Saturday, April 03, 2004

Gator Attack Against Lopez Backfires, They're Falling Like Flies As Withdrawal Day Nears; Plus: Those Lovable R's--Mickey, Pete, Ramsay & The New Guy 

Who is Al Armijo? That question was left unanswered in the media reports on Armijo's failure to keep his candidacy alive against ABQ Dem Valley State Sen. Linda Lopez. Not only did the mysterious Armijo not turn up at the court hearing resulting from Lopez's challenge, he failed to turn in enough petition signatures and the address he gave turned out to be a piece of vacant land!

Obviously, Al failed alligator school. According to my Valley watchers, Armijo is a former employee of the state senate and an acolyte of none other than Senator Majority Leader Many Aragon. Manny has no love for Linda since she was responsible for getting him ousted from his pro-tem post. But Linda's alligators did a better job than Manny's as she is now without primary opposition. Tom Benavidez, who she beat eight years ago, is back as a Republican and she'll face him in November. Was the Armijo candidacy a Manny operation, as my sources report? If so, it was a bungled job. Come on Manny, you're getting sloppy on us.


The NE Heights of ABQ can never match the Valley for raw political power plays, but the intrigue surrounding the GOP Heights race pitting former State Rep. Rob Burpo against current Rep. Larry Larranaga and, until now, Patrick Milligan, comes close. Milligan, a Burpo foe, told me he was joining the race to split the anti-Larry vote with Burpo to insure Larry's re-elect. Then, a couple of years later when Larranaga retired, Milligan would be positioned to take the seat. But now Milligan has had a change of heart and apparently feels its best for him to stay off the ballot to help Larry, so he has quit the race. Patrick, give Manny a call. He could use your talents in the Valley.

Tuesday is the last day for candidates to withdraw their names from the June 1 primary ballot, but some of them are falling off ahead of time. In Roswell it's a free primary ride for State Rep. Pauline Ponce with her opponent thrown off the ballot. Over in Santa Rosa, Rep. Jose Campos was gearing up for a primary battle, but the Dem challenging him is now out. TV news reporter Janet Blair will be the Dem nominee in the race against incumbent GOP Rep Eric Youngberg in Sandoval County. Thomas Nordstrand has dropped out.


It's over. That's the word on Ramsay Gorham's senate bid. She announced her resignation as state party chair last week and threw the towel in on her ABQ North Valley senate seat as well, but rumors persisted that she might renew the fight. Not to be, according to high GOP sources. That leaves John Ryan as the sole GOP contender for the Gorham seat, which will be contested heavily by the Dems.


R's were circulating rumors last week that Mickey Barnett, leader of the brain trust of the Dendahl wing of the strife-torn GOP, might pick up the backing of Senator Pete in his race for another four year term as NM Republican National Committeeman at the June state convention. But Pete's camp is striking that talk down saying he will stay neutral in the Barnett-George Buffett contest.


Alan Weh, the apparent new State GOP chair-to-be ( see my EXCLUSIVE April 2 report) is already drawing some questions from battle-scarred Republicans. Will he be too close to the Congressional delegation and concentrate on their races and the Prez's re-election bid at the expense of state legislative candidates? And, would Weh be a chair who would stand up against Big Bill as Ramsay did when she went against the Guv's constitutional amendment to get more money for education from the State Permanent Fund? Remember, Pete backed Big Bill. And my first and last bad pun on this: We are sure Weh (pronounced Way) will weigh in soon. Happy Monday.

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Friday, April 02, 2004

EXCLUSIVE AND LATE BREAKING: NM Congressional Delegation Pushing Alan Weh For Party Chair; Troops Falling In Line; Convention Set for April 17th 

Developments have been fast and furious as state Republicans pick up the pieces left by the abrupt resignation of GOP Chair Ramsay Gorham. Sources in Washington and New Mexico confirm to "NM Politics with Joe Monahan," that businessman and retired marine colonel Alan Weh is the consensus pick of the three Republican Congressional delegates and that Weh has the inside track to become party chair at a special GOP meeting set for ABQ Convention Center April 17th.

My Washington source told me; "The delegation is solidly behind Weh. Ken Zangara and Walter Bradley (two other possible contenders) have thrown their support to Weh and his support will become evident in coming days."

