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Friday, March 07, 2008

First Hits In Southern Congress Battle: Plus: Sparks Fly On Both Sides In ABQ Contest: Pressure Mounting As June Primary Comes Into Sight 

Dunn attack piece
The first volleys of negative fire have been heard from the congressional campaigns now that we are less than 90 days away from the June 3rd primary. In the GOP battle for the Southern US House seat, war cries of "Santa Fe Liberal" are being shouted at Lincoln County rancher Ed Tinsley from fellow rancher Aubrey Dunn, Jr. Tinsley's campaign, citing Dunn's penchant for changing his voter registration, retorts that Ed is a Republican of "conviction" and Aubrey is a Republican for "convenience."

The hand of Roswell State Senator "Lightning" Rod Adair is present in the Dunn campaign where our Alligators say he is serving as a consultant. Dunn's hit pieces against Tinsley (click on the image to enlarge) were recently mailed to southern GOP voters. It calls him a Santa Fe liberal because the Lincoln County rancher also has a second home in Santa Fe. Dunn also claims Tinsley, a former head of the National Restaurant Association, is soft on the hot button issue of immigration. Tinsley's camp says:

"Given Dunn's lack of commitment to the Republican party and the operatives he hired to sling mud, it's no surprise that he has chosen to divide the party with a false and negative personal campaign."


They say Dunn was registered as a Democrat in 1983, a Republican in 1996, an independent in February of 2007 and back to Republican in October of '07. They also point out Dunn gave money to Big Bill's Dem Prez run. Dunn says he did that because he was hoping Bill would beat Hillary.

Dunn and Tinsley have each given their campaigns hundreds of thousands in personal loans. Meantime, the camp of Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman is enjoying the food fight. They say he has now raised about $150,000 and can now present himself as the peaceful GOP alternative. The same goes for affable Earl Greer, another well-known R wanting this one.

Tinsley and Dunn have the money to go the distance and are the leading hopefuls for the June primary. Newman and Greer need to raise more if they are going to compete on television in May.

JOLTIN' JOE

The R's seeking their party's nomination for the ABQ congressional seat are also making some hay. State Senator Joe Carraro, running against Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, is claiming that there was "vote-buying" at the recent Bernalillo County GOP convention which selected delegates to the March 15th statewide pre-primary nominating convention. Carraro indicates that it was White and US Senate candidate Heather Wilson doing the alleged vote-buying, but he has produced no hard evidence to back up the charges. White told KKOB-AM radio: "(Carraro's) allegations are "nutty charges from a sore loser." To the delight of Democrats, Carraro has been urging an official investigation by the attorney general.

Meanwhile, politicos on the West Side are still talking about the possibility of Carraro again seeking his state senate seat. Carraro has repeatedly said he is leaving the senate and even gave a farewell speech. But that and the fact that two Republicans have already announced for the seat hasn't quieted speculation that Carraro could decide to fold his congressional effort and on March 18th--filing day for the legislative seats--announce that he will run for re-election to the senate. In this case, time truly will tell the tale.

ADAMS ANNOYED

And if you think things are getting wild on the GOP side, how about Dem northern congressional candidate Jon Adams accusing rival Don Wiviott of holding "bribery dinners" for delegates going to the March 15th state Dem pre-primary convention?

"(Today) at 6:30 p.m. at the Hill Diner in Los Alamos, there is going to be yet another one of these "bribe the delegates" dinners. Apparently Wiviott has invited all 22 delegates elected at the Los Alamos County Convention to a free dinner." Informs Adams.

Wiviott's campaign says it does not take the charge seriously and it is another in a series of what they call "bizarre" accusations. But being the intrepid investigative reporter you know me to be, I explored further. We determined that the most expensive item on the Hill Diner's menu is the $10.99 double chicken fried steak. Now, Friday night is "Rib Night" at the Hill Diner and we don't know the price for that.

Would you sell your vote for a $10.99 double chicken fried steak? OK. You don't have to answer. (Please call Don or Jon, not us, for directions to tonight's dinner.)

