Friday, March 03, 2006

Tarnished Jewell: Can Big Bill Save This Cabinet Secretary? Should He? Exclusive And New Details On A Special Edition Friday Blog 

Judge Jewell
The plot thickened Thursday in the Tommy Jewell saga with the woman who was involved in the 1999 domestic violence case in which Jewell was named telling KRQE-TV news that she is available to discuss the case with the Governor, and insiders supportive of Jewell contacting this blog to claim the secretary-designate of the NM Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD) may be the victim of a set up. Meanwhile, Governor Richardson's office issued a statement saying they will "evaluate" the situation and then issue a "decision."

Based on the KRQE report and sources for this report, it is apparent that the woman involved in the case is not Jewell's wife, Angela Jewell, a Second Judicial District family court judge with the Domestic Violence Division. Which takes us to the set-up claims.

(Here's the latest for my weekend readers from the ABQ Tribune.

A friend of the Jewell's, an ABQ attorney, claims the woman who made the charges, which are under court seal by agreement of both parties, was upset with Tommy Jewell and knew domestic violence charges against him could end up in the courtroom of Judge Angela Jewell.

"She was pissed off about something and knew exactly how to hurt Tommy the most. She filed a domestic violence complaint knowing full well it would go to Angela. It was terrible. Tommy and Angela were counseled by their parents and there was a lot of soul searching. They were determined to keep their family together and they did. I wish they had not sealed the record. I can not imagine a person more qualified to take leadership of CFYD," e-mailed the attorney.

KRQE reported that Jewell was served with a temporary restraining order in 1999 after being accused in the domestic violence case that allegedly somehow involved children. Sandoval County District Judge Louis McDonald did not move the charges forward calling the allegations "unsubstantiated" and sealed the case file.

Both the Governor and Lt. Governor Denish, chair of the Children's cabinet and who recommended his appointment, have asked Jewell to explain the charges and he has agreed.

But even if details of the case break his way, Jewell and the administration are still faced with the fact that Jewell failed to disclose the incident when he was vetted for the post. The vetting issue has haunted the Governor who has run into similar problems in the past. He said the process for vetting high ranking appointees would be changed to insure thoroughness. Apparently the new procedures have also come up short.


Guv & First Lady
Insiders at the Capitol pointed to the obvious as they weighed the political fallout saying the charges would not be quite as sensitive if Jewell was being tapped for any other agency but CYFD which deals directly with the domestic violence issue.

They pointed out that First Lady Barbara Richardson has been in the forefront of the fight against the abuse of New Mexican women. Two months into his administration, Big Bill announced the creation of a domestic violence task force, of which Barbara Richardson is a member. Two months later, he created a Domestic Violence Control Commission and named his wife as the chair. In 2004, he appointed Sandra Gardner as domestic violence "czar" and proposed law changes, including new and tougher penalties for offenders, expanded treatment for offenders and more resources for victims.

This aggressive approach to a problem that Denish has called "an epidemic" in the state has earned the First Lady accolades and won the Governor widespread support among groups battling domestic violence as well as children's advocates. But if Jewell can not lift the cloud hovering over his head, and the appointment goes forward, there could be significant political damage.

A member of the State Senate Rules Committee was just catching up with the story when I spoke to him late Thursday. He said he did not know what to make of the charges against Jewell who he praised as highly qualified. But when informed that the retired children's court judge failed to inform the Governor of the domestic violence case, he sighed: "That's bad." The Rules Committee presides over confirmation hearings for cabinet secretaries.


Various e-mailers checked in here with the theory that others who sought the cabinet post were responsible for leaking the Jewell story. A few said there was a published report of the 99' incident and that it was widely known in the legal community. After speaking with several attorneys, the notion that the matter was well-known does seem to hold water.

But that's the insider Alligator talk. What matters now is the leadership of a state agency charged with the well-being of thousands of New Mexican women and children who face an uphill struggle in the game of life. It is now up to Governor Richardson to make the right call on their behalf.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Night Of The Bizarre: Judge Jewell In Domestic Violence Case, Plus: NM Police Boss In Love Affair With State Lawmaker, And: Death Calls Tiny Martinez 

Tommy Jewell
A blizzard of bizarre political news fell over our Enchanted Land late last night as KRQE-TV in ABQ led off its 10 p.m. newscast with two stunners. First, that Judge Tommy Jewell, Big Bill's pick to become the new cabinet secretary for the Children Youth and Families Department, (CYFD) was involved in a 1999 domestic violence case that involved children. Second, that Carlos Maldonado, the recently retired chief of the NM State Police, quit because he was confronted with evidence of an extra-marital affair he had with a state legislator.

