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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Upside Down Politics: It's Heather Who Wants Debates, Plus: King Says He Leads Bibb Big, And: Was There A Deal For Armijo? 

Is she scared she will get creamed? Is she resting on a lead she does not want to endanger? Does she want to wait until the end of the campaign? So go the questions in the wake of the news that ABQ Dem congressional hopeful Patsy Madrid has turned down a one hour prime time September 11 debate on ABQ CBS affiliate KRQE-TV with incumbent GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson. The questioning grew even more intense when word came to us this week that Madrid's campaign also nixed KRQE's proposal to tape and later air in prime time a joint appearance the candidates have scheduled for September 17th at the Congregation Albert, a traditional venue for such confrontations.

A challenger refusing to debate an incumbent is pretty much unheard of. But this race is unlike any other in the 30 year history of the district and Madrid's decision, while rightfully inflaming the good government editorial writers, is seen by some strategists as a wise course of action. With each passing day, it is becoming clear that Madrid wants to peak this campaign on her timetable, not on Heather's. No, she is not scared. Anyone who has followed her 30 year career will attest to that, but she is concerned that an early misstep could knock her on the canvas as happened to Dem challenger Richard Romero when he bombed in an 04' TV debate.

The Madrid campaign readily admits that polished Heather, a Rhodes Scholar and experienced debater has the advantage. They know they can't refuse all TV face-offs and have agreed to KOB-TV's October 24 prime time debate. But that will come very late in the game, after thousands of votes will already have been cast. (Early voting starts Oct.10)


The reasoning seems to be that a Democratic Tidal Wave is forming and that Madrid's main task is to be alive and well if and when it comes November 7th. In other words, she may not have a lead now, but under this reasoning the wave is coming and will be enough to push her over the top. Early TV debates, fraught with the potential for the big mistake, could take her out. She knows her weaknesses and live debates is one of them, thus the bizarre spectacle of the incumbent arguing for more TV debates.

It is essential for Heather to turn this campaign into a referendum on Madrid, as all the major issues--gas prices-the no-end-in-sight-Iraq war--and the overwhelming majority of voters who feel the country is going in the wrong direction--cut against her and cut deeply. It will be those issues that the Dems will furiously employ after Labor Day, hoping to wash away the R's obsessive focus on ethics and prepare for the Tidal Wave.

It is a high-stakes gamble by Madrid because she is foregoing the chance to inflict damage on Heather early. But previous Heather challengers have played by the conventional rules and lost in the lean-Republican district. Patsy's debate delay tactic may be just the type of curve ball she needs to keep Heather a bit off of her game and keep the race in play in the final critical weeks.

And what do Heather and Patsy do with all their time if they are not preparing for debates? Sadly, constantly raising money. Patsy says she canceled the TV 13 debate because she will be in Atlanta for a fundraiser. Heather is just back from an Arizona money hunt and will soon be in St. Louis looking for more of the green stuff. As much as we would all like to see it change, modern congressional campaigns remains stuck in a rut: raise millions for formulaic and usually negative 30 second TV spots. It's is not uplifting, but it is reality.


By proposing an early September debate, KRQE-TV is ahead of the curve. Election Day itself is on the way to becoming perfunctory, with well over 50% of the vote predicted to be forecast before that date thru absentee voting and early in-person voting. Wouldn't it be nice if the TV's could get together and set debate schedules that would address the new reality? By the way, Comcast Cable has proposed a Heather-Patsy debate that would be broadcast nationally October 17 on C-Span. Madrid has not confirmed.


The Wilson-Madrid TV ads seem to be coming at the speed of light, with the campaigns and interest groups starting to pile on as this seat could determine which party takes control of the U.S. House. But who is watching the ads for accuracy?

Well, KOAT-TV for one. As part of their campaign coverage, they are examining the Wilson-Madrid ads and picking apart what's true and what's not. It's sorely needed. The only complaint is that the entire series of ad watch reports are not up on the site, or if they are, they are hard to find. The big news would be if they find an ad that is 100% true.


The state GOP had a good "quote-of-the-day" from GOP attorney general candidate Jim Bibb: "We all know public corruption is a cancer in New Mexico. Fraud and corruption in state government is huge and it's not just in Santa Fe," scored Bibb. But Dem candidate Gary King had even better news for his supporters. He says his latest poll shows him with a 49% to 25% lead over his opponent. The Lake Research survey also says a whopping 28% of NM R's are with Gary. Bibb started TV a week ago and King went up Wednesday with an anti-meth ad, similar to one he aired in the June primary. That ethics issue isn't going to need just long legs, it will need stilts if Bibb is to catch King.


Leave it to my readers. Call them cynical, but many of them emailed in asking if Big Bill offered Jeff Armijo a deal in exchange for abandoning his embattled Dem candidacy for the state auditor nomination. Speculation ranged from Jeff getting a state job when the campaign is over, to state business being directed to his ABQ travel agency. But a Big Bill supporter shot down the conspiracy theories saying Richardson would not be that dumb. "If he offered something, Jeff might very well have left their meeting and said the Guv was trying to bribe him into getting off the ticket. He would not take the chance." Probably not. But you can bet the investigative reporters are standing by, just in case.


It hs been an extra busy week around here (Thanks for your support!) and that sometimes leads to an error or two. And I think I made one when I said that if State Rep. Hector Balderas were named as the new state auditor candidate by the Democratic State Central Committee, the county commissions from the northern counties he represents would send nominees up to the Governor to replace Balderas in the House. Apparently not. The Dem Central Committee members from the counties Balderas represents could vote on a nominee Sept. 9 and that person's name would replace Balderas's on the November ballot. Since there is no Republican candidate running for the Balderas seat, that person would win a two year term in November.

Also on the auditor front, ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez has confirmed his interest in replacing Jeff Armijo. He joins Balderas in the contest as a leading contender.


I expect the ABQ Journal poll on the Madrid-Wilson race and maybe others to be released Sunday. I have not double-checked with pollster Brian Sanderoff, so I can't say for sure. But if it is, I will have my exclusive analysis of the numbers on a special Sunday blog. And on Tuesday, I will have the analysts and alligators with their takes. Be sure to check in Sunday. Until then, thanks for your company. Drop me an email with your news and comments form the top of the page.

Happy Labor Day, New Mexico!

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Goodbye, Jeff; Hello, Who? Race On To Replace Armijo As D's Dodge Bullet; Guv Forces Issue; The 72 Hour Drama That Riveted La Politica 

New Mexico Democrats let out a sigh of relief that rivaled the force of Hurricane Katrina Tuesday as embattled Dem state auditor candidate Jeff Armijo bowed to the will of Big Bill and ended his candidacy. The mid-afternoon announcement immediately set off a contest to replace him, with ambitious politicos grabbing their phones to lobby members of the Democratic Party Central Committee which will name the new auditor candidate September 9th. (Official Armijo and Big Bill statements are here.

The high political drama came to an end after what was described by an Alligator as a "brief" 1 p.m. meeting at the Governor's ABQ office. "It was short and sweet." He informed. Our insider also said the path to Jeff's withdrawal was paved the night before, as he received phone calls and emails from Democrats urging him to abandon his candidacy which became political poison when it was revealed that he is accused of sexual misconduct involving two young women in two separate incidents. Another Gator had this for us on the power-play meeting: "Jeff was accompanied by his father. Jeff was conciliatory at the outset so the discussion was sad but pleasant."

Armijo had threatened to defy the Guv and stay and fight. And he gave Big Bill a parting zinger in his statement announcing his withdrawal. "Governor Richardson has convinced me that I must leave the race for state auditor," said the 36 year old from Socorro. It was a subtle reference to what Big Bill critics consider strong-arm tactics in all matters political.

But Armijo's position had become untenable, threatening to open up contests for down-ballot races that traditionally favor the Dems. With Armjio gone, they were expressing confidence that they would retain the auditor's office against Republican Lorenzo Garcia and the campaign for power was underway.

Ken Sanchez
State Rep. Hector Balderas, an attorney who practices in ABQ, but lives in Wagon Mound and who was mentioned here yesterday as a possible Armijo replacement, inched closer to a formal declaration, saying the auditor must be an "independent" voice--a message to his detractors who claim he is too close to Big Bill. Supporters of the 32 year old freshman Rep., who represents several northern counties including Mora and Taos, were quick to note that he has $40,000 in his House campaign kitty, money that would be available for an auditor run.

In a fun aside, Alligtors noted that the phones were buzzing with potential candidates for the Balderas House seat in case he gets the auditor nod. Under state law, each of the county commissions in the counties Balderas represents would send a nominee to the Governor who would make the appointment. There is no Republican running against Balderas in November, so apparently the appointment would be for two years. How's that for a political plum?

Other names surfaced for the auditor post, even before Armijo withdrew. We also mentioned ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez Tuesday. His advocates say Ken is out of town and will return later this week, but they said look for him to give it a serious look. Sanchez has operated an accounting business in ABQ for many years. (However, he is not a CPA as we blogged yesterday, but an "enrolled agent" who can practice before the IRS.)

Balderas and Sanchez are seen as the leading contenders, but also on the short list is outgoing Bernalillo County Assessor Mark Carrillo and ABQ attorney Daniel Ivey-Soto, who ran for the Dem nomination for attorney general this year, but dropped out early. Retired banker Tom Buckner of Rio Rancho who lost to Armijo in the June primary is also being mentioned, but seen as a very dark horse as the game gets serious.

The Central Committee has some 350 members. Some would like to see the issue resolved before a formal vote, but supporters of Balderas said he sees nothing wrong "with a healthy competition."

Sanchez could count on heavy backing from committee members in his home county of Bernalillo. Balderas brings the north to the table, with the south having no candidate, at least not yet.

"Things will become more clear by the weekend. No one wants to jump in and then get egg on their face. They want to see what kind of support they can generate before going public," said one Dem operative.


As for Big Bill, who has had his finger in every political pie baked up since 2002, he will have to tread carefully. The R's are waiting for signs that he hand picks a candidate so they can accuse him of trying to control a constitutional office that is charged with providing independent oversight of over 500 state agencies. Also, the Guv and Dem Party Chairman Wertheim are already taking hits for letting the Armijo candidacy advance as far as it did.

Sanchez is a close ally of ABQ Mayor Chavez, having served as his campaign treasurer and giving him a reliable vote on the council. But Armijo is a cousin of Chavez and Mayor Marty will also have to tread carefully if he chooses to push Sanchez as the Armijo brush fire came close to him.

As for the GOP, they have a well-qualified candidate in CPA Lorenzo Garcia, but he has had two statewide outings already and lost both. Armijo getting out deflates his hopes, but the second corruption trial of ex-Treasurer Vigil keeps some hope alive for Garcia who can argue that the R's should have the post as a check on the power of the majority party.


The Armijo affair first broke on your blog last Tuesday, was confirmed by the ABQ Tribune Saturday and ended with Armijo throwing in the towel yesterday, a brief 72 hours after the news hit the stands. But they were some of the most engrossing hours of recent years. Now Jeff Armijo departs the scene, reminding future players that it is the bitter taste of defeat, not the sweet smell of success, that is very often the outcome in the never-ending quest for the power and glory in our beloved and ancient La Politica.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Armijo Ends State Auditor Bid; Action Follows Meeting With Governor 

Jeff Armijo, faced with allegations of sexual misconduct, today ended his bid for state auditor following a meeting with Governor Bill Richardson. Here is the complete statement issued by Armijo follwing that meeting.

