Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Kilmer Committee? Could Be Next Step As Actor Weighs Guv Run; Plus: Bernadette's Turn About; Why? And: Not All Udall's Are Equal 

Val Kilmer
What's next for Val? it's the question on the lips of politics watchers and we have the latest. Insiders say Kilmer's next step--after a long flirtation with a run for the 2010 Dem Guv nod--will likely be the formation of an "exploratory committee" so he can start collecting cash for a run, but not fully committing to one. A source familiar with the actor's thinking says Kilmer would want to show broad-based support for his candidacy by collecting individual cash contributions and not self-finance his entire campaign.

Kilmer has consulted about his possible candidacy with two NM political friends--veteran politico and former state game commission head Guy Riordan and former Big Bill press secretary Billy Sparks.

Riordan said he told Kilmer over dinner recently at Santa Fe's Rio Chama that he should not make the run because of the toll it would take on him personally and on his family, but he told me he thinks Kilmer has the smarts to be a competitive candidate.

Sparks accompanied Kilmer to the Obama inauguration and, according to a wall-leaner, on a recent Kilmer Roundhouse visit. Sparks has a high-paying PR job at the University of New Mexico and is not going anywhere, but he told me he has taken an active interest in the potential candidacy of the actor.

Much of the impetus for Kilmer's candidacy is coming from the Fourth Floor and Big Bil who has issued complimentary statements about the actor, much to the chagrin of Light Guv Diane Denish who could find herself in an expensive Dem primary battle if Kilmer pulls the trigger.

The bad blood between Denish and Richardson is an important factor here. Many of the several hundred "exempt" employees in state government--appointed by Richardson and with deep political ties--could form a bench of support for Kilmer. Many of them would lose their jobs in a Denish administration.

Will Kilmer bring in Hollywood types like Danny Devito and Oliver Stone to host house parties for him where he could raise considerable campaign cash? It's a thought circulating. There would be no shortage of takers offering their homes and it would take advantage of the main strength of Kilmer's candidacy--star power.


Kilmer packed on the weight for a recent movie role and, at 49, has said it is tougher to take it off. But, believe it or not, some are looking at how Kilmer tips the scales in the months ahead to determine if he is serious about a run. Big Bill started shedding the pounds in advance of his prez run. The thinking goes that Kilmer could be expected to do the same if he is going to get in the game.


The rumor mill has Kilmer perhaps pondering hiring a D.C. based political firm to get him started. Maybe Murphy Putnam which has handled Big Bill?

Some Kilmer advocates see him having appeal to East side conservative Dems because--get this--he has acted in films such as "Tombstone." But discount the power and attraction of celebrity at your own peril. It has proven to be a sturdy starting point, even if often derided in elite political circles.

More important, a disgusted electorate contending with economic woes, corruption and uncertainty may be ripe for an outsider candidacy? Denish is already moving to separate herself from Big Bill, knowing that being an insider government type could be the kiss of death.

The press and TV news can't help themselves in over covering celebrities or a celebrity candidacy. It attracts eyeballs. No matter how inane, don't expect it to stop and do expect Kilmer, if he jumps in, to benefit.


The obstacle course remains crowded for Kilmer who has lived part time on his ranch at Rowe, NM for several decades. Much of the political class will oppose an outsider candidacy; he has yet to reveal any intellectual firepower; his name ID is high, but he is not universally known like a Schwarzenegger; we have no polling that could prove wrong assumptions that Kilmer is more than a curiosity and New Mexico might surprise with a "so what" attitude toward celebrity even as the press goes gaga.

No matter the obstacles, if Kilmer forms an exploratory committee in the weeks ahead, New Mexico will be back in the national spotlight--whether it likes or not.

Sen. Sanchez
So why the switch? ABQ Dem State Senator Bernadette Sanchez took a walk earlier this month when it was time to vote in Senate Judiciary on the hyper-controversial domestic partners bill, but Monday she did an about face and voted for the measure. No tie this time. Bernadette's switch means the bill passed 6 to 5 and goes to the full Senate for a vote.

Friday we blogged a poll conducted for the NM branch of the ACLU that showed support for the bill running at better than 60 percent in Sanchez's district. And then there was Governor Big Bill who has made domestic partner legislation an important priority. He appointed Bernadette's daughter, Briana Zamora, to ABQ's Metro Court in December. That was not part of the media reports, but our Alligators made the connection. You wonder if the Guv mentioned that when he did some last minute lobbying of Bernadette prior to the vote.

And although she is not up for election until 2012, she has always been a Senator who frets over re-election, even though she has had easy recent races. The gay community and progressives could cause her headaches in a Dem primary election.

Sanchez still has to decide if she will vote for the measure on the Senate floor. She is sounding uncertain, saying because the bill involves marriage it should be heard by the full Senate. Will we be blogging about yet another about face? Stay tuned.


Tom Udall
Is New Mexico's Udall being shortchanged while Colorado's Udall prospers? So asks reader Jake Arnold, reacting to that Los Alamos Monitor editorial asserting that NM Dem Senator Tom Udall's committee assignments are not that alluring.

Compare former Congressman Tom Udall's assignments with those of his cousin, (new Dem Colorado Senator) Mark Udall, also a former congressman and also elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008...Mark Udall got a subcommittee chairmanship (National Parks Subcommittee) on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee. Tom Udall has no subcommittee chairmanships in the U.S. Senate over his Colorado cousin.

Interesting points. Maybe Tom can slip some New Mexico stuff under cousin Mark's door.

Meanwhile, is there any doubt that Los Alamos Labs is not going to be to the state's 21st century economy what they were to the 20th? The downsizing started under Bush and Obama wants it to continue. The best we can seem to hope for is a gradual downsizing. (Lab insiders post blog comments here.) Los Alamos--errors and all-- was a Pete Domenici protected operation. Without that kind of congressional patronage, Los Alamos appears defenseless. We expect our reps in Washington to begin lowering expectations about the Labs' future. (Well, maybe not tomorrow, but soon.) Don't say we didn't tell you.

Working the beat
Today is the first day ABQ candidates for mayor start collecting petition signatures as well as thousands of individual $5 contributions. The signatures (about 6,500 needed) and small donations (aboput 3300 needed) are necessary to qualify for the October ballot and get public financing. Former Dem ABQ State Senator Richard Romero will mark the occasion at noon with an official announcement of his candidacy. His campaign tells us as of last week he has concluded his paid lobbying in Santa Fe...

We worked with KOB-TV and reporter Jeff Maher on the mayor story on Monday. Jeff was interested in Mayor Marty's possible hopes for the Guv's office as well as his re-election chances. One minor note: We said we are hearing that the next step for a Kilmer Guv candidacy would be the formation of an exploratory committee, not that he is definitely forming one.

One of our readers--a judge-- e-mails in this news item about Pennsylvania judges jailing kids for cash with this addendum:

"Once again, this just shows that New Mexicans are ham & eggers when it comes to pay to play."

For the uninitiated a "ham and egger" is code for pretty ordinary.

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