Thursday, July 12, 2007

New Contender for Wilson Seat; Insider Bryon Paez Announces Bid; 1st Hispanic In Race, Plus: Rio Rancho Mayor Pursued; Recall Effort Starts 

Move over Martin Heinrich and make room for politico Bryon Paez. The longtime behind-the-scenes player is trading in his insiders chair for the bright lights of La Politica, telling me from Washington Wednesday that he will join ABQ City Councilor Heinrich in seeking the Democratic nomination for the ABQ congressional seat held by by Republican Heather Wilson.

The former Marine officer says it's his military background that will make him a particularly strong candidate, matching up with Wilson, an Air Force veteran. But the Alligators instantly noted that if he can raise sufficient money, Paez, a former Director of Cabinet Affairs for Governor Richardson, could become the leading Hispanic candidate for the June primary in which over half the vote will be cast by Hispanics.

There is a wrinkle, however. Paez, 40, was born and raised in Las Vegas, NM, not ABQ, so he doesn't have deep ties to the Valley sections of the city where Hispanics hold political sway. Still, as a former chief of staff to House Speaker Ben Lujan and a staffer to ABQ State Rep. Danice Picraux, he has accumulated political acumen, if not name ID.

Paez, who holds two masters degrees from the University of New Mexico, told me he met with the Democratic Congressional Committee while in D.C. and informed that group and other D.C. politicos of his run. He said he told Big bill he was getting in the race over the Fourth of July. Paez is currently president and CEO of the Victory Group, a political consulting firm owned by lobbyist Butch Maki who is now in New Hampshire helping organize the Governor's presidential campaign.

Paez is not claiming Richardson's support, and neither is Heinrich. When Heinrich first announced, Richardson insiders claimed he was helping to clear the field for the city councilor who served as his natural resources trustee. With a longtime political associate as well as a former employee like Paez in the race, the Guv will be less likely to show a public hand.


Paez said he is not intimidated by Heinrich's raising of $180,000 for his campaign, saying, "I will not be outworked and "I have contacts across the state" who will be useful when it comes to raising the necessary cash, He said $250,000 is his initial goal.

Because Heinrich lacks district wide name ID and because any credible Hispanic candidate instantly commands voting strength, observers have been waiting for an Hispanic entrant. Now that Paez is in the race, Heinrich is no longer the obvious winner of the nomination, but remains the frontrunner. His hope will be that another Hispanic gets in and splits votes with Paez.

Paez is single and lives in ABQ's North Valley. His parents are retired and also live here. He said he was on active Marine duty from 1989 to 1993 and served in Iraq part of that time helping to run a refugee center. "The issue is whether Heather Wilson has blindly followed this President into a war we should never have been in. I think we shouldn't have gone in there in the first place," declared the freshly minted candidate.

Will this thing go negative? "Martin has done a good job for the city. Other than me being more fiscally conservative, I think we agree on core Democratic values. The race comes down to who would be a stronger opponent for Representative Wilson." Paez said.

Paez is well-known to insiders and politicos. Besides his association with the Maki firm, he also has a list of lobbying clients and volunteered on ABQ Mayor Chavez's 2001 campaign before hooking up with Big Bill.

The question now is whether a Democratic primary will tear the party apart or get it well-oiled in preparation to take on Wilson who barely managed a re-elect win in 2006. Democrats are going to find out as they now have two significant candidates, and they could have more by the time Labor Day rolls around. At first blush, it would seem to be welcome news for Wilson if it means the foucs is more on Democrats battling among themselves, rather than the battle she is havign with the Dem majority in the U.S. House.


State Dems were thumping their chests this week over the relatively good fundraising showings of their congressional challengers--Martin Heinrich for the ABQ Wilson seat who raised $181,000--and Bill McCamley, Dem challenger to GOP Rep. Steve Pearce, who came in with a second quarter total of $141.000. But just how daunting a task it is to oust a congressional incumbent (over 98% of them are routinely re-elected) will come home to roost in the next couple of days as the incumbents file their finance reports. An advance glimpse at Pearce's shows him with $383,000 in cash on hand and raising over $245,000 in the second quarter. He pocketed over $120,000 in the first quarter. Heather is also sure to report big bucks, reminding Dems of their out-of-power status.

The incumbents, keenly aware of the maze of rules governing campaign finance, will also have their operatives keep a close eye on how their foes are accounting for the money they are raising and taking advantage of any missteps. A Pearce operative points out that McCamley has already had to file an amended report with the Federal Election Commission because the employment of some of his donors was not accurately reported.


The end game arrived weeks ago for befuddled and beleaguered Rio Rancho Mayor Kevin Jackson, but he refuses to see it, stubbornly clinging to office and refusing to resign in the face of multiple investigations and a censure vote by the Rio Rancho City Council. But Jackson is going--one way or the other. A recall effort was launched against him Wednesday and will likely succeed. Jackson could spare his city and the taxpayers further anguish and embarrassment by doing the honorable thing and resigning. If he chooses not to, the full wrath of the city will come down on him--as it should.


Big Bill took time off from the Iowa campaign trail Wednesday to place a call of condolence to the family of 94 year old Elden Scanland who passed away earlier in the day. Scanland was an original Big Bill supporter and the father of NM lobbyist Scott Scanland who toiled on the Guv's 1980 congressional campaign and who has teamed with me with for many years to anchor Election Night coverage on public radio KANW 89.1 FM.

Still more coming in on last Thursday's blog from a Senior Gator listing his top ten powerful legislators since WWII. His listing of the two Bens--House Speaker Ben Lujan and Senate President Pro Tem Ben Altimirano--in the #10 position drew this reaction from a Santa Fe wall-leaner. "It seems to me that the two Bens didn't exercise real power so much as they took orders--first from (Senator) Manny Aragon and (House Speaker) Raymond Sanchez, then Big Bill."

Thanks for all the mail on the top ten list. Should we do some other categories? Suggestions?

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