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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

New Plan Surfaces To Relieve Overcrowded Schools; Can It Bail Out Big Bill? Plus: Jim Bibb; A "Rising Star" For The R's Or A Flash In The Pan? 

"Year of the Child"
The failure to secure funding for schools in fast growing suburbs on ABQ's Westside and in Dona Ana county was one of Big Bill's setbacks at the recent legislative session and, according to reliable sources, the Guv is now working feverishly to come through with the cash to build two new ABQ high schools and other schools in Dona Ana.

"There is serious talk about floating bonds for the schools that would be backed by the severance tax permanent fund. It would be a novel approach, but it appears to be legal and does not require the approval of the Legislature, only the Public School Capital Outlay Council," informed one source.

Before the session the Governor boasted that he would get nearly $300 million in money for new schools, but the lawmakers appropriated a paltry $90 million. After the rejection, APS school board member Robert Lucero infuriated the Guv by calling the session "The Year of the Spaceport," not "The Year of the Child" as touted by Big Bill.

One Westside activist determined to get those schools built circulated an e-mail that dragged the 08' Prez race into the fray.

"The Guv will not be dinged much in the upcoming election with his failure to get the critically needed funds to fix school overcrowding. His problem will come in selling his "educational Governor" status in his other campaign. One of his chief rivals is the former Governor of Virginia, who did find a way to build and fix that state's schools. If the Guv can't move New Mexico forward, how can he move America forward?" Questioned the activist.

It's a tough one for the chief exec because TV news has been playing the video where he pledged to come up with the money. The bond plan could be the way out. The Guv has issued executive orders to implement several of his proposals that were killed in Session 06.' Getting desperately needed schools built and fading the political heat in this election year may require him to again do an end run around opposing lawmakers.


Menawhile, the Guv may have an opportunity to pacify some of his Westside critics. And it comes from the R's. State Sen. Joe Carraro says $500,000 to four-lane the Paseo Del Norte road extension made it through the Legislature, as did another $300,000 secured by fellow GOP Senator Mark Boitano. The money is set loose if Big Bill signs off on it.

If the Guv does give the OK, it will also help Dem ABQ Mayor Marty with his Westside constituents. The mayor has said the city is short the cash for the four lane job. It was GOP U.S. Senator Domenici who recently came to the mayor's aid in winning four lanes for the Montano Bridge and now it's the two state GOP senators. The mayor has been the target of liberals who joke that he should switch to the Repubs, but why should he when he's already getting their help and Westside Dems say that's fine with them. Well, there is the matter of the Dem nomination for Guv in future years, but that's another story...


He's a near perfect candidate on paper. And several of my Alligators who attended Saturday's GOP Bernalillo County pre-primary convention said attorney general candidate Jim Bibb broke through in person. They say he gave the crowd a red meat speech that faulted Dem AG Madrid for not pursuing a corruption case against indicted ex-Treasurers Vigil and Montoya,

"It was the one speech that had the crowd excited and was interrupted by applause several times," reported a Gator from the confab.

Bibb is a former assistant NM U.S. attorney, and a National Guard vet with Afghanistan experience. At 35, some of his backers are touting him as a new rising star for the R's.

But can University of New Mexico law grad Bibb break through and beat out rival former Bernalillo County District Attorney Bob Schwartz for the nomination? Schwartz has just finished a stint as top crime adviser to Big Bill.

"Bob was on the defensive about his service to the Governor and pointed to the tough crime measures he pursued while in Santa Fe. But Bibb comes without the baggage and his speech gave Bob's skeptics ammunition," reported another GOP Alligator who took in the Schwartz speech.

Of course, Bibb, the son-in-law law of former NM Dem Guv Toney Anaya could be said to have his own baggage. But his cuts both ways. His Hispanic connection gives him a tool that could be useful in the November election. Bibb's own father is a retired FBI agent living in Las Vegas, NM where the family has lived since the 1930's.


I chatted up Bibb, a father of five, from his Santa Fe home Sunday afternoon to find out more. Is he a hard-right R, concerned with abortion, school prayer and gay marriage--the hot button issues that can divide a party? It didn't seem so as Bibb said he has not mentioned those issues on the trail and that prosecution of public corruption and homeland security are his top priorities.

He also noted his working connection to U.S. Attorney David Iglesias who narrowly lost the AG's race in 98' against Madrid. "Another 7,000 votes and he would have won. This race is winnable because, like then, there is no incumbent," Bibb asserted.

Bibb said he met Schwartz for the first time this weekend. He did not take the bait to launch some salvos at his rival. And why should he when former GOP Chair Dendahl and State Sen. "Lightning Rod" Adair are calling Schwartz way too liberal.

Bibb says he and wife Kristina have consulted with Grandpa Toney on political matters, but added: "We agree with Toney some time and disagree others. We all agree we have the greatest bunch of kids."

While they may not agree on all the issues, Bibb is launching his political career on the same trajectory as Toney who was about the same age when he won the AG's post in 74' and later went on to become Guv.

But if Bibb is a "rising star," he says it is not intentional. "I have never been interested in a political career, just in being attorney general."

So far Bibb has raised a respectable $50,000 for his effort. Judging by the reception he received Saturday and the resulting spin, more could be on its way. We'll keep you posted.

And keep us posted on your political news. E-mail it in from the link at the top of the page. Thanks for your company today. Let's do it again tomorrow.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Finding A Port In The Storm: Bush Finds One With Pete But Heather Balks, Plus: Tommy Jewell Ungagged; You're At Ground Zero For NM Politics 

The political pain being caused by the controversial proposal that would allow an Arab, state-owned company to gain control of six key U.S. ports came into clear view over the weekend. NM U.S. Senator Pete Domenici went all in with President Bush, while GOP ABQ U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson was saying the Congress "might" have to overturn the deal.

With even most Republicans appearing to be against the sale of the ports, the Alligators went into a frenzy over Pete's provocative defense of Bush and Heather's positioning. Domenici said fears of having an Arab nation based company control the ports verges on "hysteria." (latest developments here)

"Pete is not up for re-election. Heather is. You have to wonder if he will call in this marker with the White House in the form of bigger money for NM projects. He is one of the few senators who has gone out on the limb with the President, and such gifts usually come at a price," said one Senior GOP Alligator.

Domenici also repeated the White House line saying, "we are against terrorists...not religion or ethnicity. Some politicians seem to be forgetting that."

But Domenici's critics were saying it appears it is the senior senator who is forgetting that New Mexicans and the nation have been whipped into a "hysteria" since the attacks of 9/11.

"You reap what you sow," said one Dem Alligator of Domenici.

As for Heather, she told Bill Maher Friday night on his national HBO program "Real Time," that the Bush administration is guilty of a "terrible failure of communication." She has given herself wiggle room by using the word "might" not "should" in commenting on whether the port deal should be killed.

The episode was yet another example of the unsettled national political environment. And that usually means change. And that means the party in power has the most to fear.


Back on the HBO set with Heather, Maher welcomed Wilson to the "lion's den" but it actually turned out pretty tame. She won applause from the audience for her stand on increasing congressional oversight of the administration's domestic eavesdropping program as well as her stance on reviewing the port deal. Maher did ask her why she voted against increasing funding for port security by $400 million. She answered that the funding would have been at the expense of other programs. Maybe there's an opening there for Dem challenger Madrid.

Heather was interviewed at the top of the show for five minutes and did not join Maher's panel where the real red meat is dished. But she handled herself well, (How about Warm Heather grabbing Bill's arm?) looked the part and again put the Dems on notice that they will have to fight for every inch of ground.


Big Bill's appointment of Tommy Jewell as secretary of the NM Children Youth & Families Department was greeted favorably by advocates for children who say Jewell is a genuine friend of troubled youth with a record of proven success on the bench. Also, under outgoing CYFD boss Mary Dale Bolson the department has been hit with dozens of racial discrimination lawsuits. Jewell, an African-American, is expected to be able to calm the waters.

But skeptics, citing the previous four secretaries, question whether anyone can effectively run the often troubled 2,000 employee agency and will take a wait and see attitude on the retired judge who has no experience running a department of that size, or wrestling with the internal politics that caused Bolson so much trouble.

Also watching will be those of us in the peanut gallery. In 2000 Jewell issued a controversial gag order on the press in the case of a 120-pound, 3-year-old girl whom CYFD had taken from her parents. The ruling was challenged by news outlets and the NM Supreme Court overturned it.

