Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Big Bill Under the Scope In New Hampshire, Plus: Roberto's Back, And: TV Sports Dean Hangs Up The Cleats To Join News Wars 

Big Bill
The scrutiny will get a bit more intense now as Big Bill steps on to the soil of the Granite State today and begins to float his name for the 08' Dem Prez nod. New Hampshire is a quirky place that will give our Guv the once over and start asking whether the party is ready for a Hispanic candidate, whether Big Bill is "Democratic" enough because he boasts about cutting taxes and also scrutinize his appearance. The disheveled look plays fine at home, but the Yankees in the Northeast may flinch. Veteran political writer Steve Terrell of the New Mexican is tagging along with the Big Guy who hs to respin some national pundits who are starting to label him as a more likely VP pick than a contender for the top spot.


Roberto Mondragon was once vice-president of a sort. Well, Lt. governor of New Mexico anyway. The former number two under ex-Governor King has resurfaced with a high paying job with the State Engineer's office. Roberto, a water expert? He will be a "Special Water Projects Coordinator" at 75k a year, according to the engineer's office which says he will help the public understand "complex" water issues. But how he got the job is quite simple. Any friend of Big Bill is also a qualified state employee. The job party continues!

Mike Powers
The man who has occupied an anchor chair in the NM TV market for more consecutive years than anyone else is making a big switch come August. KRQE-TV's Mike Powers, calling the big plays at the station since 1985, is hanging up his cleats. But he isn't giving up that anchor chair. He will join the news wars as a co-anchor for the CBS affiliate's morning and noon news broadcasts. I don't know about Powers' nose for news, but he is the area's best on the sports beat, as addicted to his mission as you political junkies. I worked with him in his first years at 13 and was impressed as he covered the great sport of golf consistently. (No boos please). I still turn to Powers to give me the latest on he PGA Tour, so while we wish him well in his new venture, we urge the new guy or gal--don't know who it is yet--to not abandon Mike's passion for the links.

Thanks for joining me today. E-mail your tips from the top right of this page and keep the politics coming. And if you are traveling these warm days be sure to check out our sponsor, Enterprise rent-a-car, for your auto needs. Just click on their banner at the top.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

Fast Breaking And Hot: The 05' ABQ Mayor's Race. So Much Exclusive, Insider Stuff, It's A Double Blog Monday. Come On In, You're Gonna Stay A While 

Judy Espinosa
With the weekend entry of former state cabinet Secretary Judy Espinosa, the field for the 2005 ABQ mayoral derby appears set. Never say never, but the 5800 signatures and the gobs of dough needed to run in this thing should keep the field to the announced five, say the political pros, who add that they expect Dem David Steele to be the first to falter (if anyone does) and get out. So now what? That's what I asked the Senior Alligators of La Politica; those who have tasted the sweetness of victory in the rough and tumble world of Duke City politics and those who have been consigned to the halls of ignominy to suffer their rejection alone. Who better to tell the insider tales of the campaign ahead?


Is the Republican National Committee (RNC) ready to back the candidacy of GOP City Council Prez Brad Winter? Has he been promised their bucks and that's why he dived in? And what of that hastily called news conference to announce his candidacy Thursday that left media pros shaking their heads and his opponents thinking they dodged the first bullet from Winter's gun? Now, the answers.

My insiders report the RNC may very well come in to this race by coming up with cash to pay for anti-Chavez and/or pro-Winter literature and TV. Even the name of regional RNC operative Jay McCleskey is being tossed around as a key player in this scenario. That's the guy who ran the controversial and unsuccessful hit campaign against Winter and other City Council hopefuls in the 03' city election. If he climbs in the Brad bed, it will give new meaning to that old saying, "Politics makes for strange bedfellows."

"The most likely route for national Republican money is hits on (incumbent Dem Mayor Marty) Chavez. There is some paranoia that if he gets re-elected (ABQ Republican Congresswoman) Heather Wilson could be his next target. There's a school of thinking that he needs to be stopped now. Also, some R's would like to have an R mayor in ABQ when the governor seeks re-election next year," disclosed a top Republican operative at the highest levels of political power (not in NM).

But there are already rumblings from conservative R's about Winter's 'liberal leanings.' "Marty is seen as the conservative candidate by many businesspeople. Not Brad," offered up an insider.

Winter is being advised to not personally attack Chavez and being told the third party GOP cash and the forces of Dems Eric Griego and Judy Espinosa can be counted on to do the job. But Winter's tepid opening (subdued press coverage, unfocused message) has slowed the momentum his candidacy was building prior to his announcement. Before he worries too much about an attack strategy on Chavez he has to revive his own viability in the eyes of the Alligators who are merciless in their assessments of those who climb on to the well-lighted stage of their beloved La Politica.

If Winter starts showing he has the right stuff, the spotlight will go on his money. Who's giving and how much? Enough to make this a real game? Big third party money to attack Chavez is one thing, but Winter will need his own seed money to puff himself up. In politics, promises without cash are what clouds without rain are to a farmer.


