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Monday, December 04, 2017

Michelle's Dance With Padilla Turns A Bit Dangerous; Damaged Lt. Gov. Candidate Has Yet To Heed Her Call To Step Aside, Plus: It Doesn't Take Long; New ABQ Mayor Already Under The Microscope 

Padilla Still Campaigning
Late Monday Sen. Padilla ended his candidacy for the '18 Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor.

It's turning out to be a bit of a dangerous dance for Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham when it comes to the race for the 2018 Democratic lieutenant governor nomination.

Grisham, the front runner for the Dem Guv nomination, has publicly called on ABQ State Senator Michael Padilla to take himself out of the running because of sexual harassment charges he faced a decade ago and for which the city of ABQ paid out settlements, but the call came over two weeks ago and Padilla is still running.

Padilla, 45, went dark after Grisham's rebuke but he resurfaced this weekend on his social media accounts, congratulating ABQ Mayor Keller on his election and putting up the photo posted here posing with Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Public Regulation Commissioner Lynda Lovejoy. On Saturday Padilla was campaigning in Raton.

The angst in the Grisham camp is palpable. They think Padilla's addition to the ticket at a time when sex harassment is a red hot topic could hobble her if she eventually wins the Guv nomination and faces off with likely GOP nominee Steve Pearce.

Padilla was keeping his cards close to his chest when I ran into him late last week at the Starbucks at the ABQ Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. He was sharing a cup with fellow Dem ABQ State Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto.

While Padilla did express chagrin over the news coverage of his dilemma, pointing out he has an extensive senate record and these were long ago charges, he was tight-lipped about his future plans.

Others watching this melodrama have looser lips. They believe that if Grisham wants Padilla out she may have to cut a deal. That would mean abandoning those who are calling for him to resign from the senate and extending an olive branch when it comes to working with him in the senate where he serves as majority whip.

Others say if Padilla persists hardball tactics will have to be employed, perhaps by third parties. That could include paid media against him if Padilla is still a candidate next year and as the March Dem pre-primary convention approaches.

Complicating Grisham's problems is the perceived weakness of the field outside of Padilla. He has a solid record as a senator, is an able campaigner and speaker and has generated considerable national publicity in his tenure over issues such as school lunch shaming. But he appears irreparably marred by the sex harassment charge.

The other major Dem Light Guv hopefuls, Taos educator Jeff Carr, former ABQ State Rep. Rick Miera and Dona Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett, have made no move in the wake of the Padilla controversy, preferring to wait and see. That's not exactly causing sleepless nights for Padilla.

HELLO, HOWIE?

Morales
But there is some movement. The name of Dem State Senator Howie Morales of Silver City is now being floated as a possible Light Guv candidate. Like Padilla, he is seen as a substantial senator. Getting him in, the theory goes, would make it obvious to Padilla and the Dem base that they have a strong replacement on the bench and the Grisham-Padilla standoff ends.

In the old days Padilla would already be a dead duck--or an over roasted chicharrone--whichever you prefer. But Grisham does not yet have a strong statewide support base like a Bill Richardson or a Bruce King so Padilla limps along. She could have some heavy lifting to do if she is going to get Padilla out and she knows it. And so does Michael Padilla who may be holding his cards close to his chest, but still has a few to play.

JEFF AND JOE

Grisham faces two major foes for the '18 gubernatorial nod--Jeff Apodaca and Joe Cervantes. Neither have made much of the Grisham-Padilla spectacle. Apodaca did say that the voters should decide in the June primary whether they want Padilla or not. Cervantes issued a statement supporting the victims in the Padilla sexual harassment case from a decade ago when he was supervising a city of ABQ call center.

Neither Apodoca or Cervantes has caused the hearts of Dems to flutter and as we head deeper into December it's clear the only way one of these fellas is going to emerge is to wage an all out campaign on why Grisham is not the best choice and why they are. The pre-primary convention is now only about three months away. Cervantes and Apodaca may still think they have a lot of time. But they don't.

LIGHTEN THE LT. GOV.

The brouhaha over Padilla has led some in the political class to examine the whole notion of having the parties nominate and vote on Lt. Governor candidates.

ABQ Dem State Rep. Moe Maestas is among those who believe it's time to return to the days when the governor nominee chose the lieutenant governor candidate they would run with and do away with the separate primary election of the state's #2. "It is not a position of power or importance and it needs to be treated as such," he said. Maestas also said the position should return to being part-time.

The main job of the Light Guv is to preside over the state senate when it's in session and to stay alive if the Governor dies so they can take their place. Often their secondary job is to annoy the governor they serve under.

WELCOME, MR. MAYOR 

Forget about governor or lieutenant governor, the political position that commands the most publicity in New Mexico is arguably the mayor of ABQ. Situated in the state's media center the scrutiny is intense. And so it is for Tim Keller after only a few days on the job. Hold on to those glasses of craft beer, Keller fans, here come the critics.

Reader Jim McClure writes:

Did anyone seriously believe the police union endorsed Tim Keller because of his tough stance on crime? A Dem mayor means the unions are back in the driver’s seat. So it’s no surprise that the mayor-elect is having second thoughts about bringing in an outside APD chief against the wishes of the union. Expect to see a new union contract restoring “union time” that allows union work on the taxpayers’ dime. The only question is whether the police union will be allowed to reinstate its payments to officers involved in shootings.

Reader Carmie Lynn Toulouse says:

Joe. I am a supporter of our newly elected mayor but It has been bothering me since I got the email invitation to Tim Keller's inauguration that his four watch parties were all at local breweries. I am aware, having a son & daughter and various other relatives in the new mayor's age group, that his generation makes frequent use of the breweries for social functions. With the DUI rate in this city & the social problems from addictions this city suffers, however, it doesn't send a positive message from the new mayor to his constituents to encourage them to gather where they can drink before they drive to celebrate his assumption of power.

And so it will go over the next four years, with every move of the new Mayor put under the microscope.

JACK'S ACT

To balance out that criticism we offer some praise for two year old Jack Keller.

During what seemed like an inauguration ceremony that would never end--with five elected councilors pontificating way too much--Jack took it all in like a seasoned veteran and not someone afflicted with the terrible twos.

Meanwhile, everyone else was fidgeting in their seats and getting ready to throw something--like a regular two year old might.

And that's a fact, Jack.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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