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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Los Ranchos Mayor To Host President For Domenici Event, Plus: Date Set For ABQ Recall Election, And: Santa Fe Crime Wave; Our Continuing Coverage 

Mayor Abraham
The village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, estimated (population 5,416) is abuzz with the news of an upcoming presidential visit. My insiders confirm that when President Bush appears at a high-dollar reception for the re-election bid of NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici August 27th he will do so at the home of Los Ranchos Mayor Larry Abraham.

"I am honored that the President will be coming and that I am able to help Pete," commented Abraham when reached late Monday, He deferred further comment to the White House. (The Domenici invite is here.)

An interesting twist is that Abraham is not a Republican. He is an independent who was elected mayor of the enclave, located in the heart of Bernalillo county's North Valley, in March of '04. He has announced he will seek a second term in '08. Abraham says he has no higher political ambitions other than winning re-election as mayor of the village which counts many self-described Democratic liberals among its residents.

Intentional or not, having an independent host a Domenici fund-raiser isn't a bad idea as it is independents and Democrats who have defected in droves from the senator's camp, sending his approval rating down to a historically low 51% before rebounding to 55% in the latest Survey USA poll. Some Republicans, however, may not be ecstatic that their host is not of the party of the elephant.

MORE INSIDER DETAILS

Abraham and his wife will host the President and Pete at the mayoral home located on an affluent stretch of Rio Grande Boulevard. Entry to the event is for the stock option crowd, with a price of $5,000 for one ticket that includes a photo with the Prez. For $1,000 you get a ticket, but no Kodak moment.

The White House has not said yet if Bush will have any other official or political events while in the ABQ area.

It is rare that the President goes to an individual New Mexican's home when here for political or official purposes so those attending the Domenici reception are going to share a more intimate atmosphere with the chief executive. That won't matter much to the anti-war protesters who these days follow the President everywhere. They are sure to be part of the bucolic North Valley scenery when a presidential motorcade makes its first ever stop in the little village of Los Ranchos.

A final thought. Having the President at a private home rather than a public site means tight media management. TV exposure can be kept to a minimum. And with Bush's unpopularity, Domenici wants to raise money, not his profile as a longtime friend of the Prez.

ANOTHER "PRESIDENTIAL" VISIT

It seems Los Ranchos is the area hot spot this summer. Not only will President Bush visit there later this month, but on Monday Hollywood delivered a fake President to the village as famed actor-director Kevin Costner was there for his new movie "Swing Vote." A scene featuring a presidential motorcade was filmed on Rio Grande. Actors Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Hopper play presidential candidates. We presume their popularity ratings remain high.

THE NUMBER TWO'S VISIT


Meanwhile, USA Vice-President Dick Cheney made his Monday visit to the Duke City somewhat of a stealth one. He gave a morning speech at the ABQ Marriott to a Marine group and jetted out of town immediately after. Cheney urged the Marines to support of the no-end-in-sight Iraq war. In large measure it has been the war that has sent Cheney's approval rating plummeting to 28%, replacing Dan Quayle as the most unpopular vice-president in recent history.

It was an official visit so there was no politicking on the part of the Veep, although our Alligators report NM GOP chair Allen Weh was among those greeting Cheney at the airport, but did not attend his hotel speech.

RECALL SET

For only the second time since the modern form of government was adopted in '74, ABQ voters will be asked to vote in a recall election of a city councilor, and it will happen at the regular city election October 2nd.

There was no late night hanky-panky and the council voted shortly before 11 p.m. Monday to have the recall of District Nine Councilor Don Harris at the regular election, allaying concerns of fiscal conservatives that the council would move for an expensive special election.

Voters in the far NE Heights district will be given special paper ballots to decide whether Republican Harris should be recalled and the remainder of his term filled out by a mayoral appointee. The councilor has promised a vigorous fight to keep his seat in the face of a campaign that accuses him of ethical violations surrounding his campaign finance reporting.

