Monday, May 07, 2007

Happy Birthday, Pete; NM Legend Turns 75 Today; Many Happy Political Returns? It's All Things Pete On Your Monday Blog 

Pete Domenici
By ordinary measures he's doing very well indeed. First and foremost, at 75, he's above ground, not a small accomplishment if you've been around long enough to see what life can dish out. He has a large and supportive family, a laundry list of friends from D.C. to Deming and a satisfying and challenging job. If this was the guy next door, they would be handing him a gold watch, a fishing pole and a Holland Cruise certificate. But Pete Domenici is not Ralph Kramden. He's...well...Pete V. Domenici--living legend. Ordinary measures do not apply.

At a time of expected placidness, the political career of New Mexico's longest ever serving United States Senator (1973-?) has never seen more turmoil. His health is sometimes frail. There's whispering that it may be time to finally come down from the pedestal. But Domenici still holds a high hand when it comes to determining the future of New Mexico politics. Barring the unforeseen, the ABQ native is not about to cash in his chips for the retirement rocker. But his path to a seventh term, assumed to be as smooth as a baby's backside, will now be strewn with some pebbles, if not boulders.

"Domenici's people are like the rest of us--waiting for a strong Democratic candidate. None has emerged. They are betting that despite the (US Attorney) scandal and the longevity question, in the end he will get no serious competition," informs a political veteran along the banks of the Potomac.

The expectation may not be unreasonable. While D.C. Democrats think Pete is vulnerable as never before, there is a disconnect with NM D's who voice little optimism.

"We need a young energetic candidate," newly installed NM Dem party chairman Brian Colón told me recently. And who is that contender? Colón and company is stumped.


There is a wild card. It belongs to Big Bill. The NM Governor has reshaped the landscape, replacing Domenici as the state's dominant political figure. But Bill, who could easily meet all the deadlines for a senate run if his Prez campaign folds in early February '08, would be more prone to run if Domenici steps down. Still, the tension over this scenario is palpable and will be with us until the Dems put a strong player on the field--not one Bill could push aside--or until February of next year.


Domenici's health and stamina has been the subject of intense interest. It appears to be a mixed bag. For example, on his Web site a late-April video clip shows an engaged and robust Domenici discussing electric cars, but in a TV public service blurb on mental health now running on NM TV, he reads his lines haltingly and in weak voice, appearing to be a very old 75. His health care is the best, but this, like the Big Bill factor, will be scrutinized as Pete starts his march toward his 76th birthday.


The startling news that the senior senator had been forced to hire a criminal defense attorney to represent him in a preliminary Senate Ethics Committee probe over the US Attorney scandal was a jaw-dropper. It signaled a problem had turned into a crisis. And it's just beginning. How Domenici maneuvers and how tough the Capitol Hill Dems will be on him will be a major factor for his 2008 political health.

Pete (circa 1970)
We need in-depth numbers. We don't have them yet. We do have the mid-April Survey USA automatic phone survey that has Pete's approval rating plummeting from 64% to 54% in the wake of the scandal in which former NM US Attorney Iglesias contends Domenici tried to pressure him into speeding up indictments of Democrats to benefit the re-election campaign of Pete protégé, ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson. This is a notable decline and one his advisers must take seriously. In this poll, the senator has dipped below 50% with Dems and Independents. The luster on Saint Pete's halo is tarnished. The effort by the GOP to demonize Iglesias has failed.

Domenici is also facing a new generation of voters raised in a youth culture. They are not as forgiving of their elders. Domenici will need political surgery in the form of paid media to get his numbers back up. If the ethics probe fizzles, the task will be easier. If it becomes a "drip-drip" of bad news, Domenici could have a hard time recapturing the magic 60% mark.


If Pete draws no significant opponent, his campaign will be able to control his appearances and mold public perception to their liking. The nightmare scenario is a strong challenger who raises millions, has credibility in the polls and starts demanding live TV debates. How would voters react to a prolonged view of a much-slower Pete than the one they are accustomed to? They are getting it in snippets now, not in contrast with a young vigorous opponent holding the same stage. How would the Domenici camp respond to the debate demand? Could they get away with ignoring it as in past years? These questions will never arise as long as the Dems remain unsuccessful in recruiting a first-tier foe.


As with the disconnect on Pete's standing among national Dems and local Dems, there is also a disconnect in the press. The national media has churned out copious copy analyzing Domenici's political fortunes in the wake of the US attorney mess. But the New Mexico press has remained largely silent, ably covering the scandal, but so far ignoring the impact it has on his re-election bid.

