Thursday, July 05, 2007

Playing For Power: A Top Ten List Of Those Who Mattered Most In New Mexico's Recent History, Plus: Wilson And Wikpedia 

Bruce King
When former State Senator Manny Aragon was indicted on corruption charges earlier this year we said he was arguably the most powerful lawmaker in New Mexico's post WWII history. That brought interesting reaction that we are finally able to get to during the holiday lull. Was Manny Numero Uno, or are there other worthies vying for the title? One veteran Alligator lays out his list of venerable legislators, coming up with a top ten list of the most powerful from the past 60 years. On his list, Manny, who served as Senate president pro tem as well as majority leader, comes in at #6. Read on for our Senior Alligator's Legislative Top Ten--fascinating analysis you get only here...

#1. Sen. Aubrey Dunn (D-Alamogordo) -- powerful Senate Finance chairman, responsible for State Equalization Formula which set the standard for the entire nation in school funding. Aubrey trained Manny and changed his diapers when he came to the Senate.

#2. Rep. Walter K. Martinez (D-Grants) --The original Speaker of the House and head of the Mama Lucy Gang, the person who gives Manny spiritual guidance. Ruled with an absolute iron fist. Manny learned how to govern from these guys.

#3. Rep. Bruce King (D-Santa Fe) -- One of the most powerful Speakers ever who parlayed that experience into three Gubernatorial terms. Manny never parlayed his Legislative experience anywhere except to an ill-fated Highlands job and an impending federal indictment.

#4. Sen. Fabian Chavez (D-Santa Fe) -- I would like to hear from the Alligators as to who was the better and more effective legislator and majority leader -- Manny or Fabian??

#5. Rep. Raymond Sanchez (D-Albuquerque) -- He never seemed to get into the trouble that Manny did. Just as powerful on his side of the Capitol as Manny was on his turf. Held power longer than Manny. Retired on better terms even though he was beat at the polls.

#6. Sen. Manny Aragon (D-Albuquerque)--You described his accomplishments, not much more needs to be said, except the others on this list are not facing indictments and I truly think that has to count for something.

#7. Rep. Gene Samberson (D-Lovington)--He led the revolution against the Mama Lucy Gang and ruled the roost for a half-decade with a coalition of conservative D's and all of the R's. Ending the Martinez's rule was quite an accomplishment in 1979 that had a number of consequences for those who broke ranks with the Democrats in the state House.

#8. Sen. Harold Runnels (D-Lovington)--He parlayed his Senate University Investigation Committee in the Vietnam Era into a congressional career. This was one powerful dude and UNM still feels the reverberations of his experience in the NM Legislature to this day. (Love Lust poem incident)

#9. Sen. Ike Smalley (D-Deming) -- He served almost 50 years in the NM Legislature and was the longtime Senate President Pro-Tem. Manny couldn't get his career going until Ike was taken out of the way.

#10. (tie) Rep. Ben Lujan (D-Santa Fe) and Sen. Ben Altamirano (D-Silver City) -- Leaders of both chambers during the Richardson era and architects and whip crackers of Bill's "Two Ben" strategy to get his bills thru the Legislature.

That's one brilliant analysis of New Mexican legislative power and history. One question lingers. Will any of our current lawmakers, besides the two Bens, carve out legislative records good enough to make this list in the future? We welcome your comments on the top-ten list.

Rep. Wilson
You've probably come across "Wikpedia," the on-line encyclopedia written by by volunteers. We've linked to the site and find it quite reliable, but not always. Take, for example, the most recent entry on ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson.

"Currently, she is under a preliminary investigation by the House Ethics Committee over whether she made inappropriate contact with the United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico by inquiring, shortly before an election in which she faced a stiff challenge, on the status of a corruption investigation involving a Democratic politician."

That may be wishful thinking on the part of the Dems, but it isn't fact--at least not yet. NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici is indeed the focus of a preliminary investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee, but in the House a fellow lawmaker or lawmakers is required to file a complaint with the House Ethics Committee to launch a probe. So far, Wilson has escaped that action. Whether that continues to be the case is something we'll probably read about on Wikpedia.

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