Thursday, November 27, 2003

Happy Thanksgiving New Mexico. See You On The Radio Friday, And Back Here Monday With More NM Politics 

No matter what our political persuasion we can all agree that we are some of the luckiest people alive because we call New Mexico home. The breathtaking beauty of this land is ours to experience each and every day. That's a gift of a lifetime and one we pause to acknowledge on Thanksgiving 2003.

Friday at 9 a.m. ABQ City Councilor Greg Payne will pinch-hit for Larry Ahrens on KKOB-AM and host lobbyist Scott Scanland and me for an hour of post-holiday political chatter. As always, you're invited. Have a relaxing holiday weekend and we'll see you back here Monday with more New Mexico politics.


Wednesday, November 26, 2003

That's OK Pete, We Don't Need An Energy Bill, But Please Keep The Bacon Frying 

Like Senator Bingaman before him, Senator Pete also could not get over the goal line when it came to passing a national energy bill. The measure died a very public death this week as Energy Committee Chairman Domenici threw in the towel and said the measure would have to wait until next year. Bingaman, chair of Energy before the GOP took over the Senate, also failed in his efforts to pass a remake of energy law. This time opponents successfully attacked the proposal as a giveaway to the major energy companies.

But New Mexicans aren't going to get too upset with NM's longest-ever serving U.S. Senator because where it counts he delivered. And then some. The budget for Sandia Labs, ushered through the Congress by Domenici, provides for over 8000 jobs at the ABQ facility and some of the highest-paying in the state. The total Sandia budget for the next fiscal year is a stunning $2.2 billion, the largest in Sandia history and one reason you see million dollar homes going up in the foothills. The $2.2 billion is on top of over $40 million Domenici secured for military construction projects for NM. Domenici is totally unfazed by critics who say New Mexico is too dependent on federal largesse for nuclear weapons programs and that a lot of the money is plain old pork. Sure. But thousands of New Mexican families will sit down to turkey dinners tomorrow courtesy of the "pork barrel" politics practiced without equal by the senior senator. And that fellow gobblers is how you become the longest-serving senator in state history. Any questions?

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Tuesday, November 25, 2003

KOAT Reaction To Martinez Hiring: Ratings Went Down Under Nelson 

Any story discussing TV or radio ratings drives those involved crazy. They live and die by the numbers and are truly obsessed. So it's no suprise that our reports about the local ratings in light of Nelson Martinez signing up with KOB-TV drew quite a reaction. From deep inside 7, sources took issue with those saying that the news race is close at 5 and 6 p.m. Here's how our 7 source put it: "Over the past year our 5 p.m. show has a strong lead over Channel 4, the widest in years. The 6 p.m. show also has a sizable lead over Ch 4, the biggest gap in about 3 to 5 years."

Our source with access to the ratings book does admit that the early news race was indeed very close up until this past year. The most important point stands though: the 10 p.m. news is the one that matters most and that is a three way nip-and tuck race for first place. But our 7 source points out that KOAT's years of dominance began to erode while Martinez was anchor. We reported here that TV insiders consider him a big draw in hispanic households and that by putting him on at noon and 5 p.m. KOB may make a dent in that audience.

It's interesting to note how TV folks use the term "show" when discussing the news. They used to call them broadcasts. It's an important distinction but the ratings obsession has made TV news subservient to the entertainment factor. That's why you get news being called a "show" as if its main goal was to entertain, not inform. Perhaps it's just an honest declaration of what it has become and we shouldn't nitpick because we probably encourage it by writing about it. In any event, there are many fine journalists at 4, 7, and 13 who often rise above the entertainment-driven pressure. I watch them all to get a flavor for our community and I urge you to do the same.

