Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Heinrich Hoping For Another Blue Year, Plus: VP Biden Headed Here To Help, And: Desperately Dissing Di; Foes Freak As Window Starts To Close 

Rep. Heinrich
It was one year ago this week that New Mexico turned blue--electing an all Democratic congressional delegation for the first time in generations and handing the state's five electoral votes to Barack Obama. Flash forward to today and we have US Rep. Martin Heinrich practicing how to handle his red--red chile that is as he works his ABQ district, preparing for his first re-election bid. How's he doing here? He seems to have the proper technique--ably dipping the sliver of tortilla into the bowl of red and using his left hand to catch any spillage of his precious cargo.

His probable 2010 GOP foe, attorney Jon Barela, is a Las Cruces native who probably prefers green chile, given his childhood proximity to Hatch and its legendary chile crop. He would also prefer to have more green in the bank. He raised about $107,000 in his first full quarter on the campaign trail. That's not enough for the pundits and Alligators who are not putting the Heinrich-Barela contest on the same political pedestal as the southern congressional contest. It seems Heinrich--who has about $630,000 in cash on hand compared to Barela's $142,000--is going to have to make a mistake or two to let Jon get through the door. And Heinrich spilling red chile on his white shirt probably won't do the trick.


We're hearing the Vice-President of the USA, Joe Biden, is slated to do an ABQ drop-by in the next week or so. Heinrich will be sure to have his white shirt laundered of any chile stains for his hug from Joe who will raise campaign money here for both Heinrich and US Rep. Harry Teague. It will be Biden's first NM trip since becoming #2. Can #1 be far behind?

Meantime, Valley Alligators report Heinrich will very soon announce a major outreach to that heavy Hispanic area where Barela will strive to make inroads.


Rep. Lujan
There seems to be more tension between Heinrich and fellow NM Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan than there is between him and Barela. Not that there is all that much between the two thirtysomething reps. But we did notice that Martin's recent announcement that he has been a key player in working to get the Indian Health Care System (IHCS) reauthorized was followed shortly after with an announcement on the same subject from Ben Ray.

He put out his own news release saying he and southern Dem Congressman Harry Teague were also working hard on that reauthorization. What? No mention of Martin in that release. Well, there was no mention of Ben Ray in Martin's news release either, and Heinrich also scored major TV coverage for his efforts.

Those familiar with Lujan's northern district know it has one of the biggest Native American populations of any district (nearly 20 percent), so it was no wonder that he would be sensitive if it appeared he was being one-upped by Heinrich--whether intended or not.


A day after he was busted on the blogs (see our Monday report), freshman ABQ Dem State Senator Tim Eichenberg was doing a quick backtrack over his comments that Light Guv Denish could not be elected Governor because she has not done enough about the various pay to play scandals. After major heat resulted from the heresy, Tim came with this:

I find it unfortunate that my comments were used to create division among Democrats and the Democratic Party, I will continue to support both! I realize my comments have stirred emotions on both side of the aisle but I hope they will provoke continued discussions on ethics reform, transparency and accountability.

As Lt. Gov Diane Denish continues the fight to bring meaningful ethics reform to Santa Fe, I will proudly vote for her proposals to make government more transparent and accountable to the taxpayers. She can lead New Mexico into the future and there is no doubt in my mind who I will vote for in November.

Tim's clarification comes on the heels of the state GOP seizing on the comments to diss Di. He probably did the right thing politically. Imagine if Denish is elected and she has on her desk the 2011 legislative redistricting bill. She might have had a red pencil out for Eichenberg's swing senate district. (ABQ Journal coverage here.)

Not that all Democrats are singing for "She's a Jolly Good Fellow" over the prospect of Denish running away with the Dem Guv nod and perhaps taking the prize next November. Since former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson announced last week she would pass on the race, there has been a sense of panic in some Dem and R quarters as they see the window closing on their ambitions.

Wilson's decision makes Denish's election more likely and all those who looked desperately for a well-financed Dem foe to take her out next June are not liking the way this thing is shaking out. They've--desperate D''s and R's--have even refloated the possibility of a Dem challenge to Di by Attorney General Gary King, who is about as likely to take that bait as an overfed catfish.

You can't blame the politicos. If Denish takes it in 2010, she could go for re-election in 2014 and be in there until the start of 2018! That would bottle up a lot of political ambitions--too many for some now watching from the sidelines. Expect more sparks.