“Governor Richardson has convinced me that I must leave the race for State Auditor. A debate on the issues could not take place if I remain in the race. I started this campaign with the notion to contribute to all the Democratic candidates. I feel if I stay in, I may detract from their efforts this fall.

“My focus will now turn to facing the accusations against me. As I have done all my life, I will maintain my honor and dignity throughout this process. I would remind everyone that I am presumed innocent until proven guilty. I have full faith in the judicial process.

“Although a number of people have urged me to stay in the race, I believe leaving is the best decision for my family. I would ask that my privacy be respected during this difficult time.”

The Democratic Party State Central Committee will meet September 9th to name a replacement for Armijo. That candidate will face the GOP's Lorenzo Garcia in the November 7 election.

Dems Move To Avert Crisis; Armijo Defies Governor, Then Reverses; Agrees To Meet; Replacement Names Circulate; King Reacts; In-Depth Blog Coverage 

Jeff Armijo
A defiant Jeff Armijo rebuked New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson Monday as the titular head of the state Democratic Party moved to avert a full-blown political crisis and asked Armijo to meet with him to discuss the future of his candidacy as NM state auditor. But Armijo, facing criminal allegations of sexual misconduct he has strongly denied, initially stuck his thumb in the eye {PDF} of the chief executive and said there will be no meeting. "I am too damn independent," he told the Associated Press. And in a statement sure to infuriate the Fourth Floor of the fabled Roundhouse, Armijo boasted: "I am on the path to victory."

But late Monday KOB-TV quoted Armijo as saying he will meet with the Governor today. The station also said the Democratic Party Central Committee has set aside time for a September 9th meeting, three days before the legal deadline for Armijo to withdraw and a replacement candidate to be named.

The shock waves from the Armijo events spread like an earthquake across La Politica, with Dem attorney general candidate Gary King, reached while en route to Artesia, telling me: "If Jeff refuses to meet with our Governor it will be taken as a sign that the allegations are true. I, and I believe the other statewide candidates, will have no choice but to disavow Jeff's candidacy," warned the Moriarty lawyer.

Armijo's defiance recalled the last political crisis NM Democrats faced when then-Treasurer Robert Vigil faced corruption charges and vowed not to resign. Vigil eventually relented, sparing the party the prospect of his tenure continuing into the election season. Top Dems are hopeful the same outcome will result in the Armijo affair, but the clock is ticking madly toward September 12.


From the upper echelons of New Mexican political circles came the informed and frank analysis: "If Armijo stays on the ballot, it will energize our base. We will be able to raise money for (GOP auditor hopeful) Lorenzo Garcia and we will win the office. Armijo will help us get our vote out and that could give us good news in the other down-ballot races and hopefully take a bite out of the Governor too," argued one veteran Republican operative.

Team Richardson wants Armijo gone, now. The gravity of the matter was brought home as Big Bill issued a news release, not from his re-election campaign, but from the Office of the Governor.

"The Governor is extremely troubled by the allegations. The fact that there are two different police reports with serious claims gives the Governor significant concern. The Governor hopes to meet soon with Mr. Armijo to discuss the allegations and decide whether he should stay in the race. The Governor believes elected officials and candidates should be held to the highest ethical standards," said the gubernatorial statement.

The political nightmare descending across the party is also seen pressuring NM attorney general and ABQ Dem congressional candidate Patricia Madrid who has been the subject of relentless hammering on state ethics issues from GOP incumbent Heather Wilson.

"They are in denial if they think this thing doesn't have legs. Heather will tie this in to the Vigil-Montoya Treasurer scandal and pound away. Every Dem candidate is going to have to move on this or they are going to get carpet bombed," analyzed a Senior Dem Alligator.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg is reviewing the charges against the auditor hopeful, but says she will not have a judgment on whether the charges should go forward before the fateful September 12th deadline and most likely not before the November election. That forces a political decision to be rendered, not a legal one.


Rep. Balderas
While chagrined Dems wondered aloud how things could go so bad so fast in an election year they have dreamed of, they began circulating names for a possible Armijo replacement, hoping against hope that Armijo will crack under the pressure and get out.

State Rep. Hector Balderas of northern NM, not a CPA, but an attorney and respected voice of the new generation of thirtysomething New Mexican Hispanic leaders, is being touted by his supporters who say, among other things, a Hispanic replacing Armijo is essential or else it would appear in some quarters as if Armijo was being railroaded. Balderas is an ally of Governor Big Bill.

Another name making the rounds is that of ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez, who unsuccessfully sought the Dem 02' state treasurer nomination.


There was a glimmer of hope in that AP interview for Dems desperate to get Armijo to step aside. He did not completely shut the door on abandoning his now hyper-controversial candidacy.

"He strongly indicated he doesn't plan to withdraw." reported the news service. But strongly indicating is not the same as flatly rejecting the prospect of withdrawal as he initially did with that gubernatorial meeting. Insiders also said there could be behind-the-scenes maneuvering. Jeff's uncle has served as a Socorro city councilor and his aunt is on the Socorro County Commission. They could be enlisted to talk turkey to the embattled candidate.

But the prestige and power of the New Mexico Governor has been put on the line and he cannot be perceived as bargaining or pleading with Armijo. Time is short and the path out of this wilderness is growing narrower by the day. "If Armijo does not walk the plank in the next couple of days, Democratic politicians of all stripes will be jumping ship to save their own necks." Said another Alligator.

Gary King for Attorney GeneralArmijo has said he is good friends with ex-Treasurer Robert Vigil whose federal retrial is set to begin September 5th and presents yet another Democratic headache. Like Vigil, Armijo presents himself as defiant and tough-as-nails. But the future credibility of the state's majority party and the financial standing of the state of New Mexico are on the line.

Whatever the merits of the case against him, Jeff Armijo is now standing in front of a moving freight train conducted by the people of New Mexico. It is now his choice to either lay down on the tracks, or step aside and let the train pass unimpeded.

Email your news and comments from the link at the top of the page.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Auditor Angst: Blog Report On Armijo's Problems Confirmed; Dems Cornered; R's Salivate; The Inside Story Is Up Next 

Chairman Wertheim
The New Mexico Democratic Party and its chairman, John Wertheim, are under maximum political pressure as the candidacy of state auditor candidate Jeff Armijo begins to implode and threatens to cast yet another ethics shadow over the state's majority party. Allegations that Armijo made unwanted sexual advances towards two young women in two separate incidents, a story first referenced here, but initially dismissed by the chairman as "unsubstantiated and unattributed rumors in the blogosphere," have now been confirmed by the Albuquerque Tribune. Reacting to our blog, the chairman went further out on the limb and asserted: "Jeff Armijo will be the next auditor of the state of New Mexico."

Maybe so, but Wertheim started singing a different tune when the Tribune Saturday followed up on our report in a front-page spread.

A 21 year old woman told police she was doing volunteer work for Armijo at his home on August 3 when Armijo removed her from her chair, removed some of her clothing, held her down on the floor and inappropriately touched her, though she told him to stop. She then called the police, reported the Trib which also reports on a similar incident in 2003 involving Armijo and an 18 year old woman.

"The Democratic party will not tolerate sexual violence of any kind" Wertheim said of the incidents, one of which is under review by the Bernalillo county district attorney.

Armijo is denying any wrongdoing, saying an investigation will clear his name and that his candidacy will continue.

Is this a prelude to Armijo's withdrawal? Wertheim pushed, but did not shove: "It is premature for me to pass judgment on the allegations in these police reports today, without further consideration..."

But what is going to have to be rendered by Wertheim is not a legal judgment, but a political one. By that standard, he seems in peril of falling even further behind the curve.


"It is extremely damaging and probably a fatal blow to Armijo's candidacy given the backdrop of corruption charges facing the two ex-Treasurers. The public is simply fed up. It is hard to see how the Democrats keep Jeff on the ticket, especially with the stakes so high in the (Madrid-Wilson) congressional race," analyzed veteran Democratic pollster and blog analyst Harry Pavlides.

If Armijo did drop his candidacy the Democratic Central Committee would name a replacement. The deadline for doing so is September 12.

Republican Bruce Donisthorpe, another of our blog analysts for the 06' election cycle and a former top aide to the late Congressman Joe Skeen, said his political instincts tell him, "this is game set and match."

If Armijo doesn't get out, Republican Lorenzo Garcia is likely the next auditor. There's also impact on the Madrid-Wilson race. Heather could benefit as she is already running on state ethics problems. It's a political nightmare. Wertheim can't pull back fast enough. His first reaction was to go into the bunker, but the bombs are falling and the bunker is busted. They need to act," argued the R expert.

Still, New Mexico has shown a broad tolerance (some might say bizarre tolerance) for alleged or proven ethics lapses on the part of their public officials which is giving the Armijo camp hope that this too shall pass.


The man who stands to benefit the most from Armijo's woes is GOP auditor candidate Lorenzo Garcia, but in a phone interview from an ABQ GOP rally Saturday, Garcia was careful not to gloat. And why should he? Why get in the way of your opponent self-destructing?

"The Democratic party is going to have to make a decision on this. It will have to play out. It could be resolved or it could drag on." Garcia told me.

But R Garcia was quick with a possible replacement if Armijo goes away--the Democrat who lost to Armijo in the June primary--Rio Rancho's Tom Buckner.

"Tom would be a great candidate. I respect him. We would have a vigorous debate but the voters would be the winners, regardless of who won our contest," said Garcia.


As the titular head of the party, the Armijo problem, as we blogged last week, will end up on the desk of Big Bill. What will he do, if anything, over charges that could taint the entire ticket, even as the retrial of ex-Treasurer Vigil soon plays in the background?

What of the sexual nature of the charges and their particular impact on female voters? And what about his Presidential bid? The national press always likes a dishy sex angle. It is not a pretty picture. And throw in a bomb from the R's who are charging that the Guv advanced Armijo's candidacy because he really wants a weak state auditor so oversight of the executive is weakened.

The Guv and Chairman Wertheim had the opportunity to nip the situation in the bud months ago, even before Buckner started ringing the bell and the Democratic labor unions refused to endorse Jeff. They are now left in a puddle of their own political miscalculation, facing the prospect of turning over the auditor position to the GOP for the first time in 40 years and, more importantly, further endangering a Democratic congressional candidacy that could be crucial to their party assuming power in the United States government.

With all due respect to Chairman Wertheim, none of this is a "rumor of the blogosphere." This is cold, hard reality. The voters must judge who is the best person to serve as the ethical and financial watchdog over billions of their dollars. Political parties were formed to assist in that task. The moral of the Armijo-Wertheim-Big Bill tale is that failure to act is an action.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pete & The "Politically Unthinkable;" High Oil Prices Necessary? Plus: His Re-Election Bid, And: Iraq War Makes NM Campaign Debut 

Pete has gone provocative. NM's senior senator, in a little noticed write-up in the magazine Congressional Quarterly offers up the possibly perilous proposition that high oil prices for a long period of time is actually a good thing. Here are the money lines.

