Thursday, December 09, 2004

Big Bill & Hollywood Tangle Over Cockfighting, Plus; Shirley Baca: Flying High In More Ways than One 

Pamela Anderson
The charms of actress Pamela Anderson are not working their magic on Big Bill. Pressure from Pam and other Hollywood liberals to have the Guv back a ban on the age-old tradition of NM cockfighting has him slapping back hard. In today's New York Times (registration required) the Guv says:

"I'm officially undecided on the issue, but I don't believe it merits the attention it's received," Governor Richardson said in an interview. "Every time it's introduced it distracts from pressing issues like access to health care or drunk-driving fatalities, serious problems affecting our population."

"But it goes beyond distraction sometimes," he said. "Some of the implied threats coming from these Hollywood personalities are condescending and insulting."

Measures to ban the controversial sport have been repeatedly laid to rest in Santa Fe. Only NM and Louisiana now allow cockfighting, making us a juicy target. Another ban will be proposed next month. ABQ Mayor Chavez split with the Fourth Floor and has signed on with Hollywood. NM is just one of two states allowing cockfights. An estimated 10,000 New Mexicans train gamecocks, not many of them in the Big Duke City.

For the Guv, staying on the fence may make political sense as he runs statewide in 06'. For his national ambitions it gets a little tricky as Hollywood and animal rights groups are sure to continue to put the heat on as the Guv moves to broaden his national image.


Just when you think the world of La Politica would fall silent for the holidays NM Public Regulation Commissioner Shirley Baca comes to the rescue, getting herself busted for pot possession as she was about to board a plane at ABQ International Wednesday morning. Baby boomer Baca, 53, apparently likes her pot strong; she was busted with about an ounce and a glass pipe. Hey, what happened to rolling papers?

Shirley described herself as an occasional weed user, but denied the pot was hers. The usual political hypocrisy accompanied this bust of a state politico. Baca is an advocate of a "no tolerance" policy for drug use by state employees. That sounds familiar, doesn't it Judge Brennan and Joe Thompson?

What happens now? Well, it's not a felony. Baca could resign out of shame (is there any of that left in these parts?) or, even more unlikely, as KRQE-TV's Jessica Garate reminded us last night, Baca could be impeached by the Legislature.

The PRC has been an ethical nightmare since its inception. GOP Commissioner David King, who is facing yet another sexual harassment charge form a state employee, was quick to pile on reminding everyone of Baca's no-tolerance policy. Talk about the kettle calling the pot black!


The whole commission needs a rinse job. State GOP leader Ted Hobbs has been a lonely voice in calling for starting from scratch in remaking this wacky panel. If any good at call comes out of Shirley's bust, it would be for more lawmakers to sign on with Hobbs.

And in a little twist of irony, Congressman Steve Pearce reported this week that the bill honoring Joe Skeen's life of service to New Mexico was passed in the U.S. Senate and sent to the President to be signed into law. The legislation designates the Federal Building at Fifth and Richardson Avenues in Roswell as the "Joe Skeen Federal Building."

Skeen, who passed away a year ago, served 22 years in the U.S. House. It was none other than Shirley Baca who twice ran against the popular Skeen who must be having a chuckle right now, along with a vice more common to his generation: a shot of scotch (without the car keys).

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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

NM Public Regulation Commissioner Shirley Baca Busted For Pot Possession At ABQ Airport 

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) -A member of the powerful state Public Regulation Commission who
advocated zero tolerance on drugs and alcohol in the PRC workplace has been arrested
on drug charges. E. Shirley Baca, 53, of Las Cruces, was taken into custody shortly
after 7 a.m. Wednesday at Albuquerque's international airport. She was booked into the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center on charges of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

John Roberts, deputy chief of Albuquerque Aviation Police, told The
Associated Press that the controlled substance was marijuana. Baca's bond was set at $1,000, and she bonded out by early afternoon, jail officials said. Fellow Commissioner David King said he was stunned when told by the AP that Baca had been arrested. "I know that she was one of the advocates to have zero tolerance for drugs or alcohol" at the PRC, King said. She advocated immediate dismissal
of any PRC employee when it comes to drugs or alcohol, he said.

"We have a lot of sensitive positions here. We just can't tolerate that (drugs and alcohol). I think that, as commissioners, we have to set a strong example," King said.

Baca was scheduled to take a Wednesday flight to New York City to participate in an investment conference, King said. A message left seeking comment at Baca's Santa Fe office was notimmediately returned. Baca's secretary, Jesse Ramirez, was surprised to learn of Baca's arrest but said she could not comment further. Baca, a Democrat, was elected in 2002 for a four-year term to the five-member PRC, which oversees electricity and gas rates, insurance, pipelines, telecommunications, fire districts and transportation in New

Commissioner Lynda Lovejoy said the news came as a big surprise. "I'm going to refrain from passing any judgment because I really don'tknow all the details," Lovejoy said. Patrick Baca, commission chief of staff, declined comment.