SANTA FE: IT'S A CRIME

Santa Fe residents have more reason to be nervous about their city's leadership and its commitment to breaking the back of a crime wave that has seen an outbreak of all sorts crime and a downright epidemic in residential burglary. So why is Santa Fe Police Chief Eric Johnson still trying to spin downward the harm being caused?

Commenting on the dramatic spike in residential break-ins in one city neighborhood, Johnson told the New Mexican: "Percentages can be deceiving... Five hundred fifty percent sounds really bad, and it’s higher than we want, but it’s really not that significant. It went from four to 26.”

From four to 26 is "not that significant?" That raises the questionsof how much crime Chief Johnson and Mayor David Coss are willing to accommodate. Isn't their job to intimidate and drive out the criminal element, not coddle it?

Coss won credit for acknowledging the depth of the problem in his recent state of the city address, but unless there is a change in the head-in-the-sand attitude throughout Santa Fe's governmental hierarchy, our historic capital remains in peril of becoming not only a permanent high-rent district but a high-crime one, too. That's a bleak future for residents there and not a happy legacy for a mayor or a police chief.

A CLEAN-UP COUNCIL?

Some would argue that the Santa Fe city council is part of that somnambulant hierarchy. City elections are slated for March of next year. One incumbent has decided not to run, guaranteeing one new voice. Will there be others?

Fortunately, an in-depth look by the Sunday New York Times at Santa Fe and how it is changing did not include any mention of the current crime wave. But it did contain insights on how the City Different is shedding old ways as it begins another century as an international tourist destination.

We're the home of New Mexico politics. Send your news, comments and political gossip from the email link at the top of the page. Interested in advertising here? Drop us a line.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Monday, August 06, 2007

Boo Birds Heckle Bill & Hill At Blogger Confab, Plus: Rhonda Faught's Free Airline, And: ABQ Election: The Perils Of Paulette 

Boo birds heckled Bill Bill at that gathering of bloggers in Chicago over the weekend. His offense? The Guv told the hard-core liberals that he favors a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. The boo birds think that will constrain funding for their pet causes like education and health care.

Richardson may not have pleased the liberal Dems, but others say his support of a balanced budget appeals to independents who can vote in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. A recent poll showed the Guv especially strong with Iowa's independents.

And in case you forgot, the NM Constitution requires our Guv and Legislature to balance the budget each year, so when you hear them bragging about how they've done it, take it with a grain of salt or a pinch of chile...

Hillary also had a boo bird chorus at the confab. You can read about that here.

BILL & BARBARA...AND RHONDA
Mr.& Mrs. Big Bill
He didn't mention any special plans, but the Guv did send out a news release Sunday taking note of his 35th wedding anniversary.

"Barbara and I have been together since we were teenagers. We have practically grown up together. Over the past 35 years Barbara has been my wife, best friend and my number one advisor. She has stood by my side through it all and on this special day I thank her for her love and devotion. Truly, there is no luckier man. Barbara, here's to another beautiful 35 years."


Spoken like a true romantic. Maybe Bill can pass it on to his state transportation secretary, Rhonda Faught. News was dropped on Sunday morning doorsteps that the secretary's ex-boyfriend, an architect, went along on an expensive state plane ride to Dallas for a planning session on building a new transportation department headquarters. He was said to be "tagging along" with an engineer who would soon be indicted in the Bernalillo county Metro Courthouse corruption scandal and who also apparently had no official reason to fly. It all sounded very fishy, and smelled the same.

Rhonda said she never gave any thought to how traveling with her ex on the state plane would be perceived. Hello? And she added this knee-slapper: "Faught said she didn't recall who invited" her former lover. Well, maybe she's not the jealous type and doesn't keep track of such things...

The planning of the DOT headquarters is stinking to high heaven, with the involvement of the same cast of characters who have been indicted in the Bernalillo county Metro Court construction scandal also apparently trying to suck off the Santa Fe teat.

The Guv says he will ask for a "process assessment" of the malodorous affair. The Legislature needs to get its oversight glasses out on this one and call in Secretary Faught for some Q and A. If they do, she would be well-advised not to bring her ex-boyfriend along.

