Thursday, September 29, 2011

Election '11: Greg & Jay: Hot Buttons Of La Politica Engage In Feverish Fight For Power, Plus: WIPP It Good, And: Hasta La Vista, Jerome (And Darren) 

McCleskey & Payne
It's rough and tumble time in City Election 201. Nowhere is that more evident than in the down and dirty, take no prisoners battle for the city council seat held by Republican Trudy Jones. She is getting a stiff challenge from former GOP Councilor Greg Payne. But it might be more accurate to call this a race between Payne, a longtime political consultant, and Jay McCleskey, the newly powerful political consultant to Governor Martinez, ABQ Mayor Berry and now Trudy Jones.

This little race, forecast to attract no more than 5,000 voters in the far ABQ NE Heights, has gotten notorious, with newspaper editorials decrying the bitter battle. The relationship between Payne and McCleskey, always rocky, has now, in the midst of heated political battle, disintegrated into something like a grudge match.

The stakes are high.

If Payne gets on the council he will not be an automatic GOP vote for Mayor Berry, disrupting the usual Republican majority. Then there would be the big hit McCleskey and his wing of the GOP would take if Payne pulled off the upset. The papers are already on Jay's trail, looking over his shoulder at the political action committee he has started for the Guv. Now Payne is pushing back against McCleskey who has been dubbed "the fifth floor" because of the influence he has with the Governor whose office is on the fourth floor of the Santa Fe Roundhouse.

McCleskey's latest mailer for the Oct. 4 election says, "Politician Greg Payne's behavior adds up to a disturbing pattern" and recounts Payne's financial difficulties from seven years ago. McCleskey is also working to spike GOP turnout in the district, with the belief being that Payne would have the best chance in a low turnout contest. An Alligator monitoring the action comes with this:

Jay is going manic, trying to spike the turnout to put Trudy over the top, but Payne is trying to capture the same voters Jay is turning out by cutting radio ads that don't explicitly promote his candidacy, but urge a vote against the Mayor's controversial bond proposal to build a $25 million sportsplex. It's an interesting tactic.

Still, it appears Payne could be outspent nearly 10 to 1 by Jones who has backing from the development and biz community as well as Mayor Berry.

The Journal's Dan McKay comes with one of the McCleskey-Payne campaign implosions--a mailer accusing Payne of sex harassment and which Payne has threatened to sue over.

On the newspaper front, the ABQ Journal has endorsed Jones. The Alibi goes with Payne.

Longtime observers have noted the tendency of both McCleskey and Payne to let their emotions escape and go over the top. In this battle--that has blood pressures soaring on both sides--the fella who can keep his cool in the final hot days may determine Trudy's future as well as the future philosophical underpinnings of Mayor Berry's administration.


There are 334,729 registered voters in the city. A ten percent turnout would equal about 33,400. That's the projected turnout by a number of consultants. There are four council seats up for election. The other serious race besides Payne-Jones also comes in a Republican dominated district. It features incumbent Brad Winter and Dem Bill Tallman. Observers see Winter in pretty good shape.

And some official news from the city:

The absentee ballot voting period for the City Election ends Friday, September 30. The City Clerk is encouraging residents who have not already applied for an absentee ballot to vote at any of the nine early voting locations or vote at one of 49 locations on Election Day (Oct. 4). The City’s nine Early Voting locations are open from 8:00 am. to 5:00 p.m until Friday, September 30, 2011. Information on the locations is available at the City’s public website cabq.gov.


We asked recently what the state's Congressional delegation was doing as Federal funding is slashed for the WIPP project in Carlsbad, resulting in 112 lost jobs this year. Senators Bingaman and Udall come with

Bingaman and Udall are appealing to Senate appropriators to increase funding levels for operations at the nuclear waste repository site...In a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Energy and Water, Bingaman and Udall acknowledged current budgetary restraints while emphasizing the need to consider the importance of the "two high-priority environmental initiatives" in New Mexico: WIPP and the cleanup of transuranic waste at the Los Alamos National Laboratory...The senators asked the subcommittee to increase WIPP funding by $30 million over the FY 2011 amount, noting the importance of maintaining a stable workforce at the facility and continuing to meet all safety requirements for nuclear waste...

Udall and whoever replaces Bingaman in 2013 better get used to writing these kind of letters. Federal funding is under assault. Unless the pipe dream of thousands of private sector jobs miraculously materializes, we are going to need congressional reps to apply the muscle to keep this state in the black.

Jerome Block, Jr.
La Politica bids farewell to Jerome Block, Jr. and the melodrama that swirled around him these many months. He took us right to the brink, narrowly avoiding becoming the first public official in state history to be impeached. Attorney General King (and a host of other politicos we're sure) talked sense into the forlorn Democratic Public Regulation Commissioner and enticed him into resigning with a plea deal that keeps him out of prison. For New Mexico taxpayers, the worst is over. We won't have a million dollar legislative impeachment investigation.

Maybe Jerome can have a resignation party now and find a little peace. We suggest they serve enchiladas at that party and not chimichangas which Jerome ran into trouble over when he charged a couple of the delicacies to his state credit card.


Another high level politico who had to face the resignation music is making a reappearance in the headlines. Darren White, who resigned as the city's public safety director after questions arose about him interfering at the scene of his wife's July auto accident, pronounced himself fully "exonerated" by a city council requested Inspector General report into the accident.

The report says Darren's presence at the scene was "intimidating," but he did not "interfere" with law enforcement. Okay, well maybe he should have interfered by encouraging a sobriety test for his wife, instead of escorting her away.

But that's all water under the bridge. At last report, Darren was wrapped in the warm embrace of Governor Susana's team, having secured a plum consulting contract at the Downs at ABQ. That's located at NM Expo where Darren buddy Dan Mourning is the interim state fair director. But that has nothing to do with getting that Downs contract. Just like showing up at the scene of your wife's auto accident when you are in charge of the cops and the firemen is the most natural thing in the world to do. Right?


Dem State Sen. and ABQ congressional candidate Eric Griego continues to buff up his liberal credentials. He's been endorsed by Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus. Griego rival Marty Chavez comes with a celebrity endorsement--Bryan Cranston of the popular TV series "Breaking Bad" which is filmed in ABQ. Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham is also running for the Dem nomination.


Apologizes are in order today to Dana Feldman who works for the ABQ cultural affairs department but who we erroneously blogged would be the new PIO for Mayor Berry. We mixed up our Danas--or in this case--Dayna.

Dayna Crawford Gardner is the new PIO and we posted details about her on our corrected Wednesday blog. Dayna replaces spokesman Chris Ramirez who we are told will become the deputy secretary in the state Tourism Department.

(It is not true that Rob Perry and the City Hall gang were jumping for joy over our error. We have it on good authority that they are much more magnanimous than that. Okay, we're making a big leap there).

By the way, according to Ancestry.com, "Dayna" means "Light as the Day." That's a good start for someone charged with dispensing info to the press and public...

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