And, depending on the source, it was either $30 a vote or $35 an hour that Carraro says someone was giving to buy votes at the GOP county convention. Heck, on that amount a Republican couldn't get past the appetizer menu at the Hyatt.

DEMOCRATIC HEAT

It has been kind of quiet as former city councilor Martin Heinrich has collected over $500,000 for his Dem run for the ABQ congressional seat. He has four challengers who have been low-key, but Heinirch foe and trial attoney Robert Pidcock is ready to break the ice. He told us that he has examined Heinirch's employment history and background and concluded:

"Martin Heinrich is unqualified to be a congressman. He lacks the necessary employment history and life experience. That needs to be said now because if he is the Democratic nominee the Republicans will tear him apart limb by limb."

Voters can look at the candidates' respective Web sites to make up their minds on who is or isn't qualified. For Pidcock and the other challengers--Rebecca Vigil-Giron, Michelle Lujan Grisham and Jessica Wolfe--time and money are fast becoming issues as they work to upset Heinrich's chances.

E-mail your news and comments on the latest politics as well as your ruminations on the greater meaning of things. :)

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Wiviott Takes Personal Spending Toward $600K; Triggers FEC Rule To Keep Playing Field Level; Lujan Charges He Is Trying To Buy Seat, Plus: TV News 

Wiviott & Lujan
Apparently Don Wiviott has his IRA fully funded and a wife who doesn't nag him about money because the northern NM Democratic congressional hopeful just threw another quarter million bucks of his personal money at his long shot bid. The Santa Fe developer's spending spree is so copious he has become the first federal candidate in New Mexico to trigger the federal "Millionaires' Amendment." He has now put up $590,000 from his personal bank account, and there could be more to come. That means his Dem foes will be allowed to triple the amount of money they can collect from individual donors. It has also created a new campaign issue--whether Wiviott is trying to buy a seat in the US Congress.

Wiviott's campaign was low-key when asked about the high-profile stacks of cash he is taking out of the bank and putting on the political pass line.

The support Don has received these last few months has only emboldened his belief that New Mexico voters want change. As the only outsider in the race, Don intends to make sure change is on the ballot by mounting a primary campaign that has all the resources it will need.

Wiviott's campaign was required to notify the other Dem candidates that he was going to go over the $350,000 federal personal spending limit. They can now collect donations up to $6900 instead of the normal limit of $2300. When I reached Carlos Trujillo, campaign manger for Public Regulation Commissioner Ben Ray Lujan, the favorite for the Dem nomination, he had not yet learned of the Wiviott cash dump and was stunned.

"He's trying to buy the race. This seat is not for sale. Don Wiviott talks about campaign finance reform and calls himself a 'progressive.' How can you argue you are progressive when you are trying to buy this seat? He doesn't have financial support from within the district, so he has to loan himself the money. How much has he raised from working people?"


Trujillo said the Lujan campaign will endeavor to collect those $6900 donations in an effort to stay competitive, but it is doubtful they will match Wiviott's total spending. Lujan, son of powerful state House Speaker Ben Lujan, may be upset with Wiviott's lavish personal spending, but he also loaned himself funds--$50,000--to kick-start his effort. Trujillo said Lujan has 15 fund-raising events scheduled over the next several weeks.

INSIDER ANALYSIS

Insiders were taken aback by the stunning amounts Wiviott is committing to the race."He must have polling that shows he can get this race in play," analyzed one of our reliables.

Wiviott's TV spots are aimed squarely at Anglo liberals in the sprawling district. Lujan and Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya have a lock on the hefty Hispanic vote. Rudy Martin of EspaƱola and Benny Shendo are also running. Former NM assistant attorney general Jon Adams is vying with Wiviott for the liberals, but has nowhere near the money his rival does.

Wiviott seems to be calculating that low income voters most likely to resent his huge spending were not votes he could count on. In a five way race, he appears to be aiming for an overwhelming showing among the liberal political classes, especially in Santa Fe and Taos.

