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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Winter Tries To Warm Up Mayoral Trail, Plus: The Great Wage Debate, And: Campaign 06': The Big Bore? Come Blog With Me! 

Brad Winter
The slaying of two ABQ police officers put campaign 05' on ice as the city mourned and the politicos went low-key. It reminded me of September 01' when 9/11 brought that mayoral campaign to a halt. But the action is resuming now and R city council prez Brad Winter is trying to gain some badly needed traction. Tuesday he attacked on an issue near to Dem Mayor Marty's heart--crime and cops. Winter didn't shy away from questioning Marty's assertion that there are now a thousand cops, and he took heat for it from police chief Schultz who said he was politicking too soon after the tragic deaths. A Winter supporter fired back. "The chief is living in another world if he thinks crime is not going to be a centerpiece issue. The shootings only add to the public interest, and they should." He asserted. Meantime, pollster Brian Sanderoff and I weighed in on Winter's tactics and strategy in a piece in the ABQ Tribune. We agreed Winter's move is timely if he's to consolidate conservative, tough on crime voters behind his candidacy.

It's probably the first of many attacks coming the way of Mayor Marty who, according to the first poll of the race, sits right on the bubble at 40%. One point down and we get a run-off between the top two vote getters. But Winter will need more than free media. Sources close to the campaign say he has now raised over $100,000, but that is just a fraction of the $1 million plus Marty is expected to bank. Maybe what's next is this: "Hello, Senator Pete? Brad Winter here and I need a little help...."


Raising the minimum wage in the Big Duke City to $7.50 an hour may be a hotter campaign than the one for mayor. Anti groups have raised close to a hundred grand and labor unions will kick in some serious dough on the pro side. Weighing in on the blog is Jerry Wright, co-owner of Great American Land & Cattle Co. in ABQ's NE Heights. Hey, did they make my list of great hangouts for politicos? Should have. They serve nothing but USDA Prime beef. Anyway, here's restaurant Jerry's take.

"Joe, every person in my establishment makes well above the minimum wage, and after a few months of training, every one is making over the proposed increase. But in addition to the unionizing in my front lobby, (which because of a poorly worded clause would allow ANY person to expound on ANY law), it specifically targets restaurants by requiring a 93% wage increase for our best paid employees--our servers. At my place on a slow night they make $20/hour plus, including tips. If I pay my servers so poorly, how come my applications are 10 to 1 for servers? Waiting tables is one of the best part-time jobs anywhere. It's how I got my NMSU journalism degree (which took me merely 8 years to get!)

Thanks Jerry. I will sic ABQ Councilor Martin Heinrich on you for a rebuttal so stay tuned.


The following from a well-known practiconer of the political arts in our Enchanted Land. Unfortunately, he will not let me use his name, but he echoes the thoughts of many of us tracking the upcoming 2006 campaign, or lack thereof.

"Damn, Joe what a boring election we're heading into. The Great One (Big Bill) is an obvious shoo-in. By November 06' all that will be left for us to do will be to haggle over whether his percentage is large enough to qualify for a "landslide." Same with Bingaman. Unless he announces his membership in NAMBLA, he's good for another 6 years.

Udall and Pearce are safer than safe, and now you're reporting that Patsy doesn’t want to be a patsy for Heather. I bet she doesn't run against Denish. I agree though, that WOULD be great fun for us.

I guess there's always the possibility the AG's race could heat up. And of course the (State Rep.) Debbie Rodella/Moises Morales match up north. I wish Kinky Friedman lived here. Oh well, carry on."


We will indeed carry on, but not without saying we apologize for the technical problems that some viewers of our little ol' Web site have been having, especially that weird blank space between the headlines and the main story. Our computer nerd force (ex-New Mexican Wayne Klick) is on it and we hope to have the works completely ungummed soon, or at least one of these days. Thanks for your patience. And, as always, thanks for your company.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Possible Foe For Heather As National D's Cry Over Her Free Ride, Plus: Ben Alexander Lives! And: My Bottom Lines For A Bloggin' Tuesday 

After last week's big news broke here that Dem AG Madrid was not a likely challenger to ABQ GOP U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, we sat back and waited for someone, anyone, to emerge to take her on. Well, we have a possible taker in one Chris Berkheimer, Big Bill's former chief deputy of homeland security, an Iraq war veteran from the first Gulf War and unsuccessful challenger in 04' to ABQ R State Senator Diane Snyder. He has an eye on the race, say those who should know, and has put out feelers to national Dems who are in a pickle now that Patsy appears to be out. Berkheimer would face the usual money chase challenge in taking on an incumbent, but politics is timing and with the war out of control as well as gas prices, the race may be looking more attractive even to relative unknowns who may see an opportunity to tie Heather into the unpopular policies.

Meanwhile, our report that Heather could get the first free ride of her career got the juices flowing among Dems around the country who can't stand the thought. Some inisive commentary on the matter at the Talking Points Memo Cafe


We argued with our Alligator friend about it, but in the end accepted his verdict that former NM Dem party chair and notable Hobbs oilman Ben Alexander had passed away. We reported as much recently when writing about SE NM politics. That Gator is now on his way to the woodshed, or a dirty swamp because Ben, according to friends, is now 85 and very much alive and well and living in Lubbock, Texas. We are glad he is and we extend our apologies to him and his family. By the way, Ben was Dem chair back in the 70's.


Larry Morgan is another New Mexico political old timer who in alive and well and following the Cannon Air Force Base situation. As a former aide to the late Dem U.S. Congressman Harold Runnels (yes, he is really dead) Larry hs keen insights. Here's his reaction to our report Monday on tension between Big Bill and the state's congressional delegation over Cannon's fate: "When Governor Richardson served in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the 3rd District he frequently played lone wolf and his relationship with other members of the NM Delegation was distant. So tension between Richardson and the members is nothing new."

Finally, Tim McGivern, editor of ABQ's alternative newspaper, Weekly Alibi, weighs in with his thoughts on the October 4 mayoral election which we blogged heavily here last Monday: "(Councilor Brad) Winter and (CouncIlor Eric) Griego should both be hitting the West Side with their message. That's where the race will be won, I think. Brad and Eric need to cut into Marty's tenuous support out there. It should be easier for Brad to make a dent in the West Side because he is well-regarded as a conciliator and people are sick of the squabbles that haven't delivered the planning they want. But his campaign needs to pump some wind into its sails." Thanks Tim. Whether Marty's West Side support is "tenuous" is the question. He has long ties to the area having represented it as a state senator back in the 90's.

Your emails filled with comments, criticism, news, and eternal wisdom are welcomed. Back here on Wednesday when I hope to finally update the debate over the ABQ minimum wage.

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Monday, August 29, 2005

NM Delegation Scored For Being MIA As Cannon Is Crushed, Also: Tension Between Guv And D.C. Reps During Disaster; Our Exclusive Report Is Up Next 

Sens. Domenici & Bingaman
The glaring absence of the entire NM Congressional delegation, contrasted with the big presence of Big Bill at the D.C. area hearings over the fate of Cannon Air Force Base, has set off four alarm fire bells in La Politica. Alligators are pondering the implications and scraping for news on what exactly happened as disaster befell Cannon and the community of Clovis.

We now take you deep on the inside, to the rushing waters of the Potomac River where the long knives are never allowed to rust. "Joe, there was tension between the governor and the delegation. The governor was flying solo on this, expressing confidence that he could cut a deal and taking a high-profile. The congressional delegation worked it hard too but, for the most part, withdrew from the public spotlight. If nothing else, there was a clash in styles that caused grumbling," reported our Potomac watcher.

Also causing grumbling in political circles was the failure of even one member of the NM D.C. delegation to join Big Bill at the crucial hearings Thursday and Friday where Clovis and Cannon were sent on their long death march. Insiders say Big Bill sent not so subtle messages while back East that he expected some of the congressional reps there and was disappointed. On the other hand, the D.C. insiders faulted the Guv for making a publicity show out of his appearance.

"He thought he had it won and had scheduled a big party for Clovis. It never happened and the presence of the delegation at the hearing would not have made a bit of difference. The die was cast," argued a delegation sympathizer.


Rep. Udall
But other political observers disagreed, saying while the decision to gradually phase out Cannon may have been set prior to he hearing, (although surprise amendments did surface) there were thousands of New Mexican households glued to their TV's for the hearings who had no clue what was going to happen and were either bemused or disappointed that their Washington reps were nowhere in sight.

Dem U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, who represents Clovis, made the media rounds via phone after the decision, but did not attend the hearing. It was left to Big Bill for on-scene reaction which, as usual, he gladly supplied.

"Look at the delegation from South Dakota. They were all there when it was decided that Ellsworth air base would stay open. We should have had at least one of our senators there. It was one of the biggest profile news events we've had with the federal government in decades. From a New Mexican viewpoint the place looked naked, if not for the governor," blasted another back East politico used to the battles.

Still, despite the insider bickering, few expect the 2006 campaign to erupt into a "Who Lost Cannon" controversy, but there could be longer term implications. "I think this disaster is a wash for those currently in office. The senators (Domenici and Bingaman) have a shot to redefine the mission of the base and maybe save it. The heat is off of them for the immediate future. But I don't think the Republicans can count on the kind of support they are used to in Clovis when the national elections roll around in 2008," analyzed a campaign expert.


