy stoked by Clements over allegations that the selection of certain Bernalillo County preprimary delegates had been rigged also hurt his showing. "The charges were refuted but they stuck with some," he said.

Weh took a mild swipe at Clements, saying, "the Ron Paul wing is trying to find a home in the Republican Party. It's a real problem."

Weh did not mention Paul's son, Kentucky GOP Senator Rand Paul, who is expected to run for President and who Clements will now hope will give him valuable fundraising assistance.

Clements hired aggressive DC consultants who some GOP insiders thought were too harsh, but nothing sells like success and they were successful as they relentlessly attacked Weh for being out of touch and for trying to rig the convention.

HOWIE TRUMPS LAWRENCE

Howie Morales said Lawrence Rael was biting off more than he could chew when he tried to get Howie kicked out of contention for the Dem Guv nomination by going to court to challenge Howie's petition signatures. Rael has had to withdraw that challenge after getting word from a judge that he was not going to win. That means we still have five Dem Guv hopefuls. In response to Rael losing the challenge Howie did not gloat--well, not too much:

. . . .Rael’s decision to withdraw his lawsuit challenging my petition signatures comes as no surprise. The democratic process is set up to maximize participation by voters, not to suppress their voices. As Democrats, we should always be fighting to have every person heard and today was a great victory for that cause...

But who--if anyone--among the five Dem candidates will have a "great victory" when the party has its preprimary convention in ABQ this Saturday? Too many, it still looks like a jump ball. . . .

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