Expensive TV is going to suck up most of Don's dough. If they work, the gamble pays. If not, Santa Fe will be the site of one of the nation's most expensive political graveyards.

MORE MILLIONAIRE

We covered the Millionaires' Amendment in November, anticipating it might come into play in this election cycle. That report is here. The New Mexican's Terrell has an update on the northern campaign.

SWISSTACK NEWS

Here's the latest from Rio Rancho and blogger Eric Maddy on Mayor-elect Tom Swisstack and his plans for his state legislative seat.

Swisstack now says he will probably serve out his legislative term, allowing (Sandoval County Commissioner) Thomas to run as a candidate to replace him and stay on as county commissioner until December. He still is leaving some wiggle room, though, saying many people want him to do both. Says city is his priority now but both staying until December "is a good bet."

Democrat Swisstack previously told us he would not attempt to serve as both a state legislator and mayor of the city of 75,000. Now it appears he has kept the door open a crack to do both. We'll keep you posted from the flip-flop watch.

TV NEWS

The world of NM TV news was never more topsy-turvy than late last year when major news anchors for all three of the network affiliated stations walked away from their teleprompters to either retire or take news gigs elsewhere. Apparently the unprecedented shuffling did not have much impact on viewers' habits--at least not on the closely watched February 10 p.m. news ratings. They were passed on to us by our TV insiders.

KRQE-TV held its #1 position garnering a 8.7 rating; KOB-TV occupies second place with a 7.7 and KOAT comes in third with a 7.1 rating. (An 8.7 rating means that 8.7% of the households that have television are tuned to KRQE at 10 p.m.)

While retaining bragging rights, CBS affiliate KRQE did lose some viewers from the November ratings. TV insiders attribute some of that to the Hollywood writers' strike and the subsequent decline in the quality of programming. What airs at 9 p.m. has a significant impact on how the TV newscasts perform at 10 p.m. Also, once a station gets a grip on the top spot, it is difficult to oust them. Kinda like those politicians we cover....

INSIDE POLITICS
Neri Holguin
The small world of locally based political consultants has grown by one. Neri Holguin, who formerly headed up the local offices of the Wilderness Society, now heads up her own consulting firm for Dem candidates. It looks as though she will be able to keep the lights on. She has signed up four legislative candidates, most of them from the 'progressive' wing of the Dem Party.

Holguin, who was the campaigns director for Soltari, a local consulting group that no longer does campaigns, said her '08 clients include newcomer Tim Keller who is seeking the Dem nomination for the state senate seat held by ABQ incumbent Shannon Robinson; Brian Egolf of Santa Fe who is is a candidate for a Santa Fe state house seat; Eric Griego, the former ABQ city councilor who is challenging incumbent South Valley Dem State Senator James Taylor, and Tim Eichenberg who is a Dem contender for the ABQ NE Heights seat held by the GOP's Diane Snyder. Eichenberg is the only one on that list who does not come out of the Dems liberal wing; he is a former Bernalillo County Treasurer and will face off with Dem activist John Blair for the District 15 Dem nod.

Holguin hails from the Las Cruces area. Eli Lee, her former boss at Soltari, says he is now active in public affairs issues, not political campaigns.

BLOG COLLEGE CHALLENGE

Our college challenge for the best pr/lobbying plan to get the Legislature to pass a measure limiting campaign contributions in New Mexico is nearing the entry deadline. Plans must be submitted via e-mail on March 7 and 8 only. That is this Friday and Saturday. So make sure you make the deadline and stay eligible for our $500 first prize and $150.00 second prize. Before you send it in, review the rules here. We look forward to your entry.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Bill signed the red light camera bill that Mayor Marty did not want. But the cameras stay on anyway and the Legislature may revisit the issue next year. All we can say is that Bill is a lot more fun to joy ride with than Marty.

