Thursday, July 17, 2014
Former Gov. Toney Anaya Splashes Into The Headlines; We Remember Him And The Pivotal Years Of '74, '82 And '86
Back in the mid-70's when Anaya was attorney general it was he who brought a multitude of charges against various politicos dealing with corruption and other wrongdoing. He parlayed that performance into the Governor's chair in 1982. Now it is Toney who is a prize on the wall of federal investigators.
Anaya first waded into ethical controversy long before he had transformed himself into the crusading post-Watergate attorney general. It was in the 60'swhen he was on the DC staff of Dem US Senator Joe Montoya. The late political columnist Fred McCaffrey recalled the episode:
At the time time Chinese seamen were jumping ship in U.S. ports, after their homeland was taken over by the Communists. Senator Montoya was among the handful of members in the upper chamber who introduced private bills to speed the sailors' acquisition of U.S. citizenship.
Anaya, then a Montoya aide, told a reporter that it was actually he who put he bills for that purpose into the Senatorial hopper. There was nothing wrong with that at the time--except for the persistent rumors, which went unproved, that money was being paid for the introduction of the bills.
The night he was elected attorney general in 1974 Anaya appeared at the victory party with Jerry Apodaca who led the ticket and was elected Governor. In our report for the UNM Daily Lobo we quoted Anaya--who was strenuously opposed by the ABQ Journal--as telling the crowd: "There are a few choice words that I think we would reserve for other times Jerry, that we may want to share with the news media but I think I'll hold those off to later."
In yet another great irony, it would be the Journal who lionized Anaya for battling political corruption and helped make possible his ensuing governorship.
Anaya left the Governor's office at the end of 1986 as probably the most unpopular governor in state history. The intervening years have done little to polish his image. But he did get a boost when Gov. Richardson put him in charge of the federal stimulus monies for the state following the Great Recession. It was hundreds of millions of dollars and Anaya by all accounts ably administered the funds. It might have been a career capper, if not for the SEC fraud charges.
THE GREATEST TWIST
In 1978, Anaya was the Democratic US Senate nominee and a real threat to Domenici who was seeking a second term and had not yet acquired his legendary status. The story is one of the great "what ifs" in state political history.
What if it had been disclosed during the campaign that Domenici had fathered an out of wedlock child with a twentysomething lobbyist who also happened to have been the daughter of fellow Republican US Senator Paul Laxalt? Given the tenor of those times there is little doubt that Domenici would have been forced to resign or suffer defeat at the polls. For all we know Toney Anaya would be holding that Senate seat to this day.
The law in 1986 limited Anaya to one term, but he went out with a bang that would forever define him as one of our most controversial governors. He decided at Thanksgiving time of that year to commute the sentences of all the prisoners on death row. I was at that news conference at the Guv's office when the announcement came. National media flew in for the occasion. I can still remember my lead for CBS Radio News: "Governor Toney Anaya today set off a political firestorm. . . " It was one for the books.
And in still another note of historical irony, decades later New Mexico's legislature would repeal the death penalty, proving Anaya to be ahead of his time.
Toney Anaya grew up dirt poor in Moriarty, NM planting in him a burning ambition. He streaked across La Politica like a comet that burned only briefly but oh so memorably.
The years were '74, '82 and '86. I was there. . . And that's how I remember it.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author