Monday, August 03, 2009

Power Play: Colon To Resign As Party Chair Wed.; To Make Race For Light Guv; Who Is New Chair? Test For Denish? And: Contest Winner Cools It With Coke 

A crowded race for lieutenant governor is about to get more crowded and the Democratic Party of New Mexico will soon get new leadership as party chairman Brian Colon joins the race for the nomination for the state's #2 position. He will resign Wednesday as party chair, inform several Alligators, and shortly after begin his first quest for elected office.

The Democratic Party Central Committee will meet within sixty days of the resignation to pick a new chair. Colon was re-elected for a second two-year term earlier this year.

Colon, 38, was originally tapped for the party chairmanship in 2007 by Big Bill. However, Lt. Governor Diane Denish, the party's likely 2010 Dem Guv nominee, will want a major say on who will replace Colon and help guide the party in the crucial 2010 election year.

Insiders are already waiting to see how Denish and Richardson work together on selecting a new chair. Any tension between the duo could quickly become part of the narrative of the Guv campaign, making Di's road to the nomination less sanguine and Bill's legacy in his own party less than what he would hope.

David Montoya
The initial word we are getting from top placed political sources is that Bill will defer to Di. The duo has had a somewhat rocky relationship, but Bill, they say, does not want to be placed in a position where he is blamed for picking a chair who is not fully supportive of Denish and causing the Dems general election problems. The Light Guv remains the presumptive nominee.

A variety of political consultants, Alligators and wall-leaners are saying Denish would be well-served to have a Hispanic named to the position, reflecting their majority strength in the party and continuing to shore up a potential weak spot in her political resume.

Newly elected Sandoval County Dem Party Chairman David Montoya, CEO of defense consulting firm Manzano Strategies, has told friends he will seek to replace Colon. Montoya is a fervent backer of Denish, but insiders are waiting to see who else emerges, especially any major contender from the party's progressive wing. They are also waiting to see how Denish handles her first major political duty as she moves to become the titular head of the Democratic Party as Big Bill transitions out. She's no stranger to the game, having served as party chair herself.

KKOB radio reporter Peter St. Cyr says two other names are also about: Martin Suazo of Las Vegas and Victor Raigoza, who has run for the state senate several times. But Montoya, who has several family members working with the Obama administration is seen as the top-tier contender out of the starting gate.


Colon, a trial attorney, can argue that under his watch the party scored historic congressional and presidential victories. The state's congressional delegation is now all Democratic and Obama won the state big. He can also argue he bridged the divide between party centrists and progressives. But Colon's fund-raising ties to Governor Big Bill are already being talked about among his rivals. With federal investigations into fund-raising here, ethics is a hot button issue. And the party's 2008 presidential caucus, under Colon's direction, turned into a fiasco when the party ran out of ballots and the resulting delays in voting brought Colon unwanted national attention.

Still, insiders say Colon will enter the jammed-up Light Guv race as a top-tier contender because of his political skills, his network within the party, name ID built by being party chair and an ability to raise money. That last criteria is becoming critical in this contest.

Colon also has another advantage. It takes 20 percent of the March pre-primary delegates to get on the June 2010 primary ballot. As a party chairman he will be well- positioned. If you are denied at the pre-primary, you can still get on the ballot by gathering petitions. However, no one has ever gone on to win the primary after being forced to go the petition route.

Colon's entry follows Light Guv news from Lawrence Rael, executive director of the Mid-Region Council of Governments. Rael recently announced his first fund-raiser which had a number of trial lawyers listed as hosts. That is support that Colon is also courting. Rael has yet to make a formal announcement of his candidacy, but his presence is likely pushing Colon to throw his hat in the ring now. Neither man has previously sought elective office.


Already in the Light Guv race are ABQ State Senators Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Linda Lopez and Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano. Insiders say that Colon's entry signals that State Auditor Hector Balderas, a close friend of Brian's, will indeed seek re-election to a second four year term as auditor and not go for Light Guv. Balderas has scheduled his first fund-raiser.

