Friday, February 10, 2006

Friday Audio Blogging: Insights From The Roundhouse On The Coming Final, Frenzied Hours of Session 06' 

Welcome to my audio blog. As the election season heats up, we will have ongoing coverage in a variety of media. Now is a good time to again audio blog, especially on Friday when I usually don't post. It's another service we are glad to introduce to New Mexico which has ben so supportive of our continuing coverage. Enjoy today's edition and look for more on future Friday's.

Now let's go directly to the floor of the NM House of Representatives for an insider report from one of the lawmakers as the Capitol prepares for the last minute rush before Thursday adjournment...
this is an audio post - click to play

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Wilson's Winter Offensive; Dems Scurry To Answer As It Rains Heather Headlines; It's A Blog Special; Indepth, Inside And Only Here 

You might have thought it was October not early February. The NM 1st Congressional district race moved front and center and across the nation Wednesday in the wake of ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson's break with the White House and her call for a full Congressional inquiry into the Bush Administration's domestic eavesdropping program.

Democrats were beside themselves as Wilson garnered national headlines and scored a follow-up coup as the Administration gave a broader accounting of the program to the House Intelligence Committee just hours after Wilson's request.

While Wilson, chair of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, conducted a Washington news conference praising the sudden White House cooperation, her Dem opponent, Attorney General Patricia Madrid, was trying to dampen things down.

“While I’ve been enforcing the law in New Mexico, Rep. Wilson has been sitting in the House Intelligence Committee apparently ignoring abuses of the law until nine months before an election,” slammed Patsy.

But Heather was hearing none of it as she tooted her own horn before the national audience. "I don't think the White House would have made the decision that it did had I not stood up and said, 'You must brief the Intelligence Committee,' she declared. (Complete Wilson statement here)

Perhaps a bit overeager in the national spotlight, Wilson did not mention that several GOP Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have also been putting the heat on the White House.

Still, the somewhat startling Wilson declaration was an aggressive play and made the point that she has accumulated some seniority in her seven years on the Hill.

Reaction came from all points of the political spectrum with liberal blogs jumping to welcome Wilson aboard. However, my e-mail revealed Wilson will get at least some wrist-slapping from Bush loyalists.

"Sounds like she's worried about Patsy, huh? Well, she better worry about appearing to becoming a RINO, (Republican In Name Only) to her base constituency. I plan on calling on this and will let you know what she says," penned one upset R.

But where are the unhappy Republicans to go? Into the arms of Dem Madrid? Not likely. But one GOP wag remarked that there is a chance Heather's recent "moderate" streak might keep some of them sitting at home Election Day.

The usual conspiracy theory that this was a put-up job by Wilson and the White House was also trotted out, with the most sinister saying they saw the long arm of White House political guru Karl Rove. The spin being that this was all prearranged to let Heather "pose" as a moderate in our battleground district. But most hardheaded observers were linking her wiretapping announcement with her recent vote against Medicaid cuts and labeling it an ongoing effort to saw the legs off of Madrid's stool.

"She is clearly moving to separate herself from a President whose approval rating is low. The Dems need to nationalize this race and link her to failed national polices. Heather is determined not to sink with that ship," noted a Senior GOP Alligator.

He also added that while Heather is getting her message out that she is not a clone of the White House, it may not be so easy. "It is hard to out Democrat a Democrat. Besides, D's will find a reason to vote against her no matter how many bones she throws at them."

Wilson's disembarkment from the Bush train had the Dems reminding us that she recently said there was no need for the House Intelligence Committee to look in the "rear view mirror" and analyze what went wrong with the bad intelligence that led to the unpopular Iraq War. They want swing voters to look at her overall record not her recent conversions.

But politics can be a short term affair, and top Dem strategists admit that Wilson is making Madrid's job tougher. "She has scored and it is up to the Madrid campaign to respond. They will need to run effective commercials to show her record and not let stand the impression Heather is giving this week," offered a top D who prays daily for a Patsy victory.

The national pundits were also getting in on the action as Wilson's move not only displayed her "gutsiness" as one of her fans e-mailed, but it also reaffirmed that she has, at least for now, a serious race on her hands.

What is really getting the goat of the D's is that Heather is acting like many of them want, giving them her vote or support on several substantive policy issues. If she continues, the urgency of the Madrid campaign could be undermined.

"Right now she is not going to fear alienating voters on the Republican right. She will take care of that later. She is making an early play to take our most effective argument--that she is hardcore Bushie--away from us," said our D campaign expert.