WORKIN' FOR THE WEEKEND

Dem congressional contender and ABQ City Councilor Martin Heinrich informs that he will be returning part-time as the state's Natural Resources Trustee. He took a leave of absence to get his campaign off the ground. Big Bill named the previous trustee, Jim Baca, as Heinrich's fill-in. Heinrich says he is returning to his ABQ office half-time because "I'm not independently wealthy."

Federal rules allow Heinrich to pay himself out of campaign funds, but Heinrich has decided not to dip into the nearly $200,000 he has raised. The councilor is father to two young boys. His wife, Julie Hicks, works at the Middle Region Council of Governments and previously worked for Baca when he was ABQ mayor.

Heinrich is not endorsing anyone to succeed him in his ABQ SE Heights council district which he will leave December 1 to pursue the congressional seat. He says that Rey Garduno is impressing a lot of the progressives who helped put Heinrich into office in 2003. Garduno, a retired UNM employee, has been working it hard, but he ran into controversy when he used a university e-mail account for his campaign. He since has stopped using the account.

Heinrich also took note of the campaigns of Blair Kaufman and Joan Griffin, both of whom have the skills to breakup Garduno's early momentum. The Republican running in the race is Kevin Wilson.

Garduno supporters are noting that Griffin changed her voter registration from Republican to Democrat shortly before getting in the council race. Griffin supporters wonder if Garduno sent that word out on his UNM computer.

THE PERILS OF PAULETTE
de'Pascal
Speaking of computers and the October 2 city council election, Paulette de'Pascal says she has dropped plans to lease $3,000 worth of Apple computers she purchased for her campaign with funds from the new taxpayer financed campaign system.

The District Four candidate, running against incumbent Brad Winter, pledged to lease the computers after taking hits for buying expensive equipment that could later be converted to her personal use. The purchase was not prohibited under city campaign rules. She now reports, "My bankruptcy record means I can't be approved for a lease. I will continue using the computers for the campaign, but afterwards am considering donating them to a victims of domestic violence group or a community center."

de'Pascal also says she has requested Winter's phone records from his city council office as well as from his office at Albuquerque Public Schools. She is looking for evidence that Winter has used the phones for campaign purposes. But de'Pascal has more trouble of her own. She's been busted for misrepresenting how long she has lived in the district she seeks to represent on the nine number council.

In announcing her candidacy, she told us she lived there ten years, but it turns out the Tanoan neighborhood home she shared with her now ex- husband from 1999-2005 was not in Winter's council district She asserts the misstatement was not intentional. "I was surprised to learn the home was not in the district," she said. The council seat for District Four was on the ballot in the '99 and 2003 while de'Pascal resided at Tanoan. de'Pascal says she now lives in the district.

REPUBLICAN HERESY

And the NM GOP has a little consistency problem when it comes to the city council races. They rail against the new public financing system as well as de'Pascal's computer purchases, but Republican Kevin Wilson of District Six not only is having his campaign publicly financed, but has also bought a computer with the money. Why wasn't he criticized by the GOP? "It was probably an oversight," said a party spokesman. Yeah, you might call it that.

THE BOTTOM LINES

It's not every day that a staid utility stock like PNM plunges 16% in one day. But it happened Friday as NM's big monopoly utility came in with disappointing earnings, sending the stock to a nealy three year low. Over the decades the company has had a foot in both political parties. Here's some of its federal activity from the '06 cycle and here's a look at its state contributions.

We're New Mexico's non-partisan political blog--www.joemonahan.com. Send your news and comments via the email link at the top of the page.


(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Friday, August 03, 2007

Santa Fe Cash Party To Slow A Bit, Also: Pete's Latest Polls, And: Barnett And Rogers; The Outing Of Insider Influence 

Few have more practice of doling out the pork than Santa Fe solons, where epic budget surpluses over the past five years have given them literally billions to appropriate. Next year there will be a little less pork to feast on, according to state estimates. Is it the beginning of the end of the pork party? Well, nothing lasts forever, not even oil and gas surpluses. Our political intuition says while a day of reckoning may not be coming, a day of belt tightening very well could be. If so, it could make the 2010 Governor's race a much different affair than either Dems Diane Denish and Marty Chavez are anticipating, and should give the R's a reason to start thinking ahead. Keep an eye on the punch bowl.

