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Monday, October 31, 2005

New Mexico's Treasure; Beyond Dreams; Can It Be A Turning Point? Plus: The New Treasurer; To Be Fenced In? And: A Political Video Favorite 

If money alone could solve the deep-seated social and cultural problems that put New Mexico at or near the bottom of just about every possible national ranking, surely we should be close to climbing out of the cellar. The stunning, no, the shocking, amounts of money flowing into state coffers from the oil and gas price explosion and the resulting royalties are enough to satisfy the wish list of even the most big spending liberal and the tax cutting dreams of even the most ardent Republican.

The surplus for the budget year starting next July is now put at nearly $700 million. But budget insiders tell me it is very possible it could actually be closer to $1 billion! That's on top of the current fiscal year surplus of over $800 million! Is this finally the answer to our generations old problems of child poverty, child abuse, poor education, low-wage jobs, domestic violence, sky high drug addiction and drunkenness and low worker productivity that has saddled us with our ignominious reputation? The optimists say it could be. The pessimists say the politicos don't know where to begin.

"A lot of this money should be returned to taxpayers, but say you returned a third. That could still leave you $700 million and even more if energy prices stay high in 06'. The potential to do great things is there," said one state government veteran.

Others say government programs as presently constituted are simply not adequate to handle additional inflows of money and if given it, it will go down to the drain and leave us right where we started.

"The problem in New Mexico is that there are so many people desperate for jobs, that government programs often become jobs programs, not problem solving agencies," analyzed an insider.

Big Bill has given tax cuts to the well-off that have placated the R's. Now, he has resources available to tackle problems that other governors can only dream of. Can he and does he want to father big ideas? If so, can he execute them with accountability the GOP will rightfully demand? Or will other ambitions prevail on him? Can these unfathomable surpluses be the stepping stone for a future where New Mexicans will look back with nostalgia at the pathetic social conditions that haunted their ancestors?

Is this New Mexico's last, best chance?

Co-Chair Rael
Big Bill appointed another of those big, unwieldy committees to preside over a brief search for a new state treasurer who he will appoint to fill out the term of federally-indicted Robert Vigil who resigned last week. The committee will be co-chaired by Kim Sanchez Rael, a member of the State Board of Finance and wife of ABQ politico and veteran bureaucrat Lawrence Rael. He also said the panel should decide if it is best that the new Treasurer not seek election to a four year term next year. But who elected the panel to make that decision? Asked one politico protective of power not already in the Guv's hands.

"Whether the next Treasurer runs for the position or not should be of no concern to the Governor or his panel. In fact, a Treasurer who agrees not to run could be seen as less accountable to the people. The Governor needs to get a qualified replacement and stop worrying about the politics. It is not his place to set conditions, voluntary or otherwise, on the Treasurer's political plans. It is an elected position and this scandal has not changed that," declared a Santa Fe wall-leaner.


Interestingly, Big Bill has backed off his earlier plan to push legislation to have the Treasurer appointed rather than elected. It's probably a non-starter. It would place more power with the governor in an era when the chief executive's muscle is larger than ever because of his ability to focus the public on his agenda via the media. Also, Hispanics could be the deciding factor. Since statehood, they have been protective of the right to elect statewide officials.

Big Bill does have a legislative package that will provide for succession at the office and also some anti-corruption measures that are long overdue. Former Attorney General Paul Bardacke has floated the idea of paying the Treasurer more for overseeing billions of dollars. He currently makes $85,000. Would paying say $150,000 a year attract a better quality candidate? It may be worth a try.


Here's one circulating on the Net that even though it pokes fun at our sometimes speech-impaired Prez could apply to a lot of our politicos, including the D's. Enjoy the video.

E-mail me your news and comments and keep the politics coming. There's link at the top of the page.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

New Mexico Exhales As Indicted Treasurer Blinks; Resignation Ends Six Weeks Of Anguish And Anger; Perspective & Analysis On The Historic Week 

Capitulating in the face of certain impeachment and historical disgrace, federally-indicted New Mexico Treasurer Robert Vigil ended the pain late Wednesday and tendered his resignation. It was the end of a six week saga that had the state on a legal, political and emotional rollercoaster the likes of which it had not seen in its 93 year history.

There was some initial confusion at the Roundhouse on whether the extraordinary session of the Legislature set to convene Friday would go on, but House Speaker Lujan issued a statement late last night stating the obvious; that there was no need for a session to impeach now that Vigil had walked away. And veteran TV anchorman Dick Knipfing added at the tail end of a special report: "Its hard to see how you impeach someone who has resigned." Thus the political coffin was nailed shut.

Big Bill, campaigning for Dem Gov candidates in New Jersey and Virginia, announced he will form a "bipartisan" search committee to pick a replacement for Vigil and they will give him three names. As we blogged Wednesday, ABQ chief administrative officer and former Treasurer James B. Lewis could end up on that list as could state tax boss Jan Goodwin. Others are sure to surface.

For the Governor and the Dems the resignation could not come soon enough. The scandal was threatening to overshadow his re-election campaign and the entire 2006 ticket. Republicans were still talking up connections between the Guv and Vigil, but the resignation took the wind out of their sails.

"Governor Richardson appears to come out pretty well. He applied continuous pressure on Vigil and there was no news that tied the Governor directly into the Vigil mess. In New Mexico, that ain't bad," commented one R.

Rep. Martinez
The Legislature formed a ten member impeachment subcommittee and picked GOP attorney Paul Kennedy to lead them. Lawyer and State Rep Kenny Martinez co-chaired the committee along with ABQ GOP Rep Eric Youngberg. How did they do?

"It's hard to find fault. Martinez showed composure and did not give in to some pressure from Democrats up North to go light on Robert. He and the Governor tag-teamed this one. They showed Vigil no hope. That's hardball and effective politics," commented a veteran of the Roundhouse wars.

Attorney General Madrid, slammed by the R's for not investigating Vigil when she had a chance, nevertheless was the first to ask for Vigil's resignation and also won credit for staying the course. "She's tough and don't think Heather Wilson wasn't watching," remarked another of my Gators as he anticipated that ABQ congressional match-up between those two women next year.

Another Alligator weighed in about the Vigil side. "They had little hope from the beginning. The corruption charges were just too serious. Anyone else would have resigned right away, but Robert is a proud guy. (Vigil attorney) Sam Bregman probably kept him in the game too long."

And KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson wrapped the story with the irony of the day: Vigil resigned on what was his 52nd birthday. Not a very happy one, we presume.

When Gerald Ford took over from resigned President Richard Nixon in 1974 he remarked: "Our long national nightmare is over." The Vigil event doesn't match the import or drama of that event, but for our Enchanted Land it was close enough. Hopefully, it will be at least another 93 years before it happens again.


In my Wednesday blog I said Governor King appointed James Lewis Treasurer in 1985. Of course, it was Governor Anaya...In my report this week on Big Bill's personal lawyer, former Attorney General Paul Bardacke, we used the term "Consiglieri." A reader e-mails: "Consigliere" is how the term is spelled when referring to one individual. Spelled with an "e," it is singular. "Consiglieri" with an "i" is plural. Traditionally, a Mafia family has only person in the position of consigliere at any given moment. Not that Big Bill is running a Mafia family...Finally, join me for more talk on the Treasurer scandal at 8:30 p.m. on KNME-TV, channel 5 in ABQ Friday night on "The Line." The program repeats Sunday at 7 a.m.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Speculation On Vigil Replacement Heats Up; Political Fireman James B. Lewis A Possible; Goodwin Still In The Game, Plus: Just What Is The "Crisis?" 

James B. Lewis
Speculation is spreading like wild fire over who will replace Treasurer Vigil if, as expected, he becomes the first elected official in NM history to be impeached when the State House convenes in extraordinary session this Friday. And a familiar name is topping the list that the Alligators are compiling in these apparently waning days of the Vigil regime.

James B. Lewis, currently the chief administrative officer for the city of Albuquerque, could get a call similar to the one he received over 20 years ago; a call that his services are needed to replace a scandal plagued Treasurer. It happened in 85' when Treasurer Earl Hartley was forced to resign and Governor Anaya called on Lewis to fill his shoes. He did that and more, winning a four year term in his own right in 86' to become the first, and so far only African-American, to be elected to statewide constitutional office.

Now, yet another Governor finds himself in need of a political fireman, and there is none with more experience than Lewis. The 58 year old Roswell, NM native confirmed to me late Tuesday that if he gets that call "it is something I will seriously consider."