Put it all together--her support of ousted Hispanic UNM President Caldera, her recent vote against the GOP's Medicaid cuts, and now the break with the White House on eavesdropping, and you have to agree Heather is hoping, if not for an early knockout, at least a halt to any early Madrid momentum.

As in sports offense in politics is often the best defense. This week the Heather offense scored. But we are in the opening minutes of the first quarter and Madrid & Company will have their chance on the field in the many months remaining in this premier race of Campaign 06'. Stay tuned.

What do you think? E-mail me your comments and political news and come back again soon for more fair and balanced coverage of Campaign 06'.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Late Breaking: Heather Breaks With White House Over Eavesdropping Program, Plus: Paper Ballots: No Panacea Says Top Foe, It's All Up Next 

Rep. Wilson
Stop the Blog! As I was putting things to bed late Tuesday night the Alligators checked in with a big one. The New York Times reports that ABQ GOP U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson has broken ranks with the White House and is calling for a Congressional probe into the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program. Here's the lead graph from the Times report played on the front page of its Web site:

"A House Republican whose subcommittee oversees the National Security Agency broke ranks with the White House on Tuesday and called for a full Congressional inquiry into the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program."

The full Times story is here (registration required) Obviously, this has significant policy implications for the White House as well as political implications here at home where Wilson is in a stiff battle for re-election. More on this one as it develops.


After covering decades of NM Election Night fiascos, the notion of an all paper ballot system, (Senator Lopez's SB 295) counted by optical scanner has appeal. But if anyone is going to give you second thoughts it's Denise Lamb, former chief of the NM Bureau of Elections who is now a deputy with the Santa Fe County Clerk's office. Her major point: paper ballots will not guarantee headache free election counts. As part of our continuing coverage--we have already run pro-paper views--Denise blogs in with a take that will have you wondering.

"Joe, the difficulties with the 2000 election were solely due to paper ballots. The Bernalillo County Clerk's staff misprogrammed the optical scanner that counted absentee ballots so none of the 60,000 straight party votes were counted. Then, they defied the Secretary of State and ordered ballots not using the state contract, which meant that they were thin paper and could not be fed through the scanner a second time and had to be hand counted. Paper ballots caused the delay.

In the very close 2003 special election the counting of provisional ballots and absentee ballots on the constitutional amendment made the governor go ballistic. It was paper ballots that caused the delay. In 2004, again the heavy use of absentee and provisional ballots, which are all paper, caused delays. Arguing for a paper based system ignores the facts.


"As for electronic machines, we had nearly 100,000 votes on touch screen machines in the 2004 general election and the court case filed against them has managed to locate only four voters who allege they had problems," asserts Denise. "Where are the other voters? If the machines were as error prone as the paper ballot activists claim, there would be tens of thousands of voters who had experienced anomalies."

"The governor's mandate is for only one type of machine statewide. That means that we will use a paper based system that is only certified to 1990 optical scanning standards. We're going to spend $20 million to throw away perfectly good machines."

Thanks, Denise. Human error has indeed been the main factor in our election messes, especially in Bernalillo County. That can only be solved with proper funding for training election workers and now under consideration in Santa Fe.

And then there's the "voter verifiable, auditable paper trail" controversy. The paper ballot measure provides for one, and with the various unfounded conspiracy theories going around that could be one problem finally laid to rest under the all-paper solution. Wall-leaners think the all paper system stands a better than good chance of winning approval. We'll keep you posted.

Rep. Silva
How do you know when a state rep is in a district as safe as they get. How about when that rep proposes a two cent a gallon increase in the state gas tax as prices hover around $2.50 a gallon and the state is awash in a half billion dollar plus surplus? Our lawmaker in question is ABQ Dem State Rep. Dan Silva, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, who drew guffaws around our Enchanted Land when he put this one on the table saying the increase could be used to help finance improvements to roads used by school buses.

Of course, it was Bruce King's advocacy of an increased gas tax back in 94' that helped set the stage for his defeat by Gary Johnson so don't count on Big Bill signing on to this one anytime soon. His seat is not quite as safe as Daring Dan's.

Keep us posted on your latest political news. Drop it in the e-mail bag.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Big Bill's Critics: Some Get It, Some Don't, Plus: 1st Poll Out In 1st CD, And: The Holloman Hit; An Insider Report From Your Home For NM Politics 

Sen. Grubesic
Is that all there is? That's the question being asked in the wake of the bizarre and rambling letter from Dem State Senator John Grubesic criticizing the ways of Big Bill. It was a missive so disjointed that the rookie politico had to preface it by saying he was not drunk when he wrote it. So it goes in a capital city so cowed by the heavy hand of gubernatorial power that they rejoice over any critic of the Fourth Floor, even if it's only one complaining that everyone kisses the Governor's ass or, as political analyst Grubesic puts it, engages in "bootlicking.”