Romero Is Dialing for Dollars, Ortiz y Pino Takes in Dollars, And Fifty Thousand Dollars for New Dona Ana County Clerk 

How does a candidate for Congress spend his time? It's nothing glamorous, that's for sure. Take State Senator Richard Romero, seeking the Democratic nomination to run against Republican Rep. Heather Wilson in 04'. Richard, who is favored over two opponents to win the right to take on Heather for a second time, tells friends he is "working the phones six hours a day." That means asking people for money. And no wonder. It takes a couple of million just to get in the congressional game. The candidate will do six hours a day of cash calling until mid-December. Romero is giving up his Downtown/Barelas/North Valley senate seat to make the bid. And that brings us to liberal Democrat Jerry Ortiz y Pino who was first to announce for the Romero seat (via this web site) and is also busy chasing campaign cash.

A well-run senate campaign can cost upwards of $50,000. Friends say Jerry raised $4,000 of it at a weekend announcement party held at his downtown home. A couple of hundred relatives and supporters passed the hat for the candidate who is running as a "progressive." To that end, he has hired Eli Lee and his Soltari consulting firm which is coming off of a couple of wins in the recent ABQ election, including defeat of the street bonds and the election of Martin Heinrich to the city council. As it happens, Heinrich was in attendance at the Pino party as was Bobbie Baca, wife of former ABQ Mayor Baca who Ortiz once worked under. Romero was also on hand, but is staying neutral. Remember, the winner of the June Democratic primary for Romero's seat is just about guaranteed election to the state senate since the area is heavily Dem. Former state rep. and city councilor Adele Baca Hundley is another possible candidate for the seat, along with several others.

Considering the election problems of recent years, being a county clerk in New Mexico might not be the most popular profession, but Dona Ana County has no shortage of applicants for the positon. Clerk Ruben Ceballos was recently found guily of five criminal counts of violating the state election code and will be removed next month. Meanwhile, Dona Ana County Commission Chair Paul Curry reports receving over a dozen calls for the job while at lunch in Cruces the other day. The new clerk gets $50,000 a year and will be appointed by the commission. To qualify for the job you just have to be 18 years old and a U.S. citizen. Nice work, if you can get it.

And, from the NM Secretary of State, who oversees elections, we get this novel proposal: keep all the results secret until they are all counted! The Journal's Loie Fecteau has a report for us from the City Different. http://abqjournal.com/news/state/114173nm11-25-03.htm

Make our site one of your 'favorites.' Bookmark it now and and visit regularly for updates.

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Monday, November 24, 2003

Sources: It Looks Like KOB-TV For Nelson Martinez 

Reliable sources report anchorman Nelson Martinez will join the Eyewitness News team at KOB-TV in January as anchor of the noon and 5 p.m. news. The veteran TV personality was apparently negotiating a comeback with his alma mater, KOAT-TV, but a deal could not be struck. Martinez earlier confirmed to me "that a deal has been struck and I could not be happier." But he would not divulge any details.

TV insiders say the Martinez hiring at KOB will especially be be a boost for them in Hispanic households where Martinez has a loyal folllowing. "The ratings for these broadcasts are so tight that a few thousand households can tip the balance," said one source. "For that reason alone hiring Martinez is the smart move." Nelson left TV a year ago to concentrate on music and acting, but Hollywood was apparently not calling, so he is back to his first calling--anchoring the news. Martinez is a native of Chimayo and a recording artist whose mariachi music is marketed from his own web site. Martinez joins fellow native New Mexican, the popular Carla Aragon, at 4. Carla and Tom Joles languished for years behind KOAT, but in 2000 the station got a kick-start from the big Los Alamos fires and has found itself atop the heap, or tied for top of the heap with 7. KRQE is hot on their trail.

The Martinez news comes on the heels of Larry Barker's departure from 7 and his hiring by KRQE. And all of this comes during the crucial November "sweeps" when ratings are underway from which advertising rates will be set. With advertising still in somewhat of a slump, each rating point becomes critical to keep the ad dollars flowing.

Washington Post: Gov. Bill IS Angling for VP, Plus: Sources Say Ramsay Won't Run Again For Senate; And Anchor Martinez Says: "A Deal has Been Struck." 

