Monday, June 07, 2004

Memories Of Reagan In New Mexico: Plus: No 'Arm Twisting' For Miles Nelson  

Long before today's high drama in the state GOP, there was the famous Reagan-Ford split of 1976 that had the Reaganites practically throwing Senator Domenici and then-Congressman Manuel Lujan out of the party. Ford had taken over the presidency after Nixon resigned but Reagan had mounted a stiff challenge to him and the rubber met the road in New Mexico.

The Reagan forces were seen as "far-right" at that time and moderate R's like Domenici and Lujan resisted the conservative changes that were taking hold in the GOP. For their resistance they suffered the humiliation of being shut out as delegates to the state Republican convention.

The Reaganites eventually fell to the Ford forces, but New Mexico Republican Party politics would never be the same with Reagan taking power in 1980. Later, Domenici battled with the Reagan White House over the big budget deficits being piled-up, but the moderates were no match against this rising tide of "conservatism."

Today the battle over NM GOP power seems more about what wing of the party gets contracts and other lucrative opportunities. But back then it was all about ideas and ideology. Sure, there was money involved, but nothing like today. The battle of ideas was much more fun to cover, than the mercenary politics that has taken hold in today's State GOP.


After 1976 Reagan was in the political wilderness. He had lost the prez nomination, but had his eye on 1980, so he signed up with the now defunct Mutual Radio Network to deliver commentaries. They were carried locally on KZIA radio where Mike Santullo was news director. I was with KRKE radio when I met up with Santullo at the Amfac (now Wyndham) hotel near the airport to take in a Reagan speech. Reagan spoke but was not taking any questions from reporters. But Santullo and I were determined so we chased down Reagan as he was getting into his limo and yelled questions, but he paid us no heed. That is until Santullo reached in his radio bag and whipped out a Mutual radio logo and stuck it on his microphone. Reagan eyed that and he immediately softened and gave us a brief interview. Reagan, a longtime spokesman for GE in his early days, obviously prized company loyalty. And on that day there were two young radio reporters who were glad he did.


Bernalillo County Sheriff and longtime Reagan admirer Darren White tells us a memorial and tribute will be held Tuesday, June 8 to honor the late President. The ceremony will be held at 7:00 PM on Civic Plaza in downtown ABQ and will be open to the public. For more information, contact Darren at dpwhite38@msn.com.


A campaign spokesman for congressional candidate Miles Nelson is shooting down a report (see June 4 below) that Democratic Party Chair John Wertheim used his persuasive powers on Nelson Election Night in order to get him to go over to the victory party of Richard Romero at La Posada in Downtown ABQ and raise Richard's arm in a victory salute.

According to Nelson's campaign: "Miles agreed to go to Romero's victory party before he gave his concession speech to a crowd of cheering supporters There was absolutely NO arm twisting involved. It took a while to get away from the supporters wishing him well, but finally we left."

A source close to the action maintained that Wertheim had to sweet-talk Miles into the endorsement. That was pretty believable since Nelson and Romero practically came to blows during a final joint radio appearance. According to the Nelson spokesman, that happened "because Miles did not like being called a racist." The two men are now scheduled to meet and make-up for good. The Nelson forces were nothing but confident telling me they would narrowly defeat Romero, instead they suffered a 16 point rebuke, but held Romero below 60 percent. Meanwhile, Romero is in Seattle vacationing and raising money.

Make our site---www.joemonahan.com--one of your 'favorites.' Bookmark it now and send a link to interested friends. Want to advertise to NM's large political community? E-mail me or call 505-243-4059 for details. And thanks for e-mailing me your news tips and comments. There's a link at the top right of this page.

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Friday, June 04, 2004

The Week That Was: You Are There: My Insider Report From the Campaign Trail 

It may have been the lowest NM primary turnout ever Tuesday, but for those of us involved in campaigns or covering them, it was high-intensity all the way. Our KANW 89.1 FM coverage wrapped-up just before midnight, and that was actually pretty early compared to previous years when vote-counting glitches kept us at the roundtable until the wee morning hours. November could be a different story as most experts expect a big turnout for the Prez contest and many thousands of absentee ballots that will require all the vote-counting skills that Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera can muster.


The arrest of Bernalillo county Chief Judge John Brennan on drug possession charges and probably DWI as well, received more airtime than the election results this week. That was not surprising considering the shock it administered to the body politic. Respected TV anchorman Dick Knipfing and I pondered the issue in an off-camera chat Tuesday with Dick saying he was astonished at the immediate reaction from some public officials who praised Brennan's service, but failed to condemn the actions of the judge.

