Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Shake-Up In Dem State Chair Race, Plus: More On GOP Infighting, Plus: Iglesias Pals Rule Out Run & A Not So Special Session 

Gideon Elliot
There's a shake-up to report in the race for chairman of the NM Democratic party. A third candidate has emerged who could play a role in deciding whether former State Rep Mike Olguin or ABQ attorney Brian Colón takes the prize when the D's central committee confabs in Las Cruces April 28th.

The new contender is 27 year old New York native Gideon Elliot, a former party staffer and a "progressive" Dem whose candidacy is seen by some observers as more of a threat to Colón, the theory being that the 36 year old Colón would be more likely to share supporters with Elliot than would the 57 year old Olguin whose appeal is to longtime D's and party regulars.

The Elliot candidacy emerged at an ABQ party meeting last week where one of our Alligators was on hand to supply this account.

"Olguin spoke of his rise up in NM politics, his tenure as a state legislator, his tenure as party vice-chair under Diane Denish, what he accomplished as Socorro County Chair and what he does now, including his lobbying. Next up was Brian Colon...Those in attendance were mostly in favor of Colón. What no one expected was the THIRD candidate...heads turned as Gideon Elliott, former party staffer came down. He gave a speech full of enthusiasm away from the microphone. He knew the issues and was well received." Reports our on-the-scene Gator.

Will Gideon split the Bernalillo County progressives and give Olguin the chairmanship? Olguin hopes so. He thinks his strength in rural NM is solid. Colon's backers say he appeals as much to the party's center as Olguin and will not be harmed. The campaign is on. Stay tuned.

Rep. Pearce
What does the political future of southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce have to do with Sunday's re-election of Bernalillo county GOP chairman Fernando C de Baca? Quite a bit say my Republican Alligators. They, and I, wondered why Senator Domenici and Congresswoman Wilson were so public in their opposition to the re-election of C de Baca when the county GOP central committee re-elected him. We blogged Monday that the independent minded Fernando has not won friends with GOP behind-the-scenes players like lawyers Pat Rogers and Mickey Barnett, but for Wilson and Domenici to risk political capital on defeating him, the insiders say there had to be a more important reason. And they say that reason could be the United Sates Senate.

The line of reasoning on this one says that Domenici and Wilson want a party leadership favorable toward Wilson as she eyes replacing Pete in the senate, either next year if Pete drops his bid for re-election or down the road. C de Baca is now thinking about running for state party chair and if he took it over the insiders say Pearce would be better off. They wanted to stop him in his tracks Sunday, but were stunned when C de Baca pulled off the win.

Control of the party is important in the event that the state central committee is called on to fill a vacancy on the GOP ticket as happened when J.R. Damron last year withdrew from the Governor's race and was replaced by John Dendahl. While insiders think the possibility of Domenici running in next year's June primary and then vacating the seat and having the central committee name Heather as his replacement is more unlikely in the wake of the U.S. attorney scandal, they say the possibility should not be ruled out. Even if the hand-off scenario is far-fetched, the state chair controlling the party apparatus can influence the senate race in other significant ways. And so can the chairman in the state's largest Republican county.

Which brings us back to Steve Pearce. Like Heather, he too wouldn't mind serving in the World's Most Exclusive Club and would like to have friends in high Republican places. On Sunday, one of them stayed right where he wanted. If C de Baca chooses to challenge NM GOP Chair Allen Weh in May we could see a repeat of the drama between supporters of Pearce and Wilson. Clearly, the battle lines for the power and the glory of the United States senate are being drawn with sharper knives. Don't say we didn't tell you.


It's Special Session '07 kicking off today. Here's the agenda sent down by Big Bill. We set the stage for the action to come in Monday's blog as questions continued about the Guv's decision to call a special. His political timing, for the first time in a long time, seems out of sync. His agenda for the special is not critical to the functioning of the state and the senate, in particular, could cause him major embarrasment if it balks and moves to end the session quickly. He also looked out of touch by being on the Prez campaign trail in Texas Monday. Critical lawmakers were asking if the stuff he wants is so important, why wasn't he at his capitol office taking calls and meetings? If the Governor is not going to act like his special session agenda is his all-consuming concern, he can't expect the Legislature to.


The chances of David Iglesias trying to resurrect his political career on the back of the U.S. attorney scandal are slim to none, say insiders who know Iglesias. They are addressing casual speculation that Iglesias, who spilled the beans on Senator Domenici and ABQ GOP Congresswoman Wilson, could pull an outlandish move by switching to the Dems and running against Heather. But Iglesias and his wife are fervent anti-abortion advocates, a position that would not sell well with the Dems, not to mention other conservative positions he would have to overcome to make the switch work. Iglesias ran a close race in the 90's for attorney general, losing to Patricia Madrid who in turn lost narrowly to Wilson in '06.


Igleisas has been torn limb-to-limb by Domenici, Rogers, Barnett and company for his record on handling voter fraud cases in New Mexico, but the Washington Post comes with the news that the Justice Department didn't see it that way in 2005 and heralded him for his work in this area. And as we have blogged, whether Iglesias was good or bad, it comes back to the Domenici-Wilson phone calls and whether he was fired for not speeding up indictments at their request.


There was another big document dump by Justice last night on the firing of the U.S. attorneys--3,000 pages worth.


And who will be the next U.S. Attorney? That issue has been delayed as a result of the scandal but one thing is for sure--NM Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman will be fully consulted on the pick. The position requires Senate confirmation and the Dems control that body. Having Bingaman's stamp of approval would avoid any nasty confirmation fight. By the way, did you know that Jeff was once attorney general of New Mexico? He was elected in '78 and went on to win his Senate seat in '82.

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