Monday, August 07, 2006

Indictments in Courthouse Case "Unlikely" Before Election Day, Plus: Dendahl Slips...Again, And: Blog Photo Contest; The Winners Are... 

A key issue overhanging Campaign 06' is that federal investigation into alleged corruption in the construction of two Bernalillo county courthouses and the Metro jail. Now a reliable source says do not, repeat, do not expect any indictments in the matter before the November election.

"One of the same prosecutors who is involved in the retrial of (ex-Treasurer) Vigil is also working the courthouse case." This Senior Alligator says that means the indictments, if there are to be any, would come after the Vigil retrial (set for September 5) and very likely after the fall election.

Announcement of indictments during the middle of the campaign could have an impact on the overall mood of the voters.

Again, our customary caution. That a wide-ranging federal investigation is underway has been confirmed. (ABQ Journal investigative reporter Mike Gallagher updated the probe {PDF} over the weekend.) However, the only ones who know with certainty whether there will be indictments, or whether indictments are being pursued, are those directly involved and they are not talking. But the political impact on the campaigns of any developments in the case is of such significance it cannot be ignored.


Fans of GOP ABQ Congresswoman Heather Wilson are not letting Dem ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez slide for his endorsement of Wilson foe, Patricia Madrid. They are saying there are some reasons for that endorsement that the mayor and Madrid would rather go ignored. From the email:

"Marty endorsing Patsy is not a shocker, considering she refused to investigate the mayor's famous ABQPAC. Unlike the Vigil corruption scandal, there is no doubt (attorney general) Patsy was asked to investigate both the ABQPAC and the ABQ police evidence room scandals. In both cases she let Marty slide. In the end, her choosing politics over ethics will cost her this and future races."

Chavez was reprimanded by the city Board of Ethics for his role in ABQPAC. The police evidence room scandal involved the stealing of evidence and cash. No one was ever prosecuted.

Chavez, a veteran player of hardball, is sure to press his attack on Wilson and continue to call on her, as he did last week, to repudiate the "radical" candidacy of GOP Guv nominee John Dendahl. And Heather is just as likely to continue pounding the ethics hammer on Madrid. Her latest attack ad shows huge pictures of ex-Treasurers Vigil and Montoya. Just in case you forgot. The ABQ Trib's Kate Nash has more.


While Chavez was being ripped for his Patsy play, candidate Dendahl was playing right into his hands...again. NM school teachers are to blame for poor student test results, Dendahl declared, because they are too busy teaching "sexuality, self-esteem and socialism."

State GOP chair Allen Weh moved to distance the party from the remarks asserting that those are "John's individual remarks." Surely Heather will also be asked what she makes of the comments, complicating her efforts to position herself as a "moderate" voice. And one wonders what NM GOP senior U.S. Senator Pete Domenici thinks of these lastest "remarks."

Dendahl's red-hot rhetoric is escalating talk that Big Bill's chances of receiving over 60% of the vote are rapidly going from long shot to quite likely. He seems to know it too as he campaigns for the Dem Prez nomination with impunity.

Dendahl's past political dances have been as a party chairman and took place on the small floor of partisanship. But now, on the brightly lit stage of La Politica, he is faltering. The only good news is that his implosion is coming in August, giving him a bit of time to get his dance steps corrected. But he sorely needs some lessons.


There's no shortage of witty political observers, and we laughed aloud reading their entries to the Blog Photo Contest. Last week we asked readers to write a caption to the off-the-wall photo of Big Bill sporting a hairnet with his hand submerged in a batch of genuine Dona Ana county pecans. We promised a free lunch to the top two entries, and the winners are.....

Hope Garcia of Rio Rancho, NM topped them all, submitting not just one caption, but several, all of them genuine rib-ticklers.

"I know there's a Snickers bar in here somewhere."

"This is the last time I play 'Truth or Dare' with John Dendahl."

"All of these nuts make me feel like I'm still in Santa Fe."

"This is good practice for raiding the Permanent Fund again."

Hope, you outdid yourself. You have the pick of the menu at the famous ABQ Barelas Coffee House.

