Monday, November 10, 2014

It's A Tripp; GOP House Takeover Goes From Surreal To Real As New Leadership Is Named, Plus: Gobs Of Post-Election News, Analysis And Reader Mail; Warning: Monster Blog Straight Ahead 

Rep. Don Tripp
The surreal is suddenly very real. After 60 years in the shadows state House Republicans are finally getting a taste of the long forbidden fruit--real power. Over the weekend they convened an historic caucus to select the first Republican to lead a legislative session since 1954. They selected Rep. Don Tripp of Socorro as their nominee for Speaker of the House.

The 68 year old is a legislative veteran--respected on both sides of the aisle--who was first elected in 1998. He was born in Pasadena, CA before the family moved to NM. They opened a small jewelry store in Socorro that became a success and which today Tripp owns along with other business interests. He earned a bachelor's degree from NM Tech in Socorro in 1969 and is married to longtime NM Republican National Committeewoman Rosie Tripp.

Come January the majority Republicans--37 to 33 Dems--will formally ratify Tripp as the second most powerful leader in the New Mexican government. It will be his call on what legislation goes before the 70 member chamber and it will be his personality and temperament that sets the tone.

Having set the stage, let's go to the politics. Tripp has been angling for the speakership behind the scenes. Months ago we mentioned him as a possible speaker if the GOP took control. Possibly standing in his way was ambitious 39 year old ABQ GOP state Rep. Nate Gentry. He is the House minority leader and a key ally of powerful Guv political adviser Jay McCleskey who has earned the title "Shadow Governor" for calling the major plays of the Martinez administration. The pair worked together to devise a strategy to win a GOP House majority this year.

But at Saturday's caucus Gentry was named Majority Leader not speaker.  He beat out Rep. Dennis Roche for the post. There was, however, no challenge to Tripp. That enabled the R's to put forward a united front in their first exercise of power.

(Rep Alonzo Baldonado was named majority whip and Rep. Kelly Fajardo was picked as Caucus Chair. Both are from Valencia County, part of which is also in Tripp's district).

The competition between Gentry and Tripp was nipped in the bud when it became clear Gentry did not have the votes, espseically after his re-election campaign in which he was brutalized by the Democrats over personal transgressions.

Still, Gentry, an attorney and former aide to former NM US Senator Pete Domenici, is known for his legislative agility and leadership abilities and will be a key player. Tripp will have to do a balancing act here--keep Gentry close but not so close that he is accused of being a figurehead Speaker and that Gentry and McCleskey are really calling the plays. . .

The state awaits to hear the legislative priorities of the Governor and the speaker before the legislature convenes in January. Tripp did signal to TV news that right-to-work legislation will be a priority. . .

One thing about Tripp that campaign reformers may like--he has spent little money getting re-elected, accepting relatively few contributions in his 15 years in Santa Fe. He spent only about $20,000 on his re-election this year. He beat his Democratic foe 71% to 29%. Of course, Tripp is in a safe GOP district. . .

Old timers will remember the fateful 1998 election that is ultimately responsible for catapulting Tripp into the historic position he is in today. He beat Michael Olguin, then the powerful state House Majority Leader, in a stunning upset that ended Olguin's career. The irony is that many felt Olguin was on the path to become Speaker. . .


GOP sources tell us that at Saturday's caucus Majority Leader Gentry urged those in attendance to support Rep. Zach Cook (Lincoln & Otero) for chairman of the NM GOP. John Billingsley says he will not seek another term. Cook, an attorney, will have the advantage in the race with backing from the Guv. Torrance County GOP Chairman Rick Lopez is saying he will also seek the chairmanship when the GOP Central Committee meets in early December.

Like its Democratic counterpart, the state GOP has been cash starved as money flows to independent committees and individual campaigns.


As poet Robert Frost might put it, we still have miles to go before we sleep when it comes to Campaign '14. It's a ton of post-election news and reaction so here we go. . .

Supporters of Dem Senator Tom Udall are sensitive to criticism that he could have done more to prevent the Democratic debacle We blogged about Friday saying Udall tended to his own re-election needs. Reader pushback:

I take offense to the statement) that Tom Udall didn't do his part. From the blog:

"Heinrich and the rest of the Dem congressional delegation saw the train wreck coming and did little. Senator Udall tended to his own re-election needs. ABQ US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham did do work for the state House candidates but could she have done more? Ben Ray Lujan stayed north. Could the delegation--by putting more into King's campaign--made the landslide less malignant?"

Udall went to every single one of those districts and campaigned for those house candidates - Emily Kane, Liz Thomson, Philip Archuleta, Mariaelena Johnson, Harrison Todacheene, the list goes on and on. He was there for them, often changing his own plans in order to campaign for these candidates. Implying that he selfishly ignored down-ballot races is just plain wrong.

Truth is, King's folks didn't want the help. Or more precisely, King didn't want the help. The Democratic Party and the Coordinated Campaign tried and King resisted. He refused to join the ticket as they toured the state, planned only his own events and didn't take Udall's outstretched hand even once.

