Tuesday, February 27, 2007

'Governor Herrera'; Should We Get Used To That? Plus: Vigil-Giron's Hot Seat, And: Checking An Ambitous Sheriff 

"Governor" Herrera
It's a kick for Mary Herrera to be carrying the title of "Acting Governor Herrera" today. She started off humbly in the 70's as a clerk-typist for Bernalillo county government, but with her election as secretary of state she became third in line to the governorship. Big Bill and Light Guv Lady Di are renowned road warriors so Mary didn't have to wait long for the state Constitution to take effect and for her to become the chief executive in their absence today and yesterday. Bill is campaigning for Prez and Diane is in Denver attending to family business.

Democrat Herrera told me Monday she wasn't plotting any attempted coups in the absence of Big Bill--unlike some lieutenant governors of yore who filled in for their bosses--and she spent much of her day before the Legislature working on bills impacting her office. But there were a couple of thrills.

"The security showed up in the morning. It hit home. They even gave me a ride to lunch...I talked on the phone with my my mom and my brother and they were pretty excited. And I posed for pictures with a visiting fifth grade class," said Acting Governor Herrera.

Politics may not pay much, but it delivers a thrill or two.


Herrera's brief ascension to power did raise the not unlikely possibility that unless something is changed, she could find herself serving as Governor more than she ever contemplated.

The scenario goes like this. Governor Richardson manages the long shot and gets himself a spot on the '08 Dem Prez ticket, or more likely, gets himself a job in a Democratic administration that takes office in January '09. That makes Diane Denish Governor, but leaves a vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor. There is no provision to replace Denish which leads us over to the state senate where ABQ Dem Senator Ortiz y Pino has introduced a constitutional amendment that would permit Denish to name her own lieutenant governor if she were to take over the Fourth Floor by succession, not election. The bill is now in Sen. McSorley's Judiciary Committee. If it makes it through there, it will head over to the House.

The amendment calls for the senate to provide "advice and consent" on the appointment of the state's new #2, but if the Legislature wasn't in session the appointment would stand until lawmakers convened. (A provision to also give the House consent was amended out) Voters would be asked to approve the succession amendment at the November '08 election, just in time if Big Bill is moving up and out.

If the amendment does not make it and the Denish replacement scenario became reality, Mary Herrera would be the designated hitter each time Di left the state until the new governor and light guv were seated following the '10 election. Diane, just in case, you might want to make nice with Mary (lunch at the Bullring?) or else you may never be able to leave the state if you do become governor.


Two New Mexico Governors have died while in office with their # 2's taking over and leaving unfilled lieutenant governor vacancies, but the most notorious vacancy came on November 30, 1962 when GOP Governor Ed Mechem resigned. He was immediately succeeded as Governor by Lieutenant Governor Tom Bolack who then appointed Mechem to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy created by the death of Democratic U.S. Senator Dennis Chavez. But the Light Guv vacancy lasted only a month as Jack Campbell took over as Governor and Mack Easley as Lt. Gov. on New Year's Day 1963. Mechem went on to lose the Chavez senate seat in 1964 to Joe Montoya, but for the rest of his life Bolack was called "Governor" by one and all even though he served just one brief unelected month.


We recently posted a defense of former secretary of state Rebecca Vigil-Giron from supporters who claim she is wrongfully blamed for a $3 million shortfall--a shortfall that is the subject of federal and state audits and has put on hold Big Bill's appointment of Becky as executive director of the NM Film Museum. But the defense drew some offense. Here's an example from a retired Roundhouse employee in Las Cruces who does not address the shortfall which Vigil-Giron defends as being caused by the switch to paper ballots, but he asserts Vigil-Giron wasted money.

"When you compare the $2.5 million that Vigil-Giron spent on TV ads in (last year's election) versus the $3 million that was spent by the Texas secretary of state, it alone is enough to get your dander up. In Texas, they spent their money on a mobile exhibit that toured the state, along with TV and radio ads and printed voter guides--all this in a state with eight major media markets, and 12 smaller markets. I've got to believe Vigil-Giron was on TV more than Big Bill was.

"No where in the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) does it say that you have to spend money on TV ads, as the former secretary's supporters allege. The Act leaves it to the discretion of the SOS, meaning, that you can spend it on a variety of public education materials, not solely on TV."

Well, no one was on TV more than Big Bill, but Rebecca was on more than her fair share and it is coming back to haunt her. Will she get the museum job? The insiders say those audits will have to find serious mismanagement or wrongdoing, not just questions of judgment, if she is to be denied some kind of job in the administration, if not the musuem post.


You hear his name mentioned frequently in GOP circles as a possible for a variety of higher offices--ABQ Mayor, U.S. Congress etc. But Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White is building a record which will be the subject of intense scrutiny if ambition does propel him to climb higher on the political ladder. While he won re-election by a large margin last year, not all the news has been good for the Sheriff. Take a look at this editorial. You'll be seeing a lot more of it in 30 second TV ads if and when any speculation about White running for another office becomes reality. As the late Ernie Mills would put it: Don't say we didn't tell you.


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