Monday, December 10, 2007

The Boat Rocks Again: Chavez Bails; Udall Hailed; Exclusive Blog Details On What Happened And Why, Also: What's Next For Marty? 

Mayor Chavez
Pragmatism trumped pugnacity and Marty Chavez threw in the towel. Insiders report the ABQ Mayor's D.C. polling firm showed him numbers that had him getting trounced by Rep. Tom Udall for the Democratic Senate nomination by better than a 2 to 1 margin, and well over 20 points. The dream of a seat in the United States Senate was dashed. The cry of "No Más!" went out shortly after 5 p.m. on a late fall Friday as Christmas shoppers shopped and happy hours drowned the work week. But there could be no diversion from another political blockbuster in what will be the most significant campaign year since statehood. And the year hasn't even officially begun.

For Democrats, the Chavez exit was manna from Heaven; Udall will become their Senate nominee without a fight. The media and public focus will be on the battle for the GOP Senate nomination between US Reps Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce. Our state is "lean Dem" for the open seat. By laying down his arms, Chavez has made it lean that way a little more.


Insiders report Chavez had a conference call with his pollsters before pulling the trigger. "They gave him the numbers and said they would support him no matter his decision, but that it would take a highly negative campaign to change things." Said one.

A group of about 50 hardcore supporters were called to Chavez headquarters late Friday to hear the Mayor announce it was over. Earlier Chavez had called Udall who was working on Capitol Hill to tell him of his decision. Moments later word leaked to the nation on the liberal Web site, Daily Kos. An e-mail went out at around 5:15 p.m. to New Mexico news media. Chavez gave no interviews Friday or over the weekend. A longtime acquaintance of the Mayor said he had spoken with another close associate of Chavez who described him in the hours after the decision as "dejected."


Chavez started a campaign for Governor only to stop it to start a campaign for US Senate. Now he has stopped that, but still the speculation continues. Will he now get in the Dem race for the open ABQ Congressional seat? It is not a job he wants and one his longtime supporter, Ambassador Ed Romero, says he is unlikely to pursue. But this being the year it is, nothing can be ruled out.

Is Chavez politically viable after being forced from two major races by bad polling? He may not have much going for him right now, except the lack of well-known Democratic names in the state. The bench, as they say, is weak. So even a beaten up Chavez remains a player. Dem liberals rejoiced at his Senate decision as they see him as more R than D, while his supporters griped about national Dems forcing Marty from the race by threatening to cut off his cash and openly support Udall.

Supporters of Light Guv Diane Denish seem to know that while Chavez is down on the canvas, there remains a chance, albeit a slim one, that he can get up. They wondered aloud if the three term ABQ Mayor would embark on a campaign to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of Democrats unhappy with him and look at relaunching a campaign for the 2010 Dem nomination for Governor.

"If he does, we are ready for him," said one Denish operative. Denish has collected over a million dollars for her Guv run and hopes it will scare off foes, but New Mexico politics now has no guarantees--none at all.

The Money Mavens tell me the $300,000 Chavez said he has raised for the Senate race could be transferred to a state race such as Governor or to the federal Congressional race. At first blush, they were not sure the Senate money could be used for a run for ABQ Mayor, but they said probably not. We will check. Will some Chavez supporters, disappointed that he got out, want their money back? Some probably will.


Chavez has already been ABQ Mayor longer than anyone in modern history. He faces an irascible council which may grow more so as they view him as weakened by his Senate withdrawal. Also, his arch-foe, Councilor Brad Winter, is now city council president, making it more difficult for Chavez to find a rapprochement with the councilors, especially the five whom harbor the most ill will toward him.

But peace or no peace, he could be a factor in the 2009 Mayoral derby if he wants to be. The law limiting a Mayor to two terms would have to be challenged in court and struck down. If it was, Chavez could put himself on track to become "Mayor For Life." But what would be the point? To hold power for the sake of power? A fourth term run would take a lot of soul searching and a frank assessment of how much "Chavez fatigue" there is in light of his failed Senate bid and the increasingly contentious political atmosphere in the city.

Sen. Schumer
Maybe Heather Wilson takes the Chavez news and runs with it this way: "Tom Udall is an ultra-liberal; Steve Pearce is an ultra-conservative. I am more in the middle and the Republican who can win in November." The electability argument will likely surface soon in the GOP primary, now that the Dem battle is over.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer took hits for sticking his nose in the Dem US Senate battle, but he comes out a winner. Schumer, head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, left a threat hanging in the air when Chavez got in, saying he could not guarantee that the national party would stay neutral in a Udall-Chavez primary.

All along they wanted Tom, and now they've got him. No one expected the scrappy Chavez to get out and Schumer was told, as they say in New York, to "fuggedaboutit." But Schumer is on a roll in recruiting candidates, and as much as his intervention may have upset some New Mexico Dems, he tilted the Senate race toward a stronger candidate. Not that we expect to see Senator Chuck eating enchiladas in Barelas anytime soon, but he will win new found respect for, well, winning.

If the Dems take over the White House in November, maybe Marty can ask Schumer to lobby the new Prez to get him on the President's cabinet. Secretary of Transportation or Secretary of Housing and Urban development sounds nice. Or, how about a federal judgeship? Not a bad way to end a political career.


If you didn't think in a million years that Marty Chavez would ever pull out of the Senate race, or that Tom Udall, who said he would not run for the Senate, would actually end up running, why should we believe there is no way Big Bill will get in the Senate race if his Prez bid fizzles? We shouldn't. No matter what any of the politicians say, we have to watch what they do. Richardson getting in the Senate race is a long-shot, but so was Chavez getting out. The deadline for filing petition signatures is February 12, but the New Hampshire primary is January 8. We should know soon after if Bill, like Marty, has his own bombshell to drop in this most remarkable of years.


Former US Supreme Court Justice and southwesterner Sandra Day O'Connor is in ABQ Thursday for a speech open to the public and sponsored by the public policy group, New Mexico First. Many of today's young Republicans have no idea what a real "moderate" Republican is as most of them have been banished to the sidelines. But they will see one if they take in O'Connor's talk. You know about Justice O'Connor's NM connection, don't you?

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