The Weh pick has the White House stamp of approval all over it. Weh is president and chief executive officer of CSI Aviation Services Inc. in Albuquerque, an aircraft charter and leasing service. Weh is currently in Iraq. In 2002 He was appointed national chairman of the Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. After receiving his bachelor's degree in 1966 at the University of New Mexico, Weh received his Marine Corps commission. He received the Silver Star, a Bronze Star with "V" for heroism, and three Purple Hearts during his service in Vietnam. "He can be expected to work well with the White House political operation and the Republican National Committee," said a New Mexico insider.

Weh is not associated with either of the warring factions that have ripped the state GOP apart in the past year. "His agenda will be the President's re-election. The Congressional delegation (Sen. Domenici and Rep's Pearce and Wilson) saw the party imploding, felt the pressure from the White House and came up with Weh," said another player in the game.

Weh is a longtime behind-the-scenes player in state GOP circles. His military background might come in handy with party factions that have been reluctant to take orders from anyone. "This is about New Mexico's five electoral votes and clearing the decks before the presidential campaign really gets intense. That's why you are seeing a quick move to a compromise candidate. I don't see Weh really aligned with either (former state chair) Dendahl or Gorham. He will take his orders from the national guys," said another Washington insider."

Weh has been in Iraq the past several months and has not seen the hand-to-hand combat that has taken place here, but he will see the resulting wreckage when he takes over the party's reins and attempts to institute a peace treaty and move the R's forward in the critical months ahead.

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Zangara & Weh: Frontrunners For GOP Chair? Ramsay Urged To Stay In Senate Race; And: Join Me Tonight On KNME-TV For Analysis Of A Wild GOP Week 

On Christmas Eve 2000 President-elect Bush made a call to Ken Zangara and asked him to serve on an advisory committee for his presidential transition. Now, politicos wonder, is Ken's phone ringing again?

Zangara, Bush NM campaign finance director, Bernalillo County GOP Chair and known best to New Mexicans as the ebullient TV pitchman for his ABQ Dodge dealership, emerged Thursday as the front-runner to become the next chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party.

A tip-off to Zangara's new status came in an e-mail from former state chair John Lattauzio who told me: "I think Ken Zangara should take the Chair. He has respect and resources." Lattauzio of Alamogordo has close ties to GOP brothers Manuel and Edward Lujan, who in turn have close ties to the Bushes.

"I think it's is if he wants it and has the time for it." said one insider. "His ties to the President are key. The Bush campaign can't afford the infighting to continue. Zangara would have the President's confidence. There are no other candidates with those credentials."

However, sources in Washington were also floating the name of retired marine colonel Alan Weh as a possible Gorham replacement. Weh, a longtime behind-the scenes player, "has the support of the Congressional delegation and I think you may see him surface as a contender next week," said one D.C. insider. Weh is president and chief executive officer of CSI Aviation Services Inc. in Albuquerque, an aircraft charter and leasing service. Weh is currently in Iraq. In 2002 He was appointed national chairman of the Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. After receiving his bachelor's degree in 1966 at the University of New Mexico, Weh received his Marine Corps commission. He received the Silver Star, a Bronze Star with "V" for heroism, and three Purple Hearts during his service in Vietnam.

Zangara, 51, was a major ally of Gorham, but could not save her from the long knives used on her by supporters of ex-chair John Dendahl. But if the word goes out from the White House that Zangara is the man it's hard to see how the infighting, at least publicly, could continue. Whether Zangara has the political acumen and force of personality to fend off Dendahl, GOP National Committeeman Barnett and State. Sen. Adair is an unknown, but Zangara supporters are hoping he won't have to, that the White House will issue the order and that the fight, for now, is finished.

Zangara has raised more money for the two Bush Prez campaigns than any other New Mexican. He and his wife, Kathy, have spent social time with the First Couple at their ranch in Crawford, Texas. And Zangara has never paused in his loyalty to Bush. His latest quote: "There's no doubt he is facing a long, hard battle in the upcoming election, but he's the man to lead this country."