But calling the Governor a "flabby king" ain't going to get you more power, Mr. Legislators. But there they were, so overjoyed by the thought of anyone daring to challenge the powerful chief exec that they were passing the Grubesic letter around like boys in a locker room thumbing the new Playboy. This is substantive policy debate and criticism?

Not that there's nothing to criticize. How about that eight percent plus increase in the state budget unanimously passed by the House? Not one "conservative” vote against it. Seems the Grubesic memo hit a nerve. The legislators doing the ass kissing are frustrated and resent it but are too fearful to say anything and risk their share of pork pie from the immense surplus.

All this makes the phrase "Legislative heavyweight" an oxymoron. The Senior Alligators of La Politica had it nailed from the start. These guys (and gals) are going to split the pot and head for the exits. Maybe they can frame that Grubesic tirade and pretend it was a law they passed.


If you are looking for someone who will actually stand up to the Governor and challenge him in a serious manner and without fear, you have to turn far away from the Nervous Nellies at the Roundhouse. You might try turning the pages of the Rio Grande Sun which has played some real hardball with Big Bill. I asked Sun news editor John Foster to explain:

“We've written about his relationship with the Jicarilla Apache Nation, and about him signing a bill that allowed elk to be classified as cattle. (Thus benefiting the Jicarillas and putting a tax burden on average Rio Arribans.) We wrote every major story on the Rio Arriba County magistrate judge fiasco. We had to get an opinion from the AG to get the governor's office to release the names of people who applied for that post. (And then there was time he walked out of a press conference when I asked if he owed the people of Rio Arriba an apology for the whole Rodella mess.)

We wrote about him not campaigning for Kerry in Rio Arriba. We've written about his decision to overrule his then-health secretary's decision to withhold state funding from ineffective drug treatment groups. (The groups were politically connected.) We've written some hard editorials about his decision to raid the permanent fund. We've written extensively on the failing schools here, despite a 2003 Richardson pledge to make Española a "test case" for his school reforms. Then there are the airplane stories, which we decided to do because we thought someone should do it.

“I think his office is not used to the kind of skeptical, tough, hard-nosed reporting that we do on every story, not just the stories about him. He gets a pretty sweet ride from most of the state's press corps, so I think it stings when reporters ask tough questions."

The Sun has a long, rich history of tough reporting and is led by the venerable Bob Trapp.


It’s Campaign 06' so here come the pols and not far behind are those ubiquitous polls. With the customary caution that you lend a skeptical eye to any poll done by any campaign, we report the first one out in the must-watch ABQ congressional race featuring incumbent GOP Rep. Heather Wilson and Dem challenger Patricia Madrid.

Madrid’s numbers say the race is a dead heat. Surprise! But seriously, the poll was conducted January 25-29 and gives Heather 44% to Patsy’s 43% with 13% undecided. (400 calls MOE + -4.9%) And before the R’s cry foul, we should point out that a poll done for the ABQ Journal in the last election cycle did, at one point, show challenger Richard Romero also just one point behind Heather. The Madrid numbers were done by Dem Celinda Lake’s D.C. research firm which is no fly-by-night operation.

Despite the closeness of the poll, it also says 52% of the electorate give Wilson a positive job approval rating, above the critical 50% level and enough to maintain her frontrunner position. That will be the number Madrid will be shooting at in the months ahead since it often correlates with the Election Night results.

Some R’s tell me Heather was also polling recently. If so, she has not released the numbers. If she does, we will post them here. Remember, we don't support candidates. We do support vigorous and hard-fought campaigns and fair and balanced analysis.


There's suspense over Holloman Air Force Base’s future, and I have a direct report from Larry Morgan, former chief of staff to the late Congressman Runnels as well as a top aide to ex-U.S. Sen. Schmitt. Larry attended the Monday news conference announcing the changing mission there. I will monitor the jobs situation and seek more for you from Larry and others as needed.


Apologies to all of you who have had trouble getting on our site the last day or two. Blogger.com had major problems but fixed them, so welcome back to those who were shut out. Check out Monday's blog about GOP State Senator Sue Wilson Beffort signing up for the Light Guv race. I think you’ll enjoy it.