Lawmakers have been fretting about high energy prices, but now a key Republican senator says the possibility of a collapse in prices may pose a bigger obstacle to achieving energy independence.

Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Pete Domenici said high oil and gas prices spur innovations and investments that will help wean Americans off imported oil. Fear of a reversal in soaring oil prices, he added, is a primary factor in scaring investors from pouring money into advanced energy technologies.

Domenici then went on to voice the politically unthinkable — suggesting that a “very, very interesting proposition” would be to set a price floor that would prevent a precipitous drop in crude prices from disrupting progress toward alternative energy sources."

In freewheeling, free-driving New Mexico, the prospect of eternally high gas prices is sure to be greeted with thumbs down, but Domenici has thrown out on the table an idea that could grow legs as pressure increases to wean ourselves from the Middle East oil fields.


Speaking of Pete, only a politician with his high approval ratings could wonder aloud about keeping gas prices high. But what of his 08' reelection bid? Is it a sure thing? He has announced in a fundraising letter that he is running, but political pros caution that a final, final decision could still be up in the air, and that we shouldn't definitely count him in until the end of 07.' Meanwhile, Pete has cleared the field and if he decides late in the game against a run, there won't be too many candidates with enough name ID and financial resources to take advantage of it.

Wilson & Prez
You knew it was coming. And it's here. The no-end-in-sight Iraq War comes front and center in Dem Patricia Madrid's latest attack ad against ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson. "Heather Wilson is on the Intelligence Committee but she never questioned George Bush on the war. That's not independence," reads the script.

The spot also faults Heather for missing a vote on setting a timetable to withdraw troops from Iraq so she could attend an ABQ June fundraiser with the Prez. The ad does not mention that it was an anti-withdrawal resolution supporting the President's war policy and which Wilson spoke in favor of before departing for ABQ. Still, the ad forces voters to consider the incumbent's role in the unpopular war and is sure to be a centerpiece issue as we enter the fall stretch. The ad works well for Madrid because she does not get into her own position favoring withdrawal, which could alienate some voters, but focuses squarely on her opponent's ties to and support of the low-polling President.

The campaign thus far has been somewhat annoying. Yes, the ethics of both candidates is important, but there are far more important issues facing the nation at this critical juncture. A spirited debate over Iraq is long overdue and it promises to be a debate that engages the electorate much more than the incessant chiding over who is the bigger crook.


A Gay Republican who supports decriminalizing marijuana. How's that for an eye-catching resume? It belongs to NM operative Patrick Killen and recently caught the eye of Campaign and Elections magazine which recently named the 26 year old one of its Rising Stars."

Killen is currently out of the state working on a Nevada initiative to lighten up on marijuana laws, but plans to return here. He previously worked as the campaign manger for John Dendahl's run for NM party chair and also helped lawyer-lobbyist Mickey Barnett in his political endeavors, as well as 02' R Guv nominee John Sanchez.

For the record, Killen says he does not smoke marijuana, not that there's anything wrong with that, he adds. While Killen has been named a rising star of the future, his past crusade with GOP Guv Gary for lighter drug laws has fizzled. 06' GOP Guv Nominee Dendahl has rejected running on the issue.


Big Bill's new TV spot is an interesting melding of the Internet and the Tube...R AG Candidate Jim Bibb is now posting his TV ad on his Web site. He has raised about $175,000 for his campaign...NM GOP Treasurer candidate Demesia Padilla is off and running and has put up her new Web site this week...ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez is taking a page from the Big Bill playbook and starting office hours for the public. The meetings will take place on the last Friday of the month at 2 p.m. The mayor says to "bring a form of ID." Guess all those Rio Rancho folks who want to sneak in and give him a hard time won't be able to.

Thanks for the news and comments. Send them via the email link at the top of the page.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Big Bill Touts High Approval Rating: Can Dendahl Bring Him Down To Earth? Plus: Patsy's New Poll: The Alligators Have Questions 

First, congratulations Big Bill on your sky-high approval rating in the latest Survey USA poll. Sixty-five per cent of those asked say you are doing a a pretty good job. (Margin of error +/- 4%.) I can see you now, looking over those numbers, puffing on one of your tasty cigars, maybe even lazily swirling a snifter of high-quality brandy while barking at Gilbert Gallegos and Dave Contarino to get off their duffs and clean your smoking jacket. And why not? You've worked hard. And you've delivered. There's only one problem. We still have an election campaign to conduct, and as understandable as it is that you'd like the next 75 or so days to pass quietly under the radar, imagining such a prospect sends shivers of terror down the spine of any respectable blogger.

Because of our deep concern for the New Mexican election system and with no consideration at all that a vigorous gubernatorial campaign would triple my and my readers' entertainment quotient, I have compiled a list of suggestions for your opponent, Republican John Dendahl. But you can continue to relax and finish that cigar, Guv. it looks as though you are going to win this one hands down anyway, but like the Romans in the Coliseum, New Mexicans demand a spectacle, and if that means we have to prop up John Dendahl, well, we hope you understand. If not, your next smoking jacket is on us.


John, lose the "he doesn't care about you; he's running for President" gambit. No one cares. In fact, it looks as if people like it. You are only reminding folks of Big Bill's stature. If you really want to score, talk about how he's getting to New Hampshire and back and what kind of plane he's using. Remember, how AG Patsy Madrid and the R's raised Cain about that new $5 million jet? The news stories about tobacco interests financing the ferrying of the anti-tobacco Governor? It's the "imperial" thing, John. Yup, that's the ticket.

Speaking of which, take a page from the Dave Cargo book and hit them where they live. Lonesome Dave scored early over the French chefs and the Mansion budget. The Guv is supposed to be a regular guy, isn't he?

We know were reaching, John. But this guy doesn't give us much to work with. The issues? They're dreary, John, very dreary. But you've got the speeding, and you've got the speeding and you've got...well, you get the idea.

Now that we've got your blood pumping, we're sending you on the road on your "Education is a Mess" tour. The soccer and security moms are still freaking out about the quality of the state's schools. You need to regionalize your media on this one. Do radio highlighting the lack of progress in individual school districts. Come on John, you can do it!

Well, that's a start, as feeble as it may be. It would never make the grade at the Coliseum, but for our purely unselfish purposes of providing a high-toned contrast of ideas and furthering the democratic process, it fits the Big Bill. Don't bother sending a check for this advice, John. Just donate it to your favorite charity. Hey, donating tainted campaign money to charity? How about that one for a TV spot?...


By all accounts, Big Bill is positioned nicely for a re-elect victory, but his fellow Democrat, Attorney General and ABQ congressional hopeful Patricia Madrid, faces a more difficult struggle to beat GOP ABQ Congresswoman Heather Wilson. The Madrid campaign Tuesday came with its latest poll that they said showed the race to be a "dead heat" and that Madrid is dodging the ethics bullets being fired at her, but, according to my political pros, the survey had a glaring omission; the question, or questions, posed to the 400 likely voters in the Aug 17-20 poll were not released. Without the wording, they could not be sure of its objectivity.

According to Lake Research Partners, a respected D.C. firm, Heather is garnering 46% to Patsy's 44% with 10% undecided. (MOE 4.9%) While the experts agree this is a close race, the survey does not offer the definitive evidence--the actual question(s)--so determining how much damage, if any, the Heather ethics onslaught is causing remains unclear. They do point out that in this poll Patsy is in a similar position to Dem challenger Richard Romero two years ago, but Madrid has the potential for a much stronger close and the upset.

In past campaigns I have covered, one reason the polling question was not released was because the final numbers included not just voters with a firm opinion on who they would vote for, but also voters who were "leaning" toward one candidate or another. Whether that's the case here is unknown.

The first independent survey will come in a couple of weeks from veteran pollster Brian Sanderoff in the ABQ Journal who will also offer his in-depth analysis for this blog.

At this point in the game, in a contest with implications for future control of the United States government, any numbers on this race are going under the most powerful microscopes of the Senior Alligators. They are a tough bunch to please, but we wouldn't have it any other way.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sources: Another Ethics Mess Possible For NM Dems; Auditor Candidate Armijo At Center Of Chatter; Will He Withdraw? Plus: Di's Parking Problems 

Jeff Armijo
With just 78 days to go before Election Day, do we need to add another "ethics" problem to the large pile confronting the NM Democratic Party, Yes, say top sources who report that Dem State Auditor candidate Jeff Armijo faces a "negative situation" that could possibly drive him from the ticket, or create a major campaign issue that could cause his defeat as well as fan more ethics flames in the direction of other Dem hopefuls.

The sources tread cautiously on the nature of the "situation," but say Armijo has been advised by Dem loyalists that an abandonment of his candidacy should be considered. The sources say that the problem does not involve business, but centers on "a personal relationship" of Armijo's.

Talk of Armijo's potential problem has been swirling through the chattering classes, but has yet to surface publicly, even though one source said there has been mention of it "in a public record."

Armijo did not return a phone call Monday. His GOP opponent, Lorenzo Garcia, reached at his ABQ West Side home, said: "I have heard the talk, but it is not specific." Garcia is not a source for this report, nor are any other Republicans.

September 12th is the last day the Democratic Party Central Committee could put up a new candidate for the position, but only if Armijo withdrew. "He appears to be choosing to ride it out, either believing this thing won't surface before the election or, if it does, will not have the negative impact some Dems believe it will," analyzed a Senior Alligator.

Armijo, 36, operates a family-owned ABQ travel agency. He easily won the Dem nomination for Auditor over Rio Rancho's Tom Buckner, who criticized Armijo for a lack of auditing experience, a charge the 55 year old Garcia, a CPA and retired state government employee, has also picked up on.


The worry for the Dems is several fold. The retrial on corruption charges of ex-Treasurers Vigil and Montoya is scheduled to begin September 5th, Dem congressional hopeful and Attorney General Madrid is on the defensive on ethics charges leveled against her by GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson and the possibility of pre-election federal indictments of politicos involved in the construction of two ABQ courthouses lurks in the background.

The Armijo situation is especially delicate because a charge is not proof of guilt, but it is not the legal standard the Dem insiders are worried about; it's the political standard. Fresh allegations against a top Dem would be throwing fuel on an ethics fire which has been dampened, but not extinguished.

The Armijo candidacy, say the sources, could become of special concern to Big Bill, who hopes for a 60% victory. More ethics problems could serve as a drag on that goal.

The last thing the Guv's loyalists want is for Armijo to be tangled up in any problems after the September 12 deadline passes. It could force them to back-off from their support, leaving the possibility of Republican Garcia becoming the first GOP auditor in 40 years and extending the damage to Dem hopefuls across-the-board. If the sources have it right, it could be sooner rather than later when Big Bill is forced to have a sit-down with Jeff and agree to a future course that works for both of them and the rest of the Democratic ticket.

On this one, a big "Stay Tuned."


Meanwhile, the first TV time has been bought and aired for a down ballot race. It comes from newcomer and R attorney general hopeful Jim Bibb. The spot emphasizes Bibb's service in the military and his prosecutorial experience at the local and federal level. His Dem opponent, Gary King, will also be up "soon," says a campaign spokesman.


