Monday, December 11, 2017

Look But Don't Touch: Sensational Sex Charges Rock Roundhouse And The Fallout Begins, Plus: Gonzales Goes For Light Guv And Remembering Les Houston  

Lobbyist Vanessa Alarid says she hopes her male friends don't "treat me with kid gloves" now that she has publicly accused former legislator Thomas Garcia of sexually harassing her in 2009 and demanding sex to vote in favor of a bill she was supporting. Never mind kid gloves. . .

When the legislative session kicks off next month one veteran lobbyist says he will be careful even shaking hands--with members of either sex. It's that bad.

Alarid's charges were first revealed in the NYT and then explored in-depth locally. She is adamant in her accusations and ex-Rep. Garcia is vehement in his denials. Whatever the case, the sensational charges are sure to have lawmakers and lobbyists walking on egg shells and reassessing just what constitutes good behavior.

In the Alarid case there was no question about a line being crossed, but it seems even what was once viewed as innocuous behavior---a warm embrace, a peck on the cheek, a compliment on appearance---may be going the way of the transistor radio at the hallways of the testosterone-laced Roundhouse. It's just too risky to touch. Everyone is going to have to wear their kid gloves until this is figured out.

The social whirl of Santa Fe in recent years isn't anything like it was when state government was swimming in cash. The parties are fewer and more subdued, reflecting the times, say longtime lobbyists but there are still fun times to be had.

GOP State Rep. Kelly Fajardo, who has taken on the role of watchdog of sex harassment at the capitol, is one of the leaders of "The Karaoke Caucus." It gathers regularly during legislative sessions at a downtown Santa Fe restaurant where food, libations and singing and dancing are enjoyed by lawmakers mixing with younger lobbyists and others involved in the governmental process. You wonder in this new environment whether those type of parties will be called into question--or a rule book issued before you enter.


Mayor Gonzales
When we were last with you we wondered of Dem Silver City state Senator Howie Morales and if he would remain the front-runner for the '18 lieutenant governor nomination if Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales launched a bid. Well, Javier did on Friday (video here) but we still see Morales holding the pole position.

Gonzales is ending a somewhat troubled tenure as mayor of Santa Fe and recently said he was retiring from political life to spend more time with his family. So much for that.

Gonzales would be the first openly gay man to win the statewide nomination for lt. governor. His bid comes on the heels of ABQ Senator Michel Padilla withdrawing from the contest because of decade-old sex harassment charges.

There will be problems for Gonzales in the conservative rural areas of the state party. And with two of their own--Padilla and former state Rep. Garcia being taken down by sex harassment charges--the Dems are going to want to move the issue of sex--in all its variations--to the back burner. That points to Morales, unless he has something shocking hiding in his past.

Morales has been around a while--he ran for the Guv nomination in 2014--and can't exactly be called a fresh face, but he seems more fresh than the shopworn Gonzales who suffered a devastating loss when in Santa Fe this year he backed a losing tax proposal on soda.

Former ABQ state Rep. Rick Miera may be the perfect light guv candidate on paper, but he has not made a deep impression and now faces a struggle against Morales and Gonzales. The rest of the field trails far behind.

On the GOP side the light guv race is, well, light. Michelle Garcia Holmes, who recently ran as an independent for ABQ mayor, has now announced she will seek the GOP nod for lieutenant governor. She is the only announced candidate. ABQ GOP State Senator Mark Moores has been mentioned as a possible but he told the ABQ Journall's Dan Boyd he is not going to run.


Aragon and Houston
Speaking of lieutenant governor, it was in 1974 as a student reporter that I first met former ABQ state Senator Les Houston. He was campaigning for the Dem nomination for lieutenant governor. He lost that one and lost again when he sought the 1982 Dem Guv nomination. He later switched parties and ran for the GOP Guv nomination in 1990. He never made it to the top of the heap but he made an impact at the Roundhouse.

After politics he became a prominent Santa Fe lobbyist. Houston, 81, died Friday. He has been cremated and there will be no services.

In 1987 Republican Houston joined with Dem Senator Manny Aragon and caused a major stir. They tried to share the Senate President Pro Tem position, but the deal was struck down by the state Supreme Court. They were some political odd couple.

We take credit for coining the phrase "Manny Houston" but we ran it by Manny one day back then and he didn't laugh.

The picture posted today of Manny and Les comes from Manny's "going away" party when many of his longtime friends gathered to wish him well as he was about to enter federal prison on corruption charges. The photo was first shown on our June 4, 2009 blog and caused yet another stir. But that's how those guys were.

Here's our blog from October 10, 2003 about running into Houston at the Barelas Coffee Shop:

Former Bernalillo County Commissioner Les Houston, hanging out at the Barelas Coffee House on 4th street, comes up with this one:

"The big question in California is: "What does Arnold Schwarzenegger know. . .and when's he going to know it?"

Houston stopped by our burrito laden table and laid a couple of other ribald ones on us that we're sure the Kentucky native will pass on to you when you run into him. Houston is one of the more colorful political personalities in recent NM history.

To say his political career was volatile is an understatement. He was a Democrat for the longest time, seeking the Lt. Governor nomination back in the 70's and then the Dem gubernatorial nod in '82. He went to the State Senate from Bernalillo County and ran for the GOP nomination for governor in 1990.

In the late 1980's, as a GOP'er, he joined forces with Democratic Senator Manny Aragon in a bizarre coalition that had them sharing the title of Senate President Pro Tem. The State Supreme Court threw out the arrangement and retired what I had dubbed: "Manny Houston."

History has repeated itself with Richard Romero winning the pro tem title with the help of Republicans. And, like Les Houston, Romero at one time was a member of the opposite party; in Richard's case the Republicans. And, again, like Les, Romero has had to contend with Senator Manny.

Who said: "The more things change, the more they stay the same?"

Such were the times of a native Kentuckian who chased a New Mexican political dream.

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