Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Insider Says Val Testing Guv Waters With New Poll, Plus: Speaker Chats Up Blog on Outburst, And: Doings At Downs, College Of Santa Fe And More 

He has slipped out of sight since making a number of appearances at the Roundhouse and elsewhere, but apparently the idea of seeking the 2010 Dem Guv nomination has not slipped from the mind of actor Val Kilmer. One of our reliable insiders reports a poll is currently being conducted or has just concluded that appears to be sponsored by Val.

I do not know who is doing it, but they were mainly testing Kilmer's negatives. Then did a head to head match-up with Lt. Governor Diane Denish, Kilmer and and Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. I would be very curious about the results as I know you are.

Curious is an understatement, Mr. Insider. If anyone wants to leak that poll to us, we are ready to get all wet.

Kilmer's possible candidacy has been met with a lot of scoffing and ridicule. But money and name ID in politics is not to be ignored. As for Leader Sanchez, insiders see a possible Guv run by him as unlikely. However, he would not have to give up his Senate seat to do it, so we'll keep the possibility on our radar.


Those who attended the recent Bernalillo County GOP dinner report former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson was there, but was not chatting up a possible run for the 2010 GOP Guv nomination. Whether that is a sign of her intentions or not is a guess. Our insiders are split on whether Heather will indeed make a go of it. Financial consultant Greg Zanetti is appealing to the conservative wing of the party that gave the US Senate nomination last year to Steve Pearce and left Heather out in the cold.

Campaign pros say Wilson, like Kilmer, might want to do some polling before making a decision on the Guv's chair. They point out that no strong R's have yet announced for the three US House seats. If none do, that will make turning out the vote that much more difficult for the R's next year. With high name ID Wilson can watch and wait for several more months, but not too long. Zanetti was busy speaking recently to the ABQ Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.


Our edgy Alligator who on Tuesday's blog got inside the story on why NM House Speaker Ben Lujan exploded in rage at Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith at the end of the legislative session drew the Speaker's attention. Lujan told us in a phone interview that it is correct that the Branch family development company of Santa Fe would have been a beneficiary of his amendment that was killed by Smith, but he wanted to stress that he never had any contact with the Branch's about the amendment and that if it passed they, like any other developer, would have had to "go through the process." Lujan said he brought up the amendment at the request of a constituent but it was not the Branch's.

The amendment would have allowed local governments to issue bonds to finance "eligible enterprises" including private developers. It would have applied to the Santa Fe Railyards where the Branch firm is involved in development and where construction of an Imax movie theater recently stalled out.

The Speaker also pushed back on that Gator's info that Rep. Debbie Rodella helped trip up the legislation and that he was also Debbie's godfather. He said Rodella voted for the legislation when it came before the House and that he is not Debbie's godfather. "I don't know where they got that one," he mused. In response, our informer said: "I can't explain, except Debbie and her husband Tommy refer to Speaker as her godfather."

As for the Rodella vote, a lawmaker's vote doesn't always tell the whole story. Our Gator said the proposal "met with opposition" from Rodella. We'll try to find out more.

In a face to face confrontation, Lujan called Smith "a racist SOB" for saying the Lujan amendment was "suspicious" but the Speaker said he will not apologize for the remarks unless Smith also apologies. "I think an apology has to go both ways." He said. Lujan has "retracted" the comments he made.

We might need Big Bill's diplomatic skills to bring those two together, even if Bill's relationship with the Legislature isn't all that great.

Lujan also said he remained supportive of SunCal's efforts to pass a controversial "TIDD" to expedite development on over 50,000 acres of ABQ Westside land, but he said he does not know if the company will come to the Roundhouse for a third time to try to win passage.

Another note on the Speaker Lujan blog from Tuesday. Our report mentioned the name "Moctuma" Esparza. A reader writes that it should be Moctesuma Esparza. And it is Northern New Mexico College, not the Northern NM Community College" as we wrote in our first draft..

Because this relatively new Alligator got the thrust of the big story correct and broke the news of who would benefit from the legislation that caused such a stir, we will administer 10 lashes with the wet noodle for the godfather error and the foggy explanation of the Rodella stance, but will not yet place this Alligator on probationary status.


This is a really wild idea. If SunCal decides not to purse development of over 55,000 acres of Westside ABQ land, how about if the federal government buys it for open space? We did a triple take when we heard that one. And how about if Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich sponsored legislation to buy the land? That caused another triple take.

SunCal paid $250 million for the old Atrisco Land Grant, but the defeat of that TIDD by the Legislature has the company considering its future options. No matter what they decide, we would expect Rep. Heinrich to tread very cautiously if the idea of getting involved in this deal crosses his desk.


We broke the story here a couple of weeks ago about the Downs at ABQ halting its move to a planned $65 million racino in Moriarty. The Legislature approved a two year delay, but increased the Downs' lease payments to NM Expo where the track and casino are located.

Meanwhile, at least one state Racing Commission member wants to know more about why the Moriarty racino is not being pursued. There are plenty of questions. Such as: When is the commission going to have a full-fledged hearing on where financing for this project stands? Should the project be opened to other bidders? What is the governor's position? Have bank loans been applied for? Have they been approved or rejected? What about buying the land from the King family for the racino? Where does that stand? And, finally, when will our Racing Commission give a complete and full report to the state?


Old-timers will recall that the College of Santa Fe had to sell off land in the early 80's to solve financial woes. Fast forward a quarter of a century and the College is back on the fiscal death bed. The Legislature did not step forward to save it so now Big Bill has formed a task force to come up with a plan to keep the College open which is home to about 800 liberal arts students. The college has mortgaged what land it has left and is deeply in debt.

Did you notice that Kathleen Peters, wife of mega-Santa Fe developer Gerald Peters, major Friend of Big Bill, is a member of the College's Board of Trustees? Just wondering if this connection might somehow surface as the Guv weighs ideas on what to do with the college---and its land.


We do our best, but when it comes to NM campaign finance that is rarely good enough. It's like that Conrad novel--Heart of Darkness--where you travel deep into the jungle without navigation. But thanks to our readers we eventually get it done, which leads us back to our Tuesday blog on the campaign reports of NM House Speaker Ben Lujan.

First, operating without Starbucks near the Midnight hour, we mistakenly linked to a list of top 100 contributors to the campaign of the Speaker's son, Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan. We apologize for that.

Then there is the Speaker. He has a campaign fund for his state House campaigns and a "Speaker's Fund" he uses to give money to legislative and other candidates. We linked Tuesday to what we said was his candidate fund. That showed a balance in December of $75,000. Actually, that was his Speaker's fund. His campaign fund has $141,ooo in cash. Here is that link. The Secretary of State's office says it wasn't our fault-- the reports were mislabeled leading to confusion. They called it a "vendor error." I'll say.

As for navigating the SOS's Web site for these reports, it is not easy. Even the ABQ Journal's Thom Cole who has lived on the site in recent months to compile a series of stories on finance, says it is a confusing maze and in need of a complete redo. Cole even constructed his own data base to make sense of things. James Flores of the SOS office says a new site is being constructed, but he can't say when it will be completed.

A tip of the blog hat to Cole, Flores and the Alligators who gave us guidance in these arcane matters.

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