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Thursday, March 31, 2005

High Drama Grips NM's Largest City; Police Cover-Up Scandal Claims Chief, Plus: Mayor's Race "Cracked Open?" The Blog Report: In-Depth & Hard-Hitting 

A rare atmosphere of high drama enveloped Albuquerque political circles Wednesday as an ashen-faced and somber Mayor Martin Chavez hit the airwaves with the announcement that embattled ABQ Police Department chief Gil Gallegos would be resigning. It was gripping theater with the Mayor's afternoon news conference followed by the chief's who promptly refused to acknowledge the elephant in the room and claimed to be retiring on his own accord. But the allegations of a cover-up at the APD evidence room enabled by Gallegos, and the inability of local prosecutors and investigators to get their arms around it, will now hit the national news wires bringing unwanted attention to the Big Duke City and a long-lasting black eye to nearly 1000 ABQ police officers.

Rather than putting a damper on interest in the scandal, the Gallegos resignation seemed to spark a momentary feeding frenzy. "This seems more like a beginning than an end," said one politico." Others disagreed: "The police in this town have always gotten off with a slap on the wrist. I expect this thing to wimp out with no indictments and not much else of consequence," rattled off another Alligator. But as the drumbeat builds that may be of small comfort to Nick Bakas, the former cop who is now Deputy Chief Administrative officer for public safety and was Gallegos' immediate supervisor. The mayor said "heads" would roll. So far, the crowd has one. Are they sated yet?


As Gallegos threw in the towel, the euphemism that evidence was "missing" became almost laughable. The gravity of the situation had finally hit home. The questions are these: "Did Albuquerque police officers steal evidence, namely jewelry, cocaine, electronics, plasma TV's, cash, gold coins and other valuables? And did they take that "evidence" and sell it to fences and profit from their thievery? In the case of the drugs and cocaine, did they use it themselves, or sell it?

Its baffling how these direct questions don't seem to get answered much when things like this pop up in our Enchanted Land. But they are as clear as a pimple on a nose. Certainly, they were ignored when ABQ District Judge John Brennan was arrested in 2004 for cocaine possession. We never did find out where he got the stuff. And now, with NM Attorney General Patricia Madrid's office doing nothing to indicate she is asking those tough questions, we are again left to wonder if potential wrongdoers will get the proverbial "slap on the wrist."

Jay Rowland, the guy in charge of hearing complaints about APD, will also investigate. Ex-Chief Gallegos and his cronies practically laughed in attorney Rowland's face when he had the temerity to suggest that some charges of wrongdoing by APD officers were actually true. Who's laughing now?

After expressing disgust and concern that APD is infected with the cover-up virus, politicos turned their attention to the political implications. After all, the Mayoral election is October 4. One point most agreed on is that the mayor's race, courtesy of apparent rogue APD officers and an either knowing or asleep-at-the-wheel chief, has cracked the race open.

"Marty has been sitting on the ball on this one. He's had decent poll numbers, money in the bank and not a whole lot going on. But public safety is the number one issue and this is going to force even casual voters to take a look at what is going on," commented one of our mayoral watchers.

One of those watching very intently is former Dem State Senator Richard Romero who, as we blogged this week, apparently conducted an in-depth poll on the possibility of jumping into the festivities. Word around town Wednesday was that Romero has been making fund raising calls and even invoking the name of Big Bill as one who has encouraged him to get in the thing. Oh my, Big Bill backing Romero! That would make for a very thick plot.

Meanwhile, perennial candidate and Big Bill crime adviser Bob Schwartz's name also cropped up yet again as a police department scandal is something a former district attorney might have a few words to say about. But could he get the money to get the words across? In the case of Romero, the cash tree can be shaken from the list of donors he cultivated from his losing congressional effort last November. Getting pro-Heather Wilson Republicans to vote for him might be more of a problem, but there is a sub-species of "moderate to liberal" R's that Romero might make a play for.


For Mayor Marty the scandal's timing could not be much worse, but the night before Gallegos resigned the mayor was hosting a $1000 a plate dinner with former Clinton cabinet member Henry Cisneros. One source said a conservative estimate for Marty's take was $100 grand. Now that's what you call a big damage control fund.

The only declared contender, Dem ABQ City Councilor Eric Griego, cannot be happy with a possible Romero entry as he will split votes with Eric in his downtown council district which is also part of Richard's former state senate district. The so far all-Hispanic field has the eyebrows raised from the Valley to the hills in the Heights. That's never happened before and the smart money was betting in yesterday's crisis ridden atmosphere that it could soon change. "A lone, strong Anglo candidate could consolidate the vote in the Heights and make a mayoral run-off easy," said one longtime politico.

But many don't think Schwartz is the Anglo to do it because he's been around the track so often and does not appeal to conservative Republicans who right now are being courted by Chavez with his pro-business platform. Still, Bob has got to be sorely tempted to take one more bite out of the apple, even if it means giving up the best paying job he has ever had.


If there is a "for real" investigation of the APD evidence room, you will see cops "singing like canaries," offered one source. Already, we have whistleblowers, the police chief thrown overboard and attorneys filing federal lawsuits left and right."

In his Wednesday farewell, chief Gallegos said he planned on enjoying motorcycle rides in the months ahead. But judging from the accumulating evidence, the "missing" evidence, the chaos and the back-stabbing going on in the APD, the felled chief may be spending his time in a much more stationary position--sitting in a hard-backed chair answering investigators'questions.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Who's In Charge In Santa Fe: Lobbyists Or Lawmakers? Bullington Affair Raises Questions, Plus: Even More On The Legend Of Lobbyist Pancho Padilla 

Inside The Capital
The saga of business lobbyist J.D. Bullington has raised a question worth pondering: Since when do lobbyists get to involve themselves directly in the legislative process and why are taxpayer paid staffers letting them do it? It's the flip side of the J.D. Bullington affair in which the lobbyist for the NM Association of Commerce and Industry (ACI) told Senate Finance Committee Chief of Staff Michael Burkhart to pull a bill from the committee's March 12 agenda because the bill's sponsor, ABQ Dem State Rep. Dan Silva, did not want it to be heard. At the end of the hearing, Silva said Bullington misspoke and things went ballistic. Bullington was out of bounds, but so was the finance committee. Why would they treat a lobbyist like a lawmaker? In his letter to ACI honcho John Carey rebuking Bullington, Burkhart said "he had no reason to doubt" J.D., but J.D. is paid with private money, not taxpayers, so while there may be no reason to "doubt" him, there is a reason to ignore him and let the people elected call the shots.

Meanwhile, Bullington emailed to say he was not "banned" from the Senate Finance Committee. Judging by letter to ACI he was correct on that score. Burkhart says he will "not work with" Bullington in the future or "allow him access to staff." It appears the lobbyist can go to the committee meetings. But after this, why would he want to?


For oldtimers, the Bullington affair brought to mind liquor lobbyist Pancho Padilla who back in the 60's exclaimed" "I own the Legislature" and was promptly banned. My recounting of that infamous incident brought quite a few e-mails detailing just what Pancho has been up to in the intervening years. Here's another update: "During Eluid Martinez' tenure as State Engineer, 1990-94, he hired Pancho under a part-time contract as a liaison with the acequias and community groups. Pancho was also helpful with arranging legislative meetings between Eluid and Pancho's proteges Ray Sanchez and Manny Aragon. He gave Eluid more stature with the legislature and advice on strategies in getting bills through the session," wrote a supportive Pancho Alligator.

Certainly, Pancho Padilla has earned himself a prominent place the never-ending book of La Politica. Can anyone out there tell us if Pancho was banned from the legislature by a formal vote, or just an understanding? Did he really "own the Legislature"? Aaah, that's a tale we'd all like to hear.


Reaction to our report yesterday regarding a possible primary challenge to Light Guv Denish by AG Madrid. One of our pros mentioned that Patsy had defeated Diane in a long ago race, but veteran political consultant John Daniel points out that is incorrect. In fact, he outlined the history between the two ladies; especially timely in light of recent developments.