We blogged when government veteran Judy Espinosa took over as chief of staff for Light Guv Diane Denish that she would now be operating under the harsh, bright lights of La Politica. But even we didn't think her first exposure would come this soon. Seems Judy parked Diane's SUV right in front of a fire hydrant in ABQ's Martineztown as the state's #2 disembarked to tour flood-damaged areas. "I didn't park it," Di told TV. "She did," nodding in Judy's direction. The TV talkers had a Monday field day, interviewing Mayor Marty's fire chief who scolded the Lt. Guv. They then got Judy to apologize for her errant parking pattern.

Yes, the fire chief is hired by the mayor who may seek the Dem Guv nomination in 2010, the same year Denish is planning a run. Welcome aboard, Judy. It's going to be a wild ride, but not a free one.


This is the Internet age, but not for all the campaigns. Where is the campaign Web site for Congresswoman Heather Wilson? There is none. And while GOP AG hopeful Bibb hit with TV Monday, the spots are not posted on his Web site. Dem candidates Madrid and Big Bill are proving the most Internet savvy this cycle, posting most, if not all of their ads...

ABQ Tribune editor Phill (yes, he uses two L's) Casaus is no liberal, Joe. So says Phill's longtime friend, ABQ attorney Marty Esquivel. We called Phill a "liberal pundit" in our blog Monday to which Dem Marty retorts: "I've known Phill since Boy's State 1980. I've yelled at him for being too moderate since that time, and used to call him a "Republican" as a euphemism for calling him something derogatory." Emails Marty. While Phil may not have liberal credentials, the editorial page of the paper he leads certainly does and we should have made the distinction...Will no one make claim to being a liberal, even as the country moves to the center? Hey, I think I see the Trib's Kate Nelson raising her hand. You go, girl!...

While talking up auditor candidate Garcia Monday, the Republican joked that the blog has been taking hits from both R's and D's in recent months. "They each try to pigeonhole you into the other party. That's probably a good thing since you are known for playing it down the middle."

Thanks, Lorenzo. Taking hits from the attack dogs on both sides of the aisle is an inescapable fact of the modern political environment, even if you are a bystander. We just keep plugging along-Old School style--telling you how we see it, not how we would like it to be. Isn't that what being nonpartisan is all about?

Email your news and comments from the link at the top of the page and help keep the politics coming.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Madrid And Debates: Too Much Of a Good Thing? Plus: Pundits Start Predicting, Jeff Hit On Security, And: More Politics Of The Day 

You would think that a challenger to an incumbent U.S. House member would be itching for as many debates as possible. But think again when it comes to the Heather Wilson-Patricia Madrid duel. The Madrid camp is already lowering expectations for any televised confrontations, pointing out that the GOP's Wilson, seeking her fifth two year term, is a Rhodes Scholar and polished Air Force veteran who is quick on her feet and deeply schooled in the issues of the day.

Does that mean Madrid will not push to have as many TV face-offs as possible? Maybe. Some could read that as a sign of confidence, that she doesn't believe she needs as many one-on-one's to make her case in this troubling year for the R's. On the other hand, reluctance to debate could also be read as a sign that Madrid's camp fears a big mistake, or a boffo Heather performance that could take Madrid out of the race.

In 1994, Madrid was the Dem lieutenant governor candidate, paired with Governor Bruce King. She went to Las Vegas, NM and, to roughly paraphrase, warned of an "Anglo" invasion of the state. Bruce was not going to win that year, but the Madrid misfire is well-remembered. It did not happen in a debate setting, but showed she was capable of the big error.

That is not the case with Heather Wilson, at least not yet. In fact, many observers believe it was at the October 04' KOB-TV debate with Dem Richard Romero that Heather sealed her last re-election. That history and Patsy's own track record suggests treading cautiously when it comes to debates is well-advised.


As far as one liberal pundit is concerned, the Wilson-Madrid contest is already history, and Madrid has lost. ABQ Tribune editor Phill Casaus, reflecting concerns expressed here by some Dem strategists, says Madrid allowed Wilson to go on the offensive first, has failed to pin the Iraq war on her sufficiently and will likely lose. He thinks voter opinions have already hardened, and with early voting set to begin October 10th, is skeptical that throwing the kitchen sink at Heather in September and October will do the trick.

Phill (he spells it with two "L's") says if he is wrong he will eat his newspaper column, but actually he is not that far out on the limb. Heather is indeed the favorite. The ABQ district has never "swung." It has always been Republican. The counterpoint to Cassandra Casaus is that Madrid only need to be alive and breathing and await the coming tidal wave that other pundits claim will wash away all kinds of GOP incumbents, including Heather.

There is also the issue of the effectiveness of those ethics ads that Heather has been running since mid-July. We have no polling to asses their impact. But they do conjure up images of the "swift boat" strategy. Dem Prez candidate Kerry was skewered in August of 04' over his his Vietnam war record. He failed to respond and the rest is history. But Madrid has responded and mixed in some attacks of her own, just not enough for Phill and the Dems who are anxious to take the ABQ seat.

The no-end-in-sight-Iraq war, the cause of so much of the GOP's woes, has yet to be mentioned in a significant way by Madrid, but one suspects it will have to be a centerpiece issue, despite the early caution that seems to be coming from the Madrid campaign.

The first public poll (ABQ Journal, early Sept.) will tell much of the tale. Most everyone expects Heather to be ahead, but if Madrid is within shouting range--not back by more than four or five--Casaus might want to order up some Heinz ketchup to go with the newspaper entree he promises to devour if his prediction is misguided. Just in case.


I was a bit wary when Dem U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman told me over a year ago that he belived national security would be a key issue used against him in this year's campaign. He turned out to have the better instincts, as his GOP foe, Farmington urologist Allen McCulloch, has started zeroing in on this one to kick-start a campaign that has so far been running in place.

The security, or the "fear" issue, as the Dems like to call it, has broken for the R's since 9/11, but there are indications it hs lost a good deal of its punch for them. The attack on Bingaman is probably wise for McCulloch, but Jeff has done a good job in localizing his national race and it will take heavy negative campaigning to get him under the 60% mark Election Night.


This news item surely dosen't play into the re-election platform of Big Bill, but it cuts for him in another way. The number of illegal immigrants to NM is actually going down. That's good. The bad news? The number is going down because, according to one expert, our state has a "poor economy."...Maybe Dem Congressman Tom Udall can help out the economy. He departs for Cuba today on a three-day trade mission to negotiate prospective state agriculture contracts. Does Fidel like red or green?

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Friday, August 18, 2006

She's Once, Twice, Three Times A Liberal; But She Has A Cool Look, Plus: Sex And Money In Campaign 06' 

Nancy Pelosi
The hands-down winner of quote of the week comes from the re-election effort of ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson in reaction to Thursday's ABQ visit by U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on behalf of Wilson's Dem rival, Patricia Madrid. Three "liberals" in just three sentences!

"Nancy Pelosi is a liberal with a liberal agenda and she aggressively recruited Patricia Madrid to run so that they can advance their liberal agenda together," said Wilson's campaign manager, Enrique Carlos Knell.

Maybe we need to put little asterisks in the word lib**al as they do with other well-used swear words, like ba**ard and such.

NM political columnist Jay Miller is already tiring of the political profanity and tagging the Madrid-Wilson race as a real loser.

"Never has the mute button on my TV set gotten such a workout. That race is just plain unpleasant." Laments Miller, author of the syndicated column "Inside the Capitol."

But what about Nancy Pelosi, Jay? I mean, putting politics aside, at 66 years, she still has a look, doesn't she? Tell the truth, you might mute her, but you wouldn't switch channels. OK. I won't go any further. That's already strange enough.


The most politically interesting thing about Dem land commissioner hopeful Jim Baca's announcement that he would be returning $10,000 his campaign received from a billionaire charged with soliciting prostitution is that he will pay it back in $1,000 installments; his campaign doesn't have the cash to do it all at once.

That stands in stark contrast to GOP incumbent Land Commissioner Pat Lyons who has over half a million in donations, much of it from the oil and gas industry, to play with. Still, Baca will need a lot less to compete as there is a built in bias in that race towards the Dem.

As for the wayward billionaire, Jeffrey Epstein, rumored to have the largest house in the Santa Fe area at over 25,000 square feet, and charged with soliciting after a scandal broke involving teenaged girls, he also gave to the coffers of Big Bill and Dem attorney general candidate Gary King, both of whom will now shed the cash. Big Bill's $50,000 goes to charity and Gary's $15k will be returned to Epstein.

Earlier this year the Guv and other candidates rushed to return money donated by longtime Dem politico Guy Riordan when his name was associated with the state Treasurer scandal, even though he strongly denied any wrongdoing.

The constant drumbeat of returned contributions and "pay to play allegations" involving both major parties makes a strong case for the often derided notion of public financing of campaigns. Is that idea now at least worthy of debate at the ethics commission the Guv has appointed? Don't hold your breath, but do have a great weekend.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sources: Talk Radio Outlet Flames Out; Pearce Agrees To Debate; Plus: Koffi Cancels, Big Bill Hit On Wal-Mart Money, And: In Praise Of Mickey B 

The end is apparently near for 106.3 Talk FM radio in ABQ/Santa Fe, with media insiders reporting that the station, which features interviews with a wide array of NM politicos, will switch formats as soon as the end of August after more than a year of unsuccessful struggle to eat away at news/talk leader 770 KKOB-AM.

Just Wednesday we reported that Dianne Anderson, paired in the mornings with longtime talk radio host Larry Ahrens, had abandoned ship and will go back into TV news at KRQE. Larry, who hosted the morning show on KKOB for nearly 25 years and made a run for the GOP nomination for Governor before heading to the FM dial in March of 05', recently formed an alliance with ABQ PR man Tom Garrity to book guests on media outlets.

The beginnings of KAGM were like a political campaign, with the station running attack ads against KKOB and other targets of their anger, but to little effect. The last ratings book had 106.3 ranking nearly last in the big ABQ market, only garnering a 0.7 share of the average audience 12+. No word yet on what the new format will be at the soon-to-be-shuttered FM talker.


Big Bill's foes are scoring some points while the Guv is touring Iowa this week and taking part in a meeting criticizing corporate giant Wal-Mart. They point out that he has received nearly $12,000 in campaign contributions from the company in the last two election cycles. Veteran GOP operative Greg Graves was quick to jump:

"I am glad you mentioned Governor Richardson's Wal-Mart Iowa trip, but don't you think you should have included this bit of hypocrisy. The Guv has taken over $12,000 the last four years from Wal-Mart. Perhaps he should send that money back!" Scored Graves, a former executive director of the NM GOP.

And the counterspin is, as usual, quite clever. "This shows that the Governor is not influenced by campaign contributions and is willing to criticize a company that has supported him," rebutted a Dem Alligator.

Iowa will hold the first Dem Prez caucus in 08'. The state party is heavy with populists and an anti-Wal-Mart stance plays to that crowd. By the way, that anti-WalMart tour hits ABQ Aug. 23 and 24. Do you think the Guv will show up? We're just asking.


GOP southern NM Congressman Steve Pearce has moved to take the "debate or not debate" issue off the table. That word from Las Cruces blogger Heath Haussemen who checks in with the news that Pearce, heavily favored for re-election, has agreed to one debate with his Dem opponent, Rev. Al Kissling. The Dem hopeful has been needling Pearce over a face-to-face face-off. The catch is that the debate will come August 22, long before voters are engaged and plenty of time for Pearce to recover from any mistakes he may make, and there's no live TV coverage planned for the afternoon confrontation, limiting the size of the audience.