E-mail your news, comments, criticisms and silly observations.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Johnny Does Good; R's Get Aboard The McCain Train; He Clinches GOP Nomination; His NM Outlook, Plus: Swisstack Back At Helm In Rio Rancho 

John McCain
Moments after the major networks announced last night that Arizona Senator John McCain had clinched the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, the political pros were already moving on to the question of how he would do in our swing state of New Mexico. The outlook was generally upbeat.

McCain does not set hearts fluttering among right-wing R's (see Rush Limbaugh) but that could be the key to his success as he begins the long battle for this state's five electoral votes.

"McCain has appeal to independents and conservative Democrats. Maybe he loses some on the Republican right, but he has the opportunity here to pick up many more votes than he loses because of his sterling military record and friendly stance on immigration. Both have appeal to New Mexico Hispanics," said one of our longtime Alligators, although he also pointed out that McCain might be trying to have it both ways on immigration.

McCain reminds some oldtimers of moderate NM Governor Dave Cargo and the early years of Senator Pete Domenici. Both Cargo and Domenici cobbled together a coalition of Republicans, Hispanics and conservative Dems. Cargo did it in 1966 and 1968 when he was twice elected governor. Domenici did it in most of his US Senate races starting in 1972.

The spoiler at the McCain party could be his hard-right stance on the Iraq war. It is such a litmus test issue that some of the pros believe it could block the 71 year old from connecting with voters.

"I expect by October his hardcore position on Iraq will be considerably tempered. His talk about staying there 100 years may be diluted as he works to put together a broad coalition," remarked another of our veteran election watchers.

Other pros went to the history books and cited the 1920's success of Republican NM Senator Bronson Cutting who successfully courted Hispanic veterans. McCain, with his military record, could also court this large voting bloc, spreading goodwill through the Spanish North and perhaps cutting down the big Democratic margins there that often doom statewide GOP candidates.

Democrats acknowledge the NM opportunity for McCain, but they think the country is trending heavily Democratic and that in the end that will carry the day and the state. Who will lead their ticket was still muddled last night as Hillary came back to win the Dem Prez primary in Ohio and Texas was a cliffhanger. A recent Rasmussen poll shows McCain and Obama tied in NM at 44% each. In that same poll, McCain beats Hillary 50% to 38%.

MCCAIN IN NEW MEXICO

McCain earlier secured the endorsement of NM GOP US Senator Pete Domenici. ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson, who is seeking her party's nomination to succeed Domenici, shares a military background with McCain and also tries to style herself a 'moderate' Republican sometimes ala McCain. However, in her primary race she is calling herself a "common sense conservative." Heather brought McCain to ABQ in the closing days of her tight-as-it-can-get '06 US House race with Dem Patricia Madrid.

Darren White, Bernalillo County Sheriff and likely US House nominee for the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Heather, endorsed Rudy Giuliani for the Prez nomination, but McCain may be a better leader of the GOP ticket for White than Rudy would have been. Again, if McCain's candidacy veers toward the middle it could attract independents and Reagan Dems, the same voters White will need. GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce, more of a red meat Republican than his senate rival Wilson, is also a military veteran and will embrace McCain on that level.

I first met McCain in 1984 when he had just begun his service in the US House and before he claimed a senate seat. He campaigned for Republican Lou Gallegos who was running for the northern congressional seat against Bill Richardson. I was serving as Lou's press secretary. That was one of McCain's first, if not the first, political visit to New Mexico by the soon-to-be standard bearer for the nation's Republicans. And longtime NM Republican Greg Zanetti, among others, will remember when a group of us--Dems, R's and independents--got together in 2000 to explore starting a Prez committee for McCain in NM. That lasted all of a couple of days as McCain's run ended with a loss in the GOP South Carolina primary to George W. Bush.

SWISSTACK'S STAMPEDE
Mayor-elect Swisstack
If Tom Swisstack wants to do big things, now is the time. The former Rio Rancho mayor and current NM Democratic state representative, won the mayor's job back last night by trouncing six other contenders and scoring an impressive 59% of the vote. Swisstack needed 50% to avoid a run-off. He got that and more. With the electoral mandate will come high expectations, especially for improvements to the infrastructure (roads, sewer) that are long-standing needs in the fast-growing city now registering a population of about 75,000.