New Mexico could do worse, much worse. Lewis has seen it all and done it all. He has extinguished the flames of La Politica for decades and has also navigated the stormy seas of Washington D.C. where he worked in a top job in the Clinton Department of Energy at the same time Big Bill was Secretary of that department. Lewis was elected Bernalillo County Treasurer twice in the early 80's. In one campaign I covered I remember he was advised not to show his face in the media for fear of turning off White voters. Times have changed.

Later, Lewis would serve as chief of staff to legendary Guv Bruce King and make a run for mayor of ABQ in 01', only to lose to Marty Chavez, who appointed him to the city's top job, a pressure cooker that suits the cool temperament of Lewis, who also did a two year military stint and served as a criminal investigator after getting a masters degree in public administration.

Sandia Mts.
We spoke via phone from his expansive 11th floor office at City Hall at the end of another of his 12 hour work days and as he pondered the towering Sandia Mountains and skies dripping red from a late Fall sunset. Lewis agreed that New Mexico does indeed face a constitutional crisis. "Joe, the crisis is that if there is no elected or appointed Treasurer and a deputy is left to run the office, there is s no accountability or responsibility to the people. That can not stand," declared Lewis who said he agreed with the Guv's decision, disclosed here Tuesday, that he will go ahead and declare the office vacant upon any Vigil impeachment, even though his authority to do so is not clearly spelled out in the constitution.

I asked the Gallup High grad whether he was prepared to seek the Dem nomination for Treasurer in June 06' because most Dems want any Vigil replacement to help them hold the seat for another four years, not just the year left on Vigil's term. He indicated he would make the run if appointed.

Lewis is credited with being a wily politico, a highly-competent administrator and a man of compassion and unquestioned integrity. The critics hit him for being too bureaucratic and not an innovator. He has nothing left to prove and is earning over $125,000 a year. The Treasurer's job pays $85,000, plus he would have to commute to Santa Fe. On top of that, he would be under the microscope and under immense pressure to restore the reputation of the disgraced office and do it without making a single mistake. Not exactly a bed of roses.

But Lewis's home state is hurting and it may be hard for him to resist the call, if it comes. Sacrifice, discipline and putting others ahead of yourself are the key attributes needed by the people in their next state Treasurer. That's territory familiar to New Mexico's James B. Lewis.

Sec. Goodwin
Meanwhile, back in the City Different, the politicos were not ready to dismiss the chances of state tax Secretary Jan Goodwin of becoming the next Treasurer. We were the first to pop her name when it looked as if Vigil would resign, rather than go down like a flaming Zozobra. Some insiders say Big Bill wants to keep her around to deal with the Legislative Finance Committee and such. But she did seek the Dem nomination against Vigil in 02' and, like Lewis, gets high marks as a top-level public servant.

Of all the choices the Governor has had to deal with in this largest scandal in state history, picking between Lewis and Goodwin might be his most difficult, but most pleasant choice.


We're getting a little long in the tooth with today's blog, but I want to post these comments from one of my Treasurer Alligators who details exactly why the word "crisis" is not hype when dealing with what our state faces in the Treasurer scandal.

"The crisis isn't about making investments, it's about issuing state bonds. Bond underwriters and bond attorneys have to issue formal decisions as to the tax free nature of the bonds, the financial health of the state and the fiduciary responsibility of those involved in the issuance of the bonds. How can they approve a bond issue if the state Treasurer's office (with an indicted Vigil) is the fiduciary for the state? Investment firms are tracking this very closely. Morgan Stanley was getting copies of the federal court hearings. This situation by itself should be enough to impeach Vigil. By getting himself indicted he puts the state's finances at risk." wrote our tapped-in Gator.

Had to get that in because it's the kind of stuff you get nowhere else. Thanks for reading all the way down here. I enjoyed bringing it to you and I'll look for you again tomorrow. Meanwhile, e-mail me your news and comments from the link at the top of the page.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Exclusive: Sources Say Governor To Appoint Replacement If Treasurer Vigil Impeached; Court Test Could Arise, Action Would Address Succession Crisis 

Big Bill
An authoritative source at the State Capitol Monday told "New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan" that the Governor is now prepared to immediately appoint a temporary replacement for federally indicted State Treasurer Robert Vigil if this weekend Vigil becomes the first elected official in state history to be impeached by the House of Representatives. The action, if taken, could nip in the bud the constitutional crisis that has developed over succession in the Treasurer's office in the event of Vigil's impeachment. Sources believe such a move by the state's chief executive would stand a constitutional test if challenged before the State Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Vigil attorney Sam Bregman, in a direct slap at Big Bill's latest call for Vigil's resignation issued Monday, declared to veteran Associated Press Santa Fe Bureau Chief Barry Massey: "Resignation is off the table."

The Vigil affair has now become a test of wills at the highest levels of governmental and political power while a public crisis of confidence in state government swirls below. The pressure on the key players in this unprecedented power struggle is beyond imagination.

"The Governor's legal advisers agree with him that Vigil's impeachment means the constitutional 'vacancy' requirement would be met. He is preparing to make the appointment if Vigil does not resign and is impeached. He is determined to protect the fiscal standing and reputation of the state and is of a mind to make the appointment and let the Supreme Court deal with challenges to his authority," a source with close ties to Big Bill told me Monday night.


Treasurer Vigil
The state Constitution clearly empowers the Governor to appoint a replacement if Vigil voluntarily resigns, the option the Fourth Floor still fervently hopes Vigil will take. The Constitution is silent on whether impeachment equals a vacancy that could be filled by the Governor, but politicians monitoring the crisis tell me that an impeachment, all but a certainty unless Vigil resigns, opens the appointment door to the Governor.

"This would be a reaction to a legislative action. It's more than enough peg for him to hang his hat on. Remember, Bill's appointment would technically be temporary. If the Senate ever did hold a trial and found Vigil not guilty, the appointment would be rescinded and Vigil would go back in if his term in office had not yet expired. I think that makes it easier for the courts and everyone else involved to swallow," said another politico.

Questions have arisen as to whether the Governor has appointment authority if Vigil does not resign, but is impeached. The Constitution says an impeached official must temporarily step aside and prohibits him from exercising his duties until the State Senate conducts a trial. A two-thirds vote of the 42 members is needed to find him guilty and remove him from office. The federal constitution differs with ours. It allows an impeached official to continue to carry out his duties while awaiting Senate trial.

Rep. Payne
GOP ABQ State Representative Greg Payne, reached via cellphone, greeted word of the Governor's plan favorably. "This is a nonpartisan crisis. This is a constitutional crisis and I would support the Governor acting to preserve the financial integrity of the state. My only suggestion would be that he consider submitting any replacement to the State Senate for their consent," said the freshman representative as he returned from a committee hearing in Santa Fe.

Other politicos said the Guv should seek an attorney general's opinion on the matter before exercising the appointment power.

Earlier Monday Payne parted ways with fellow R and ABQ GOP State Senator Joe Carraro who revealed that he had been working behind the scenes with Vigil and attorney Bregman to craft a compromise under which Vigil would agree to stop performing his duties and take unpaid leave. He would appoint a replacement selected for him by a legislative committee. In exchange, the Legislature would agree not to impeach him.

But the idea was immediately scoffed at in legal circles and met with a mixture of outrage and derision at the Roundhouse, where patience with Vigil and Bregman has grown short and where chief impeachment engineer, State Rep. Kenny Martinez, has slowly but surely put into motion the nearly 100 year old, never-used machinery devised to end the type of crisis of confidence the New Mexican government now faces.

Some observers argued the Governor is not the only one who should be on the hot seat. "What about the Senate? If the House impeaches, the Senate could have a trial in a matter of weeks and that could also end this. But they want the Feds to have a trial and don't want to deal with it," argued another longtime capital wall-leaner.

But If Vigil refuses to resign and is impeached in the extraordinary session of the House that will convene Friday, the exercise of direct gubernatorial authority may be the only way to completely solve the constitutional nightmare arising from this largest scandal in state history.


I asked experts in and out of government what would happen if Vigil were impeached and a decision was needed from the Treasurer on an investment matter that could cost the state money if no action was taken. "If only the Treasurer could act on the matter, not the deputy treasurer, we would take the financial hit," asserted ex- ABQ GOP State Rep Rory Ogle, echoing the view of other insiders.

Such an event, or series of events, could cause a further crisis in confidence in state financial management both here and on Wall Street and even possibly impact the state's credit standing. While unlikely, it is the charge of the Governor and the key legislative impeachment players to deal with all possibilities and it is what has brought the Governor to his decision to act to replace Vigil upon impeachment, report our sources.

If my sources have it right, the Governor, reluctantly but without hesitation, is fully prepared to assert the constitutional authority he believes has been bestowed upon him and call Vigil's hand.