1994 was Denish's first ever run for office. That year former District Judge Patsy edged Diane in a four-way primary--36% to 32%. Also prior to that '94 Lt. Gov. bid, Patsy had run a very strong primary race for Congress in ABQ (1988) when she was edged by Tom Udall by a couple of points. In the 1998 primary, Denish defeated two-term incumbent Secretary of State Stephanie Gonzales in a close race -- 51% to 49%. Bottom line: They're both mighty tough campaigners.

Thanks John. Diane and Patsy have been two of my favorites to watch over the years as well. Both have proven themselves to be top-level political pros.


A final note on all the Light Guv talk. Some supporters of Madrid wire in that they don't want her to seek the Lt. Guv spot because no #2 in NM has ever gone on to be elected governor. (Tom Bolack assumed the governorship) Does that mean Denish is doomed? Not really. Remember the hex about former vice-presidents becoming presidents? George Bush Sr. broke that 156 year old curse in 88', so why not the Light Guv one? And so it goes.......

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Rumblings Begin Over Light Guv Spot On 06' Ticket; Is It Now Or Never For Wannabe Future Guvs? You Decide, Plus: My Bottom Lines 

06' Ticket Or Not?
One insider with a soft spot towards Lt. Guv Diane Denish calls it a "medieval conspiracy" theory. But its been making the rounds loudly enough and long enough that it can no longer be so casually dismissed. And, if true, it could change the landscape of New Mexico politics in future years in profound ways. The "it" is the now persistent chatter among deep insiders that Lt. Guv Diane Denish could face a primary challenge next June in her bid for re-election.

At the top of the ticket, maverick Dem Bengie Regensburg has said he will challenge Big Bill, but that will be more entertaining than threatening. But in the case of Diane, as much as her supporters may not want to hear it, a Hispanic Democrat could challenge her. Here's another dose of reality: if it was a one-on-race the experts tell me she is not a lock.


The talk of a Denish challenge has resurfaced in light of the Legislative debate over pre-kindergarten. The Guv gave Diane the measure to carry through the Roundhouse, but midway it became clear that it was not going to be easy. "Pre-k ran into trouble and the Guv had to step in and use his own political muscle to help Diane rescue it," a highly-placed source in Santa Fe told me. Also, Dem House Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Cervantes raised eyebrows when he went public on Denish in his opposition, and while he is not eying a run at her job, the name of Diane's eternal rival, Patsy Madrid, has surfaced.

"Patsy is looking at running for the Congressional seat against Heather Wilson, but that looks like a tough battle. She really wants to be governor, but if Diane is re-elected with Bill, Diane will be solidly positioned to succeed him. Why not make the run against her next year and go for the kill," wondered one top Dem politico, echoing the thoughts of several NM political pros we consulted.

Far from being a conspiracy, this sounds like a realistic and sound political strategy for a Dem who hopes to someday occupy the fabled Fourth Floor.


"Diane has done a good job in Santa Fe, but she has never solidified her voting strength in the Hispanic North and as much as 50% of the vote in a Dem primary will be Hispanic. Madrid previously ran against Denish in one of the closest Light Guv races in history and the two have been intertwined ever since," analyzed one of the pros. Also, State Senator Linda Lopez, who was kept off the ballot by the Denish forces when she sought the Light Guv nod in 02,' is still around and could be another player to watch.

At first blush, A Big Bill-Patsy Madrid ticket sounds bizarre. Madrid has been the one Dem who has stood up to the Big Guy. But there is also news on that front. Big Bill himself has told associates that his relationship with Patsy has "improved" of late. At the same time, you get an inkling from the Madrid camp that peace is welcome. It is conceivable, if not likely, that Big Bill could stay neutral in any Dem fight for the second spot. That's another factor possible Diane opponents are said to be weighing.

Those who dismiss all this by labeling it conspiracy mumbo jumbo might take heed of that old axiom: "No one gives you power, you take it." Stay tuned.


No sooner had we blogged yesterday that NM was 46th in per capita income when brand new figures rolled off the press showing we've slipped back to 47th in per capita, according to hopeless political and economic junkie Harold Morgan. It's a stubborn number, isn't it?........Politician Greg Payne is posting on his blog the latest on the ABQ mayor's race and how it seems Dem Richard Romero may be giving a run serious consideration. Payne was one of those surveyed for a poll that had Romero's markings all over it. The former State Senator represented much of the same area in the senate that mayoral candidate Eric Griego has in his city council district

Corrections, complaints, compliments and other communication is always welcome here. Email me from the link provided at the top right of this page.

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Monday, March 28, 2005

Heather Off The Hook?, Plus: Pancho Padilla Lives! And: My Bottom Lines For A New Mexico Monday 

Rep. Wilson
The Prez's job approval numbers have dipped into the mid 40's and the head of the Senate Finance Committee says the White House Social Security reform plan is dead. For GOP ABQ Congresswoman Heather Wilson all that may actually be good news. If Bush's plan dies in committee it will never go to a vote on the House floor where she would be put on the spot. Wilson has been on the fence on whether to allow individuals to invest some of their Social Security taxes in the stock market. Dems have been nurturing the issue against her, but with this latest news they may need to find a way to keep it alive if they hope it to dominate next year's campaign.


After our Thursday report recounting the missteps of business lobbyist J.D. Bullington with the Legislature this year, we received tips on the legendary NM liquor lobbyist Pancho Padilla, who was banned from the Legislature back in the 60's for crying out in public: "I own the Legislature." Readers wanted to let fellow political junkies know that Pancho is still alive, in his late 80's and still holding forth with political tales at the ABQ South Valley political hangout, Barelas Cafe.

I also received word from a Senior Alligator in Santa Fe that Pancho was playing on the political scene as recently as 2002. Our tapped in source reports Pancho's son worked for the NM Game and Fish Department and that Pancho went to Big Bill seeking his help in keeping his son in the job which he was appointed to by Governor Johnson. Like any good lobbyist Pancho walked away with something. His son got to stay with the Democratic administration for a few extra months before finally being let go.


Another late night bout of writing in a delirium led to some of my readers learning on Thursday that the late U.S. Senator Carl Hatch invented the parking meter. Sharp-eyed early morning risers, like former Congressional aide Jerry McKinney and others, pointed out that it was Carl Magee, an editor of the ABQ Tribune who did the inventing on this one.


The NM GOP has bought itself a building for a permanent headquarters, a move that has prompted much bitching among the party that loves family fights. Nevertheless, the building is on Osuna NE in ABQ and will be named after the late Colin McMilllan, a lifelong R who served in the Legislature, in Washington and as NM party chair......NM is a very poor state. We all know that. But not all of NM. The most recent local income figures show U.S. per capita income was $30,906. Los Alamos County was $48,485, Santa Fe County was $32,932 and Bernalillo $30,204. Among the states, Bernalillo County would rank about 18th and Los Alamos near the top.

Heard on the street: "Where did Judge Brennan get his cocaine? Answer: "From the ABQ police department's evidence room!" Brennan, you'll recall, was busted for drinking and snorting coke last year. By the way, friends of the former judge report he is now living in Sacramento, Ca. We reported earlier that he had taken a job with longtime friends, the billionaire Maloof family, also former of the Big Duke City. And in case you are out of town, missing evidence, including drugs, from the APD evidence room is now the subject of a myriad of investigations. We wouldn't want you to miss a joke, not on a Monday.

Make our site, WWW.JOEMONAHAN.COM, one of your favorites and e-mail a link to interested friends. Interested in advertising to NM's large political community? E-mail me from the top right of this page, or call 505-243-4059 for details.

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Friday, March 25, 2005

We Wrap The Legislative Session On KNME-TV, Channel 5 Friday at 8: 00 p.m., Details in My Exclusive Audio Post To You 

this is an audio post - click to play

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Banned In Santa Fe? Lobbyist-Lawmaker Dispute Has Alligators Dancing; Plus: Even More In Our "Whose The Greatest" Senator Debate 

Rep. Silva
Anyone who knows longtime ABQ Dem State Rep. Dan Silva will tell you he is one of the most low-key guys you will meet. But 2005 may change his reputation. First, there was that sour battle with Senate Judiciary Chair Cisco McSorley in which Silva and Cisco accused each other of sabotaging each others bills. Now, there is the bizarre story making the rounds in the inner circles about Silva and Association and Commerce Industry lobbyist J.D. Bullington.