A judge's gag order restricting the right to gather information to report on a matter of public interest is always a red flag. Jewell's decision was troubling, but a one time event. As New Mexico struggles to get out of the cellar in the national rankings on its treatment of children, Jewell will need all the public support he can get. Communicating with the public will be key. In the long run, secrecy gets you overturned.

As for CYFD, its federal and state funding totals $360 million. And they say they need more. Children's advocates Lt. Governor Denish and First Lady Barbara Richardson might want to investigate and see if this department is truly underfunded or more in need of a makeover after 12 years of trying hard, but still unable to shake its dysfunctional personality. A change at the helm may be in order, but the real trouble could lie in the lower decks.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Clippings From My Newsroom Floor: Up Next On The Friday Audio Blog 

Here's some things that didn't make the final cut for this week's blog, until now.
Without further ado, here are the clippings from my newsroom floor. Enjoy.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Greens: Will They Spoil Patsy's Party? Plus: More On 'The Battle Of The Grandpas,' And: Some Thursday Bottom Lines 

Attention all Heather and Patsy fans. Are we sure those two will be the only choices on the November ballot? No, we are not. The NM Green Party (remember them?) could come springing back to life like a dormant virus with fatal effect for Dem Attorney General Madrid who is locked in what is currently a two way battle for the ABQ Congressional seat held by the GOP's Heather Wilson since 98'.

I checked in with longtime Green leader Carol Miller and the news she imparted was not soothing for Madrid.

"The race is is being watched carefully with several potential candidates in the wings. There is strong determination to run against Patricia Madrid...Greens hold her in low regard for her prejudicial interpretations of election law and endless dictates which hurt democracy itself. In addition, Madrid holds many positions opposed by Greens such as the death penalty to universal health care..." scored Miller in her e-mail missive.

A Green could peel vital liberal votes from Patsy providing a crucial cushion for Heather. And the R's know it. Go back to 02' when then NM GOP Chair Dendahl announced an anonymous donor was willing to give $100,000 to any Green candidate who would run in the 1st District race. The Greens rejected the offer.

But the bad blood between Madrid and the Greens over ballot access and other issues lingers. And Madrid & Company will have to live with the tension at least until July 11, the deadline for minor party candidates to file.


The Greens last ran a candidate in the 00' race when they came in with 5% of the vote. Such a vote tally this time would be devastating for Patsy as most political pros think if she does pull the upset it will be by just a point or two.

And smoking the peace pipe with the Greens, if Madrid wanted to, is no easy task. Who do you sit down with? Party members are an independent bunch with their share of gadflies. It appears it will be a long wait and see for the ambitious attorney general.

Meanwhile, this week has been no bowl of cherries for Heather. She was last seen running at an Olympic pace in the opposite direction of President Bush and his hyper-controversial port plans. If the Prez's already weak popularity plunges into the 30's, the political pros say the danger for Heather is being dragged down with him.

And it all adds up to more factors to watch in this must-stay-tuned-race of 2006 where the stakes are not just the ABQ seat, but perhaps control of the U.S. House and thus the future direction of the American nation.


Well, actually there is only one grandson of a prominent NM politico involved in that hotly contested Dem State House primary on ABQ's West side (Dist. 16) to succeed Rep. Harriet Ruiz. But like ex-State Rep. Bennie Aragon, Pat Baca Sr., a former city councilor and county commissioner, is a grandpa several times over too, but it's his son, Pat Baca Jr., not his grandson seeking the seat. Bennie's grandson, Dominic Aragon, has been door knocking for weeks. Still, there's enough grandfathering going on out there for us to stick to our sensationalism.

Attorney Moe Maestas is the latest entrant in the race. He will work to nail down the liberal vote, but his opponents are already faulting him for being a relative newcomer to the district. Maestas will make it official today and tells me if we insist on calling it the 'Battle of the Grandpas,' we need to note that his dad, former ABQ Journal reporter Frank Maestas is a bona fide grandpa too.

West side activist and businessman Dan Serrano has been in the race for several months and has signed up media consultant David Griffin to fill the mailboxes of local voters. I wonder what Dan's grandpa status is?

So far, this is the only contested Dem House primary in Bernalillo county that we've heard of. Filing day for all the seats statewide is in mid March.


Big Bill did not have to wait until the final moments of the Legislature to know a chunk of his agenda was in big trouble. According to a well-placed Capitol insider, the Guv met with the Senate Democratic caucus about midway thru the contentious session at which the Dem lawmakers fought among themselves giving the Guv an ear full of the divisions among his fellow Dems.....One of our GOP Alligators gives us heads up on who will headline the annual GOP Lincoln Day Dinner March 18. It will be Florida U.S. Senator Mel Martinez, the first Cuban-Amerian in that body. "He sits on the Energy Committee with Sen. Domenici, and they hope that that will draw in the local energy guys in to fill the coffers." Reports our Gator. Tickets go for $150 a pop.

Keep all of u posted on the latest political news in your neck of the woods. Use the e-mail link the top of the page for that and for information on advertising here. We're back tomorrow with a Friday audio blog. See ya' then.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Big Bill's Matanza; He Will Bury $200 Mil Of Pork; Will Lawmakers Squeal? Plus: My Blog Bottom Lines & Some Music For Lawyers 

Big Bill announced an old fashioned matanza Tuesday, but the pork he is putting deep into the ground will not see the light of day, and instead of chewing on tasty chicharrones some lawmakers may be left squealing over their gubernatorial imposed diet. The Guv said $200 million of capital outlay projects will disappear with a stroke of his pen, a move his finance boss painstakingly explained was necessary to "balance the budget." But is this prudence, or punishment of a balky legislature?

A first glance, the Guv's announcement does not tell whose pork is being trimmed. The AP reporting: "Among the items potentially on the chopping block: $80 million for maintenance of buildings and infrastructure at colleges and universities; $20 million for an endowment fund for college and university faculty; almost $93 million in contingency appropriations, including $75 million for tribal water rights settlement; and some of the $531 million capital improvement projects financed with money from the state's main budget account."

A lot of that stuff is not going to cause any squealing, but where's that $93 million coming from? GOP Roswell State Rep. Dan Foley, an ardent foe of the Fourth Floor, has seen his share of pork consistently knocked out by the Guv. But this year it was a group of Senate Dems who held back the Big Guy and his proposal, among others, to hike the minimum wage. You wonder if some of their pet projects will fall under the knife.

Still, by holding off on exactly where the scalpel will cut, one supposes there is a bit of wiggle room for creating some goodwill essential for any special session that is called to tackle the bills of Bill that were left on the shelf. But what would be the point? The millions the Guv is vetoing adds up to more than all the capital outlay approved in some previous sessions signaling just how well-off financially we are. Isn't that draining any urgency for a special? Maybe like dogs, it's best to let sleeping pigs lie.


A foot note to our Tuesday report on the vote buying allegations in the Espanola city election. Attorney General Madrid says she is sending investigators to the area to check out the reports. Voters there were allegedly given beer, wood and money in exchange for voting for a mayoral candidate. How can the investigators compete with that booty?....Former ABQ newsman Dan Wade, now in North Carolina, checks in with the news that ABQ Rep. Wilson will make another appearance on the Bill Maher show on HBO. She will appear at 9 p.m. Friday...

Dem national party leader Howard Dean will be in ABQ Thursday. It will be his first NM appearance as national chair and more info is available from the party...The R's are also bringing in a heavyweight fundraiser. I will have more on that tomorrow.


Here's a theme song for all of you out there in La Politca who bill your clients by the hour. Thanks to ABQ real estate agent Seth Heath for the forward. If you don't like it, bill him.

Thanks for dropping by today. E-mail your news and comments. If it's about New Mexico politics, we want to know.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Vote Buying Charges In Espanola; Beer, Wood And Money Said To Be Lures, Plus: Santa Fe Mayor Update & More Of My Legislative Leftovers 

One of the more famous stories in New Mexico political lore has a politico calling up to Rio Arriba county to get late night election results for his candidate. "How many votes does he have?" The politico anxiously asks. "How many does he need?" came the infamous response that may be truth or fable but is now legendary. And now add some more coal to the fire. The Rio Grande Sun reports allegations of vote buying in the early voting in the Espanola March 7th city election.

One voter said he sold his vote for $15 which he used to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee. "It's better than nothing" he told the newspaper which further reports on allegations of "beer, wood and money" being offered for votes.

Residents of public housing are the alleged targets of the vote buying. That differs from the old days when you heard stories of patrons being pulled from bar stools to go vote with the promise of free drinks upon completion of the act. (What, close the bars on Election Day and spoil all the fun?) Here's the Sun's full report which might make for interesting reading at the offices of the U.S. Attorney, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General...well, you get the idea.