On Jewell, the station reported he reached a settlement over 1999 domestic violence charges that kept records of the case permanently sealed. Jewell, 51, was asked to comment, but said he could not because it might violate that agreement. He is married to ABQ District Court Judge Angela Jewell. The couple has two children. However, because of the seal on the case KRQE could not report whether it was members of Jewell's family who were involved in the case or other individuals.

The Jewell story had Big Bill's office running for cover with a spokesman saying they had no idea of the Jewell case, that he never told them, but they would ask the retired judge about the matter. Meanwhile, they are sticking with the Jewell appointment, for now.

Then there's the case of State Police Chief Charles Maldonado who announced recently he was retiring after over 20 years of law enforcement and three years as state police chief. But KRQE reported Maldonado, 44, was pushed over the cliff; that he resigned when the husband of the state legislator he was having an affair with confronted the department with evidence of the illicit romance. On this one, the Guv's office refused comment. The station did not say if the female legislator was a member of the House or Senate. Talk about grist for the Roundhouse mill. It doesn't get any more sensational than this.

And there was even more on the Night of the Bizarre. KRQE's Larry Barker hit with an investigative report that said Big Bill has created unauthorized positions for over 60 state workers at a cost of over $3 million. Dem State Senator Cisco McSorley asserted the hires were illegal. And former Governor Gary Johnson said Big Bill "has crossed the line." Guv Chief of Staff Dave Contarino, on the defensive, maintained there was nothing wrong with the hires, but GOP State Senators Carraro and Rawson joined McSorley in saying they sidestepped legislative approval.

It was an impressive night for hard-hitting news in a medium usually obsessed with the murder meter. If the GOP had a gubernatorial campaign fully up and running, Wednesday night would have been even worse for the Fourth Floor. But that was about the only saving grace for the Governor. Now he and his staff are manning their battle stations in preparation for the media onslaught sure to follow. Oh yeah Guv, welcome home from D.C.


There is a guy in the Big Duke City today who just may have a message that will appeal to a wide cross section of voters. He's John Edwards, the 2004 Dem Vice-Prez candidate who is campaigning for Madrid and his own possible 08' Prez bid.

Edwards' theme has been "Two America's," one where a minority is well-off, but another where millions toil just to keep their necks above water. It got him the VP slot in 04' and with the gap between the rich and poor still growing the theme could serve him well again.

A recent poll shows Edwards coming in second for the Dem nod, behind Hillary. Granted, a lot of that is simple name ID. But Edwards did not seem to suffer as much from the 04' defeat as Kerry who is also high in the 08' rankings becuse of name ID but who is having trouble persuading party faithful that a second time could be the charm.

Edwards placed fourth with 10% of the vote in NM's 04' Prez caucus. But in a poor state like this he's a candidate to keep your eye on, especially if Big Bill is not around to claim favorite son status.


Word came late Wednesday of the death of one of the last political patrons of the North. Donaldo "Tiny" Martinez of Las Vegas is dead at 82. More from the AP:

A political activist who endorsed Bill Richardson's first run for Congress and helped Hispanics in northern New Mexico has died. Donaldo "Tiny'' Martinez died in his sleep early Wednesday, local leaders said. He was 82.

Martinez served for 16 years as district attorney, he was a district judge for six years, a local Democratic Party chairman for 12 years, a state representative for one term and chairman of the West Las Vegas school board for 18 years.

Governor Richardson called Martinez a "Democratic political icon" and credited him with boosting his political career by endorsing him during his first congressional campaign in 1980. "He was a man of action and conviction and a true public servant," said Big Bill.

The last surviving Northern patron is Rio Arriba's Emilio Naranjo whose relationship with the Guv is not nearly as warm as it was with Tiny.

We need your help covering NM politics. E-mail me your political news and gossip. There's a link at the top of the page. Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you again soon.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

He's Back: La Politica's Steve Gallegos Announces PRC Bid, Plus: My Wednesday Bottom Lines; A Potpourri Of Cool Political Stuff Just For You 

An interesting race is shaping up for the race for the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) seat held by the retiring Lynda Lovejoy, and former ABQ City Councilor and Bernalillo County commissioner Steve Gallegos has just made it more intriguing.

