Monday, November 24, 2008

Big Bill's Big Date With Barack Now Post-Thanksgiving, Plus: Marty's Money; What's Up? And: Veteran NM Journos: Still Working The Beat 

Folks, It's showtime
They've had a couple of days to absorb the news but that hasn't stopped the political heads from spinning over the latest historic developments. Big Bill Richardson leaving the state and Diane Denish becoming governor? They're saying it out loud up at the Roundhouse just to make sure it's real. They have some time to practice. Media insiders report Governor Richardson's appointment as Secretary of Commerce will not be announced by Obama with his other top economic picks today, but after Thanksgiving. The AP is calling it for Bill, and that's usually as reliable as a strong cup at Starbucks.

That Bill, 61, is not getting announced with the bigwigs could be seen as a slight of the Guv whose prestige in some quarters has already taken a hit because he did not get Secretary of State. But those expectations were never grounded in much reality. Secretary of Commerce is a backwater cabinet post, but it ain't chopped liver and it does satisfy the Guv's hunger to get back on the national stage. And when he gets the next round of dreary state revenue forecasts, he may even call out: "So long, suckers!"

Some other thoughts: Will some New Mexicans travel east with the Governor? How will his confirmation hearing in the Senate go? Conservative Fox News raised some questions with their analysts over the weekend, but nothing serious. Moncia? Wen Ho Lee? We've been there and done that. Well, there is "pay to play" but that's for another day. We expect confirmation will go well with all those fellow Dems. Could the Guv getting Sec. of Commerce help NM business? Or will we be "out of sight, out of mind" once Big Bill gets back in the Big Time?

Bill's appointment probably will mean no other New Mexicans will be named to the cabinet, even though former NM Attorney General Patsy Madrid is keeping her name circulating for Interior. And there could be another Hispanic named. Madrid always lurks whenever talk of the 2010 Dem Guv nomination surfaces.


Never mind who Lady Di would tap as her Light Guv if she succeeds Big Bill. The political pros say Denish's main challenge will be to get a strong chief of staff. She would be taking over in the middle of a rough and tumble legislative session and would have to launch her 2010 campaign for Guv soon after. Don't forget, she has that Dem June '10 primary and is going to want to try to keep anyone and everyone from challenging her.

Politico Lawrence Rael has been mentioned as a possible Light Guv choice for Di, but he has never sought high elective office and hasn't been vetted. He has served as top staffer for several ABQ mayors. Might he be a better staff chief pick than a Light Guv? Maybe, but then Di has shown she likes working with other women. Who are the top-notch gals on her short list for chief of staff? Stay tuned to this station.


Here's an Alligator getting right to the point on Sunday soon after state House Democrats met in caucus to pick their leaders. They report: "House D leadership remains the same." That means Ben Lujan remains Speaker, Kenny Martinez is Majority Leader and Rep. Williams-Stapleton of ABQ was not couped from her whip post by Rep. Thomas Garcia.


ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez always has a lot of political juggling going on and we received a bunch of e-mail concerning his most recent. His close aides say he is running for mayor in 2009, but yet he is holding a December 11 fundraiser for the "Marty Chavez for New Mexico" fund, not "Chavez for Mayor." What's up with that? Well, before the invite went out--which is posted here--the mayor told us if he runs he intends to use public financing for his 2009 re-election bid. The money raised from the December event (minimum $500 donation) will keep speculation alive that he is keeping his options open for another run at the Guv's chair in 2010. It is not money--and we tread cautiously because who knows about politicos and their money with certainty--that would be used to run for mayor.

Chavez, the 1998 Dem Guv nominee, started a 2010 Guv run in '07, but switched to a US Senate run when Senator Domenici announced his retirement. Marty's numbers were not looking good for the Dem Guv nomination compared to those of Diane Denish, He then ran for and subsequently abandoned the Senate run when polling showed Tom Udall would also trounce him in a Dem primary.

The mayor, despite statewide options that appear limited, seems determined to keep them open. In 2008, the political committee he has registered with the city gave over $6,000 in donations to various candidates--$1,000 each to Senators Taylor and Cisneros and $1,000 each to Reps Mimi Stewart, Dan Silva and Joni Gutierrez. He also gave $1,000 to the re-elect bid of Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza.


The city campaign finance law is complicated and convoluted, so much so that the city council, says City Clerk Randy Autio, will take up amendments to it at its early December meeting. A key provision, however, says no candidate for city office can take contributions from any individual or business who does business with the city. Also, corporate donations are banned. That leaves a loophole for a wealthy self-financed candidate, but almost forces everyone else into public financing. Chavez, who raised well over $1 million for the '05 mayoral race, and other mayoral hopefuls who qualify for public financing, can expect to get about $328,000 for the '09 race. Candidates will be allowed to collect "seed money" for their campaigns starting January 1st.

Initial signs are that Chavez is pretty well positioned, but he does not have a no-brainer race like 2005. If our e-mail is an indication, His Honor's extracurricular fundraising--to build a kitty for a possible future state race, or to give money to other candidates--is muddying the waters for his '09 mayor bid. As painful as it may be for him to see his Democratic rival Diane Denish ascend to the job he has always wanted, this is not an environment where voters are looking for mixed signals.


They still come out for the big ones. Retired veteran AP and ABQ Journal reporter Larry Calloway comes with his take on the passing of legendary NM political boss Emilio Naranjo. Calloway was there, and this is the way it was.


Another NM news veteran, TV legend Dick Knipfing, 66, won't be fishing the Chama River anytime soon. ABQ's KRQE-TV has signed the anchorman to a new three year contract that will keep him at the station until mid 2011, say the TV mavens. That would be 48 years covering NM news, most of them as an anchor. How long is that? We just marked the 45th anniversary of the JFK assassination. Dick was covering NM news then. He has neck ties older than most reporters. Knipfing and his co-anchors, Dianne Anderson and Jessica Garate, are at the helm of the top-rated newscasts in the ABQ market which is now ranked the 44th largest in the USA.


And V.B. Price, like Knipfing, on the NM beat since the 60's, will be pounding out copy for his umpteenth ABQ city election. And that's a good thing. Price has his first take on the 2009 action. (Yes, my new generation readers, he is the son of the late great actor Vincent Price.)


Another longtime New Mexico news figure won't be around to cover the big transition of power in New Mexico or the upcoming mayoral race. KRQE-TV's Greg Gurule is headed to Phoenix. The news anchor/reporter tells us he will join former KRQE news director Michelle Donaldson at the Phoenix CBS affiliate where he will continue to anchor and report. Greg traces his NM roots on his dad's side to Peralta, south of ABQ.


Harry Teague is going with a chief of staff with strong Hispanic ties when he takes over the southern congressional seat next year. Adrian Saenz got to know NM intimately as state director for the NM Obama prez campaign. He also has previous Capitol Hill experience, having served as staff boss to Congressman Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas). Teague of Hobbs is the first Dem to represent the district in 28 years. Can you believe there are already rumblings that GOP Rep. Steve Pearce who resigned to seek the open US Senate seat could try to get the Teague House seat back in 2010? Harry, was that a staff chief or a campaign manager you just hired? Looks like you already need both...

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