The money in city elections, once neighborly affairs, is now entering the big money leagues. ABQ Mayor Marty spent over a million bucks to win re-election in a city that has just half a million residents. Up in Santa Fe, the top money raiser for the mayor's job in the March election, City Councilor David Coss, has already raised $100,000 and that city doesn't even top 100,00 population.

We get more on the four way race for Santa Fe Alcalde from one of our veteran Alligators on the ground there: "David Coss is best positioned to win. His name is well-known as a city councilor. And he has the formidable power and organization of the public-employee unions (he was an officer and organizer for CWA when he worked for the state environment department) and the people involved in the "living wage" movement. Nobody is running to the left of Coss; the other three candidates are more conservative." Reports our source who has followed Santa Fe politics for decades.

A New Mexican poll also has Coss in the lead. Builder David Schutz is second and will try to come from behind in the closing weeks.


Are New Mexico's legislators a bunch of slow-pokes who waste time until the last days of the session? You might hear some governors argue in favor of that proposition, but syndicated columnist Jay Miller defends the plodding pace.

"Sure, all the items Richardson assigned to lawmakers at the beginning of the session might have been handled if they had done nothing else. But legislators are social creatures. They gather for a brief time every year to make important decisions. To do that, they need to get to know and trust each other and become as much of a team as possible. Some of that interaction takes place in floor sessions with the public and press watching. Birthdays and holidays are celebrated. There is some form of diversion almost every day."

If lawmakers do dilly-dally too much, it seems to suit voters fine. Repeated moves to lengthen the thirty day sessions to sixty have gone nowhere. It probably reflects the sentiment of the old saying: "Hide your wallets! The Legislature's in session."


Here's a Tuesday video laugh for you courtesy of ABQ real estate guy Tony Olmi, a Republican and dedicated Bush backer who nevertheless sees the humor in the Prez's tongue twisting. Enjoy.

And so it goes on this mild New Mexican winter day. Thanks for stopping by.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Politicos Caution Guv: Ordering Special May Not Be Right Menu Choice, Plus: My Legislative Leftovers, And: Patsy's Radio Daze; Speech Blacked Out 

The Guv
A consensus seems to be forming in the political community that a special session of the NM Legislature would be a high-risk gamble for Big Bill. The Guv's cabinet has been summoned for a meeting today at which the just concluded 30 day session will be a hot topic and also whether he should call the 112 lawmakers back to have another go at raising the minimum wage and other key items of his agenda that were left to die in a state senate graveyard Thursday.

Big Bill's prestige meter has taken a hit from the session, but most of the politicos I interviewed urged caution and no special. "He needs to ride this out. He can campaign on what was not passed as the reason he needs another term. He has had bad luck with the past two special sessions he has called and there is no reason to think another would be different," argued a top politico sympathetic to the Guv and reflecting the thinking of others.

Richardson himself described the dilemma when he wondered aloud Thursday "what if they did nothing?" if he called them back.

There were some, mostly on the liberal end of the spectrum, who called on the Guv to try, try again.

He said he would let the public decide if he should go for a retry, but political insiders are not expecting an outcry. "They approved nearly a billion dollars in capital outlay. That is going to mean construction across the state. That builds local support. Also, teachers and state employees got raises. Are they going to raise hell about the minimum wage?" Asked another Santa Fe Wall-leaner.

Organizers of a renewed effort for a higher ABQ minimum wage seemed nonplussed and said a lot of progress had been made toward their goal during the session.


A crucial political calculation is whether the Guv's loud promise to come up with enough money to build two new high schools on ABQ's West Side, only to see funding for them vastly diminished, will cost him votes in the heavily populated area.

"If his goal is a 60 percent win that he could flaunt nationally, it may be a factor. But with re-election looking like a no-brainer (so far) is it worth risking more mayhem for a couple of thousand votes? Probably not." Analyzed another D Alligator.

The politicos think the Guv was a victim of his own mismanaged expectations and perhaps his past, easy legislative success. But there was also finger pointing at the senate leadership, particularly Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez who was seen by some D's as aiding the Republicans by slowing senate action in the late going. But mostly they agreed that this governor, like most chief executives, saw the peak of his political power in his first three years. This was confirmed by the unapologetic statements of several senators in the aftermath of session 06'.

As epic surpluses flood the state because of high energy prices, the electorate appears more docile (on state issues) than demanding. And if they are upset, they are not going to assign full blame to the Guv. As one lawmaker told me: "After all, he is the one who proposed popular programs that were shelved."

In the end, voters may see the glass as half-full, not half-empty. The question now is how our ego-bruised Governor sees it.


"This could be the first indication that the emperor has no clothes," crowed ex-NM GOP chair John Dendahl about Richardson's minimum wage defeat. But a Big Bill backer retorts: "If Bill has no clothes the Republicans are downright invisible. Their governor candidate isn't even on the map."

Hey, what happened to the senate confirmation of new Secretary of Higher Education Beverly McClure? Was that a slap at the Fourth Floor or just a case of too much else to do? Just asking.

Where was liberal Dem Santa Fe State Senator Nancy Rodriguez during the session? Sadly, her mother is in grave health in Denver and she was unable to be at the Roundhouse.

And does Valencia County Dem State Rep. Fred Luna get the toughest lawmaker in the room award, or what? The 79 year old made the session while undergoing kidney dialysis three days a week. A Dem insider says the oldtimer will not seek another term this year, and the race is on to decide who will succeed him as chair the Hosue Business Committee. Luna is now the longest serving solon in Santa Fe.


She may have knocked them dead in Alabama and Alaska but voters who count the most never got to hear ABQ congressional contender Patsy Madrid's nationally broadcast rebuttal to President Bush's regular Saturday morning radio address. The Madrid campaign had said the speech would be broadcast on ABQ ABC affiliate 770 KKOB-AM radio at 9:06 a.m. Saturday. But it never happened.

A spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Committee e-mailed in that there was a "dropped ball in the chain of communication on which ABC affiliates air the address."

But Art Ortega, spokesman for KKOB, told me: "We do not carry the President's Saturday address or the rebuttal...and we did not carry it this time."

Ironically, Madrid recorded her response at KKOB Friday but the campaign apparently did not nail down if it would be aired there, even though they issued a news release published in the Saturday ABQ Journal saying it could be heard on the 50,000 watt talker.

Madrid, in one of the nation's most closely watched congressional contests as she challenges incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, was heard in most of the nation blasting the "Bush-Wilson" Medicare prescription drug program.

As for the Prez, he never mentioned the drug program, instead using his address to tout the benefits of nuclear power. Which may have been apt since Patsy must be going nuclear over suffering a New Mexico media meltdown.


We're starting to fill up here advertising wise, so if you are interested in reaching New Mexico's political community (and many voters) for the June 6th primary, please let me know ASAP. You can advertise by the month or three or six months. Just drop me an email for more info.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Big Bill: Swallow Hard & Spin? Or Fight Again For A Win? Special Session Mulled After Senate Rebels Score; It's A Friday Audio Blog 

Ah, the element of surprise. When the 30 day NM Legislative session got underway the Alligators of La Politica were predicting Big Bill would, as usual, get most of what he wanted with one important caveat--that he not overreach. We also warned of possible problems when he threatened a special session. He did get most of his agenda, but it was the high-profile, glaring exceptions that delivered the surprise and reminded everyone that politics is art, not science.

The session adjourned Thursday without approving an increased minimum wage, not fully funding new schools on ABQ's booming West Side and in Dona Ana county, leaving on the table the Guv's tax relief package for the working poor as well as an ethics package proposed in the wake of the historic State Treasurer scandal. Governor Richardson is weighing whether to call a special session to salvage these items. Join me on the audio blog for more..
this is an audio post - click to play


Under the category of "when it rains it pours," KRQE-TV news reported Thursday night that Mary Dale Bolson, cabinet chief for the troubled Children Youth and Families Department, is resigning that position and will be "reassigned" to another job. Not an especially timely footnote to the Guv's "Year of the Child."

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Will They Go Home? State Awaits Final Roundhouse Results, Plus: Pete & Powell Spar Over Wilderness, And: My Bottom Lines; It's A Blog Special Session 

Now we wait. There's no way the NM Legislature is going to get through all of the jam-packed agenda sent their way by Big Bill by the scheduled adjournment of noon today. Special session? The Guv should be able to live with a lot of little misses, but politicos say if there is no minimum wage increase, or a bill so watered down it makes little improvement, the Guv would be on solid political ground to call a special. But if he locks down on small items for his "Year of the Child" program he may find the public climate less understanding.