If nothing else, the high profile Cannon hearings again demonstrated that Big Bill is the public face of all things political in New Mexico. Whether he accomplished anything substantive at the hearing is open to debate, but his deft reading of the public had him where he needed to be. The delegation can justifably resent his style and showboating, but on this one their political antenna looked mighty rusty compared to those worn by Big Bill whose love of the game takes no August recess.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

U.S. House Speaker Slips Into ABQ For Heather; You Are There, Plus: Cannon Death Watch; D.C. Decision Today As Clovis Holds Its Breath 

Speaker Hastert
The GOP Prez may be coming under heavy fire for a war gone awry in Iraq and gas prices pushing three bucks a gallon, but NM Republicans in attendance at a heavy-hitter, high-powered fundraiser featuring U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert were light on both their feet and in their mood, according to those in the know. Hastert commanded $500 a ticket for Heather who served "heavy o'dourves" and free-flowing wine. The speaker slipped into town just for Wilson and was feted, along with Wilson, by some 50 R's at the Four Hills area home of local businessman Sherman McCorkle and his wife Kathy. Heather's camp, nor any other camp for that matter, has floated any new names who might oppose her next year, following my exclusive report that Attorney General Madrid was a very doubtful spear carrier for the D's next year. The prospect of a free Heather ride looms, or at least the lack of a three million dollar challenger as she has had in the past.

On the war, Wilson is fresh back from Iraq with other members of the House Intelligence Committee and still supportive of the U.S. role there, telling the top-tier R's last night that "progress is being made." It is a viewpoint not shared by a majority of the New Mexican and American people, but vocal opposition has yet to surface from NM Democrats. The last Survey USA poll in NM had 81% of the R's here supporting the Prez, a total disconnect from the rest of the electorate. The NM Bush overall approval rating was only 42%.

Speaker Hastert of Illinois, a former high school wrestling coach and a big bear of a man described as likable and avuncular, told the NM R's he visits some 200 congressional districts a year. Next year is an off-year election and he could be visiting fewer districts in the future if history is any guide and the R's lose a couple of seats. But unless the D's come out charging with some new blood and soon, Heather Wilson's seat won't be be one of them. Don't say we didn't tell you.

There is some Dem opposition to the war, says ABQ South Valley political operative and former Young Dem leader, Sisto Abeyta. Look at this, he says. OK, but it isn't in New Mexico.


New Mexico politicos are on Cannon Air Force Base watch today. The Washington hearings where a decision will be announced on Cannon and other bases suggested for closing will be televised on C-Span II starting at 6 a.m. today. You can also watch the BRAC hearings live on C-SPAN’s Web site. Big Bill flew to D.C. for the hearings. I'll update the news when it breaks,

Back to the Heather-Hastert dinner last night, Doris Rhodes, daughter of former State Senator Virgil Rhodes, is said to be Heather's new fundraiser, replacing Jane Altweis who is now out of the game and leaving to teach school. Well, not everyone can be a La Politica lifer, just us chosen few I guess. And we're not going anywhere. Why give up a front row seat to the best show in the state?

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Heather Headed For Free Ride; Run By Madrid Doubtful; No Serious Foe On Horizon; "It's Disgusting," Grumbles Dem, Plus: Ex-Mayor On Mayor Marty 

Heather & Mayor Marty
They don't pay me to read tea leaves or interpret voice pitch. In fact, they don't pay me for much of anything around here, but I am still going to offer up the opinion that after speaking with Attorney General Patricia Madrid Monday I am nearly convinced that ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson is headed for the first free ride of her congressional career. Imagine that. No fierce 30 second point-counterpoint TV ads flooding the October airwaves every other year and no Dems banging the drum that 'this is the year' she goes down. It's a status achieved by her GOP predecessors, Steve Schiff and Manuel Lujan, but because Heather lacks their personal connection some thought it might never happen for her. But with President Bush tanking in the polls and gas prices soaring--in other words with Heather perhaps at her most vulnerable--the taxi is rounding the corner offering her a free ride.

The diminutive and feisty Madrid has amply demonstrated she is afraid of no one. But she did everything but take a Heather challenge off the table when she phoned in Monday to comment about the blog and La Politica. While shunning an uphill battle against Heather, the lifelong Dem dangled out a run at Land Commissioner and more dramatically, a primary challenge to Lt. Guv Diane Denish. Be still my heart! That would be a political junkie's dream setting off all kinds of speculation about the future of the Dem party and the Guv's office. Alas, I see that as doubtful as well. The Dona Ana County native also said she just might sit out the 06' cycle and serve on some corporate boards. Her politics now revolves around her political action committee--Justice For America--which she says is encouraging Hispanic women to get involved in politics and government. It has over a hundred grand in the bank.

Alligator Lopez
But back to Heather. At lunch at Barelas Coffee House Tuesday with non-anonymous Alligator and South Valley politico Andrew Leo Lopez and longtime GOP warhorse Bill Turner, conversation turned to our New Hampshire native congresswoman. Lopez pointed to her military veteran status as a not so secret weapon with New Mexico Hispanics. "It resonates with them." He said. We also noted her tendency to get a scare early in her campaigns and then on Election Night close it out big time. Not only is she poised to get a free ride next year, but she appears to be shaping up as the odds-on favorite to replace Pete Domenici someday. Yes, Steve Pearce down south is listening.

But hold it. If Patsy doesn't want to take the Heather dive, what about other Dems? Sorry, no serious takers, according to top D's. "It's disgusting," grumbled one of them when told of my conversation with Madrid. No, he wasn't upset with the AG, just upset that a free ride for Heather, after battling her since 1998, is simply not acceptable. But accept it they must. Ever since Heather Wilson was hand-picked by Senator Pete to fill the Schiff shoes, she has been shadowed by whispers of unworthiness. After seven years, it appears she may be about to dump that baggage and get going on that free ride.


That was some roundtable on the Monday blog dealing with the ABQ Journal poll on the ABQ mayor's race. And we have more. Who better than a former mayor to assess just where things stand? Probably no one. So here's Jim Baca, Alcalde of the Duke City from 1997 to 2001.

"Marty is probably in pretty good shape right now, but with 40% reelect numbers he is not out of the danger of having a run off election. His low reelect numbers are traditional for any Mayor in Albuquerque. No Mayor has ever won a reelection effort, although two have hung out for four years and come back to win again. They are Harry Kinney and Mayor Chavez. Chavez could break that jinx this time around because of the nonexistence of any serious opposition campaigns. It probably will get pretty nasty in the last month however and that is why Chavez might indeed face a runoff," blogs Baca.

I have some more on the ABQ minimum wage hike battle too, but it will have to wait. How about tomorrow? See ya then.

Send your comments and news via email from the link at the top right of this page.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Monster Land Deal Points To Politics Of The Future, And: Minimum Wage Misstep? Plus: My Best Restaurant Tips Just For You; Come Blog With Me! 

One of the biggest private land deals in New Mexico history provides the outline of the future Albuquerque your children and grandchildren will call home. For aspiring politicos the message may again be "move West, young men and women." That's where the votes are going to be, and the power. Breaking late Monday in the New Mexico Business Weekly, the monster deal is a stunner.

"Someone is preparing to buy 57,000 acres of mostly vacant land west of Albuquerque for $160 million in a deal that could change the landscape of the city. Westland Development Co. said it has reached an agreement in principal to sell its 800,000 shares of stock to an unnamed third party for $200 per share. The deal would transfer to the buyer all of Westland's assets, including the land, which is what's left of the historic Atrisco Land Grant that dates to 1692, said Westland President and CEO Barbara Page."

Yes, this is reminiscent of the establishment of Rio Rancho over 30 years ago. This time, however, the development would eventually be part of the city of Albuquerque. If the city is to sprawl this far West, it is imperative that old ABQ and its downtown not be ignored. If it is, it will be a rich and new West and a poor and downtrodden East. A downtown ABQ with world-class museums, zoo, restaurants and other tourist attractions should not be a pipe dream. It's clear that a metro area of one million is closer than many thought.


Speaking of poverty, how about that ABQ Journal poll showing a whopping 61% of the ABQ electorate supporting the minimum wage hike on the Oct 4 ballot? Heck, only half the R's are negative. "I am proud of Albuquerque," said Steve Cabiedes, political organizer and longtime liberal. Steve and others of the liberal stripe say even the wealthy are fed up with the lousy wages taht have been a generations old issue. "Everyone is sick of it across the board," commented Cabiedes. But a bizarre labor-backed provision in the initiative that is apparently aimed at increasing union membership could mean its undoing. Why did the city councilors who support the wage boost allow this? What is the real deal? Political support? Financial support? There ar going to be some upset folks if the wage hike to $7.50 an hour is killed because of a political deal with big labor. Cabiedes maintians it will still pass. "People are not going to focus on that. Even a negative campaign will have a hard time explaining it," he said. We shall see.


How could two ABQ cops be killed when they were wearing bullet proof vests? Asked several e-mails to this corner, We asked some of our sources in area law enforcement who tell us that the officers were ambushed and one was shot directly in the head and the other died when he was shot in the side. The murders forced the ABQ mayoral campaign into the dark with Mayor Marty pulling his TV ads until after the funerals. The other campaigns did not have media up when the murders took place last week.