MICKEY AND PAT SHOW ALL

Oh, what a tangled web we weave..ABQ lawyers Pat Rogers and Mickey Barnett are back under the bright glare of the US Senate klieg lights. It's the US attorney scandal, of course. These two, particularly lobbyist Barnett, have positioned themselves as Republican king makers. Barnett primaried fellow Republicans in '04 to get legislators to his liking, but he retains ties to the Democratic Governor by serving as the personal attorney to his most favored lobbyist, Butch Maki. It drives a whole lot of Republicans crazy and causes unending intrigue within the state GOP. The extent of the Barnett-Rogers influence with the White House has heretofore been a guessing game, but these unelected officials have been outed by the light of day. And as Martha Stewart might say, "It's a good thing."

PETE'S LATEST POLLS

In the first poll since his well publicized "break" with the White House on the course of the Iraq war, NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici comes in with a 55% approval rating, up from 51% in the previous survey. The poll was conducted July 13 thru 15. Its margin of error is plus or minus 4.1%, so it looks for now as if Pete has found a bottom. One suspects he got a minor bounce from the change in his Iraq position. But anything below 60% approval is historically low for our state's longest ever serving US senator. Has the incessant drum beat of bad Pete news--the war, the US attorney scandal and the immigration bill--created a ceiling on his popularity? Or can he recapture the glory of yesteryear? The Alligators continue to watch the numbers closely as do supporters of Big Bill who see him as a possible late entrant in the '08 race if Domenici is unable to recover. Please, please, don't say we didn't tell you!

THEN THERE WERE THREE


Former NM Assistant Attorney General Jon Adams of ABQ filed federal papers Thursday making him the third candidate to officially seek the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat held by Republican Heather Wilson, according to TV news. Dems were not jumping up and down over the Adams entry which he announced several weeks ago. They said his biggest obstacle will be getting known and then getting 20% of the vote at the Dem party pre-primary nominating convention next spring. Adams, 32, must make that mark to win a place on the ballot. The other contenders, Martin Heinrich and Bryon Paez, are seen as having the organizational ability to hit the needed 20% mark.

OK, NOW WHAT?

We agree with you, Big Bill, that you should have more than one name to choose from when filling a judge vacancy. But tell us what you can do about it.

Thanks for tuning in. Stop by again soon.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Wilson's Weary Week; Have Dems Found Their Mojo? Plus: The Pork Fest In D.C.; Here To Stay Or Not?, And: Death Calls For Ex-Senate Leader Mike Alarid 

D.C. Dems may be finding their mojo, and that is bad news for ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson. After months of speculation on what the D's would do in regard to Wilson's role in the US Attorney scandal, they scored a significant public relations coup this week as they summoned Wilson's arch-nemesis, former US Attorney David Iglesias, to the capital and before leading members of the House ethics committee for a closed door Q and A. The dog and pony show had the desired impact, prompting stories on the blogs and the papers and putting the ethics yoke tightly around Wilson's neck. Combined with the no end-insight Iraq war, it is the double play the Dems hope could finally take her out of the ball game.

Speculation has been intense on whether the Dems would have the guts to go after Wilson in the House ethics committee. This week's questioning of Iglesias is not the full monte, but it indicates the chances of a full-fledged ethics probe are better than many thought and that the Dems, if they go for it, will make sure it is close to the election for full political impact.

Wilson was left flailing as the press pack moved in. Her isolation was palpable as she argued the House questioning of Iglesias wasn't actually an "investigation." Call it what you like, but whatever it was it brought back in high-definition the dreaded headlines of earlier this year when the scandal first broke. And that's the point. It's the political impact, not the legal impact, that matters to the Dems. Whether it is an official investigation or not at this point is irrelevant,. The black and white headlines telegraphed the desired anti-Wilson message.

