Wednesday, March 12, 2008

High-Profile Judge Battle Is Analyzed; Chavez Vs. Schwartz, Plus: Valencia County Update, And: What Is Jay Leno Doing In NM Politics? 

Ben Chavez
There's something for everyone this wild election year, including the Legal Beagles. Their eyes are glued to the developing primary campaign for ABQ district judge between two well-known names--former Bernallillo County District Attorney and newly appointed District Judge Bob Schwartz and his Democratic rival for that district court seat in the June primary, Metro Court Judge Ben Chavez. We hit this one when Schwartz was named judge last month after serving as Chief Prosecutor at the New Mexico Department of Regulations and Licensing. Today we take it deeper.

Can Schwartz, twice elected as a Republican DA in the 90's and who also ran as an R for ABQ mayor in 2001, but is now a Democrat, beat back Chavez, who was the highest rated Metro Court Judge in the 2006 Albuquerque Bar Association attorney’s survey?

Schwartz, a colorful NM politico, as recently as March 2006 was still a Republican and seeking the GOP nod for attorney general, but being turned back at the party's nominating convention. Schwartz was a Democrat years ago, before he became DA. Chavez, son of former NM Court of Appeals Judge Ben Chavez, has the pedigree, but this is going to be a race to watch.


I ran the contest by veteran Dem consultant Harry Pavlides who was surrounded by a room full of oxygen tanks and prescription medicine as he recovered from open heart surgery (triple bypass) conducted a couple of days earlier. Knowing our political junkie tendencies, he did not protest when we bypassed the niceties and started talking politics. Taking measured breaths of fresh oxygen, he commented:

Hispanics normally win Democratic primaries, but Schwartz is well-known. Chavez will have to spend about $150,000 to pound home his name ID. He will need large signs and TV ads in Spanish and English He should also go door-to-door to gain votes among liberal Democrats to offset Schwartz's advantage among more conservative Democrats in ABQ's Northeast Heights. Chavez will have the edge because Schwartz has usually had trouble raising money, but Chavez is not going to be able to take any chances. This is not a done deal."

So explained Pavlides who called us only 36 hours after his surgery to whisper that he was alive and that he knew that Hillary had won Ohio and Texas. It was hard to tell which piece of information was more important to the 57 year old ABQ native who long ago became consumed by the fire of La Politica.

Schwartz will be limited in getting the free media he is so adept at because the code of judicial conduct restricts what a judge candidate can say publicly, but the R turned D always seems to find away to attract attention. That makes Chavez vs. Schwartz a spectator's favorite, and we're glad Pavlides is going to be around to watch it with us.


Here's the latest political news from our Gator on the ground in Valencia County:

"Early posting here in Valencia County is that the Republican Party will not run anyone against incumbents State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, or State Representatives Barela and Barreras. Only Andrew Barreras may have Democratic primary opposition and that is uncertain at this time. That's the party line, a wild card Republican could jump in but that's unlikely."


We've seen candidates announce by skywriting their names, unveiling giant billboards and throwing free feeds, but former ABQ State Senator Michael Weiner found a novel way to make his latest political bid known. He sent along a picture of himself and a friend posing with comedian and NBC Tonight Show host Jay Leno. We don't know what that has to do with Weiner's bid for the GOP nomination for the NE Heights Bernalillo County Commission seat, but it was different. Wiener, 53, lost the same race eight years ago by only 113 votes to Tim Cummins. Cummins is term-limited and cannot seek re-election and is seeking the GOP nomination for the ABQ Public Regulation Commission seat held by Democrat Jason Marks.

Weiner is going to have his hands full winning the nomination. R insiders say commercial realtor Chuck Gara is also running. Meantime, maybe Weiner can get us tickets to one of Leno's periodic shows at area Indian casinos.


Politico Andrew Leo Lopez of ABQ's South Valley can always be counted on for a provocative comment. For example, our Tuesday blog on a possible general election contest for the ABQ US House seat between Dem Martin Heinrich and Republican Darren White drew this unvarnished reaction.

Anointing Heinrich as the presumptive Democratic nominee for Congress is the kiss of death. Obviously, Hillary's campaign taught nothing to the pundits. Ain't nobody cast a single vote. You are obsessed with how much money a candidate has. Ever hear of brains trumping money.? Try Maloof vs. Wilson. (1998 when Phil Maloof lost the ABQ House seat to Heather Wilson)

Well, it was Republican White who appeared to be anointing Heinrich by referring to him as his "likely opponent," but the point is taken. Heinrich has a tougher primary fight than White. Michelle Lujan Grisham seems best positioned to pull off the upset, but because she may share votes with Rebecca Vigil-Giron in Lopez's backyard it makes it tough, but not impossible. Lopez, not surprisingly, also disagrees with that, saying Grisham will not be troubled by Rebecca...


Our lines Tuesday about the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal brought reaction. We said: "Politics is filled with guys who like drinking, gambling and loose women. It's been that way since time immemorial. Spitzer's problem is the usual one in these cases--hypocrisy." Some of the e-mail went like this:

Am I the first woman to "take you to task" for your 1950s take on politics? The politicians are not just straight men. In NM we use "guys" to include all of the genders, I'll grant you, but the "loose women" line made me open my email...Please know how much I enjoy reading you everyday. I like to think that you are in a time-warp and you still wear a hat with the PRESS card stuck in its hat band!

Somehow saying female politicians "like drinking, gambling and loose guys" just doesn't seem to fit, at least not here in the time warp. Gotta go. Time to catch up with my Rat Pack and do some lounge loafing...

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