Friday, February 15, 2008

The Political Cup Runneth Over: Final NM Prez Election Results; Session Ends; Guv Will Call Special, Plus: Is ABQ Dreaded Red Light Program Finished? 

Hillary In ABQ-Wins NM
Some of the busiest political weeks ever in our fair state will take place this year and we just finished one of them. On Thursday alone the final NM Dem Presidential caucus results were finally reported and showed Hillary Clinton the winner; a 30 day session of the NM Legislature adjourned; Governor Richardson immediately announced he will call a special session to try to get a health care bill; and one of the most loathed state public programs--ABQ's red light cameras--may have been dealt a fatal blow by last minute Legislative action. Let's go to the videotape...

First, the cataclysmic caucus. It was perhaps appropriate that the vote count ended as it began last Tuesday night--as a public relations disaster. Democratic Party Chairman Brian Colòn called a news conference for mid-afternoon to announce the long-awaited results, but instead of giving them, he embarked on a long, winding and weirdly written spin speech that drew the wrath of viewers and pundits. Colòn's ill-advised efforts to try to explain the election disaster away was smacked down at its conclusion by CNN commentator Jack Cafferty whose network aired the speech in its entirety.

"I slipped into a coma listening to that guy in New Mexico...That guy in New Mexico, please, he was awful!" exclaimed Cafferty to a national audience.

The super-sarcastic national Web site, the Wonkette, piled on:

...A New Mexico Democratic official — Brian “Listening To You Is Worse Than Having Cancer Of The” Colon — just declared Hillary Clinton the winner of the state’s caucuses...

And they came in the e-mail. Annie Chavez of D.C.:

"The way Mr. Colon conducted himself, deliberately extending a short two or three sentence announcement to a 10 minute, self-indulgent mess, was an embarrassment for the state. Mr. Colon's arrogance was entirely inappropriate and lacked any recognition that the delay in announcing the results had already given the state a black-eye and made it the butt of jokes.

It was yet another low point in the botched presidential election. Fortunately, it was the final one. The entire Colòn speech and full and final results are on the KRQE-TV site.


As our Alligators predicted, Hillary won the state with 73,105 votes, or 48.8 percent to Obama's 71,396, or 47.6 percent. Turnout among NM Democrats was 149,779 of the 527,0678 registered. That is a healthy turnout of 28.4% for this type of election and bodes well for Dem turnout in November.

Hillary picked up an additional NM delegate for the win, giving her 14 to Obama's 12. Twelve other delegates go to the Denver convention unpledged. With the way the Prez race is going, every delegate counts.

Party insiders tell us one big reason the provisional vote total bloated to over 17,000 was that many of the voter lists assembled by the party for the 184 voting sites did not contain the correct precincts. Many longtime Democratic voters showed up at the polls, but their names were not on their precinct list, so they had to cast provisional ballots. In the end, less than half of the provisional ballots were found to be valid.

As for Chairman Colòn, the election disaster was not entirely his fault. He is a stand-up guy who cares deeply about the state. Heck, I bet even tough old NM GOP Chair Allen Weh feels bad for him. But Colòn's final caucus act of maddeningly rambling on without giving the results provided a fitting end to an episode we'll always remember, but also always try to forget.

It can always be worse. UNM Law School Professor James Ellis emails in with the news that there are still counting votes from the California Prez primary.


Our state's Governor has also had his share of media woes lately, but we may have spotted the first glimmer of a turnaround, or at least his strategy to turn things around. The 30 day Legislative session that ended at noon yesterday basically ignored what he wanted. The Guv will call the lawmakers back into special session. He didn't say when. He did tell reporters that he will take his show on the road and try to build public support for his controversial health care reform.

Now, with Bill Richardson a road show could be a quick day trip to Chama with Tucumcari thrown in, but if he really wants legislators to listen to him, he has to get their constituents involved. The special will have to wait. In the portions of his news conference we saw and from a report given to us from the scene by KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson, Richardson finally makes the arguments he should have been making before the session but was too busy to because of his presidential campaign.

He said ours is "a growing state" with a surplus whose citizens deserve universal health care. He called himself an "optimist," not a pessimist, who wants to get things done. Of course, leading senators say we don't have a growing economy and the surplus is threatened.