But that Pearce has agreed to debate, means one less arrow in the quiver of the longshot challenger. Still, the Kissling camp is hopeful they can get the conservative lawmaker to make a stumble that they could take into the fall battle. Not likely, but where there's life there's hope.


Koffi has cancelled. U.N. Secretary General Koffi Annan will not be taking a summer vacation in New Mexico after all, reports the Guv's office. The Monday night dinner with the diplomat at the Guv's mansion is off. We don't know why Koffi can't come here now. Maybe he looked at the invitaiton list for that dinner, which included a bunch of media types, and concluded that meeting with Hezbollah would be more relaxing.


And a follow-up to our blog on lawyer-lobbyist Mickey Barnett winning a slot on the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service. His nomination was fought by several ex-state legislators who were longtime foes of the ex-NM GOP national committeeman. But as as far as the current leadership of the state GOP is concerned, Mickey's the man.

“Mickey Barnett has been one of New Mexico’s leading political and legal minds. His intellectual curiosity, business knowledge and commitment to reasoned discussion make him an ideal choice for this position. We’re thrilled at his confirmation and we’re confident he will enjoy much success in this new phase of his life.” So said the state GOP in a news release.

Does that "new phase of his life" mean he will not be involved in any internal GOP power struggles of the future? Say it ain't so, Mickey. We've got a blog to run around here.

How about a Friday blog for a change? OK. Stop by tomorrow and let's wrap up the week together.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Big Bill Hails Mary; Skeen Appointment Sets Off GOP Warfare, Plus: Heather Skips Cheney Event, And: Ex-TV Anchor Goes For Comeback 

On the same day Vice-President Cheney landed in Roswell, the divisions within the state's Republican Party came raining down in the SE NM county like a summer monsoon. As the veep was addressing the party faithful at a fundraiser, Big Bill was appointing Mary Skeen, widow of the late Congressman Joe Skeen, to a vacancy in a Roswell area State House seat. That unleashed a torrent of criticism {PDF} from Roswell GOP State Senator "Lightning" Rod Adair not only against the Guv, but his fellow Republicans. And that again raised the specter of a fight next year over the state party chairmanship and the future direction of New Mexico's GOP.

The battle was joined when the GOP-controlled Chaves County Commission split with the county commissions (also GOP controlled) of Lincoln and Otero and recommended to the Guv that Skeen be named to fill the final months left on the two year term of the late Rep. Avon Wilson. They chose to pass over Adair-backed Nora Espinoza for the appointment who won the GOP June primary for the seat in a bitter battle with educator Mike Kakuska. The Otero and Lincoln commissions sent the Guv Espinoza's name, but the Guv went with Mary, sending a stinging message to archrival Adair.

Even though Espinoza is favored to take the heavily R district over Dem Ellen Wedum in November, Adair charged that the Chaves commission decision to send Skeen's name to the Governor was a payback move by Kakuska's backers, and in particular wealthy oilman Mark Murphy, to further the chances of Dem Wedum and diss Nora.

Murphy supporters called that nonsense and so did the Chaves commissioners who said they were simply honoring the late congressman with the appointment of his widow. They pointed out that her tenure will be symbolic, as she will not actually take a seat in the legislature since no sessions are slated until next year.

It wasn't the Byzantine Chaves county fighting that drew the most attention of statewide politicos. It was the prospect of Adair, a leader of a breakaway faction of the GOP that primaried fellow R's in 04', advocates drug decriminalization and led the ouster of Ramsay Gorham as state chair, attempting to thwart candidates who emerge to lead the party when Allen Weh vacates the post next year.

In his heated missive against the Skeen appointment, Adair slapped Murphy for indicating that he is considering running for the chairmanship. Murphy has said he represents the "mainstream" of the GOP and faults Adair, lawyer-lobbyist Mickey Barnett and Roswell State Rep. Dan Foley for taking the GOP into extreme territory and preventing it from making significant progress.

Another name circulating as a possible GOP chair for the mainstreamers is current Bernalillo County GOP head Fernando C de Baca who insiders say has been discussing the party's infighting with Murphy.

Big Bill's appointment of Skeen let him play off of the GOP divisions. It's no secret that many of the mainstream R's will be voting for Big Bill and not R Guv hopeful John Dendahl who is also a member of the breakaway faction.

The Chaves county commission majority thought it was doing the right thing by tipping the hit to Joe Skeen, one of the most popular R's in state history. They were lobbied hard by Adair and company to back off, but they didn't. Now the stage is set for a possible showdown involving all NM Republicans following the November election. Stay tuned.


One top R who failed to make it to the Cheney event was ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson who is in no need of photos embracing the hard-right veep as she battles for re-election in her moderate district against Dem rival Patricia Madrid. But much of the money raised by Cheney will go to her campaign, leading one insider R to email: "Reap as much as you can, while taking as little political heat as you can."

And, of course, the national Dems, hoping to take over the House, did not let the Cheney visit slide, hitting all their main themes in this D.C. based dispatch.


TV was better to Dianne Anderson than radio, and she will return to the medium she likes best. That's the word from the Gators who check in with the news that Anderson, a onetime TV news anchor at KOAT-TV, has resigned her radio gig at ABQ's 106.3 Talk FM and will move to KRQE-TV to become the morning news anchor for the CBS affiliate. She had been teamed with veteran radio host Larry Ahrens the past several months, but competing with NM talk radio giant 770 KKOB-AM has been difficult and ratings hard to come by.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Parade Of Politicos Begins: McCain Coming For Heather; Cheney Here Today; Pelosi For Patsy Soon, Plus: Mrs. Big Bill's Tube Debut, And: TV News Blues 

McCain & Cheney
What is sure to be a long parade of national politicos into our Enchanted Land this election season picks up steam this week with VP Cheney in Roswell today, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi campaigning in ABQ Thursday for Dem congressional hopeful Patricia Madrid and, according to Alligators of the Potomac River variety, Arizona GOP Senator John McCain is set to shake hands for Heather Wilson on September 9 as she continues to try to convince voters of her "independent" streak."

On the Cheney beat, the top of the heap of the state Republican club will be on hand for today's fundraiser where Cheney is sure to emphasize national security to the party faithful. It's the one issue that GOP strategists feel can keep them out of the doghouse with an increasingly sour electorate.

The national R's have also been warning of late that a Dem takeover of the U.S. House would be "scary" because "liberal" Pelosi of San Francisco would become Speaker of the House. But the Dems counter that they think Cheney is plenty scary, as is a world situation that looks increasingly out of control.

As for McCain, he is still viewed as an independent sort by swing voters, but perhaps not as much as he was a year ago. The senator, a likely R Prez candidate in 08', has been turning increasingly to the right as he romances conservative R's who will be crucial in snaring the GOP Prez prize. He is also a noted hawk on the unpopular Iraq war.

Other notables that we could be seeing in the months ahead include ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, another "independent" R and Prez possible who Heather wouldn't mind having a photo op with. Also, ex-North Carolina Senator John Edwards could be back for Madrid who she supported for Prez in 04' and who is expected to make another run in two years. Not to mention many, many others.


On the Guv campaign trail, TV viewers are getting a bit of a rest from Big Bill as Mrs. Big Bill graces the screens in an effort to nail down more female voters. Not that the Guv is doing too poorly in that category. The latest USA Survey from July has him winning the approval of nearly 70% of them. And what about Barbara R's TV pitch on domestic violence, etc.? Is it accurate? The New Mexican's Steve Terrell tackled that question.

His re-election campaign at home continues to do nothing to slow down
the Guv’s presidential aspirations. He will join with activists this week as they drive a bus across Iowa to put pressure on Wal-Mart, which has been criticized for paying workers low wages and few benefits. It's part of a 35-day tour in 19 states by Wake Up Wal-Mart, a union-based group tht will be in Iowa Tuesday through Sunday. Three other potential Democratic Prez candidates plan to join the tour in Iowa.

As for GOP Guv hopeful John Dendhal, he's out shaking the money tree in the hope of coming up with enough cash for a fall TV buy that would put Big Bill on the spot. R ABQ State Senator Mark Boitano has hit the mailboxes with an invite to a Big John fundraiser with a price tag of a hundred bucks a pop. Dendahl has just $200 grand in his coffers and getting up to the million dollar area so he can run a noticeable campaign remains a challenge.


It appears that longtime NM TV weather prognosticator Robin Marshment has not weathered the storm that has ensued in the aftermath of the takeover of KASA FOX 2 TV by the parent company of rival KRQE-TV. Marshment, the weather anchor for the KASA 9 p.m. news and a regular presence on KOB-TV, which produces the KASA newscast, has been "let go" according to media sources. They also say joining the casualty list as KRQE prepares to take over the KASA news program from KOB next month are 10 production personnel and sports anchor Ed McDougal.

Marshment started out in weather here at KRQE (then KGGM) in the mid-80s, before transferring to KOB.


The action is starting to get closer and the heart starts beating just a bit faster when we hit the keyboards. Crazy stuff is guaranteed to happen, as it always does. Help us cover Campaign 06' by sending your emails from the top of the page...

Yes, I may be able to speak to your group about NM politics, if invited. Email me that info as well....

Our Web site address is Send that along to those who are starting to get more interested as the election nears.

And yes, we will be back on KANW 89.1 FM in ABQ Election Night and Election Eve to bring you the state's best political coverage with the most senior analysts of La Politica. (That means we are all getting old.) More on that as we get closer.

Glad to have you aboard. Visit again soon.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

The Pounding Of Patsy: More Is On The Way As Heather Seeks To Stop The Wave; Our Exclusive And Updated Analysis Of The 06' Race To Watch 

Patsy Madrid
We've only just begun. That's the word from the GOP camp where insiders report NM attorney general and ABQ Dem congressional candidate Patricia Madrid will come under renewed fire over her job performance from Rep. Heather Wilson, and soon.

The plan of attack, according to our sources, will be to delve further into Madrid's eight year record as AG, perhaps using everyday citizens who have had contact with the office and had "unsatisfactory" experiences. The aim is to further call into question her effectiveness in the job that has provided her a gateway to national political power.

Wilson, seeking a fifth two year term in the U.S. House, has been relentless in accusing Madrid of negligence for allegedly not doing enough to investigate corruption charges against ex-Treasurers Vigil and Montoya. But there's only so much milk that cow can give, and while it may be scoring some points, Madrid's statewide stature is such that the drumbeat of negativity will have to be continued and broadened if Heather is to get to October with a lead big enough to protect her from a potential Democratic tidal wave.

Meanwhile, Dems see the "slash and burn" tactics, so effective for the GOP in recent years, as being engineered by White House political strategist Karl Rove who earlier this year gave up his domestic policy role to concentrate on the mid-term elections. They claim he is directly engaged in the Wilson-Madrid battle. That may draw a big "duh?" from most observers who fully expected Rove to take a hand in the dozen or so key congressional races.


Strategists say the problem for Wilson is the ample ore to be mined on the issues front--the no-end-in-sight Iraq war, the full-of-holes prescription drug program, her close ties to the unpopular President and those sky-high-won't-come-down gasoline prices. The one wild card out there, as recently demonstrated, is the terrorist threat; an issue that has broken for the R's in the past, but whether it will again is not clear-cut. Voters could be more weary, than fearful.

