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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Heinrich's Possible Guv Run Plans Could Be Preempted By Something Hard For Him To Resist; The Inside Scoop From DC, Plus: Loretta's PERA Loss, And: The Year Was 2008 

Sens. Heinrich & Manchin
Senator Martin Heinrich has not explicitly said he will seek the New Mexican governorship in 2026, if he is reelected to his Senate seat in 2024, but it's an open secret that that is his plan. Now, however, there is a wrinkle in that plan for the still far off election. There's a chance Heinrich could get a significant DC promotion that he might not be able to say no to, even if it means foregoing a run for Governor. 

Heinrich, 51, is currently fifth in Democratic seniority on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, usually a far cry from the chairmanship but circumstances have arisen that make Heinrich's ascension to that plum spot more reasonable than usual. Let's dive in. . . .

Energy Committee Chairman Joe Manchin is wrestling with his political future and reporting indicates the conservative Democrat from West Virginia may soon be through with his party: 

Manchin and his family said. . . the senator was considering three options: running for reelection in West Virginia as an independent, running for president as a No Labels candidate or retiring from politics. Manchin has not decided what path to pursue, but it seemed clear to those he met with that he is likely to leave the Democratic Party if he chooses to stay in politics. . . 

That is potentially major news for New Mexico politics as well as for billions in federal funding for the state's national labs and other installations operated by the Dept. of Energy.

BREAKING IT DOWN

It breaks down this way: Manchin leaves the Democrats and his committee chairmanship. The Dems remain in the majority after next year's election. Under seniority the chairmanship would fall to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, but Wyden is already chairman of the powerful Committee on Finance. He could not also chair Energy. The betting is he would keep Finance. 

Sen. Wyden
Next in line is Washington state Senator Maria Cantwell who is up for reelection next year and is a heavy favorite to win. However, Cantwell is chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. If Wyden doesn't want Energy it would fall to Cantwell who would have to give up her current chairmanship. Would she? 

If Wyden and Cantwell turn it down next up is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. The 82 year old has not announced his reelection. He can be expected to run and win but if he doesn't he would be off of Energy and bumping UP Heinrich in seniority behind Wyden and Cantwell. 

Like Wyden and Cantwell Sanders also has a plum chairmanship. His is the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. If he stays in the Senate, that's not a position the independent Senator who caucuses with the Democrats is giving up, given his long interest and support of American Labor. 

If all those dominoes fall then Sen. Heinrich would finally be in line for the chairmanship of a major standing committee of the US Senate. It's difficult to imagine how he could turn down what would be a dream job helping lead national energy policy--a subject that has always animated him, along with the environment. And those are priority issues for this new generation of New Mexico Democrats who are repeatedly supporting Heinrich. 

Apart from the massive changes occurring with fossil fuels, renewable energy and climate change, the Energy Committee is important to New Mexico because of those national labs--Sandia and Los Alamos. Former Senator Jeff Bingaman was a longtime chairman of the committee as was GOP Senator Pete Domenici.

DISMAL OR JOYFUL?

Sec. Haaland
Heinrich has not quashed the Governor rumors leading analysts to doubt his enthusiasm for his current job, but a chairmanship in the middle of the key issues of the 21st century could revitalize his DC ambitions. 

While he faces an easy 2024 reelection bid, his feelers for the '26 Governor's race have been greeted tentatively by some top Dems. One reason is the possible Guv ambitions of former ABQ US Rep and now Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland. At last word from solid sources she remains "highly interested" in the position.

Heinrich's 14 year DC career (he was first elected to the House in 2008) has been workmanlike but has not sparkled. His deep interest in energy matters accompanied with the chairmanship of a powerful standing committee of the Senate would drastically change his status and also get New Mexico back into the power circle. 

Readers may be surprised to hear that Heinrich is currently a chairman of a committee--the Joint Economic Committee--but it is an advisory panel that monitors the economy and does not legislate. Heinrich rarely comments on the committee's work. He may agree with those who call economics the "dismal science."

If the cards fall his way next year the state's senior Senator could finally be in a much more joyful position. 

SPEAKING OF. . . 

Jeff Bingaman. He turns 80 in a couple of days and recently authored a book on his Senate career--Breakdown: Lessons for a Congress in Crisis. . .

LORETTA'S LOSS

Here's an eyebrow raiser. 

Loretta Naranjo Lopez, a longtime member of the Public Employee Retirement Board (PERA) and who is seeking the ABQ City Council District 2 seat at the November 7 election, has been voted off the board. In unofficial results she lost to Stephen Astorga, 59 to 41 percent. Naranjo Lopez served on the PERA board since 2005. She was censured several times by fellow board members. We blogged her history August 21

The year could get even tougher for Loretta, head of the Santa Barbara Martinez Town Neighborhood Association. The front-runner for the council position is Joaquin Baca, a member of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. The other candidate in the race is retired teacher Moises Gonzalez. Here's a 90 minute District 2 debate sponsored by the Old Town and Sawmill neighborhoods. 

THE YEAR WAS 2008

Election Night 2008
Finally, in keeping with our top theme today, here is some of our traditionally breathless Election Night coverage from the November 5, 2008 blog when Martin Heinrich claimed the ABQ congressional seat for the Democrats:

(The Democrats) most satisfying win and the one they showcased for the 10 p.m. news audience was the historic win of Democrat Martin Heinrich for the ABQ congressional seat. After decades of heart breakers often led by high-profile candidates, it was the unheralded Heinrich, a former one term ABQ city councilor, who finally ended the GOP's 40 year old stranglehold on the seat. What was supposed to be a cliffhanger quickly turned into a rout. When the early and absentee vote was released Heinrich took a nearly 30,000 vote lead in Bernalillo County. You could see the white flags go up at the ABQ Marriott where state Republicans gathered. Into the early morning hours Heinrich held to a 31,000 vote lead--161,551 to 130,101 with 55% of the vote to Darren White's 45%. The champagne poured at the ABQ Convention Center where the Dems rejoiced, but the liquor turned to embalming fluid at the mournful gathering of R's.

"The liquor turned to embalming fluid." Yeah, we were really hoppin' that night. 

The year was 2008. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2023

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