Monday, December 01, 2008

Dem Senate Leaders Picked; Jennings Still Kicking As He Sinks, Plus: ABQ Council Prez Election, And: Election Night Party Action; We've Got The Video 

Sens. Cisneros & Sanchez
He sleeps with the fishes, but like a fish he breathes underwater. So it is with State Senator Tim Jennings after he was dumped overboard by his fellow Democrats at a Sunday caucus which saw Belen's Michael Sanchez re-elected to the most important and powerful position--Majority Leader. But Senator Carlos Cisneros (Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Santa Fe & Taos) was backed over Roswell's Jennings for the president pro tem slot. Now the questions are: Will Jennings persist in a long shot bid to retain power and get named Pro Tem by forming a coalition with Senate Republicans? And, will Leader Sanchez be able to impose the necessary discipline to thwart the move and keep Democrats, if not on the same page philosophically, at least reading the same book?

Jennings paid a stiff price for helping the campaign of GOP Senator Lee Rawson of Las Cruces who went down in flames Election Night. The 27 Senate Democrats, their ranks strenghtened by three as a result of the November election, voted at their Sunday afternoon meeting at the Isleta Eagle Golf Course Clubhouse that Jennings must go. Still, after the three hour session, speculation continued on just how Jennings might keep his leadership slot by coming up with seven Democratic votes and join them with the 15 R's. There's one little problem--how do you get seven Democrats to stand up in public and essentially denounce their party's selection for pro tem following one of its biggest state landslides ever? For starters, it would seem you would make a hell of a lot of promises you may or may not be able to keep.

Not that conservative and moderate Dems don't coalesce with R's on occasion to block legislation and not that the leadership doesn't sometimes look the other way, but to have a formal coalition in the aftermath of a "change election" would be a major and deflating body blow to the state's majority party.

The pro tem caucus vote was a secret vote and counted by two of the Senators. It was not immediately known how many Dem votes Cisneros and Jennings each garnered. Cisneros was known to be supported by a coalition of northern Hispanics and party progressives. Whatever the numbers, the onus is now on Leader Sanchez to deliver and get Jennings to back off. If Sanchez allows the Senate to give the R's real power, the 2010 governorship could be put in play for them and the blame put squarely on Sanchez's shoulders. Hey, no pressure Michael. Maybe Mrs. Sanchez can help out and put a copy of "How to Herd Cats" under the family Christmas tree this year.

"Dr. No"
Should "Dr. No" go? There's a lot of opinion about Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith who was given his nickname by none other than Governor Bill. Few Dems dispute that the Deming lawmaker gives them valuable cachet with numerous conservative and southern D's and independents. But that may not matter. If Senator Cisneros, as expected, prevails and becomes Senate pro tem when the Legislature convenes for a sixty day session January 20, he will have a prime role in naming Senate committee chairs.

Liberals are headhunting for Smith who they see as too conservative. Their preferred alternative is northern Senator Pete Campos, a moderate. Smith, who has faced down Big Bill in numerous budget battles and won public support for it, is seen staying as a member of the powerful committee, but not necessarily as chairman. Still, there is time for deals before opening day. Soon-to-be Governor Diane Denish will watch closely. Some analysts say having Smith kill spending bills before they reach her desk could help the appointed governor. She will be under pressure to appease liberals who want expanded government even as the money well runs dry. Maybe Mrs. Sanchez could also stuff Di's holiday stocking with that cat herding book.


Senator Mary Jane M. Garcia (D-Dona Ana) retained her position of Senate Majority Whip at Sunday's caucus. She was not challenged. New Grants area State Senator David Ulibarri (D- Cibola, Socorro & Valencia) was selected as the Caucus Chairman. That election was a lot easier for him than his Democratic primary which he won by a mere five votes.

Winter & Benton
Who will be the next president of the ABQ City Council and why does it matter? Insiders say that freshman Dem Councilor Ike Benton will likely be selected for the one year council presidency at tonight's meeting. He would succeed Republican Brad Winter.

The presidency may matter more right now for Benton than the other eight members on the panel. He faces a re-election bid in 2009 against fellow Dem Alan Armijo, who is term limited and can't seek re-election to the Bernalillo County Commission when his second term expires in 2010. Benton is the first Anglo to represent his district, an area heavy with downtown and university precincts and a large Hispanic and African-American population. The presidency would give him a profile boost just as Armijo works to get his campaign off the ground.

Another factor is the partisan breakdown of the council. It has five Democrats and four Republicans. After a sweeping statewide election victory, it would be a setback if the Dems on the council could not elect one of their own and give the beleaguered R's an opportunity to make hay. (Republican Sally Mayer, a possible '09 mayoral candidate, is the likely pick for council VP, say city hall watchers.)

And one more reason today's council prez vote will be watched: If Mayor Chavez were to leave for a job in the national administration, or any other reason, the council president becomes mayor. There's a lot of wishful thinking going on in that regard among the mayor's council foes, but indications are they will have Marty to kick around for another year, and four more to boot if they can't take him out at the polls next October.


You're about to become an owner of NM based First State New Mexico Bank. How? FSNM has applied for $90 million in federal bailout money which will be used to buy stock in the bank. Several weeks ago e-mailers here red-flagged FSNM as a problem child as the economy takes a serious hit. Shares in the bank are trading at about a buck and a half a piece. If the bank can score a comeback with the cash we are giving it, we new shareholders could make some money. If not, well, you know how that goes, don't you?


We were among the very few who gave kudos to Republican Steve Pearce and Democrat Tom Udall when both US Senate candidates opposed the initial $700 billion bank bailout, a vote for which both received a good whipping in the press. But they've been shown to be right as the federal bailouts have grown bigger and some say even more unaccountable.

Udall beat Pearce who accused his opponent of being disingenuous in his bailout opposition. During his time in the US House, Udall has been liberal to the point of being boring. His bailout opposition presents the possibility of a more independent minded Udall. Was it all politics, as Pearce claimed, or will we see a Senator Udall who, on occasion, surprises?


Media personality Caleb Crump usually films his TV show at ABQ area hotspots, featuring the hottest music and the hippest crowds, but on Election Night he took the show to NM Democratic headquarters at the ABQ downtown Hyatt. What resulted was a raw look at the excitement of the evening, complete with Crump's trademark "shout-outs" from those interviewed. And how can you not crack up when Crump, in the heat of the moment, offers up this simple, but on the mark analysis: "Barack got it on lock!" Hep cats are going to want to see the video of Caleb kicking it...

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