My sources, and they are extremely reliable, maintain that Bullington has become the first lobbyist in a generation to be banned from the Legislature, or at least the Senate Finance Committee.

The saga has Bullington and Silva at a Finance hearing. Silva is waiting for his bill to come before the panel, but is unaware that Bullington, according to those in the know, has told a committee staffer that Silva wants the bill pulled from the agenda. The staffer follows the instruction unbeknownst to Silva who waits patiently in the audience for his bill to be heard. When the committee is set to adjourn, Silva asks what's up with his bill. The committee tells him they were told he wanted the measure pulled. Mild mannered Silva is outraged and, the Alligators say, this leads to the Senate Finance Committee banning Bullington from future hearings.

"It reminds me of liquor lobbyist Pancho Padilla who back in the 60's said aloud: "I own the Legislature. He was banned from he capitol grounds," recounted one Santa Fe oldtimer.

While J.D.'s alleged infraction may not have been as offensive as Pancho's, it stunned Silva who saw it as the ultimate betrayal of the lobbyist-legislator relationship. Meanwhile, Bullington e-mails to say that he has met with Silva over the dispute and that "I believe everything has been worked out." I could not reach Silva for comment. Bullington added he was never banned from Senate Finance. "I was in the Senate Finance hearing on the pre-K bill on the second to last day of the session," he writes.

As for which bill Bullington was trying to stop, I could not determine with certainty at this writing, but I think it's this tax proposal.

Bullington has been a well-known presence at the Roundhouse for the better part of a decade and is also know for throwing out fiery missives from the editorial pages of the ABQ Tribune. Whether he's banned in Santa Fe or not is in dispute, but it will surely give the wall-leaners something to watch for when the 2006 Legislature opens its doors.

Sen. Carl Hatch
Rodger Beimer may be one of the last reporters around who remembers or maybe even knew notorious lobbyist Padilla. Beimer was a major presence in NM TV news from the 60's thru the 80's. The Taos native blogs in today not about Pancho Padilla, but about our Whose the Greatest" NM U.S. Senator debate. We've been having fun with this one on off and on here. Beimer came up with a good one too: Senator Carl Hatch: "Talk about impact. What about the Hatch Act of 1939? Under it, federal employees and certain state and local government employees faced significant restrictions on their ability to participate in political activities and placing ceilings on campaign expenditures. The act is named for Carl Atwood Hatch (1889-1963) of New Mexico," penned political addict Rodger.

As for Beimer, he is helping mind the store at NM Expo when not indulging his passion for the history of our beloved La Politica.

Make our site, WWW.JOEMONAHAN.COM, one of your favorites and e-mail a link to interested friends. Interested in advertising to NM's large political community? E-mail me from the top right of this page, or call 505-243-4059 for details.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Prez Pitches Plan; Dem's Rise To Occasion, Plus: Name Surfaces for New Sec.of Higher Education; Welcome, You've Landed In La Politica 

Rep. Udall
Perhaps like you, I did not find myself overly absorbed in the latest NM Prez visit. After all, the adrenaline of the campaign is long gone and what Bush was telling us he had already said at other town hall type meetings. What did catch my ear, though, was the Prez's repeated assurances that people currently getting Social Security will continue to get their checks. As soon as he finished his rap--delivered in a picture-perfect TV studio-like atmosphere at the ABQ Kiva Auditorium--the TV news talkers came on screen and immediately repeated those assurances as the highlight of his appearance. If you are working to "reform" Social Security, but the lead is that the status quo will be preserved for millions of recipients, you may be a bit behind the curve.

The Dems sense the opportunity and trotted out a radio ad in response to TV ads that the Bush backers ran here on the eve of his visit. Also, the profile of liberal Congressman Tom Udall was upped as he tore into the Bush plan. "It would take the security out of Social Security," declared Tom of the Northern district who will now barnstorm the state to fight some more. It was a well-run spin effort and made you think that if the Dems were as sharp last November as they were Monday it might have been John Kerry visiting here.

Dr. McClure
A nice new padded chair awaits someone at the Governor's cabinet table now that the Legislature has approved the addition to Big Bill's stable. That someone will be the Secretary of Higher Education. The Guv will appoint a search committee to fill the job, but already the Alligators are reporting there may be a frontrunner. She is Dr. Beverlee J. McClure, president of Clovis Community College. "Beverly is well-liked and her name was mentioned when this bill made the rounds. She has won praise for the job she has done in Clovis," reported our Gator. She also said Anglo McClure has good relations with the Hispanic community and that puts her in good position to get the job. Prominent Hispanics Louis Caldera and Manny Aragon head up two of the state's universities.

If not McClure, any other names? "Maybe (former Governor) Toney Anaya. He headed up the task force that led to creation of the position and served on the Highlands university Board of Regents. But Toney is a lightning rod and having him and Manny Aragon in high-profile education posts might be too much for the governor to handle," analyzed our Gatorette. Stay tuned.


Meanwhile, over at the University of New Mexico, they have to be wondering just what they got for the big taxpayer bucks they spent on their new high-powered group of lobbyists that included former State Senator Richard Romero and ex-state Rep Joe Thompson. "If they brought back something to President Caldera's office that he wouldn't have gotten without them we have yet to hear of it. I give them a C-," a Legislator with an interest in the university told me recently.

Veteran lawyer/lobbyist Phil Larragoite grabbed notice in La Politica when he left the post. Some insiders say he was ousted, others that he resigned. My best source on this one says: "Phil and Caldera clashed." I guess you might say how Phil left is academic now. While we are on the subject, whatever happened to Louis Caldera? Just asking.

Make our site, WWW.JOEMONAHAN.COM, one of your favorites and e-mail a link to interested friends. Interested in advertising to NM's large political community? E-mail me from the top right of this page, or call 505-243-4059 for details.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

See Heather Run, Away From The Prez That Is, He's In ABQ Today As Firestorm Rages Over Social Security; Madrid Waits In Wings, And: The Blog Lampooned 

Heather, run as fast as you can. That's the advice the ABQ GOP Congresswoman is getting from some top politicos as President Bush pushes his hyper-controversial plan to "reform" Social Security at the Kiva Auditorium in downtown ABQ today. "This is only a loser for her," warned one GOP operative. "Privatizing Social Security is most unpopular with her core support group--senior citizens. If she embraces Bush on this she will finally have opened the possibility of a close re-election battle," he predicted.

That Alligator doesn't have to worry right now. Heather is bowing out of the Prez's visit today saying she has a previously planned "family trip." For now, she can hedge, but with national Dems determined to spend another zillion dollars to oust her it seems the day will inevitably come when she will have to give a straight answer to the question: "Do you favor allowing individuals to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in private accounts. Yes or no?" Until she answers that one the Gators will keep snapping.


As we blogged here and was reported in D.C.'s Roll Call, NM Dem Attorney General Patricia Madrid is weighing the possibility of taking on heavy hitter Heather in 06.' Here's an update from Scripps Howard's James Brosnanfollowing the action on Capitol Hill.

If she does take the dive, Madrid is in for the pounding of her life. The GOP will be merciless on her long ago record as district court judge, her current one as AG and her many campaign contributions. Heather is luring Patsy in by toying with her Social Security stance, but if the issue doesn't stick, the pickings may be slim for the feisty Madrid who has run for congress, governor, lt. gov as well as her present post. Is it worth it?


One guy who isn't hedging on Social Security is liberal Dem Senator Jeff Bingaman. The R's continue to vent on how Jeff can be so leftish in a state that went for Bush. But it's not stopping NM's junior senator from waving the flag. He will go full board against the Bush Social Security plan at a Dem meeting Wednesday at 7:00 PM at the UNM Law School. Bingaman burst onto the national scene this month when he co-sponsored a successful U.S. Senate amendment that spurned Bush's cuts to Medicaid. The R's may rule on the social issues, but the D's still own these entitlement programs which are so near and dear to constituents hearts. That includes thousands of Republicans who call themselves "conservatives."