The hope for Wilson as she digs deeper under Madrid's skin is that her foe will not be standing to take those issues to her by the time voters are fully engaged, thus the escalating August attacks coming soon to a TV screen near you.

But the Madrid campaign is doing things previous challengers have failed to do, such as quietly putting together an extensive field operation replete with door knocking and phone calling. They are also aggressively answering each Heather charge quickly. Interestingly, R sources say the state GOP has not been having much luck attracting volunteers to hit the phones for Heather, with one of the reasons being that "not many Republicans see Madrid as much of a threat." But Wilson is anything but complacent and, as in campaigns past, will take responsibility for her own get-out-the-vote effort.

There is some squeamishness among the Dems who have never held the ABQ seat since its creation in 68', with the most vocal of them calling for all-out war now against the favored incumbent to put her on the defensive before it is too late. (Madrid is inching in that direction with her latest ad tying Heather into Big Oil.) Others are less concerned, saying the chief hope to take the seat is a national sweep by the Dems and that voter angst will come into full focus in October and nothing can stop it.

Heather Wilson
There is a case to be made for the more sanguine D's. Ethics has been a big loser recently in NM politics. Take, for example, the whipping ABQ Mayor Chavez took over his ABQPAC last year. It turned out be more like a lash with a wet noodle, as he scored the biggest victory in city history. And then there's the ethical drumbeat on Big Bill, raising serious questions about the overlap of campaign contributions and public policy, yet his approval ratings remain as high as ever. And Madrid herself was scathingly scored over ethics in 02' by tough R Rob Perry in her AG re-election bid, but went on to win in a landslide.

The last New Mexico campaign to turn on ethics was the 02' race for land commissioner when R Pat Lyons won after mailing out a flyer of a mug shot of his opponent who had been busted several times for DWI, had a long record of controversial action and who had lost support among his own party.

R's point out Madrid barely eked out victory against current U.S. Attorney David Iglesias in 98' when ethics was also on the table and still believe they can renew those initial doubts.

But this is an era when many voters believe "both sides do it" and many of them quickly move on to issues that concern their daily lives, unless a candidate is caught with his or her hand in the till. Still, some observers contend there is a racial distinction in New Mexico; that ethics allegations against a Hispanic Democrat, like it or not, are more readily believed than those against an Anglo contender.

The chief allegation against Madrid--that she failed to answer a letter from other government officials seeking a probe of the Treasurer--speaks of negligence, but appears lonely against her full record as attorney general. That's why Heather apparently will be coming with more specific examples of what she claims to be the AG's poor performance, before specific attacks on issues.

The last thing the GOP wants to do this year is to conduct a campaign on the issues as the polls put them on the opposite side of a disgruntled electorate.

And there is the matter of Wilson's ethics, too. To neutralize her, Democratic strategists will work to draw direct lines between her millions in contributions and specific congressional votes, not the sexiest material in the world but, they argue, worse than what Madrid is accused of in the letter incident and an issue they assert the press has curiously shied away from, except in the case of Big Bill.


We don't expect any NM public polling on the Madrid-Wilson contest until sometime in early September when the ABQ Journal will have its first survey. As for TV debates, media insiders report we could get our first one sometime in mid-September on CBS affiliate KRQE-TV where the candidates have been offered a weeknight prime time spot. KOAT-TV and the ABQ Journal have proposed a debate for October which would also be broadcast on ABQ public radio station KANW 89.1 FM.

Whether the Wilson-Madrid face-off turns into the real deal, or turns into another
Heather tease remains up in the air. But one candidate who has already tested the waters this year and is close to the voters' mood says he believes the contest is a "51% to 49% race, with either of them taking it." That word from unsuccessful Dem attorney general candidate Geno Zamora who also told me over a cup of Starbucks that he is staying active and does not want to "fade from the political scene." Few do, Geno, despite what it takes to stay there.

Thanks to veteran ABQ photographer and political junkie Mark Bralley (and retired cop) for today's shot of Patricia Madrid in campaign mode at the NM State Fairgrounds. (Or is it Expo Grounds?) Mark has signed up as our campaign photog and we look forward to more of his action pics as we work to bring the feel and look of Campaign 06' directly to your desktop.

Expert analysis, commentary, political news and scuttlebutt. It's all here on the home of New Mexico politics. Email your stuff from the link at the top of the page and stop by again soon.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Roll Out The Red Carpet: Big Bill To Host Leader Of United Nations In Santa Fe, Plus: NM Monitors Warfront, And: The Latest ABQ Radio Ratings 

Continuing to pull all out the stops, Big Bill will host a dinner at the Guv's Mansion August 21 for none other than United Nations Secretary-General Koffi Annan. That word from the northern Alligators who say the invitations for the event with the world's top diplomat have gone out and Santa Fe is ready to roll out the red carpet. (Do they still do that? And who qualifies?)

Big Bill, of course, served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under President Clinton. Annan, a native of Ghana, has headed the international body since 1997 and is scheduled to end his second term at the end of the year.

Richardson and Annan are sure to exchange notes on troublesome North Korea, a region of specialty for the Guv and where it was rumored this week that he would again be visiting, but his office scotched those reports.

The visit will push the Big Bill prestige meter higher as he works for a 60% plus win over GOP rival John Dendahl, who might say the Annan visit is just another sign that the Guv is really running for Prez and the visit is irrelevant to the state.

But we think Koffi, dealing with a no-end-in-sight Iraq war, a crisis in the Mid-East and a nuclear-determined Iran, will find himself right at home in our Enchanted Land. After all, political chaos and intrigue have been the order of the day around here for over four hundred years.

We are worried about one thing, though. If the Guv lets Koffi watch any TV, he might be moved to call for a cease fire between Heather and Patsy. Hey, we're all for world peace, but let's not overdo it.


On a more serious note, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are far away, but they are being felt here at home. The list of NM casualties continues to mount. And they are remembered.

Opposition to the Iraq war has now hit an all-time, according to the latest CNN poll. Sixty percent of Americans are against and 61% said they believed at least some U.S. troops should be withdrawn by the end of the year.

ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson expressed hope in December that some of the troops might be able to come home this year, but then she reverted to a tougher tone when national R's renewed the "cut and run" mantra. Dem Patsy Madrid has called for setting a timetable for withdrawal. With these polling numbers, Heather's hawkish tone could be subject to change--not much, but some. Don't say we didn't tell you.


Meanwhile, there is one NM R running for Congress who is firmly against the Iraq war. Republican Ron Dolin of Los Alamos, seeking the northern seat held by Dem Rep. Tom Udall, is celebrating Tuesday's victory by liberal anti-war candidate Ned Lamont over incumbent Joe Lieberman in the U.S. Senate Dem Connecticut primary.

"The Lamont victory is a victory for all Americans. We witnessed the birth of a movement. Grassroots Americans, tired of professional politicians who have forgotten the people they represent, are taking back their government." Said Dolin. He added that he will "reach out to Democrats and Independents who are tired of the political elite in Washington."

Ron is hitting some nerves with this rhetoric as voters look for change, but Tom Udall is no Joe Lieberman. At least he hopes not.


Here are the top five radio stations in the big ABQ market, according to the latest Arbitron ratings. And since all of them appeal to adults, they will receive the bulk of the political ads in the months ahead. Listed is the average share of each of the top five among listeners aged 12+ for 6.a.m.. to Midnight.

1. KKOB-AM--News/Talk--7.6
2. KZRR-FM (94 Rock)----5.2
3. KMGA-FM (Magic 99)---5.1
4. KABG-FM (Big Oldies)---4.7
5. KBQI-FM (The Big I--Country)--4.6
5. KRST-FM (Country)----4.6

The ABQ radio market is Bernalillo and Sandoval counties and has a population of 654,200, ranking it #70 among USA markets. In Santa Fe, the last ratings released in January had Big Oldies KABG-FM tied with classical music station KHFM-FM for the #1 spot. In Las Cruces, the El Paso stations dominate, but I will try to get some ratings info on the local stations for you.

Thanks for your news tips and comments. Keep them coming via the email link at the top of the page.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A National Tidal Wave? Dems Favored For House Takeover; NM Impact Analyzed, Plus: Lieberman Falls; Any Lessons? And: The Latest From The Trail 

The national pundits are starting to ring the bell on this election and House Republicans are not liking the sound. In New Mexico talk is beginning to circulate of the possibility that GOP House Reps Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson could, for the first time, find themselves serving in the minority party, assuming they both win re-election.

One of the more thoughtful, nonpartisan analysts I have followed over the years is D.C.'s Charlie Cook and his Cook Report. He is not known for aggressive predictions, but is now saying House R's are going down in what appears to be a "tidal-wave" election.

"In terms of the political climate, the facts are clear. All of the traditional diagnostic indicators in major national polls taken in the past 10 days show numbers consistent with an electoral rout...Democrats will have a strong turnout advantage--it is very clear that they are more motivated than Republicans. In a very large tidal-wave election, as this one appears to be, it would not be unusual to see all toss-ups go to one party, along with a few from the leaning column as well." Penned Cook for the National Journal.

For NM's Pearce and Wilson the Cook analysis is a dreadful fate to ponder. For Dem Tom Udall of the North it is a long-held dream with finally the potential to become reality.

A House Dem takeover would certainly make serving in the House less appealing to Pearce and Wilson, but with their party in charge of all three branches of government, and a majority of Americans not happy about it, they will probably be grateful if they simply survive re-election. There's still three months to go. Let's see if the worm turns.


As for the impact on our state, in a Dem controlled House Udall would be expected to step-up and carry more water. In the Senate, the GOP keeping control is more likely which means Senator Domenici will remain our go-to guy. But if the Dems take the senate, Senator Bingaman, a likely re-elect winner, will take the ball and chair Senate Energy, as he did when the D's last controlled the upper chamber.

It's not just high gas prices, the out-of-control Iraq War, the insecure economy and the iffy condition healthcare that's driving the desire for change. Polls show a significant block of voters are wary of one party controlling the entire USA government. Checking the party in power is an American tradition. It is a tradition likely to be restored come Election Day.

Ned Lamont
Did we see the first ripples of the tidal wave to come last might? Maybe. It's not everyday day that a sitting U.S. Senator is given his walking papers by members of his own party. But it happened to Connecticut Joe Lieberman who fell to Ned Lamont. The Alligators checking in here late in the evening said the turnout was the most important number in weighing what impact, if any, the election has on the Wilson-Madrid face-off. They pointed out that 42% of Connecticut's Democrats turned out, high by any standards and a sign that at least the liberal base is very energized. That can't hurt Madrid.

Lieberman's ability to close the gap--he lost by four points--heartened Heather supporters who said it demonstrated the power of incumbency. Still, another offered that the defeat of Lieberman has to "send a shiver down the spines" of all incumbents, including Heather's. Hard to argue with that.

From this corner, last night reminded me of 1968 and watching the returns from the New Hampshire Prez primary in which President Johnson was almost defeated by the anti-war candidate of that day, Eugene McCarthy. Shortly after, Johnson withdrew from the race. McCarthy invigorated the anti-war movement and showed that the people are often way ahead of the politicians. (Just look at the national polls.) I suspect sentiment will grow even stronger against the Iraq war as a result of Lieberman's defeat.


Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, Patsy Madrid moved to take the offensive against Heather who has been on the ethics attack since mid-July. Madrid hit with the powerful issue of high gas prices, and put the blame on Wilson who she slammed for being in the pockets of the oil companies.

(We've posted Madrid's ads because they are available. Wilson's ads are not on the Web and her campaign, to my knowledge, has not been distributing them to media outlets.)

The most gripping image in the latest Madrid spot is the billboard showing the prices well over $3 a gallon. That simple sign effectively captures the rationale for political change and crystallizes why this race is likely to go down to the wire.

Heather picked up some "free media' this week on her ethics charges, enlisting the aid of former Guv Gary Johnson who said Attorney General Madrid was negligent in not pursuing corruption charges against state Treasurers Vigil and Montoya. Tuesday Madrid answered the Wilson onslaught with a sharply produced ad that declared: "Two attack ads, two lies."

The spots from both sides are powerful which leads me to believe that televised debates are going to be crucial for many voters in making a final decision. The candidates would be well-advised to keep their briefing books at their bedsides.

News? Comments? Interested in advertising here? Drop me an e-mail from the top of the page. And, as always, thanks for your company. Back at ya' tomorrow.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Judy Espinosa Named Diane D's New Staff Boss; Mayor Marty Plays Some More; Patsy To Answer Heather, And: Mickey Gets His Mail on Your Big Tuesday Blog 

Judy Espinosa
NM Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish is adding some political muscle to her staff in the form of the diminutive but feisty veteran government player Judy Espinosa. Insiders report Judy, a two time NM cabinet secretary and an 05' candidate for ABQ mayor, will assume the title of chief of staff to the state's number two effective next week. Current chief Chris Cervini will continue on staff, specializing in communications.

Espinosa, a longtime enivornmentalist, is currently head of the University of New Mexico's Alliance for Transportation Research Institute, with other government experience as long as the barely five feet she stands. (Complete bio here.)

As a Hispanic woman Judy brings to the Denish table valuable ties that Diane needs as she looks ahead four years to when she plans to seek the Dem nomination for governor. Denish has previously run campaigns against Patricia Madrid and Stephanie Gonzales, campaigns that got rough and left a bad taste for the Light Guv in some Hispanic circles. Espinosa's hiring is a clear signal to them.

Espinosa never did make it on the mayoral ballot, failing to gather the necessary signatures. But she remains a respected figure in state Democratic party circles, with her name being mentioned as a possible state chair last year when some D's were questioning the leadership of current chair John Wertheim.

The New Mexico native is also an attorney (UNM Law School) and holds a masters degree in public administration (University of California) and has been called a pioneer in the advancement of NM Hispanic women (and women in general) to the upper reaches of government since being named NM's secretary of transportation in 1983.


Espinosa drew intense criticism from fellow Democratic liberals for trying to get in last year's ABQ mayor's race, with supporters of fellow progressive Eric Griego accusing her of being a spoiler of his candidacy, of having a stubborn streak and being driven by ego. Griego went on to lose to Mayor Chavez.

Interestingly, it is Mayor Chavez who is already being touted as a rival to Denish for the Dem Guv nomination four years hence. Denish was Marty's running mate when they lost the big prize to Gary Johnson in 98.' Do you think Judy's run against Marty had anything to do with Diane picking her? Well, maybe just a little.

Espinosa's addition to Team Denish pairs two of our state's most formidable political players who will face the challenge of carving out a more perceptible identity for the Light Guv while not stepping on the toes of the Big Cheese, aka, Big Bill. It appears the decorated and decades long resume of Judy Espinosa is about to be put to the ultimate test under the harsh, bright lights of La Politica.


Will Marty get the last word? The ABQ Mayor endorsed fellow Dem Madrid last week and in doing so demanded that Heather repudiate the "radical" candidacy of GOP Guv nominee John Dendahl. Heather's supporters fired back that Madrid went soft on investigating Chavez's ABQPAC and that Chavez's endorsement was payback. Now Chavez sympathizers fire yet another round, asking where is Heather's answer to Mayor Marty's question about Dendahl. "Does she support Dendahl and his platform or not?" pushed one of them. To be continued?


It will stay tit for tat in the hotly contested race for the 1st congressional district seat, with Dem nominee Patricia Madrid set to unveil a new TV ad today replying to Heather's latest ethics blast. Wilson opened up round two as she came with a spot claiming that Madrid ignored a letter from state officials that asked her to investigate corruption charges in the state Treasurer's office. Madrid says she never received such a letter.

More importantly, will the Dems be able to move the campaign beyond the ethics issue and will Heather be able to stop them? "Wilson will not get the early knockout on ethics. This one is going to go the distance because Madrid is already well-known and well-financed. It's tough to define a candidate who is already defined," argues Democratic pollster and politico Harry Pavlides. "Heather is doing what she has to do, but Madrid will be there for the late rounds because the issues this time are so big." He further analyzed.

The pollster believes incumbent Wilson holds a couple point lead in the early going.


Mickey Barnett proved far less controversial to the U.S. Senate than he has to some fellow NM Republicans. His nomination to the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors was approved by the senate before it broke for the August recess. Barnett's nomination came under fire from ex-State Reps Earlene Roberts and Ron Godbey who wrote letters to senators urging a rejection. But Barnett, a former legislative aide to NM senior GOP senator Pete Domenici, had Pete's muscle and that was more than enough to insure his confirmation.

Roberts and Godbey cited Barnett's support of drug decriminalization and his spearheading of the movement to put up candidates against fellow Republicans in the 2004 primary as reasons he should be rejected.

The attorney-lobbyist and former NM GOP national committeeman was most recently in the blog headlines when it was revealed that he helped give birth, along with Domenici Chief-of-Staff Steve Bell, to the GOP Governor candidacy of John Dendahl because they wanted stronger attacks against Big Bill than initial GOP nominee J.R. Damron was willing to deliver. Bell has denied playing midwife, but Washington sources insist otherwise. Sources close to Governor Big Bill reacted to that news by warning that Senator Domenici could face a Richardson recruited foe in 2008.

Barnett, along with John Dendahl, led the movement to oust Ramsay Gorham from the state GOP chairmanship two years ago, a move that symbolized the divisions in the state's minority party.

And so it goes. Your email of news, comments and criticisms are always welcome. There's a link at the top of the page.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Indictments in Courthouse Case "Unlikely" Before Election Day, Plus: Dendahl Slips...Again, And: Blog Photo Contest; The Winners Are... 

A key issue overhanging Campaign 06' is that federal investigation into alleged corruption in the construction of two Bernalillo county courthouses and the Metro jail. Now a reliable source says do not, repeat, do not expect any indictments in the matter before the November election.

"One of the same prosecutors who is involved in the retrial of (ex-Treasurer) Vigil is also working the courthouse case." This Senior Alligator says that means the indictments, if there are to be any, would come after the Vigil retrial (set for September 5) and very likely after the fall election.

Announcement of indictments during the middle of the campaign could have an impact on the overall mood of the voters.

Again, our customary caution. That a wide-ranging federal investigation is underway has been confirmed. (ABQ Journal investigative reporter Mike Gallagher updated the probe {PDF} over the weekend.) However, the only ones who know with certainty whether there will be indictments, or whether indictments are being pursued, are those directly involved and they are not talking. But the political impact on the campaigns of any developments in the case is of such significance it cannot be ignored.


Fans of GOP ABQ Congresswoman Heather Wilson are not letting Dem ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez slide for his endorsement of Wilson foe, Patricia Madrid. They are saying there are some reasons for that endorsement that the mayor and Madrid would rather go ignored. From the email:

"Marty endorsing Patsy is not a shocker, considering she refused to investigate the mayor's famous ABQPAC. Unlike the Vigil corruption scandal, there is no doubt (attorney general) Patsy was asked to investigate both the ABQPAC and the ABQ police evidence room scandals. In both cases she let Marty slide. In the end, her choosing politics over ethics will cost her this and future races."

Chavez was reprimanded by the city Board of Ethics for his role in ABQPAC. The police evidence room scandal involved the stealing of evidence and cash. No one was ever prosecuted.

Chavez, a veteran player of hardball, is sure to press his attack on Wilson and continue to call on her, as he did last week, to repudiate the "radical" candidacy of GOP Guv nominee John Dendahl. And Heather is just as likely to continue pounding the ethics hammer on Madrid. Her latest attack ad shows huge pictures of ex-Treasurers Vigil and Montoya. Just in case you forgot. The ABQ Trib's Kate Nash has more.


While Chavez was being ripped for his Patsy play, candidate Dendahl was playing right into his hands...again. NM school teachers are to blame for poor student test results, Dendahl declared, because they are too busy teaching "sexuality, self-esteem and socialism."

State GOP chair Allen Weh moved to distance the party from the remarks asserting that those are "John's individual remarks." Surely Heather will also be asked what she makes of the comments, complicating her efforts to position herself as a "moderate" voice. And one wonders what NM GOP senior U.S. Senator Pete Domenici thinks of these lastest "remarks."

Dendahl's red-hot rhetoric is escalating talk that Big Bill's chances of receiving over 60% of the vote are rapidly going from long shot to quite likely. He seems to know it too as he campaigns for the Dem Prez nomination with impunity.

Dendahl's past political dances have been as a party chairman and took place on the small floor of partisanship. But now, on the brightly lit stage of La Politica, he is faltering. The only good news is that his implosion is coming in August, giving him a bit of time to get his dance steps corrected. But he sorely needs some lessons.


There's no shortage of witty political observers, and we laughed aloud reading their entries to the Blog Photo Contest. Last week we asked readers to write a caption to the off-the-wall photo of Big Bill sporting a hairnet with his hand submerged in a batch of genuine Dona Ana county pecans. We promised a free lunch to the top two entries, and the winners are.....

Hope Garcia of Rio Rancho, NM topped them all, submitting not just one caption, but several, all of them genuine rib-ticklers.

"I know there's a Snickers bar in here somewhere."

"This is the last time I play 'Truth or Dare' with John Dendahl."

"All of these nuts make me feel like I'm still in Santa Fe."

"This is good practice for raiding the Permanent Fund again."

Hope, you outdid yourself. You have the pick of the menu at the famous ABQ Barelas Coffee House.

And we were won over by the way Patrick Adler of Toronto, Canada wove NM politico Manny Aragon into the picture:

"Sure they're high in fat....but Manny said he'd treat me to my next round of Lipo!"

Very clever, Patrick. And with all the Prez candidates on the Slimfast, quite timely too. If you can't make it to ABQ for your free lunch, we'll ship you a bunch of green chile.


In a sidebar to this, while the contest was underway what popped up in the email? Why, it was a brand new picture of Big Bill from the Guv's office, with a message asking the media to use it as a replacement for other stock photos. It's a darn good photo too, but where's the hairnet?