There's no hemming or hawing in the Chavez camp over those RNC rumors. They flat out say they believe the money is coming in to take their man out and they are manning the battle stations. "Brad's weak first performance has them sighing some relief, but this is the start of a long race and they can't expect him to keep giving freebies, especially if the hard ball players take up his cause," noted one Marty sympathizer.

But Chavez may be getting some 'third party' support of his own from the one and only Big Bill. The Dem Guv made kissy with Marty at a joint news conference the day Winter announced. Coincidence? And then there's my deep insider report that Marty will accompany Big Bill on his European tour next month. "Everyone in politics knows there's no love lost between those two, but if the Republicans are going to play, Marty and Bill become natural allies. Bill knows their ultimate target is him and having an ally in the high profile ABQ mayor's office is more important than whether he and Marty can have quality time together," wryly commented an Alligator with several decades of experience on the treacherous playing field of New Mexico politics.

The Chavez money advantage is big, but if outside groups are going to play he may need all of his half-million and more. "Remember, the ABQ police union put up $60 thousand four years ago when they endorsed Marty and that money went into TV ads. If he has groups coming against him it will keep him busy on the fundraising circuit," noted another deep insider.

Of course, outside groups, according to the law, are not allowed to "coordinate" their message with the individual campaigns, nor directly endorse a candidate. But the money genie is out of the bottle when it comes to ABQ campaigns so prepare for the worst.


"She did good," deadpanned an insider who has no life and spent the weekend monitoring developments in the Judy Espinosa mayoral announcement and then reported to us via e-mail. "She put on a decent event. That contrasted with Winter's nonevent. She also got a pretty good write up in the Sunday ABQ Journal, although for some reason Marty and Brad got the front page when they announced and she got the front back page of a back section. She seemed engaged and informed in the TV news clips and the crowd on hand was not great but good enough. It's clear that Eric and Judy are both credible candidates with the liberal wing of the Dem party and they are going to slow each other down. Judy will need to flex her financial muscle soon and often if this thing is not going to narrow quickly," summed up our dedicated junkie.
Meanwhile, back on the bridge, it was City Councilor Griego stopping traffic and telling motorists not to forget him or his hot-button idea to consider toll roads to handle ABQ traffic. He hit with that a day before Judy announced, leaving observers to speculate that it was a reminder to his liberal base that he's the real deal and not to be romanced by the diminutive yet feisty Espinosa. "Eric's camp believes they have new life, that Winter in the race will slow down Chavez. But money and Judy are still big worries," reported an Alligator familiar with the Griego situation.

According to my reliable insider sources, there's also "third party" money talk in the Griego camp. "There's noise being made about the labor unions coming in to blast Chavez, allowing Griego to stop fighting so much with the Mayor," reports our source. Which leads me to ask just who will be running this upcoming campaign. If all these third parties come in we may get an outsider consulted, cookie-cutter campaign, the kind we all witness and despise every two years for the state's congressional seats.


There you have the big picture of this coming campaign. With a multi-candidate field and a run-off election if no one gets 40% of the vote, this one is going to have the Alligators dizzy figuring the angles. Aren't you glad you just have to vote?

OK. If this double blog hasn't been enough to satisfy you, I strongly recommend group therapy for political addiction. But if you must have more, check out this ABQ Trib piece from Erik Siemers featuring yours truly and fellow insatiable political junkie Brian Sanderoff.

Rest up. Back tomorrow with more from the always spinning world of New Mexico politics.

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

New Mexico's Economy: It's A Gas (Oil Too) But Will It Last? Plus: More Mayoral Musings, And: Who Makes What Toiling For Your State 

Times are pretty good in New Mexico. And they've been that way for quite a while. Despite the continued predictions of a crisis to come, the money continues to flow into state coffers at record levels, thanks to the oil and gas industry. Still, there's another canary in the mine chirping a warning. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities claims the NM Legislative Finance Committee has it right and that the state may be headed for a deficit in fiscal 2007. The center, which says it pushes issues of importance to lower income families, assigns blame to Big Bill's tax cuts for the wealthy, among other things, for the coming problems which they warn could hit a year after a new Guv is elected in 06.'

State officials expect a 10% budget surplus this fiscal year and oil and gas prices remain in the stratosphere, helping the good times roll. The political implications of a severe price drop are obvious. Not that NM Republicans would ever hope for such a thing. Would they?


Some reaction and feedback worthy of note to our Wednesday blog analyzing the 05' ABQ mayor race. The polling junkies tell me the GOP poll we quoted with Mayor Marty getting roughly half the vote and GOP City Council Prez Brad Winter garnering 25% was likely a two man poll. They say it looked forward to a possible run-off between the pair after the initial round of balloting October 4 which will include other candidates. It assumes they will be the top two vote getters but neither will hit the magic 40% mark to avoid the run-off. Assuming a two man poll, the Chavez number of 50% is right on the borderline of vulnerability. It's where Bush was with Kerry. A number below 50% signals vulnerability.