The people of New Mexico can now only watch as this chapter of what will be a legendary event in the 400 year history of our state is played out by political actors who will be judged in perpetuity by what they do in the coming fateful Fall days of 2005.

E-mail me your comments, news, criticisms or whatever else is on your mind and let's keep the politics coming. Thanks for your company.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Big Bill's Consiglieri; Everyone Needs One, Bardacke Dons The Cloak, Plus: The Latest NM Media Moves; It's Your Monday Blog--Good With Green Or Red 

Paul Bardacke
In the eyes of some analysts Big Bill's Achilles Heel may be staffing that is wholly subservient to his whims and not encouraged to question the Big Guy. However, he does get some advice from the outside that doesn't just focus on his posterior, say the insiders.

60 year old Paul Bardacke was back in the spotlight as a result of accompanying the Guv to North Korea. The former NM Attorney General and 1990 Dem Guv candidate is now billed as Big Bill's personal lawyer, after serving as his campaign chairman in 02.' He is sharp, wealthy and low-key, qualities that this Governor respects.

Bardacke may have been a bit wistful as he embarked on the overseas venture, thinking of what could have been if he had defeated Bruce King in that 90' Guv primary. But Bardacke has worked it hard for decades to earn the respect of the state and is now the quintessential insider, the consiglieri who knows where the bodies are buried. Still, like his mentor, Bill Clinton, some aspects of this Guv's personality cannot be stopped, thus the misstep over the purchase of a $5.5. million state jet, a major PR blunder that Bardacke certainly must have seen coming.

Now, with millions flowing into the Guv's re-elect campaign that need to be carefully watched and the Alligators on the national scene soon to start circling as the next Prez race unfolds, Bardacke may yet find himself tested in ways similar to the governorship he once thirsted for.

So it is at the highest rungs on the ladder of La Politica.


Meanwhile, back on the Big Bill staff payroll, this little mix-up by the AP in a dispatch from Tokyo may have had chief of staff Dave Contarino checking his nameplate:

"The Democratic governor of New Mexico spent about two hours at North Korea's main nuclear research facility at Yongbyon, where the communist regime is known to have secretly processed plutonium for nuclear weapons, Richardson's chief of staff Billy Sparks told the Associated Press in a phone call from Pyongyang." Reported the AP.

Contarino, who brings strong credentials as a tactician and strategist to the table, remains the top dog. Sparks, besides being the Guv's deputy chief and former top press aide, is, according to insiders, often the target of the Guv's notable temper. Hey, better Billy than Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico.


David Miles, a familiar byline for the ABQ Journal Santa Fe bureau, has moved over to the Santa Fe New Mexican (circulation, 25,000) after a five year stint with the state's largest paper (Weekday circulation, 108,000, Sunday circ, 151,000.) Miles joins fellow Journal defector Andy Lenderman who also scotched the Journal in favor of the New Mexican and now covers Los Alamos Labs for the capital city daily.

Syndicated columnist Jay Miller is out with a new book titled, "Billy The Kid rides Again, Digging for the Truth." It's based on entertaining columns Jay has written about the Kid for his "Inside the Capital" column.

Thanks for tuning in today. Drop me an e-mail with your latest political news and keep all of us up to date.

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

GOP Infighting: It's Not Just for the Adults, Plus: The Vise Tightens On Vigil, And: Banned In Hobbs? Not If I Can Help It 

If New Mexico Republicans are placing their hopes for a future unified party on the state's college Republicans they might want to reassess. While the adult version of the GOP has been plagued by intra-party rivals so have the college Republicans at UNM. Infighting broke out in their recent election. Guess they are learning from the adults.

Meanwhile, I'm hearing reports that there could be another round of R's challenging R's in next year's legislative primaries. You'll recall in 2004 a faction of the GOP led by lawyer/lobbyist Mickey Barnett openly challenged fellow R's. Now there is scuttleutt that a chief legislative ally of Mickey's, Roswell Rep. Dan Foley, could be in for a primary challenge. I'll do my best in the coming weeks to nail it down so stay tuned.


Yes, I too hear the vise tightening on federally indicted state Treasurer Robert Vigil. His lawyer popped the "R' word this week. No doubt Vigil is one tough hombre, but the pressure has to be unbearable. It tends to get that way when what is at stake is the future of the government and therefore the smooth functioning of an economy. I would not be surprised to see a near unanimous vote for impeachment in the State House. By resigning, Vigil would avoid having future generations see his photo in the history books as the first impeached official ever and he would be able to devote himself full-time to his legal defense.

Put another way: The writing is on the wall, the fat lady is about to sing and it's all over but the shouting. Resignation is the pragmatic and honorable course.


I've got to be more careful when I dip my toes into that raging river called the race for attorney general. There are so many players that any mention of the contest can ensnare you in endless intrigue. One angle, though, merits mention. GOP sources were reporting that attorney Pete Domenici Jr., son of you know who, was a possible for the R's, but are now backing off and reporting he will not take the plunge.


And we finish up today about as far from the big city as you can get--Hobbs, NM. I put my foot in my mouth when I blogged October 12: "You can be sure that if Big Bill's campaign was unveiled with even one flaw, the offender would be shot on sight, or at least banished to a one bedroom apartment in Hobbs to run the field operation there." Well, several of my Hobbs readers rightfully took offense. Living in Hobbs is not banishment at all, said they. Here's Hobbs News-Sun publisher Kathi Bearden's response.

"I can assure that living here is not a banishment. Further, you would be hard pressed to find a one bedroom apartment in Hobbs as we are in a growth cycle of economic development that has our housing market as tight as a blog-writer's column.

I am unaware of any community in New Mexico that I would consider a banishment post. Please reconsider your remarks about Hobbs and consider this an invitation to visit any time."

You got me Kathi, but don't be too hard on me. After all, I'm the guy who planted the idea of getting another oil refinery in Lea County with county commissioner chairman Harry Teague. If it happens, that would fill up even more of those one bedroom apartments.

As for no place in New Mexico being a banishment post, that's true as long as the Legislature is not in session.

E-mail me your comments, news, criticisms or whatever else is on your mind and let's keep the politics coming. Thanks for your company.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Big Bill Snags Another One; Radio Newsman Joins His Flock, Plus: Bob Schwartz's Sleeping Habits, And: Jeff Says Take The Money And Run 

Alex Cuellar
Will someone give the journalists of New Mexico a pay raise, or nicer bosses? They need something to help them resist the charms of Big Bill. We've lost count of how many news hounds have gone over to the "dark side" as paid flacks for the Guv, and the march into his arms continues unabated. KKOB-AM radio news director Alex Cuellar, is the latest to succumb. Insiders report Cuellar will ditch the 50,000 watt radio giant to plug the state General Services Department, led by Ed Lopez Jr. who carried water for the Guv over the state's purchase of that $5.5 million jet. (Does he get mad if you call him Eddie, like his legendary dad?)

Cuellar is a familiar voice to the NM public having first worked at 770 AM back in the 70's when he and I competed head-to-head on the streets of ABQ. He rejoined the station about seven years ago as a morning news anchor. It won't just be Lopez giving Cuellar a workout. The insiders say he will sometimes "be loaned" to Big Bill. Do they have enough chairs in that crowded press office?


Also from the media beat, KOB-TV political reporter Neil Simon is headed East. But before he goes he drops a half-hour documentary on Big Bill on channel 4 this Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Simon, 27, has been with the station three years and is taking a fellowship with the American Poly Sci Association in D.C. where he'll work in a congressional office. After that, he hopes to return to the tube. Good job pushing that political news, Neil. You are henceforth an Honorary Alligator. Good luck.


The blog talk Tuesday on the race for attorney general brought back memories of the only recent Republican AG, Hal Stratton, a former state senator from ABQ's West side who won the job back in 86', the only R to do it since the Depression. He's now head of the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission but recently ran into a big PR bump. Does former NM GOP ABQ State Rep. Joe Mohorovic now work with Hal? I think so.

As for GOP AG hopeful Bob Schwartz, he sleeps with dogs. Now be nice fellas. Here's the latest on how the Big Bill crime advisor ended up in the hospital. Is there enough for a soap opera here?

Sen. Bingaman
If you are seeking re-election it would seem the last thing you would vote for is a pay raise for yourself. But that's just what NM Dem U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman did Tuesday and he's not apologizing. The cost of living adjustment (COLA), which would have added three grand a year to annual congressional paychecks of $162,000, went down on a 92-6 vote with Jeff one of the little six.