And I enjoyed having you here today. Send me your comments and political news via the e-mail link at the top of the page.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

R's Finally Set 06' Ticket; Sen. Wilson Beffort Goes For Light Guv; Lamb Or Lion? We Look At It The Way You Like, Inside And Indepth 

Sen. Wilson Beffort
She may end up being a sacrificial lamb, but ABQ State Senator and last minute GOP Lieutenant Governor candidate Sue Wilson Beffort will have to be dragged kicking to the slaughterhouse. The three term lawmaker, perhaps best known for advocating a ban on the breeding of pit bull terriers, will likely resist becoming the all out attack dog traditionally reserved for the number two, but her record shows she has the potential to more than hold her own in the political dogfight to come.

Wilson Beffort, 58, spared the R's and their Chairman Allen Weh major embarrassment by announcing over the weekend that she will join likely GOP Guv nominee J.R. Damron of Santa Fe to form the 06' GOP ticket. Her first order of business will be to shed the image of a candidate of last resort and demonstrate that her successful past has prepared her for the bright and sometimes harsh lights perpetually shining on the statewide stage of La Politica.


The senator and the state's current #2, Light Guv Diane Denish, share common ground. Both have accomplished fathers. Wilson Beffort's helped found the University of New Mexico Medical School in 61' and Diane's dad, Jack Daniels, was an accomplished businessman and veteran of the state political scene. They also share a concern over domestic violence with the state senator asking the Legislature for $3 million this year to combat the problem and Diane taking on similar concerns with her children's cabinet. And Wilson Beffort is a longtime businesswoman who owned an employment agency and remains in that field. Denish has run her own marketing and research business.

But these ladies part ways on money matters. Wilson Beffort is a bedrock conservative opposed to the statewide minimum wage increase and especially Santa Fe's ordinance placing the pay scale at $9.50 an hour. She is also an advocate of a more private approach to providing insurance to state Medicaid recipients. The senator was instrumental in helping Big Bill get GOP support for his 03' personal income tax cuts and is not a benchwarmer on either the Senate Finance or powerful Legislative Finance committees.

Some hardcore GOP eyebrows may be raised when they note that Wilson Beffort failed to vote when the "Defense of Marriage Act" calling for a ban on same-sex marriages passed the senate last year. (It failed to make it into law) And they will further note that she supports the Spaceport for southern NM while ticket-topper Damron does not. But they will probably be mostly thankful for finally having a candidate. Sue will have to get 1881 GOP petition signatures and file them by Feb. 14 to make the ballot. Dems are sure to monitor to see that she crosses that hurdle. With party help, she probably will.


While the chances of upsetting Big Bill are slim, the Light Guv spot makes the senator an instant statewide political figure (joining that other Wilson, Heather) and positions her as a new leadership voice (if she desires) as well as other political possibilities.

Wilson Beffort landlsided her D opponent in her heavy GOP district in 96' and ran unopposed in 00' and 04. Blessed with this luxury of popularity and free re-election rides, she has largely avoided the intra-party warfare that broke out in the state party ranks two years ago and created divisions that continue to this day. But because she has had it easy, her fundraising and campaign trail abilities may be rusty. She raised only $11,000 in 04'. Her debating skills, honed in the Legislature, are also about to be tested, perhaps in TV forums with Denish who over the years has successfully sharpened her knives on an array of foes. Anyone remember Jerry Sandel?

The newest statewide political player will get some help from home. Her husband, Steven Beffort, headed the NM General Services Department under GOP Guv Johnson and has been a contributor to R candidates. He should have an understanding of what's to come. He is now UNM's associate vice president for facility planning.


Geographically the new GOP ticket lacks eastside and rural conservative appeal, but it may open up an GOP opportunity among women voters statewide. Most important, Wilson Beffort gives the party a competent face with tinges of moderation who can make a case for the ticket on television and in the national press which will cover the contest because of Big Bill's presidential ambitions. In fact, while Sue is known in political circles, the R's anxiously await the initial performance of rookie J.R. Damron leading some to wonder why she did not pursue the top spot.

But it will be Damron who will feel the full, unrelenting heat of a major league campaign assault not only for the governorship but for the presidency of the American nation. The Big Bill camp is betting they can get him to fold early, but the addition of Wilson Beffort could complicate that. After all, who knows pit bulls better?


For those of you who have to have it, we got it. Here's the complete transcript of the President's Intel visit at Rio Rancho Friday. Did he really say Dem Senator Jeff Bingaman is doing a "fine job?" Yes, he did.


You never know whose reading your stuff and that's especially true the past few days. Apparently my blog host, Blogger.com, is having a mess of technical problems and folks who come here via www.joemonahan.com are shut out. You can still access the
site at my old address--www.joemonahansnewmexico.blogspot.com.
Please pass that on to those who are having trouble. Hopefully, the tech wreck will be fixed soon. Otherwise, I will continue talking to myself. Maybe the therapy will do me some good.

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