Monday, November 26, 2007

Domenici And Darren To Do Lunch, Plus: Political Football Flies Over Los Alamos, Also: Espinosa's Expo & Mulling Over Bill & Di 

Darren White
It's Pete's first public play of Campaign '08. Since announcing he would retire from the US Senate after an unprecedented six terms, GOP Senator Pete Domenici has been working the political angles from behind the scenes. Now he is going public. He is signaling his support, if not outright endorsement, of Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, the likely GOP nominee for the ABQ congressional seat. An invitation making the rounds says:

"Please join the Honorable Pete Domenici For a Meet and Greet lunch to honor Darren White, Republican Candidate, NM -1 Wednesday, December 5, 2007 at The Capitol Hill Club."

White has no announced foes for the GOP nomination and Domenici's embrace of the Sheriff is not going to encourage any. White has been taken under the Senator's political wing in recent years. He was at Domenici's side at the airport when they welcomed President Bush for a Los Ranchos fund-raiser this summer. The Sheriff also attended Domenici's October retirement news conference and in 2004 served as the Bush Bernalillo County Coordinator.

In 1998 Domenici rocked the GOP when he endorsed Heather Wilson for the then open ABQ House seat, even though she had several primary challengers. This time it appears Pete and Company would like to clear the field of any potential rivals to White, sparing the Sheriff and Domenici intraparty turmoil similar to that set off by Pete's '98 intervention.


The first political football of the '08 campaign is high in the air and hurtling high above the field, but it remains murky who, if anyone, is going to put points on the board. Democratic US Senate candidate Marty Chavez, down in the polls, and needing something to kick-start his campaign, is seizing on the loss of 500 to 750 jobs at Los Alamos Labs. He will travel to Los Alamos today to commiserate with employees and no doubt take some more swipes at northern NM Congressman and his US Senate rival, Tom Udall. Here's an early sample:

"Tom Udall now has the dubious distinction of being the only member of Congress from New Mexico in history to vote in favor of decreased funding and cutting jobs at LANL and Sandia... Udall said his vote in favor of the cutbacks was to send the labs a message. Throwing people out of work and endangering our national security is not 'the message' New Mexicans want to hear...," blasted Marty's campaign.

But this is not an easy score for Chavez. A large swath of Democratic primary voters are not especially wedded to the labs or their nuclear weapons mission. They support Udall's "message" that the labs need to diversity their mission, Also, Chavez finds himself inadvertently teamed up with the state GOP on this one. They also unleashed their fury, trying to set up Udall as the answer to the question "Who Lost Alamos?"

"If he supported the national security mission of LANL, he wouldn’t have sat quiet in his seat on the Appropriations Committee...National security is not a high priority of the far-left’s political agenda..."

Udall's camp came with this:

"The budget cuts at the lab, if they occur, are part of a larger issue involving our nation's nuclear footprint. Tom Udall's vote did not affect those larger issues.


The R's are betting Udall is the likely Dem US Senate nominee and think they have a good issue in the labs. Their strategists see it playing against the congressman in parts of the state heavily dependent on federal funding. White Sands comes immediately to mind. They will try to tie the Los Alamos downsizing to what they believe is Udall's lackluster legislative record and make "who can deliver" for the state a major campaign theme.

While trying to make headway in the primary, Chavez needs to make sure he does not appear to be doing blocking for the R's and further alienate Dems. Udall will have to do his best to localize the issue to Los Alamos. It's easy to see how the first political football of the season could also be its first fumble.


The historic happenings in our corner of the world are reverberating nationally as politics watchers coast-to-coast are drawn to the drama here. The Sunday New York Times spoke with us and others about the mad scramble. In the piece, Mayor Chavez claims NY Senator Schumer, head of Dem Senate campaign committee and Senate Majority Leader Reid think of Tom Udall as "their fair-haired boy." Careful, Marty. You're skating on dangerous ice with that one.

Judy Espinosa
Big Bill announced some major personnel changes over the Thanksgiving holiday. One of the more significant was the appointment of Judy Espinosa, chief of staff to Light Guv Diane Denish, as the new director of Expo New Mexico. Espinosa will replace Fred Peralta who is retiring. Does her appointment give Di a toehold into the patronage goodies of NM's Biggest Show? Unless the duo has grown apart, it surely does.

Espinosa is a former cabinet secretary in the Anaya and King administrations and one of Di's links to Democratic Hispanic women. She served 15 months as her staff chief. Her style is not laid back, so it will be of interest to watch how she tackles the new assignment.


If Lady Di were to ascend to the Guv's chair by appointment, she would have some ready made allies, like Espinosa, but some observers say odds of an appointment have actually gone down. If Big Bill sticks to his apparent decision not to seek the US Senate seat and his Prez campaign falters, he will be entirely dependent on the Dem nominee and their winning the White House if he is to get a national post and leave the Guv's chair early. Even if a Dem wins, it wouldn't guarantee him a job. If he doesn't get one, he will be with us for the duration--until the end of 201o. That is a different dynamic than many are factoring in right now, but one not to be ignored.


From the Governor's office, news of the newest member of the NM House of Representatives:

Governor Richardson appointed Rodolpho “Rudy” Martinez to the House District 39 seat. Martinez replaces former Representative Manuel Herrera who passed away in October following a long battle with cancer.

“ I am confident that he will serve Grant and Hidalgo counties well,” said Governor Richardson. “His legislative experience will be a valuable asset to the House...”

Martinez is mayor of Bayard, NM and Grant County Commission Chairman.

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