Back to Heather, she sends us word that she's holding a big town meeting during the Congressional recess on....drumbeat please.....Medicare! What!? If you want to to see how Heather ignores the Social Security elephant in the room you can go to the insurance company sponsored meeting at the National Hispanic Cultural Center March 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.


You might think our over the top blog with its "insiders" "Alligators" and wacky photos of Pam Andersen might be a hard one to spoof. But the talented lady at Quirky Burque takes us to new heights with this on target lampoon. Enjoy.

Make our site, WWW.JOEMONAHAN.COM, one of your favorites and e-mail a link to interested friends. Interested in advertising to NM's large political community? E-mail me from the top right of this page, or call 505-243-4059 for details.

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Monday, March 21, 2005

Move Over Drunken Sailors! Santa Fe Spending Spree Sets Records, Plus: A New Buzz Phrase:"Faith Based" Budget; It's The Big Blog Wrap On Session 05' 

Drunken Sailors
Move over all you drunken sailors and let Big Bill and the NM Legislature show you what a real spending spree is like. This one is not lubricated by Johnny Walker, but by New Mexico's plentiful oil gushers and the taxes they generate. For starters, you pass a $4.7 billion state budget that hikes spending by nearly 7%, even though inflation is running at well below half that level. Then, you pass a record-breaking $471 million in construction (pork) projects and top off the night with a $30 million "supplemental" and a tax cut at last call. Oh, the wonder of oil at over $50 bucks a barrel!

But one of our party animals, Dem State Senator and finance expert John Arthur Smith, played chaperone. "This is faith-based" budgeting, he exclaimed, while simultaneously praying that it will work. It's a phrase we could be hearing a lot of if the spending bash ends in a hangover.

But if that time comes you wonder who is positioned to yell "fire" in the crowded theater. Only three Republicans voted against the aggressive budget, having been placated with gobs of gubernatorial pork for their individual districts. New ABQ GOP State Rep Greg Payne was one of the three and was already throwing the towel in on the 06' Guv race. "We have nothing to run against the Governor on. We voted for just about everything he proposed," lamented Payne.

Well, not everything. They did slow the Guv down on the much hyped pre-kindergarten program, trimming it to a one year pilot program and $5 million. Hardly a victory for the Fourth Floor as they will have to come back next year and ask for renewal. Pre-k's chief patron, Light Guv Diane Denish, was popping champagne corks when it passed, but some of her friends feared it sets her up to be dragged down into the mud in the years ahead.


Big Bill
Other Alligators were entertained by the spectacle of Big Bill calling this a "strong" Legislature and how he had to "compromise" with them. It's true that, unlike past sessions, the Big Guy did not get nearly 100% of what he wanted, but coming in with 90% doesn't make for a "strong" Legislature. New Senate Majority leader Michael Sanchez made a play early in the game, but when it was all over he too was forced onto the Guv's bench. The two Dems who punched it out with the Guv the most, State Rep. Cervantes and State Sen. Jennings, won kudos, but did not embolden their brethren. When a Guv cries out to the top dogs: "You're fucking me," most part-time, citizen legislators are content to play Rover and roll over.

But there is a method to the Big Bill madness. He continues the money flood to get votes and also to try to perk up a manana economy that has put us at the bottom of just about every ranking known to man. He also showed he's a Guv who will bite the hand that feeds him, proposing an oil tax hike even though that industry has made possible the explosive spending spree. But legislators, perhaps grateful to OPEC and the oil gods, put that one to rest. Instead, the latest round of tax cuts will be funded by a delay in the previous round of tax cuts. Will someone please get me some smoke and mirrors?


They did more than follow the money at the fabled Roundhouse, but not much that you will remember. There was that election reform bill that passed and will get the Dems out of the GOP line of fire. But the R's were a sight to behold as they claimed voter fraud was rampant but only came up with an example from 1992 and never did explain why the Republican U.S. Attorney here, who set up a task force on the issue, did not cite even one case of fraud for them.

But when it comes to frolicking in cash there are no parties anymore, just politicians. In GOP controlled Washington the money spigot flows nonstop. Ditto for Santa Fe where the R's are in the minority, but like the D's, are most definitely in it for the money.

That's not to say that disaster looms. But it does remind one of those go-go 1980's when the oil gusher first spurted with high priced Texas Tea only to crash in the years ahead leaving the state in a cash crunch. But for now we are all on the Big Bill faith-based budget plan. Hallelujah and pass the gravy!


We want to thank State Senator John Grubesic for providing the annual Santa Fe Follies skit. He was boozing it up with a couple of Big Bill's aides at the Rio Chama bar next to the Capitol and later rolled his vehicle, ran into his house and refused to come out and admit that he was driving. Grubesic takes the First Prize Folly. Socorro judge Tom Fitch takes second for getting smashed on vodka and rolling his vehicle into a ditch while on his way to a Legislative hearing. Thanks for the memories fellas.


This will be the last year that ABQ Tribune political reporter Shea Andersen gets to witness the follies. He's leaving the Trib and headed to Idaho for new adventures and for even better skiing. Andersen was a culture shocked northwesterner when he started here in 01'. Now he hangs out ay the ABQ Barelas coffee shop claiming to be half Hispanic. Shea, the blood of La Politica will now forever course through your veins. Of course, I'm not saying that's a good thing. Adios amigo.

Your emails on all aspects of NM politics, past and present, are always welcome. You can remain anonymous or shout it out with name attached. Just let me know and, as always, thanks for tuning in.

Make our site, WWW.JOEMONAHAN.COM, one of your favorites and e-mail a link to interested friends. Interested in advertising to NM's large political community? E-mail me from the top right of this page, or call 505-243-4059 for details.

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Welcome To Ground Zero For NM Politics: Pete & Jeff: How Are They Doing? We have The Numbers, Plus: ABQ Mayor's Race Goes To The Dogs 

Being the political junkie you are this will come as no shock. The latest poll assessing the favorables of NM's two U.S. Senators show both of them approaching the stratospheric level of 70%. It hs always struck me as a bit odd that a liberal Democrat, Jeff Bingaman, and a semi-conservative Republican, Pete Domenici, could both maintain such high opinion ratings statewide. New Mexicans like these guys and respect them, and they apparently like having a foot in both political camps in D.C.

The latest polling numbers dropped in my email box were conducted for an environmental group by NM's Research & Polling. Voters who say they have a favorable or somewhat favorable rating of Pete come in at 68%. For Jeff, it's just one point shy of that at 67%. The poll was taken during the last week of January and has a margin of error of + or - 4.4%.

There are a lot more D's than R's in NM so Domenici comes in with a 20% unfavorable number while the Bingaman unfavorable is a low 14%. The numbers are most important to Bingaman who is gearing up for a re-election run in 06.' While Domenici can give Bingaman a ribbing for beating him out by one point in the favorable rankings, Bingaman can always remind Pete that between the two he is the only one to have never lost an election.

The R's, as they should, are starting to downplay Bingaman's strength and say he can be taken. But they still have no top-tier candidate willing to make the move. It seems the possibles who have seen the numbers believe them. Bingaman, who was rumored to be thinking about retiring, put that to rest in mid-February and his bank account now has nearly $400,000, on the way to the multimillions it will take to retain the seat. As for Pete, strange as it may seem, he sent out a fundraising letter about the time Jeff was announcing his plans to seek re-election. The 72 year old has refused to close the door on yet another run in 2008. Hey, with their polling numbers you can understand the rocking chairs don't look too tempting to our senators.


With about six months to go until Election Day in the ABQ mayor's race you can expect the campaign tricks to start. And they have. Check out this site picking on Mayor Marty from a group calling itself "The 1000 friends of Dukes." Dukes is the mayor's dog. ABQ City Councilor Eric Griego is the only announced Chavez opponent thus far. I don't know if he has a dog, but if he does he better hide the little guy. As for Dukes, that's a pretty good name for a write-in candidate, no?