Washington contacts make sure the politically astute readers of "New Mexico Politics With Joe Monahan" are aware of Sunday's Washington Post article reporting that Big Bill is playing coy, but is indeed angling for a place on the 2004 Democratic ticket. Bill's almost-endorsement of Vermont Gov. Howard Dean last week now puts him front and center on the rumored VP wanna-be list. The Post quotes an "informed source" that the Guv all along wanted the position of chairman of the 2004 Dem convention so he could maintain neutrality towards all the contenders and stay on everyone's VP list. Now with Dean breaking from the pack the Post says Bill is making his move. Here's the full story


Friends of the Guv tell me they think some of his advisers may be too far ahead of the curve if they are advising a 'stay-out' role in 04' and an all-out Prez run in 08'. One puts it this way: "Who knows what happens in five years, let alone five months. He'd be crazy not to go after VP now because win or lose it's the gateway to the White House. Contrary to what some think his national name ID is not that high and selection as VP would catapult him to the top of American politics. How's he going to get there as NM Governor if he's not the VP candidate? Also, his popularity here could seriously erode as he makes more decisions that draw opposition."

Pretty insightful stuff that you have to believe Big Bill is considering. Ask Senator Pete about this level of politics. Domenici lost out to Dan Quayle in 88' for the VP spot under Bush the Elder, and the chance never came again.


GOP sources report the chances of State Chair Ramsay Gorham seeking a third term to her North Valley Senate seat next year are "slim to "none." But Ramsay isn't ready to make it official. She e mails me "that no meetings have taken place on that yet." The new party chair, who is locked in a life and death struggle with the forces of former chair Dendahl, is NOT being driven from the senate race, our sources emphasize. "She is fully aware that the chairmanship is a full-time affair, and that serving as a state senator and trying to rebuild the party is taking on way too much." Full-time to say the least.

Gorham shocked the hard-right of the GOP this month (many stories below) when she threw down the gauntlet and demanded a role for the state party with the Bush re-elect committee, which the national GOP, in concert with the Dendahlites, was trying to exclude her from. That demonstration of moxy will probably win her a seat at that table. Also, over the weekend 32 of the about 38 members of the GOP Executive Committee gave her a big vote of confidence. These developments come in the wake of her controversial hiring of former Democrat Tom Carroll as Ex. Director of the GOP. Gorham has been attacked for not knowing how to use staff, but she apparently knows how to run Carroll.

Ramsay's opponents have underestimated her throughout her political career but her fight is far from over. She will have to finalize a decent role for herself with the Bush campaign and also have a good showing for the Prez and the GOP legislative brigade next November, if she is to be more than a transitory leader.

OK. So if Ramsay is a no-go, who is in line to replace her? The names I am hearing are former State. Rep. Judy Vanderstar Russell, who gave up her House seat for an unsuccessful run for the GOP Lt . Gov. nomination in 04' and State Rep. Teresa Zanetti, a moderate Republican, who replaced John Sanchez when he left that North Valley seat after one term to take on Big Bill. Democrat Janice Paster held the senate seat and was beaten by Ramsay in 96' and again in 2000. Word is that Janice no longer lives in the district so the Dems will have to find someone else.

Veteran TV anchorman Nelson Martinez says he's coming back. Nelson e mails us with late word that "a deal has been struck and I could not be happier." He did not say where he would be working or what the nature of the deal was, but that an announcement would be forthcoming, perhaps as soon as today. Martinez has been the subject of intense speculation since longtime investigative reporter Larry Barker was deposed from 7 and set up shop at KRQE-TV (see story below). Martinez left KOAT-TV a year ago to pursue music and acting, but the Barker departure led to speculation that 7 was freeing up money to bring back Martinez, perhaps starting him off as a morning and/or noon news anchor. Strictly speculation, of course, and Nelson's announcement will answer the question. KOAT, once the dominant news force in NM, is now locked in a three way battle for that title with KOB-TV and KRQE-TV.

Make our site one of your 'favorites.' Bookmark it now and and visit regularly for updates.

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