And we were won over by the way Patrick Adler of Toronto, Canada wove NM politico Manny Aragon into the picture:

"Sure they're high in fat....but Manny said he'd treat me to my next round of Lipo!"

Very clever, Patrick. And with all the Prez candidates on the Slimfast, quite timely too. If you can't make it to ABQ for your free lunch, we'll ship you a bunch of green chile.


In a sidebar to this, while the contest was underway what popped up in the email? Why, it was a brand new picture of Big Bill from the Guv's office, with a message asking the media to use it as a replacement for other stock photos. It's a darn good photo too, but where's the hairnet?

Thanks to all those who entered the contest. We'll have more fun stuff for you soon. Meantime, email me your political news and gossip from the link at the top of the page.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Dendahl Reemerges After Lengthy Silence; He Rips Big Bill School Record As Mayor Marty Calls On Heather To Repudiate The GOP Guv Candidate 

John Dendahl
The media busy bodies were subjected to a tongue lashing by the state GOP for dubbing R Guv candidate John Dendahl a "pit bull" and your blog for tagging him as a "sacrificial wolf." Maybe they were right. Since then the candidacy has been more akin to a sheepdog than any attack breed. But there were finally renewed signs of life on the cold-as-ice gubernatorial campaign trail this week as Big John dashed off a news release ripping Big Bill for that poor school performance report. But even if John wanted to stay incognito, he's too juicy a target for some, like ABQ Mayor Martin Chavez who called him out as he endorsed Dem congressional contender Patricia Madrid over her rival, GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson.

The bombastic Dendahl burst onto the scene in mid-June, being named the new GOP standard bearer after Santa Fe's J.R. Damron was moved aside for the putative reason of not being "aggressive" enough. Dendahl delivered a couple of verbal whippings against the Guv, but then took to the airwaves of KKOB-AM in mid-July where he suffered that old political malady known as foot-in-mouth disease and promptly disappeared for the rest of the month.

The media types freaked out. Didn't Dendahl realize he has a responsibility? How was newspaper circulation going to be increased without him? What about those crucial TV news ratings, not to mention additional blog hits? The reemergence of the former GOP chair was disappointingly low key to them, but the bean-counters were heard breathing sighs of relief as Dendahl's first release in weeks finally clacked over the news wires.

John, please don't leave us again. Those of us left to write about this thing have been passed over by Big Bill for one of the dozens of media jobs he has handed out in state government. You're all we've got. We need you. Our advertisers need you. Now get out there and do that thing of yours.

Mayor Chavez
If Dendahl did not slip back onto the trail himself, ABQ Dem Mayor Chavez might have smoked him out. How about that news conference Wednesday where he endorsed Patsy Madrid? Not that the endorsement was big news. It was the subtle playing of the race card that had the eyebrows arched and the Alligators feeding. Here's the news release money graph.

"Mayor Chavez also called on Republican nominee Heather Wilson to repudiate the gubernatorial candidacy of John Dendahl, saying, “If Heather Wilson doesn’t share the radical, divisive views of John Dendahl, she needs to be up front and say so.”

This was no subtle reference to the radio mishap where Dendahl said it is well known that most repeat DWI offenders are Hispanics "and the Legislature will not enact legislation, on the basis (that) `Gee, that would be racist."

If you hang out around here, you know the score. The Dendahl candidacy can break two ways for Heather. He helps energize the Republican base, thereby boosting turnout for her, or his candidacy generates a backlash among Hispanics, pushing them into Patsy's corner and heightening her chances for the upset. Obviously, Mayor Marty is encouraging the second outcome.

But why is the Dem mayor, who carried the Republican vote in last year's city election, so intent on upsetting Heather's apple cart? According to insiders, Chavez felt Wilson's sting when she went high-profile in helping his GOP mayoral opponent, City Councilor Brand Winter, raise campaign funds. In short, it's payback time. It's even more interesting because Chavez, to the chagrin and bemusement of top state Dems, recently endorsed GOP NM heavyweight U.S. Senator Pete Domenici for re-election in 2008.

The Chavez endorsement is not going to hurt him with hard-core Dems, long upset with the mayor's continuos flirtations with conservative R's. If he someday seeks the Dem nomination for Governor he will need them in his corner.


