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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

House Speaker's Son Ripped Over Big Bill's PRC Endorsement; Senator Pete: WSJ Pans His Latest Energy Bill; Plus: Ramsay: It's Not As Bad As It Looked 

BOB PERLS
For a change, it's NM Dems tearing into each other. Big Bill's unprecedented endorsements in several Dem primary contests has one of those left out taking off the gloves and swinging hard. Bob Perls, seeking the Dem nomination to the Public Regulation Commission (PRC), says the Guv's endorsement of Ben Ray Lujan, Jr., son of the State House Speaker, is an endorsement of the 'least qualified' candidate in the contest. Perls also told me the Lujan's are using "strong-arm tactics" to gather support for young Ben and the whole thing smacks of cronyism.

"I don't think the electorate is stupid. They see that Ben Ray will be a tool of his Dad's on the PRC. All the special interests that want to curry favor with the Speaker are throwing money into his son's campaign," railed Perls, a former State Rep from Corrales and one of five contenders in the race for the PRC seat being vacated by Jerome Block. The huge district covers 13 counties mainly in northern NM. The job is a political plum, paying 90 grand a year. But the PRC has been in disarray since its formation with charges of conflicts-of-interest rampant.

Perls told me he sees himself as a "reform' candidate." He did not want to attack the Guv for the endorsement, aiming his fire directly at young Ben. The Guv's endorsement of Ben Ray, according to observers, could dry up campaign contributions to the other candidates. But Perls says he's confident he will have over $150,000 to do battle. It looks as though he will need all of it.

PETE UNDER FIRE

GOP Senator Pete takes a hit from the conservative editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal this week with the paper bashing Domenici's latest energy bill. "Won't someone pull the plug on this overstuffed turkey?" The paper asks. Energy Committee Chair Domenici took a major hit last year when he could not move a mammoth energy bill to the White House. This time he is proposing a scaled down measure of $14 billion, compared to last year's $34 billion.

With gas prices at record highs, the Bushies would love to get something out of the Senate. But they will get no help from NM's other Senator. Dem Jeff Bingaman says the huge measure should be killed in favor of passing some of the key components of the bill. Seems life was a lot easier for Pete when he was juggling numbers as Budget Committee Chair. The Senate could vote on the energy bill soon.

GOP: GIVE PEACE A CHANCE

Supporters of State GOP Chair Ramsay Gorham have been emailing and calling to set the record straight on Ramsay's absence at the recent grand opening of Bush-Cheney Headquarters in ABQ. They say she was not there because she was out-of-state attending her son's baseball game, a long planned engagement, and that GOP Exec. Director Tom Carroll was pinch-hitting for her at the opening.

Does this mean there is peace between Bush-Cheney & Ramsay? Beats me. But the Prez will be in ABQ Friday campaigning and it appears all sides are ready to bury the hatchet for now. Carroll told me he thought my report (see Mar. 19) saying Ramsay's absence was another sign of the ongoing GOP rift was "not on the mark." Fair enough. I am the last guy who wants to get in the way of giving peace a chance, and with the election fast approaching, there is indeed pressure for peace on all sides of this GOP family squabble.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2004
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