Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Clearing The Path: The Lujans Work The North & Score; Foes Drop Like Flies; Will New Ones Emerge? Plus: The Bottom Lines For A New Mexico Wednesday 

Ben Ray Lujan
Could it be this easy? Prospective opponents of Ben Ray Lujan are melting away, leaving the front-runner for the Northern Congressional seat with an increasingly smooth path to the Democratic nomination. On Tuesday alone NM Highlands University Regents Chairman Javier Gonzales and Espanola Mayor Joe Maestas bowed out of contention, prompting speculation that Lujan and his powerful father, NM House Speaker Ben Lujan, are working to clear the field and succeeding.

"Maestas is now saying he will run for the Public Regulation Commission seat that Ben Ray will vacate to run for the US House seat. Javier is saying he is looking at the 2010 Democratic race for lieutenant governor. Were these guys promised support by the Lujans's in exchange for getting out of the Congressional race?" analyzed one of our Northern analysts.

Javier cited the pressures of family life--he has two young children--as the chief reason for getting out, but both he and Maestas faced a tough battle against the younger Lujan who is being pushed hard by Dad.

Will another significant Hispanic candidate emerge to challenge Lujan for the right to the seat being vacated by Rep. Tom Udall who is running for the Senate? It's the right question because the chances of an Anglo capturing the nomination are slim. The circumstances that allowed Udall to take it in '98 do not exist today. No other big Hispanic names are circulating. Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya says he will run, but he is not seen in the same tier as a Gonzales or Maestas. Ability to raise money is the major roadblock.


The chances of Santa Fe's Don Wiviott getting the March preprimary convention to let him on the June primary ballot have gone up as other candidates fall away, but his odds of beating Lujan, even with his big money, are long. There are simply not enough liberal Anglos. Native American voters now have a candidate in Indian Affairs Secretary Benny Shendo. A bunch of lesser known names are also circulating now that Maestas and Gonzales are gone, but none of them are passing the smell test of the Alligators.

Lujan the younger, 35, has been criticized by potential foes for lacking the depth and experience to take the Congressional seat, but they are already calling him "Congressman" in Las Vegas, which speaks to the Northern yearning for a native New Mexican to be seated in the all Anglo five member NM Congressional delegation.

Insiders tell us that D.C. Dems are a bit nervous about Lujan, but the district is not in play for the Republicans, reducing the pressure to find an alternative. Los Alamos Republican Ron Dolin and State Rep. Brian Moore are the names circulating as possible sacrificial lambs.

The way of the North is to settle family disputes out of the limelight, and that tradition seems alive and well as Ben Ray Lujan steadily advances, even before he makes his official announcement.


Oldtimers will remember that Northern Dem politics used to be run by party boss Emilio Naranjo of Rio Arriba County. The power left him in the 90's, but he is still alive at 91, and still politicking. He is snubbing Big Bill's Prez run in favor of Hillary's bid. He has always had a somewhat rocky relationship with the Guv.

Emilio Naranjo, 91, recently put up red-white-and-blue Clinton signs in front of his mobile home on Lower San Pedro Road, a mile south of EspaƱola along the Rio Grande.

Meanwhile, the man who made history by beating then-State Senator Naranjo in a '96 Dem primary, Rio Arriba County Asessor Art Rodarte, says he will run for the Dem nod for the Northern Public Regulation Commission seat, joining Joe Maestas and probably several others who hope to replace Ben Ray Lujan on the powerful utility regulating panel. After serving one term, Rodarte lost the Senate seat to Naranjo ally Richard Martinez


A couple of weeks ago we took note of critical comments from NM Secretary of Economic Development Fred Mondragon that he leveled against PNM and Eclipse Aviation for laying off a significant number of workers near the holidays. The comments did not settle well with State Senate Minority Whip Lee Rawson who reminds Fred that he is not quite yet the Secretary.

"He should be noted as Secretary Designee. His claiming of the title he has yet to hold will cause him some complication," E-mails the Senate leader.

Mondragon has to be confirmed as Secretary by the Senate. While Republicans like Rawson are in the minority, they can, as Rawson indicated, complicate things. Something for those other new cabinet secretaries named by Big Bill last month to think about. They will also face the judgment of the Senators. That's as it should be, although Mondragon criticizing holiday layoffs wouldn't seem to be an unpopular position with most New Mexicans. By the way, the hearing on PNM's big rate increase proposal kicks off in Santa Fe today.


Several readers emailed in to say that if ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez were to be elected to the US Senate next November, it would not be the ABQ City Council President elected Monday night who would become temporary mayor, but the council president elected next December. That is probably the case, but if Councilor Ken Sanchez, a Chavez ally, were to have beat out Brad Winter for the council presidency Monday, insiders speculated that Chavez could be expected to resign the mayor's job soon after winning the Senate election next November to ensure that Sanchez would get to be the temporary mayor.

With Winter winning the presidency, that all changes. Chavez would probably wait to see who was elected at the council election in December 2008, hoping it was someone other than his political foe Winter. The winner of the US Senate election next November takes office in January 2009. Chavez is the underdog in his race for the Dem nomination with Rep. Tom Udall, so the question of who succeeds him will be academic if the Mayor can't turn the race around.

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