Thursday, January 10, 2008

Big Bill's Big Dream Dies; Candidacy Ends Today; What's Next? Plus: Sources Say Sen. Jennings Set To Become Senate President Pro Tem 

Big Bill's Big dream is dead, buried on the frigid plains of Iowa and the snowy slopes of New Hampshire. Its final resting place is at the end of the Old Santa Fe Trail where the Merry Roundhouse is situated and from which the New Mexico Governor is expected today at 1 p.m. to pull down the final curtain on his year long long-shot bid and get back to work on the state of the state, not the nation.

History will record that Governor Richardson was the first New Mexican to make a serious run for the White House by raising $20 million and winning a spot in the national TV debates. But it will also record that his quixotic campaign failed to catch fire, with single digit finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire and a message that proved to have only limited appeal. The combination was lethal, drying up the mother's milk of politics--money.

New York Times coverage is here. ABQ Journal coverage is here.

Bill's candidacy never had very high expectations so the early end is not crushing; his ego is probably hurting more than any of his supporters which gives rise to speculation on how the Governor's temperament will impact the 30 day Legislative session set to start January 15th.

"I wonder if he will be upset and whether a streak of frustration will take hold," wondered aloud NM TV news dean Dick Knipfing. It was the question on the lips of many in the political community.

"The Senate is already showing signs that they are ready to battle with the Governor. His pet proposal is his health care plan, but there will be several competing proposals. For a short session, there is a lot of pressure and if the Guv is in a foul mood because of his presidential fortunes, things could get uglier than we already expect," Said one veteran of the state capitol.


Sen. Tim Jennings
Playing into that narrative was the news coming to us that Roswell State Senator Tim Jennings appears to be having success in lining up the votes to become the new Senate president pro tem, replacing the late Ben Altamirano.

"Tim has been making phone calls to Senators. He is the only one really campaigning for the position. I believe he will get it," said one liberal Democratic Senator who says he respects the conservative lawmaker.

Jennings, 57, has battled repeatedly with Big Bill. Look at this Jennings quote from the Senate floor in 2004: “I am going to tell you that if this body and this Legislature doesn’t stand up on its feet and defend this institution, this governor is going to take us straight to hell.”

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez will retain the key powers in the upper chamber. With Jennings as pro tem, the Guv would face two strong and independent Senate leaders. Senate Democats caucus Friday morning at the capitol at which time they will select a new pro tem.


Back on the Big Bill beat, the recriminations over his failed presidential candidacy were relatively mild, probably because of the low expectations for success. Scuttlebutt focused more on what will be rather than what was. For example, will he endorse Obama or Clinton before the race is settled? (Probably not.) Will he try to patch things up with Hillary, who his campaign scorned in Iowa? (Maybe, but with little chance of success.)

The Guv's chances for the veep slot are seen as slim. His poor showing in the early primary states do not instill confidence that he would add much to the national ticket. The highest hope would seem to be for secretary of state, but only if Obama were to win the White House. However, chances for that may have taken a hit because of his poor prez showing. He can improve them by getting out and working hard for the eventual Dem nominee. So, while Bill will probably be seen around the Roundhouse quite a bit for the next 30 days, after that expect him to take flight again.


The rumors that he could seek the US Senate seat being vacated by Republican Pete Domenici just won't die, despite there being no evidence that the Guv is at all interested. With his prez withdrawal, the speculation will pick up steam.

Democratic strategists in Washington can see immediate benefits if Bill did seek the Senate chair--he would be a more secure choice than likely nominee Tom Udall, giving them a better chance of increasing their majority. They also think that Bill's presence at the top of the NM ticket would make the state much more likely to go for the Dem presidential nominee, giving them the state's five electoral votes. But a Senate run seems to be as much of a dream as Bill's prez run turns out to be. February 12 is filing day.

If anyone was ready to form a "Richardson for Senate Committee,"it was Light Guv Diane Denish. Her hopes of taking over the governorship by succession took a hit with Bill's fading prez fortunes. If Bill does stay around for the duration, he will be seeing a lot of Lady Di in the 2009 headlines as she gears up for a 2010 Guv run. Can the duo share the spotlight?


Another unanswered question as we write to you late Wednesday is whether the Guv would try to become a "favorite son" candidate in NM's February 5 Dem caucus. The point would be to control our state's delegates to the national convention and use them as leverage in any intrigue that developed. But running as a favorite son might be more risky now that Hillary and Obama are fighting for every delegate they can find. Bill would quite likely finish first, but might not show as well as he would like. No matter what, Bill's name will appear on the ballot. It is too late to take it off.


Richardson, 60, is probably smarting plenty from the rejection of his candidacy, but by getting out of the race now, he avoids becoming lampooned as a guy who can't read the writing on the wall. He wasn't able to attract many votes, but he did represent the state with pride and an avuncular presence that wore well. The proof of his popularity in his home state was the amazing amount of money he was able to raise here.

Don't count on the Richardson roller-coaster to stay parked for long. He enjoys the ride way too much, and so do we.


First, it was State House Minority Whip Dan Foley getting some good news--that charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing a police officer were being dismissed. Now, the other half of the controversial duo of Roswell lawmakers--GOP State Senator "Lightning Rod" Adair--has also won a court battle, with charges against him also being dismissed. The bad news for the pair is that they have each drawn a strong opponent in the June 2008 primary...

From the Governor's office: "Governor Richardson today announced the appointment of Howie Morales, Ph.D. to represent state Senate District 28. His appointment fills the vacancy left by the passing of Senate Pro-Tem Ben Altamirano, who held the District 28 seat for more than thirty years. Mr. Morales has served as Grant County Clerk since 2005.

“Howie Morales has worked closely with Senator Altamirano,” said Governor Richardson. “I am confident that he will follow in Benny’s footsteps and serve the constituents of Grant, Catron and Socorro counties with the same compassion and commitment.”

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