Tuesday, January 12, 2010

UNM Regent Koch Says He's Ready To Face Senate, Plus: Mayor Action In Santa Fe & ABQ, And: Death Calls For NM Gov't Veteran Maralyn Budke 

Jamie Koch
University of New Mexico regent Jamie Koch tells us he expects the Senate Rules Committee to conduct a long-awaited confirmation hearing on his reappointment during the 30 day legislative session that begins next Tuesday. He said he welcomes the opportunity to address the ongoing controversies at UNM, and he indicated his continuing dispute with UNM faculty could also come up. The faculty last year passed no confidence resolutions in UNM President Schmidly and Koch, a Santa Fe businessman and veteran state political power player who is a former Dem Party chair. The Guv asked Koch to step down as president of the regents and he complied.

The confirmation hearing would be conducted by the Senate Rules Committee which is chaired by Dem State Senator and lieutenant governor candidate Linda Lopez. She was chastised in this corner for deferring a hearing on the Koch nomination in the '09 session. Legislative oversight of of the university and its budget has been minimal, despite campus upheaval over the direction of the school. The Rules Committee would report the nomination out for a full Senate vote or kill it in committee, which is not expected.

Koch says he does agree with his critics on one point--that UNM is too top heavy with administrators and he has urged Schmidly to address the issue.


So how does a Republican like David King become chairman of the powerful NM Public Regulation Commission, despite the five member panel having four Dems? Dem commissioner Jason Marks explains:

PRC Chairmanship does not rotate by rule, it goes to whomever has three votes to be Chair at the start of each year. Since the election of Jerome Block, Commissioners Jones, Block, and King have allied themselves into a voting block. They've worked out amongst themselves who they've wanted to be chairman and vice chair last year and this year. I did not cast a vote for their slate.

Commissioner Block and his father, Jerome Sr, are under indictment on election-related charges. The trial is slated for late March.


Reaction to that blog we posted last week speculating about which of the five Hispanic Dem Light Guv candidates might be able to capture a large chunk of the Anglo vote and become the favorite to take the nomination. Supporters of State Rep. Joe Campos argue he is the natural to consolidate that vote because his East Side legislative district is filled with conservative Anglo Dems that have supported him in an area that in the past has gone Republican. We do note that in this campaign Campos has gone from "Jose" to "Joe." Of course, we can't complain about that first name a bit--no matter the language.


Rep. Teague
Harry Teague has his share of problems defending his southern congressional seat from an aggressive challenge by Republican Steve Pearce, but money does not yet appear to be one of them. National Dems are so far outraising national R's for the congressional battles ahead:

The DCCC out raised the NRCC this year by more than $18 million, according to FEC figures at the end of November. The NRCC has only $4.3 million left in its campaign account-with more than $2 million in debt — leaving it with just a pittance to fund the dozens of races it hopes to aggressively contest.

Meanwhile, Teague says he has hit the $1 million milestone in his fundraising:

Before the clock struck midnight on New Years Eve, we reached our year-end fundraising goal of 1 million dollars...Your support before our critical FEC deadline has sent the clearest possible message that our campaign has the momentum going into 2010.

To which a member of the Steve Pearce camp snipes:

So does this mean he only raised $75k because he already had $937k last quarter?

Pearce reported $459,000 in cash on hand at the end of September. Teague had $757,000.

Santa Fe attorney and politico Geno Zamora, 40, has a new gig. Zamora, who placed second to Gary King for the 2006 Dem nomination for attorney general, has been tapped by Santa Fe Mayor David Coss to become city attorney. Zamora moves over from the state economic development department. He is a close ally of Big Bill who he worked for as legal counsel. At 40, Zamora still has room to run politically, but he is on hold for now. Ben Ray Lujan has a lock on the northern congressional seat and Gary King will seek another four years as attorney general.


Mayor Coss has grappled with a crime wave and a ravaging recession during his first four years at the helm, but his campaign is circulating a poll that shows him with support of 42 percent of the voters and his two opponents in the March election lagging far behind.

On Monday Coss picked up the endorsement of the labor union AFSCME which represents 800 employees in Santa Fe. Still, we remember last year when AFSCME endorsed another incumbent--ABQ Mayor Marty Chavz--and he fell hard. Coss is the heavy favorite, but a lot of emotion is running through the electorate. We wouldn't put this one in the bag for him quite yet.


Meanwhile, here in the big city, ABQ Mayor RJ Berry is pegging the shortfall for the budget year that begins July 1 at a whopping $54 million. As a result, a day of reckoning may finally be coming for the public safety agencies. Berry is meeting with union leaders for the police and fire departments to talk about previously approved salary increases. The unions are unlikely to recommend giving up anything, but they have to be aware that public safety is now consuming over half of the city's $475 million budget. They have been treated with kid gloves because of the extreme fear of crime around here.

Mayor Chavez was a softy for APD and fire because, in part, as a Hispanic Democrat he needed political support in the city's conservative and heavily Anglo NE Heights. Republican Berry has that support and it is firmer. Charges that he is soft on crime are not going to resonate. However, if he can't get the salary concessions, he may have to resort to layoffs and/or furloughs. That's when it would get touchy, with police and fire arguing--as they always have--that they should be exempt. Berry might want to line up council support before he goes there, but if his $54 million deficit projection is not hype, the time to cut the fat in ABQ public safety budgets is here and now.

This is the new mayor's first foray into politically risky territory. You can say the times are forcing it on him, but you can also say he isn't trying to shove the problem under the carpet.

Budke (N.Mexican)
Before Diane Denish, Patsy Madrid and Heather Wilson, there was Maralyn Budke. She was a rarity in 1960's New Mexico politics--a female chief of staff to Republican Governor Dave Cargo. In the 80's she reprised that role for GOP Governor Garrey Carruthers. In between she served as director of the Legislative Finance Committee for 14 years, helping to make it the major voice it has become in state government.

Budke, 73, was claimed by death at her Santa Fe home Saturday after a battle with cancer. We asked federal lobbyist Bruce Donisthorpe, press secretary to then-Gov. Carruthers and who worked under Budke, for his thoughts on this important career in La Politica:

Maralyn knew how to figure out the end-game in the legislative process and how to position issues...She also knew how to use the legislative process effectively to out-position and out-strategize her opponents...When I worked in the Governor's office, very few people ever arrived to work before she did...She learned her trade at the right hand of several of New Mexico's finest and most capable politicos, most notably David F. Cargo, Aubrey Dunn and John Mershon.
Maralyn made the Legislative Finance Committee what it is today--the most powerful and influential committee in the entire Legislature.

Budke, who had family wealth, worked for Gov. Carruthers for $1 a year. That proved to be quite the bargain for the state she devoted her life to and another of the details that earned Maralyn Budke a chapter in the never-ending book of La Politica...

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