Monday, November 26, 2012

John Sanchez: Watch Your Back; Possible GOP Primary Foe To Light Guv Already Surfacing, Plus: Yates Vs. McCleskey; Nasty GOP Split Playing Out In Open 

Randy Baker
Lt. Gov. Sanchez
Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez is no stranger to the treacherous waters of La Politica and he may soon be wading in them again.

Even though we are only days from the conclusion of Campaign '12, the positioning and power playing for '14 is well underway.

For Sanchez, our Alligators report that could mean facing a serious challenge for the 2014 GOP lieutenant governor nomination--if he indeed decides to go for a second term and forgo a run at the '14 Republican US Senate nomination.

The name already surfacing as a possible challenger to Sanchez is Randy Baker, vice-president and chief operating officer at DRB Electric, the ABQ based company owned by his wife Denise Baker.

It's no secret that Sanchez has been frozen out of the Martinez administration. Even though they were paired as the 2012 GOP ticket, the relationship was frosty from the beginning. The Guv's political team made it clear that that they did not want him. But he won the primary handily and ascended to the state's #2 spot.

The Martinez-Sanchez victory was the first by an all Hispanic gubernatorial ticket.

Now Sanchez could face a well-funded challenge from Baker who has said nothing officially but has been talking up a possible candidacy, say our GOP Gators.

The Bakers are major friends of Martinez. Susana named Randy Baker to the Constructions Industries Commission where he became chairman. Denise Baker was appointed chair of the New Mexico Finance Authority by Martinez but had to resign in July when she was  busted for DWI. Subsequently, the agency imploded in a major scandal.

Yes, it is somewhat astonishing that we are hearing chatter of a coup attempt against Sanchez so soon after the Governor's major political setbacks in November. She was unsuccessful in changing the composition of the Legislature, even though the PAC operated by her team spent millions. And GOP unrest is growing in the wake of those results, with calls for Martinez to stop challenging fellow Republicans and to rein in her aggressive political consultant Jay McCleskey.

Still, Martinez is nothing if not relentless and her prosecutorial political personality is a hallmark of her first two years. Sanchez will have to watch his back.


It's not as if Sanchez isn't aware of the back room treachery that is apparently under way. He just announced more mobile office hours for the office of Lt. Governor, keeping his profile up and asserting his independence from the administration that has kept its doors closed to him.

The news:

Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez is pleased to announce a series of “Mobile Office Day” hours beginning next week, with stops in Santa Rosa, Tucumcari, Clovis, Portales, Hobbs, Carlsbad, Artesia, and Roswell. At each stop, Lieutenant Governor Sanchez will be available to meet with constituents and provide assistance with issues related to state government.

Sanchez made a brief run for the 2012 GOP US Senate nomination, but quickly folded his tent in the face of a strong challenge by Heather Wilson.

That campaign hurt Sanchez with the political community because he seemed unfocused and disorganized, but the disarray did not seem to penetrate public consciousness, leaving Sanchez
a possible contender for another try. Could he decide he's had enough of being Light Guv and make another Senate dash by seeking the '14 GOP nomination for the right to take on Dem US Senator Tom Udall?

Sanchez, who owns a large ABQ roofing business, was the 2002 GOP nominee for Governor and friends of his say he has not given up that dream. That makes the run for Senate possible but questionable.

As for any Light Guv challenge from Baker, a Republican friendly to Sanchez says,

John is not intimidated. He has more than a decade in this game and knows how it is played. He is out in the state doing what you must do to keep your head above water."

That water Sanchez is keeping his head above is filled with sharks...and Alligators.


Harvey Yates
One of the more worrisome political splits facing Governor Martinez is the one between former New Mexico GOP Chairman Harvey Yates, Jr. and her chief political adviser Jay McCleskey. It is being played out in the pages of the state's newspapers and it seems likely that it's only the beginning of the public battles McCleskey faces.

Usually political consultants keep a low profile, but McCleskey is not your usual political adviser. His nickname "Shadow Governor" is well-deserved. But he is playing with political fire by deciding not to ignore Yates' recent criticism and bashing him back. In response to that critical op-ed from Yates, McCleskey retorts:

The ads were entirely factual, issue-based, and an accurate representation of the record, which is why the voters agreed and rejected (Roswell Dem State Senator) Tim Jennings. Unfortunately, Harvey Yates is using this campaign as an opportunity to lash out, because he is bitter about his lack of influence with the Martinez administration.”

"A lack of influence" with Susana? Is that Jay rubbing Yates' face in the dirt and letting it be known that he is the one with the influence? Sure sounds that way. And this after Yates in 2010 was widely accused of playing up Susana at the expense of her GOP primary challenger and former NM GOP Chairman Allen Weh. Those days seem so far away now, don't they?

McCleskey made a small fortune this cycle--as much as $500,000--according to our political experts--and maybe he's feeling his oats, but half a million is tip money for Yates. His family's SE NM oil company is on the sale block for billions. Still, Martinez is giving her political consultant free reign to take on whoever he wants. But it will be she who ultimately must deal with the strained relationships and the open warfare in the state GOP that is sure to follow.

In fact, it's already begun. We broke the news last week that Lincoln County GOP Chairman John Billingsley is openly running for state chairman as the anti-McCleskey candidate.


A reader writes of the personnel shuffling underway in Governor Martinez's office:

Joe: Regarding your Wednesday November 21st blog titled "Fourth Floor Shuffle" watch for Dona Ana County District Attorney Amy Orlando to get a state appointment. Amy is Susana's friend who lost her re-election bid to Democrat Mark D'Antonio this month....

Orlando was chief deputy district attorney for Martinez who was Dona Ana district attorney before becoming Governor. Now that Orlando has lost and is in need of a job, Susana giving her one would be about as surprising as red chile on your tamale. (You do use red, don't you?).

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