Knipfing was just one of many who were bewildered by the closing of the ranks in the immediate aftermath, but by week's end it became clear that more sober thinking was taking hold. The Albuquerque Tribune was the first major media outlet to call on Brennan to "judge himself" and permanently resign from the bench. It will be many months, if not years, before the NM judiciary recovers from this one, and that's only if the handling of Brennan's case by Santa Fe District Attorney Henry Valdez is exemplary and without a hint of favoritism.


ABQ GOP NE Heights State Rep. Bob White was clearly shocked by his defeat at the hands of fellow Republican Justine Fox Young in his bid for another term. A campaign staffer called me while I was on he air Election Night flabbergasted that we had called the race for Young. "Based on what?" He bellowed. Well, actually Justine called her own race. She phoned in with the results that her campaign had gathered from all the polling places and declared herself the winner.

She is the office manager for lobbyist-lawyer Mickey Barnett who fielded a slate of challengers against fellow Republicans. Being able to have all the results in hand early was just one way in which the Barnett machine out organized White who said he would now be leaving the GOP. Bob was an Independent before he became an R. Don't expect him to sign up with the Dems.


Insiders tell me that losing Dem congressional candidate Miles Nelson was not all that eager to embrace Richard Romero when it became clear that Richard was the winner in the Dem nomination fight for the right to take on R Heather Wilson in November. They say Dem Party Chair John Wertheim left the Downtown ABQ Dem party to rush over to Nelson headquarters where he spent an hour and a half sweet talking Miles and telling him of his own two congressional losses. Miles later mounted the podium with Richard and raised arms, giving Wertheim and the D's the picture they wanted. But in his last posting on his web site, Nelson does not mention Romero saying instead that his candidacy generated "shockwaves" and Dems must work "tirelessly" for John Kerry. Richard, you may have to buy him a cup of coffee.


We have had a record number of hits to our web site this week and I want to thank you for tuning in here and to our Election Night broadcast on KANW. Thanks to the efforts of dozens of political junkies and volunteers, it is the most listened to election night broadcast in the state. Keep your comments and news tips coming. There's an email link at the top right of the page

To advertise on this, the most viewed web site on New Mexico politics, call me at 505-243-4059 or send me an e mail.

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Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Big Bill Flexes His Muscles; Mickey Too; The Complete Wrap-Up Of NM Primary 04' Is Right Here! 

It may not be machine politics like the old days, but Big Bill and his GOP counterpart, Mickey Barnett, reacquainted New Mexicans with the politics of yore last night with each powerful personality backing a slate of candidates in their respective party's primaries and, for the most part, ending up winners. Statewide Election Results

For the Guv, there was plenty of reason to kick back and light up one of his favorite cigars as Ben Ray Lujan, the 31 year old son of State House Speaker Ben Lujan, crushed fellow Democrat Bob Perls for a seat on the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) in a race that never lived up to its billing. The young Lujan pulled off a rarity in New Mexico politics; riding the coattails of a well-known relative to power. Perls was left choking in the Lujan dust as the fresh face garnered nearly half the vote in a four man race. The teeny turnout attracted mainly the party faithful and they stayed loyal to the Lujan's.

One observer summed it up this way: "It was a big win for the Speaker and maybe even a bigger win for Bill, who finally has a toe hold in the powerful PRC. It was one of the last remaining institutions that was not in his realm. Now it it is."Not to mention a further cementing of the ties between Big Bill and the senior Lujan, That can't hurt come the next legislative session.

The Big Guy also rid himself of a political thorn up north as young attorney Hector Balderas pulled off the upset against Rep. Bengie Regensberg. Bill reportedly let loose with "Moving America Forward" PAC funds. Hector no doubt will thank the man when he takes his seat in the Roundhouse.


Richard Romero, another name on the Big Bill slate, won, which was expected, but Miles Nelson held him below the crucial 60 percent mark. Nelson, under the influence of Dem Party Chair Wertheim, promptly pledged his support to Richard, avoiding the continuation of a battle that was growing more personal by the day.

The one skunk at the Big Bill Election Night festivities was the loss of longtime State Senator Roman Maes in Santa Fe. But it was not enough to spoil the party as Maes was teetering the past few years, although the experts were again taken by surprise.

Not to give the Guv too much credit. The Lujan's played their cards smart by persuading two young and promising Hispanic candidates to get out of the PRC race in favor of Ben Jr. (OK, Maybe Bill helped a little there) And they showed a needed tough side when they hit with late attack TV against Perls.

And Romero, despite a sluggish start to his campaign, opted to conserve most of his cash for the fight against Heather Wilson in November, and still managed to get the job done.

Down South, Gary King did it on his own, reviving fond memories of his governor father for a little help, but his experience advantage over Jeff Steinborn carried the day. Gary hit 64% and while Romero will have a bit of an argument that Heather is vulnerable after last night's results, King's landslide will help to keep the doubters in line as he prepares to take on Rep. Steve Pearce.