Zangara's friends say he can call a halt, or at least negotiate a truce, to the intra-party war. They say he has demonstrated ability to work with a diversity of groups. He's on the board of the Robert O. Anderson School of Management at UNM, the board of the "Faith Comes By Hearing Foundation," a Christian group devoted to spreading the bible in poor countries, and served on the Bernallio County unification commission last year.

"He is not a policy guy," remarked a politico who has worked with him. "He has good people instincts, but if he becomes chair I see him doing the PR and money, not the day-to-day grunt work." Another veteran Republican chimed in: "Ken has the profile for the job. He has the personal wealth, a wife who travels easily in the political world and, most important, the ear of the President."

Zangara, like anyone else, has a bit of baggage. He pleaded no contest in 1992 to misdemeanor charges of fraud, embezzlement and concealing a crime in connection with a retirement fund for auto dealership workers. He agreed to pay $73,000 in restitution to 80 employees and was sentenced to 400 hours' community service and three years' probation.

But for Republicans looking for a way out of their mess that seems to be of little concern. "This guy has paid his dues in the party. If there's anything we need right now it's a good salesman and negotiator. You don't sell cars without those skills," said one GOP graybeard. And, we might add, you don't get votes without them either.

John Ryan
Two Republican state senators will circulate a letter today urging Republicans to persuade former chair Ramsay to get back in the race for her ABQ North valley state senate seat. State Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle and Sandoval County Senator Steve Komadina are spearheading the drive to revive Gorham's political career. She said she was quitting the senate as well as the chairmanship when she resigned this week, but she has to file a letter of withdrawal with the Secretary of State by Tuesday to make it official.

If Ramsay is talked into staying, the question arises whether former Dendahl GOP executive director John Ryan will get out of the race. Ryan and the Dendahlites called for Gorham to quit because they said it was against the rules for a state chair to be in a contested primary. Ryan had said before getting in the primary that he would withdraw if Gorham quit the chairmanship. Well, she has. Will Ryan make good on his word if Gorham rejoins the senate battle? Stay tuned.


What a wild week in the GOP, and deserving of some final analysis. We will do that tonight on KNME-TV with Kate Nelson, managing editor of the ABQ Tribune and hostess of "In Focus" which airs at 8:30 p.m. I want to thank all of you who helped this week, all my incredibly informed sources, media that credited our web site for the stories we broke and my new advertisers who I will have more to say about next week. It's been an exhilarating experience covering it all, and I want you to know your support of our work is deeply appreciated. Have a great weekend and we'll see you back here Monday.

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Thursday, April 01, 2004

A Party In Crisis: GOP Adrift Without A Captain; Blame is Laid All Around For Party Implosion; Exclusive, In-Depth Coverage Right Here 

The crisis in the New Mexico Republican Party reached the breaking point Wednesday, leaving all to wonder who will pick up the pieces. The sudden resignation of Chair Ramsay Gorham after a ten month political melodrama that pitted her against the forces of John Dendahl, the chairman she ousted just last year, served only to heighten concerns that the party was hopelessly divided and, as a result, President Bush could be robbed of the state's precious five electoral votes in the coming election. I have the complete story with exclusive details from the very top sources in New Mexico.


As soon as Ramsay hit the exits speculation bordering on the ferocious began on who would succeed her. The names that bubbled to the top included former Light Guv Walter Bradley, Bernalillo County GOP Chair Ken Zangara, Ex-GOP Congressman Bill Redmond, real estate developer Tom Tinnin, Roswell oilman Mark Murphy and political fireman and longtime Domenici aide Lou Gallegos. Anyone who gets the top job will ask this question: "Will I be the next target, or will the impending presidential election deter any further coup attempts? One man who will not be seeking to regain the party chair is John Dendahl. In an e-mail to "NM Politics With Joe Monahan" he wrote:" She (Gorham) has acted courageously and in the best interest of the party. I am not the appropriate successor."

But that gracious response masked the no-holds-barred political warfare that has torn the party asunder and left a leadership vacuum that is unprecedented. "I don't know if anyone can unify this party now," worried one top Republican. "Events have simply spun out of control."