Down south, preparations for the Battle Royale continue. Let's check in on the latest national spin on Dem Rep. Harry Teague vs. Republican challenger Steve Pearce.

The southern race remains on the WaPo's top ten list. It comes in at number seven, meaning the Post analyst sees it as the seventh most likely to vote out its incumbent. While that is not good news for Dem US Rep. Harry Teague, who is being challenged by Republican Steve Pearce, it is an improvement. The race was previously ranked as the fourth most likely to switch. Election analysis is always an educated guessing game, but it can influence a candidate's ability to raise money. Here's the WaPo take:

Pearce (R) collected north of $500,000 in third quarter fundraising, a total that affirmed his status as one of the strongest challengers in the Republican stable. We continue to believe that Teague's (D) vote in favor of cap and trade legislation will haunt him in this oil and gas-heavy district but Teague's personal wealth--he put nearly $2 million into the 2008 race --is an X-factor that can't be disregarded. (Previous ranking: 4).

GOP Chairman Steele
We see possibilities in the upcoming ABQ visit of Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, featuring ABQ Republican Mayor-elect RJ Berry as the special guest. Maybe Chairman Michael can give RJ some tips on how to handle that frisky trio of GOP city councilors--Winter, Lewis and Cook--who have become the nucleus of the opposition to Berry even before he takes office. Well, we'll see. Meantime, here are the details on Steele's visit:

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele Friday, November 13, Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town 800 Rio Grande Boulevard NW With Special Guest Albuquerque Mayor-elect Richard J. Berry 6:00 pm Cocktail Reception 7:00 pm Dinner. 505-298-3662

The new GOP national chair has his work cut out for him here. He wants to build on that Berry win as the R's are shut out of the Guv's office, the congressional delegation. all the major statewide offices, except land commissioner, and their numbers in the Legislature declined again in the '08 election.

Steele may often be controversial, but he's never boring. Expect a strong turnout for his first New Mexico appearance as party chief as he works to fire up the party faithful.


Still more for you on the tracking of the flights of the $5.5 million state jet that ferries the Governor and other state officials about. ABQ Journal reporter Thom Cole, whose column questioning why flight info is blocked by the state kicked off the dispute, takes us full circle to--we think--conclusion of the back and forth. Here's his email:

There appears to be some confusion regarding the decision by the State Police and the state General Services Department to block online data for use of their aircraft. There were two major features to the data: in-flight tracking of aircraft and flight histories for aircraft. The security concerns of the state dealt with the in-flight tracking feature, but the state's decision to block the online data also means that flight histories are no longer available online for government aircraft.

It is true that that information can still be obtained from the state. But having to go to the state for the paper documents on aircraft use is much more inefficient for me and others interested in tracking aircraft use. Also, there is a cost to taxpayers when the state has to provide the paper documents.

Okay, all those willing to disclose their flight path in exchange for a ride on Bill's jet, please raise their hands.


Reader reaction now to that proposal floated here Monday by State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez that we raid the state's Land Grant Permanent Fund for $2 billion to bail out the state budget for the next several years. Sanchez told us he expected opposition to the bombshell proposal, and he was right. Reader Kevin Garcia is a prime example:

I’m disappointed to hear of yet another Legislative effort to raid the Permanent Fund. It’s always the same old song –“Think of the Children.” If we had listened to all the legislators who have sung this same “song” in the past fifty years in their attempts to raid this fund, then we would have nothing in the Permanent Funds today!

Since the Senate and House both went along with Governor Richardson’s spending binge, they should both be held accountable to make tough decisions when the party’s over. No one likes cleaning up this mess, but I for one am sure glad that these Permanent Funds--which generate millions every year to fund education--were protected for future generations. They are called “Permanent Funds” and not ‘Rainy Day Funds” for a reason, and I can assure you many New Mexicans feel the same, and will not vote for such a raid on these funds even if our Legislators do...


We said in our first draft on that Sanchez proposal that it would take a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to place the constitutional amendment on the ballot. That's incorrect, as pointed out by several readers, including ABQ Dem State Rep. Mimi Stewart:

Interesting read this morning. But it only takes a majority of those elected to pass a constitutional amendment, 36 in the House, 22 in the Senate.

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