And a little hallelujah for this one. Around Midnight senate flack Tom Garrity checked in with word that an ethics bill is on the way to the Guv. It's ABQ Sen. Feldman's and requires prospective contractors with the state to disclose all campaign contributions over $250 made to relevant public officials before submitting a competitive bid.

The bill also prohibits contractors from making contributions to officials during the procurement process.

It may not be a lot and we need much more, but it's something and in the wake of the historic Treasurer scandal it is top priority for Mr. & Mrs. New Mexico.

I will have a Friday audio blog to update the session and more on Monday.


Dem Land Commissioner candidate Ray Powell took a slap at GOP U.S. Senator Pete Domenici here Wednesday, and Pete is not taking it in stride. Powell claimed Domenici legislation designating hundreds of thousands of acres of Dona Ana County as federal wilderness, thus protecting it from development and off-road vehicles, also calls for dumping 65,000 of undeveloped federal land on the real estate market, threatening a development frenzy. Not so, rebuts the senator whose office offered up this statement:

"Some people are of the opinion that this proposal says dump, sell, get rid of all this land now. Not so. It says that land will remain surplus and made available over time, as needed... as the city grows. We are going to meet with people and talk about that. That is certainly subject to discussion. And we are going to do that."

There may be some dispute over that 65,000 acres but there is, according to one poll, strong bipartisan support in population booming Dona Ana for protecting precious land for future generations, including around the landmark Organ Mountains pictured with this report.


Keeping it in Dona Ana, the Dem county chair there, Jeff Steinborn, also toils for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance which is working on that Dona Ana wilderness bill. And he also continues to try to launch a political career. Steinborn blogs in that he will again run against GOP State Rep. Ed Boykin. Steinborn came close in 04' in the swing district. Earlier that same year he sought the Dem nomination for the right to take on GOP U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce but lost to Gary King.

Steinborn is a former staffer to Dem U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman which takes us back to D.C. and the pages of Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. We interviewed with the paper this week on Bingaman's 06' re-election effort and here's how we framed the race.


We had a laugh when blog reader Rob Erickson poked fun at a Wednesday mistake. We noted that the GOP had hired an out-of-state firm to help GOP Lt. Guv candidate Sue Wilson Beffort gather petition signatures, the same firm the GOP used to get independent Ralph Nader on the 04' NM ballot in hopes of peeling votes from Dem Prez nominee Kerry. But We blogged that it was 2000 Dem nominee Al Gore, not Kerry. That had Erickson wrly blogging in: "The GOP strategists are geniuses: Al Gore received almost no votes in '04."

...And some editions of yesterday's Blog failed to mention that the former GOP ABQ city councilor seeking to become secretary of state this year is Vickie Perea. By the way, Vickie converted to the R's from the D's during the 04' Prez campaign...ABQ radio newsman Pat Allen has been named news director at 50,000 watt 770 KKOB-AM radio. He has been with the station several years...I thought Alligator Ave Maestas was exclusive to us, but look at him now. He's blogging away from Silver City. But he promises not to forget us. Ave, I knew you when...

Finally, a note to Big Bill. If that measure alowing Webcasts of the Legisature makes it to your desk, don't veto it again, sign the darn thing. As I blog, it's the last night of the legislative session and we out-of-Santa Fe political junkies are having serious news withdrawal. I wouldn't whine about this but, after all, it is the "Year of the Child."

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Starting Line-Up Set For Campaign 06'; Who's Who And What To Watch For; The Stuff You Gotta Have Is Right Here 

Sec. Vigil-Giron
Candidates from across our Enchanted Land streamed into the Santa Fe offices of Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron Monday where she and her staff played mother hen and presided over the filing of thousands of petition signatures by candidates anxious to get their places at the starting line for Campaign 06'. Sources on both sides of the aisle checked in with the news that none of the top tier candidates for the major offices appears to be in danger of being disqualified for lack of signatures. (All filings here.)

Several of them made a show of it with Big Bill and Senator Jeff deluging the office with over 10,000 Dem signatures each, far above the necessary amount but useful in the psychological warfare in play at these early stages.

Most, if not all of the candidates, used paid consultants to help gather some of the John Does. R's were pleased to see their late announcing Lieutenant Governor candidate, ABQ State Senator Sue Wilson Beffort, come in with about 4,000 signatures, twice the legal limit. One insider reports the R's signed up for Sue the same out-of-state consulting group that was used by the GOP in 04' to help independent Prez candidate Ralph Nader make the NM ballot in hopes of peeling votes away from Dem Kerry. While Wilson Beffort looks safe, Dem Lt. Governor Diane Denish's campaign is sure to take a second look to make sure her paperwork is all in order.

Meantime, Santa Fe M.D. James Damron will secure the GOP nomination to take on Big Bill in the fall. Minister George Bailey could not come up with enough signatures but said he would run as a write-in. Job one for Doctor D is fundraising.

Francesca Lobato
There was a mild surprise on petition day. Perennial candidate Francesca Lobato, a Santa Fe bankruptcy lawyer, filed for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate for the right to take on Senator Bingaman. That was a twist. In her three previous congressional races she filed as a Dem. If her signatures stand, she will join ABQ State Senator Joe Carraro, Farmington urologist Allen McCulloch and Santa Fe City Councilor David Pfeffer in the race.

Senator Bingaman called in from D.C. to congratulate staff on the thousands of sigs gathered on his behalf. He was also pleased to see Lobato file as an R, not a D. "That saves us $100,000 in a primary," said an aide. Of course, that's chicken feed in what will probably be a $4 million race for Bingaman, seeking a fifth, six year term.


Dem Patricia Madrid, taking on ABQ GOP U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, accompanied her signatures with a news release. "Rep. Wilson has supported President Bush's failed Medicare prescription drug legislation, his failing environmental policies, and his tax cuts." She said.

But the absence of any mention of the unpopular Iraq war may indicate the D's are still uncertain on how to play that wild card. Wilson's campaign again appears battle ready and still basking in the praise she won for her recent break with the White House over the domestic eavesdropping program.

Incumbent Congressmen Steve Pearce and Tom Udall are expected to have easy re-elects this time. But they will still have to earn it. Dem Al Kissling will challenge Pearce down south and up north R Ron Dolin filed for the Udall seat.

Dem Geno Zamora
Some R's are concerned about the State Treasurer's race while praising ABQ's Demesia Padilla for giving the party a candidate to take on either ex-Treasurer James Lewis or State Rep. Lucky Varela who are vying for the Dem nod and filed Monday. The concern being that the R's should have come with a better known candidate in the aftermath of the historic Treasurer scandal which led to the resignation and indictment of Treasurer Robert Vigil and the indictment of ex-Treasurer Michael Montoya.

As for Lewis and Varela, one Alligator framed that one this way: "Lucky is strong in the North. James is strong in ABQ. This one could come down to middle-class Anglo votes down south." He analyzed.

The Dem race for attorney general saw Sandoval county District Attorney Lem Martinez top the field with about 9,000 signatures. Santa Fe's Geno Zamora filed a similar amount and Gary King was not far behind with over 7,000. King told me last night the race is already heating up and left me with the impression that negative campaign could break out any day. Of course, when you are the frontrunner, you expect the hits to come.

On the GOP side, Bob Schwartz and Jim Bibb, as expected, filed for AG, setting up an exciting duel for their party as well.

Three Hispanic Dems and Anglo Shirley Hooper filed for Sec. of State. Could Shirley sneak by frontrunner Stephanie Gonzales, Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera and Santa Fe's Letitia Montoya? Ex-ABQ City Councilor VIckie Perea will carry the banner for the R's.


The battle for the Dem nod for State Land Commissioner is already well underway with ex-land bosses Ray Powell and Jim Baca filing their names and immediately launching into campaign mode. Baca telling me he is challenging Powell and incumbent GOP commissioner Patrick Lyons to release details of their campaign spending and donors every two weeks until the June 6th primary.

Powell, working for southern NM support, told me: "Senator Domenici has proposed legislation for Dona Ana County that would protect about 218,000 acres of wilderness. That's great. But the plan also requires the sale of 65 thousand acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Land near Las Cruces. I say no to the sale of our public lands."

The aggressiveness of Baca and Powell is the marking of two old pros. R Lyons may have to spend a million dollars to retain the seat no matter which of these seasoned D's prevails in the June primary. The catch for Jim and Ray? He may be able to raise it.