"...This amendment is the height of hypocrisy. The Republican majority has repeatedly voted for a COLA. Now that the approval ratings of the Republican-led Congress have sunk so low, they want to give the impression that they oppose an increase. If history is any indication, when this bill becomes law, it will contain an increase, and most who voted 'No' today will accept it,” blasted Bingaman who is seeking a fifth, six year term in 06'.

Bingaman has voted for the pay raise in the past saying federal workers deserve a pay hike, including congressmen. They may, but he might want to avoid putting the issue to a public vote. With the way politicians have been doing locally and nationally lately, the Potomac home boys might end up below the poverty line.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

AG Hopeful Bob Schwartz: First The Dogs Bite, Now The Alligators Snap, Plus: The Vigil Saga: The Readers Speak As Our Exclusive Analysis Continues 

Bob Schwartz
First, Big Bill crime advisor Bob Schwartz went to the dogs in a bizarre weekend incident in which he reportedly was bitten by his own pets and had to be rushed to the hospital. Next, the news blackout over the weird incident got the Alligators speculating. Now they are snapping over Schwartz's aspirations to be the 06' nominee of the GOP for the prestigious office of Attorney General. And they are saying it will be no walk in the dog park for the sometimes liberal sometimes conservative Schwartz.

"Jim Bibb, an assistant NM U.S. attorney under David Iglesias is about to join the race for the R's. He will have appeal to regular R's who see Bob as a "Republicrat" who is tied to the Governor," informed one of our Gators.

And just when you thought it could not get any more weird in our Enchanted Land, our source adds: "Like Schwartz, there is also a Democrat twist with Bibb. His wife is the daughter of former Democratic Governor Toney Anaya. That makes him Toney's son-in-law!"

Is it weird enough for you yet?


Now over to the Democrats and their many possibles lining up to replace outgoing Dem AG Patricia Madrid who will seek to unseat ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson. Carlos Fierro, a 33 year old Santa Fe native, now working for a big league law firm in D.C., checks in with the news that he is eyeing the race. "I am looking at it very seriously. I don't see any frontrunner," said Fierro who some say is owed a favor by Ben Juan Jr. for getting out of the 04' race for a Public Regulation Commission (PRC) seat that Ben Ray eventually won.

And get this. Fierro also has deep ties with the party he hopes to beat. He worked as a key legislative staffer to GOP U.S. Senator John McCain. Can I say it again? Viva La Politica!


Our Monday blog quoting our impeachment insiders drew a bunch of e-mail, many of it questioning the contention that there would be a vacancy created if Vigil is impeached by the House Oct. 28.

Unlike the federal constitution, New Mexico's says when an official is impeached he is relieved of his duties until acquitted at a Senate trial. But former ABQ GOP State Rep. Rory Ogle, among many others, insist Big Bill would not get to appoint a Vigil replacement upon impeachment because it still would not constitute a vacancy.

"Joe, I have to disagree with your and the analysis of others. If the House impeaches an elected official then that individual is precluded from carrying out their duties. However, impeachment by the House does not remove that individual from their office. It is not until a trial has been conducted by the Senate and where two thirds of the Senate votes guilty on the impeachment articles that an individual is removed. If the Senate fails to vote guilty by two thirds then the accused is acquitted."

Well said Rory. If Vigil is impeached there is no one designated to carry out his duties. The issue could go to the NM Supreme Court and they could find that impeachment equals a vacancy and give the Guv the power to appoint. The Guv, without court authority, could appoint and make the Ogle's of the world challenge him in court, or the Treasurer's office could technically go rudderless until January when the Legislature meets and would be expected to pass a law cleaning up this chain of command mess. Such a measure, no matter the Vigil case, is obviously long overdue.

U.S. Attorney Iglesias
Longtime political watcher David Oakley also e-mails about the Vigil case, reflecting the concerns of several others.

"Anytime any politician gets charged, indicted, etc., I take it with a huge grain of salt. Usually the prosecutor is a political animal, either elected or appointed. Sometimes they are looking to further their political career, or have a political agenda. Also, the prosecutor has almost unlimited resources, while the accused must spend their life savings and more to combat the charges," commented David.

He has a point. The full weight of the U.S. government is nothing to sneeze at and Vigil certainly deserves his day in court and is presumed innocent

But here's the point that many in New Mexico seem to be missing. Impeachment is not that day in court. It is a political process. The impeachment of Vigil will lead to no criminal penalties, but simply the loss of his job either temporarily or permenantely. That is a political penalty, not a criminal one, so let's not get the two mixed up. Also, the Legislature does not need criminal evidence to impeach. And even if it has it, it can only punish politically, never criminally.


And finally, another impeachment e-mail that raises an intriguing question: "If impeachment goes forward and testimony from witnesses implicates other elected officials can the U.S. Attorney use the witnesses statements to further the government's case? Will this impeachment process cause a good chain reaction? These questions will hopefully keep many elected officials sleepless," ribs another astute follower of state politics.

Well, now that Treasurer Vigil has decided not to cooperate or testify in any way before the House subcommittee formed to study his impeachment, those questions may be moot. That means those "sleepless" officials don't have to hit the Sominex, at least not until the Vigil criminal trial or a plea bargain that peels this onion even more.

Keep the insightful e-mail and news tips coming and, as always, thanks for tuning in.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Impeachment Insiders: Exclusive Behind-The-Scenes Details On This NM First; It's From The Heart Of The Roundhouse To You 

When will our long nightmare end? Day after day Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico are pounded with more allegations and sorry developments in the biggest corruption scandal in state history. Treasurer Robert Vigil, throwing all caution to the wind, has imperiled the credibility of the entire government by refusing to step aside while federal corruption charges against him make their way through the courts. His decision is about to encounter the full wrath of the people. Impeachment is inevitable.

According to key insiders, recent focus groups conducted with voters show the public is blaming all politicians not just members of Vigil's Democratic party. "The scandal has taken a severe toll. New Mexico already had a tarnished reputation for government ethics, now the public is being pushed to the brink. Vigil's decision to stay is causing damage that will take years to repair," offered one of those insiders.


Today I take you deep into the inner sanctum of La Politica where for the first time in the nearly 100 years of state history plans are afoot to impeach an elected state official; where political operatives and legislators are so nervous they wince at the sound of an egg shell cracking; where the fate of the federally indicted Vigil and the credibility of the New Mexican government hangs in the balance. It is the highest possible stakes political poker game.

More than ever, my sources must remain completely anonymous, embedded as they are so deeply in this process. But they are political animals who know of the thirst for first-hand, insider information on this once-in-a-lifetime event. Thus, the following report from my unimpeachable sources as the State House prepares to meet to impeach October 28.


It is almost definite. But there is a twist. One insider source says: "It will take a majority of the House--36 votes to impeach and all 70 members do not have to be there. No matter how many show, we need 36 to impeach. We anticipate that if the House does impeach Vigil will file court action to challenge the vote. The courts will likely defer to the political process, but this may buy Vigil additional time in office. It will also give him a chance to cast doubt on the House action, and try to minimize the harm to a criminal case."


"(Vigil lawyer) Sam Bregman insisted that his client have the right to testify in any impeachment process. He will regret that since the House will now accept his invitation. Bregman and Vigil are trapped. After insisting on the right to testify, a decision to now rely on the 5th Amendment and not testify, will make both look foolish. On the other hand, allowing Vigil to testify could have serious consequences to the criminal defense case. In any event this is the one significant mystery of the House process--will Vigil testify or not?" comments another Roundhouse regular.

"The constitution only provides for the Governor to replace a "vacancy" in the office. Whether impeachment produces a "vacancy" is not established in NM law. A "vacancy" can not be self-imposed, and this is precisely what (Big) Bill, (Attorney General) Patsy and Robert were attempting when they went to the Supreme Court with the deal for him to step aside. On the other hand, impeachment, in my opinion, does produce a "vacancy", which is clearly not self-imposed. Bill would have the opportunity to appoint and fill the vacancy." Detailed another authoritative source at the Merry Roundhouse.


"No. If the House impeaches, there should not be any significant pressure to conduct a Senate trial. Since an impeachment vote would effectively suspend all activity by Vigil, there should be no pressure from the public, Gov. Bill, or investors, to expedite a Senate trial.

"I doubt there will ever be such a trial. If the House impeaches, there is no required timetable by which the Senate must conduct a trial. The Senate would simply decide to wait until after the criminal trial. This way the Senate does not need to worry about interfering with the criminal proceeding, and would be able to rely on the criminal verdicts instead of conducting its own trial. By the time all of this is resolved Vigil will be at or near the end of his term." analyzed another source.