Domenici's constant news releases are the stuff of newsroom legend and wisecracks. His proven ability to deliver has made not only the electorate protective of him, but also the printed press. Still, a contested campaign would make this a non-factor as such a race would be largely decided on the paid and unpaid airwaves. There would be no restraining the TV newsers, where a competitive race would spark a frenzy of coverage. There also might be no restraining broadcasters' demand for TV debates if the polls showed a race in-play.


Fighting Father Time is the real battle here. The electorate, out of deep respect for his accomplishments, had been willing to gloss over any age related issues, but the US attorney scandal, the sour mood created by the no-end-in-sight Iraq war, the senator's firm support of that war and an unpopular President, has cost him that luxury. When he blows out his birthday candles today, Senator Domenici will be making more wishes than he did when he turned 74.

This is where New Mexico's political conversation begins--www.joemonahan.com. Send your news and comments via email from the link at the top of the page. Interested in advertising here? Drop an email line.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Friday Potpourri: Readers Pipe Up On The News Of La Politica, And: Other Stuff From My Newsroom Floor 

Let's get the downer stuff out of the way first as we head into the weekend. Could there be even more Intel Rio Rancho layoffs in 2007? The company's CEO says more layoffs for Intel are indeed coming next year. He did not specify if there would be more at Rio Rancho where 1,000 are to be given their walking papers this summer. Let's hope our first hit was out last.

Now on to the mailbag. Several readers alert us to the buzz on the Dem left about the beating Big Bill is taking. His comments about tax cuts, among others, are setting them off as seen here.

An ABQ reader, reacting to the fun speculation over Mayor Marty, makes it clear His Honor is running for Governor, at least right now:

"I received a letter, contribution envelope and a little wallet card complete with Marty’s qualifications for Governor yesterday in the mail at home. His logo even says Marty for New Mexico."


Quinn McCord, state editor of the National Journal's "The Hotline," blogs in from D.C. with this rib tickler:

SHOT . . ."In my campaign today, I touched students, I touched senior citizens, activists" -- NM Gov. Bill Richardson (Reno Gazette Journal, 5/1/07).. . .

CHASER"I try not to put myself in that situation, trying not to stand or sit next to him" -- NM LG Diane Denish (Albuquerque Journal, 12/17/05).


Coleen Greer, wife of T or C realtor Earl Greer who lost his challenge of Allen Weh for the state GOP chairmanship last weekend, was none to happy with our characterization of Earl as "weak candidate." She aimed both barrels and fired: "

"I disagree with you that my husband was a weak challenger. You might do well to spend some time in person speaking to him and then compare that with other individuals before making your assessment of him. I have lived in NM all my life and am amazed at the continued stupidity of people who will not open their eyes and see what is going on and get involved!"

I have spoken with Earl since his defeat. We had a good conversation, but he stands behind his wife's comments. You better, Earl, or the couch is waiting.


Former NM elections bureau chief Denise Lamb, now with the Santa Fe county clerk's office, reacted to our report on the latest media appearance of ex- NM US Attorney David Igelesias on HBO:

"(In 2004) Iglesias convened a “Voter Fraud” Task Force. I was a member, representing the secretary of state. We looked at a couple of UNM students that had registered twice (because the county clerk was so inundated with registrations, they didn’t get a card and assumed their registration was lost, so they registered again), some voter registrations that were stolen (maybe) from the office of a group doing registration, and other minor allegations (Voter fraud is a misnomer here; it should be called registration fraud, because the perpetrators never actually vote. But voter fraud sounds more serious and is, I think, chosen to arouse suspicion). The group concluded there were no crimes to prosecute." Wrote Lamb.


And finally from the e-mail bag, one of my sisters, Leigh Anne, blogs in from Oklahoma City rejecting my suggestion that she buy me dinner at Yanni's because she has just made $350 at her garage sale. "I'm cheap. How about Mickey D's?" She asks.

McDonald's?? Is that my Karma, or what?

New Mexico's political conversation starts here--at www.joemonahan.com. Thanks for your news, comments and criticism. Keep it coming via the e-mail link at the top of the page.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Big Bill Bounces A Bit In Iowa, Plus: Mayor Marty's Many Options, And: ABQ City Election Update; Welcome Aboard The Good Ship La Politica 

It appears Big Bill's Iowa TV buy and his personal campaigning there bounced him in the polling in the key early Dem prez primary state. The Guv is now garnering 5 percent of likely Dem caucus goers, up from one percent for most of this year. However, he is still in fifth place in the Iowa ARG Poll conducted at the end of April because Senator Joe Biden grew from two percent to six percent. Senator Edwards continues to lead the pack in the Iowa poll, with 27% supporting his candidacy.