For now, GOP Vice-Chair Bill Humphries will man the gates, but will not seek the top post when the State Central Committee meets later this month to name the successor. State Executive Director Tom Carroll, fielding a deluge of phone calls from Republicans statewide, emerged briefly to tell me: "We need unity now. The party will continue to function, but we need unity,"

If chaos were unity the GOP would have it in abundance. The utter breakdown in the command structure has the fingers pointing from Raton to Roswell. Why hasn't Senator Domenici prevented this? What about the White House's vaunted political operation? And why could no one deal with Gorham?


Pete Domenici holds a sacred place in the heart of the party faithful, but his inability, indifference or encouragement of the party strife has him taking heavy fire. "Pete had a chance to solve this years ago when Dendahl came out for drug legalization and Pete warned him it could cost him the chairmanship. But Dendahl was allowed to stay," said one embittered R. Another speculator said: "Pete lost control of Ramsay soon after she took over. The first sign was when she fired a fundraiser who was the wife of Pete's campaign manager. The second sign was her fight with the Republican National Committee over who would run the campaign here. He may have felt it best to have her taken out by the Dendahlites, rather than deal with it himself." Another R said: "Pete's staff could not stand Ramsay. He received no encouragement to resolve the differences between the factions, and he didn't."

It was a strange role for Domenici who, for nearly quarter a century, has been looked to for leadership on all key Republican issues in the state. Apparently that era has ended.


Others took aim at Republican National Committeeman, attorney/lobbyist and Dendahlite ringleader Mickey Barnett. "Mickey is a cancer on the party. Legalized drugs, legalized gambling and the primarying of Republicans; these all came from him and mean the slow but certain destruction of the party," said one Gorham backer in the heat of the moment.

As for Mickey, he was cool as a cucumber when I spoke with him from his ABQ law office. "I want to thank Ramsay and Frank for the countless hours they have devoted to the party," he murmured softly.

But Gorham wasn't sparing either Barnett or Dendahl. As she slammed the door she cited “lobbyists and special interests” as part of her undoing, and mentioning Dendahl by name, she said he and Barnett are "motivated by money," not the good of the party.

Insiders tell me Ramsay made her decision to get out over the weekend She “was worn out and felt the fight would never end,” said a friend who mentioned the call by the Dendahlites for a Central Committee meeting to oust her as the proverbial straw breaking the camel's back.

Those glad to see Gorham gone said she had a stubborn personality, could not work well with others and insulted the President's re-election staff. "Ramsay was clearly in over her head," said a Dendahlite sympathizer.


But Ramsay may not be gone completely. Party insiders were telling "NM Politics With Joe Monahan" late last night that Gorham, who announced she would not seek re-election to her state senate seat, should not be counted out completely. "Ramsay has to file a declaration of withdrawal with the Secretary of State. She has not done that yet, and some senators are urging her to stay in the race." If that happened, it would stymie the hopes of former Dendahlite GOP executive director John Ryan who helped force Gorham out when he challenged her right to run for the senate against him and still be party chair. Democrats John Hooker and Vic Raigoza, vying for the senate nomination, are watching it all from the wings. My experts in ABQ North Valley politics peg Gorham an easy re-election winner should she run, but Ryan a probable loser because of his move against Gorham and his past felony conviction for which he was pardoned by Governor Johnson.


Insiders close to the Dendahlites say they may have gotten more than they bargained for when Ramsay announced her resignation. "They wanted her senate seat for sure, but were surprised when she resigned as chair. That forces their hand. It could limit their influence with the new chair because if they make another power play the party rank and file will say enough is enough." Others deep on the inside told me there is talk of censuring Dendahl and State Senator Rod Adair and removing them from the Central Committee for their move against Gorham.

It's important to remember that the hardcore Dendahlite faction is today a relatively small percentage of the state GOP, but makes up with intensity what it lacks in numbers.

This turmoil and rancor takes place against the backdrop of a presidential election in which our five electoral votes could play a critical role. One Republican veteran said it may be time for the Bush White House to step up to the plate. "I think they will weigh heavily getting involved in the chairmanship issue, at least from behind-the-scenes. They must have someone who can keep this thing glued together for the next several months. It's the president who has the most at stake in this battle," commented a Bush backer. Scott Jennings, Bush re-election director here, was not returning phone calls.


