Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Heinrich Maneuver: ABQ Liberals Look To Pass Torch To Council Prez As He Keys In On Minimum Wage, Plus: Mayor Marty's Musings 

Councilor Heinrich
He may be a reluctant torch-bearer, but Albuquerque liberals seem ready to pass their torch to ABQ City Council President Martin Heinrich who has negotiated his way through a thicket of opposition and appears poised to deliver a higher minimum wage to workers in the state's largest city.

ABQ liberals have been in mourning since last October when the mayoral campaign of ex-city councilor Eric Griego went down in flames, but with Heinrich taking center stage on an issue near and dear to their hearts, they are naming him as the new Duke City poster boy for the liberal cause in the years ahead.

Heinrich, just 34, downplays his new position on the brightly lit stage of La Politica saying he is "taking issues one at a time" but he does not disagree that he follows in the path of Griego and ex-ABQ mayor Jim Baca who was first in this line of high-profile liberal city voices when he took the mayor's chair in the 93' election.

"I think people first look to see if you have a set of core beliefs. Whether you are liberal or conservative is less important. They want someone to stand up for what they believe in," Heinrich asserts.

When it comes to the minimum wage this Democrat representing ABQ's SE Heights has done that and more. He's been fighting the good fight for better than a year, seeing the measure go down in the city council and then die again in a hard-fought referendum last year. It then received another death blow when Big Bill's statewide minimum wage proposal failed in the final moments of this year's legislative session.


Today Heinrich is "cautiously optimistic" that he has the five council votes needed to boost the hourly minimum to $6.75 an hour and a bit more in future years. If he prevails, it will be one of the most significant economic measures passed in recent city history and will place him on the short list of future mayoral candidates. Not that he wants to be there.

Heinrich is up for re-election next year. He told me he is leaning toward the run, but it is still early. He toyed with the idea of running for land commissioner this year, but chose to stay out of the battle of the heavyweights for the Dem nomination featuring Ray Powell and Jim Baca.

A friend of Heinrich's told me the land commission post, rather than the mayor's job, has more appeal to the environmentalist politico.

Whatever his ambitions, by owning the minimum wage bill the first term councilor has grabbed the limelight from ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez who consistently opposed the measure and who only recently played catch-up by saying he would sign the Heinrich bill or something very similar.

"I respect the mayor for changing his mind," Heinrich said. But the mayor and his political advisers may be kicking themselves for letting this one go.


Something the liberals like about Heinrich that they did not like about Griego and Baca is his personality and his penchant for working with others.

"He is not contentious and is a good listener. He has moved the council meetings along and has welcomed comment at the meetings from the mayor and his administration. He's off to a good start. Let's see where it leads," offered one of my tapped-in sources who is a regular fixture at the downtown Government Center.

Heinrich was recently appointed New Mexico's Natural Resources Trustee by Big Bill, replacing Jim Baca. And Big Bill has been a presence in this minimum wage battle. "He has advised me to work with all the sides and I have tried to do that," Heinrich said of the Governor.

Getting the wage boost is important to Big Bill who would like to make up for his legislative defeat and avoid the matter again going to a city referendum in the middle of his re-elect campaign.

Heinrich says he does not see himself as the city's new "liberal leader." But when the working poor start seeing more bucks showing up in their paychecks, Heinrich will be the political beneficiary. And once the liberals and progressives see he can deliver, they will naturally expect more. Whether Heinrich likes it or not, there's a torch out there to be passed and it appears to be etched with his initials.


While Mayor Marty may be sidelined on the minimum wage measure, he's still plenty busy. And he's letting everyone know about it on his new blog. Chavez is a rarity in modern politics; a politician who writes a lot of his own stuff and is good at it. His Honor even allows you to leave comments, but before you get any indecent ideas, be aware that they are screened by a moderator.

Also, if you post a derogatory comment your computer is tracked by APD, your business license is examined by Chief Administrative Office Bruce Perlman, your photograph is published in the ABQ newspapers and your car is towed.....Just kidding. We missed April Fool's Day around here. All of that is false except the parts about Marty blogging and Perlman examining your biz license.


How about some Friday audio blogging? Come back tomorrow when we will take a look at some tantalizing tidbits from veteran New Mexico pollster Brian Sanderoff. That's tomorrow on your audio blog.

Thanks for joining me here today. I appreciate the company and your e-mails.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author
website design by limwebdesign