Thanks to all those who entered the contest. We'll have more fun stuff for you soon. Meantime, email me your political news and gossip from the link at the top of the page.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Dendahl Reemerges After Lengthy Silence; He Rips Big Bill School Record As Mayor Marty Calls On Heather To Repudiate The GOP Guv Candidate 

John Dendahl
The media busy bodies were subjected to a tongue lashing by the state GOP for dubbing R Guv candidate John Dendahl a "pit bull" and your blog for tagging him as a "sacrificial wolf." Maybe they were right. Since then the candidacy has been more akin to a sheepdog than any attack breed. But there were finally renewed signs of life on the cold-as-ice gubernatorial campaign trail this week as Big John dashed off a news release ripping Big Bill for that poor school performance report. But even if John wanted to stay incognito, he's too juicy a target for some, like ABQ Mayor Martin Chavez who called him out as he endorsed Dem congressional contender Patricia Madrid over her rival, GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson.

The bombastic Dendahl burst onto the scene in mid-June, being named the new GOP standard bearer after Santa Fe's J.R. Damron was moved aside for the putative reason of not being "aggressive" enough. Dendahl delivered a couple of verbal whippings against the Guv, but then took to the airwaves of KKOB-AM in mid-July where he suffered that old political malady known as foot-in-mouth disease and promptly disappeared for the rest of the month.

The media types freaked out. Didn't Dendahl realize he has a responsibility? How was newspaper circulation going to be increased without him? What about those crucial TV news ratings, not to mention additional blog hits? The reemergence of the former GOP chair was disappointingly low key to them, but the bean-counters were heard breathing sighs of relief as Dendahl's first release in weeks finally clacked over the news wires.

John, please don't leave us again. Those of us left to write about this thing have been passed over by Big Bill for one of the dozens of media jobs he has handed out in state government. You're all we've got. We need you. Our advertisers need you. Now get out there and do that thing of yours.

Mayor Chavez
If Dendahl did not slip back onto the trail himself, ABQ Dem Mayor Chavez might have smoked him out. How about that news conference Wednesday where he endorsed Patsy Madrid? Not that the endorsement was big news. It was the subtle playing of the race card that had the eyebrows arched and the Alligators feeding. Here's the news release money graph.

"Mayor Chavez also called on Republican nominee Heather Wilson to repudiate the gubernatorial candidacy of John Dendahl, saying, “If Heather Wilson doesn’t share the radical, divisive views of John Dendahl, she needs to be up front and say so.”

This was no subtle reference to the radio mishap where Dendahl said it is well known that most repeat DWI offenders are Hispanics "and the Legislature will not enact legislation, on the basis (that) `Gee, that would be racist."

If you hang out around here, you know the score. The Dendahl candidacy can break two ways for Heather. He helps energize the Republican base, thereby boosting turnout for her, or his candidacy generates a backlash among Hispanics, pushing them into Patsy's corner and heightening her chances for the upset. Obviously, Mayor Marty is encouraging the second outcome.

But why is the Dem mayor, who carried the Republican vote in last year's city election, so intent on upsetting Heather's apple cart? According to insiders, Chavez felt Wilson's sting when she went high-profile in helping his GOP mayoral opponent, City Councilor Brand Winter, raise campaign funds. In short, it's payback time. It's even more interesting because Chavez, to the chagrin and bemusement of top state Dems, recently endorsed GOP NM heavyweight U.S. Senator Pete Domenici for re-election in 2008.

The Chavez endorsement is not going to hurt him with hard-core Dems, long upset with the mayor's continuos flirtations with conservative R's. If he someday seeks the Dem nomination for Governor he will need them in his corner.


Don't expect any Dendahl-like breaks in the campaigns of Wilson or Madrid. The campaign watchers say the duo will stay on TV continuously until Election Day. Heather went up in mid-July; Patsy shortly after. Heather unveiled a new ad this week touting her service to seniors, a group that has been key to her re-election bids. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is also backing Wilson here with a 100 Grand TV buy. Patsy is getting third party TV and radio support from the national Dems.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

More From The Insiders On The Vigil Case, Plus: ABQ School Election Is Handicapped, And: There Is A Free Lunch--Enter The Blog Photo Contest 

Vigil & Bregman
It is now just a bit more than a month until the September 5th scheduled re-trial of ex-NM Treasurer Robert Vigil on corruption charges; a trial that could impact the November election. We blogged recently of plea bargain talks that insiders say have been conducted with Vigil's defense team, but broke down because of Vigil's insistence that he serve no jail time. The deal, according to a Junior Alligator, would have involved a year or more behind bars. Now, a Senior Alligator surfaces to update and correct Junior's original tip.

"The supervisors at the U.S. Attorney's office also rejected the deal. They wanted a minimum of 75 or 78 months or six years plus. Another stumbling point--Vigil does not want to testify against anyone else which any plea agreement would require. I think this has also been a major stumbling block.

The problem for Vigil is that if convicted he faces a minimum of 23 years, possibly more and he can be held responsible for the millions that (ex-state Treasurer) Montoya got in the scheme. Plus, he has the expense of a second trial." Informs the Senior Alligator to which we add our customary warning that only those directly involved in these matters could give a definitive confirmation and they aren't talking.

Vigil's first trial was a nail-biter with the jury ending up hung 11-1 for a conviction on one of the key charges. Vigil has repeatedly asserted his innocence. His attorney, Sam Bregman, says the Feds have politicized the case. As things stand today, Vigil and Bregman are going to get a second chance to prove those assertions. Stay tuned.


And what about that political hot potato known as the federal grand jury investigation into the construction of two Bernalillo county courthouses and the metro jail; another legal tempest that could play a role in the fall elections?

The hive is buzzing and awaiting word of any indictments. Various politicos say "target letters" have been received by those the Feds are investigating, with one saying they went out in June. If there are indictments, any trials would likely be held well after the November election because of the number of witnesses involved.

All of this made those photos of Dem Governor Big Bill meeting with GOP U.S. Attorney Alberto Gonzales Tuesday in Santa Fe fascinating, Not a word was spoken publicly about these matters which are ultimately overseen by the U.S. Justice Department led by Gonzales, the boss of NM U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, but the elephant was in the room.

Gonzales is the first Hispanic U.S. attorney general, a point of pride for many southwesterners and also, perhaps, a rebuttal to the rumblings already being heard (and voiced here) that there is an ethnic factor in the government probes.


Pollster Brian Sanderoff says the chances of that ABQ public schools bond issue passing in the special September 19th election are pretty good, even though it would mean a sizable tax hike for property owners--$142 for a home valued at $200,000. Commenting on his recent poll, he said:

"I was surprised that there was only a 7 point drop in support after hearing the tax implications. I don't see anyone on the horizon to take on the tax increase except Mayor Chavez. If the Mayor were to oppose the increase because of his concerns regarding APS, it could definitely impact the election; however, it would be counter productive to the Mayor's stated objective to build more West side schools.” So blogged the veteran pollster who says 42% of city voters are very likely to pass the tax and another 21% somewhat likely.

Chavez has not said whether he will support the tax. His intense displeasure with city school performance (He was given more ammo Tuesday.) reflects the behind-the-scenes bitching in the business community of the Big Duke City, but the business groups routinely support school tax increases and are doing so this time.

One other point. Sanderoff says holding the election in mid-September rather than in November increases the chances of its passage because opponents are more likely to show up for the General Election than the special.


The blog photo contest unveiled yesterday is turning out to be a lot of fun. Some of the caption entires for the photo of Big Bill are on the wild side. OK, maybe the smutty side, but they are all fun. Take a look at the pic (below on Tuesday's blog) and join the fun by emailing your caption from the top of the page. The best two entrants get the free blog lunch, even a large order of chicharrones, if they like.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Man Nobody Owns And No One Knows: Congress Candidate Ron Dolin Faces The Headwinds His Way; Plus: Hungry? Enter The Blog Photo Contest 

Ron Dolin
You probably haven't heard of Ron Dolin. But it's not because he doesn't have plenty to say. And what the GOP challenger to incumbent Dem northern NM Congressman Tom Udall is saying is anything but party boilerplate. Dolin is New Mexico's version of Ross Perot--minus the money. He is the anti-candidate, with no polls, focus groups or huge money. Take his position against the Iraq war. Dolin emails in that he gets "zero support" from the state and national GOP. With his position against the Iraq war, that's no surprise.

"I was invited to an event in northeastern NM where I was asked about Iraq. I knew the answer the ultra-conservative audience wanted to hear. Call it a naive miscalculation, but rather then tell them what they wanted to hear, I told them what I truly believed; namely, that while attacking Afghanistan was an appropriate response to 9/11, invading Iraq was a mistake. No one attending this event signed my nominating petition."

Obviously, Dolin, Los Alamos Labs' coordinator for Homeland Security programs and equipped with a Ph.D in mechanical engineering, is not expecting any helpful phone calls from Karl Rove or NM GOP Chair Weh.

The hopeful, 46, says he will not get personal with Udall, who is expected to again win big in the liberal north, but he does score the incumbent with a refrain heard in the past.

"Congressman Udall seems absent and disengaged from the decisions and debates impacting the lives and futures of all Americans and I believe we deserve better."

Udall backers point to his recent passage of a bill protecting the Valle Vidal--Valley of Life--from oil drilling, hardly a sign, they say, that he is "disengaged."


It isn't only Udall that Dolin takes on at his comprehensive, self-authored Web site. It's both political parties.

"When I watch the current Congress and I am not inspired by either the Democrats or Republicans. They both seem out of touch. Democrats during this administration behave like Republicans did during Clinton's. In the end, all Congress seems to do is point fingers at each other and blame all the problems on the other party." Declares Dolin.

And here's one that's not going to make Dolin any friends with the powers-that-be on either side of the aisle: "I believe we should replace the House Ethics Committee with an external citizen review panel." He proposes.

Dolin may not do focus groups or polls, but he reflects the thinking of the disaffected of both major parties and nonvoters when he states: "I intend to legislate in a nonpartisan manner putting the needs of my constituents first, the needs of America second, and my party's best interests third."

Well, maybe America needs to be first on that list, Ron.

Like Perot, Dolin has all the markings of a third party candidate, but he's the GOP standard bearer. Judging by his campaign kitty--he has just $7,000 in the bank--his fellow R's are not yet oozing with enthusiasm for the tell-it-like-I think-it-is political newcomer, but the broader electorate might perk their ears up--if they ever get to hear him.


They wear funny hats, kiss babies with lots of germs and shake hands with characters who later turn up in the pokey. Yes, being a favorite of the photogs can be hazardous work for our politicos. Which leads us the Las Cruces Sun-News photo of Big Bill pictured to the left.

Just what is the Guv thinking here? He wears a satisfied smile, while sporting a hair net and sticking his hand deeply into a batch of pecans. You tell us. Write a caption, email it in and if it's in the top two, you get a free lunch on the blog.

We promise that pecans will not be on the menu, but conversation of La Politica definitely will. Get those entries in now.


With the campaigns about to enter high gear, I have posted a permanent link to Real Clear Politics at the top of the site so you can quickly reference the latest breaking national political news and polls. Like ours, it is non-partisan and I hope you find it useful...Reacting to our Monday blog on the wages to be paid to most Eclipse Aviation workers in ABQ, ex-ABQ GOP State Rep. Rory Ogle chimes in: "Joe, you know that the only way to get higher paying wages in NM is to have worked on the Gov's staff. Then you can get whatever you want for life."

OK, Rory. But how many years does working on the Guv's staff take off of your life?

Thanks for tuning in today. Email your news and comments from the top of the page.

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