An old politico once told me: "Anytime you are arguing process, and the other side is arguing policy, you are going to lose." The process imbroglio that has engulfed the Republican party puts it on a losing path for November. The Bush White House may believe it can come in and create a unified party out of thin air with giant television buys, but the people on the ground and the party still matter and still make the difference in close races. Right now, the Republican Party is in need of major reconstructive surgery. The problem is there is no doctor in the house. Political surgeons like Colin McMillan, Joe Skeen and Edward and Manuel Lujan are either gone or retired. In years past they operated efficiently and put a damper on factional strife. Who will perform that role for this new generation? There's a patient in the emergency room who is in dire need of an answer.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2004


Embattled New Mexico Republican Party Chairwoman Ramsay Gorham threw in the towel today and resigned the chairmanship and also announced she will not seek reelection to her ABQ North Valley State Senate she has held for eight years. The resignation comes on the heels of increased pressure on Gorham who has been embroiled in a bitter battle with the forces of former State Chair John Dendahl who recently called on her to withdraw from her senate seat because she had a Republican challenger.

Bill Humphries, former state land commissioner and first vice chair of the state GOP will serve as acting chair until the GOP State Central Committee meets to name a permanent chair. The Gorham departure does not necessarily mean the party's deep wounds will be healed. Observers were saying Wednesday that the Gorham resignation could set off another full-fledged battle for control between the Dendahlites and their opposition.

Ramsay went out with a bang, saying in an email: "Recently, a few discontented members of the State Central Committee have issued a Call for a meeting in Roswell. This improperly issued “Official Call” is a total disenfranchisement of the State Central Committee’s vote for Chairman. A year ago, we waged a strong campaign and the Central Committee voters chose me to be Chairman, knowing beforehand of my Senate responsibilities. This once again is an example of the kind of tactics used by a small minority of people to hurt the party. This continuous subterfuge by people who profited by the party under former Chairman John Dendahl has hurt the party because their actions were based on money."

The Gorham resignation was prompted by "her being tired of the whole mess," said a source close to her. Her departure will not be mourned by the Republican National Committee and the Bush re-election campaign in NM, which has been at odds with her for months on how the Prez's re-election bd should be run here and what role the state party should have in it.

Also, Democrats were licking their chops saying that Gorham's senate seat, considered safe Republican, is now in play and they think they can take it back.

The Republican Party of New Mexico is in a state of crisis with no apparent leadership poised to come forward and fill the vacuum.
The crisis was not resolved by the Bush White House which now has the most riding on the eventual outcome. Will someone finally step forward and exercise the leadership so desperately needed to bring peace? Stay tuned.

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Big Bill's $10,000 Wonton Party; You Are There; Plus: The Green Freeze-Out, Will it Stand? 

Fried Wontons
If money is the mother's milk of politics there was a white river gushing through the middle of Santa Fe last night. In what may have been the highest priced political ticket in state history, Big Bill hosted a quiet gathering of corporate and political heavyweights at the Gerald Peters Art Gallery near the Capitol for the over-the-top price of $10,000 a pop. Our fat cat at the gathering reports that the 10 grand got you some free booze and fried wontons and not much else. But what that money will get Big Bill is the real story.

The funds raised, and our source says perhaps 40 of those there may have paid the 10k, will go to Bill's "Moving America Forward" political action committee that was set up to increase Hispanic political participation. But the Big Guy told the art gallery crowd the money raised last night will go to support NM Democratic legislative candidates. Wow! If that's true, you are looking at perhaps hundreds of thousands of bucks. Are the Republicans listening?

State House Speaker Lujan, Senate President Pro Tem and Congressional candidate Richard Romero and Light Guv Diane Denish were all on hand to glad-hand the big money players. Among those was John Badal of Qwest and, according to our source, "corporate and lawyer types who you don't normally see." Well, there's a lot of things we aren't used to seeing on the NM political landscape that we have been seeing under Big Bill. Not only did he come to play, but if the R's aren't careful, he's going to take over the whole court.