You gotta eat. And it's high time I updated the ABQ restaurant scene for politicos here and for the many who travel into the big city for business and pleasure. Here's my list of the top restaurants, in no particular order, for a summer sojourn. New Orleans chain Zea Rotisserie has arrived in ABQ and is a real crowd pleaser. Good service and roomy seating so you can talk La Politica in private...Graze may be the best restaurant in the state right now. Near UNM on Nob Hill, it is an appetizer menu, but don't be fooled, the ingredients are top notch and you leave satisfied. It's a younger crowd. Good seating...Cafe Miche is hitting on all cylinders and is the top pick in town for French foodies... Yanni's is Greek and very political when owner Nick Kapinson is around. Still good after all these years...Zinc is a newcomer near Yanni's on Nob Hill. Nice presentation, cosmopolitan feel. Nice for out-of towners who want to get away from it all... Barelas Coffee House on Fourth SW is a must for politicos from across our Enchanted Land. Good enchiladas. Service is always a question mark.

That should keep you busy and full for at lest a while, E-mail me that favorite of yours that I missed. Let's get together again tomorrow.

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Monday, August 22, 2005

My Mayoral Oracles: Oh, So Close! But No Cigar Yet; Poll Has Wind At Marty's Back But Clouds Hover; Exclusive Analysis From The All-Star Pros Is Next! 

Forty percent is now the magic number in an ABQ mayoral race. Reach that and you are home free. But cries of "free at last" can not yet be shouted by the campaign of incumbent Mayor Marty, according to a consensus of top Duke City and NM political experts. The door, however little, is open, and Marty's opposition is trying to make the most of it. The phone lines of La Politica blazed on a normally placid summer August Sunday yesterday. The ABQ Journal poll showing Marty on the bubble--exactly at 40%--was the focus. (Undecided--31%, Griego--13%, Winter--11%, Steele--3%, none of the above--2%) Also, the meager 11% polled by Republican City Councilor Brad Winter was the subject of intense speculation. What does it mean? Where do we go from here? I turn you over to the able hands of my 2005 ABQ Mayoral All-Star Team. Campaigns that are cash shy and unable to afford consultants are advised to read on. They will be getting 1,700 words that would normally cost them thousands.


Why not start with the guy who did the poll and has been doing them for better than 20 years, Brian Sanderoff of Research and Polling? Upon seeing the numbers, Brian and I basically said the same thing: "It's not over yet." And we further agree that the ball is now firmly in the opposition court. "Are they going to raise the six digits necessary to put this in play or not? I have seen lots of wild things happen in the last four weeks of a campaign, but the opposition must have the resources." Analyzed Brian.

The part of the poll that drew the most attention in the political community had 63% of those polled approving of Marty's job performance, but only 40% saying they would vote for him. Why the big disconnect? "Well, a lot of the undecided say he's doing a good job, and they could break his way. It would violate the normal rules, but rules were made to be broken," said the veteran pollster. He added that the mayor would be best advised to continue to go after Republican votes. "If he can prevent them from consolidating behind Brad he will be very strong," said the numbers cruncher from his North Valley home on another working weekend.

Other analysts attributed the big disconnect to a "personal dislike" of the mayor and his past performance--including such things as the ABQPAC scandal. "They may say he's doing a good job, but they obviously don't want to vote for him," was one explanation I heard several times.


Pollster Pavlides is another one who has been on the scene for decades and has the added benefit of having done the campaign polling for Mayor Marty four years ago. He flatly declared that "if the other campaigns do their jobs, there is going to be a run-off. I think this is Marty's top number. With those leaning toward him, he is probably at about 45%, but if Griego and Winter bring that number down they can have him below 40% when the undecided starts to break and keep him from going over the top. In other words, negative campaigning is coming to a town near you. Pavlides said "Winter needs to move now. He needs to be on TV. Pavlides said the 11% that Winter polled does not take him out of the race, that four years ago R Bob Schwartz started from similar levels and went on to get 29%. Pavlides sees Griego moving into the mid 20% range but thinks the ultimate race is Marty vs. Brad. "It's the same old story: one Republcian candidate is in this race. He must unite that party behind him, or else." Pavlides declared.


"This is one of those polls where both sides are on the edge, said the veteran GOP politico and former gubernatorial and congressional staffer. "Marty has not closed the deal and Brad has not shown that he has put together a viable candidacy. The odds favor Marty reaching the 40% Oct. 4, but they are not overwhelming. Brad will have a hard time raising money going forward because of his low number. It will be up to the national Republicans to funnel money to the local party to make this thing a race."

Donisthorpe also said if Winter falters he could see Griego taking second, but that would mean Marty picked up a bunch of GOP votes and made the 40%. He said he sees Marty at about 43% and expects that's the number he will hit Election Night if the current trend continues. "I dont think he grows a lot from here. What you see is what you generally get with these incumbents," commented the Farmington, NM native as he chugged down a double dose of Starbucks.


Kurt was curt and succinct. The former state rep and network news reporter, now businessman, gives the race to Marty. "I don't think there is really much Brad can do. The Mayor is way ahead, and enough of the undecided should break his way to avoid the run-off." Lohbeck simplified the campaign this way: "Chavez needs to stay out of trouble. That's it," he declared.


The top NM lobbyist who will again join me on Election Night on KANW 89.1 FM for continuos city election coverage, says Mayor Marty has much to be thankful for. "It's pretty good news for the mayor. It absolutely puts this race in Marty's lap to win or lose. His campaign's positive actions or toe stubs will rule the day. Winter's numbers underscore his lackluster campaign. He should be scoring much higher. This should be a wake up call to him. Griego should be somewhat heartened. The mainstream spin has Griego coming in third so second place for him six weeks out could give him a little pop.

"Do no harm" should be Marty's campaign mantra. Griego and Winter have to whack at the Mayor's support. That means negative campaigning and that means a long September for Albuquerque residents," offered Scanland, a Roundhouse regular for two decades now.


While Scanland said the poll was a wake-up call for Winter, Santullo, in the political game for over 30 years and himself a onetime candidate for mayor and top mayoral aide, said it's Mayor Marty who should heed the poll as a wake-up call. "As a Chavez supporter I am concerned. He is just to close for comfort to that 40%. The undecided (31%) is too high. Winter and Griego are dipping their bullets in cyanide and coming for him. He needs to grow that 40%. At this point, I do think it is likely there will be a run-off. This poll showing that he has not ended the race may galvanize the opposition. Expectations were that Marty would be near 50% and it didn't happen. Marty at 40% is vulnerable. He needs to redouble his efforts, spend even more on TV and get his positive image out there," said the longtime talk radio host.


Senator Bingaman's state office director was one of many analysts surprised that the Mayor was not further above the critical 40% level. "But he has high positives across the board and that is going to make it tough for Griego and Winter to drag him down. Marty needs to stay positive as long as he can. Winter and Griego have to do everything right and the mayor just has to stay the course. Terry looks for "independent expenditures," such as those from labor unions, to finance the attacks against the mayor, saying he doesn't think the opposition will be able to raise enough money to be effective. "If those expenditures come it could put them in the race. Without them, it is doubtful." Brunner is in the 40% or bust camp. "There is just too much uncertainty in a run-off. Marty needs to put this one away in the first round," said the sharp-eyed analyst.

Winter & Family
The Alligators Sunday started to outline the future plot lines of the campaigns to come. Some see Winter veering to the right, attacking Marty for being too liberal on key social issues, such as gay rights, that upset bedrock Republican voters. They figure this is now a primary election--that Winter has no chance for first--but he can run second on the strength of the conservatives and force the run-off. The Mayor Marty camp knows it has to keep it positive and avoid some of the missteps that have already occurred. If weird stuff happens in September it will hurt. The mayor is his own campaign adviser and it will be up to him to keep his personal cool and not unleash the attack dogs until absolutely necessary.

The Griego camp is buoyed by the fact that Marty has not put it away. Some of them say this is especially important because the mayor probably spent well north of $200,000 in the last two months and that money did not do the trick. They are also hoping to attract new voters to the polls to vote for the increased minimum wage initative. Those voters should break Griego's way. Other Gators said they felt the Winter number may have been too low in the Journal poll, that not enough GOP voters were sampled. They see Winter at maybe 15%, but still way behind.


The scenarios are there for an upset. They are not highly likely, but they are not highly unlikely either. The huge financial advantage of the incumbent can only be overcome at this late date with the so-called "independent expenditures," (state GOP, labor) and energetic, near flawless campaigns. You must show you are better than your opponent. That is the task that awaits those who claim they can do a better job.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to today's blog. Great stuff and we will keep track of the race for you throughout the campaign. Election Night coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. October 4 on KANW 89.1 FM. Tuesday's blog is going to be a whole lot shorter, but we'll have something for you. Thanks for the company.

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Poll: ABQ Mayoral Race Still In Play; Mayor Marty Lands On The Money Number, But Barely; He Hits Exactly 40%; It's My Special Sunday Blog 

Not bad, not bad at all. But enough? Not quite. That's the word on the first nonpartisan poll of the 2005 ABQ mayor race conducted by pollster Brian Sanderoff of Research & Polling and released today by the ABQ Journal. Sanderoff bottom lined the numbers saying of the Oct.4 election: "It's not over yet." Indeed it is not, but Mayor Marty's three opponents have their work cut out for them. Marty polls exactly at 40% which is the magic number. If he pulls that Election Night he avoids a run-off with the other top vote-getter. But can Republican City Council Prez Brad Winter, the most likely second place finisher, catch up? He registers a disappointing 11% in the survey and the mayor has made significant inroads with GOP voters. 68% of them approve of his performance and 38% of them say they are going to vote for him. Democrat Eric Griego polls 13% and has been given credibility that it is he, not Winter, who is best poised to challenge Marty. Dem David Steele, the 65 year old political unknown gets 3%. Still, the race is not put away for the incumbent as 31% of the voters polled maintain they are undecided. And why shouldn't they be? This poll is basically a referendum on the incumbent since we have had no realy campaigning from anyone else.