(Here's the results of the Santa Fe city election. Results from other municipal elections across the state are here)

Swisstack, popular in his first term in the late 90's, has had no ethical issues which was a relief to city voters, having been traumatized by the scandal-ridden term of Mayor Kevin Jackson who was forced to resign.

The question now is whether Swisstack will resign his state House seat and let the Sandoval County Commission appoint a replacement. Swisstack has said he will not serve as both representative and mayor. But blogger Eric Maddy reports Sandoval County Commissioner Jack Thomas, the leading contender to replace Swisstack, does not want to give up us commission seat until his term expires at year's end. But Swisstack's Rio Rancho district is actually lean Republican and Dems might want to give their man a heads-up by making him an incumbent and attending this summer's special session on health care. GOP educator Paula Papponi is already campaigning. We'll keep you posted.

THE BOTTOM LINES


When is a "free ride" a free ride? We noted Tuesday that Democratic Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulose Oliver could be in for free ride #2 because she has not yet drawn June primary opposition and was appointed to the post by the Bernalillo County Commission to fill out the term of Mary Herrera who was elected secretary of state. Maggie chimes in that while she understands she has not yet stood for election, she says her appointment didn't feel like a free ride. "There were a lot of names competing" for the clerk's position, she said. Not that there's anything wrong with a free ride...

E-mail it in.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Another Three Way In The North? Indy Candidacy Impact Weighed, Plus: Race Eases Up For County Clerk, And: Election Day Today In Rio Rancho & Santa Fe 

Carol Miller
It's unlikely that history will repeat itself and the Dems will be derailed this year in their bid to keep the northern congressional seat in their column, but with their longtime nemesis, Carol Miller, announcing she will run as an independent, it is a possibility they will have to live with.

Miller, many of you will recall, ran under the Green Party banner in 1997 when Bill Richardson vacated the northern seat. She upended the race by attracting nearly 17% of the vote, crippling Dem nominee Eric Serna and helping to elect Republican Bill Redmond to fill out what was left of Richardson's term. He was named UN Ambassador by President Clinton. Serna was saddled with a negative ethical reputation, so Miller's candidacy was planted on fallow ground. That, however, is not the case this time, argues politico Steve Cabiedes, himself a onetime Green.

"The Democrats are more united than they were in '97. Ben Ray Lujan is the leader in the race for the nomination and doesn't have the ethics baggage Serna had. Also, he is running on a liberal platform. It would take something major and unforeseen for 1997 to repeat in 2008," he analyzed.

The Dems have shown they can handle a Miller type candidacy when they are united. When she ran for the seat in '98, Miller managed only 4% of the vote as Dems rallied around Udall and ended Redmond's short, but historic congressional stint.

The intellectual foundation for Miller's candidacy does seem skimpier today. She justifies her independent candidacy by saying that, at 61, she has more experience in dealing with federal issues than the Dem contenders. She says experience is key because NM will be sending an all-freshman delegation to the US House next year.

Miller will need about 6,000 petition signatures to make the November ballot as an independent. Cabiedes says she will need to submit about 8,000 to ensure she collects enough valid names. Miller has until the day after the June 3rd primary election to get them.

Rumblings on the Santa Fe trail have Santa Fe developer Don Wiviott perhaps trying to link dem rival Lujan, chairman of the NM Public Regulatory Commission, to Eric Serna type politics. If Lujan were damaged by such charges but still won the Dem primary, it could give Miller the ethics opening she had in '97, but it is a stretch. Still, the subplot of a third party in the north is yet another angle in an election year that is giving us an endless supply of them.

ALL CLEAR FOR CLERK?

