Thursday, August 04, 2005


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Aug. 4, 2004

When President Bush comes to Albuquerque Monday to sign the energy bill, he’ll be joined by our two U.S. senators, Republican Pete Domenici and Democrat Jeff Bingaman.

But it appears that another powerful New Mexico politician with an interest in energy policy won’t be at the ceremony at Sandia Labs.

A spokesman for Gov. Bill Richardson confirmed Wednesday that the governor had not received an invitation for the bill signing.

True, unlike Domenici — who is the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee — and Bingaman — who is the ranking Democrat on that committee — Richardson had nothing to do with the bill, which is considered a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s energy policy.

But he was the secretary of the Energy Department in the last administration, and, hey, he is the governor of the state.

Of course we haven’t seen Richardson’s public schedule for next week, so we don’t know whether he’ll even be in the state — or even the country — on Monday.

Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said Wednesday the governor doesn’t consider the lack of invitation a snub.

“The governor wishes the president a good visit to New Mexico,” Gallegos said.

Novak outs Richardson: When he’s not revealing the names of CIA operatives, conservative columnist Robert Novak sometimes dabbles in mundane electoral politics. In his July 24 column in The Chicago Sun Times, he mentioned our governor.

“Prominent New York City liberals who are concerned about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's electability are quietly talking up New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as her alternative for the 2008 presidential nomination,” Novak wrote.

“Richardson especially intrigues Democratic strategists because he is a Hispanic American with a Mexican mother,” he wrote. “Richardson would be expected to pin down the burgeoning Latino vote.” (Yes, gentle blog readers, you first read about this HERE.)

Is there a doctor in the house? What does Santa Fe radiologist J.R. Damron have in common with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and state Sen. Steve Komadina, R-Corrales?

Well, like those others, Damron might be joining an exclusive “club” of doctors in politics.

Damron said Wednesday that he is strongly considering making a run for the Republican nomination for governor in 2006.

“I’ll make a decision one way or another in the next 30 or 40 days,” he said.

So far no Republicans have announced for next year’s gubernatorial primary.

Incumbent Richardson frequently has said he’s seeking re-election. As of a couple of months ago the governor had raised $3 million for his re-election.

Damron, who is president of Santa Fe Radiology, said he’s concerned about the fact that New Mexico still ranks near the bottom of the list in education. “I’m concerned about health care, water and maintaining a strong border and I don’t feel these issues have been adequately dealt with,” he said.

Damron, who is treasurer of the Santa Fe County Republican Party, never has run for public office before.

So how can an unknown political novice expect to win against a well-known, well-funded incumbent?

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll ask Gary Johnson, who came out of nowhere in 1994 and defeated incumbent Gov. Bruce King.

I’m not the first to make that comparison. And the analogy is flawed. Richardson isn’t expected to face a bitter primary challenge from his lieutenant governor like King did. And the Green Party — which took more than 10 percent of the vote in 1994 with candidate Roberto Mondragon — might not even field a gubernatorial candidate next year, at least one Green honcho says.

But stranger things have happened in New Mexico politics.

Friends of Billy: One thing Richardson and Damron have in common is an interest in New Mexico’s most famous outlaw, Billy the Kid.

In November, 1999, museum officials enlisted Damron to X-ray a section of leg irons that they believe were attached to one of William Bonney 's ankles on April 28, 1881, when he shot and killed two deputies and escaped from the Lincoln County Courthouse.

The shackles belong to the Salazar family of Las Tablas, a town in Lincoln County. An ancestor of the family was one of Billy’s friends, said to have helped hide the Boy Bandit King after the infamous escape. The leg irons, which had been neatly cut, were kept by the Salazars for more than a century.

Damron’s X-rays, according to museum officials, didn’t reveal much, only showing a shadow of the leg irons.

Richardson in 2003 made headlines around the world when he announced a new investigation into the death of the Kid using DNA technology to determine whether it’s actually Bonney buried in Fort Sumner.

However, the investigation hit a brick wall when local officials of Fort Sumner and Silver City strongly objected to exhuming graves thought to belong to the Kid and his mother.

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