Thursday, May 04, 2006

D.C. Power Play: Heather Helped By Chairman She Crossed; Sponsors Anti-Gouging Bill; Earns Nat'l Press, Plus: Breakaway GOP Group Loses At High Court 

If the ship goes down there will be no survivors. That's the moral of the Movida that unfolded on Capitol Hill Wednesday and vaulted ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson into the national headlines. The House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman, Rep. Joe Barton (TX), who just two years tried to have Heather thrown off his panel, closed ranks behind her. Barton let Heather be the chief sponsor of an anti-gouging bill on gas prices, delivering a coup for her in her hotly contested Congressional race with NM Dem Attorney General Patricia Madrid.

An Alligator with D.C. experience, but on the ground in NM, bottom lined it. "If the House goes to the D's, there will be no Republican committee chairmen. As they say, politics makes for strange bedfellows. With his power ultimately on the line in November, Barton saw the wisdom of helping Heather, despite her past wayward ways."

Wilson introduced the anti-gouging bill just days ago. It was fast-tracked by Republican leaders who continue to shudder under the threat of a voter rebellion at the ballot boxes. The measure passed overwhelmingly. The Senate still has to agree.

It was in 2004 that Chairman Barton threatened to toss Wilson to the wind when she broke ranks over the Medicare prescription drug bill, demanding that more information on the costs of the program which was ultimately approved by the Congress.

The Hill newspaper supplies more details on the Heather-Barton reunion.

As for Madrid, it was the second time this year she had to stand by while Heather burst onto the national scene as she pulls out all the stops to position herself as an "independent Republican." In February she split with the Prez over the Administration's surveillance of American citizens, news that was flashed nationwide.

Doing what they could, the Madrid campaign lashed out at the Wilson-Barton Movida calling it an "obvious political ploy" and said in the past Heather voted three times against anti-gouging legislation. They also said she has picked up $800,000 in energy campaign money since going to the Hill in 98.' Madrid does have a hole card. If gas prices continue to soar, Wilson may need more than an anti-gouging bill for cover.

But it was the power of the majority party and their now stark fear of losing that power that was on full display Wednesday. With the future of the American government on the line, the R's fired a cannon over the bow of New Mexico Democrats signaling that their leaky ship is still sail-worthy and not going down without a fight.


That breakaway faction of the NM GOP, so active in Republican primaries two years ago, has concentrated its 06' efforts in southeastern NM, but Wednesday the NM Supreme Court handed them a defeat. The court ruled that Lucy Tucker will be allowed on the June primary ballot to challenge GOP State Rep. Keith Gardner. Gardner's lawyer is lobbyist Mickey Barnett who spearheaded the primarying of fellow Republicans in 04'.

Gardner ousted GOP State Rep. Earlene Roberts two years ago in a bitter primary battle. Roberts is now helping Tucker. The breakaway faction also includes Roswell's State Senator Rod Adair and State Rep. Dan Foley. Ex-GOP Chair John Dendahl is also aligned with the faction.

Foley escaped a primary challenge when Steven Gavi did not file proper petitions. Gavi will run as a write-in candidate against Foley in the general. Tucker and Gavi are renewing charges that Barnett and Adair are more interested in their private business interests and candidates who can help them, rather than the interests of the GOP.

Gardner is favored to win over Tucker, but the faction is in a much tougher fight with Mike Kakuska who is seeking the GOP nomination for a Roswell House seat against Nora Espinoza who has served as Adair's Legislative secretary. The seat is being vacated by Avon Wilson.


The oil industry was quick to react to a blog hit delivered against them Wednesday by Dem land commissioner hopeful Jim Baca who pledged not to take "a single penny" in campaign money from Big Oil. Firing back, an industry higher-up e-mailed this entertaining volley.

"The real story is that Baca is not getting any money from big, little or medium size oil. He has in the past and continues to this day to whine and whine about our industry and has catered to anti-development groups. His life cycle goes like this. When he was born he was a NIMBY; Not in my back yard. As he grew up he became a BANANA; Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything; then he became a CAVE; citizens against virtually everything."