They're talking in downtown ABQ about a possible free ride for the Dem nomination for Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver. Kelli Fulgenzi, assistant city clerk, who planned to oppose Toulouse-Oliver, says to do so she would have to quit her city job. She's not willing to do that, and that could give Maggie a free nomination ride. It would be free ride #2 for her. Toulouse Oliver, who is married to Big Bill aide Allan Oliver, was appointed as county clerk to fill out the term of Mary Herrera who, in 2006, was elected secretary of state. While it remains to be seen if another Dem will surface to challenge the county clerk in the Dem primary, she will have Republican opposition in November. Rick Abraham has announced he will seek the job, but no man has been elected to the post in living memory and no Republican since the 1980's. Clerk Toulouse-Oliver will face her first major test when she oversees election results from the June primary.

REACTION SHOTS

Reaction to our Monday report on GOP chances for the US Senate seat. Politico Harold Morgan was among the e-mailers who were not buying the argument that Bingaman's liberalism is overlooked by the electorate. He says Jeff keeps getting re-elected because of "the power of incumbency and the quality of the Republican opponents." Perhaps. But it is hard to ignore that liberal Bingaman has such high favorables in a moderate state. There seems to be more to it than being in the office and having lousy opponents. Otherwise, the R's might be able to generate some high-quality opponents.

Other correspondents came with an argument that they thought could be used by the R's as they start their campaign against soon-to-be Dem Senate nominee Tom Udall. They said New Mexico should have a senator from each party in D.C. so we are tapped in to the political power no matter who controls the Presidency or Congress. It's a credible argument, but is it too esoteric for a general election audience?

ELECTION DAY

Two of NM's larger cities--Rio Rancho and Santa Fe--hold elections today. Rio Rancho will get a new mayor and it could be Dem NM State Rep. Tom Swisstack. Rio Rancho will also vote on a tax to bring a branch of UNM to the city and three city councils seats. In Santa Fe, they will vote on four city council seats and a variety of charter amendments. We'll update the results tomorrow. And, of course, there's the big Texas and Dem Prez primaries today.

E-mail us your news and comments and help us keep the politics coming.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Monday, March 03, 2008

Big Bill Still Fence Sitting On Prez Race; What It Means To Us, And: "Unconventional" Wisdom On Senate Seat, Plus: Death Calls Ex-State Rep Ron Godbey 

An at-ease Bill Richardson appeared Sunday on national television arguing that a politician like him endorsing a candidate for the Dem presidential nomination doesn't "amount to a hill of beans." He again declined to endorse either Clinton or Obama who are now locked in a suspenseful do or die battle in the Tuesday Ohio and Texas primaries. He acted perturbed at what he called negative campaigning in the race, remarks that some media said pushed him further away from Hillary who has been on the attack.

Bill is right that an endorsement may do little to generate votes at the polls, but it still matters to the candidates and influences who they will place in jobs if they find themselves residing at 1600 Pennsylvania. From New Mexico's standpoint the Big Bill endorsement game is much more than a hill of a beans; it could be the big enchilada. If Richardson leaves here in 2009 to go to D.C. we get a governor--Diane Denish--who succeeds him and who would then run as an incumbent in '10. That would increase considerably the Dems chances of keeping the keys to those Fourth Floor Roundhouse offices.

There has been an undertow of criticism of the New Mexico governor's reluctance to endorse Hillary. After all, Bill Clinton appointed our Bill United Nations ambassador as well as secretary of energy. Richardson was pressed on that during his appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation" and gave his most open explanation yet for his non-endorsement.

"There are some people in the (old) Clinton administration that think I owe the Clintons because I was appointed to two great jobs. I do have a sense of loyalty to the Clintons, but I did run against Senator Clinton. I think there are broader issues. I paid them (the Clintons) back with my loyalty to them. This is about the future of the country.

The Guv may believe he has paid Hillary and Bill back, but with Hill locked in a now or never dogfight in the neighboring Lone Star state, her campaign could be excused for thinking Richardson hasn't even made a down payment. In fact, looking back on Iowa, where many Richardson presidential supporters made Obama their second caucus choice, it could be argued that he has favored the Illinois senator, even though his campaign denies it urged its followers to go for Barack if Bill was coming up short.