Make our site, WWW.JOEMONAHAN.COM, one of your favorites and e-mail a link to interested friends. Interested in advertising to NM's large political community? E-mail me from the top right of this page, or call 505-243-4059 for details.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Big Bill & Mayor Marty Eye Latest Jobs Numbers, Plus: Part III Of Our Great Debate Over The "Greatest" NM U.S. Senator 

That most sensitive of economic barometers, the jobless rate, is signaling good news for incumbent NM politicos. The unemployment rate, according to the NM Labor Dep't, plunged to 5.2% in January, giving Big Bill an argument that his policies have helped the state economically. In the Big Duke City, the unemployment rate has slipped below 5%, say the labor experts, putting it at 4.9%. These numbers, if they hold, will give headaches to potential opponents of Big Bill next year and to challengers of ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez this year. Voters can forgive a lot of sins when there's a jingle in their pocket.


Albert Fall
Sometimes its the passions of the past that generate the most heat around here. Take my "debate" over who is the "greatest" U.S. Senator to serve New Mexico since statehood in 1912. I chose Dennis Chavez, but many readers had their own ideas. Among them was District Judge John Pope who e-mails in from Los Lunas that he thinks one of NM's first Senators, Republican Albert Fall, deserves to be named, if not the greatest Senator, at least the "most significant."

"He pioneered Republican privatization of public resources in the Tea Pot Dome scandal. The scandal led to a break-in of Senator LaFollette's senate office; shades of Watergate. It also led to the Supreme Court case that established the right of Congress to compel testimony, which set the precedent of Congress being able to subpoena executive branch documents. Recognizing his notoriety was after his service in the Senate, I still believe he deserves to be recognized in that pantheon of Senatorial heroes,"opined the colorful Pope known for his gift of gab on the speaking circuit.


I do think the judge has a bit of his tongue in the cheek on this one, but he makes a good argument that Fall was one of the most significant political characters in our state's fabled history. But, as Pope noted, his big impact came after serving in the senate from 1912-1921. That leads us back to Dennis Chavez who picked up the vote of native New Mexican and veteran ABQ South Valley politico Andrew Leo Lopez: "Because he did so much with so little Chávez was our greatest senator. His range of interests and the results he germinated make him the little big man of New Mexico bar none. Anderson was very good, but not great and sullied his reputation by staying well into senility." Lopez argued.

We may never settle this, but its notable that our little state has produced so many characters worth caring about so many years after they danced on the brightly lit stage of La Politica.

Your emails on all aspects of NM politics, past and present, are always welcome. You can remain anonymous or shout it out with name attached. Just let me know and, as always, thanks for tuning in.

Make our site, WWW.JOEMONAHAN.COM, one of your favorites and e-mail a link to interested friends. Interested in advertising to NM's large political community? E-mail me from the top right of this page, or call 505-243-4059 for details.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Blogging Three Big B's: Bingaman Hits Bankruptcy Bump, Bush Heads To NM, And Big Bill And The Legislative End Game, Plus: Being Julia 

Senator Jeff
Liberal Dems are writhing in anguish after the U.S. Senate passed a tougher bankruptcy bill and one of their own, Dem NM Sen. Jeff Bingaman, is being caught up in the catcalls going around the blogosphere. Bingaman was one of 19 D's to vote for the tougher bill which was attacked in part by opponents claiming it did not protect people who had to file for bankruptcy because of medical bills. Despite that flaw and others, Bingaman and the other D's voted for it and it passed 74-25. House approval is a no-brainer.

But liberals here let Jeff know that they are not happy with his vote. They claimed his position on the Senate Finance Committee has made him an easy target for bankers' campaign contributions and thus his vote for the tough bankruptcy bill. Bingaman supporters scoffed at that pointing out that the R's control the U.S. Senate. "We have to stop finger-pointing and get down to business and realize many of the things we may not like are going to happen. If Bingaman votes against every R sponsored bill, how is he going to get any of his stuff through for New Mexico?" argued one Dem pragmatist, who also said the bankruptcy bill has safeguards to protect the poor.

Still, with Bingaman launching his 06' campaign the criticism from some core supporters stung. "Why aren't they attacking Bush and his Social Security plan?" grumbled Jeff's ally.


Well, New Mexicans will get a chance to grumble about Bush and his Social Security plan, but probably not to his face, even though the Prez will be in ABQ next Tuesday to tout his plan which has not exactly set the grassroots on fire. If it plays out like elsewhere only an invited crowd will be on hand, making sure Bush is not embarrassed by embarrassing questions. Politicos here are keeping a close eye on ABQ Congresswoman Heather Wilson and what role, if any, she plays in the Prez's visit. She has been on the fence on the reform plan and could use the occasion to jump off. But don't count on it.


Big Bill will get some cover on his Administration's flubbed effort to launch a pre-kindergarten program. The state budget on his desk includes about $5 million for pre-k but not permanent funding. It's not much, but he is not shut out. The pre-k flub also takes a bite out of the political capital of Light Guv Denish, who may have bitten at this one too soon.

How abut the Guv's tax cuts? He will probably get something, but not the whole $30 million enchilada, say my Roundhouse sources. And he may end up raising the oil tax to finance this latest round. At this point, my sources cautiously predict no Special Session. The longer the Legislature is in session the lower Big Bill's polling numbers go down as he takes on the personality of a browbeater to get what he wants. Why so persistent on the tax cuts? "He wants to bury his conservative opposition in the 06' election. He can run the table on them if he steals this issue decisively," offered up an Alligator whose tough hide gives him the credentials to comment on our beloved La Politica.


Here's a bright lady who has bit into the apple and become a noted NM political junkie. Julia Goldberg is editor of the venerable Santa Fe Reporter. You can't get much of the paper on the net, but her blog is just as good.


Yesterday, I blogged of Congresswoman Wilson: "She is against letting "individuals" invest their Social Security money in the stock market, but refuses to say whether the "government" should be allowed to do that for them." I should have said she is against the "government" investing Social Security money in the stock market. She refuses to say whether she would vote to allow individuals to do so. Now, we're all clear, aren't we?

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Monday, March 14, 2005

Heather Hunting: Dem Possibles Start To Emerge for 06', Plus: My Bottom Lines For A New Mexico Monday 

Rep. Wilson
For Heather Wilson there is no rest. Even after drubbing her Dem opponent by 10 points last November, the D's are back in the hunt and still maintaining that the ABQ GOP Congresswoman can be had, and they are tossing a few names around hoping to stir interest. I interviewed with the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call (subscription) recently about the 2006 race and they threw out the names of Attorney General Patsy Madrid and Secretary of Sate Rebecca Vigil-Giron as potential Heather challengers. Both high-profile women would not rule it out, but Madrid sounded more interested, if not giddy, than Vigil. Freshman State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino also had his name bandied about as a possible, but political junkie Brian Sanderoff said he doubts Pino will get in.


So, where does that leave things? Well, Roll Call did not mention it, but in years gone by both Vigil-Giron and Madrid sought the Dem nomination for the ABQ district and both lost. Heather's waffle on Social Security--she is against letting the "government" invest Social Security money in the stock market, but refuses to say whether "individuals" should be allowed to do that with their SS funds--has given the D's a ray of hope. They re playing it for all its worth as seen on this Web site. As I've reported, Heather is playing with fire on this one, but she still has wiggle room and is hoping the heat dies down before 06'.

AG Madrid
What is really frustrating for the D's is the magnitude of the victories that the studious Congresswoman has been wracking up--two ten pointers in four years--even after they have pounded her with millions of dollars of negative TV. There are so few really competitive congressional districts anymore, that Wilson's will still be high on the D's wish list. But as the years go by it's becoming more of a fantasy. The reality is that Heather is one of NM' premier vote-getters and is positioned to take Sen. Domenici's senate seat when he steps aside. Still, unlike the R's who have given up on so much here, the D's are not willing to abandon ship. Who knows? Someday they may find a welcome port.