And there you have the plot lines being drafted deep in the inner sanctum of the New Mexico government. The one fly in the ointment thus far has been the possibility of closing some of the process to the public. That would surely raise suspicions of the legislators themselves and whether they had any involvement with Mr. Vigil. Pressure will and should mount for complete openness as the hour of decision draws near. Meanwhile, the state apparently has to suffer through two more weeks of dysfunction in the office entrusted with investing $5 billion.

It is an unprecedented mess: a Treasurer conducting business over his home phone while under federal indictment, security guards called out by the Governor to protect the office from looting, fear and retribution among the office employees and a collapse in public confidence in the ethics and integrity of their government.

The wisdom of the impeachment clause has never been clearer.

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Sorry Heather, Patsy's Back; A Woman's Place Is In The House, But Which Woman? Plus: We're Safe Again--The Legislature Is Adjourned 

Sorry Heather. I know. You can't believe everything you read on those blogs. After all, it was only in late August that we blogged that NM Dem Attorney General Patricia Madrid was a probable no go for a run against GOP ABQ Congresswoman Heather Wilson. And at the time it was indeed so as it came straight from the feisty AG herself. But, as the kids say, that was then and this is now. And sources we trust with our life (or at least our restaurant bills) say Madrid, who has pasted the state with paid TV public service announcements ranging from warnings about meth labs to Internet porn, will make it official next week while in Washington, D.C.

"(U.S. House Dem leader) Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have been begging her to run. Your blog interview where she said she was likely not to do it helped set off the alarm bells and the lobbying got under way in earnest. They have promised Patsy a ton of support and she is ready to take on Heather," declared our campaign veteran.

Republicans wasted no time sharpening their blades for Madrid who will finish her second, four year term as AG next year. "Yes, we will try to hang the Treasurer Vigil scandal around her neck. She had a chance to investigate Vigil years ago and didn't. That's a pretty simple theme for a 30 second TV spot and you will be seeing it," promised one fervent Heather supporter. (The latest Vigil scandal update here)

Madrid's chief Dem rival, Light Guv Diane Denish, is also welcoming the news as there were rumblings, as farfetched as they might be, that Madrid would seek the Lt. Guv nomination against Diane next year. And for you history buffs, yes, Madrid did run for the ABQ congressional seat once before and lost the Dem nomination. It was long before she became AG in 98.’

It will be tough to oust Wilson who was anointed to her seat by Senator Domenici in 98', but has since held it on her own . The good news for Madrid was an NBC News poll Wednesday showing Americans favor the Dems for the 06' congressional elections 48% to 39%. But will that translate to Madrid in a district where voters can be very independent?

Some Dem liberals were lamenting Madrid's entry into the race because it means liberal ABQ State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino will not get in. "We can only hope that she does not run a milquetoast campaign," remarked one left-of-center Pinoite.

As for our gal Heather, lately she has been inching toward the left, or at least the center. For example, she more or less backed off on drilling for oil and gas in the precious Valle Vidal wilderness. She has also been touting her ability to bring home the pork from D.C. Forget about the ugly Iraq war and my love affair with Bush, she seems to be saying. Starting next week, Madrid will try to jar voters' memories.


They came. They pontificated. They rebated. The six day special session of the Legislature called by Big Bill ended in a jiffy Wednesday with the 112 lawmakers doling out to taxpayers well over $250 million of the gargantuan oil and gas surplus which could total as much as $800 million. The rebates and other tax relief will offset high consumer energy bills this winter.

It was a tricky session for Big Bill who saw a newly assertive State Senate more than double the give back package he preferred. But one source close to him was taking exception to the hits he took in the Senate and on this blog Tuesday.

"I’m surprised you bought into the Senate spin. The Governor did more than his share of consulting with legislators before the session. Legislators received draft legislation a full week before the session started as well as briefings from cabinet secretaries.

It’s not as if the Governor was forcing anything down the throats of legislators. He pitched a softball that was a sure winner for everyone – Democrats, Republicans, legislators, the Governor and all New Mexicans.

It was hard to deal with the Senate because they appear to be leaderless and the Senate Republicans are driving the agenda," e-mailed our Fourth Floor sympathizer. And just for fun he concluded: "The Governor got most everything he wanted."

Your blogger buying into spin? Heck, you know me. Show me a little leg and I'm falling all over the place. But "Republicans driving the agenda" in the Senate? Dems Ben Altimirano, Michael Sanchez and John Arthur Smith might be curious about that since the income tax cuts they sped up were orginally authored by the Fourth Floor two years ago.


Never mind who was doing the driving in the Senate, Big Bill was a reluctant passenger, having proposed just half of the hand-out that was finally approved. A line item veto of those speeded up tax cuts could be considered, but might be unwise. After all, the cuts won him national conservative acclaim but had been delayed from taking effect until now. On second thought, it might be fun to see a veto just to trip up Rush Limbaugh.

While the Guv's ego might have been bruised a bit, the give and take between the two branches added some tension and excitement to the Santa Fe scene and, more importantly, actually produced some pretty decent legislation. Just don't spend your rebate check in one place. OK?

Thanks for tuning in today. Drop me an e-mail with your latest political news and keep all of us up to date. See you soon.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

GOP Gets A Guv Player On Field As Big Bill And Senate Power Struggle Plays Out At The Roundhouse; Details Up Next 

J.R. Damron
Just a week ago the 06' Guv's race looked like the Big Yawn featuring Big Bill, but with the power struggle playing out between the Fourth Floor and the State Senate the Alligators are rushing into the waters and trying to make a game of it. Even the usually napping R's are getting in on the act exercising some decent timing and getting a player on the field during the turmoil. Political newcomer Dr. James Damron, (J.R. to you) a Santa Fe radiologist, will announce his candidacy this weekend, but has already unveiled a radio spot piling on the anti-Bill bandwagon. He calls for refunding a half-billion dollars to New Mexico taxpayers for energy relief compared to the Guv's $100 mill.

While Damron scores for timing, there are still no photos of him in the media and his Web site was off and on while being advertised on the radio. Note to Dr. D: Some voters actually judge how you would run the government on how you run your campaign.


You can be sure that if Big Bill's campaign was unveiled with even one flaw, the offender would be shot on sight, or at least banished to a one bedroom apartment in Hobbs to run the field operation there. But for now the Guv's job is to prevent the wrangling with the senate from getting too out of hand and crafting a compromise. Why present the R's with an actual campaign issue? He has his hands full. Take a look at this e-mail from a deep senate insider:

"The surplus will be around $800 million by the end of the year. The Governor's people are making it seem like a $100 million rebate is big spending. Compared to $800 million, it's peanuts. (Finance Secretary)Jimenez is telling Legislators that he doesn't know what the surplus will be--maybe around $250 million, maybe. So the Guv is being responsible at $100 million and the Senate is being irresponsible at $200M. That's BS.

Richardson wants the surplus to give out pork next year, right before the election. That what this session is about--PORK!" exclaimed our tapped-in insider.

And then there's Independent Guv candidate Eli Chavez who is always waiting in the wings: "I am very proud of our Legislative branch and especially our Senate for doing what is right for New Mexican's in this session. They had the guts to stand up to Richardson and tell him where to get off." penned the always ebullient Chavez.

So what looked like a coronation next year could actually provide us with at least a real debate. You remember those, don't you?

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Of Honeymoons And Impeachment; The Special Session Gives Us Surprises Aplenty; The Blog Round-Up From Our In-The-Know Sources 

The Roundhouse
One of New Mexico's longest ever political honeymoons came crashing to an end over the weekend as the State Senate went into full rebellion, radically altering Big Bill's tax relief package and firmly defending the power of their branch of government. It was a dramatic turnabout from two years of kowtowing to the Fourth Floor and the whims of the state's most powerful modern-era governor.

"Sometimes the simple explanation is the right one. And that's the case here, Joe. The governor failed to consult with the senate prior to the Special Session and it ignited spontaneous combustion. There was no conspiracy or backroom movida, it was just that they had had enough," informed one state senator speaking from the scene of the action.

Specifically, the Guv's fellow Democrats had had enough of him using House Speaker Ben Lujan as his messenger boy and basically ignoring the senators. With Manny Aragon and Richard Romero gone, there is no obvious go-to guy for the Guv and he ended up going to no one.

"The senate is advocating that more surplus money be given back to citizens. The Governor blasting them for it is not going to win him friends in the senate or with the public. The surplus (from high gas and oil royalties) is huge. Why the Governor lashed out at handing out a little extra dough to taxpayers is strange," analyzed yet another veteran politico.