Any politician with 98% name ID, like Mayor Marty, has a hard time beating his first polling number come Election Day. Sanderoff indicates it may be easier for Marty to do so because he has a high job performance approval among the undecided. But that's open to question. How come the mayor is not stronger in this poll since his overall job approval rating is at a very healthy 63%? That's the opening his opponents will sieze upon. The poll has a margin of error of 4.4%, meaning Marty could be at 44% or as low as 36%. Insiders in the Chavez campaign were hoping for at 45% or better thinking such a high number would basically end the race. But this poll, as Jesse Jackson might say, keeps hope alive. Obviously, Winter's late start has hurt him. He will need TV money very soon and he faces the challenge of picking up just about every GOP vote that is not already with the mayor and then some. Griego faces similar issues. It will now be up to the opposition to spin the numbers in a way that they can raise money from and also keep the race from being written off by the public after it gets news of a poll that shows Marty nearly 30 points ahead of his closet competitior.

Expect heavy negative campaigning too. Winter and Griego must stop any growth in the Chavez numbers or else he wins in the first round. At the same time, they must get known and create some positive vibes about themselves. Hey, no one said it would be easy.

More on all this Monday from my all-star team of election watchers. It will be exclusive, in-depth analyze you can get nowhere else so dont miss it. See you then!

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Friday, August 19, 2005

First Mayoral Poll To Hit Sunday; We Will Post Results Here And Then Have Full Coverage From My Top Experts Monday 

Mayor Marty
The first and anxiously awaited numbers on the four way race for ABQ mayor will hit the streets Sunday. That's when veteran pollster Brian Sanderoff releases his results in the ABQ Journal. Most observers were expecting the poll to come the last week in August or on Labor Day weekend. Sanderoff told me the paper decided to go earlier this go around because of increased interest in the race.

Sanderoff was in the field this week. Mayor Marty is the only candidate with TV up and a mail campaign so this poll will be more like a referendum on him, rather than a gauge of the competition. The early polling could also be to his benefit. I will post the numbers here Sunday with a brief analysis and will have a team of experts analyze the results in-depth on the Monday blog. Several of them have already told me they are curious to see if Mayor Marty significantly penetrates the key 40% level of support. If no candidate gets 40% on Oct 4 there would be a run-off election in November. These insiders say the Mayor's first number could be his best as well-known incumbents traditionally do no pick up support as they head into the heat of the campaign. Be sure to be with us Monday for all the angles on this one!

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Bush New Mexico Numbers Crater; Only R's Stay Loyal, Plus: Dateline Hobbs: Oil & Politics, And: ABQ Mayor Race,The Latest Comings And Goings 

It's been a rough summer for the Prez. In New Mexico, a state he narrowly carried last year, his problems have come home to roost. The latest Survey USA numbers for July show the Bush job approval rating plummeting to 41%, the lowest of his tenure. That's a five percent plunge from the previous poll, showing the toll the war In Iraq and high gas prices are taking. And it could be worse. A stunning 81% of NM R's still approve of the Prez's job performance, while the exact same number of Dems disapprove. If the base starts to crumble Bush is headed into the 30's and that would raise questions about the vulnerability of congressional R's, including our own Heather Wilson. But for now the R's are hanging tough with their guy, hoping better days are ahead. So do most New Mexicans whose patience is obviously wearing thin.

Commissoner Teague
We don't call it "New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan" for nothing. You regulars know we scour the four corners of our great state. Our latest foray found us on the long distance line with Lea County Commissioner Harry Teague who is in line to replace State Rep. Don Whitaker who our sources are reporting is set to resign for health reasons. Harry called in from Hobbs in reaction to the blog saying, "I can't deny what you wrote. I am very interested in the seat." And he responded to Alligators who said he might not live in the Whitaker district. "I have a house there and if I am appointed (by fellow county commissioners) I will live in the district," he responded.

And what about Hobbs and Lea county. With oil well north of 60 bucks a barrel are we minting new millionaires down there? "Not as many as you would think. Most of the oil business is now in the hands of the big conglomerates. There are not as many independent guys like Ben Alexander (oilman and former chair of the NM Dem party) or the Yates family," said Teague who has lived in Hobbs since 59'.

Three years ago the commissioner took over the oil concern run by Rep. Whitaker and is in touch with the local business scene. He told me the new Hobbs racetrack/casino has drawn no complaints from local businesses. "Judging by the license plates, I would say at last 50% of the business there is from Texas," He reported. That's gambling that works; Texans dropping their dollars in New Mexico.


And how about some Lea politics Harry? "The governor carried the county by just three votes in 2002. I think he'll do better next year. I have never seen the level of presence from any governor that Bill has had here. Most of his cabinet secretaries have made visits. We are not ignored."

Commission chairman Teague pointed out that Bush garnered an astounding 82% of the vote in the county, but he said he is a conservative Democrat like Rep. Whitaker and if he does replace him he will be able to retain the seat for the Dems in next year's election.

A final note on Lea. If the nation's energy woes are being caused by a lack of refinieries why not put another one in Lea county where they already have one and where they are also welcoming a nuclear energy concern with open arms? "That's a good question, Joe. I think I will have our economic development folks check it out."

Please do Harry. I have a V-6 and it's eating my credit card.

Sheriff White
Mayor Marty is at it again. The lifelong Dem is currying favor with ABQ R's in hopes of preventing the GOP's Brad Winter from consolidating them behind his bid and forcing a run-off. Marty's latest play was a piece of lit to GOP households filled with nice quotes about him from the likes of Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White (Bush's Bernalillo County chairman) and ABQ NE Heights State Rep. Greg Payne, among others. But White is not endorsing anyone in the race and Payne tells me he also will not publicly endorse the mayor. The piece did not claim the duo was endorsing the mayor, it just left the impression that they did. Meanwhile, Brad was trying to fend off the raid on his base by having a fundraiser sponsored by Congresswoman Wilson. Trouble is it was only for $125.00 a pop at a time when he needs a quick cash infusion to offset the treasury of Million Dollar Marty.


Judy Espinosa, as expected, withdrew from he ABQ mayor's race Wednesday in light of her loss at the State Supreme Court. We wish this competent public servant all the best, but are moved to comment.

Yes Judy, the city requires too many petition signatures (5,811) and yes, the city clerk's method of checking them is not perfect and yes, there are a lot of "obstacles" to becoming mayor. But four other candidates were able to get on the ballot. Why blame the system when you raised $50,000 and failed to spend it getting adequate petition signatures? On this one the Supremes got it right. The rules of the game may need changing, but you don't change them in the middle of the game. So it is written in the never-ending book of our beloved La Politica. May it ever be so.

Send your comments and news via email from the link at the top right of this page, and thanks for tuning in.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Here We Go: Dr. D' s Guv Campaign Set To Launch, Plus: Big Bill: 'All Puff, No Cigar' Charge R's As Immigration Issue Boils, And: Judy Craps Out 

Dr. D has a deadline. Santa Fe M.D. James Damron, the GOP's sole hope so far for an R challenger to Big Bill in 2006, will launch his campaign for the state's highest elected office on or about September 20, according to our sources knee-deep in the action. "He is a go. A big issue will be money. The governor could raise well north of $7 million. Damron needs a quick million to get things started," offered up our insider.

There has not been so much as a whisper of another R challenger against the first term Dem Guv who has made no secret that he is looking for a big re-elect win to use as a springboard to the White House in 2008. "Dr. Damron is a pragmatic guy. He's no dummy and will be able to make the conservative case. But he needs to overcome the sense of futility among many Republicans." Analyzed our informer.

Damron, a 60 year old radiologist who told me in March that he would use some of his own dough to fund his campaign, will start with a base of about 35%. Big Bill will try to end it there and come in with the psychologically important number of 60%. It won't be easy. That's why top Democrats tell me that the state party now has well over a dozen staffers working the field on the East side to dampen any hopes Damron may have in scoring big in "Little Texas."

Damron may not be the seasoned politico the R's want, but at least he is a player on the field and will be able to counter the Guv in the free media. You mean something like a two party system? You remember that, don't you?


Meanwhile, Big Bill moved to the right on the immigration issue this week and even got the NM GOP to issue a press release praising his state of emergency on the New Mexico-Mexican border. But on the national scene they play for keeps and were not biting on the bait. Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, one of the nation's more incisive conservative critics, did the heavy hitting on this one as R's fear our Guv is trying to steal a key issue from them. Possible NM Dem U.S. Senate contender David Pfeffer got a national pop from Fund for his catchy quote that Big Bill is "all puff and no cigar." Gosh, the last time we heard about cigars and politicians was when Monica and Bill were on the hit list. Let's not go there again! Here's the money graphs from the Fund piece and you can read the whole thing here.