Of course, liberal enviro Baca will wear that oil and gas attack as a badge of honor. He also responded to my tongue-in-cheek joshing that he lost an animal protection group endorsement to primary foe Ray Powell because he complained that his pet, "Jerry the Cat," was not sufficient company when his wife was away.

"I love my cat. And my two beagles." He responded. Which brings to mind that old saw, slightly revised, "If you want a friend in politics, get a dog." Or, in Baca's case, a cat and two Beagles.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Big Bill's Primary Footprints; We Follow The Trail, Plus: AG Race Hits Tube Tonight, And: More On Pete's "B.S. Meter" 

Is it an endorsement? Play political analyst with me as we take a gander at this photo from the Rio Grande Sun with Governor Big Bill embracing Rio Arriba Dem State House candidate Moises Morales who is challenging incumbent Rep. Debbie Rodella in the June primary. Debbie and hubby Tommy Rodella have been a thorn in the gubernatorial side. But anyone can push for a pic with a Guv, and determining with certainty what is going on in the Byzantine world of Rio Arriba county poltiics is even sometimes beyond the skills of your Gringo blogger from Pennsylvania.

Big Bill's appointment of Tommy as a Rio Arriba judge blew up in his face, and the Guv lost his state police chief when a relationship between the chief and Debbie got Tommy hot under the collar and forced the chief's resignation.

This is not just not just soap opera. With State Rep. Fred Luna retiring, the chairmanship of the House Business and Industry Committee will get a new chair next year. Debbie is vice-chair of that committee and in line for the chairmanship and a key policy making role in New Mexico politics.


A Big Bill fundraiser (yes, another one!) held Friday night at a Santa Fe art gallery had the wall-leaners noting that land commissioner candidate Jim Baca and attorney general Dem contender Geno Zamora were on hand for the thousand a pop event, but their opponents in the June primary were not. Both Baca and Geno held positions in the Big Bill administration and while the Guv has not been public in showing affection for the duo, it doesn't take a Los Alamos Ph.D. to figure out that the Guv would not mind keeping them around.

It could become an issue if Zamora or Baca are the nominees. While affiliation with the powerful Guv may sit fine with hardcore Dem partisans, the general electorate may have questions on how these offices would maintain their independence if populated by Bib Bill acolytes.


The race for Dem attorney general is finally kicking in. Sandoval county District Attorney Lem Martinez will be first to break the ice with a couple of TV spots that will begin airing in the ABQ market tonight. One of them is a bio spot featuring his sister, Linda Alvarado, part owner of the Colorado Rockies baseball team and a key fundraiser for the hopeful. Martinez has a second spot in the can that will take on the methamphetamine issue.

Hours after Lem announced he was hitting the air, Geno Zamora dashed out a news release that he too will be on a TV screen near you this week. Geno might have been a bit too enthusiastic by saying his TV spots will be viewed by "millions of New Mexicans." Last we checked the state's population was about 1.9 million. But maybe they are counting the livestock.

Insiders tell me name ID is becoming critical at this point and that if Martinez and Zamora don't get going soon, Gary King is positioned for the win. The Martinez and Zamora camps hear them, thus the first strike. Now Gary will need to answer.

"Jerry The Cat"
Back on the Dem land commissioner duel, Jim Baca e-mails that unlike the congressional reps we blogged about Tuesday, he is not "taking one penny" from Big Oil. His opponent and another former land commissioner, Ray Powell, hits the blog spin room with the news that he has been endorsed by the National Education Association of NM as well as the Animal Protection Voters of NM.

Baca recently complained that when his wife worked out-of-state there was no one around the house but their pet "Jerry the Cat." I warned Baca that this slight at Jerry could lead to dire political consequences. Now the Powell animal rights endorsement. Told you so.

Well, Powell is a veternarian which might have had something to do with it. Still, if I were Baca I would keep an eye on Jerry. Hey, vet Ray. Do you make house calls?


We blogged last week of NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici and how his "B.S. Meter" went red as pump prices soared and public outrage grew. But some enviornmental Alligators e-mail that the senior senators "bullshit meter" needs some fine tuning when it comes to listening to outsized public concern on another big issue.

