Monday, July 07, 2008

After The Fourth Comes Change On The Fourth Floor; Bill's Staff Chief To Exit, Plus: King Looks At Future, And: Reps Moving Around; What's The Rule? 

Brian Condit
As the bombs burst in air this Fourth of July, politicos wondered what kind of political bombshells would be set off in the second half of what will be an election year for the books. Even as they paused to contemplate what's to come, there was breaking news for the state's political elite to chew on along with their perfectly charbroiled burgers and homemade potato salads. Insiders were spreading word that Big Bill Chief of Staff James Jimenez was calling it quits and would be replaced by Deputy Chief of Staff Brian Condit.

The Jimenez news did not overwhelm--he has two years and two months with the hard driving and hyperactive chief executive--but it did renew speculation on that special session of the NM Legislature on health care that Big Bill assures us is coming. However, there is increasing skepticism from a variety of corners. Whether Bill--and now Condit--can pull off the session--or cancel it with aplomb--will tell us if this lame-duck administration has much juice left or whether Bill and Company, as the kids say, have jumped the shark.

As for Jimenez, he's a government pro who was previously head of the Department of Finance Administration as well as city manager of Rio Rancho. That city now has a new mayor--State Rep. Tom Swisstack--giving rise to speculation that Jimenez might just get called back to duty there. Whatever he does will surely not compete with the thrills and spills of being by Bill's side.

No one is going to begrudge Condit, a former union president, the higher salary he will draw in his new job. If Obama does not get elected and Big Bill finds himself completing the final two years of his second term, Condit and the rest of the Fourth Floor staff may end up eligible for combat pay.


Speaking of Bill wandering off the Old Santa Fe Trail, in that regard any good news for Joe Biden's vice-presidential chances is good news for our Guv. If Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is picked by Obama for the veep slot and the team wins the White House, that would mean one less competitor for the post that Richardson covets--Secretary of State. Bill has fallen off the veep lists, but his name is still in circulation for SOS. Biden is still a hot prospect for veep and SOS. Not that this corner is pulling for his departure. Politics around here without Richardson would be like the Fourth of July without fireworks.

AG King
One of the many who tried and failed to thwart Richardson's rise to the top may still be infected with Fourth Floor fever. When they were not oohing and aaahing at the annual fireworks display put on by Attorney General Gary King, insiders report that partygoers at his ranch Saturday night were chattering that King, who told me in May of '07 he would not seek the Dem nod again for Guv, has now commissioned a poll to take a look at the political landscape.

Making a third run in 2010 for the Dem nod for Guv would take some political bravery. King would have to give up his chance for a second AG term. But if Bill stays around here, Light Guv Denish stays Light Guv. If she's not an incumbent, the Dem 2010 Dem field could get as crowded as Elephant Butte on the Fourth. On the other hand, an early Denish ascension to the Guv's chair could thin the crowd faster than a Roman Candle burns.


Two open US Senate seats. Two Udalls seeking them. Their slogan? "Vote for the Udall Nearest You." But is the Udall trademark environmentalism becoming a black mark in this era of spiraling gas prices? New York Times coverage here.


We asked and we received. Asked, that is, for help in determining what happens when a state representative moves out of his legislative district and takes up residence in another part of the state or even another state. The question arose amid speculation that Roswell GOP State Rep. Dan Foley, recently defeated by Denis Kintigh in the June primary, might pull up roots and move to Rio Rancho. Here's some blogging from two state reps who e-mailed First, ABQ GOP Rep. Janice Arnold Jones, a member of the House Voters and Elections Committee.

Our laws on living in the district are "flexible" to say the least. Specifically, the legislator must be registered in their district when they seek office. As long as they claim an intent to return, no problem. Near as I can tell there is no requirement to live in your district once elected...If Dan moved to Rio Rancho, I would argue that there is an ethical and moral requirement, but that is not the law. Incidentally, there are several legislators currently serving who do not live in their districts-- Democrats and Republicans. They may have homes or offices in their districts but they do not live there. Hmmmm.

But ABQ Dem State Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas, an attorney, interprets the law differently, saying if a state rep moves out of his district, he risks losing his seat.

If a state rep moves outside the boundaries of the district the rep is “deemed to have resigned.” The trouble with the statute is it doesn’t state who “deems” it?...Does the speaker of the House announce that someone has been “deemed” to have resigned? If Foley moved to Rio Rancho, I’m sure he would formally resign.

One e-mailer said the county commission (s) in the affected district could declare a resignation in effect when a lawmaker moved out of this district. They would then act to fill the vacancy. I don't, however, recall a commission doing so without the lawmaker announcing his resignation.

What I'm now wondering is which lawmakers Janice is referring to when she says some current legislators own homes or have offices in their districts, but don't live there. That info could make for some lively campaigning.


Still more reaction to our reminisces of that 1976 campaign trip we took with US Senator Joe Montoya and AP writer Bill Feather. Former State Land Commissioner Jim Baca comes with a cool photo from 1936. It pictures Montoya on the left; Sisto Leyba in the center and Fermin Baca, Jim Baca's father, on the right. (Click to enlarge.)

The trio is posing on the steps of the US Capitol. At the time, they were all going to school in Washington, under the auspices of US Senator Dennis Chavez. (How about those "summer white" suits?)

When this photo was snapped, Montoya was 21 years old and a law student at Georgetown University, Chavez's alma mater. He was also elected to the NM House in '36, becoming the youngest state rep in state history. In '38, Montoya graduated from law school and was also re-elected to the state House. Pretty impressive.

In the final analysis, history was not too kind to Joe Montoya, but he certainly made his share of it.

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

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