Mickey Barnett. Say the name and there are no shades of gray. You're either with him or against him. But the lawyer-lobbyist and Republican National Committeeman took home the trophy Election Night. His slate of GOP challengers, excepting one, trounced their rivals.

Incumbent Rep. Larry Larranaga, with ties to both factions in the civil-war torn GOP, cozied up to Mickey to pull this one off over former State Rep. Rob Burpo who felt the full wrath of the Mickey machine and fell hard. But the cherry on top of a sweet evening for Barnett and followers of ex-GOP Chair John Dendahl, was the stomping administered to State Rep. Bob White at the hands of Barnett's office manager, Justine Fox-Young. The 25 year old now becomes the youngest member of our Legislature. If Young was a hard-sell, she showed her mettle by working it hard. Her big victory will help her shed the "Mickey puppet" label her opposition tagged her with when she travels to Santa Fe.

Like Big Bill, Barnett also lost one. Kathy McCoy sacked Mario Burgos in the Bernalillo County East Mountains. Her predecessor, Ron Godbey, carried the anti-Dendahlite flag for years. But with her fellow warriors slain, Kathy will have a heavy load to carry if she chooses to go toe-to-toe against the Barnett forces.

Down South, State Sen. "Lightning Rod" Adair and State Rep. Dan Foley carried the Mickey-Dendahl flag into battle in a big way, costing longtime State Rep. Earlene Roberts her House seat. Her support of mandatory ignition interlock devices on all cars was turned against her and she ended up roadkill. The victory furthers Foley's ambitions to become State House Minority Whip, replacing Joe Thompson who fell on his own sword when he was picked up for DWI earlier this year. But clearly, last night, with Thompson among those manning the front-lines, Barnett & Company rebounded mightily.

The results postpone a final reckoning for the GOP. It appears George Buffett's challenge to Barnett's National Committeeman post is now in critical condition. If Bush loses NM, the long knives will come out again. But for now raw political power has filled the vacuum in the strife-ridden GOP.


One of the GOP races playing outside of the intra-party war, was the PRC race featuring Hess Yntema and Ward Camp. Ward, serve up the crow! All the supposed experts (and amateurs such as me) forecast an Yntema win based on his name ID from serving on the ABQ City Council. But Camp inched by Hess by less than a hundred votes, riding momentum he created with his own pocket change in the last week of the campaign. Mr. Camp obviously believed in himself. And now all of us do too. The Camp victory gave politics what we love: the unexpected. Congratulations, Ward.


We broke the news on KANW 89.1 FM last night that State House Majority Whip James Taylor may be in line for a Big Bill appointment to the State Senate when, as expected, Senate Majority leader Manny Aragon leaves his Bernalillo County South Valley senate seat to assume the presidency of Highlands University. At first, James seemed to shirk off the possibility, but soon admitted that he "was tired" of running every two years and perhaps wouldn't mind having those nice long four year senate terms. Insiders at the Capitol say he is the leading choice, and while not confirming that, Taylor clearly has the door open. Don't say we didn't tell you.


The stunner of the night for some in Bernalillo County was the defeat of veteran politico and Democratic County Treasurer Alex Abeyta. He was ousted by Partick Padilla, a former treasurer, by just a couple of hundred votes. The experts laid the blame at the feet of a third candidate, Ozzie Davis, an Hispanic with an Anglo last name, who they say cut into Alex's support in the NE Heights, letting Padilla sneak in. No one one saw it coming as Abeyta, a former county manager, had a solid record as Treasurer.

Turnout in the county hit a record primary low, less than 20% of registered voters. We assume it was about the same statewide, County Clerk Mary Herrerra continued her streak of mostly glitch-free vote counting by posting complete results (excepting a few that had to be hand-counted) by 11 p.m. That bodes well for her as friends tout her as a possible future contender for the Dems for Secretary of state. Bernalillo County Results

Former County Clerk Judy Woodward did not fare as well, falling to Deanna Archuleta-Loesser in the Dem primary for the SE Heights County Commission seat. But word on the street has it that some D's find Deanna to liberal and that the Republican in that area may get some to cross party lines in November to support him.


While much of the focus this election has been on those dueling Republicans, and rightly so, the big picture has the D's firmly in control. As of today, no dramatic change is expected in the party make-up of the Legislature after the November elections. And Kerry is sitting pretty right now against Bush. The small GOP hs provided a colorful and entertaining show, but the levers of power elude them. This Governor has restored party discipline among the party rank and file. His zest for the game of politics and his ability to consolidate and exercise power are impressive. Last night was a case in point. He played it safe for the most part, endorsing likely to win candidates, and while not scoring a touchdown, he again moved the ball down field.

