Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Leading Sheriff Candidates Emerge, But Can Dems Do Deal? Plus: Bill's Pork Freeze: Prelude To Budget Veto? And: Dump The Double-Dippers? 

De La Cruz & Armijo--A deal?
Leading candidates have emerged to replace Darren White as Bernalillo County Sheriff, but it remains uncertain whether majority Democrats on the Bernalillo County Commission can overcome disagreement among themselves and put the office in the Dem column after nearly eight years of Republican rule.

Interviews with a variety of key players reveal that Cris Sanchez, a retired 23 year sheriff's lieutenant who narrowly lost the post to White in 2002, and 25 year ABQ police department veteran Conrad Candelaria, are at the top of the crowded heap, but neither has secured the votes to be appointed.

South Valley Commissioner Art De La Cruz has strong ties to fellow Valley resident Sanchez, but County Commission Chairman Alan Armijo is not sold. Maggie Hart-Stebbins is the third Dem on the panel. She may be poised to go along with her two fellow Dems if they can agree on either Sanchez or Candelaria.

Candelaria has now said he is abandoning plans to become the next NM US Marshal, a post he confirms he has interviewed for. He is now asking commissioners to appoint him sheriff to replace White who is resigning to become ABQ's public safety director. If he does not win the appointment, Candelaria says he will immediately begin a campaign for the Dem nomination in the June 2010 primary. White's second four year term runs out next year.


If Sanchez or Candelaria can't get the votes, there is talk that a "place holder" could be named. That would be a sheriff who would agree to finish out White's term but not seek election to a four year term in 2010.

But Democrats outside the commission, already stinging from their recent loss of the ABQ mayor's office, don't like the place holder concept. They argue--and with good reason--that the commission needs to appoint a top candidate who can immediately take command of the office and also launch an election campaign. With no Democratic incumbent, they reason, the Republicans will stand a decent chance of retaining the office.

Several R's have applied for the position, but since there are only two R's on the five member commission--Michael Wiener and Michael Brasher--an R contender would also have to have a Dem supporter. That is unlikely.

The commission is looking at November 24th as the date to make the appointment.

Candelaria & Sanchez
While there may be over 20 applicants, analysts point out that in order to have your name voted on you must be nominated by one commissioner and another commissioner must then second the motion. That restriction will probably limit the choices.

But hungry Dems want a deal cut beforehand and are hoping Armijo and De La Cruz can do one. Sanchez supporters argue it is his turn--that he was the '02 Dem nominee and has the requisite law experience. But Candelaria supporters think Sanchez is a weak candidate, pointing out that he ultimately lost to Republican White. They say police department commander Candelaria, at 43 and used to dealing with the public, will make a stronger candidate with more appeal than Sanchez in city precincts.

There is plenty of time for jockeying for all the possibles, including potential placeholders. But Democratic Party pressure will mount on Armijo and De la Cruz.
With 280 deputies and 100 civilian employees, this is one of the state's major law enforcement outposts. You don't often get a head start in trying to take it over.


The behind-the-scenes battle over naming a new sheriff is somewhat similar to the power playing going on over the nomination of attorney David Campbell for the post of ABQ's chief administrative officer. Campbell needs five of the nine city councilors to approve his nomination. The voters for him are not there yet, although Mayor-elect Berry says he is rounding them up.

Campbell's efforts to garner council support were slowed last Wednesday when his mother passed away in Phoenix. Here is the ABQ Journal obituary. It's been a month of wild swings for the 55 year old land use and corporate lawyer. He says he had accepted a US Foreign Service post when Berry won the mayor's job and offered him the CAO post.

Porky Pig
Is Big Bill's freezing of up to $150 million in capital outlay projects--commonly known as pork--a prelude to a veto of a big portion of the state budget shortfall measure approved by the Legislature last week? That was the question insiders were asking as they gamed out this latest poke in the ribs of the state's solons.

Richardson is complaining that agencies under his control have been ordered to cut their budgets by 7.6 percent for the budget year that ends June 30. Could he veto that order and ask that the Legislature use the pork savings to make it up?

He could. But the 7 percent cuts lawmakers want are "recurring." They would also help solve the next year's fiscal crisis. Canceling capital outlay projects, as Bill is requesting, would be one time savings.

Many of these projects are near and dear to legislators' hearts who use them as examples of why they should be re-elected. But we have over $1 billion in capital outlay money that has been allocated but not spent. The $150 million the Guv is asking to be cut is a tempting target. But legislators will argue their 7.6 percent cut to Guv-controlled agencies is equally compelling at a time when the state shortfall is in the hundreds of millions. Richardson's "freeze" will only have real-world impact if the Legislature agrees. Don't count on it.

Meanwhile, the Guv continues to make his case that he has cut enough on his resurrected blog.

Sen. Griego
We suggested in our October 20th blog that if progressive legislators concerned about cuts to education wanted to score some points they could take up the "pupils before pork" mantle. And one of them did. ABQ Dem State Senator Eric Griego managed to get a measure approved--"people before pork"-- that has the Legislature identifying $150 million in dormant projects that could be cut. But Big Bill argues that identifying them isn't good enough and slapped on the capital outlay freeze. But it might not last long. The Legislature will have review power when it goes back into session in January.

This latest volley in the budget predicament again highlights the need for the Legislature and Governor to make more changes in how we do capital outlay so dollars are not needlessly put in a lock box and stay there for years. The Guv's poking over pork also shows his relationship with lawmakers remains polarized, with less than 90 days to go before the most significant legislative session in several generations.


If furloughs or layoffs have to come to state government because of the budget crisis, reader Daniel Klein has an idea that could have some legs. He says those notorious "double-dippers"--state workers who are receiving a retirement check, but go back to work for the state and draw two paychecks--should be the first to take the hit.

Lay off the double-dippers first. Don't take a job from a person who has no other source of income. The double-dippers are already receiving their pensions and many are in very high paying positions. They got back in due to "connections," but they should not be allowed to stay in when a entry level person, struggling to support their family, might be laid off instead...

So will Governor Richardson go through the agencies under his control and look for the double dippers so he can meet that 7 percent cut legislators mandated? Heck, will he do it even if he vetoes the 7 percent cut? Or will he insist that folks making well north of $100,000 from two government checks must be exempted from any economic pain, even as the state budget deficit defies easy solutions?


We've found much of the analysis of the southern congressional race somewhat manic, with R's claiming the race between incumbent Dem US Rep. Harry Teague and Republican Steve Pearce is effectively over, and even some Dems looking to throw in the towel on Teague.

The Alligators have been calling this race a toss-up, and that is also the conclusion of Congressional Quarterly in their fresh look at the contest. CQ notes that both candidates are well-financed.

We think Teague probably reached his nadir in recent months with climate change and health care dominating the debate, but as we move on to other issues next year he should recover some. Pearce is still thought of as the congressman by many residents in the district, even though Teague won the seat in 2008. All of that is a sure-fire recipe for a heated contest.

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