Baca's arrest is the latest in a series of embarrassing busts for high-profile officials in New Mexico. John Brennan, former chief state district judge in Bernalillo County, was arrested in May after trying to duck a checkpoint for drunken drivers. He pleaded guilty to aggravated driving while intoxicated and cocaine possession and was sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation.Rep. Joe Thompson, R-Albuquerque, in April pleaded guilty to drunken driving after he was stopped by Albuquerque police. Arthur Salazar, associate superintendent of schools in Espanola,pleaded guilty in October 2003 to a DWI charge after his car struck a house,
garage and fence. He was sentenced to three days in jail.

E. Shirley Baca was a state representative from 1993 to 1996. She also made unsuccessful bids against the late Joe Skeen for the 2nd Congressional District seat in 1996 and 1998.

Those Old Green Blues, Plus: Will Big Bill Be Bored? And: Your Right To Enchiladas  

The New Mexico Green Party, for a time a force on the state political scene, seems to be a shell of its former self. The party is about to lose its "major party' status as it had no candidate win five percent of the statewide vote in the recent election, Some Greenies, reports the ABQ Trib's Shea Andersen, are pinning their hopes on their Bernalillo County clerk candidate, Steve Cabiedes, who got around 17% of the votes cast in his race. They said that amounts to 5% statewide, thus the Green's could retain major party status. But Cabiedes says even if you accept that logic, he is still a few hundred votes short of the 5%, and the recount will not change that.

Losing the major party label is mostly a loss of prestige and the right to hold primary elections. Cabiedes, a political junkie who has contributed analysis to our blog, told me he sees the party as dormant when it comes to the NM 06' Guv's race where the party has made its biggest splashes in recent years. "No one is talking about it right now," he reports.

However, Cabiedes predicted that if it looks as if Big Bill will have an easy time at re-election, the Greens could come up with a candidate as they did in 02. "The stronger the Governor looks, the better our chance of picking up Green votes since folks are not as concerned that they will be hurting one of the major parties." He analyzed. The decline of the Greens is yet anther sign of the exhaustion among the left in the wake of the Bush victory.


Meanwhile, insider sources at the very top of the Dem Party food chain are as baffled as the rest of us as to who will emerge from the GOP to take on the uphill task of challenging Big Bill in 06'. The Guv fired the opening shot Monday saying he will seek the job again, but his backers see no big name opposition on the horizon. When pressed they name John Sanchez, restaurant owner Ed Tinsley and even hard-right conservative State Rep. Dan Foley. It would seem the main threat to the Big Guy at this point is boredom.


Can a catchy title make a bill catch fire at the Roundhouse? The New Mexico Restaurant Association is giving it the college try with one dubbed,"The right To Eat Enchiladas" bill. The measure aims to do away with legal threats to restaurant owners who serve high fat food to fat folk. "Frivolous obesity suits" is the specific target. Not a bad name, but maybe the association should rename its effort "The Right to Eat Pork" bill. Lawmakers would put that one through on a voice vote.


Finally, from our email bag comes word that they are even playing politics at funerals these days. A woman, eulogizing her late father in ABQ, gets up and tells the congregation her late dad's favorite saying was: "If you can't say something nice about somebody, you must be talking about Hillary Clinton." The attendees chuckled, but Hillary gets the last laugh. The dearly departed won't get to vote against her.

Make our site, WWW.JOEMONAHAN.COM, one of your favorites and e-mail a link to interested friends. Interested in advertising to NM's large political community? E-mail me from the top right of this page, or call 505-243-4059 for details.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Big Bill: I've Done Two And Am Ready For Six More; He Throws Hat In Ring Early To Quiet The Natives, Plus: Those Fun Luvin' Sanchez Brothers 

If there's anything a politico like Big Bill hates to be called it's "lame-duck." He went to work Monday to banish that phrase from the realm of La Politica when he told an ABQ Chamber of Commerce crowd that he is definitely seeking re-election in 06.' No jaws dropped and there were no audible gasps. The "news" that our Guv was running for re-election was about as surprising as watching paint dry. One wag wondered whether Bill had called Sen. Jeff and received word that he is a go for 06' and for Bill not to trouble himself with that quite unlikely senate vacancy.

But what really focused political eyes was how he tied his announcement to the upcoming 60 day legislative session: "This next legislative session is the most important I have had because it is the last 60-day session before I will run for re-election, which I intend to do," declared Big Bill.