All of this reminds me of the last ABQ mayoral run-off back in 93' when Chavez defeated "soft R' Dave Cargo. Cargo, like Winter, did not appeal to the bedrock GOP conservatives who did not come out in force. Marty got in with a victory of less than 600 votes. If the GOP poll we reported has it right, it shows another tight race is possible as an incumbent's numbers are not likely to rise much in the campaign as he is already well-known to the public. The challenge could be for Dem Chavez to hold on to his appeal to GOP voters. For Winter, the challenge would be to move the entire GOP, including the right-wing, behind his candidacy.


Another Alligator reacting to the mayoral action commented: "I would argue that it is WAY to early to be sending out direct mail. No one voting in October is going to remember something from their mail box in May." Good point. But Chavez and company may have been trying to scare a candidate out of the race. And, more important, if you have a half-mil to spend in four months, you might as well start spending, early or otherwise. One other thing. Absentee voting will start in early September, moving up the timetable for grabbing voters.


Big Bill has the power, but he doesn't have the money. At least not when it comes to his official salary. The Guv, according to a recent report, actually ranks quite far down the wage scale. The highest paid guy in state government now pulls down north of $200 grand, while Big Bill checks in with a yearly take of $110k. But somehow we don't think he’s going hungry. Not with $3 million in his re-elect account, free plane rides everhwere, a darn good cooking staff at the mansion, and plenty of fundraisers to go to that cost a grand a pop. What else could a guy ask for? More.

Help keep the politics flowing. Email your news from the link at the top right of the page. If you wish, you can remain anonymous so be sure to share your hot tips, comments and critiques with New Mexico's big political community.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

ABQ Mailboxes Bulge With Marty Mail; Mayor Pulls The Trigger And Sets The Bar; Who Will Compete? Plus: Thanks, Deep Throat 

Mayor Marty
Launching a preemptive strike against possible wannabe mayors themselves set to pull the trigger, ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez beat them to the punch by mailing two, full-color brochures to thousands of Westsiders and Republicans touting his "leadership" and results." The mailer late last week set the stage for Chavez to begin collecting the nearly 6,000 petition signatures he and other hopefuls will need to secure a place on the October 4 ballot. Today is the first day to pick up petitions at the city clerk's office. Candidates will have until the end of July to gather the needed signatures.

"Chavez fired a shot across the bow of (City Council Prez) Brad Winter and others eyeing the race. The mailer is snappy, expensive and lets the opposition know that he has come to play. The opponents are going to have to meet a high standard and Chavez has shown he plans on being the one setting the standard," commented an Alligator with lengthy experience in ABQ politics.

Another neutral observer provided this insight. "There has been excitement about Winter getting in the race because he is the sole Republican. But don't be misled. Chavez is the clear frontrunner who can spend over $100 thousand a month between now and October. He's also the only candidate who has run and won this thing. The onus is on the challengers to show they can run a professional campaign. Chavez has shown he can. Can his foes?" Asked our insider.

Judy Espinosa is set to enter the fray this weekend. She will join ABQ City Councilor Eric Griego, but their supporters fear the two liberal Dems will cancel each other out leaving Chavez and Winter in a run-off a month after the initial balloting. If no candidate gets the magic 40%, the top two go to a run-off.


Mike Santullo
Veteran New Mexico politico and talk-radio pioneer Mike "Fastest Mouth In the West" Santullo who ran for mayor in 1974 and went on to serve Mayor Ken Schultz as communications director had further analysis.

"If it's Marty and Brad in the race it could be tough for either to get to 40%. Winter will have a big base of Republicans. Marty has his equally big base. But the mayor is still the man. Winter has much to prove. A campaign that is not executed with polish and decisiveness could cause him to fade quickly and Chavez conceivably could take it in the first round. I see Griego, Espinosa and company trying to beat up Marty and take him down to third, but I don't see it as likely," commented Santullo, 58, and in the game now for 34 years.

Republicans did a poll on the mayor's race recently and my deep insiders and very reliable sources tell me that Winter polled about 25% and Mayor Marty near the 50% mark. The R's are saying the Chavez support is soft and that the Winter number is what really matters; a number they say would put him in the run-off and in a position to win the ball game. And that's before he's even know by the wider public. But the Chavez camp is going to be anything but soft. Hardball is the game now. Keep an eye on your mailbox.

"Deep Throat"
With all the bitching lately over the use of anonymous sources, the revelation that the then number two man in the FBI, Mark Felt, turns out to be the biggest anonymous source of all, "Deep Throat," seems especially timely. Regular readers here know where we stand; anonymous sources are essential to protect your freedom. No ifs, ands or buts. It's been that way since there was a free press. Corporate media backing down from their use is dangerous.

The news about Deep Throat brought it all back home. The real threat to a free society isn't a bunch of reporters who, on occasion, may screw up and misuse anonymous sourcing. The threat comes from those entrusted with power and who abuse it. Sure, Deep Throat may have had some personal motives for ratting out Nixon, but in our system of checks and balances that's how the game works. In the end the taxpaying public benefits as the society remains open. All the posturing about anonymous sources is best left to the ethics professors in the Ivory Towers. Here at ground zero, there's a First Amendment to take care of things. May it ever be so.

Help keep the politics flowing. Email your news from the link at the top right of the page. If you wish, you can remain anonymous so be sure to share your hot tips, comments and critiques with New Mexico's big political community.

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