"I just gave (NM Transportation Secretary) Rhonda Faught my letter of resignation. Because I intend to run for political office and the Department of Transportation receives federal funds, I am covered by the Hatch Act. I also want to avoid any possible perception of a conflict of interest and I am ready to "hit the trail running." So bloggged in Gallegos whose name stirs the Valley Alligators like few others.

And they're stirring again. Andrew Leo Lopez, also seeking the Dem nomination for the seat that covers some of the Hispanic Valley wards but is designed for a Native American, is already hammering Gallegos for being a past employee of telecommunications company Qwest, which is regulated by the powerful five member panel. But Gallegos is not biting. "Andrew is being Andrew," he sighed over his cellphone from the state capitol.

Gallegos retired from the phone company and has been a Big Bill appointee at the Department of Labor and most recently at transportation where he was a liaison with the Legislature. He is also a former State Senate sergeant-at-Arms, courtesy of then-Senator Manny Aragon.

But Lopez and Gallegos are just two of several players in this one, including Derrith Watchman-Moore, who, like Lovejoy, is Navajo. She is also a relative of ex-State Rep. Leo Watchman. Two other Navajo candidates are also said to be eyeing the seat.

The Gallegos camp thinks with his superior name ID he can easily out poll Lopez and then hope for a split in the Native American vote to take the nomination. It is a solid D seat so no R's need apply. Candidates have until mid March to get their nomination petitions in and that will give us a better idea what the ethnic angles will be in this district that takes in a good portion of the Navajo Reservation in the Four Corners region.

For his part, Gallegos, who suffered a mild heart attack a couple of years ago and said then that he was taking a break from La Politica, told me the best part of public service is "helping people" and he misses that. Lopez, who sought a PRC sat as a Republican back in 98', says he's crisscrossing the district in search of votes.

It's definitely a race you'll want to keep on your political radar.


Rep. Cervantes
Moving from Navajo Country to way down south, supporters of Dem State Rep. Joe Cervantes, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, continue to tout him for higher political office someday. The Las Cruces Sun-News recently checked in with the blog to talk about Cervantes and his future. You can read it right here.

The first paid TV ads of Campaign 06' didn't make much of a splash, but they have aired. ABQ GOP State Senator Joe Carraro was up on he tube for a couple of days with a small buy (about $4500) touting his candidacy for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. Also running is Santa Fe City Councilor David Pfeffer and Farmington urologist Allen McCulloch. Dem Senator Bingaman will defend the seat.

By the way, in that piece we did on the GOP race for attorney general Tuesday our early readers did not get a link to the Bob Schwartz Web site as they did for Jim Bibb. We could not find it, but several readers did and Schwartz's site is now linked in that blog. I worked in a campaign in 01' with Bob on the opposing side so the omission stood out for me. But, as with all the races this year, we will shoot this one down the middle, giving you the fair and balanced coverage you expect when coming to this space.


And hold your horses on Fred Luna. The longest serving member of the State House is still weighing whether to seek another two year term, say politicos in Valencia county. Or we should hold our horses because it was we who blogged earlier that Fred looked like no go seeing as how he was getting dialysis treatment three days a week during the legislative session. But the longtime ally of House Speaker Lujan, now pushing 80, is telling friends he "might" run again. We'll see. If he does, he can count on a stiff GOP challenge from Belen banker Edward Archuleta in this district that has the potential to go R because of recent population changes.

And "all hell has broken loose," in the Dem race to replace State Rep. Kandy Cordova who announced she will retire after this term. That from an Alligator there who reports there are as many as half a dozen D's seeking the seat. And there's an R running too. Like the Luna seat, this one is no longer safe D and a must-watch contest for you Roundhouse mavens. We will know who is all in when filing day rolls around in a couple of weeks.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

New Plan Surfaces To Relieve Overcrowded Schools; Can It Bail Out Big Bill? Plus: Jim Bibb; A "Rising Star" For The R's Or A Flash In The Pan? 

"Year of the Child"
The failure to secure funding for schools in fast growing suburbs on ABQ's Westside and in Dona Ana county was one of Big Bill's setbacks at the recent legislative session and, according to reliable sources, the Guv is now working feverishly to come through with the cash to build two new ABQ high schools and other schools in Dona Ana.