Udall's camp points out he set up the Coordinated Campaign and pumped major money into it. Dan Sena who headed that effort for Udall said it provided the House and statewide candidates with all the important demographic and voter modeling info but in the end it was the "persuasion" efforts of the campaigns that led to the GOP takeover. 

We would only add that if someone--Udall, Speaker Martinez or the state Dem Party--had held their nose over their disdain for Gary King and diverted $300,000 to put up negative ads against Gov. Martinez in the final 10 days you probably would have trimmed her win to 55% instead of 57% and might have saved the House in the process. Dems might want to ask themselves why that wasn't done.

As for state Dem Chairman Sam Bregman, it's not necessary to recount his role in the Dem collapse. That has been done time and again for months. He went AWOL soon after he took over as chairman.


Reader Susan Loubet on ABQ Dem US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham:

I thought that Michelle did as much as she could and way more than she had to. She didn't have a race that she needed to really worry about, but she ran it as though she did and she geared that campaign to the local candidates that she could help. She was out walking constantly with local candidates who were in tight races. I don't remember Congressional candidates walking their districts at all, in the past.  There were some times when Michelle had to be in DC during the campaign, but I think that she was out campaigning with local candidates much of the rest of the time, as well as helping raise money. And, you know, that is the hard work-not just lending your name as an endorsement. 

Reader Norm writes:

If we're passing out blame, let's not forget the Democratic Party primary voters who gave King the  nomination. The delegates at the pre-primary convention clearly didn't want him. He finished in last place and it's hard to say in retrospect that the delegates didn't know what they were doing. And those primary voters having thus expressed the will of the rank-and-file, they then went fishing in November.

This game is going to continue, in New Mexico and almost everywhere else, until the electorate realizes that although politics can be disgusting, you can't opt out. . . 


One of the more devastating Dem losses was in the southern congressional district where Dem Rocky Lara--touted as an up and comer--was destroyed by GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce--65% to 35% That will end speculation that Lara will be a contender for the seat again in 2016. Reader Mike Davis piles on in this letter to Lara:

You would have gotten 35% of the vote if you had not campaigned one day or spent one single dollar--your name on the ballot would have guaranteed you that hard core Democratic base vote in southern New Mexico--like me. Even though I know Congressman Pearce and his lovely and warm wife well and they have always been cordial in all our dealings, I am not going to vote Republican.

The thing most people will remember about your campaign, sadly, is the constant wheedling, whining, whimpering and wailing about the need for more contributions that arrived at supporters' inboxes like me from you, your family, your staff, and a compendium of surrogates. That is why I requested repeatedly to have my name removed from your list serve, which finally happened after numerous attempts. Unfortunately, that meant I would not see information on your stance on issues, but I was fine with the trade off.

Man, this blame game can get rough and even rougher. From another reader:

Blame the Party for putting Gary King on the ballot in the first place. It's almost as though they purposely chose someone who they knew would get beaten. I blame Gary King for taking the bait. I blame the losers for not personally taking it to the streets and talking to individuals (you know...those pesky folks we call "constituents"), rather than crying about the lack of campaign funds for counter-ads. Mostly, I blame the Party leaders for being a bunch of self-serving, resume-building, lazy-arse, back-stabbing charlatans who are in it for anything but the "service" to the citizens of New Mexico. Signed, Embarrassed by my Party...yet again.

ABQ attorney Jeffrey Baker writes:

The Ds who are playing the blame game (it’s Gary King’s fault, it’s Kenny Martinez’ fault), and acting as if the sky is falling, should take a deep breath. A one party controlled House since 1954 is not a sign of good government. It is reminiscent of one party government in the third world, which is no one’s idea of anything positive. Sometimes change for change’s sake is therapeutic. Change provides an opportunity to take stock. New Mexicans have been addicted to one party legislatures much too long. Addiction is not healthy. Detox is never comfortable, but it is always necessary. Detox rarely kills the patient. Usually it makes her stronger.


At least one Democratic consultant had a good year--Mark Fleisher. All three of his candidates won Tuesday night. ABQ State Rep. Moe Maestas was not a tough one, but Dem Public Regulation Commissioner Sandy Jones won in a cliffhanger over Republican Ben Hall. And while two Dem statewide candidates were falling, Tim Eichenberg scratched out a victory for state Treasurer against Rick Lopez. Fleisher says his campaign winning streak is now 12 in a row. He's lucky Speaker Martinez didn't put him on the payroll or his streak would be gone.


For Veterans day:

Riverside Funeral Homes and non-profit Cell Phones for Soldiers Inc. are asking Bernalillo County residents to help troops call home by donating gently-used cellular phones. Although the military landscape is ever changing, as many as 290,000 troops are serving in the U.S. military overseas around the world. By donating to Cell Phones for Soldiers, New Mexico residents can provide troops with that precious connection to loved ones back home during the upcoming Veterans Day and holiday season. Beginning October 30, 2014 through Veterans Day, November 11, 2014, residents can donate their phones at both Riverside Funeral Home locations, 225 San Mateo Blvd. NE or our Los Lunas/Valencia County location at 820 Main Street NE, Los Lunas, NM.

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