While Big Bill is a player at the top of his game, turmoil and rancor continue unabated in the state GOP. The R's got more bad news Tuesday as Democratic Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron ruled that the Green Party's Congressional candidates, Abe Gutmann and Jeremy Brown, will not appear on the November election ballot because Green Party co-chair Carol Miller failed to file on time the proper certification of the party's pre-primary convention results. And Rebecca added, the candidates will not be allowed to get extra petition signatures to make the ballot as is customary when contenders fail to get the pre-primary designation. It seems she is saying because the party missed the deadline, the Green Party convention never actually took place. Miller, who takes the blame for missing the deadline, disagrees and the Congressional hopefuls plan on filing petition signatures anyway. If Rebecca stands firm the matter will probably head to the courts,.

A sidebar to this one is Miller's recent appointment by Big Bill to the State Higher Education Commission. Surely, the conspiracy theories will be in full bloom now.

All this is good news for probable ABQ Dem congressional nominee Richard Romero. The Dems think it will be much easier beating Heather Wilson without having a Green on the ballot to draw liberal Dem votes way from Richard. But the Green Party's Steve Cabiedes, who thinks Rebecca could be overruled, says if the decision stands and Romero goes on to lose "it will settle once and for all the argument that the Green's hurt the Democratic Party." He has a point. Green David Bacon did not make a dent in Big Bill's victory over John Sanchez in 02.' And, Romero lost by 10 points to Heather in 02' with no Green candidate on the ballot.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Lightning Rod Throws A Firebomb; Will Ramsay Catch Fire? Last Night's Newt Dinner: Skip The Dessert and Dish-Up The Dirt 

Lightning Rod
State Senator "Lightning Rod" Adair has thrown another firebomb at the state GOP saying Chair Ramsay Gorham must cease her state senate re-election bid or else be in violation of her party's own rules. In his latest newsletter, Adair, a leader of the Dendahl wing of the GOP, cites this rule: "Party officers shall not publicly endorse one Republican candidate over another Republican candidate."

Adair and a few of his allies on the state GOP Rules Committee, say since former state GOP Executive Director John Ryan is challenging Ramsay, she is in violation of the rule. Gorham backers claim the rule only applies to statewide office seekers, not legislative contenders. Adair and his supporters are calling for a special meeting of the GOP State Central Committee Monday night in Roswell to get Gorham to back off of her senate bid, but sources said Ramsay was set to issue an opinion today that the request for the special meeting was not legitimate. What does this all mean? Here's what my insiders say:

"In any other year the chair would have been given a pass on this, but because Dendahl and his allies have not given up on taking back power they are going to squeeze this for all it's worth. They probably won't get much more than some articles in the press. Gorham has the votes on the Rules Committee, and she who has the votes rules."

"I wonder what the White House and Bush are thinking? They have been asking both sides to cool it as the campaign heats up. For this to be out there in the middle of a presidential visit was terrible timing and does not bode well in getting this thing settled." opined another observer


So, is Gorham's ABQ senate seat at risk? Highly unlikely, says a consensus of my insiders. "The only way she goes is on her own. Adair and his group are hoping the pressure buckles her, that she resigns the seat and Ryan gets the GOP nomination," says one player.

Lightning Rod of Roswell also says Judy Vanderstar Russell, a close ally of Ramsay's, will challenge NM Republican National Committeewoman Rosie Tripp, a Dendahlite, at the June GOP convention. No official word from Judy yet. Committeeman Barnett, head of the Dendahlite brain trust, is being challenged by another Gorham ally, former ABQ State Rep. George Buffett.

Unless both warring GOP factions can be persuaded that Bush's re-election is more important than their own turf fights, the Dems are going to take advantage. Inside sources say the White House ordered the brawl to stop. But the Prez is having better luck with the war in Iraq than with the war that threatens his re-election bid in New Mexico.

Meanwhile, at the annual NM GOP Lincoln Day dinner at the Sheraton Old Town in ABQ, it was chocolate on chocolate brownies with raspberry sauce for dessert, but we'll go right to the dirt that was also being dished last night. First, the rumor that Senator Pete will back Mickey Barnett in his battle with George Buffett for GOP National Committeeman. "I heard rumblings,” said one of our insider dinner sources. He explained that James Fuller, Domenici campaign manager, is close with Mickey and former NM Attorney General Hal Stratton. Also, Fuller'’s wife, Heidi, a top fundraiser for the state GOP, was ousted by Ramsay. And, Domenici is known to be none to happy with Gorham's criticism of the Prez's NM re-election campaign. Again, our insider reported, "it was just a rumbling, but definitely noteworthy."