"There is serious talk about floating bonds for the schools that would be backed by the severance tax permanent fund. It would be a novel approach, but it appears to be legal and does not require the approval of the Legislature, only the Public School Capital Outlay Council," informed one source.

Before the session the Governor boasted that he would get nearly $300 million in money for new schools, but the lawmakers appropriated a paltry $90 million. After the rejection, APS school board member Robert Lucero infuriated the Guv by calling the session "The Year of the Spaceport," not "The Year of the Child" as touted by Big Bill.

One Westside activist determined to get those schools built circulated an e-mail that dragged the 08' Prez race into the fray.

"The Guv will not be dinged much in the upcoming election with his failure to get the critically needed funds to fix school overcrowding. His problem will come in selling his "educational Governor" status in his other campaign. One of his chief rivals is the former Governor of Virginia, who did find a way to build and fix that state's schools. If the Guv can't move New Mexico forward, how can he move America forward?" Questioned the activist.

It's a tough one for the chief exec because TV news has been playing the video where he pledged to come up with the money. The bond plan could be the way out. The Guv has issued executive orders to implement several of his proposals that were killed in Session 06.' Getting desperately needed schools built and fading the political heat in this election year may require him to again do an end run around opposing lawmakers.


Menawhile, the Guv may have an opportunity to pacify some of his Westside critics. And it comes from the R's. State Sen. Joe Carraro says $500,000 to four-lane the Paseo Del Norte road extension made it through the Legislature, as did another $300,000 secured by fellow GOP Senator Mark Boitano. The money is set loose if Big Bill signs off on it.

If the Guv does give the OK, it will also help Dem ABQ Mayor Marty with his Westside constituents. The mayor has said the city is short the cash for the four lane job. It was GOP U.S. Senator Domenici who recently came to the mayor's aid in winning four lanes for the Montano Bridge and now it's the two state GOP senators. The mayor has been the target of liberals who joke that he should switch to the Repubs, but why should he when he's already getting their help and Westside Dems say that's fine with them. Well, there is the matter of the Dem nomination for Guv in future years, but that's another story...


He's a near perfect candidate on paper. And several of my Alligators who attended Saturday's GOP Bernalillo County pre-primary convention said attorney general candidate Jim Bibb broke through in person. They say he gave the crowd a red meat speech that faulted Dem AG Madrid for not pursuing a corruption case against indicted ex-Treasurers Vigil and Montoya,

"It was the one speech that had the crowd excited and was interrupted by applause several times," reported a Gator from the confab.

Bibb is a former assistant NM U.S. attorney, and a National Guard vet with Afghanistan experience. At 35, some of his backers are touting him as a new rising star for the R's.

But can University of New Mexico law grad Bibb break through and beat out rival former Bernalillo County District Attorney Bob Schwartz for the nomination? Schwartz has just finished a stint as top crime adviser to Big Bill.

"Bob was on the defensive about his service to the Governor and pointed to the tough crime measures he pursued while in Santa Fe. But Bibb comes without the baggage and his speech gave Bob's skeptics ammunition," reported another GOP Alligator who took in the Schwartz speech.

Of course, Bibb, the son-in-law law of former NM Dem Guv Toney Anaya could be said to have his own baggage. But his cuts both ways. His Hispanic connection gives him a tool that could be useful in the November election. Bibb's own father is a retired FBI agent living in Las Vegas, NM where the family has lived since the 1930's.


I chatted up Bibb, a father of five, from his Santa Fe home Sunday afternoon to find out more. Is he a hard-right R, concerned with abortion, school prayer and gay marriage--the hot button issues that can divide a party? It didn't seem so as Bibb said he has not mentioned those issues on the trail and that prosecution of public corruption and homeland security are his top priorities.

He also noted his working connection to U.S. Attorney David Iglesias who narrowly lost the AG's race in 98' against Madrid. "Another 7,000 votes and he would have won. This race is winnable because, like then, there is no incumbent," Bibb asserted.

Bibb said he met Schwartz for the first time this weekend. He did not take the bait to launch some salvos at his rival. And why should he when former GOP Chair Dendahl and State Sen. "Lightning Rod" Adair are calling Schwartz way too liberal.

Bibb says he and wife Kristina have consulted with Grandpa Toney on political matters, but added: "We agree with Toney some time and disagree others. We all agree we have the greatest bunch of kids."