What would Big Bill most like to have if stranded on a desert island? A Blackberry and a Davidoff cigar. What, no members of the New Mexico Legislature?


No, ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez is not going to seek the ABQ congressional seat, but if he ever needs to change his mind, he's been given ten good reasons. Chavez's political boat is full of speculation these days--a run for Governor, a run for U.S. Senate if a vacancy should occur. And last, but not least, even a third in a row term as Mayor.

Still on the city beat, City Council Prez Debbie O'Malley is gearing up for her re-election bid, announcing she will utilize the new public financing method which means she will spend in the area of $30,000 to $35,000, according to her campaign. She is an unabashed liberal Dem who has clashed with more conservative minded Mayor Marty, but they have been getting along better as the October election approaches.

Councilor Brad Winter, like O'Malley, a city native, is out campaigning for a third term on the council. Unlike O'Malley, Winter's relationship with the mayor has never recovered from the bitter '05 mayoral campaign they waged against one another. There are rumblings that Chavezistas are working on getting a candidate to run against Brad, but no names have surfaced publicly. Winter, a Republican, is favored in District four which admires him for his dedication. But it would be good for the city if Marty and Brad could bury the hatchet.


No surprise, but it is duly noted that ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson is listed at #8 on the top ten list of GOP U.S. Reps that national Dems plan on targeting for defeat in '08. That from the Evans-Novak Political Report which adds:

"One could argue that 2006 was a Republican low point, and therefore many of these districts will not be competitive again in 2008. However, a continued sour mood over the Iraq War could produce another massive Republican defeat in 2008 that makes 2006 look tame by comparison."

Heather, a perennial Dem target, is still hanging with Bush on the unpopular Iraq war,. She has a couple of months to see if the "surge" starts turning things around there. If not, she and others on the targeted list could start to back away from the war. The same goes for GOP Senator Domenici who has been getting a pass from the overwhelmingly anti-war electorate, but having been weakened by the US Attorney political scandal, he too may come under pressure if the surge fails.


I don't think Big Bill served lox and bagels to this guest...

She's not raising money and she won't be raising money anytime soon. That's what the political pros took note of from the news here Wednesday that former attorney general Madrid has a new law firm job. "If you are going to raise $5 million to run against (GOP Senator) Domenici, you better start now." Said one seasoned strategist. The pro says Patsy could be a contender if Pete steps down, but if she was really serious about taking him on, she would be raising money, not hopes. Dems, he declared, are best advised to keep looking. Hard to argue with that...

Did you know that Fred Mondragon, head of the ABQ economic development office who was named by Big Bill Wednesday as the new state economic development chief, is the brother of former NM Light Guv Roberto Mondragon? Big Bill is sure doing right by the brothers. Roberto was given a big state job in 2005. I don't know if he still has it, but if he doesn't, he could call Fred and ask: "Brother, can you spare a dime?"

Keep us posted. Send your political news and comments from the email link at the top of the page.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Patsy Madrid: Back On The Track With A New Gig; Is Her Political Chase Over? Plus: Becky Giron Still Job Hunting, And: The Intel Hit; 1000 Let Go 

Patricia Madrid
Are the thrills and spills of political life a thing of the past for Patricia Madrid now that she has landed a plum consulting job with a major Washington D.C. law firm? The odds of again seeing the name of the diminutive but never demure former NM attorney general on your ballot have dropped significantly as she confirms to us news of her new gig but, knowing that anything can happen in La Politica, she quips: "Never say never. Don't count me out."

Her new job will be in governmental relations and litigation, dealing with state attorneys general, many of whom she knows personally. The job will have her traveling across the continent, but "I will be able to keep New Mexico as my home,” she says.

The only race that would make sense for Madrid would be a run against NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici and only if he was clearly vulnerable. She points out that the money needed to run a competitive race is daunting for anyone seeking the senate seat or the ABQ Congressional seat of Heather Wilson who Madrid lost to in '06 by under 900 votes. Besides his standing in the state, Madrid says no well-known Dem has yet surfaced to challenge Pete because "the Democrats have to face the issue of money. The candidate has to have the ability to raise it.” She said.

