Monday, November 17, 2014

Dems Digging Out Of Hole Get A New Twist With Two Leadership Hopefuls, Plus: Naming Of New House Clerk gets Chatter Going, And: Sam Says Sayonara  

Rep. Louis
The search for fresh leadership to dig state Democrats out of the hole they've dug for themselves gets a new twist as two female minority state representatives emerge as contenders for NM House leadership posts.

ABQ Rep. Christine Trujillo has announced she is in the race for House minority leader. ABQ Rep. Georgene Louis, who told me in a phone interview she is running, is said by capitol insiders to be making inroads to claim the position of House minority whip. ABQ Reps Moe Maestas, Sheryl Williams Stapleton and Los Alamos area Rep Stephanie Garcia Richard are also seeking that slot.

The Dems were decimated by the loss of the state House to the R's for the first time in six decades. It could mean it's a jump ball when it comes to the minority leader post. Reps Egolf and Alcon are already seeking support and Trujillo's entry scrambles the math some more. There are 33 House Dems who will make the decisions. They will caucus this Saturday.

Trujillo, 60, has been one of the state's top labor union leaders and an unapologetic progressive. She has served as president of the American Federation Teachers-NM as well as president of the NM Federation of Labor-AFL-CIO. A Taos native, she was re-elected to a second term this month, taking 61% of the vote. . .

Rep. Trujillo
Big labor pumped a couple of million dollars into the state to try to save the House from the R's but it was to no avail. Now they face the prospect of right-to-work legislation gaining traction in the Legislature. Here's the letter in which Trujillo writes to her fellow Dem reps seeking their support as minority leader. An excerpt:

Now, more than ever, we need to be strong and stand firm for the poor, the working class – the men, women and children that don’t have the luxury of corporate lobbyists As Democrats, we should believe in the old adage, think globally and act locally. That’s why I’m writing to ask for your support for the position of Minority Leader of the New Mexico House of Representatives. I’m a life-long Democrat who’s spent my career working for Democratic values and fighting for working people.

And  Rep. Georgene Louis emerges as a contender to become House minority whip. Her advocates say she has just the kind of background needed to restore the street cred the Dems have lost with base voters. She is a native of Acoma Pueblo, a single mom, 36, who worked her way though the UNM School of Law.  First elected to her Westside district in 2012, she was re-elected this month with 56% of the vote. . .

That Trujillo and Louis are coming to the fore seems natural as the party deals with its crisis. Even though Hispanic and Native American women are pillars of the Democratic Party (a majority of the party is women) they have not been awarded prominent roles that would put them before the media and public. Their issues--education, wage inequality and early childhood development--are among the hot-button issues of the day. But with the R's in power the conversation has switched to right-to-work and voter ID and the like.. . .

Up in Colorado where the Dems are also grappling with a turned-off Dem base they named an all-female leadership team to the state House Friday. We'll see how much of that trend extends here. . .


The naming of Denise Greenlaw Ramonas as chief clerk of the NM House, replacing longtimer Steve Arias who was forced out by the new R majority, has the chatter going.

While Ramonas, an attorney, did indeed once work for Republican Senator Pete Domenici as legislative director, for the past decade she has served as chief of staff to Santa Fe business heavy Gerald Peters. He was one of the more influential and wealthy Democratic political players in the Big Bill administration.

One wag wondered aloud: "Do Peters and Bill get a set of eyes with this appointment?"

R's are not going to like that chatter, but it's a reality. The appointment has all the markings of being the handiwork of Majority Leader Nate Gentry--who also worked with Sen. Domenici--and not that of soon-to-be House Speaker Don Tripp.

The full House has to approve the appointment of Ramonas. R's have the majority and the appointment should be pro forma, but given the backdrop the vote will be closely watched. . .


To no one's surprise NM Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman--who presided over one of the worst statewide Democratic election performances in history--says he will head to the sidelines and not seek another term as party chair.

But many point out that Sam has been on the sidelines for most of the two years he has served. He started with bravado but quickly fell silent, prompting all sorts of speculation on just what happened to one of the most bombastic personalities state politics has produced.

The political parties have been stripped of much of their relevance by the advent of the super PACs that are now the vehicle of choice for big donors. But there is still a role for a party chair. That person can get free media to push the party cause, help set the narrative and be the attack dog against the opposition. . .

Early names for the new Dem chair--who will not be selected until next spring--are Deb Haaland, the Native American attorney who was the Dem Lt. Gov. candidate this year, and ABQ attorney Ahmad Assed.

Republicans meet to pick their new chair Dec. 6. Names announced are Torrance County GOP Chair Richard Lopez and Max Barnett who runs an IT consulting firm. Insiders say a candidacy by Rep. Zach Cook has been aborted. The GOP central committee members will name a replacement for John Billingsley who is not seeking a second term. . .


Mo Udall
Reader Tim Lowrey writes:

You attributed a quote to the late Arizona Congressman Mo Udall in your Thursday blog--"The people have spoken, the bastards." 

He may well have said it but the first Democrat to say it was Dick Tuck, a famous political prankster who detested Richard Nixon. In 1966 he ran for the California State Senate and came in third. His concession speech was:  "The people have spoken, the bastards."  I know this because my father served 11 terms as a California Sate Assemblyman. He was a Democrat. I remember hearing about Dick Tuck's speech from him.

Thanks, Steve, Let's try this one that is also attributed to Mo and is especially timely as state House Dems prepare to caucus:

I have learned the difference between a cactus and a caucus. On a cactus, the pricks are on the outside.

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