But the behavior was not strange to some close to the situation. "I think it was ego. It was not his idea and he lashed out. Now, he needs to calm down, forge a compromise and get out of Dodge. It's the Governor who is up for re-election next year,” our informed source pointed out, noting that none of the 42 member senate faces voters next year.

Still others urged the Guv to fight and demand the senate back down lest lawmakers get the idea that there are chinks in the armor. "His choices are not pleasent, but they are choices he created," lamented one Dem.

Sen. Grubesic
There was no shortage of bare-knuckles brawling from either side. Santa Fe Senator Grubesic scolded Big Bill saying: “The problem is that we have a presidential candidate pretending to run our state.” And the Guv, not exactly watching his temper either, accused lawmakers of "backroom" dealing and threatened a veto of any senate measure that did not xerox his own.

"(Former Guv) Bruce King used to say of Special Sessions: 'It's easy to call em' in, but you don't know when they will go home.' The Governor simply did not have the deal lined up before the session. That is a grave political mistake and a surprise from someone who plays at his level," explained yet another Wall-Leaner.

Others blamed the Big Bill staff, or lack of it, for not fully realizing the disaster that was brewing. "We are back to Bill knows best and no one on staff can say otherwise," offered another Santa Fe observer.

So what amounts to a return to normalcy--a Governor publicly sparring with the Legislature--looks like a sea change because of the lack of balance of power in the last two years. "Individual Governors come and go. The Legislature is for always," explained a longtime practiconer of La Politica. And, I might add, honeymoons are not.


Meanwhile, back in the House they got it just about right on impeachment. They will not let us linger and will have an impeachment vote at the end of the month on indicted State Treasurer Robert Vigil who refuses to resign. That's the good news. The bad news is that the lawyer they hired to oversee the impeachment process, well-respected Republican Paul Kennedy, is now talking about having some of the process closed to the public because he fears it could interfere with the criminal case against Vigil being handled by the U.S. Attorney. The questionable legality of doing anything closed when conducting the people's business could slow down the process, especially if the courts get involved. And that means the Vigil matter could end up lingering.

Kennedy, a former State Supreme Court justice, talks of 'attorney-client privilege' with the legislators. But it is the people of this state who are his ultimate clients. Everything needs to be on the table and out in the open. Save the legalese for private practice. Impeachment is a political process. Let Mr. Federal Prosecutor worry about his job. Meanwhile, let Legislators do their job--and in the full light of day.

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Special Session: It's Not Just About Gasoline; It's About Guts; Do Lawmakers Have Any? Indicted Treasurer Flouts Big Bill And Returns To Work 

Most of us common folk have lost patience with the argument that the special session of the Legislature starting today in Santa Fe is just about giving out rebates so people can buy gasoline. What this historic session is really about is a test of wills between a defiant, renegade elected official and the Legislature of the state of New Mexico. The most pressing question is not whether consumers will get a tax rebate--and they should--but whether the body politic of our state has the guts to take a stand and do the job it is assigned in the Constitution. That job is impeachment.

In the aftermath of Treasurer Robert Vigil defiantly returning to work Wednesday, despite being under federal indictment for corruption and kickbacks, there is no other issue more important to the long-range economic well-being or the progress of this state than moving quickly to restore integrity and confidence to the office of the Treasurer. How can business be conducted in an American state that conducts its affairs like a South American banana republic? Besides, there are 49 other states people can live and conduct their affairs.

One leading Dem, seeing the Vigil return to work and some politicking in the embryonic impeachment, gave this advice. "The governor has been tough, but he needs to be tougher. Ditto for the Attorney General and ditto for the leaders of the House."

That last reference was to the reticence of House Speaker Ben Lujan to sign on to the impeachment which would halt Vigil from touching our money while he awaits trial in the Senate. Aspiring Speaker and House Majority Leader Ken Martinez has jumped in to fill the void and called for the process to move forward. Speaker Lujan ought to get the message. A storm is building out here and a hard rain is going to fall next year on his Democratic party if business as usual continues. And Big Bill for President? How do renegade treasurers fit into a national economic plan?

Leader Hobbs
House GOP leader Ted Hobbs is now also under the spotlight after issuing a perplexing statement that impeachment should not be taken up and that the federal government should go ahead and handle the matter. Is leader Hobbs fearful that Republican U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, who won the Vigil indictment, will not get credit for prosecuting the scandal if Dems impeach Vigil? And what about NM GOP Chair Allen Weh favoring impeachment? Why is Hobbs splitting with his party? It's hard to believe that the state GOP can screw up this one, but look at what they did Tuesday night in ABQ with Brad Winter.

Impeachment can and should be a bipartisan matter. Legislators, R's and D's, should form a united front with the governor. Let all the politicans get some credit, but first let them get the guts to get the job done.


It's been a whirl of activity around here this ABQ election week. Here's some clean-up stuff. Philip Muller of Political Technologies, says, contrary to what was blogged here, the liberal consulting group Soltari was not involved in the ABQ city council race won by Muller client Ike Benton. Soltari, however, did refer Muller to Benton...Brad Winter did make media appearances Election Night. We blogged otherwise. Of course, tucked away in a radio studio calling the election gives one limited opportunities to see the TV coverage. Winter continued to defend the negative campaign conducted on his behalf and that had him placing third in a four man race.


"Joe, please consult a good dictionary for the difference between flaunt and flout. I doubt that Robert Vigil would ever flaunt Bill Richardson!" That reader is right. Check out today's headline to see how I made good.

And didn't I mean "routs" not "routes" in my headline yesterday describing Mayor Chavez's victory? See what happens when you write headlines at 2 a.m. with no Starbucks?


Lt. Gov. Denish
And here's one inspired by Light Guv Diane Denish. She phoned in to KANW Election Night to dispute our statement that no African-American had ever been elected to the ABQ city council saying Dr. Solomon Brown was in the 70's. But we pointed out that Brown was appointed to fill a vacancy and was defeated for election. But Diane can say "gotcha" right back. Seems I said that Dr. Brown filled the seat of Joe Abeyta on the council those many years ago. Not so. It was the seat held by Dr. Jack Kolbert. By the way, Councilor Abeyta went on to be State Rep Jose Abeyta when he moved to Wagon Mound, NM.

I know. That’s way more information than you needed. OK. I’ll take your advice and take a break. See you soon.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

It's A Triple! ABQ Mayor Marches To Historic Third Term; He Routs Field In Low Turnout, Blow-Out Win; Blasts GOP Foes For Tactics; You Are There 

Chavez Cleans Up
Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez ceded no territory to his overwhelmed foes last night as he marched virtually unopposed through the city and laid claim to a historic third, four year term. It was a victory unprecedented in its scope, featuring geographic and demographic dominance that politicians dream of but rarely realize. Chavez also ended a 30 year curse and became the first mayor to win two terms in a row. The only opposition was a record low turnout that thwarted the 53 year old city native's drive for an unquestionable mandate. (Complete election results here)

The numbers tell the story. Chavez--47.28%, Eric Griego--25.96%, City Councilor Brad Winter, the sole R in the race, 24.61% and David Steele 2.14%.

The carnage began early. The first results coming to us at KANW 89.1 FM from Winter's district told the tale. Chavez narrowly won boxes that were essential for Winter. After that, it was academic. How much over the magic re-elect number of 40% would he go? As it turned out, more than any other mayor in city history, surpassing David Rusk's 1977 record landslide of 46%.

The NE Heights fired the opening round. Then came the head shot. The mayor's Westside strongholds gave him landslide wins of 60% plus. For Griego and Winter, there was no place to run, no place to hide. Victory was complete and total. Defeat was utter.

"It was quite stunning," said pollster Brian Sandeorff as we performed a late night political autopsy." Marty tied Winter with the Republicans, each of them getting 46%, and Chavez won the Democrats vote with 46% to Griego's 41%. And then the Independents tipped heavily to the mayor. The final Sanderoff poll in the ABQ Journal had Chavez with 42.6% but the low turnout, about 31% of the 281,000 registered voters, or about 87,000, pushed the mayor to the 47% mark. "His supporters were turned out and theirs were not," Sanderoff recapped.

The proposal to hike the minimum wage did nothing for Griego who hitched his wagon to the controversial measure. The proposition died in a tight fight--51% to 49%. How many times have we heard that this is the election where the young people will come out? Save it for the next election.


Despite the magnitude of his victory, the mayor was still feeling wounded by the harsh attacks of the campaign when he took to our air. "They ran the most negative campaign against me in city history. It was wrong and disgusting," glowered Chavez, flashing his famous temper even as the returns acted as a salve on his open wounds. He grudgingly praised Griego for his second place finish, but soon returned to the slash and burn campaign run by the R's and named Bernalillo County GOP Chairman Ken Zangara and GOP Republican National Committee consultant Jay McCleskey as the chief offenders.