Don't expect any Dendahl-like breaks in the campaigns of Wilson or Madrid. The campaign watchers say the duo will stay on TV continuously until Election Day. Heather went up in mid-July; Patsy shortly after. Heather unveiled a new ad this week touting her service to seniors, a group that has been key to her re-election bids. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is also backing Wilson here with a 100 Grand TV buy. Patsy is getting third party TV and radio support from the national Dems.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

More From The Insiders On The Vigil Case, Plus: ABQ School Election Is Handicapped, And: There Is A Free Lunch--Enter The Blog Photo Contest 

Vigil & Bregman
It is now just a bit more than a month until the September 5th scheduled re-trial of ex-NM Treasurer Robert Vigil on corruption charges; a trial that could impact the November election. We blogged recently of plea bargain talks that insiders say have been conducted with Vigil's defense team, but broke down because of Vigil's insistence that he serve no jail time. The deal, according to a Junior Alligator, would have involved a year or more behind bars. Now, a Senior Alligator surfaces to update and correct Junior's original tip.

"The supervisors at the U.S. Attorney's office also rejected the deal. They wanted a minimum of 75 or 78 months or six years plus. Another stumbling point--Vigil does not want to testify against anyone else which any plea agreement would require. I think this has also been a major stumbling block.

The problem for Vigil is that if convicted he faces a minimum of 23 years, possibly more and he can be held responsible for the millions that (ex-state Treasurer) Montoya got in the scheme. Plus, he has the expense of a second trial." Informs the Senior Alligator to which we add our customary warning that only those directly involved in these matters could give a definitive confirmation and they aren't talking.

Vigil's first trial was a nail-biter with the jury ending up hung 11-1 for a conviction on one of the key charges. Vigil has repeatedly asserted his innocence. His attorney, Sam Bregman, says the Feds have politicized the case. As things stand today, Vigil and Bregman are going to get a second chance to prove those assertions. Stay tuned.


And what about that political hot potato known as the federal grand jury investigation into the construction of two Bernalillo county courthouses and the metro jail; another legal tempest that could play a role in the fall elections?

The hive is buzzing and awaiting word of any indictments. Various politicos say "target letters" have been received by those the Feds are investigating, with one saying they went out in June. If there are indictments, any trials would likely be held well after the November election because of the number of witnesses involved.

All of this made those photos of Dem Governor Big Bill meeting with GOP U.S. Attorney Alberto Gonzales Tuesday in Santa Fe fascinating, Not a word was spoken publicly about these matters which are ultimately overseen by the U.S. Justice Department led by Gonzales, the boss of NM U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, but the elephant was in the room.

Gonzales is the first Hispanic U.S. attorney general, a point of pride for many southwesterners and also, perhaps, a rebuttal to the rumblings already being heard (and voiced here) that there is an ethnic factor in the government probes.


Pollster Brian Sanderoff says the chances of that ABQ public schools bond issue passing in the special September 19th election are pretty good, even though it would mean a sizable tax hike for property owners--$142 for a home valued at $200,000. Commenting on his recent poll, he said:

"I was surprised that there was only a 7 point drop in support after hearing the tax implications. I don't see anyone on the horizon to take on the tax increase except Mayor Chavez. If the Mayor were to oppose the increase because of his concerns regarding APS, it could definitely impact the election; however, it would be counter productive to the Mayor's stated objective to build more West side schools.” So blogged the veteran pollster who says 42% of city voters are very likely to pass the tax and another 21% somewhat likely.

Chavez has not said whether he will support the tax. His intense displeasure with city school performance (He was given more ammo Tuesday.) reflects the behind-the-scenes bitching in the business community of the Big Duke City, but the business groups routinely support school tax increases and are doing so this time.

One other point. Sanderoff says holding the election in mid-September rather than in November increases the chances of its passage because opponents are more likely to show up for the General Election than the special.