FROM ETHICS TO POLITICS

Wilson last year used the ethics of her opponent as a cornerstone of her campaign, but only managed a less than 900 vote win. The approval ratings of GOP Senator Pete Domenici, also involved in the US attorney scandal, have plunged to 51% in the Survey USA poll. If legend Pete is at 51, where is Heather? Not good.

ABQ Democrats need all the help they can get from their D.C. brethren. They have two announced opponents, Martin Heinrich and Bryon Paez, but neither is well-known or with a lengthy public service record. Wilson will need to be the issue, and the US attorney scandal will need to be advanced. That means a full and formal investigation. They are not there yet, but this week's Iglesias appearance gave Wilson and the R's a taste of what may be coming.

Wilson has never served with the Democrats in the majority. Her encounters with the ABQ variety of the species have not been impressive, as she has dispatched most of them with ease. But we're not in Albuquerque anymore. The House is now led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi who, like Wilson, has a steely resolve and determination. The difference is Madame Pelosi has the power. How much of it she will use to try to unseat her Republican rival is the question we all await an answer to.

NO REST YET

Maybe Rep. Wilson can find respite from the D.C. political heat during the August congressional recess, but she will have to wait a day. A national anti Iraq war group plans to protest outside of the congresswoman's ABQ North Valley home today. Welcome back, Heather.

LANL 101

It's been one of the biggest news years ever for Los Alamos Labs, and that prompted this in-depth piece from the Santa Fe Reporter. One of the more engaging questions posed in the piece came from Española Mayor Maestas who wonders why, with a $2 billion budget, LANL has not had more of an economic impact on the poor communities surrounding it.

THOSE PIG EARS

Also on the fed beat, what about those calls to do away with "earmarks?" Those are the pork projects inserted into legislation usually having nothing to do with the pork. A little state like ours benefits from the ability of super-seniority Senators like Domenici and Bingaman to use their influence to get those earmarks. Don't you think big states like California and Texas would scoop up even more of the pork if there were no earmarks? Keep that pan hot and the bacon frying, Pete and Jeff. Our still impoverished state needs all the kitchen skills you can muster.

DEATH CLAIMS LEADER ALARID

Michael Alarid loved his politics, and he didn't shy away from going for the gold. He ran for a seat in Congress in '72, for lieutenant governor in the 60's and ABQ mayor in '74. He didn't win any of them but he did win many, many elections to the New Mexico Senate. That's where he made his political home for nearly 30 years, where he wielded power as majority leader for several of them and where ultimately he carved out a lasting political legacy.

Word came to us Wednesday that Alarid had been claimed by death. He was 88. Mass is set for Aug. 7 at Immaculate Conception Church in downtown ABQ.

Democrat Alarid started his climb up the long ladder of La Politica in 1964 by winning a House seat. In '68 he joined the senate and didn't leave it until 1992, having risen to majority leader. That was the power rung from which he played the game with three New Mexican Governors--Bruce King, Toney Anaya and Garrey Carruthers.

Alarid may have been as well-known for "Mike's Food Store" in ABQ's Barelas neighborhood as he was for being a powerful politician. He and his now late wife Stella ran it from 1952 to 1985, meeting and greeting half the city.

His legislative record is highlighted by his role in establishing the community college, TV-I, since renamed CNM. He also played an important part in reforming the state's school funding formula. As a senate leader, Alarid is remembered as even-tempered and a friend of the little guy, too, who fought for public employees and their bargaining rights.

It was the 1974 mayor's race when Senator Alarid first caught the attention of a cub radio reporter for KUNM-FM covering his very first election. One day I noticed that the Albuquerque Journal had strongly endorsed Mike Alarid for mayor out of a field of over 30 candidates, many of them respected leaders of their time. I thought there must be something
special about that guy. There was. And in the years ahead all of New Mexico would come to know it.