"Despite the public outcry regarding the Valle Vidal, Sen. Domenici is not leading but standing in the way. The Forest Service has received nearly 70,000 comments opposing drilling in the Valle Vidal. 18 north-central New Mexico communities and county commissions have passed resolutions opposing drilling as have numerous Chambers of Commerce. Still, Domenici wont co-sponsor and push Sen. Bingaman's Valle Vidal Preservation Act. Where is the "acting with the public?" Hits one enviro leading the charge for no drilling.

The public wants more oil and lower gas prices. And they want scenic treasures like Valle Vidal protected too. Seems that's enough to cloud up Pete's B.S. Meter.

Your news and comments via e-mail are welcome. You can do it from the top of this page.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

NM Politicos Fill Up Campaign Tanks On Oil Cash; We Dig Out The Numbers, Plus: Heather's Spring Fling, And: It's Dateline Tokyo For NM PR Player 

New Mexico congressional reps seeking re-election this year won't have any trouble topping off their tanks as they take to the campaign trail and they can thank, in part, the oil and gas industry. A check of federal records shows that the campaign coffers of three of the four NM members seeking another term this year have benefited handsomely from energy concerns, a major employer in the state.

Not surprisingly, southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce is the top oil and gas guy. In fact, out of 535 members of Congress Pearce ranks among the top 20 recipients of oil and gas money, coming in 18th. So far this cycle, Pearce has taken in $44,700 from the industry. His district is dotted with oil and gas exploration companies. The energy issue is a tightrope act for the two term congressman; many of his constituents make their living from oil and gas, but high pump prices in a district where an hour's drive is routine could cause a political pinch.

But Pearce has a lot of breathing room. His only opponent is Dem Al Kissling of Las Cruces who is not going to get any oil and gas money and not much from anywhere else either.


There's not much, if any, oil and gas drilling in the ABQ congressional district, but incumbent GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson is a member of the powerful House Energy Committee, a plum spot for oil and gas contributions. So far, she has raked in over $36,000 from the industry. Her Dem challenger, Patricia Madrid, is not turning down their money either. She has collected $17,000 from the currently unpopular industry.

Democrat Tom Udall, a noted environmentalist, doesn't have the oil and gas barons banging at his door. Still, for his 06' re-elect he has managed to receive about $10,000 from the industry.

Governor Big Bill is an interesting study. We won't have his oil and gas totals for the 06' campaign until next week, but in 02' he benefited from over $200,000 in energy donations. Recently, he called for oil companies to donate $50 million to the state so it could be given to hard-hit consumers. In the past, he has also talked of raising taxes on the industry. On this one, the Big Guy has a good argument against the R's "pay to play" attack.

Dem Senator Jeff Bingaman, member of the Senate Energy Committee and seeking a fifth term in 06', is at $48,000 in oil and gas dough for this cycle, not a large percentage of his overall total of $2.4 million. But, as with Pearce, it shows the balancing act that our congressional folk are faced with as they represent a major oil and gas producing state and at the same time try not to be labeled favorites of Big Oil as those gas prices continue to hit home.


In the latest edition of her ongoing series, "Why I am Really a Moderate," the GOP's Wilson is throwing political kisses to one of NM's old line Democratic families. Take a looksie at her latest newsletter missive.

"While we are from different parties, I have always liked the Kings. There's a hard, dry no-nonsense directness about them. They're honest men who work hard." Declared R Heather.

Hey, isn't Heather butting in on Patsy Madrid territory? After all, Madrid ran as Bruce King's running mate to form the 94' Guv ticket. Well, Spring is in the air, so what better time for Heather to romance the many D's she needs to retain her seat.


NM politico Doug Turner has gone Oriental. The ABQ PR operator is in Japan studying why minority political parties work there. He penned this piece for Time Mag's Asia edition.) His Japanese sojourn is courtesy of a fellowship with the Council on Foreign Relations. Turner, who managed Gary Johnson's NM Guv campaigns, is also developing clients for his business.

R Doug's CFR connection ought to get the conspiracy buffs going. But in our beloved La Politica it doesn't take much to do that, does it?

