Monday, March 13, 2006

Hasta La Vista, Ted; House GOP Leader Hobbs Bows Out; Who Replaces Him? Plus: Mayor Marty's Dilemma 

Rep. Hobbs
Ted Hobbs is not the type of guy to wax sentimental or let his emotions run high. And he wasn't about to change as he broke the news that he will end a seven year run as State House Minority Leader and also give up the ABQ NE Heights seat he has held for a dozen years. "It's been a good run and I am looking forward to spending more time with my wife (Nancy) and enjoying some real retirement," Hobbs told me this weekend as 50 mile per hour winds roared over his Four Hills home.

Through the years Hobbs held steady as a low-key and pragmatic political personality, even as his Republican party was often wracked with divisions and infighting. But they kept going back to the self-described "mainstream Republican" to lead them, perhaps because he was the calm in the storm.

In recent years challenges to Hobbs, who became leader in 99', have grown more spirited as he has grown weary. The timing of his departure is good as the GOP is slowly healing its self-inflicted wounds and has a stable of veteran legislators who appear ready to provide more aggressive leadership.


There will be no shortage of contenders to replace Hobbs as minority leader, a position that may not exactly be a powerhouse in the Dem dominated Roundhouse, but one that nevertheless provides a statewide platform for its occupant and the chance to throw some roadblocks in front of the Dems.

Minority Whip Terry Marquardt is a natural candidate. And Rep. Brian Moore of Clayton, who tried to unseat Hobbs in 04', has also bid for the top job, so count him in. Don Bratton of Hobbs will also be in the running and so could ABQ's Larry Larranaga who has also made a previous play for the power post.

And what about Hobbs' House seat in the GOP heavy ABQ NE Heights? The outgoing minority leader says he hopes to see Jim White succeed him. White is retired from the Air Force and a Four Hills Homeowners association leader. "He's a smart guy and a conservative," said Hobbs. Dem Chris Cathecis once ran against Hobbs. Perhaps a D may have a better shot this time with no incumbent in the race, but don't bet on it. This one is most likely solid R.


Can a Democratic Hispanic mayor get by without taking a firm stand in favor of an increase in the minimum wage when the issue is thrown right in his lap? That's the question Dem insiders are asking as ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez wrestles with the dilemma.

Chavez faded the heat on this one last year when organizers managed to get an increase in the minimum wage on the ABQ ballot. He argued then that it was a matter best left for the Legislature. Voters narrowly defeated the increase. But since then legislators went south and failed to pass an increase. Now, organizers are back collecting petition signatures. They will likely again succeed in getting a proposed increase in the basic wage to $7.50 an hour before city voters. A special election could come this summer.

Chavez, long criticized by his party's liberal wing as too conservative, is again looking for wiggle room, but he's finding the space cramped. Big Bill, a wage backer, is talking it over with him, but again Chavez is noncommittal saying that the Legislature should hike the wage in a special session. Trouble is there is not going to be a special session anytime soon, and even if there was there's no reason to think the wage measure would fare any better than it did in the recently concluded session.

For Chavez, who still harbors hope of statewide office someday, perhaps a Guv run, failure to stand up in favor of the wage could fatally wound him in any Dem statewide primary contest. But if he supports the increase, his many conservative and R's supporters will go ballistic.

The way out? Perhaps If the city council acted before it made the ballot and approved an increase with a veto-proof majority it would let Chavez off the hook. Or maybe Chavez could propose a smaller increse and hope to defuse the petition drive. But a Democratic mayor in a low-wage city is eventually going to have to take a stand, if not now, then on a future campaign trail.


Speaking of mayors, the new one in Rio Rancho is Kevin Jackson who heads up the NM Family Council, a conservative group that keys in on social issues important to evangelicals. Will that influence government policy? Several analysts, including yours truly, take this one on with Megan Arredondo at the ABQ Tribune.

What's happening in politics where you are? Drop me an email and keep us posted. Meantime, come back here again soon for more fair and balanced coverage.

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