It wasn't so much the attacks in the mail and on the air that caused Marty to turn caustic," offered lobbyist Scott Scanland. "The stuff they threw at him in the whispering circles was vicious, accusing him of all kinds of awful personal behavior. That is not stuff you soon forget."

Maybe some friendly faces on the city council will help. West Side Dem Miguel Gomez was defeated by onetime Mayor Marty campaign treasurer and former Bernalillo County Commissioner Ken Sanchez. Two Chavez friendly faces, incumbent Tina Cummins and fellow R Don Harris, will face each other in a run-off November 15th in District nine in the far NE Heights as neither of them won 40% of the vote. And Chavez favorite, R Sally Mayer, easily won re-election to her council seat. My experts say this means Chavez scored a net pickup of one vote on the nine member council.

But the election was clearly a referendum on the mayor and nothing less. "Most people think the city has been run pretty well and were not motivated to vote by the opposition campaigns," explained Scanland.

ABQ GOP State Rep. Larry Larranaga was the first R to try to make the peace with the mayor, saying "campaigns get rough and some people step out of line." Chavez replied that it was a "sliver" of the Republican party he was enraged at and asked Larry to help call off the dogs.


After eight years in the job, I asked Chavez if he still had ideas for the future. "I have a lot of them, including light rail for this city. I also really want to establish a better relationship with the school system." He replied.

But for the moment he was relishing the personal vindication that came with this victory. Veteran political observer Steve Cabiedes, joining in a late night radio roundtable, reminded everyone that just two years ago Chavez was left for dead as the ABQPAC fundraising scandal engulfed him and that was followed by the mayor's defeat in 2003 when an important road bond went down.

The churlish and childish tone of the negative campaign run against the mayor may have had him picking up Republican voters that otherwise would have gone to Winter. "It was something like that old saying, 'He may be a bum, but he's our bum,' laughed one veteran R.

GOP Chair Weh
It was a bummer night for the aforementioned consultant Jay McCleskey who two years ago ran a slash and burn city council campaign on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce. They all went up in flames. Last night Winter, a moderate, decent and well-liked man, also went Zozobra as the flames he threw were blown back on him. It was also a night of retreat for state GOP Chair Allen Weh who persuaded Winter to get in the race late, but could not come up with proper funding, nor guide the campaign to a more moderate strategy that might have forced a run-off.

Soltari, the liberal consulting group, was another casualty of the mayoral juggernaut. Their mayoral contender, Griego, was crushed as was Marianne Dickinson, thought to be a bright light for the liberals but never got out of the gate against Councilor Mayer. Isaac Benton was the only Soltari candidate to win, beating Diana Dorn-Jones but that was in the most liberal district in the city. And then there was the increase in the minimum wage that was defeated. Soltari hoped to boost turnout for it which would help Eric, but it too died.

The Governor can lay claim to a win and more stroke with city hall as he openly and unabashedly embraced Chavez for another term. City Councilor Michael Cadigan, who scored an impressive 70% re-elect victory, is also a winner, now positioned as the key swing vote on the council. New police chief Ray Schultz wins as he gets to keep his job.


Who were the best predictors for Election 05'? Kurt Lohbeck, playing first base for my All-Star Mayoral Team, was closest, predicting that Chavez would get a minimum of 46%. Scott Scanland said the mayor's race would be put to bed early but the minimum wage battle would be to close to call, and that was a great call. But it was ABQ GOP State Rep Greg Payne, predicting off-the-record, who gets the prize. He foresaw Chavez finishing at 47%, Sally Mayer winning her council seat without a run-off and said Tina Cummins would face a run-off. He only erred on the minimum wage battle.

Good job Greg. You get to buy the whole team lunch.


Not all the polls got it right. Sanderoff's exit poll on the minimum wage had him making an early call in its favor on KOAT-TV only to reverse it later on. He said the reason was "social stigma."

"We think a lot of people were embarrassed to admit they were voting against it. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen on personal questions. Apparently some voters thought this a personal issue and did not tell our exit pollsters the truth on how they had voted." He explained. Still, there was ribbing over the misstep at competitor KRQE-TV where they e-mailed that they would "rather be right than first."

City Councilor Martin Heinrich, who authored the failed wage measure, took hits last night for allowing the "workplace access" issue to become part of the bill which in the end killed it. Heinrich is weighing a run for the Dem nomination for Land Commissioner.

Thanks to everyone who helped with the radio broadcast last night. And to all our sponsors. We signed off at 11:30 p.m. and now its close to 3 a.m. so I'm going to call it a night and a morning here. Thanks for stopping by.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Election Day Arrives In ABQ: Join Me For The Vote Count Tonight, Plus: Pre-Impeachment Skirmish As Chairman Cervantes Warns Vigil Lawyer To Butt Out 

(Michael A. Stecker)
Pre-election jitters spread across the Duke City late Monday as campaign workers and candidates felt that familiar out-of-control feeling that descends on them as the mystery of democracy is set to unfold. It is now the people who will decide, not the polls, pundits or media manipulators. The polls be damned. As in years past, I heard voices crack with fear as the hour of judgement neared. "What do you hear?" was the question heard frequently and urgently. Politicos thirsted for even a tidbit of information as they tried to retain control of events, at least in their own minds. But it was not to be. As the day wore on the retreat had begun, the phones grew silent and the long, lonely wait could not be avoided.

Today will be a day that will change lives forever. For most, it will be disappointing because there is only room for a handful of winners. Losing before the entire state is the price they pay for a shot at the power and glory only available by stepping forth into the harsh limelight that brightens the ancient stage of La Politica. Good luck to all the candidates.

Election Night starts on KANW 89.1 FM at 6:30 tonight with yours truly anchoring events as they unfold. I'll have the able assistance of top NM lobbyist Scott Scanland, veteran GOP State Rep. Larry Larranaga and Dems Lenton Malry and Terry Brunner. Green Steve Cabiedes mans the early vote desk. Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera will be our Government Center reporter and Kevin Otero is our producer. We are all set for year 18 of our KANW election coverage, but it won't be complete without you, so please stop by.

Chairman Cervantes
Pre-impeachment skirmishing has started. The attorney for indicted State Treasurer Robert Vigil, Sam Bregman, has apparently been lobbying lawmakers to thwart the impeachment drive that will begin at the special Legislative session later this week. Bregman, himself a politician who served a term on the ABQ city council and has run for other elective office, has rankled the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces. It is in his committee where articles of impeachment will begin their journey and Cervantes is making it clear to Bregman that he is not about to preside over a tainted process. Here's an e-mail circulating from Cervantes to Bregman in response to Bregman's political activity.

"I have received your e-mail letter, and have also been asked about calls made by you to several colleagues in the New Mexico House of Representatives.

In the event impeachment legislation is introduced, both House and Senate legislators may be acting in a quasi-judicial capacity. Any bias or pre-judgment may taint or disqualify a Legislator's vote whether for or against any impeachment.

I consider calls and letters to legislators inappropriate ex parte communications with those potentially serving in a quasi-judicial constitutional role. Ex parte contacts represent an extraordinary breach of procedure and process. Most of my colleagues are not attorneys, however, and may not understand the implications of taking your calls or receiving your letters. Non-lawyers may not understand that pre-judgment or bias may disqualify them from voting on any impeachment issue.

"I..ask that you give more thought to the judicial role of House members in any impeachment proceeding. Please do not send me any more e-mail, or attempt to contact me by phone, to argue Mr. Vigil's case. I intend to approach any impeachment with the same impartially I would expect from a potential judge in my legal cases." Wrote Cervantes in an e-mail making the rounds among legislators.

Lawmakers can get very protective when taking up the most rarely used impeachment power. It is a somber responsibility reserved exclusively for those elected directly by the people. Lobbyists, lawyers and others not part of the club need not apply.

The responsibility is particularly grave for Chairman Cervantes and other House leaders because this will be the first time in state history that an impeachment will be seriously undertaken and will stand as precedent for generations to come. Cervantes seems to understand the expectations placed upon him by the constitution and the New Mexicans of today and those to follow. And now, so does Mr. Bregman.

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Monday, October 03, 2005

All-Star Mayoral Team Says Stars Align For Marty; Run-Off Chances Dim, But Never Say Never, Plus: My KANW 89.1 FM Election Special Today at 5 P.M 

There won't be shock, but there will be surprise if ABQ Mayor Martin Chavez fails to get 40% of the vote tomorrow night. That's the consensus of my All-Star Mayoral Team, analysts and observers with decades of experience in New Mexican politics and not about to pull any punches with their reputations on the line. Forty per cent means no run-off election and another four years. Let's go out to the playing field for the very latest this Election Eve.


