Thursday, May 20, 2004

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: DROPPING OUT BEFORE HE'S IN?

As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican

The line of people running for the state Senate seat in Santa Fe’s District 25 — held for nearly 20 years by Democrat Roman Maes — might be getting shorter.

Robb Hirsch, who has been gathering petition signatures and raising money to get on the ballot as an independent candidate, said Wednesday he’ll drop out — on one condition:

If Democrats vote down Maes in favor of challenger John Grubesic.

“I am not seeking office for personal glory and so I don’t care which of us dedicated reformers running in this race wins as long as one of us does!,” Hirsch wrote in an e-mail to people who have signed his petitions.

“As an Independent I’m not in the primary June 1st, so I strongly encourage the many hundreds of you Democrats who signed my petition to get out and vote for John Grubesic in the primary. He is genuinely committed to change for a brighter future, as shown by his strong stance on environmental protection and water conservation which won him endorsement by the Sierra Club.”

Other candidates in the District 25 Democratic primary are Letitia Montoya and Geraldine Salazar. There are two Green candidates, Rick Lass and Joseph Niesley, who also are facing off in the June 1 primary. Waiting in the wings is Republican Bob Mallin, who is unopposed in his primary.

But it’s too early to write Hirsch’s political obituary.

In his e-mail, he wrote, “... if the incumbent with all his tens of thousands of dollars of special interest money wins the primary, I assure you not only will I be in the race but I will be running strong as a clear alternative to business as usual.”
Maes has reported raising nearly $60,000 for his campaign. That’s more than all his challengers put together.

Hirsch, an education consultant who also is involved in a wind-energy business, says he has obtained 1,250 petition signatures, which is almost three times the number he would need to get on the November ballot.

Building a platform: The John Kerry campaign announced Wednesday that the people writing the Democratic Party’s 2004 platform soon will be holding hearings in several cities, including Santa Fe.

On June 18, national Democrats will meet in Santa Fe. “Healthcare providers, seniors, environmentalists, civil rights workers, and others will testify about how to protect our citizens and the environment,” the a written statement from the campaign said.

The next day the Platform Drafting Committee will meet here to start writing the actual document, which, if past history is any indication, will produce a few skirmishes at the national convention only to be completely forgotten shortly thereafter.

The 411 on a 527: One of the biggest anti-Bush “527” groups in the country has come to New Mexico. America Coming Together, not to be confused with Gov. Bill Richardson’s Moving America Forward (where do they come up with these names?), has set up shop in Albuquerque with a staff of nine (so far) and a budget of $3 million.

Unless you’re a complete political junky, you might not know that 527s — named after the section of the U.S. tax code the groups fall under — are advocacy groups not formally associated with political parties.

527s have risen in prominence since the new federal campaign-reform law went into effect.

Democrats have been the main beneficiaries of the 527s.

Republicans tried to convince the Federal Election Commission to stop letting groups use unregulated money to buy campaign ads and conduct get-out-the-vote activities. However the FEC recently decided to take no action this year.

America Coming Together CEO Steve Rosenthal, a former political director for the AFL/CIO, was in New Mexico Wednesday. He said we’re one of 15 battleground states in which ACT is active. “Hopefully it’ll be 17 soon,” he said.

The group’s main activity here will be registering new voters and door-to-door canvassing, he said. Later ACT will conduct an absentee ballot drive and then an effort to get voters to the polls.

“Our three missions are bringing new voters into the political process, electing progressive candidates and defeating George W. Bush,” he said.

But he said for legal reasons there is a strict “wall” between his group and the Democratic Party. “We don’t communicate with the Kerry campaign either,” he said.




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