Let's see if any challenges result over the thousands of sigs filed Monday. For now, the good news is that it appears there will be contested races for all the major offices.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Flurry of Announcements Round Out Primary Field, Plus: All About Pete's Place, And: Final Hours Tick On Solons; It's A Valentine Blog From La Politica 

It will be land office business at the NM Secretary of State's office in Santa Fe today as the statewide candidates make the traditional trek to file the necessary petition signatures to win a place on the June 6 primary ballot. An assortment of last minute announcements has rounded out the field for the top races, but there could be a few surprises if some of the contenders don't come up with enough signatures or their opponents successfully challenge what they turn in.

On the announcement front, most of the candidates are well-known to "New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan" readers as we have been telling you for months who was getting in the 06' game, but a couple of them tried to garner some PR before today's filing deadline. (Late starting GOP Lt. Guv candidate Sue Wilson Beffort is expected to turn in enough signatures, according to insiders.)


Here's one we are watching. Since 1987 only two individuals have held the Secretary of State's job. Current incumbent Rebecca Vigil-Giron and Stephanie Gonzales who held it from 91-98' and who over the weekend made her official announcement for a third term. Rebecca was first elected back in 86.' It's interesting because NM elections have been bedeviled with controversy and contention, but voters have repeatedly returned this duo to the top election agency. The office supervises the county clerk's who have been at the center of the problems.

Stephanie is again the frontrunner for the Dem nomination. Vickie Perea is the likely R contender, but we haven't had a GOP secretary of state since 1930. Don't hold your breath Vickie.

And Sandoval county District Attorney Lem Martinez sent out a news release last night saying he's here to stay. That's bad news for fellow attorney general hopeful and Dem Geno Zamora who will now face the prospect of splitting the Dem Hispanic primary vote. That leaves Gary King the favorite to secure the AG nomination. Jim Bibb and former D.A. Bob Schwartz are going after the R AG prize. Perhaps contrary to conventional wisdom, this race appears too close to call.

GOP State Auditor candidate Dan Alvarez pipes in with a release and photo which we are glad to run. But we don't think he'll be running the D's out of the auditor's office. Again, no R in this one since 1930. Maybe Dan can use that State Treasurer scandal to get it going his way. ABQ'S Jeff Armijo is the likely Dem nominee.

If a candidate does not come up with enough signatures today they will still have a chance to make the June ballot, but will have to get a bunch more petitions signed.


Here's one for Pete Domenici junkies. I interviewed recently with Mary O'Driscoll of the D.C. specialty pub "Enviornment & Energy Daily." She has come up with a lengthy and informative opus on the state's senior senator. I chip in comments about his legacy and political standing. Yes, I do think if his health is OK he will seek another six year term in 08'. By the way, Mary is a former reporter for the ABQ Journal.

And here's another for those who just have to have it all. It's Big Bill in-depth courtesy of a roundtable he did Friday for USA Today in Orlando. GOP Arkansas Guv Mike Huckabee trades thoughts with our Guv. If you are watching how Big Bill is carving out positions for his 08' Prez dance, you will want to read every word.


He's 53 and he's going back to school. Former Big Bill communications ace Billy Sparks, under scrutiny for not having a college degree, but winning a $120,000 a year no bid spokesman job at the University of New Mexico Health and Sciences Center, told the UNM Daily Lobo Monday he will head back to the chalkboards to complete the two classes that will give him his college degree and, he hopes, finally dim the harsh lights of La Politica.


It's fast breaking and maybe heart breaking on this Valentine's Day for the 112 solons at the Roundhouse. A flood of legislation is surging toward the Fourth Floor and the Guv's signature or veto while other bills are flooding into the basement to drown. Hard to keep up with it all, but the ABQ Trib's Kate Nash is blogging regularly in a game effort to keep from being flooded out herself. You can tune her in as we bring this session home. No catnapping Kate, we're depending on you.

And thanks for tuning in here today. Drop an email in the box and keep us up-to-date on the latest political news and stop by again soon.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Big Bill: When Is Enough, Enough? Lawmakers Get Threats, But No Thanks, Plus: Reaction To Heather's Headlines; It's Your Monday Blog 

And I thought things were going pretty well in Santa Fe. But Big Bill says it isn't so, especially with the state senate, and has raised the specter of a dreaded special session when this 30 day confab expires Thursday. What am I missing?

There's that big spaceport on its way to passage. (Thank you Sen. Rawson.) There's the all-paper ballot voting system on its way to the Fourth Floor. (Thank you Sen. Lopez.) There's the new schools for the fast growing suburbs of ABQ and Las Cruces looking good for passage. (Thank you Rep. Miera.) There's an ethics bill aimed at the scandalized Treasurer's Office that looks headed for approval. (Thank you Reps Varela & Hobbs.) There's decent pay raises for school teachers. (Thank you Rep. Saavedra.) And there's a likely hike in store for the state minimum wage. (Thank you Speaker Lujan.)

How about some tough fiscal watchdogging? (Thank you Sen. Smith.) And a Senate that is running pretty smoothly? (Thank you Sen. Sanchez.) And what about the Guv's semi-controversial commuter rail? Plenty of cover at the Capitol for Big Bill on that one.

Did I forget full Medicaid funding without a crisis? (Thank you Senator Feldman.) And a whopping eight percent increase in the overall state budget? (Thank you NM oil and gas industry.)

Oops. I forgot. This is the "Year of the Child." And there's the rub. Big Bill, with a more than cooperative Legislature, is pushing through enough bills for two sixty day sessions never mind one thirty. Which gives rise to the question: when is enough, enough? And since when did dividing up "pork" become unseemly? Haven't they been doing that since 1912? And isn't the Guv getting more than his fair share?

Leader Sanchez
When you dub a session the "Year of the Child" or a "Year of the Judiciary" you set yourself up as a one-trick pony. So with just hours to go and in spite of the major successes likely headed for his signature, Big Bill says enough is not enough.

Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. One of the more productive short legislative sessions in recent history could be judged a failure (at least by the Guv) if last minute negotiations over portions of his agenda end up hamstrung.

When the gavel finally comes down he will probably find the Legislature funding a bunch of his child programs too. But instead of thanks the lawmakers are getting threats.

It wouldn't be the first Fourth Floor overreach. Remember last year's special session on taxpayer energy rebates when the senate gave back more money than the Guv wanted? A couple of days later he was on the tube taking credit for the senate action. Maybe that's what will happen this time too.

If there was ever a time to declare victory and go home, this would seem to be it. But like beauty, I guess victory is in the eyes of the beholder. Maybe someone can replace Big Bill's rose-colored glasses. His Legislative session has been plenty rosy without them.


Not since she condemned Janet Jackson for showing a nipple at the Super Bowl has ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson been so exposed to national attention and like the Jackson incident, this one is drawing both praise and pans.

Most important for Heather, in a re-election battle with Dem Patricia Madrid, her hometown newspapers are standing by her. Both the traditionally pro-Wilson ABQ Journal editorial page and the more liberal ABQ Tribune made space to support her call for more disclosure to Congress of the Bush White House eavesdropping program.

Meanwhile, critics of Wilson's "bold move" as the Trib dubbed it, make for an odd blend. On one hand, there are Dems who say it was a political stunt so Heather could assert her "moderate" credentials in her heavy D district. They are joined by conservative doubters such as
Dan Henninger of the Wall Street Journal editorial page who wonders if "the local politics of Albuquerque is now setting national security policy."

Over at NM GOP headquarters, the party chose not to deal with Wilson's break with the White House directly and instead attacked Madrid's reaction which they called a real "howler" and managed to bring the State Treasurer scandal into the story.


Leave it to conservative syndicated columnist Robert Novak to keep the heat on Big Bill. In his latest dispatch Novak tries to set up the Guv in the event Dem Patricia Madrid fails in her bid to unseat ABQ GOP U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson. Says Novak:

"Gov. Richardson's stock for the 2008 Democrat presidential nomination may rise or fall depending on whether Republican Rep. Heather Wilson keeps her seat representing the New Mexico congressional district that includes Albuquerque.

Wilson is a principal target of Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Her opponent is state Attorney General Patricia Madrid, who appears to have the financing to wage a strong race against Wilson." Pens the outspoken Novak.