Make our site---www.joemonahan.com--one of your 'favorites.' Bookmark it now and send a link to interested friends. Want to advertise to NM's large political community? E-mail me or call 505-243-4059 for details. And thanks for e-mailing me your news tips and comments. There's a link at the top right of this page.

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Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Brennan Arrest Casts Pall On State Political Scene; Plus: Election Night Coverage on KANW 89.1 FM Starts At 6:30 P.M. Tonight 

Webster's defines "pall" as "a sudden numbing dread," and nothing better sums up the reaction to the shocking weekend arrest of Bernalillo County Chief District Judge John Brennan. The bizarre incident again thrust New Mexico into the national headlines and overshadowed today's statewide primary election. Gasps of incredulity greeted the news that Brennan, a jurist known here and nationally, had been busted for cocaine possession while apparently driving drunk while trying to evade a police DWI checkpoint in midtown ABQ early Saturday morning. But as the shock wore off the political alligators surfaced with the postmortems and the tough questions.

--Where does a leading judge buy cocaine? Will that come out as this case winds thru the judicial process?

--What about his female companion, an employee of the NM Higher Education Commission? What do her bosses have to say and what is the message to the students of this state from that commission?

--Depending on where the judge allegedly got his drugs, did this influence any cases that may have come before him? He went on the bench in 1979.

--Where were his fellow judges, the ones who time and again elected him as Chief Judge? Did they not know he had a problem? Did they know but choose denial, rather than confrontation?

--What is the damage nationally to New Mexico politics as the news was played across the country throughout the long Memorial Day weekend?

--Will the Republicans benefit politically from Democrat Brennan's disaster, or are they handcuffed by prominent members of their own party who support drug legalization?

--Will the depressing news of the arrest further dampen turnout for today's already low-key election?

--Who will become the new chief judge for Bernalillo County District Court? One alligator touted Judge Edmund Lang as a a possible contender. "He ran a tight race against Brennan for the Chief Judge post and could now be positioned to take it."

--And will any of these questions be answered responsibly, or will the whole thing be swept under the carpet and labeled a “personal tragedy?” At this point, Judge Brennan’s personal problems are, frankly, irrelevant. The severe damage inflicted on the body politic and the citizens of New Mexico are what matter. Do our elected leaders have the guts to admit that and get on with cleaning up this mess in a forthright manner?


Just some of the questions burning up up the email and phone lines as the impact of the news is fully absorbed. It comes just a couple of months after the DWI bust of another prominent state leader, State House Minority Whip Joe Thompson, who was forced to get out of elective politics as a result. Most legal sources say it's a no-brainer that Brennan is through as a judge and they expect his resignation shortly.

Governor Bill's reaction was tougher than when Thompson was arrested and Big Bill termed that a 'personal tragedy." He took heat for going so mild on Thompson and apparently learned his lesson as his Brennan statement took note that the judge's status should not influence how the case is handled. As Chair of the upcoming Democratic National Convention, you can be sure Big Bill wants this one to go away quickly. But tough talk and condemnation, if it comes, will only be a first step in repairing the damage to the state political and judicial system.

It was incredible to hear KOB-TV news report over the weekend that they had received numerous calls and e-mails that the station was placing too much emphasis on the arrest. This while the story raged across America! Until these pockets of indifference and denial towards the behavior of elected officials are cleaned out, our fair little state will continue to suffer, economically, politically and spiritually.


All the fevered speculation of NM Primary 04' will come to a halt tonight when we start counting the votes and see just how many upsets this one has to offer. I will anchor KANW 89.1 FM Election Night coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. with top NM Lobbyist Scott Scanland and an all-star panel of politicos. We will also continue our tradition of gathering votes early from key precincts so KANW will be the place to be if you want to know early how things are shaping up. Also, we will offer one-of-a-kind political analysis in New Mexico tonight, giving you stuff you can't hear anywhere else. If you ar a TV addict, I urge you to turn down the sound and tune us in. See you tonight!

Also, for an Election Night appetizer, join me at 4:20 p.m. today with KRQE-TV anchor Dick Knipfing who has been covering La Politica since the early 60's. We will preview the night ahead. And, at noon today, I will take calls and talk politics with talk show host Jeremy Reynalds on KKNS-AM 1310 in Albuquerque. Again, Election Night coverage on KANW starts at 6:30 p.m. Thanks to Pfizer, New Mexico's Enterprise rent-a-car, Bill Campbell Real Estate and Alphagraphics on Osuna NE in ABQ for their support of our program and of public radio.

Make our site---www.joemonahan.com--one of your 'favorites.' Bookmark it now and send a link to interested friends. Want to advertise to NM's large political community? E-mail me or call 505-243-4059 for details. And thanks for e-mailing me your news tips and comments. There's a link at the top right of this page.

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