"He (Big Bill) is demanding that officials on the Mexican side bulldoze an abandoned town on the border that serves "as a staging area for illegal drugs and illegal aliens." But Mr. Richardson sang a different tune in late 2003, when he showed up at a rally for the "Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride" and told them, "¡Viva la raza! . . . Thank you for coming to Santa Fe. Know that New Mexico is your home. We will protect you. You have rights here." Jaime Becerril, one of the organizers of the freedom ride, told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the participants favored a new amnesty program. He called immigration "a byproduct of colonialism and capitalism."

Further evidence of the governor's zigzag policy on immigration came in April when he vetoed a "No Fear" bill, which would have prohibited state and local law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal authorities to detect or apprehend people based solely on immigration status. But then he quietly issued an executive order that had much the same effect. Earlier this year, he also signed legislation giving some illegal aliens the right to in-state tuition rates at public universities.

"The governor is all puff and no cigar,"says David Pfeffer, a Santa Fe city councilman who abandoned the Democratic Party this past March when he concluded its members "were closer to Michael Moore than to me." He expects the governor "to run for national office while saying one thing while he does something else back home."

Ouch. We welcome a brief retort from the Big Bill spin room.


No great shakes over that Tuesday Supreme Court ruling clearing the ABQ city clerk of any wrongdoing when she reviewed petition signatures of the mayor candidates and found those of Judy Espinosa wanting. Judy's unsuccessful court challenge means she's very likely off the ballot and out of the game. That leaves four contenders, Mayor Marty, R Brad Winter and D's Eric Griego and David Steele. The ruling was most important for Griego who would have had no chance if fellow liberal Judy had made the ballot. It's also good news for Marty who can now see the math of getting 40% a bit clearer. If he gets it he avoids a run-off and is re-elected.


Supporters of ABQ city council candidate Isaac Benton were rejoicing over the Supreme Court petition ruling Tuesday. The ruling also kept two possible contenders, including Hispanic activist Juan Jose Pena, off the ballot in the downtown/Barelas district. Still on is Benton and Diana Dorn-Jones. Benton’s backers think their liberal Dem will get most of the Hispanic vote now and take the crown. We shall see. And I hope to see you back right here tomorrow. Thanks for the company.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sources: Longtime State Rep Whitaker Set To Resign; Adieu "Imminent," Plus: Dems Fret Over House Future; Big Losses In 06'?, Exclusive Details Here 

Rep. Whitaker
Top New Mexico political insiders report that the Roundhouse is being rocked by news that well-liked and powerful Dem State Rep. Don Whitaker of SE NM (Dist. 61, Lea county) will soon tender his resignation because of poor health. The chair of the important Taxation and Revenue Committee has been hospitalized in ABQ with serious ailments for over a month and, according to my most reliable of sources, not expected to return to his Legislative duties. "Don is a salt-of-the earth guy and has served the state well, but his health demands all of his attention," informed one veteran politico. And already the Alligators are on the watch reporting that a likely replacement for Don is in the bullpen.

"Democratic Lea County Commissioner Harry Teague will be appointed in his place. (The county commission, of which Teague is chairman, makes the appointment to fill the unexpired portion of the Whitaker term).We think we can keep the seat with him because he is a conservative and well-liked in the area," said one top level Dem strategist. But other Roundhouse wall-leaners were spinning this blog that the Whitaker seat will go R. "All they have to do is put up a decent candidate. Don held the seat for the D's because he was so popular, but that is deep R country (Bush got 80% of the vote!) and I expect the seat to switch parties," said one of the Roundhouse regulars.

And what about Big Bill? Does he have an angle here?" I queried another political power player. "Yes, he does. Teague is tapped in with Johnny Cope, a governor appointee, labor leader and major fundraiser for Bill," was the prompt answer.

An what about the chairmanship of that powerful taxation committee? "It's a wide open contest. Don't assume Bobby Gonzales (vice-chair from Taos county) will get it. The Speaker (Ben Lujan) will take a close look at this one before making the call," commented another Alligator tracking the late-breaking action.,

Rep. Whitaker was retired from the oil and gas industry and is respected and admired by D's, R's and Big Bill. The pride of Eunice, NM was wished a speedy recovery by all of those commenting for this report and we join them.


The Whitaker departure sets the stage for what could be a dramatic rebound by the GOP in next year's Legislative elections. That's the word from the top sources in New Mexico politics who you read here regularly and who have proven their accuracy. "Even an incompetent Republican party has some easy fruit to pick. Fred Luna may finally retire and his Valencia county seat is set to go R. Then there's Joe Stell in Carlsbad, the Al Park seat in ABQ that will be open when he runs for attorney general, and the Democrat seat in Rio Rancho held by Tom Swisstack, but which he barely hangs onto. If all went their way the R's could pick up as many as five seats. That would put them within three or so of a majority," analyzed one political pro who goes back to the early 80's.

And it was the early 80's when New Mexico last had a coalition of D's and R's controlling the House. Could it happen again? "The very thought sends shivers down (Speaker) Ben Lujan's spine. He is worried, very worried that gains of that size could change the dynamic. A coalition is never easy to pull off, but believe me, the governor, the Speaker and (Dem party chair) John Wertheim are losing sleep over this one," offered our very well-informed source.

Still, one cynic argued even with more R's in the Roundhouse things won't change much. "They are awash in so much oil and gas money that everyone could end up fat and happy. Why have a coalition when you can get barrels of pork without one," spouted our acidic observer. He has a point. Last year's big spending state budget passed with only three "no" votes.


Wow! What a report today from our top insiders. It is political junkie stuff like this that keeps me super-excited after over 30 years in the game, and it's the stuff that makes your blog ground zero for all things La Politica. I have even more exclusive big news for you tomorrow! If you know anyone interested in New Mexico politics who is not checking in here, do them a favor and send them our link: We don’t want anyone missing out.

P.S. Keep those e-mails coming

Warm Regards,

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Monday, August 15, 2005

Veteran NM Biz Lobbyist Bullington Moving On, Plus: Insider Info From My Media Room, And: Rio Rancho Says 'Meet The Future.' It's Your Monday Blog 

J.D. Bullington
There's a job opening for a lobbyist (preferably high-powered) at one of NM's top business groups. After nine years of toiling for the Association of Commerce and Industry, J.D. Bullington is signing on with Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, a national law firm headquartered in Denver that has a presence in ABQ but aims to expand into Santa Fe public affairs. I chatted up Bullington over a cup of supercharged Starbucks during which he reflected on that controversy that broke out over his lobbying in the last session of the Legislature. "It was really miscommunication, nothing else," he explained of the incident which had some lawmakers wondering if J.D. was the one trying to call the shots, not them. But he has since patched things up with those offended and produced a letter from the committee chief of staff who originally dressed him down for interfering with committee business.

The Brownstein gig will be a bump up the food chain for the upbeat Bullington. The irony is that the GOP conservative will be working for a firm that was a huge backer of Dem John Kerry. I didn't ask J.D. if he would keep his R registration, but he did tell me he would keep his ABQ Tribune column on business. Brownstein lawyers have been the go-to guys for municipal bond biz in ABQ. Bullington says the "changing dynamic of the state" means there will be plenty of work for his new employer at the Roundhouse.


The big dogs of the national media have to eat and a lot of them are doing regular dining in our neck of the woods as Big Bill entertains them with notions of running for the White House. Los Angeles Times national reporter Mark Barabak checked in with us again recently saying he "loves the blog" and also loves following Big Bill. Sunday he hit with a major piece in the LA paper in which our Guv says he is not left or right on the political spectrum, but "forward." Read all about it.

Shea Andersen was the young and aggressive political reporter for he ABQ Tribune until he left for Idaho. But he learned about Big Bill while he was here and we also recently chatted with him about the Guv's prez ambitions. It was one of several conversations Shea quoted in a freelance article he penned for the national Web site A highlight of the article is how the Big Fella gave Shea the finger.


July is the least watched TV month with outdoor activities dominating, but that doesn't mean the ratings stop or that inquiring minds don't want to know. So here goes. The 10 p.m. news battle, the one that matters to La Politica, continues to be a three way dog fight. For July, it's KOB on top scoring a 7.3 rating. KOAT is out of third place for a change with a 6.5 and KRQE which in the past year vaulted to the #1 position comes in third with a 6.0. A rating point represents the percentage of all area households with TV's that are tuned in. Insiders caution that the May and November ratings are more representative of true news watching trends.

From the inside of the ABQ Journal word comes that there will be no new political reporter named to replace Andy Lenderman who recently left for the Santa Fe New Mexican, at least not until next year. There will be someone on the beat when election year 06' rolls around.


As the debate rages over whether Rio Rancho will be a major city of the future, city fathers there harbor no confusion. Their slogan on the new city logo is "Meet the Future"." That rankles some ABQ urbanites who fear their viewpoints are being rejected by new New Mexicans and the marketplace. Having grown from 5,000 to nearly 70,000 in the last thirty years and with a new sports arena and downtown core on the drawing boards, plus hundreds of jobs sprouting up at big, new retail establishments, selling Rio Rancho short has been a loser. Is there any reason for that to change?

Thanks for tuning in. If you're new around here, welcome aboard. We welcome e-mail from the link provided above. See ya' tomorrow.