But Bill Richardson is dangerous with a microphone in his hand. The conventional wisdom says he is dead money on this one, but if he puts behind him his temper tantrums over his lost Prez dreams, he may have a shot.

Former NM Attorney General Patsy Madrid. who has often tangled with Big Bill, also sensed the Guv may have hit bottom. "They (the Legislature) should not underestimate him. He spent 14 years in the Congress and understands the legislative process," she told me.

He also has as leverage that $384 million pork bill that state lawmakers are itching for him to sign.

(Madrid will travel to San Anonio, TX this weekend to campaign for Obama. Light Guv Denish is headed to West Texas for Hillary.)


Richardson may already have the hearts of the public, but he doesn't have their minds. Fiscal conservatives like Dem State Sen. John Arthur Smith and GOP Rep. Justine Fox-Young have made a convincing argument that the state can't afford what Richardson wants. They speak of a national recession and forecasts for lower state revenues. Fox-Young summed it up simply in a recent TV interview: "People fear this will mean a tax incease." The Guv is going to have to address those concerns before the public and key legislators bend.

Lest we forget, this is a Governor who has shepherded more legislation through the Roundhouse than probably any other in history. Teacher pay raises, income tax cuts, the Rail Runner, the Spaceport. All of these were at least as vigorously opposed as universal health care, but all are now on the law books. Yes, he is technically a lame-duck, but so is George Bush and you don't see the Dems ending the Iraq war. In the modern era, even slowly fading executive power can be marshalled and projected more broadly than in the pre-media days.

If Richardson is ready to regain his footing and to really start fighting, not fretting, the debate over universal health care may have only just begun.


Speaking of fighting, friends of the Guv e-mail in to confirm our report that he attended the "extreme cage fighting" at Santa An Star Casino Wednesday night, but they said he did so because he was there to support the 23 year-old son of one of his top assistants.

Carlos “The Natural Born Killer” Condit was fighting to defend his world WEC Welterweight title, which he did with a first round win.

Carlos did better than Bill who is going to need more than one round to win his fight with the Legislature.


The Roundhouse
Now on to the red lights. If the weather was warmer, we wouldn't have been surprised to see dancing in the streets of ABQ late Thursday when a fuming Mayor Chavez announced he was suspending the dreaded red light program. The Legislature took a pound of flesh out of the mayor by passing a bill in the final moments that would take just about all the fines raised from the reviled spying cameras and turn it over for state court programs. Asked if he would sign the measure, thus delivering a blow to the mayor, but scoring points with the metro area public, Big Bill smiled and laughed: "I'm for that one."

Chavez heard the same thing and assumes Richardson will sign off, so he suspended the cameras at the start of the Thursday rush hour.

Antipathy toward the mayor poured out on the Senate floor during the camera debate. Veteran ABQ Dem Senator Shannon Robinson thundered: "I hope the mayor runs for governor because he won't even carry Bernalillo County."

Chavez appointed a task force late last year and could have encouraged it to kill off the cameras. Instead, the panel recommended that fines be lowered. The Legislature scored on this one and if Bill is not toying with Marty, the red light cameras could be gone for good. If so, a lot of Duke City residents will be shouting "Good Riddance!"


Some readers wanted to know why the northern Dem congressional campaign of Ben Ray Lujan did not release the polling question they asked in the survey they released showing him well ahead and which we blogged here. We asked the campaign and they agreed to forward the question. It reads like this:

"Let me ask about the Democratic primary election for U.S. Congress in June. If the primary election for U.S. Congress were held today and the candidates were: Bennie Shendo, Don Wiviott, Harry Montoya, Ben Ray Lujan, Derrith Watchman-Moore, Jon Adams and Rudy Martin -- for whom would you vote, Bennie Shendo, Don Wiviott, Harry Montoya, Ben Ray Lujan, Derrith Watchman-Moore, Jon Adams or Rudy Martin?

The campaign also said none of the respondents in the Greenburg, Quinlan and Rosner poll were "pushed" into stating they would vote for Lujan. The poll results are on Wednesday's' blog below.

Thanks to my e-mailers, and tipsters--fondly known as our Alligators--for their help this week. Bralley took today's photo of Hillary, one of his better ones. Also, a tip of the hat to our advertisers. Please click their ads for more information.

Until next time, I'm Joe Monahan, reporting to you from Albuquerque, NM.

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