When the the bill to abolish the death penalty was killed by a state senate committee, the chief House sponsor cried in the hallway. On the very same day in Portales, NM the community buried 69 year old Doris Newman and her 70 year old husband Odis. The couple was burned alive in the trunk of their car after being assaulted at their home. Think about that. Burned alive in the trunk of your car. By refusing to abolish the death penalty our Governor and Legislature have said Doris and Odis Newman matter. May it ever be so.......Say what you will about the controversial character, but State Sen. "Lightning" Rod Adair of Roswell can not be accused of being a publicity hog. When contacted recently by a reporter, he snipped: "I have no interest in talking with the ABQ Journal."....Larry Ahrens makes his debut on new ABQ talk radio station 106.3 FM today. He's on from 6 till 10 a.m. and among his first guests are Carol Wight of the NM Restaurant Association and Barbara Bruin of NM Alliance for Legal Reform.

Make our site, WWW.JOEMONAHAN.COM, one of your favorites and e-mail a link to interested friends. Interested in advertising to NM's large political community? E-mail me from the top right of this page, or call 505-243-4059 for details.

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Marriage Act Won't Get Gay House Greeting; Plus: My Whine On the Endless Session, And: The Legal Beagles Have News 

New Mexico gays who feel roughed up by a muscle flexing hard-right coming off of a Bush NM victory will get a bit of good news in the state House, according to my reliable Roundhouse insiders. The measure defining marriage as an act between a man and woman passed big in the Senate Wednesday but, my sources report, will die a quick death in the House where Rep. Gail Beam will preside over its demise as chairwoman of the Public Affairs Committee.

I hate to whine, but here I go. Like cockfighting before it, a lot of emotional energy and precious time was wasted on the marriage act by both lawmakers and the poor journalists who are told to cover, overcover and then overcover some more the same tired, shelf-worn topics that never make it into law. What about the stuff that is getting passed? In any event, the defeat of the hot potato cockfighting and anti-gay marriage bills will be welcomed by the Fourth Floor where reborn conservative Big Bill is thinking up more good things to say about Bush's foreign policy.

You can sense that Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico have had just about enough of the Santa Fe scene this year, especially after the right on schedule citing of Santa Fe State Senator Grubesic for drinking and driving but, mind you, not driving drunk. Give us a break. Make all sessions 30 days, let the pros at the AP cover most of it and everyone else take a sobriety test and head south on I-25.


There's a still a shot that the sister of Big Bill legal counsel Geno Zamora could get a shot a Bernalillo County district judgeship, claim my courthouse watchers. "(Judge) Tommy Jewell has been talking about retiring and that could open his seat for Monica since he is a Children's Court judge and her interest is in juvenile law," reports one legal beagle. Monica Zamora lost a recent bid to replace Judge Wendy York

Geno Zamora's interest, as we have reported, may be in becoming attorney general of our Enchanted Land and friends say he may make a decision at the end of the Legislative session. ABQ Dem State Rep. Al Park is all in and the latest word has ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez thinking about a run for the AG nomination next year, if he puts away his re-election bid come October.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Hollywood Will Hate It, But Insiders Say Cockfighting Ban To Die In Senate, Plus: The "Greatest" NM Senator; Part Two, And: Goodbye Dan Rather 

Pam Anderson
The Hollywood types who lined up this year for TV face time to decry our state's fondness for cockfighting will have to beat the drums louder next time. Insiders at the Roundhouse tell me that for the umpteenth time the move to ban the sport will go nowhere. "(Senate Majority Leader Michael) Sanchez is using this one to keep rural senators in line. They already screwed him by lining up in support of the parental notification bill on abortion. He can hold them in check during the final critical days of the session by threatening to bring up the cockfighting ban and ramming it through," reported our tapped in wall-leaner.

The cockfighting ban passed the House this year. Actress Pam Anderson was among the notables lobbying Big Bill for the ban, but he never warmed to it as the sport appeals to rural New Mexican Hispanics as well as others in states where he may be seeking presidential nominating votes.


Push the hot buttons and we get the mail from the bright bulbs of the NM political scene. It happened again Tuesday when we named Sen. Denis Chavez as the greatest U.S. Senator in state history. John Cordova, head of the Dennis Chavez Foundation, was all smiles about that calling our blog "a factual portrayal," but others we're quick to tell me to hold my horses.

"What about Senator Clinton P. Anderson?" Asked Sandia Prep school administrator Susan Walton. "Anderson was in both the House and the Senate, and he was a Cabinet Secretary. He started Medicare, worked quietly to contain the nuclear threat, and worked to save the nation's wilderness areas! His particular interests were in conservation, the needs of the West, and of the needy/hungry. Please, save some of your electric typesetting for My Political Hero, Clinton P Anderson! (or I'll send you more research on this wonderful guy!") Warned Susan.

Meanwhile, from up North another emailer said I got it all wrong on Chavez being the best. "I'm one of those Hispanics who bristles at the crap about protected class or discrimination. I find too many of my compatriots using that as an excuse for failure or as a substitute for performance. Exactly what doors did Chavez open for Hispanics that they couldn't open for themselves with hard work?" Screeched our correspondent. He also claimed Clint Anderson had more to do with getting Sandia and Kirtland started than Chavez.

Anderson served over twenty years in the U.S. Senate retiring in 1972. Pete Domenici took his seat. My writers are right. Anderson was a giant New Mexican and is a finalist, along with Chavez and Pete, on the all-time hit list.


Tonight at 5 p.m. on KRQE-TV 13 Dan Rather will end his 24 year run as anchor of the CBS Evening News. To mark the occasion I am re-running my Rather retrospective from November. Click here for the column which received a lot of reaction when first published. Meanwhile, Goodbye Dan. You did good.

I welcome your e-mails on the latest political news, your thoughts and even your criticism, although I lose sleep over those kind so keep them brief. There's an e-mail link at the top right of the page. As always, thanks for tuning in. Let's do it again tomorrow.

Make our site, WWW.JOEMONAHAN.COM, one of your favorites and e-mail a link to interested friends. Interested in advertising to NM's large political community? E-mail me from the top right of this page, or call 505-243-4059 for details.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Premature On Pre-K? Politicos Begin to Play Blame Game As Kid's Program Teeters, Plus: Who's The Greatest: Pete Or Chavez? 

Secretary Garcia
The Legislative mess that pre-kindergarten has become may be due to a simple lack of preparation by the top guns in Big Bill's administration, claim some of the insiders watching this one with care. "They did a poll. It showed that pre-k was popular with the public, but they did not back it up with convincing evidence or numbers so they are in trouble," said one of them.

Light Guv Diane Denish was to be the heroine on pre-k and was given the go-ahead by the Guv and told to run with it. But there was little, if any, public push for the concept before the Legislative session. Now, in desperate op-ed pieces, disparate groups are trying to pull it out. However, even Dem lawmakers, shaken by the eventual $30 million annual cost of the program, may be inclined to give only a pilot plan approval. Will a Big Bill special session threat make them change their minds? Maybe not.

All this has new Secretary of Education Veronica Garcia under the hot spotlight of La Politica. She started out saying the program would cost $50 mil a year, but in short order shaved that back to $30 million. How's that for credibility? "Garcia is under enormous pressure. She has to meet goals set by the governor and at the same time manage cutbacks in other areas," said one source who has worked on the issue.

Republicans warned early that they would be targeting pre-k and, by association, Denish. A sarcastic email from a reader sums up the PR problem Diane and the Administration have on this one: "Was that number of $9,000,000 for 3,000 kids for one year? Tuition at NMSU is right at $3,000 per semester! Send them there. Since they are only half the size of the other students they should only be charged half as much, with the state paying the bill!"

Denish, Secretary Garcia and Big Bill's education staff may have some navel gazing to do on this one.

