Monday, November 17, 2008

Ex-ABQ Mayor Schultz Resurfaces In Nevada Job, Plus: Positioning Starts For NM US Attorney Post, And: White ABQ Mayor Bid? 

Ken Schultz
Former ABQ Mayor Ken Schultz may be disgraced and unemployable in the city he once led, but the politician turned lobbyist who pleaded guilty to being a bagman in the epic ABQ Metro Courthouse corruption scandal is drawing a paycheck. Insiders report Schultz, living in Henderson Nevada, is chapter executive for the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning National Association for Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. Schultz, who served as ABQ mayor from 1985-89, has had the post for at least several months. Records show he briefly participated in a Nevada State Contractors board meeting on behalf of the contractors he now toils for. A check of Nevada state lobbying records does not show Schultz practicing his old profession in the Silver State.

Schultz's luck in finding new employment may not be sitting well with others in the courthouse caper that snared powerful former State Senator Manny Aragon and others. Aragon has been sentenced to over five years in federal prison for ripping off over $600,000 in the scheme that bilked over $4 million from taxpayers. Schultz copped a plea with federal prosecutors in which the U.S. Attorney's Office agrees to recommend a sentence lower than federal guidelines, meaning Schultz could hope for no prison time. Schultz in his plea deal admitted being the "go between" carrying money from courthouse architect Marc Schiff to Metro Court administrator Toby Martinez, and Schiff admitted making payments through Schultz under threat of losing his contract.

Schultz awaits sentencing as the remaining courthouse corruption case in which his testimony may be needed is played out. It is assumed the once powerful mayor is drawing a comfy salary and enjoying the benefits of the Nevada weather as Aragon preps for the dank setting of a federal prison camp.

Betty & Pete Dinelli & The Man
Meanwhile, talk is circulating in the press that seems based on fantasy. That's the possibility that current Republican US attorney Greg Fouratt should be kept on the job so he can lead the US Attorneys Office in continuing prosecuting public corruption cases in Democratic controlled New Mexico. But that's not the way the system works. Fouratt, who came in after the US attorney scandal which led to the political firing of Republican David Iglesias, serves at the pleasure of the president. Removal for political reasons is generally perceived as a no-no, but not when there is an election and a new president takes power. That's when US attorneys everywhere are given their walking papers if they belong to the opposite party. In our case, expect Dem and New Mexico's soon-to-be senior Senator Jeff Bingaman, in consultation with Obama and his team, to play a key role in naming a new top NM federal prosecutor. And why shouldn't they?

The US attorney scandal has damaged the reputation of the office. Several top Dems stand ready to apply for the post, including a couple of prosecutors currently in the office. More notably and realistically, Santa Fe politico and attorney John Pound and ABQ Dem State Rep. Al Park are two possibles for Obama. Also, ABQ public safety boss and lawyer Pete Dinelli is a former chief deputy district attorney with heavy prosecuting experience who could easily fit the bill. Other names floating include NM Dem Party Chair Brian Colon and Santa Fe's Geno Zamora.

Fouratt has won praise for doing a laudable job in finishing up the public corruption case, but the larger principle of turnover in the government after eight years of GOP control is more important than a singular case. Why? Because the long-term concentration of power in the hands of one party inevitably leads to abuses. We already saw that in the US attorney scandal. The new president deserves to hire his own people and be judged on their performance. Look for a new US attorney.


There's another plum federal job that hangs in the balance as we wait for Obama to take power in January. That is the post of US Marshal for New Mexico. It has been held by Gordon Eden, Jr. since 2002. He served as head of the NM motor vehicle division under GOP Guv Gary Johnson before becoming Marshall. The office is the government's lead agency in going after fugitives. We are not hearing a lot of names as possible successors to Eden, but one does stand out. That is ABQ Police Department Captain Conrad Candelaria. The policeman was eying the Bernalillo County Sheriff's post if Sheriff Darren White managed to win a seat in Congress, but he was trounced by Dem Martin Heinrich. Candelaria, we're told, may be polishing up his resume. Dropping his name may get the Alligators splashing. Conrad's police career has not been without controversy.


Speaking of Darren White, his friends are dropping hints that the beaten down sheriff could actually try to make a run for ABQ mayor in 2009. This, despite his ten point thumping and the first-ever Republican loss of the ABQ US House seat to Dem Martin Heinrich. White polled well for mayor before the congressional election, but now the hard-core Bush-Republican is in the doghouse with the Dems, especially for running a last minute attack ad that was nasty and did nothing to alter the race. Also, White's campaign failed to enhance his image as a politician with executive experience. In fact, it may have damaged him in that regard.

White may climb back someday, but after the beating Heinrich gave him in his home city, the sheriff starts at the base of the mountain. If he does get quixotic and decides to play on the mayoral playground, look for the Heinrich camp to pay attention. They don't want any mayor with long shot thoughts of making another run for Congress. And, yes, look for a sizable contingent of disgruntled R's to also make life uncomfortable for White if he tries to rear his political head so soon after his whipping.


Our obit of NM political legend Emilio Naranjo brought forth interesting comment from Raul Huerta of the Academic Enrichment Center at Morrisville State College in Morrisville, NY.

Joe, I beg to differ with you regarding your comment: “Naranjo was an historical figure in that he built a bridge for Spanish speaking New Mexicans to deal with the new Anglo economy. Until the 30's, when the Great Depression forced Spanish Northerners to integrate economically, there was not much need for an Emilio Naranjo.”

The true bridge between the Anglo and Hispano community was built by Senator Dennis Chavez...He was tireless in his efforts to allow Hispanics to become fully integrated into the economic, educational and political life of the US. I was recently in Puerto Rico at “Somos El Futuro” which is a public policy event put on by New York Latinos...I mentioned Senator Chavez’s advocacy throughout his senatorial career for Puerto Rican statehood. Many of the participants were very familiar with his love for Puerto Rico. Emiliano Naranjo, IMHO, was a bit player when contrasted with Senator Chavez or even Senator Montoya

No question that Senator Chavez was the major Hispanic player in NM history. No way were we trying to usurp his legacy with that of Emilio who remains a figure of political fascination but nowhere near the consequence of Chavez. In fact, it is painful for many Republicans, but because of the way Senator Domenici finished his Senate tenure--mired in the US Attorney scandal, the Dem sweep of the state in the '08 election and his association with the failed Bush presidency, the contest for the state's most important US Senator ever is not a contest. Chavez remains the undisputed champion.

Rep. Gardner
State House Republicans have their leadership team set for the 60 day legislative that starts in January after the GOP caucus meeting in ABQ over the weekend. No ABQ reps were selected for leadership posts. Rep. Tom Taylor of Farmington was re-elected Minority Leader. Rep. Keith Gardner of Roswell was elected Minority Whip, replacing defeated Rep. Dan Foley also of Roswell. Rep. Anna Crook of Clovis was re-elected Caucus Chair. "With our leadership team in place, the next item on our agenda is to begin tackling the serious budgeting challenges that face New Mexico," said Taylor.

There are now 25 R's in the state House, down three from before the election. There are 45 Dems....

We ran a photo of the late political boss Emilio Naranjo Friday that Kevin Bersett of the Rio Grande Sun says came from his paper. If it was indeed from the Rio Grande Sun in Emilio's Rio Arriba County, we thank the Sun for its use.

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