Kurt has thought from the beginning that Mayor Marty was going to take it without a run-off, and he is now putting some numbers on his prediction. "Chavez will get closer to 50% than 40% tomorrow night," the former CBS newsman and longtime NM politico predicted. He said 46% is his number for the mayor. And he also predicted there would a be a run-off in his home city council race in which Republican incumbent Sally Mayer faces three challengers. He also said look for a run-off in the Tina Cummins district in the far ABQ NE Heights and a near "dead-heat' on the proposal to raise the minimum wage.


Sanderoff is the conservative player, not one to take anything off the table unless his polls show something clearly outside the margin of error. His Sunday Journal survey has Marty at 42.6% and Sanderoff is expecting the mayor to get the job done. The unknown is turnout. "If a bunch of people came out to vote for the minimum wage, people we don't normally poll, than Marty could find some trouble." Otherwise, it's four more years, said the pollster as he made the media rounds as the sun sank on a New Mexico Saturday.


This Chavez supporter, fearful for his candidate when the first poll had him right at the 40% mark, is now off the fence and comfortably predicting a mayoral win and no run-off. "My number for Marty is 41.6%," said Santullo who was finishing a radio gig at Balloon Fiesta Park. The political veteran also said the negative campaign run against the mayor was "too little too late. It did some damage but not enough," he analyzed.


The Democratic consultant and pollster also predicts Chavez will get 41.6% of the vote (come on guys, can you be more specific!). He says if turnout goes higher than his prediction of 94,000 to 97,000 voters the mayor's percentage would go down. But if turnout goes lower the Chavez number will go higher. "His base is coming out and it will be amplified in a low turnout atmosphere." Pavlides asserted.

He also predicted Isaac Benton would win the Downtown/Barelas city council seat over Diana Dorn-Jones. "I did polling for the Benton campaign and I think his low number is 52%." Anything else? "Yes," said the chain-smoking, 35 year political veteran. "The minimum wage hike is going to pass. It is seen as a positive thing for the city." And he added one other thing. "I am predicting that Eric Griego will take second place (28% to 30%) in the mayor's race and Brad Winter a close third (24 to 25%)," concluded Pavlides as he put away his crystal ball.


Tim, former news editor of the weekly Alibi, wasted no time painting the political picture.

"Marty's campaign should be feeling very optimistic about his chances of avoiding a runoff, but obviously, with the margin of error in Sanderoff's poll (+ or-4.4%), it's still too close to call. The Chavez strategy of attracting Republicans to his Democratic base from four years ago was both wise and effective, considering he's held onto his lead by simultaneously beating back a liberal Dem and moderate Republican.

Winter's support from his own party was both lackluster and inept, and now it looks like plenty of R's will break Marty's way Tuesday. If that happens the GOP leaders should bow their heads in shame (or resign). So despite his ethical transgressions, it appears Chavez has sunk the competition," Tim said.


The top New Mexico lobbyist and mayor supporter says victory is in sight. "Marty should get over the magic 40% number and the big race of the night will be over quickly. Marty has run the type of campaign he needed to--he kept a low profile (for his style) and reminded people why they should feel good voting for him. He got beyond a divorce and supposed scandals. Case closed."

Scanland also predicted R Sally Mayer will be the top vote-getter in her race for re-election against two other R's and Dem Marianne Dickinson, but that a run-off could be in store as she might not hit 40%. Scott thinks Sally would prevail over Marianne in a run-off. I'm not as sanguine. Sally has been no slouch in this campaign, but Dickinson is one of the highest-quality candidates I have seen in years. This is one to watch.


The top staffer for Dem U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman put it this way: "The Mayor's numbers are good. While he hasn't absolutely secured the 40% he needs, he is likely there. The incumbent is going to get at least 2 to 4% of these undecided voters which should put him over the top. The Mayor can't let up though and has to have a good turnout effort.

Griego has to hope that the living wage initiative will bring unlikely voters to the polls. I'm not sure what Brad Winter can do at this point. He is polling well below where he should be with Republicans. He has to hope and pray that council races in the NE Heights turn out Republican voters.

I believe the (Tina) Cummins and the Mayer races will go to a run off, but there are so many candidates that it's tough to say who will make it," offered the knowledgable representative of the thirtysomething generation.


Yeah, let's put the ex-leftie ABQ mayor out in right field. He says unless there is a big surge in turnout because of the minimum wage measure and those voters also go for Griego, this cake is baked and Marty wins. If so, what does that mean?

"I think the campaigns were feeble. They could not raise any money. If he wins, it says he raised a lot of money and the voters are not dissatisfied with his performance and willing to put his ethical lapses aside," commented Baca, a leading edge baby boomer who just turned 60.

Thanks to all of my Mayoral All-Stars (minus the shortstop). Excellent job. My take on the mayor’s race was blogged here Sunday. Just scroll down the page.


There's more Campaign 05' on the radio today at 5 p.m. Join me and my experts for a full one hour of city politics on KANW 89.1 FM. Then join us again tomorrow night for our 18th year of covering every major election on KANW. Election Night coverage Tuesday starts at 6:30. Thanks to all our sponsors. Please click on their ads on today's blog. See you this afternoon at 5 p.m.

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Sunday, October 02, 2005

Mayor Marty Poised For Unprecedented 3rd Term; He's Above Magic 40% In Final Poll; Policy Trumps Personality As City Prepares To Vote; A Sunday Blog 

ABQ Mayor Chavez
There are probably a number of people you work with who bug you. Guys or gals who just rub you the wrong way. Maybe they're a little too pushy, too aggressive, too in your face. Or they seem to know more than you and aren't shy about letting you know it. But is that grounds for firing them? No. And that's where the 2005 race for Albuquerque mayor stands in its final 48 hours.

53 year old Martin Chavez is poised for an unprecedented third term (the first to win two in a row) as mayor of the state's largest city not because of his personality, but because of his policies. Try as they might, his foes efforts to personalize this race--think "Smarty Marty" commercials, have been a failure by any definition.

The final ABQ Journal poll released today shows Chavez garnering 42.6% of the vote, up from 40% in the first poll last month and securely over the 40% required to avoid a run-off. Second place is a tie with City Councilors Eric Griego and Brad Winter each coming in with 18.8% and unknown David Steele at 2.6%. Undecided is a high 17.6%. Margin of error is plus or minus 4.4%. The poll was conducted Thursday and Friday.

It's possible, but unlikely, that the Mayor Marty train could be derailed at the last minute. The electorate has heard it all; the Chavez ethics problems, the Chavez arrogance, the Chavez personal problems, and they are not buying. What they are shopping for is demonstrated competence in running a city and its 6,000 employees. Only one candidate has run a campaign addressing that critcial issue and he is far in the lead.


Chavez also remains above 40% because his personality has been indicted, not the job he is doing or the policies he is pursuing. And that's what matters. You have to show you can do a better job than the other guy. That's not easy going up against Mayor Marty. After all, by this stage in his career he is more than capable of administering the office of mayor, In fact, he is behind schedule in a political career that many expect more from.

Not that the opponents haven't had their moments. But who really saw them? Griego did his best to get a limited broadcast TV buy up, but Republican Winter flailed away with attack radio commercials, hardly the way to capture the imagination of the masses.

Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff told me late Saturday night that Marty is pulling well over over 40% of the GOP vote, way too high for a Dem and the reason he is likely to prevail Tuesday night.

Like successful politicians through the ages, Mayor Marty has been blessed by weak opponents. Don't pop the champagne yet Mayor, but do put it on ice.


The Journal poll also shows all three propositions, including the one that would raise the minimum wage to $7.50 an hour, likely to win voter approval. That also includes the public financing of city election campaigns. Sanderoff said the recent state Treasurer scandal appears to be moving voters toward that measure.

I am back here tomorrow with you and my 2005 all-star Mayor team and their take on the mayor and council races. And don't forget Monday at 5 p.m, as we continue our election coverage with a pre-game show on KANW 89.1 FM radio. And then, starting at 6:30 p.m. Election Night, we kick-off year 18 of covering every major New Mexico and Albuquerque election for KANW. It's heard throughout much of the state, so be sure to join us for exclusive early results and he best analysis.

Thanks to all of our public radio sponsors---BWD Global and Bruce Donisthorpe, DW Turner (strategic communications), Ladera Golf and the Bill Campbell Agency (Real Estate). Some of their logos are at the top of this page so click on them for more info.

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