Monday, November 14, 2005

Two State Rep's Eye Treasurer Race: Lucky Vs. Al Park For D's? Plus: Feds Casting Wider Net? And: Rolling In The Dough; Spending The Surplus 

Lucky Varela
Not only does it appear very likely that veteran NM Dem Santa Fe State Rep. Lucky Varela will leave the Roundhouse after three decades and seek the D nomination for State Treasurer, but he may have some company. D ABQ State Rep. Al Park, long eyeing a race for Attorney General, is now seriously weighing a Treasurer bid, say friends of the 34 year old lawyer.

"Lucky will likely announce this week. He is drawn to the post because of his finance background and because he is ready for a change after decades in the Legislature. Park has polled the AG's race and with Gary King in the race, it looks difficult for him. He may switch and set up a Treasurer primary between Lucky and him," reports one Wall-Leaner following the action.

Varela leaving the Roundhouse will leave another big hole in House financial expertise. He is chair of the powerful Legislative Finance Committee and a prominent voice on the Appropriations Committee.

"It could give the Governor a power pop. There are not that many legislators who know the ins and outs of the budget and are able to stand up to him," offered another insider.

Hey, wasn't it Big Bill who gave the ax to Lucky's son, Jeff Varela, as head of state personnel a couple of years ago and hasn't Jeff been on the warpath against Bill ever since? Sure was. But Treasurer Lucky would not be nearly as much in the face of the Fourth Floor as legislator Lucky. Ah, the angles of La Politica!

Rep. Al Park
But will voters warm to a Hispanic Dem after the epic corruption scandal fingering Treasurers Montoya and Vigil? And can the young and aggressive Park, if he does go, show on his resume sufficient financial expertise? And what about the R's? They have a golden opportunity, but they failed to field a candidate against Vigil in 02' and so far none have surfaced for 06'. And then there is tax chief Jan Goodwin, mentioned as a possible interim treasurer and who sought the post against Vigil. Will she join the party?

And who will replace Lucky in the Legislature? Already friends of Letitia Montoya, who is contemplating a bid for Secretary of State, are touting her as a possible. It's a nice prize, maybe nice enough to even prompt some politicos to take up new addresses so they could run for the Lucky spot.

No doubt the Treasurer race, normally low-key and back-burner, will be front and center in 06' as New Mexicans come to grips with the office that runs $5 billion of their money and may
be mired in court battles for at least the next year.


And the tongues continue to wag over just what the Feds are up to. Will the investigation expand, or has it already expanded, to include the investment practices of other sate agencies?

We get top-notch analysis from top state legal sources. Here's some more from one with experience in all aspects of the law.

"Ex-Treasurer Robert) Vigil and (Vigil attorney) Bregman have to know that under the Fed scheme of things you only get consideration on a sentence if you roll over and acknowledge your sins. If you go down fighting, things are actually added to your sentence because your protestation of innocence was a lie. The new charges against Vigil are an indication perhaps that we ain't seen the last results from the evidence in the Feds' bag. Whether there's a smart game going on, or a big fall in the making. That's the question.

"At least one knowledgeable state hand has wondered aloud why no one has looked at other parts of state gov't, and assumed some credence to a Santa Fe rumor that the Feds are looking at other agencies." Penned our authoritative and tapped-in source.

So, are other state agencies that invest state cash being probed? The press, so far, has been quiet on whether that will be the next keg to explode in this historic scandal.


With the state projecting record budget surpluses for yet another fiscal year--at least $650 million and maybe more--ideas are starting to percolate on how best to use that money. Blog reader Jay Jenkins of Carlsbad starts the bidding.

"What about roads! Every time we turn around there is no money for roads (outside of GRIP). Why can’t we put a large portion of the surplus in the road fund to be equally divided among the transportation districts. That surplus comes from oil and gas around San Juan county and in Eddy and Lea counties in the south. Isn’t it time we invest in the infrastructure that gives us these great benefits?" Wonders Jenkins.

But Jay, GRIP is already putting $1.6 billion into roads. And you want more? Well,
the huge pot of money from oil and gas is going to be like a honey pot for every interest group and legislator from Cruces to Chama. It will take firm leadership from the Guv and key legislators to ensure the money, offering a historic opportunity to tackle nagging social and other problems, is not uselessly dribbled away. Of course, giving back a big chunk of it to taxpayers would take care of part of that problem.

What's your idea for spending that pile of cash? Send em’ in and we'll post the most intriguing.


The Guv's office is none to happy about that Rio Grande Sun piece we linked to Thursday and republished in the Carlsbad Current-Argus that faults Big Bill for his plane travels. Guv spokesman Gilbert Gallegos has the defense.

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