Madrid believes polling on Domenici, likely to be conducted in the coming months by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, will give the political community a better understanding of where Pete stands. Yesterday we blogged of that mid-April automatic phone poll by Survey USA that has the US attorney scandal dropping the senator's approval rating to an historic low of 54%, but does not probe into crucial questions such as matching him against prospective opponents.


It was the first time I had spoken with Madrid since her November defeat. As one would expect from a political pro who has been through the grinder, she showed not a hint of bitterness or remorse over her cliffhanger loss to Heather and reacted dispassionately when asked for analysis.

"I know you and others believe my debate performance was the reason for the loss. That was a factor, but she outspent me by at least several million dollars--maybe more when you count all the independent expenditures. She began the negative attacks in July and did not let up. That spending was as big a reason as any for the defeat," reflected Madrid who in the sole TV debate with Wilson froze before the camera in a moment that is now frozen in state political history.

Madrid was damaged by her congressional defeat and the stars would have to align just right for her to reenter the unforgiving political arena. While she monitors the action, she is preparing to share her experience with those who are considering picking up where she left off, revealing that she will meet soon with prospective Wilson challengers.

Madrid rues the fact that no woman is being mentioned for the run, but maintains Wilson remains "extremely vulnerable," citing her continued support of the Iraq war. If Madrid's campaign accomplished anything it was, she contends, "disabusing the electorate of the notion that Heather Wilson is a moderate.”


Her political cause today is the Dem presidential candidacy of John Edwards. "I am very close to John and Elizabeth and am on his finance committee.” Several staffers from her congressional campaign are working for him. “I will be campaigning for him, especially in Nevada," she informed.

For now, Madrid, 60, with two terms as AG on her resume, as well as the '94 run for lieutenant governor and the epic ‘06 congressional race, looks forward to "an amazing job" that will have her traveling widely, making a private sector salary and allow her to remain close not only to her political family, but her real one.

“You know, Joe, I have six grandchildren," she said, sounding as surprised and as happy as if she had just won a seat in the U.S. Congress.


Another well-known politico, former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, is finding it hard to give up the limelight, looking to the 2010 election for Light Guv, despite being snagged in multiple webs of controversy. And it turns out that the insiders who predicted here in February that Vigil-Giron would end up getting some kind of job from Big Bill even as his attempt to name her the head of the film office disintegrated, may turn out to be right. And our analysis from back in February on whether financial controversy in the secretary of state's office would damn her hopes to be Light Guv is also more relevant as she makes her candidacy official.

And just for today, we will give you a break and not mention the more than half-dozen other prospective 2010 Dem Lt. Gov. candidates. We can only hope that we'll be around in 2046 when KRQE-TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti, mocking the early start of the Guv and Light Guv races, says he will launch his own gubernatorial campaign. You have my vote Ronchetti, if I make it.


This isn't good news as the tourist season gets underway in Santa Fe. If Mayor Coss can't get things in order with his city police department, maybe he should call on Sheriff Solano for some help. The City Different biz community, not to mention burglarized homeowners, might approve...

Rio Rancho politicians can start worrying now. In one fell swoop, Intel announced the lay-offs of 1,000 well paid employees. The booming city Northwest of ABQ will feel the pain the most with all the new small businesses that have sprouted up there in the last few years. Governor Richardson tried to put a positive spin on the economic blow: "New Mexico is well positioned to absorb Intel’s displaced employees. The state’s unemployment rate is at a record low." He's right, but that doesn't take away the pain of those about to join the unemployment line, albeit a shorter one than years past.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Send your news and comments via email from the link at the top of the page, and stop by again soon.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Iglesias: He's Still Around And Beating His Drum, Plus: Another Pete Poll Drop, And: A Big Bill Blooper? Also: The Vindication Of An Alligator 

David Iglesias
You might think former NM US Attorney David Iglesias had run out of media outlets on which to appear and tell his story of alleged political interference in his office by ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson and GOP US Senator Pete Domenici. Far from it. His latest stop was on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher." As you an see in this tape, Iglesias' performance is getting more polished as he continues the drumbeat that is damaging the eardrums of two of our state's most prominent R's. He is also more precise in detailing why he believes he was wrongfully fired at the urging of Pete and his fellow R's.

"What they wanted me to do was come up with some bogus prosecutions with no evidence of voter fraud..that's number one. Number two, they wanted me to rush indictments against Democrats who were engaging in corrupt activities. I couldn't do that because the case wasn't ready. It was that simple...I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, not the Republican party of New Mexico.." Iglesias told Maher and his liberal audience which cheered him on.

