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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Yates-McCleskey Feud Heating Up Again As Yates Flirts With Run For Top GOP Post, Plus: Waiting For An ART Attack; More Rumblings On Possible Legal Challenge To Berry's Buses, And: Tim Keller's Cash 

If the political waters are a bit too still for you this spring join us for an update on a Republican blood feud that is coloring those waters crimson red. . .

Last week we broke the news here and at the ABQ Free Press that former NM GOP Chairman Harvey Yates, Jr. is considering a run for the GOP National Committeeman post held by ABQ attorney Pat Rogers, a key ally of Gov. Martinez political adviser Jay McCleskey. The media followed up on our report and Yates used the opportunity to renew his quarrel with McCleskey who he and his allies believe exercises way too much power in the administration and the GOP. Says Harvey:

I have been urged by a few folks from around the state to run for Republican national committeeman. Some have urged that I do this simply because they believe Pat Rogers has stayed in the position long enough. Others cite the fact that Rogers has occasionally undercut the party as when he urged Reince Priebus, national chairman, not to speak at a state party event. Still others feel that Rogers is a pawn of political operative Jay McCleskey, and feel that is inappropriate for a national committeeman.

Jay did not respond directly to Yates, whose family made a fortune in the SE NM oil business, but Adam Feldman, his campaign aide, let loose with this riposte of Yates on social media:

(Yates) supporting Tim Jennings in 2012, the Democratic State Senate President Pro Tem who was blocking bills like the repeal of driver's licenses for (undocumented immigrants) because he had an axe to grind, is highly relevant.

Yates did indeed support Jennings, the longtime conservative Dem Senator from the SE where Yates hails from. A number of other R's did as well, but Jennings lost to Republican Cliff Pirtle with major help from the Guv's political machine led by McCleskey.

An ally of Yates blasted back at Feldman, recalling that the Governor, through the Reform NM PAC run by McCleskey, also supported a prominent Democratic state senator. That was in the 2012 primary election and was none other than the now legally troubled Phil Griego. He was boosted by positive ads from the Martinez affiliated PAC. Griego resigned his senate seat over his legal woes.

Yates is still not saying he will definitely challenge Rogers at the May GOP State Convention. But he seems to be enjoying putting the needle in Pat and Jay who have had the run of the Republican rodeo for over five years, a ride on which the clock is now slowly ticking down.

ART ATTACK?

Those rumblings we said we've been hearing about possible legal action over ABQ Mayor  Berry's controversial $119 million ART project--running rapid buses down most of Central Avenue and restricting auto traffic in some sections to only one lane--continue this week.

One of the Alligators reports there was a meeting Monday night between some business owners, neighbors near the proposed bus line and a couple of attorneys to discuss seeking a delay of the project in the courts. A Nob Hill business confirmed to me attorneys have been contacted. So we are in wait and see mode, with Berry now saying the project is slated to start in July, instead of May.

And some may find odd the explanation offered by the Mayor on why he did not show up at the recent public meetings on ART that drew such vocal opposition and where scorned was heaped on the city officials who did show:

These five meetings were designed to be between the neighborhoods and the business owners and the engineers to do a deep dive into the design that's on paper. When elected officials show up to meetings, as you can see from your television coverage, it invites a different atmosphere when it's the neighborhood working with the engineering groups. 

It seems the Mayor takes to heart that old saying, "if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen." He hasn't even turned on the stove.

KELLER'S CASH

Tim Keller
Finally today, more of our exclusive coverage of the developing campaign for ABQ Mayor next year. . .

Dem State Auditor Tim Keller this week sent out his usual end of the quarter fund-raising email, but this time it raised the question of whether he could spend any of his auditor campaign cash for a 2017 mayoral campaign which a number of political sources say he is now seriously considering.

We ran the question by one of our expert campaign finance Alligators. They informed us that Keller, 38, would be limited in how much he could transfer from his auditor campaign account to a mayoral account. That limitation would be the maximum donation allowed under the city rules which is about $4,000. But, and this is a big but, Keller could donate all of his auditor cash to a PAC which could then spend it promoting a mayoral candidacy.

In his fund-raising email Keller did not say what specific political purpose the money would be used for:

There is a critical fundraising deadline next week and I need your help to ensure that we continue to have a strong statewide presence to fight for the issues that I ran on in 2014.

2013 ABQ mayoral contender Pete Dinelli--who lost to Mayor Berry--and received Keller's fund-raising pitch--is critical of Keller for not clarifying what he is raising money for and asks Keller to disclose the specific purpose, saying he owes it to donors. Dinelli also said he cautioned Keller that the City Charter prohibits any mayoral fund-raising before January 2017.

Keller is not up for re-election as state auditor until 2018. His auditor campaign account had about $24,000 in cash on hand as of last October.

We asked Keller, who would be a top-tier mayoral contender, if he planned on using the campaign cash raised this year for a race other than auditor. Here's what he said:

We do a standard email every quarter similar to other candidates not up for immediate election. The account is the same one I've used for 8 years and also use to help out other candidates. We typically do quarterly emails for my PAC as well.

Keller responded this way when we asked him if he was considering a mayoral run:

Our city is in need of new vision and strong leadership. Lots of folks have asked me to step up. I'm focused on Auditor now, but always interested in considering ways I can help our community.

If Keller does run and finances with private donations--not public financing--our campaign gurus say it could cost well north of $1 million.

Meanwhile, Dinelli, 64, has become something of a government watchdog in his retirement. He says he won't rule out another run for mayor next year.

This is the Home of New Mexico Politics.

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