Monday, March 03, 2008

Big Bill Still Fence Sitting On Prez Race; What It Means To Us, And: "Unconventional" Wisdom On Senate Seat, Plus: Death Calls Ex-State Rep Ron Godbey 

An at-ease Bill Richardson appeared Sunday on national television arguing that a politician like him endorsing a candidate for the Dem presidential nomination doesn't "amount to a hill of beans." He again declined to endorse either Clinton or Obama who are now locked in a suspenseful do or die battle in the Tuesday Ohio and Texas primaries. He acted perturbed at what he called negative campaigning in the race, remarks that some media said pushed him further away from Hillary who has been on the attack.

Bill is right that an endorsement may do little to generate votes at the polls, but it still matters to the candidates and influences who they will place in jobs if they find themselves residing at 1600 Pennsylvania. From New Mexico's standpoint the Big Bill endorsement game is much more than a hill of a beans; it could be the big enchilada. If Richardson leaves here in 2009 to go to D.C. we get a governor--Diane Denish--who succeeds him and who would then run as an incumbent in '10. That would increase considerably the Dems chances of keeping the keys to those Fourth Floor Roundhouse offices.

There has been an undertow of criticism of the New Mexico governor's reluctance to endorse Hillary. After all, Bill Clinton appointed our Bill United Nations ambassador as well as secretary of energy. Richardson was pressed on that during his appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation" and gave his most open explanation yet for his non-endorsement.

"There are some people in the (old) Clinton administration that think I owe the Clintons because I was appointed to two great jobs. I do have a sense of loyalty to the Clintons, but I did run against Senator Clinton. I think there are broader issues. I paid them (the Clintons) back with my loyalty to them. This is about the future of the country.

The Guv may believe he has paid Hillary and Bill back, but with Hill locked in a now or never dogfight in the neighboring Lone Star state, her campaign could be excused for thinking Richardson hasn't even made a down payment. In fact, looking back on Iowa, where many Richardson presidential supporters made Obama their second caucus choice, it could be argued that he has favored the Illinois senator, even though his campaign denies it urged its followers to go for Barack if Bill was coming up short.

On CBS Richardson held out the possibility of an eleventh hour endorsement, but it seems that he's concluded that there is more to lose by making an endorsement than there is to gain. Hillary is the likely loser (at this moment) and endorsing her could end his job chances with any Obama administration. But endorsing Obama could violate one of the supreme commandments of politics--be loyal to those who brought you to the party. In Bill's case that's Bill Clinton. It's not the best position to be in when you consider the Guv's competition for these top jobs, but it does, as Jesse Jackson might say, "keep hope alive." And sometimes that's all you can hope for.


Now that the conventional wisdom is firmly established that the Democrats taking the open US Senate seat here is a done deal--a no-brainer, if you will-- it is time to start questioning that wisdom. Headed into the weekend, Rasmussen released another poll with good news for US Rep. Tom Udall, soon to be he Dem senate nominee. It showed him beating Republicans Heather Wilson 50% to 43% and Steve Pearce 50% to 42%. Throw in the WaPo's take on the race, calling it the second most likely Senate seat to switch party control, and you have the makings of an early celebration for Udall.

We hate to be the party crasher--(OK, we like it) but shouldn't we pause to consider that the Republican goose may be in the oven, but is not yet fully cooked? Exhibit one on why the R's still have a chance to take the seat being given up by retiring Pete Domenici is found in their own ranks--Senator Jeff Bingaman. The Democratic lawmaker has one of the most liberal voting records in the senate, certainly out of the mainstream of NM when the state is taken as a whole. To argue, as some Dems do, that Pearce can easily be painted as a throwback to the Neanderthal era and taken out may be easier said than done. And even though she changes her identity more often than the spring winds shift direction, US Rep. Heather Wilson still retains a connection (albeit a mysterious one) with the electorate that has baffled the majority party.

But it is the Bingaman model that most worries insider Dems. How many voters cast ballots for him because of "values" not his liberal voting record? Plenty. How else to explain multiple landslides? Not to imply that the Dems are not favored to win the Domenici seat. Surely, they are, but there is a campaign to be conducted and if either Pearce or Wilson can shift the debate to values and delivering the goods for the state, they may stand at least a fighting chance to escape the millstone that is the Republican record hanging around their necks. At least that's the "unconventional" wisdom.


When word came to us over the weekend from San Angelo, Texas that death had called former NM GOP State Rep. Ron Godbey we immediately thought, "Now, there's a guy who fought the good fight."

Godbey succumbed to cancer at a San Angelo hospital Saturday. He was 73.

Godbey was front and center in one of the most divisive battles in the history of the state Republican party--the fight over Governor Johnson's late 90's call to ease drug laws. The ensuing battle pitted Godbey against then-GOP Chairman John Dendahl who agreed with Johnson. The fierce feud created a rift so deep that the healing continues to this day.

Godbey, who represented the Bernalillo County East Mountains, ran against Dendahl for the GOP chairmanship in 2001. He lost that battle, but won the war. No longer is drug legalization a prominent issue for the NM GOP. He also retired from the Legislature as a winner, in 2004, after surviving several attempts to oust him by the drug legalization faction. Today the seat is held by GOP State Rep. Kathy McCoy.

Godbey was a Renaissance man of sorts. He was an attorney, an Air Force colonel and a certified meteorologist. He served as head of the Bernalillo County Elections Bureau and as Chief Deputy Treasurer. After leaving the state House he moved to Texas due to his wife's health.

To the end Godbey remained a foe of legalized drugs, serving as president of the Texas branch of Drug Watch International. But it was the battle here for which he will be long remembered. Godbey railed against Republicans making lobbying money from organizations supporting legalized drugs. It wasn't only about legalized drugs, he argued, it was about using the power of a political party as a club for favored lobbyists and consultants.

The bastardization of the NM Republican Party over the drug issue is a sad and repugnant chapter in its history. Ron Godbey's role in ending it merits him a listing in bold ink in the never ending book of La Politica.

I'm Joe Monahan, reporting to you from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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