Sen. Chavez
A few weeks ago (see Feb.8)I wrote that the late NM U.S. Seantor Dennis Chavez as the "greatest" senator to ever serve out Enchanted Land. That had some readers asking how I could exclude the GOP's Pete Domenici. How did I come to this conclusion, they queried? First, I weighed each senators overall impact on how New Mexicans live today. Chavez's election changed New Mexican political history by opening the doors of opportunity to Hispanics. Remember, the 1930's was an age of discrimination, including against Chavez by his fellow senators when he took office. His civil rights advocacy and how it changed our politics clearly make him the most influential and the "greatest" New Mexican U.S. Senator. But what about the billions Pete has brought to NM? Indeed he has. But again there would not be a Kirtland Air Force Base and probably not a Sandia Labs without Democrat Chavez who was on the job when the base was created and the one that now Pete works so hard to keep going!

Not that Chavez was a saint. His elections raised eyebrows over the vote counting and he was accused of padding his senate payroll. But his good far outweighed his bad. Perhaps someday Saint Pete may be viewed as the greatest senator to serve New Mexico but for now that honor, in this corner, goes to Dennis Chavez, who was born into a New Mexico territory that offered little opportunity. But he beat the odds and in so doing inspired the generations to follow. That's pretty great, no?

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Monday, March 07, 2005

Manny: He's Not In The Valley Anymore; Alligators Circle As NM Legend Falters; Plus: Truth Tracking On Death Penalty Vote, And: TV News Ratings Seesaw 

Manny Aragon
NM political legend Manny Aragon has been the master of getting out of political fixes. The down side is that he's also a master at getting into them. And this time he is swimming in foreign waters that threaten to engulf the political wizard and end his historic run at the top rungs of New Mexican political power.

A mini revolution is taking hold at NM Highlands University in Las Vegas, NM where Aragon assumed the presidency in July of 04' after a 30 year run in the state senate where by sheer will and often intimidation, he rammed thru some of the major legislation of our times. But he's not in the senate anymore and the diverse power centers of a state university are starting to haunt Aragon whose politics were born in the Valley of ABQ and does not resonate with academics and students used to a more collaborative approach.


The problem leads directly to the Fourth Floor of the NM Roundhouse and Big Bill who engineered Aragon's ascension to Highlands. Because of what he was about to be awarded, Manny played meek for Big Bill and the Guv got a willing Legislature. But insiders have long speculated that the Guv wanted to get rid of Aragon because of the immense power he had in the Legislature and could possibly use to thwart Big Bill's will. The Highlands job, the speculation goes, gave the Guv an easy way out.

But with Aragon imploding there may be a price to pay for the Guv. The GOP effectively demonized Aragon and then-House Speaker Raymond Sanchez. It may be a long-shot, but now the R's are watching with interest the Manny Mess and thinking they may yet another chance to tie the Aragon baggage to another political traveler--Big Bill. Aragon's survival chances may depend on the outcome. Don't say we didn't tell you.


What happened to that "reconsideration" of the death penalty vote in the state House that I blogged freshman ABQ GOP State Rep. Justine Fox-Young was “preparing" after shocking conservatives with her vote to abolish the death penalty? Blogger Steve Terrell and others are among the curious because when asked by Terrell about the reconsideration report Fox-Young replied: "Not on your life, babe." Well, "babes" and others interested, reliable sources report the move was indeed close to occurring, but the fact that it was published here beforehand may have caused it not to happen. Geez, we thought they didn't care.

The fact remains that Fox-Young and four other Republicans did vote to abolish the penalty and that the districts they represent are overwhelmingly in favor of the penalty and their votes were instrumental in it passing the House.

No, we don't have a beef with the Barnett-Dendahl-Fox-Young-Foley-Adair-Youngberg wing of the NM GOP. To paraphrase Harry Truman: "I never give anybody hell. I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell." May it ever be so.


It was good while it lasted, but it didn't last long. Ratings for the 10 p.m. newscasts in the big ABQ market are out and they show KRQE-TV's historic breakthrough to the number one spot last November is history. But the race is so close that no one really has bragging rights to the top slot. In the February "sweeps" KOB 4 finished with a 9.8, KRQE 13 was second with a 9.1 and KOAT 7 came in with a 7.8 average at 10. A 9.8 rating means out of all the TV sets in the viewing area 9.8 per cent of them were tuned to KOB.

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Friday, March 04, 2005

Our TGIF Edition: The "Unknown" Guv Candidate Is Unmasked, Plus: Henry Cisneros Is In The House, If You Have A Grand 

Palace Of The Guv's
Thank you, Dr. James Damron. Thank you very much. No, the Santa Fe radiologist did not cure me of a serious ailment, but he did ease the shapeless and featureless political landscape of the 06' Guv's race. It's been giving me serious heartburn. Damron is our "unknown" candidate we blogged of yesterday. The beauty of writing this thing is that within 24 hours I can get an answer by e mail to just about any question I pose except, of course, whether the stock market will be going up or down the next day.

Senior Alligators in the GOP bailed us on this one and pointed us to the phone to dial in to Damron who promptly informed me that yes, he is taking a "very serious" look at running for the GOP Guv nomination in 06'; that he's a "conservative to moderate" Republican with a deep interest in health care and education; that he's 60 years old and will use some of his own dough to launch his gubernatorial bid if he does decide to go. A decision will come by summer. Is Dr. D a stalking horse for any particular faction of the GOP? With so few prospects, he may be the candidate for all the factions.

The 60 year old affable medical doctor is a political newcomer having never sought office before, just like the GOP's Gary Johnson in 94'. He shied away from attacking Big Bill directly, but said he does disagree with the policies of the incumbent. Wow, someone who disagrees with Big Bill and says so publicly! This guy is definitely not a member of the NM Legislature. Potential contender Damron joins Dem Bengie Regensburg in the Guv's race. Thanks fellas, I almost had to get a life.

Henry Sisneros
ABQ Mayor Marty will flex his big money muscle March 29 when he hosts a $1000 a pop dinner party with former San Antonio Mayor and Clinton cabinet secretary Henry Cisneros. I had to learn this from outside of the Chavez camp even though I attended the Mayor's 53rd birthday party the other night. I guess I got nothing because I did not pay to get in. Anyway, insiders on the outside tell me the party will be hosted by Downtown touter Leba Freed at her big house in the far NE Heights. Chavez has already raised well over $100 grand and will probably head north of the $400K level. His only announced challenger so far, City Councilor Eric Griego, was also raising money at a party in Santa Fe this week. Griego will need about $300K (my estimate) to get this one competitive. The election is in October. It will take a 40% winner to avoid a run-off.

Speaking of running off, I am outta here for the weekend. Thanks for tuning in, for your emails and for all those things you say about me. Right back at ya.
The caravan moves again on Monday. See you then.

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Thursday, March 03, 2005

The "Unknown Candidate" For Guv Surfaces, Plus: More Death Penalty Plotting, And: We Take You To Marty's Party 

The Unknown Candidate
I don't yet have the name. But I do have the scuttlebutt on a possible Republican candidate for Governor that reminds me a bit of Gary Johnson back in 1994. The "unknown candidate" being talked about is reportedly a wealthy Santa Fe doctor, perhaps relatively new to the state. Alligators on the R side have not been able to fill in the blanks and these rumblings come from the D camp. Anyone would probably be welcome by the candidate starved R's. So far, only 2002 contender John Sanchez has really indicated much interest and even he has yet to take the plunge. State Rep. Foley is another possible but, like Sanchez, does not put fear in the hearts of the party of the Donkey,

Maybe a rich Santa Fe doctor is just what the doctor ordered. When Gary ran in 94' he was completely unknown but was able to use his own money and personality to take the victory. Beating Big Bill will be a tall order for any R, but new blood might at least throw the D's a curve.


Insiders deep in the bowels of the Roundhouse (no guessing, please) say freshman ABQ NE Heights State Rep. Justine Fox-Young, freaked out over the heat she is taking for voting to abolish NM's death penalty, is preparing to ask for the measure to be reconsidered so she can change her vote and get back in the good graces of conservatives who are aghast that she turned on them after declaring in a newspaper candidate questionnaire that she would vote to uphold the penalty. It was a rookie mistake for the 25 year old. One of her mentors, Rep. Dan Foley, is trying to help her with damage control. There are very few single votes that can cost a state legislator their seat. Fox-Young picked one of them.