I'm Joe Monahan, reporting to you from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

ABQ Recall Election Maneuvers: Part II, Plus: Heather Not Lawyering Up--Yet, And: Senate Candidate Shows 'Em The Money 

Don Harris
The idea of having a special mail-in election for the recall of ABQ City Councilor Don Harris appears to have had a very short shelf life. City Council President Debbie O'Malley Tuesday checked in to tell us she would not be supporting a mail-in election and will vote next week to scheduled the Harris recall at the regular October 2nd city election. Insiders associated her with the the mail-in idea on Tuesday's blog, but she said she is not investigating such a plan and the October 2nd election will "provide the greatest opportunity" for the voters of Harris's far NE Heights council district to participate.

A mail in election would cost thousands in postage, and is opposed by the backers of the Harris recall. Jim Lowe, heading up New Mexicans for Democracy and spearheading the Harris recall over ethics charges, said he was pleased to hear of O'Malley's support for having the recall at the October 2nd election. O'Malley said she was speaking for herself and could not say if a majority of Councilors supported the October 2 date for the recall. The council is slated to consider the election date at their Monday meeting. But an Oct. 2 recall appears to be where we are headed.

MARTY RECALL DROPPED

A not too serious effort to recall ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez has been dropped. The fellow seeking the recall, S. Pike, was upset about the anti-smoking rules for public places that Mayor Chavez recently announced.

HEATHER AND DAVID

Heather has not hired a lawyer. That word from the office of the ABQ GOP Congresswoman in reaction to the news that flashed over the Internet late Monday that ousted US Attorney David Iglesias will testify in a closed door session before key members of the House ethics committee today. The questioning of Iglesias, who accuses Wilson and NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici of pressuring him to speed up indictments of Democrats in the Bernalillo county courthouse construction scandal, does not constitute a "formal" investigation of Wilson. That takes an official complaint from a House member.

Some think that Iglesias's testimony is for appearances sake; others think it is a prelude to a full committee investigation of Wilson's involvement. The certainty is that someone must step up and make an official complaint if the probe is going to go further. Who, if anyone, might that be? Stay tuned.

CHENEY'S TRIP

In breaking the news that Vice-President Cheney would be speaking before a Marine group in ABQ Monday, we wondered if he would be doing any other politicking, such as fundraising. The answer is he will not. Politicking or not, the former Wyoming congressman probably welcomes the chance to escape the stifling August heat of D.C. and head to his native West.

SHOWING THE MONEY

In cse you missed it, Dem US Senate candidate Don Wiviott has put his money where his mouth is. Federal records show the Santa Fe real estate developer, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in the June '08 primary for the right to take on Republican Senator Pete Domenici, has loaned himself $400,000 and deposited it in his election account. When we broke the news of his candidacy Wiviott pledged his own $400,000. Now that he has come up with it, it will be interesting to see if and when he starts spending it.

Wiviott is one of three Dem unknowns seeking the nod. He is by far the best financed. The records also show that Wiviott raised $7,000 in donations other than the personal loan.

BILL'S LATEST

Big Bill is spending some more of his campaign cash on Iowa TV. He released a new "clean energy" ad Tuesday that will air there. The Guv has hit 13% in the ARG Iowa poll, putting him in fourth place in the first Dem prez caucus state. Obama is at 15% in that poll.

BILL AND FOLEY

When you are running for something, you don't want to make anyone mad. Take a look at Big Bill's comments to the Roswell Daily Record on the arrest on disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges of his longtime GOP nemesis, Roswell State Representative and House minority whip Dan Foley: "My relationship with him has improved significantly. He deserves his due process," Richardson said.

Talk about a lay down. Do you suppose the Guv will roll over like that when Hillary comes calling on him to get out of the presidential race?

BARKING AT BARKER

Veteran KRQE-TV investigative reporter Larry Barker is making some news instead of reporting it. He's the subject of a lawsuit over a recent story he produced. A Santa Fe building contractor says his reputation was defamed last year when Barker aired a story called "The House from Hell.'' The station is standing by its story.

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


(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
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