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Thursday, December 01, 2016

Domenici's Long Goodbye: An Odd Odyssey Indeed; Moving Back To NM And Role At Land Office, Plus: The New SOS Is An Early Bird 

Pete Domenici
What the Grateful Dead famously uttered certainly holds true for the post US Senate years of Pete Domenici: "What a long strange trip it's been."

Beginning in 1973 and running through 2008, Domenici accumulated respect, seniority and power as New Mexico's senior US senator. But if Domenici were a bond and Moody's was rating him, he would have suffered a couple of downgrades since his retirement announcement in 2007.

Around the time of that announcement it was disclosed that the then 75 year old Domenici was retiring because of a brain disease that impaired his cognitive abilities, but a year later a "miracle" (or more likely a misdiagnosis) occurred and Domenici was found to be free of the disease. That had the tongues wagging that Pete's "medical problems" were more of a political nature--that the US Senate Ethics Committee was about to lower the boom on him for his involvement in the US attorney scandal and that he was looking for a way out of Dodge. Here's our report on that from March of '07.

Then came the shocker that in the 1970's the then 46 year old Senator Domenici had fathered a love child with the  24 year old lobbyist daughter of Pete's fellow GOP Senator Paul Laxalt. That scandal cost Domenici dearly in the respect department but he trudged onward, sponsoring his yearly Domenici public affairs conference in Las Cruces and staying active in support of GOP candidates.

Now, at 84, Domenici's long goodbye gets more odd. Take a look:

Former Sen. Pete Domenici, a powerhouse of modern New Mexico politics, is moving back to New Mexico and will take on a new role as an advisor to state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn. Domenici, 84, has lived with his wife, Nancy, in the Washington D.C.-area for years, but they will be returning permanently to New Mexico in mid-January. Once back, Domenici will join the State Land Office as a senior advisor to Dunn, a first-term Republican. In the role, Domenici will provide advice on energy, natural resource and other policy issues, and will also help push a State Land Office proposal to create a new permanent fund for early childhood education.

Apparently the octogenarian Domenici is not going to donate his time to his home state. We asked the state land office about Pete's salary:

His role will mainly focus on education issues and land and water conservation. The details of the Senior Advisor role are still being determined.

In advance of his 2018 re-elect Dunn has been trying to position himself as a more moderate Republican. In that regard, Domenici can't hurt. But why the longest serving US Senator in state history would choose to play out his final act in a relatively minor office is, well, odd. Maybe if we play some Grateful Dead records backwards we'll be able to figure it out. For now, color us perplexed.

EARLY BIRD

Toulouse Oliver
The new secretary of state won't have to wait until the usual January 1 to take office. Maggie Toulouse Oliver will be sworn in soon, explains the SOS:

Secretary of State elect Maggie Toulouse Oliver will take the oath of office on December 9, 2016, at 4:00 pm in Santa Fe and will immediately assume the office. Current Secretary of State Brad Winter has served since he was appointed by Governor Martinez on December 15, 2015, due to the resignation of Dianna Duran.

Secretary Winter was appointed in accordance with Article V, Section 5 of the New Mexico Constitution, which provides that “…[s]hould a vacancy occur in any state office…the governor shall fill such office by appointment, and such appointee shall hold office until the next general election, when his successor shall be chosen for the unexpired term.” On November 8, 2016, Secretary elect Toulouse Oliver won the general election to fill the unexpired term, which ends on December 31, 2018.

Winter did everyone a favor as he headed for the exits. He knocked down any speculation that there could have been widespread voter fraud in the recent state election cycle. Coming from a Republican SOS it was a heads-up moment since his own party has used voter fraud allegations in in effort to discredit Democrats. The sanctity of our election process trumps wild-eyed and nonsensical allegations. The problem in New Mexico is not voter fraud but getting people to vote. Winter got that. As for Maggie, we think she'll do fine as long as she stays away from the poker and craps tables.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2016

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