Friends of Santa Fe's Javier Gonzales tell us he is not likely to get in. Espanola Mayor Joe Maestas continues to float his name. ABQ State Senator Tim Eichenberg's name is also out there. He is the only prominent Anglo name being heard. Northern Senator Pete Campos is another on the possible list. And there are even more possibles contemplating a bid. Some will fade by the fall, but the positioning is creating a summer political pastime.

The Dems have historically balanced their Guv ticket ethnically, with one Anglo and one Spanish surnamed candidate. Colon has a Spanish surname, but is of Puerto Rican descent and does not come from a New Mexico family. However, he has been here since grade school and grew up in Bosque Farms.

Conventional wisdom has it that Denish would best be served by a Hispanic male Light Guv nominee, preferably from one of the northern counties. But if not from the north, definitely of Hispanic heritage.


Expect PR executive Doug Turner, a possible for the 2010 GOP Guv nomination, to soon file papers to form an exploratory committee, rather than going all in with a formal candidacy. Turner says he has received contributions of over $5,000 and state rules mandate a committee. All Republicans are keeping a close eye on the camp of former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson. She has the big foot that will keep a shadow over the race until she announces her plans.


Mayor Marty late Friday announced a resurrection of sorts of Eclipse Aviation, saying the once robust very light jet maker will likely be sold out of bankruptcy for a paltry $40 million. He said the company "intends" to rehire some workers here, but is anyone not skeptical after all of the political and economic capital New Mexico gambled and lost on Eclipse? But it's a free country and--we think--still a free enterprise system. If Eclipse can somehow take off, we wish them luck. But more of our tax dollars for cash or tax incentives? Would they have the gall to ask?

One of the weirder defenses we have heard about the Eclipse failure goes something like this, "Joe, they were around for a couple of years and employed people during that time, so it wasn't all that bad.."

But that is not how Eclipse was sold to taxpayers who provided $19 million in cash and tens of millions more in incentives for the start-up. It was to be the heart of an aviation cluster that was to be the center of a new manufacturing industry for the metro area. Now, we are getting this dumbed down argument. Of course, it does not account for the social and economic costs of the mass unemployment that resulted from the Eclipse collapse. As the President said over the weekend:

"Even as we rescue this economy, we must work to rebuild it stronger than before," he said. "We've got to build a new foundation strong enough to withstand future economic storms and support lasting prosperity."

And what about all those employees specially trained to work at Eclipse and that we're now told could not "potentially" be re-hired? KRQE-TV reports that former employees say no more than a quarter of the Eclipse work force is still around here.

Eclipse as the foundation of a new ABQ manufacturing economy was a product of the "go-go, trees grow to the sky" financial era of American history. Can the policy makers and the press fall out of love? Because as far as taxpayers are concerned, the relationship died a long time ago.


It all doesn't go down the drain. Here's something that should work:

Senators Bingaman and Udall and Congressman Teague announced that $9.4 million in immediate federal funds will be made available to build the Guadalupe County Hospital. The funds, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will go to replace the outdated care center currently in Santa Rosa. The new facility will house a 10-bed acute care hospital and medical clinic...

The hospital is the only emergency care facility over the 275 miles between Albuquerque and Amarillo. Total cost: $13 million which will be a federal loan to the county. Groundbreaking: November 2nd.

Santa Rosa, get ready to be stimulated.

Liz Gallegos & Me
What better prize to win in the middle of a New Mexico summer than some refreshing Coca-Cola? And that's just what blog reader Liz Gallegos did when she won our recent contest by correctly answering two brain-teasers related to New Mexico politics.

Liz and I met up with the Coke folks, including Vice-President Edward Lopez, to award her the prize under a sizzling July sun. He's no slouch--he had two iced ones ready for our enjoyment as we posed under the sun to congratulate Liz who took home in her car trunk a six month supply of coke products. Now when the heat of La Politica gets too hot, Liz can quickly cool off. And, of course, we suggest you do the same with your favorite flavor of Coke.

Thanks to all who entered the contest and to Coca-Cola for making it all possible. And we're not done with Summer Fun '09. VP Lopez says let's do it again--another six month supply of Coke to a lucky winner! We can't argue with that, so stay tuned for round two and your chance to win.

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