Monday, June 15, 2009

Scrap Breaks Out Over Plum NM Federal Job; We've Got The Inside Scoop, Plus: Heather On Facebook, And: ABQ Congress Action 

Obama, Brunner & Apodaca
A behind the scenes scrap has broken out over a plum NM federal job and our inside sources and Alligators have the story. The showdown is between Terry Brunner, state office director for NM Senator Jeff Bingaman, and Robert Apodaca, head of the local government division of the state Department of Finance and Administration. The duo is competing over the post of State Director for USDA Rural Development, a job that pays $145,000 a year and keeps the occupant busy traveling the state and supervising over 50 employees in six state offices.

At first ABQ's Brunner, a Chicago native and an early and fierce supporter of President Obama, was the only contender, but then Apodaca, the former Capital Outlay Manager for the state, put his name forward, reportedly telling friends in an e-mail that besides being qualified, the position has traditionally gone to an Hispanic Democrat when the Dems control the White House. Steve Anaya, nephew of former NM Gov. Toney Anaya, is among those who have had the job in the past. But Brunner's backers say he is equally qualified, if not more so than Apodaca, having served under Bingaman for better than seven years where he has directed a staff of twenty. He also holds a Master's in Latin American Studies. And, he is the choice of his boss, Senator Bingaman, and the job is traditionally filled by the state's senior Senator. The emergence of Apodaca complicates the traditional order and our insiders say it has created some tension between Bingaman and Governor Big Bill who is said to be in Apodaca's corner.

The ultimate decision is made by the White House so the insider infighting puts Obama on the hot seat, too. He wants and needs to stay friends with Jeff, but also does not want to offend the important Hispanic constituency.

Both Brunner and Apodaca are at an age where an impressive showing in the spot could perhaps be used to launch future political endeavors. That gives the competition an added dimension as D.C. power players weigh the dispute.

Will either Brunner, 38, or Apodaca back out so this uncomfortable political knot can be untied? Insiders are closely watching, but they point to that long tradition of Senate patronage and power as key to the outcome. That favors Brunner as long as Bingaman sticks to his guns. If Apodaca is to get the position, Brunner would have to be jettisoned in a way that does not make the senior Senator appear any less senior. Not easy. Count on La Politica to have even veteran senators grabbing for the Excedrin.


Former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson is keeping her toe in the water for the 2010 GOP Guv nomination. Now she has a Facebook page. News of it was sent around to the politicos by her former press secretary, Enrique Knell. Heather has been working as a consultant on national security since leaving the House seat at the end of '08, but her name continues to circulate as a possible for Guv, especially if there is more legal trouble for Big Bill's administration--that means indictments.

Meantime, Heather's rival for the '08 GOP US Senate nomination--former southern NM Congressman Steve Pearce--will reportedly make a decision by June 30 on whether he will be on next year's ballot. That's from Pearce's friends who see him taking on Dem US Rep. Harry Teague in a bid to get his old US House seat back. Much less likely, but still possible, is launching a bid for the Guv's chair. Pearce served a couple of years in Santa Fe as a legislator, but has never voiced much interest in the state's top job. That's not the case with the Congress where he won three terms before capturing the Senate nomination and then getting defeated by Dem Tom Udall.


There's already some action in the ABQ congressional district. Republican Jon Barela is the first potential GOP candidate to fill out official paperwork for the Federal Election Commission for the seat held By Dem Congressman Martin Heinrich. Barela recently conducted a small fund-raiser and told us he would be forming an exploratory committee. The FEC filing confirms his interest. But he's not alone...

ABQ Funeral home owner Kevin Daniels has not gone away. Well, he did spend some time in Mexico with his wife recently to celebrate the couple's wedding anniversary, but the insiders say Daniels is set to announce his own bid for the GOP ABQ Congress nod around mid-July.


The new Raton racino will be a big deal for the community in the far north. Here's in-depth coverage from the Raton Range on recent approval of the racino. As of mid-2007, Raton's population was estimated at 6,584. That's an 8 percent decline from 2000. The racino is projected to create 300 jobs.

Raton was the home of the state's first racetrack in 1946. It brought in loads of out of state visitors. Hopefully, the new facility will also attract tourists who will pump money into the area economy. The idea is not to shift money to the racino from existing businesses. Perhaps the state can help Raton with an out of state marketing push and get those Texans (and Coloradans) in there and spending.

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