Thursday, March 19, 2009

Grim Reaper Banished From State Law Books; The Politics Of The Repeal, Plus: Mayor Race Update, And: 2010 Campaign Trail 

Down with Death (NMI photo)
We think we know why Big Bill decided to sign the bill repealing the death penalty. After Manny Aragon, Robert Vigil, Michael Montoya, the CDR affair and the housing authority scandal, the Governor feared that Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico would form a hanging party for the state's wayward politicos. Someone had to stop this prospective carnage.

Well, we don't mean to make light of the situation, but the Guv's action (complete statement here and video here) was largely symbolic. Only one person has been executed in the state since the US Supreme Court reinstated the measure in '76 and 14 other states have also abolished the penalty. Still, for the many impacted by serious crime it is an emotionally explosive issue, and the Guv stayed away from that minefield as he inked the repeal measure at the top of the 6 p.m nightly newscasts.

Regardless of my personal opinion about the death penalty, I do not have confidence in the criminal justice system as it currently operates to be the final arbiter when it comes to who lives and who dies for their crime. If the State is going to undertake this awesome responsibility, the system to impose this ultimate penalty must be perfect and can never be wrong.

ABQ Dem State Rep. Gail Chasey, longtime death penalty foe and repeal sponsor, was invited to the signing as was a representative of the Catholic Church, an historic foe of the penalty and a major voice on the social issues of the day, especially in the northern and central portions of the state.


The repeal of the death penalty does not seem to signal any significant change in the centrist to conservative stripes our state sports when it comes to social issues. The Legislature just this session again defeated a domestic partners bill and socially conservative State Senator Tim Jennings was chosen as President Pro Tem in the upper chamber over a more liberal opponent. Also, the votes for the death penalty were there before Obama's 2008 election, but Richardson used his political acumen to keep the bill from reaching his desk because it could have complicated his own presidential campaign. The Guv could lose a few points in the popularity polls because of his decision, but as we have mentioned, he doesn't have to face the voters again and his popularity is already languishing at 41 percent in the SurveyUSA.

For Light Guv Diane Denish the signing of the repeal might be a positive for her 2010 Dem Guv run. Her support of the repeal was not popular among conservative Dems who she will be asking for votes in the primary, nor did it sit well with Republicans who often used the death penalty as an organizing issue. With the repeal on the books, it would seem the issue has lost its political punch and Denish can move on. Don't hold us to that if an especially heinous crime occurs. Calls for reinstating the death penalty could then become a rallying cry and place the issue front and center in campaign 2010.


Reaction to the news that Santa Fe Dem Senator Peter Wirth--formerly of the state House--was chosen to present the campaign contribution limit bill that passed the Senate. From a City Different Gator:

I noted your piece about (Dem Santa Fe State Senator) Peter Wirth and how he presented the campaign contribution limit bill that passed. I wasn't sure if you were tongue in cheek on that one. When Peter ran for Rep. Max Coll's House seat in 2004, he received $25,000 from one couple, Andrew and Sidney Davis. Andrew Davis is with the firm Davis Selected Advisors. Most legislative races usually didn't bring in that much in total. If you recall, Max's ex-wife, Sally Rodgers, tried to run for the seat, but Peter's deep pockets blew her out of the race...All is well that ends well. Sally is now the ombudsman at the state Energy, Minerals Department. And Andrew Davis has built himself a huge mansion on the east side of Santa Fe...

And that, dear reader, is what you call an Alligator strike.

As for the bill limiting individual campaign contributions to state candidates to $2,300, it is now in the House after being passed by the Senate.


ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez has had a lock on the developer and home builders vote and he wants to keep it hat way. Witness the Mayor's proposal to the city council that would slash "impact fees" for construction projects. The mayor says the city would not lose money from the proposal because the city is mired in a recession that has essentially halted home building, Cutting the fees, he says, could stimulate the economy. It could also stimulate his campaign for re-election. Republican RJ Berry happens to own a construction company, something some of Chavez's supporters might find appealing come October.

Chavez operatives are taking the Berry candidacy seriously. They interviewed some of the out of town paid operatives apparently hired by the R's to gather the required donations to get him on the ballot. They see it as a sign that Berry's candidacy lacks grassroots support in the city he wants to lead. Here's the video. The fun has begun, folks...


Republican Steve Pearce might like to have his old US House seat back, but it would take a lot of money and Steve still has an ample debt from his unsuccessful run for the US Senate against Tom Udall last year. Federal records show Pearce, who represented the southren congressional district before giving it up for the Senate run, still owes $224,000 from that ill-fated outing. Running for the House will cost in the neighborhood of $3 million.

Also complicating Pearce's planning is Lea County. New Dem Congressman Harry Teague hails from that southeastern county as does Pearce. It is usually reliably Republican and critical to a GOP southern win. But if Pearce challenges Teague he can't expect to walk away with over 65% of the Lea vote. The question is where would he make up those votes in the sprawling district? Teague shows a debt of nearly $1.8 million, but he owes most of that to himself. We don't recall Steve writing any checks from his personal account.


Probable 2010 GOP Guv candidate Greg Zanetti is already on the road, stopping in Roswell for this interview with the Daily Record. what that's about Keynesian economics, Greg? Well, he has a long time before the June 2010 primary to make things simple.


This is the kind of stuff that can happen with government money---

"Rio Arriba County Can't Find $47,000 in Equipment Bought By Former Emergency Director."

With a ton of federal cash being dumped on the state, watchdogs will have their hands full.


Some semantics here. A spokesman for Presbyterian Healthcare Services says those layoffs we mentioned Monday--four percent of the 9,000 member work force--were actually accomplished through "attrition"--not filling positions as they became vacant. Seven senior executives were laid off. There's more Pres news. They are delaying construction of their planned Rio Rancho hospital because of the tight credit markets...Let the record show the Senate adjourned at 12:37 AM Thursday after passing a state budget of $5.5 billion, a cut of nine percent over 2009. When was the last time we saw anything like that? Senators made few changes from the House approved budget they worked from.

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