Ex-State Rep. Marty Lambert was also sharing stuffed rubber chicken with keynoter Newt Gingrich, former U.S. House Speaker, but local concerns were also on her mind. Word was circulating that Lambert was out with a hit piece on Ramsay opponent John Ryan highlighting Ryan’s felony conviction for breaking and entering. Ryan was pardoned for the youthful crime by Governor Gary, but it's the first sign of how rough that North Valley senate battle is going to be.

Gingrich said in his speech that the GOP faces the “perfect storm” this election year because the issues favor the Prez. What about the “perfect storm” facing the embattled GOP here? On that, Newt was uncharacteristically quiet.

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Monday, March 29, 2004

Jeff: Will He Or Won't He? Blogging In Santa Fe: It Can be Hazardous, Plus: Insider TV Stuff With Knipfing & Erika, And: We Welcome AlphaGraphics 

Jeff, are you running for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 06'? You will not get a direct response to that question from Jeff Bingaman and it has caused some fevered speculation in political circles, so fevered that sources close to NM's junior senator have contacted me to calm the waters and let it be know that all signs are pointing to a re-elect run for the Silver City native.

"Jeff has an approval rating of 73% and he is positioned for another run. But he is not going to be rushed. It has never been his style to get out in front early, and this time, despite the way the process has accelerated, will be no different. Right now, he is working hard to help other candidates so the Democrats can take back the Senate this November and he can get back his Energy Committee chairmanship." Said a member of the Bingaman inner circle in a recent deep background discussion.

What got the politicos going is the money thing. Why hasn't Jeff sent them letters squeezing them for campaign cash yet? After all, he will need millions. Also, he was noncommittal when asked point-blank about his campaign plans in an off-the-microphone conversation with radio host Mike Santullo. But, in what may be a prelude to turning up the heat a notch, Bingaman was clashing with Senator Pete this past week and letting it be known, at least coyly, if not overtly, that he is indeed going to go for a fifth, six year term. Probably a good idea, Jeff. The alligators are restless, and if they see further hesitation, they will regard it as a dinner invitation.


Blogging can be hazardous to your bottom line. Just ask Santa Fe's George Johnson who started a blog in January to cover the Santa Fe political scene. But George is also a freelance science writer for the New York Times and has been admonished by the powers that be at the Old Gray Lady that his donation to a city council candidate was in violation of the Times' ethics policy. This, even though George, formerly a NYT full-timer, is a freelancer.

Johnson, also a noted science author, said he will rescind the campaign contribution, and he says he understands the NYT policy. But he will put his blog and its hard-hitting attitude toward Santa Fe development on hiatus. Johnson has been a political junkie for years. I worked with him when we both were kids at the University Of New Mexico Daily Lobo. How long ago was that? Well, Tony Hillerman was just Tony Hillerman and was our 'academic advisor.' Obviously, Johnson and Hillerman learned a lot more than me. But maybe I'm a late bloomer. Anyway, here's the full story on George's adventures from the New Mexican's Tom Sharpe


TV news has been a busy beat lately with the comings and goings (mostly goings) of a gaggle of local anchors. Friday afternoon I was back in TV land at KRQE where I interviewed on the Prez's ABQ visit with Dick Knipfing. I also had time to talk up battle-scarred PR and news veteran Gerges Scott. Gerges is back as executive producer at 13, coming off of a stint in PR at the Rick Johnson Agency. Gerges, you may recall, was front and center in the ABQ October bond election. His side lost but he says he is on the winning side now, confirming that KRQE narrowly secured the second place spot in the February 10 p.m. news ratings. Gerges is in fighting form and now has his sights set on late-night news leader KOB-TV.

As for Dick, he is one anchor who is staying put. "Only If I am abducted by aliens would I leave New Mexico, but we do broadcast into Roswell, so I guess that's possible," the TV news dean joked. Knipfing, with over 40 years on the job, still leads NM TV political coverage with vim and vigor. Co-anchor Erika Ruiz is also not immune to the lure of La Politica. She says she too is ready for the long campaign ahead. And long it will be.


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