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Monday, May 01, 2006

The Primary's A Snooze, But The Issues Are Not; May Day 2006 Has Something For Everyone; A Boycott, A Song And A Letter 

The New Mexico primary campaign may be a snore, but hot-button issues are bursting forth like spring pollen, giving voters plenty to mull over when the campaigns finally do fully blossom later this year. Today is a something for everyone May Day 2006 with New Mexicans engrossed in the immigration debate, the national anthem singing controversy, gas price angst and state political corruption.

Our state has been pretty much live and let live when it comes to undocumented workers. An estimated 50,000 of them toil away quietly at restaurants, construction sites and in the big agribusiness fields of the south, or attend school. But their national boycott today to encourage a comprehensive immigration bill has the issue front and center in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces. The politically powerful Roman Catholic church is also waving the flag.

None of the NM congressional delegation favors deporting those who are already here illegally, instead focusing on border enforcement. Unlike the rest of the nation, the issue here has not been extremely divisive.


As for the national anthem brouhaha and whether it should be sung in Spanish, ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez hit the proverbial nail on the head when he pointed out that bilingualism is enshrined in the state Constitution and that singing the anthem in espanol is no big deal.

In fact, New Mexico has an official bilingual state song. Sure does. It was adopted by the Legislature In 95'. And if you want to sing it in English be our guest.

Here's the money quote on the Spanish language in New Mexico's founding document. "The right of any citizen of the state to vote, hold office or sit upon juries, shall never be restricted abridged or impaired on account of religion, race, language or color, or inability to speak, read or write the English or Spanish languages..."

Hispanic politicians I covered in the 70's and who grew up in the state's early years would tell of being disciplined to the point of physical punishment if they dared speak Spanish in the school room. Jerry Apodaca of Las Cruces was one of them. He was elected Governor in 74', one of five Hispanic Guvs in state history.

Governor Big Bill partedwith Mayor Marty on the singing of the anthem, saying he agrees with the Prez that the patriotic tune should be belted out in English. That's probably how most people around the nation feel, but in New Mexico the speaking of Spanish has special standing. As for Spanish NM singing, it's a tradition very much alive and well. Check out KANW 89.1 FM in ABQ where "ranchera" music rocks the airwaves around-the-clock.


Other news from down Mexico way makes the blog today. New Mexicans didn't listen when ex-GOP Guv Gary Johnson, ex-Dem Guv Toney Anaya, then-state GOP Chair John Dendahl and Republican lobbyist Mickey Barnett launched a full-fledged effort in the late 90's to legalize drugs here. But in Mexico City, that message has taken hold. The Mexican Congress has approved a bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, heroin, cocaine and even Ecstasy. Mexico says it hopes the measure will help police focus on large drug trafficking, rather than minor drug busts.

The NM pro-drug message died a quiet death when Johnson & Company exited. No wonder. New Mexico's Rio Arriba county has the highest rate of heroin overdose deaths in America. (17 in 2004) If Mexico is going to concentrate on the big dealers they could start with the gangs that continue to flood Rio Arriba with deadly dope. Our own state and federal governments also need to do more.


When it comes to those sky-high gas prices it doesn't matter what language you use, they hurt. The only thing funny about them is the way they make the politicians jump up and down in fear and sometimes frustration. Look at what happened to GOP U.S. Senator Pete Domenici on the senate floor the other day. His temper got the better of him as another senator filibustered the energy issue. It's high-stress time for Pete who is chair of Energy Committee which is being challenged to produce legislation that would solve the gas panic.

Pete's pal in the U.S. House, ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson, is also concerned about voter backlash from the pump prices. She, like Pete, is touting better auto fuel efficiency standards as she tries to stay ahead of the political curve on what could be a make or break issue come November. Her foe, Dem Patricia Madrid, was first out of the gate.

While Heather is on the defense on soaring pump prices, she is clearly on the offense when it comes to the state corruption issue. She was gifted another thirty second TV spot at the federal corruption trial of ex-Treasurer Robert Vigil when state taxation secretary Jan Goodwin testified that back in 02' she sent a letter to Attorney General Madrid asking for an investigation of the troubled Treasurer's office. At the time, Goodwin was on the State Board of Finance. Patsy says the letter never made it to her office. Unfortunately, for her, the political fallout will.

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