Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Big Bill Hails Mary; Skeen Appointment Sets Off GOP Warfare, Plus: Heather Skips Cheney Event, And: Ex-TV Anchor Goes For Comeback 

On the same day Vice-President Cheney landed in Roswell, the divisions within the state's Republican Party came raining down in the SE NM county like a summer monsoon. As the veep was addressing the party faithful at a fundraiser, Big Bill was appointing Mary Skeen, widow of the late Congressman Joe Skeen, to a vacancy in a Roswell area State House seat. That unleashed a torrent of criticism {PDF} from Roswell GOP State Senator "Lightning" Rod Adair not only against the Guv, but his fellow Republicans. And that again raised the specter of a fight next year over the state party chairmanship and the future direction of New Mexico's GOP.

The battle was joined when the GOP-controlled Chaves County Commission split with the county commissions (also GOP controlled) of Lincoln and Otero and recommended to the Guv that Skeen be named to fill the final months left on the two year term of the late Rep. Avon Wilson. They chose to pass over Adair-backed Nora Espinoza for the appointment who won the GOP June primary for the seat in a bitter battle with educator Mike Kakuska. The Otero and Lincoln commissions sent the Guv Espinoza's name, but the Guv went with Mary, sending a stinging message to archrival Adair.

Even though Espinoza is favored to take the heavily R district over Dem Ellen Wedum in November, Adair charged that the Chaves commission decision to send Skeen's name to the Governor was a payback move by Kakuska's backers, and in particular wealthy oilman Mark Murphy, to further the chances of Dem Wedum and diss Nora.

Murphy supporters called that nonsense and so did the Chaves commissioners who said they were simply honoring the late congressman with the appointment of his widow. They pointed out that her tenure will be symbolic, as she will not actually take a seat in the legislature since no sessions are slated until next year.

It wasn't the Byzantine Chaves county fighting that drew the most attention of statewide politicos. It was the prospect of Adair, a leader of a breakaway faction of the GOP that primaried fellow R's in 04', advocates drug decriminalization and led the ouster of Ramsay Gorham as state chair, attempting to thwart candidates who emerge to lead the party when Allen Weh vacates the post next year.

In his heated missive against the Skeen appointment, Adair slapped Murphy for indicating that he is considering running for the chairmanship. Murphy has said he represents the "mainstream" of the GOP and faults Adair, lawyer-lobbyist Mickey Barnett and Roswell State Rep. Dan Foley for taking the GOP into extreme territory and preventing it from making significant progress.

Another name circulating as a possible GOP chair for the mainstreamers is current Bernalillo County GOP head Fernando C de Baca who insiders say has been discussing the party's infighting with Murphy.

Big Bill's appointment of Skeen let him play off of the GOP divisions. It's no secret that many of the mainstream R's will be voting for Big Bill and not R Guv hopeful John Dendahl who is also a member of the breakaway faction.

The Chaves county commission majority thought it was doing the right thing by tipping the hit to Joe Skeen, one of the most popular R's in state history. They were lobbied hard by Adair and company to back off, but they didn't. Now the stage is set for a possible showdown involving all NM Republicans following the November election. Stay tuned.


One top R who failed to make it to the Cheney event was ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson who is in no need of photos embracing the hard-right veep as she battles for re-election in her moderate district against Dem rival Patricia Madrid. But much of the money raised by Cheney will go to her campaign, leading one insider R to email: "Reap as much as you can, while taking as little political heat as you can."

And, of course, the national Dems, hoping to take over the House, did not let the Cheney visit slide, hitting all their main themes in this D.C. based dispatch.


TV was better to Dianne Anderson than radio, and she will return to the medium she likes best. That's the word from the Gators who check in with the news that Anderson, a onetime TV news anchor at KOAT-TV, has resigned her radio gig at ABQ's 106.3 Talk FM and will move to KRQE-TV to become the morning news anchor for the CBS affiliate. She had been teamed with veteran radio host Larry Ahrens the past several months, but competing with NM talk radio giant 770 KKOB-AM has been difficult and ratings hard to come by.

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