He may now be 53, but friends of ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez were not about to let him turn the calendar with a creak. They ensconced the city's chief exec in the ultra-hip atmosphere of the OPM bar in downtown Albuquerque last night and feted his honor who gracefully accepted the honor by foregoing the Grecian formula and letting the gray hang out.

The party had a quaint admission price: $53.00. But don't worry, my lifetime record of never paying to enter a political event is still intact. Posing as a delivery man never fails.

Bernalillo County Commissioner Tim Cummins was the big name R at the bash. And the Mayor didn't mind since the GOP has yet to field a serious foe against him. All the big dogs were there: Police Chief Gil Gallegos, Public safety boss Nick Bakkas and City Attorney Bob White. The incumbent's sole declared foe in the October election is City Councilor Eric Griego who is going to be mad when I report that the Chavez food was of high quality and there was plenty to go around. I reported that Eric's December kick-off party featured tacos and not enough of them. Of course, Griego could reprieve himself by throwing a free food bash to top his rival, but so far the food poll says Chavez is in the lead.

Marty's birthday buddies report that with his personal and political storms quieted for now and the opposition yet to show it has the muscle to take him out, he is much lighter on his feet and in a more relaxed frame of mind. Sometimes, it is good to be mayor.


Please join us this year for a discussion of current and controversial investment topics! Interested in Social Security changes? A representative from the Social Security Administration will address recent Social Security issues. Eleventh Annual Client Education Day “Investing on Purpose” 8:30am -12:30pm Saturday, March 5, 2005 Sheraton Uptown 6815 Menaul Boulevard NE Albuquerque. Reserve your seat. Call Karen or Jan at 505.881.5100 or 888.815.5100. Breakfast will be served.

Make our site, WWW.JOEMONAHAN.COM, one of your favorites and e-mail a link to interested friends. Interested in advertising to NM's large political community? E-mail me from the top right of this page, or call 505-243-4059 for details.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Bloodsport Of La Politica May Take Ken Zangara Out As GOP Boss; C de Baca Waits In The Wings, Plus: More Insider Stuff From NM's Top Political Blog 

The bloodsport of La Politica may be set to claim yet another victim. The insiders say GOP Bernalillo County chair and car dealer, Ken Zangara, appears headed towards the exits and Fernando C de Baca, a South Valley R who ran for state senate last year, appears to be in line to replace him. Zangara has been roughed up bad by his longtime political rival, Dem Attorney General Patsy Madrid. She drew out the long knives and a negative story on his dealership burst into the headlines. "Ken took a severe hit. Not only does it appear he will be exiting as chair, but any hopes he had to become a U.S. Ambassador under Bush are out the window," said one GOP source.

Zangara is one of the best GOP fundraisers in the biz having raised hundreds of thousands for Bush, but this is his second controversy with auto dealerships. In 1992 he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges that he defrauded 80 employees of a previous car dealership out of more than $20,000 in wages and benefits. Zangara was put on a three-year probation and ordered to pay the affected workers $73,000 in restitution.

With Zangara on the political ropes enter Fernando C de Baca who told me: "If Ken does not run I will enter the race for county chair." Zangara is a close friend of C de Baca's, an ABQ native and retired businessman who came up short in 04' in his duel with Dem James Taylor for Manny Aragon's state senate seat. C de Baca says voter registration would be a top priority for him. But don't look for him to knock state GOP Chair Allen Weh, who he's backing for re-election. He does say, however, that the party at all levels needs to be aggressive in the fight against Big Bill and if Weh gets a two year term in April he expects to see the party turn up the heat either thru Weh or GOP surrogates.


Meanwhile, feedback from our story yesterday on how some R's were stunned when self-described conservatives of ABQ's NE Heights, Reps Justine Fox-Young and Larry Larranaga, voted to repeal New Mexico's death penalty. A questionnaire Fox-Young filled out for the ABQ Journal in May of last year has her declaring she would vote NOT to repeal the penalty, unlike the vote she cast Monday. Larranaga was more consistent. He said in the questionnaire he would vote FOR repeal and that's what he did.


It's hard to say what good it's doing for him with the liberal wing of the Dem Party, which often turns out to be the nominating wing, but Big Bill continues to win praise from such unlikely corners as the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. Tuesday they called him the "best" Democratic Guv because he cut taxes for the wealthy in NM. The paper picked up their praise from the conservative D.C. Cato institute which also threw bouquets the Big Fella's way. Now, If Big Bill could just get some praise from all those Hillary fans. Aah, that's a much tougher row to hoe, isn't it?

Make our site, WWW.JOEMONAHAN.COM, one of your favorites and e-mail a link to interested friends. Interested in advertising to NM's large political community? E-mail me from the top right of this page, or call 505-243-4059 for details.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Death Penalty Shocker: "Conservative" R's Vote To Abolish; Dem AG Candidate Does Too, Plus: On The Weh Watch, And: The Baca Impeachment 

Rep. Fox-Young
Since when did conservative GOP Members of the state House support abolishing the death penalty? Since Monday, that's when. The eyebrows arched when it was noted that five R's joined with the Dems to abolish the death penalty on a 38 to 31 vote. Never mind that the measure will die before it gets to Big Bill. How could R's Justine Fox-Young of the conservative ABQ NE Heights, Brian Moore of redneck "Little Texas" and Larry Larranaga of the far ABQ GOP Heights take the liberal position on this litmus test issue of the conservative movement?

Fox-Young ousted fellow Republican Bob White in a bitterly contested primary contest last year after accusing White of being to close to "liberal" Big Bill. It was no surprise to hear White on the end of the phone line late Monday pointing out Fox-Young's anti-death penalty vote and telling me he is contemplating a rematch against her. If he doesn't run some other Republican surely will, claim my GOP watchers. The 25 year old freshman Rep has been held out as a future leader of her party. After her anti-death penalty stance the question now is which one, the D's or The R's?

Insiders were equally stunned by Rep. Larranaga's vote against the death penalty, but they say Larry may be an unlikely candidate for re-election and was simply voting the way he really feels, no matter how out of tune it is with his constituents. Brian Moore from the East side had an easy go of it last year, drawing no primary or General opposition. But against the death penalty in Little Texas? Is Moore's death penalty vote a death wish? Time will tell. R's Teresa Zanetti of ABQ and Dub Williams of Lincoln County were the other two House GOP anti-death penalty votes.


And what about Dem attorney general candidate Al Park of ABQ voting against the death penalty? Even a notable progressive like Al has to know he is playing with fire. Perhaps it's a vote that will go down OK with liberal Dem primary voters in 06, but it was also noticed that possible Park opponent and House Judiciary chairman Joe Cervantes of Las Cruces voted in favor of the death penalty. Whether Park is opposed the primary by Joe, or becomes the General Election AG contender, his vote on is going to be a major issue. Don't say we didn't tell you.

Chair Weh
Meanwhile, insiders report the Chairman of the NM GOP was not exactly firing up the troops at his recent meeting with House Republicans. They say Allen Weh was asked why he was not more aggressive in attacking Big Bill's policies and holding him accountable. Weh, according to my reliable sources, told the lawmakers that was not his job and that he was concentrating on voter registration.

House Republicans voting against the death penalty, the party chair giving a pass to Big Bill, no heavyweight candidates for Guv or U.S. Senate. That's the state of the NM GOP today. But hey, Bush won NM!


Some stuff is briefly mentioned and too quickly forgotten. Take the impeachment resolution introduced in the state House against alleged pot smoking NM Public Regulation Commissioner Shirley Baca. It was only briefly noted, but the Alligators were quick to point out that it was two Native America Reps introducing the resolution. And who, they ask, has Baca been fighting tooth and nail the last couple of years? That would be fellow commissioner, former State Rep and Native American Lynda Lovejoy. Is she encouraging Rep's Begaye and Harrison? We're just asking.

Make our site, WWW.JOEMONAHAN.COM, one of your favorites and e-mail a link to interested friends. Interested in advertising to NM's large political community? E-mail me from the top right of this page, or call 505-243-4059 for details.

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