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Aging Titans Carry Battle into New Century; Domenici Vs. Cargo On Energy Bill; A Rivalry That Spans The Decades, Plus: It's McClure For Higher Ed Job 

Dave Cargo
The warriors are aging but the fight is not out of either of them, not by a long shot. Two Republican giants, Senator Pete Domenici, 73, and former Governor Dave Cargo (1967-70), 76, renewed their generations old battle of ideas this week as Cargo came out swinging against Pete's cherished energy bill that had President Bush flying into ABQ to sign. Cargo, unleashing his mighty pen on the op-ed pages of the state's largest newspaper, accused the senator of selling out, calling the bill a tax break giveaway to the oil companies. Cargo's ire did not go unanswered.

In a late night phone conversation Wednesday the droll Cargo told me of an afternoon call he received from Senator Pete. "He really scorched me. But it's not something I am unaccustomed to. To me, this bill was bad public policy. He sees it differently," Cargo reported.

Pete has been saying the energy bill is the best piece of legislation he has authored in his 32 years in the World's Most Exclusive Club. But here on the ground some insiders are baffled. "This is basically a forgettable piece of legislation that by all accounts does little to solve our long-term energy problems. Maybe Pete is trying to write the history books, but this is not a bill that is going to be on his tombstone," offered one D.C. veteran.

Still, a Domenici defender accused Cargo of "envy" and trying to rain on Pete's parade. "He has had it in for Pete for over 30 years and this is another example of how small he can be when the senator shows how to get the job done," offered
the veteran Cargo-Domenici watcher.


Through the years Domenici and Cargo have come to be on opposite ends of the GOP spectrum. They even faced each other in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in 1972, along with other R's. Pete won and went on to take the senate seat of Dem Clinton Anderson and has now served NM longer in the U.S. Senate than anyone. His only rival as the most influential political figure in state history is Senator Dennis Chavez.

It has not been personal pettiness that has kept the eyes of political observers fixed on this dueling pair. It has been the genuine battle of ideas engaged in by two men who come from humble beginnings and who each mastered the American Dream their own way. Both are lawyers and originally from the "middle of the road" school of GOP politics, but Pete is more pragmatic and has become more internationalist in foreign policy, a staunch free trader and ever more pro-business as the years ago by. Cargo clings to a nearly extinct liberal Republican philosophy that embraces labor, civil rights, a less interventionist foreign policy and a live and let live philosophy on key social issues.

Domenici, a gifted legislator and politician, met his intellectual equal in Cargo, and despite the ex-Guv's unsuccessful track record in politics, he continues to share the stage with the more famous Pete by sheer willpower, unmatched media savvy and credibility earned thru years of study and thought. Domenici has seen the tide turn his way during this historic duel that reflects the struggles of American politics since the 1960's. Still, someday the pendulum could swing back Cargo's way.

Even now, as shadows fall around these two worthy warriors, the political operatives of today, not even as old as these two titans have been sparring, can see the essence of political battle. It's not the 30 second TV sewer, campaigns corrupted by too much cash, hate media, or personal attacks. In the end, it's about big ideas. That may be hard to see in this modern era, where small minds seem to dominate, but Domenici and Cargo, battling into infinity, stand as a reminder that what is at stake is bigger than those who argue the case. Now that's a legacy.


And for those of you laying odds that this is finally Senator Pete's last term, don't bet the ranch. Take a look at this $1000 per person or $2000 per PAC political invite making the rounds. It's a night at the opera with Pete and his pals and it promises to raise a ton of money. For re-election in 2008? Let's call that one even money.


The Alligators who have been spinning us that Beverlee McClure, prez of Clovis Community College, has the inside track to become the state's new and first Secretary of Higher Education were right on target. Reliable sources tell us the Guv will announce McClure's selection today. McClure's' political savvy, strong education credentials and good relationship with Big Bill got her this far; let's see if she has any luck uniting New Mexico's byzantine higher ed system. How about that report this week that more NM high schoolers leave this state to attend college than any of the high school grads in surrounding states? Sounds like that one should be at the top of McClure's "to do" list.


Speaking of the Alligators, look at this one outside my door! Yes, some of my early morning readers Wednesday did not get my latest blog. (We later fixed that and if you missed it you get a double blog today by just scrolling down.) Still others are demanding that I blog even more. But I am standing my ground, as long as my front door holds up. "Scat, you slippery critters, no one can satisfy your appetite for La Politica!

E-mail your news and insider stuff. Thanks to those who do so regularly.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

It's A Dance Around Our State; From Cruces To Farmington To Santa Fe; We have The Inside Scoops; You've Arrived At Ground Zero For New Mexico Politics 

Senator Nava
Word comes today from reliable sources way down south that State Senator Cynthia Nava (D-Dona Ana), chair of the powerful Senate Education Committee, may have more politics on her hands in her job as associate superintendent in the troubled Gadsden Independent School District than she does in the often treacherous hallways of the Merry Roundhouse. We go direct to Cruces for the insider report:

"Joe, There has been chaos down here. The Gadsden school superintendent has been fired and there is a move to recall the entire school board. Caught up in it is Senator Nava. She has an $88,000 a year job and one of the factions is gunning for her. They are saying she has not spent enough time on the job and that the Legislature gets more attention. Cynthia had a bout with cancer which put her on the sidelines for a time, but her enemies don't want to hear it and are keeping up the drumbeat," informed our source.

You can read more about the troubled condition of the Gadsden district on the Texas-NM border and headquartered in Sunland Park, NM here and here. Meanwhile, we'll do our best to keep you posted on Cynthia's saga. By the way, Nava sponsored one of the hottest bills to make it thru the last Legislature. The measure prohibits the denial of admission to a university or eligibility for in-state tuition on account of a student's immigration status.


Also from Dona Ana county comes scuttlebutt about who the D's can put up against GOP incumbent Congressman Steve Pearce. The latest big name: State Rep Joe Cervantes of Las Cruces, chair of the House Judiciary Committee. "They are talking him up, but I think its doubtful he will take the bait," said our Dona Ana insider. I would be surprised too if Cervantes made the move. What, give up the committee chairmanship for a very likely ill-fated run against conservative Pearce? But the D's are desperate down south and any possibility gets mulled over.

Back here in River City, the name of Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron is again popping up as a possible 06' D opponent for GOP incumbent Heather Wilson. That is if Dem AG Patsy Madrid declines to make the run. Each would have an uphill battle. But the loser could lay claim to a future federal race for the D's, or so goes the wishful thinking. If Rebeca did go it would be her second time out. She got shellacked by the late Congressman Steve Schifff back in the old days.


Farmington urologist Dr. Allen McCulloch and I finally touched base. No, the old prostate is doing fine, thank you. We were following up on our Monday exclusive that the doc was considering a run for the GOP nomination against Dem U.S Senator Jeff Bingaman. He told me he is "very serious" about this and will make a final decision at the "end of the month." He also told me he was not ready to talk about the issues yet. Another major league GOP player told me that he has advised McCulloch to start raising as much money as he can. Easier said than done.


And finally, from Santa Fe an energtic spinner for the embryonic campaign of Dem attorney general possible Geno Zamora twirls the blog with this rejoinder: "In just two months, Geno has raised over $100,000 (I have verified this figure with the campaign). This is a significant number when you consider that Geno has never run for office before. Geno has quickly eliminated any financial advantage that his primary opponents may have had," spun the spinner.

But tell that to ABQ Dem State Rep Al Park who has also raised well north of 100k for the AG contest. Geno is a former state lawyer for Big Bill. (Sean Marcus, a former Clinton and Big Bill appointee is Zamora's fundraiser) Park is known as one of NM's bright, young bulbs. There are other strong candiates running too. It will be a banner race and we'll will watch it for you right here.

Email me your political news. I even made the type for the link at the top of the page larger. Let's hear from you.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Is There A Doctor In The House? No, But How About The Senate? Plus: Prez's NM Lovefest, And: Pete Caught Speechless. Let's Blog! 

New Mexico Republicans are having a hard time drumming up politicans to run against powerful Dem Guv Big Bill and Senator Jeff next year, but the medical community is stepping in to answer the emergency call. The latest MD to have his name tossed around is Farmington urologist Dr. Allen W. McCulloch. The good doctor and I could not hook up on the phone Monday, but I did learn from insiders that he can be fairly characterized as a "reliable right-wing Republican" who is seriously chewing over the prospect of challenging Senator Bingaman. In fact, he held an "exploratory meeting" recently. Another doc, James Damron of Santa Fe, told me the same thing last year in regard to a possible challenge against Big Bill and has yet to back down.

Both races are seen as longshots for the GOP but the doctors may be the best shot they have. ABQ's Tom Benavidez, a perennial candidate, has already announced his bid for the R senate nomination. Gadfly Santa Fe city councilor David Pfeffer is another possible for the R's against Jeff. McCulloch, my Farmington Gators inform, is the son-in-law of well-known Four Corners oilman Jimmy Drake. "Jimmy has not had the most cordial of relationships with Jeff, so that could be a factor in this," one of our sources relayed. I'll check in for a check-up with Dr. McCulloch soon and let you know the political diagnosis.


Meanwhile, NM Senators Bingaman and Domenici didn't seem to have a care in the world as they graced the stage at Sandia Labs Monday morning for the signing of the 1,700 page energy bill. The bill itself is a big hodgepodge that has hardly anyone happy, but Jeff, Pete and the Prez milked it for all the PR it was worth. It came off rather well as you can see by the photos running here. KOAT-TV political reporter Matt Grubs broke a bit with the local lovefest coverage and trotted out Dem party chair John Wertheim who pointed out bipartisanship has not been a hallmark of Bush. Then again, the Dems haven't exactly been great compromisers either.