On CBS Richardson held out the possibility of an eleventh hour endorsement, but it seems that he's concluded that there is more to lose by making an endorsement than there is to gain. Hillary is the likely loser (at this moment) and endorsing her could end his job chances with any Obama administration. But endorsing Obama could violate one of the supreme commandments of politics--be loyal to those who brought you to the party. In Bill's case that's Bill Clinton. It's not the best position to be in when you consider the Guv's competition for these top jobs, but it does, as Jesse Jackson might say, "keep hope alive." And sometimes that's all you can hope for.

UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM

Now that the conventional wisdom is firmly established that the Democrats taking the open US Senate seat here is a done deal--a no-brainer, if you will-- it is time to start questioning that wisdom. Headed into the weekend, Rasmussen released another poll with good news for US Rep. Tom Udall, soon to be he Dem senate nominee. It showed him beating Republicans Heather Wilson 50% to 43% and Steve Pearce 50% to 42%. Throw in the WaPo's take on the race, calling it the second most likely Senate seat to switch party control, and you have the makings of an early celebration for Udall.

We hate to be the party crasher--(OK, we like it) but shouldn't we pause to consider that the Republican goose may be in the oven, but is not yet fully cooked? Exhibit one on why the R's still have a chance to take the seat being given up by retiring Pete Domenici is found in their own ranks--Senator Jeff Bingaman. The Democratic lawmaker has one of the most liberal voting records in the senate, certainly out of the mainstream of NM when the state is taken as a whole. To argue, as some Dems do, that Pearce can easily be painted as a throwback to the Neanderthal era and taken out may be easier said than done. And even though she changes her identity more often than the spring winds shift direction, US Rep. Heather Wilson still retains a connection (albeit a mysterious one) with the electorate that has baffled the majority party.

But it is the Bingaman model that most worries insider Dems. How many voters cast ballots for him because of "values" not his liberal voting record? Plenty. How else to explain multiple landslides? Not to imply that the Dems are not favored to win the Domenici seat. Surely, they are, but there is a campaign to be conducted and if either Pearce or Wilson can shift the debate to values and delivering the goods for the state, they may stand at least a fighting chance to escape the millstone that is the Republican record hanging around their necks. At least that's the "unconventional" wisdom.

EX-STATE REP. GODBEY DIES

When word came to us over the weekend from San Angelo, Texas that death had called former NM GOP State Rep. Ron Godbey we immediately thought, "Now, there's a guy who fought the good fight."

Godbey succumbed to cancer at a San Angelo hospital Saturday. He was 73.

Godbey was front and center in one of the most divisive battles in the history of the state Republican party--the fight over Governor Johnson's late 90's call to ease drug laws. The ensuing battle pitted Godbey against then-GOP Chairman John Dendahl who agreed with Johnson. The fierce feud created a rift so deep that the healing continues to this day.

Godbey, who represented the Bernalillo County East Mountains, ran against Dendahl for the GOP chairmanship in 2001. He lost that battle, but won the war. No longer is drug legalization a prominent issue for the NM GOP. He also retired from the Legislature as a winner, in 2004, after surviving several attempts to oust him by the drug legalization faction. Today the seat is held by GOP State Rep. Kathy McCoy.

Godbey was a Renaissance man of sorts. He was an attorney, an Air Force colonel and a certified meteorologist. He served as head of the Bernalillo County Elections Bureau and as Chief Deputy Treasurer. After leaving the state House he moved to Texas due to his wife's health.

To the end Godbey remained a foe of legalized drugs, serving as president of the Texas branch of Drug Watch International. But it was the battle here for which he will be long remembered. Godbey railed against Republicans making lobbying money from organizations supporting legalized drugs. It wasn't only about legalized drugs, he argued, it was about using the power of a political party as a club for favored lobbyists and consultants.

The bastardization of the NM Republican Party over the drug issue is a sad and repugnant chapter in its history. Ron Godbey's role in ending it merits him a listing in bold ink in the never ending book of La Politica.

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

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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