Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ben Ray's Big Day; DC Dems Turn To A New Mexican To Drive National Hispanic Votes; Lujan To Chair DCCC; The Story, The Interview And The Analysis Are Right Here 

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan
You can cross Congressman Ben Ray Lujan off your Christmas list. There's no room left under his tree now that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has delivered to him one extra large political gift. She has handed him the chairmanship of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or as the insiders call it it the "D-Trip." And, oh my, what a trip it's going to be for the mild-mannered 42 year old Lujan. (Video here.)

Suddenly he is catapulted into the national spotlight and no doubt will soon be seen arguing with the talking heads on Fox News and commiserating with those on MSNBC. And Nancy says he's more than ready to lead the DCCC for the '16 cycle:

(Lujan) is really a focused operational person. He understands that getting out the vote is what this is and how we message to our base and how we message across the board to the persuadables and the rest. I’m choosing him because of his political astuteness, and he can manage all of this very well.

Some in DC questioned whether Lujan was ready for the upper rungs of the national political ladder. But Pelosi knows what New Mexico has come to know--it isn't much of a gamble to give the job to the fella who eats and drinks it.

We spoke with Rep. Lujan from Washington Monday night and asked him how this was one DC secret that didn't leak:

Leader Pelosi asked me only a week ago if I would be interested. I told her it would be an honor, whatever I could do to help my colleagues. I did tell my mom and chief of staff but otherwise kept it quiet. I got the call that made it official not long before we held the news conference.

Ben Ray learned his politics at the knee of his father, the late legendary NM House Speaker Ben Lujan. He spoke emotionally of him on a most fortuitous day his father did not live to see, but would not have been surprised at its arrival:

I shared with Leader Pelosi stories of my father's work ethic as an iron worker and as a representative and as Speaker. I am humbled by this but I know that dad's example of hard work and leadership will serve me well as it always has.

As for the actual job Rep. Lujan says it's all about getting higher voter turnout including here in New Mexico as the Dems work to put the '14 low turnout election behind them and prepare for the 2016 presidential derby.

No need to state the obvious, but we will for the record. The Hispanic vote is crucial to the Democratic Party in 2016. That vote is overwhelmingly Democratic but not always easy to get to the polls. That will be job one for Lujan, now a leading national Hispanic political figure.

Lujan was handily elected to his fourth, two year term this month garnering nearly 63% percent of the vote. He says "the focus will always be on my district" but he needn't worry about the extensive travel he will now undertake. His heavily Hispanic/Native American district in the North is locked down for him.

Lujan's appointment means many things. As we said, it makes him a national political figure--at least temporarily--and with a national forum (Hello, Susana), it makes him familiar to all DC House and Senate Democrats as well as key Dem fundraisers and donors from coast-to-coast. The prestige and contacts accrued could position him for leadership in the US House someday--if the Dems can reclaim the majority. Even without that majority Lujan's rise on the political ladder might mean New Mexico's concerns will fall on ears more willing to listen.

In the ongoing quest for power Hispanics today are the most sought after group by both parties. Ben Ray Lujan is now at the epicenter of the latest American political movement. Pretty heady stuff and not bad for a onetime blackjack dealer from Nambé. Wouldn't you say?


We blogged of how GOP sources informed us that at the recent House GOP caucus House Majority Leader Nate Gentry urged a vote for Rep. Zach Cook as party chairman. Now we learn that the Cook candidacy is a non-starter--nipped in the bud by soon-to-be House Speaker Don Tripp. The Cook candidacy set up a potential intraparty battle. Now the landscape is benign, with Torrance county Chair Rick Lopez seen as the favorite over IT consultant Max Barnett. . . In a first draft Monday we lumped Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richrd in with ABQ state House members. She is, of course, from the Los Alamos area. . .


Here we go again. Coming once again to a legislative chamber near you and with this twist in the background:

The fate of a little-noticed ballot measure in strongly Democratic Oregon serves as a warning to President Obama and his party about the political perils of immigration policy. Even as Oregon voters were legalizing recreational marijuana and expanding Democratic majorities in state government, they decided by a margin of 66-34 to cancel a new state law that would have provided driver's licenses to people who are in the United States illegally. Obama is considering acting on his own, as early as this week, to possibly shield from deportation up to 5 million immigrants now living illegally in the country. Some Republicans in Congress are threatening a government shutdown if the president follows through.

The R's--as they have for four years--are looking to repeal the NM law allowing undocumented  immigrants to get the licenses. A compromise floating would have them get permits to drive but not full fledged licenses that could be used for identification.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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