Maybe Novak has a point but from this corner it seems a stretch since the district has never gone Dem in its 30 plus year history. A more relevant indicator will be the Guv's margin of victory in his re-elect, presuming it is a winning margin. Hey, we cover all our bases in this crazy game.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Friday Audio Blogging: Insights From The Roundhouse On The Coming Final, Frenzied Hours of Session 06' 

Welcome to my audio blog. As the election season heats up, we will have ongoing coverage in a variety of media. Now is a good time to again audio blog, especially on Friday when I usually don't post. It's another service we are glad to introduce to New Mexico which has ben so supportive of our continuing coverage. Enjoy today's edition and look for more on future Friday's.

Now let's go directly to the floor of the NM House of Representatives for an insider report from one of the lawmakers as the Capitol prepares for the last minute rush before Thursday adjournment...
this is an audio post - click to play

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Wilson's Winter Offensive; Dems Scurry To Answer As It Rains Heather Headlines; It's A Blog Special; Indepth, Inside And Only Here 

You might have thought it was October not early February. The NM 1st Congressional district race moved front and center and across the nation Wednesday in the wake of ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson's break with the White House and her call for a full Congressional inquiry into the Bush Administration's domestic eavesdropping program.

Democrats were beside themselves as Wilson garnered national headlines and scored a follow-up coup as the Administration gave a broader accounting of the program to the House Intelligence Committee just hours after Wilson's request.

While Wilson, chair of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, conducted a Washington news conference praising the sudden White House cooperation, her Dem opponent, Attorney General Patricia Madrid, was trying to dampen things down.

“While I’ve been enforcing the law in New Mexico, Rep. Wilson has been sitting in the House Intelligence Committee apparently ignoring abuses of the law until nine months before an election,” slammed Patsy.

But Heather was hearing none of it as she tooted her own horn before the national audience. "I don't think the White House would have made the decision that it did had I not stood up and said, 'You must brief the Intelligence Committee,' she declared. (Complete Wilson statement here)

Perhaps a bit overeager in the national spotlight, Wilson did not mention that several GOP Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have also been putting the heat on the White House.

Still, the somewhat startling Wilson declaration was an aggressive play and made the point that she has accumulated some seniority in her seven years on the Hill.

Reaction came from all points of the political spectrum with liberal blogs jumping to welcome Wilson aboard. However, my e-mail revealed Wilson will get at least some wrist-slapping from Bush loyalists.

"Sounds like she's worried about Patsy, huh? Well, she better worry about appearing to becoming a RINO, (Republican In Name Only) to her base constituency. I plan on calling on this and will let you know what she says," penned one upset R.

But where are the unhappy Republicans to go? Into the arms of Dem Madrid? Not likely. But one GOP wag remarked that there is a chance Heather's recent "moderate" streak might keep some of them sitting at home Election Day.

The usual conspiracy theory that this was a put-up job by Wilson and the White House was also trotted out, with the most sinister saying they saw the long arm of White House political guru Karl Rove. The spin being that this was all prearranged to let Heather "pose" as a moderate in our battleground district. But most hardheaded observers were linking her wiretapping announcement with her recent vote against Medicaid cuts and labeling it an ongoing effort to saw the legs off of Madrid's stool.

"She is clearly moving to separate herself from a President whose approval rating is low. The Dems need to nationalize this race and link her to failed national polices. Heather is determined not to sink with that ship," noted a Senior GOP Alligator.

He also added that while Heather is getting her message out that she is not a clone of the White House, it may not be so easy. "It is hard to out Democrat a Democrat. Besides, D's will find a reason to vote against her no matter how many bones she throws at them."

Wilson's disembarkment from the Bush train had the Dems reminding us that she recently said there was no need for the House Intelligence Committee to look in the "rear view mirror" and analyze what went wrong with the bad intelligence that led to the unpopular Iraq War. They want swing voters to look at her overall record not her recent conversions.

But politics can be a short term affair, and top Dem strategists admit that Wilson is making Madrid's job tougher. "She has scored and it is up to the Madrid campaign to respond. They will need to run effective commercials to show her record and not let stand the impression Heather is giving this week," offered a top D who prays daily for a Patsy victory.

The national pundits were also getting in on the action as Wilson's move not only displayed her "gutsiness" as one of her fans e-mailed, but it also reaffirmed that she has, at least for now, a serious race on her hands.

What is really getting the goat of the D's is that Heather is acting like many of them want, giving them her vote or support on several substantive policy issues. If she continues, the urgency of the Madrid campaign could be undermined.

"Right now she is not going to fear alienating voters on the Republican right. She will take care of that later. She is making an early play to take our most effective argument--that she is hardcore Bushie--away from us," said our D campaign expert.


Put it all together--her support of ousted Hispanic UNM President Caldera, her recent vote against the GOP's Medicaid cuts, and now the break with the White House on eavesdropping, and you have to agree Heather is hoping, if not for an early knockout, at least a halt to any early Madrid momentum.

As in sports offense in politics is often the best defense. This week the Heather offense scored. But we are in the opening minutes of the first quarter and Madrid & Company will have their chance on the field in the many months remaining in this premier race of Campaign 06'. Stay tuned.

What do you think? E-mail me your comments and political news and come back again soon for more fair and balanced coverage of Campaign 06'.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Late Breaking: Heather Breaks With White House Over Eavesdropping Program, Plus: Paper Ballots: No Panacea Says Top Foe, It's All Up Next 

Rep. Wilson
Stop the Blog! As I was putting things to bed late Tuesday night the Alligators checked in with a big one. The New York Times reports that ABQ GOP U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson has broken ranks with the White House and is calling for a Congressional probe into the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program. Here's the lead graph from the Times report played on the front page of its Web site:

"A House Republican whose subcommittee oversees the National Security Agency broke ranks with the White House on Tuesday and called for a full Congressional inquiry into the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program."

The full Times story is here (registration required) Obviously, this has significant policy implications for the White House as well as political implications here at home where Wilson is in a stiff battle for re-election. More on this one as it develops.


After covering decades of NM Election Night fiascos, the notion of an all paper ballot system, (Senator Lopez's SB 295) counted by optical scanner has appeal. But if anyone is going to give you second thoughts it's Denise Lamb, former chief of the NM Bureau of Elections who is now a deputy with the Santa Fe County Clerk's office. Her major point: paper ballots will not guarantee headache free election counts. As part of our continuing coverage--we have already run pro-paper views--Denise blogs in with a take that will have you wondering.

"Joe, the difficulties with the 2000 election were solely due to paper ballots. The Bernalillo County Clerk's staff misprogrammed the optical scanner that counted absentee ballots so none of the 60,000 straight party votes were counted. Then, they defied the Secretary of State and ordered ballots not using the state contract, which meant that they were thin paper and could not be fed through the scanner a second time and had to be hand counted. Paper ballots caused the delay.

In the very close 2003 special election the counting of provisional ballots and absentee ballots on the constitutional amendment made the governor go ballistic. It was paper ballots that caused the delay. In 2004, again the heavy use of absentee and provisional ballots, which are all paper, caused delays. Arguing for a paper based system ignores the facts.


"As for electronic machines, we had nearly 100,000 votes on touch screen machines in the 2004 general election and the court case filed against them has managed to locate only four voters who allege they had problems," asserts Denise. "Where are the other voters? If the machines were as error prone as the paper ballot activists claim, there would be tens of thousands of voters who had experienced anomalies."

"The governor's mandate is for only one type of machine statewide. That means that we will use a paper based system that is only certified to 1990 optical scanning standards. We're going to spend $20 million to throw away perfectly good machines."

Thanks, Denise. Human error has indeed been the main factor in our election messes, especially in Bernalillo County. That can only be solved with proper funding for training election workers and now under consideration in Santa Fe.

And then there's the "voter verifiable, auditable paper trail" controversy. The paper ballot measure provides for one, and with the various unfounded conspiracy theories going around that could be one problem finally laid to rest under the all-paper solution. Wall-leaners think the all paper system stands a better than good chance of winning approval. We'll keep you posted.

Rep. Silva
How do you know when a state rep is in a district as safe as they get. How about when that rep proposes a two cent a gallon increase in the state gas tax as prices hover around $2.50 a gallon and the state is awash in a half billion dollar plus surplus? Our lawmaker in question is ABQ Dem State Rep. Dan Silva, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, who drew guffaws around our Enchanted Land when he put this one on the table saying the increase could be used to help finance improvements to roads used by school buses.

Of course, it was Bruce King's advocacy of an increased gas tax back in 94' that helped set the stage for his defeat by Gary Johnson so don't count on Big Bill signing on to this one anytime soon. His seat is not quite as safe as Daring Dan's.