A funny aside on the prez visit. Longtime Domenici chief of staff Steve Bell tried to join the motorcade from Kirtland that was going over to Sandia, but staff wasn't allowed. OK, said Steve to a presidential advance man, but make sure my senator gets his speech for this morning. He then hands it over to the advance man. But instead of giving it to Pete, the guy gives it to Jeff, who did not know what it was and stuffed it in his pocket. When Pete was later publicly perplexed over where his treasured words were Jeff checked his pocket and discovered the speech. That won a presidential laugh and Pete's praise who said it was another sign of the "bipartisanship" that prevailed in the energy bill battle. How's that for on the spot spin? Pretty gooey, huh?

Bell's escapade was mild compared to the one that took place about 25 years ago when then Domenici press secretary Peter Wellish locked himself inside of one of those portable outhouses and was left banging on the door to get out while the senator's party made their way to the next campaign stop.


Bingaman is rarely seen with top drawer R's, never mind the prez, but his strategists were happy Monday. They know Jeff's liberal record is a target next year and a GOP presidential vaccine can't hurt in moving him toward the center, as long as it isn't Dr. McCulloch giving the injection.

E-mail your news and insider stuff. Thanks to those of you who do so regularly. See you tomorrow.

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Monday, August 08, 2005

War Weakened Prez In NM Today, But Where's The Opposition? Plus: ABQ Mayoral Money Starts Talking & A Talk With Mayor Marty; It's Your Monday Blog 

Few anti-war protesters will greet President Bush when he arrives in the Duke City today to sign the energy bill at Sandia Labs. And don't expect a torrent of calls flooding talk radio against the war. There won't be any prominent NM politicians condemning the ongoing conflict either.

Where is the anti-war movement in New Mexico?

Polls show the Prez's popularity plummeting. But top Dems in NM are still mum, many locked into a position that "we have to finish the job" in Iraq before we withdraw. In other words, they are right where the R's want them. "We have lost the White House and the Congress, yet there is still our conservative approach to a disastrous war. What do we have to lose?" questioned one longtime and frustrated NM Dem."

The Dems are starting to beat the Heather Wilson bush again, saying that if the Prez remains unpopular the ABQ GOP Congresswoman could find herself threatened in 06'. But it all sounds like a dream, doesn't it? What's left of the "Left" is apparently confined to wheelchairs, too old to get out and protest. Young NM Dems have also been remarkably disengaged from the war, perhaps, some speculate, because there is no draft and it is volunteer soldiers taking the hit.

And where is the liberal Green Party, a natural to oppose the war? Apparently defanged and depressed.

There is a weird disconnect. While voters turn thumbs down on the war in ever growing numbers, the so called opposition party has not sent out one e-mail organized one protest, or had one prominent NM politico come out against the war. For President Bush it is a big reprieve; the poll numbers are lousy, but are not matched by noisy public debate. On this, the most crucial foreign policy issue of the day, neither major NM political party represents the majority view. What will it take to change that? And why should the party prosecuting the war be punished and the opposing party rewarded when it does not have the guts to stake a position? As the late, great commentator Ernie Mills would say: "We're just asking."

Mayor Marty (c. 1957)
The huge financial advantage that ABQ Mayor Marty has over his opponents kicked in over the weekend with re-elect signs dotting the street corners of the big Duke City and his TV ads gracing the airwaves. This, with just under 60 days to go before the Oct. 4 election. And the mayor, who has raised over $700K and is shooting for an outlandish $1 million plus, will not take a break from the tube, say the insiders.

I ran into the 53 year old UNM and Georgetown grad, two term mayor, ABQ native, attorney, former ABQ West side state senator and longtime political junkie at Yanni's restaurant on Nob Hill and he told me he is still determined to win 40 percent of the vote and avoid a run-off, even though the field (now four, maybe five) could make the math tough. I reflected that it was done once before, back in 77', when David Rusk pulled off the feat.

The mayor also took issue with my stance regarding his proposal (and that of his GOP foe Brad Winter) to outlaw payment to workers who gather petition signatures to place issues and candidates on the ballot. This after some forged signatures were discovered on petition forms to get a minimum wage proposal on the ballot. "You could still hire people to gather petition signatures; you couldn't pay them by the signature," he explained. Understood. But on this one the mayor and I are going to agree to disagree. I am too much of a First Amendment absolutist. I wouldn't yell "fire' in a crowded theater, but you get a long rope. As I left the mayor, who was awaiting the arrival of his lunch guest, I turned back and said, "Good Luck, this could be your last campaign." He nodded in agreement but I don't think either one of us really believed it.


Hizzoner was having lunch with longtime NM Dem politico Ed Romero. The campaign headquarters is just down the street from Yanni's which is owned by political old timer Nick Kapinson and is also a haunt of Big Bill's when he's in town. Liberal Dem mayoral contender Eric Griego prefers the more contemporary "Flying Star' restaurant in downtown ABQ. I could not lunch with the mayor so I missed out on the freebie Ed bought. But maybe not. When I worked in the mayor's 01' campaign Ed invited me to a big party at his house, but only if I would pay $1000. What a cold day in Hell that would have been! Eric did not see me at the Flying Star (or pretended not to) so another potential freebie was lost.

The sacrifices I make for you, my dear readers!

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Judge Goes For Judy As "Man of Steele" Makes ABQ Mayor Ballot, Plus: Light Guv Denish Draws Ire Of The Valley Alligators 

Who's on first? When it comes to the ABQ mayor's race it seems to depend on what day of the week it is. Judy Espinosa, her campaign all but dead,
was suddenly revived, at least briefly, when District Court Judge Geraldine Rivera Wednesday ruled that Judy should go on the ballot and reinstated over 2,000 petition signatures the diminutive former NM transportation secretary had had thrown out by the city clerk. Earlier, the man of Steele, Dem David Steele, managed to win a ballot spot, a testament to veteran politico Steve Schroder, who runs a consulting firm and collected Steele's John Does. So what now?

ABQ city attorney Bob White told me late Wednesday that the city will "defend the statute" that had attorney Espinosa failing to make the the ballot. A hearing should be held in 10 days. Political pros say there is still a chance that Judy could lose here position because they don't see the statute as unconstitutional. We shall see.

As for Steele, he has raised $50 Grand, but has been as quiet as a church mouse. His main impact on the race may be forcing a run-off between the top two contenders. Steele in the race makes four candidates and if Judy makes it we'll have five. Under that scenario the math does not look good for any candidate collecting 40% of the vote Election Night.


Meanwhile, Mayor Marty was giving his annual "State of the City" address last night and, according to KRQE-TV anchorman Dick Knipfing, "claiming" there had been a 7% decline in violent crime in the last three years. Maybe the mayor and Dick have different views on what constitutes "violent crime." TV viewers are saturated with images of the violent stuff and Knipfing, in the game now for forty plus years, was quoted recently as saying ABQ is a "violent town." This one comes down to perceptions and that will guide the upcoming campaign.


The Alligators in the ABQ South Valley have long memories and they used them in reaction to our Tuesday post concerning Lt. Guv Denish's decision to sign a petition to get GOP ABQ mayoral candidate Brad Winter on the Oct. 4 ballot. The Dem Light Guv said she did so because she believes in all candidates getting a ballot access. But take a look at this stinger in response.

"If Diane Denish were so interested in ballot access for candidates, why did she go to court to knock Linda Lopez of the ballot? Just asking." E-mailed a South Valley politico.

He was referring to Diane's 2002 court suit to keep ABQ Dem State Senator Linda Lopez off the Dem Lt. Guv primary ballot. The suit was successful and Diane avoided a possible, strong Hispanic opponent. But now that Linda is going to law school she might have a better chance of winning any future suits thrown her way by the aggressive Diane.


It's summer driving season. And what can we say? Enterprise rent-a car has been a great sponsor of this site for nearly two years. Please check them out for all your driving needs this summer. You will be doing business with a good New Mexico crew and supporting this continuing effort to bring you the best coverage of New Mexico politics anywhere.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Big Bill Still On The Mayor Marty Bandwagon; Dem Chair Wertheim Also Weighs In On Coming Battle, Plus: Prez to Sandia, And: Remembering Eddie Lopez 

Big Bill
If you were wondering if Big Bill would back a different ABQ mayoral horse at the last minute, we have it on good authority--straight from the horse's mouth so to speak--that the Big Fella is sticking with Mayor Marty. Here's a direct on-the-scene report from one of our Senior Alligators who attended an event with the pair.

"I was at a Richardson Roundtable get together. About 200 people attended. Bill said the Roundtable now has 600 members. Mayor Marty arrived escorting actress Talia Shire who was here scouting out movie opportunities. The governor gave a strong endorsement of the mayor's candidacy. He introduced Marty and mentioned that he is a 'great mayor' who we all support. He also joked that he (Bill) saved Marty's Pandas for him," reported our deep insider.

City Councilor Eric Griego is the other Dem who has made the mayoral ballot so far, but the Guv can fade any heat for the Marty endorsement by noting that officially the mayor's race is nonpartisan. You know and I know that there is no love lost between Big Bill and Marty, but this is politics folks, not a marriage. A GOP mayor in the state's largest city is just not in the interest of a guy seeking re-election himself next year.


