Tuesday, December 23, 2008

NM Politicos Await Santa's Visit; Will He Stuff Their Stockings? Plus: More On Di And The Transition, And: Merry Christmas, New Mexico 

The political players are hanging up their Christmas stockings in hopes that St. Nick will soon be here, and not with the proverbial lump of coal. Big Bill's personal Xmas wish is obvious--an easy Senate confirmation as the USA's new Commerce Secretary. For Light Guv Diane Denish, who would succeed Bill, there may not be a stocking big enough for all she is wishing for--a smooth transition, an upturn in the state's economy, a legislative session that doesn't tar her with negativity and cooperative Big Bill acolytes who will still be running the bureaucracy even when he departs.

Each of New Mexico's three new freshmen congressmen are hoping for a plum in their stockings--that would be a plum committee assignment, but as newbies they will probably have to settle for an ordinary orange.

Senator Jeff Bingaman, now the senior member of the state's congressional delegation, is probably wishing Santa will tell him how to keep to his early-to-bed-early-to-rise routine in the new year. That won't be easy. The state is putting more pressure on him to play New Mexico's Santa and bring home the goodies they became so used to getting from Santa's helper "Saint Pete" Domenici.

The New Mexico Legislature has 112 stockings to put up. Will Santa find some additional money for the budget to put in some of them? Probably not. But it is Christmas and hope is not only allowed, it's encouraged.

For those of us who cover New Mexico politics, Santa is going to have a hard time beating what he gave us in 2008---epic political events that will make for memories of a lifetime. But we'll still hang up our stocking with a wish for something we think Mr. Claus will have no problem delivering--more surprises in our beloved La Politica.


Diane Denish has chosen former Big Bill economic development division director Kathy Keith as her transition chief of staff, a position she could keep if and when Di takes office. Keith has had a low-profile, but one of our Alligators has insights on Keith's past experience that is relevant to the task at hand.

In early 2003 Kathy was Richardson's point person with "Governor's Exempt" appointees. She dealt with salaries, finding out who the Gov-elect had selected to fill exempt positions and other personnel matters. She served until all the appointed positions were filled and then went to economic development...She knows where all the exempt positions are located and how to fill them quickly because she did so seven years ago, a skill Denish may need at the ready....The work of choosing board and commission appointees was even bigger. It will be interesting to see when and how Diane tackles those monster tasks...

Denish will look forward to putting in her own people as key positions become vacant. Wholesale firings are not expected; it would not be politically viable. Complicating things for Denish and Keith is that state hiring freeze. How long will it last and how will it effect them in getting Denish loyalists in place?


The speculation about just how much of the 60 day legislative session Big Bill will be around for is interesting, but the key point may be this: If Bill's nomination for Secretary of Commerce is approved, he will not be here for the end of the session. And we all know what happens then-- the Governor gets to sign and veto bills. That ultimate expression of executive power is going to go to Denish. No wonder her fundraising parties are drawing crowds.


Here's a good idea from one of our readers that will never happen:

"It seems to me a moratorium on all new capital outlay projects would go a long way toward balancing the state budget. A lot of the projects are worthwhile, but I don't think many of them are essential to the survival of anyone except the incumbents who want to get re-elected...

Lawmakers canceling their "pork" projects would truly be a Christmas miracle. Speaking of which.....Here's our annual holiday card for your enjoyment. Christmas 2007 was so crazed with politics, we forgot to send it out. Not this year...

We'll be out of the daily news loop for the next week or so, but we'll have some special "pre-recorded blogs" for those who need a political fix after they unwrap their gifts so check in for those. Meanwhile, thanks to all of our sponsors for their support. And thanks to you for making us part of your day.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

Merry Christmas, New Mexico.

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