Keep us posted on your latest political news. Drop it in the e-mail bag.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Big Bill's Critics: Some Get It, Some Don't, Plus: 1st Poll Out In 1st CD, And: The Holloman Hit; An Insider Report From Your Home For NM Politics 

Sen. Grubesic
Is that all there is? That's the question being asked in the wake of the bizarre and rambling letter from Dem State Senator John Grubesic criticizing the ways of Big Bill. It was a missive so disjointed that the rookie politico had to preface it by saying he was not drunk when he wrote it. So it goes in a capital city so cowed by the heavy hand of gubernatorial power that they rejoice over any critic of the Fourth Floor, even if it's only one complaining that everyone kisses the Governor's ass or, as political analyst Grubesic puts it, engages in "bootlicking.”

But calling the Governor a "flabby king" ain't going to get you more power, Mr. Legislators. But there they were, so overjoyed by the thought of anyone daring to challenge the powerful chief exec that they were passing the Grubesic letter around like boys in a locker room thumbing the new Playboy. This is substantive policy debate and criticism?

Not that there's nothing to criticize. How about that eight percent plus increase in the state budget unanimously passed by the House? Not one "conservative” vote against it. Seems the Grubesic memo hit a nerve. The legislators doing the ass kissing are frustrated and resent it but are too fearful to say anything and risk their share of pork pie from the immense surplus.

All this makes the phrase "Legislative heavyweight" an oxymoron. The Senior Alligators of La Politica had it nailed from the start. These guys (and gals) are going to split the pot and head for the exits. Maybe they can frame that Grubesic tirade and pretend it was a law they passed.


If you are looking for someone who will actually stand up to the Governor and challenge him in a serious manner and without fear, you have to turn far away from the Nervous Nellies at the Roundhouse. You might try turning the pages of the Rio Grande Sun which has played some real hardball with Big Bill. I asked Sun news editor John Foster to explain:

“We've written about his relationship with the Jicarilla Apache Nation, and about him signing a bill that allowed elk to be classified as cattle. (Thus benefiting the Jicarillas and putting a tax burden on average Rio Arribans.) We wrote every major story on the Rio Arriba County magistrate judge fiasco. We had to get an opinion from the AG to get the governor's office to release the names of people who applied for that post. (And then there was time he walked out of a press conference when I asked if he owed the people of Rio Arriba an apology for the whole Rodella mess.)

We wrote about him not campaigning for Kerry in Rio Arriba. We've written about his decision to overrule his then-health secretary's decision to withhold state funding from ineffective drug treatment groups. (The groups were politically connected.) We've written some hard editorials about his decision to raid the permanent fund. We've written extensively on the failing schools here, despite a 2003 Richardson pledge to make Española a "test case" for his school reforms. Then there are the airplane stories, which we decided to do because we thought someone should do it.

“I think his office is not used to the kind of skeptical, tough, hard-nosed reporting that we do on every story, not just the stories about him. He gets a pretty sweet ride from most of the state's press corps, so I think it stings when reporters ask tough questions."

The Sun has a long, rich history of tough reporting and is led by the venerable Bob Trapp.


It’s Campaign 06' so here come the pols and not far behind are those ubiquitous polls. With the customary caution that you lend a skeptical eye to any poll done by any campaign, we report the first one out in the must-watch ABQ congressional race featuring incumbent GOP Rep. Heather Wilson and Dem challenger Patricia Madrid.

Madrid’s numbers say the race is a dead heat. Surprise! But seriously, the poll was conducted January 25-29 and gives Heather 44% to Patsy’s 43% with 13% undecided. (400 calls MOE + -4.9%) And before the R’s cry foul, we should point out that a poll done for the ABQ Journal in the last election cycle did, at one point, show challenger Richard Romero also just one point behind Heather. The Madrid numbers were done by Dem Celinda Lake’s D.C. research firm which is no fly-by-night operation.

Despite the closeness of the poll, it also says 52% of the electorate give Wilson a positive job approval rating, above the critical 50% level and enough to maintain her frontrunner position. That will be the number Madrid will be shooting at in the months ahead since it often correlates with the Election Night results.

Some R’s tell me Heather was also polling recently. If so, she has not released the numbers. If she does, we will post them here. Remember, we don't support candidates. We do support vigorous and hard-fought campaigns and fair and balanced analysis.


There's suspense over Holloman Air Force Base’s future, and I have a direct report from Larry Morgan, former chief of staff to the late Congressman Runnels as well as a top aide to ex-U.S. Sen. Schmitt. Larry attended the Monday news conference announcing the changing mission there. I will monitor the jobs situation and seek more for you from Larry and others as needed.


Apologies to all of you who have had trouble getting on our site the last day or two. had major problems but fixed them, so welcome back to those who were shut out. Check out Monday's blog about GOP State Senator Sue Wilson Beffort signing up for the Light Guv race. I think you’ll enjoy it.

And I enjoyed having you here today. Send me your comments and political news via the e-mail link at the top of the page.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

R's Finally Set 06' Ticket; Sen. Wilson Beffort Goes For Light Guv; Lamb Or Lion? We Look At It The Way You Like, Inside And Indepth 

Sen. Wilson Beffort
She may end up being a sacrificial lamb, but ABQ State Senator and last minute GOP Lieutenant Governor candidate Sue Wilson Beffort will have to be dragged kicking to the slaughterhouse. The three term lawmaker, perhaps best known for advocating a ban on the breeding of pit bull terriers, will likely resist becoming the all out attack dog traditionally reserved for the number two, but her record shows she has the potential to more than hold her own in the political dogfight to come.

Wilson Beffort, 58, spared the R's and their Chairman Allen Weh major embarrassment by announcing over the weekend that she will join likely GOP Guv nominee J.R. Damron of Santa Fe to form the 06' GOP ticket. Her first order of business will be to shed the image of a candidate of last resort and demonstrate that her successful past has prepared her for the bright and sometimes harsh lights perpetually shining on the statewide stage of La Politica.


The senator and the state's current #2, Light Guv Diane Denish, share common ground. Both have accomplished fathers. Wilson Beffort's helped found the University of New Mexico Medical School in 61' and Diane's dad, Jack Daniels, was an accomplished businessman and veteran of the state political scene. They also share a concern over domestic violence with the state senator asking the Legislature for $3 million this year to combat the problem and Diane taking on similar concerns with her children's cabinet. And Wilson Beffort is a longtime businesswoman who owned an employment agency and remains in that field. Denish has run her own marketing and research business.

But these ladies part ways on money matters. Wilson Beffort is a bedrock conservative opposed to the statewide minimum wage increase and especially Santa Fe's ordinance placing the pay scale at $9.50 an hour. She is also an advocate of a more private approach to providing insurance to state Medicaid recipients. The senator was instrumental in helping Big Bill get GOP support for his 03' personal income tax cuts and is not a benchwarmer on either the Senate Finance or powerful Legislative Finance committees.

Some hardcore GOP eyebrows may be raised when they note that Wilson Beffort failed to vote when the "Defense of Marriage Act" calling for a ban on same-sex marriages passed the senate last year. (It failed to make it into law) And they will further note that she supports the Spaceport for southern NM while ticket-topper Damron does not. But they will probably be mostly thankful for finally having a candidate. Sue will have to get 1881 GOP petition signatures and file them by Feb. 14 to make the ballot. Dems are sure to monitor to see that she crosses that hurdle. With party help, she probably will.


While the chances of upsetting Big Bill are slim, the Light Guv spot makes the senator an instant statewide political figure (joining that other Wilson, Heather) and positions her as a new leadership voice (if she desires) as well as other political possibilities.

Wilson Beffort landlsided her D opponent in her heavy GOP district in 96' and ran unopposed in 00' and 04. Blessed with this luxury of popularity and free re-election rides, she has largely avoided the intra-party warfare that broke out in the state party ranks two years ago and created divisions that continue to this day. But because she has had it easy, her fundraising and campaign trail abilities may be rusty. She raised only $11,000 in 04'. Her debating skills, honed in the Legislature, are also about to be tested, perhaps in TV forums with Denish who over the years has successfully sharpened her knives on an array of foes. Anyone remember Jerry Sandel?

The newest statewide political player will get some help from home. Her husband, Steven Beffort, headed the NM General Services Department under GOP Guv Johnson and has been a contributor to R candidates. He should have an understanding of what's to come. He is now UNM's associate vice president for facility planning.


Geographically the new GOP ticket lacks eastside and rural conservative appeal, but it may open up an GOP opportunity among women voters statewide. Most important, Wilson Beffort gives the party a competent face with tinges of moderation who can make a case for the ticket on television and in the national press which will cover the contest because of Big Bill's presidential ambitions. In fact, while Sue is known in political circles, the R's anxiously await the initial performance of rookie J.R. Damron leading some to wonder why she did not pursue the top spot.