Was there an implied threat to lawmakers who might not have the Guv's agenda in mind? Threat might be too strong a word, but the Guv was highly active in this year's legislative campaigns and by tying his re-elect plans to the legislative action he seemed to be killing two birds with one stone: "I am not a lame-duck" and "If necessary, I will be around for pay back on the campaign trail."

What he said on the surface also rings true. He wants most of his agenda implemented in this session so he will have a nice fat platform to run on. The Big Bill prestige meter took a dip when Kerry lost NM and the Alligators started talk of harpooning and then beaching the Big Guy at the Roundhouse. He let it be known Monday that he still prefers to do the targeting.


I spoke about NM politics to an informed audience at one of those Chamber seminars Monday, along with top NM lobbyist Scott Scanland. The speculation there was more about Big Bill's Prez plans than his Guv duties. How will those plans shade his legislative efforts over the next couple of years? Inquiring minds will want to know.

Also on hand at the Chamber confab was a piece of NM history, Used-To-Be- House Speaker Raymond Sanchez who, appropriately enough, tutored the attendees on "The History of New Mexico Politics." Raymond is getting his thrills the vicarious way these days: watching his new Senate Majority leader brother Michael Sanchez. The Guv has been known to work Michael thru Raymond (how shocking!) who is now NM Democratic National Committeeman. But now that Michael is a Really Big Brother you wonder who will be working whom? Or is it whom will be working who? Well, either way it adds up to the art of the deal.

I am off hunting Alligators in Santa Fe today. If you see me on the Plaza looking disoriented and reading the Legislative bill digest from last year, don't let on. I will attempt to report on my activities, unless sworn to secrecy by a cult of wayward Penitentes passing out re-elect pamphlets for the Guv.

Make our site, WWW.JOEMONAHAN.COM, one of your favorites and e-mail a link to interested friends. Interested in advertising to NM's large political community? E-mail me from the top right of this page, or call 505-243-4059 for details.

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Monday, December 06, 2004

"Ambassador" Ken Zangara? Auto Tycoon's Name Surfaces As Possible Passport Contender; Plus: Keep Counting The Votes 

Bill Clinton had Ed Romero. Will George W. Bush have Ken Zangara? That's the question going around in the NM GOP as the White House begins divvying up the spoils of its election victory. No one has done more for Bush in NM than car dealer Zangara, who has raised and given thousands of dollars and who also has a good relationship with George and First Lady Laura. Naturally, this all gives rise to the possibility that Zangara, who headed Bush's successful NM campaign, could be in line for an ambassadorship. Zangara fits the profile; a high-dollar giver on good terms with the Prez. NM's Ed Romero raised huge dollars for Clinton and became ambassador to Spain.


But making Ambassador requires U.S. Senate confirmation and that means a hearing at which Zangara would likely have to deal with this 1992 no contest plea to misdemeanor charges that he defrauded 80 employees of a previous car dealership out of more than $20,000 in wages and benefits. Zangara was put on a three-year probation and ordered to pay the affected workers $73,000 in restitution.

This skeleton in Zangara's closet did not stop the Prez from appointing him to his 2000 Interior Department transition team and inviting him to his Crawford ranch and this year's White House Xmas party. Also, Zangara is widely given credit for making valiant attempts to unify the strife-ridden NM GOP the past year.

Zangara, chair of the Bernalillo County R's, has been a loyal soldier. Now it's up to the Prez to decide whether a posting of international and local prestige is a fitting reward for Zangara who upon being sworn in could say goodbye to that black mark on an otherwise impressive resume.


And what about Bernalillo County sheriff and Bush county chair Darren White? The young and aggressive White,a former cabinet secretary under Gov. Johnson, previously applied with the Administration for a national posting. Don't be surprised if you see his name pop up on the list of possibles as the line forms for those vacant high-paying political postings in D.C.


Count me in when it comes to counting and, if necessary, recounting votes in cliffhanger elections. The AP's Deborah Baker reports that defeated state senate Dem contender Bob Frost is asking for a recount in his race against incumbent Clint Harden who beat Frost by a mere 36 votes in the sprawling east side district. But Baker quotes Harden has saying in response to Frost's request: "Everybody that has been involved with the election is tired. Bush Won. I won. Let's get it over."

Sorry, Clint. It's not over until its over and that means counting every vote. Or I am missing something that has been going over the past 200 and some odd years? Let the recount begin.

Make our site, WWW.JOEMONAHAN.COM, one of your favorites and e-mail a link to interested friends. Interested in advertising to NM's large political community? E-mail me from the top right of this page, or call 505-243-4059 for details.

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