Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Spring of Scandal: Vigil Trial Opens Monday As More Cases Percolate, Plus: Power Playing In NM House, And: Ken Zangara Bids Adios To La Politica 

From Washington to Santa Fe the Spring of 06' is threatening to go down as the Season of Scandal. And it's about to reach critical mass in our tarnished, but still Enchanting Land.

The federal kickback trial of ex-Treasurer Robert Vigil kicks off Monday, the attorney general's probe of longtime politico and state insurance boss Eric Serna is in high gear and a federal investigation into the construction of courthouses in Bernalillo county is also barreling ahead with insiders saying multiple indictments could result this year.

In Washington, it's the same forlorn headlines of greed, kickbacks and corruption. Neither party seems to have a great advantage in all of this with voter apathy, rather than outrage, a possible outcome as the public sinks under the sheer weight of the historic outbreak of wrongdoing.

But someone will vote in November and the party in power is the one that usually takes the hit. But here in New Mexico the Democrats have a strong state treasurer candidate, the R's have not found a for-sure auditor contender, the Governor, thus far, is basically unopposed and Senator Bingaman is poised for a fifth time return to the ethical swamps of the Potomac.

It seems the public vetting of the many scandals will be focused in the congressional race between Dem Attorney General Madrid and GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson. The story line will be simplified to something like: "Heather is part of the corrupt GOP Congress. Patsy is a no-show in investigating widespread NM corruption."

It could be a recipe for a low voter turnout as both candidates go increasingly negative and paint each other with the brush of corruption. But if someone manages to awaken the sleeping elephant, who knows what will happen.


Leader Martinez
The ABQ Bob Dylan-Merle Haggard concert this week brought together generations of fans who have followed the pair since the 60's and it also brought together a couple of generations of politicos. Wasn't that young ABQ Dem State Rep. Al Park enjoying the show at Tingley Coliseum with the party of middle-aged NM House Majority Leader Kenny Martinez?

We bring it to your attention because of continued below-the-radar chatter about when Martinez of Grants might make his move to assume the Speakership of the House, currently in the firm grasp of veteran Santa Fe Dem Ben Lujan.

There is restlessness and it has prompted insistent backroom grumbling that Ben should make way for Kenny or at least let everyone know there is a timetable. But doing that would make Ben an immediate lame-duck, not a position the powerful lawmaker would willingly place himself in.

Santa Fe wall-leaners say that Ben gets a two year re-elect this year and then maybe bows out in 08' and lawyer Martinez, whose father, Walter Martinez, once commanded the House, takes the baton. If that sounds too easy, maybe it is. Lujan seems quite happy, thank you, and while power may be hard to get, it is even harder to give up.

Ken Zangara, a longtime fixture of the NM Republican Party, is exiting the political stage. "No more politics for me. I have a business and family to concentrate on," blogs in the ABQ auto dealer who settled accusations with Attorney General Madrid this week that his dealership overcharged customers.

Zangara has been a key donor and fundraiser for the GOP. He was member of the "Bush Pioneers," raising over a hundred grand for the Prez's 2000 campaign and helping again in 04.' Ken and his wife Kathy even hung with the First Couple on occasion and Zangara was named to the Bush transition team for the Interior Department. He served as Bernalillo County GOP chair when the party was in shambles following the resignation of state GOP chair Ramsay Gorham.

At his zenith, Zangara was mentioned for a possible Bush ambassador appointment, but past legal woes with the car dealership and the recent ones, squelched his chances.

While Zangara leaves the stage to the sounds of catcalls from the Dems who say he is not giving anything up, but is being forced out, many "mainstream Republicans" say they appreciate his moderation and efforts to unify the minority party especially in the aftermath of the Gorham debacle.

Ken Zangara played the poltical game at the highest possible level, where the lights are brightest, the peaks the most pointed and the valleys the lowest. And so it will always be.

To those of you celebrating this weekend, Happy Easter. Drop by for another visit soon.

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