But it will be Damron who will feel the full, unrelenting heat of a major league campaign assault not only for the governorship but for the presidency of the American nation. The Big Bill camp is betting they can get him to fold early, but the addition of Wilson Beffort could complicate that. After all, who knows pit bulls better?


For those of you who have to have it, we got it. Here's the complete transcript of the President's Intel visit at Rio Rancho Friday. Did he really say Dem Senator Jeff Bingaman is doing a "fine job?" Yes, he did.


You never know whose reading your stuff and that's especially true the past few days. Apparently my blog host,, is having a mess of technical problems and folks who come here via are shut out. You can still access the
site at my old
Please pass that on to those who are having trouble. Hopefully, the tech wreck will be fixed soon. Otherwise, I will continue talking to myself. Maybe the therapy will do me some good.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Half A Lifetime At The Venerable Frontier; More Than A Restaurant; Reflections On A NM Treasure. Plus: More Money Chasing, And: R Lt. Guv Update 

There's not many businesses that have been around longer than Pete Domenici has served in the U.S. Senate. But this month the famous Frontier Restaurant across from UNM celebrates 35 years as a greasy spoon of world-renown. The ABQ Trib's Ollie Reed does an admirable job of summing up this pit stop that has become a state treasure. But the one piece of history that stands out for me that Ollie did not mention is just how shaky it was at the start.

When I came wheeling in to town in the very early 70's fresh off the Greyhound from my native Pennsylvania, it was a shocking sight. Albuquerque had just endured its most violent streak in history. Days of rioting sparked by some police arrests had left their mark. Windows up and and down Central Avenue were shattered, debris was strewn everywhere and, most chilling, National Guard troops patrolled the area in high riding jeeps that made it look as if my new home was under martial law. And it kinda was.

One of the victims of that riot was the Frontier, then open only four months. Every window in the then much smaller Frontier was smashed and the place appeared shut down. But that was the low point. Dorothy and Larry Rainosek never looked back, and they never held a grudge over the violence against their now fabled restaurant.

Dorothy Rainosek (Trib)
The Frontier is great inspiration for a novelist. It hosts the players of La Politica, the homeless, the celebrators, the heartbroken and its share of shady characters, not to mention a couple of generations of students and professors. Even if you are from outside of ABQ, you probably have been there. If you haven't, you likely will.

The Rainoseks tolerance for and celebration of human diversity in this most diverse state of them all is the hallmark of their success. Want to sit sipping a cup of coffee for three hours contemplating your lot? No problem. Want a quick sweet roll to go? You can have that too. Wear what you want (just wear something) and hang with who you like. Hispanic, Black, Anglo, Indian, Asian, Republican, Democrat and Green. They are all here and as comfortable as in their own living rooms.

The Frontier could never be franchised. Its special allure, conceived intentionally and accidentally over four decades, is much more complicated and mysterious than any business formula. Its special ties to UNM reinforce the uniqueness.


Much has changed in New Mexico politics and in the public environment these 35 years. There's a more caustic atmosphere out there, but the Frontier remains a citadel of harmony for all who enter its doors. And a lot of the money coined there heads out those doors into a myriad of charitable and civic causes. And how many jobs have the Rainoseks provided our state's students? Talk about putting your kids though college!

I have no idea of their politics. And that's how they probably like it. But if politics is at all about building a sense of community, the Frontier family has equaled and then surpassed the contributions of most politicians. Here's to their next 35 years.


GOP Farmington urologist, Dr. Allen McCulloch, is the early winner in the money chase among the candidates seeking the R's nomination for the right to take on Dem U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman in November. Washington insiders e-mailed the latest numbers since they have not yet been posted on the FEC site. They show McCulloch raised about $63,000 in the 05' fourth quarter giving him a total of $188,000 in cash on hand. David Pfeffer has just $11,000 in his kitty and ABQ GOP State Senator Joe Carraro just announced his bid.

Veteran R's give McCulloch the edge for the nomination with Carraro expected to be his main challenger. But whomever wins faces long odds against Jeff who reported he is sitting on $1.6 million with more to come.

Yesterday we filled you in on the fundraising reports for the banner NM congressional race of 06' featuring ABQ GOP Rep. Wilson and Dem Patsy Madrid. Inquiring minds wanted to know where all that money comes from. Here's Heather's and Patsy's too. Now that I have saved you all that work, won't you take a moment and click on my sponsors ads at the top of the page?


That search for a GOP Lieutenant Guv candidate we blogged about earlier this week is going down to the wire, but word was circulating in Santa Fe late Wednesday that the party has finally recruited a contender. If so, it's none too soon. That candidate will need to get nearly 1900 valid GOP signatures to make the June primary ballot and do it by Feb. 14. When the candidate surfaces, expect an all-out signature push. We'll keep you posted.

Thanks for the company today. Come back soon for more fair and balanced coverage of New Mexico politics.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

PNM: Generating Energy And Political Power Too, Plus: Heather & Patsy: They're Armed And Dangerous; Cash Piles Up; Grab That Mouse & Let's Blog! 

Sometimes its the coincidences that make blogging fun. Take this one. Tuesday, the same day that Big Bill's Renewable Energy Transmission Authority bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 7-3 vote, electric and natural gas giant, PNM Resources, announced it scored a 10 percent earnings gain for 2005. That's historically high, but not during this energy bull market.

The energy authority would involve the state in building transmission lines to export wind and other power to California. It comes on the heels of 2004 legislation that mandates the state's utilities to generate 10 percent of their electricity from "renewable resources." (But only if the expense is "reasonable.")

ABQ GOP State Senator Bill Payne questioned why cash-flush utilities like PNM shouldn't build those transmission lines and leave the taxpayers alone. On the other hand, argues the Guv, a former U.S. Energy Secretary, developing wind and solar energy and such is a major endeavor that requires government and business collaboration.

Jeff Sterba
Since taking over in 2000, PNM chief exec Jeff Sterba has taken the company a long way from the bad ol' days when the utility was scorned for high rates, bad investments and arrogant manners. The company has also played the political money game with effect too. Take a look here and here. PNM resources gave over $80,000 to NM politicians in the 04' cycle. Sixty percent of it went to the Dems, (including a couple of grand for Big Bill) reflecting the majority party's power.

But recent utility critic Senator Payne picked up $750 from PNM and even ABQ GOP Senator Carraro, who has since called for an investigation of big PNM exec bonuses, managed to snag a $750 04' contribution.

Sterba isn't the only one burning both ends of the candle. Our "centrist" Governor is also happy to do so--satisfy the enviros with renewable energy plans and then have the state help out the utilities by building transmission lines. Do you think Jeff and Bill talked about that on their recent trip to North Korea?


PNM Resources continues to be the subject of the Wall Street rumor mill where some analysts see it as a prime takeover target. But the company's stock is trading near its 52 week low, perhaps reflecting dimmer prospects for an imminent takeover as well as lowered earnings expectations for this year.


Dem congressional hopeful Patsy Madrid easily crossed the first hurdle to keep her race against ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson on the frontburner and at the top of the must watch list for 2006. She raked in over half a million bucks in the final three months of 04' giving her a healthy cash balance of about $432,000. And Heather is showing no signs of slouching in the cash department, although Patsy did outraise her by a couple of hundred grand in the fourth quarter, according to federal reports released late Tuesday. Heather is comfortable with about a million bucks in her cash account and did some big January fundraising, including a $1000 a pop party hosted by PNM exec Sterba, not reflected in this report.

In 04' Wilson raised $3.4 million and challenger D Richard Romero made it past $2 million. Madrid can expect to do better than Romero, but as the incumbent Rep. Wilson is still expected to be first, at least when it comes to money spent. Who comes out first in the vote-count is a matter of considerably more suspense.

We all talk about how much money the candidates raise, but not much about how and where they spend it. So here's an example for you from Heather's latest expense sheet.

Of course, it's the TV stations that will again be the big winners. Millions will pour into their coffers as major candidates of all stripes flood the 06' airwaves. That's the real driver behind our big money politics, but efforts to change it have met with stiff resistance, especially from the National Association of Broadcasters. How shocking.


We welcome back the Conservation Voters of New Mexico to the blog. (Click on their ad to visit) And if you are interested in placing an ad here, please contact me and we'll get you started.

And don't forget to e-mail me your news so we can keep the politics coming and, as always, thanks for making us part of your day.

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