While they may not agree on all the issues, Bibb is launching his political career on the same trajectory as Toney who was about the same age when he won the AG's post in 74' and later went on to become Guv.

But if Bibb is a "rising star," he says it is not intentional. "I have never been interested in a political career, just in being attorney general."

So far Bibb has raised a respectable $50,000 for his effort. Judging by the reception he received Saturday and the resulting spin, more could be on its way. We'll keep you posted.

And keep us posted on your political news. E-mail it in from the link at the top of the page. Thanks for your company today. Let's do it again tomorrow.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Finding A Port In The Storm: Bush Finds One With Pete But Heather Balks, Plus: Tommy Jewell Ungagged; You're At Ground Zero For NM Politics 

The political pain being caused by the controversial proposal that would allow an Arab, state-owned company to gain control of six key U.S. ports came into clear view over the weekend. NM U.S. Senator Pete Domenici went all in with President Bush, while GOP ABQ U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson was saying the Congress "might" have to overturn the deal.

With even most Republicans appearing to be against the sale of the ports, the Alligators went into a frenzy over Pete's provocative defense of Bush and Heather's positioning. Domenici said fears of having an Arab nation based company control the ports verges on "hysteria." (latest developments here)

"Pete is not up for re-election. Heather is. You have to wonder if he will call in this marker with the White House in the form of bigger money for NM projects. He is one of the few senators who has gone out on the limb with the President, and such gifts usually come at a price," said one Senior GOP Alligator.

Domenici also repeated the White House line saying, "we are against terrorists...not religion or ethnicity. Some politicians seem to be forgetting that."

But Domenici's critics were saying it appears it is the senior senator who is forgetting that New Mexicans and the nation have been whipped into a "hysteria" since the attacks of 9/11.

"You reap what you sow," said one Dem Alligator of Domenici.

As for Heather, she told Bill Maher Friday night on his national HBO program "Real Time," that the Bush administration is guilty of a "terrible failure of communication." She has given herself wiggle room by using the word "might" not "should" in commenting on whether the port deal should be killed.

The episode was yet another example of the unsettled national political environment. And that usually means change. And that means the party in power has the most to fear.


Back on the HBO set with Heather, Maher welcomed Wilson to the "lion's den" but it actually turned out pretty tame. She won applause from the audience for her stand on increasing congressional oversight of the administration's domestic eavesdropping program as well as her stance on reviewing the port deal. Maher did ask her why she voted against increasing funding for port security by $400 million. She answered that the funding would have been at the expense of other programs. Maybe there's an opening there for Dem challenger Madrid.

Heather was interviewed at the top of the show for five minutes and did not join Maher's panel where the real red meat is dished. But she handled herself well, (How about Warm Heather grabbing Bill's arm?) looked the part and again put the Dems on notice that they will have to fight for every inch of ground.


Big Bill's appointment of Tommy Jewell as secretary of the NM Children Youth & Families Department was greeted favorably by advocates for children who say Jewell is a genuine friend of troubled youth with a record of proven success on the bench. Also, under outgoing CYFD boss Mary Dale Bolson the department has been hit with dozens of racial discrimination lawsuits. Jewell, an African-American, is expected to be able to calm the waters.

But skeptics, citing the previous four secretaries, question whether anyone can effectively run the often troubled 2,000 employee agency and will take a wait and see attitude on the retired judge who has no experience running a department of that size, or wrestling with the internal politics that caused Bolson so much trouble.

Also watching will be those of us in the peanut gallery. In 2000 Jewell issued a controversial gag order on the press in the case of a 120-pound, 3-year-old girl whom CYFD had taken from her parents. The ruling was challenged by news outlets and the NM Supreme Court overturned it.

A judge's gag order restricting the right to gather information to report on a matter of public interest is always a red flag. Jewell's decision was troubling, but a one time event. As New Mexico struggles to get out of the cellar in the national rankings on its treatment of children, Jewell will need all the public support he can get. Communicating with the public will be key. In the long run, secrecy gets you overturned.

As for CYFD, its federal and state funding totals $360 million. And they say they need more. Children's advocates Lt. Governor Denish and First Lady Barbara Richardson might want to investigate and see if this department is truly underfunded or more in need of a makeover after 12 years of trying hard, but still unable to shake its dysfunctional personality. A change at the helm may be in order, but the real trouble could lie in the lower decks.

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