Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Feds Dig Deep In Pay To Play Probe, Also: Michael Sanchez: Protection From A Dem Doomsday? And: Politico Judy Basham Remembered 

Denish with Bill
The wide-ranging federal investigation into state pay to play allegations continues in New Mexico, with the FBI and US Attorney's office digging deep--apparently very deep. Political insiders are abuzz about how they or their friends have been contacted by the feds who are asking about services they provided for Governor Richardson's political action committees. Records of even minor expenditures have been subpoenaed and then questioned by FBI agents, according to our reliable Alligators.

Against this backdrop, the positioning for 2010 continues and maybe, just maybe, some Dems argue, it isn't a bad idea for the party to have two or three candidates on the gubernatorial field. The reasoning is that front runner and Light Guv Diane Denish is well-positioned to take the nomination next June, but what if this federal grand jury comes with indictments? Would any of the mud splash against her? And if it did, could it endanger her electability?

It's an unlikely scenario, but one that is out there and perhaps provides additional legitimacy for a candidacy by State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez who has started an exploratory committee for the 2010 Dem Guv nod. Those concerned with the Democrats retaining power and not a particular Democrat can be heard expressing relief that there is a back-up if a doomsday scenario were to unfold. (We talked about Sanchez soon forming a Guv committee on our April 28th blog. Here's a New Mexican piece on the latest).

Our e-mail delivered some initial reaction to Sanchez's more serious approach to a Guv run from a Hispanic Dem connected to the party and a supporter of Denish's:

This puts a lot of us Hispanic Dems in a weird, awkward position. Many of us are supporting Lt. Gov. Denish and have pledged our support, money, time...She has essentially tied up much of the Dem support and money...It would be a pretty heavy lift for Michael to run for Guv. I think that he knows this too, and is doing this because he likes the attention. If Di stumbles he may have a chance, but it would be weird.

Well said, but "weird" is not a word on the endangered list when it comes to describing New Mexico politics.

Of course, the timing of these matters is unknown. But if indictments came over the next three or four months, any trials would probably take place about a year later--right smack in the middle of the Guv campaign. If there were to be a doomsday scenario for the Dem front runner, say the handicappers, it would be best if it happened before the June primary, so the party could put in a pinch hitter. It may be far-fetched, but it may be enough to get Sanchez in the race and keep him there. Di may have the envelope licked, but the deal is not yet sealed.


From Jeff Bingaman's office:

Senator Bingaman will take part in a meeting Tuesday with President Obama at the White House to talk about health care reform legislation being written in the Senate. Bingaman is the only Democrat who is a member of both the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Senate Finance Committee --the two Senate panels tasked with writing comprehensive health reform.

Bingaman is also chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and doesn't seem to have many strong critics about the job he's doing there. Roll Call ran a piece on how he is performing and the harshest words that came up were actually pretty mild:

“Bingaman seems to be more focused on the deal than what needs to be done--he’ll say one thing but then [later] it will seem like he never said them,” an energy lobbyist said. “Domenici would make a concession and then try to work around the concession. Bingaman will make a concession and then walk away from it.”

Don't look for Jeff to be the the savior of Sandia or Los Alamos Labs. He will do his best to hold off the dogs, but those were Pete's babies. Also, with none of our congressional members holding seats on either the Senate or House appropriations committees, NM remains vulnerable in Washington. But you already knew that.


The newspaper did its first round up of names that are circulating for top offices in the state for 2010. Looks like they had most of them, but they may want to check with Kevin Daniels who has indicated a GOP run for the Heinrich ABQ Congress seat.

As far as we know, the paper does not have a political writer on board yet. Jeff Jones left the post a couple of months ago. Some names that might make a good fit include Sean Olson who wrote the round up piece today; Rene Romo, the Journal's southern NM reporter; Trip Jennings, a former Journal scribe who now works for the online NM Independent; the Journal's Thom Cole, but he is already on the investigative beat; Julie Ann Grimm is doing strong Santa Fe City Hall coverage for the New Mexican and Ashley Meeks and Diana Alba of the Las Cruces newspaper might be ready for a larger stage. Of course, now that we have mentioned these names, the "kiss of death" has been administered to them. That's similar to what usually happens to political candidates the Journal endorses.

(UPDATE: It will be reporter Sean Olson taking over the political beat. He tells us: "I just started this week. Before this I was covering water and land use for the city desk.


Judy (Encinias) Basham was a stalwart of state politics, an "insider's insider" might be an apt description for the energetic and well-liked Las Vegas, NM native. She had a lengthy government career during which she rose to become state personnel director under Governors Anaya and King. From Santa Fe, Butch Maki recalled that Judy started out in Governor King's first term in the early 70's when she befriended Bruce's wife, Alice. Judy was employed by Maki's consulting and lobbying firm when she died Thursday from injuries she suffered in a car accident that took place when Basham was driving to ABQ from Santa Fe. (Obit here.) Basham, 70, also worked the last several legislative sessions for House Speaker Lujan.

Basham came in under Bruce King, but also served in the early 90's as an aide to then- Congressman Bill Richardson. She loved the campaign trail and traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire for Richardson's '08 presidential campaign and she served on the Democratic Party's State Central Committee. Party chairman Brian Colon mourned her loss:

I fondly referred to her as my "abuelita." Her caring way and smile reminded me of my grandma. Judy led a life of service and was a positive force in New Mexico's political landscape. She was always encouraging and supportive--especially when it came to getting young folks involved in the Party.

Maki said Judy had all the contacts. "When we needed a contact in a particular area in New Mexico, we went to Judy. What a Rolodex she had," remembered Maki.

And what a run she had in her beloved La Politica.

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