Now it's a slightly different story from Big Bill Dem chair John Wertheim. We ran into him and his wife Bianca, (who works for the Guv) at a trendy Nob Hill restaurant recently. (I posed as a waiter to get in) John nodded in the affirmative when I asked him if the party would get involved in the mayor's race if it comes down to a run-off between Marty and R Brad Winter. But unlike the state GOP, which is basically running Brad's operation, Wertheim indicated there would be no party involvement in the October 4 battle.

It seems only fair that if the R's are going to simply ignore the "nonpartisan" designation of ABQ elections, so shall the D's. The more they go this way the more you have to think partisan elections with primaries may be the way for us to go in the future.


It's just a hop and a skip from Crawford, Texas, where the Prez will hole up for August vacation, and ABQ's Sandia Labs. And he will make the hop over August 8 to sign the energy bill which NM's two U.S. Senators played a major role in crafting. The bill has been widely panned, but the signing ceremony will please Pete who will probably pry another couple of million out of the Prez for Sandia labs during the visit.


I gotta admit this one got by me. The NM General Services Department Cabinet Secretary and son of the late Santa Fe Democratic State Senator Eddie Lopez is a Republican. When Eddie Lopez Jr. blogged in last week defending the Guv's jet plane purchase we incorrectly called him a Dem. We should have know better, but watched his old man in action for years and naturally associated the son with the father.

Eddie Jr. reminds us that his father was not a liberal Dem. "I was with him in the voting booth when he went for Nixon in 72," he informs. And I will add I recall Eddie's conservative stewardship on tax and spending policy. He was one of the foremost experts ever in this area and I think the staff was less powerful then because of it. It's hard to say if Big Bill would have had a tougher time with the Legislature if he had to face-off with the pragmatic Senator Lopez. Many thought Eddie's longtime pal, Sen. Manny Aragon, would have have been tougher, but he was lured by a a big job at New Mexico Highlands. Would the same have happened to this other Legislative giant?

Senator Lopez was bedeviled by personal problems that often made headlines, but he was one of the few legislators who could dress you down on a news story (as he did me once in the early 80's at the legendary old Bullring) and you knew you had it coming. I miss his attention to detail, his voracious appetite for knowledge and politics and his warrior sprit. And I think the New Mexico Senate does too.


We didn't mean to create a mystery about which former U.S. House speaker was recently in the ABQ area, but we did for some of our readers when we omitted the name of Newt Gingrich from our insider report Tuesday. It was indeed Newt who visited here and who, by the way, reportedly chuckled when reminded of Big Bill's Prez plans. Whatever that means.

E-mail your news and insider stuff. Thanks to those of you who do so regularly. It is your blog too. See you tomorrow.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Diane To Marty: "Nothing Personal, Pal," And: Jeff To Pete: "No Offense, Buddy," Plus: Clippings From My Newsroom Floor; All On Your Dog Days Blog 

Lt. Guv Denish
NM Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish is a dyed in the wool Democrat so it was a shocker to a petition worker in ABQ recently when Diane agreed to sign a petition to get GOP ABQ City Councilor Brad Winter on the October 4 ballot. What made it even more surprising is that Diane ran as the running mate of Dem Mayor Marty when he unsuccessfully sought to unseat GOP Governor Johnson in 98.' Winter, of course, is now trying to unseat Marty. But not to worry D's. Di says she has not switched parties or is endorsing Battling Brad or carries a grudge against Marty. "She said she signed because she believes in ballot access for candidates," explained the worker who snagged the Light Guv's Jane Doe.


Meanwhile, mayoral contender Judy Espinosa hit the tube last night announcing she was going to sue the ABQ city clerk to prevent from being denied a place on the ballot for failing to file enough petition signatures. Why Judy is blaming the city clerk for doing her job is a riddle. The Espinosa campaign has raised over $50,000, but insiders say she refused to pay, like other candidates did, to get enough signatures. Espinosa filed about 7,600. She needs 5,811 valid ones. It's unlikely she has them. Judy is a bright, capable public servant, but someone needs to tell her that La Politica is hardball at its hardest. If you don't step up and play the Alligators attack.

Blog reader Alan Schwartz and I agree that the proposed ABQ legislation that would ban people from getting paid to collect petition signatures for candidates or causes is a bummer and likely unconstitutional. His latest update is that this issue is now being litigated in federal court in Ohio where last year voters passed a measure that allows candidates or organizations to hire help, but bars them from getting paid based on the number of signatures collected. The Ohio Sec of State says the ban is unconstitutional.


It's not that he was upset with GOP Senator Pete Domenici or had a personal axe to grind, says a Senator Jeff Bingaman insider in reaction to our Monday posting of a newspaper piece saying Jeff was put out when an attempt surfaced to name the energy bill after Pete, a bill they had worked on together. "Jeff felt the energy bill should be nonpartisan. It was nothing personal with Domenici.

The move to name the bill originated in the House. Pete did not even know about," the insider asserted. The reporter and editor for Roll Call who wrote the piece citing jeff's irritation, John Bresnahan, defended it from D.C. "We're not changing anything in that story." The bill was finally named the Energy Independence Act of 2005, avoiding any further real or imagined clashes of the ego in the worlds most exclusive club.


Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and possible 08' GOP Prez candidate was spotted in New Mexico recently. The conservative Georgian was collecting a check for speaking at a corporate retreat dealing with medical issues at the tony Hyatt Tamaya Resort.

The pro-choicers want equal time in this space with the pro-lifers. This after we interviewed anti-abortion advocate Dauneen Dolce on a recent poll. Giovanna Rossi heads up the pro-choice group in NM and urges readers to check it out.

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Monday, August 01, 2005

Lady Lawmakers Heading For Law School, And: More On Mayor Marty's Million, Plus: NM Senators In Ego Clash On Energy Bill; It's All On Your August Blog 

Senator Lopez
There's going to be a couple of familiar faces on the University of New Mexico School of Law campus come August 16th. Dem ABQ State Senator Linda Lopez and Dem ABQ State Rep Gail Beam have decided to become lawyers and will start classes then. The insiders say it's a chance for Lopez to burnish her resume with career credentials she lacks. She briefly sought the Dem nomination for Lt. Governor. A law degree could not only give her a career, but more political opportunity.

As for Gail, the wall-leaners in Santa Fe wonder if some day she could use a law degree to become chair of House Judiciary. When State House Speaker Ben Lujan retires some day, it's anticipated that State Rep Ken Martinez will succeed him. Isn't Majority Leader Ken, a former chair of Judiciary, a protégé of sorts of ex- House Speaker Raymond Sanchez? And isn't Raymond good friends with Gail and her husband, former House Speaker and Attorney General David Norvell? And wouldn't "Speaker Martinez" have the power to name the Judiciary chair? And wouldn't it be cool if Gail was appointed chair and then Raymond, Gail, Ken and Dave could all party together at the Roundhouse? Or is it possible Gail just wants to be a lawyer? Long live the conspiracies, real or otherwise, of La Politica!


Million Dollar Marty is going to have to spend it all or give it away. So reports our finance Alligator who reacted to a musing here that the Dem ABQ mayor could save some of the $1.2 million he plans on raising for a future campaign. Sorry to get your hopes up mayor, but here's the scoop.

The City Charter, Article XIII, Section 4 states:

"Any contributions not expended on the campaign shall be disposed of, at the option of the candidate, by one of the following methods: 1. Retained in the campaign bank checking account for a possible runoff election for that office. 2. Returned to the person who made the contribution 3. Placed in the City's General Fund, or 4. Given to a charity identified by the candidate."

Maybe Marty can can use any leftovers to get that Panda bear in here from China.


Pete & Jeff
Sure, NM Senators Pete and Jeff worked darn hard on that energy bill. There they were on TV in the middle of the night hammering out a compromise. And the bill, after years of delay, finally passed. Trouble is hardly anyone likes it, including most newspapers such as the conservative Wall Street Journal.

It was not widely reported, but there was behind the scenes friction between NM's two senators. They got into it last year when Dem Jeff said R Pete was ignoring him. This time, according to our friends at the Capitol Hill Newspaper Roll Call, Jeff was upset at the attempt to name the energy bill the Domenici-Barton bill, after the two GOP sponsors. Hey, this is supposed to be a bipartisan measure, cried Jeff as he objected to giving Pete the limelight. Can someone email in and let us know the final name of the bill?

It's hard to see how the energy bill does much for Senator Bingaman's re-election prospects as it does nothing to lower the onerous gas prices hurting drivers, especially those in rural NM. But the last we checked Jeff didn't have much of a race for re-election, did he?

Camel Rock
But who cares if gasoline is well north of two bucks a gallon? We New Mexicans love our cars. And why not? You drive an hour in any direction and it seem you have crossed into another country. And the drive just got much easier up North. The long and painful reconstruction of Highway 64/285 is finally done and I can say from experience it is a very cool drive. Great scenery on a slick, new highway with the satellite radio blasting and the top down. It doesn't get much better than that. The folks at the state transportation department, who might merit crucifixion for the pace of their work, deserve a pat on the back for getting the design on this one right. Just hurry it up next time. We got Saudi oil to burn.

Keep the politics coming. Email your comments, news, complaints or whatever else is on your mind. I look forward to hearing from you.

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