This is the tightest explanation I have seen from Iglesias. It's important politically because the charges, if they are to be effectively used against Domenici and Wilson next year in short paid media ads, will have to make sense to a general audience. Iglesias has honed his message and in doing so is laying the groundwork for the Dem consultants who will ultimately market this story to the electorate.


No, there is still no word on who, if anyone, in the US House will file a formal ethics complaint against Wilson for her role in the US attorney political scandal. In contrast to the Senate where a "preliminary ethics" probe is underway on Pete, the House requires someone to step forward and point the finger before the House ethics panel investigates. Since the mid-90's there's been a truce among the Hill denizens not to file against each other. That continues to enrage ethics watchdogs. Will the 'truce' be Heather's saving grace? Not conducting a formal investigation would certainly help her, but the story is to big to not be a major part of the narrative of Campaign '08.


Last month we told you about Senator Domenici dipping below 60% approval, to 57%, in the Survey USA poll conducted for KOB-TV. This month, it's worse. He is now at 54% approval, his lowest ever in this survey which is based on automatic phone polling. (MOE +-4.1%) That number has got to be cause for concern. His approval among Independents, a critical voting bloc for him, crashes to just 38% in the survey conducted April 13-15, but not released until Friday. Among Democrats, Domenici has dropped below the magic 50% mark, to 49%. Pete has been falling from 62% since US attorney political scandal broke.

Professionals are not crazy about this survey, preferring a call-out survey with a voter registration list. Still, the automatic survey shows the trend. Will the latest results encourage a prominent Dem to take on the senior senator? And where are the NM newspaper stories on this polling and the reaction in Washington?


Our Guv's utterances are getting more scrutiny than ever as the Dem prez race heats up. NBC leads us to the LA Times for a report on a possible Bill blooper.

The Los Angeles Times writes about Richardson’s response that Byron “Whizzer” White, who dissented in Roe v. Wade, is his model Supreme Court justice. "Richardson was asked Sunday to square that response with his support for abortion rights. He fumbled at first, questioning whether White was on the court at the time of the 1973 decision. He then explained he had been ‘thinking really fast during the debate’ and had chosen White because White was appointed by Richardson's hero, President Kennedy, and ‘was an All-American football player besides being a legal scholar.’

Also from Bill: Speaking to CA Dems Sunday, Richardson joked "that when he told his mother he was running for president, she asked: 'President of what?'

"That's exactly where I am," Richardson said. "I can't even count on my mother."


More candidate news as the positioning begins for the fast approaching October ABQ election. From the UNM Daily Lobo: (registration required):

"Graduate student Joseph Garcia said he will run in the October election for Albuquerque City Council. A Thursday post on the blog New Mexico Politics With Joe Monahan stated that Garcia, president of GPSA, was a possible replacement for City Councilor Martin Heinrich.

It was a surprise for me to see that post," Garcia said. "I was going to take a slower approach to entering the race. Now it's out there for the whole state to see."

Garcia said he would try to keep his position in GPSA."

Garcia joins advertising firm owner Joan Griffin in vying for the District six ABQ SE Heights seat being vacated by Councilor Heinrich who plans on running for Congress. Look for more contenders in this one.

Trudy Jones
Up in the far NE Heights, freshman Councilor Craig Loy will not seek re-election to the District eight seat, according to sources there. Real estate broker Trudy Jones, described as a conservative Republican businesswoman, has emerged as a likely candidate, say my reliables. Loy, a former APD officer, ran unopposed four years ago. Jones appears similar in philosophy to R Loy. Will she, like him, get a free ride? Stay tuned.


It's back! Attention ink-stained wretches and other press flack hopefuls, get your resumes updated and up to the state economic development department. Our Alligator, who we threw back into the pond for the alleged crime of giving us bad info, has been partially vindicated. It turns out that his original tip that Melissa Milam will be vacating the PIO post is indeed correct, even though she had told us she was staying put. But, as we earlier corrected, she is not going to a PIO post at the Spaceport Authority. She says she is going into private public relations. There will be no Spaceport PIO, not yet anyway.

Why didn't Melissa tell us (and you) she was leaving and instead shoot our poor Gator full of holes, denying there was any opening. Heck, On April 26th we ran a correction to our first post which we took down. "I did not know until April 27th that I was leaving for sure," she tells us.

Ah, the word parsing of La Politica. Well, gotta run. I've got to rescue my discarded Alligator and get him back on the job.

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