The blog photo contest unveiled yesterday is turning out to be a lot of fun. Some of the caption entires for the photo of Big Bill are on the wild side. OK, maybe the smutty side, but they are all fun. Take a look at the pic (below on Tuesday's blog) and join the fun by emailing your caption from the top of the page. The best two entrants get the free blog lunch, even a large order of chicharrones, if they like.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Man Nobody Owns And No One Knows: Congress Candidate Ron Dolin Faces The Headwinds His Way; Plus: Hungry? Enter The Blog Photo Contest 

Ron Dolin
You probably haven't heard of Ron Dolin. But it's not because he doesn't have plenty to say. And what the GOP challenger to incumbent Dem northern NM Congressman Tom Udall is saying is anything but party boilerplate. Dolin is New Mexico's version of Ross Perot--minus the money. He is the anti-candidate, with no polls, focus groups or huge money. Take his position against the Iraq war. Dolin emails in that he gets "zero support" from the state and national GOP. With his position against the Iraq war, that's no surprise.

"I was invited to an event in northeastern NM where I was asked about Iraq. I knew the answer the ultra-conservative audience wanted to hear. Call it a naive miscalculation, but rather then tell them what they wanted to hear, I told them what I truly believed; namely, that while attacking Afghanistan was an appropriate response to 9/11, invading Iraq was a mistake. No one attending this event signed my nominating petition."

Obviously, Dolin, Los Alamos Labs' coordinator for Homeland Security programs and equipped with a Ph.D in mechanical engineering, is not expecting any helpful phone calls from Karl Rove or NM GOP Chair Weh.

The hopeful, 46, says he will not get personal with Udall, who is expected to again win big in the liberal north, but he does score the incumbent with a refrain heard in the past.

"Congressman Udall seems absent and disengaged from the decisions and debates impacting the lives and futures of all Americans and I believe we deserve better."

Udall backers point to his recent passage of a bill protecting the Valle Vidal--Valley of Life--from oil drilling, hardly a sign, they say, that he is "disengaged."


It isn't only Udall that Dolin takes on at his comprehensive, self-authored Web site. It's both political parties.

"When I watch the current Congress and I am not inspired by either the Democrats or Republicans. They both seem out of touch. Democrats during this administration behave like Republicans did during Clinton's. In the end, all Congress seems to do is point fingers at each other and blame all the problems on the other party." Declares Dolin.

And here's one that's not going to make Dolin any friends with the powers-that-be on either side of the aisle: "I believe we should replace the House Ethics Committee with an external citizen review panel." He proposes.

Dolin may not do focus groups or polls, but he reflects the thinking of the disaffected of both major parties and nonvoters when he states: "I intend to legislate in a nonpartisan manner putting the needs of my constituents first, the needs of America second, and my party's best interests third."

Well, maybe America needs to be first on that list, Ron.

Like Perot, Dolin has all the markings of a third party candidate, but he's the GOP standard bearer. Judging by his campaign kitty--he has just $7,000 in the bank--his fellow R's are not yet oozing with enthusiasm for the tell-it-like-I think-it-is political newcomer, but the broader electorate might perk their ears up--if they ever get to hear him.


They wear funny hats, kiss babies with lots of germs and shake hands with characters who later turn up in the pokey. Yes, being a favorite of the photogs can be hazardous work for our politicos. Which leads us the Las Cruces Sun-News photo of Big Bill pictured to the left.

Just what is the Guv thinking here? He wears a satisfied smile, while sporting a hair net and sticking his hand deeply into a batch of pecans. You tell us. Write a caption, email it in and if it's in the top two, you get a free lunch on the blog.

We promise that pecans will not be on the menu, but conversation of La Politica definitely will. Get those entries in now.


With the campaigns about to enter high gear, I have posted a permanent link to Real Clear Politics at the top of the site so you can quickly reference the latest breaking national political news and polls. Like ours, it is non-partisan and I hope you find it useful...Reacting to our Monday blog on the wages to be paid to most Eclipse Aviation workers in ABQ, ex-ABQ GOP State Rep. Rory Ogle chimes in: "Joe, you know that the only way to get higher paying wages in NM is to have worked on the Gov's staff. Then you can get whatever you want for life."

OK, Rory. But how many years does working on the Guv's staff take off of your life?

Thanks for tuning in today. Email your news and comments from the top of the page.

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